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ravenousveggie

Thoughts on veggie food, work, play and life in general

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Small Business

Monthly Loves – October

October was a busy month for me as I was concentrating on setting up a new business offering.  This has taken a lot of time and didn’t leave much time for going out and finding new things. Hopefully I will have more to report on next month!

  • I did attend The Ethical Consumer conference which was very good.  I came away with loads of ideas on how to make my company more ethical and sustainable.  Not sure I will be able to convince my directors to take any actions, but I’m working on it.   
Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash
  • Now the days are drawing in we are revisiting the roast dinner on a Sunday.  I’d forgotten how much I miss roasted beetroot!
  • Had a lovely family meal at The Wheatsheaf, Esher.  Good veggie options, including a roast.  A very popular pub so if you go do book in advance.  The low points are the lack of parking and it gets quite hot and stuffy so wear layers!  The food is definitely worth going for though!
  • A client meeting that didn’t last as long as I thought it would meant that I could visit Seasons, Forest row.  Probably my favourite organic supermarket, which I have been visiting since the late 1990s.
  • If you are looking for another great  place to eat out tryThe Horse Inn, Hurst.  This pub has recently been refurbished and offers a great selection of food, from tapas and bar  meals to lovely dinners. The Vegetarian and Vegan menus are well worth a look at. The christmas menu also looked really inviting.

Reducing Travel

My job involves meeting people and therefore travelling.  Where I live and work is well connected to London, but not so much to the South Coast or the surrounding towns and villages.

I go to a lot networking events, plus I like to meet clients in person.  This means I spend a lot of time in the car travelling between appointments and events. Although I have a hybrid car and try to drive efficiently, I am still concerned about the impact of my travel on the environment.

I’d like to take public transport more, but the journey times and the cost start to make it look more prohibitive.  A thirty minute drive to Brighton equates to just under two hours by either bus or train. The bus is the cheapest option but the WiFi is not stable so precludes much working on the way. The train costs twice as much as driving and is generally unreliable.  

Of course I am looking at this cost in terms of time and money and not the impact on the environment.  

But I need to have a mindset change.  A lot of my client conversations can be quite personal  and detailed. I like to meet face to face as I can see their full reaction to questions and suggestions.  In my previous corporate life I used to use video conferencing a lot. The picture quality was ok, but time lag could make conversations difficult.  I have tried Skype over the years but always found that the system drops out after about 15 minutes.

Recently I was introduced to Zoom.  I joined a group call and was amazed by the quality and stability of the system.  So I have started to book Zoom calls with existing and potential clients. This has so far been met with enthusiasm.

Using video conference to reduce travel
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Looking at my diary this is freeing up much more time in the office and means I can walk to work more.

There will still be days where using the car will be the only practical option, however I am committed to making these days the exception rather than the norm.

Would You Hide From A Client?

Have you ever hidden from your client – even when they are coming into your office or a meeting?

This occurred recently at work.  Following a particularly difficult meeting with a client and their adviser my colleague decided to stay away from the office completely when they can back to resolve the issues.  This left our member of staff, who had been quite upset at the previous meeting, to deal with the client on her own.  

I was quite shocked at this.  The adviser had been quite rude and are to the meeting gunning for a fight.  But to avoid the situation after and leave a member of staff to pick up the pieces astounded me.  I do not know what my colleague is hiding from, or what the full issues are, but to me this is not leadership.

The previous meeting had been intense. Our client had not stood up for us in front of her adviser. I wonder if she had enough knowledge to do so, or if she just kept quiet –  bemused by the whole episode.

It turns out that following this episode my colleague has decided not to take on any more clients for this specific service. They are also avoiding talking about what happened.


hiding from the client
Photo by John T on Unsplash

One thing strikes me though – you can’t garner, or mend, good client relations by hiding.  Things go wrong. Mistakes get made. But keeping away so you don’t have to face them is wrong.  I have never been given this option since starting this company, and even if I had I don’t think I would have shied away.

Facing up to mistakes and client problems help you grow as a person, improves your skills and shows leadership.  If you want to hide then you may as well not have the client. If my colleague had faced the issues head on perhaps they would have learned how to change the offering going forward, and how to avoid this mistake in the future.

Would you hide from a client?

No Can Do Attitude

I tend to think of myself has having a “can do” attitude.  If a client rings with a problem or issue I see it as a personal challenge to find a solution within the required timescale.  This isn’t always possible, and I’m not a miracle worker, but most of the time I can get things done, or find an interim solution.

I have a colleague who has a “no can do” attitude.  If a client needs something done last minute she fixates on why they didn’t ask for it earlier.  Their poor admin is not her problem. She tells them how difficult it will be to sort it, but without finding a solution first.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I find this really frustrating.  And it also causes friction in the office as others find her attitude too fixed and negative.  We have all had days when things crop up that we hadn’t planned for, or had forgotten about. But we think on our feet and get through it.

If you have a friend that needs something done and is in a fix, you will do your best to help them. I don’t see a difference between a friend and a client  in these circumstances (although there are things I’d do for a friend that I wouldn’t do for a client!)

I don’t know what the answer is to changing her attitude. She is not good at learning new things.  Perhaps we are the ones that need to find a way to look past this perceived weakness and put in place a better way of dealing and communicating with clients in these circumstances.

Distrust

I work with a colleague  who is quick to distrust on the first error a person makes, hearsay, or sometimes something akin to jealousy, and often without knowing the full story.

Once distrusted he does his best to burn bridges with that person.  This may mean not working with them or not turning up to an event because they might be there.  If you mention their name, or ask if we should refer some work to them, you get a venomous reply of ‘no, find someone else, we are not working with them.’  I had an email forwarded from a potential contqact with just he word @I met this smug git today…’ Obviously on a GDPR level this could be a bit embarrassing if they should ever ask for any data/correspondence we hold on them!

I always find this frustrating, bewildering and a little short sighted.  How can you limit your interactions with people in this way? What if you need their help in the future?  Where does this anger come from?

However this attitude has started to bite back recently.

On a few occasions he has had to concede that the person in question is ok and that he didn’t know the background to why something happened.   Or the need of the customer means that we need the support of the ostracised person. So perhaps we shouldn’t be too hasty in cutting all ties.  

I have no problem of being wary of someone who keeps making mistakes, or whose working practices might not be as good as I would like.  We all meet people we don’t rub along with. However to cut people out completely for such reasons to me shows a lack of patience, understanding and self esteem.   

You never know when you will need their help, or how your actions have affected their view of you.  And who are they talking to about it? How will reflect on you?

There will always be people who do do something very wrong, but make sure you have all the facts first before writing people off.


Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

Why go networking?

Networking – when you run a small business this can be a vital way of selling your goods or services.  If you belong to a larger company you may be asked to go to find potential clients. Love it or hate it networking can be really effective at drumming up new business and finding good contacts for you and your clients

I was talking to a networking event organiser the other day and was surprised to hear how demanding networkers can be, and why some people go networking when there is no obvious reason as to why they are there.

Networking events have different formats – from free and unstructured, mingling in a room (buy your own drink/food), to paid for fully structured.  I like the free format ones (much more relaxed), and I also like some of the structured ones, as the content can be good and the format can help focus my mind.  I don’t enjoy the over structured ones that focus too much on the input/success of everyone in the room and following a very prescribed format. This can sometimes reduce the amount of good networking time and comes across as very rigid.

The format of these events is usually well known up front and it is a good idea to try each type to find the structure you are comfortable with.  Also you need get to understand the mix of businesses in the room. Are they your target market or do they have access to it? Other than that you tend to get out of networking what you put into it.  It is a two-way street.

I have occasionally seen people at these events and wondered why they are there.  They seem only interested in their own product and don’t want to know what the other person offers.  They don’t tend to do so well!

Some seem to come for the company – they don’t appear to explain their offering, or have much to say as to why you should use them.  They do put business the way of the others in the room, but never seem to wan, or get, any business. They are often the least prepared for the meeting.  I have met a lady who confessed that the reason she goes to networking was to get out the house, meet people and have a bit of structure to her day.

I have seen people sign up for some of the more structured events, and then complain on how they are run and the information provided.  They want a list of attendees – rather than collect business cards and write their own notes. To me this is lazy – you need to be listening to, and taking your own notes of what others in the room are looking for.

Networking pays dividends when you make the most of it – connect on LinkedIn soon after the meeting and book 121s between meetings to get to know your fellow networkers better.  Also don’t be afraid to book a 121 with the event organiser, and don’t wait for them to book one with you. Networking event organisers often run more than one event each month, so remembering to book 121s with members can slip through the net.  

You also need to identify if your target customer is in the room.  If you are offering professional services for companies with 50+ employees, then the casual get together at a local pub is unlikely to produce any contacts.

Whatever your reasons to go networking do review your return on investment.  Are you getting back in business more than you membership and meeting fees? If not you need to review if you are making the most of the group, or if it is time to leave and find a more suitable group.  And also, be nice to the organiser!

Happy networking!

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