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.

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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…

 

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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!

A nice cup of tea…

I’ve just finished a lovely cup of tea.

The perfect temperature, perfect sweetness and the right amount of milk. My preferred blend is Earl Grey. I’m not a purist though as I have mine with milk…I know, I know…!

I used to have the occasional hot chocolate when I worked in my last job. It was convenient as we had a Costa Coffee cafe on-site. Now though I drink tea. A lot of tea. It’s the way that I break up my day, stepping away from my laptop and between calls and clients, going through the ritual of brewing up a cuppa.

I noticed today, that many of my daily habits have changed, and my beverage choice is a small element of that. Since taking the leap to become self-employed, my routine is different. I have various alarms set for reminders to share posts on Instagram and twitter. I have daily targets to increase my followers and levels of interaction across my various social media accounts. I spend time on Facebook but with a different agenda than before. I have to think about my personal visibility in a very different way now, something I didn’t think about at all whilst in a job. I am constantly thinking about my messaging and ways of doing business and creating my own opportunities. In a job, someone else directs our work and measures our progress and targets. Now it’s all on me. Whilst this is a challenge it’s also incredibly exciting.

So yes, I now drink a lot of tea; but I’m having a great time whilst doing it…

Reminder of our upcoming event:

9th November, London, “Starting Up! Problems and Solutions” – tickets and info here: http://bit.ly/2dTEaf6

Oh and those social media accounts I referred to:

@13Rhythms on twitter, Instagram and Facebook

 

 

That time already?!

So I didn’t blog last week.

I feel really bad about it. I was conscious of the fact that it was Tuesday morning, then Tuesday afternoon, then Tuesday evening, and I hadn’t blogged. I hadn’t even started.

It’s not to say that I wasn’t busy. I had loads going on. Mostly I was doing final promotion for the event that I held on the 20th October, “Monetise Your Passion” and doing the last parts of the event planning and preparation for that.

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I allowed other tasks to get in the way of something that I had committed to. I fully thought that I would able to fit in my blogging and somehow it just didn’t work out that way. Well not “somehow” – I just didn’t get around to completing it – I didn’t give myself enough time.

This blog entry is partly about me admitting that as a business owner, I have times when I don’t get it all completely right. I think that’s OK, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I guess the secondary purpose for me writing it is to encourage myself and my readers to consider the importance of time management and good business related habits. So much of what I do is dictated by clients and other variables, that I felt good to commit to the discipline of posting one blog a week. I had done pretty well in maintaining this promise to myself and felt comfortable about the quite rigid nature of this deadline. “Tuesday is 13 blog day” became the introduction to my posts as I shared them on social media. Then last week I didn’t. Sigh.

But business is all about making mistakes, recognising what went wrong and thinking about and most importantly, implementing, problem solving strategies to ensure that we can stop the same from happening again. Not blogging isn’t a huge issue in the scheme of running a business. However, I suspect that those that read this blog noticed that there wasn’t one last week . With that being said, not maintaining our own patterns can be assumed to indicate other unfavourable business practices. This isn’t the case of course – not blogging was due to preparation for my first event as 13 Rhythms, and time spent with clients. However, what is true and what our customers might think can be two different things. Perception is a key thing in business.

So today’s one week and one day late blog is dedicated to those of us who sometimes slip up in trying to do the right thing…who don’t always make it, but are trying!

Good luck!

“Just Wait…”

Yesterday I was invited to join a podcast to speak about 13 and the events I have coming up later this month, in November and December. It was my first time being “interviewed” and speaking about not just my business, but a little bit about how I came to be developing 13 Rhythms. I think I underestimate the importance of my personal story and how others might relate to it…Maybe that’s a topic for a future blog…?

The producers of the podcast forwarded the list of questions in advance as well as asking me to pick a song that reflected my entrepreneurial journey so far. This was quite difficult, as it’s not something I’d thought of before, but I came up with a song. My choice was “Just Wait” by Incisive featuring Shakka.

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Shakka (left and upside down, Incisive on the right)

As I listened to the song lyrics I was struck by how relevant they are to the process of starting-up and running your own business. The song speaks of Incisive’s continual push to be able to do music as his full time pursuit and achieve a certain level of success with it. Despite being well known on the live music scene and producing and releasing albums I suspect that many of our readers haven’t heard of either of them. I think is something they would like to change.

But listening to the song with a new perspective presented me with lots of food for thought and inspired today’s blog. Some of the stand-out lyrics for me were:

“You move ‘cos you tell your legs to move…”

Being self-employed is about being self-propelling. Absolutely – your motivation has to come from you now that you’re taking this journey.

“Yeah I’m on my grind, even when I’m skygazing or playing Playstation or farting around on Facebook…”

I find that entrepreneurs and those who are self-employed are often thinking about the next thing they want to do in their business, or a new idea they have, even in their downtime. This is something I’m sure many can identify with.

 

“None of these things are ever set in stone.”

I find this line to be very relevant – our business idea and our overall vision for our lives with our businesses remains the solid foundation of what we do on a day to day basis, but there is a need to be adaptable about how we go about developing our business, as the needs of our customers and environments change.

“When I play my hand then I’m all in”

This one is self-explanatory, right? If we’re about this journey we have to fully commit to it, even it’s it’s not our full time business.

My favourite line of all?

“There’s only plan A, plan B is doing plan A.”

I LOVE this line. I interpret it as even if we change our initial actions towards achieving our business goals – plan A – we are simply taking a new approach to achieving our business goals – plan B – and not changing our plans altogether – Plan A. I hope I’ve made this comment make sense? It’s my favourite line and it makes complete sense to me! Ort it can be interpreted as being single minded and fixed completely on your goal – no deviating. Both work for me.

Do you have a song that relates to your entrepreneurial journey? Share your thoughts. You can listen to an shorter version of my song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAg1kWDYxW4.

The full song including Shakka’s verse is available on iTunes:

My podcast is being edited and will be available for next week’s blog. I’m a tiny bit excited…!

Have a great week!

 

 

 

Taking the Plunge…

Presenting our products or services to potential customers can feel pretty nerve-wracking. It’s essentially us displaying a part of ourselves to “the world” in the hope that they think we are as good as we think we are. We may have taken time to train and hone our skills, having observed Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” resulting in us being very good at our “something”.

When we choose to take the opportunity to let others see our “something” this is where the understandable nervousness comes in. We worry about the quality, about the response we’ll receive, about whether people will think us authentic and believable as a product or service provider.

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The good news is, these feelings are normal – how could we not feel apprehensive about this process? There’s even more good news though as we remember the following things:

  • Taking your skills to the market is an essential part of the business start-up process. It will give you the opportunity to have controlled exposure to customers and to gather their feedback.
  • Feedback is one of the most important factors in your business.  Positive comments help you to know what you should continue doing – this can help to shape your eventual product launch or let you know what services to start with. Feedback that provides you with “areas of development” is equally, if not more, important, as it is this information that forms the basis of the changes and adaptations to your original idea, keeping you in line with the needs of your target customer.
  • Letting yourself feel the nerves and doing it anyway will be an activity that will be repeated over and over again in your business journey. You may as well do it now and start getting used to it!

Nerves aren’t a bad thing – it’s nerves that stop us from acting and making moves in our business that are damaging. So breathe deeply, wear a smile, believe in yourself and expose your skills to the world…!

Good luck.

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