Small businesses

Man standing in front of organic food store smiling

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.

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Reverse Psychology and bargaining techniques

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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.

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The usually quiet months of August

 

August a quiet month? Think again...

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.

 

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After I Die

 

 

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.

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It is good to do good deeds

 

 

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.

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Kirsty Allsopp on her mother’s death

 

 

 

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.

 

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Being Everywhere

 

 

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.

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5 Star Service

 

 

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.

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Confident not Arrogant

 

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.

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How to toughen up

 

 

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!

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Clients who take me out to lunch

 

 

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.

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The magic of technology

 

 

When I go out to see clients I take their instructions on my laptop.  Almost every time I have a moment when I think I have lost all the data.  So far it hasn’t actually happened but as I don’t really understand how it all works, I can’t really trust it.

 

I have just seen an elderly client, making a will that will certainly be controversial. The type we solicitors all dread.  But at least (after that moment of panic) I haven’t lost the instructions she gave me.

 

 

 

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Something I apparently said

 

 

 

 

I saw a friend recently who said she asked me 3 years ago why I was leaving my secure job to set up a business.  I apparently said that I was getting to the age where I just couldn’t keep quiet.  I would be in Board meetings where no-one wanted to hear my opinion, but I would give it anyway. I was sure I knew better. It was time to go.

 

In common with so many women, I sat for years quietly in meetings not saying a great deal, thinking it wasn’t my place to speak up.  When eventually I found my voice it’s hardly surprising no-one particularly wanted to hear it.

 

My friend is a senior consultant psychiatrist, highly intelligent.  To my amazement she said she does the same.  In the NHS the men are almost always the ones to speak up and the older women who do the same are in danger of being classified as witches.

 

I do think we women of a certain age must take some of the blame for this.  So to any younger women reading this: don’t wait to be asked for your opinion, because it may never happen.

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Korean wedding

 

We have just come back from our son’s wedding in Korea.  It was completely wonderful.  Rob and his wife Minhye now “just” have to complete the painful and expensive exercise of getting a visa.

I was away from the office for 2 weeks, and things went brilliantly in my absence.  The team was magnificent and – a first – new work came in while I was away.  And it wasn’t all from personal contacts of one sort or another, the sign that the business is developing a life of its own.

I really thought that the time had come when I could start taking more time off but needless to say since returning, it has been full on and I have been working this morning (Sunday).

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People who cast a shadow

 

Perhaps I am hyper sensitive, but when you are in a small group, and there is someone who looks bored and doesn’t engage in the conversation, it casts a shadow over the whole group.  I imagine the people who do this have no idea of the impact they are having, but what they seem to be saying to me is “I am not interested in these people or this conversation.  It’s too dull for me to be bothered to engage”.

In fact all sorts of other things may be going on for them, but just realising that they have the potential to kybosh the group dynamic has been a useful realisation for me, and in future I will either try to engage them (a bit) but failing that just ignore them.

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