The triple A of emergency management

The triple A of emergency management

With the recent floodings in Ireland and the UK, I have been pondering on the topic of crisis management quite a bit, because my heart goes out to all the people whose home and business has been destroyed by flooding. Having walked barefooted through kneedeep water really being the extent of the personal effect it has had on me and the B/Right businesses, I really can’t imaging the emotional turmoil entrepreneurs go through when their business becomes flooded with water. If you follow me on facebook you can see for yourself how much devastation was caused in Cork, but I believe a lot of cities throughout Ireland and the Uk had an even bigger flood to deal with than here.

To bring it back to business though, what can you really do when this happens? We came up with the triple A formula for emergency management:
A1 – Assess the damage and what is left
A2 – Analyse your options
A3 – Adopt a plan of action

Let’s look at each step in a little more detail.

When the water retreats, to take the flooding as the core example throughout, seen that it will be relevant to quite a number of people, the first step is to return to the premises and see what is left, what was saved and what is irretrievable. If you are insured it is important to make sure the loss adjuster sees it in the state you found it. At this stage the key is to inventorise everything that you have lost or will be beyond repair as a result of the water damage, the next phase then is to make list of potentially retrievable items and to make sure those items that weren’t damaged are put aside in a dry room, so that the clean up will not cause any further damage. Then the cleaning up part starts…

After you have finished cleaning up and clearing out the damaged floors, furniture and other equipment or stock, that’s when you will truly realise the extent of where the business is at. This is when you start looking at the hard questions: how much will it cost to replace everything, is it an opportunity to change, do we have to close, what will it take to start again, do we keep our staff, are orders damaged, etc..

Once you have a clear picture of the actual damage done, it is then a case of analysing your options. You will still have options no matter how bleak the picture looks. With an uncertain economy it may well mean closing your business or relaunching it with completely different offerings or even completely online? The key is to brainstorm ideas with all the key decision makers in the room and to also seek input from suppliers (will they be supportive, etc.) , employees and customers. You can use the floods as an opportunity to completely change your business and make improvements you may only have been contemplating before. In a way it is a white wash or a clean slate (if the water analogy is too close to home), so there is opportunity in this. My advice would be to have as many options on the table as possible and then one by one examine them for ease of implementation, real cost and benefit.

Factors to look at when examining your options are whether as soon as possible is a realistic time frame to re-open and if you are in retail and need to re-open after Christmas what will that mean in terms of business missed, what is the minimum and ideal you need to be back in business in a small time frame, how can you minimise costs of repair, are you able to start back on a shoestring? A lot of questioning will be the name of the game, in this economy I would say only move forward when you have an actual realistic plan in place, which includes numbers and campaigns to recover the losses made. This business plan can serve a double purpose namely as your action plan, but equally to go to the bank and state your case in the hope that they do live up to the promise of supporting businesses after they have been bailed out.

The final step in the triple A approach is to pick your course and take action. Implement your plan and look at it as if you are starting a brand new business. Remember the days when you started out first time and how exciting it was, well do your best to re-invigorate yourself and your staff with this new positive clean start type of energy. It is only through hard work and regular action that business have survived. If you think of all the multi-millionaire stories, all of them have seen hardship at one point or other.

We wish you all the support and belief you need to succeed and if you are running low on either of those, we know some great coaches that can help you through.

Hear my silence

Hear my silence

I just finished reading a book called ‘Hear my silence’ by Karina Colgan, an Irish journalist who told her story of dealing with depression after being a succesful, strong business person and mother. She shares in the book how all-consuming and gripping depression can be on the life of the individual suffering from depression but also on their immediate friends and family. She gives advice on how to deal with depression from every angle, which I found extremely useful and encouraging.

I wrote a few comments on my facebook page about the book and unleashed a debate. Ironically it proved every point in the book that in Irish society we love to swipe this kind of disease under the carpet. According to statistics as many as 1 in 4 Irish people of all ages, all social backgrounds etc, will suffer from depression in their lifetime.

80% of the depression sufferers do recover and resume a normal lifestyle.

Some of the greatest minds in science, music, arts, writing and politics suffered depression (Edison, Roosevelt, Nixon, Beckett, Van Gogh, etc). I believe the message Karina wrote about is essential for a lot of people to hear about.

Here is a poem from the book that describes the motions of depression (written by Jo A. Witt, USA as printed in the book ‘Hear my silence’ by Karina Colgan, copyright of poem remains with Jo A. Wit):
When I’m hurting
It’s easier for you to walk away, than it is for you to reach out to me.
It’s easier for you to look away, than it is for you to see the depth of my despair.
It’s easier for you to look through me, than it is for you to see ‘me’.
It’s easier for you to distance yourself, than it is for you to really care.
It’s easier for you to hear, than it is for you to listen.
It’s easier for you to judge, than it is for you to understand.
It’s easier for you to label, than it is to get acquainted.
It’s easier for you to bask in your joy, than it is to feel my pain.
It’s easier for you to bewilder at my mysteries, than it is for you to probe deeply into the depths of my soul.It’s easier for me to look away, than it is to let you see the feelings betrayed through my eyes.
It’s easier for me to cry, than it is for me to talk.
It’s easier for me to walk alone, than it is to risk rejection.
It’s easier for me to push you away, than it is for me to be held.
It’s easier for me to distance myself, than it is to trust that you won’t hurt me.
It’s easier for me to die, than it is for me to face life’s challenges.It’s hard for me to smile when I am hurting.
It’s hard for me to talk when you won’t understand.
It’s hard for me to reach out when I need help the most.

If only you’d really look at me and see who I am.
If only you cared enough to reach out when I push you away.
If only you’d hold me, without asking why.
If only you’d acknowledge the validity of my feelings.

But it’s the easy roads that are most often taken.
And so I hurt alone.

Poem by Jo A. Witt, USA

In my view the poem truly describes the various emotions someone goes through in depression and how the world around them reacts. It’s frightening to think that even just understanding and being with the person with a non-judgemental attitude can help them move forward again. It is so simple and yet so often neglected. If there is someone in your circle that is suffering, do them a favour, read this book and give them understanding.

Become a meaningful specific as opposed to a wandering generality!

Become a meaningful specific as opposed to a wandering generality!

In the professional service industry, standing out from the crowd is vitally important. Most services are already available in one form or another, none of them are vastly unique. If you take the coaching industry for example, in the boom times, every second person and their dog was a life coach, thanks to the recession a lot of wannabee coaches are leaving the industry and those that truly mean business are still around.

The difference between working hard and working smart in the service industry is making sure people know what you are offering and who you are aiming at. We at our office recently looked at the services of B/Right Business Coaching and found in our niche audit that we were not specific enough and offering confusing services to a wide base of businesses. Hence our splitting the offering into 3 key areas and this one specifically targeted at start-up service businesses.

How did we make that decision? Well, our client base was already mainly service companies from one-man working from home type businesses to well established multi generation professional service companies. We have built our expertise in this area and have a great track record with start-ups, where we actually beat the statistics of companies making profit in their first 12 to 18 months as well as still being around and thriving after 3 years. So, when it comes to start-ups we know what they need, all we ask of our customers is that they are teachable and implement the suggestions in their companies.

If you are brand new to your service, you have the ideal postion of choice. You can choose who you enjoy working with, what kind of people you want to do business with and the kind of attributes they come with. The sooner you become very specific about your target market, the easier it is for people to buy from you and refer to you. The funny thing about being specific and putting your name to a particular type of work, means that you have an opportunity to have a good profit margin.

The challenge when I give workshops on marketing for professional services, is that business owners are afraid to be specific about their target market and their service, because they feel they might be losing out on other business if they go narrow and specific. In actual fact the wider and more general you remain, the more difficult it is to make money. Crazy fact!

So I guess, if you prefer to make less money, by all means stay general, but the risk of being very specific is that people recognise you for you do and cna refer business to you and you have the door wide open for profit. Funny enough, by being very specific, the other ‘general’ queries still come in and you can choose to take them on or not.

We sell on 3 key points: productivity and focus for high achievers through B/Right Focus Coaching, work/life balance and time-management hrough B/Right work life balance and start-up advice for professional service companies through this site B/Right start-ups. The commonality is that each service involves business coaching and is targeted at the professional services industry, but each have very distinctive needs and demands, hence a niche is available. We had this challenge of making 3 niches, because we decided to become more specific after a number of years in business.

How do you select your niche? First of all look at the various areas of experience you come with, your CV is a good starting point, even if it is an ecclectic mix of odd jobs, there may well be themes and generic trends that are unique to you. You can draw on personal experiences, because if you have personally experienced how to turn particular situations around for the better and you have designed a service around this, it may well work. Basically you are looking for a hook or angle to promote your service to a target market that is identifiable. Take start-ups for example, they are identifiable they tend to go to start your own business events, they can be found in enterprise competitions, they hang out in incubator centres, which is quite specific. Business coaching potential clients however as a target group is wide, varied and very non-specific, so also very hard to find or refer on to you.

The starting point is your own life and business experience and then you bring in the types of people you would like to sell to. I chose professional services, because it’s an industry I have pretty much always worked in from my management consulting days up to now. If your background is in retail, music, sports, etc. there may well be a potential niche angle of people you would like to work with and understand. Narrow it down to their attributes, which are things like teachability, having budgets, innovative, etc. The more specific you are, the easier it becomes to find these individuals.

Once you know your specific service and your specific target market, then it is a case of going out to find them in big numbers, which if you managed to define previous part in great detail, then they should be easy to find. Next step then is to go and spend time with them and truly understand their behaviours.

The real message here is to pick a niche that you know you will enjoy, identify the kinds of people you want as your clients and then go make your mark in this corner of the market. One of my mentors came up with a saying ‘A niche will make you riche’ (imagine a french accent at the end) . Become a meaningful specific in order to be profitable in your service business.

What animal are you?

What animal are you?

I am reading a book called ‘Dare, take your life on and win’ by Gary Leboff and normally books that ask me to work through all sorts of exercises before moving on to the next chapter annoy me as it disturbs a peaceful read. This one triggered some interesting questions, so I decided to play and have fun with it. So in the first chapter the author asks you to pick an animal that represents you and then he asks you to explain why.

I thought about it for a while and decided my animal was a Koala bear, as a child it was a favourite teddy bear and oneĀ of the first I ever received and the Koala creature has always intrigued me, so it felt like a match. Then the description made me think a little more, because most pictures of Koala’s are high up in a tree overlooking things and whilst they look nice and cuddly, I have been told they can be quite vicious when they lash out.

Hmmm, so what does that tell you about me…? (and some of my clients will now be sniggering at this stage)

My explanation is quite simple, I do like to see the bigger picture and will often distance myself to gain perspective, whether that is in business or in personal situations. I am generaly quite friendly and I often am told that I have an air of serenity about me, but equally can be found guilty of sledge hammer subtle comments. I do tend to do my own thing and like my independence a lot, so maybe the analogy and choice of animal is rather more revealing and accurate than I had originally thought.Considering I grew up in the Northern Hemispheres I havent actually learned an awful lot about Koala’s and have only seen them whilst on holiday in Australia, but even with limited knowledge I did gain a few nice insights. If there are Koala experts out there that feel like filling me in on the other attributes, please do let me know.

I question you, what animal represents you and what does that say about you?

It is fascinating once you detach yourself from the actual being and transfer yourself on to something else like an animal, what you learn in terms of perspective. I love learning, so I am always reading new books and keeping up-to-date with tools and techniques that may help my clients, but before I implement the techniques in my practice I try them for myself, because if they work on me I can give firsthand feedback on why it is a useful technique.If you have an animal insight or story to share as a result of this blog post, please do contact me, I would love to hear the insight you gained.