Management

Rituals and Meditation in Business

“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” ― Muriel Barbery

I read a lot of books, I also read a lot of books on time management, processes and how to become more efficient at what I do. Weaved into all these types of books 2 areas seem to arise, rituals and meditation in business. These are designed to help you switch off and break up your day. If you’re a creative person like me then we use mostly the left hand side of our brains and its notorious for not switching off. It constantly wants to solve problems whether you want it to or not. I find at night to be a particular busy time in my head just when I want to switch off and go to sleep.

Meditation
My day is very heavily scheduled. From when I wake up to when I go to sleep. This allows me to plan my week in advance and ensures I allocate the time to certain tasks, don’t miss anything that needs doing on a regular basis. It also alerts me as to when I’m trying to do too much which has been a major running theme throughout my career. I find that your able to focus and achieve more given a deadline to get something done. It’s just like setting deadlines for yourself. To achieve this focus you need to be able to switch off everything else and concentrate on that one task. This is where Meditation can help. Meditation teaches you to clear your mind of all the distractions, deadlines, issues that occur during your day. As you do it more and more you’ll find that your able to control your mind even when you’re not Meditating. Allowing you to focus on your task. Meditation is by no means something that you can do once and then leave. It requires daily practice, it may happen quicker for some than others.

I recommend reading the book below to get started. There’s all sorts of techniques you can use, from counting to visualising and there’s all sorts of forms of Meditation. But keep it simple, for it to be daily it needs to be easy.

Recommended Reading: Meditation For Geeks (and other left-brained people) by Philip Rastocny

Rituals
I’m a fan of the 90 minutes bursts of creativity then a break. During that break is where your Ritual comes in. Rituals can be anything from picking up your guitar at lunchtime to making yourself a pot of tea in your Suki Teapot. The latter is my favourite. Yes you may look a little strange taking time and care to get the water has hot as you can and then dropping in your selected tea leaves. But what the hell. If this ritual breaks up your day and gives you a treat then get on with it and enjoy it. This would be a daily occurrence, one you look forward to and most importantly one that you never skip. We are creatures of habit, and regularity makes us happy.

Recommended Reading: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei

I’d be interested hear about how you manage your time and also switch off for that 5 minutes during a busy day. Do you have a ritual? do you meditate? what works for you?

Please feel free to comment on this post, subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

By Steven Burles

High pressure sales hurt your business

“A diamond doesn’t start out polished and shining. It once was nothing special, but with enough pressure and time, becomes spectacular. I’m that diamond.” ― Solange Nicole

This morning I had a meeting with a potential new client. Referred to me by a member of my BNI Group (see it works). Anyway we got into chatting about his requirements, what we could do etc. He then stopped and said he wanted to make me aware that he had spoken to two other people about the same thing. He then told me that one of them was pretty much out of the picture due to the ‘hard sell’. Apparently they had a call from the company in question who proceeded to take them through what I presume was some kind of sales script and finally to a “Please sign here”. This did not sit well with the chap I was sitting with and based on this single interaction they have now been discounted from the pitch.

I wondered how many other businesses go down this route and actually talk the client out of working with them. I myself have had no formal sales training, I have no idea how to sell. All I know is how to talk about what I do. I enjoy what I do and I think most of the time this comes across during conversations. It’s hardly done me any harm this approach as I’ve secured work with some of the biggest brands in the world.

I’m an advocate of the best person to talk about the business and the offering is the business owner. Now in small business this is usually the case as it may just be you. But the bigger the business, this is where we start to have sales teams, targets and commissions. For some businesses it works, for others it turns into a competition to see who can get the most ‘Next Clothing Vouchers’!

Nobody likes to be sold to, I find shutting up and listening to be the best way to work with a client. Have you had a similar experience with a project you’ve been involved with? Do you use high pressure sales techniques in your pitch? does it work?

Please feel free to comment on this post, subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

By Steven Burles

I’m Paul Cook, and this is how I work

As the founder of RedEye International back in 1997, Paul is no stranger to the intricacies of analytics, campaign data and conversion optimisation. His next project, TagMan was the first Tag Management System making it easier for Marketers to capture data and share it with their suppliers. Launched during the credit crunch it enabled huge cost savings and clients include Spotify, TripAdvisor, Vodafone, Virgin and Travelocity. Having launched TagMan on both sides of the pond, Paul is now back in London and working on his first mobile project – an app that is set to change the way we share contact details. With a fantastic track record, I can’t wait to see where this project takes him. I stole a few minutes of Pauls crazy schedule to talk about workspaces, apps, inspirations, and more.

Location: London, UK

Current gig: DW Labs, it’s a sort of startup factory in a similar vein to Obvious which gave birth to Twitter. Next project in the pipeline is ConnectiD, a fast way to exchange contacts without using business cards.
Current mobile devices: Samsung Galaxy S3, Sony Experia for when I’ve dropped the S3 and I’d count the Nexus 7 mini-tablet and an iPad 3.

Current computers: My main computer is a Sony Vaio, which I chose main because of how tactile its keyboard is. I did have a mac book air for a while last year but I’m much more productive with a PC in my hands. I also have an Asus ep121 windows slate which my kids have adopted as it never fully recovered from putting Windows 8 consumer preview on it!
One word that best describes how you work: Asynchronously

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Doesn’t have to be tech.
My coffee machine, it’s a Breville semi-pro machine and I was devastated to find it wasn’t available in the UK. It’s now been launched in the UK under a new brand called Sage and coffee Zen has been restored to my life. Business app wise I use pocket to read things offline on my nexus 7 rather than get distracted by interesting articles whilst I’m working. Personal app wise I’ve recently taken up running and am blown away by the community aspect, RunKeeper is my favourite app and has actually managed to make running interesting.

Coffee Machine

What’s your workspace like?
My home office is in a converted barn with plenty of light, high ceilings exposed beams. I’ve got some giant post-its on the wall, a white board and a portable aircon unit. My last proper office had glass walls which are great for writing on and I won’t work anywhere without a decent espresso machine in the vicinity!

What’s your best life hack?
Just moved house so I’m 3 minutes-walk from the station. Gives me an extra half an hour in bed in the morning / with the family evening and stops commuting grinding me down.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
I use Rememberthemilk across all my devices. Have been using it for years and am impressed how they’ve kept their focus rather than chasing the likes of Evernote. Probably the best tenner I spend all year.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I’m pretty lost without a GPS, literally. I have a strap for my ipod nano that makes it into a watch and a special music player that allows you to DJ called a Tonium Pacemaker. I’m sure I will have a smart watch very soon but this is really a migration of tech from my phone so I don’t have to carry my phone around.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Can I only have one? In that case it would be modesty ;-) Seriously though, maybe focusing through prioritization and saying no.

What do you listen to while you work?
I like to listen to progressive house music when I’m really concentrating, which I thought was pretty odd until a neuroscientist pointed out to me that it stimulates dopamine production. I also get through a lot of gum, which is also proven to help concentration by boosting serotonin I believe. I’m a big fan of soundcloud so if you want to know what I’m listening to then follow me!

What are you currently reading?
Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. I’m hoping that either or both of these books might help me with my golf if nothing else but turns out that’s probably a self-defeating goal. Next business book I’ll read will probably be the innovators dilemma as it was recommended to me the other day and it’s been sat on the shelf for too long. The book everybody who works in technology and media must read is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries whilst my favourite personal development read is Your Brain at Work by David Rock.

interior

What’s your sleep routine like?
So bad that I bought a gadget called a zeo sleep manager to help measure it but I can’t sleep with it attached to my head! I go through periods where I keep waking up after 4 hours and not get back to sleep although it’s moderate at moment. Given the impact it has on quality of life I am amazed there is not more tech to help people get to sleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Ideally: Brent Hoberman Realistically: Ashley Friedlein

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Use Puddle to do your design work, obviously! A friend suggested I pick up a copy of Unlimited Power by Anthony Robins 20 years ago and I’ve been writing down and reviewing my goals regularly ever since. You can’t beat the old classics, KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and the 5Ps (Proper planning prevents poor performance).

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve talked too much already, would love to hear from anyone who fancies working on one of our projects.

Please feel free to comment on this post, subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

By Steven Burles

Survey your clients on a regular basis

“In one survey, respondents listed Princeton as one of the country’s top ten law schools. The problem? Princeton doesn’t have a law school” ― Alexandra Robbins

As business owners, we’re always looking to improve our customer service. This area of business is incredibly difficult to track as it usually translates into a feeling of confidence from the client to yourself.

This doesn’t mean we can’t get better at it though. Your existing clients are your best source of free information about your business and how to improve it. They’ll tell you what you are doing well, what your not, what they are struggling with and could do with some help on. In order to get this information you need to survey your clients on a regular basis. Immediately after completing a sale or project is the best time. But periodically surveying them is also a good mindset to get into.

Using a service such as ‘Survey Monkey’ allows you to quickly get together a short questionnaire, like the one below. I would always recommend around 5 questions, it doesn’t have to be war and peace. And often I find offering an incentive just increases the amount of returns I get. So offer them a free iTunes Voucher, discount off their next purchase, whatever your comfortable with.

Here’s an example of 5 questions you can include in your survey…

  1. What one thing do you think we did particularly well when delivering your project?
  2. What one thing do you think we could improve on in the future?
  3. Is there any other aspects of your business that you think we could help you with?
  4. Do you think our process of delivering a project worked well? how could it be improved?
  5. Can you provide us with a ‘testimonial’ that we can include in our literature?

And as an added bonus question, ask them if they can refer you to 3 other businesses. If after making contact with them they turn into business they will receive a reward. This is a great bolt on to your ‘New Business’ efforts. Its generally quite easy for a client to refer you to 3 other businesses. Even if they don’t turn into business. You’ve just extended your network. I recommend this is done via LinkedIn.

Now the most important thing to remember when surveying clients is to act on the data once you get it back. There’s no point in just reading it and saying ‘That’s interesting’. Feed this back into your team. Decide how it can be implemented back into your product/service and make it happen.

I’d be interested in what other questions people use to survey their clients, do you have a different method of doing it?

Please feel free to comment on this post, subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

By Steven Burles

I’m Steven Burles, and this is how I work

Steven Burles is the MD behind Puddle a digital agency based in the UK. When he’s not getting his knee down in the Yorkshire Dales. He’s produced work for adidas, Sony, Reebok, Disney, Nickelodeon and MTV. A self confessed workaholic and guitar player. Here’s his favourite apps, gadgets and how he spends his life outdoors.

Location: Keighley, UK

Current gig: Working on Puddle. Also helping run Keighley Business Awards and managing a business networking group.
Current mobile devices: iPhone 4S and iPad2

Current computers: iMac, MacBook
One word that best describes how you work: Scheduled

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Doesn’t have to be tech.
Love my Kindle, Gmail, Feedly, Instagram, Spotify, Google Drive, Dribbble and WordPress. On the music side of things can’t do without Guitar Tools and Tab Pro HD.

What’s your workspace like?
Big room, big desks, football table, lots of books and white boards plus very cold water machine. At home, there’s a step in the garden that gets used a lot.

What’s your best life hack?
Riding a motorcycle every weekend, playing guitar, hiking with the dog and hanging out with the family.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
Really enjoying ‘Action Method’ at the moment. Clean and simple.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
My motorcycle.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Turning up.

What do you listen to while you work?
Lots of acoustic guitar type of stuff, Ben Howard, First Aid Kit, Matt Corby. Sometimes nothing. Then I may just jump into some Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Foo Fighters and end the day with some Claude Debussy.

What are you currently reading?
Currently reading the Robin Hobb series Assassin’s Apprentice. Along with lots of books on SEO, Usability, Blogging, Meditation, Process.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Pretty good, I used to be a night owl but now I like to be at my desk by 8am and in bed for 11pm.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Ideally: Richard Branson Realistically: Paul Cook

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“If tha does owt for nowt, then do it for thyssen”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, try not to say ‘No’ too much.

Please feel free to comment on this post, subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

By Steven Burles

Time based costs vs Perceived value

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” ― Albert Einstein

I’ve just been reading a very interesting ebook called “Breaking the Time Barrier” by Mike McDerment and Donald Cowper. In it they tell a story of a freelance web designer who is struggling with his business. He approaches an experienced web designer who advises him to ditch his ‘time based’ costing and use instead a method of perceived value for the project.

So for example the struggling web designer may cost a job up at 2K for a website. Whereas the experienced web designer may cost it up at 10k. Obviously the experienced designer has more experience than the struggling designer but in the end the client gets the same product at the end of it, a website.

An even better example is a client calls you to do something which maybe takes you 5 minutes to complete. Yet you charge them £250 for the work. This doen’t mean your on some huge per hour rate. It simply means it took you 5 minutes because of your years of experience in dealing with this type of issue. Your 5 minutes of work could have potentially saved the client a substantial amount of money.

As businesses we are all limited by the same constraints, time. We all have 8hrs in a day in which to work. The only way to increase turnover is to charge more for your services, over and above an hourly rate.

Now this method I believe comes with its problems. First of all you’ve got to sell it to the client. Why are you 10x more expensive than the last company I saw. As explained in the book you can approach it as an investment from the client in there business. Predict an amount of return that they can expect from the website. But would you put a guarantee on this? what if it didn’t perform? this is the biggest issue I can see with pricing this way. If you convince a client that by them investing 10k in a website that will return them 100k. Yes a 10% investment with that kind of return sounds good but what if it never happens.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this method of pricing. Can you share any points in addition to the ones above that would benefit others?

Read it for yourself here, its a short book that can be read in under an hour.

Please feel free to comment on this post, subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

By Steven Burles