Ten questions to ask, to gain clarity in your business

Glasses, Reading Glasses, SpectaclesWhatever stage we are at in our social business endeavours, ill-thought out action or inaction, can lead us down metaphoric roads that we may not intend to travel.  Ideally, we would ask a plethora of questions (because after all, questions often are actually the answers) and get really clear at inception, with regular reflective pit-stops along the way. This reflective process, often best undertaking with a skilled professional, such as a mentor, is useful in relation to the business as a whole, or for individual projects/new service developments.

Whether these questions are couched within ‘discovery’ sessions, strategy sessions, leadership coaching or professional supervision, they need to be asked.  Before I continue, I am not suggesting that there is no difference between these session types because of course, they each have their own specific function.  However, what they do all have in common, is that they require us, as business owners, leaders and managers, to take a step back and explore some fundamental considerations, summarised in a sample of questions, listed here:

  1. What is your service offering and how does it benefit end users?
  2. How will your service or product be financed – will it be purchased by or will you source funding and it be offered without cost to commissioner/end user?
  3. What is the legal structure of your business and how does this impact your funding options? Do you have the skills base and capacity to apply for funding? (if not, outsource it)
  4. What are the considerations within the wider social landscape? Are there regulatory or legislative aspects?  How do these impact the service offering or organisation?
  5. What are the strengths and areas of development for your business and how will you bridge the gap between what exists and what needs to be developed?
  6. Do you have a ‘soft’ heart for the work, or are you motivated by other factors?
  7. Do you have a ‘soft’ heart for the work, or are you doing what you have always done and/or feel you ‘should’ be doing, or are expected to do as a career?
  8. How does your business contribute to a broader social narrative and is what you are doing (or planning to do) congruent with that?
  9. How would you describe your business in 60 seconds? (Yes, I know, the elevator pitch but it is a good way of tying us down to the bones of the matter!)
  10. How does your business contribute to your own trajectory – for instance, if it is a time-intensive business that is not able to be automated in any way, how does that fit with your life goals?

This list is in no way exhaustive, neither are the questions relevant to all business scenarios but they form a great basis to begin a grounded and focused process. Feel free to consultachameleon to get the ball rolling for your business.

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Five ways that tenders and bids are valuable reality-checkers

desk-3076954__340 writingI recently wrote about the need for bid writing to be a collaborative process and for some organisations, this may have served to further problematise an already challenging process.

However, in defence of bids and tenders, they do have a wonderful by-product which can help to overhaul professional practice.

In the social business arena, bids and tenders often ‘speak into’ current issues and/or regulatory demands and as such, provide an up-to-date contextual reality-checker for organisations.  Commissioners will often endeavour to integrate as many regulatory factors as they can, especially in tenders, so that the contractual framework ensures an obligation for providers to be compliant.

In relation to tenders, I always have a notebook open at the ready, at the ‘reading stage’, to compose a list of items needed, such as policies, etc (although some commissioners kindly supply a checklist)*.

Often, the policy request is different to that which an organisation has, so a bid may ask for one policy that covers ‘a,b,c’ and the organisation may have this as three separate policies. In the early days of my bid writing career, I would dutifully oblige, making policy adjustments accordingly.  The problem with this, is the next bid may ask for three separate policies! So this is not a viable foundation upon which to make business decisions.

Indeed, I remember almost ten years ago, one of my doctoral research collaborators (interviewees) warned of the danger of “chasing funding bids” in the form of totally galvanizing the whole organisational approach!  I concur and nowadays, I am more inclined to clearly convey in the submission, that the organisation has the information and does what is required and that it is constructed in a different way to what is requested.

In any case, outside of the opportunities for contractual commissioning and/or additional funding, when taken as a frame of reference, the requests of the tender or bid offers a useful strategic planning tool, in the following five ways:

  1. Providing a snapshot outlining current challenges, significant regulatory requirements and a way of self-assessing the organisation and identifying gaps and development areas.
  2. Providing a ‘sneak peak’ at expected forthcoming strategic considerations, concepts and development areas, to be integrated into organisational policy and practice.
  3. Outlining how legislation may be translated into practice – demystifying some of the reams of text presented elsewhere (and the financial costs of attending events intending to do the same).
  4. Encouraging organisations to revisit their brand, their values, their ethos and how these are pitched and to re-energise commitment to the service offering. By using the tender/bid method statements, organisations are able to consider the service from other perspectives, perhaps shifting from inward-looking, including that of people who use services.
  5. Develop new service offerings and projects.  Sometimes, leaders sit with ideas, or they are bandied around in meetings but do not materialise.  The idea of a pot of funding, or to be competitive in a tender submission and having to consider who and how, re: project management and the finer details and required capacity, can be the push that is needed to birth a concept that can really enhance the organisation.

So, there it is………

Five ways that bid and tender writing can be beneficial and I could have continued!

There is a statement often used in bid writing, which relates to no bid ever being a waste of time, whether or not it is successful.  The potential for purposeful reflection is priceless and if you commission an experienced and professional bid writer, you benefit from strategic consultancy, as an inherent part of the process. What’s not to love?

*Checklists may not cover EVERYTHING, always, always, always double check that you have all that you need to fulfil the bid or tender criteria.

 

 

 

Funding bid MAGIC – ALWAYS a collaborative endeavour

Document, Paper, Business, Chart, GraphI am often approached to help people with their funding bids. Usually, this is a charity or a voluntary group that does not have the money to pay for the help that they so desperately need.  Sometimes, it is an organisation that does not have the time to undertake the task they so desperately need to be invested in.  More often than not, the premise for approaching me is a combination of both.

Whether undertaken pro-bono or paid, there is one common misconception that I encounter.  Desperate commissioners will want to pass the baton to me, to ‘take care of things’, without considering that writing funding bids cannot be done in a silo.

Sometimes, people will say, “how much will it cost for you to do it all for us?” and what they mean is ALL.  As in, everything as a fully sub-contracted role.  I am happy to oblige but it is important to establish common ground about what ‘everything’ entails.

Now, there is a lot that I CAN do and most definitely, I can ease the pressure for organisations.  I can definitely bring expertise, strategic insight, advice, guidance, a range of systems to approach the task.  I can also bring calm to what can sometimes be a highly stressful process.  It goes without saying, that I bring my skills as a professional writer (it always amuses me that we refer to bid writing, when the writing is actually a smaller part of the process, than the organisation skills it requires – any writers out there thinking of bid writing – be prepared!).

Unless I know the organisational strategy, the ethos, the values, have a sense of the history, preferably some case studies, feedback from previous projects, typical budgetary projections, access to policies, account information, impact statistics…the list goes on…I am left without the ingredients I need to bake the ‘winning cake’.

There is no real ‘magic’ in bid writing, whether for statutory tenders, or independent or governmental funding streams, so no amount of ‘special ingredient’ from me, can replace the bridge that working in collaboration provides.

Even if you commission me to “do everything”, that ‘everything’ is dependent upon you. As a policy writer, researcher and stakeholder consultant, I can help you to develop aspects that are missing but to make it work and to compile the bid to time frames, you must be fully on board, especially with the first bid.

Are you really ready?  If so, give me a call.

 

 

 

Genuity and Personal Branding. Do they co-exist?

imageI have been interested in brands since the early 90’s, when I studied my first degree in Advertising, Media and Marketing. I remember writing about the importance of brand consistency and use of strap lines, using the examples of NIKE ‘just do it’ and Cadburys Caramel, where one should ‘take it easy’.

More recently, I have focused upon personal branding and in particular, the use of Story.  I have engaged in many discussions, both on and off line, about personal branding and I have not as yet been able to reach a comfortable conclusion.

For entrepreneurs and business owners working in the ‘helping’ professions (coaching, mentoring, therapy, training), personal branding is perhaps inevitable.  The old adage that people buy from people they like is central in this instance, especially if what is being bought are the personal skills of the business owner.  How can one not engage in personal branding, when people are engaging and investing predominantly in the person?image

In fact, sometimes people convince themselves that personal branding doesn’t matter, that it’s all about the business brand and that the two are separate. I’ve heard some compelling arguments for this and yet I still am not convinced.  A business that is borne from an individual, that they have given ‘birth’ to, will invariably carry the traits of it’s parent.  Some of this may be conscious and some may be unconscious; in much the same way that we have a nature/nurture dynamic in human beings, so too in our ‘brand-child’.  As such, I struggle to let go of the notion that personal branding is synonymous, when it comes to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Much of the discussion about personal branding seems to centre upon the tenet of congruency and whether a person is or should be telling ‘the whole-true-self and nothing-but-the-whole-true-self’, which has been further coloured by the popularity of ‘authenticity’ in business nowadays. I’ll admit that I am a bit of a truth seeker and can ‘sniff out’ what is meant in a message, hidden behind a glitzy bit of ‘good’ copy.  In fact, it’s a bit of a bug bear of mine. If I believe that someone is being disingenuous in their presentation, in the quest for client procurement, inside I am saying “No, no, no, no, NO!”.image

I don’t think people mean to do it. They are selling a ‘lifestyle’, they may even have been coached to…..and after all, it is no different to the big brands on television is it….?…..encouraging us, through their advertisements to buy this, achieve that, be like them.  In those instances, however, the illustration is depicted by an actor….or endorsed by someone, usually a celebrity, with the desirable qualities.  This is where for me, the personal/professional interplay is illuminated. IF said celebrity engages in anything that betrays the desirable qualities, this is a risk to the brand.  Often, said celebrity is eliminated from any association with the brand.  Haven’t we seen this many times?

So, there are some obvious faux pas activities that perhaps we would all agree upon as being brand-detrimental but what about the more subtle acts of disingenuity?  The acts that lead to a perception which may secure clients who may not have been secured if the truth had been portrayed.  So, let me break it down:

1) Pictures in the smart new car (or showing off anything) and implying that the entrepreneurial lifestyle led to its purchase, when in fact it was bought on credit.

2) Images of serene places where the ‘laptop lifestyle’ takes place but it was just one random day, not an ongoing experience (and implying that it is).

3) Offering ‘discounts’ when you have NEVER sold same product or service at full price (and probably never will).

4) Referring to ‘clients’ who have not actually ever paid you a penny (they are not your clients).

5) Presenting a lifestyle at a moment in time, then revisiting at a later date (when clients have been secured) and saying ‘hands up guys, it wasn’t quite like that, let me now tell you how it really was’.  Ok, so this may become part of YOUR success story but what of the people who believed what was presented at the time?

These are five examples that I can think of – if I thunk hard enough, I’m sure there would be more! The big question is, does it really matter? Do we really care? Am I being too nit-picky?  After all, no one is lying, are they? It’s no different to what they do in commercial branding, is it?

imageIn commercial branding, we are not expecting to see the behind the scenes drama, are we? We WANT to see the good stuff.  We don’t want to see the blood, sweat and tears that go into the products, do we? We want to see the glamour, to be taken to a place where anything is possible, don’t we? Even when we know that reality has been sprinkled with some magic dust, even when we are established cynics, we know the game and we (somewhat) happily play along…….don’t we?

I am not sure that I am any closer to a resolution here, almost 1,000 words later (one of my longer blogs).  However, I do feel better, having got a few things off my chest and onto paper….so that next time a ‘branding’ debate takes place, my opinions are clear, even if my position is not.

Until next time.

🙂

Consult This Chameleon

How I’ve enjoyed the last eighteen months.  I feel as though I have been on an adventure….a kind of reflective luxury cruise around this land called ‘Me’.

Actually, under the theme of ‘Working with what’s in my hands’, I have illuminated corners and uncovered some little treasures and allowed gems to sparkle.  I have declared God as my Director and He has lit this wonderful guided tour.

I am now so much clearer about where I want my focus to be and who I can be of service to.  I am also more than happy with the diversity of the people I serve.  ConsultAChameleon can now really step forward in all of  it’s technicolour glory….being what it needs to be, to whomever it needs to be.  It’s so exciting.

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The Heart Flow Business Growth programme is my main space as we head into 2016.  I cannot wait to start helping people to develop their inevitably bespoke, heart-flow approach to building their business ventures.  Helping people to work with what’s in their hands is a real passion.  This is a membership programme, so hop on board.  By doing so, members have discounted and gratis access to other ConsultAChameleon programmes and services…it’s a no -brainer.

Building your business involves developing leadership skills…..But not just any leadership skills, some heart-led, authentic ones.  This is crucial….leadership has very little to do with power and everything to do with respect.  Come and join me on my Heart-led Leadership Programme.

Whoever and wherever you are in your business and life journey, gaining skills and confidence in public speaking is an important tool for anyone’s toolkit.  I have many years’ experience as a speaker, trainer and lecturer….I can help you express the fullness of who you are.

Personal Development through my ‘Grow Free From Shackles’ programme, offers a life-changer for people wanting to let go of those ‘things’ (experiences, memories, habits, attitudes) that are preventing them from stepping into themselves and being who they really are.

Utilising the fabulous C9 cleanse programme, I offer people wanting more than external change, a 9 day Grow Your Colours Programme in addition to the cleanse, to really maximise the transformation!

The Chameleon Collective is a powerhouse committed to challenging myths around mixed race ‘identity’, educating and motivating and inspiring people to develop a new mindset.  Watch this space for conference and seminar dates.

ConsultAChameleon Copy Creation (and proof reading/editing) can help move ideas from your mind’s eye, to the public eye.  Submit those bids and tenders with my help; get that book written; review that webcopy….don’t be let down, when you can be elevated!

Wow, this has been one adventure, yes….and the fun has only just begun…

 

 

Like keeping your balance on a floating raft

imageToday’s climate is turbulent to say the least.  It is ever changing, fast moving and unpredictable, with the underscore of seeming never ending layers of bureaucracy and dwindling sources of funding.  In my doctoral research, I explored what it is that enables people and organisations to not only survive but to thrive in such uncertain situations. What is it that contributes to the resilience that provides the stability to counteract what can feel like what one of my research collaborators referred to as ‘keeping your balance on a floating raft’.

The main and consistent feature was, perhaps unsurprisingly, flexibility and responsivity.  Interesting.  In changing and challenging times, it can be difficult to simply ‘change gear’, especially when reliant upon commissioning others to help you to reach your business goals.  Often, at the point of commissioning services we can have an agenda in mind and feel clear about what and where to invest time and money.  However, the process needs to be exploratory….it needs to be reflective, enabling a change of direction and detours as necessary to respond to the unfolding dynamics and narrative twists.

Consultachameleon is a one-stop-shop for people who seek the responsivity that is necessary in the current changeable climate. It’s a flexible resource that enables the resilience to ride the waves and survive the storm and even to maximise the energy of the undercurrent.  So, if you commission Consultachameleon to write a funding bid and it is found that in order to achieve success, your policies need updating, or you need a staff handbook, or a statement of purpose, Consultachameleon can take care of that.  Saving time, saving money and surely saving additional headache.  Consultachameleon can help you to keep your balance.