Today M had a conversation with a friend whose business has a number of regulatory hoops that must be jumped in dealing with clients. The business also has certain technologies that are offered as part of the process of working with the organization, but they are not required. The business person is great at networking. At note-taking. At building relationships. But this technology has been confounding and time-consuming.
Here’s the thing. If you are working for someone who requires you to use certain types of software, you must learn it. It’s just how it is. Do what you must to get good at the support systems. Phone a friend, hire help, engage tech support – whatever you must do. BUT…if it isn’t required and it doesn’t work for you, and you have a system that works better to help you meet your goals, ditch it. The purpose of tools isn’t for us to serve the tools. Tools are there to serve us. Digging a trench with a teaspoon serves no one.
Have you heard Jessica Salfia’s poem, “The First Lines of Emails I’ve Received While Quarantining”? It talks about the “new normal”, and more. Truthfully, we’ve heard so many people say they are waiting to get back to normal. Or that they’re trying to normalize their business processes, “under the circumstances”. Or that they don’t have time to think about strategy right now, because they’re just treading water, or trying not to crack the thin veneer that’s separating them from the chaos. Does that sound familiar?
It makes us think. What if, or how might we? How might we use the crisis to knock on the door of an opportunity? How might we use our time differently, to make our businesses over into the kind of businesses we’ve wanted or deserved all along? Let’s face it, everyone is doing things they’ve never done. Learning, implementing, trying, failing, and trying again. So we’re asking you to consider this: create what we’ll call a One Team®. (If you’re a team of one, you might need to reach out and form a Mastermind group to be your One Team). That team’s job is to select one thing that everyone agreed before all this began, would make a massive difference to either your customers or your colleagues, if it could just be sorted out and implemented. Then give the team license to take one day a week to think about this, and only this. Really work on it. Come up with ideas. Test. Prototype stuff. Make drawings. Research. Ask questions. They get a buy on all video conferences for most of that day. Then at the end of that one day, they have only one online meeting to explain their one most important lesson learned, to offer one thing up that the rest of the company can use, and to make one ask that will carry them forward to their next step. Then you let them repeat this process until you can see the change they’ve made. Because they will. We’re sure of it.
I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them to see everything they need to work on to make better decisions for their businesses. Find us on Twitter and Facebook, too. On Fridays, we send News You Can Use to our subscribers. You can become one by signing up with the orange button, below.
Many businesses are taking this unexpected or forced downtime, to research customers, find out more of what they can do, and opening themselves up to new ideas. That’s fantastic! However the crisis mentality can also cause us to simply throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks. In this time of tight budgets and extreme risk, there’s a better approach.
Set specific research goals. Think about what you want to achieve, and then be intentional about what you need to know to make that happen. Research what you need, nothing more. Constraining your thinking will provide a better result than simply undertaking catch-all inquiries.
And this weekend, please, stay safe at home.
I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. If you’re trying to figure out your way forward, I’m here to help. You can find our business on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to weekly news you can use.
Based on a completely unreliable, unscientific set of observational data gleaned from #socialmedia, we’ve noticed (and heard during phone calls) that many people who are suddenly forced to work from home (or who are used to working from home, and have had partners or offspring thrust into the mix) are having trouble with focus.
Steve and I have been working with clients for nearly twenty years, helping them focus on what’s important when they are surrounded by irrelevant data and daily distractions. Here are a few tips that will help you get some real work done:
Get dressed. OK, maybe you don’t need a suit and tie. But schedule at least one early and one later-in-the-day video call, to incentivize yourself to “dress up and show up”.
Make a list of things you want to get done, then prioritize. Get it down to ONE. If you can do this one thing, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. Then start it. When you’re done, reprioritize based on current information, and start again.
Work in short spurts of about 25 minutes (read up on the pomodoro technique). In between, get some oxygen – go out on your balcony or stride around the room, just get air for a minute or two. In between, give yourself two minutes, no more, for one of the following.
Schedule two minutes for news and social media consumption – endless scrolling, scrolling, scrolling might have been amusing last week, but if this is our new modus operandi for a month or more, that will get old, PDQ.
Read something that is business-y, but unrelated to your vertical or domain, and then figure out the connection.
Drink a big glass of water.
And every time, before you sit down to work again, please, wash your hands.
Stay safe out there, people. Keep your distance. Don’t touch me, and I won’t touch you. If you need help with your business, or planning a new one, let me know. You can also find us on Twitter: Steve or Megann. We’re also on LinkedIn or Facebook. Under the Store tab, you can join a MasterMind group or explore coaching with us. Or you can just wait for news to arrive in your inbox, on Friday afternoons. (Just in case you’ve lost track of what day it is).
It’s time to pay attention. Steve and I want to start this post with a plethora of gratitude to the selfless people who are risking themselves daily to be sure there is medical treatment, food, and medicines available to all of us. From first responders to front line grocery and pharmacy workers, thank you all, truly.
For the rest of us, it’s time to hunker down at home. As a very small business, we know as well as anyone, the implication of not earning income. We also know that we would far rather be broke, than dead. (That said, Steve and I have a host of skills if you need paid help on a project).
This pandemic is nothing to be trifled with. So we ask that, if you’re not working from home and can, please start. If you are well, watch out for your neighbours. Rediscover the telephone and reach out to people you know. Let them know you’re thinking of them. This is going to be a long one.
Still, we’re optimistic. We see incredible acts of kindness and selflessness every day (they’re there if you look for them). Magical thinking solves nothing. Instead, step back. Take stock. Figure out what to to do build a little fortress, lay in supplies, and stay tuned. We’ll still be sending updates once a week via our newsletter (subscribe below), and posting here.
Let me know what you need. I’m Megann Willson and for two decades I’ve been helping clients talk through their big hairy challenges. My number’s on the contact tab, or you can find our company on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. We’ll get through this, together!
With ever-increasing bad news, do you just want to pile the binders to everything, step back, and hide?
While that may feel good temporarily, if you’re running a business, hitting the brakes and then heading for the hills is never the best policy. Instead, take a step back and then plunge into activities like these:
Use your empathy when dealing with clients and colleagues – you have no idea, especially now, what they may be dealing with.
Communicate, communicate, communicate – it’s important to keep people posted on what you’re doing, and just to let them know that you’re there, and that you care.
Then innovate – before simply giving up on what you’re working on together, figure out whether there are new ways to collaborate and get work done, in a low-contact environment.
Educate yourself and validate what you know – make sure you don’t disseminate information that’s inaccurate, misleading, or induces unnecessary worry for your clients and colleagues.
Explore – new sources of support and revenue, work on changes you haven’t had time for, and summon up your resilience to face whatever comes. Attitude is altitude!
I’m Megann Willson, and with my Partner, Steve Willson, we’re PANOPTIKA. We’re determined to keep our business alive during this pandemic, and will be doing our best to provide practical, usable advice to help you make better decisions for your business, through all our channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to our News You Can Use via the orange button, below.
One of the most challenging things you may face with your customers or buyers, is when they push back and say they want to pay a different price, or have different delivery terms, or change what you were hoping to receive. In a business-to-business or account-based-selling environment, this can be a frequent occurrence, so it’s useful to learn how to deal with it.
The difficulty, or risk, is that if you counter with another option, they may walk away. You might damage the relationship. So the first thing to consider, is the lifetime value of that customer. Are they likely to purchase again and again over time? If so, you need figure out how to be more accommodating, without “giving away the store”. How can you do that?
If you’re familiar with “how-might-we” thinking, you’ll know that it is most often used in idea generation. But at its heart, the ideas you are trying to generate are solutions to problems. That means when you encounter other types of problems, you can use the same approach to excellent effect. Instead of thinking, “that customer is so demanding!”, consider thinking, what can I offer them so they get some of what they want, and I get some of what I want?
Over time, if you exercise the how-might-we muscle to deal with challenging customer requests, you’ll find it becomes easier, and you get better at preserving customer relationships while still feeling like there was plenty of pie for everyone (and there is). What can this help you tackle today?
I’m Megann Willson and I’m Partners with Steve Willson here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything they need to know (and realize what they don’t need to know) to make #betterdecisions. You can find us here on our blog, and also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Or you can sign up for weekly updates delivered direct to your inbox, by clicking the orange button below.
What a week! It seems like we’re saying that every week. The challenge is, the longer we allow ourselves to be distracted by the shiny novelty of the news, the less runway we will have to save our businesses and do what we need to do to be sure there’s something left when we “get back to normal”. With that in mind, I’m going to launch right in on some steps for surviving, and perhaps even thriving.
First, face facts. This is not ending any time soon. If you’re trying to hang on by your fingernails, understand that even when it’s “over”, the business environment has been irrevocably impacted. Your business and your customers will not (and dare I say, should not) be the same when this is over. Like any other crisis, this can be a time of clinging to the past, or a time for seeking a new opportunity. Realize this, and commit to finding a new way forward.
Next, decide what you need to stop doing. Whether that’s spending money on non-essentials, or reaching out in your marketing efforts in ways that are ineffective, insensitive, or pointless, look at everything you do, and stop everything that isn’t adding value for you, your employees, or your customers.
After that, evaluate what you must absolutely continue. What are the non-negotiables? Not the “nice to have”, but the essentials without which, your business would die. Is it internet service? (For most modern businesses, yes. It’s not like you can pop round to the corner coffee shop and poach their wifi any more). Paying your rent? Maybe, if you can’t negotiate a freeze or a deferral. Paying for food or medicine? Yes. Preserving your mental and physicial health? Absolutely.
Next, make a list of what you can change, that will make you ready for the future, or stronger in the here and now. Perhaps it’s listening a little less to the news. Or putting on “real pants” instead of working in your pyjamas. Or taking less money out of your business than usual, until you find your sea legs in this ocean of change. Or doing one of your “continue” items, but in a less expensive, safer, or more efficient way.
Those four things will give you stability. They’ll let you get into “ready position”. If you’ve ever played a sport or taken a gym class, you might recognize that expression. In case you don’t, it’s where you know you’ve got your feet firmly under you. The challenge is that you can’t hold the ready position forever. It’s designed for movement. It’s meant to help you launch. So the fifth, and final action, is to decide what you can start doing. Where are the opportunities? Is there something new in you, that you’ve been too busy to start? If it is something you’re uniquely or especially good at (the what), and people need it now (the who and the when), and they’re willing to pay for it and you can get it to them in this low-touch environment (the where and the why), it’s a business opportunity worth exploring. You’ve got this. Start now. Figure out the how.
These five steps are mission critical. Now’s the time. You’ll never have another opportunity like it.
I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA, along with Steve Willson. For nearly twenty years we’ve been helping companies and individuals make better decisions for their businesses and careers. If we can help you, hit the contact tab and find out how to reach us. No obligation. We’ll listen, and if we can’t help, we’ll do our best to point you to someone who can. We’ll continue putting out content like this via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. And if you’d like some good news in your inbox each week, join our subscriber list. A new issue drops on Fridays at 3pm Eastern.
Thanks for the photo from JillWellington via Pixabay
A recent Quora question got me thinking about this topic. Then, as often happens, the Baader Meinhof phenomenon kicked in. Suddenly opportunities to talk about the importance of this tool were everywhere.
So what is it, you ask? It’s this: have a system. Whether you want more time for travel when you’re a business owner, or you’d like more reliable sales results, or you want to be sure your research about customers is a reliable guide to your decisions, a systematic approach makes the difference. Systems are the reason franchises improve many business owners’ success rate. Systems free you up to concentrate on your most important tasks. And systems let you see whether it’s your research approach, or a change in your customers attitudes, that has resulted in a different response than usual.
Let me give you a couple of examples. The first has to do with the freedom to be working on your business, and not just in it. This is the freedom to travel more, to sell more, to do high-level thinking. The best system I know for doing this has two parts. Part A is to prioritize your work focus regularly, and don’t take on anything that doesn’t move you toward your over-arching goals for your life and business (those goals should be aligned, by the way). Part B is to invest in help if there is work that is important but can be done by others, more effectively or efficiently than by you. I learned Part B as the $10, $100 and $1000 tasks rule.
Every day, make a list of all the tasks you must take on, and then prioritize them. If they do not contribute to your goals at all, find someone else to help, or eliminate them altogether. (Reading random posts on Facebook when you’re not a social media manager, or even when you are…gone). Secondly, figure out which tasks are both urgent and important. They should be at the top of your list. Which of these can be done only by you? (Selling to your best customers? Check. Making strategic decisions for the future of your business or career? Check.) Which of the jobs can be done by someone else, if you pay them? Look at those jobs, and as your first step, pay to get rid of any $10 tasks. Those are the tasks distract you from your most important, or $1000, jobs, like finding your next customer or finishing a project that will make your boss realize how valuable you are. You’d spend $10 (or even $100) to save or make $1000, wouldn’t you? I knew you would.
Every business problem that seems like there isn’t enough of something (cash flow, customers, sales, ideas, insights) can benefit from putting a system in place. Buy yourself some freedom. Establish a system today.
I’m Megann Willson, and I’m the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. You can also find insights from us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And for News you can Use directed right to your inbox, sign up using the orange button. Are you stuck and looking to make a career turnaround or start a business? Let’s talk!
Every day, we hear companies saying they love their customers. And how do they show it? They push them tons and tons of irrelevant content. They flood their inboxes. They try to sell them things they don’t want or need. And here’s what many of them don’t do:
Try to find out what will really make them happy.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to be in a long-lasting relationship (like we have), you’ll know that you’re always looking for ways to delight the other person. To show them that you want to help them get what they want and need to feel like they are their best. Saying sorry when you’re wrong. Asking their closest friends if there’s something they’ve been dreaming of that they haven’t told you. Not taking, taking, taking.
So today, on Valentine’s Day, and every day, if you really love your customer:
If you’ve messed up in any way, apologize. Sincerely.
Find out what they’ve really been dreaming about without asking them to spell it out for you (watch, observe, pay attention, or ask others who know them as well or better as you do) and then help them get it.
Do an unasked kindness for them that doesn’t have an immediate payoff for you (A referral? An endorsement? A sincere note of thanks that isn’t a sales pitch?
To you: thanks for reading. We appreciate it. And thank you to all of you who refer others, endorse us on social media, and engage in conversations about how to find, understand, and engage customers. I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. (The other is Steve Willson – Happy Valentine’s Day!) You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or through our weekly email news.