Archive for July, 2010
Here’s a top tip: When you’re due to meet someone in a coffee shop, arrive five minutes early and call them, saying: “Hi, I’m in the queue at Costas, what would you like me to get you?”
This way, if they say: “Oh, sorry, I’ve been held up. Can we meet some other time…” then (a) you haven’t wasted 20 minutes waiting for them and (b) you haven’t wasted the price of a coffee you wouldn’t have ordered if you hadn’t been meeting someone.
And (c) any disappointment you feel at your prospect not turning up is outweighed by the sense of extreme cleverness engendered by (a) and (b)!
This, in turn, means that you’re still feeling positive about the business and so, instead of sitting gloomily over a cappuccino you don’t want, you go out into the street to use up the extra time you now have in your diary by asking a likely person: “Hi, I’ve got a prize draw going, d’you want to have a go? You could win a car!”
Yesterday, the first person said: “No thank you” but the second person said “yes” and it turned out her husband pays £90 a month to BT – mostly for international calls which I could get him for nothing! She wants me to call him on Wednesday when he gets back from Hong Kong.
But that’s the way it went yesterday: Just before leaving for the proposed meeting at Costa’s, I was putting up the badminton net with the children when my phone rang: The voice on the other end said: “Hello, my brother-in-law gave me your card. Apparently you gave it to him in the street but he’s already a member of your club and he says I should join as well. How do that?”
So I when to see him and told him and he did join. In fact he even took the leap of faith by adding Broadband for the computer his grandchildren had given him which had been sitting unused in the spare bedroom.
And then, sometime in the afternoon, when I was back in town taking my eldest son to sort out his bank accounts (why does he have two?) he wanted to go to Smiths to buy the latest Eoin Colfer. That meant I had a choice to make: Either I could go in and mooch around the magazine rack or I could stay outside with my Win-a-Mini forms. Of course I chose the Win-a-Mini and two minutes later I was talking to two people who happened to live next door to each other – and now have an appointment for Friday.
It’s better to be five minutes early than one minute late. That’s what we teach on the company training course and as a company trainer I like to practise what I preach – but 35 minutes early??
Well, that’s when I pulled into the car park of the furniture showroom where I was due to meet my prospect in the coffee shop – and I knew I could not drink coffee for 35 minutes by myself. So I looked around for something profitable to do – and that was when I noticed a particular peculiarity: As far as the eye could see (and it can see a long way in an out-of-town retail park in East Anglia) there seemed to be nothing but other furniture showrooms… and leather sofa retailers… and bed emporia… and flooring warehouses … and bathroom specialists…
The place was a phenomenon. Ah well, it didn’t really matter. I stepped into the nearest one which happened to sell marble, granite, ceramic floor tiles, solid and laminate wood flooring… you get the picture.
“Hi, can you help me,” I said brightly to the young man behind the desk. “I’m looking for top salespeople who might like to increase their income and I wondered if you might be one of those.”
He looked interested but cagey – for which you can hardly blame him – and that led to a conversation. I forget exactly how it went but I do remember the first significant point he made: “It’s only my first week here.”
“Really? Did you work in another flooring store before or is this something of a change for you?”
He said: “I had my own flooring business but I lost it. I split up with my partner. We ran the business between us and she kept it.”
You can guess where this led us: The cost of setting up a new business… the ignominy of working for someone else for a weekly wage… how long it would take him to save up the price of starting up again for himself.
I slipped a piggy card across the counter: “Take a look at that. Which would you say is your Number One priority”.
He looked down the list and answered without hesitation: “Time with the family.” His family was now his little girl. He pulled out his phone with her picture.
Casually, as if the thought had just occurred, I mused: “You know I have something that you might like to take a look at. If I could show you a way to start your own business again – not for thousands of pounds but for just £199.75 – which would pay you enough to give you the time with your daughter that she needs with here Daddy at the same time as building up an inheritance for her future, would that be something that you might be interested in exploring further?
And the next moment we had a piece of paper out on the counter and he was poring over my diagrams of how the money worked.
Now, I have no idea whether he will watch the DVD and check out the website – or, indeed whether he really will come to our Open Evening next week and bring all his friends.
But what I do know is that sometimes my timing is perfect!
The training session at our new HQ in the Edgware Road finishes at 5.00 p.m. Our evening opportunity meeting starts at 7.30. It takes 25 minutes to drive between them – but you mustn’t arrive before 7.00 p.m. or you won’t be able to park.
These are the sort of logistical prolems which perplex the countryman up in London for the day.
With Maida Vale looming ever-larger on the horizon and the clock still refusing to get past 6.15, it was clear I was going to have to stop. Several times I attempted this – turning off the main road into a maze of residents’ parking. I could just see myself getting flushed into Marylebone Road like leaf down a drainpipe.
And then I saw a space. Well it wasn’t much of a space – even for a Mini. But then the car in front moved obligingly. The driver got out and looked – offering the helpful advice that since it was now after 6.30, I didn’t need to put any money in the machine.
Then he said: “What’s all this about, then,” gesturing at the Mini.
“It’s about money,” I said (I always say that). “Are you interested in money?”
Ten minutes later – still standing by the ticket machine – I knew this about him: He owned three convenience stores with several hundred customers ever day. His sister owned two solicitor’s practices. He didn’t take holidays. He would like to take holidays.
And he knew this about me: I am always looking out for successful business people who are willing to look at new business ideas. I could show him how to bolt on a separate income to his current business just by asking one simple question of everyone who goes into his shops.
Is it any surprise that he wants to talk to me again…
(and yes, of course I offered to take him to the opportunity meeting – and he’d have come if he hadn’t been due in Hendon at the same time).
They don’t have school fetes in Spain – at least not according to the 15-year-old Spanish student who is staying with us for a month this summer. So I took him round, explained about coconut shies and Punch and Judy (I invested Punch and Judy with all the significance of Shakespeare). But eventually he got bored with listening to my contribution to the African Drumming Workshop and wandered off. I headed for the Fire Engine.
Now, it is a fact that from the age of five I have wanted to be a fireman. Indeed in the dark days when I was broke and unemployed, I applied to be a retained firefighter (they never bothered to write back). So I went and moaned about all this to a very nice man looking after the fire engine.
It turned out he was a retained firefighter too – which means that being a hero was a little part-time thing for him. The rest of the time he had his own business supplying first aid kits to businesses.
I couldn’t help it; I asked him how that was going.
He gave me the same reply that everone else does: “Terrible.The recession’s making a big difference.
So I couldn’t really say anything else. I said: “I have a colleague who’s a retained firefighter – Keith Bassi. Do you know him?”
- amazingly the guy said he thought he did.
The upshot is that he’s looking at the website and I’m calling him on Monday – and, in the long run, that’s all that matters …
The two dried-up pieces of pizza flopped into the kitchen waste bin – joint victims of my new determination to be really, really helpful.
Unfortunately this only lasted as long as it took my wife to come in and ask what had happened to our son’s packed lunch.
The ensuing discussion about helpfulness could have left me feeling grumpy – if it hadn’t been for what happened last night: Browsing on Networkerplus, I discovered that “The Last Lecture” is available on YouTube. I had no idea it had ever been filmed. It was certainly my all-time favourite book.
If you don’t know about this phenomenon, search for Randy Pausch The Last Lecture. Believe me this is one of the most powerful stories you will ever experience and it certainly changes your view of the day ahead.
And today it did that for me. I put the pizza behind me and set out to do my wife a good turn by getting her balding tyres checked. But no sooner had the guy in the tyre centre started looking up delivery times for new ones than the phone rang. He then spent the next five minutes talking to someone else. Meanwhile it turned out I had left the car blocking the entrance. Would I move it? Would I have needed to move it if the guy hadn’t been talking to someone else for the last five minutes???
But I had a new view of the day. Of course I would move it.
And what goes around comes around: The van that needed to get into the tyre bay had a mobile phone number on the side. Instinctively I started to send a text but then I thought: “Why not go and talk to the driver? He’s probably gong to be hanging around as well – after all the tyre guy is still talking on the phone.”
So I went over and got started on the script I learned on Monday’s Advanced Leadership course.
And guess what, the driver said he was always ready to look at new business ideas.
In fact, what he said was: “Actually I was thinking of giving up the building game. There’s no money in it any more and quite honestly I’m fed up with the hassle.”
“So how soon will you be able to watch that?” I asked him, refusing to let go of the DVD until I had an answer.
“This afternoon, ” he said.