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/

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Wow – firstly just need to say this is my 100th post! Boom! It makes writing to thin air in the early days seem worthwhile when you hit milestones like this. Thanks to Dave at Optix for pointing this out to me!

So last week I attended Inbound Marketing 2013 in London with my digital marketing team at Optix Solutions. A great day put on by Deeply Digital and Hubspot. The various speakers covered everything from the basic principles of Inbound Marketing (more on that to follow), to how your sales team needs to adapt to an inbound world, to an excellent presentation on conversion rate optimisation by Will Critchlow of Distilled.

As with all these events, they often leave your mind whirring and if you’re not careful you can write down so many things you want to implement, that you don’t end up doing anything. In order that I don’t fall into that trap myself I thought it may be useful to share a few key takeaways with you.

1). Inbound Marketing is more of a philosophy than I’d realised. It all starts with working out your buyer personas (you can have a few). These are not generally demographics but behaviours of your buyers. What makes this persona tick, how do they feel about working with you, what problems do they have that you can solve. The next stage is to create your content plan based on these personas. The next and possibly most technical stage is bringing context into play. Inbound marketers are constantly learning about their users and offering up different experiences online depending on these. A user viewing a website for the first time will see different landing pages than one who has perhaps already downloaded your latest ‘best practice guide’. According to one of the speakers a great example of this was demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal who were able to work out their influencers, lower the pay wall for this group and in turn drive more traffic to their site. True Inbound Marketing at work.

2). Sales (and in fact your entire team) must engage very differently in an inbound world. Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes that in today’s social world, prospects of B2B companies are anywhere upto 70% down the purchasing funnel before they even pick up the phone to you. They’ve done their research on your company and products. They’ve read reviews, looked at your social media presences and probably looked up your staff. By the time they pick up the phone to call you they’ve made up their mind about the type of company you are so it’s vital your sales team understand this and treat them with the respect they deserve as an informed buyer. This needs to cascade down the entire ‘inbound organisation’ says Brian. Once the sale is made, the whole team need to be consistent in the type of relationship your company has built with them. The message was clear: Sell with integrity, sell with trust, listen more than talk.

3).  My final takeaway was around how much management of staff has changed in the last 40 years and how this impacts anyone who employs a team. Brian showed us this fascinating table of his take on culture change in the last 40 years.

Culture 1973 1993 2013
Mantra Management Leadership Inspiration
Desire Pension Salary Learning
Mentality OCD Anxiety Disorder ADD
Hours 9-5 9-6 Whenever
Workplace 4 walls Openplan Wherever
Tenure Whole Career 6 Years 18 Months

 

 

 

 

 

For people who have lived their lives managing employees from one of the other generations (probably a large proportion of board level directors I’d guess) this leaves an interesting challenge. They must seek to understand their younger workforce and consider the overall makeup of their business if they are to continue getting the most from their team. So what does your staff benefit list look like? Does it impact across the company or just one sub-set of your team? When was the last time you even looked at it? I’m off to look at mine now!

Some great takeaways, some of which I have action points on already. If you can make it to next year’s conference I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. 

Express & Echo Entrepreneur and Employer of the Year Awards!

Yesterday I learnt that I’ve been shortlisted for the Entrepreneur of the year award at my local paper’s business awards, and my company, Optix Solutions has been shortlisted for the employer of the year award. A proud moment for both the company and me personally.

Now the personal award is in the lap of the judges but the other award is being put out to public vote and is being judged on number of tweets received in support.

It would mean a lot to me if you’d just take a minute to vote for Optix Solutions here: http://www.exeterbusinessawards.co.uk/shortlist/employer-of-the-year/

I try not to ask for much from you, so that when things like this do come up, you’ll consider reaching out and helping me :)

What would be even sweeter is if you’d consider sending a tweet to your followers asking them to vote aswell. I’ve even written something for you here:

“Please follow and vote for @optixsolutions in their local award for employer of the year. They really deserve it :) http://bit.ly/10T1zyH”

If you’re in any doubt, we’ve backed up our claim to glory with a blog post here

Thank you all. I promise I’ll be back with educational content again soon.

Using Social Media to Enhance Employability

I’m really excited as tomorrow I’m going to be spending the morning with students at Exeter University, talking about Social Media and how it can help their job prospects. We all know its a tough world out there right now and getting a job is a lot harder than when I left the same University, 12 years ago.

I’m excited because when I was there, I didn’t have any of the tools available to these guys to help my search for work. Those who want to give themselves a head start in life really do have a fantastic opportunity to do so.

So here are my top tips to any student looking to use Social Media to enhance their employability potential.

1). Without wanting to start on a negative note, the first place to start is understanding privacy settings and what employers these days use the web for – Googling your name. Have you Googled your name (that’s mine by the way) to see what turns up? Have you checked to see what information people can turn up on you on Facebook without being logged in, or through a profile that is not friends with yours? If not, I suggest you do, because rightly or wrongly prospective employers will be doing so.

2). Right lets get positive now. If I could give one piece of advice to a prospective employee it would be to start blogging. How many CV’s do you think every job you go for is going to attract? How many of them link to a blog which shows off their knowledge, thoughts & personality? Not many I bet you. So here’s your number 1 chance to stand out. With tools like WordPress so easy to use (and free), you can start a blog today, while you’re at Uni and demonstrate to future employers 1000 times more about you, than you can on your CV.

3). Start listening & learning. Use tools like Twitter to start searches for people tweeting in the area you’re looking to get work. Build up a picture of who is about and begin to engage with them. Getting to know a prospective employer before you’ve even applied for a job could just give you the edge you need when it comes to interview time.

4). More Learning. Really?!? Yup ‘fraid so. The workplace is very different to Uni life. Find industry experts and influencers in your field of choice and follow them on sites like Twitter. Learn from them, create your own posts about the things they say on your newly formed blog. Find the thought leaders out there and start to build up real world knowledge of what business is really going to be like.

As an aside, if you’re into Business & Marketing here are a few great people/companies to start with:

Chris Brogan
, Seth Godin
, UnMarketing
Mashable & Econsultancy

5). Make LinkedIn your corporate network. In the business world many of us use LinkedIn as our corporate network. We keep personal stuff to Facebook so that’s not much use to connect with us on. Twitter is more difficult to build close connections on quickly, it takes time. Start to add people you meet at job fairs/events/shows/out networking and build your numbers. Know people in the local business community (family/friends etc)? Add them too. Numbers lead to leverage in LinkedIn and as you take your profile wherever you go in your working life, you should start to see this as one of your most valuable assets.

6). Be Proactive – When I’m looking to recruit, I want someone that stands out. I want someone that makes the effort to go the extra mile. I want someone that doesn’t just send me in a CV and hope for the best. Recruitment is expensive for us company owners. You can not only save us money but show you’re different by finding me on LinkedIn and sending me your details. Ensure to tell me not just about your skill set, but why you want to work for me, what you can bring to my company and why you’re different. You’ll be ahead of 95% of other candidates already and if you’ve done everything else I’ve said above I may not even bother seeing anyone else!

Guys, if I were looking for a job now I’d be really enthused by all the ways I can make myself stand out. The question is….are you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any more tips for the stars of the future?

How I give ownership to my team

How I give ownership to my team

Have you ever wondered why a member of your team hasn’t done something you wanted, or perhaps they have, but you get the feeling that it’s been done with the least effort required to get the job done? I’m sure we’ve all been there. What I want to talk to you about today is how you can create an environment where people want to work for you and want take pride in their work. Its the ONLY way you can grow your business.

Over at Optix Solutions everyone we employ is awesome at their jobs. These are people who have studied the internet industry for many years (in some cases since it pretty much began). We have a group of guys and girls that are proud and passionate about what they do and how they can help their clients. These are people who don’t want to be told what to do, day in day out, with no input of their own. These are people who have a voice and a damn good one too. These are people who want to ‘own’ their work. And there lies the clue…

Ownership

There is a huge difference between giving someone a task or project and asking them to tell you when it’s done and giving someone ownership or responsibility for that task or project. I’ve found this out the hard way over many years. Here’s the difference:

Straight forward delegation of task:
I’ll ask one of my team to complete a task/project and tell them I need it finished by X date. They’ll take it on, complete it and deliver it back again by that date. This is fine and gets the job done but it’s not half as good as….

Giving ownership:
I will delegate in exactly the same way but I might use slightly different wording along the lines of, ‘I’d really like you to own this project, you’ve got the authority to make decisions on how it’s done (within boundaries of course) and the responsibility of delivering on X date lies with you’

You see the difference? The impact of this is huge. Why? Because everyone wants to feel wanted, like they have a purpose and ownership of something, like they come to work for a reason. They will take pride in what they do, they will ‘own’ it. What you’ll get back from your team if you start with this approach will exceed your expectations and people will fly.

I was putting together a blog post for the Optix blog recently about the team we have there and I asked everyone what they liked about working for the company. Here are a few choice comments I had back:

Nick – “Flexibility/freedom to use my initiative and be creative”

Kris – “we are all genuinely challenged to be the best we can be, and our Directors actively encourage us to be a part of the company”

Kris – “You’re not just allowed to have your say, you’re listened to. If something doesn’t work or could be done better for a client, you have the power to change it. When we do well we are rewarded and when we make mistakes we’re encouraged to learn from them”

Charlie – “You are encouraged to learn and grow outside of your specific role – this creates real job satisfaction”

Dan – “My input is taken on board and I am my own man”

Dan – “When working in other organisations it has been all too easy to blend into the background and not be a leader. Here at Optix I am encouraged to take control of my own destiny and make things happen. With that comes responsibility, but without great responsibility you cannot have great power! Even Spiderman knows that”

Rich – “We throw  a wicked xmas party!”

Ok, so maybe the last one has little to do with ownership but hey its true! :)

We understand at Optix that the company can only be successful if we have a team of people who are proud of who they work for, love coming to work and have ownership of the work they do.

How can you foster this environment with your team?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Do you give ownership to your staff? What has this brought you?
  • Do you have any further thoughts on how to get more from your team beyond this?

[Read more...]

8 of my top articles, all in one place…

8 of my top articles, all in one place…

One of the things its easy to forget when you’ve been blogging for a long time is all the great posts and content you’ve put together over the years. All that effort you put in, potentially lost in the mists of time.

Unless a user finds your posts by a search engine, its unlikely they’ll navigate back over years worth of content – lets face it, who has the time for that?

There is an easy solution to this though – A ’round up’ post. A collection of posts from your blog linked to from another post just like this. It could be your ‘favourite 5 articles’, ‘7 posts you’ve written on a  particular topic’, it could just be a random mixture you want to highlight for another reason.

So with that in mind, here is one from me.

I use a tool called Postrank (owned by Google) to help me work out which of my posts are well received and which flop. It scores on all sorts of metrics like comments/shares etc…

So here are my top 8 posts of all time according to my post rank stats – enjoy:

1). Here’s a great way to loose some customers – I got quite miffed one holiday in Cornwall a year or so ago and decided to rant a little on my blog. Right or wrong, this post topped the charts!

2). Do what you do best and delegate the rest – A post about my framework for delegation, essential as your company grows.

3). 7 Super useful resources for busy business owners – Gotta love a list of useful resources. It seems other people did too.

4). Facebook Places – Are you Aware – One of my most commented on posts so it clearly hit a nerve. A post about thinking before you ‘check-in’

5). If I were a solicitor… – Here’s a post for all solicitors thinking about how to use social media. Loads of great ideas, crowd-sourced from others as well.

6). The sale ain’t made ‘til the bill is paid! – Putting together a policy on money and collecting it is essential to any business, large or small. This post gives some hints and tips on this topic.

7). 5 traits successful business owners have – This one got a lot of traction. The title speaks for itself.

8). Cash Flow is King! Guide to setting up a cash flow forecast - My most visited post (and one of my oldest) by a long way. It proves that if you give a bit of value away you get search engine listings and lots of traffic in return.

Now Your Thoughts

  • If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog and have others you think I’ve missed out please do highlight them.
  • Have you thought about doing a round up post yourself? Its really quite fun to reminisce…

Photo courtesy of Fabio Marini under creative commons

p.s You can now add your email address to my ‘newsletter’ signup. I’ll be adding value to this group of people as often as possible – they will receive things from me that others don’t have access to, so please signup today.



p.p.s. If you like what you’ve read here then you should sign up to my RSS feed and every time I update this site the post will be sent to your reader automatically.

Stop the Sabotage

Stop the Sabotage

I’m not sure why I find myself talking about hotels again is a disdainful manner, but that’s just the way it goes I guess. These are places which are supposed to hold the highest regard for customer service – it’s what much of their success is based upon.

So today I witnessed one of the worst cases of business sabotage I can ever imagine. It literally put shivers down my spine to think of my staff ever doing something similar (I know you wouldn’t by the way guys!!)

I’m standing at the reception of a well respected and fairly top end hotel in Exeter. There is a well-to-do lady talking to the man behind the reception desk. I’m not really a nosy person but I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. This is where the unimaginable happens.

The lady is asking the guy about hotel rates, she’s foreign by the way. The guy, seemingly uninterested responds ‘well it’s cheaper in the week than at the weekend’. The lady responds politely, ‘thats understandable, I’m enquiring for my daughter who would like to stay for quite some time’ – BINGO – Music to anyone’s ears surely…not this guy. He asks how long she’d be planning to stay and the lady responds ‘at least three weeks at first’. This is where it gets really silly. The guy then says to her: ‘Oh if its that long you better do it online as you might get a better deal there’!!!

Folks lets analyze this for a minute – you have a potential punter standing in front of you with their wallet open and ready to sign themselves up for a very long time – I’m guessing this is worth thousands of pounds to this hotel and what do they do, tell them to look online as it might be cheaper. Jeez – If it were me and it really were cheaper online (and by the way I doubt it very much) I’d walk them to the hotels computer and help them look myself. My guess is that it was too much work for this guy, perhaps he’d had a bad day or couldn’t be bothered with this one lady as it sounded like a bit too much work.

My guess is this woman (clearly in a foreign country) will not bother going online but will probably walk down the road to one of the many other great hotels in town. I know I would.

That guy has potentially cost his company thousands of pounds and doesn’t even care. As business owners, what can we do to make sure that our staff are not doing the same to us? Do they care about your business? Do they worry about losing money making opportunities as you do or is it just another job?

Watch out folks – I bet this hotel didn’t even realise that this was going on. Are you certain it’s not happening to you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Could I be going OTT because I’m naturally a sales person and can’t stand to see a sale lost?
  • What measures do you have in place to stop this complacency in your business?

Optix Solutions is Recruiting – Can you Help Me?

We have an exciting new role at Optix Solutions – Maybe it’s for you or you know someone who could fit the bill. Here is the Job Ad from our main website which I’ve copied below (I apologise for the copy and paste but I’m not sure I can add much more than this already says). I’d appreciate it if you could forward this on for me.

Are you….

  • Into business development?
  • Someone who listens before speaking?
  • Into solving others problems?
  • Up for helping others grow their businesses?

Then this role could be for you.

We’re looking for a business development star to join our already legendary team and help grow our client’s businesses online. Note how we didn’t say grow ‘our’ business – that’s important and if you don’t know why, you need not apply.

We’re looking for someone who can break-down client’s challenges in seconds and work out a solution for their needs using the tools we have at our fingertips.

Before we go any further here are some rules about applying:

  • No Sales BS please (ok so there is only really one rule but it’s pretty important)

In the first instance, please send your CV and cover letter to Amanda@optixsolutions.co.uk – We’d like you to put in the cover letter why you want to work for us. Impress us. Go on, you know you want to…

Good luck….

Delegate, don’t abdicate

A quick follow up on my last post about the art of delegating today. After a few conversations I had with people, spurred on from my last post, it struck me that I missed an absolutely vital point which many people don’t think of.

Young managers and people new to delegating often mix up delegation and abdication of responsibility – I’ve done it myself.

When delegating you must remember one very important point – you are merely passing something on to another and asking for them to look after it for you. You are passing the authority to them but not the responsibility – that should remain firmly on your shoulders. If something goes awry with your task, it will still be you taking responsibility so you need to make sure you have processes in place to keep track of the delegated tasks. Try not to micro-manage as that’s not helpful for anyone but you may need to know important pieces of information which you’ll have to make sure the person you’ve delegated to, understands you need.

Short post I know, but extremely important for all of you new to this topic…

Hope you’ve all enjoyed the many bank holidays we’ve just had (if you’re in the UK of course)

Now Your Thoughts

  • Did I forget anything else :) ?

Do what you do best and delegate the rest

Do what you do best and delegate the rest

When you start your own business and it’s just you (or a partner perhaps) you do everything. You do the sales, the accounts, the admin, the mail, the work itself…… the list goes on. When you find that you’re in a position to grow and take on specialists you must take those chances as they’ll help take your business to the next level. This often isn’t easy though.

The first thing I employed someone for was the books. Within a year of starting we had a bookeeper that came in once a month. It was just enough to deal with the purchase ledger and VAT/Tax. We also had an accountant but that was a friend of the family helping me out so I guess I can’t count that.

I’m going to be honest with you – Over the years I have been pretty awful at delegating. It’s one of my weaknesses but I’m really working hard on it and want to share some of the things I’m learning with you. I like to have control, to know where everything is and like many other business owners, believe that I can do many things better than other people – This however is not the trait of a successful businessman I’m afraid. Businesses run by people like this can achieve a certain level of growth but if they keep on the same vane it holds them back. They must let go.

Having read the fantastic book ‘One Minute Manager’ (Aff Link) I’ve learnt that delegating is extremely important, but not just that, the process of ‘how to delegate’ is even more vital if you’re to get it right. I’m much better at giving things up now. In my Online Marketing agency, the two directors (of which I’m one) are building a team of fantastic individuals who we feel more than comfortable asking to carry out tasks, knowing they will be done and done with vigor. In your businesses you need to build similar teams around you – recognising where your skills don’t lie and filling these in around you.

I mentioned you need a process for delegating – a framework if you will. Well here’s mine – feel free to nab it.

My Frame work for Delegating

1). Define the task fully – When asking someone to do something, make sure the task is crystal clear. If you’re doing this by email or text, re-read it a couple of times if necessary to make sure you think there can be no room for error.

2). Define when you need the outcome to take place. If you’re asking for a report or something to come back to you then define that date/time clearly. I went wrong here a lot – I assumed by delegating that everyone else’s priorities would match mine then got upset when people didn’t deliver – it was my fault as I didn’t define my expectations on delivery clearly enough.

3). Define the expectations - Much like the time/date, if you have expectations of what you require, put them down as well. If you want someone to take something and make decisions on your behalf, tell them or it will probably end up back on your plate.

4). Set a follow up - When you agree the time/date, agree what the follow up looks like – is it a meeting, an email, a document on your desk.

5). Define success - Not always relevant with smaller and more mundane tasks but essential with larger, more important ones. Say what you ideally want the outcome to be so the person you’re asking has some indication of what they are working towards.

6). Remember what you’ve delegated - I really struggled with this before. Where do I keep a note of what I’ve delegated? I’ve tried lots of systems but I’ve ended up using a fantastic service called NudgeMail. You simply send Nudgemail an email with the date you want it to ‘nudge’ you (for example march20@nudgemail.com and it will do just that. I don’t remind myself of everything I delegate but I do with the larger task as sometimes a casual nudge to the person I’ve delegated to is required and I believe that showing you care and haven’t forgotten can also be important ;)

Now Your Thoughts

  • Are you a control freak or have you mastered the art of delegation?
  • Have you got any tips for us on this art?