Saturday, 10 November 2012

Business Principle II: It's good to talk

Years ago, when I was in my first job, I supervised a sandwich student during his placement year. After he graduated he joined us full time. 'Sharpy' was quite a character. On the short side but made up for it with by throwing himself into everything - from work to the Maltesers reject carton when we toured the Mars factory in Slough.

He would also talk to anyone and everyone and I'm sure his Facebook page lists more friends than most. His LinkedIn profile is certainly comprehensive.

To cut a long story short, he moved to the States and he is now a VP at ARM, a high tech design and manufacturer of Computer chips. This no doubt is due to his hard work but also talking and Networking like mad.

They say that most good jobs are not advertised and it's who you know, not what you know. By having a large 'little black book' of friends and associates, by being the first to buy a round or by bringing a wallflower into the conversation you will make friends and they will remember.

Be nice to everyone and make lots of friends at all levels from the cleaners to the Managers. Payback will come from unexpected directions.

When I had made a bit of money I decided to treat myself to a decent car. I don't usually scrub up and the salesman at the BMW Showroom obviously decided I was a tyre kicker and I was in and out in 5 minutes. If he'd spent that 5 minutes getting to know me more rather than prejudging, I might have walked out with a Beamer rather than the Lotus Esprit that I eventually bought.

Going back to my first job, there was another Graduate who confidently informed us one day that one should always ignore waiters the first time they approach your table. We stared at him incredulously. Firstly because it's terribly rude to anyone whatever their position in the world, secondly because by befriending him, you never know where it will lead (especially on return visits) and finally, everyone knows that one never criticises the service or food before it's all been served.

No idea what has happened to him. Somehow I doubt if he's a VP anywhere - unless Daddy's sorted it for him. OK, so personally I'm not VP anywhere, but I do run my own show and  talking to all and sundry has brought me many benefits over the years.

Next time: Make sure there's a drink in it for everyone.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Business Principle I - The Godfather meets the Water Babies

The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Mario Puzo's book and Cinematic hit - The Godfather - dealt with a fictional member of the Mafia - Don Corleone - head of the Corleone Crime family.

Not a good start for a Business Principle, but bear with me.

Don ran a number of 'businesses' to bring in the Lire, namely protection, extortion, gambling and union racketeering. All of which are extreme versions of legal enterprises and made to work by the threat of, or actual use of violence, but I am concentrating on a side to him that you see at the beginning of the book and one of the guiding principles of his operation.

The book opens with a party at the Corleone Household. The Don is in his study, receiving visitors one at a time, all with one thing in common, they need something from him. It may be a loan or a favour or some help retrieving something of theirs (say, an outstandig debt from a third party). One at a time, the Don receives them, listens to their request and either accepts or declines.

If he accepts, the request is noted and he arranges for it to be carried out. In time, of course, he expects this debt (monetary or otherwise) to be repaid with interest. This could be in a month, a year or a decade. When the Don himself needs something doing, he will check his book and find the most appropriate debtor. There will be Senators, Businessmen and women and people in high office with influence, all of whom are in his debt and all of whom know that a refusal will offend.

Now let's move this to a somewhat more legitimate business (as well as personal life). Whilst we do do things in expectation of an immediate-ish return (all businesses, profit making or otherwise do. Even Charities expect returns, albeit of the non-monetary type), sometimes we do someone a favour, not expecting a return. Holding a door open, baking a cake for a poorly neighbour, giving up your seat and so on. We don't expect reward, it's just something that we do. Occasionally, however, this act leads on to a reciprocation some time down the line. Do enough and the chances are high that something good will happen to you at a random point later (in the forelife, not the promised, but not provable afterlife, that is)

People remember things and if you help someone in a fix out or go the extra mile without expectation you will be pleasantly surprised one day.

About a year ago, I was working and a company that I was working alongside (but not for) were in a fix. They had a final deadline that day and looked like blowing it, so incurring cost overruns, loss of face with their customer etc. I knew what needed to be done and for the price of a bit of food to keep me going, sorted them out with a couple of hours work. I gave them my number in case there were problems the next day but they never rang.

Until last week, when I got a call out of the blue.

They were in a fix again, had remembered me and still had my number. I was booked, this time on a commercial basis and sorted them out. It should also lead to more work - they were over the moon with what I did and are already talking about passing regular leads on to me.

In my previous blogette, I mentioned Ryanair and its approach to Customer Service. Can you imagine anyone ever rocking up to Ryanair's check-in and saying "A friend of mine told me that you helped her out when she had a problem and she's eternally grateful. She suggested I try you". Me neither.

It doesn't always work, of course.Even Don Corleone knew that some of his 'favours' would never be repaid - the antagonist might die, move on or just not achieve anything worthy of repayment. That was the chance he took. Those that did repay, paid him aplenty. A good friend of mine has recently been 'stuffed' by someone she considered (past tense) a friend. She mentored him for months, getting him started with a business idea (coming up with the idea in the first place) creating material, pushing him and generally trying to get him running his own business. He has done, but in the process has cut her off like a displeased Downton Matriarch. No 'thanks', no appreciation for the work put in, no invite to the launch and certainly no financial contribution towards the hundreds of hours spent. She wasn't expecting much, if anything, in return but common courtesy would indicate an acknowledgement at the very least (Don's recipients were very grateful, of that you can be sure). Perhaps, down the line he could have fed her some new clients for her Training Company as a 'Thank You' and perhaps she could have fed him some clients the other way.

It's not going to happen. That's life and she'll move on. She won't stop doing people favours without any expectations of a reciprocation. Well, maybe just one person might be exempt. We have to live with that. You can be sure that he will not be as successful with that approach than he could have been if he had acknowledged the debt he owes her (and, in all likeliness, others).

Miss Bedonebyasyoudid.The Water Babies? Well, two of the fairies in the book by Charles Kingsley were Miss Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Miss Bedonebyasyoudid.
Be nice and do people favours, sometimes even helping out competitors at times. Trust me, you will be better off than if you didn't.
Next time. "It's Good to Talk"

Business Principles - some ideas

Everyone has an opinion on how to run a business, from Michael O'Learey's "Hook 'em with a low lead-in price, then charge breathtaking amounts for absolutely everything over and above the bare seat whilst not spending one unnecessary Euro" to James Dyson's and Steve Job's "Get the design right and the rest will follow" to John Timpson's "Upside Down Management - If you treat people well, it is blindingly obvious that they will do a good job" style where his hands-off approach devolves power and financial responsibility to local shop Managers.

In the same way, as customers of businesses, whether it's the local paper shop, a car showroom or even your local pub, we also all have our own opinions and we all know good and bad service when we encounter it. Phrases such as "Well, I'm never going back there, again" and "He was chatting to his colleague all the time whilst serving me" abound, as do "You've got to try this new place, the service was amazing" and "The Manager apologised for it being out of stock and brought a replacement round personally, the next day".

 I'm no exception and following (in due course) are a few of the principles that I abide to.

OK, I don't have the size of businesses and the Bank Balances that the aforementioned do, but I do run my own business successfully and have gained business using these methods, whilst being able to look myself in the mirror each morning.

If anyone else wants to comment on any of my principles or add any of their own, then I'd love to hear from you.

  • I will never travel on Ryanair simply because of its attitude to its customers
  • I am now on my second Dyson after believing for years that Vax was the way to go
  • 'Apple creep' is happening in the household and, although I baulk at the prices charged, I love the IPad and I can see a Mac book making an appearance when I have got the pennies together.
  • I have not had the need to visit my local Timpson's since I read John Timpson's Management book, but have a watch for repair just waiting for me to remember to take it in and get it assessed. If the service matches the principles of the book, I will be a very happy bunny.
So, onwards and downwards. Principle I - The Godfather Principle.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Eurodisney sucks - why extract so much money?

A rant. Apologies in advance

We went to Eurodisney this year. We took the Eurostar from Ashford directly into the Eurodisney resort, where we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel.

All of it was booked online in advance. I have come to accept the surcharge for Credit Card bookings for everything nowadays, although it does seem picky after I spend so much with them and I often use a Debit Card, which carries no surcharge when I think that the charges are unreasonable or I just feel like saving the money and there's enough in the bank.

Eurostar was just fine.No Debit Card charges and the booking went swimmingly.

Eurodisney wasn't so successful. Because of the value of the booking, my Credit Card provider, Capital One wouldn't accept payment, despite being well within my Limit and as it was the weekend, couldn't obtain authorisation, so Debit Card was called for.

As an aside, I have no issue with Capital One and would recommend them as I have been a happy user for years, now. They are tighter on security checks and I do get calls to validate occasional recent purchases to make sure everything is in order. I would rather it was that way round than have to wrangle over unauthorised transactions due to a cloned card. Oh, and they pay 1% cashback in January each year, just in tine for the Christmas spending. No connection etc....

Anyway....Eurodisney charges for Debit Card transactions. Why? It gets the money immediately, so no risk to them, interest can be earned by Eurodisney between then and the holiday and it's very much the exception than the rule. Does it really cost Eurodisney £14 to collect money electronically off me?

Yes, I know that £14 is small beer in comparison to the cost of the holiday, but it's still £14 of my kids' post-tax inheritance that's gone.

I have exchanged several emails with 'customer services' asking why they can justify this charge and have been stonewalled by them. 'It's the way it's done, here in France', 'It's in the Terms and Conditions', 'no, we have no intention of reviewing it', 'We're Disney, what are you going to do about it?'

Well, I'm sorry but Eurostar is an AngloFranco set-up and it seems to manage to not charge. I cannot think of any other company that I have used (On principle I would never travel with certain low-cost Irish Air carriers) that charges for Debit Transactions.

Just because 'we have always done it this way' and 'its in the Ts & Cs' is no excuse. You can't say We're Disney, tough'. Eurodisney needs to move with the times. It's the adults that pay for the holidays, not the children and if the adults are left with a sour taste in the mouth, they are less likely to suggest a future trip for themselves or recommend it to others. When I was looking at booking, the initial cost was similar to flying to Florida instead. By the time living expenses had been added, it would have been better, the weather would have been better and I'm willing to bet that Customer Service would have been better.

Goodbye Eurodisney
Speaking of sour taste, €5 for a can of Fanta in the minibar? €8 for a Hot Dog and a few chips? I thought about buying a furry Disney coat but decided that I'd been fleeced enough.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Now, where was I?

"Blogging for Britain" was originally part of my BritishVisitor website. In the years since it was built I have taken a few twists and turns in my life and the website has stagnated somewhat. I stopped blogging as I could not keep up with everything.

I have decided to revive this Blog and get a few more posts up here. I have a separate Blog specific to my Drone Aerial Photography business, which you are more than welcome to visit. This Blog will be an eclectic gathering of stories directly affecting me, but that will also aim to entertain you.

Another reason for doing this is to hone my writing skills so should you spot any grammatical or spelling errors, do feel free to let me know. We are often blind to our own errors, reading what we want to read rather than what is actually written or spelt. Like a lot of people, I have a germ of an idea for a novel inside me. It may well stay there, but just in case I suddenly have a few months to kill, I'd like to try and write it using a decent standard of writing.

So, sit back and enjoy reading. I'd love to hear from you. All comments are pre-moderated before publishing purely to prevent spoiling by trolls and spammers. Those aside, I'll publish anything, positive or negative if relevant.