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to be or not to be…?

to be

Most of us have ‘to-do-lists’

We fill them with tasks.

The tasks themselves don’t really change or achieve very much, and the only real satisfaction we get is by crossing something off the list. It’s not the task itself that makes us feel good, or proud, it is the fact that it has been completed, and now behind us.

Do we ever get to the end of a to-do-list, or do we just continue to add to it? So is it never ending, ever changing, and just a way of ordering and filling our time?

Consider the difference it would make if we replaced our to-do-list with a to-be-list.

When we were children, before we learned the concept of ‘tasks’, we used to work with to-be-lists without even realising it. We wanted to be older, we wanted to be a pilot, a teacher, or a footballer. We wanted to be popular, to be a prize-winner, or just to be playing outside. During our early childhood years is when we changed the most, perhaps because we were focussing more on what we wanted to be. But who says we can only change as we move from toddler to grown up? Maybe if we continue to focus on what we want to be, we can continue to change ourselves, and also those around us.

So rather than adding to the list of tasks you need to get through today, why not use a few quiet moments to list the things you want to be, the things you want to achieve, the things you’ve dreamed of, or wished for?

My to-be-list would look something like this;

I want to be:

  • A positive influence on everyone in my world
  • Different
  • Controversial
  • A leader who inspires others to be better and do better
  • The favourite uncle
  • The best son, brother and partner
  • Remembered

Once uncluttered by tasks and the never-ending to-do-list, perhaps a brand new to-be-list can really make a change to our future selves, and at the same time have a massive effect on those around us. It’s never too late to change, and it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.

Trade shows – and everything you were afraid to say about them…

The barfly, The blagger, The stuff it in her bagger

 The blogger, The nodder, The flush it down the bogger

 The nagger, The swagger, The finger wagger

 The waster, The racer, The more than two facer

 The shirker, The worker, The business converter

 We all love a trade show.

Having spent a couple of days at Imex this week, I was delighted to see that most of the players at this excellent industry event are, on the whole, playing fair and well. But I’m ashamed to say, there are still a few who generate a lot of cost, a lot of fuss, and very little revenue…

My blatant rip off of a recent McDonald’s ad, above, names and shames a few of the worst culprits. Do you know any of them? Or worse still, are you one of them?

The barfly: his first job of the day is to check out which stands serve alcohol, are close to the loos, have comfy seating, good wi-fi, but don’t have CCTV or too many hungry-looking account managers who might pester him with business reviews.

The blagger: always has a really big enquiry, totally right for your destination. In truth, it’s where he fancies his next holiday, or where he’d like to have his wedding ceremony.

The finger wagger: things she may say whilst she waggles her finger at you… “You really shouldn’t be charging for wi-fi, your central res desk is no good, the arrival experience at your hotel is poor, my coffee was cold this morning, I had to queue for 3 minutes at check-in, my driver didn’t know my name, my badge doesn’t have my full title….”

The blogger: watch out for him, he is tweeting, posting and gossiping. He will say nice things if he likes you, and bad things if you neglect him. He’s a good friend to have on your side. You can spot him, because he is tapping on his phone as he walks, and he never engages with anyone. Take his picture and post it on your website, then tweet it, and you have a friend for life.

The nodder: a waste of time. He looks like he’s listening, but really he’s working out how many Airmiles he got for this trip, and wondering where to go for happy hour.

The flush it down the bogger: a bit like the nodder. This guy will take all your brochures, your CD, your USB pen, and your business card, but nothing will make it past the recycling point.

The nagger: She’s just had an event go bad. Probably her fault. But she’s looking for someone to blame, and it’s about to be you. She’s easy to spot, as she will make a beeline for you. She will be dragging a small wheelie case, walking like she’s the Queen with a Corgi, and she’ll be pointing. She may even have a pen stuck in her hairdo, and glasses on a chain around her neck.

The swagger: he’s been everywhere the world. And he thinks he’s the biggest agent at the show. If you don’t know his name, you shouldn’t be in business. Truth is, he was big one day, but that’s before we went decimal. Now he’s usually on the golf course, or at trade shows. Nothing he says will be true, so switch off, and think about where you will go for happy hour, once you’ve gotten rid of him.

The stuff it in her bagger: shows up for all the free stuff. He can always be spotted by the size and weight of his conference bag. He keeps changing shoulders, as it’s so heavy… It’s filled to the brim with chocolates, local cheeses, USB sticks, flags, squeaky stress balls, post-it pads and pens.

The waster: see blagger.

The racer: checks in for her return flight, just as she lands. She is here for the party, and that’s all. She’s easy to spot, as all she talks about is which party she’s going to and what she’ll be wearing. She’ll also be troweled in make-up as thick as blackout curtains.

The more than two facer: he’s a dangerous one this one. He’ll tell you how much he want to move business to your venue, but only if you can improve your offer or your service. He’ll tell you how awful your competitors are, and how he’d love to move business away from them. He’s told the same story many times… Beware this delegate. Just nod and smile…

The shirker: He barely knows why he’s here. In fact he might not even know where he is. He’s pointless and lazy, and has no business at all. He’s easy to spot, as he’ll look a little scruffy and won’t ever be carrying anything except business cards.

The worker: She has come to work, and she has real business to place. She is easy to spot, she will have a briefcase or at least a folder or a pad. It will have real live enquiries in it. If you see this person, sit her down and treat her well. She has come to work, and she has real business to place.

The business converter: She is not so easy to spot. She is the business influencer rather than an actual booker. A business owner or a senior manager. She will arrive at her appointments on time, she will listen to you, and then she will tell you about her business. She speaks the truth. Make a good impression here, and watch her business move to your venues. 

We all love a trade show, but we don’t love everyone who goes to them.

Exhibitors invest thousands of pounds in these events, and the least we humble agents can do is play along.

Be a good delegate.

How to get perfect abs…

Most people who strive for perfection in fitness and good health want, more than anything, to have a good six-pack. The six-pack, or the abs, represent core strength and discipline. A strong core makes other exercises easier to perform and more precise. But a six-pack takes not only the right amount of physical exercise, it also takes the right diet, the right amount of cardio, and focused form during workouts, to isolate the core muscles.

I’m proud to say that I have the perfect six-pack. It’s not on my body though, it’s in my business, and it’s an Absolute six-pack. Absolute Corporate Events is my company, and an Absolute six-pack is a business strategy, and to be strong, fit, and agile, every business needs one. The perfect set of abs consists of six muscles, hence the six-pack.

The perfect business six-pack:

1. Client bonds – for these muscles to be at its peak, you need to not only know your clients, and what they want, but you need to appreciate how they like to experience your service. At what pace do they operate, what level of detail do they expect, how much personal time and banter do they like to enjoy, how do they define their relationship with you? Know your client this well, and they will cherish the relationship you have with them, and their loyalty and trust will build.

2. Team commitment – teams work best when they believe in the cause, or the vision of a company. Teams that are engaged with its leaders and their strategy, involved in the ambitions of their business, and rewarded for its success, are motivated to work harder, more passionately, and more successfully, in order to achieve these ambitions and goals.

3. Stakeholder engagement – there are others who have an interest or influence on your business. These could be shareholders, financial backers, regulators, associations, government bodies or other divisions. If this muscle is neglected, and stakeholders don’t feel engaged or involved with the business, then they may toss in an unexpected spanner at any time. Know who your stakeholders are, find out what they need, and work or communicate with them in order to keep them involved and engaged,

4. Supplier and partner loyalty – suppliers or partners are essential to your final client experience. These suppliers will lean towards their clients with whom they have the closest and most mutually appreciative bond. Is that you? If not, it’s one of your competitors. And they will be getting better rates, a faster service or more concessions. Take time to understand and appreciate the pressure, demands and needs of your supplier network. Understanding and appreciation leads to trust and strong bonds.

5. Challenge and innovation – without change, nothing happens. To grow a business over time, or to steal market share, a business needs to continually innovate. Your team or business should have a change culture, one where new ideas or experimentation is championed, applauded and rewarded, without fear or failure or the unknown.

6. Commercial astuteness – we are all in business to make money. This commercial awareness needs to be the blood that runs through every person in the company, like the heart pumps blood to every part of the six pack. Each of your team needs to know how much income they generate for the company, and the costs associated with that income. Does everyone in your company know how income becomes profit, and how much it costs to deliver an event for a client? If not, how can this person work to drive efficiency and profitability?

When developing abs for your business, each muscle in the six-pack needs to be trained and developed equally. Neglecting just one, will not only make the abs look deformed, but it will negatively affect the posture, or the stability of your business. Untrained or unequal abs will lead to long term difficulties and injury, making your business less nimble and prone to accidents or disaster.

A well developed six-pack shows discipline, focus, determination and balance. It is the product of a healthy diet, the right amount of mental and physical effort and performance, and it is the result of a long term, rigorously followed strategy. A good six-pack looks great, and no one can resist admiring and respecting it.

Shouldn’t you get one for your business ?

No more Mr Nice guy?

Do the hardest negotiators get the best deals?
Do the toughest buyers get the best price?
Do the most demanding clients get the best service?

If you think of the hardest negotiator you deal with, do you strive to give them the best deal, or do you delight in not giving them quite what they want? So, more accurately, you try to win, right?

Now think of someone you like to deal with. Someone who understands that a negotiation is not a battle, but a compromise. And they also know, like you do, that a successful negotiation is one where both sides feel like they have won. When you deal with this person, don’t you try your hardest to give them the best deal possible, because you want them to go away happy with the outcome, so that they will come back next time? Of course you do. You like to deal with nice people. People who treat you with respect. You return their kindness and respect the best you can, by giving them the best deal you can.

If you think of your toughest buyer, do you always give them your best price, or is it better to let them think they got the best price, but really, you know that you’ve given better?

Now think of a buyer you like to deal with. Someone who wants a good price, but also appreciates you need to make a margin too. and that if the price is cut too much, then somewhere along the line, someone will have to pay. Usually by dropping quality or service. When you deal with this person, you don’t try to screw them with an inflated price, you give them the best price you can right? A price that they can be happy with, but one that still guarantees service and quality, and a fair margin for you.

If you think of your most demanding client, do you give them your best service? Or do you avoid them as much as you can, because the less you see of them, the less they have to complain about?

Now think of one of your favourite clients. They are considerate, reasonable, respectful and calm. They know what they want and you strive to deliver it right? Because it means something to you, to make this client happy. You know they will repay your efforts with continued business and perhaps even referrals. Rather than avoiding them, you try to surprise or impress them, so they get your very best service, and you find it a pleasure to give it.

So, does Mr Nice Guy always win? Yes of course he does. We all like to spend our time with nice people. Nice means respectful, appreciative, considerate and calm. Nice people make and keep more friends, they have a more fulfilling social life, they get more favours fulfilled, they get better deals, better service, better quality, more attention, and when needed, they get more time and more forgiveness.

The hard-nosed, single minded negotiators, the tough, uncompromising buyers, and the shouting, screaming clients need to get comfortable in their rightful place, and that place is ‘history’. They belong to a time now past. They should step aside and make way for a new breed of winners in business.

The future of successful business lies with the nice people. Those that are able to demonstrate true understanding, genuine concern, those that can listen and appreciate as well as speak. Those that understand that positive relationships deliver results, and long term, meaningful benefit.

Long live Mr Nice Guy…

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all ?

When do we present ourselves at our absolute best? When we look into a mirror, that’s when.

We suck in our tummies, we smile without showing too many lines or teeth, and we sometimes check the view from all angles. We take pride in our best, and we leave the mirror feeling content.

So why then, do we not present the world with this same carefully checked version of ourselves all day long? Why do we let the world see our cracks and our flaws? Why do we not show our best at all times? Do we think no-one is watching? Well, they are. They always are.

We are always on show, and we are always being observed. And while we are on show, people are making judgements about us. How often have you delivered a presentation to a client, and the face they reward you with looks like it has never laughed in its life, like it needs a hug, a kiss, or a slap? It is blank, bored, expressionless and perhaps even angry.

When we are listening, we are being watched – what do you think a presenter concludes about a listener who just looks bored, uninterested or angry? We all make presentations, whether it’s a story about our weekend exploits, or a sales pitch to a prospective client. When we deliver this presentation, we are looking for interest, warmth, encouragement, perhaps even a smile. So do we always give this, when we are on the other side listening?

Why do men think they are invisible whilst driving, so they take the opportunity to clear out a few cavities – nose, ears, etc? Why is it when we wear headphones, we think we can stare, expressionless at people – because we can’t hear them, perhaps they can’t see us – really? Why when on a packed train or tube, and we are on the phone, do we assume only the person interested in what we have to say is the person on the other end of the phone?

Imagine we had a mirror in-front of us the whole time, there to remind us that we need to always present ourselves at our best, because someone is always watching, and they are looking for interest, understanding, compassion, respect, or a connection.

Isn’t it better that the world sees the warm and welcoming you, rather than the you that slumps on the sofa after a rough day, comforted by a glass of wine and a tub of Ben & Jerrys, belt or button open and those ‘comfy’ but desperate sweatpants on?

Remember that face you show to the mirror? It’s smiling, it’s warm and encouraging. It’s you at your best. Try wearing it all day, and see what happens to those around you. They might mirror what they see…

Is there a doctor in the house?

Doctors have such a worthwhile and fulfilling role in life – they make people better. What can be more satisfying than that? Well, being a good leader or manager should be equally satisfying because good leaders should also make people better.

There are basically two types of leader: which one are you, or which one is yours?

Some leaders keep you in the doctor’s waiting room – the place where nothing happens, nothing changes, and nobody gets better. Left there long enough, people start to get worse. These leaders bark out orders, ask for endless reports, always demand more, insist on things their way, surround you in process and rules, don’t take on feedback or questions, don’t ask for help or ideas, are impatient and always seem to be extremely busy. People who work for these leaders do, at best, exactly what they are told to do, never more, usually less. They usually slow down and stop caring. They rarely get better.

Other leaders are right in the surgery – they are the doctors. They create an environment or culture where you want to do your best. They make it clear what ‘great’ looks like, and recognise it when you achieve it.

You are encouraged to deliver what you instinctively know the client needs or wants, and you feel like you want to over-deliver or exceed expectations. They are not soft, they are tough, and have extremely high expectations, but they encourage you to meet them.

You want your leader to be proud of you and your work. Their praise means something. When you take a problem, idea, suggestion or challenge to them, you always come away feeling like you have been helped or listened to. You feel better. They always have time for you, and always seem to be on top of things. They are never out of control, or too busy. People who work for these leaders grow and flourish. They want to impress their leader, so they always strive for more. They get better.

If you are a leader, make sure you are in the surgery, not the waiting room. The real magic happens in the surgery. People actually get better. 

‘I Have a dream’ – 50 years on. Now it’s time for a new one…

On August 28, Americans will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The highlight of that day in 1963 was Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. 

The most famous few lines of the speech are well known: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

I like to paraphrase the futurist, Joel L Barker, with a little poetic license of my own:

“A vision without action, is just a possibility. Action without vision won’t change anything. A dream that becomes a vision, and leads to action, has the potential to change the world.”

I believe that we all encounter people through our lives that have a dream and a vision that has the potential to change our world, but do we always notice it or remember it? Sometimes we dismiss it as too difficult, too radical, or just a bit scary, and we continue down the same path and forget the visionary intervention that could have changed our world, and those around us.

I have two such people in my past. The first was a boss in Leeds where I was working for a mortgage company. He was called Mike, and his dream was to celebrate difference, to champion uniqueness. He looked for it in people and encouraged them to make the most of what made them different from the crowd, because it had the potential to make them stand out, and once they stand out they have the power to make people listen and then change. I remember and champion his dream every day.

The second such influence was a boss I had back in the 90s, at Barclays, he was called Nigel. He was like a train. He was bursting with ideas and initiated them by creating an enormous amount of noise and drama. Often the ideas were too crazy to even contemplate, and they were rarely going to fly at Barclays, but even though the blueprint for change wasn’t always achieved, things did change in the path of this whirlwind. And although I am sure Nigel remains frustrated to this day of the amount of change he didn’t manage to achieve, he achieved probably more change at Barclays than anyone had ever done before. His vision was to drive change with an explosive force that people could not ignore. I try to live by his dream every day.

So I have a dream. It is that we stop complaining about the people around us who are difficult to manage, or who don’t conform  to the rules, because if we are honest, aren’t they our best performers? Don’t they achieve the biggest sales, create the most distinctive events, have the strongest influence, and are remarkable in a crisis? How much more fantastic would they be if they knew how special you thought they were, rather than being tolerated, and told they just don’t fit. And rather than worrying about change, and being afraid of the destruction it sometimes creates, my dream is that we experiment more, that we make some mistakes, we drive faster and harder, create a whirlwind of positive change that is so breathtaking that the dust never settles.

Life and business is so much more fulfilling when you are following a dream or a vision, and the turn it into action. It doesn’t have to be your dream. Listen for the ones that make you smile, or make your heart beat just a little faster, and then make them yours.