Knocking on the wrong doors in this ruined economy

In this economy after retrenchments by the score and thousands of businesses closing down many people are finding themselves knocking on doors.

But are they knocking on the right doors?

Many of the doors you have to knock on when your business closes down or when you are retrenched are new, unfamiliar doors.

There are doors that are now permanently closed for certain people. These doors will be shut in your face without regard to what kind of person you are.

Where do you look for open doors?

With so many doors been shut it doesn’t mean that you have to go down the backstreets?

At times like this we all have to open up our thinking to new possibilities and knock on doors that we haven’t knocked on before.

Before people will let you in, they need to know if you are there to offer value and you will work hard for them.

One door that might be worth knocking on is the door of learning as it often comes before the door of opportunity.

We assure you that our door is always open if you need assistance with business writing, business opportunity search, turning ideas into income or businesses as well as risk management such as business continuity.

Remember that a door shut in your face can inspire you to find new doors. You may find a new door that you’ve never thought of before and reach your goal through a different door where you and your experience, skills and talent are valued.

Is free advice always valuable?

So much free information and advice is available these days especially on the internet that it makes you wonder how much of it is really valuable. Yes, of course, some information whether it is free or not is valuable depending what you are looking for.

I subscribe to newsletters, download free ebooks and attend webinars all offering free advice. Few of these resources offer information that is practical or relevant to my life or business.

For the rest of it, the information is interesting but it really doesn’t make a difference.

It’s not always that I’m seeking out valuable information. I search the internet and read emails that I subscribe to for curiosity. To see what others are up to. To see how others have tackled similar problems. Sometimes these sources can be valuable.

The other thing that you need to watch out for is who is providing the information or advice. What are their qualifications? What is their experience? Are they still current in their field? Someone may have the qualifications and experience but they are not up-to-date with the latest trends.

If you’re not sure, perhaps the best thing is to contact the person and find out from them the necessary information that you require to establish their credentials.

If they don’t want to supply it, then perhaps it’s best to leave them alone.

Also watch out for people with vested interests. If you want to obtain information, for example on medical insurance, a broker who is attached to one company will be unable to give you a range of options to choose from.

Family, friends and your professional network can be trusted sources of information and advice. How many times have you taken a problem to a good friend and what they tell you cuts through the clutter and comes right to the point?

The services we offer on this website come with an offer to try them out and if you don’t find them helpful, then no hard feelings. For example, if you want advice on business continuity management or planning, we can arrange Zoom meetings (as many as you want) to better understand your needs. If we can’t assist, we’ll be happy to refer you to someone in our network who can.

In the end it pays to be wary of where information or advice is coming, check the source and compare with other sources of information.

One-minute sales message – prospecting in hard times

Are you finding it difficult to get people interested in your product or service in this stressed economic environment?

Many businesses have closed down because of the harsh and illogical restrictions placed on them during the hard lockdown. People who were once good contacts have lost their jobs. Existing businesses are facing rough times and are being extra cautious about new expenditures.

Yet it is puzzling to see how many sales people are continuing to send out the same old emails as if things haven’t changed in the marketplace. The same applies to selling messages on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As I write this, I hear the sound of the familiar tune from the ice cream van across the street. We used to only hear the ice cream van on weekends but during the lockdown the owner started coming out more often, combing even the side streets to prospect for businesses. It’s a tiny businesses but the owner has to support himself and his family.

Door-to-door sales have become costly now days because of transport costs and putting a representative on the road is expensive. Try knocking on a company’s door whether a commercial or manufacturing business theses days – you won’t get past the security.

So a lot of people are using the Internet to prospect. But it’s so crowded and full of messages that are sent out to prospects who are not the least interested in what the salesperson is offering and in many cases sent to the wrong person. It’s a basic requirement in sales, to contact the person who has the power to make the decision to buy (or at least an influencer lower down the ranks).

Over the past few months I’ve had to increase my prospecting activities. I’ve looked at a lot of so-called great prospecting systems from Internet marketers, consultants and other business experts. When you dig a bit deeper, you find that these are hardly such promising prospecting models and processes.

I’ve found that the best responses come when you prospect with quick to-the-point messages, are totally honest and have a clear value promise to your prospect. So have the people I’ve trained to write effective one-messages for prospecting and other communication.

The way I go about this is not for everyone but if you are having problems with prospecting for sales, you might be interested in the One-minute Messages for Short Attention Spans training that I’m offering to help business people. My email contacts are available on the website, if you want to contact me.

Kind regards
Chesney

A surety – walking around like a zombie in this economy

Taking out bank loans for a businesses, property development or other ventures, can make you feel like a zombie in this economy when you realise how much control you have given to your bank to seize your assets if something goes wrong.

A business person told me recently that with the negative economic news and forecasts he felt even more afraid about his bank loans where he has given surety on his family house.

It must be terrible. Sales declining, projects lost, scratching for business. And you’ve got bank loans hanging over your head. No wonder he’s afraid.

But many people buy into the notion that entrepreneurs are fearless risk takers and can tolerate high levels of uncertainty. Yes, maybe there are some like this but most “normal” business people have their feet firmly placed on the ground.

What do you do about avoiding bank sureties? What other forms of finance are there are there for the entrepreneur or small business owner? The business advisors are short on giving a clear and specific answer. I’m not going to venture to say where to look for capital except to point out that today there are many alternative forms of financing available – just take a look on the Internet if you are interested.

Remember one of the largest supermarket chain stores in South Africa began when the owner needed to expand and went cap in hand to friends who provided loans to take a share in the business that got it up and running.

In today’s ruined economy, high tax regime and choking bureaucracy, it pays to think critically about sources of finance, which essentially translate into accumulated debt, that possess the risk of asset confiscation.

Big opportunity for those who deliver great service

When last did you experience good customer service?

It’s hard to remember, isn’t it?

It’s strange, very strange, that in today’s networked world with many online tools, customer service is so pathetic.

Let me give you an idea of what I have experienced in recent months – and I won’t bore you with the details.

It took me three months to get one of the big four banks to stop my home insurance with them. Can you believe it? I had to be patient and endure because the new insurance I got cost one third of the price of what the bank was charging me. By the way, over a 12-year period, the bank’s insurance company allowed me only once to claim from the insurance policy.

I know this is another financial services example but I made some enquiries about medical insurance and after listening to a so-called insurance broker rattling on about various policy options, all I got was several attachments (amounting to about 100 pages) emailed to me. I was still confused even when I had scanned through the documents sent. Is this customer service?

I can go on but the point is service is often so bad that there must be an opportunity for smart people to provide better service. If you are small business owner or an independent consultant or service provider, the field is wide open.

Service is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, the person who experiences the service. Potential customers might be looking for a low-level quick fix solution but when it comes to complex products they would want a service representative to explain to them the various options clearly and in a simple but not simplistic way to help them make a good decision.


Being warm and friendly, is not enough. You’ve got to offer value, which means meeting the customer’s needs for a particular product or service.

But just as important as having knowledgeable, well-trained service people, you also need to have a feeling that the person you are dealing with is someone you can trust. But often this is not the case because you are shoved onto a call centre where staff posses the bare minimum training or an online contact form with a reply that makes you feel stupid.

Do better than this and opportunity awaits.

Finding customers for your niche business

One of the hardest things in starting a new business is finding customers who you can serve with your product or service.

In a local shopping centre, in a specific corner of the shopping centre, I have seen several businesses being started and then closing their doors in less than a year.

One of the first businesses I can recall being in the shopping centre was a florist. Next was a flooring small business which quickly closed down. This was followed by a household crockery businesses, which after a few months closed down as well.

At the moment, the same shop stands empty.

All these small businesses people had ideas for a business but after opening up they discovered that there weren’t enough customers to support their business.

It takes a lot of pre-research and almost forensics market research to find out whether there are customers available who would support the business.

But often this market research is not enough because even if you research a local or online market, it’s no guarantee that you will attract customers.

Sometimes a business won’t work in a specific location and then it would be better to take it online. For example, there is an online store which deals in writing instruments, specialised inks and papers. Right from the start, this business went online. The owners realised that they couldn’t open it in one specific geographic location because it would not provide sufficient customers.

No matter how good you think your business idea is, it pays to focus more on the market research to determine customer demand. Do your homework as thoroughly as you can whether you have in mind a physical store or an online business.

One-minute negotiation tips – handling hostility

Have you ever been in a negotiation when you find that one of the negotiators is hostile?You may find that one participant such as an industrial manager pretends to be helpful but he’s actually there to undermine your interests.

How do you handle the hostile and aggressive negotiator (which could really be described as yet another dirty trick in negotiation)?

It’s difficult because you don’t want to undermine your position.

But if you leave the hostile and aggressive negotiation party to his own devices, you’ll soon find him slowly and deliberately chipping away at you and your offer.

It’s sometimes hard to accept but it in real life negotiations you have people like this. They have personal agendas and want to get at you for whatever reason especially when they feel inferior.

Negotiation experts will tell you to call attention to the other parties behaviour. They will say something like,”You seem to have a lot of hostility towards me and I would like to resolve it.”

It may work. It depends on the personality involved but at least you have made the other party aware of what they are up to and you have shown that you are not going to tolerate their behaviour.

Perhaps a seemingly soft approach could work. You may say something like, “I’m not sure how we can proceed without knowing your role in this negotiation.” Then you might get a reaction, “What do you mean? “

You can pause, hold the tension and then repeat your question, “Please would you explain your role in this negotiation or meeting.”

Again you will get a similar response but wait for your turn. The person will mentioning their title and mumble some stock words about what they doing.

When the other party is finished, you say that you want to make sure that there is a fair and equitable outcome for both parties in this negotiation and please can both parties move forward in a spirit of cooperation.

If this doesn’t work, be sure to keep your cool and carry on. At least the hostile party now knows you know what they are doing. A tactic communicated is a tactic disarmed.

As a last resort you can ask for the hostile negotiator to be replaced by somebody else.

For more one minute negotiation tips, subscribe at www.ideaaccelerator.co.za.

If you want any help with planning your negotiation, please contact me.

Remember a very true thing about negotiation is that we often turn out to be our own worst possible negotiator because we are too invested in our position or are overwhelmed to make a good deal (to save face with colleagues, family and friends).

Chesney Bradshaw has an MBA with a specialisation in strategic negotiation. He has been in business for more than 30 years where he has been involved in negotiation and communication.

The challenge of strategic planning in volatile times

I once knew a man who took a revolver to his head and shot himself. He had miscalculated the market and his business (and life) was in ruins.

It’s an extreme example but a business strategy can go awry very quickly, especially in volatile markets leading to great pain and even tragedy.

We’ve all seen how Covid-19 has impacted millions of businesses because of the lock-down. It came so suddenly, without warning, that it was very difficult, if possible, for business people to do anything about it.

However, many business experts have urged business people, whether the solopreneur, small business owner or even large businesses, to diversify. Some have even advocated having parallel businesses — to provide more than one source of income.

This is probably sound advice but it is difficult to make it a reality. As soon as you want to do something else, get into some other market, start a new side business, you are faced with opportunities and risks.

Strategic planning can assist with your decision making. It involves looking at the opportunities and the risks which come in many forms, including market risk, customer risk, social risk, political risk, environmental risk, reputational risk, legal risk and technology risk.

Knowing what to do requires analyzing the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats of any business proposition as well as an environmental scanning using analytical tools.

An analysis will only take you so far. You need to have a “feel” for whatever you are getting into. You need to make sure that a market exists and that there are customers that will pay for your product or service.

Some entrepreneurs can spot a business opportunity and after doing their research go straight ahead and make things happen. For example, I know a business person who during the lockdown identified an opportunity, found low-cost premises and started a new business in level 4 of the lockdown.

His new business is five times the size of his previous business. Imagine that. I visited the business the other day and was astounded by the volume of customers and his attractive location. (Just by the way, this business person has owned and managed very large factories and is now in another business line after his factories had to be shut down because of ineptitude by authorities who have allowed the local market to be flooded with cheap imported products. But let’s not dwell on that now.)

Parallel or sideline sources of income are available to entrepreneurs and small-business owners unlike the large corporations who are under huge pressure from activist investors to focus on their “core”. Today it’s all about picking the eyes of well-run businesses and breaking them up piece by piece. There’s no room for a portfolio of businesses and if any one of them is not a “strategic fit” it is divested.

Starting something new in addition to what you are doing is one huge ask. But for those who want to give it a go, despite the enormous efforts involved, it remains an important way to diversify risk and rebalance your “portfolio” in these volatile times.

Chesney Bradshaw
BA (Unisa), MBA (Heriot Watt)
ISO 22301 Lead Implementer (BCLI1015573-2018-05)
ISO 22301 Lead Auditor Certificate No. BCLA1015573-2016-11

One-minute business continuity plan – is it possible?

The COVID 19 pandemic has demonstrated how ill-prepared companies and small businesses were for a total shutdown of their operations.

Where was their business continuity planning? How many had reserve cash funds available to stay the course of months of no trading? Smaller businesses lacked a cash kitty.

Employers who grudgingly let employees work from home or were mulling over so-called work-from-home policies but never taking action were in for a surprise. Overnight employers had to rely on employees working from home, many using their own data.

Business risks come in many forms: Economic risk, compliance risk, security and fraud risk, IT and IT infrastructure risk, financial risk, Reputation risk, operational risk, competition (market) risk. Business continuity mainly deals with operational risk but includes the impact of other risks.

So what has this got to do with the One-minute business continuity plan?

Well, if you had the right set of strategic questions in front of you it would be possible to go through them in one minute and perhaps realise that your business would need to come up with a business continuity plan (BCP).

I’m not saying that you can produce a BCP in one minute. That would be ridiculous. But in a minute, if you were serious about it, you could quickly recognise the key business risks you face.

If you had only one minute to decide whether to produce a BCP, what would you need to know?

Here are the most important points:

Have you fully defined the scope of your business operations?
What risks do you face in your business operations
Which risks require a business impact analysis?
How will you address the risks?
What is your recovery time objective?

It’s important that you know the answer to these questions as you call lose thousands and in many cases millions by not understanding the inherent internal operational risks in your business and the external risks your company faces.

Business continuity management can help companies secure future opportunities, such as tenders and contracts. Some large companies are now requiring a comprehensive BCP before approving a supplier contract.

A BCP will not take a minute to complete but a quick understanding of your business risks will get you started in the right direction.

Business continuity planning could take days, weeks and longer depending on the size of your business. For a mining operation, for instance, meetings would need to be held to define risks, analyse them and prepare a BCP.

Remember that a BCP to be effect should be part of a company-wide business continuity management system (and preferably be implemented and audited by ISO accredited specialists).

If you need a free one-minute consultation to evaluate your business risks, then please feel free to contact me.

Business writing tips – is courtesy still relevant?

Business writing tips – is courtesy still relevant?

I was out on my morning run yesterday when a cyclist came tearing down at me on the pavement.

I jumped out of the way and let her pass.

It happened too fast for me to ask her what she was doing riding on the pavement.

We all know, don’t we, that the pavement is for pedestrians and not cyclists.

I’ve never seen a sign that says the pavement is a cycle trail.

Perhaps she thought she couldn’t cut onto the grass side where she could avoid hogging the pavement.

Who knows?

Maybe she was cycling in terror way from someone or a fierce dog.

She could have been in such a hurry because she had some private toilet business.

Or she could be so wrapped up in her private world, that she doesn’t notice anyone around her.

Then again, perhaps she just doesn’t care where she rides. To her she owns the pavement.

My last and final plea, doesn’t age count for anything anymore?

She couldn’t have been past thirty thundering past a “ahem” more “mature” person.

This cyclist is probably the person you receive an email from with the following greeting:

“ABC Pty Ltd works with EPDM synthetic rubber products to provide our clients with commercial and residential waterproofing solutions with unbeatable quality and lifespan.”

No niceties, just straight in with something she wants, wham bam thank you man.

No warm up or polite greeting.

No courtesy.

On one of her feeling good days, she may write:

“I hope this finds you well”.

Isn’t it about time to kill off that email greeting?

Even something warmer such as the following may crack a smile:

“Did you see the news about [XYZ]? How crazy is that!”

Courtesy in business writing involves the respect we show to others. It means writing in terms of the reader’s interest or viewpoint with a positive tone, being polite, sincere and enthusiastic.

Last laugh

A business writing coach who used to come to the university on foot every day arrives one day on a fancy new bicycle. “Where did you get the bike from?” his friends want to know. “It’s a thank you present”, he explains, “from that young student I’ve been tutoring. But the story is kind of weird…” “Tell us!” “Well”, he starts, “yesterday she called me on the phone and told me that she had passed her business writing final and that she wanted to drop by to thank me in person. As usual, she arrived at my place riding her bicycle. But when I had let her in, she suddenly took all her clothes off, lay down on my bed, smiled at me, and said: You can get from me whatever you desire!”One of his friends remarks: “You made a really smart choice when you took the bicycle.” “Yes, another learned friend adds, “just imagine how silly you would have looked in a young woman’s clothes – and they wouldn’t have fit you anyway!”