Likeminds 2010 & Never forget where you’ve come from

Likeminds 2010 & Never forget where you’ve come from

Last week saw Exeter host Likeminds 2010, a social media conference (for want of a better title). It showcased some of the world’s leading authorities on social media, in some of the world’s largest companies. The event took place on the 26th of Feb and boy was the line up something special. My Online Marketing Agency in Exeter, Optix Solutions is proud to have been a local sponsor for the second time running. On the day, the hashtag for the event #likeminds, ‘trended’ on Twitter (meaning it was among the top 5 or 6 most referenced things in the world at that time!) The event has subsequently had write ups in numerous blogs around the world and large newspapers such as the Guardian. At certain times during the day, I literally sat there pinching myself, to remember that we were actually in Exeter, in sunny Devon.

The speaker line up included names from Orange, Sky, Ogilvy, Reuters and one of the world’s leading social media masters – Chris Brogan (author of best selling book – Trust Agents). It was nicely balanced however with local participants such as John Harvey, Exeter’s city centre manager, Helena Holt, CEO of Devon Air Ambulance and many others, not to mention the fantastic ‘Endevours’, where local charities were given 5 mins on stage to promote their causes. Likeminds is exciting for a city like Exeter, most events of this type are held in larger cities like London, so to have people descend on Exeter for a couple of days is unbelievable, raising both the profile of city and showing what great waves it’s making in the social media world. It would be very easy to write for days and days about this event (as many others will) and in light of the fact that this blog is aiming at reaching out to young entrepreneurs and adding value to people looking to start up businesses, I’m going to pick up on how it felt to spend some of the day with a social media ‘rockstar’ – Chris Brogan.

If you’re not in the social media or marketing world yourself you’d be forgiven for not having heard about this guy but for those of us who are, let me tell you, he’s a bit of a hero. He co-authored (Affiliate Link) Trust Agents, a fantastic book about how you should conduct yourself online and build trust and the rewards that can lead to. He has over 100k twitter followers and thousands of people subscribe to his blog.

I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to talk with Chris a couple of times that day, at Lunch (where he even paid the tables tab!) and at dinner for the sponsors and speakers in the evening (how lucky was I!). This is a very humble guy – it would be very easy in Chris’ position to simply rub shoulders with the other people around the world who share his success but I get the feeling his mantra is about never forgetting where you’ve been and helping the up and coming stars (in fact he references this in his book and definitely carries it out in real life). All day, Chris gave his time to whomever approached him, always happy to share stories and sign books – it must have been pretty exhausting for him but he never once looked uninterested in anyone – in fact, far from it, he always showed interest beyond the call of duty. This is how he does business and in my opinion it’s one of the main reasons he’s been so successful. I see the same traits in Trey Pennington (whom I also met from Likeminds last year). These guys are just genuinely nice and make it their business to help others (they are true connectors) – they know when they do this that they will benefit, maybe not immediately but certainly over time. This has been part of the way I’ve built my business. Where possible I try and add value to others, helping them with their problems or challenges – I never ask for anything in return, but over time this definitely leads to more good than bad experiences. I’d strongly recommend you considering this path for your business too.

Another thing that particularly impressed me about Chris was his ability with names. Chris signed my book at lunch and asked me my first name for it, later that night, having met literally hundreds of people he was still calling me by it and that was special – I noticed he did this with everyone he met. I wrote a post about the importance of a name a while ago. This skill is so important in getting ahead in business and clearly Chris knows this.

I want to end on something Chris said in his keynote speech at the end of Likeminds. It was probably my ‘take-away’ for the day – ‘Make your customers feel special’ – Chris talks of the ‘guest experience’ for customers, a term coined by Disney I believe. This is essentially going the extra mile for them and leaving them with a warm feeling, one that makes them want to refer you on. This was also one of the points that Jeffrey Gitomer makes about great customer service being the number one priority for any company – get that right and you’re on the road to success. I learnt about a system called the ‘net promoter score’ the other day – it’s a system that monitors how many of your customers would be prepared to refer your business. Most companies struggle to get above 30% and in fact many are far lower. It strikes me that social media tools, on top of good company principles and values would lead companies to increasing their NPS scores, something I may focus on in another blog post sometime. We’re all looking for more success, I think it’s absolutely vital to remember everyone that’s helped you on the way up and make sure that you always remain true to your values – Chris Brogan is a bit of a master at this and I learnt a lot from the day with him. I hope to have passed some on to you all out there.

Make sure you follow Chris on @chrisbrogan

8 things that changed my life this year

With the end of the year in touching distance, I thought I’d give you a run down of 8 things that happened to me in 2009 that have changed my life positively. The reason for writing this list is that almost all of it is open to you to get involved with too. If I’ve benefited so much from these things, I hope that at least one person reading this takes action to investigate one or two items on the list and see’s their own life positively impacted. (Admittedly a few are a little jokey but that’s just the way I roll) :)

So lets get on – here are 8 things that have positively changed my life in 2009 (in no particular order :)):

1) iPhone – So I’ve gone on quite a bit about this recently and I do understand it splits opinion with Android lovers so I’m just going to tell you a few quick reasons why this has had such a profound affect on my life/business. First of all, it’s not possible to deny this is a sexy piece of kit and pretty much everything on it has been well thought out from a usability point of view. The phone has made a huge difference to the way I interact with email outside the office as well as social media. A huge amount of the buzz surrounding iPhones is the gimmicky apps that you download and hardly ever use, but if you look carefully you can find ones that really do make your life easier and more efficient. I now do at least 75% of my social media work from my phone, on the move, using dead time that I wouldn’t have used before. Here are a couple of examples of apps that have made a differences to me – Tube Deluxe helped me around London recently giving me more time to catch up on other bits of work. The National Rail app tracks GPS on the trains themselves meaning you can see where the train is at any time on the line – genius. TV Guide gets rid of the need for paper based guides. Natwest now have an app that lets me track my money on the move at anytime. Skype lets me phone other Skype users for free and AroundMe has helped me find cabs/hotels and garages a number of times on the move. CoPilot is better than the inbuilt Sat Nav I have in my own car and Google Maps has walked me to a few places I would have got lost trying to find ‘pre-iPhone’. Remember the Milk helps me with GTD (see later)….I could go on and I know I’ve only touched the surface! If you’re in the market for a new phone and think the iPhone is expensive then (compared to other phones) I would agree, but its so much more than a phone and I know its been worth every penny and much much more. This, for me, is an absolute must have gadget.

2) Jeffrey Gitomer – Sales/Positivity Guru. I was lucky enough to be invited to see Jeffrey earlier this year by owner of TheBestOf – Nigel Botterill. I didn’t know who Jeffrey was at the time but trusted Nigel’s opinion and boy am I glad I did. ANYONE in sales or marketing (yes that means you business owners) MUST go and see Jeffrey if possible. He really is a sales legend. I wrote more about him in this post I wrote earlier in the year. I can honestly say that Jeffrey’s one seminar has made a profound difference to the way I treat the sales process now and the way I teach my sales team to treat it too. His Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude book is also a kick up the backside in the way we view our lives and other people. New staff members in my team will now be given one of these books and asked to read it during their first few months with us. I’ve bought every single one of his books now and strongly suggest you consider doing so too. A complete list of Gitomer books can be found on Amazon by clicking the link in this sentence.

3) Social Media – I don’t really know where to start with this. I was dabbling without knowing it for the last couple of years with sites like Facebook/YouTube and LinkedIn but then in Jan of 09 I found Twitter and my life changed (as well as that of our businesses). The clever integration of Social Media has lead to many new services from Optix Solutions, ending up in new work, new joint ventures and alliances, new friends and a very good ROI (yes we’ve been monitoring it). As anyone who knows me personally knows, I love Social Media – I love the connections I’ve made with people all over the world and the new exciting possibilities it brings to businesses willing to get started with it. Much like the buzz of ecommerce when I started out with my web business back in 1999, Social Media has given me a new lust for the Internet and what’s possible for clever, forward thinking businesses. If you’d like further information of Social Media or would like to contract my services in this area, please drop me an email or connect with me on Twitter (@banksy6)

4) White Tea – Alright so maybe this is a bit of a jokey one but I was getting really hacked off with other teas and my friend David Thomas suggested I got involved with White Tea! I didn’t even know this existed! Now a morning doesn’t start properly without a refreshing cup of this amazing drink! (p.s. don’t boil it for more than 1 minute – it ruins it :))

5) GTD – Getting Things Done is a global phenomenon and I never knew about it – until this year. I hold my hands up to the fact that in the past I have struggled hugely to keep all the balls in the air. As a multi-business owner, at any one point I have literally hundreds of things on my to-do list and I’d tried just about every time scheduling/work practice known to man – all to no avail. I had the messiest desk in the office (a source of constant banter for my employees). I never understood how anyone could have a clean desk if they were busy – it escaped me. Then in early 2009 two people I have a lot of respect for in Exeter – Scott Gould and Adam Stone recommended I read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Wow – what a fantastic book/system. It’s given me the tools to operate (most of the time at max efficiency and with a ‘mind like water’ – so I’m at my most creative) This is a very important thing to master as a business owner or you get dragged down in the minutiae of everyday life. I now have a clean (ish) desk and a system that allows me to keep on top of the hundreds of things I have on my plate at any one time. Every business owner should buy this book now.

6) Lizz – Lizz is my girlfriend and one of the points in this list which I hope you won’t be able to take advantage of :) I was a proper bachelor, living the high life for the last 10 years, since leaving university. While busy building a business, I had a lot of fun outside work with friends and family. A couple of years ago my present girlfriend Lizz came along and this year we moved into our first house together. I’ll admit, I was quite apprehensive about losing my independence but moving in with the love of my life (get your puke buckets ready) was the single best thing I did this year. Having a strong support network around you in life when you run a business is one of the most important things you can build. Someone you can share the hard and good times with…find yourself a Lizz if you haven’t already.

7) Apple Mac Shop – This year I got involved in the Apple brand for the first time. I bought an iPhone, we got a Mac Book Pro at work and through this I started to spend some time in the Apple shop in Exeter. I love the place so much so I wrote an article about the experience I had in another blog post.

8 ) Beacon Breakthrough – This one applies to those of you starting up/setup in the South West in the UK. This year, James my business partner and I found out about a new scheme for businesses aiming at becoming Beacon companies for the SW, the turnover threshold of which is £1.5million. For more information on the Beacon scheme check out their website. The Beacon breakthrough forums are aimed at companies that wish to take that next step and learn how already successful companies operate in every area from board setup to marketing to goal setting and planning. It’s a fantastic course and offers amazing value to participant companies. If you’re based in the SW, I would strongly suggest that you put yourself on this course next year as the differences it’s made to my web business are nothing short of phenomenal.

That concludes my line up for 2009. If there is one thing I’m going to be concentrating on next year it’s acting on things (minimising procrastination). I’ve learnt a huge amount this last year and changed my business in many ways because of the things I’ve learnt, books I’ve read and courses I’ve been on – I’d urge you to look down the list again and see if there is anything you can get involved in yourself and please let me know if you do and of course, how it worked for you :)

See you in 2010

Use a mirror not a magnifying glass

Today I have the pleasure of another fantastic post by Rachel Willis. As you read this, don’t sit there and think you’re an angel that never acts like this – I’m sure if we are all honest, we’re all guilty of it. I’ve been working a lot this year on positive, or in Gitomers language, (YES!) attitude because I understand, just how much a bit of negativity can spread – especially if you work in an office with lots of people. Just think how different the atmosphere at work is when everyone is upbeat compared to those days when everyone has a ‘screw face’. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m working on it and know that if everyone is positive then it’s conducive to a far better working atmosphere – leading to more efficient teams and workflow. A large part of this attitude is about how you relate to other people – enjoy Rachel’s post and more importantly – ACT on it today!


How often do we find ourselves wound up by a colleague, partner, family member, friend or even stranger? And how often do we rant, rave and blame that person for what they said or did? Going over and over it in our heads or with an unfortunate friend, building a watertight case for the prosecution?

In these situations, we could most likely list – in minute detail – all the things that are considered wrong with what they said or did, and we lay the blame firmly at their door.

We have looked at them with a magnifying glass and found every conceivable speck of dirt.

However, rather than viewing these situations as a bothersome conflict in your life, we can instead see them as a valuable learning exercise.

The next time you find yourself getting annoyed with someone, why not use a mirror rather than a magnifying glass, and see exactly what it is about what this person said or did that irritates you?

We often like to blame others rather than see the less-than-perfect parts of ourselves. It is easier that way. But by avoiding looking in the mirror, we miss the opportunity to evolve and uncover our hidden desires in life.

It may be that your boss asks you to get a report finished ahead of an already tight schedule. The magnifying glass shows them as demanding, unfair and selfish. However, the mirror shows us that we don’t like being told what to do and part of us yearns to be our own boss and not have to take orders.

Or it may be that you find yourself irately watching TV when your spouse returns home late from a night out with colleagues after work. The magnifying glass shows a thoughtless, disrespectful and insensitive partner. The mirror shows us that we don’t like sitting at home alone and would actually value a wider circle of friends to socialise and have fun with.

Therefore, conflict shines light on important areas and unmet needs that will only disappear when addressed directly.

So next time you find yourself about to launch an attack on someone – whether silently or out loud – consider which of your buttons they are pressing, be grateful to them for highlighting these unmet needs, and instead take a step towards fulfilling them.

Rachel Willis

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited by thebestof to attend a seminar by legendary American sales trainer Jeffrey Gitomer in London. Not really sure what to expect, I booked my place purely on Nigel Botterill’s (CEO of thebestof) account of him. I have a great deal of respect for Nigel as a businessman so knew it couldn’t really go wrong. It was a full day and I came away with pages and pages of notes and action points, all of which I’ve written up today, while still fresh in my mind.

If you’re interested, Nigel also posted on his blog about the event entitled, ‘Are you a Winner or a Whiner?’. Well worth a read.

Now I’m not going to try and break down a whole day into one post, so I thought I’d pick up a few of the key points for you, especially if you’re in sales yourself or are starting/just started a business.

People buy people – we know that right? Well I guess most do but I’m sure sometimes we forget. Jeffrey pointed out on MANY occasions that ‘sales’ is quite simply about being friendly – to EVERYONE!

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

If you make yourself an industry leader in your sector, so indispensible that people want to buy from you, then the time spent doing that will be far better used than making sales calls and giving people your brochure (Jeffrey refers to this as puking on people lol – he also has a fantastic New Jersey accent which I really wish I could convey in this article). So the main premise of the day was to stop thinking about how to sell to someone and starting thinking about how to make them buy. I’m afraid though that this isn’t easy, it takes hard work, something many sales people simply aren’t willing to put in. Do you think just because it’s a Saturday it means I’m not going to blog about work! If you have that mentality, this probably isn’t for you – and neither is a career in sales!

A few top tips from the day that I’ll certainly be actioning myself in the coming weeks:

>> Get creative – Your business card should be a talking point – If the person you give it to doesn’t say ‘wow – cool card’ rip it up and start again!

>> Get video testimonials from clients – This is 100 times more powerful than saying how great you are yourself. If you can walk into your prospects and show them other happy clients waxing lyrical about you you’re on a winner.

>> Talk to your customer’s as if they were your Grandma – I personally love this one. He literally says, add ‘, grandma’ onto the end of any line you’re about to say to a customer and if it doesn’t sound right, don’t say it!

>> Use Social Media – It ain’t going away – THANK YOU JEFFREY – ‘nuff said! J

>> Become your client’s friend – if you make a sale, you make a commission, if you make a friend you’ll earn a fortune. A nugget of gold.

If you get the chance to see Jeffrey then don’t question the money – you’ll make it back 100 fold. You can see and get more information about him on his website here: or follow him on twitter here: or become a fan on facebook here:

I have already (before the event) purchased a number of Jeffrey’s books and would whole heartedly recommend you consider buying them.

The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness – You can buy it from Amazon here.

Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a Yes! Attitude for a Lifetime of Success

I’m now off to buy these other books in his range (I didn’t even know these ones existed until yesterday!):