The perception of business success

As business people, it’s surprisingly easy to forget the very things that make you money day in, day out. I call this “Organic Knowledge” — you know that you know these things, but you either forget or fail to see the importance of what you know. So the perception is, you feel you know less than you should and hardly ever feel as though you know enough.

And this is where perception plays a hugely important role in things. First of all, it’s probably as well that you don’t feel that you know enough. This way, you remain competitive and you’re likely to want to stay on top of things.

In business, there’s always one more mountain to climb

I have a habit of helping people. I often use analogies to pull down the negative perceptions people might have of themselves and their businesses.

One such analogy was that of a friend cast as a mountaineer. Here is a self-imposed challenge, one of conquering one mountain after another.

In business, each new project you undertake can seem like a mountain to climb. Planning is essential, and as the project progresses, resources can become more rarified, the chances of failure often increase and the further you go and the more difficult things become, the less likely it is that if you struggle, someone will be there able to help. But that that’s not always the case and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Depending on how long you’ve been in business, you could have conquered many a mountain! But despite your experience, you’ll keep making the same mistakes along the way. This is sometimes attributable to being reactive rather than proactive, which is a precarious ledge to be on.

Admiring the view your business affords you

As I said, planning is essential for many reasons. First of all, good planning will afford you the time to stop and take a breather. Here’s your chance to take a more holistic view of what you’ve achieved, not just within the scope of your current challenge, but over all.

From where you’re standing, if you happen to look up, all you’re going to see is a distant peak, towering above you. But if you take the time to look back over your shoulder, you’ll surely see a chain of mountains snaking away from you, each one conquered and done with.

“So what did I learn from my previous challenges?” That’s the question you need to be asking yourself. What organic knowledge did you bring to your current project, and what new knowledge did you pick up along the way?

How you manage your known and recently acquired knowledge is up to you. But it’s essential that you have some method of managing and extracting this knowledge.

At some point, you’re either going to struggle or fail. But there’s value in failure, too. Smart people perform an autopsy on the dead project. They tease open the remains and look for tell-tail signs of the cause of death. Knowing how you fail could well help you insulate your business from future failures.

Regaling others with stories of business adventures

As is often the case, you will find yourself at some business gathering, function or networking event. As you move around, speaking with various people, there’s one question no businessman or businesswoman can hope to avoid: “So, what is that you do?” Or words to that affect.

If you can’t answer this question without thinking about it, there’s a chance you’re not clear about a lot of other things about your business, too.

“I help people make money from the Web. I help people work over the Web. I help people measure what they’re doing on the Web.”

There’s a ton of other stuff behind that simple response, of course, but that’s the cool thing about a well-worded reply — you encourage the person asking the question to ask even more questions about you, your business and what you do.

So understanding the full breadth & depth of your organic knowledge will pay dividends in the long run.

Knowing me, knowing you

Figuring out what it is that you know, or what you’re good at is often pretty difficult to pin down. You will often dismiss out of hand certain things as being boring, or two simple to really count. So in these situations, why not ask friends, colleagues, other business contacts or even clients what they think you’re good at.

Of course, be careful how you word such questions — maybe dress the question up as some kind of customer satisfaction survey, which might uncover even more valuable information. But that’s a topic in itself, well outside the remit of this discussion.

What you’ll get back might just surprise you.

So in the end, your biggest challenge might be one of self discovery. But if you approach this one challenge with the right mind set, it might be more of a mole hill than a mountain.

This article was first published on Octane’s sister blog, Blah, Blah! Technology, in an article entitled: “The perception of business success

The value of business knowledge

Adults don’t just pop into existence, fully educated and well-heeled. And the same applies to businesses — things need to be learned along the way. However, the expectations of our clients can be that the knowledge we apply to their projects is established, tried and fully tested. But it’s sometimes borrowed, or even totally new.

Sometimes, as designers and web developers, we’re learning on our client’s time. But that’s not a bad thing, nor is it unusual or wrong — we can’t know everything there is to know in our chosen field.

Client expectations of our business knowledge

Problem is, the expectations of our clients are such that 1. they sometimes fear the discovery process, as if we should already know these things; and 2. fail to see that the discovery process aspect of a project is not just essential but billable, too.

But let’s just look at things through the eyes of the client for a second, shall we? First of all, setting aside issues of copyright, IPR’s (Intellectual Property Rights) contracts and such, most clients would feel that whatever we learn on their time and their money should only be used on their projects and nowhere else.

After all, they can’t be expected to be the unofficial R&D lab’ for our other clients, some of which could be their competitors. But this is also a question of ethics; here, I don’t charge for anything I feel would be transferrable and — therefore — useful to another client, and instead charge for the execution and not the research and development process.

The thing is — and I know this is going to sound cliché and trite — we’re students of life and we’re also apprentices of our chosen professions, too. I would never claim to be an expert!

So I’m up-front and honest about the processes and explain the originality of what we’re doing. I’d even go as far as recommending you appraise the client as to which third parties you choose to involve, should that be the case.

There have been many occasions when I’ve taken on a project whose constituent parts exist only as outlines in my mind, right up until the point where I begin to do the planning work, whereupon I’m able to demonstrate my understanding of their needs, which the client and myself can then build upon.

This might sound weird to some people, but if it’s a programming or a creative design issue, I’m rarely vexed, it’s more a question of time and the amount thereof — few of my clients have posed questions that I’m unable to resolve.

The value of our time to our clients

But then the client’s expectations can be quite different, too. Sometimes their opinion of what we’re doing for them is that our job is the easiest thing in the world!

We might make this computer stuff look easy simply because we’re sat down much of the time, but the mental heavy lifting is very much a burden — and at times tiring. After all, don’t pilots stay seated why flying an aircraft? And it’s not everyone who can fly a jet fighter or a transatlantic passenger jet.

It’s during these times that the perception of our success can be skewed somewhat. So some education is in order, and here’s your chance to bring your clients up to speed with what your job entails by inviting them to the office — let them sit with you and learn first hand the time it takes to turn Widget A from blue to red.

My feeling is that most of the perceived “us & them” client versus supplier arguments that emerge are almost entirely borne out of not knowing or understanding what we’re doing.

Talk to your clients and ask them what they think, and what they feel. Allay their fears with a little light education and you too could prevent Project X taking on a life of its very own, devouring your time, consuming all of the good-will currency you’ve banked with your clients in the process.

Berryman Glass Recycling — website development and blog

After many months of planning, designing and web development, the new Berryman website is live.

Berryman Glass Recycling is Britain’s largest purchaser and recycler of waste glass. Founded almost 90 years ago, they’re now looking forward, and meeting tomorrow’s challenges, both in terms of maintaining a technological lead, as well as carving out a presence for themselves on the new social web.

Berryman are a progressive business, so the potential for expanding their activities (to include video as well as adopting more aspects of social media, for example) is encouraging.

Berryman now have a place on the web around which they can build various other activities, such as using their website as a point of entry for exhibition attendees to follow up a meeting with one of their team, or as a way of publicizing their activities and various recent business successes.

Berryman Glass Recycling

If you’d like to know more about the specifics of the project, take a look at the Berryman Glass Recycling case study, as well as visuals on the portfolio page.

10 personal branding habits of the professionals

One of the many keys to success is habitual professionalism. So I’m going to explore ten personal branding and brand management habits of the professionals.

As I see it, the number one goal of personal branding, brand identity building and brand management on the web is to make your name synonymous with a certain phrase, or a collection of phrases which you feel best represent you and what you do — which I alluded to in my previous article on brand building.

Personal Branding and Brand Management

If you’re serious about personal branding and brand management, here’s ten things you’ll see the professionals doing:

  1. Comments are your calling cards. Be sure to use these as an opportunity to draw the focus of the ‘blog post towards your comments. Make sure you drop in a relevant link to an article of yours in the URL field. That way, you’re not just making a statement, you’re opening the door for bringing the dialogue to your own ‘blog article. A word of caution here: misuse of this idea is essentially comment spam. If you’re going to comment, then make sure you’re adding value to the article you’re commenting on, or don’t do it at all, OK?
  2. Think and act like a professional. Don’t get drawn into heated debates, unless you’re sure you can do so without just throwing away your dignity and losing some serious credibility into the bargain. As I’ve discovered — much to my amusement — I’m both a contrarian and a conflict writer. Don’t be afraid of contradicting or correcting someone, but be damn sure that you’re right and you’re not going to annoy and antagonize people in the process.
  3. Have a theme? Well stick to it! You don’t see too many truly successful general ‘blogs. Most might start that way, but as those few that stick around longer than twelve months will attest to, some trimming of the excess fat inevitably takes place. The web rewards those that carve out their own niche. Working within a niche and becoming an authority within that niche is better than being one voice amongst many in a crowded room.
  4. Be seen, be known. Remember what I said about your comments of other people’s ‘blogs? Right, well there’s other places you ought to be hangin’ out, too. There are some notable social web venues up and down the internet superhighway, and you need to make a few well-chosen stops along the way. But choose wisely; don’t just sign up for every social network there is. Doing so will be an over-commitment on your part and you’ll be spread too thinly. Begin small, but think big and long-term, then work outwards from there.
  5. Don’t be afraid to sing your own praise. To begin with, few people will know of you, who you are or what you do — so you need to be seen. If you’ve had some recent successes (strong linkage from a major website or ‘blog, high praise from a client or a notable mention in a publication) then talk about it. Better yet, create you own media page, like the one here on Octane. Use that one success as a driver to help you with the next one, wherever that may come from.
  6. Be consistent with your image. Every blog post, every comment, every instant message, every email. If you feel that you’ve got a ‘house style’ then apply that style wherever you go. Some may like your style, others may loathe it, but for me, that’s where you want to be. I’d rather have a load of people hating and praising me, than have just a few think that I’m all right.
  7. Be an opportunist. If news breaks on a story that’s very much local to your topic of choice, make a move and get your thoughts / opinions / ideas out there first. However, be sure to put the emphasis on quality and not speed. There’s no point being the first out there if all you’re doing is saying: “Hi!” Sometimes, it’s a well to be fashionably late. Over time, as your name spreads, those that know you will wait. Additionally, being bad-mouthed could be a chance to make friends and influence people. Charm the pants off them, schmooze, cajole and you might just win them over.
  8. Get a ‘blog and get ahead! ‘Blogs routinely outrank websites on the search engines for a number of key reasons. The main reasons are that a typical ‘blog has a constant stream of ever-changing content, there are a great number of out-bound links to other sources, and there’s usually a community of people commenting on your articles. In addition to this, make sure people can do things with your articles. By that I mean make sure you have some way of syndicating your articles, either by a newsletter or from an RSS feed, sharing with friends via email or sharing on a social network.
  9. Be seen, be known .. be available. So you’ve got your audience, you’ve got some notoriety, but you’re aloof! Someone might catch a quick comment exchange with you occasionally, but that’s usually it. Make sure people can contact you. What you’ll have noticed is that some of these suggestions are about being a shameless self-promotional whore. As bad as that might sound to you, you’re going to be competing with people who may have less moral and ethical restraints than yourself, so you need an edge.
  10. Be yourself. To make this kind of thing work, there are a few prerequisites, which I hope I’ve covered above. But there’s one prerequisite to rule them all. It’s there when you’re commenting on ‘blogs. It’s there when you’re talking to someone and explaining yourself to them for the first time. It’s even there when things go wrong and you make that graceful recovery. That quality, that essential personal ingredient is charisma.

Success rarely comes to you, and even trying to meet it half way often isn’t enough. As for me, well, I’m still fighting the good fight, and I know what I need to be doing. Hopefully, after reading this little lot, you do too.

This article was first published on Octane’s sister blog, Blah, Blah! Technology, in an article entitled: “10 Personal Branding habits of the pros

Manage personal brand like a porn star

There’s a lot being said about personal branding, and brand management. Turning your name and your message into a brand and an identity are key to recognition, respect, status and possibly even fame, and dare I say it, the path to fortune? And those kings & queens of personal branding would be?

Well porn stars, of course! But before we get all personal, we need to get, well .. personal, actually.

We’ve all heard people describe themselves as “rock stars”, “experts” and “pros”. But the fact of the matter is, they don’t get to ascribe such notable attributes — we do, assuming those people even deserve such epithets.

Details aside, the goal is to make your name synonymous with what you do. It’s about finding the right person. It’s about the ‘S’ word. We’re talkin’ specificity, baby!

So if you were looking for Wayne Smallman, then the chances are, I’d be at the top of that list. Or at least I hope so, anyway.

Personal Branding & Brand Management by ‘blogging

The goal of personal branding and brand management is to make your name synonymous with a certain phrase, usually the very thing you think you’re good at, or what you do.

For a porn star, that’s easy. If you’re Jenna Jameson, or some other sex star .. not that I know all that many (ahem!) then she’s going to be pretty happy if she gets Joe Blogs (no pun intended) finding her website on Google with the phrase: “nekkid female pornstar” or something similar.

For thee & me, the correlation needs to be similar to that, though for topics much more mundane, but maybe not any less colourful.

For me specifically, it might be a little more intangible, since I have an angle; over on the Blah, Blah! Technology blog, I take an irreverent sideways glance at technology. I rarely concern myself with the minutia of the technology, because there’s usually a ton of people out there doing that.

Wayne Smallman is all about technology trends and technology news. I look for the story behind the news. I look for the human angle to the technology. Or, I prognosticate with oft contrived predications about where technology is leading us.

While here on the Octane blog, I impart practical business advice in the guise of a story or an allegory.

If you’re a ‘blogger and you’re keen to build your own personal brand, then you’re going in the right direction, and Darren Rowse has some ideas on personal branding from a ‘blog:

“My own philosophy on personal branding is that it needs to be approached on two fronts – a big picture and a little picture one. On a big picture front one needs to think about the larger ‘picture’ that you’re wanting to paint of yourself. You might do this by thinking about the words that you want associated with your name for example. So someone like Guy Kawasaki you might associate the word ‘entrepreneur’ or Michael Arrington it might be ‘Web 2.0’”

That’s the bigger picture, which links in nicely with what I was harpin’ on about. But then it’s the smaller scale where the wheels can come off:

“On a smaller picture / micro level I think bloggers need to consider that every action that they take has the ability to add to or subtract from their personal brand: Every Blog Post, Every Comment, Every Instant Message, Every Email…”

Which could easily read: every indiscretion, every moment of weakness, every angry tirade, every snipe, criticism and moment of pretense.

So this is a question of managing your personal brand, which is about manipulating people’s perceptions of you, nudging their ideas of you towards something akin to your own view and opinion of yourself.

You’re basically looking to create your very own Reality Distortion Field, just like Mr. Steven P. Jobs.

Always remember that the search engines don’t lie, or at least not knowingly. So those indiscretions, moments of weakness and angry tirades will be squirreled away somewhere in the dark, dank, cold recesses of some cache store, waiting to be discovered.

Sometimes, the perception people have of you is so shot through, it’s just too tempting to walk away and leave well alone. Start afresh, maybe?

Even in times such as these, it’s a chance to attack the negativity surrounding your personal brand head-on and turn that sudden infamous notoriety into an opportunity, which Neil Patel over at QuickSpout explains:

“When people start slandering your name your gut reaction is probably to ignore it and hope it dies down. The problem with this approach is that it can lead to people that don’t even know you looking at you in a negative way. Instead of just ignoring the problem you should respond to them in an apologetic fashion and let them know you are listening to them and trying to fix the problem or issue that they have brought up. By doing this you are letting people know that you are listening which might start changing their perception.

If you have had people slandering your name in the past and you ignored it, go back and respond. It is never too late to try and fix your name.”

You cannot control what people think of you, but you can influence the variables a little, influencing their perception. Be hands-on and tweak, so to speak.

Want to build brand? Give them something to remember you by!

The porn stars are usually a generous lot .. again, not speaking from any personal experience. This is all accumulated knowledge gleaned from my more broadly-travelled nephews. No, honest!

The porn stars want your money. It’s that simple. And to get your credit card details flung over the electronic ether into their merchant bank accounts, they usually flash their white bits through the odd short video clip, or in a small selection of images. It’s the old Loss Leader trick. Very much tried & tested.

So the question is: what are your white bits? Where are they? And what is their value? Well, that’s for you to decide.

Two examples in the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) & SEM (Search Engine Marketing) biz immediately spring to mind, those being SEO Book and SEO Egghead. They both give away oodles of knowledge, insights and tricks of their trade on a near daily basis, as well as offering books (of the electronic and dead tree variety).

For my part, I flash my white bits in the form of my own ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, which has enjoyed a healthy number of downloads.

Why do we do this? Because we’re building brand and then managing that brand even further by way of driving the visitor towards our books, which reinforce our attempts to build a sense of authority.

The successful guys get to stand up in front of strangers and talk, stuff like that. That too is an aspect of personal branding and self promotion. It’s actually one of the best ways to promote your brand. People get to see you and interact with you personally.

And finally, if ever there was any doubt that sex sells, let me widen your cultural orifice with a brisk exchange of social fluids, and watch the following video clip for the, err .. lowdown, so to speak.

This article was first published on Octane’s sister blog, Blah, Blah! Technology, in an article entitled: “Manage personal brand like a porn star