I love business books and over the holidays I managed to devour a few and Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hannson is a goodie. Anyone who is in business or wants to go into business should read this little gem. It has been written in small bite size sections, making you go “just one more” and before you know it you are done. I was happy to realise that I am already on the same wave length as the authors so some things were reinforced where others were a great new way to view a situation.
Business has changed so much in the last decade but probably more so in just the last few years. What used to seem impossible is now not. The world really is your oyster and dreams can come true. We can start businesses without huge bucks behind us. That also becomes a problem because now any nong can start a business so you need to find a way to stand out, to do things differently, to make sure your staff are content or they will just move on. Gone are the days of sticking in a job for 40 years till you retire. I don’t have staff (yet) but there are some great staffing tips in here for anyone who does or wants to.
I often have people who ask me how I possibly do all that I do or tell me that they could not possibly make their dream a reality because they don’t have time. This is a great excerpt from the book.
NO TIME IS NO EXCUSE
The most common excuse people give: “There’s not enough time.” They claim they’d love to start a company, learn an instrument, market an invention, write a book, or whatever, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Come on. There’s always enough time if you spend it right. And don’t think you have to quit your day job, either. Hang onto it and start work on your project at night. Instead of watching TV or playing World of Warcraft, work on your idea. Instead of going to bed at ten, go to bed at eleven. We’re not talking about all-nighters or 16 hour days. –we’re talking about squeezing out a few extra hours a week. That’s enough time to get something going. Once you do that, you’ll learn whether your excitement and interest is real or just a passing phase. If it doesn’t pan out, you just keep going to work every day like you’ve been doing all along. You didn’t risk or lose anything, other than a bit of time, so it’s no big deal. When you want something bad enough, you make the time–regardless of your other obligations. The truth is most people just don’t want it bad enough. Then they protect their ego with the excuse of time. Don’t let yourself off the hook with excuses. It’s entirely your responsibility to make your dreams come true. Besides, the perfect time never arrives. You’re always too young or old or busy or broke or something else. If you constantly fret about timing things perfectly, they’ll never happen.
I have so many incredibly talented friends using no time and fear as excuses. Life is too short people.
EVERYTHING IS MARKETING
Marketing is not a department Do you have a marketing department? If not, good. If you do, don’t think these are the only people responsible for marketing. Accounting is a department. Marketing isn’t. Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365. Just as you cannot not communicate, you cannot not market: Every time you answer the phone, it’s marketing. Every time you send an e-mail, it’s marketing. Every time someone uses your product, it’s marketing. Every word you write on your Web site is marketing. If you build software, every error message is marketing. If you’re in the restaurant business, the after-dinner mint is marketing. If you’re in the retail business, the checkout counter is marketing. If you’re in a service business, your invoice is marketing. Recognize that all of these little things are more important than choosing which piece of swag to throw into a conference goodie bag. Marketing isn’t just a few individual events. It’s the sum total of everything you do.
Not returning phone calls or emails is bad marketing. Not looking at your customers at the checkout counter is bad marketing.
The other section I loved was the apology.
HOW TO SAY YOU ARE SORRY
There’s never really a great way to say you’re sorry, but there are plenty of terrible ways. One of the worst ways is the non-apology apology, which sounds like an apology but doesn’t really accept any blame. For example, “We’re sorry if this upset you.” Or “I’m sorry that you don’t feel we lived up to your expectations.” Whatever. A good apology accepts responsibility. It has no conditional if phrase attached. It shows people that the buck stops with you. And then it provides real details about what happened and what you’re doing to prevent it from happening again. And it seeks a way to make things right. Here’s another bad one: “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.” Oh, please. Let’s break down why that’s bad:
“We apologize …” If you spilled coffee on someone while riding the subway, would you say, “I apologize”? No, you’d say, “I’m so, so sorry!” Well, if your service is critical to your customers, an interruption to that service is like spilling hot coffee all over them. So use the appropriate tone and language to show that you understand the severity of what happened. Also, the person in charge should take personal responsibility. An “I” apology is a lot stronger than a “we” apology.
“… any inconvenience …” If customers depend on your service and can’t get to it, it’s not merely an inconvenience. It’s a crisis. An inconvenience is a long line at the grocery store. This ain’t that.
“… this may have caused” The “may” here implies there might not be anything wrong at all. That’s a classic non-apology apology move. It slights the very real problem(s) that customers are experiencing. If this didn’t affect them, you don’t really need to say anything. If it did affect them, then there’s no need for “may” here. Stop wavering. So what’s the perfect way to say you’re sorry? There’s no magic bullet. Any stock answer will sound generic and hollow. You’re going to have to take it on a case-by-case basis. The number-one principle to keep in mind when you apologize: How would you feel about the apology if you were on the other end? If someone said those words to you, would you believe them? Keep in mind that you can’t apologize your way out of being an ass. Even the best apology won’t rescue you if you haven’t earned people’s trust. Everything you do before things go wrong matters far more than the actual words you use to apologize. If you’ve built rapport with customers, they’ll cut you some slack and trust you when you say you’re sorry.
I was away on the weekend with some friends, 2 of whom were doing business with each other and one forgot to bring along the others products. She said “OMG!!! I am so sorry, what a dumb #$% I am” Well how can anyone get angry with her? I know they are friends but isn’t that how we should be talking to our customers? with honesty and how it really is? maybe without the swear words… I had an incident last year, where one of my providers directly let down my customers, when a few of them complained they got the boring, insincere, stock standard apology. It just made them angrier. Get with the program people!! So there you have it. Just a teensy, tiny taste of what this book has to offer. It is a great, fast read. But it here or download on to your kindle and read it sooner rather than later.