Archive for the 'Thoughts' Category

How often do you take a break?

As well as being someone I’m fortunate enough to consider a friend, Andy Parkes is also one of my favourite bloggers. He writes a great mixture of technical articles and small business thoughts. If you’re not subscribing to his blog then I’d encourage you to do so.

Last week, Andy wrote a fantastic blog post about something that I know had been on his mind for a while. In the post, entitled “When did you last have a real break?” Andy spoke very personally about feeling burnt out, un-creative and in a rut and how taking a proper break away from his business had subsequently helped him re-charge his batteries and come back rejuvenated.

Relax“Take a break” seems such obvious advice when given, but in my experience is often the advice most ignored. It seems the majority of us feel that if we just push to get that to-do list completed then we’ll feel better and be able to relax. But somehow when we follow that path it doesn’t quite work out that way and by working harder, pushing ourselves a little more – we end up no further forward than when we began.

I’m a big advocate of taking a break. For me it’s not just long weekends and holidays, but taking time out during a day – ten minutes reading a chapter of a book, or half an hour eating lunch away from your desk – this isn’t time lost, but time well spent as you return to your work responsibilities with a clearer sense of direction and more energy. It’s the old phrase about working smarter, not harder.

I coach my MSP clients, especially the smaller clients, to put systems and processes in place that enable them to delegate or outsource work and therefore take a break. Avoiding doing so means that you’re running an unsustainable business. In reality it’s a simple choice of planning now to enable yourself to take a break soon, or ignoring the inevitable and waiting for your business to crumble around you as you’re forced to step away from it – through burn-out, through illness, through family emergency, or through some other circumstance out of your control.

But I’ll confess that typically, when I take a long weekend or a holiday, my definition of “taking a break” has always been that I’ll do some e-mail triage in the morning, and maybe again in the late afternoon. I’m never truly away from work – just doing much less of it than normal.

So last week I tried an experiment and took a proper break. I made a statement by setting my out of office message using my own brand of humour to inform people I wouldn’t be responding to e-mail (Susanne wrote an blog post about my own out of office message and made some interesting observations on OOO messages in general) and then I spent time relaxing with friends. No e-mail at all.

In fact, apart from firing my laptop up to find a last minute hotel room on the South Coast, I didn’t use my computer at all.

Do you know what? Upon returning to the office, my business is still here, nobody has complained about my absence, I’ve not missed any opportunities (quite the opposite in fact) and the world is still turning. Amazing huh?

As somebody who follows the “Inbox Zero” philosophy, it’s also made me question some of my beliefs about how e-mail should fit into my life.

In our modern lives we are used to being always “on”. Always being accessible electronically. But I’m coming round to the notion that this is actually a subconscious choice we make rather than an unavoidable fact of modern life.

By forcing ourselves to turn “off” regularly we gain a lot of perspective that helps us be more productive and to make more of a difference on a day-to-day basis.

I believe that taking a break, and often, is an important a skill as anything else we can learn to do.

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Surround yourself with Success

I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you act a certain way, pretty soon it’ll stop being an act and that’s just how you’ll be.

  • Nervous when doing public speaking but want to be a good public speaker? Act in the way you think a successful public speaker would behave, including the way they dress and hold themselves on-stage.
  • A bit of a wall flower, but want to be a better business networker? Act like you’re the best networker in the world, asking the questions a good networker would ask, and responding to the answers you receive as a good networker would.
  • Have a desire to be seen by your peers as an industry subject matter expert? Act as though you’re already a industry subject matter expert, read the books such an expert would read, do the research an expert would undertake, talk about the things an expert would engage others in conversation about.

SUCCESSFULLFAILURE (opening of Dutch Identity at de Paviljoens in Almere)But if you’re like me, and perhaps have very little imagination (although I often act as though that isn’t the case) it can be hard work to “imagine” how you’re supposed to be acting.

One idea that might work is to put yourself in a situation where you can observe how people who are already successful behave, and then act that way.

  • Want to be a great public speaker? Make sure you’re regularly watching great public speakers, and making notes on how they dress and present. Take time to meet them after their presentation and introduce yourself. Ask them how they prepare for a presentation.
  • Want to be a better business networker? Get yourself to the best business networking events and watch how other attendees conduct themselves. Ask them how they got to be a good business networker.
  • Want to be seen by your peers as an industry subject matter expert? Spend time with those people you respect as industry subject matter experts. Learn from them, understand how they view the world, ask them what they’re reading right now.

Once you start doing this, you’ll become comfortable at acting the way you want, because you’re around other people who are acting the same way. It suddenly doesn’t seem quite as strange.

But another strange thing happens. When you start acting in this new way, the people you currently spend time with will notice it. Some will sub-consciously notice this and modify their own behaviour to match.

Others will actively point out they notice your changes and likely tell you that “this isn’t you” and that you acting this way will “never work”. They’re cynical that your “new act” will work.

You’re then left with a choice. Do you continue to spend time with the cynics, who rarely offer new ideas and tend to drag your own enthusiasm levels down, or do you politely walk away from those people around you who don’t support the changes in your life.

If you’re finding changing something in your life hard, try seeking out and surrounding yourself with people who you’ve already made that change, and start acting like them.

Once you start seeking people out who are successful, and walking away from those who are cynical, change becomes an awful lot easier.

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Trust 30 Challenge

Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked by GFI Max to deliver a webinar to over 200 IT companies on my thoughts for using Social Networking in Business (If you missed the live webinar, it’s now available to view again at the MSP Business Management web-site).

There were a flood of really interesting questions from the participants, but none more so than around the topic of blogging.

I suggested that the benefit of blogging to me was less about reaching lots of people with my message, but more about me growing better at delivering my message. By learning how to positively express my thoughts and ideas through blog articles, I feel I have become a better boss, a better public speaker, a better salesmen and perhaps even a better party guest!

As Seth Godin puts it in this brilliant video with Tom Peters, “If you’re good at it (blogging) then people will start reading it. If you’re not good at it, then stick with it and you’ll get good at it".

This thought apparently struck a chord with a number of people who attended the webinar who wrote to me to say they’d been sitting on the fence with regards to blogging, but were now thinking again about getting started.

The response that brought the biggest smile to my face was from AstoldbyGel who was inspired enough by our webinar to start blog writing, and posted this blog post to explain why.

But I received many more e-mails saying that whilst they could see the benefits of blogging, they felt they had nothing to write about, or that they couldn’t see how they’d find the time to write. I understand, because I’ve been there too.

Front Cover of "Self Reliance" book by Ralph Waldo EmersonIf you’re one of those people, then serendipity strikes – check out #Trust30.

#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.”

The #Trust30 initiative is brought to you by The Domino Project and features a “Pledge” that I think will help get those people who wrote to me about hesitating to blog, get started.

The Pledge Details

  1. The #Trust30 challenge starts at 6am ET on May 31st and runs for 30 days.
  2. Each day we’ll post a prompt from an original thinker and doer on RalphWaldoEmerson.me. You can also sign-up for daily emails.
  3. Fill out the short form here to commit to participating in the #trust30 online initiative.
  4. Blog, journal, or create something on each of the 30 days.
  5. Tweet using the hashtag #trust30 to show your support and involvement.

I’ve signed up to #Trust30, and I’ll be doing my best to generate as many new blog articles in the next 30 days as is possible.

I hope you’ll join me in doing the same! If you do so, please let me know so I can let others know about your work! Smile

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Good Coincidences will find you if you let them!

Last week I shared this story with a friend and she encouraged me to share it with my blog readers – so I hope it brings a smile to your face too!

I’m a bit of a Twitter “helper”. If I see somebody on Twitter asking for advice, a connection or help finding something, then I can’t help myself – I’ll jump right in and try to assist.

A couple of months ago I spotted two different people Tweeting with a request for anybody who had copies of recent local newspapers they could give away to them. Presumably the newspapers contained articles that were important  to the individuals concerned. As I happened to have those papers sat around waiting for little else but recycling, I duly Tweeted back that I’d be happy to help them, and after getting their address, posted the newspapers off to the two individuals concerned.

Weeks later I happened to be in conversation with a colleague about the nature of helping others. He was bemoaning the fact that he’d done favours for some individuals that they’d never return, nor in some cases even take time to say thank-you for.

I was about to interrupt him when I remembered the newspapers I’d sent off and realised that I’d never received a note of thanks from the individuals concerned either. I shared this with him and his reaction was, of course – “See, some people are just selfish”. I murmured a disappointed agreement , but added that I’d not let this thought stop me from helping the next person I could, as for every one person who didn’t say thank-you, I reckoned there would be ten that would.

Now comes the part of the story that made me smile!

Cover of PC Pro Issue 200I’ll preface it by saying that I’ve been a fan of the Tech magazine PC Pro for as long as I’ve been in the IT industry. I’ve been reading the magazine for around 15 years, and have never missed an issue. That is until the April edition, issue 200, which didn’t drop through my letterbox as expected.

I duly contacted the PC Pro Subscription Helpdesk, who informed me that there had been a problem with my subscription renewal, and that unfortunately, all stock of issue 200 had been used. There were no spare copies to send to me to maintain my unblemished collection.

Disappointing, but mistakes happen – and I duly nipped off to the local newsagent to see if I could find a copy to buy off the shelf. No luck, neither my local newsagent or the large WH Smiths in town had a copy. Everywhere was sold out. Sigh…

Then I remembered the advice I regularly give to newcomers to Twitter who are trying to engage with others and build a following. I always tell them to try to help others, but also to ask for help. It’s human nature that people want to help one another, and in the words of one of my favourite authors – Bob Burg of the “Go-Giver”The Law of Receptivity is that the key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

So I tweeted that I was looking for a copy of PC Pro Issue 200, if anyone could spare a copy.

Minutes later, Barry Collins, the Editor of PC Pro magazine reached out to me via Twitter to say that if I sent him my address – he’d be happy to send me a spare copy!

Shortly after, issue 200 of PC Pro landed on my door-mat. I’m a very happy Geek! Smile

Thank-you Barry – and congratulations to PC Pro magazine on 200 issues of great content!

There’s a small addition to this story that I’ll share with you too. It’s one of my professional ambitions to have an article published by PC Pro magazine. I therefore (admittedly cheekily!) took the opportunity to ask Barry any advice he might offer for me to achieve this goal, and he happily offered his advice too. Bonus!

Now, I’m not a believer in “Karma”, and I don’t subscribe to the adage that “What goes around, comes around”. But what I do believe is that by conducting yourself in a giving manner on a consistent basis, you will draw like minded people to yourself.

To me, that’s why it’s important not to be discouraged by those you help who don’t appear to be grateful. Nor is it wise to “keep score” on favours done. Shrug your shoulders and realise that the next person you help, or indeed that helps you, will very likely share your philosophy – and that the world isn’t such a bad place on a Tuesday morning after all!

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

It’s all about relationships

I’m something of a computing history buff. I love reading books about the rise (and sometimes fall) of the people and ideas that shaped the Technology industry that I now work in. One such book I’ve read is “Dot.Bomb” by Rory Cellan-Jones, which examines the Dot.com bubble of the late 1990’s. The book, published in 2001, still makes fascinating reading today an a cost of just £2-£3, I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to go and grab a copy.

One interesting observation that the book makes is that at the time many people believed the Dot.com revolution was allowing everybody and anybody to make their fortune on-line. Certainly, it encouraged a culture of entrepreneurship as there were stories of everyone from Schoolboys to Graduates who were building web-sites around their ideas, which were often being valued at many millions “on paper”. But with the benefit of hindsight, there weren’t too many people who genuinely achieved great success or made a fortune thanks to those crazy times. In fact, Chapter 9 of the book features a paragraph which I’ll quote:-

“In the dot.com world, the key skill was not the ability to write elegant software, or understand the latest microprocessor architecture, or even draw up a convincing business plan. It was the people who knew how to network who stood the best chance…”

Only last week I gave a webinar presentation entitled “Finding Customers through Networking” (which if you missed, you can watch again at www.mspbusinessmanagement.com very shortly) in which I repeated the very familiar statement that “People do business with people they like”. I also mentioned that you could have the greatest business in the world, but if nobody knows who you are then you’ll not achieve great success.

Additionally, it was only last week that I talked about Social Networking vs Traditional Networking and concluded that they go hand in hand, and that doing one without the other isn’t making the full use of the tools at your disposal.

One of the questions that I’ve had coming out of the webinar is “How do you make time for all this stuff?”. (“This stuff” often referring to Social Networking). My answer is – you make the time because it’s important.

Visualisation of Richard Tubb's LinkedIn ConnectionsMy former MSP business was built on the back of strong relationships, and the main reason my new career helping IT companies to grow is happily keeping me so very busy is mainly because of the many relationships I’ve formed in the past and the high levels of trust and confidence I’ve been able to build with people. (As a side-note, you can see a visualisation of my LinkedIn connections to the right. If you’re interested, you can build your own LinkedIn Map here).

Building relationships, be they with your prospective client base, strategic alliance partners, vendors, peers or even your competition isn’t a “nice to do” activity, if you have the time. Attending business networking events and using social networking isn’t something to think about once you’ve done everything else that’s important. Building relationships in this way is something you should be doing all the time, every day, as part of your standard day-to-day business activities.

If you’re not a natural relationships person, then by all means use a system or a process – I consider myself a “people person” to whom relationships are very important, and yet I use many tools such as a CRM system to keep track of who, when and how – but the important thing is to ensure you build those relationships.

Because if you don’t then it doesn’t matter how much you know, or how great your idea or service is, history tells us that you won’t be as successful as you could have been.

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please S.W.I.P.E. away!

(I’ve had a few people ask me about the topic of this blog recently, so I hope this shines some light on the subject!)

It’s not uncommon for me to receive an e-mail commenting on a blog post or Tweet I’ve posted where I’ve shared an idea or a practice and somebody thought it was a good enough suggestion that they’d like to start using it themselves.

Once I get over the shock that some of you are crazy enough to listen to what I say and write, Burglar stealing from SafeI reflect that I’m always flattered to receive such e-mails. I respect that the sender thought enough of me as an individual to ask my permission to use the idea, especially when there is nothing stopping them just using the idea regardless.

My response to these nice e-mails is “Sure, SWIPE away!”.

S.W.I.P.E is an acronym I first came across when I was a member of HTG – the Heartlands Technology Peer Group. Trust me when I say that for a relative newbie to the SMB IT community like myself back then, when you’re hanging around with some of the most successful people in our industry – as HTG members are – you spot a *lot* of fantastic ideas that you want to start using yourself!

I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I have had and e-mails I have sent to people where I said “Do you mind if I use that idea myself?”.

The answer was nearly always the same “Sure – go ahead and SWIPE it – I did!”

S.W.I.P.E stands for Steal with Integrity and Pride from Everywhere.

Over the years I’ve SWIPED everything from e-mail signature lines (thanks Mark!), to out of office messages (cheers Dave!), LinkedIn profile headlines (ta Gareth!), to SQL and Excel reporting code (thanks Robert!), innovative uses of blog posts (ta Jeremy!), to methods for working with vendors (appreciate it Erik!) – but with one important caveat…

.. If I’m able to, I always ask permission to use the idea first (that’s the Integrity bit) – and when I’m asked in turn by someone else as to how I came up with the idea, I pass on the story of where I got the idea from myself.

HTG themselves have actively embraced this idea. Most HTG groups around the world have a regular “Best Practice” competition where everyone gives a short pitch on an idea or practice that has saved them time or made them money, and then the group vote for the best idea. As a former HTG’er myself, I can tell you that you go into that session hoping that *someone else* has the best idea – because you want to go away having SWIPED something very cool!

The CompTIA UK Channel Community has a similar Best Practice competition too. Guess where they got that idea from? Ask them and they’ll not only tell you about where they SWIPED the idea from, but they’ll tell you how much they admire the folks at HTG for granting them permission to use the idea too!

Visit any user group such as AMITPRO and you’ll see people openly sharing ideas and experiences, in the knowledge that somebody may take that idea and run with it. The days of worrying about protecting your “Trade Secrets” are long gone in the SMB community – and it’s my opinion that those that think otherwise stand out from the crowd – for all the wrong reasons.

Of course, I’m not talking about plagiarism or Intellectual Property theft. You shouldn’t, for instance, copy a blog post word for word and pass it off as your own work – but many have been inspired by an article written by someone else and then wrote their own piece on the subject matter, citing the original articles author as the inspiration for the work.

Of course there are others who simply SE – Steal from Everywhere (I’m going to claim credit for that one. Feel free to SWIPE it, although I suspect it won’t catch on…) without giving credit. Everyone has a story of an idea they thought of being passed off by a boss or colleague who took all the credit and gave no recognition to contributors.

But we are all influenced by others, both in the way we conduct ourselves and the ideas we use. I think this is especially true in the IT industry. Based on that fact, I think it’s OK to not only acknowledge that you’re influenced directly by others, but to celebrate that fact openly!

Who would you prefer to work with? Someone who is old school and stands alone, taking from others where he can pinch an idea quietly, but unable to bring himself to ask for help as he feels it shows weakness, instead working to find his or her own solutions to problems that have already been resolved elsewhere, just so they can proclaim themselves a hero and say “I did it myself”!

Or would prefer to work with the individual who actively seeks out and incorporates the solutions, ideas and wisdom of others into their own perspective – comfortable with giving credit as they know this builds trust and further opportunities for learning, enabling them to get things done better and faster, grow more rapidly as an individual, and be open to new ideas.

So please, Steal with Integrity and Pride from Everywhere, and likewise, pass that knowledge on! Smile

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL). You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Are You Hiding Behind Email?

Thank-you for all the kind words after my 500th blog post – I’m as surprised as anybody that I’m still blogging after all this time!

For blog-post 501, I’d like to hand over to a guest Blogger – Alan Matthews of Midlands based, Train Of Thought. Train of Thought provides top quality training and coaching to help managers to be more effective, and I’ve been a fan of Alan’s writing for some time now. When I asked him if he’d be open to writing a guest article for Tubblog, I was thrilled he accepted!

Over to Alan for his blog post entitled “Are You Hiding Behind Email?”:-

***

We all know that email has revolutionised the way we communicate with each other. Unfortunately, like all revolutions, not all the consequences are beneficial.

Man hiding underneath bedFor one thing, we now have much more information to sift through every day as people send us junk we don’t really need to read. That’s often because they haven’t taken the trouble to consider whether we need to read it, it’s easier for them just to send it and leave us to have to delete it.

Of course, we don’t do that, do we, it’s just other people…isn’t it?

Another thing about the ease of using email is that we can sometimes hide behind it and avoid direct contact with people we should really be speaking to face to face. Yes, this can be because it’s just quicker, but it can also be because we’re avoiding a potentially difficult situation.

There have been several stories in the papers recently about people being made redundant by email and most people would say, "How callous and insensitive! How could anyone do that? "

I agree, it is a terrible way to break bad news to people, but I suspect something similar goes on in workplaces all over the country every day, with people using email to avoid proper conversations.

Here are a few pointers that YOU might be doing the same.

  1. You send an email when you think the other person won’t like what you have to say.
  2. You send an email when there’s a problem with your relationship with the other person and you don’t know how to sort it out.
  3. You send an email as an alternative to taking some other action which you’re avoiding.
  4. You send an email when you want to say no but don’t want to do it face to face.
  5. You send an email when you want to ask for something but you’re afraid of rejection.
  6. You send an email when you should be following up ( e.g. an initial meeting ) with a phone call but you’re nervous about doing that.

In other words, it’s tempting to use emails whenever you are avoiding something that is difficult, challenging or uncomfortable.

The problem is – doing this doesn’t usually deal with whatever it is that needs to be done, it just puts it off.

Also, if you really need to persuade or influence someone else, there’s no substitute for face to face conversations.

It’s hard to persuade someone just by email. Written words are easy to misunderstand and misinterpret.

If you want to persuade someone, or to get across something which may be difficult to understand or accept, you really need to speak in person. Failing that, the next best thing is to speak on the phone. Email comes a very distant third.

So, next time you’re tempted to send off a quick email, ask yourself whether that is the best method or whether you’re really avoiding something ( or someone ) and taking the easy option.

***

Thanks to Alan for providing such great content that is certain to get people thinking. I know I have “hidden” behind emails before, have you?

If you’d like to read more of Alan’s work, then I’d highly encourage you to claim a FREE copy of "The Book Of 100 Management Tips". It contains tips on how to influence people, give feedback, handle conflict, get more from meetings and much more. Go and get it!

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to help them feel in control and grow their businesses. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL). You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.


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