Professionalism in business and ‘blogging

Professionalism is more than just being good at something. Life being broadly analogous to a contest, professionalism is about how you present yourself before, during and after the game. So what does being a Pro mean?

If you’re new to business, look at the following as a rough guide to doing business with people. A people primer, if you like.

As a businessman, I have to play the politics game as well as my own game. Why? Because the other businesses I do business with have their own take on things and how those things need to be done.

So diplomacy plays a big part, in the sense that business people must pay some respect to each other and our own, sometimes idiosyncratic, way of doing things.

Sometimes, there will be a clash of personalities and it’s during those moments that you have be a diplomat first and foremost. But at the same time, you need to distinguish yourself by maintaining some degree of composure.

If it’s a conflict and it transpires that you’re wrong, then bow out gracefully and ensure you can articulate the reasons why you thought your were right.

Be sure sure you’re not closing any doors, or burning any bridges.

Don’t be an advertorialinsultomercialist by insulting your competitors to give yourself an edge.

Sports stars are a great example of how we often get the whole professionalism thing used interchangeably with talent. Or use the word professionalism so often that it’s almost throw-away, disposable.

A huge salary is not a sign of professionalism. Nor is a insulting the competition, getting blind drunk in public, beating up your girlfriend, illicit affairs, gambling addictions, abusive behaviour or questionable TV appearances.

Professionalism is about being dignified and composed in the face of adversity. Being aware of your influence and using that influence in a responsible and measured way.

In ‘blogging, upholding these qualities can be a challenge, which I know only too well myself. As an example, dealing with bad comments can sometimes mean making uncomfortable, difficult choices.

Showing restraint when writing is another challenge. As a rule, if you’re in the mood to write a rant, do so, but leave it until the next day at least, or when you’ve calmed down. Then, re-read and edit accordingly. You’ll be surprised by how differently things look!

Of course, business people and sports stars are driven, motivated individuals. They often share common, key character attributes, such as aggression, towering egos, extreme natural talent, an intuitive awareness, huge self belief and a hunger for success.

However, what separates the professionals from the also-rans is how those qualities are harnessed, focused, channeled and then applied to their life. And I say life because professionalism is a life-long thing, not something you can switch on & off with all the convenience of a light bulb.

So I thought I’d put the question to the people of my Social Network and ask them for their definition of what they think professionalism is:

  • Ash Laws via Pownce — “Conducting any dealings or interactions with other people ethically.”
  • Richard Alan Cowling via Twitter — “It’s simply an attitude. Nothing more … but the attitude … results in behaviour which is.”
  • Alex Hardy on Twitter — “Working to certain standards of quality and how you conduct yourself with other professionals / customers.”

Also, here’s some things that don’t automatically make you a Pro:

  • wearing a smart or an expensive suite;
  • just saying that you’re a Pro, or an expert, guru et cetera;
  • going to the same venues / events / gigs as the Pros;
  • having Pros as “friends” on some social network;

No, professionalism is everything you do done well and noticed by enough of the right people often enough that they consider you to be a professional.

Even if you act like a Pro, to be considered a Pro is for others to say, not you…

The difference of success

I’m not a gambler. I run a business and not knowing what’s in store week in week out is enough of a gamble for me. I prefer the “sure thing”, so putting my money on a ticket, a football team and a long drive to London was a gamble too far.

Playing the game

I’m from Barnsley, which is a small mining town in south Yorkshire, the largest county in England, often referred to as “Gods own County”. But I wouldn’t know anything about that.

Sunday the 6th of April was the day Barnsley got to play in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in a very long time.

I and a few friends decided to make the trip to the new Wembley, to see Barnsley Football Club play Cardiff City Football Club.

Now, I should ask that you bear with me through this preamble, as the background is essential to the point I’ll be making towards the end.

Barnsley have had an astonishing run; they managed to beat off Liverpool and Chelsea in earlier rounds, both of which are Premiership sides, while Barnsley languish precariously at the bottom the the Championship, which is the league below them.

Liverpool and Chelsea are formidable footballing clubs, neither being what you’d consider to be push overs. All the same, Barnsley beat both of them.

It’s not like Barnsley just got really lucky. Every football pundit in the country would tell you that Barnsley won because they played the better football against formerly Liverpool and then more recently Chelsea.

So how come Barnsley lost to Cardiff yesterday? Because they played not like a side enjoying a rich vein of form, but a side languishing at the foot of the Championship, courting the relegation zone and demotion to Division One.

For the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, Barnsley were most definitely the underdog and an unknown quantity. As for Cardiff, they’re also in the Championship and they knew more about Barnsley. In the end, that may have been all the difference.

There’s something reassuring about failure — it’s often far easier to get something wrong than it is to get it right. And to keep getting something consistently right is something of an art form.

Business is no different than football, or any other sport, for that matter. Performance, accuracy, efficiency, professionalism and sustainable success are paramount, not peripheral or preferable.

Failure is an inevitability of trying to succeed

So as I sat there, watching my home town football team go a goal down in the 7th minute, I began to realize how transient loyalties are. Curses and insults rained down from the stadia, washing down into the lower reaches of the field, sure to be heard by both the media and the players.

In my estimation, you don’t really know a person until you’ve seen them in a crisis and when they’re drunk. Anything else is just so much talk. During that game of football and on my way home, I saw people new & old in both those situations. What I saw didn’t impress me.

When failure comes to those who achieve greater things than others, those who’re less accomplished and look up to those who achieve great things will seek out the differences between themselves and the achievers, using those things as reasons to admonish and vilify them, not realizing that those very things they identify as flaws are often the very things that make the achievers great.

I aspire to be great enough that should I fail, that I be able to do do with dignity…

5 simple ways to improve your business website

Most business websites are under performing, and the reasons are all too common. Thankfully, most websites can be improved without too much effort.

Here’s a list of 5 easy methods to improving your business website:

  1. Prompt the visitor to act — by adding in a “Call to Action” at the end of a web page; such as your sales telephone number, or a button to place an order, or to contact support or sales, you’re preventing your product / service pages from becoming dead ends.
  2. Making contact — speaking of getting your visitors to contact you, just listing your email address is neither professional or sensible. Firstly, if you have a proper contact form, your visitors will have much more confidence in you. Secondly, by listing your email address on your website, you’re essentially inviting people to send you junk email. As well as giving your potential customers a way to contact you, also list your main telephone numbers and postal address, too.
  3. The write stuff — bad grammar and poor spelling are a turn-off. Most businesses have a copy of Microsoft Word, so make sure you use it! Also, when writing about your company or your products and services, think about your audience and write with their needs in mind. You’re not out to win any literary awards, but you don’t want to bore them, either. Be concise, descriptive, informative and use words and phrases appropriate to your product / service, and avoid jargon.
  4. Image is everything — you don’t have to be a professional to take professional-looking photographs of your products. A lot of websites have very poor photos, which do more harm than good and don’t give a good impression of either their products or the company itself.
  5. Broken links — possibly one of the most heinous of website design crimes is the broken link. Finding them is both frustrating and unprofessional. Periodically check your website for broken links and fix them!

Think your business website is suffering from some of these problems, but don’t know how to fix them? Well I do, so contact me straight away and let’s get that website of yours earning you money!