Tag Archives: business

Forget the Hype: businesses are not interested in retaining exisiting customers

We seem to live in an age where what you say is really important: say the right things and everyone loves you; say the wrong things and you rapidly become a pariah!

For me the importance isn’t so much what people say, it’s more about whether they apply their words:  do they actually do what they say?

Business gurus have told us for years the importance of retaining current customers as ‘They are much easier to gain repeat business from than new customers’ etc.

I have had two experiences that fly in the face of this within the past 3 weeks. 

Two different companies ‘guaranteed’ to supply services for my business and to acknowledge this agreement in writing. 

  1. The first company did neither and did not make any response to e-mails, telephone calls, a fax or written letter (plenty of promises to call back within 45 minutes etc, just no action), despite my clear indication that I would be pursuing a refund in the event of no response: I got none,  so my bank retrieved the payment.
  2. The second company sent me acknowledgement in writing but then became seemingly uninterested in responding to my e-mails,  telephone calls or fax.  In addition, this technology-based company has an online formmail system that returns a string of errors when you try to use it.  So, a  good old ‘snail mail’ signature required letter has been sent so we’ll see if that elicits a response.  In the event of none, you’ve guessed it,  my bank will be busy again!

What I find amazing, is that I am not alone in these experiences.  Several friends in business have experienced the same response and reclaimed their payments.

Now I would have thought that in an economic environment that is not overly healthy or generous, we would all want to retain customers.

Clearly not!

So, is what these ‘gurus’ say important and will I listen to those gurus in future? 

Yes, it is and yes I will … because I know the importance of a loyal (and satisfied) customer base. Most of the ‘gurus’ I read are actually ordinary people who have built businesses from scratch and learned, often the hard way, the importance of backing up what they say with what they do.

But there are clearly too many who either ‘speak the speak but don’t walk the talk’, or who don’t know about this important principle or who simply don’t care, and for them, I fear the future is not Orange!

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The Importance of Personal Contacts

I have pretty much lived clinical trials, clinical research & drug development for 18 years of my life! So, when I was made redundant in 2007 I decided to try something new as a career. I focused on my drumming & percussion workshops for schools, businesses, community groups … and I discovered the importance of previous experience and exposure.

I am reasonably well-known in a few circles locally for my percussion and drumming work, but my workshops, though plentiful had been voluntary input to a couple of schools for friends who were teachers: I worked full-time and did the workshops as favours. These were extremely well received and over a period of 5 years or so I made many visits.

Unfortunately, around the time I left work, there were major changes in the teachers (specifically, head teachers) at the schools where I had worked. My friends retired or left the profession and so many of my contacts evaporated overnight.

The last 2 or so years has been spent building links with new schools, but with many competitors already established, it has not been easy.

And through all of this, the old adage that “It’s not what you know, but who you know” has shouted in my face many times. Sure, I’ve had breaks and done workshops, and the future is looking bright, but it is difficult to express the frustration and sometimes blind panic that ceases hold when the very thing you’re wrestling with is what puts bread and butter on the table, clothes on your back and keeps your car on the road.

So what have I learnt?

In three words, “Never give up!”

I’ve learnt more about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses during this time than at just about any other period in my life. And I intend to work on these as I move forward.

But if you’re a teacher, or a manager who is looking for creative drumming & percussion workshops to spice up your lessons or build your times (and you’re based in the UK), I can help! 🙂

Service or Ripped-Off?

So goes that start of a conversation I overheard today whilst out shopping at our local Market.

What a damning inditement on all those free offers we are continually bombarded with in order to grab our business; offers which, in reality, have nothing free in them.  They are a hook to get us to buy and clearly in the mind of individual concerned they had been forgotten:  it was the financial transactions that had been remembered, not his free gifts (if they had actually ever received any).

This set me thinking … again … about how we sell ourselves daily:  in business and in our own lives.  We used to have a saying at work;

‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch!’ 

 i.e., You don’t get something for nothing; everything costs.

To some point I agree.  But where that cost lies is the divider between something being perceived as an offer of service and being taken for a ride.

If we make our customers pay, they see it as being taken for a ride and their trust is often shattered.  If we take the cost, our customers see it as a service, as a favour, and it builds trust … and if we do make a mistake in the future they are far more to help us solve it than make demands.
This is a simple division, but one which businesses and individuals ignore at their peril …  every day.  We promise but don’t deliver.  We offer something for free … but there’s a catch!

Perhaps we need to think more carefully before we advertise our next free offer because if we fail to deliver on that offer, we make our customers (and friends) ever more cynical and thick-skinned: we turn them off rather than turning them on to what we really have to offer.  In reality, we turn them off to us because we fail to deliver on what we’ve promised.  It is ourselves that we are selling short and it is ourselves that get the bad publicity.  We gain the label ‘Can’t be trusted’.

The idea of personal integrity is getting ever more lost amidst spin and short-term fire-fighting.  High profile figures expect us to believe their words, even though we see they are contrary to their actions (the cover up).  However, for those who are prepared to match words with actions, the opportunities are huge.  There is a saying I like to use for personal encouragement:

‘Where the darkness is darkest, the faintest light shines brightest’

I’m not on my own when I say that by being honest and open, yes, even admitting our mistakes, we build an opportunity for growth and success; for competitive advantage.  Despite what the macho businessmen (many of whom are scared witless of failing) may say, customers like attention and they like vulnerability because that makes us just like them, complete with faults and failings, and they can relate to that.

Integrity, Expenses & Me

Like me, you’re probably getting tired of all the current revelations surrounding the exploits of our politicians and their ‘accounting errors.’  I feel sorry for those politicians whose names have not been in the headlines because they have actually been honest (but not for those that simply haven’t been caught yet!). 

I have also been amazed at the naivity of those concerned to think that they can use a few weasel-words to cover-up what were quite clearly blatant attempts to defraud …

I am humiliated by my error of judgement” … But it obviously didn’t feel too humiliating when making the initial fraudulent claims,  before being found out.

I overlooked this accounting error” … No!  You made a fraudulent claim and failed to declare it.

I have paid back the expenses I shouldn’t have claimed” … Okay, but how long has it been going on?  What haven’t you told us about?

I made an error of judgement” … About the expenses or the risk of being caught?

Do the government bodies e.g., HMRC, allow us to say, “Sorry! That non-payment of tax was a small accounting error.  I’ve admitted it now so no need to worry about it further.”   I think not.  Argue with the taxman and court beckons.  In fact they are one of the few groups of people who can expect us to pay them back for their mistakes (sometimes large sums of money if we’ve not noticed an erroneous tax calculation … which is interestingly our fault for not noticing the error in the first place.  Sorry.  Have I missed something?).

In the past  I have commented to friends about the various activities of politicians outside of Parliament, only to be told, “Oh! That’s their private life. You shouldn’t worry about that; they wouldn’t do that in Parliament.”

I would argue that if an individual can knowingly act dishonestly in one area of their life, they can act dishonestly in any area of their life.  

We are what we are.

Trust and integrity are keys for success in any area of our life. Unfortunately, too many people want to be trusted without having to be responsible for their actions … and when we let people down through deliberate deceit, it takes a long time to rebuild the trust we’ve shattered.

Our politicians are human beings who, because of their public visibility (and the thirst of the media for ‘news’) are easy targets for the snipers.  In no way can I condone what has happened.  I am probably as annoyed by the deceit as the next man.

BUT it does challenge me re-examine what I do and ensure that my dealings with others, in business and everyday life, build trust; not destroy it.  

We all make mistakes.

What I am concerned with here is that those are genuine mistakes or misjudgements, rather than a clever manipulation of the English language to cover deceit and polish a turd!

What are the Dangers of Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence?

This may seem to be a pointless question after my last few posts, but self-esteem and self-confidence, like most other qualities must be held in balance.

We have all met the ‘over-confident’ and those whose ego and self-esteem are so inflated that they are nothing short of a pain (or danger) to be around. 

Just as a balanced diet should be exactly that, BALANCED, so confidence and esteem must be balanced with and grounded in reality.

Historically, we have been taught that many bullies, aggressive, violent or anti-social individuals have a problem with low self-esteem and low self-confidence.  More recent, controlled research suggests that these characteristics are commonly demonstrated when unearned self-esteem (an inflated sense of self-importance or superiority over others) is challenged or the individuals concerned feel humiliated. 

These people have a self-esteem or self-opinion that is over-inflated and has no grounding in reality.  As a consequence, it is very frail when challenged.

Why mention this?

Well, I think it is important to understand that seeking increased self-esteem and self-confidence as entities on their own is not a healthy pursuit.  Both characteristics need to be grounded in reality and grounded in the context of our character. 

Both characteristics are also under our control.  We have a RESPONSIBILITY as well as a right to handle the skills we have and the best way to do that is by grounding them into reality. 

I saw a scary video the other day of a 10-year-old boy in America addressing a crowd of 20000 people.  Great!  Good for him!  But what is so scary is that he was a clone of the high pressure salesmen and public speakers we fear, and at such a young age is highly susceptible to being manipulated, as well as manipulating others.  The content of what he had to say was actually very good, but his delivery bore no relationship to his age or experience.  The words he used were of someone at least 20-years his senior … and that is probably where they came from.  This was not a demonstration of healthy self-esteem and self-confidence.

So, I’d like to finish where I started my first entry a few days ago … which is by relating self-esteem to self-worth.

If we feel that intrinsically we have value (which I differentiate from importance) we are more likely to respond to the needs around us because we are confident that what we bring has value, even if it isn’t necessarily the total solution.

I believe that building and increasing self-esteem in others (and in ourselves) is a frequently overlooked tool for birthing success; in everything we do

How Can We Build Self-Esteem & Confidence in Others?

Self-esteem is the foundation on which confidence can build.  People who feel valued and know their self-worth are then more able to try new things and be prepared to fail.  Unfortunately, failure has become a dirty word in business and we love to make scapegoats of those who have failed.  But in so doing we continue to hammer the nails in our own coffin, because unless we are prepared to try something new, to put ideas together that have never been put together before, to experiment with them and see if they work, creativity and innovation die.  If we stifle or kill self-esteem, we stifle and kill creativity and our success.  The three are intimately associated with one another.  The most successful and rapidly expanding businesses today are those where creativity thrives; Innocent Drinks and the Virgin franchise are just two examples. 

And where creativity is lost?  The businesses die. 

As pressures increase to be successful, we often exclude the very things that can save us.  One of those things is risk-taking, of which we are sorely afraid.  We continue to work harder at what we’ve always done in the hope that ‘this time it will work’.  Why should it if it hasn’t worked before?  If it has worked before but we’re struggling now, why use the tried and well-trodden path to the cemetery?  Risk-taking is the basis of creativity and the foundation for success.  But in order to take those risks we need the confidence, and to build confidence we need a foundation of self-esteem.

Simple ways to build self-esteem include basic rewards such as a verbal or written ‘Thank you’, recognition in front of peers, recognition of a team in a company publication, a small gift, anything that says ‘We appreciate your efforts.’

Perhaps we should re-learn the art of celebrating our failures.  They don’t have to be big announcements (there are undoubtedly people waiting in the wings to pour on scorn).  But by celebrating the failures with those who’ve tried it is possible to learn from the mistakes and to move forward.  Punishment achieves nothing apart from a misplaced sense of  dispensed justice.  We forget that the greatest discoveries affecting our lives today were the end of a line of repeated failures.  People like Thomas Edison went through hundreds, even thousands of prototypes before they came up with the end product.  Underlying that tenacity and perseverance was undoubtedly high levels of self-esteem and self-confidence which enabled them to face the failures, learn from them and move on.  These inventors would undoubtedly have been inspired and encouraged by others and needed to draw on that as onlookers criticised and ‘commented’ on their failures.  But it is their self-esteem that is likely to have held them on-course through the storms.

Sometimes we just need to let people have a go and discover for themselves.  This is the basis of my workshops.  I can show them plenty of what I can do, but in the end it only really works when each person has the opportunity to try for themselves.  Having discovered that they can or can’t do something they can move on, either to something new or build on what they’ve started.
Sometimes we need to revisit where they’ve been and help them change a wrong perception.  For example, they may have tried something once and decided that they can’t do it, when in fact they just need to try it again.

There are many ways we can help, but perhaps the biggest part is through our relationships with others.  As we develop and use these we have the opportunity to encourage, correct, draw alongside and help.  These things also take time, effort and patience, so it can be useful to weigh-up how much effort and time we can/are prepared to give.

Benefits from the results are potentially huge and long-lasting and the return on investment greater than we can ever perceive.

But we need to take that risk …

 

If you are interested to learn how we may be able to help you, please either visit our websites:

Waywood Creative:           http://www.waywoodcreative.com/

Waywood Training:            http://www.waywoodtraining.com/

Or contact me directly on

(     +44 (0)1509 553362

À       +44 (0)7814 628123

¿      stuart@waywoodenterprises.com

How can we affect self-esteem & self-confidence in others?

It is always worth considering what impact we can and do have on the self-esteem and self-confidence of other.  If these qualities in us are affected by external input from our parents, peers etc (i.e., others) then we too can have significant impact on the self-esteem and self-confidence in others.

Let’s consider as an example, the boss who wants to add some stretch to the expectations of his staff in order that they can develop and grow in their roles.  How can he help them to grow and develop and achieve these goals?  I would argue that one way is to reinforce their self-esteem and develop their self-confidence.  These promote not only independent thinking and working, but also the security to approach others for assistance if and when needed.  But what happens if this boss

  • Sets targets, and then continually reviews them and re-sets them as they are met? 
  • Sets targets that are simply not achievable? 
  • Introduces so much stretch in the objectives that they push the individual beyond their elastic limit? 
  • Continually focuses on targets that are not being met and ignores those that have been achieved or exceeded? 
  • Provides criticism and objective advice without praise and reward?

These scenarios are all too common in business today; many through pressures to perform in difficult or changing economic climates; many through personal drive or feelings of the need to achieve or survive; many through ignorance.  Whatever the reason, the end result is the same; underachievement, low morale, suspicion and loss of best staff (either voluntarily or through ill-health).

When the pinch comes the focus can be turned so strongly onto the objective that we neglect the means of achieving that objective, our staff.  Survey after survey shows that the best results, greatest growth and greatest stability arise where people feel valued, rewarded and are given the freedom to try, in other words, where people have a feeling of worth (self-esteem) and the confidence to make a significant and recognised contribution (self-confidence).  It’s also interesting that in many cases, reward constitutes little more than acknowledgement and being thanked.  It does not necessarily have to be a salary increase or monetary award.

The problem is that in many cases, praise, thanks and acknowledgement have been consigned to the annals of history.  The positive side to this is that where there is a cultural change from a praise vacuum to one of acknowledgement, the change in atmosphere, attitude and motivation can be remarkably rapid and greater than could be expected.

So, if encouraging others costs nothing, apart from a bit of pride, self-discipline and effort, but reaps such great rewards, what are the barriers to us starting, now?

  • Pride?
  • Time?
  • Image?
  • Effort?
  • Expectations?
  • Office structure?
  • … other reasons?

If survival, growth and development are priorities in our businesses then none of these barriers is too great to overcome.  Most are personal anyway.  And if it is a case of reorganisation or redundancy, then there can be little argument against the case.

The benefits of building self-esteem and self-confidence in others and ourselves are that we are laying the foundations for greater things; creativity and innovation.

More of that next time …