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Articles filed in: Strategy

Stronger Together

It’s the day before Melbourne cafes close again under reinstated lockdown restrictions. The owner of the Italian restaurant that opened in January is heart sore. We get chatting as I’m paying the bill. He explains that due to then pandemic they’ve been able to have patrons dine in for only nine of the twenty-four weeks they’ve been open. Most of his Italian staff have returned home, and he’s doing his best to support and keep his local team in work.

The business has transitioned to takeaway only and offers grocery boxes for delivery. What’s most impressive is how the owner is building customer loyalty while caring for his team during this difficult time. When the restrictions hit, he sat with each staff member to find out how many hours work they needed to pay their bills. The team members with second jobs worked less and offered extra hours to those who needed more.

Overwhelmingly what we’re seeing in these challenging times in the hospitality sector and beyond among both businesses and customers is a renewed sense of mutual appreciation.

Small businesses are doing everything they can to adapt and serve. And the community is doing what it can to sustain local businesses. If the past few months have reminded us of anything, it’s how dependent we are on each other. That symbiosis has the power to make us stronger.

We’re not just in this together. We’re better because we’re together.

Image by Zhanjiang Chen

Trusted Over Time

We often hear it said that it’s hard to stand out in an increasingly competitive world.

Maybe you can’t be the biggest, fastest or cheapest in your field. But there are plenty of ways to differentiate and make a mark. First among them is by being trusted over time.

Make promises you intend to keep. Keep them.

Image by Zdeněk Macháček

Raising The Bar

When I was a teenager, I joined the local athletic club. I’d never been much of a runner, but since I went to an all-girls school, the draw of the athletic club where boys hung out was abundantly clear. It was time to dust off my running shoes.

The worst thing about contemplating long-distance running wasn’t starting—it was not knowing if I had the stamina to finish. I was never sure if a stitch or a cramp would stop me from completing the requisite number of laps around the track. So, I opted-out and choose to take part in the distances and events I knew I could at least safely complete.

On the one hand, that sounds like a decent strategy. No sense in starting something if you’re not sure you can succeed when there are other, safer options open to you. But if we only did the things we were sure would work, we’d end up limiting our potential and stifling our growth.

No matter what project we’re embarking on, it’s tempting to lower the bar so we can be certain of a successful outcome before we begin. Alternatively, we can choose to find joy in the effort of exceeding our expectations.

Image by Markus Spiske

That Certain Something

A new local grocery store around the corner from us finally opened its doors last weekend. For weeks we’ve been pressing our noses to the window as the new tenants swept the floor and stocked the shelves ready for the big day. The previous grocer stocked only organic produce, operated a juice bar and sold health supplements. He did well for many years until he expanded to two more locations that didn’t gain traction and eventually had to close all three.

Our new grocer tells us he doesn’t sell organic produce but he plans to stock more convenience food in the coming weeks. We’re not sure how his offering will be different enough from that of the two big-name supermarkets just four hundred metres walk from his door.

His store doesn’t sell anything customers can’t buy cheaper in another shop. He can’t compete on proximity, product range or price, so he needs to offer customers something they won’t get at the supermarket. It’s not yet clear what that ‘certain something’ is.

The people in our neighbourhood will try to support this new local store. They will pop in for a forgotten ingredient at 5 pm on a Tuesday evening or buy fresh flowers to cheer up a room at the weekend. But there won’t be enough of us buying sufficient volume to keep the lights on, and the shelves stocked.

Whatever we make, sell or serve, the question we must ask ourselves isn’t—if we build it, will they come? The harder and often scarier question to answer is—why would they come?

It sounds obvious, but we must give the people we want serve enough reasons to support us. Listing those reasons is a good place to start.

Image by Mehrad Vosoughi

On Experience

Every time we approach a new problem we believe we have to come at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes that is true. But we mustn’t ignore our lived experience.

Whatever challenge or goal is in front or ahead of us, it’s worth remembering the resources we called on to get where we needed or wanted to go in the past.

We can still call on them today.

Our past resourcefulness gives us insights we can leverage now and in the future.

Image by Jukan Tateisi

A Compass For The Heart

Where do you turn when you don’t know what to do?

Perhaps you do a Google search for facts. Maybe you read a book and get information. You might consult a professional for their expertise. And friends will gladly offer you opinions based on their experiences.

You can only gain insights and intuition based on your experience by taking time to reflect. Every day we have the opportunity to use yesterday’s stories as wise counsel for tomorrow. But we don’t have a way of remembering, recording or reflecting on what those everyday stories can teach us.

Inspired by my work with thousands of Story Skills Workshop students. I created
A Compass For The Heart. It’s a 90-day guided journal for self-reflection that helps you to record the everyday stories and life lessons to guide your decisions in good times and bad.

Inside, you’ll find a simple framework and templates for daily reflection that help you to capture your wisest, strongest self to store away for a time when you need it the most.

Although I’m a writer and I gather stories every day, I’ve never been one for journaling. There’s something about that blank page that’s intimidating. It feels like a sacred space for only the most elevated thoughts.

If like me, you’ve tried and failed to create a reflection ritual or journaling practice in the past, I hope you’ll give A Compass For The Heart a try. You can buy it now from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca or by searching your regional Amazon store. *Note: The journal will be available in Amazon’s Australian store in 6 weeks.

Thank you as always for giving me a reason to reflect, write and create. It’s a joy and a privilege to share ideas with you.

The Value Conundrum

When I was growing up, my mother tried selling various products from home to earn extra money to support our family. I remember cookware and cosmetics being demonstrated to small groups of her friends over cups of tea and homemade sponge cake in the living room.

From day-to-day, Mum used the same old pans that had been handed down to her by my granny, and she hardly ever wore makeup. So her sales pitch usually came unstuck when she tried to demonstrate the products. She couldn’t show her friends how the products would make their lives easier or better.

Every purchase is a dance between risk and reassurance. The people we want to help must have faith in us before they can believe in the value we create or the stories we tell.

Image by Annie Spratt

Forward Thinking

Every business owner or leader, entrepreneur or creative, walks the fine line between creating value in the present and thinking about what their contribution might be in the future. We need to do the work that’s in front of us today and plan for a tomorrow we cannot yet see. Often, we end up doing the work and walking this path alone.

Where do you turn when you need to reflect on your next right move?
Who do you use as your sounding board?
Do you know people who are on a similar journey who can help you?

When I asked those questions of my readers three years ago, the answer to all of them drew a blank. Many people said they had a professional presence on LinkedIn, but that didn’t serve their need for support when they needed it most.

That’s why I launched the Right Company—a paid, group-mentorship experience. It has become a tight-knit community of like-hearted, generous people from all over the world, doing work that matters—helping each other to get better together.

Today we’re opening up applications to the Right Company to a limited number of new members. If you’re looking for support to create momentum in your business or with your projects I hope you’ll apply today.

What kind of of future could you build with the help of the right company?

Image by Chris Montgomery

Nurturing Trust

Almost three months ago, when restrictions due to the coronavirus began rolling out across Australia, panic-buying ensued. The CEO of one of our supermarket chains began writing a weekly email newsletter to customers in response.

In it, he addressed customers’ genuine concerns about the availability of everything from flour to toilet paper. He gave people insights into stock levels and sales comparisons from the previous year. And he reassured customers by explaining the health and safety measures the company was implementing for staff and customers.

The email was informative, reassuring and welcome. It built trust and connection with the previously faceless leadership of the organisation.

As panic-buying eased and consumer buying patterns began returning to normal, the CEO announced that he would stop sending his weekly email. What a missed opportunity to nurture the trust he’d earned with his customers in challenging times.

Trust is our scarcest resource. We should treat it as such and do all we can to earn and nurture it.

*Yes, I did contact the CEO, encouraging him to keep writing. And he decided to continue. Maybe mine wasn’t the only email he got that day.

Image by Jarred Ray

The Power Of The Unexpected

Last Monday I got a handwritten letter in the mail. Imagine my surprise when I opened it to find a note from a contractor who had unsuccessfully quoted for a small renovation project on our home.

In his letter, he said he was sorry things hadn’t worked out this time around but that he hoped to be of service to us in the future. It was an unexpected gesture that we’re unlikely to forget.

Often it takes less than we think to stand out from the crowd. Small, thoughtful, well-timed acts can make a difference.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ll do today?

Image by Hanny Naibaho