Author Archives: Gareth Johns

Legacy by James Kerr

Legacy by James Kerr

When I started speaking to the business community about my plans and method to exit Business Computer Solutions, people started suggesting a few books I should read20170925 - Legacy by James Kerr including this one.

As I started reading the book I couldn’t directly see how this was relevant, maybe partially my fear of all things sporting and the initial feeling that this was a bit too much like just a biography of the New Zealand All Blacks. It was worth persevering though as there are some great pearls of wisdom to help me define my next steps.

In the first chapter on ‘Character’ it became much clearer that we focus at BCS on performance at work in isolation to the individual’s team members performance in their personal lives. As such developing people needs to have a much greater emphasis on their personal achievements.

One of the issues of concern with our senior engineers for the legacy plan is ‘Who is responsible for looking out for the next big thing’. I had this as a note already, but I realised that the question being asked was not correct. It is not about the ‘what’ but more about the ‘when’ to change and the ‘how’ to make the leap from one thing to the next big thing. More work for me to do on this.

In the section on ‘Purpose’, James references Daniel Pink’s book Drive (on my list to read) saying that people leave well-paying jobs for purpose driven jobs. As such, we need to ensure that the roles on offer within our business have clearly defined purpose. Although we are in the middle of a pay structure review for the engineers, we need to ensure emotional reward has been fully actualised too.

The section on ‘Learn’ talks about the aggregation of marginal gains for which I have always been a massive fan. Until reading this book I didn’t think about teaching the people I lead to use this technique to drive self-improvement. Additionally, it’s important not to overlook the part that the environment plays on achieving these marginal gains.

Under the topic of ‘Sacrifice’, James says that “Champions do Extra”. In physical training, he talks about an extra rep or an extra 10 minutes on a run. For our team at BCS, I guess it’s about providing just a little more service than the customer expects or perhaps studying to the next level up than needed for the work we are undertaking today.

As part of the work for the legacy plan at BCS we are defining the whole business ‘Play Book’, but ‘Legacy’ has helped me define a section of this based on the ‘Black Book’ given to new All Blacks team members. The BCS version will have many of the same lines, such as ‘No one is bigger than the team’ plus extras that I think the team will enjoy getting down on paper.

I forgot to mention that this book has done it’s best to teach us some Mãori terms. Towards the back of the book is a section called ‘Whakapapa’ which means ‘You are but a speck in the moment of time situated between two eternities, the past and the future’. The legacy planning work I am currently undertaking at BCS is to ensure the business has a bright future after the current shareholders exit. An Old Greek proverb mentioned in this section tells us ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see’ and that resonated with me.

A great book and one that deserved 21 little post it flags attached to the pages with content I need to give additional attention.

100 New Customer Prospects for a Tenner

If I could offer you a scheme that for £10 would bring 100 new prospects into the door of your café, pub or restaurant business would you be interested in knowing more?

Having enjoyed a tour of the Isle of Wight this month I was taken by how of20170907 - 100 New Customer Prospects for a Tennerten businesses who are wholly dependant on the tourist trade post notices on the door to say that the toilets are only for the use of their cash paying customers.

Now let’s consider an alternative.

What if you were to allow these people to use your preciously protected toilet facility?

  1. If we assume that 100 extra visitors will cost a few toilet rolls, some soap, electric for the hand dryer and an extra clean. By my sums, I can’t see that being more than £10.
  1. The toilets in most venues are near the back. By the time a visitor has made it to your toilet they have seen all your key marketing messages and maybe even been greeted by you. Why not enhance that with a leaflet that visitors can take away detailing your food options or forthcoming entertainment schedule.
  1. Customers worry that dirty toilets are an indication or poor cleaning in the kitchen too. If your toilets are clean, by extension people assume that the kitchen is also likely to be hygienically clean. If your toilets are clean, let prospects see them.
  1. Most people are decent and will want to repay your generosity with their patronage during their vacation.
  1. If your local competitors are equally short sighted about this opportunity, why not change the poster on the door to say, “You are WELCOME to use our toilets”. You can have their share of the available prospects too.

If I owned a tourist based business, I would make the free and unhindered use of our toilets one of our marketing pillars.

The Referral Engine by John Jantsch

20170213-The-Referral-Engine-by-John-JantschKnowing that what we do at BCS to get new customers stopped working (the traditional new business ‘hunter’ and account management ‘gatherer’ model), we embraced with the help of our marketing guy David Shaw, what is now widely called ‘inbound marketing’. This book has been sitting on my shelf since September when David suggested I buy a copy. Perhaps if I had of read it before now I would have better understood the WHY of the WHAT we are doing. Just as well I had faith to get us this far.

There was so much great content in this book. In fact, I used up 45 post-it flags to highlight the important bits which is a record for me. One of the overriding sensations for me is how much of what John suggests we are already doing, which is great news. What I also realised is that this is going to be a difficult book to summarise. I think you are going to need to read this one yourself.

One of the first steps covered in the book is to ensure that your business is referral worthy which is further expanded in the need for your points of difference to be ‘talkable’ and the importance of your company story that supports these points.

The motivation of people who refer to your business is an interesting topic that is well covered and was enlightening for me, leading to changes of how I will approach this in the future.

My industry peers have questioned the logic in some of my ‘go-giver’ activities. I think next time anyone questions my madness, I will just send them a copy of this book the next day via Amazon Prime.

So, that’s all I am going to type on this one. If your old method of sitting on the phone making cold-calls until you get lucky no longer brings you that luck and you are ready to try something different, this book is almost certainly for you.

Traction by Gino Wickman

20170210-Traction-by-Gino-WickmanFor regular followers of my book review blog you will realise I get some of my most productive reading (and planning) done when I am on touring holidays in the motor home with Samantha and our terrier, Riley. I am writing this review in the forests of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. Very peaceful and remote with no mobile signal across all the networks I subscribe to. My mission is only interrupted by bracing hill walks and cooking dinner.

Anyway, Traction is a book that is not in my library, but one loaned to me by our marketing guru, David Shaw. He plopped it on my desk and said, you need to read this. That’s enough of a recommendation for me. I didn’t take a pen to the interesting bits out of respect, but used my post-it flags for which I counted 19 little pink stickers worthy of further comment or action!

I was initially sceptical of this book, originally published in 2007, because it is quite indulgent, paying homage to the amazing business books that went before. If you have read all the books mentioned (and I feel like I have) it starts to feel like a poor cover version of a classic. Not to be defeated, I pushed on. I only need to find one nugget to make it worth my time investment.

Interestingly, this book covers loads of topics. For my limited experience of book writing, I was led to believe that you should only cover one topic and cover it well. This book has tried to do justice to a massive number of concepts and I must say, not done too bad of a job either!

The first take away was Gino’s opinion of the ceilings we need to break through to continue to grow our businesses. He identifies the skills that the leadership team need to possess to ensure as each ceiling approaches, then have the toolkit to change the shape of the business and embrace the opportunities growth brings. These are summarised as an ability to simplify, delegate, predict, systemise and structure.

We made the decision at the end of 2015 to stop signing up new clients who were not a fit for us either culturally or from a business maturity point of view. We probably qualify-out twice as many prospects as we sign-up as new clients. No point in starting your journey with a bad companion. Reassuringly Gino lists that as a critical step to success. That said, there are some great suggestions on how to create a better customer acquisition process than we operate and we will be reviewing that at BCS.

I have read a lot of books in relation to the ensuing you have the right people in your organisation, but Gino is explicit that having the right people in the right seat is equally important and provides some tools to help you work out whether the people you have right now are both on your bus and in the right seat. Beware when we undertook this exercise a few years ago we found a few people that would, ultimately, be happier working somewhere else.

Next to the topic of organisational charts. I am a massive fan. Gino takes this a step further and asks for us to record the four or five major functions of each role.  As the business grows, you need to consider the need to ‘delegate and elevate’ and having better defined the accountability under each role it becomes easier to see which functions can be reassigned.

Next Gino moved onto the need for data accountability. Our sales team have operated a scorecard for a few months, but this book has encouraged me to also create a scorecard for our leadership team across all the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we work to, and more importantly, given me the tools to identify what can be measured and what matters enough to be managed. These are typically not the retrospective profit and loss performance figures. Within this section he also suggested that everyone in the company should have ‘a number’. As in, every role should have a picture of what ‘good’ looks like for them and an idea of what they have committed to deliver. I see where he is coming from and this will be a step for the BCS leadership team to take once our company wide scorecard has been implemented.

Next concept is about documenting process to create your business manual. Now of course, Michael Gerber has covered this off in detail too in his various books, but we have not made any real progress on this at BCS yet but need to. There is a natural resistance from staff to document what they do, perhaps seen as a threat to their role if anyone can pick up the manual and do their job. This book helps with some tools to get the team to understand why it’s in their interest to get on and do it and who needs to ‘own’ the task of getting these processes documented.

The final big chunk was about why meetings generate activity and therefore more frequent meetings create a greater level of activity. Our leadership team currently meets monthly. Gino suggests that it is typical for staff to push back on the idea of weekly meetings on the basis that if they spend all their time in meetings when will they make any progress, but the pulse of a regular weekly meeting at the same time, with the same structured agenda and the same duration brings great results. I am willing to give this a try at BCS.

On balance and given my initial scepticism, this book was just at the right time for me, given that dealing with documenting process and creating leadership KPIs are things I have planned to complete before the end of 2017 Q1.

So, added for me directly from this book:

  • Improve our customer acquisition journey, document expectations and communicate widely.
  • Review and better detail our organisation chart to include core functions.
  • Create a company wide leadership scorecard pulling out the numbers that matter.
  • Get the leadership team to define which processes are to be documented and assign ownership.
  • Change the leadership meeting frequency to create a weekly ‘meeting pulse’.

So not one nugget, but five. Thanks to David Shaw for pretty much insisting I read this one.

Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni

20170103-Getting-Naked-by-Patrick-Lencioni-CoverThis book was recommended to me by a friend and fellow member of HTG, Raja Pagadala, from The Final Step (TFS) in London. Sitting in a bar at the end of a busy peer-day of understanding each other’s businesses, the topic shifted to ‘Read any inspiring books lately?’. I offered up the Snowball Effect and Raja suggested I get naked. I know him fairly well, so why not?

To take you back to my day at The Final Step, Raja explained his business model and how his company doesn’t sell “IT support” and doesn’t commoditise its offering. The basic premise is that TFS, ultimately, sells “trust”. He explained that he is interested in life-long clients who appreciate a highly tailored approach which puts the client’s interests at the centre of the equation. This requires transparency (or getting naked). Fundamentally, in a true partnership, the client’s and supplier’s interests are very much aligned. Culturally, TFS and BCS are more similar than any other company we have met with, which was reassuring. I just couldn’t get my head around how the commercials of his business work and from discussions with other people in our peer group before my meeting with Raja in December, I was not alone. TFS’s pricing model is not formulaic – tailored services can never be – and understanding the lifetime value that the client has received is what drives it.

Now to the book. It is written by way of a parable. I quite like a story to help the absorption of the knowledge being presented and the book kept me engaged for the few hours it took to read it.

The essence of the story is the conflict caused by the differences between a small consulting company (Lighthouse Consulting) and their larger competitor (Kendrick & Black). When the opportunity comes for K&B to buy and absorb Lighthouse Consulting into their operation, Jack, the hero of the story comes to the painful realisation that they could not merge the small company into the larger one, without taking the lessons provided by the smaller company and making fundamental changes to the way the larger company operates. K&B, the larger company, were not ready to make those changes so facilitated the resale of the smaller company onto another similar sized consultancy company, losing Jack from their team in the process.

The book concludes with a summary of the ‘getting naked’ model. I must say, I preferred the story to the summary, but it is a useful reminder of the content.

What I gained from this book splits into four sections.

Reassurance – The way BCS handles new business ‘sales’ is already almost identical, putting the focus on the client from the start. Since the middle of 2016, we actively stopped chasing new business entirely and now just focus on allowing suitable new prospects to find and come to us. The section about fear of losing business is a lesson we have already learned and I know we turn away more unsuitable clients than we sign up. We report openly to our clients about our performance, ask seemingly stupid questions (in the hope some are useful) and make seemingly stupid suggestions (with the understanding some of these may be the catalyst required for discussion and beneficial change). We are already naked!

Understanding Raja – I am pleased our conversation moved to suggested reading, as I understand better now where Raja is coming from. His business goal is for less customers, but keeping only those that understand and value the quality service his team delivers in abundance. Seems like a pretty great goal to me.

Next Steps – Knowing we are already on the right track at BCS, I will be encouraging our leadership team to redouble their efforts to add value to everyone we work with.

Exiting BCS – Arlin Sorenson, the CEO of HTG talks about ‘unnegotiable negotiables’ when planning a business exit. As I read this book it got me to thinking about this topic, as in due course whoever takes over BCS would need to be a good fit as we are already more like Lighthouse Consulting than Kendrick and Black. If they don’t understand why they need to be getting naked with us in front of our clients, they wouldn’t make a good job of running our business, supporting our team or providing value to our clients. Points very well noted.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber

20170101-The-E-Myth-Revisited-CoverThis is a strangely very familiar book. Since I made the active decision to improve myself as a businessman, this book has probably been referenced and recommended more than any other. Having never read it, just before Christmas I decided that over the break I would take this from my bookshelf and give it the attention it deserves. Imagine my surprise when I realised that I don’t even possess a copy of this book. Our marketing guru, David Shaw, stepped in and donated his copy to the BCS business book library.

The E-Myth describes the mythical existence of the entrepreneur. Michael talks about the three roles that exist within any business owner of the ‘technician’, ‘manager’ and ‘entrepreneur’, with a clear understanding that for any business to succeed all three functions must be adequately resourced, even after the business has started trading.

Most businesses are started with passion and some from necessity. At the point of inception, the business is alive with the blood of the entrepreneur. Mostly technician led start-ups are created to cut ‘the boss’ out of the loop, with limited understanding of the perspective of that role.

At some point the founder and business owner ends up spending all their working time back in the comfortable and safe ‘technician’ role. When the business gets busy, the next recruits are most likely to be more technicians to help and share the work of the technician role. This is where things get tricky for many businesses as the busier the owner is training technicians to ‘do’, the less chance of ever revisiting the important function of being an entrepreneur and thinking about tomorrow’s opportunities. There is rarely budget to hire a ‘manager’ to stop this mess. Michael offers a few suggestions to get out of this situation, but as you may quickly realise, it’s better to not even get to this juncture.

Michael goes on to talk about the franchise prototype and how a business is best run if you could at a moment’s notice replicate the whole thing, like you would need to if you sold it as a franchise. Essentially documenting processes into an ‘operations manual’ to create standardisation of quality service delivery, at a controlled unit cost. Ten years ago, BCS was managed without very much structure from a delivery point of view, but it’s interesting to see how much work our leadership team has now put into exactly this type of standardisation of delivery. This book has proven there is more work to do at BCS and I will be recommending the team give this book their attention too.

There is a large section in the book around organisational charts. I am a massive fan of scalable business charts and for many years I was a name all over our company chart, gently replacing myself over time and as our maturity allowed. Michael makes the critical point that the chart needs to separate out the owners of the business from the reporting and accountability roles.

I can’t believe it took me so long to pick this book up, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. Most of what I took from this book was the realisation that the ideas discussed have been taken and reused in other books over the last twenty years (that I have read already) and that I have put most of these suggestions into good use within my business, kindly thanking other authors for what may have been Michael’s ideas. Oops!

The Snowball Effect by Andy Bounds

20160913-The-Snowball-Effect-by-Andy-BoundsThe business books that have come into my library are almost all because of the recommendations of others, typically at training events or mentioned in general discussion. This one was different. During a visit to my offices in August by Neil Denning and James Carson from Support Tree (a London based HTG peer group member), we were discussing some work I had undertaken as part of a steering group. I commented that although I thought I had put the work in, the level of response I received from the group was pretty low. Neil and James as one, suggested that I read this book to find out why. A book they swear by in changing their own communication strategy.

By the time I was a dozen pages into the book, I understood the root causes of the lack of response that I had to date received. My emails to this group lack a clear next step and are frankly too detailed for most of the time-poor readers. As part of justifying my role, at each turn I try and prove how clever I am or how much work I have put into my research. The truth is that most of the readers of this email just need the output and critically the next step. Re-reading my recent emails, the next step is not clear and I can’t now even see many people getting that far through anyway.

Having reviewed the emails that Neil and James mentioned, I also ventured into the communications I use with my team at Business Computer Solutions. I found these are typically much shorter but again lack very clear next steps. Critically, these emails also lack the initial request for the reader to buy-in to what I am emailing about. Why should they even care?

I won’t beat myself up completely regarding communication as the book has 63 techniques and some of them I do pretty well already and some are not currently relevant to me, so it’s not all bad.

Now to the book in detail, Andy’s strategy is that if you can get the first part of communication right as the core of your snowball, the other 62 techniques he mentions can be added on the way down the hill. A useful analogy for sure, but don’t let that get in the way.

So the first part of communication (and where I got my biggest lessons in this book) is Andy’s advice to think of communications in three steps and in this order:

  1. The ‘DO’ or next step. What do you want your communication to cause?
  2. The ‘AFTER’. What will be the outcome be of doing the next step?
  3. The ‘CONTENT’ of the communication.

In the case of an email, the ‘AFTER’ will form the subject and perhaps a sub-heading followed by the ‘CONTENT’ and closing with the call to action or ‘DO’. Andy’s reasoning for thinking about the ‘DO’ and the ‘AFTER’ before the ‘CONTENT’ is that it will drive the content to be relevant.

There were also some pretty good tips about grading the worth of the content of your communications. Which things are better off in an appendix and which are better off being scrapped altogether so you are left with the minimum required to achieve the ‘DO’ resulting in the ‘AFTER’.

So, with the core of my snowball built, I have highlighted a few things taken from this book that I intend to do differently from here.

  • Ensure I point out the first step in all communications and create any required follow-up.
  • Use ‘Walloping’ as a way to point out the risks of inactivity (see chapter 4 of the book).
  • Provide pre-reading for the meetings that I run and reduce the duration of meetings.
  • Change the language of appraisals to be more about the preview of what can be achieved than a review of what has gone before.
  • Use negative questions such as “Can you think of any reason this should not happen?” to provide momentum.
  • Asking what the client wants ahead of preparing detailed presentations. If they want a summary, let’s just give them a summary.

What is interesting is that nothing here is particularly new or tricky however you do need to be willing to unlearn how you do these things to embrace an easier, clearer way to communicate.

I will now change the emphasis, shorten and resubmit my emails to the HTG peer group and see if I get a few more replies.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation by Gary Chapman & Paul White

20160918-The-5-Languages-of-Appreciation-by-Gary-Chapman-Paul-WhiteI had the pleasure of meeting Paul White at the HTG Peer Group Leadership Academy day in Florida back in November 2015. At the end of his keynote speech, Samantha went to meet him and got me a signed copy of this book, but it has taken me until now to prioritise reading it.

After I read the book and before I started on this review, I looked back at my notes from when I met Paul, which served to be a useful refresher. I think he covered the whole of the book and my one A4 page of notes summed it up pretty well too.

The book starts by ensuring you understand that recognition and appreciation are typically delivered for very different reasons. Recognition is usually given for performance. Appreciation however should be more about the person and the efforts that have been made to deliver, irrespective of the performance outcome.

The main assertion of the book is that there are five ways you can show your appreciation which are words of affirmation, quality time with a business leader, acts of service such as helping with a project, tangible gifts and finally physical touch. The book then expands to explain that people have their own primary preference of how they like to be appreciated. For some people having quality time with their supervisor means much more than a pat on the back (physical touch) or a well done (words of affirmation). The book also warns that the primary preference may change for many reasons making this nothing like an exact science. That certainly messes with my analytical head.

Obviously the book has lots of examples and provides assistance for you to work out which language is best for each of your colleagues. In fact, with the book comes a code to allow access to their online testing tool called the MBA Inventory, if you wish to formally run tests. There are also suggestions as to how you can work out people’s primary language from observation, which depending on how you plan to use the knowledge from this book, maybe a better route anyway.

My own primary language are words of affirmation. Nothing is better for me than one of my leadership team, anyone at my office, a customer or a supplier congratulating or thanking me for something I have done or put in place for the business. My secondary language is physical touch and I am the first to offer a handshake or cuddle when the time is right. My least valued language are tangible gifts. Other than penicillin, what do you give the man who has everything?

Whilst reading this book (still on a tour of France), Samantha and I played the game of trying to work out which of the team at Business Computer Solutions would select which of the five appreciation languages as their primary choice.

When we get back to the UK we will be working with the leadership team to bring them up to speed with what we have learned from this book albeit, probably not to systemise the giving of appreciation, but to avoid wasted appreciation given over in languages that the receivers just won’t value.

Go-Givers Sell More by Bob Burg and John David Mann

20160916-Go-Givers-Sell-More-by-Bob-Burg-and-John-David-MannI have mentioned before how books end up in my library through recommendations. For this one, I can blame Amazon alone. You know, that bit where it says ‘People who purchased this book, also purchased this one’. As such, it ended up in my basket two years ago when I purchased my copy of the ‘Go-Giver’ but has lived unloved and unread on the shelf, until this month when I took it with me on a tour of France in the motor home. It is raining today.

The original ‘Go-Giver’ book was a simple, quick and useful read. This follow-on book serves as a refresher of the principles of the original book, coupled with some practical steps you can take to ensure you become a go-giver in all your dealings. It was also great to see our own HTG Peer Group and Arlin Sorenson recognised for the belief of this life strategy.

Looking closely at the approach we take from our company, Business Computer Solutions, lots of what we have developed over the last two years fit with this ethos and perhaps have been influenced by the first book. This includes the BCS Learning Zone (designed to upskill the end-users of our clients), the lunch and learns events (designed to upskill both our own clients and other people with wider networks than ours) and our forthcoming business magazine, BCS Bytesize (designed to inform and educate anyone with an appetite to improve). Creation of all three of these are without a direct return on investment forecast but of course positions us as an expert in our field and importantly, a giver. We are creating value for others with all of these actions.

It is difficult to read any of the books in the ‘go giver’ series without dealing with the fact that the strategies contained are in opposition to conventional business wisdom. People tell me that I should know my numbers. How many in the top of the funnel to allow me to sign up enough clients to achieve our growth plans? What will be the value of return from a £1 of marketing budget spend? If you are going to follow the Go-Giver, throw all you have learned out of the window.

This book made me reconsider my view of a ‘sales funnel’. When we get to the stage of meeting with a prospect and providing a formal proposal, based on experience, the prospect will most likely chose Business Computer Solutions to partner their IT support requirements. As such, before this book I had not fully considered the substance of the numbers. All that mattered to me was that we had a decent number of proposals going out. I would report to my HTG peer group an amazing percentage ‘close rate’ but a low number of new clients signing up. Why was this? Looking closer, I have realised that prospects that become customers enter our ‘funnel’ of their own accord. They find us. The ones we add ourselves in the hope we can nurture them through traditional methods just cause a distraction, overhead cost and have a much lower chance of coming on board. This reinforces my resolve to continue to invest in the BCS Learning Zone, Lunch & Learns and BCS Bytesize as these are all designed to widen our personal impact. Critically, we know that what we do helps others achieve what they do.

The book then provides some really useful help with how to handle networking environments where you normally feel compelled to spew your elevator pitch over everyone as if they are your prospect when in truth they mostly are not going to buy from you. Your efforts to steer away from a traditional pitch will help the person you are speaking with open up more too so you can start to build a relationship. Note to self: I must keep in mind, it’s not all about me!

You may know from an earlier blog about the Business Computer Solutions core values are integrity, dependability and education. This book aligns amazingly well with our values, with the way we use education as part of our gifting to anyone we can help, coupled with our ingrained integrity proving we are ‘real’ and often praised by everyone who deals with our team, our dependability.

I have learned from this book and through a very expensive and painfully repetitive mistake over the last twenty years that we have never sold IT support services. All we have done is enabled prospects to buy our services. We have not manipulated their decisions. We have just informed, educated and then partnered them for in most cases their whole business journey. So looking back, and I don’t recommend you do it, we have spent a tidy sum on people and activity to fill a sales funnel that we can’t even influence. We should have just directed our resources to widen our network.

The best time to change how we get new business was 20 years ago. The second best time is now!

Evolve or Become Obsolete by David Shaw

Optimized-20160829-Evolve-or-Become-Obsolete-by-David-Shaw-CoverThis isn’t my usual kind of business book to select, I think because I feared it would be telling me too much that I already knew, having been in business for almost 30 years. The reason I ended up reading this book, is that David Shaw is now working with the team at Business Computer Solutions helping to build our inbound marketing profile and he thrust a copy into my hand. Don’t shout that this review is biased or the value compromised quite yet.

Back in 2006 we were happily running a ‘break-fix’ computer support business. Essentially, if a customer had a computer issue they called us and one of our team would fix their issues and we would then submit an invoice for time and materials as used. The reason I mention 2006 is that was when a South African chap called George Flanagan joined our team. He spent the next two years trying to convince me that the future was Managed Services. I pretty much said “We don’t do it like that at BCS”. In 2008 I attended an event at Microsoft where the speaker said “Who in the room still runs a break-fix business”. Wow! That was us. The key word was ‘still’. I felt like a dinosaur. The world had moved on and BCS clearly hadn’t. Our business was still based on the misfortune rather than success of our customers. This had to change. This story is relevant as it changed my personal view of business evolution. I habitually bring smarter people into BCS than I ever was, but I no longer ignore their advice.

Right, to David’s book. The first half is a history lesson but a quick enough read, its worth getting through as it will bring you up to date with the story so far. Consider it as the ‘previously…’ at the start of the next episode of a long running drama. The language used makes easy reading for even the most novice of this field.

The book then starts to get interesting as David explains in detail ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) and how this now drives the buying process. Essentially by the time somebody is at your door to talk to you about your product, they have already done their research so they are educated about you, your product, your customer service and your pricing policy. If it is not you they found during their research, it won’t be your door they arrive at. So be in front of your prospect wherever they are looking and provide the answers to the questions your prospect is asking.

David continues by defining what ‘digital’ means to him and his concerns about some experts and their obsessions with counting how many followers they may have. I think his quote “Measure depth of relationships you make and not amount of followers you accumulate.” will be cited in lessons on this topic for years to come. In fact, this was good timing for me as I was concerned about how we can increase our Facebook likes and Twitter followers. I now understand the vanity of this type of metric.

Finally, the best advice I got from the book was about who you should listen to regarding the changes that are happening in the industry. Since my mistake in 2006 I have tried to listen to everyone and read everything. Given how this strategy is not really viable, David’s advice is to pick some of the movers and shakers of the industry and follow them. Read what they have to say as typically they will give you an insight into the wider landscape. I will now be following David Shaw and if he says jump, we will jump. Sorry again George.

Not all business owners are ready to embrace evolution. Are you?