To trust or not to trust?

To trust or not to trust?

You’ve started your business and you are so excited and want to share your wonderful concept with the world.

two rocks posing as people holding hands

Immediately the fears creep in.  What if someone else thinks it’s a good idea and tries to steal it.

When is it right to trust or not to trust that instinct?

The wrong tone

That spirit of fear, or distrust, is now contaminating your copy.

You temper your tone and are careful who you mention, keeping the attention firmly on yourself and not crediting anyone else.

Perhaps you are a bit cagey about exactly what’s on offer – you don’t wish to give too many secrets away. 

The right energy

There is an art to gaining attention and drip-feeding content for momentum and a big reveal.  Done with fear your energy will be off.

Trust in yourself and your product or service and be open to sharing.

Ask yourself, what is that fear really about?

It is doubt about whether you are good enough? Do you have a fear about someone else being better than you?  Are you feeling the dreaded imposter syndrome?

Recognise this for what it really is.  Take some time before you write, post, call and share your news to get in the right positive energy.

Get over yourself

Usually your business concept will be done by someone already – there is very rarely a completely unique idea. 

Do some market research.  Who is the competition and what are they offering?  Don’t go down that rabbit hole of not being as good as them.  Remember, you are the unique element of what you offer as nobody can do you. Get over yourself and own that talent that got you here in the first place!

Competition can be a good thing.  Coffee anyone?  How many artisan coffee shops are in your local town?  Which ones do you visit?  The one or two that resonate with you, that have the friendly barista or your favourite cake?  So everyone comes to your town for great coffee – not everyone chooses the same coffee shop. People will choose you, the others are not the enemy.

What are you missing?

Could you collaborate with another outfit that is similar to yours?  Do you offer an element that they don’t and visa versa, meaning you can offer a bigger or better package to your clients?

What about the possibility of sending work to each other when you are too busy?  Have a grown-up conversation at the outset about the arrangement and keep a note of what happens.  If you are willing and open to try it may work out really well for both parties.  If not, you can politely withdraw from the arrangement at any time.

Act with fear and shut others out and you may damage your reputation in the community.

You can get burnt

There is always a risk in working with others – but that attitude of mistrusting everyone will not serve you well in business.

Work out the upside and the potential downside.   

Go back to your strategy.  Can this relationship/arrangement help you achieve your goals?

Obviously we have all had a bad experience, one that we wish we had not allowed to happen, but you will learn so much more from the odd mistake.

With experience you become more confident about your decision-making process and know when it’s right to trust or not to trust that opportunity or person. 

Are you ready to start your own business (with or without chocolate) and feel that fear but do it anyway – trust yourself and put your faith and trust in the good ones out there. Good luck.

What’s your why?

What’s your why?

When did you last take a moment and think deeply about what motivates you, what’s most important to you, and what makes you tick?

It does not have to be profound and/or huge (although I’m sure we could all agree on world peace and an end to suffering). The smallest things can be so important. Whatever is real and meaningful for you matters most.

If you want to start your own business, then it’s imperative to work out the reasons behind your decision for doing so. Without being tuned into your ‘why’ you will lack focus, drive, and ambition to realise your dreams. So, what’s your why?

Where do you start?

Break down your life into general segments and review each to see where you are on a scale of 1 to 10. 

1 being it’s not working well at all to 10 being just perfect for you. Think about where you are now and be honest. This will help you score more accurately.  

  1. Work
  2. Home
  3. Health/Fitness
  4. Family/Friends
  5. Money

What’s your dream?

Do the exercise again, this time daring to describe each category as a true dream scenario for you. 

What would absolutely fantastic look like for you?  

I would like to pass on the wise words of a well-read coach I worked with (Paul Webb), which is ‘suspend disbelief’. If we use our logical brain, we will be telling ourselves all the things we can’t achieve, if you are able for the moment to suspend disbelief then surely anything is possible!

Focusing on the work element – what would having your own business mean for you? Really spend some time imagining working in a way that you want to, doing what you love and earning some money too.

It will not just be about the money. There will be so much more to it than that. The freedom, the chance to be creative, to be able to spend more quality time with family or friends, to pursue passions whether within or outside of work.

Mind the Gap

What life elements are furthest away from where you want to be?  

Where in your life need some focus and attention?  

Can you start to take some small steps to achieve more balance? You may not be able to tackle everything at once, but acknowledging where you are and taking small steps to improve or change a given situation (or even to acknowledge that there is nothing you can do right now to change it) will help.

What did you notice?

So which bits about your life filled you with the most joy?  

What did you find easiest to think about, dream about?  

What fired up your passions? 

Or maybe, what came so easily that you hardly realised it happening – because that bit is where your personal magic lies! The stuff that comes to you with ease, that doesn’t ever feel difficult, that gives you pleasure, where time literally flies – that is where you need to send some focus.

Watch this Space

Keep a diary, make a note, reflect and record. Now you are tuned in to what is happening, try and find out the bit that makes you sing more than anything else.   

Add in the elements of trying to find more balance in your whole life and it’s from there that you can start to identify your why.

It’s not just about you

I was training someone recently to start their own chocolate workshop business where they live. They asked me what’s the point of what I do. 

I thought it was a good question, without hesitation I showed this photo:

Two ladies smiling and laughing with chocolate smeared on their faces.  Having fun on a chocolate workshop experience.

This picture sums up exactly what I want for my customers.  

It really matters to me that everyone has a good time. I spend time creating the best possible customer experiences with chocolate that I am capable of delivering. The fact that people are spending their hard-earned cash with me is something I would never take for granted.

Although I need to own the responsibility for my business and what I offer, it’s not just about what I want. What do my customers want or need and how can I deliver that for them. How can I meet and hopefully exceed expectations?

What’s next?

Good luck with discovering your why. Will you dare to take the next steps and put a plan into action?

You will start to experience some fear, that’s normal, when faced with change we are bound to experience fear, but it will hopefully also be mixed with excitement! Now it’s time to take some action.

Your why, the thing that makes you tick, may just be something that helps, inspires, motivates or brings some joy to another.

What I learnt from it all going wrong

What I learnt from it all going wrong

Let’s assume that you have done everything in your power to plan and prepare for your forthcoming event. 

Without this element, you can absolutely expect it to all go wrong!  

The situations described below have genuinely happened. Sometimes you really have to step up, out of your comfort zone, and deliver something more than you intended.

Here’s what I learnt from it all going wrong…..

The right people

The organiser has had a meltdown and is so overwhelmed that are unable to carry out their duties. There is no point pointing the blame and expecting a different outcome. Something has happened to bring them to that point. They may be out of their depth and have had to step in and take on a role they are not fully equipped for. Life may have happened outside of work and caused too much stress. Whatever the reason, the person you need to help you get started is out of action (hopefully temporarily). It’s time to step up and find a solution if possible.

Find someone different to help. There are usually the people in the background that make everything happen without most realising how much hard work has gone on behind the scenes. 

Think maintenance people, IT gurus, caretakers, etc. Put in a polite plea and explain what has happened, without being rude about their colleague and see what can be done.  

Your materials

Instructions were received about sending in power points ahead of a presentation. On arrival, slides were nowhere to be found.

Although you may have been told what will be present on arrival, assume the worst and have copies or back-ups of presentations or materials that are required on the day.

Plan B

If a particular problem cannot be solved in time for what you need to do, then you will need to find an alternative way to deliver your content.  

What outcomes are you hoping to achieve?

What are the most important elements and try and focus on these if not all are possible on the day?

You

Believe in what you are delivering and stick to your principles. If you start to doubt yourself or don’t deliver your event with conviction, whatever is going on around you, your audience will start to doubt it too.

Yes, you will be swan-like, frantically paddling away underneath the surface while trying to appear calm on top, but you do need to always be professional. Even if those around you are not.

Keep calm and keep smiling if possible. If you panic too much you will not think clearly. It may not be your fault, but you can only do everything in your power to make it as good as you possibly can.

Treats

chocolate lollipop with sprinkles

Ahead of an event, I will usually make prizes or thank-you gifts to hand out.  

I always keep a few extra chocolate treats on me and hand these out to all those that have helped me solve any problems as a thank you for their time and effort. Acknowledging that others are going out of their way to make your visit work will pay dividends on the day and nice gestures are remembered if you are called back to visit again.

Escalate the issue

It may not be fixable. 

Your event may start to unravel to a point of no return due to problems encountered.  

Here I would seek out management and explain what is going on and agree on a joint solution.

Might it be better to reschedule and visit another day?

Do the organisation wish you to deliver whatever is possible, knowing it will not be quite what was agreed upon. Actively trying to resolve something rather than going into melt-down mode will at least be constructive and hopefully gain you credibility with the organisation you are dealing with.

Timing

Allow plenty of time for everything. Factor in extra time so if something does go wrong, you will have time to try and fix it.

Keep perspective, hopefully, nothing is life-threatening, only frustrating or potentially embarrassing. 

Audience

If you experience a disengaged or challenging audience, it can be a tough gig to bring them around. Study a speaking guru and practice, practice, practice.

Keep up the energy and try hard to get your message across. Use engagement techniques, like asking questions, raising arms for a quick survey. Try and change the energy in the room and get buy-in if possible.

Don’t keep shouting above the noise, if necessary, stand still and silent and wait for calm. Usually, other members of staff will help if things get too disruptive – you can ask for their help if necessary.

Believe in your audience and make sure they know it. Prove you really mean it.  

Here are some tips for running successful school events.

Review

What went on? What can you do to make sure you improve and hone what you have control over?

Make a note of everything that went wrong as some things will be out of your control. If you intend to visit the venue again, have your notes to hand so that you can cover potential issues for next time.  

Feedback

Do give constructive feedback to the organisers. They did not wish you to visit and experience problems. If there are issues to fix, don’t moan or be too negative but do ensure you point out where outcomes may have been adversely affected.

In your feedback ensure you celebrate any achievements made, despite the circumstances.

It’s stressful and hard work and has a knock-on effect on you personally when something you have put a lot of energy and effort into goes wrong or is particularly difficult. Do your best and hold your head high. It’s a learning experience if nothing else. If you run your own business, it’s in your power to choose not to return if you wish!

Why All Relationships Matter

Why All Relationships Matter

We are talking business relationships here, but it’s personal too.

The most obvious relationships are those we have with our customers. The customer is king in every business. However, there are so many more to consider for a successful business to survive and indeed thrive, including the one you have with yourself.

Let’s explore why all relationships matter:

What relationships?

Meeting at a desk, with notebooks, drinks and laptops (you can't see their faces, just there arms writing in their books)

Sometimes we focus so much on the obvious (our customers) we overlook other opportunities.

Who do you have relationships with?

Customers, employees, contractors, suppliers, competitors, family, friends – are all key relationships within your business.

Another thing to consider is your potential relationship with someone where you are simply making an enquiry.

Maybe you are looking at a business opportunity?

How you behave will reflect on how you are perceived by the vendor.

Do you ask, realise it’s not for you (right now) and then ignore all the follow-ups? What if you later change your mind. If you didn’t go back to them explaining not right now, have you burnt your bridges for a potential transaction in different circumstances?

Send a simple reply explaining it’s not for you and why, and come across as professional and considered.

Supplying the Goods

Think about the importance of getting your supplies for example.  

Cacao beans

You are spending money with your suppliers and may think that you need do no more than hand over your hard-earned cash. What about a shortage in supplies (something that we are often facing in these difficult times).  Your supplier may have to choose which customer to send limited supplies to.  

What if you need a rush job and will need a supplier to go the extra mile for you?

Might your supplier recommend your services/goods to another customer if you are great to do business with?

A good relationship can reap unexpected benefits.

Money Matters

How do you pay for your supplies?  

Pink piggy bank

Cash flow can be an issue at times, so you may leave certain suppliers waiting for payment.  

Is this something you accept personally?  

Are you willing and able to wait for payment from a service or goods you have delivered?

What are your terms, and do you act with the same integrity with everyone else you do business with?

If you do hit on difficult times and you need to speak to your suppliers about extending credit for a limited time, your payment history will come into play. Have you built credibility with your supplier to afford you some leeway when it might be most be needed?

The Competition

Hide your head in the sand, feel threatened and defensive, or completely oblivious – what is your attitude to the competition?

Competition can be a good thing. If more people are offering what you do, there must be a demand for it. Always check out the competition and keep an eye on what they are doing. Is there an opportunity to work together, to collaborate?  

No one can do things the way that you do them. You are what makes your business unique.  

Make friends with the competition where appropriate and explore ways of potentially working together. 

The team

If you employ people or use contractors, then they are representing you and your business.

Do they clearly understand and operate by your values? Have you adequately trained and equipped them to achieve their tasks properly?

If there is one big lesson I’ve taken from running my own business, it’s all my fault. If an employee/contractor makes a mistake, then the buck will stop with me. Choose good people (we need to part ways with those that are not the right fit) and train them well.

Build good strong relationships with all members of your team and it will reap rewards.

Customers are King

Without customers, we don’t have a business.  

Building strong relationships with your customers and providing the best possible service matters. I like to create sticky customers (ones I cover in chocolate, but also stick around for more). Working with chocolate is a good hook for building rapport, but you don’t need to work with it to use it to your advantage! Here are 100 ways to make your customers go WOW.  

You

Nothing will test you like running your own business. It is the best personal development programme you will ever encounter. You will experience highs and lows, but the benefits of being your own boss far outweigh the difficult bits!  

Be YOU. People buy authentic, tell your story, be yourself. 

If you do not it will be exhausting and not something that you can sustain long term.

Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Respect yourself and others will follow suit. Treat everyone in the way you expect to be treated yourself.

The relationship with yourself will be tested and you need to know who you are and what you stand for.

All relationships matter.

10 tips to keep them coming back

10 tips to keep them coming back

As a small business owner, you have a unique opportunity to provide a passionate and dedicated service for your customers.

Get this right and your customers will sing your praises to others. Most importantly, they will stick around to do more business with you too.

This is why you need sticky customers. Read on for 10 tips to keep them coming back for more…..

Great customer service will make the world a better place

Imagine all those happy customers.

Maya Angelou quote "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel."

You have helped create a warm glow for them instead of the usual huge frustrations. Too many of us are treated poorly, without respect, and just not listened to. Become their ear, make them feel better, just simply CARE.

There will be less moaning (except for the weather perhaps). Customers will start to share their feel-good stories instead.

Little by little it may help to lift the mood of the nation.

Let’s start the customer service revolution

Great customer service has such massive potential.

Exceptional service makes you stand out from competitors. You will gain loyal followers, repeat business, build strong relationships, and subsequently grow your business.

I believe it’s more than that, it’s our bigger purpose.

We have a duty to get good at this because your customers really do matter. Be thankful they choose to do business with you. Without them, you don’t have a business anyway.

We can set the tone for others to follow in our footsteps. By doing this well, there will be no choice in the end. It will become what consumers expect. Do or die for businesses!

Here’s what I recommend you need to think about…….

10 tips to keep them coming back:

  1. Be YOU. People want authentic – customers will spot bullsh*t a mile off.
  2. Get in the right mindset. Care about your customers and about the service you provide to them, no matter what is going on for you.
  3. Map the whole journey a customer might take with you (including before you know who they are) and do exactly what you promise you say you will. Just doing exactly what we promised can be a win-win situation. Imagine the possibilities if you can exceed expectations.
  4. Provide something useful/helpful/interesting for them – think about what they need, want, have to solve, and try and be a solution.
  5. Own it. It’s all your fault. Even if it was your employee that did the wrong deed. You didn’t train them properly, or you hired the wrong person. Tough, but in the eyes of the customer none of that matters to them.
  6. Gain testimonials and/or press coverage to help build credibility. Ask for feedback to understand what you can hone and improve.
  7. Act quickly. If you can’t, get in touch and explain when what and why.
  8. Keep in touch. It’s not your customers’ responsibility to remember to do business with you. Let them know about what’s coming up, special offers, loyalty schemes. Provide more value to help them.
  9. Demonstrate your values. Display and explain them if relevant. Be charitable and the reasons behind your choices.
  10. Be energetic, can-do – say YES.
A group of people at a hen party
I don’t just cover mine in chocolate, but it helps!

If you want to get a head start in the customer service stakes adding chocolate into the mix is a great idea. If you want some more, try my 100 Ways to WOW.

How to work in some WOW

How to work in some WOW

As a small business owner, you are in a unique position to create some wonderful customer experiences in your business.

Quotation about customer service from Maya Angelou

Make it a top priority, it will reap rewards. 

Here’s how to work in some WOW for your customers:

The J word!

Yes, your customers are embarking on a journey with you.

This experience starts before you know they are looking at you. 

Your business personality, via your website and social media platforms, is providing an impression of you and your services/product.  

Have you created the right impression to attract your ideal clients?

Is the journey to purchase something clear, correct, and delivers exactly what is promised?

Not everyone is ready to buy right now.

How can you ensure you encourage further interaction?

Create a strong business personality

Be you. You may be providing or selling something that many others do too, but no one else is you, so you will bring something unique to the interaction.

People see through fake and quite frankly, we have had enough of that sort of thing – be authentic and customers will love you for it.

Feel the fear often. If you are sharing a story or posting something that brings a little fear into your being, then you are most likely hitting the right note. We are programmed to be reserved, especially in a business setting, but bring your whole self and your customers will feel they have got to know the real person behind the brand.

Keep in Touch

Provide some useful information.  

Write a blog!  

Send out a fact sheet or relevant information that would prove useful for your customers.

Invite them to subscribe to a newsletter – then regularly write to them.

Not everyone is ready to buy when they first meet your business. They may be ready to buy some months down the line.

Keeping in touch provides an opportunity to strengthen a relationship with a potential customer. It may also provide an opportunity for previous customers to buy again.

Be Disciplined

Post regularly on social media channels.

 Deliver the newsletter when you said you would.

Respond quickly to enquiries.

ALWAYS do what you said you would, or explain why you can’t.

Gain Feedback

Ask what people liked and didn’t like about working with you.

Listen to what is being said.

Hone and improve where you think it’s necessary.

Talk about what you have learned, inform clients of changes you are going to make.

Get the basics right

You can provide fancy gifts and make grand gestures as much as you like. If you are not providing exactly what you said on the tin in the first place, then this will fall very flat.

Review the whole journey a customer will experience with your business and ensure that everything works properly.

If you employ staff, make sure you train them properly and empower them to be able to make the right decisions.

The right mindset

As soon as we mention customer service, you start to be bombarded with examples of disasters and sob stories. They might be amusing, or we may learn a lesson or two – but this is not the right mindset for creating some WOW.

Let’s give examples of how a company turned a disaster into a success. Let’s get thinking positively. Most importantly, let’s try and get in the mindset of our customers and focus on their needs and what would make them happy.

A wonderful opportunity

Here’s the great news. You only have to do exactly what you say you will do to win some brownie points from your customers.

Then, and only then can you start to add in some WOW. 

These are little extras that make you stand out from the crowd.

I recently came back from a camping trip. Each night the owner would drive around and deliver giant marshmallows on sticks for the guests to toast on their firepits. She did it with such joy and enthusiasm, we all looked forward to the marshmallow run each evening. Inexpensive, a bit of fun, but a huge tick in the WOW department.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are the holy grail of marketing. Nothing says buy from this company than a friend talking about a great experience.

Here are 100 Ways to WOW that you might find useful!

Chocolate Works Wonders

Heart drawn in chocolate

Add a little chocolate into the mix and you have a wonderful recipe for success.

My Getting Sticky Customers workshop works with teams and business owners wishing to focus their efforts on customer experience and of course, includes chocolate.

“Having time out from everyday work to focus on what we do and why we do it was amazing! The session has reinvigorated my desire to help and wow customers and to make a difference to someone’s day. Dawn is excellent at making you think about things in a different way – lots of light bulb moments for me!”  Sarah Henson, delegate, Solihull

What customer experiences have been positive for you – come and share your story on my Facebook page.

Or maybe this has inspired you to start your own business because you know you’d be brilliant at creating some WOW moments for your customers? Why not give us the opportunity!

Creating some ‘WOW’ requires more than just chocolate!

Creating some ‘WOW’ requires more than just chocolate!

I love people (and chocolate too of course) which is why I created The Melting Pot. Creating the best possible experience for customers is a true passion of mine. A workshop environment provides a golden opportunity to really cherish every guest and ensure they leave happy (with bags filled with chocolate)!

A group of people at a hen party

The Customer Journey

The experience itself is just one part of a journey for my customers – one that starts long before I’m aware of their presence. They will be experiencing my business via my website and social media platforms. I must build a relationship with them (whether they decide to take part in a workshop or not). I need to keep in touch over a period of time, strengthening our connection until they are hopefully ready to buy.

Your Business Personality

I work hard at creating the right business personality for The Melting Pot. This involves first impressions. The way I present myself and my business. How I act on social media, my writing style, aiming for quick response times, sending regular newsletters, and of course, my workshops. I’m fascinated by learning more so I always ask for feedback too. Gaining insights from my customers means I can continually review, hone and improve what I offer.

Getting Sticky Customers

One business entrepreneur once said to me “I want what you’ve got in your business – I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but I want it in mine.”

Never one to pass up a challenge, I set to identify all the elements that go into creating a great customer experience.

I created a workshop called Getting Sticky Customers. We cover all the basics on getting good at creating the best customer experiences and I added chocolate into the mix too! The aim is to get our customers to stick around while we might get a little sticky with the chocolate too.

What makes great customer experience?

My aim is on building the best relationships with clients (and creating a ‘WOW moment’ now and again to really make me stand out from the crowd). It starts by doing exactly what it says on the tin. If you mention it, it needs to work in the way it’s described/expected. Simples but so many companies don’t do this. Until this element is nailed, don’t bother trying to make your customers go WOW as it won’t work.

In my opinion, it’s not about theory, spouting statistics on customer retention, and yet more examples of bad customer service stories (yawn, we’ve heard them all before). It’s about getting in the right mindset, sweating the small stuff, and noticing examples of what we CAN DO to create some WOW moments for customers. It’s about getting inspired!

Mindset Matters

Quotation from Maya Angelou

I believe the biggest factor is my mindset – how much genuine emphasis I put on making things the best for my customers really matters. If anyone is going to part with their hard-earned money and spend it with me, I really care that I do my best for them. That has to come above anything else.

Then I keep a close eye on all the operations, customer interactions, and managing expectations. If you spell out how something is going to work, the customer understands the process and is not left to worry. The way I act on the phone, at events, such as conferences or networking, face-to-face meetings, and via written word all count. I am always the face of the business in whatever setting I am in.

I need to ensure the basics are working properly first – it’s as simple as doing what I promised I would. If I can’t do that I need to hold up my hand and explain why. I then need to keep in touch and keep the customer informed of what’s happening and when to expect a result (or not). Only then can I look at how I might create some WOW for customers.

This has to be done authentically, and I have to be myself, albeit a ‘business-personality’ style version of me! Don’t try and be false, or act in a way you can’t sustain. That’s just exhausting and people will see through it eventually.

Add Chocolate

Mention chocolate and some of the work in getting people excited is done for me, I do agree. But get the experience wrong or treat the customers badly and no amount of chocolate will win them over.

If you are interested in working with chocolate, here are five reasons that might be of interest!