What an angel with one wing taught me about running a business

I recently moved house and inherited a nice garden with a little angel figure hanging from the decking, right in front of my dining-room window. I laughed when I first saw this ornament because the angel figure only had one wing. Probably broken, I thought. Will have to move it because it doesn’t fit with my idea of perfection, I thought.

But recently I got to thinking that I rather like the angel with one wing. She reminds me that however high we might soar, it’s good to keep at least one foot on the ground.
Humility is something which serves us well. Arrogance, particularly in dealings with other business people or clients does not. It’s good to have a reality-check from time to time and look at what is working in our business and what isn’t.

When we’re flying high, it really is crucial to remember how we got there in the first place and who we need to thank or appreciate.

So whatever you’re up to, remember that perfection isn’t necessary and sometimes one wing is better than two….
Love Louise

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Three lessons we can learn from ebay…

You are all probably familiar with ebay and have done some selling on there at one time or another. However, I am pretty much an ebay novice and it was only when we moved offices recently and had to sell a lot of stuff that I ventured into the world of online selling.
This whole experience has taught me a thing or two to apply to my own business:

Lesson 1: Cultural awareness and sensitivity is key to a successful sale – on both sides Find out about your target market and adjust your sales strategy appropriately.
Hamburg is a culturally diverse city with a good mix of immigrants (myself included!) and in the last few weeks I have dealt with visitors from many different nationalities all coming to the home office and looking at what was on offer. I found that all the Eastern European and Asian people who came drove a hard bargain – they really enjoyed negotiating and took their time – whilst the German people paid the asking price, stayed only a short length of time and were highly organized and reliable regarding time and date of visit.
In our institute we teach cultural awareness and we sometimes hear students say “Isn’t this clichéd? Aren’t you over-generalizing?” Well, the answer is “not really”. If you are selling a product or a service, whether that be a coffee machine on ebay or a highly specialized software system on your company’s website, it is essential to be aware of and, where possible, adjust to the mentality of your target customers.

Lesson 2: Know the difference between price and value
I generally aim for win-win. However, in one case I had to let the interested party go because he insisted on paying way too small an amount for something. Although I felt a bit bad about this, it reminded me:
Whatever you are selling in business, don’t be afraid to name your price, know your bottom line and stick to it. This is especially true for freelancers selling their qualified services: If you sell yourself under-value, you will start to resent things sooner or later. Also, never apologize for your prices. Explain how you add value and why you are worth your price. Better not to get the sale than to compromise too much and feel resentment.

Lesson 3: Respect your own needs
In your daily business as an entrepreneur your own needs are paramount. If you feel stressed or under pressure, the negative energy you feel will work against you. It is important to voice your own needs and wishes and prioritize them.
This is something I thought I was aware of. However, when I first started selling online I literally bent over backwards for all the potential customers – letting them always choose time and date to visit and adjusting my own schedule accordingly. Surely enough, this started to backfire and people sometimes just didn’t turn up, didn’t bother to cancel and stopped answering their phones even though they’d asked for a call-back. I was most put out until I realized that I was the one responsible for creating this situation. Now I stipulate time and date to suit me first and since then I haven’t had anyone go awol on me.

Until the next time – stay profitable!
Louise

My top two game-changing questions

I was recently asked the following question and it really knocked me for six. First of all, I struggled to come up with an answer and it really made me face reality whilst at the same time encouraging me to express my dreams and vision:

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

This question, originally created and posed by business empowerment guru Robin Sharma, is a game-changer.
Why?
Well, as a business owner I have had my fair share of scary moments (recession anyone?) and I believe that fear of failure is something that every serious entrepreneur has grappled with at some time or other. This question helps you to take a step back for a moment, forget the fear, and re-assess if you’re really doing what you want to be doing. I suggest you apply it to every new business strategy you devise, every new product idea you have, and to the bigger picture itself. Asking myself this question gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my current course and look at my dreams and what I really want from my business (and from life). It was one of those aha moments. After all: knowing what you really want is the first step to getting it.

The second question is for your customers and clients and was penned by the late, great Stephen Covey:

What would it take to make it a ten?

How to use this question:
When collecting feedback after providing a service or a product, ask your clients how they would rate the experience or product out of ten. Then ask the above question and you should get some precise, important feedback as to what might still be missing and what you can improve. Look for patterns and act on them.
However a closing word of caution if using this question across cultures: I mostly work with German people and I have often had the pleasure of hearing “I’ll give you a nine, because I never give out tens on principle”. Kind of ruins it. Nevertheless I think it’s a great question and I will continue to ask it.
Hope the questions work for you,
Til the next time!
Louise

Looking after the rocks first … or mindful priority-setting

The following story is one that’s been circulating for a while. It holds a very important message regarding setting priorities in our lives – whether we are business owners or not:
A professor of philosophy stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a large glass jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was full.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They laughed and agreed that it was indeed full this time.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions.
If you put sand into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks or the pebbles. The same can be applied to your lives. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important.

Take care of the rocks first – things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.

Even if this story is not new to you, let it trigger a reminder that the rocks really do matter. You can label the glass jar “My working day”, “My business” or “My life in general” and decide on the priorities (rocks) for each one. Just like Diane Keaton had a jar of white pebbles on her desk in the film “Something’s gotta give” (appropriately named film in this case!) you can even use a real jar and real stones as an ornamental and subtle reminder to make time for what really matters in life.

Source used for re-telling the pebble story with grateful thanks:
http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=264&page=2

My New Year mindset

First of all a very Happy New Year to you, loyal blog reader, and all the very best for the coming 12 months!

A lot is being written on the subject of resolutions and goals at the moment, as the beginning of a new year is always the perfect time to harness the dynamic of change. Now that the Christmas decorations have been put away, the last of the party food consumed and normal work begins again in earnest, we are all filled with good intentions to make 2014 our best year yet.

For a positive momentum this January, I would like to share some tips with you from one of my favourite gurus, Robin Sharma. For a successful start to 2014, Robin recommends the following points which I have summarized here:

1) Protect your mindset
Everything begins with belief. Believe you can make this your best year yet. Clean out all toxic influences that diminish your happiness such as unhealthy TV (e.g. watching depressing new stories last thing at night) and remove yourself from toxic people who don’t make you feel good about yourself, whilst surrounding yourself with excellent ones. Spend time on doing things that matter and elevate you.

2) Prepare to win the night before
Develop a nightly ritual of 30 minutes in which you plan your next day. Then, in your journal, write the top 3 lessons your day has taught you and then list 3 positive things that happened to you that day. End your day with gratitude.

3) Focus on your single biggest opportunity for the first 90 days.
Decide to focus on being great at one thing rather than just good at many for the first 3 months of this year.
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So, just as Louise Hay says “How you start your day is how you live your day”, I firmly believe that how you start your year also determines how things will go for you in the time to come, i.e. whether you are choosing to live by design or default.
I hope some of the above tips resonate with you. Have a wonderful 2014 and see you again soon.