Category Archives: Not What You Think

what’s the f’in diffference?

here’s a great quote, unfortunately I don’t know who said it… “I wish to do something Great & Wonderful, but I must first start by doing the small things like they are great & wonderful”

As I’ve posted previously, don’t become indifferent to your customers or clients, you could lose them not only because  you did something wrong, but because you didn’t do enough.

Size really does matter, something insignificant to you, may be all important or a stumbling block for your customer.

These things can be difficult to spot, no matter how hard you look, you won’t find them all, plus you’ll never be perfect, so listen to what your audience is telling you, and if they’re not telling you anything, ask them! don’t fool yourself by thinking their silence is because you’ve got everything right, it’s probably because they’re already looking somewhere else.

And make sure you’re asking the right questions, don’t ask, “Is everything OK?” ask “What is wrong & what could we improve?”, don’t ask “Why would you choose us over a competitor?” ask “Why would you choose a competitor over us?”

So, what’s the f’in diffference? Is it the little things? the small stuff? yes… but it’s the small stuff you don’t see and has to be pointed out to you, like the extra “f” in the word difference, that’s the f in difference, don’t expect to find them all on your own.

Le Roi est Mort

In my Digital Brand Protection days, I had a presentation based around ROI, but it had a twist, as on the last slide I revealed I hadn’t been referring to “Return On Investment” as everybody thought, but “Risk Of Investment” that got their attention!

Upon jumping back & going through the presentation again, the audience understood exactly where I was coming from & the importance of what I was saying. Don’t get seduced by only looking at the high returns, weight up the possible costs of damaging your Brand & reputation, especially if you are aligning yourself with another brand.

There are times you have to take the risk and go with your convictions, that’s where RONI comes in “Risk Of Not Investing”. Seth wrote a great piece this morning that’s entirely about RONI.

Yes, absolutely, you could lose everything if you risk it all and go with your gut feeling, but you could still lose everything if you do nothing. If a competitor is hell bent on pushing forwards when you’re content to sit still, don’t be surprised when they win.

“You can never defeat a man, with nothing to lose”

So go for it! what have you got to lose?

Resigned To The Fact

This post was originally written on the 1st April, but I couldn’t post it until today, and believe me, it’s no April’s Fool.

Today is the 1st of April… the dreaded “R” word raised it’s ugly head today, no not recession, the other one, redundancy. I heard from two more friends, that they were made redundant today, both have been with the companies for a number of years and neither were expecting to be called aside.

Are they taking it badly or personally? thankfully not, both are up beat about it, of course they’ve heard the same thing from everyone, “Oh it’s the best thing that could happen to you” etc, mmmmmmm, no not exactly, winning the bleedin’ lottery would have undoubtedly been a bit of a better day, but then again, it’s only a job for crying out loud, it’s not as if somebody has died. Yes I agree, you have to look at the positives in these situations, the slate is clean, there’s no obstacles, there’s nothing stopping you getting on with all the things you’ve been putting off for ages.

I too realized that things had to change in my office today, but I’m in a different position, I’m a company Founder, so one of those that gets to decide who stays & who goes, (although trust me, that’s no privileged position, it’s not easy making those types of decisions, or nice telling someone), but we’re doing OK at the moment so there’s no redundancies on the cards, but even still someone had to go, and that someone was me!

I’ve too many other things on the boil, I can’t give my all to Cordovan at the present, so it would be unfair to all those that have worked with me the past decade for me to continue in my present capacity, so I’m stepping back. I’m not stepping down, I’m simply stepping back, I’m still sitting on the board & actively helping where I can (or is that interfering where I can), but I’m out of daily operations, it was a hard decision, I’ve spent 10 years building the company, but I’ve also spent the last couple of years ensuring it could function without me… it can, there’s no doubt in my mind there, if there was I wouldn’t step back, they’ll be fine.

It’s not easy letting go, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’s the best thing, my focus has to be somewhere else now, there’s interesting times ahead, but I’m looking forward to the challenges, standing still would be boring, and that’s really not me.

It’s Evolution Baby

Revolution vs Evolution?

Revolutions stand out, they get noticed, people talk about them, (they’re remarkable so to speak), but not everyone wants to be part of a revolution, they’re dangerous, noisy, violent places, where people get hurt… the old guard want to keep things the way they were, they’re happy, they’re comfortable with what they have, they’re probably making a lot of money too, so will do whatever they can to keep the status quo & squash the rebels.

Evolution on the over hand, happens without us really noticing, it’s something we grow into, it’s a way of life, even the old guard, with their affection for the status quo, are evolving, things change no matter what, the telegraph, land-line phones, the internet, TV, mobile devices, convergence, web 2.0, they’re all seen as revolutions, but really they’re all simply evolutionary steps in human communication. So why do you need a revolution? maybe your tactics should be a revelation, get the old guard aligned to where you want to go, to understand the benefits, the change then becomes irresistible?

So evolution or revolution, the end result will be the same, it all comes down to how quickly you need (not want) things to happen.

You Looking For Trouble?

Concentrate on the problem, not the solution, when you fully understand the problem, the solution will come.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be thinking about the solution or perfecting it, but unless you really understand the problem you’re trying to solve, how can you perfect a solution? you could be working on the wrong stuff.

The problem with problem solving is the problem, not the solution.

All Those That Say Aye

We’ve all been there, sitting in a meeting wondering “Why am I here exactly?”

If you’re asking yourself, what’s the point of all this, what’s the outcome? Then your meeting will be a complete failure (for you at least), so stop now! Don’t confuse the purpose of an agenda, it isn’t there as a check list for you to tick off what you need to discuss, it’s there to be a guide to what your outcomes are.

Don’t start a meeting without clearly defined outcomes, or letting everyone know what they are, as you’ll be wasting everybody’s time, and never finish a meeting with a list of things to discuss next time. Your outcomes need to be actionable and most of all, actioned… and if having a meeting will stop you or anyone else getting things done, don’t have a meeting, sitting around talking about things won’t get them done!

They say, “Those that do, do, while those that don’t, teach.” there may be some element of truth in that, I don’t know, but I say, “Those that do, do, while those that don’t, have meetings.”

UPDATE:
Something must be in the air, as within a couple of hours of writing my piece above Seth releases this (or is he reading my blog?)

Being Listless Is So Invigorating

I’m a strategist & planner by nature, I’m continually gathering enormous amounts of information, so I write things down, I have a note book that I’m always jotting ideas into, I make lists of all the things I have to do, oh & I just lied to you!

Not a big fat lie, just a little one, I do all of the above except one thing, I no longer make lists. With all the information I gather and all the things I have to do you’d expect the last thing to drop off my list is ironically making lists, but actually it’s the most liberating & most productive thing I’ve done of late!

My lists used to get very long, they would contain lists within lists, they would contain all the little daily humdrum bits of crap I’d have to do, I would have documents on my desktop named, “to do” & “to do 2″ & “you really must do these things otherwise there will be trouble (version 4)”, you get the picture.

You may ask, now that I don’t make “to do” lists, how do I get things done? Easy, I only do the important stuff… if something is important enough I’ll remember to do it, I don’t need to write it down, if it’s not something I remember, then it probably doesn’t matter, it’s just something that’s getting in the way.

It’s working for me, I get all the important stuff done first, it’s freeing up my time & allowing me to think about things more clearly. It reminds me of the story of two guys trying to saw down a tree but they’re getting nowhere, someone passing by says “sharpen your saw”, to which they answer, “we don’t have time!?”

What works for me, may not work for you, but I suggest giving it a go, maybe you should add it to your list : )

Look for questions, not answers

Asking the right questions, is more important than having all the answers.

Knowing how to to get higher rankings in a Google search isn’t as important as asking, will it make any difference? It’s likely your time & effort would be better invested in creating effective ways to interact with your current customers, than spending your time looking for adhoc new ones via Google. If you build a rapport & trust with customers your already have, they will recommend you and talk about your products & services to their peers, which is far more powerful & effective than a high ranking in Google, will ever be.

Having answers is great, just make sure they’re answering the right questions.

Dirty Laundry

We’ve heard it so many times from clients & suppliers… “we’re customer focused… everything we do is with the customer in mind… we’re number one for our clients… you can trust us to deliver… we won’t let you down… yawn yawn etc” Then they proceed to say “But don’t take our word for it, listen to what our customers have to say” then they role out a series of amazing client testimonials which cover them in glory.

Brilliant idea, that’s what you should do, it’s what everyone else is doing so it must be a good idea, wrong, wrong, wrong! Don’t do it, as you’d be wasting your time.

If you want to encourage or build a new client / customer relationship I’m afraid there’s no quick fix, no matter how good your testimonials make you sound, we know you’ve edited out the mediocre or bad ones, you’re only revealing half the story (in fact probably only a 10%, as you’re unlikely to ask every client for a testimonial, only the ones that you already know are going to write something good about you). So testimonials won’t do it for you.

So how do you build trust, how do you get a customer to use you or trust you? The answers quite simple actually, you have to honest with them, you have to be open, but not just saying you are, you have to be truly transparent!

How? Ever used eBay? If you had two sellers selling exactly the same things, same price etc and one had a 90% “unedited” good hit rate and the other had a 100% “edited” hit rate which would you choose? My point exactly, the “unedited” completely open & honest seller.

So if you say you’re customer focused, and you put your customer first, prove it. Ask every single customer to give you honest & open customer feedback, at the end of every project ask your clients to fill in a satisfaction survey… but don’t ask them, why did you choose our product or how good was the project delivery, ask them why would they choose a competitor, what was wrong with your delivery, how could you improve it next time, what other things would they like you to offer!

But here’s the really good bit, if you’re truly customer focused, then put your money where your mouth is, put it ALL on display, hang your dirty laundry out on your website, the pristine white shirt hanging pride of place alongside your socks with the worn out heels & holes where your toes stick through. Nobody’s perfect, so don’t pretend to be. You’ll soon become focused on getting more of those white shirts on your line, that the holey socks will become a thing of the past, rather just hidden away when visitors come round.

If you can be honest with yourself, then you can truly be honest with your customers, they’ll respect you for it and over time, they’re really trust you!

I hear there’s a recession, but I’ve decided not to take part

At the end of 2007 I sold two of my companies, vision360 & ezpresenter, to the Cordovan Group, with the new company becoming Cordovan Digital (where I’m currently a Board Director). We’ve had a pretty good year, highest turnover & profits of our previous 10 year history, so I can’t say fairer than that. Of course the coming year will be telling, but I feel positive about it, I work with an amazing bunch of guys (& girls!), whom I have complete confidence in, they work incredibly well together & I’m dedicated to ensuring their futures too.

So how have I prepared for the coming year? Probably not as you’d expect… upon selling the two companies last year I retained a third one, named no paper™, which we’re still developing & planning a major launch of in 2009. Then in November this year I registered two entirely new companies (ID Gator™ & F451 Labs™), plus a forum on Identity issues Your Identity Matters™ (to be launched in April-May), plus two non-profit organisations, Your Small Change™ & I Skipped Lunch™, both of which I’m hoping to change to charity status in 2010. So I shall be entering 2009 with 5 companies under my direct control with an ongoing concern with Cordovan.

Am I being ambitious? Yes
Am I over stretching myself? Probably
Can I do it? Absolutely
Would I have it any other way? No
Am I worried about the recession? No
Am I mad? Ask me in a years time!

So don’t bury your head in the sand and wait for the economic downturn to go away, it won’t, there’ll be winners & losers, either way it’s going to be risky in 2009, but it’s your choice… at least doing it my way I can see the risks ahead of me!

And if that’s not a good enough reason then read these:

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be
Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite
Paul Arden

Either way, I hope 2009 is good to you.

Faceparty: A different approach to customer service

I was just reading a post “Jaw Droppers of 2008 – What they’d rather you forgot” on The Register where they recap the most embarasing moments from the past 12 months. The bit about an online community I’d never heard of before named Faceparty, and how they dealt out their customer service is priceless and a must read.

Social Network attacks own customers
Customer service has yet to hit Web 2.0, where you have to answer your own technical questions, wading through forums or sending emails to people in “support” who never reply. “Maverick” social networking site Faceparty went a step further, though, by rounding on users who dared to expect it deliver on its promises – in this case, free tools. Faceparty threatened to terminate accounts of “every single twat who moaned about their friggin’ free cool tools”. “Listen this is our HOBBY, not our business,” Faceparty said, helpfully reminding everyone it’s a “free fucking site” and not to expect anything.

Faceparty’s current homepage has a video on it that pretty well sums up their feelings for those that had the audancy to complain. (WARNING: Faceparty’s site & the homepage video are rated 18 & over. It’s a sexually explicit & rather alternative site, so if you’re easily offended or shocked, then please don’t go there!)

Lightbulbs & Lasers

bing! the lightbulb illuminates when you have your idea, it’s a killer idea, it’s going to change everything, it’s really cool, you almost can’t believe that no one has ever thought of this before, so sit there & bask in it’s warm glow for a while and let others join you to share in this experience, or…

Stop basking & wasting your energy by shining in all directions, focus it all into a single direction, be a laser, they’re bright, they can cut through things, they make things happen and they’re far more impressive than a lightbulb!

Be Effective

As a classic INTJ through and through I hate ineffeciency, it’s a pet hate and I strive to remove it from many aspects of my business, but I’ve just spent a couple of very informative days brain storming & discussing future strategies for the Cordovan Group with the board members along with Prof David Drennan. David said something that really made me stop and think about a few things (To be fair, David said plenty of insightful stuff, but I’m only going to highlight one of them).

To be efficient is “to do things right”
To be effective is “to do the right things”

So while being efficient is all very well, being effective is far more important!

You realise you’re not as original as you thought you were?

bumper-sticker

OK them’s a fighting talk… well not exactly, provocative yes, but that little collection of words intrigued you & made you want to find out more, so I guess they worked, and if I can encourage (oh, let’s face it provoke) you to leave a comment, then even better.

As this is my first blog entry I thought how apt to include the bumper sticker I dreamt up a few months ago… so how is my drivelling so far? it’s OK you can tell me later.

the reason, well let me explain…

I’ve always thought of myself as being “creative”, it’s in the blood so to speak, plus it’s the first half of my job title for the past 15 years, so I have something to live up too I guess!! but I’m constantly looking around & learning from what’s been done before, both the good and the bad. As I say “Creativity is a great thing, but plagiarism is much quicker!” Don’t get me wrong, simply copying someone is breaking the rules & should be avoided, no matter how good the idea is. Thinking out of the box should be encouraged as much as possible, but sometimes you need to turn around, so you can gauge just how far away you are from the box, not so you can jump back into it when you need to, but so you can see how far you’ve come… oh, and to make sure no-one pushes you back into it!

Without getting too philosophical, aren’t we just an amalgamation of everything we’ve ever seen, smelt, tasted, heard, touched or the people we’ve met, so can we ever really be completely original? Aren’t we just regurgitating everything around us into something we can stake a claim to and call our own? A much bigger debate in its own right and not one I think I have the brain capacity to argue : )

OK, back to the drivelling bumper sticker – this time I had a completely original idea, right? I thought of it while stuck behind a truck driving into work, but alas it may have been original, but it wasn’t unique (as one of my colleagues pointed out to me a few days ago when he found on the web that someone else had also come up with the same idea).

OK, so you may be original, but probably not unique! (and surely being unique should be the ultimate goal for any Brand?)

So here’s the question, just how original have your best ideas been (if they’re unique, good for you!), or do you want to come clean and let us in on your original muse or inspiration?

So who’s going to step up first?
Don’t worry, you won’t be alone, who knows it may even be cathartic!