Home Truths: Free biz advice*


Disclaimer: I was faced with a difficult decision today. Do I refer to the fact a new business venture I am involved in is up and running and have you see this as a shameless plug?

Or don’t I, and then have you think that I’m daft for not taking the opportunity to make a shameless plug? In the end I decided not to abuse my privileged position.

And anyway, I’ve been called a lot worse than daft over the years so you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Lesson #7: Free business improvement*

Tell me, have you ever wondered if there is anybody in the UK who has actually paid full price for a sofa from one of those retail park furniture showrooms?

A few years ago I thought it would be a great TV documentary. It was almost made too, but that’s another story. ‘The Search for Nobby’, a true life adventure of one man’s quest to find the one man (it couldn’t be a woman, they are too savvy) who actually paid £1,499 for the sofa which some ex-member of an ‘80s beat combo is now sprawling across in what is known in body language terms as a dominant male crotch display.

He looks right down the lens and into your eyes to tell you this piece of chipboard and cloth has only just been triple-discounted to £399, honest. Now is he a sofa spotter who is only a racing green chesterfield recliner with a left-handed flip out drinks holder from the full set? Or is he on a mission to reduce child sofa poverty? Or is it the fee?

Let’s be frank, you know, I know, he knows, even lost tribes in Borneo who haven’t got a telly or a sofa know, that this is a scam. However it is a scam that most of us have become conditioned to and simply accept as normal.

There is a cost however.

It feeds our negative perception of ‘luxury sedentary product consultants’ and didn’t stop some of them from going bust recently. It may be a scam within the law but it’s a million miles from the spirit of it. The recent exposure of a few MPs, caught using the pathetic ‘it-was-within-the-rules’ defence, is a timely reminder to many and is indicative of the root cause of the problem.

Example spreads from the top, good or bad. But that’s just sofas sales and MPs. Surely the fledgling ‘unified communications’ industry is above all that?

Apparently not. Ofcom suggests that the public are not benefiting from the mobile broadband speeds advertised.

Is anybody surprised? Come closer, there’s more… I recently saw an advertisement carried by a national newspaper that boldly stated ‘unlimited mobile broadband’ and, sure enough in the small print, ‘subject to fair use policy of 5GB per month only available to new business customers’.

So not unlimited then or am I being daft once more? And they are not alone; theirs was just the most blatant example that caught my eye this week.

All large organisations nowadays have honesty, integrity and the golden rule somewhere in a presentation as core values. I know that I’ll never find, ‘We should seek out opportunities to use disingenuous tactics to fool the less intellectually gifted members of the public for our commercial gain as long as we can get away with it’, written down anywhere.

However I hope that the ‘experts in offices’ in all organisations provide some written down guidelines on managing customer expectations for the ‘customer facing’ sales and service people who will have to deal with the fall out of these tactics.

I believe a few of the stewards of this great industry are letting the rest down or at least making your task harder. That particular technique is officially known as ‘bait and trap’ by trading standards officers.

How soon before they start to notice rising numbers of pre-sale or bill-shock complaints and decide to achieve some quick wins by going after such blatantly disingenuous advertising? I am surprised that the paper was prepared to run it.

Maybe the standard by which the unified communications industry is judged by others is already so low that they thought it was acceptable.
Or take the money and claim that they hadn’t read the small print themselves. Plausible deniability me’lud!

Ooops! I reckon that’s at least two or three more organisations I will not be working with in the near future. Not a great marketing ploy for Alasdair Jeffrey Ltd, unless of course the guys at the top want to transform their business. That’s the challenge with all this visions, values and integrity stuff; it can be hard to live up to sometimes.

In the past when I have challenged individuals and organisations to square their customer and supplier ‘Visions and Values PowerPoint Presentation’ against the hard evidence provided by the decisions they actually make on a daily basis it has been painful for both of us. But the bottom line results have been incredibly positive.

Once we get past the ‘but everybody else does it’ excuse we start to make real progress. If you burn the bridges of lazy business practice you are forced to either get out or get creative.

The good news is there is incredible creative talent in this industry; it just needs to be directed and managed better. It’s not enough to tell somebody what you want done; you must lay down clear and uncompromising ethical guidelines as to how it should be done, or not as the case may be. And then hold people accountable for their decisions.

Anyway what are you even if you win the rat race? Simply the fastest rat and who wants to be a rat, fast or otherwise? In the right circumstances, given clear direction, guidance and coaching many people are capable of being so much more than speedy rodents hoping they don’t meet any of their customers face-to-face again soon.  

Isn’t it ironic that one of the biggest hits of the 1980s was called ‘True’?

* Free business improvement subject to standard terms and conditions. You must actually read this article then decide to do something about it and not give up until you have achieved it. Offer ends when you retire or expire, whichever comes sooner. Further details can be requested by emailing