Category Archives: Business

Why I Don’t Multi-task Anymore

OK, maybe that statement is not completely true, but on the whole I try not to, which is a far cry from where I used to be – the queen of multi-tasking. Ask anyone that knew me, I had my finger in many pies, plates spinning, the whole caboodle. I used to eat lunch at my desk, have multiple coaching calls through my lunch break for a programme I did outside of work and then get on with my day job straight after. My desktop had lots of windows open and the end result meant that whilst I had started almost everything that needed to be done, I had completed very little. And, there was always something to do after work, even if ‘after work’ started at 9pm. It seemed never-ending and to top it off it was something I was very proud of being able to do.

Being a solopreneur makes things worse, there is always that constant nagging voice which tells you that you must make use of every available minute and the best way to do that is to multi-task. However just over a month ago I started a new 14-day eating plan and it made me look at life differently. One of the rules was to spend at least 15 minutes eating your food, so no wolfing it down like I usually do! I found I was having to pay mindful attention to something that I didn’t usually think about and just that very act brought mindfulness to other areas of my life. I felt more grounded and peaceful taking time over my meals. If I had lunch at my desk, I stopped work and all I did was eat my lunch. I didn’t even browse on the internet or check out any social networking sites. So you may think ‘why is she talking about diets and food?’ but bear with me.

What I started to realise was what a noisy world my head was in. There were very few things that had my focused attention and it had become my default modus operandi – all I could do was multi-task… and isn’t that what gives women an edge over men? So I decided to try something different with my approach to work and that was to take just one thing and do that, fully, completely for as long as I said I would, no distractions. I liked it. I realised that the most productive approach wasn’t to be doing multiple things at the same time, and often things got done quicker and to a better standard when I did one thing at a time. This might be stating the bloody obvious but it hadn’t been to me.

I can tell you that the difference has been amazing. I don’t feel so stressed out or buzzy (that feeling when you’re running on adrenaline the whole time) and I look better too (less stress does that to you!). I find I schedule things in much more realistically and it has kept me so much more focussed. It also has improved my relationships with people as I actually spend more time listening to them rather than the thoughts in my head! I do still read books and do some bits of work when commuting and there are times when I sit in front of the TV with my laptop or smart phone in hand but apart from filling dead time, I just find it better to do one thing a time.

I’m not saying multi-tasking is bad per se, but consider whether it is all that it is cracked up to be. What are your thoughts on this?

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Networking Not Working

I tend not to go to many formal networking events these days. I don’t particularly like people thrusting a business card into my hands only to get mine in return and then bombard me with sales and marketing e-mails, or those that move on when they decide a communication trainer is perhaps not a potential client. Instead, I make time to go to events that I am interested in, perhaps a talk at the RSA, a book launch, an opening of an exhibition or an event at Central. I often see familiar faces and there are many new ones too. This provides me with all that I need and I enjoy the experience too.

First let’s look at why ‘networking’ events can be a painful experience for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

1. Pretence (e.g. I’m not after clients, I really just want to meet new people’)

There comes a time when some people feel they need to go to a networking event and it’s usually because they need some more sales. So off they go. Their strategy is to get as many cards as possible, take them back to the office, enter them into the database and then proceed to call them, e-mail them and get them to be a client. Sometimes, this person also suffers from 2 and 3 below which makes life a lot harder. They pretend that they are just meeting new people and come across as insincere because they are just trying to work out if you are a potential lead. I am quite happy when someone comes up to me at  networking event and tells me they want clients (doesn’t always work if it is your opening gambit but if you say that is what you are looking for, then I will try to help).

2. You’re not worth knowing

‘So what do you do?’ After your response you may find one of two things happening. The first is that this person is very interested in you almost to the exclusion of others. They don’t let you go until they have explained the full benefits of their service/ product and they also don’t let anyone else steal you away. Contrariwise, they find a quick way to end the conversation. It doesn’t matter whether you probably had lots in common and also have access to a huge number of people who you could refer onto them, they need to find someone they think is worth their time.

3. I really don’t want to be here

This can be a symptom of no. 1. This person hates meeting people but they need more contacts and the only way to do that is to go networking. Another reason they may not want to be there is they lack confidence when meeting new people. These people often hover around the edges, waiting for someone to draw them into conversation. Often, they will be happy just to be talking to someone and can feel that networking events are not the best use of their time.

So how could it be better? It might, at this point, be worth looking at the definition of ‘networking’

a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest

I mentioned I go to events, and one of my reason for doing this is that there is some commonality of interest that draws us all there. It is a great talking point and so can help break the ice if you’re not comfortable with approaching people. I also find that I generally will get on better with people I meet at these events and therefore want to help them.

1. Know your intention

Before you go to an event work out why you want to go. If you want to get potential clients then do some research and go to events where your clients are likely to be. If you have specific people you want introductions to either find out where they will be or find out who else knows them. It can also be worth finding a guest list and asking someone to introduce you to a specific person. Are you trying to get known in your industry? Having a clear intention will help you make the most of your time at an event.

2. Strengthen relationships

Networking is not all about new contacts, it is also about strengthening and maintaining existing ones. Don’t just talk to new contacts, talk to people you already know. Indeed, they may be the one who introduces you to other people at the event. The last two events I went to I was introduced to valuable new contacts when in conversation with someone I already knew.

3. Add value in your conversations

Networking, like any team sport, creates a win when everyone plays their part. Be a valuable member of your networking community and in the individual conversations. This might be sharing some of your knowledge, offering to make an introduction. Don’t do it to get something, do it because you can.

4. Follow-through

So what do you do with that pile of cards you collected last night? Make sure you follow-up within 24 hours (48 hours if you are really busy) with an e-mail or a LinkedIn invite. With both methods make sure you personalise it by referring back to an aspect of your conversation. If you offered to introduce someone to one of your contacts then do so in a timely fashion and don’t forget to follow-up with people you already knew. I usually send an e-mail or sometimes even a text saying it was good to see them.

What are people’s experiences of networking? What tips can you offer to others?

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Being Alone Together

The life of a solopreneur can be very lonely and it gets even worse when things aren’t going to plan. You get up in the morning, dreading dealing with the day ahead, who are you going to call, where is that next lead going to come from? You look through your contacts wondering ‘who can I call again?’ Deciding there’s no one, you trawl through the internet to find some meet-ups or networking events, but then decide you can’t face talking to a room full of strangers. There’s nowhere to go, all your friends are at work and the other freelancers and business owners you know are busy doing their own work.  You’re stuck, who do you turn to? Your friends and family are as supportive as they can be, but you don’t want to moan about your predicament. You were the one that went gung-ho, head-first into this venture, so you just have to carry on as best you can.

I remember feeling not too dissimilar at various points after I went solo. I just used to feel very alone and felt under huge amounts of pressure to make things happen from nothing. It was the fact that there was just me and the people who know me, know that I’m a social person; I missed the interaction with other people and staying at home was making things worse.

Fortuitously, there were two things that came into my life at about the same time earlier this year. The first was Central Bloomsbury, a co-working space just off Tottenham Court Road in Central London and the second was the Key Person of Influence Accelerator Programme, a 30-week business incubation programme. What both provided, as a by-product of their main service, was community. It’s hard to say your business isn’t going as well as you want it to without feeling like you’re undermining your credibility. However, everyone struggles and what we all need is a trusted network of people who have been through or are going through the same journey.

Central is not your average co-working space and I was immediately impressed by my first visit. The whole space is set up to allow people to collaborate both in a formal and informal way. One of their working spaces is much like a cafe where you can just strike up a conversation with another member and they also put on events to help you fill knowledge-gaps you may have, whether it is social media, marketing or getting investment. The staff is very attentive and the co-owners have an aim of supporting 1,000 grow in the next five years. Working at Central allows me to have the buzz of an office environment and in the members I have colleagues with whom I can share what is going on for me, bounce some ideas around and where in turn, I can support them if needed.

The KPI programme has also been a huge support, not just the content of the programme (which, BTW is amazing) but the generosity of the people involved. We have a Facebook group where past and current members come together. It’s a very active group and people share everything from requests for help, their successes, opportunities for other members. My programme is coming to an end but I know that I am part of this community for life. It has become a trusted network and often the first place I go to get some inspiration, offer support or get some help.

If you are on the lonely path of setting up your own business, I can’t recommend enough getting out there and joining a group of some kind- there are lots of options out there, not just the ones I have mentioned above, from Mastermind groups to online networks like Ecademy. You don’t have to go it alone and there are lots of people who want to help. Once your part of one of these groups, my top tips are to make yourself a valuable member of that community, support others and give generously- it will come back to you manifold.

It was at one of the KPI workdays that I came across the phrase ‘being alone together’. Penny Power who was running our Social Media day mentioned she had heard it somewhere (I forget where exactly) and wrote it down thinking it was a very apt description for many people I know. Certainly, it is where I am; alone but surrounded by amazing people who completely have my back.

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