Self-inflicted damage

Some signs we ignore at our peril

Some signs we ignore at our peril

I have been doing business with someone introduced to me by a networking friend. I have been buying his services.

Networking sites being what they are, this week LinkedIn prompted me to connect with him and at the same time he was suggested as a friend on Facebook. The LinkedIn profile is professional if rather brief. The Facebook page (and his privacy settings are low) is really unpleasant; prejudiced and smutty and full of nasty innuendo. He may think himself clever and funny. I do not, and I would hardly class myself as a PC zealot.

I am really disappointed. I will not connect on either platform. I will now feel uncomfortable with the guy. I would not want my connections to see I was connected to him because they might judge me by what he posts on Facebook.

The guy’s services have been very satisfactory. I have no complaints. However, I still might be reluctant to refer him as I would not want to be associated with his on-line views.

If I were this guy I would delete my Facebook profile and start again. A lot of our stuff is out on the internet forever. Some material can be deleted, but it is best not to have anything out there which might damage our reputations. But we don’t, do we?

Promoting your start-up business – Part 6 – Making business friends

 

Widen your market

Widen your market

Most start-up businesses start with one person – you. You might have one or two part-time staff or subcontractors. However there is a danger of feeling rather lonely. After all, you have to make all the decisions, and while you probably have experience of working in someone else’s business, the buck definitely stops with you now.

The good news is that you need not feel lonely. You should make some friends in your own line of work, preferably others running small businesses. Do not worry that they will try to take your clients away. There are plenty of fish in the sea. I have found that you can pick up ideas from others and perhaps you can help them too. Maybe they can help out with certain types of work you are not so keen on, do not enjoy or are simply not to skilled act. Perhaps you can help them out with their less favourite areas which you enjoy.

So that means you have a potential for getting business from your friends and acquaintances. How do you find those people?

Networking is the obvious answer, but a local trade association or professional group would serve well too. I can vouch for this. My monthly lunches with fellow professionals not only helped me feel part of the local community in my line of business, but we shared and still share problems that we come across. That sense of belonging to the group is a positive and valuable asset.

Another way of finding support from fellow-professionals and others in your business is through social media. I value greatly the friendship and camaraderie from people in my line of business with whom I have connected on Twitter. Sharing repartee and swapping business has been very valuable for me and Twitter is a great asset. Of course I have shared business from people in other lines of business through Twitter, and gained work from them as well as having subcontracted to them. Any way you can get known is useful marketing.

I talk to people through LinkedIn too and contribute to the discussions with specialist forums, but Twitter has built my on-line community rapidly, and I have added many to my LinkedIn contacts later. Twitter and LinkedIn have helped my businesses transform from local to national and beyond in terms of where my clients are located.

Consider having a Facebook page for your business and make sure you are active with a business page on Google+, not only to build your community but also because Google will help people to your website and your business once it knows where you are.

The more people you know, the better it is for support for your business and the more business will come your way. If you remember that as with face-to-face networking it is a matter of “give and take”, with perhaps more giving of referrals than taking, actually you will receive a great deal of business.

Get out there virtually as well as physically.

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Job-seekers need to mind their Ps & Qs

Nederlands: Linked In icon

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like LinkedIn. We can connect with all sorts of useful people with whom we can do business, and it is a very good reference for those seeking jobs. Life is tough in the job markets in North America and in Europe, so those looking for employment need all the help they can get.

Of course job-seekers need to give themselves the best chance, which means they should take care putting together their profile and also appearing to be sensible and employable. In that light it was surprising to see an older ex-Civil Servant (over thirty years working for the Government) having a serious virtually troll-like rant in a professional group on LinkedIn, and then arguing vehemently with those who were suggesting that his extreme views were ill-chosen, or at least ill-expressed. Fortunately for him, the Group Leader has apparently decided she or he had had enough and removed the thread, thus removing the embarrassing content.

I hope the perpetrator of this job-seeking faux pas, whose headline is along the lines of “looking for new challenges” learns that it does not pay to be offensive (ever) and engages in proper and sensible dialogue so that those of us who may have been shocked by the outbursts, and those who did not see them can see the value in this guy’s abilities.

Otherwise, everything we say in a public forum remains out there for everyone to see and make a judgement, right or wrong.

Shouldn’t we always add value in our on-line content, and manage our reputations?

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Closed and open networks in the 21st Century

Under orders

Do you like being told what to do? As a small business owner, I don’t, and I don’t suppose you do either.

To be honest, I never really have liked being told what to do. When I was an employee I had to be at the start, but as I became more experienced and senior, generally most of my bosses allowed me to get on with it. A hands-off approach to management is usually the right way to go, and as I had been treated, so I treated others. I always thought that the best way to get employees to do their best for you was to be nice to them so that they liked you and didn’t want to let you down. Actually I am not sure that was mostly a conscious process; after all if you treat people well they should like you and aim to please.

Out of jail

So, when I gained my freedom, one advantage of having my own business was that no one told me what to do. Of course I have always sought advice. I would be stupid not to, but I have never been under an obligation to anyone other than my clients, for whom I do my best.

In order to gain more business, or indeed to get any at the start I joined several networks. One was a well known breakfast networking organization, but I also joined two business groups. Both operated on the principle that accredited members won work and that which they couldn’t or were not directly qualified to do themselves, they farmed out to other better qualified members, taking a commission for the work won. It was not the done thing to sub-contract to non-members.

The Dark Ages

I suppose that was OK in back in the mists of time a decade ago and when the internet was still a clumsy child and not the sophisticated fast-growing brash youngster it now is. It was OK when my business was also a child and the networks and I were products of a pre-internet age.

These days I want to work with the best people I can when I am managing a project. I have gathered a large network and would want to bring in whomever I wish who is most suited. I don’t expect a commission for subcontracting. Either I would hope for reciprocal referrals or I can sell on the sub-contracted work at a profit. I am not demanding that people give up to me some of what they consider their due reward.

Freedom

I know many more people than I did. I have met them through Ecademy, LinkedIn , Twitter and other on-line networks. I have met them off-line face to face so that I know that I like them. People move on from other networks, but they don’t necessarily move on from mine, unless I decide I couldn’t work with them. My network is in my head even if their contact details are not. I work with whom I like.

The trouble is the old closed networks still like control of their members. They like to tell them what to do. They like to tell them with whom they can work and with whom they can’t. Incredible isn’t it?

The Real World

I value my old networks very much, by which I mean the members with whom I have worked. The networks are the people in them, not the founders or owners. The founders are facilitators now, not controllers. If they don’t let their networks grow up and their members work as they wish the networks will not survive in formal form. Of course any network must have acceptable ethics, but not restrictive rules which might even constitute a restraint of trade.

Freedom and flexibility are what all businesses need now, not just small ones. As long as we are ethical in our approach and stick to what we are good at, please don’t tell us what to do, or with whom we are allowed to work. That is so Last Century, isn’t it?.

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Fifteen ways to get unfollowed and disconnected from my network

Google Appliance as shown at RSA Expo 2008 in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Or just not followed in the first place

  1. Tweet advertising the whole time
  2. Tweet other peoples quotations
  3. Tweet religious tracts
  4. Tweet political comments and unkind comments about politicians.
  5. Tweet every meal you have (occasional food comments or pictures of dishes you are pleased with are OK).
  6. Send a request to connect on Linked In to get my email address to put me on your mailing list.
  7. Tweet on automatic from RSS feeds that have nothing to do with you just to please Google, Klout and Peer Index. Actually both Google and I will go off you.
  8. Tweet in a company name and not tell me your real one.
  9. Auto-feed absolutely every comment, tweet and link.
  10. Never RT or pass on someone else’s link.
  11. Never have a conversation or interact
  12. Swear (even with an apology)
  13. Rubbish a competitor.
  14. Be rude about anyone at all.
  15. Criticise fellow networkers even if they deserve it.

Now, everyone is entitled to their political views, and their religious beliefs. Just spare me, please. Be original, help others and don’t be lazy or disrespectful. It seems not much to ask. What do you think?

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How I tailor my business purchases and strategies to my needs

An alternative title to this post might be “How I run an introverted business in an extroverted way” since the two are inter-linked.

My business is for the most part involved in dealing with tax issues. There is some flair required, but no artistic ability. That means that in terms of hardware, I have what I need, and invest in the literal sense in what is required. In my case that means a Windows-based network to run the specialist software I need to buy. There is no equivalent for say Mac or indeed for a Linux system, so I use Windows and on the whole it is reliable. Yes, I could use a Windows emulator but it would be an additional risk to data.

I do like gadgets. If I had the resources and I thought it made sense I would have a Mac, an iPhone, and iPad, an iPod and every new toy possible, but maybe I am a bit conservative. Though I could claim most of them for business expense purposes, in reality it would not wash with my conscience. I content myself with having loaded Ubuntu on two old machines both over eight years old which are not worth a bean now but are much happier with the lighter requirements of Linux. They can still function well though they would not manage with their old Windows systems in the modern world.

My point is that I do not invest more money than I think I need to to take the business forward. I try not to invest too little either.

However, I do think it well worth targeting on-line presence with some investment, both financially and in terms of time. My websites and indeed my blogs will be undergoing a makeover very soon which is where the financial investment is coming in. I need to be noticed as we all do.

So I am active in social media,and of course it is fun interacting with people who were already friends, who have become friends on-line, and in looking for more amongst those whom I am following and who are following me. I invest a few hours a week, and it is after all no chore talking to friends as well as commenting on their blogs and mentioning my own.

It is important not to try to do too much. Just as in off-line networking one can go to too many events organized by too many different people and end up not having time to follow-up so it is with on-line networking. You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Ecademy and FriendFeed. If you want to you can find me on Facebook. I think any more would spread my attention too thin to have conversations with people, and that is what it is about, even for an introvert like me with a necessary but not very showy business.

I am registered on foursquare because I was invited, but I do not have a clever phone yet, not being convinced I need one. Convince me, and I will join you all there.

In the meantime I will continue my on-line stuff as it is and will attempt anything else I think will be useful, as social media evolves and never stays still. I will keep blogging and picking up blogging tips. Chris Brogan recommended Technorati for helping blog reading figures – thank you Chris – and here is a code for the Technorati people : G4W22KBUX42W

We have to be out there talking and being seen, and for some of us it was a skill we had to learn. However, just as we need to preserve our cash flow and tailor our expenses to our needs, we have to follow the same philosophy with our social media too. That way it will be fun and will not overwhelm us.

What do you think? Do you see things differently, and why? I would love to know.

© Jon Stow 2010

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