When you go to an event like the SA Business Conference, organised by the Gawler Business Development Group, you usually expect to come away with at least one insight to help your business but I came away with at least three.
I was one of the speakers and I'll share a diagram from my talk later, but first I wanted to share three quick, short insights from some of the other speakers, namely:
- Robert Gerrish, founder of Flying Solo
- Justin Herald, Major Motivation
- Derrick McManus, author of Human Durability
There were other insights, of course, but this is just a quick dose for now.
Robert Gerrish - Observe your customers' desire lines
In his presentation, Robert explained the concept of desire lines, using the example of the layout of pathways in a community park.
He noted that this well-researched phenomenon shows how planners might indeed expect us to walk 10m south and then turn 90 degrees to head east but if there's an easy cut through over grass, we'll start walking that way and eventually carve out a "people power" pathway that heads south east across the green.
This is an example of a desire line.
Robert's point was that we often set up certain systems in our businesses but if we listen to our customers, we might well learn better ways to be more efficient and effective, and therefore more valuable, for them.
Justin Herald - Give a fig
Justin is known for "telling it like it is" and cutting through the "bs" for the greater good.
At the SA Business Conference, one of his points was that the key to success is to be better than your competitors, which today amounts to just giving a "fig" about your customers.
His lament was that many staff, especially in retail, have grown up in the past 10-15 years when the culture of customer service has been decimated by employers just grinding their organisations down to having the lowest staff costs possible, and the emerging workforce's only recollection of good service has been the occasional grunt and momentary eye contact from a server.
In other words, the bar is very, very low.
Justin pledges that if you just care for your customers and can instil that in your team, you are on the highway to success.
This was hilariously illustrated by a story of a man running a coffee stall in a shopping centre chastising Justin and his daughter for sitting at a table "reserved" for the coffee stall customers, even though Justin had been in the line to buy coffee from him. When alerted to this, the man was indignant, saying, you still can't sit here until you've purchased. He went out of business quickly, whereas the owner of that stall has flourished because he set the rule for his staff that every customer was to be treated like a guest in his home.
Derrick McManus - Be a risk manager
Derrick is best known for being the STAR Force Officer who was gunned down with multiple bullet wounds during a siege in South Australia that still counts as the event of its type with the greatest volume of live rounds fired against police officers in Australia.
In his talk, he took us through the dread as he realised he'd been shot and assessed how grim his situation was.
What pulled him through was training and preparation.
Firstly, his training kept him alert to what he needed to do to improve his chances of surviving, and, secondly, the training of his team in which he could trust that they'd be doing whatever they could to rescue him.
The message for businesses is that Risk Taking is irresponsible but Risk Management is prudent and vital.
Derrick urged us to carry out some "what if" thinking and have a plan B and plan C so that our businesses are not brittle but have durability.
Steve Davis - Put the ladder against the right wall
My presentation was entitled, To Do Or Not To Do - The Never-Ending Question Facing Small Business, in which I looked at all the noise that surrounds us and all the glittering promises about what the magic bullet will be (not the same bullets Derrick talked about) that will bring us guaranteed success.
However, in light of hundreds of mentoring sessions held over the past year, I turned to Stephen Covey's quote about how it's one thing to be good at climbing ladders but that's no use unless the ladder is against the right wall.
In particular, I've encountered many frustrated business people who've reached out for help because their "social media is not working". As you can see in the diagram, devised by my business partner, Michael Shanahan, social media should the be the last step of one's digital marketing plan, once you've got the fundamentals right.
What this diagram shows is that without a fundamental place on the internet where customers, advocates, and Google can find you and reference you, and without helpful content that makes your entity worthwhile and useful (through a blog), and without a mailing list of interested people and clients enabling them to stay engaged with you, effort put into social media is only ever going to be a sugar hit. Or you're just going to have to be spending money on advertising like a drunken sailor spends money in a port.
To have your compass set correctly again means that your intention of helping and getting better and communicating that (see this article about the reasons for blogging), can be amplified through a smart marketing structure so that your messages can be where your audience needs them to be.
Our next phase will be to bolster our helpful content online, too, as we join you in the on-going journey of always striving to be relevant and helpful to our clients and potential clients, and the community-at-large. Does that last claim seem outlandish? It isn't. We firmly believe that if we can help our clients succeed, their thriving small business will indeed enrich their lives, the lives of those around them, and all the related people and ventures in the community.
Thank you, Gawler Business Development Group, for making days like this possible.