Watching the Olympic Marathons in London, I did some serious dad dancing and Saturday Night Fever type pointing. Travolta did it long before Bolt. No Russian Cossack moves, I’m not daft. Three times the athletes in both races ran past our new London office. I was alone in the lounge, in my dressing gown, chuffed to bits. No 1 Poultry is an iconic London landmark that was built when I was an architecture student in the 80s so I’ve known about it for quite a while. I can get to it from my house in Glasgow in less time than it took to win the marathon.
I don’t teach business strategy, but in this post I suggest three reasons why, after a decade, we are still around, growing and have that London address.
Neither passion nor hard-work is in my top three, despite the fact that you are often told it’s all you need in this kind of piece. Don’t misunderstand me, if you don’t have passion and the will to work your cojones off the ball will be on the slates in jig-time. But if that’s all you have you might be in for a very frustrating time and may eventually lose the keys to your own house. I have both passion and hard work in spades: Recently I have delivered in Barcelona, Budapest, Copenhagen, Lisbon and Zurich. Most of those locations are coming up again soon. In every case the highlight was the gig. Well okay, the Barca gig included a weekend with The Snip and a trip to the outrageously brilliant, candescent Gaudi masterpiece Casa Batllo, St. George and the Dragon. Let’s call that one a dead heat.
So I’m saying passion and hard work are pre-requisites. My three essentials for success are focus, evolution and organisation.
You need to know, specifically, what your business does. It cannot do everything. We started with public speaking; soon added networking; put these together to make business development; influence & persuasion grew naturally out of that: in essence that’s four things. Of course we do more than that, but not much. Find something you are good at and keep on at it until you have forgotten more than most people know about it.
Over 13 000 people have heard our Kissing With Confidence Method for public speaking, though much of it is delivered as part of pitching programmes today. Our first job, early this century, was for a corporate law firm. They loved our public speaking programme and asked if we did time management. We had no clients to speak of, no cash-flow and no pipeline. We had no idea what a pipeline was. We had one public speaking programme to sell and one set of notes. (We now have three: the Oratory Masterclass being my personal favourite.) It would have been easy to trot out a time management programme, but it’s not Passionate Oral Communication is it? So we said no to a doubling of our cash-flow in the first month of our new business venture because it wasn’t part of our plan.
Evolution is essential; revolution is always dangerous. Changing dramatically to suit the latest fad is a tough ask. Imagine your local Thai restaurant- all silk tunics, lemongrass and wind chimes- going for gingham tablecloths, Mateus Rose bottles with candles and flaming liqueurs. How will you feel when the new maître de greets you with a hug while offering the special- Green Curry Pizza- in an extravagantly gesticulated stage whisper?
Innovate and evolve constantly but don't confuse your customer base with dramatic shifts. Our clients today are asking for business development, pitching and influencing skills, either to get more business in or to cope with a changing environment. This is not a surprise, in fact we planned for it as soon as the crash happened and now spend lots of time delivering at conferences and tailoring programmes in these key areas for academics, lawyers, accountants and managing consultants.
Without evolution, we could conceivably still be teaching presentation skills to businesses in Scotland. Today that comprises about 1% of our business, in year one it was 100%.
There are 18 different actions we need to get right before a KWC facilitator performs in front of an audience and two or three afterwards: Sales, marketing, programme development, proposal writing, pitching, customer service, tax, vat, employment legislation, banking and the like all need to be done. All of this essential stuff needs to be done well: and I can tell you most of it should not be me.
Years ago we had a terrific non-exec director who spelled out in no uncertain terms what was required to run a business effectively. Fortunately my co-founder and MD Sharon McLellan, who has a law degree, knew, and knows, how to run the business: I have told many a talented individual looking for early advice that the first thing they should get is a Sharon.
I remember apprising a few of our star facilitators the essentials that others contribute to the business by mapping those 18 stages on the board room table, with a video camera representing the only one they have to get right. It’s easy to think, if you had the initial idea and especially if you are out front or consider yourself to be “the creative”, that you baked the cake yourself. Listen: you did not! Talent and creativity and risk taking are all very well: in fact they are essential for you to take even the first step. But if you fail to get the business plan, structure and organisation right you will at best be haphazard in your efforts and disengage your customers. At worst, you’ll set off in entirely the wrong direction.
Would you like chopsticks with your Hot and Sour Lasagne sir?
Growth, I just realised I said nothing about growth. Do the above well and it will come, if you want it to. Personally, I prefer profit to growth. We have been profitable since we started, even in the darkest of years when the world changed. Whether your penchant is for either or both, remember it’s a marathon not a sprint.
Don’t miss out on weekly updates from our blog to motivate and inspire you to become a Rainmaker. Subscribe now!
about the author
Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.