Networking

If You Hate Networking… Part 1

What’s the point of networking?

Three of the most common fears of people starting out in business are:

  1. Failure
  2. Speaking in public
  3. Networking.

Hands up if you read that and just said ‘yes’ to yourself. Well, I can help you with two of them… by getting the best from the third one. That is the dreaded n-word – Networking.

The purpose of networking is simple: to access other people’s strengths and contacts which you don’t currently have. This helps you punch above your own individual weight and means you’re less likely to fail. That’s fear of failure covered.

I will also share some ways to network without having to say ‘Hi, my name is…’ and then dry up. Better still, there are ways of doing the whole networking thing without having to speak to a single person. At least, not until you’ve built a rapport. That’s a tick for speaking in public too.

But why network at all? From my experience, there are three main reasons people network:

  1. To get more work.
  2. To get better suppliers.
  3. To gain broader experience.

NetworkingMore work.

The traditional view of networking is that by getting yourself ‘out there’, you can attract more people to yourself and what you’re selling (or what you want people to invest in). For instance if you want to be a model, going out with a stack of headshots in your bag will help when you meet that agent who has been “looking for someone just like you”. It’s a bit like giving out fliers for your rave. Yep, you’re promoting yourself. Interestingly, when I used to work as a club promoter, we used a 20:1 ratio. So for every 20 fliers we gave out, we only expected one person to turn up. If the club had a 1000 capacity, that’s 20,000 fliers to print and give out. Ain’t nobody got time for that! What networking properly does is put you in the right place, with the right people. That way you only need to carry five fliers rather than 20,000. I will come back to fliers and networking later.

Better suppliers.

No one becomes successful by themselves. As well as people who will buy into what you’re doing, networking connects you with people who will help you achieve success  more quickly and, often, more cheaply. Suppliers are literally that; people who supply what you need to get what you want done. We need these people anyway, but networking will get us around the best people. Often we think our ambitions are unique or exclusive – not entirely. The big picture definitely is all you. You have been given a specific insight, idea or vision for something which only you can bring about – with your own distinct flavour. However, some of the smaller details can be supported by someone else. For instance, although Jay-Z, Mary Mary, Bruno Mars and Jake Bug may have slightly different ways of expressing their creativity; they all need an accountant. Or a tour manager. Or a personal trainer. Or someone who does their laundry. Connecting with others in your field can get you better deals on your supporting team (so to speak).

Broader experience.

The bad news is you can’t do everything immediately. No matter how small your dream is, there’s likely to be a lack of experience or knowledge in getting to it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a dream; you would be doing it already. That is where the third purpose of networking comes in. It will help you bridge that gap in the short term. Think of it like this – if you wanted to learn how to drive, you would find someone who can already to teach you how. You want to be able to do what they do, but in the meantime you can use their expertise.

The good news is we already network. You’ve been doing it for years without a worry. Have you ever wanted to try something new? A new service provider for your phone or internet? A music streaming service? Going on a trip to Barcelona?

What we tend to do is ask the people in our close circle of friends and family. ‘Has anyone been to Barcelona before?’ Yes… perhaps your best friend had a good time when they went. They will recommend places to go; the cheapest or finest dining in the area and a few other things you wouldn’t have found out if you had just Googled ‘Barcelona’. What if they haven’t been to Spain before? Chances are they know someone or at least know of someone else who has been to Barcelona. The person you know will connect you with the person you don’t know, who will know something that you didn’t know.

And that’s… networking. It’s really not about business cards or elevator pitches (all of which are important and helpful). Networking is simply connecting with people who are outside your current circle who can help you get things done.

In the next couple of articles, I’ll give you a few tips on how to network without those awkward conversations, and some dos and don’ts for when you do have to network face-to-face. Stay tuned.

Not Delegating Can Lead to Divorce.

The title of this blog alone has already activated the emergency shut down procedures for some of us. ‘OMG! You mean I have to let someone else do something that I could do myself? Arrrrghhh! What if… what about… they might not… but the last time I did that… etc’.

One of my coaching clients was reduced to tears at the very thought of letting someone else do something for them. We did get breakthrough in the end but it took a while. That’s because delegating is deep. It’s more than a skill that all leaders should have. It is founded on a very personal perception of the world and your place is in it. Huh? Without getting into too much psychology, asking someone else to influence the outcome of something you’re responsible for taps into our issues around trust, communication and self-esteem. Before it starts to sound like a therapy session, look at it another way.

The top reason people leave their jobs is because of a bad manager. The most common cause of couples breaking up is a bad partner. In both cases, it often comes down to not feeling valued, a lack of trust and poor communication. Delegating, whether in a business or a personal relationship, says to the other person “you are kind, you are smart, you are important”.

you-is-kind

image courtesy of samanthacatherinemacdonald.wordpress.com

I Can Do It All Myself… Eventually.

Many of us can’t find enough hours in the day to do everything we need to do. Delegating spreads the load. It’s a way of getting more done with the little time and expertise we have, by borrowing bits of time and expertise from other people.

As a coach, the top three reasons I hear for not delegating are:

  1. I can’t possibly do it. There’s so much to consider.
  2. What if they mess it up? Then I’ll have twice as much to do.
  3. It will be quicker/easier/better to do it myself.

Hit the reset button and let’s start again. Tom Peters is a thought leader in Management academia. He sums up delegating in two brash steps – Let go and shut up!

It’s not that simple. Delegating is as much about getting the best for the other person as it is for you. Remember that by allowing someone to get involved, you are also saying that you trust and value them. As someone who runs a business, you are probably paying for that person’s time; why not get the best out of them? In the context of personal relationships, continually being in control says to your partner – “I don’t trust that you won’t mess this up“ or “I can’t talk to you about what is happening” or even worse “I’ll do this myself because I don’t need you”. It is not what you are literally saying. However, that’s exactly what you’re communicating. Remember that actions speak much louder than words. This will sound very familiar to any victims of Bridezillas.

Why We Don’t Delegate.

The reasons why people don’t delegate are often about control; more specifically, insecurity. Not being sure that the world won’t cave in if they don’t do the task themselves. In the coaching session I spoke of previously, all the ‘worst case scenarios’ that the client responded with sounded like an apocalyptic Michael Bay film! “What if someone died?” Well, in the process of completing the book they were trying to write, the probability of fatalities were minimal. However, delegating is connected to a lot of deep stuff, so to them it was as bad as death… or even worse. You couldn’t possibly put that kind of responsibility on someone else!

Communication of both the risks and the task to be done are another reason why we don’t delegate. If I have to explain what I need and why it is so important, it might sound… well. The truth is we often haven’t worked out how to articulate what we need done and why it is clearly important. It’s just connected with other implications and consequences that never leave our internal processing. The delegation itself isn’t the challenge. It’s having to explain everything that goes with it.

For example: asking a team member to finalise the figures for a presentation or deliver a cake seems simple enough. You tell them what you want, when it has to be done by and what resources they have to complete it. What’s not so straightforward is explaining that you had over-promised and now it’s overdue. Because of that there’s no slack in getting the cake there on time or getting the figures right. Your personal reputation, and that of your contact who suggested you do this, is on the line. You knew from the start that it was a long shot but rather than say ‘no thanks’ and bow out gracefully, you had a point to prove because the competitor on this job is your former partner… and it goes on.

We also don’t delegate because we can’t stop working. We have to always be doing something to make sure we feel part of what is happening. The justifications to keep working, and adding to the to-do-list, are endless. Another client summed it up like this: “what would I do if I had nothing to do?” Well, I would have thought you’d go home and rest, or enjoy some time with your family. BOOM!! No, they couldn’t do that! Their role was contributing to the family, not actually being a part of it. What if they couldn’t be a good father, like their father was? Again, whenever you peel back the skin on delegating, you find out some pretty interesting stuff.

Finally, not delegating often comes down to trust. Either we don’t trust ourselves or the other people around us. See, if I do it all myself, no-one can judge me have making the decisions that got me into this spot in the first place. After all, we’ve got it all handled – all by ourselves. When we aren’t making excuses for ourselves, we question the fidelity of others. Are they genuine? Are they capable? Will they leave me with the task half down? “If they are given an opportunity to do more, they might use it for their own purposes – I will not be used like that again”. Wide eyes, raised eyebrows – but this is genuinely how some people feel about delegating.

Surely, it’s not that bad?

Let’s also consider the other side of the coin. If you are the person primed and ready to be delegated to, it can feel a bit like being kitted out and and on the field but never being passed the ball. It reminds me of my secondary school PE football matches. There were a few guys who were star players. They were gifted and loved the attention they got for it. They always got to play upfront where all the action was. Then there were the other members of the ‘team’ who were told to play defence. They rarely got a piece of the action at the other end of the pitch. No-one would pass the ball to them and they never got to play up field.

In fact, a couple of my classmates got so used to the position that they would bring sweets and drinks with them, even a pocket games console – after all they weren’t really in the other game. Not unless, there was a sudden rush on the goal. Then it was make or break. Their one opportunity to save the day. If they cleared the ball from the goal, the game continued up field. Back to business as usual. However, if they failed and the other team scored, they would get the attention of the entire team – and the coach! “You wally! How crap are you? Your one chance to do something for the team and you mess it up.”

Surprisingly, they didn’t tend to feel good about themselves or the team or the coach. If that happened in your business, you’ve got a disgruntled employee. If that was in your marriage, you could be on the road to divorce.

image courtesy of Mosnar Communications

image courtesy of Mosnar Communications

How to be better at delegating.

Firstly, you can only delegate tasks; not emotions or intentions. It has be a physical thing that someone else can do. Consider these five simple steps the next time you have the opportunity to delegate:

Be very clear

State what the task is. Also communicate what it would mean to you and the business (or relationship) when the task is completed successfully. The delegator might have to declare any hidden agenda here. After all, we are on the same team, right? Otherwise, consider whether you can delegate something else instead of this sensitive task. SMART tasks will be a great help to both of you.

Size is important

If you’re trying to get better at delegating, start by sharing simple tasks. The temptation is to overload the person you’re delegating to so they fail, and you prove your point that delegating is a bad thing. Single, unconnected tasks will be more comfortable for you both; rather than complicated, interdependent ones.

Give them a break

Chances are you know how complex the task can be through experience. So as well as delegating the task, pass on some of your insights. For example: you know delivering cakes at that time of day, to that address, can be a parking nightmare for parking outside the client’s place. It’s less hassle to park across the road in the multi-storey car park. There may be other things you could set up to make completing the task easier: does it need a budget or an introduction in advance? Remember delegating proves to them that you want them to SUCCEED. Remember: they are smart, kind and important.

Give them a lifeline

The television show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire gave us an understanding of how lifelines work. Let the person you are delegating to feel like it’s not a one shot deal. Arrange a time they can speak with you if they need any clarification. That may be as simple as suggesting to them that you’ll be free between 1pm – 2pm if they have any questions. It makes them feel like there is help if they need it. It also means they might start working on it before 1pm rather than leave it to the last minute. Ironically, when people leave things to the last opportunity it’s often not because they are lazy. If they’ve only got limited time to do something, there’s no room to be excellent. You just have to go with what you’re getting. That way, it lets them off the hook – but that’s an entirely different post.

How was it for you?

Don’t let all the attention be on when things fail. No matter how simple the task, you will go a long way with a simple question: so how did it go? By engaging in conversation about the task, the delegator reinforces that you value their time and effort. Accept that they might be able to bring something different to the task. Your way isn’t always the best way, if it means the task gets done better/easier/quicker. Perhaps you’ve always had to travel across the rush hour to deliver the cakes, but your colleague finds it more convenience to park outside the client if they make the deliver just after lunch. Allow them to bring something new to the table.

couple-counting-money-2 IG

Money Talks #3: Talking About It

couple-counting-money-2 IG

This series is all about talking about money and getting it out in the open. We are relatively bad at talking about money – in both our business or personal lives. In the first instalment, I discussed our relationship with our finances. Even before we have counted what we have, how do we feel about the issue of money? Are we fearful, ambitious or out of control? Knowing where we stand with our cash is the first area to master.

Then I talked about managing what you do have coming in and going out. How we manage the little we have will help when the millions are rolling in. Let’s be frank, if we can’t handle £1000 a month effectively we’ll be swamped when we get £100,000! Managing money is about principles and systems, rather than luck or coincidence. If ‘hope’ is the way we are planning on balancing the books, we are a liability to our financial future – according to my former accountant.

The third instalment addresses the delicate issue of talking about money. I was surprised that more people are find it easier talking about their relationship history than their financial one. This is even more of a problem when it comes to discussing your income, salary or fee (a freelancer’s and contractor’s nightmare). We can help. Here are five ways to get the most out of your money conversations.

Know Your Worth

Often we are excited about an opportunity and want to get stuck in quickly. We have to be sure that it’s worth our time. Once you know your worth, you can confidently talk about how much you should be getting paid to be part of it. Your skills are the way you pay your bills. Each hour given to someone costs you something. So whether it’s your day rate or what your monthly target is, understanding what you are worth is vital. Research what the going rate is for what you do. Email a few competitors and get quotes. If your industry has a professional body or association, they will often have a sample rate card. Don’t forget to include your costs to finish the job, as well as what you want to personally get paid.

Sometimes it’s your time rather than your money that’s important. We have personal goals (such us spending more time with family, friends, working out, etc.). Consider whether taking on that new project is truly worth the effort when compared with spending a quiet weekend with your loved ones.

Know What To Say

It’s easier to ask about money without feeling awkward by having a set form of words. Yes, literally have money catchphrases that you are comfortable with. That way asking about or chasing money doesn’t feel so personal i.e. “what’s the budget for this project?” Or ask “how are the costs being covered?” The more you speak with others about money, the more you’ll hear these phrases coming up over and over again.

Also your actions with paying others say a lot about you. If you are often evasive about money or you’re regularly having to explain to people you work with why they aren’t getting paid – whatever the reason – they will be looking at you cautiously. Your actions show them that you aren’t looking out for their financial interests. Whether they tell you about it or not, once you’ve short changed or delayed paying someone what you owe or promised them, I can guarantee you that you’re no longer number 1 on their ‘eager to work with’ list.

Know When You’re Getting Paid

Whenever you agree how much your are getting paid, also ask WHEN you will be paid. Again, use those money catchphrases to help yourself out. Ask “and what are the payment terms, 30 days on receipt of invoice?” You are not asking anything that any credible business hasn’t already considered.

Often the person who is responsible for sorting out your payments is not the same person you’re speaking to about the business. Find out who the finance contact is and get both a phone number and email address for them. If you have to chase them, you’ll have their direct contact details. It will save you having to awkwardly remind someone you’ve worked closely with for money.

If you do have to chase an unpaid invoice, call first then follow up with an email to confirm what you’ve spoken about on the phone. It’s in your interest that you stay on top of what’s happening with your money, which you have worked hard for.

No Money, No Problem

Sometimes, we will be presented with an opportunity which has very little money in it. That might be because it’s charity work or simply a very small budget. Know your worth and consider if you can still benefit while working for free. I discussed that two years ago when because of contractual terms, I couldn’t earn any additional income. Also most of the work was for very small businesses or social enterprises. Here’s the original article about working for free and still benefiting with expenses and testimonials.

Scratch My Back…

Finally, there is absolutely no money to this gig. Neither is there the opportunity to leverage the work for your profile – no expenses, no testimonials, no opportunity to document your work. There is still a way of getting something out of the deal – trading skills or contacts.

Trading skills is the most obvious, and is very common. An accountant will set up the finance system for a new design business in exchange for an updated website. A cake maker will sponsor a motivational speaker’s event in return for some one-on-one advice. However you do it, make sure you have a record of what you are trading and what you are receiving. It’s still a contract and it has a value. It has to make sense to you. Don’t exchange a year’s worth of service for the equivalent of an afternoon’s work for the other person. If that’s the case, consider offering a discount on your service or product rather than the full service in exchange.

You can also trade contacts. Remember networking is the lifeblood of your business, and if you can be connected with more businesses or a key skill you need through someone else’s contacts – bingo! You’re still winning. Ask for an introduction, with a glowing testimonial of your great work, and go on to do greater things… all without a single penny changing hands.

Money Talks #2: Balancing the Bank

We’re getting into our finances this month. This instalment leans more towards personal finances; however the principles also apply with business accounting too. I wanted to write this series on money because it’s one of those areas where many businesses struggle. It’s simply because we won’t talk about it. We are too embarrassed or feel it might be used to judge us. After all, the quote goes ‘numbers don’t lie’. In a recent survey more people in Britain said they are more comfortable talking about their sexual history than their finances (Discover Society, 2014).

Jar of Coins cropOur second instalment on the topic of money is delicate art of balancing the books. We have this statement called a bank balance. However we often miss the implication in the words: matching outgoings with incomings. The following can help us get to grips with staying on top of that balancing act.

Know what’s coming in and going out.

I became debt free within six months, for the first time, simply by understanding what was happening to my money.

Before you start to budget or even worry about you shortfall, get a real grip on what you get in versus what leaves your bank account. By looking at a 3 month period of your bank statements, you can get an idea of what you are spending and where you’re spending it. Before I did this for the first time, I thought my problem was that I wasn’t making enough money. It turned out I had approximately £400 more coming in than I ‘spent’. So why was I still in debt?

Well, nice chai-lattes from Starcostas and Pret-A-Subway lunches add up. As do penalty fees and parking fines – all unnecessary drains on the budget.

50% of monthly income should cover all your bills.

I can’t take credit for this one – thanks to my Mum and a few other financial principles I have picked up along the way. I try to make sure at half of my regular income meets all the payments I need to make to say living the lifestyle I would like. So that includes rent or mortgages, utilities, travel, council tax, etc. Again, the first time I looked at this, I realised I was paying far too much of my income on just staying alive each month.

If I couldn’t increase my income, I had to reduce my outgoings. Smaller bills like phone bills and utilities can be minimised by taking advantage of a good switching deal. Other bills, like mortgage or rent, could be a longer term financial ambition.

The common trap is credit cards and loans. They are not living costs. They are debt. We’ll come to that later. The other 50% of my income is shared out in different ways to meet my personal life goals. I will go into more detail at the end of this blog. However, one of those areas is being debt-free which, brings us to…

Recognise debt.

We have debt. That’s it. It exists and everybody has some (or at some point, had some). The other unescapable fact is that because of the way we live in the UK, we will have debt again. Debt can’t be considered as a living expense and therefore should be treated differently. I promise you that you will be surprised how many of us are struggling with debt, simply because we haven’t taken it out of our living cost and dealt with it differently.

Credit cards, overdrafts, loans, etc. Debt comes in many forms. As with your income and outgoings, put a figure on how much you owe. Also assess the interest due on each debt. Then start to do something about it.

Respond to debt.

As optimistic as it is, hoping to win the lottery to pay off your debt is perhaps not the best strategy. Most debt come with interest payments. The simplest thing is to minimise the amount of interest payment on a debt. Find out if you could switch to another provider.

Also, pay off whatever you can; even if you pay as small proportion at a time. Creditors will rather take something than lose out altogether. Get in touch with the people you owe money to. Offer to pay something that you can afford. I have heard of people being able to pay £5 a month until they are able to fully service a debt. Unfortunately, these will often incur interest, but you will have the peace of mind about the debt being taken care of.

Debt consolidation is also an option if your credit rating will get you a loan to do so. Shop around for the best deals and rates. Remember that what you’re doing is swapping one kind of debt for another. The main benefit is you are only liable to one creditor rather than many.

Count every penny.

If you’re having money worries, manage your accounts every day. Think of it in the same way as you would if you were trying to lose weight. You pay close attention to every calorie consumed.

Discipline is the only way to manage our money. However, discipline is not a word that many of us want to hear. For some of us, we so dislike the feeling of watching our pennies that our preferred attitude is to spend our way out of trouble. The more we spend, the less we feel that we’re financially restricted. It doesn’t make any sense but those credit cards are a convenient way of avoiding the issue.

free-bonusBonus tip:

I mentioned earlier that 50% of income should go on living expenses, but what happens to the other 50%? There are different models for money management, here’s one that works for me.

50% – Living costs (see above)

10% – Emergency Fund/Debt repayment. This covers those unexpected bills like car repairs and broken windows. You can also service any debts you have from this portion. Put this money in a separate bank account to use when you need to.

10% – Savings. Some call this the ‘nest egg’. The idea of this proportion is to invest it in a long term savings scheme. The kind of investment that yields dividends in 10 or 15 years at least. It’s surprising how quickly you will get its reward.

10% – Charity. Personally, I feel it’s good to give back somehow. Whether that’s to a national one or a regular gift to friend or family who need it, you decide. You also feel less guilty when you walk by collectors in the street.

10% – Self Improvement. I once heard this called self-maintenance, but I didn’t quite like how that sounded. Anything that helps you grow and become a better person; courses, books, gym membership, conferences… invest in yourself often.

10% You. Not to be confused with the Self-Improvement portion of your income. This is money for shoes, clothes, chocolate, lattes… anything you feel you deserve. You have every permission to enjoy what you have earned through discipline.