Is being ‘fine’ costing you business?

Do you really know anyone in business who isn’t finding times hard at the moment? Is there any business that has not been touched by rising costs or falling demand – or both. Yet, when we meet fellow business owners and ask how they are doing, we often get the standard reply: “I’m fine”.

I often wonder what that really means. I know what a fine day looks like; I know what a fine wine tastes like , but I have no idea what a fine person looks like, or how they feel. This programmed response, delivered without sense or feeling, has become a badge of honour which threatens the sanity and success of every business owner. One recently asked me during a mentoring call, “If everyone else is fine, is it just me who’s getting it so wrong?”

Working with businesses on their credibility means that I get to explore their real values with them and how they apply these to every aspect of their lives. Not surprisingly, integrity and honesty are key values that many of them claim are key to their success and vital to their business. Honesty must surely include a genuine response to questions about them and their business; yet you can guarantee they are “fine” when asked about themselves and you can bet that their business is “fine” too.

What keeps us back from sharing the true picture? I think there are many reasons for this auto-response, including:

1) Fear of failure – we believe that admitting that all is less than “fine” might make us look like failures. My personal experience of this has been quite the opposite – a business person who is working hard to improve their business during tough times gains respect and support from their peers who will often go out of their way to find them referral opportunities in hard times.

2) We don’t believe people actually want to know – small talk and polite conversation has developed into noise; people ask questions and don’t wait for or listen to the answers. We have become so accustomed to this, that it is almost considered impolite to say anything other than “fine thank you” when asked about our health, our day or our business.

3) We think everyone else is thriving – partly, of course, because nobody is admitting they are not fine. Our own insecurities are easily given a louder voice as we hear others sharing their success stories. The idea of admitting we are actually less than “fine” becomes an impossibility.

These programmed replies might make us feel comfortable in the moment, but in the longer term they could well be costing us business. Why would I go out of my way to help you if you are “fine”. I have so many people in my networks, I want to ensure I am connecting people and helping them grow their businesses all the time. I focus my attention where it is needed the most so that I can be effective. The people who are “fine” are not on my radar.

Taking the first step to admit all is not as good as it could be feels a bit like getting naked at a networking event; and like this feeling, it is not a good idea to do it in public! Take small steps, with the people you trust first. When we confide in the people we value and trust, we pay them an enormous compliment; remember that when you open up and ask for their advice and opinions.   We often hear the expression “a problem shared is a problem halved” and often as we hear ourselves talking through a situation, we start to see the solutions for ourselves.

The relationships that develop through this honesty will become the strongest in your network and real referral partnerships are built on trust and mutual respect – credibility. The first time I asked someone I valued for help, admitted all was less then “fine” they smiled from ear to ear and said “me too. We’re having a really tough year”.  We now refer business to each other on a regular basis and work on marketing and media opportunities for each other.

And who ever wanted to be “fine” anyway? Wouldn’t you rather be fabulous, or wonderful? Flying or soaring? “Fine” and “OK” are two places I don’t want to be again and with the help of my networks, I am never going back.

I originally wrote this blog for Virgin.com during my time as on of their regular contributors (VIB)

 

If the hat fits….

When I launched my first business venture in my late 30’s, I wanted to be the best International Event Manager in my field. I wanted to run superb, memorable events that people were clamouring to attend. I was clear about the hat I wanted to wear; I knew it fitted and suited me and that I felt good in it.

I did not anticipate the many other hats that came with running a business and I certainly had not anticipated the need to wear many of them at the same time. I was overwhelmed by the expectation that I would willingly wear them, having never so much as tried them for size or made a choice about colour or style. Indeed many of the hats were ones I had consciously avoided and had been only too pleased to leave behind on the hat stand for someone else to wear.

When a business starts to grow, the hat we chose spends less and less time on our head each day. The joy we had in creating something and delivering it with pride to a client is overshadowed by the constant demands that we serve our business needs and not just those of our customers. We have to “work on our business not in our business” investing time in planning for the future and creating a legacy. With every success it is easy to be moved further away from the very passion that inspired the business to be born.

I think it helps to be clear about our identity and how we see ourselves. I remember speaking at a networking group several years ago, and I referred to “sole traders” as being self employed people and not businesses. A member of the audience took offence at what I said and asked me “what’s wrong with being a sole trader? Not everyone wants to build an empire you know”. My answer to him was that I had not explained myself clearly – there was nothing wrong with being a sole-trader, far from this. To have recognised your core strength and deliver that to clients with focus and passion was a gift. A conscious decision not to work on your business, but to work in it. Clearly the right decision for him as he was highly successful.

This conversation gave me clarity with several of my clients at that time (and since) as they struggled to wear the entrepreneur hat, which did not fit them and would never feel comfortable. They had left behind their real passions in order to build a business and lost touch with the thing that drove them and kept them engaged and inspired. They believed success meant wearing all the hats regardless of whether they had the skills, or the inclination, to do so effectively. Many of them did not see the possibility of others wearing some of the hats.

The successful entrepreneurs among my clients were happily trying the hats on for size and then actively seeking out the right people to wear them. They worked hard at building relationships and making connections with people who had the skills that they lacked. They were happy to pass the hats around and spend time in the hat they had selected for themselves from the beginning. They trusted those around them and took risks with the hats when it was called for. And they knew their strength lay in wearing one hat.

The main reason people give me for wearing all the hats is that the business isn’t ready for them to take someone on yet. “I would happily pass over that hat if we had more business coming in” “I would love to give that to someone else to do, but I know they’d need my input so it’s quicker to do it myself.” What I hear is that they are not ready to hand over the hat. They haven’t yet got the people they trust around them; or perhaps they didn’t give the people around them a chance to try on the hats.

One team I worked with in 2009 was a business that had started with three friends and had now grown to a team of 19. The three founders were wearing all the hats and were, not surprisingly, frustrated with their results and lack of team engagement. We purchased a hat stand and the team placed all the hats on the stand – between them the three men were taking 12 hats away from the team. For one month, each had to wear just one hat a day, and the rest of the team shared the remaining hats between them. The results were significant and the hat-stand remains to this day.

Try taking a couple of hats off and hanging them out on your hat stand. Let others know they can try them on for size without commitment or fear of failure. If the hat fits – wear it and if it doesn’t then take it off and share it.

I originally wrote this blog for virgin.com as one of their featured VIBs (very Important Bloggers). 

Is there anybody out there?

Running your own business can be all absorbing, exciting, challenging and – lonely. It can feel like nobody knows what’s happening in your world; how important it is that the next stage of your website is ready or that your followers went up by 30 this week. Sometimes, when you are running your own business, it feels like you’re totally alone. The good news is, there are lots of business owners in the same position, feeling isolated and frustrated, questioning their commitment and ability to succeed on their own, every day.

Getting strong foundations in place to support you, at every stage of your business, is a great way to ensure you can build and stand strong in difficult times – like now. It is never too late to start; we can put foundations in place at every stage of our business, for the next stage.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Be honest about where you are, right now. Are you isolated because you choose to be or because of genuine restrictions? Are you creating opportunities to meet new people, people who are also building a business.
  • Be clear about who you are looking for. This is not about hunting for clients. This is about building a “tribe” around you, a group of people you can depend on. Like-minded people who are there to support and encourage each other.
  • Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to get “touchy-feely” this is about letting people know when you need support. Sharing those challenges and being prepared to say “I’m not fine right now.”
  • Ask for help. Sounds simple – so why don’t we do it? Usually because we believe we should know something already, that we should have the answers or be able to find them ourselves. We are concerned that our credibility will be damaged; in truth, credibility is often built when we have the courage to ask for help and to take the action required to resolve an issue or learn something new.

When we feel isolated it is easy to forget that we can start a conversation too. Taking the initiative can be a step into the dark but it’s worth taking. I was asked by a client this week whether to stop tweeting as he had not been getting much response. I suggested that he stop tweeting statements and start asking questions; he had his first reply within four minutes. He started a conversation. You don’t need to wait for someone else to break the silence, you can take the first step – and don’t be put off it takes a while to get a response, people have to get to know you.

I often joke that my commute is around 30 seconds – from my home office to my sitting room. I enjoy a little gloat when my ex-colleagues talk about their 90 minute daily journey, squashed on the tube, getting up-close and personal with a stranger’s armpit. And then I remember how many people I would smile at on my journey home, how many people I said “Good evening” to, how a small group of us used to meet and share our day on the journey home. Even that brief interaction was an important part of my day.

Without a commute, it is important to create time with others. If leaving your office is not an option, there are a plethora of tools available to allow you to hold on-line meetings with cameras allowing participants to feel more connected. If you are able to leave the office – then do it. Take a look at what is on locally that is of interest and go. It may not be a business related event and that’s great; business people have lives and interests too! Schedule an appointment ever y week; an appointment called “Time with others” or “Finding out who else is out there” whatever works for you and stick to it.

There are plenty of people out there, all it takes is “Hello” to start the conversation.

I originally wrote this for Virgin.com when I was a VIB (Very Important Blogger).  Since then. we have moved to a tiny village in Wales, where our closest friends are a number of miles away. It would be even easier now to become isolated.  I’m finding new and fun ways to get out into the community as I can and loving the connections it is creating for me.

 

you can choose your story

What’s your excuse?

It’s February!  Yes, it really is. January has passed and along with it go so many ‘best intentions’ and ‘new goals’ and ‘I really mean it this time’s; yes, the dreaded resolutions that are set, year after year, in some inane attempt to become someone else.  It reminded me of this blog I wrote during my time as a blogger for Virgin and I believe it’s worth sharing here.

“As we rapidly approach the end of another year and start winding down for the festivities, many of us will reflect on the past 12 months; some with more satisfaction than others.

Some will take a contented, almost smug look at their list of achievements for the year. They will review the goals they exceeded, the new projects they embraced along the way, the challenges they overcame and the crisis that became their best client of the year. They will celebrate those successes and learn from the journey.

Some will ponder the lack of progress towards their goals and consider whether they were simply overambitious. They will cite the obstacles that were placed in their way and the general bad-luck that prevented them achieving their targets. These same people will undoubtedly be setting new-year’s resolutions before Big Ben has finished chiming on December 31st, only to start the same process in motion for next year.

It is easy to set goals, to create a list of business-like targets that show we are serious about our futures and see potential in our product or service. Achieving them is another matter, and stems fundamentally from our own commitment to the outcome. In a blog I wrote earlier this year, I talked about setting goals and how the language we use impacts our results. Creating a list of goals / dreams / targets requires clarity and takes time; much more time than most people put in. And before you can start on a list, I recommend taking the following steps:

1) Step a year into the future – you’ve just had a fabulous year; one that you will never forget. One that you are really proud of. If you were to write about your achievements over the past 12 months, what would you write? Do it – you may be surprised by what you write.

2) Imagine that one month in your life was represented as a 24 hour day. Think about how you would want to spend that 24 hours. Who would you spend it with – and how much time would you give to each person or activity? Fill in your ideal 24 hours – a 24 hours that reflects the perfect balance for you. Now fill in your current 24 hours – how are you really spending your time and it is serving where you want to be in 12 months time?

3) Think big – no bigger than that, I’m talking real no-box-thinking. If anything was possible, who would you call? If there were no limits to your capacity and energy what would you achieve? Think dreams, think “yeah right!” and make a list. Then, with total honesty (remember this is your list) write what is stopping you achieving each of the things you’ve written on that list. Then cross off any reasons you have written that are simply excuses.

The truth is that you are the only reason you cannot achieve your dreams. You and your excuses. Far safer not to start than to start and fail, right? Wrong. Every excuse we create, every justification we make, we are simply reinforcing our own belief that we are not going to succeed. Pioneers, trailblazers, risk-takers and successful entrepreneurs don’t make excuses, they make connections. They involve their networks, their trusted contacts and they come up with solutions. They take a different approach and challenge the limiting behaviours that hold others back from success.

If you decide to make one change this year, one significant change that will increase your enjoyment and success, make it this – “no more excuses”.  ”

I originally wrote this blog for Virgin.com where it was published as one of my VIB (Very important bloggers) posts.  I have amended it slightly to share with you again.

 

You can have it all ladies….

I am happy with my lot. I know in my life I can have it all; motherhood, success, a happy marriage (27 years and counting), exotic holidays, a wonderful home, time with great friends, fabulous car, a wardrobe full of clothes I love, immaculate house hair and nails….. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?

Many women ask me “how can I have it all?” and I have the same answer for every one of them…..

You can have it all – just not all at the same time.

My wonderful list is not all about now. I have had times where about half are happening for me together; I’ve had times where I have chosen to squeeze too many in – and lost sight of the really important ones. Why does “having it all” have to mean right now. Like spoiled children stamping our feet, are we simply throwing a tantrum? Is our perception of other women so warped that we believe we are failing if we aren’t juggling a million balls at once? Do we really believe there are women out there doing this single-handed and effortlessly? Get real!

The truth is they are all making choices; not all of them ideal. Compromise and patience may not feel comfortable alongside ambition and determination, but without them you are setting yourself up for failure on so many levels. We can choose to beat ourselves up for failing to vacuum, we can choose to berate ourselves as appalling mothers for missing swimming club or we can choose to acknowledge what we achieve each day and celebrate it.

So where do you start? A reality check would be a good beginning. When you talk about “having it all” what does that really mean to you? I’m confident that “beating myself up regularly” isn’t on there, so what is? No box thinking here – what does it really look and feel like?

The second step is more challenging; ask yourself who are you doing this for? Do you want others to speak about you as the woman who “has it all” ? Are you still attempting to make your father proud of his little girl? What exactly are you hoping to achieve? Being honest about this can be hugely liberating. My own experience showed me this clearly in my mid 30’s when I finally stopped trying to impress others and made my achievements simply for myself. I got so much more satisfaction and a huge sense of achievement and I saved all that energy and time!

The third and biggest step of all is to find juggling partners. Put people around you with the right skills and juggling becomes entertaining. Asking for help and trusting others are big obstacles for many of us. Asking for help can feel like failure – if you want it to. However, asking another to bring their skills to the party, to be a part of your team, is a compliment to them. If they value you they will be chuffed that you asked; they will understand it is a big deal for you. Do something totally non-selfish today and ask someone to be part of your juggling team – you’re inviting them on tour.

Over a life-time we really can have it all. We can appreciate every part of it more if we stop and take a good look in at our own lives. Those women you believe have it right are juggling too, they just realised they didn’t have to do it alone. They shared the load – and the balls!

Dinah x

I originally had this blog posted on virgin.com as one of their  VIBs (Very Important Bloggers)

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

In the current financial climate, there is so much negative talk and focus that it is easy to lose sight of our achievements. The successes we have on a daily basis that should be noted and celebrated. Yet these get lost in the noise and overlooked; taking with them our energy and drive, our determination and self-belief, our entrepreneurialism. We are so “busy” looking at the targets and goals we miss the ones we have already achieved.

There is no question it is tough being in business right now. We are reminded of this fact constantly, by the media, our peers, our families and our creditors. Everywhere we turn, the news is grim – and getting worse by the hour. The spiral of depressing financial and business news is bound to impact us. How we let it impact us is still our choice. We can chose to buy-in to the doom and gloom, tighten our budgets, limit our spending and feel anxious. We can also make a choice to celebrate the successes during such tough times.

Success doesn’t have to be a gold medal or a £million deal. Success is often about the first, tentative steps. Steps taken despite the fear of failure or rejection. Steps taken when everyone is telling you to stand still and bide your time. Success is about still being here, every day, with the right attitude and belief to keep driving forward on your path. Success can be in the smallest things, the actions we take towards positive change, the conversations that start a relationship, the long-resisted phone call to build a bridge. Unless we take the time to celebrate these steps, we drift onto the path being set by others and lose our way.

Focussing on success can be surprisingly difficult. In a society where we seem to relish the negative, being positive can prove hard work and takes dedication and planning. I am not suggesting you write a “positivity plan”, I am suggesting that you plan a strategy to allow you to remain positive if you wish to succeed. I see negativity as a habit – a pattern of behaviour we now do on auto-pilot; we are oblivious to the language we adopt, the behaviour we repeat and the company we keep that encourages and nurtures that negativity. So, like any habit, it can be broken – with the right planning.

Becoming aware of the negativity is key to changing the habit. Making a simple choice about how we start our day can set the tone for your attitude and success. Watching breakfast television may bring you gently out of your stupor, but if hearing the news reminds you of everything negative, then breakfast radio might prove more positive.   Being in the gym might be great for your abs but if it reinforces your negative personal-image, then find an alternative with fewer mirrors and perfect bodies around you. Spending time with friends is a great way to unwind, unless you have an energy-draining relationship. You can chose to continue or chose to change.

A few years ago I realised one of the most negative aspects of my daily routine was my “To do” list. Writing the list was negative – it reinforced that I was juggling too many things and felt overwhelmed ; completing items on the list was negative – I crossed out things I had done (when I was at school, if something was crossed out it meant it was wrong); at the end of each day I looked at all the things I had not crossed out and felt I had not done enough. I changed this habit – and now write my “look what I did today list” at the end of each day. This reinforces the positive contributions and steps I have achieved and gives me a clear picture of what I need to do the next day. It allows me time to celebrate my successes and acknowledge them.

We all know that success is very attractive. You will soon find that celebrating and acknowledging successes in your business attracts the type of clients and associates you want to work with. Be a success champion and celebrate the success of others around you too. Enjoy your success – and invite everyone to the party.

Dinah

•I originally wrote this Blog for Virgin.com as one of their VIBs (Very Important Bloggers) 

 

Choosing to accept

Ok, so here’s the thing…..

Of course I’m grateful. Grateful for the new lease of life I’ve been given; for the amazing care at the hospital; the wonderful messages from friends; the visitors who’ve come to cheer me up; the constant, un-ending support from John.

So why am I feeling so down? What is really keeping me awake tonight, the night before I finally get to go home after 33 nights in hospital?

I looked in the full length mirror they have in the shower room here yesterday. I was horrified by what I saw. A body covered in bruises, some so big and dark that they look fake, others tiny and already going green at the edges.

My Body covered in scars, with a new one standing out in the middle of it’s chest; clean incision, well closed (glue not stitches!), neat yet long scar.

I notice the surgeon has lifted my left breast – around four inches, maybe five, as he has closed my rib cage and sealed it with his careful stitching and gluing.

I only notice because my right breast now hangs lower, the nipple pointing straight ahead while the left seems to point slightly to the right. Can you have a lazy nipple, like a lazy eye?

And then I look at my leg. My poor left leg, dominated by a bruise across the whole thigh, that wraps itself around from front to back – or perhaps back to front, I’m not sure.

And on the inside of this bruised, swollen thigh, nine small incisions. Proof that they worked hard to harvest enough veins for the by-pass surgery.

Thanks to the swelling, each incision looks angry & ready to burst open, causing the whole leg to look strangely shaped and to rub against my right leg with each step.

“The swelling will go down soon” they tell me. “Keep it elevated and walk a little each day and it will soon be back to normal” (what is normal anyway?)

So when, at 4am the nurse asks me “can’t you sleep Dinah” and I try to explain and she offers me the advice that “you need to be strong Dinah” I really do want to scream!!

I need to be strong!? Have I not been strong enough for a lifetime yet?

Perhaps what she really means is “I don’t know what to say.” Because what is there to say?

John tells me I look gorgeous; I know he means that. Love sees things differently. Love is blind. Love is amazing. I joked with him tonight “it’s a good job you love me already babe, because I wouldn’t have a hope of you taking me home otherwise”

And so, I’ve had a sleepless night, worrying about going home instead of being excited. Worrying about how I will cope with this new body; I had only learnt to love my old one in the last few years and now, well, okay so here’s the thing….

Written the night before I came home from my heart surgery in 2013. I now felt ready to share this here.

Dinah x

Alan Rickman – an agent of change

 

Alan Rickman was one of those actors who I always believed; no matter whom he was creating or representing in his portrayals, I always felt he nailed it and brought the character to life.

“Actors are agents of change,” he said. “A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”

I love this quote and it has certainly been true for me; many actors have influenced me politically, emotionally, even spiritually and had a lasting impact on my choices in life.

Hearing  he had passed away from Cancer today, a sense of sadness hits me that had barely healed a scab since the news that Bowie had died. “Not another one!” I shout at the Guardian online news report; “What the f••• is going on!”

I know partly that what’s going on is I’m getting older (does a little dance of celebration, as being ‘in my late 40s’ has never been on the plan due to my health) and therefore my ‘heroes’ are starting to reach the age where it is inevitable we will hear they have died.

I wonder if it’s also that since my own diagnosis, knowing I’m living with a ‘terminal’ condition, I feel the deaths with a different perspective.  I am not afraid of death, of my own dying. I am, however, fearful for those I leave behind; I worry about how they’ll cope in certain situations without me, who will comfort them in times of crisis or need and whether they’ll remember the recipe for my chocolate brownies. Hearing about the passing of Lemmy, Bowie and Alan, my first thoughts were for their families.

I’m so pleased to have been born during a time where we can continue to enjoy the legacy each of these amazing men leave behind (and of course many more); being able to play their music, listen to their words or watch their work, is a real blessing.  It makes me grateful for things like this blog, where my family will be able to look back and remember what mattered to me, and for places like Facebook where I’ve shared moments that made us giggle or cringe.

Thinking of Alan’s words, believing we can all be ‘agents of change’ I wonder what I’d most like to have had an impact on in my lifetime, what I’d like to look back on and say ‘I helped to change that’?  Will it be something ‘big’, like being involved in a campaign, or something ‘small’, like giving someone confidence to make a change for the better in their lives?

As an Agent For Change, what would you love to leave for others to remember you for?

In that last breath

 

What if, in that last breath I do not express how I love you
How you have changed my path, become my destiny
Forged with me a new way of being, of belief that I could do anything
What if, in that last breath, you do not know.

What if, in that last breath I do not express my pride in you
How you have been brave enough to forge your own path, your own destiny
Never letting others hold you back, question your dreams, tell you you can’t
What if, in that last breath you do not hear my pride.

What if, in that last breath I fail to share my joy of life with you
How much I have loved, how many moments have been filled with delight
Determined to make the most of every precious sensation, feeling and moment
What if, in that last breath you do not hear my laughter?

What if, in that last breath you feel nothing but the wonder of our time together,
How much of it was fun, new, exciting and full of laughter and love
Always embracing the moment, enjoying each other for who we were, each day
What if, in that last breath you know, without question, i will love you always

Dinah 20 November 2015

A bad case of wind!

As I was sitting in my new office, writing blogs, I became aware that autumn had brought a bad case of wind with it!  My new office, you see, is an old caravan, parked between our garage and our woodland, so when the wind arrived, I found my writing room shaking from side to side.

Wales certainly knows how to do weather; whether it’s wind or rain you’re after, this autumn is already producing plenty and as we’ve found as we settle into our new home, every aspect of the British weather seems to be on steroids here!

We’re learning how to work, outside, in the pouring rain; apparently, complaining about soggy bottoms simply makes it more obvious we’re really ‘Townies’, so we’re learning to reply ‘Tidy’ when asked what we think of the weather, which is always greeted with a chuckle and a nod.

The main upside to all this amazing weather? Our surroundings.  We have trees showing every colour from green to gold, hedgerows filled with birds loudly complaining about the weather and celebrating moments of calm.

We’re loving the autumn here, and if a bad case of wind is a consequence, well, I can live with that!

Dinah x