Instant Messaging – Friend or Foe?

As the 21st century gathers momentum, it is bringing with it the increased expectation that we will find rapid answers to our questions – at home and in the workplace.  The internet has opened up a whole new medium for researching, gathering, sharing and receiving knowledge very quickly.  This is backed up by more and more options when it comes to communicating with our peers: telephony (in particular, mobile phones); emails; text messages; video calls and instant messaging; to name a few.

When used in the right way, the increased ability to communicate clearly and quickly can only be a good thing.  However, what happens when good manners and sensible protocols are discarded; when communication becomes a distraction to the task in hand?  Instant messaging is perhaps the best example of this very real danger.

Designed to enable a quick exchange of dialogue between two or more participants, it can be a great tool to obtain a fast response to an urgent query.  All too often though, instant messaging can be a devil in disguise as it encourages bad grammar and poor meeting etiquette.  It can also be the source of bad manners and that is never a good thing in business.

  • Bad Grammar – by its very nature, instant messaging encourages us to use poorly constructed sentences; words are often also abbreviated or written phonetically in a kind of ‘text talk’.  This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.  In extreme cases, it can lead to participants completely misunderstanding each other – without even realising it.  If you are familiar with the abbreviated form, LOL might be interpreted as ‘Laugh Out Load’ but what if the recipient is only vaguely familiar with this form of communication and interprets it as ‘Lots Of Love’?
  • Poor Meeting Etiquette – have you even been in a meeting with someone whose attention is suddenly distracted by an instant message which they then proceed to answer, leaving you hanging mid-sentence?  This sort of action is a distraction to everyone in the meeting and can cause you to lose valuable time while the message recipient responds to their message and then takes time to re-engage with your own discussion which was already in hand.  The same principle applies if you are having a one-to-one conversation with someone.
  • Bad Manners – this really encompasses both of the above and potentially more besides!  Needless to say, there is no place for bad manners in good business.

BIG’s Conclusion: When it is used correctly, instant messaging can be a fantastic tool that can be used to improve business communication.  But it is all too easy for us to slip into bad habits; more often than not we become the perpetrators of bad actions without even realising it.  This leads me to conclude that we must all be vigilant so as to avoid falling into the trap of poor communication.  So, take time to reflect on your own actions and circumstances: is instant messaging a friend or a foe in your life and in your business?


9 Quick Ways to Increase Business Profits

Many business owners want as many clients as possible but the objective of increasing business profits isn’t only met by attracting more clients.  There are several other reasons why a business doesn’t make as much money as it should besides not having enough clients.

Here are a few simple, yet effective business coaching ideas that will help you unlock the hidden profits in your business – whatever your key product or service:

  1.  Focus more time on the important matters – you may not have enough time available to boost your business, especially if you are the one who is serving clients on a regular basis. In this case, you should consider hiring somebody to help. Running a business takes a lot of work, so let the employees handle the day-to-day issues, while you take care of the important ones such as developing strategies for present and future growth.  Set aside an hour each week to brainstorm ideas, implement strategies and nurture key business relationships.
  2. Carry out competitive intelligence on other businesses (especially the ones that are successful) and emulate them. This doesn’t mean copying whatever they do.  Take the best parts of your competitor’s business and apply them to your own.  It is also very important to keep a close eye on the competition, regardless of the nature of your business. If you are running a restaurant, for example, you should inspect the services, the offers and the prices of the competition. By doing a little research on other businesses, you will be able to reorganize, improve your services, adjust the prices depending on the competition, as well as introduce new offers to your clients. By knowing what your competitors are up to, you will always be one step ahead of them.
  3. Spend less of your gross profit on overheads and ineffective marketing.  Lease unused space in your office or warehouse.  Track sales as a result of expense.  Employ salespeople on a higher commission scale rather than a high base salary.  Test and measure marketing effectiveness before splashing out on an expensive marketing campaign; start small and build up when your strategy brings in results.
  4. Instead of competing on price, develop an ultimate strategic advantage or unique selling proposition.  Emphasize the qualities that make your business stand out and create a whole new positioning in the industry.  Find out what really matters to your clients by surveying them – and then offer them what they want. 
  5. Talk with clients and find out if they are delighted or not.  Ask for suggestions and don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers for referrals. Dissatisfied customers will not return but a delighted client will often be happy to refer others.
  6. Nurture existing clients.  Instead of focusing on acquiring new customers, concentrate on nurturing and maintaining the clients that you already have. Make sure they are pleased with the services you provide for them and pay attention to their needs, desires and complaints. It is very important to establish and maintain good relations with your clients, as they are the ones who will keep your business running. Many business coaching companies encourage selling more to existing clients because it improves a business bottom line by increasing the lifetime value of a client.  It also brings new clients, attracted by positive experiences from your existing ones.  Referrals lower your acquisition costs through word-of-mouth marketing and this also adds to business profits.
  7. Up-sell other products/services.  Selling ‘extras’ is known to be a great method of increasing profits.  For example, grocery stores strategically place magazines and snacks near the checkout. People browse and buy these while waiting in line, raising the value of their average sales.  McDonald’s is well-known for its up-sell before a sale is completed. They do this by asking a simple question to add on more products (e.g. would you like that as a meal or with fries, sundae, or apple pie, etc).
  8. Increase your advertising – advertising is expensive but if things work well, the money will definitely return to you. You can also try to make the best use you can out of free advertising. Get the most out of promotions and limited offers, especially around holiday periods.
  9. Seek out business coaching advice. Having a comprehensive set of business strategies can help you further, by providing you with new efficient methods of increasing the profits of your business.  To operate a business effectively long-term, most businesses will have to deploy several strategies in order to diversify their sources of leads and maximize their profitability through smart marketing, team building, and business process management.

BIG’s Conclusion: As a business owner, be sure to allocate sufficient time and regular opportunities within your busy schedule, to review how your business operates. Develop a number of strategies around key topics such as business development and marketing; above all, see your strategies through to completion and then develop new ones to ensure your business stays fresh and appealing to new and existing customers alike.


9 Facts About Coaching

Coaching is now firmly established as a discipline but, the term “coaching” is often associated with a number of definitions. Some of the more widely known ones define coaching as:

  • A process providing an individual with feedback, insight and guidance on achieving their full potential in their business or personal life.
  • A strategy used to help individuals reach their fullest potential and to achieve their goals.
  • A set of practical skills and a style of relating that develop the potential of both the individual being coached and the coach.
  • A professional relationship in which you work together with your coach to clarify your options, set goals and develop action plans to achieve those goals.

The notion of coaching originated from sports, but nowadays the two main types of coaching are: business (corporate) coaching and life (personal) coaching. We will concentrate here on the former.

Benefits of Corporate Coaching: Organizational Development

  1. Increase in performance. This is the main advantage: coaching develops the best qualities of people and teams and enables the use of those qualities at work for the benefit of the organization. Using management coaching techniques significantly increases staff productivity.
  2. Improvement of relationships at work. Questions asked during the coaching process add value both to the person being asked and to the person asking the questions. An atmosphere of mutual respect and trust is being established; good relationships at work provide the fertile ground for improved staff productivity.
  3. Staff development. This aims to unlock the inner potential of the company’s employees. Coaching allows the employees to develop themselves directly in the workplace, thus increasing their efficiency.
  4. Flexibility and adaptability. Improving competitiveness on the market requires such skills as flexibility and adaptability. Coaching can assist us in quickly adapting to every kind of change, which is an important attribute in today’s fast-moving business world.
  5. Staff motivation. Nowadays people work under their own will, not under constraint. Coaching helps people to fully develop their potential, increase their self-esteem and raise the quality of their work. At the same time, people also become motivated to be productive and to work efficiently.
  6. Life quality improvement. The most important constituent of a person’s quality of life is emotional satisfaction. When using coaching, apart from improving relationships, every employee gets higher emotional satisfaction from their work, which in turn leads to greater motivation for staff to perform at their best, in and out of the workplace.
  7. Creativity. Coaching itself and the working environment created by it, encourages employees to make creative suggestions. At the same time employees aren’t afraid of being laughed at or rejected. Moreover, they are motivated to put forward their suggestions to improve business processes; generally, one creative idea, when properly evaluated and accepted, generates lots of additional new ideas.
  8. Fast and effective response to critical situations. If people feel an atmosphere of respect and recognition, they are always ready to stand up for the company’s interests in critical situations. Working overtime and temporary changes to the working environment won’t be a great problem for them and will be accepted with understanding. Moreover, the employees will do their best to avoid such a situation, and will handle it themselves, without any direction from management.
  9. Unlocking hidden resources and potentials. Coaching creates an atmosphere of trust and confidence, where a person discovers inner resources that they didn’t know about earlier. The coach’s questions help people to identify ways of achieving their goals. Coaching helps a person to find their inner ‘assembly point’, from which the way of approaching goals becomes clear.

Conclusion

Today, coaching is one of the most effective personnel management tools. Coaching is not a theory; first and foremost it is a practice, not difficult to master, but at the same time extremely efficient. To see results of your own, why not try it for yourself in your home or workplace today?