Many lawyers feel they must be “proper” and neutral at all times. But actually what most clients/employees and other people we deal with want is a bit of personality.
I heard someone described recently as having no personality. What could be worse? I hope I don’t hide behind a professional mask – I don’t think I do, but I hope I will be told in no uncertain terms if I do. My message to anyone is “just be yourself” and show a bit of enthusiasm for things.
Giving unwelcome messages is tough. In my business I am always banging on about the importance of how you give bad news. Over the years I have seen massive fall out from unwelcome messages being given clumsily. This is often because the giver is embarrassed, uncomfortable or just doesn’t think how the recipient will take the message.
The legal profession has a lot to answer for in this area. We advise people they must be very careful what they say – to the extent that they may even give people scripts to read from so they don’t inadvertently say the wrong thing. But think how it feels to have a painful message given in this way? How much better it must always be to be honest, and if necessary uncomfortable. The trouble is that once the damage is done the fall out can be wide and very long lasting.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t plain sailing. There was a report on the radio about an article in the Times to the effect that entrepreneurs – other than the tiny minority who are mega successful – work horrendously long hours and generally earn very little.
Well yes there may be some truth to that. But I have learnt 2 things. Money isn’t everything, it all depends what your financial ambitions are. And there is a great deal of satisfaction in having a good business, employing people and providing a good service. However a business which doesn’t eventually make money isn’t a business at all.
And as for working horrendous hours – my ambition is to get to the point where I can employ people to do all the things I don’t like or am not very good at so I just do the bits where I truly add value and get fun out of. I’m getting there.
Franchising small businesses seems like a good idea.
In small businesses spare capacity is thin on the ground. In any business however good the service or product sold there will be no sales unless people know what you are doing.
Most people fall into the category of either sales people or “doers” – the people, very often highly skilled who deliver the service. But it is a tall order to ask them to find the time and inclination to sell as well deliver the service.
Many small business owners (including me) have thought it’s a great idea to get more leverage from their systems/insurance/brand awareness by franchising it. However it’s a challenge for the potential franchisee – who may be a highly skilled technician – if he also has to do the selling bit. So in my view unless the franchise owner can hand work to the franchisee or the franchisee can afford people to sell as well as do it is unlikely the model can work.
As a small business owner I meet lots of other small business owners. They are different to the people I used to deal with working in a big business. It’s not that one is good and the other bad, but small business owners don’t have the luxury of being able to stay in our niche area of expertise. We have a go at pretty much everything, and some of them play to Quiet August our strengths and others to our weaknesses.
A good thing is that we get to learn what those strengths and weaknesses are. One of the keys must be to recognise them, and as soon as possible subcontract in our areas of weakness. But in the meantime we just have to get on with it. The worst possible thing is to ignore the jobs we hate in the hope they will go away.
Reverse psychology and the power of bargaining
Reverse psychology means that telling people that they don’t need something/they aren’t ready for it is a great selling technique. It often has the opposite effect, and even if it doesn’t the potential client will be impressed by your integrity and may come back to you later.
Conversely there is nothing worse than someone who is desperate to make a sale. It is nearly always a complete turn off.
The same thing works well when you are buying and in a bargaining situation: you must always be prepared to walk away. The seller can then choose to bring down the price if they want to – and you have the choice of buying or walking away. And the whole transaction will hopefully be civilised.
August a quiet month? Think again…
Image source: bhmpics.com
I thought August would be quiet – it certainly used to be. But this year we are getting plenty of instructions, including a record 2 new probate instructions before 10am on Monday.
Selling is a bit of a drug – the more success you have, the more you want. When I started I was thrilled with new instructions at a level much lower than we achieve now. Is it going to have to keep increasing to keep me happy? I suppose the answer has to be yes – businesses (as one always reads) should not be static. They need to be growing, and so far mine is.
My creative juices have been working and I have written a booklet – title is work in progress but it will be for my Will clients, and in it they will be prompted to complete useful information to help their executors after they die. Things such as funeral wishes, but also details of where they have their money and so on. There is quite a lot to most people’s lives.
I have enjoyed writing it, though I’m now at the rather tedious stage of going through it again and again, trying to identify all errors before printing. Fat chance.
Being an Oldpreneur (the clue is in the title) I am inclined to leave my phone at home/in the car etc so I wasn’t too worried to find I didn’t have it in my bag. So a big thank you to James in Wincanton who found my phone by my car, went to the trouble of ringing my home from it (OK so it isn’t password protected) leaving a note on my car and looking after it until I was able to contact him.
I since emailed him to say thank you and he responded that “It is good to do good deeds”.
its very nice living in Wincanton, that is the way people behave. In the most unlikely chance he is reading this I hope he won’t be offended to be called a bit of a rough diamond, which somehow made the experience all the more enjoyable.
In the Times there was a moving interview with Kirsty Allsopp about her mother’s death. She said many interesting things but the one that resonated particularly with me was that some of her friends were too embarrassed when they met her to mention her mother’s death. She said that “its much better to say something than nothing, even if it’s the wrong thing. There are one or two people I’m very close to who have never said anything”
I now come into contact with the recently bereaved so regularly I am no longer embarrassed. However I do remember years ago when I met a recent acquaintance soon after her husband was killed in a car crash. I was paralysed by fear and awkwardness. How hard it must be to have to cope with other people’s discomfort around you on top of your own grief. We all need to stop being so British and get over it.
Here in Central Somerset there is one employment agency which is always represented at local networking events. The business is only 7 years old, and is still quite small (3 offices) but all the local SME’s must know about it. The owner is a dynamic and attractive young woman. She is incredibly upbeat.
There are very few of us with her unashamed ubiquity but it clearly works, she has invested her time, and that of her staff in getting out and about.
Not a bad model to follow.
I am reading a book with this title by Michael Heppell. Unlike so many business books it is actually quite good. It doesn’t pretend that all your problems will be solved and you will become a millionaire by following 3 simple steps.
It has some nice examples of great customer service, particularly within the hospitality industry, and reminds me that language is so important in how messages are given. The same information can be given in a way which either rubs customers up the wrong way, or alternatively makes them feel they are getting a great service. So plenty for me to learn there.
But the main benefit to me of reading the book is to refocus myself on great customer service. Simple things like making the client really welcome and sounding really upbeat when we answer the phone. When people come to me they are paying a fair amount of money, it is (or should be) a big deal to them to be making their Will/Lasting Power of Attorney/dealing with Probate and they deserve to be really well treated. It’s not (I hope) that I treated anyone badly, it’s just as you get busy you can become jaded and you lose your welcoming edge. So this week I have refocused on customer service, and when I do go that extra mile not only do the clients appreciate it, but it is also a much more enjoyable experience for me.
If you are taking professional advice you want your advisor to know what they are talking about, and explain and advise with authority and confidence. You don’t want someone who won’t give their opinion. I really get this in the context of medical advice, where its impossible to make an informed decision based on 6 minutes of the doctor’s time. They tend to default to “if it was my husband/wife I would…”
The same must be true for solicitors, but the fine line is that we must listen well to what our clients want to achieve, and not push them into a solution that works for us because it is easy for us or will earn us more money. There is also a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but I suspect that when people come over as arrogant they may actually be shielding their own lack of true understanding.
Not being tough enough to be in business has been a recurring theme of my blogs. I was telling my son about my latest unnecessary sleepless night and he told me that his boss – a Chinese woman who now has 400 employees – used to get stressed about problems, but does not any more. She has got over it.
I found this really helpful – as if it is permission not to let things get to me. I do notice that I can cope pretty well with the big mistakes – I had much more significant issues to deal with in my Corporate life, but they rarely got to me. It’s the little human things – in particular the complaining individuals – which have the ability to tweak my anxiety buttons. But I don’t give up hope, soon I expect they will be as water off a ducks back!
Some lovely clients just invited me out to lunch after a lengthy session discussing their Wills. It was so nice. We got to know each other, I hope we were all being ourselves, not playing the roles (me the solicitor, them the clients) which would have been far less enjoyable all round. I certainly felt at ease.
So thank you very much, if you are reading this. It was a lovely gesture and I appreciated it a lot and shall remember to do the same for people who advise me.