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  • #964302
    Devan
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    Hi all,

    I’d like to get some feedback from this fantastic group of business owners out there on something that I have been thinking about and experiencing lately.

    I have noticed a few of my clients lately have a problem – in the form of the business owner him/herself. What I am noticing is that a few of them are ‘stuck’ in an outdated mindset of doing businesses. I can see that other employees around them are trying to innovate and move the business forward, but the owner themselves are saying “Well, this is how I started out running the business 20 years ago, and it worked fine then, and it WILL work fine NOW!!”. However, their businesses are going backwards at a rapid rate, and they just cannot see it.

    To give you an example – I am having a hard time convincing one client that they need email(!). So far, I have managed to get them to set up ONE email account – for the owner, but he is adamant that they will not give access to other employees. This is a company of 20 employees who have great potential, and quite an energetic, keen team.

    So, what do you do when you come across clients like this? Part of me wants to just move on to work with someone else who is more ‘with it’, but a part of me feels a real disappointment that something with so much potential is being wasted.

    This has also brought me around to thinking if I myself may get trapped into this mode of thinking one day in the future, and fail to keep innovating and lock myself into slow extinction?!

    How do you realise when YOU are the problem in your own business?

    #1004589
    LeelaCosgrove
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    It’s often the problem – I see it again and again.

    And the ONLY thing you can do is to move on. You can’t change someone – you can only help them if they WANT to change.

    It’s like being in a relationship – you can’t stay with someone because they have the ‘potential’ to be a wonderful partner … most people never reach their potential – and again – you can’t expect people to change.

    There was an article in the Harvard Business Review a couple of years ago about how the #1 thing that makes entrepreneurs successful is the EXACT same thing that stops their companies from growing past the SME stage.

    And that is … control.

    Entrepreneurs are workaholics and want to control everything. It’s in our nature – it’s the reason most of us left our jobs (I always tell people – I’m unemployable).

    But when it comes to scaling upwards, we have to learn to step back – to take advice from people who know better … and to hand over our ‘baby’ to someone/s who is/are NOT as invested as we are.

    This is where many businesses fall down – they make it to a certain point of success and then can’t scale past it.

    Personally, it has ALWAYS been my goal to have a business that runs without me. So I’ve been working towards that from day one. When I get too control freak – I remind myself of my end game. That tends to calm me down and refocus me.

    #1004590
    peppie
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    I reckon it’s all in the balance, there is some fantastic technology out there (and keeping an eye on the development of all of it is part of the mantra of my business), but you still have to be aware that you are a human being with a biological brain with a limited capacity to interface to electronic creations.

    I imaging that your example business owner is just a bit scared of technology per say. It also may be that he/she feels a tad threatened by the fact that the workers are (in a sense) dictating the future and he feels HE is in danger of loosing control over his own business. It may be that he/she only needs to see the benefits, possibly a good example of improved efficiency and satisfied customers etc. etc. might help. I work quite a bit with “older folk” who just simply have not been able to grasp the difference say between an audio CD and a video DVD and they visibly relax when I am able to quietly and slowly explain things in non threatening terms.

    But as I said, it’s a balance, because for many (and I admit I am one of them) change has to be beneficial and not just for change sake or because someone else raves about it. I cannot bring myself to sign up for something like Facebook because I prefer my contact with people to be on a different level. (But then I remember when schools didn’t have computers, they were grappling with calculators at the time.)

    #1004591
    TaniB
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    Hi Devan

    I am constantly having discussions like this with my dad! He’s retired now and is caravaning around the country so wouldn’t it be good if he could email and SMS us? You would think so! Actually he’s now getting pretty good at accepting ‘new’ technology. (He can read SMS but is still yet to respond to one!)

    The thing is, I reckon some people just naturally steer away from what they don’t understand and some others thrive on being at the cutting edge regardless of their age. A few years ago I mentioned to a client in her 80s that I would post her some info and she asked ‘Can you just email it?’ How good is that? I was blown away.

    So maybe your client needs to have the whole email thing demystified. He’s probably secretly hoping he can make it to retirement without having to learn anything more about it. It also sounds that he’s probably worried that his staff will spend too much time emailing and not working. Might need to work on some trust issues there as well.

    Slowly but surely he will come to feel more comfortable with it and see it’s advantages. (Of course I expect that he will be the last one to admit it!)

    He’s in his comfort zone and it’s been working ok for him so far. To make a change is a big step for some. It involves learning something new and requires effort. I’d like to think that I’m always up for trying something new, but you wouldn’t believe how long it’s taking me to ditch my PC in favour of a Mac. See, even though my crashing PC is driving me nuts and I believe that Mac’s don’t have those problems, I know my PC. I don’t know Macs. For me, that is a change that I want to make but at the moment requires too much time and effort. Imagine how much harder it would be if I was stubbornly defending my PC because ‘that’s how I started and it worked fine then and it’ll work fine now’.

    For me, the best move with most people who stubbornly hold themselves back is to tread gently in overcoming what essentially is a fear of change or a fear of the unknown and allow them to get their own heads around the new idea. One thing is for sure, they can’t be pushed.

    Maybe you could suggest he read ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ if you haven’t already.

    I’d love to know how it goes. Good luck

    TaniB

    #1004592
    Jexley
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    These are some great responses and, after reading them, I honestly have very little left to add.

    I suppose my unique take on it is that it’s a “trust” thing. For people to move out of their comfort zone, they need to trust that they’re going to be well looked after when they make that leap.

    If there’s a way to prove to them that you’re looking out for them and won’t let any harm come to them when they move in this new direction, then I’ve found that they’re more likely to move forward in the interest of their business and their livelihood.

    I wrote “How To” notes and made “Watch Out For” checklists, and finally got my mum back in Denver into email. That was coming up on 5 years ago, and I actually just finished a website for her to sell her home-baked cookies online!

    She used to be all “Can people get on my computer and read my checking account?” and now she’s all “I’ve got to log in and check my orders!”

    Good luck with that though, as you can see many of us have been through it.

    #1004593
    BB
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    Hi Devan,

    Are you sure your clients aren’t clients of mine? They certainly sound like it!

    A couple of years ago, I had some in a very similar position. I was amazed, (as they are only a few years older than me) that they had never used an ATM machine, didn’t have a mobile phone, and obviously didn’t own a computer. They ran their business with cash, cheques and a daily visit to the queue at the local bank.

    I asked them if they would like to join the 21st Century. They nervously agreed and as the most pressing problem was the ATM, I then spent 2 hours (for the next 4 Sundays), driving from ATM to ATM – taking away their fear.

    They were so proud of themselves, that they bought a computer and after doing a basic computer course, asked if I would help them to send an email to their son.

    To cut a long story short – they now do all their banking online, and have some very efficient systems for their business. There’s rarely a week goes by, when I don’t get an email from them. They both have mobile phones which they understand and use well. Their thirst for knowledge is huge and they’ve taken to the technology of this century with much gusto.

    I am so proud of them and so very glad that I summoned the courage to ask if I could help. It was important to not make fun of them and to take away their fear of the unknown.

    Devan, It’s worth perservering – these people are my favourite clients, who have given me the most referrals, and we’re good friends as well. What more could one ask for?

    Cheers,

    B.B.

    #1004594
    Devan
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    Leela, Paul, Tani & Jexley,

    Thanks for your responses – they have been great, and have restored some perspective to my thinking. Such lengthy, detailed answers too, in such a short space of time. Do you guys actually have real jobs, or just post answers here full time?!?! :) LOL

    Seriously though – your replies have contained a lot of gold, obviously distilled from hard experience. They are much appreciated.


    @TaniB
    – I had completely forgotten about ‘Who moved my Cheese’!! I read it years ago, but I might have to get a few copies and hand them out to my ‘Hem’ and ‘Haw’ clients… :). Thanks for the reminder!

    #1004595
    Devan
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    BB,

    Fantastic to hear such a success story!

    I guess my problem is that I am such a techno junkie, that I want everybody to be as ‘connected’ as I am all the time, even though I know that (a) not everybody should be and (b) it is not all that good for your sanity at all.

    I get so excited and carried away with new gadgets and methods of working that I want everyone else to experience the same thrill. Sounds like you have reached that level with your clients that you have described here!!

    #1004596
    LeelaCosgrove
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    Devan, post: 3618 wrote:
    Do you guys actually have real jobs, or just post answers here full time?!?! :) LOL

    I don’t have a job …

    I have a business …

    Took me a few years to sort that one out, but I’m finally there … I work ON the business, not IN it.

    And I know my ROI for time spent posting on forums like this – so I know exactly how much time a day I can spend before it’s COSTING me money to be on here rather than earning it …

    #1004597
    Devan
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    Oops – Sorry Leela – I didn’t mean to upset anyone by saying ‘real jobs’. I only meant it as a common euphemism that gets thrown about everyday. I even put a smiley on the end to denote the humourous angle, so I am sorry if I offended…

    I do understand the difference, having run my own businesses for over 23 years now…

    #1004598
    LeelaCosgrove
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    LOL!

    Didn’t upset me in the slightest Devan! All cool … :D

    #1004599
    Burgo
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    So maybe your client needs to have the whole email thing demystified. He’s probably secretly hoping he can make it to retirement without having to learn anything more about it. It also sounds that he’s probably worried that his staff will spend too much time emailing and not working. Might need to work on some trust issues there as well.

    Slowly but surely he will come to feel more comfortable with it and see it’s advantages. (Of course I expect that he will be the last one to admit it!)

    He’s in his comfort zone and it’s been working ok for him so far. To make a change is a big step for some. It involves learning something new and requires effort. I’d like to think that I’m always up for trying something new, but you wouldn’t believe how long it’s taking me to ditch my PC in favour of a Mac. See, even though my crashing PC is driving me nuts and I believe that Mac’s don’t have those problems, I know my PC. I don’t know Macs. For me, that is a change that I want to make but at the moment requires too much time and effort. Imagine how much harder it would be if I was stubbornly defending my PC because ‘that’s how I started and it worked fine then and it’ll work fine now’.

    For me, the best move with most people who stubbornly hold themselves back is to tread gently in overcoming what essentially is a fear of change or a fear of the unknown and allow them to get their own heads around the new idea. One thing is for sure, they can’t be pushed.

    My hand is up and I could swear this post is all about me, but then I re read it and thank goodness it was, notice WAS.

    For those of you under 50 you have been brought up with computers emails internet and all the jargon that goes with it, for people like Paul and me we fortunately cross the line stepped out of the square and we are learning something new and very exciting. How ever it was not always like that. I can remember my son who was then in High school said ‘Dad we need to get a computer’ Why do we need a computer. After much discussion I finally went to Dick Smiths and bought a basic computer for a couple of thousand dollars.
    He and his mate said they would set it up for us while my wife and I were at the theatre. Sure enough when we came home computer was all hooked up and there was a note saying it was all connected to the internet and ready to go. However they for got one thing….how to turn the computer ON.

    They had gone to a lot of trouble to explain in a note how to email and how to srf the net but had neglected to tell me how to turn the computer ON.

    Would you believe it took me several days to finally get to the bottom of this great mystery, How to turn the computer ON. ( I kid you not)

    Once I discovered the secret I gingerly and I mean gingerly started to explore and through trail and error and a little help from a TAFE teacher friend of mine I gradually developed CONFIDENCE.

    My son turns 30 this May and my understanding of what the computer is capable of doing though not complete is far superior to many other people of my generation, but I still have to ask questions when I come to important things ( like turning the computer on) like Facebook Blogs website design cpying photos from other websites.

    Our generation of business people need the computer to be explained as simply as possible . We need to be encouraged to try something new and slightly difficult. We need to be encouraged and our confidence built, although most of my generation may know how to turn their computers on and check their emails and surf the net within their cumfort zone, unless the benefits are explained in simple to understand detail ,why would we other wise bother.

    I hope that helps your case.

    #1004600
    BMasterminds
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    If you like your client and really want to see them succeed and believe that they can, then maybe it is a matter of showing them the benefits of “why” they should change and the downside of “if” they don’t change.

    Communicating in the language they use, using analogies, showing real world examples could also help. Like with everything, you need to sell the benefits. People move towards benefits faster if they can see, understand and belief it is in their best interest to do so.

    It would be a shame to give up on them because they won’t change straight away.

    #1004601
    Devan
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    Patrick & Angelique,

    Good points! I hesitated to say it before (in case I was accused of being ageist), but it is the older clients who have the most resistance, and you are right in that I need to talk their language and (slowly) demonstrate the benefits to them until they feel more comfortable.

    Unfortunately, I am an impatient sort, and usually can’t wait to just put it all in there and then let them bask in the afterglow of a working system. That, I can see now is all wrong and has the potential to backfire badly on me… :)

    #1004602
    Burgo
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    There is an old saying ” Slowly slowly chatchy monkey”, or ” less Haste more speed” ( not the drug).
    If you learn to explain your views slowly and succintly, you have a much better chance of winning over the older business person even admit to them you may have been going about it all wrong and then turn your negative into a possitive by trying to see their point of view. Just because we are older and set in our ways dont mean to say we are stupid. Treat them that way and you loose big time , treat them with a little respect talk to them as if you can learn from them and you will have their respect. Achieve that and you will have a very happy customer who will tell all his MATES, this means business to you.

    Good luck, grumpy old men are not as bad as grumpy old women, trust me.

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