10 things I learnt in 5 years.

10 things I’ve learnt in 5 years

I was gonna give myself a big introduction this morning, but I’m not now, it’s me, my business is Effective Marketing and I was quite pleased when Lisa came to me and said, would you just do something about things that you’ve learned in the five years that you’ve been in business? My business will be five years old on the 5th of December, you remember five years ago? Okay, cool. So it was interesting to start thinking about the things that I learned in those five years, and it was interesting where I started from, because I didn’t know anything at all when I started my business. I knew absolutely nothing, I was walking and breathing, and that sort of stuff I managed, but a very clever guy called Brad Sugars, if you know Action Coaching, what he says is that when you are employed by somebody else, that is your opportunity to learn how to run a business. Does that make sense? So if you’re on a salary for someone else, you can do that on their time and their money, and you can learn. But when I was on a salary for other people, I was just busy thinking that they were idiots and they weren’t doing it right. So I wasn’t the most inspiring employee if I’ve ever and I just always had this sense that I should run my own business, and that I would end up running my own business. But the way it happened is I did some personal development on the 3rd of December, in 2005. And on the 5th of December, after the three days personal development, I started my business. So that was interesting. I didn’t know anything.

The other thing I didn’t know, is I didn’t know anything about marketing. But what I decided to do was call my business, the Effective Marketing Company. Because what I’ve always seen in my corporate experience was that, I have always been sitting in the sales team with all of the target and none of the budget, whilst the marketing people have been loading it up, with all of the budget, and none of the target. So this worked in my mind. And what I thought is people spend money on marketing, they don’t necessarily spend money on sales. So the Effective Marketing Company, I thought was a good idea. But literally, I’m going to tell you the 10 things that I think I’ve learned that are the most important things, but I really am not here to teach granny to suck eggs. I am just telling you, I started from a very low base, I did not have a clue. Is that okay? Cool. So these first things I learned, what I’ve done is I’ve tried to put these into sort of chronological order. So this is the order that I started to learn these things.

Now this is something that I just learned completely by accident, which is that you have to make yourself accessible if you’re going to be successful in sales and marketing. Does that make sense to anyone at all? It does. My experience of sales previously to start in my business, is that I’ve always been doing the typical salesman type stuff, of knocking on doors, phoning people up to try and get in for sales appointments. Has anyone got any experience with doing that? Yes. So we try really hard to get sales appointments. But because I started with nothing, literally nothing, I had to get some credibility quite quickly. So what I did is I started networking. And instead of asking for sales appointments, I started offering free consultations. So the idea was that I’ll sit down with you for an hour, we’ll get excited about your business stuff, but no commitment whatsoever on either side to do anything except you’ll owe me a testimonial at the end. And that worked really well, that worked really, really well. Because there was no challenge to engaging me. Does that make sense? I come along, we get excited. Now one of my roles in my sales career was selling huge, multimillion pounds, IT solutions to banks. But when you phone up and you say I want to sell you a huge multimillion pounds IT solution, can I have a couple of hours of your time? Interestingly, they don’t necessarily want to give you a couple of hours of their time.

So being accessible, having a really accessible offer has been really useful. And this has been really useful throughout the time that I’ve been running Effective Marketing, because at the time in October 2007, when the recession landed on us, and people started saying we’re not ready to spend 1000s of pounds with you, I came up with another accessible offer, which was my seminars. So instead of actually having to invest 1000s of pounds in something you don’t understand, which is marketing, which is just actually incomprehensible, spend 40 quid and see if you can learn something, and that was really successful, and that’s had a real impact on my business. So in your marketing, in your business, you need to be accessible. What you have in your mind that you know about what you offer is really valuable. If you start sharing it with people, people will start warming to you. And certainly you need to convince their experience. So you need to be in front of people doing what it is that you do, if you’re going to convince them that it’s going to be valuable for them. So that was the first thing I learned.

The second thing that I learned, and again, this was completely by accident is that credit control is crucial. So we all understand that we need cash in our business. And that’s fine. But completely by accident, because I didn’t have any money. So it was important that if people were going to do stuff with me, I needed to know I was going to get paid. And actually, I needed the money as soon as I could, as soon as I could get it. So what I say to people is that I invoice in advance, and my invoices, are due on receipt, that make sense to everyone? Does anyone do that in their business? Sometimes you do that in your business. And it just seems to me because I’ve only ever done credit control once before in my life, where as a salesperson, we had to collect the money before we’d be paid a commission on the money. So what I did is I get this, so this was in my terms and conditions, I invoice in advance, invoices are due on receipt. So what happens is that I had some cash in the bank. And that’s very different from what happens in credit control in lots of other businesses, I think, because what happens is, you do the work, then you invoice, you give them 30 days as rich for some reason, you phone up after for 30 days, and they tell you they haven’t had the invoice. And so you send them another invoice, which has another 30 days. So before you know where you are, you’re 30, 60, 90 days credit.

So if you’re going to be in charge of the bus, what has to happen to it? You have to drive the bus and what happens when you leave? You ring the bell, and you have the check in your hand. Because actually, this sounds a bit harsh I think to a lot of people, but actually it’s much better for the person that you’re selling to if they know your terms. Does that make sense? Because it doesn’t do me any favors, if you want to give me terms and I don’t know what they are. If I’ve got 1000 accounts in my in trade, that’s not helping me and my cash flow. Does that make sense? Should I give you the best illustration of this I ever had? I don’t have to. The best illustration of this I ever heard was that this credit control company phoned me up and they said, Martin, please come in and talk to us about our marketing. So I went to see them. And they said what we want you to do is we want you to market to accountants. And that sounds like good sense, doesn’t it? And I said that makes fantastic sense. Because you want to get to accountants, they’ve got hundreds of customers, they can refer you one to their customers. And the guy said to me, no, no, no, no, no, no. Accountants have the worst credit control of any kind of business. Because what they do is they set up an expectation on the way of what they’re going to charge you, they don’t invoice you. Excuse me, I meant to ask you to turn your phones off. Now I meant to turn mine off. Okay, so they don’t invoice you for 12 months, and then you’ve forgotten, all the joy has gone out of it, you know, so then you’ve agreed to pay me this money, you weren’t told how much it was going to be, you had to wait a year for the invoice. And now it’s very troublesome. So accountants are the worst at credit control in the world. Now, the other thing to remember here is that credit control is really easy at the point of sale, because it’s easier to collect the money when they’re excited about what they’re buying, than it is 6, 8, 12 months down the line when they might have had some value, but they might have forgotten about it. So credit control is critical. And credit control is really easy if you take an attitude of I’m going to collect this money, I’m serious about my business, I’m going to do my credit control when they’re excited. It always works. So that’s the second thing that I learned completely by accident.

Now the third thing that I learned is you have to mind the gap. And there are two gaps that I’m really aware of. The first is I’ve got a really strong idea of where I want to end up in my business and that is in Barcelona. And what I would like to do ideally is be in Barcelona, fly in a couple of times a month and do a couple of talks and then fly back to Barcelona. That’s where I want to be. But that’s not particularly useful that information, if I’m actually just pushing a wheelbarrow every day in my business to make things work and to make things happen. And so there’s a gap here clearly between what I’m doing right now, and what I want to be doing in the future. Now I’ve had some support in my business I’ve had business coaches come in, but what they seem to be intent on doing is pushing my target further and further away, which makes that gap bigger and bigger and bigger. Does that make sense to everyone? Is that the way you do your planning and your business, about where you want to be in 10 years time? But actually what I need is I need help taking me from where I am now. So at some stage I’m gonna have to put the wheelbarrow down and start doing something else so that I can actually fill that gap between where I want to be and where I am right now. And it just seems to me that the stress that comes from running your business comes from these gaps, comes from the difference from where you are now to where you want to be.

The second gap that I’m aware of, because as business owners and probably when we’re employees we were absolute angels weren’t we? Aren’t we? Aren’t we angels. So have we married couple of figures in our business? Yeah, because we’re perfect. As I’ve already alluded to, I wasn’t the most amazing employee ever, which is why I had to start my business. But actually, employees have quite a different attitude to their work, and to your business, which is they want to turn up at nine o’clock, they wanted to get their work done, they want to go home, they want to enjoy their evenings and their weekends and their salaries. Don’t they? It never occurred to me when I was an employee, if my salary wasn’t in the bank on the last day of the month, I would go ballistic. What I didn’t realize is that the owners of the company were working every single day with that one objective in mind, which is to make sure my salary was there at the end of the month. So there’s a gap between, and when you become a business owner, you kind of step through the looking glass, and everything changes in that one second. But employees don’t step through that looking glass with you. So there is a gap between my expectation of employees, and maybe the way that they turn out. So there’s a lot of investment involved. And there’s something else I wanted to say there tradition. And when you work for corporations, they have a tradition of expectation from their employees. So they have an expectation of how they’re supposed to dress, when they’re supposed to turn on, how they’re supposed to speak to their seniors, all of this stuff, its huge. When you start a business from scratch, and you start employing people, you don’t have any of that tradition at all. So you need to make a big investment in that is what I’m saying.

Okay, so the fourth thing that I’ve learned, so we’ll get a little chance to play here, is that you have finite resources. Because somebody told me recently that they were told, if you want to be successful, you have to sleep less. Has anyone ever heard this? Because you’ve got 24 hours in your day, everybody does. So if you want to be successful, that’s the only extra time that you’ve got. So this person I spoke to had trained herself to sleep four hours a night. So that she could have an extra three and a half or four hours a day, which is interesting, but we only have finite resources. So you can start as late as you like, you’ll just be more tired the next day. So I’m going to give you a chance just to guess what these resources are. So resource number one is Motivation. That’s excellent. Tried to explain this to the team yesterday that Mr. Motivator was big in the 80s. And he said to me quite correctly, I’m 17. So that doesn’t work necessarily. So resource number two is Energy, and it comes in a family size. So that’s great. Resource number three, Balance, you don’t actually need good balance to run a business. But you need a bit of Confidence. Money, cash. So you need cash, if you’re gonna run your business. Time, we’ve already looked at or spoken about, Skill, and of course Support. So you only have a finite amount of these resources. And these resources are really valuable.

So your responsibility is to really manage these resources really closely. Because if you’re out of Motivation, Energy, Confidence, Money, Time, Skill and Support, then it’s probably time to close the doors and think about doing something else. But people will rob you of these resources if you’re not careful. So salespeople will turn up and take up an afternoon talking about some advice that they’d like you to run, you know, people might knock you, who are close to you and use up your motivation. So just being aware of your resources, and that you have to manage them, I think was a really valuable lesson that I learned.

Okay. Starting a business from scratch is a bit like building the car that you’re driving along in. Does that make sense? So what happens is you get a bit of a wheel on and one knot, and then the other wheel needs a bit of attention. So you’re over there trying to do that. And you might get one seatbelt on, but then the other three seats don’t have seatbelts, does it make sense? So actually running your invasive Steiner business from scratch is a bit like a Harold Lloyd film, where he’s driving along and the car’s falling to pieces. And he’s trying to hold it all together whilst he’s driving along. And that’s how the car’s end up at the top of skyscrapers and stuff. So that was an interesting thing. And it’s scary. Because it’s a dangerous thing that you’re doing. I think if you start a business from scratch, it’s scary because you’ve now got to find salaries, you’ve now got to make the investments so that you can make the next leap, so that you can have more people. And it’s interesting, because in October 2007, when there were four or five of us locally, all doing similar things in marketing, all busy growing our businesses, and I got up to eight or nine people and all of a sudden my bookkeeper started talking about huge sums of money. That we owe five grand for VAT. And that’s okay. When do I have to pay that? Tuesday. Okay, that’s scary. And I need to pay eight grand in salaries. Okay, when I need to pay that? Tomorrow. You know, it’s kind of scary.

Now I think the thing that makes the scariest of all, and this is one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that when you are running your own business, when you are the boss, two sets of people stop talking to you entirely, or actually make your life difficult by giving you false information. And those two sets of people are your finance people, and your sales and marketing people. As anyone experienced this? It can’t be just me, it can’t be. So I think the reason that running your business is so frightening is because you’re flying blind. Because your sales and marketing people want to tell you that everything’s great. And your accounting people, they want to tell you it’s too difficult to get that information from your systems. But without that information, you are literally flying blind. And that is scary. And that’s why I was relying on my bookkeeper to say, five grand tomorrow, six grand on Tuesday. It’s scary. So I think the thing that you could do about the fact that it’s scary is you need to take charge, you need to jump up and down like a spoiled child until you get reports every week, every minute, every month about how your business is performing, how many meetings you’re sitting, how many proposals you’re putting out.

How are you doing? You’re happy. It’s not scary for you anymore. How long have you been in business now? Five years.

Yeah. So actually, I’ve started doing this and it has taken five years and five accountants. My fourth accountant was my uncle Keith. I had to fire my uncle Keith because he told me that the things that I was looking for, the questions that I was asking, were jargon. He wants us to talk about accruals and stuff, I wanted to talk about what my customers worth to me, that is jargon. So he got fired, my uncle Keith. But it’s scary if you don’t know, if you’re flying blind, being in business is scary. So you need to sort out your measurements, and you need to get them right as quickly as you can.

Okay, so remember that this is chronological. And this was only the sixth thing that I learned is that actually marketing works. But we know marketing works, don’t we? Do we know that marketing works? Do we? Now and you guys have come here for a teaching on successfully growing your businesses? And there’s a little bit of trepidation about marketing. I’m not sure. But if you look at the world’s most successful businesses, if you look at KFC, if you look at British Airways, if you look at Virgin, if you look at Cadbury’s, if you look at the world’s most successful businesses, what they all have in common is that they invest in their marketing. Is anyone with me on this at all? Yes you are. Okay, and the great news is, that marketing actually works. And I know, I know it’s tricky to get your head around this one, because there’s lots of people who are charlatans basically taking your money and not delivering results for you. But actually marketing words, because all marketing is, is making people aware, the people you want to be aware that your business exists, and that it could be helping them and actually helping them and actually doing such a great job that they then tell their friends about it. So marketing has always worked. And the great news I found in 2010, is that marketing has never been more accessible, i.e., it’s never been cheaper to market your business. And it’s never had the level of reporting that it has right now. Because the most effective marketing is online marketing. And because it’s online, you can measure exactly what’s going on. So when one of the Lever Brothers said, I know that 50% of my marketing works, I just don’t know which 50%. In 2010, that’s not a good enough excuse anymore, you can measure to the nth degree exactly what’s going on with your marketing.

Now, as I said, this was chronological. So you would have thought I had more confidence in marketing, working before number six, you thought this might have been the first thing that I did. But like I say what I was doing in the first couple of years is running around doing what a professional salesperson would do if they were in your business. And it’s only really when I ran that to the very end, I realized actually sitting people on the phone all day every day, if it’s only four days per month isn’t going to fulfill people’s expectations. So I started looking at marketing. And the time that this really landed on me was a day when we were running some telemarketing and some email marketing for one of our customers. So they were running a training event. They were eight IT trainers. And I phoned this business and I said, we’ve put an email through to you about this event. And it seems like somebody that is very interested. They’ve opened the email four times they forwarded it on to somebody else. And so I’m just wondering what that interest is. And the woman didn’t quite say this to me, but she kind of did in her attitude and her tone. She said, you stupid boy. If we’ve looked at the email four times and forwarded it on, and we were actually interested, don’t you think we’ll have folks that picked up the phone and booked the seat? And I said, well, you know, some people just need a little push to get them over the line. She said, don’t be ridiculous. And don’t call us again and the phone went down. So it was quite hard lesson. But I learned that lesson over and over and over because I’m a salesman. 10 minutes later, I’m not even kidding you, 10 minutes later, the phone rang. And it was the same woman from the same company.

And she said to me, is that Martin, I said, Yes, she said, Martin, I wonder if you could help me, we just received an email about your marketing seminar that you’re running. And we wondered if we might be able to book a couple of seats. And I was still supposed to say, you stupid woman. But I did learn something. Because what I learned in that second is that actually, when your phone rings, it’s much easier than when their phone rings, they’ve got a million things going on in their lives. And actually, if they decide to proactively come and do business with you, they will do business with you, no matter what happens. And that was the illustration of marketing work. And that’s why I am now advocating for my customers, integrated marketing, let’s do all of these things, these things all work, let’s just make sure we make the right investments in then. So its number 6, marketing works.

Okay, number seven, it took me a long time to learn that you need to take care of your bread and butter. Okay, because I didn’t do that, because I’m a visionary. So I’ve got this ridiculous vision of me sitting in Barcelona and jumping on a plane a couple of times a month and coming into the country knowing I have enough money to exist my business. But recently, really recently, in the last three months, I realized that actually I only need X 100 pounds every day. And normally, I’ve achieved that X 100 pounds by about 10:30 in the morning. But because I’ve nailed that as a target that frees me up to do whatever it is I want to do, to do whatever long term investment is I want to do after 10:30 in the morning. So if you can identify, and I’ve been quite busy on my Twitter with this, and I get responses from all over the place, like make your targets harder, you stupid person. But no, because we like easy things don’t we? Do we like easy things? I like targets that I’m going to hit, I know targets that I’m going to smash because that makes me happy. Actually giving myself a mountain to climb every day is just stressful. It’s five years in, and I’ve climbed whatever that is, 1500 Mountains. And actually, I just like to go for a little walk now, pick up what I need for my targets and get on with what I want to do with the rest of my days. So taking care of your bread and butter is about identifying exactly what it is that you need to do every day. Once you’ve got what you need in the bag, then you can start to make long term investments. So that’s number seven.

Number eight. Okay, I’ve got a question for you. Who would like to be offering their customers a Rolls Royce service? By show of hands. Okay, everyone who would like to offer their customers Rolls Royce service. Okay, who charges Rolls Royce prices? Not so many of you. Okay, so this is a lesson I learned again quite late in the day is you can’t provide a Rolls Royce service on Robin Reliant mind. That’s one of those gaps that’s gonna stress you out. Now there’s two reasons for this. One of the reasons is that people who buy Robin Reliants are much more demanding than people who buy Rolls Royces. So if you are the cheapest, whatever it is in your market, you are going to attract the pickiest, most demanding customers, they’re going to take up way more of your time, than you’ve actually charged them for or you could possibly ever hope to bill them for. Rolls Royce people are lovely. Because the Rolls Royce is probably one of several cars that they drive, one of the several marketing initiatives that they run continuously. So these people are much less demanding. So if you want to provide a roadway service, you have to charge a Rolls Royce premium. And what happens then is you’ve got the money to actually deliver the Rolls Royce service, it becomes circular doesn’t it? Any marketing who so worth their salt will come into your business and insist that you put your prices up by 50 or 100%. Literally 50 or 100%. Because otherwise your business is always operating under pressure. And that’s worth remembering, I think.

Okay. So this is something that I’ve also learned very, very recently. Not about Dame Ellen MacArthur, Dame Ellen MacArthur did 27,354 nautical miles. We’re all familiar with this? She was at sea for 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds. What made this notable, do we know? It’s quite a big achievement that she did it unsupported, on her own without any help from anyone else. So that’s interesting. Who’s this man? Ranulph Fiennes, okay. Ranulph Fiennes walked across Antarctica. He walked across Antarctica, he was walking across Antarctica for 95 days. What makes this interesting to me is that he did that unsupported without any help from anyone else. There are 4 million business owners in the UK, and we are all doing it unsupported, we’re not getting the help that we need, because of our attitude, because of the quality of support that’s required, how available? But for some reason, there are 4 million businesses who aren’t getting the support that they need. And that’s interesting, because you don’t get trained to be unsupported like Ranulph Fiennes and Ellen MacArthur who probably had some time before they went off around the world’s oceans, or across Antarctica to plan for the fact that they weren’t going to be unsupported. But small business owners, we don’t get the opportunity to do that. And it’s weird not having a boss or not having someone pay your salary. You’re a loose cannon on your own and without anyone to manage you, how on earth do you manage yourself?

So this is Tip Number nine, which is getting yourself some support. Do you need to get someone who looks after you and I just found someone recently, who’s brilliant, and I knew that she was going to be able to manage me, when I asked her for some feedback. And after 15 minutes, I was a bit bored of it and said, okay, that’ll be enough. And she said, Well, I’m not finished yet. And I’m not for another three quarters of an hour. And I thought this woman can manage me. And in fact, she can. So what I’m suggesting you do is get yourself a coach or join organizations like SAS Enterprise, or make some friends. But you need to get some really good support around you. Because you’re doing a very difficult thing. And actually probably the most difficult time to do it in the last 100 years. So get yourself a coach, join the right organizations, do the networking, get yourself some friends, the friends that you’ve got already are going to think you’re weird for starting your own business is what I found. My wife lost interest in the fact I started my business on about day two. So you know, you’ve just become very boring to a lot of people, but people who are in a similar situation to you, people who are having similar issues, people who might even be providing services, so my best friends are probably among my clients, and my suppliers. These are the people who I can really trust. So getting yourself some support is the thing that I learnt at number nine.

And number 10, is you need to look out for growth. Because when Lisa came to me and said, I want you to stand up and talk about growth for 20 minutes, I thought I did growth, I didn’t quite fancy it, so I stopped growing, and I’m doing something different now. But actually like there are lots of things your marketing can achieve. There’s lots of growth that your business can achieve without having a huge, great big fat wage salary, and rents and stuff to pay. So once I did that, I got up to nine people, it was scary as anything I’ve ever encountered. I’ve grown in different ways. The surprising one was when I started looking at growth is that my business has been about supporting other people in their businesses. It’s about finding them customers and doing stuff. So in about July of this year, when I looked around to see what had been going on in my business, I realized that I’ve won 500 customers. 500 customers, in four and a half years, during the worst recession in the history of capitalism in the UK. 500 customers, in marketing, which must be the most stupid thing in the world you could possibly sell, 500 customers. And it happens completely by accident, because this all happened as part of my customer generation. But, you know, I didn’t realize it was there.

And the other growth that I’ve achieved that I’m really pleased with is my personal growth. Because when I started my business, I had no idea that I like standing up in front of huge groups of people at seven o’clock in the morning, or that I enjoy it or that I might be good at. So my personal growth also has been huge. And then the other thing is that I’ve outgrown employability. No one will ever employ me again in my life, because I’m completely unemployable, because I’ve run my own business for five years. So what I’m saying is look into your business and look at the different ways that growth might be represented in your business. And that might give you a healthy outlook. So there were some things that didn’t make it onto the list. I also learned that accountants are particularly useless. Accountants or writers are as useless as everyone else. The taxman has absolutely no manners whatsoever. Yeah, lots of different things that might add to those but those are the 10 I decided on sharing today. My name is Martin Henley my business is Effective Marketing, there’s lots of ways you can get in touch with me, I do this stuff and so thank you very much.

Martin Henley

Martin Henley

Martin has built a reputation for having a no nonsense approach to sales and marketing and for motivating audiences with his wit, energy, enthusiasm and his own brand of audience participation. Martin’s original content is based on his very current experience of running effective marketing initiatives for his customers and the feedback from Effective Marketing’s successful and popular marketing workshops.



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