Sunday, 9 September 2012

'FIRED' up for success: 5 things business owners can learn from Team GB

So the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics have finally drawn to a close, marking the end of years of preparation for the organisers and athletes alike, not to mention months of excitement and weeks of viewing pleasure for many of us.

As a lifelong non-athelete, with relatively little interest in sport, I've been surprised at how enthralled I've been watching the amazing performances at both events, even those I'd never heard of before (who knew what 'boccia' was a few weeks ago?) I've also found myself saddened watching those athletes who have had their dreams dashed when things haven't gone to plan (Nathan Stephens and Jody Cundy to name just two).

I put my new-found interest down to the fact that, for the first time in my life, I've really thought about the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the preparation by the Olympic and Paralympic athletes.  Each and every one of them has been aiming to reach peak performance for these Games, and although only the minority have come away with medals there are countless others who have achieved personal bests and national records in their events, or have simply made massive progress to be included in their national team. Stories of dedication, sacrifice and personal achievement have characterised the Games and hopefully made a lasting positive impression on many people.

As a business owner, I've identified 5 common characteristics shared by the Olympian and Paralympian atheletes, which I believe can also have a significant impact on business success.

F - focus:  each and every athlete has set aside the distractions of every day life in order to optimise their preparation for the big event. We all know how easy it can be to be diverted from our goal in the course of our busy lives, but those who reach the top do their best to find a way to avoid the distractions and keep their eyes firmly set on what they want to achieve.

I - inspiration: many of the interviews with athletes have cited stories of people being spurred on to success having seen the achievements of others.  Now, in turn, they are inspiring a new generation of successful individuals through their efforts. I'm sure many business owners have been inspired to do what they do by people or events, whether it be high profile celebrity entrepreneurs, family /friends or perhaps a cause which is close to their heart.  It can help to remember your original inspiration during the tough times in business to keep you 'on track' - and who knows, you may find that you provide the inspiration for a future generation of successful entrepreneurs!

R - reflection: again, the post-race interviews with athletes have been a great insight into their skill at reflecting on their performance, critically assessing it and learning from it so that they can go forward and improve still further - in many cases the athletes are already considering what they need to do to prepare for the Rio Olympics in 2016.  For entrepreneurs, reflection is a vital part of our business planning process, thinking about performance to date, analysing it and working out how to move forward.

E - energy/enthusiasm: who can deny the energy and enthusiasm of the athletes which is so tangible it pretty much jumps out of your telly screen at you! (I'd love to hear comments from anyone who was actually there to witness the events to see how it felt for you!) I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds this hard to maintain whilst cooped up alone in my little office, but it's something so infectious that I can't imagine that it doesn't have a positive impact on clients old, new and potential if your business communicates this.

D - drive/determination: just like the athletes who push on through whatever challenges they face (and lets be honest, some of them have overcome huge obstacles) the drive to succeed and the determination to see things are the factors which determine whether or not you achieve your goal. There are probably many aspiring athletes who have fallen by the wayside because they haven't been able to carry on through the tough times, and the world of business is just the same in this respect. For me, this is one of the most significant deciding factors for business success - after all,  you have to push yourself through the difficult times (applying all the factors above, of course) if you hope to survive as a business!

I'd love to hear your thoughts about things you've learned from the Olympics and Paralympics which you can transfer to your business.

Find Angel Virtual Assistant Ltd on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest  and YouTube

Image courtesy of

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The unlikeable face of social networking: standards of behaviour online

Is it just me turning into a grumpy old woman, or is there a real issue with bad manners and overall standards of behaviour across social networks? It often seems as if a whole different set of standards apply when interacting online – and they don’t always compare favourably, to put it mildly …
Now, I’m a great advocate of social networking. At it’s best, it’s an amazing way of making new contacts (some of whom can become great friends), sharing information, learning new things and, for those of us in business, one of the most effective forms of networking and marketing you’ll find (so long as you have a good social media strategy). It's also a great way for people to share  and communicate during great occasions (such as the 2012 Olympics), give moral and practical support during times of trouble (e.g the clean-up operations organised online during the 2011 Riots) and raise awareness of good causes (for example the charity 'Help Harry Help Others' which captured the hearts of so many through the tweets of young Harry Moseley).
So it’s a shame when some people behave in ways that they I’m sure they wouldn’t in face-to-face communications. It can range from careless oversights, such as not thanking people for help given online (easily done, I know, but not good) to downright rudeness and, in extreme cases, abusive, threatening and even criminal behaviour; the cases of the student jailed earlier this year for posting racist tweets following the collapse of footballer Fabrice Muamba, and the teenager arrested just last week for posting abusive tweets about Olympic diver Tom Daley are just 2 high-profile incidents.
Obviously the perceived safe distance and relative anonymity of social networks explain some of the more extreme ‘keyboard warrior’ behaviour - although prosecutions for unacceptable posts and incitement will hopefully go some way to busting the myth that ‘anything goes’ when communicating online.  But at a less extreme level, what is good practice when dealing with others on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest or any other social networks, blogs and forums?
  1. Stop and think - before you press send and rocket your comments into cyberspace,  just take a step back and consider what you’re posting. This is particularly important if you’re posting in response to something which has upset or annoyed you, but also applies if you’re joining in banter with people you don’t really know. Consider whether a publically-posted comment is the best way of dealing with the point – would a direct message be more appropriate and less inflammatory? If someone has posted something illegal or damaging about you you can obviously seek redress by contacting the network providers. That aside, always consider the impact your post has on other people, including potentially negative impact on yourself or your brand. I’m sure I’m not the only person to unlike/unfollow someone because I’ve seen them post something which has put me off. Also remember that the worldwide web has a very long memory, so a hasty post or comment could seriously damage your online reputation for a long time to come!
  2. Be a good 'digital citizen' - seems an obvious thing to say, but in an ideal world the same kind of 'rules' about appropriate, responsible and respectful behaviour which we apply in our everyday lives should be the norm online. There's an obvious need for greater awareness about online etiquette, rights, responsibilities and security for everyone who uses the Internet - to some extent this is being addressed through the education system nowadays, although those of us who are 'learning as we go' have probably had to learn from (sometimes bitter) experience what is and isn't acceptable. Microsoft offers a very helpful digital citizenship toolkit which includes plenty of useful materials to raise awareness about a wide range of online issues.
What do you think? Is behaviour on social networks any worse that 'real life', or is it a fair reflection of the way our world is today? Any good practice tips you'd like to share - or any pet hates?

Other related reading:
(Image downloaded from

Sunday, 1 January 2012

'Project 2012' - 4 steps to stick to those resolutions

It seems that I start every year with impressive intentions, plenty of positivity and a long list of resolutions, guaranteed to lead to precisely the life I dream of if I can just stick to them.  Somehow, by the time I get to  ‘Blue Monday' they’re all but forgotten...

In the hope that I can fare better in 2012, I booked onto a webinar entitled 'Start 2012 with a bang' presented by the very inspiring Jo Barnes of The Social Networking Academy (SNA). Jo gave us plenty of great ideas about goal setting, measuring results, motivation and so much more, and I came away feeling fired up and ready to think how I might apply them to myself.

This year, I’ve decided to apply some ideas I've adapted from project management tools and techniques to my resolutions – both for my business and personal life. This is something of a new approach for me, at least in the personal context - so if anyone else has applied it in a similar way I'd really love to know what you think and how it worked for you. Here are the 4 steps I'm taking this year:
  1. Understand what needs to change over the next year  This is about reviewing the  successes and failures of last year, and analysing the lessons I've learned from each of those experiences. This will ensure that I can be clear about where I am starting from, and can then identify "what would have to happen" for the year to be a success, a key element identified by Brian Tracy in his 'New Year, New You' video.
  2. Plan – for 'Project 2012' I intend to set 3 main high-level objectives (resolutions), which I will break down into tasks/actions with measurable targets and outcomes and review dates. For example, one of my objectives/resolutions is to improve the profitability of my business; so the tasks will include revisiting my business plan and financial forecasts, identifying targets for income, client numbers etc, specifying the actions needed to make progress, clarifying the outcomes required and setting review points in my diary.  Although 3 resolutions is probably less than I would normally make, I'm pretty sure that the actions generated by them will be enough to aim for. Not only that, but each of them have the potential to make a significant positive difference to my life if I can achieve some measure of success in them. 
  3. DO IT!!!  As Jo Barnes mentioned in the SNA webinar a successful business requires "consistent, focused action" and this applies to personal resolutions as well. This is the 'biggie' for me, as I'm sure it is for most people. Once the excitement of the New Year has passed it's back to 'business as usual', and therein lies the problem - I end up doing what I always did, and getting the same results as I always got! Any change takes time to embed, and it's so easy to get discouraged when early targets or timescales slip. So for me the key will be to pace things to give myself a reasonable chance of achieving them - and to try to catch myself doing things right instead of only registering the slip-ups!
  4. Monitor and review Rather than looking at my resolutions at the end of 2012 and berating myself for a lack of success, I intend to set aside a regular block of time to look at them, just as I would any formal project. This will give me the chance to record my achievements, think about anything that's not working and make adjustments where necessary - after all, the world can change a lot in a year, so it's likely my objectives will too.  As in all good projects, it's going to be important for me to measure progress from where I actually start, not where I think I should be starting - that way, I'm more likely to spot the improvements I'm actually making, which will be a great motivator.
So, that's my plan! If this works as well in my personal life as project planning has worked professionally, I have more 'mini-projects' in mind (I've already compiled my ‘lessons learned’ to use in Project Xmas 2012 …!) But what do you think? What have you found works best for you?

Come and join me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+