The Dog’s Gone Senile

There were just two of us that started Neocol back in 2003. I took care of sales and marketing, and my partner took care of the clever, technical stuff. When we began, we didn’t have that much capital. To boot, we had zero customers and not one member of staff to assist us. We made up for these shortcomings with a whole bunch of enthusiasm, energy, and creative ideas.

We had spotted a niche, and knew our friends over at IBM had some technology to address it. IBM was slow to realise what they had, so we effectively took the proposition to market for them.

After some persistent drum beating and clever marketing, we started to attend joint customer meetings. We had researched heavily, therefore on many occasions we actually ended up knowing more about IBM’s proposition than the IBM sales people accompanying us!
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Preparation

My journey to a client’s office this morning took 4 hours. To drive 60 miles! It wasn’t as if I hadn’t prepared; in fact I had allowed nearly 2 hours for a journey which normally takes me around an hour 20.

Even though I had prepared by knowing the exact route and allowing more than adequate time, I failed. Just goes to show, preparation doesn’t guarantee success. After sitting in queued traffic on a motorway slip for what seemed like an eternity, I cut my losses – giving up on the time I had committed to the queue and proceeded to drive another 25 miles to cut around the traffic and eventually arrive at my destination.

Preparation is key to any new venture. However, just because you’ve built a plan doesn’t mean it’s going to work the way you have mapped out. Knowing when to change course, take avoiding action or even turn around and start again fresh another day is vital for achieving success.

Reading the Road

Back when I was learning to drive, my instructor always used to tell me to “read the road”. To look ahead, to be aware of distant threats – by doing this I was always able to react for what was coming in the future, rather than what was directly in front.

It’s all too often people forget about the future and concentrate on the now. Focus on day to day cashflow, appraisals, email, meetings. That’s great and needed, but there’s always a balance. Forward thinking insight and analysis, enables you to spot threats and deal accordingly before you end-up hitting that unexpected patch of ice.

Market’s change. Customers change. Make sure you are adequately prepared to change with them.

Tenacity

Remember as a kid when you’ll do anything to get what you want? Feelings of embarrassment don’t even feature? When I was around seven years old, I desperately wanted a hamster. All my friends had them. They were cool and I was the odd one out.

I settled on the idea of a sit-in protest to convince my parents to buy me one. I locked myself in the family bathroom (we only had one) until they backed down and said yes. I even roped my sister in to pass me biscuits under the door to keep hunger at bay. I can’t recall exactly how many hours I was in there, but it worked. I got my first hamster.

As we get older, it’s not uncommon to lose that die-hard belief in achieving your goals; too many knock-backs, a crappy boss, prospects that won’t take your call. My advice? Keep focused. If you truly believe in what you are doing then it will show. We had plenty of obstacles to overcome when building our business, but with each one you learn.

Don’t lose momentum. Treat each no as the journey to a yes.

Don’t be like Jack

Most people would have heard the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”. I think there is a danger in business to overpromise and under-deliver. By trying to fulfil every challenge your client throws at you, you risk over-committing yourself big time.

Not so long ago, when I was a spritely 21 year old I worked for a large Managed Services IT firm. We had a brilliant team based on a client site full time. We look care of everything from Windows desktops to telecoms. There was a trend of having to know little about lots – Covering different systems and environments; one minute learning how to patch a phone to a switch, the next sorting out a user who couldn’t log-on to their machine. I never quite got this – We were busy doing adequate jobs up until a point, but when anything serious was encountered the whole service fell apart. We had to wait for a more senior engineer to be drafted in. The customer had to wait.
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Waving the Flag

Today millions of England football fans worldwide get behind their beloved team. Many have travelled thousands of miles to South Africa to cheer them on in person. You don’t have to look very hard to see painted faces, flags flying proud from houses, cars and shop windows. Some fans are so die hard that they even have England tattoos on their body.

The question is how die hard are your fans?

Creating loyal customers is one of the first rules we learnt in building a business. Customers that will recommend you to other customers. Customers that even continue to sing your praises when the chips are down. Everything ultimately comes down to product and exceptional service.

Who’s waving your flag today?