Lowering the Tone
Stella McCartney, who designed the Team GB Olympics kit, said ‘You don’t need to sacrifice style for sport’. Stella clearly wasn’t aware that my hapless, hopeless, fashion disaster of an agent, Tony Robinson OBE, was going to attend two weeks of the Olympics.
I blame your London Mayor, Boris Johnson. He had the security and the opportunity to stop my imbecile of an agent. But, despite my warnings, he let him in. One sad Yorkshireman, and I do know that if Yorkshire was a nation it would have been twelfth in the medals table, lowered the tone of the greatest show on earth for billions.
Actually, I thought that fashion won few medals at the Olympics. Stella’s stuff was better than Giorgio’s Italy get up and Ralph’s US rags but the best was Cedelia Marley’s, daughter of Bob, Jamaican kit. The yellow and green of Jamaica rocks and what’s not to like about Messrs Bolt and Blake.
Going all aquatic
I tried to give, my new best friends – Usain and Yohan – an autographed copy of my best seller ‘Stripping for Freedom’ after they won the relay but some Brit with a machine gun stopped me. Don’t they know who I am?
You may have seen me later jump into the pool with Tom Daley and his entourage after he won his bronze. Can’t think why but I did enjoy the men’s, body hair free zone, diving and swimming lots.
It was a wonderful two weeks at the Olympics, except when I spotted Robinson somewhere throwing his red wine (£5.20 a go) and food over innocent spectators. I learned a lot about how small and micro biz owners can win against the bland big corporates who had the Olympics stitched up between them.
‘Proud to accept only Visa’
Visa, Coca Cola, McDonalds, (why do these companies get funded by your Brit government to do their staff training etc?) and the rest of the Olympics’ sponsors have done well because the millions of visitors to Olympic venues could only buy their products or use their services. However, they did themselves no favours at all in becoming trusted and liked by customers and consumers.
I’m certain that the sheer blandness, corporateness, creativeless, sameness and valueless of their offer at the hugely successful London 2012 will prove a good thing for small and micro business. Most consumers given the choice will prefer to buy from independent, owner-led micro enterprises (see the Enterprise Rockers Movement).
Here’s three tips, from my Olympic experience, to boost your biz. These tips build on the anti-corporate/government feeling that prevails amongst the majority of consumers. Micro biz is where it’s at.
1. Make deals with your customers: Be flexible – there’s nothing like a win-win on price and product/service offer to make both the customer and the biz owner friends for life. Every minute you enter into conversation with your customers builds a relationship and allows you to negotiate a deal that meets their needs exactly.
The corporates and government bodies only offer ‘identical’ and ‘take it or leave it’. No wonder their employees looked fed up whilst all the volunteer gamesmakers, using their own initiative, looked so happy.
Ensure everyone you employ or you contract or partner with has the same ability to make a deal on your behalf. Customers prefer doing things there and then – when they’re hot they’re hot. I know I’m hot and immaculate all the time but not all of your customers will be. So ensure the deal can be done there and then by whomever is in front of the customer.
2. Be different – no sheep dips here: In my hundreds of interviews with enterprise owners one of the mistakes, many have admitted to, was in trying to mimic the corporates rather than differentiate from them. The Olympics was saved from feeling like one giant sheep dip from your government and the big global corporates by the sheer energy, laughter, tears and diversity of the spectators, the volunteers and the athletes.
Be creative. There are, at least, twenty ways an independent cafe owner can attract people to their cafe rather than Starbucks or McDonalds. A micro baker, confectioner, florist, butcher, pharmacy, electronic retailer can find another twenty ways to attract customers to their premises rather than Tescos. Even a ‘work from home’ accountant can find enough ways for their fee paid start up support to be taken up rather than the government’s free equivalent.
Ensure your business has something for everyone. Embracing diversity is really tough for ‘the suits’ as was proven at the Olympics yet it’s the easiest thing in the world if you’re interested in finding out about people. Everyone is an individual and every micro enterprise owner can add value in different ways to every potential and existing customer. It only requires questioning and listening.
3. Passion and fun are priceless: The Olympics was a triumph for the athletes, the volunteers and the spectators because they and their emotions were authentic. It contrasted starkly with all the ‘spin’ around the games organisation and sponsorship.
Customers and consumers are smart and quick. Quick because the technology to spread the word that people love you, or don’t, is almost instantaneous. If you want your business to be loved by your customers you need to love your business and your customers. Change your business if you don’t.
At the end of the events and at the closing ceremony the smiles on the faces of the athletes were priceless. Those smiles are worth millions too in them selling themselves because it’s natural – the fun and the passion is authentic. Mo Farah, double gold winner, epitomised this fun and passion and put all of his success down to ‘hard graft’.
If you’re going to succeed in your own business then you’ll need to work long and hard. You might as well enjoy it too. Choose a business that matches your passion and gives you fun – the customers will love it.
You need to fuel your passion and fun in order for it to keep burning in your biz, like the Olympic torch. That means surrounding yourself with people you enjoy being with that are positive about what they do too. Why do you think I spend 99% of my time with the Stellas, Ralphs. Giorgios, Yohans, Usains,Tinas and Clares of this world and close to zilch with Tony Robinson OBE?