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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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6 reasons to use a professional

As a business owner or manager, there are always many tasks to do, and often not enough time for them!

Yet many people hesitate in getting outside, professional help for things like writing, design, website updates and bookkeeping; for some, they don’t think they can afford help, others like to maintain complete control, some think it will take longer to find someone than to just do it themselves and another group just wouldn’t know where to start looking for help.

Whatever your reason for putting off getting help, here are my reasons to look and ask for help…

  1. a professional will do the job well – so might you, of course, but at what cost in time? Sure, I could design a website – it  would look horrible and cheap, but it would be done! So for things out of my skill set, it is worth looking for an expert
  2. it saves you time – even if it only takes you an hour a week to maintain your blog or two hours a month to update your accounts, think what else you could do (and how much money you could earn) in that four to eight hours a month…
  3. it clears your head as you don’t have to worry about fitting in that task anymore nor the details of how to do it. A clear head lets you be more productive, creative and relaxed
  4. a professional will probably do it much faster than you – meaning the job will be done and potentially increasing your profits much sooner, especially if you factor in that you would do the task around all your other responsibilities
  5. a professional may be more objective which can lead to better results. For example, I write very concisely and to the relevant point so often cut out a lot of information the business owner includes because he or she is passionate about the topic
  6. the professional can offer an outside opinion and fresh ideas. I don’t know how many times designers I have worked with have taken my outline and come up with something perfect and totally unlike what I had envisaged – in fact, I often ask designers for their input rather than giving them rigid briefs

I know it can take time to find the right professionals to work with. I know it may seem out of budget (but factor in time savings and better results and you may be surprised at the affordability). And I know building trust in others to care as much as you can be hard. Yet I believe it is often worth talking to a professional to find out how they could help.

Do you have any stories about an outside professional helping your business?

Valuing business partners

Do you have any partners in your business? I don’t mean a partnership business structure but partners for the business itself, such as a designer, writer or accountant.

I was reading recently about strategic partners often being chosen on price and too quickly. The article went on with “The diligent selection of long-term strategic partners is key to enabling the globally integrated supply chain and helps mitigate the risk of IP theft.”

A true partner (rather than just a supplier you use once for a quick fix) can be a valuable asset to your business and save you a lot of time. So I agree that choosing quickly and without care is not a good plan.

A valuable partner (compared to a any old supplier) can

  • move onto projects quickly and with less fuss because they know your business and the guidelines (for example a designer already knows your corporate colours and brand) – this saves you time
  • use their expertise to help your business as they are in a position to make suggestions
  • be cheaper because they already understand your business and need less time to research and get the basics in place (for example, if I know your business I can write a media release straight away rather than spending time learning what you do)
  • be trusted from experience so you can slowly entrust more complex projects and details
  • have common references which can again save time and ensure clear communications (for example, telling a trainer you want the same format as last time but in a different office rather than explaining your full content needs)
  • reduce the need to keep getting quotes to compare – even if it costs a little more to use a partner on certain projects, that cost is usually saved by avoiding this search/recruitment/retraining phase
  • reduce the number of businesses you have to deal with – this saves time in contacts and accounts and reduces risk (dealing with unscrupulous people, intellectual property or other theft, etc)

I certainly appreciate my business partners – not only do they do great work for me but I can trust them to do so with minimal input from me and maximum expertise from them. So I will take this opportunity to publicly and wholeheartedly thank Ally, Jane (who doesn’t have a website), Michelle and Eva.

Have you thought about where your business would be without those partners?

Generosity isn’t just money

Last week I wrote about generosity killing mediocrity and  I wanted to add that I don’t think generosity only involves money and things.

blog for the world

Sharing information is also generous

Generosity also doesn’t have to be about sacrifice or ‘doing without’ on your part either. I believe it is about contributing and benefiting someone else – the focus is on who you are helping rather than on you. Obviously, the more you give, the more generous you are being but we all have to work within our own constraints.

You can be generous in many ways, even as a business. Here are some examples of non-monetary generosity:

  • by giving someone your time – for example help at a working bee
  • by sharing your expertise – for example I share tips in this blog and in my articles and speak at workshops and conferences
  • by providing a free service – for example, I want to find a Victorian business and help them rebuild their documents after the bushfires
  • giving a smile and nice messages when dealing with people – it takes little effort but can mean a lot
  • arranging something, such as a fundraising event or a networking function
  • sharing resources
  • by promoting something. For instance, referring someone to your client’s website, linking to a charity or reviewing a book
  • networking – I don’t mean just going to networking events but helping people you know connect with each other as relevant and forwarding useful/interesting things to those in your network.

With the bushfire appeal high on the minds of many Australians at the moment, thinking of ways to be generous may mean we can give more than our finances alone will allow.

*image courtesy of 123rf

Too ignorant to know…

For many people, knowing what they don’t know is just about impossible. These are the people whose behaviour led to the saying “A little knowledge is dangerous” as they don’t understand how little they really know.

Consider a young child who has just learnt that 2×3=6. That child will proudly tell you she knows what multiplication is and how to do it. Yet if you asked her 34×76, she would have no idea how to solve it. As adults, we expect her to have limited understanding and give her time to learn more about multiplication – and encourage her learning to date.

What is a bigger concern is adults who act like that child – they know a few things and assume that makes them an expert – and charge people as if they have an extensive knowledge. Or use their assumed knowledge as a basis for applying for jobs above their level.

I have dealt with suppliers who believe in their own expertise to the point they can’t admit any ignorance or lack of knowledge. They assume a superior attitude to their clients and tell them how to do things, even if they are wrong. And even argue with clients who suggest or request an alternative.

The hard part is in dealing with these people as they aren’t likely to listen enough to learn how little they truly know, or even recognise how much someone has been coaching and helping them.

In some situations, I have taken the time to lead someone towards a greater understanding – and sometimes they have accepted the new knowledge, too! Some tips I have found to be more effective are:

  • never patronise them – they don’t like it any more than the rest of us!
  • occasionally add in why you are doing or requesting something even if you are in the position of being able to tell them. For example, I may say something like “I didn’t include that example because it was negative and I think a positive example will be more effective”
  • maintain their self-esteem by asking questions to either help you or confirm your understanding. Remember that they will have some expert knowledge even if not as much as you want or need!
  • if providing them with resources or information that may help them learn, present it carefully. Instead of “here, you need to read this”, try “I found this article very interesting – what do you think of it?” or “I’m not sure I agree with this document – do you?” or even “I want to go to this seminar – would you mind coming with me in case it gets too technical for me to understand?”
  • put your expected answer in the question so they can be involved in decisions and learn from the process. For example, “I assume that the second quote is better because it includes delivery as well. Do you agree?” may work better than “Which quote should we choose?”

We all have things to learn – and usually the more we learn, the more we realise we have a lot more to learn! So we can hope that giving bits of extra information to an annoyingly ignorant person will lead them to an understanding of their own limitations!

Use your words wisely!