Category Archives for "Foundations"

How to Find Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is an amalgam of many things: your story, skills and values.  Of these perhaps most problematic are your values.  Typically, business owners set out with clear values and lose track of them as they experience the pressures of being in business.  And values are crucial if they are to align with your market’s values.

Perhaps the most telling of these pressures is our attitude to money.  Not everyone in business is trying to make tons of money but everyone has, at worst, to break even.  Everyone in business has to make peace with making money.

If you can’t do that the most likely outcome is your business will fail.  Another possibility is you lose sight of your values, consumed by keeping your business going.

These difficulties are usually the result of “heart-centred” business owners lacking an adequate understanding of money.  Many are embarrassed asking for money or find making money becomes an end in itself.

This week I have written a lead magnet that offers a few pointers about how to make money that relflects your true worth.  The main thrust of my argument is business-owners underestimate their worth and so they undercharge.  I’ll post about this when it becomes available.

If your personal brand is value driven, you must sort out your relationship with money.

Station 5: Who?

Who are you?  This question is perhaps one of the most difficult to answer but you must, if you depend on a personal brand.  Your personal brand conveys your integrity as a business owner and you can’t convey integrity if you are not at peace with making money.

Here is what I said in my early draft of my keynote:

You need a degree of empathy?  Who is this you?  Because that is the last question: Who are you?  Now, look at me, do I look like a sales person?  Do I look like the Wolf of Wall Street?  (I haven’t seen the film, I haven’t a clue what the Wolf of Wall Street looks like.)   The important thing is we all need to be in alignment.  We need to be in alignment with our work.  We need to get into the flow.  Are we a champion?  Are we a superhero?  How do we communicate ourselves because very often we are marketing not just our offer but ourselves?

Are you becoming the person you first imagined when you started out?  You need to be self-aware, if you are in business.  You need to know how you come across, how you align.  I believe passionately that marketing is not about corporate business development.  It is about how we bring benefit to the people around us, how we benefit our immediate market, our customers or clients.  But also our neighbourhoods and communities.  And this means that we are profoundly educators.

So, I’m going to pause us here and take us into the next section of this talk, thank you.

Sharpening the Message

This follows on from last week’s section.  There are several pointers in the right direction but ultimately it does not highlight what is at stake.

I talk about alignment but it is not clear what is aligned.  As I mentioned last time, your values aligned along a sequence that embraces your offer, marketing, benefits and outcomes.  You should be able to see your values reflected in all these and especially the last two.

Your attitude to money is implicit.  If your values are solely about profit-making then you are likely to serve an atomised market.  But equally, without a positive relationship with making money you are likely to fail as a business or perhaps worse not see contradictions between your approach to money and your other values.

Business that addresses the vagaries of the human heart helps build a better world.  It creates the spaces where relationships form and ultimately genuine community.

“Heart-centred” business owners can’t afford to ignore money.  So, my new Wednesday sequence of posts, starting next week shall be about money and our attitudes to it.

How do you understand money?

Knowing Your Market and Its Values

This is the fourth post of five about a keynote talk I am preparing for a major business event later this year.  Last time I wrote about your business niche and today the focus moves to your market and its values.

In conversation this week, someone suggested values were missing from my keynote.  It is important to align your marketing with your offer.  This implies alignment with values because what I have in mind was the role of a coach or consultant.

Most coaches and consultants have a strong set of values that informs their work and so should inform their marketing.  I have experimented, since the conversation, by explicitly referring to values and it seems to be favourably received.  Indeed, I think there is a need for alignment of at least five elements: your

  • values
  • offer
  • marketing
  • benefits
  • wider outcomes

The wider outcomes may be through your clients’ clients or the wider impact of your work on communities.  If you know these wider outcomes, you can use them in your marketing but ideally you should see your values reflected in them.

Station 4: Why?

Knowing your market is essential to defining your niche. It is important you understand your market and its values as well as their problem your offer solves.

Here is what I wrote a few weeks ago:

So, Why? Is the third station.  You could ask the question: Why am I doing it?  Because I have this fantastic passion for doing x y and z.  OK.  But actually, the why is to do with your market; it is the people that you provide this service for.

Do you really know them?  Do you know who they are?  How do you understand their problem, the problem that you solve?  And you need to understand it in at least two ways.  You need to understand their problem as it is because very often people come to you with a solution when actually they don’t know what their problem is.  Or else they have a superficial way of describing their problem and haven’t really understood what it’s about.

There’s also the problem as they see it.  So, you see these two interact with one another.  So you need a degree of empathy when you work with your clients.

Sharpening the Message

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with this station is I have not yet found a clear lesson to teach about it.  However, I believe adding values into the mix helps get some clarity.

Their problem is only a part of what you need to know about your market.  You can further narrow your niche by defining your market’s values.  Let’s say you are a business coach and you help women business leaders turn around their businesses.  You might have feminist values and so may find you are most effective coaching clients who share these same values.  It is possible, if you coach clients who have the problem but don’t share the values, you will be less effective.

This may be over-simplistic.  There are other values that may equally impact the coaching relationship.  The client’s work ethic may be more important, for example.  There are likely to be several value systems at play in any client-coach relationship and any particular set of values may be more or less important to the success of the relationship.

A Dilemma?

Clarity about key values may be more important in marketing than it is in the coaching relationship.  This opens up something of a dilemma for the coach.  Does the coach market their business, referring to their feminist values upfront?  This may turn away valuable clients, who would be perfectly happy with this value system, even if they don’t fully share it.  However, if feminist values are important to the coach and they want to specialise in particular approaches to business that embody these values, then it may be helpful to market using them.

Your values may be non-negotiable and so use them to narrow your market because this can be a good thing.  Your prospects are looking for a coach who shares their values and so will be very enthusiastic.  Alternatively, you may choose not to insist on these values in your market and so do not use them to narrow your niche.

Do you use values to narrow your niche?  Have you consciously chosen not to insist on certain shared values?  Whatever your choice, how is it working out for you?

What is Your Business Niche?

Last Friday, I posted the second in this sequence, following the development of a keynote I am preparing for the end of March.  I asked the question: Where is your business location?  This led me to think about the idea of a business niche.

The idea of the niche comes from ecology.  An animal or plant will create a niche in the environment where it can thrive.  Contrary to popular belief, competition is not the main influence on evolution.  A niche is some part of the environment species adapt to, usually working with other species to create an environment where every species thrives.

Note the species work together to create their environment, it is not a pre-determined space.  The same applies to businesses.  It may be possible to find a niche but usually, businesses need to create their own niche through collaboration.  A competitive minded business is likely to fail because it will miss opportunities to create a niche with other businesses.  This is why location or context is so important.

Station 2: What?

The big mistake many business-owners make is to believe their offer is the same as their niche. It is a part of their niche but without considering the other 4 stations, they will be at an adaptive disadvantage.

This is what I said in my earlier draft:

The second question is: what?  What are you doing?  Now, you may find this the easiest question of the four to answer.  You have an offer and you know your offer.  You know it backwards, inside out.  You are an expert in what you provide.  But my question to you is: what makes it irresistible?

What makes an irresistible offer?  Clearly the thing itself is important.  If you deliver something that your clients or customers value, in time they will pass on the message to others.

But it’s also important to remember how you package what you offer; how you describe it because people outside don’t know the detail of what it’s like on the inside.  You need to find some way of describing it.  And that is the packaging of it, you don’t necessarily need to put it in a literal packet with writing on it but you need some way of describing it.

And the third layer in this is your marketing.  Once you have an offer and it’s packaged, how do you get it out there in front of people?  And this takes me to the middle point here.

Sharpening the Message

So, you’re a life coach and agonise over your competition?  Of course you have competition!  If you don’t have competition, you have no market.  You can’t compete head to head with more experienced life coaches but you can specialise in a niche.  Your business location is a part of that niche and we’ll look at other aspects over the next two weeks.

There is more you can do to make your offer distinctive at this station.  Think about your packaging.  Location: Sheffield’s Only life coach is probably not true but can you refine it further?  Sheffield’s only life coach who works with people aged 80 or over, with people who have experienced an industrial accident and so on.  We’ll explore this in more detail next time.

You have your offer and you have your packaging.  The next question is how to market your offer.

Station 3: How?

This will be the focus of the second part of my talk, of which more in a few weeks time.  It appears at this stage in the 5 questions sequence.

I mention this now because it’s part of the sequence.  Marketing is important.  For me it is the keystone; it is in the roof of the business, of the building that we are building here.  We’re dealing with the four foundations now, so I’m going to move swiftly onto the others and I will come back and talk at much greater length about this later on.

Marketing drives any business, hence its central position but there are two more foundation stones, then we’ll return to this topic in much more depth.  Your marketing is where you consciously design your offer using the four foundation stones.

How do you package your offer?

Where is Your Business Location?

Last Friday, I published the first part of my new keynote address, on the theme: What is a Coach?  Refer back to this post to find out more about the aim of this sequence.  Today, the focus moves to business location.

Before I do that, some more thoughts about last week’s introduction to the keynote. It seeks to engage a varied audience in appreciating the educational or coaching credentials of a range of businesses.  Since last week, I have given more thought to it.

Why Run a Business?

Many business people enjoy running their business.  They aim to generate income for themselves and their families.  Their business offers freedom and an opportunity to live their dream.

For others, their primary aim is to share some skill or insight with the rest of the world.  They enjoy their coaching or whatever service they offer.  Running a business is secondary albeit essential to the success of their enterprise.

I’ve commented on this from time to time.  Mostly I think these two approaches tend to converge.  Business is more successful where it takes pleasure offering a service and a service-oriented enterprise must be supported by excellent marketing.

For some purposes, it is possible to help businesses choose their best approach to marketing, choose some short cuts and help the business owner carry out their chosen approach.  It’s even better if the business can align its marketing and its offer.  I shall pick this up in the next draft of my keynote.

Station 1: Where?

So, here is the next section of my keynote:

So, I’m going to begin in perhaps a very unexpected place, by asking the question: where?  Are you aware of the neighbourhood in which you are based?  Whether you work from the front room in your own home or from rented office space or workshop space, whatever it is: are you aware of your neighbourhood?  Are you able to access the support of people who live and work nearby?  Do you know where your nearest accountant is?  Not necessarily the same as the one that you use.

Focusing on the neighbourhood is a great way to build your business.  It may be that there are a number of people that you can work very closely with in your area on a number of things, because some of you are good at some things and some at others.

But also don’t forget that if you simply focus on the immediate neighbourhood you may miss other opportunities, for example Sheffield is situated on the border of the Peak District.  How many of you use the Peak District in your business?  It might be part of your offer, it might be part of your marketing.  Whatever it is how many of you use that?  (I know there’s at least one!)  This is about paying attention.

Sharpening the Message

There are four stations in this part of the keynote talk and I’ll cover the others in future weeks.  The aim is to point to good value ideas for each station.  All four in this early version of the talk need to be sharpened.

I’m thinking for each station I should point to something a business can do to improve their performance, as well as show how the business owner’s state of being can help or hinder their development.

Perhaps the most useful thing any business owner can do is be aware of the assets of their chosen place.  I have touched on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) in some depth elsewhere (follow the link and scroll down to “Community Assets”).

I suspect many businesses end up in some location because the premises there are most economic.  Pre-eminent among these will be those who work from home.  Are they actually in the best place for their business?

Perhaps more important though, are local assets and the extent to which businesses make use of them.  To see an opportunity and take advantage of it is one crucial role for business people.

So, paying attention is an essential disposition for the business owner.  This is crucial when they are choosing a business location and then over the years, as they take advantage and build networks of collaboration in the neighbourhood.

Businesses need not always support a particular neighbourhood; after all, the benefits of business activity may be felt across a city or even further afield.  The point is though, your business has to be somewhere and serendipity should never be ruled out.

How has your location influenced your business development?

What is a Coach?

Usually, I set aside Fridays for one-off posts on whatever topic appeals each week.  This time I have a special sequence of posts to publish over the next few weeks.  This first post, “What is a Coach?” is the first part of a talk I shall deliver at the end of March.

On 25 March, I shall be speaking at Sheffield’s first business and personal development event: “Change Your Business, Career and Life: Success Summit 2017“.  I am developing my keynote for the event.

I have recorded the first 10 minutes of the keynote and I’ve transcribed it.  The idea is to test the talk, by publishing it and requesting feedback.  I’m already seeing new possibilities and so this is proving to be a worthwhile exercise.

A further reason for these posts is to add to the publicity for the event.  People may be attracted as they catch glimpses of its content.

The Introduction Transcribed

This first part is the introduction to the keynote.  I’ve imagined being present at the event, hence the reference to 200 people.

This is an accurate transcript and one point of interest is to compare my speaking and writing styles.  One problem is punctuation.  I can hear the words but not the punctuation.  Like most people I don’t speak in clear sentences (a few people do!).  I’ve cut out the stumbles and false starts, mainly.  The subheadings are not a part of the talk.

Introduction: What is a Coach?

How many people here are coaches or consultants?  There’s about 200 in the room and it looks like there are about 30 or 40.  That’s a brilliant response!

Don’t switch off if you don’t think of yourself as a coach or consultant.  Just listen to what I have to say.  I want to tell you a story about my father and his work.  He was a sheet metal worker, self-employed, for thirty years between 1956 and 1986.  And he provided the side of the market that was bespoke to the industry.  He would go into a factory and he would be looking for solutions in terms of balustrading, machine guards, ducting.  They called him in if they had a problem and there was no off-the-peg solution.  He would discuss the problem and agree an approach.  They would gather data, design the solution – sorry he would gather data, he would design the solution, make it and fit it.  So, in effect he was a coach or consultant, providing solutions in bended metal.

And this is actually true of most businesses.  Most businesses solve problems.  They are selling a solution to a problem.  Even if you are selling a product and it’s an off-the-peg product, it’s much better if your customers buy the right thing.  They still need a bit of education and some help in making the right choice.

So, I’m going to ask you again, how many of you are coaches or consultants, even if it’s just in part?  Because everyone can be a coach, everyone can use coaching to support their business and for some businesses it might even become an alternative income stream.

Finding Your Vision

What I want to do today is to invite you to step back from your business and to look at it in ways that perhaps you normally don’t.  Whether your business is a great success or whether you are contemplating failure, it is always helpful to take time to do this.

Perhaps, you have lost sight of your original vision.  You had a vision about your personal lifestyle, your freedom, your contribution that others would value and simply the pressure of the work that you’re doing means that you’ve just lost track of them.

So, I’m going to walk you through your business, looking at 4 foundations in this first part that every business needs to have in place.  This is a chance for you to review your business and to try to work out where you need to pay attention.


Notice I start the talk with a question and then ask it a second time after providing more information.  The aim is to get the audience thinking about their response and hopefully seeing that coaching is not necessarily the preserve of a few.

The story is perhaps not brilliant as stories go but it will hold attention for several reasons.  First, it has local relevance and perhaps I should emphasise that more.  It is also the story of a successful business.  I’m not sure my father would agree with that but his business lasted 30 years and paid for a house and university education for two children.

I’m positioning myself as an expert in assisting coaches with local marketing.  The aim is not to persuade all the businesses present that they are coaching, so much as establishing the talk’s relevance, so that all present will listen and not dismiss me as not for them.  I need to establish my market is coaches or consultants but I don’t want a large section of the audience impatiently waiting for the next speaker!

Your thoughts about this introduction are welcome.  Next time I’ll say more about the shape of the talk .