Collaboration…

Be observant.

Identify partners.

Listen to them.

Share your goals and plans.

Clarify your thinking.

Introduce your minds.

Establish your collective goal.

Identify your action plan.

Allocate roles.

Implement and deliver.

Graft.

Enjoy!

Grow through the challenge.

Review and evaluate.

Measure results.

Forge your relationships.

Swell your networks.

Build your foundations.

Be a support.

Give of your best.

Demonstrate excellence.

Repeat…

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Synchronicity

Last week I spent some time in the company of someone new to me.

As our time progressed a few things transpired that inspired this blog.

A third person joined us. They and I found we had a few things in common –  primarily some of my previous travelling experience,  and we spent a great amount of time laughing, sharing stories, reminiscing and in many ways forming a “connection” in the way that happens when you find someone that knows some of the same things you know, in a place where you wouldn’t expect to find that level of shared knowledge, and particularly not with someone so close to someone that is now in your orbit…Sync Level 1.

During the conversation they mentioned their interest in starting their own business and I gently sold my services. Sync Level 2 and this provided Lesson One – throughout our conversation and as we shared more and more information they said “I like you. Yes, I want to meet with you to discuss my business.” It’s this feeling of “likeability” that is so important in our businesses as we serve the aspirations of others. People share with us one of their most precious desires – their business idea, details about what motivates them to start or continue to pursue a goal, and who wants to do that with someone they don’t  “take to”? My likeability is of course subjective, and it isn’t an indication of the quality of my advice or the effectiveness of my work in developing the businesses of others, but it certainly forms part of our decision making when deciding who we wish to work with, or not.

Our three-way conversation continued and I mentioned some work I had done previously. We realised that we all shared similar frustrations in working on funded projects that ended, often abruptly, when the organisations we were engaged with decided to end financially supporting the innovative and entrepreneurial work we had delivered. Sync Level 3.

Then it happened.

We all realised that we had worked in the exact same field, in different capacities, different countries and for different periods of time, but there it was – our shared interest, shared expertise and most importantly our shared desire to continue the work – in front of us all in a way that was completely unexpected. Consider that the background to our conversation was completely unrelated; that person A and I had never spoken of this aspect of our careers before and this was the first time meeting the person B.

Excitement overcame me as I looked at the potential of the opportunities in front of me -and now I saw in these two new allies, collaborators, business partners, supporters – all of these roles and everything in-between.

To labour the point, because at this stage you might think it’s as momentous as I might be making it out to be: I don’t mean that we just worked in project management at some stage in our careers; the link is that we’ve worked on the same types of projects, same target audience, exact same subject area, with a shared geographical interest in the UK and internationally – of all the countries in the world, our link was to one that I definitely see in my future. I mean that level of synchronicity, Sync Level Bonus 1,215,332!

As always in our business lives, its not the incident that is relevant, but the action that is taken afterwards. Emails have already been sent, and I’m sincerely looking forward to the follow-up meetings and planning that will happen to take our individual ideas forward, now as a collective. Often the world of self-employment can be quite isolated, so whilst I work in supporting other people all the time, I’m always excited about working with others on my own pursuits and projects.

I like these two, too.

So, what’s lesson two? Maybe it’s something about being an active listener. Maybe it’s something about asking the right type of investigative questions. Perhaps it’s something about openness and being interested in others. Maybe there’s no lesson here other than to recognise that sometimes the universe aligns and presents us with what we need, and that it’s up to us to materialise these gifts into what we want.

Maybe it’s all or none of these things.

 

“Not another generic NYE message?”

Tomorrow, 31st December is New Year’s Eve, also known as Old Year’s Night. In fact we are subject to lots of “year endings” and new year starts. There’s the Gregorian calendar year end of 31st December of course. In the UK the financial year ends on the 31st March, and on the 5th April for those who are self-employed and who manage their own tax affairs.

Then there’s the “new year” that is our birthday – the beginning of another journey around the Sun. For those in the Islamic world and  for its adherents across the globe their lunar calendar sees the new year beginning on the 1st day of the month Muharram, on the equivalent date 22nd September 2017 in the Gregorian calendar. In the East African country of Ethiopia, the first day of the New Year is marked on Meskerem 1 on their calendar,  on the Gregorian calendar equivalent date of 11 September.

Across the globe the New Year is calculated by various methods including observing lunar months, by measuring movements of celestial bodies and observance of traditional festivals amongst others.

moon-phases

I mention this on the eve of New Year’s Eve as this time of the year is packed with many of us making commitments to make changes. We start off with great intentions planning to  adjust our diet, up our fitness level, implement career changes,  organise our finances, improve our relationships and promise to read more. Reading more is always on the list…! New Year’s resolutions are excellent. They provide focus, give us something to aim for and structure our plans. Taking time out to set new year’s resolutions is admirable, and sharing them with others is excellent with regards to accountability. Having someone other than ourselves hold us to our plans can be a great way to ensure that we stay on track.

Calendar with pushpins

If we happen to falter, some of us have a tendency to lack generosity towards our failings and we treat ourselves with disdain if we don’t keep up our plans into January, February and beyond. It’s all too easy to feel like a failure if we lose our way and fall off the wagon – or fail to get through the 75 books we promised ourselves we would finish by March…

But look! Look at how many “new years” there are. If we don’t stay on track there’s no need to wait until the next January. Life is beautiful in that it gives us endless options -the shift in mindset is the secret, not a date on a calendar. Set your own new year and create as many as you need to, just like the world has…and keep going…

Good luck…and Happy New Year for whenever you celebrate it!

 

“13 on the 13th”

Tuesday is 13 blog day and today is an extra-special Tuesday as it’s the 13th December. To mark the occasion I’m launching the new series “13 on the 13th”. This will be a hotlist of thirteen facts, tips or hacks related to an area of business or career development.  To kick off the series, today’s “13 on the 13th” will feature facts about me, Natalie, and 13 Rhythms, my service. Part of my increasing visibility about 13 Rhythms, will include people getting to know a little bit more about me. However, as I find talking about myself difficult, I asked for feedback from others – something that they associate with me. I’ve not censored their words, but did say it was for this blog so it’s all PG rated!  I’ve included some of my own comments too.

So. Let’s begin.

1. 13 Rhythms was born on Friday, 13th September, 2013. The idea that something positive and life changing could manifest itself on a date associated with bad luck and unhappy events, led to the name and the mission behind what I do – delivering services that focus on changing perspectives and removing limiting beliefs – beliefs from unknown origins which don’t serve our goals and aspirations.

2. My favourite quote is “Think. Act. Be.” mainly because it was my colleague, now friend, Hanson and my intern Lazza who came up with it and then painted it on the wall in our office.

3. I love giving people nicknames. If you have one from me, you’ll know this to be true!

4. “I remember your love for avocado and Freeze-Its.” Ice poles by another name on another continent.

5. Zimbabwe changed my life.

6. “Mama Nat can’t do tech!” This always makes me laugh! Oh and that’s one of many nicknames I’ve been given. Apparently I’m not very good with computers. This is only partially true. Kinda…

7. “Your love for wandering is what got us connected. Your wandering, dancing feet.” and “You like dancing Kizomba and crazy high heels.” I’m cheating here putting two together. I’m going to add that I have a wish/dream/aim to dance Salsa in Cuba. Serious cheating!

8.  My favourite colour is hot pink, time of day – sunset and season – summer.

9. “You have a great sense of humour and are the queen of one liners.”

10. “Freeman is direct and to the point after absorbing what’s going on.””You have a great grasp of a lot of topics and give great conversation.” “Natalie has acute attention to detail.” I grouped these together because they are so similar, even though they are from three different people who all know me but not each other.

11. I’ve never broken a bone.

12. I love cooking outdoors – meat, fish and vegetables on a BBQ makes me happy. Always.

13. “Everyone you come into contact with leaves in a better mood than before.” So this one made me cry – I am taken by sentiment (fact 13.5!) but it’s the meaning behind the words that gets me.


So that’s it. It is of course difficult to know what to share about ourselves, when and for what purpose. The lesson I’m learning more and more is the need for visibility of the business owner, in our people-centred services. No list is exhaustive but it can be useful to give others something personal about us that they can connect to.

So with the purpose of this blog being “visibility” the real breakthrough for me will be when I share these “13 on the 13th” lists via video…and I have a whole month to practice.

Wish me luck!

Acknowledgements: With huge, warm thanks and gratitude to WBPOWE, EK, KN, YA, DB, CH, CM and special thanks to LH for all the reasons you know in relation to 13. Thank you. All photographs taken by and owned  by me.

 

Is it you, or you?

Last week I observed an interesting exchange on a contact’s Facebook page. It became quite an argument with some fairly ugly and controversial opinions being expressed. I read the thread not only for the comments and their content, but from a business perspective.

The thread was one of many that we see shared on our various social media platforms, all day, every day. It was a combination of various opinions being shared and discussed, all originating from a fairly innocuous original post. What interested me was the way that an opinion being expressed by a business owner can be twisted into something else altogether, and the negative impact that can have on their business, their reputation and ultimately their financial bottom line.

It led me to reflect on who are we as business owners when we “speak” on social media? Are we our individual selves or are we our brand? Is it possible to ask readers to see the difference between “Natalie” and “13 Rhythms”? Is it even a reasonable expectation?

With the use of social media being such a strong marketing tool for so many of our businesses, our network has the potential for global reach, which is a great thing. It also means that our visibility is magnified and that means that the things we say and do have an audience. It means that we always have to be thinking about the opinion that we share online – it’s important to remember that even if an online discussion group, or a “private” Facebook page feels “intimate” it isn’t in any way. Even if you have a business page, your personal page will often be fuelling it. This means that our digital footprint follows us everywhere online.

padock
The thread that inspired this blog ended with people talking about taking their money elsewhere with comments relating to stopping patronising the poster’s business. What was interesting was that the offending comments weren’t made by the poster, they merely pressed a “like” on a comment that others took offence to. This was both interesting and scary to observe.

So I ask, is it you, or you? As a business owner, it seems that there is only one “you” – the choice is ours in regards to what we want to share, post and respond to in our online lives and we’re taking calculated risks with the impact it may have.

Let’s choose wisely…

 

Incy, wincy spider…

So. I’m sitting at my desk. working on the laptop – as usual – and in my peripheral vision I see something crawling down the wall. On a string, well its web. It was a surprisingly large spider actually.

I imagined various scenarios – “What if I was asleep and it crawled into my ear and laid eggs?” “What if it crawled into my hair and crawled out in the supermarket?” What if I felt it crawling down my neck and in my frenzy to brush it out I flailed my arms around and punched someone in the face and knocked some vases over?!”

In the end, none of that happened. That was my overactive imagination wreaking havoc.

This time I simply got up, calmly, got the vacuum cleaner out, switched it on and sucked Spidey away into the abyss. Then I turned the Hoover off, without drama, put it away, sat back down and got back to work. Probably took around 92 seconds.

In this blog there isn’t any big action. There’s no momentous event, or intense scenario that provided the reason for this week’s entry. It’s all pretty calm. However, I did learn something in dealing with Spidey. I saw a challenge, thought about a solution, utilised the solution, dealt with it and continued with my tasks. It made me think that maybe business should be like that too. Sometimes, we should just get up and deal with whatever is in front of us. We should just see the problem and utilise a quick, easy and painless solution for all parties. My usual screaming and jumping around would have caused a delay in my working schedule, put me behind with tasks and made me unnecessarily stressed out. I know this is what happens. It has happened before…

solving_the_cube_by_nico894-d4h4pyw

We know that business can throw problems at us sometimes. There’s a whole host of difficult situations that we can find ourselves in as we go about building our businesses and changing our lives. Spidey taught me that sometimes we have to just deal with them – without fanfare, sometimes on our own and in a calm and reasonable way, so that we can carry on delivering our products and services to our customers.

So this is dedicated to my Spidey and all the other Spideys that have been dealt with that have taught me a valuable lesson. Believe me, I have done the loud, sweating, screaming, skin crawling, irrational, arachnophobic response when faced with spiders. I might even do it again…however in our businesses, sometimes we have to learn to face our fears head on and keep pushing forward, calmly.

That’s it.

Good luck conquering your literal and metaphorical spiders!

 

“Hey Mr. DJ!” (and Ms…)

On Saturday night I attended an event hosted by a London based rapper called Ty, and his collaborators The Handson Family. He is well known on the independent music scene as well as across Europe and internationally. They run an event called “No Long Ting” – a statement made in various contexts in London and Caribbean vernacular. None of this is the actual point of this blog though – just a bit of colourful background.

I had a wonderful time on the night. It was full of great people, friendly faces and DJs that I know and admire. DJing is a passion that people have that brings intense levels of enjoyment whilst doing it. The joy of playing music you love, to a crowd of people visibly and viscerally loving what you’re doing at the exact same moment as you’re doing it. Deferred gratification it isn’t. It’s different to a chef or a painter as the customer and the service provider feel the enjoyment at the same time. I’d never thought of that until I started writing this…That’s not the point of this blog either but it’s an interesting point nonetheless!

dj3

What struck me and inspired this week’s blog was the statement that was made a few times on the night “If you thought you would come here and hear the same music every time, you’re in the wrong place!” No Long Ting happens a few times a year, so I understood the context of the comment. It was only afterwards, at home, drinking a cocoa, that I thought about what that statement meant and how it relates to business.

When we are delivering a service to our customers, whether we are entertainers, party hosts, workshop facilitators, graphic designers, tailors, gardeners and any number of others, we ought to take a similar approach to no repetition. Let me be clear though: consistent quality in delivery of our service is of utmost importance, every time. Developing an understanding of what our customers would like to see, have or be moved by is a crucial part of our role as business owners. However, it is also our duty to keep things fresh, to innovate and create new experiences for our customers. Business is about experiences – solving problems and making sure that we meet our customers’ and clients’ needs in a way that will inspire them to come back to us whenever they require that product or service again. It’s not saying that every time you deliver you deliver something different as that doesn’t work for all services, but the core concept is one I co-sign. Be creative, offer the “what” you do in ways that are inspiring to your customers.

dj1
By saying that “You will always hear different music when you come to No Long Ting!” the event created a high level of expectation in those that shared the dance floor. Those that didn’t make it that night, heard about how good it was and will likely try to ensure their attendance next time it happens. Our businesses should be like this too. Our greatest marketing tools are our customer ambassadors – those people that tell their friends and family how good we are. The enthusiasm, passion and interest they show when speaking about your business can’t be valued, and we should always be working hard to get that positive response from them.

“Always hear different music when you come to this event!” In relating this to business, it reminded me of innovation. New music, new remixes, unexpected mixing of tracks, different genres – this is how we should approach what we do. Are you delivering the same information in the same way you always have? Offering the same product to all of your customers regardless of their different challenges? Are you working hard to “move me” with your creativity and by offering solutions that meet my specific needs? Like the party on Saturday night, I should be encountering your business and feeling like you have made an effort for me as your customer. I should feel like you’ve thought about what you are going to do for me, and that I and my enjoyment and customer satisfaction matter to you.

It can be useful to do an audit of your business and ask yourselves these questions. Explore where you can be creative and innovate. Ensure consistent quality in everything you do, and give your customers a great experience.

Good luck!