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Get a Grip! Use social media.

October 25th, 2009 No comments

I’ve not blogged for a while, as I’ve been redefining my strategy, off-loading some of the distracting (sometimes negative) influences I’ve had around my business and got my direction back on the track that’s been my driving force. So, this blog, may seem a little “not practicing what one preaches” so view it as a kind of “note to self!”

Oh, I’ve also taken the last blog seriously and spent a good time with my sons during a period of transition in our lives – I now feel energized, refreshed and ready to go – ready for all the great stuff that’s now coming my way. Anyway, back to this social media thingy;

Having had an amazingly good two and a half years delivering business all over the place (UK, Europe and the Middle East) I was introduced to the need to explore all marketing channels earlier this year when things started to go a little, er, as you might say “Pete Tong”. Having not been a great networker or explored too many contacts outside my main area of focus (the motor trade – ouch!!) I found myself having a fair bit of time to reflect on that strategy.

A great friend of mine introduced me to Twitter, blogging, Facebook and Linkedin. And his help managed to get me top 5 rankings in Google – if you google my name that is!! But, most importantly, as I began mid-year to “put myself about” a lot more I found both my web presence and my face to face contacts were doing a great job of raising my profile. Funny that.

Clearly I wished I’d started that 2 years ago – but I fell foul of being really busy, earning loads and thinking how great life was – then came Le Crunch de Credite (as the French call it!) and my stack of cards duly began falling down! So, quick Robin – to the blogmobile! I began blogging, then tweeting about my blog posts and the phone never stopped………………..being a phone that sat silently on my desk!

But being a tenacious bloke (most of the time), I carried on relentlessly – I went to no end of morning network meetings (I’m now sick of cooked breakfasts and have more cards for printers, graphic designers, life coaches, recruiters and IFAs than I care to mention). I joined the Customer Service Training Association – brilliant! One quarterly meeting and I’ve already had three strong leads and tied up with four associates as a result (contact me for more info on CSTA).

Equally though, and here’s my point (eventually) I’ve worked hard at building a Linkedin profile and gathering many connections – because everytime you update it, comment on a group etc, make a new connection, your contacts get an update – therefore, keeping your name high in their line of sight! Also, Linkedin pofiles do figure highly on google searches. (I’m on Linkedin as Stephen J.Whitton (all invites accepted) btw!!). It’s also helped me to retain a very high level of self motivation – because (and I really don’t mean to sound egotistical) I’m constantly updating the web on all the positive stuff I’m doing – again, like a “note to self”

But, what’s got me hooked recently and confirmed the benefits of the time spent on it – was a conversation on Facebook (in the chat section) with my cousin about 6 weeks ago – we got onto the subject of work and what we’re both doing now. I mentioned great training (like you do) and she responded with “you should speak to our HR – our training’s s**t!” Of course, an email to the person in HR promptly followed, a response was immediate, a meeting happened within a week and last week I sealed the deal on the first piece of work with them for December – it’s a District Council with a good budget, a progressive HR team (all new) and a big requirement for 2010!! Timing couldn’t have been better.

So, to finish a long story, I’m now hooked on Social Media (well Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook) as absolute must haves for the modern trainer, freelancer, self-employed or business person. But would suggest defining your strategy in terms of how you’ll use this media to “warm up” contacts for you to meet up with – as that’s where the business will ultimately be done! I still can’t believe though, the sheer number of corporate based people who can’t or won’t grasp the nettle and I’m staggered how the Motor Industry still seems to take a “don’t try to tell my how I can connect with lots of people – can’t you see I’m trying to sell some cars here!!” Umm – some work to be done here methinks!

Please feel free to get in touch, send a private message or join me on Linkedin to discuss further. A big thanks to those who helped me with this strategy and realising what it is I’m about.

Keep shining.

Managing through the bottle neck (the management bottleneck)

March 2nd, 2009 1 comment

 

During these days of dark economic gloom, many people are feeling down and despondent. That’s why situations like these, call for great leadership and inspirational guidance at all times.

 

This can be difficult to muster and turn on at the best of times, but when business is tough and managers may be feeling a little insecure, uncertain and are worried about low sales and low profits, the pressure can be on enough as it is, without then having to provide pastoral care as well as great strategic leadership.

 

The car industry has called on its managers to perform at ever increasing levels expecting year on year growth in every aspect now for many years. But I think we all know by now that this year (2009) and maybe part of the next are going to provide some stormy waters in uncharted territory for many.

 

In our work as coaches and business care specialists, management or “the ‘M’ word” crops up time and time again as being the area of main focus – why is this?

 

We believe that in looking at this, it’s necessary to ask some fairly uncomfortable questions;

 

—       Does the business have a clear purpose, vision, mission and direction?

—       Has this been shared and communicated with the first line managers?

—       How well equipped are they at communicating this?

—       How good are they at making this live and breathe within the organisation?

—       Do managers get the balance right between task and result orientation?

—       Managers demonstrate an ability to manage the financial KPIs, but what about the behavioural KPIs.

—       Do managers really engage with their staff and encourage great teamwork, high standards and outstanding attitudes?

 

We conducted an exercise recently with a privately owned car dealer group where some basic fundamentals were being missed in the showroom activity – inconsistent levels of sales, poor add-on sales, lack of customer follow-up, little prospecting, no measurement of closing ratios, standards a bit slack.

 

The owner didn’t understand this as in his mind everyone clearly knew what the business was about and where it was going. However, when asking the staff, the answers were alarmingly inconsistent from “I’ve no idea” to “well, it’s just to sell cars isn’t it?” During those staff discussions though, we did discover one big consistency – all the staff desperately wanted to feel as though they are a part of an organisation where everyone rows together.  In the absence of this feeling, people reverted to a more selfish, “I’ll do what I need to do to keep myself going” approach.

 

So, a clear belief (and in fairness documented evidence) that the vision is clear from the top matched with clear desire and commitment coming from the bottom, leaves the question ‘why isn’t it happening?’ Why does this business have a high staff turnover, why is morale not great? The answer, we found was the middle management – the upward and downward communication was ‘stuck’ in a bottle neck (see diagram 1).

 

Now, before we start getting hate mail for this big generalisation, we do know that there are some fantastic managers in the automotive industry – but, it has to be said there are some who struggle too – and this is one such manager we’re referring to here. 

So, why do they struggle? Our first question is ‘how is s/he the best person for the job? Who decided that, when and why?’ our next question and probably the most important is ‘what development has s/he had?’. I’m not talking about going off to the Lake District 5 years ago to build a raft in the cold, I’m talking about real, pragmatic, on-the-job coaching and development on the fundamental day to day issues. And finally, what do we expect of our managers? More and more now, we are seeing that, Sales Managers in particular are finding the job involves more and more admin and less people ‘stuff’ – is this right? Does this create a bit of a management bottle-neck in your business?

 

So, what can you do about it?

 

Give them a structure – outline the vision, purpose and mission of the business – not just to sell cars but “to be the best providers of xyz cars in the town, consistently delivering amazing customer experiences in sales, service, parts etc through teamwork, commitment and dedication” or something like that!

 

Put in some disciplines – yes I said disciplines. Not archaic, Dickensian style strictness, but encouragement of good habits, standards, performance, knowledge and skill development – these make up the outline of the behavioural KPIs – and businesses reading this who are achieving budget, targets and have great morale will recognise those traits within their teams.

 

Work to the process – one of the issues in our case study is that the Aftersales part of the business is so process driven that it leaves the sales department behind – in aspects of performance, staff turnover, morale and so on. There needs to be a consistency of process across the business and one that’s measured too! (But for sales, not just in terms of profit and units, but in terms of standards, skills and knowledge etc)

 

Talk to anyone who works in a business they’d describe as “great” and you’ll hear that the things above are in place – but moreover, this is brought to life by managers who are engaged, engaging, energetic, empathic (a great leadership quality – look at Winston Churchill!).

 

In the main, people need direction, guidance and inspiration and above all to feel part of something important – managers have a critical role to play in achieving this.  

 

 

February 13th, 2009 No comments

There’s nothing more motivating as a facilitator, trainer or consultant than working with a great group of people who really want to change and bring about results in their business.

We lined up a really innovative event involving things they would never have guessed. Wanting to get them out of their office environment, with all the distractions and the “same old, same old” everyday feel of being at work, we took them to Cook’s Barn in Cambridge for an event whereby much work was done, but the evening was spent in the masterchef kitchen where everyone mucked in and cooked a fabulous meal for all!

The purpose of the event was to take the latest Competition Commission report on PPI (yawwwwnn!) and turn it into a short, high impact presentation to take out to their clients.

There was a need to do a little team-building as everyone is so busy, and with the current economic downturn they are fighting fires and dealing with problems for their own clients and subsequently could feel quite lonely and isolated.

So, taking them away from their office, facilitating a structure meeting, cooking their own dinner, eating together, an after dinner speaker (Ian McKendrick – Creating Killer Presentations) followed by a second day where everyone got stuck in to create a highly effective presentation, has resulted in an amazing set of outcomes.

Result – motivated, inspired, enthused individuals within a high impact team ready to proactively present to their clients and blow them away! Oh and one very happy facilitator too.

Financial Services

February 6th, 2009 No comments

Holding page for Financial Services

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