A powerfully personal focus was the common theme of this month’s Wiltshire presentations. Tom Hadley encouraged us to keep developing new skills; Ian Skinner exhorted us to produce more by working smarter, not harder; Chris Hughes explained how the personal touch can make sure we get paid and keep the business; finally, I shared the impact of video-messaging on the LinkedIn App.
Welcome to the Machine
Tom Hadley began by talking about the theme he was taking for his own forthcoming YouTube release. He’d come across a fellow YouTuber whose photographic business was in the process of transforming into a teaching business. After years of focus on product output (from commissions to prints), this photographer was now getting more income from YouTube – talking about and teaching photography.
The same is true for many businesses, including Tom’s own path as a marketing expert. Referencing a shocking article, Tom said,
“Any time you’ve got any profession where people transition from delivering a product or service directly for a client to teaching and training other people to do that same thing, your industry is dying and you’re going to be out of a job very soon.”
The observation was that any skill that technology can replace, it will replace in time.
Sharing the example of Desktop Publishing, Tom talked about the age of the agencies being superseded by Word and other accessible programmes that anyone could use. The Desktop experts became Microsoft Certified Instructors, only now to be replaced by YouTube and online learning. Now we don’t need direct human interaction.
Web design is following a similar path. Squarespace and Wix in the hands of an unskilled person can now achieve what it used to take a technical professional to do.
How do we avoid becoming obsolete? How do we accurately assess where technology is taking our industry? Tom says that once Artificial Intelligence becomes more established, everything is fair game. He cited Insurance Broking as an example of where online comparison sites are threatening traditional ways of working in the insurance business.
Tom concluded positively with a message of hope!
“I think the positive spin out of this for everybody is to not worry that you’re going to get replaced. It is simply to acknowledge that perhaps the biggest skill we need to have as business people in an increasingly technological age is to keep the desire to change and to innovate, to keep moving your skillset along before that old core-skill is something that the machines take over.”
Productivity at Work
Ian Skinner opened his presentation with the declaration that as a Nation, we are the least productive country in modern Europe. This is in spite of working 20 to 30 hours longer than our European counterparts. In contrast, some of the Scandinavian countries have moved to four-day weeks and have been doing this for the last few years.
In his own business, Ian has been looking for ways to make life easier for his staff, whilst maintaining levels of both productivity and service for his clients. Much of this has to do with time freedom. If the work is done, the client is happy, there are no issues – even if it’s half-way through the day, Ian’s policy is to encourage the team members to go home. Especially at this time of year, it’s best to go home, spend time with the family, or pop down to the beach.
This boosts resilience. Having a 10-hour nap is not building resilience! However, removing yourself from the environment you’re in and doing something completely different can have a massive positive impact on productivity.
A 15-minute walk around the park will change your focus and mindset – giving you a fresh perspective ready to return to work.
The big shift for Ian is around the ethos of working hard. Like many of us, he was taught that if he always worked hard – being the hardest worker – he’d always have a job. Working hard is not always the best way. Nowadays, he’s learning from his own sons that it’s more about working smarter. Ian’s challenge to us it to be the hardest worker at working smarter! Combine those two and you’ll have a recipe for real success.
Ian concluded with,
“Stop working your backsides off and start working your brain. Be more productive by doing less at work. Build up your resilience levels by not doing as much as you thought you ought to. And you’ll have a much more productive business.”
Top Tips for Getting Paid… on Time!
Chris Hughes, from Debt Collection Dorset and Debt Fighters Ltd, assured us, “it isn’t all doom and gloom but it’s getting tough out there!”
Before setting up his business last year, Chris clocked up 30 years as a credit manager – with companies large, small, and multi-national. What really struck Chris was that businesses like ours work really hard, providing products and services, putting so much energy into sales and delivery… and then we don’t get paid! As far as Chris is concerned (and we all agree with him) this is morally wrong.
Now Chris has made it his mission to right this wrong for businesses suffering from this issue. It was also great to get to know a bit more about Chris’ story. He’s achieved much, Internationally, as a cyclist, after what he described (mysteriously) as a, “watershed moment.” From winning competitions as a veteran to scaling the French Alps, he’s conquered many a challenge. Now the dogs are his passion (his Dobermans, not the races!), and cycling with them is not possible!
Let me share the content from Chris’ slides. Good sense, not rocket science.
- Total underlying company insolvencies increased in Q1 2019.
- Creditors’ voluntary liquidations, administrations and company voluntary arrangements all increased in Q1 2019.
- Administrations increased to the highest level for 5 years.
- Trade Credit Insurance claims have leapt up 60% in the last 12 months.
“It’s a time of uncertainty. It’s a time when you need to be on top of your debtors.”
Small and medium-sized enterprises – The importance of getting paid promptly
- 60% of all new business will go bust within their first five years of trading.
- In order you ensure your business is in the 40% of going concerns continuing to trade then working hard alone is not the answer, you need to ensure you are paid promptly.
- Any business can be impacted by non-payment or late payment of a large invoice.
And now to Chris’ Top Tips!
Firstly; have your own procedures in place
- Make sure your invoices are complete and correct.
- Ensure that PO numbers or references are correctly displayed on the invoice.
- The mail address or email address they are being sent to is correct
- The value is as agreed
- Bank details for payment are clear
- Invoice as soon as the work is completed, or the product is delivered
- Keep a copy of all the documents raised to aid chasing if required
Proper prior planning: Check your client
- Have you done business with the customer before?
- Do they currently have any invoices that are unpaid, or have they been late in paying previously?
- The level of importance of their business to you.
- Are they well known for late payment?
I really liked the strategy Chris recommended next. He drew a comparison with food and drink consumption in a restaurant. The standard practice is for a member of the team to ask you if your meal is OK. If you say, “Yes!” it then becomes very difficult to say otherwise when it comes to time to pay. In a similar way, checking in with how happy the client is throughout the delivery process makes it far harder for them to challenge payment at the agreed time.
Strategy to minimise non-payment:
- Contact customer before the debt is due, make that courtesy call
- If it’s past due and not paid, vital that you communicate with the customer to understand why they have not paid, within 48 hours
- Once you know the reason, plan the best way to resolve the situation
- Keep a record of all conversations post and emails
- Remain professional and don’t take it personally. You have a right to ask for payment for the work you have done or the service you have provided. Make sure your voice is being heard
- Be mindful of time passing -If there is no option – Escalate.
- Charging statutory interest of 8% plus the Bank of England base rate (8.25%)
- Use an experienced Debt Collector, which isn’t going to cost a fortune and will mediate to get the best outcome.
- Legal action is the last resort, it can be relatively cheap, but it may become expensive in terms of time and the result may be disappointing (do you really want £5 a week for the next ten years?)
As an experienced Debt Collector, Chris takes a conciliatory approach, always seeking to mediate a win-win for all involved.
Chris’ charging is some of the best-leveraged charges on the South Coast. Typically, this is ten percent on the successful resolution, however, he has an even better package for TBN members, making him ideal to call!
High Tech; High Touch
In a fortuitous tie into Tom Hadley’s opening presentation, I was able to show the group how to use a somewhat hidden feature in the LinkedIn phone app. The facility came to my attention when Mark Harman – YouTube video expert – sent me a personalised video message when we connected on LinkedIn. Once I learned how to do it, I was the first person to ever return the compliment by sending Mark a video message, and Mark and I instantly became stronger friends.
This is a powerful example of where technology enables us to be more human. By this, I mean the ability to use visual and audio to communicate more powerfully when we can’t immediately meet face to face. The personalisation of the experience – Mark’s message was tailor-made for me and won’t be used for anyone else – taps into where we can excel – we can excel at being human and having that humanised, personalised, point of contact.
Let’s embrace technology and use it to free up our time to do what we do best – the human interpersonal element that leads to know, like, and trust.
Sam Sharma’s final free taster session happens this Thursday after our Bournemouth breakfast meeting. Entitled “Beating Procrastination and Boosting Productivity,” it will give you an experience of Sam’s unique approach to high-performance coaching.