Where’s the loyalty?

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We live in a society where it is compete or be beaten…. literally make one mistake and you’re out, there is no loyalty.

A friend of mine runs an advertising business, a small boutique style agency that caters to those marketing types that like good service and a direct line of communication into the designer or creative person they are dealing with. They have been open for 6 years, 7 months and 9 days and have grown from 2 to 20 in that time. More recently they have had to downsize, here’s why: About a year ago, they were in the throws of some major activation projects for a big client. Big jobs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and they put everything into it, including several extra staff that were basically dedicated to the account. The client completely relied on them, pushed everything their way, pushed them to the limits with last minute requests, tight budgets and outrageous ideas. And then something went wrong, the result of a simple yet expensive mistake, made by a third party supplier.

What ensued was a battle to the end. The client pointed their finger like a child and said “it’s all your fault”. They wanted no part in taking responsibility and left my friend to fix the problem. Even once it was fixed, they weren’t happy and eventually stopped using the agency as a supplier. What was worse is that they found this out via industry talk, the client didn’t even have the decency to talk to them in person.

Another example a little closer to home – Banks. Need I say anymore? Although this is more in the reverse as the businesses are the clients and the bank is a supplier of credit. An article (written by Ben Potter) recently in the Financial review stated “Small business gets the short straw in bank loans department”. It went on to discuss how difficult it is for small business to get a bank loan. And it is true, even those businesses with money in the bank can’t get a loan, let alone the ones that need it to re-invest, grow or just keep the doors open.

And then there are the personal stories I often hear, people who have been customers of a company, bank or the local hairdresser having one thing go wrong and then vowing never to return….. along with doing a full smear campaign to all their friends, family and anyone who will listen. We are all guilty of this at least once in our lives.

My take on this is that everyone wants a fair go, if we give them a few opportunities and they continually make a meal of things, then I say its definitely time to move on. Would you never speak to your closest friend again because they told someone something you asked them not to? Would you give up on your parents for always being late? Would you give up on your bank manager for not keeping up the service after the initial ‘sign up’ period? Would you leave your hairdresser for cutting your hair slightly short? My thoughts are no, you wouldn’t. But friends and family are one thing, bank managers and hairdressers another.

And what of loyalty programs? I would have at least 20 separate loyalty cards in my wallet (now all stored in a handy app on my iphone, thanks #stocard) how about you? Loyalty programs are just another way to reel you in…. basically you get more back by spending more. When actually you’d probably save more by shopping around.

Loyalty lies where we feel it should, everyone has their own standards, but in business, loyalty seems to go out the window. So what does this mean for the age old saying “It’s not what you know it’s who you know”? I think it means it’s time for a new saying, and it’s high time we got our priorities straight. We are people, we are hard wired to survive no matter what, we look after ourselves and our progeny first and everything else comes second. So ask yourself, what do I value? Do I want to be that person who is nice and always does the right thing, or am I the self-centred type who is only out to get the best possible outcome for me? Can I be the one in the middle, who sometimes puts others needs in front of my own and sometimes takes the selfish route?

Do what comes naturally, there is no reason to agonise over the decision, I say go with your gut and most of the time you will feel good about your decision, loyal or not. Loyalty is a wonderful trait, and really should be saved for those that deserve your loyalty, like your family, friends and your dog, but when it comes to business, keep your wits about you and trust no one!

DIY Learning – is it teaching me anything?

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Recently I decided that I wanted to start studying again…. what so after 5 years with children working part time, being part of a board of management and running a household I didn’t have enough to do right? Wrong, I decided I wanted more for myself in the future and casually enrolled myself in the beginning of what I hope will one day put an MBA after my name.

The trouble is, you have to read, read, read. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE reading, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting down and immersing yourself in a really interesting book. But when does one have time to do this? At night I hear you say, before you go to bed? Yes, I too am a serial bed reader, sitting up many a late night with my trusty iPad (e-reader for some) and reading until I can’t stay awake anymore. In fact, when I started my course, I thought to myself “uh, this will be fine, I’ll do the reading at night and activities during the day”.

Has anyone ever tried to read a financial journal at midnight? Even at 10pm? The first subject in my return to studies is Financial Management 101. For those with a solid accounting or financial background this subject would most likely be a breeze, even enjoyable, I on the other hand am a self-taught finance director of a small privately owned business, and know didley squat about accounting or public companies, so financial articles tend to make me a bit sleepy because I don’t understand the subject well enough. It makes it hard to stay awake!

The course features well over 650 pages (plus the text book) of reading over a 12 week period. Whilst any person might say “that’s easy!” I am here to tell you, not so my friend. I constantly find myself falling asleep while trying to read the course material at night, I was beginning to think that maybe this course is way above my head, maybe I just can’t do it…… maybe I should re-think my goal here and aim a little lower?

For anyone that knows me well enough, you’d know that I am determined and stubborn, and rarely claim defeat. And so when I was on the brink of giving up on my studies, I thought I can’t just give up – what would I do if I was at work – I’d find a solution, another way, the best way to make it work for me. I realised, if this DIY learning is not teaching me anything except failure, then it needs to change. I also realised the school I am utilising (who shall remain nameless) should be doing a lot more to support it’s DIY (online) students. They put everything on you to organise, team collaboration, sourcing information, reading the text and provided materials, there is really not much else. OK so there is an e-community we can log into and ask questions – the few times I have done this the responses have been so complex they have not really helped.

I thought with the technology available these days the teacher could prepare some online video content discussing some of the more difficult subjects at least allowing us to hear the information in lamens terms. Combined with reading the jargon-filled text and journals provided this might give us better tools to learn with.

I am not a qualified teacher, so how can I expect myself to teach myself and for my busy brain to retain so much information through reading alone? I can’t. So what do I have? I have the technology to enable online learning, I have some gadgets to enable learning on the go, I have a little bit of time to spare so all I need now is the right teacher and teaching method, and hopefully I’ll do better than just a pass….. time to go back to the trusty old classroom!

I have my FM-101 exam in 2 weeks so we’ll see how I go DIY style – then I’ll compare to a classroom method next semester!

BreaJGray

Im always busy, how about you?

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Some say that being busy is an addiction, some say that it is a way of life and some say that it’s just hard wired into our genes. When people ask me how am I, my general response is “Yeah good, really busy” implying that I enjoy having a lot to do. I once had a work colleague tell me “If you want something done give it to a busy person” and to date I have to say that it’s true.

The definition of busy is ‘having great deal to do’. For some, having a great deal to do could just be for today, and tomorrow they will have nothing to do. For others, having a great deal to do could mean hundreds of tasks on multiple lists for multiple parts of their lives resulting in a lifetime of things to do….. (this was me just in case you’re wondering).

Earlier this year I discovered a fabulous book “How to get things done“, thank you David Allen, a book about stress free productivity and ongoing management of all the different areas of your life. I highly recommend this book if you want to get yourself organised. His knowledge and experience has set off a chain reaction of events that have now lead me to start this blog. As this is my first post I don’t expect a response, however I am keen to start blogging short posts on a regular posts that will hopefully give some handy tips to other people like myself that feel as though they always have so many things to do and not enough time to do them.

Coming up in the next few weeks I plan to write posts about studying and working from home, working with a family, the importance of board governance and supporting someone close to you with a business. Each post will share some of my experiences as well as my thoughts on ways to improve quality of life, but still have it all!

So if you’re busy being busy like me, raising 2 boys, married, working from home, studying, VP of a board of management, trying to keep fit and entereing the world of blogs BUT you feel like you just can’t keep up the pace, fear not! It can be done, and you’ll still get some sleep!

Stay tuned for the next installment of NonStop.