Friday, 29 May 2009

Is 'Juggle' in your toolkit?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Embrace Uncertainty!

For me, life and business has always been unpredictable.
From 7 years working for a media group with a fluid, evolving role, to 9 years working for myself, I’ve never known what's around the corner, never had a grand plan. Instead, it’s all been gloriously random.

This was what my session with Melissa Pierce at this year's SXSW was all about - the beauty of the unplanned life. It’s a constant theme in many of my business relationships. I talked about it recently with Chris Barez-Brown of ?What If! and he agreed that even for a company like ?What If!, it's difficult having long term plans.

So I forget sometimes that this scrambled up world of work is not everyone's story. A friend of mine who's been made redundant is keeping busy at an interim sales role while he's applying for tens of jobs. But he told me he was very frustrated that he couldn’t plan for the future; not just career plans but what he and his wife were doing at the weekend. He found this uncertainty unsettling, and understandably so. And sure, if you're used to stability and a role with certainty, that change can be a huge culture shock.

I guess uncertainty is something I have got used to. I know what I’m doing next month, but literally, I have no idea what I am doing in July. Sure, that’s scary when you run your own business but I like the opportunities that come from being open-minded and reactive. A meeting tomorrow can – suddenly – change things. That’s always been my story.

So who knows what the rest of 2009 will bring. Is it going to be tough? Sure. Is there going to be uncertainty. Yes.

Success and survival - as ever - will be about being flexible, reactive, quick to embrace and monetise opportunities and my strategy for the next few months will be that I have employed before: MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG.

The Story of The Billion Dollar Online Shoe Store

Now my book ‘Juggle!’ is sitting in Zappo’s HQ in Nevada, I’ve been soaking up more information about Tony Hsieh and the story of Zappos. There’s a great interview and profile written by Max Chafkin in May’s issue of Inc. magazine.
You can read the article online here
, but here are some extracts:

Zappos & The Importance Of Books

‘At the conclusion of the tour, we are invited to peruse the company library, which is filled with multiple copies of two dozen business and self-help books. We are urged to take whatever grabs our fancy, a policy that applies to employees as well. Roberson explains that one of Zappos's core values is personal growth and that books are given out to help employees grow with the company

Zappos’ Focus On Hiring for Culture

‘Such rapid growth was exciting. But it also led Hsieh to wonder how he could preserve Zappos' radical dedication to customer service and its fun, loose work environment. "We always hired for culture fit," he says. "But we were growing so quickly that managers who hadn't been around for very long might not know what our culture was." He wrote an e-mail to the entire company asking for help, and he distilled the responses into a list of 10 core values, including "Be humble," "Create fun and a little weirdness," and "Deliver WOW through service." Then he assigned and collected short essays from every employee on the subject of the company's culture and published them, unedited, in a book that he distributed to the staff.’

Zappos & The Future

‘At a time when most business leaders are retrenching, Hsieh is thinking big. In late 2006, he launched an outsourcing program to handle selling, customer service, and shipping for other companies, and last December, he started an educational website for small businesses that charges them $39.95 a month to tap Zappos executives for advice. Hsieh has said Zappos will eventually move beyond retail to businesses such as hotels and banking -- anything where customer service is paramount. "I wouldn't rule out a Zappos airline that's just about the best customer service," he announced at the Web 2.0 conference last fall’

Zappos is not (yet) a household name outside of the USA but the story of Hsieh and his brand success is starting to spreading. Here in the UK, you can order from the Zappos website, but it lacks the ‘wow’ of the US experience; the shipping is not free here, but that may change if they choose to have a UK presence in the future.
So watch out for Zappos....

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Implement The Juggler’s Manifesto

We live in uncertain times; the world of work and business is increasingly unpredictable and there’s no single recipe for success. But there's a new trend evident in 2009; it’s clear that more of us are juggling more than one role or venture, whether we are CEOs of corporations or freelancers running multiple projects. Not only does plurality make us more enterprising it also makes us more passionate about what we do, as we go beyond a job title to carve out a unique work life. Juggling is about creating a work portfolio that reflects our multi-dimensional talents. This theme is at the heart of my book ‘Juggle!’ where I interviewed business leaders including Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi and Gary Vaynerchuk, wine entrepreneur & internet star.

My book explains how to reframe your working life through The Juggler’s Manifesto:

1. DO MORE THAN 1 THING, discover the value of being across more than one discipline. Sticking to just one thing limits your potential; place no limits on what you do and you’ll be more fulfilled.
2. BE PASSIONATE about all you do; let your passions and desires inform and shape your work life. Go beyond a job title and carve out a unique You-role. Do it your way.
3. BE AUTHENTIC, the Work You can be The Real You.
4. MIX UP WORK & PLAY. Forget work/life balance! Being a successful juggler is about integrating work and play, not aiming to neatly segment them.
5. BE A CHAMELEON, FLEXIBLE AND ADAPTABLE. Re-think all you do, be happy to change the rules again and again. Don’t stay entrenched in rigid ideas of how things should be done, be happy to learn new stuff, embrace new ideas.
6. THE BEST PLAN IS A NON-PLAN. Success in this new economy is about making it up as you go along, so forget a fixed long-term plan.
7. DEVELOP A PERSONAL BRAND to unite and communicate your strengths. Think and act like a big brand, sell yourself and blog/tweet/shout about your multi-dimensional talents.
8. DON’T PUT YOUR DREAMS ON HOLD, start living your dreams now and start incorporating them into your work life.
9. HAVE PURPOSE IN ALL YOU DO. Focus on making a difference and leaving a legacy.
10. RE-THINK WORK. Work is not a place you go; it’s a mindset you dip in and out of. Redefine success; it’s not just about your salary but a bunch of other stuff too like quality of life and flexibility.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Are You Getting Up At 2am For Your Customers?!

I wrote on this blog recently about the importance of ‘going the extra mile’ in customer service. And then a week ago I experienced service from a small business owner that really ‘wowed’, an example of someone who drove (literally) quite a few extra miles in the pursuit of service.

We were on holiday at The Ammos Hotel in Crete, a small privately-owned hotel. On the first night there our 3 year old woke up in pain. It was 2am in a foreign country; we had no hire car, no knowledge of where the nearest hospital was. We dialled the ‘emergency number’ that had been provided, which turned out to be the mobile ‘phone of the owner, Nikos. When he discovered he couldn’t get a doctor to us, he drove from his house to collect my wife and son and took them to a hospital. There, he acted as translator; they saw a paediatrician who diagnosed an ear infection and issued a prescription. Nikos then drove my wife to a pharmacy to get the medicine - which he insisted on paying for. He then returned them to the hotel where I was waiting with our other child. In the morning I went to shake his hand to thank him so much for all he had done and to apologise for his interrupted sleep. He just replied ‘It was nothing’.

That demonstration of ‘wow’ service really got me thinking; and whether you are a hotel owner, a freelance copywriter, an airline or a huge retailer, it’s a great lesson of the power of great service. So ask yourself, are you doing the equivalent of getting up at 2am for your customer?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

'Juggle!' Goes To Vegas

Like a lot of connections as a result of attending SXSW, I can’t remember exactly how I ‘met’ Espree Devora (although unfortunately we only met on Twitter just as I was leaving town). But Espree read my book 'Juggle!' and was kind enough to wow about it; she called it ‘an entrepreneur’s bible’.

Espree and her team at action sports company Zex Sports have been inspired by Zappos and their commitment to customer service. So when Espree went to visit Zappos recently, she wanted to send the executives she'd met a gift; and she kindly ordered 20 copies of ‘Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life’ that I signed for each of them.
The books are now sitting in Zappos' HQ in Vegas and a few copies in the company’s library for staff and visitors to browse.

I want to say a huge thank you to Espree for bigging-up the book and spreading the word to Zappos and beyond. As they say at SXSW, ‘awesome’!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Make Your Company Accessible (& Make Sure You Check Your Info@ Emails)

Whether you are a one-person company or a huge corporation and you’re in the service business, make sure your customers can – easily - get in touch. Put a contact number or email address on every page of your website. Make your organisation – and the executives within it – accessible.

If you don’t feel confident about publishing the email addresses of your executives, then ensure you do have an info@ address (or a contactus@ or talktous@ or hello@). Some way of getting in touch.

But that is only half the story. Having a generic enquiry email address is only effective if it is someone’s responsibility to action. Make sure someone is checking – and dealing with – your info@ address.

It might be an enquiry about a piece of new business or a customer complaint. Either way, it matters.

I had a disappointing customer experience in a restaurant/cafe. A company who failed in their brand promise. I thought they had a good brand and they would be grateful for me talking the time and trouble to feedback. I wanted to email the CEO but could not find his email address in the public domain so I wrote to him c/o the info@ email address that I found on the company website.

That was 13 days ago.
And I have heard nothing back. No acknowledgement. Nothing.

And that lack of response has dented their brand equity*. It might only be feedback over a £2 cup of coffee but that oversight has the potential to damage their reputation. So stay on top of customer feedback, whatever business you are in.

*but I’m giving them a second chance and have filled in an enquiry form on their website: let's see if they are listening.....

'Leap!' on SmallBizPod

SmallBizPod is a podcast, blog, news and community site for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs founded and hosted by Alex Bellinger.

In the latest podcast, listener and start-up entrepreneur Mohammed Seedat reviews my book ‘Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business & Set Yourself Free’. You can hear the review here (scroll to around 02:30 for the review).

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Don't Over-Engineer It!

The problem with technology is that whilst it has the power to simplify business it also has the power to complicate it. We requested a logo file from a client and were asked to log on to an allegedly ‘easy to use’ system where in fact, we had to have at least six click-throughs to find said file. Over-engineered?

Sometimes good solutions don't need complicated systems, they just need DOING. I was impressed by the a hotel's concierge emailing me with weather reports the week before we went on holiday. I tweeted about it. I got a response from a technology company that provides hotels with e-solutions, 'what system are they using' for the weather emails they asked? 'What system??' Their bare hands. Someone is taking the time to email me and say it is sunny today. That personal touch was impressive. Would an e-solution have had the same effect? No.

So keep it simple and sometimes it’s worth eschewing technology for doing stuff with your bare hands!

Monday, 11 May 2009

The ?What If! Jugglers

This morning I hung out with Chris Barez-Brown to film the latest in the series of The Juggle Tapes interviews. Chris is Learning Director of the ?What If! Innovation company, an organisation that helps clients who want to innovate and grow. They’ve got an impressive client list from leading brands to government departments.

Chris juggles multiple projects, brands and timezones at ?What If!. He’s also a writer, speaker and a real evangelist for creative thinking. We had a really good chat about how he juggles his different roles, how he finds time for guitar lessons and play, and how he finds time for creative thinking in such a busy schedule. We also spoke about how he has managed to co-create an organisation that encourages juggling at all levels where staff embrace their plurality and mix up their passions. The interview is being edited and will be up on in a week or so.
Thanks to Chris and Jane at ?What If! and to Clem and Tim for production.

Knowing When It’s Time To Say Sorry

How often do you say the ‘S’ word? To your partner at home or to your boss or to your team, or to your customer? Sorry can go a long way. If - that's a big IF - it's heartfelt it can mean a lot and go a long way to address a long queue or slow service. If it doesn't feel genuine, it's worth zero.

London's ‘Evening Standard’ newspaper has been accused of being out of touch with this great city for some time. It's one reason I had not picked it up for years, it had become negative and cynical. So when the title recently got bought by Alexander Lebedev I was pleased to hear the new owner and editor designate acknowledge this fact and declare that under new ownership it would change its style. Today it is re-launching, after a brave ad campaign from McCann Erickson.

Ads saying ‘Sorry For Being Negative’, ‘for losing touch’, ‘for being complacent’ have appeared in tube and train stations around town. Is it just a creative ad campaign or is it a genuine re-engineering of a brand? That is the $6m question but the honesty of a brand that says sorry on a huge billboard at a train station feels pretty serious to me.

Like any marketing campaign or brand promise, the challenge is whether they will live up to that claim and only time will tell in the pages of the newspaper. I’ll tell you that when I pick a copy up this evening...

Friday, 8 May 2009

Come on Retailers!!

Let's not over-complicate this.

There's a recession on. Retailers are fighting to keep us spending.

Upstairs at Marks and Spencer, Long Acre, in London WC2 this morning. A growing queue of customers at the tills. 2 cashiers serving. At least 4 more shop assistants visible sorting out stock, not serving.

People in the queue tutting and getting impatient waiting. I talk to the woman in front of me and we suggest it might be helpful to have more staff serving to meet demand. We ask if there are more cashiers available, and then some appear.

Come on retailers!! This isn't complicated. Look after the customer. You shouldn't have to wait for us to tell you to swap personnel from stock sorting to serving....

Getting Better At Internal Communication

Here's my 90 second take on addressing that age-old problem in every organisation - internal communication

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The importance of implementing ideas

There’s a lot of focus in organisations on coming up with great ideas; of ideas for new products and services or new innovations. And that can be challenging, whether you are a one-person freelancer or a team full of people.

But you know what’s harder?

- doing something with those ideas.
- Putting them into action
- Make sure they get done and delivered.

Much of my own business is about coming up with opportunity-creating ideas for clients but I have learnt that it’s all very well devising genius ideas; but everyone needs to focus on actually doing something with them. To launch that website, to change that product, to start that marketing campaign.

Because an idea not implemented has no value.

The Art Of Reinvention

27 years ago – or thereabouts - I was really into Kim Wilde’s music. She was my first pop idol, I had all her records.

So I had a blast from the past yesterday when I walked into the
Paul Smith shop at Borough Market and saw one of her 7” record sleeves framed on the wall. According to the shop assistant, this is from ‘Paul’s personal collection’ which is now going on the wall of some of their shops, reinvented as ‘Art’ and being sold to customers at £50 each for a ‘limited edition’ release (if only I’d kept all my Kim Wilde records).

I don’t think it was ever ‘cool’ to like Kim Wilde in the ‘80s, but here in 2009, not only is it cool but the record artwork has been totally reinvented and recycled and positioned - and sold - as art.

Now that is cool!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Meet Macala Wright

Macala Wright is Interactive Marketing Director for 1928 Jewelry in Los Angeles. She writes about social media marketing, Organic SEO and building brand awareness for retailers & fashion companies.

Macala blogs at Fashionably Marketing where she has started posting some book reviews. Each review gives a punchy synopsis of the main points in the book (and a critique of any points she disagrees with). I was delighted she chose to review my book ‘Juggle!’ – it’s a well written review; not only does she create a neat take-away summary she also makes it relevant to ‘her world’ (fashion/marketing) plus she also takes issue with one of mypoints I make. Macala reminds readers that you only need 3 hours to read the book or ‘6 hours if you want to dissect it a bit’. You can read the review here, meanwhile here’s an excerpt:

Juggle! Rethink Work & Reclaim Your Life is a great book for someone who’s unhappy at work, is having trouble with time management or is trying to change a company’s/their own traditional business mindset. Remember the Sex and The City episode where the girls are sitting on the rooftop of Samantha’s new loft in the meatpacking district? She raises her campaign glass to the skyline and says, “See New York! We Have It All!”? Sanders teaches his readers that they can successfully juggle work and “have it all.”

Go The Extra Mile

When you’re looking to retain or win new customers, always go the extra mile in service delivery. Strive to really make a difference in what you do and how you do it.

It doesn’t have to be huge ‘wow factor’ stuff, just small gestures that make that difference and show you care.

Like the bloke who served me in Carphone Warehouse last month and went beyond the call of duty to copy all my contacts from one handset to another.

Like the staff in my local coffee shop who went to fetch coffee for customers from a neighbouring restaurant when their coffee machine broke this week.

Whether you work for a big brand or you are a freelancer, success is about getting a reputation for great service. It’s the antithesis of what I heard from a supplier the other day – ‘it can’t be done’. It’s the antithesis of the bar in the concert venue I went to on Friday who put just four staff on to serve an entire auditorium drinks in a 15 minute interval. It’s about putting a smile on your customer’s face not pissing them off.

It’s a gesture, initiative or approach that leaves your customer impressed – and more importantly – impressed enough that they’ll come back for more.

So this week in all you do, go that extra mile.

Friday, 1 May 2009

'It's About Time'

What's that precious commodity we all have, that can make the difference between success and failure in how we go about business and how we perform our jobs?

There's more tactics for living 'The Juggle Lif'e in my new book.