30 Jan 2017

The Right Way To Run A Business!!!

Ok, so you will remember in a previous blog post that I was grumbling about not being able to get a coffee while on holidays in Halls Gap?

Well, all was not lost on our trip there because what I also saw there was a wonderful example of quality customer service that I want to share with you here today.

While we were there we found out about a restaurant called Spirit of Punjab that serves Indian cuisine and as we all love a good curry we decided to head down there for dinner.

To say that the service there was first class is an understatement!!!

When you first arrived at the address what impacted on me the most was that you were greeted by images, statues and notices of the cuisine, together with a brief history of the region in India where the cuisine originates from.

What you find - in the carpark of all places - are all these quirky little statues and signs about the history and origins of the cuisine, so before you've even gone inside you are smiling about the upcoming experience.

When you head in to the restaurant you are greeted by smiling staff who show you to your table and provide you with a first class level of service.

Now, I have to explain something here - the place was a hive of activity for the whole time we were there (probably because there was nothing else open in the area!!! LOL) - there had to be several hundred patrons at the restaurant, but the hosts never rushed you or made you feel like they were in a hurry to move on to the next table.

Why? Because there were so many waiters there that it seemed like every table had its very own personal waiting staff!!!

What made me smile most about the place was that some of our group fancied themselves as "Curry Hardened" and wanted to go for the "hot stuff", but when they asked for a meal that the host thought might be a bit too "warm" for them, this person would politely say "Are you sure? This dish is very hot."

Of course one of our group pipes up with the usual "I've been eating curries all my life - I'll be fine" comment to which the host politely smiled, accepted his order and walked off and it was most amusing to watch this guy's face look like it was about to explode a little later when his meal was returned to him - he took a mouthful - and it nearly blew his head off!!! LOL

As I said before, the place was packed the whole time but the service was second to none and I must say that the whole experience was a wonderful example of quality customer service at its greatest (what a shame we didn't order a coffee there ah?!!! LOL).

Are you providing your customers with quality customer service so that they rave about your products and services long after they've left?

24 Jan 2017

Staying Light On Your Feet

You'd remember in a previous post I was talking to that guy from the UK about how he had obtained that lucrative deal fitting out hotels in Britain and Europe.

Well, there was something else he said during that conversation that I want to share with you because I think it is so important to keep this in mind in business.

It's the importance of staying light on your feet.

What do I mean by this? You may know it as "pivoting" - or you may know it as "pirouetting" - whatever you want to call it, it is so important to be ready to change tact at any given moment while running your own small business.

Hand's up if you have been pigheaded - or dogmatic - in some aspect of your business where people around you have been saying -

"You need to change that"

and you have said (or at least thought) -

"Don't tell me how to run my business'?

We've all done it, but the one thing to always keep in mind is to stay focussed on the environment that you're trading in.

Let me give you an example -

If you are over the age of 50, remember this -

Black and White TV

AM radio (i.e. no FM radio)

Push button cash registers

Telephones with numbers on a circular dial

Envelopes and stamps

VHS videos

Now - with this in mind - how much did your life change as each of the above went off in search of the dinosaurs as they wandered off into extinction?

If you're true to yourself, you'll agree that many of these changes had a profound impact on your life (I hated not being able to record movies on TV when DVDs took over from videos, didn't you?!!!) so if these changes impacted so profoundly on you, why won't the same thing happen to your business if it simply "marks time" instead of pirouetting to meet the changing world around it?

Well, this exact topic came up in the discussion I was having with this guy from the UK.

Colin (his name) made mention that when they first started their business they were focussed not on refits for hotels in a specific chain, but for repairs and maintenance to the existing fittings on hotels in the British Midlands, however, during the process of tendering for work it became obvious that refits were not only the most cost effective way to upgrade the hotels, but it also gave hotel guests a more luxurious experience in the form of more modern and comfortable amenities.

Once this became obvious, Colin's business did an immediate "pirouette" from marketing their services as a repair and maintenance business to one that did complete refits.

The "downside" of this change in direction was that many of the smaller independent hotels throughout the British Midlands could not see the benefit of complete refits, but this one hotel chain immediately saw the benefit of giving their guests a more luxurious experience and as a result hired Colin's business to provide the service.

The moral to this story is to always stay "light on your feet" when you are running your own small business - we are living in a time where things are changing at an extremely fast pace and your ability to change direction quicker than your opposition can put you at "the front of the class" very - very - quickly.

22 Jan 2017

The "Secret Sauce" To More Sales

While we were on holidays over the Christmas period I got to meet a couple of my relative's mates who had travelled to Oz from England to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday.

I got chatting to one of these guys and during our discussion he made mention that he was a partner in a business back home in the United Kingdom.

My "business brain" immediately kicked into overdrive because part of the BookPals rollout includes introducing the BookPals bookkeeping system to small business owners throughout the UK.

He and his partners provide fit out services for a large hotel chain throughout Britain and Europe and it was fascinating to listen to how the business had originally started and the process that they went through to obtain this most lucrative contract.

During our discussion I posed the following question to Colin (that's his name) - "So, what was the "Secret Sauce" to getting the contract?" - and his reply was so profound that I have to share it with you here -

Just Keep Knocking On Doors!!!

My reply was "That's it?" to which he replied "Yep!!!"

He then went into detail about how they had tried all the "marketing tricks" we all hear about to source new clients but when it all came down to it, success was achieved by identifying the exact customer avatar that needed their services and once they had done this it was simply a matter of finding and "hounding" these leads until they got in front of the key decision makers to show them how their products could help them.

Colin is in charge of the partnership's marketing and he outlined exactly what had to be done to obtain the contract - let me share it with you here and now -

Phone calls

Door knocking

Identifying the key decision makers

Getting past the "gate keeper"

Talking to the key decision makers

Arranging a time to present to them

Presenting to them

Getting their approval

Obtaining the contract

Providing the service

We just sat there smiling at each and agreed that it would be great if there was some kind of "secret sauce" that could allow you to bypass the majority of this process - but there isn't!!!

One thing Colin said later in our conversation that I thought was fascinating was the flow-on effect his efforts had - as a result of him "grinding it out" to get this business, the hotel chain had hired him as a consultant to source more business for them because they were so impressed with his tenacity and perseverance that they decided to hire him to source more corporate customers for the hotel chain itself!!!

The "Secret Sauce" to generating more sales is that there is no secret sauce - find people who need your product or service, contact them, show them how your product or service will make their life easier and they will buy from you - that's it!!!

So there it is - the "Secret Sauce" to generating more sales - off you go!!! LOL

19 Jan 2017

Are You There When Your Customers Need You?

Ok, so back to this year's Christmas business experiences!!!

As part of our interstate holiday this year we all travelled to Halls Gap to see in the New Year.

For those of you who have never been to Halls Gap before, let me set the scene for you - it is a sleepy little town situated in The Grampians in Victoria, Australia and for the majority of the year it is a quiet place where bush walkers and campers go to "do their stuff".

Christmas time is a little different though - the population explodes with tourists from the city, interstate and overseas who visit the area to wander around the bushland and "get back to nature".

There are a number of shops, cafes and restaurants there who, for the most part, do a reasonable amount of trade, but during the "off season" things get fairly quiet there because your stereotypical bush walker is not an "ultimate consumer" and they tend to be self sufficient in things like food and other essentials while they are up there wandering around the countryside.

This, however, seriously changes at Christmas time - Halls Gap turns from a sleepy hollow of bushwalkers into a "buzzing hive" of activity with tourists who have pockets full of money - and are happy to spend it - while they are visiting the area.

Now, think about this in the context of running your own small business - for (lets say) 9 months of the year your business just choofs along at a reasonable pace and then for a three month period (between Christmas and Easter time each year) the number of customers increase by at least tenfold.

With this in mind, if you were running your own business in an area like this, would you be very focussed on being open as often as possible over this three month period?

Well, let me draw you a picture of what happened while we were at Halls Gap -

It's Sunday the 1st of January and there are hundreds - and I mean hundreds - of tourists wandering around the town enjoying themselves and around 7.00pm guess what happened?

All the shops start closing!!!

How do I know this? We wandered into town after deciding to get a coffee and there was nowhere open to get one!!!

That's not exactly true - we did find one place that was open and sold coffee, but when we asked if we could buy coffees from them (keep in mind that there were at least a dozen of us in the group) we got told that the coffee machine had been cleaned because they were closing up in 15 minutes so they were unable to sell us a coffee!!!

We all stood there looking at one another in amazement, then shrugged our shoulders and wandered back to our cabins to put the kettle on, make our own "cuppas" and grumble about the level of customer service in the township of Halls Gap.

If you run your own small business - and wonder why you can't increase your customer base - are you there when your customers expect you to be?

Food for thought ----

17 Jan 2017

Old Fashioned, High Pressure Selling - Really?

I have to share this experience with you because I honestly cannot believe that this kind of thing still happens!!!

We are currently in the market for a new kitchen for our house. My wife has recently taken over her Mum's business and we need to upgrade the kitchen for the extra work that is now being conducted there.

Anyway, we went around to some kitchen places over the weekend to check out what is on offer and one kitchen design place in particular (I am not going to name them - you will see why shortly) seemed most promising.

We spent a great deal of time going over our requirements with the consultant there and arranged for one of their design technicians to come out the very next day (a Sunday - most impressive) to quote us on the job.

Now - I have to pause here - because this is a really important point (as will become clear later) - while we were there I made it perfectly clear to this consultant that the budget for this job was $20K and we were not interested in proceeding if if was going to be any more to which she said that she completely understood and would pass this information on the design technician prior to our appointment.

The next day - bang on time as promised (I love promptness) - we get a knock at the door and this well dressed and most polite gentleman walks in to our house and introduces himself as the design technician.

I must say that I was impressed - having built and renovated a fair number of houses over the years I have become used to a 1-2 hour "lead time" in the time that most trades say they are going to turn up and when they actually do turn up, so to have this guy arrive exactly on time impressed me greatly.

I made mention of this to him - keep this in mind for later on in the story!!!

Anyway, we spend the next 30 minutes or so "chewing the fat" with this guy chatting away, complimenting us on the design and layout of our house and how "easy" this kitchen upgrade is going to be.

Then we get down to the "nitty gritty" and start going over the new design - we go over everything we had spoken to with the consultant the day before, make little to no changes to what we had asked for the day before, the design consultant plugs all our requirements into his fancy computer program and out spits the total cost for the job -


I just sit there staring at my wife and she just sits there smiling - she told me after the guy left that I looked like one of those pressure valves that was just about to explode!!!

I then do what I thought was the most appropriate thing to do under the circumstances -

Breathe In, Breathe Out and Say - "I told you guys that our budget was $20K"

Now it gets really interesting - the design consultant guy suddenly goes from silence into "overdrive"!!!

  • All our materials are locally sourced
  • Everything is made here in South Australia
  • We can reduce the benchtop from 40mm to 20mm and see if that reduces the price

and the real clincher -

You told me how happy you were that I had turned up on time!!!

He then jumps straight on the phone - without giving us the chance to say anything back to him - and rings his "boss" because (quote) "I'll probably lose my job, but I'll ring the boss to see if he can move on the price at all" (unquote) and starts raving to someone on the phone about how we are "so close" to buying but that they will need to "move" on the price for things to proceed.

After half a dozen "Ok's" he hangs up, looks me dead in the eye and says "I probably don't have a job when I get back to the office, but the boss is willing to drop the price to $21,982.00 to keep you happy!!!

I look him straight back in the eye and quietly say -

I told you guys that our budget was $20K

Off he goes again -

  • We will walk you right through the process so you don't have to worry about anything
  • You will get your own consultant who you can ring at any time for an update
  • All the work will be done to strict specifications and on time - all the time

All the while Annie (my wife) and I are just sitting their with our jaws dragging on the ground - it was like watching someone on Methamphetamine - this guy was bouncing around like a ping pong ball trying every "second hand car salesman" stunt in the book to get our business - if it wasn't so sad it would have been comical.

I couldn't help myself - I just started laughing which (as my wife well knows) is code for "He's just about to explode" (which was probably why the colour started draining out of her face!!!), but I was most pleased with myself because - instead of hitting him with a barrage of abuse (which was my S.O.P. for this kind of garbage years ago) - I simply looked him in the eye and said -

No thanks - Bye!!!

I've never seen anyone pack up and leave so quick in my entire life and after we closed the door behind him we just looked at each other and started crying with laughter!!!

Why am I telling you this?

The days of second hand car salesman type selling are over - this guy had all the information he needed to make a judged decision on whether or not they could meet our requirements for the purchase we wanted and if - after costing what we wanted - he had simply rung us and said "We can't get anywhere near what you want for the price you want to pay" he may not have got the sale, but I can assure you that we would be singing his praises to other people looking for the product that he sold.

Have a think about how you are selling - regardless of whether or not a sale takes place are people becoming brand ambassadors for your products or services, or are they laughing about you as you walk out the door?

14 Jan 2017

A Warm And Fuzzy Moment ----

Remember how I told you that the festive season had provided me with a heap of business insights that I am going to share with you over the coming weeks?

Well, an insight came to light yesterday that I did not expect and I have to share it with you because there are a ton of implications - both business and personal - in it!!!

We were staying with relatives while travelling interstate over the Christmas/New Year holiday break and while there I got chatting to the boyfriend of one of these relatives.

I have met this guy only once before, but I have really warmed to him for a number of reasons - he is in his early 20's and he's a real "go getter" - keen to impress and constantly looking for new ways to improve himself - so when he told me that he was having trouble finding a decent job and this was really getting him down, I immediately wanted to help.

Let me take a step back - this guy has no "formal" qualifications per se' - he is a country lad who was not interested in a formal education path, but doesn't mind getting his hands dirty and is always willing to learn.

The problem with this is that he is now living in the "Big Smoke" and unskilled labour jobs are getting more and more scarce.

Well, it just so happens that I have a customer who does work for a big company called Spotless and Spotless provides all manner of "support" services for many of the larger corporate entities around Australia.

I explained this to this young bloke and he immediately grabs his phone (I wish these kids would use tablets or computers to browse the Internet - I can hardly see what they're looking at when they browse on their phones!!! LOL), he goes straight to the careers section of the Spotless website and there are about 6 vacancies he sees there that he is qualified to apply for!!!

He applies for a couple of jobs there and then - this was about a week ago and I get a call from him yesterday to say that he has just walked out of a job interview and he starts work with them in a couple of weeks!!!

Why am I sharing this with you? There is an old saying that goes something like "Be nice to those you pass on the way up because you are always going to pass them on the way down" - have a think about that comment for a minute - by helping people around you (both in business and in life) not only does it make you feel fantastic, but they may be just the person you need to reach out to yourself at some time into the future.

Do you think the chances of them helping you will have increased as a result of what you did for them?

Food for thought ----

10 Jan 2017

So Simple and Yet So Often Missed

Sorry I have been away for a while, but with the Christmas/New Year festive season just gone it has been a mad house of activity!!!

One thing that did occur over the festive season was the myriad of business insights - both good and bad - that came across my path and over the coming weeks I am going to share them with you because they are wonderful examples of what to do - and what not to do - when you run your own small business.

Lets start with a positive business insight - we were over in Victoria, Australia, to see relatives over the Christmas period and while there we visited Melbourne, Victoria's capital city.

The power cable to a hard disc drive that has some of my business information on it was not working properly so while in Melbourne I was trying to source a new power cable.

Every store I went to allegedly listened to the problem I had and then immediately tried to sell me a new hard drive!!!

The number of times I had to say "I don't need a new hard drive - I simply want a power cable for the one I already have" defies belief!!! LOL

When each sales person finally "got it" the standard line went something like "We can't sell you the power cable on it's own, but it will cost you less to buy a whole new hard drive".

This is where "Ninja Dean" (also known as Evil Dean!!!) came out of retirement and politely asked "That sounds great - and how do I get the data off my old hard drive to put it on to the new one?".

The blank look and the occasional "What?" completed the picture so out of the store I would stomp vowing never to return to it again!!!

After this had happened to me about 4 times I was ready to call it a day when - by chance - I happened across the Jaycar Electronics Store in Melbourne.

When I was living in Melbourne (20 odd years earlier) Jaycar was the "go to" store for car sound systems (I had purchased numerous Pioneer - my sound system of choice - systems from them over the years) and I happened to notice that they were now promoting themselves as selling "all things electronic".

What did I have to lose? In I went and I will say right here and now that the service I was provided with should be put in to some kind of "Super Retailers Handbook" to be taught to every person who ever embarks on a career in retail sales.

The young guy who served me must have spent at least 5 to 10 minutes asking me every manner of question to get a very clear picture of exactly what I needed and after clarifying every conceivable point possible he walks up to a cabinet, pulls out an empty hard drive case and says "This is exactly what you need".

He then goes into detail about being able to sell me a new power cable, but (to quote him) the most likely problem is that the solder inside the box itself has probably broke away from the wiring and if he sold me just the power cable on it's own chances are I would have exactly the same problem when I got home.

When I explained to him that IT hardware and "hard disc drive changeovers" were not my forte he walks away, returns a short time later with a "dummy hard drive" and steps me through the complete process of how to remove the hard drive from the old case and insert it into the new case.

Keep in mind that while this is happening there are customers everywhere and at no time did I get the impression that this guys was in a hurry to get rid of me - I was his total focus of attention until he was confident that I was completely happy with my purchase and understood exactly what was needed to be done to get my problem resolved.

I walked out of Jaycar a most satisfied customer - so much so that all of you are now hearing about it - if you can provide this level of service to your customers, do you think they will do the same thing for you and your business?