Monday, 23 December 2013

Smart characters, staying calm and making valuable contacts

Smart characters, staying calm and making valuable contacts

Having told you last week that I rarely talk about TV, it’s dominated my weekend.  Kind of.  Something happened on Friday that was totally out of my control: a planned power cut resulted in my Tivo box blowing out.  (Blowing up without the bang?  I don’t know the technical term.)  Four hours on the phone to Virgin (not me) led to an engineer visit today, three days later.  As I write this we are still TV-less, a state that is less distressing than you might think, even during Christmas week.  I’m eagerly awaiting the engineer’s arrival right now: coffee is brewing, mince pies are cooling, my best smile will hopefully encourage him to replace the old box with a shiny new one, full of interesting, fun programmes to entertain me whilst I honey up the parsnips.

The problem with this sort of thing is our reliance on other people, often at the end of a phone line.  Polite, condescending and unable to deviate from their predetermined script, the conversation tends to go in circles, often didactic and rarely satisfying.  Doesn’t it make you want to scream?!!  I’ve learned over the years to not let it drive me crazy – that won’t help.  Instead, I stay calm – meditation helps.  In this instance I reminded myself that most of TV is a load of rubbish, which is why I generally only have it in the background while I’m working or playing scrabble.  (Apart from Homeland, which requires special concentration being paid to Mr Damian Lewis – who, coincidentally, my Facebook friend Karen bumped into in Selfridges last week.  I’m not too proud to admit I was extremely jealous!!)
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So wrapping gifts this weekend gave me an opportunity to catch-up with one of my favourite box sets: West Wing.  After my second run-through in 2012 I felt like I was actually working in the capital of the free world.  Those smart, sassy people became substitute colleagues, holding intelligent conversations and making me think hard, laugh, mentally fight for them and sympathise through their tough times.  Weird?  Not so much.  It seems that freelancers and business people who work alone can feed off characters they admire.  We can mentally transcend environments and place ourselves in an appropriate frame of mind for the setting, becoming more productive in whatever we’re doing in the real world.

Working alone for much of the time is one of the reasons I love networking and collaborating with other small businesses.  Sharing ideas and support with like-minded individuals is fantastic and inspiring, and shouldn’t be underestimated.  If you don’t network – either because you’re too busy, too shy or simply don’t know where to start, you’re welcome to join me in 2014.  I’m happy to recommend good places to make valuable contacts for different industry sectors, and I know who serves up great lunches along with the business opportunities.  Although, we’ll probably all have had enough of food by the end of this week!

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas if you celebrate it, and a magical week even if you don’t.  I hope it’s filled with peace, love and laughter – and the people who make you happy.

It’s not too late to write your letter to Santa if you haven’t already done so.  I borrowed Madonna’s this year.   “Come and trim my Christmas tree, with some decorations bought at Tiffany’s.  I really do believe in you; let’s see if you believe in me.”  I’m real… here I am: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sales advice, text pests and three fabulous women

Sales advice, text pests and three fabulous women

One of my business friends has made the bold move of relocating this week.  Tanya Mann Rennick is leaving the metropolis to settle in beautiful Cornwall, somewhere I wouldn’t mind moving to myself. 
Tanya and I met a year ago on one of Leigh Ashton’s sales training courses.  I say business friends because we don’t know each other’s birthdays or middle names but we share similar views and values about work and life.  We both live in homes with pianos, books and chocolates, and dislike lilies.  We love Fleetwood Mac, find calm through meditation and thrive on networking.  In fact, Tanya found such incredible value in cultivating relationships that she set up and runs the successful Oyster Club – an upmarket networking group that includes delicious meals and quite a lot of bubbly.

Tanya is one of a handful of women whose emailed newsletters I look forward to reading.  Her easy style and humorous approach to life sit nicely with my bowl of Alpen as it drops into my inbox at breakfast time.  Invariably her topic is something I can relate to.  For example, a couple of weeks ago she highlighted the increasing danger of simply wandering along from one meeting to the next: 
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Since when has it been my responsibility to move out of the way for people texting as they walk down the street?  Who has decided that these lolloping liabilities have the right to command priority? Why are they not arrested for undue care and attention?”

Tanya’s words immediately struck a chord!  I completely agree that it’s so annoying to have to “carefully navigate my way around the mobile wielding moron, oblivious to his or her environment, or I’d collide with them. Crashing straight into someone with your eyes wide open is the sort of thing you do on a rugby field, not in heels and handbags on Regent Street.”   And, being a walking daydreamer, crash I do!!

I understand why some may text on the go.  I couldn’t agree more that “the demands on us to stay in touch place us under enormous pressure to respond with immediacy, lest we be considered rude, inefficient or dead.” 

Another business friend who’s never rude, inefficient and is always lively is Leigh Ashton.  She’s the second superwoman whose emails I read religiously.  Her advice on sales techniques is pragmatic and quite simply, wonderful – offering tricks and tips that sway between the psychological and common sense to help increase your sales.  Her words often come to mind as I’m about to close a deal.  When I meet a potential social media client and talk through the services I offer, Leigh is like a little angel on my shoulder, reminding me to get into their mindset.  (Leigh, it would be helpful if you could also nag me to stop eating chocolate please – this time of year makes me very naughty!)
The third woman whose emails I read every day – and they make me laugh before I’ve even read them - is my best friend Gill, a girl who gives Helen Fielding a run for her money.  I can’t repeat anything here, of course, so you’ll have to take my word when I tell you she’s been entertaining me, putting up with me and advising me on life, love and everything else for more years than I even admit to being alive.

And we knew all the words to this decades before Carrie Bradshaw and her friends… “Oh yes, I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain.  Yes, I’ve paid the price, but look how much I’ve gained.  If I have to, I can face anything… I am strong!  I am invincible!!  I am woman!!!”  If you’d like an introduction to any of these wonderful women, I’ll introduce you here: @WeekendWitch.  

Monday, 2 December 2013

Managing time, being sinful and pink champagne at Westminster

I ran my first training session at Canary Wharf on Wednesday – time management for small businesses. I love training, it’s my favourite part of the job so I’m always excited leading up to a session with a new group. But I was particularly looking forward to be working in the landmark building that dominates the skyline from so far that I can see it from my loft. (Ok, with a step up and a bit of craning…) I couldn’t wait to enjoy the views across London, wondering like a small child if I’d be able to see my house. 

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First tree

But no, I was on the tenth floor, inside, surrounded by other training suites and offices.  It was a fantastic morning though and I met some super people.  We ate complimentary banana and butterscotch biscuits as I showed them ways to make more effective use of their time and kick back against constant interruptions.

One of the delegates, Paul, runs a health and safety company.  I’m all about the safety – I balanced very carefully on the edge of a wonky chair as I put up my five Christmas trees this weekend.  Disentangling myself from almost a thousand twinkling lights, I was very careful about not stabbing myself on broken baubles or swallowing any of the little wooden soldiers.  (Yes, in the past…)  I do admit to an accident with my advent calendar on November 29th, eliciting a vast number of Facebook comments and an email from my friend’s wife telling me that eating it early is sinful, so I’m sorry about that.  It’s lucky I’m Jewish – we’re allowed to eat whole boxes of chocolates in one go.  Without sharing.

Anyway, not sure that Paul’s training covers all that, but he did give me a very useful gift – a neat little box of emergency equipment to keep in my car.  (Actually I’m hoping it doesn’t become useful –I‘m probably not the best person to deal with any type of road emergency.  I haven’t attended one of Paul’s courses yet, but he was a really nice guy and extremely knowledgeable, so if you haven’t attended an H&S course, please email me and I’ll happily pass on his details.  

On Thursday I was honoured to attend the Soldiering On Through Life Trust’s reception in the Churchill Room at the House of Commons.  I prefer to call it the Palace of Westminster but, by whichever name, it’s a fabulous building and I love being there.  This was my third visit this year and it’s kind of making me want to go into politics.  But that’s another thought for another day. 

The reception was to thank sponsors and promote the trust’s aims, as well as drawing the annual grand raffle.  I didn’t win the car or the diamond necklace, but I consoled myself with several glasses of very lovely pink Taittinger champagne.  Anne Diamond gave a heart warming speech; she’ll be doing a lot of work during 2014 to raise awareness of the charity, and I liked her a lot.  I also thought Miss UK was lovely – and not just pretty: a much smarter young lady than the beauty queen in I’m a Celebrity, and also very keen to support the charity.  So we all stood around together for five hours, chatting, networking, promoting and making new friends – in very high heels.  And a tabloid reporter I met there invited me for coffee in his office very high up in Canary Wharf, so my wish may yet come true.  (It’s not my Christmas wish, that’s something different!)

So putting up five sparkling trees only two days later, with Christmas music playing in the background, this song resonated.  ‘Hey, Mr Churchill comes over here, to say we’re doing splendidly.  But it’s very cold out here in the snow, marching to win from the enemy.’  There are no enemies in my training room, just learning, improving and perhaps a few chocolate snowmen.   Let me know if you’d like to book: @WeekendWitch.