Why ‘I’m really busy’ is a terrible phrase.

Why ‘I’m really busy’ is a terrible phrase.

Go on admit it, you’ve said it yourself haven’t you? I have. I say it a lot. So much so in fact that I’m outing myself in an attempt to curb my use of this horrible phrase. Maybe you’ll join me?

I recently read this except from someone on twitter:

“Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with £86,400.

It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course?

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to a good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no over draft.

Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against “tomorrow.”

‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I’ve got too much on’ are rarely ever the case. We might feel like this but the truth is we make a lot of choices in our lives which dictate the amount of time we have left. In truth, when we say we don’t have time to do something, what we’re really saying is that we’re not prioritising it.

Tell me this (and be honest with yourself) do you watch Game of Thrones or any of the other box sets out there when you get home at night? Do you sit and watch the news everyday? Do you spend time looking at pictures of cats on the Internet or watching YouTube’s endless funny clips? Its important to understand that these stop you doing other things so when your colleague comes asking if you can do them a favour or your boss really wants you to over deliver on something for a looming deadline, saying you’re too busy is perhaps the wrong choice of words.

I really hate hearing those words either at work, or in my personal life yet I say them myself so how can expect others not to? They are so negative aren’t they. How can you possibly deliver that sentence in a positive way without affecting the person you’re delivering it to?

Offer up a better way?

How about trying the following next time you feel yourself about to blurt it out.

“I’d love to help with that. I have a few other priorities that I must deal with now but I can help you tomorrow/later today if that helps”

“I’d love to help with that but I’ll be honest, I’m probably not the best person for it. Would you mind trying xyz and come back to me if they can’t help?” (Obviously make sure xyz is actually a good suggestion – this isn’t shifting things you don’t want to do onto anybody else!)

“Sure, I’ll be able to do that for you later… I just need to get a few other bits done before, is that ok?”

Before you use these though, consider the bigger picture and the excerpt at the top of this post. Do you have the right to say you’re too busy? Are you using your time wisely? Do things distract you when you should be doing work? Do you watch TV when you could be reading or improving your skills in something? Do you play xbox for hours when you get home, when you could be putting that time into planning your next day and making sure you’re as efficient as can be? If not, perhaps you shouldn’t be saying you’re too busy at all, or using one of my suggestions?

Perhaps you should be thinking about where you put your time from now on?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Can you hand on heart say you are planning your time consistently and efficiently so you can use it to maximum effect?
  • Have you got any tips/stories to share on this subject? Good or bad please, we’ll learn from both.

Why the young are our future

Why the young are our future

The first high jump event was recorded in the early 19th century. From then until 1964 athletes had all used something called the scissors technique. Essentially they approached the bar and jumped with one leg going over from the side first, followed by the second, all the time remaining bolt upright.

Then in 1964 something remarkable happened. Dick Frosbury went against the norm and performed a completely different technique, jumping and ‘flopping’ over the bar backwards. He shocked (and perhaps you could argue, ‘changed’) the world. Later this technique would be known as the Frosbury Flop and has become the staple move for all high jumpers ever since.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a very good presentation by Marc Astley of Astley Media on the topic of Chaos. Marc and I talk on very similar subjects around our local area and we share a number of the same views. This talk in particular highlighted something I’ve been thinking about for a while now – I’m getting older (35 is practically ancient in my game ;)) The people who will take my business forward are the young guns with the new ideas.

Marc made the point that engaging these guys is critical for business success. The tricky thing is doing it in such a way that doesn’t stifle them. Think about it. For years, businesses have bought kids in and taught them ‘their way’, after all, its got them this far hasn’t it! As these kids have moved up the career ladder they’ve often become managers and taught the same thing they were taught. A recipe for disaster when in todays world, innovation is so critical for business survival.

Sadly I see lots of business who aren’t in the slightest bit innovative or willing to invest in their young guns. They’d rather do things the way they’ve always done and unfortunately this will be their downfall in a world where disruption is the word of the day.

If Dick Frosbury hadn’t been willing to try something different would the sport have moved on? Probably…but who knows how long it would have taken.

We all need innovators in our businesses. Seek yours out, give them a voice and embrace change…..or prepare for a rocky road ahead in the next few years.

Do you actually want my business?

Do you actually want my business?

This is in danger of turning into a rant I’m afraid. Sorry about that.

Recently I was in the market for a new car. I’d had my current wheels for about 6 years and although I loved them, they were getting a little old and my priorities had changed. Now it’s about showing my commitment to our growing family (currently a dog and a little one on the way).

Anyway, onto my rant. I don’t know if my expectations are too high but does it sometimes feel like people don’t want your business or purposely make it difficult to do business with them. I work pretty hard in my life. I’m in the office til gone 7pm most nights and occasionally I work the odd Saturday while I get some quiet time. At the rest of the time I’m still digitally connected by email and social media to my clients and our services. I’m not suggesting you should do the same but I’m guessing there will be a few of you out there wired like me so hopefully you’ll empathise.

This way of life makes it difficult to shop conventionally.

I thought I’d do some car shopping at the weekend on a Sunday because Sunday is pretty much like any other day right? Wrong. My wife and I got in the car and took off for the area well known for lots of car dealers in Exeter, excited by the proposition of what we might find. Our spirits were immediately dampened when the first dealer we came across was shut for the day. Unperturbed we drove on thinking there must be a reason for their closure but as we passed one after another main dealer it was clear this was the norm.

Among the closed barriers and dark showrooms, both the main dealers for my local BMW and Land Rover were closed. Interestingly smaller outfits and most local companies in the area were open for business. I was both shocked and disappointed as either one of them could have picked up a sale that day and have now left me with a bitter taste in my mouth regarding their customer service.

We live in a 24 hour world now. The internet has done that for us. Good or bad? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it’s worth working out when your customers need you and making sure they have some way to engage with you at those times, if not, I’m sure there is someone else willing to do so.

6 things that changed my life in 2014

6 things that changed my life in 2014
Yes folks its that time of year again. While I’ve been a little light on posts in 2014 there is one that must be written. This one.

2014 has been an interesting year, one which has seen a lot of change in both my personal life and business dealings. In a year that saw Optix Solutions turn 15 and new ventures being started by my business partner and I (hopefully more on those in years to come) we may just have tried to do a little too much. As you probably know I’m a huge fan of change and believe it completely necessary for success however sometimes it can feel like you’re biting off too much and its important in those moments to take stock, remember what you’ve achieved and maybe even take some time out. So in this post I’m taking a moment to look at what happened this year and how it affected my life.

Don’t forget that if you’re interested in my posts from the last few years, you can find them here: ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13:

So let’s do the run down then…

1). Baby Banks on the way – Well this absolutely has to be at the top doesn’t it :)

I’ll be a father for the first time in Feb this year (well maybe a little earlier if you look at the size of Lizz!). I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time which is an unusual feeling. With everything in business, things are generally within my control. I can make decisions and live by them but here we’re talking about another life, one which I can only hope to guide without pushing too hard. I’m pretty sure I’ll be a good Dad but there are a few moments when I question if I have the skills and knowledge for what’s going to be the biggest change to my life so far.  I’m sure there will be more about fatherhood on this blog throughout the year so watch this space.

2). Re-Focusing is important however big the decisions

Three years ago our business was split about 75% design and build to 25% digital marketing. Now its almost flipped and that’s been a conscious decision based on goals and a vision we set out a few years ago. Steering a company with 15 people in it is not like a startup where decisions can be made quickly. If you get them wrong in the early days its fairly easy to claw back, with a larger company it takes time and effort and you have to get everyone on board taking into account their own individual drivers (which of course may not be totally aligned with your own vision). This year we’ve pushed harder than ever to adapt to the industry and its been an exciting journey which we are starting to reap the rewards for.

3). Ben Corbally

I hope adding Ben in here means he doesn’t get too much stick from the rest of the team. They aren’t those kind of people so I’m sure they won’t give him too much :) So why did Ben make this list? Ben is a young gun who joined Optix in late 2013 in our Digital Marketing team. He now works alongside me in the client facing part of the business and helps build the digital strategy for some of our newer clients. The reason that he makes the list is that he’s pushed me to think differently this year, to take a new perspective on things which I’ve made fundamental business decisions with. We’ve bought in new services (which has attracted new clients) and pushed ourselves more than I think we would have done without him. Ben you’ve been a delight to work with and I look forward to doing more along side you over the next few years. Exciting times ahead.
You can find Ben over on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bencorbally 

4). Vision for 2020

We re-wrote our vision story for Optix this year and delivered it to the team in September. The statement is our second of this type, the last one being done in 2012 and running out in September of 2015. Its written in the format of a story (from a clients perspective of Optix) and outlines some of the goals that James and I have set for the business. This new vision features everything from turnover figures hitting a million to owning our own building. Better get working then!

5). Finally bringing Project Management to Optix

OK so this is an area I’ll put my hands up and say we hung around too long to sort out. This year we’ve recruited Mr James Cassap, a heavyweight recruit for the business from Cambridge University Press who brings 10 years of project management skills to the business. One well known friend of the company has described the change as likely to look like Optix on steroids. I’m looking forward to seeing that next year. :)

6). Bellroy

Ok so a bit of a light-hearted one to throw in here but hey you need to have a bit of fun don’t you. A man’s wallet is a key item to have around his person. The problem with wallets is they are bulky things. They can affect the shape of nice suits and weigh you down. Bellroy know this too well and have invented a set of wallets which solve this problem. I bought one this year and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that everytime I use it, its an absolute pleasure and puts a smile on my face.

So there were six of my year-changers. I’m looking forward to 2015 for personal and business reasons and I’ve got a feeling that next years post will have some pretty special points in it.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a prosperous and healthy 2015

Now Your Thoughts
 
  • So what changed your life this year?
  • Who and what made an impact on your 2014?

Are your ears and eyes always open?

Are your ears and eyes always open?

A few years ago, at a time when I was still able to drive around in an impractical car (before the requirement for a 5-seater family car), I faced a dilemma one morning when I managed to lock myself out of said motor.

Luckily, my neighbour happened to be the owner of Lockfix24 (a local locksmith’s in Exeter), and after a quick search on Google for his emergency number – he quickly came to my rescue.

Kenny was a complete life saver that day, turning up within the hour and “breaking” me back into my car without leaving a mark. He was reliable, quick and efficient, and I cannot thank him enough for helping me out at such short notice. The thing I didn’t realise at the time was that one day Kenny would be knocking on the Optix Solutions door, asking for our help with his website and digital marketing – something he saw as vital to the success of his business. Kenny is now a happy client at Optix, and drops in on a regular basis to catch up with the team (he usually brings in a treat or two which the team are always delighted about!).

This scenario reminded me that you never know when a chance meeting with someone can end in a business opportunity and that wherever you go, and whoever you talk to you are always representing your business, as are your employees.  I encourage my staff to take a positive approach with everything they do, whether they are talking about Optix outside work, tweeting about something online, or chatting to someone in the street as you just never know.

My wife jokes about how many times I’ve turned a seemingly chance meeting into business for our company but I guess that’s just down to the way I approach every conversation.

If you have your opportunity antenna up and are prepared to talk business at all times then you’ll generate leads. Maybe that’s not important for you. But hey its one of the key reasons my business is now celebrating its 15th year and one I thought I’d share with you all today.

Why I love the Ryder Cup so much

Why I love the Ryder Cup so much

Lets face it the Ryder Cup is a sensational event for any sports lover.

Apart from the fact its so different to its standard format of the game and pits the best players from either side of the Atlantic against each other for three days, its neither of these reasons I want to focus on.

The main reason I love the Ryder Cup and especially the European effort is because of the passion and camaraderie that is clearly evident in their team. There is a lesson for us all to take from the way that team work and support each other over the weekend. 

‘Teamwork’ is an often overused term in business, I do it myself no doubt. That said, even if I use it too much and recreate just a small percentage of the togetherness that the Europeans displayed this weekend, I’ll be a very happy man.

Its important to remember that the Ryder Cup players have no monetary incentive to win this coveted trophy. This is all about pride and playing for the team and before any of you tell me anyone would do the same, I’d call in to question the England football team! #coughcough

The European team comes together from all backgrounds and nationalities. You’ve got players in their early 20’s with some almost double their age. You’ve got big personalities and shrinking violets. Paul McGinley I salute you for what you’ve achieved in getting these guys to work so closely together. You’ve built a family!

Just take a look at the camaraderie around the course. The fist pumping when holes are won. The kissing and man-love between Donaldson and Mcginley when the trophy was theirs. The fact the players who’ve finished their rounds always follow the others round to support them on those final holes.

Possibly the most poignant moments for me are those where you see an older member of the team take a younger member under their wing. This weekend, for me, most noticeably were the efforts of G-Mac and Dubuisson and of course Lee Westwood and Donaldson. True team spirit and respect for each others experience.

So its less of an educational post today and more of a hat-tip to the fine captaincy from McGinley. I’m sure we could all learn some very valuable lessons from you when building our teams. I’ll be looking out for any tips over the next few weeks on how you did such a fine job.

Well done team Europe. An inspiration to me and millions of others across the continent.

#rydercupglory
#bringthenoise

Photo courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottishgovernment/

How to use LinkedIn to generate Sales Leads

How to use LinkedIn to generate Sales Leads

In the last 3-4 months I’ve generated more than 50k’s worth of direct business from my personal LinkedIn account. I spend around 2-3 hours a week on the website and I have a set process for how to get the most from it. At Optix, we spend a fair bit of time training our clients on the effective use of this tool. I recently headed to London to help a 12 man sales team optimise their usage of it so I thought I’d share a few of the key points from that session with you today.

The Basics
For those that don’t know, LinkedIn is a social media platform which started back in 2003. Boasting 300+ million members worldwide (of which 60+ million are in Europe), there are 15+ million users in the UK and roughly 187 monthly unique visits.

Getting Set Up
The more time and effort you put into your profile, the better the results, and if you want to generate the best return then you have to actively engage. If you treat it as a giant Rolodex of contacts then nothing is going to happen.

Populate your profile with relevant information but don’t just create a CV about yourself – no one wants to read that. Tell me how you can solve my problems. Connect with people that you know and observe how they interact with others. You definitely need a profile picture, so choose one where you look suitably professional.

Etiquette
Recognise that connections are currency but you need strong ones. You absolutely cannot try the hard sell on LinkedIn; use it simply as a tool for establishing and nurturing genuine business relationships. LinkedIn is not a place to pick up friends (like Facebook or Twitter); it’s your boardroom of connections. Be interested in others, rather than bombarding them with information about you. When you add connections it’s a good idea to send them a polite message reminding them where you’ve met rather than leaving that terrible message that the site writes for you.

Maintenance
Maintaining your profile is an important job and must be prioritised if you want to generate sales. It’s the first thing that people are going to look at when you’ve reached out to them. Put together a daily/weekly/monthly plan and diarise this so it doesn’t get forgotten. LinkedIn is a long-term investment; you are building your personal brand and you’ll carry this with you for life – so make it count.

Results
There are lots of short-term wins (a favourite of mine is to message people who’ve taken the time to look at my profile) and longer term wins (such as establishing yourself as an authority in your field by authoring posts). The key to it all is proactivity. Are you asking for introductions to key prospects? Have you set-up saved searches to send you weekly emails of targets? What’s your process when you get that email saying one of your connections has moved jobs?

The groups section offers you the chance to position yourself as a thought leader but consider hanging out where your prospects are, not just in that industry group you joined in those first few months on the site (don’t worry we all did it ;).

LinkedIn can’t create sales itself but it can help you create opportunities for conversations and that’s all good sales people need. Once you have those opportunities its up to you to convert. Once you’ve been active for a while (this probably took years for me rather than months) you’ll find that you start getting referrals from current customers who point their connections at your profile.

While I’ve covered a few of the main points here, there is far more to be said about this website so read up about it, make it part of your prospecting activity and be consistent.

So where did my 50k come from? Two well crafted status updates and sending a contact that had moved a quick message of congratulations. Ten years ago none of this existed, it was hard graft, knocking on doors and cold calling. Any savvy sales person should now be thanking the stars for tools like this.

I don’t write these posts to sell but if you are interested in us hosting a training session for your organisation then drop me a line and I’ll send you some details.

Good luck and let me know the minute you make that first sale.

—-

Got any LinkedIn sales tips you want to share? Pop them in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sheilascarborough/

Failure For the Win!

In a world that shouts about success, it’s a natural human trait to regard failure as a negative thing. People often cover up their mistakes and find them hard to admit to. In my business I’m a huge believer in and encourage my team to shout from the roof tops about their failures (ok sometimes its best to do that behind closed doors of course) so they can learn from them. I try and encourage an environment where they aren’t afraid to come forward and admit mistakes, after all if they don’t take responsibility for things, then no one benefits.

I believe that my mistakes spur me on just as much as my successes do. As the great Albert Einstein said, ‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ In business there’s no right and wrong, and no clear path ahead. You simply have to try your best with the tools and resources available to you.

No successful business got to where they are today without taking measured risks. Some of these risks will have paid off, and others won’t have. But to take bold steps forward in business (and in life in general!) you have to take a risk once in a while. As long as these are calculated, measured and reviewed, then whether they succeed or fail doesn’t matter that much. Along with your successes, your failures go towards creating a richer tapestry of life, just remember that next time something doesn’t go your way.

Learning from your mistakes is a vital business skill to acquire. Rather than brushing your losses under the carpet, it’s crucial that you review them and understand what went wrong. Giving a bad decision a post mortem may be an uncomfortable task, but the lessons that you’ll learn will strengthen you and ultimately push you one step closer to success. Consider a top sportsperson/team – they’ll be using video methods to analyse not only their opponents before a game but how they played after it, always looking for the edge.

Take any successful person, look a little closer, and you’ll see that before their big wins there’ll be plenty of ventures behind them that just didn’t work. But successful people like this guy have resilience and an ability to self-reflect in common. They are able to acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them and move on. They value their mistakes just as much as they do their successes. These people inspire me.

 So it’s time to stop seeing your failures as disasters. They are simply indicators of what you need to do next. Let them be the encouragement that you need to stride forwards.

Not all clients are right for you

Not all clients are right for you

What, people who pay me money aren’t necessarily right for me? Surely not.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that our business doesn’t suit everyone and everyone doesn’t suit our business. The problem I have is that as someone who has a fairly high need for approval (I like to be liked), I’m first to jump into situations I feel need saving and while good at this, its not always the right thing to do. 

Customers, clients, people who aren’t right for your business cost you money, time, stress and the opportunity cost of doing better business. The question is can you recognise when to lay your hand down? Can you work out when someone elses pair just made a set on the flop to your pair of Aces? 

So why wouldn’t someone be right for your business? Ultimately it comes down to mis-aligned expectations. Usually these revolve around money, service and process in the business to business world. For example a client who wants everything for nothing is not a good match for us. A client that doesn’t want to work in partnership but wants to dictate the relationship isn’t a good match for us either. Recognising these traits early can save thousands of pounds. 

When you know the attributes of your ‘on-profile’ client type you can seek these people out and attract them to you. For more about Inbound Marketing Persona’s and Inbound Marketing check out this video I did a few months ago. 

In summary then, I’d strongly suggest spending some time thinking about what makes your perfect client and building your inbound personas. If difficult situations arise and you need to make tough calls for your business you’ll be armed with facts on whether someone is worth fighting for or not. 

While its hard to turn away business and especially hard to put business down that’s already been won, when it turns sour, sometimes its the right thing to do for all parties. 

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you been in a position where you’ve said no to business or where you’ve stopped working with someone who wasn’t right for you? 
  • Have you worked on your Inbound Marketing Personas? Do you know who your ideal client is? 

Image courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/julierohloff/ 

Digital Marketing Tips for 2014

Digital Marketing Tips for 2014

Afternoon all. I trust you all had a fantastic start to the year? I’m sure, being driven people, that your goals are set, you know what you want to achieve in 2014 and now its just a case of making it happen.

As the owner of a digital agency in Exeter I want to cover a few ideas for things you should look to implement within your digital strategy this year. If you take on board just a couple of these you’ll be ahead of the majority of the crowd. I know you guys are always looking for the edge, so please enjoy.

Explore the world of Conversion Optimisation (CRO/Split Testing)
Offering up different versions of the same page on your website in order to see which converts the most is an extremely valuable technique to master. Even if you don’t sell online (where huge returns on investment can be seen), you should split test any enquiry forms on your site. Get your agency to do this for you and work with them on the results.

Start practicing Inbound Marketing
Another big trend for the year will see the tracking of customers through your websites, taking a look at what they are downloading, where they spend time and mashing that all up with their social profiles and historic browsing history so you can personalise their journey. Check out industry leaders like Hubspot and Pardot.

Ramp up your Content Marketing..but make it worthwhile
Content marketing is still an important part of your digital strategy and should fuel your Inbound Marketing funnel but it needs to be good. Theres too much content in this world so make sure what you create is better than everyone else in your market. Aim for things that are shareable through social media. Video, best practice guides and content which anticipates and answers your prospects questions should all feature highly.

Setup Email Autoresponders
Its a simple, yet quick win. By linking your website up to a decent email marketing system (MailChimp, OptixMail, Constant Contact etc) you can set a series of automated emails to go out when someone fills out an enquiry form. These are called autoresponders and go out at pre-defined time periods. Obviously you don’t want to spam people but a casual thank you email followed by a top tips email a week later might go down well and make you look switched on.

Get your social policies and strategy in place.
If you don’t want to fall into the same trap as the University Professor who tweeted about Obese doctors last year then make sure your team know what’s expected of them when interacting online. Social provides huge opportunities for your business but its your responsibility to make sure your team know the boundaries.

Fire up your digital presence, enjoy your 2014 and let me know when you get some significant wins.

Oh and Happy Easter :)

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/jefthomas/