Meeting Etiquette

Meeting Etiquette

We have a few hard and fast rules at Optix for our meetings. I thought I’d share these in case you can glean something from them. I can’t take full credit for these. I reworked some that I saw at one of our lovely clients – Trinity Fire and Security.

Optix Meeting Rules

First rule of meeting club – do you really need a meeting? They are expensive use of our most important resource – You!

1). Only invite people that REALLY need to be there.

2). Set up and send out an agenda/up front contract in advance so people know what they are being asked to do.

3). Just because Outlook says an hour in the calendar do you really need an hour? If you can do it in ten mins standing up, do so.

4). When you enter the meeting, read out your agenda/ufc so everyone is clear on why they are there and how long you’ll be

5). Be on time

6). Turn your devices onto silent – don’t look at your phone in the meeting unless there is an emergency in which case let the room know

7). Respect others – don’t speak too much, not enough or even worse, over the top of others

8). Take your own action points yourself – these are now your responsibility

9). If you’re getting nothing from the meeting – let the organiser know

10). Don’t feel bad about calling people out on the points above – they are here for a reason

11). Review all actions at the end of the meeting – circle the room and everyone who has an action tell everyone else

 

Generational Management 

Generational Management 

If you’re managing more than a few people, there’s a good chance they might cross generations and guess what, those guys have different needs. I believe strongly that its not up to them to change, its up to you as a leader to adapt and understand those needs so you can get the best from all of them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…generational management.

This week I attended a great talk at Exeter University’s Business Leaders Forum. Guest speaker was none other than successful investor and Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden. Her topic of choice was ‘How business might look in twenty years time’ and her number one challenge; generational management. It certainly struck a chord with me.

We currently have three generations in the workplace:

Baby Boomers – Born from ’46 to ‘64
Gen X – ’65 – ‘77
Gen Y – ’78 onwards

The BB’s are and always have been driven by a competitive, work till you drop attitude – it was a thing of the times. Gen X are a little more cautious and strive for greater work-life balance. Then there is Gen Y – these guys like feedback, have a thirst for learning and are driven by technology.

You can bet that some of the BB’s think the younger gen are lazy and tech obsessed while the younger gen think their elders are stubborn and stuck in their ways. A challenge indeed when you want them to work as a team.

If you manage teams which transcend generations its critical you get them talking and understanding each other. The young guys should seek the wisdom and experience of their elders while the older members of the team must open their minds to the fresh new perspectives from their younger counterparts. Sounds easy doesn’t it 😉

Here’s are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Start measuring by results and not by the way people get there. As a leader you’ll need to adapt to the different styles and work methods of these generations. Your younger team members may be driven by working at certain times of the day, perhaps when they feel most productive. They may prefer new locations (yes that coffee shop down the road really can be a legitimate place to work). They are probably working at their desks less and less (this is the mobile generation). Have you adapted the routines and structure you once had? Do you trust your team if you can’t see them at their desk? These are the changes you’ll need to make if you want to succeed with a Gen Y workforce. Interestingly a lot of the time my guys are now working at our clients because we’re adapting not only to generational changes but industry ones too. Todays work climate is about collaboration and teamwork more so than ten years ago. We’ve taken notice and continue to adapt to our client’s and staff’s needs.

Communication is something that gets written about a lot, probably because it easy to empathise with. Gen X and BB’s preferring email and phone calls compared to the more instant messaging of the Gen Y’ers. One thing I did in my own business last year (being that we’re fairly heavily Y biased) is setup a couple of WhatsApp groups, one for the entire company and one for the sales team. The guys share stories, have banter and help each other out everyday and so far I’d say its been a great success. This is mixed with the more traditional email circulars to the business, regular team meetings and one to one reviews and catchups to ensure everyone is catered for.

Another thing I’ve learnt is the thirst for learning that Gen Yer’s have. We’ve subscribed to Lynda.com, an online video training site where you can find out about everything from how to read google analytics to improving your communication skills. We also have a budget set aside for conferences and training and encourage the team to seek out the ones they feel would provide most value and then make a case for being sent on them. How are you investing in your team’s development because if you don’t, you can be sure they will find someone who will?

One final point – make sure everyone has a voice. A leader needs to listen to their people and make strong decisions, calculating the risk and reward at all times. Your BB’s may have been there before and you should seek to use that experience. Your young guns might challenge the norm, help you innovate and take you to places you’ve not been before. Your job is to make the best of the amazing and culturally diverse world we live in so your business can flourish over the next twenty years.

Your Say

Have you had experiences of managing across generations? Positive or Negative, we’re keen to hear so we can all learn.

How to increase staff motivation – help with their dreams

How to increase staff motivation – help with their dreams

Want to increase staff motivation and loyalty? Then encourage them to pursue their dreams!

Everyone has a dream. Whether it’s to earn millions, retire early, travel the world, own your own business, become a professional golfer, or have a family…. everyone has a dream.

A number of years ago I read up about Google and the fact they give their staff 20% of their time to work on their own projects/ideas. A few of the Google products you know and love have come from this very mantra. Then a couple of years on I read about a company called MRY. They wholeheartedly encourage their employees to carry out their own projects. MRY realised that employees will devote themselves to their vision if they in turn help them achieve their own dreams. The outcome is that the company has a whopping 75% retention rate of staff.

Whenever I have the opportunity to help my guy’s personal projects at Optix, I always listen with open ears. When a couple of the guys came forward to ask for support with a handmade bracelet business they wanted to setup, I willingly encouraged them. This was a great opportunity for them to learn key business skills and have the chance to develop their careers at the same time.

It’s now a few months down the line and I recently caught up with them to see how the business is progressing. Whilst they told me the business was rolling out nicely, they pointed out how much they had learnt whilst working on the project. As both team members sit on different teams (one is a developer and another is a marketeer), their close collaboration has enabled them to learn a lot from each other, which has not only has been beneficial for them, but by sharing their knowledge has also helped make key improvements within Optix.

It’s been great to see the project unfolding over the past few months, the excitement, ideas, passion and creativity that the guys are getting from the business is certainly proving infectious across the office.

We all want motivated employees in our businesses. Supporting them as they develop their own careers will go a long way to ensuring your people stay happy, loyal, and passionate.

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.

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

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