Nostalgia, Folk Festivals and Morris Dancing

jailer's pet

Do you like to dress in Medieval robes too?

How the past always looks so much more enticing from a distance

I had a lovely time on a recent weekend. I went to a country town a couple of hours south from where I live to take part with my choir in a music festival. In case you’re wondering, we brought the house down… as usual… more information about my choir and our gigs here:

morris dancing 800 The festival was a Folk festival. I’ve sung at various folk festivals with the choir before and a standard feature of Folk festivals (at least in Australia) are the Morris Dancers.

Have you ever watched Morris Dancing?

You haven’t?

You clearly haven’t lived.

What’s the best word to describe it… Let’s see… Odd, I think

Very Odd.

Since the 15th century

People clearly take their Morris Dancing very seriously and they have done since the 15th century (if we are to believe Wikipedia on the matter). I asked a couple of people at the festival if they knew much about it. Few people knew anything but most assumed it had something to do with fertility… I think we all assume that when some unusual tradition is kept alive it has something to do with fertility. Again, according to Wikipedia, Morris dancing has nothing to do with fertility. It’s just about whimsical imitation of exotic cultures… The word Morris seems to derive from the word Moor… In other words the people we in the English-speaking world have generally felt least comfortable living on the same planet with.

spinning I never saw that coming when I went to find out a bit more about Morris dancing to write this article about folk festivals. I wonder what other surprises lurk beneath the innocent facades of the various folk festival entertainments…. How about spinning? Patchwork quilting? (There’s always a few people in long medieval looking robes spinning wool on ye olde spinning wheels). Or those re-enactments (especially of the battle of Hastings) What’s really going on there?

Why do we get so excited about these pasttimes that have no relevance to us in 2014? I find it baffling. I particularly enjoy seeing someone in King Arthur costume pull out an Iphone and text his cohort to gather on the battle field… I bet Oliver Cromwell would have liked having one of those.


Nostalgia about adolescence

I was reminded by something one of my fellow choir members observed on the ride down. He said it’s interesting how we think nostalgically about things in our past that were no fun at all when they happened. It’s true… I think back to my Adolescence with a strong sense of nostalgia and when I meet up with someone from those days we rehash memories with big smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts… but really? I know rationally that most of my adolescence was far from fun… I had a pretty torrid and frustrating and angst driven adolescence and I think most of my school mates did too.

monty python dungeon jail jailers petI think we do the same when we re-enact medieval scenes… not many people who had to spend their days spinning in cold dank dark sheds in the 15th century were having a very good time. Not many children who were employed at slave wages working in the salt mines were having exciting child hoods. Not many heretics enjoyed being thrown into dungeons and being burnt at the stake.

There is actually no reason at all to get nostalgic about the Middle Ages. Human behaviour is fascinating isn’t it?

The Pyramids

I wonder if the peasants in medieval Europe put on enactments of life during the Roman Empire or if the peasants of the Roman empire re-enacted days in Egypt dragging 100 tonne blocks of stone up rickety wooden scaffolds building the pyramids?

But it seems the Morris Dancers (as well as the wickans and the druids) had a ball on Saturday… and so were we, blasting our Black American Gospel songs at the audience (cause we’re all so black and religious… not)

Customer Feedback the Simple Way

Guest Post Adam Ramshaw:

Do you know how your customers

think about you?… Do you really?

Guest Post by Adam Ramshaw, founder of Genroe (Australia) Pty Ltd and “Run our Survey”,

man on ladder For me every Monday is like a fresh beginning. I start out full of energy and a big list of things that needs to get done. But when rolling over my to-do list there is always a small number of items that just never seems to get completed because I’ve simply gotten caught up in the day to day.

As small businesses owners we are often so busy finding customers, getting orders, delivering services or products and collecting payments that we barely find time to stop and look around.

Maybe your customer feedback survey is one of those items that keeps getting rolled over; maybe you think it’s a luxury. Believe me it’s not.

Keeping more customers makes it easier to get orders and customer feedback helps you to keep customers.

Customers will not tell you what they think to your face

It’s true that you speak to your customers every day and probably believe you know exactly what they
think of your business and that they’d naturally just tell you if anything was wrong. But remember, telling someone the truth when that truth is negative is difficult and so most people avoid saying anything.

What’s more, in a small business you will be close to your customers. They know you and you know them. That makes it even harder for them to tell you the negative things that may be driving them away from your business.

disapproval The information you need the most, what they dislike about your business, is the information they are least likely to tell you. So you have to actively solicit that feedback and in the right way.

Yes there will always be a few people that tell you what they think regardless, but they are in the minority. If you really want to know what the customers of small businesses are thinking you need to give them an anonymous way to provide you feedback though a customer feedback survey.

That anonymity will give them the freedom to tell you more clearly what you are doing well but more importantly, what you are not doing well.

Only then will you know what they really think. Only then will you really know what changes are required.

By systematically collecting information on what drives customers away and correcting those issues you can keep your customers longer. Keeping customers longer reduces the load and cost of marketing your business.

You can be too close to your customers

As you go about your daily work you can get too involved in the business which makes it difficult to really get a flavour for what your customers think. This is a common problem for small businesses.

Stepping back and really listening to what customers are saying allows you to divorce yourself from the here and now and really listen to what they are saying.

Often they will be telling you what you are doing well so you can reinforce those elements. But they will also tell you what you need to fix or change in your business.

You aren’t as close to your customers as you think you are 

“I know my customers” is the catch cry of many, most, small businesses. This is mostly correct. You are closer to your customers than the CEO of General Electric will ever be to his or hers.

However, just because you are closer doesn’t mean you know everything. You must still collect and use customer feedback so you know what to change in your business to ensure that you are serving their needs for the long term.

I’ve been working in the customer feedback industry for 10 years. In a “plumber with leaky pipes at home” moment I was reviewing our customer feedback and found that our customers were telling us they want to buy more from us. Basically they were asking us to contact them more as we had more services they wanted to buy.

If we hadn’t been listening to our customer feedback we would have been making our customers unhappy and losing sales at the same time. My point is that no one really knows their customers unless they ask.

You need to innovate to keep customers long term

Business moves forward and if you are not moving forward you are falling behind. Some of that innovation comes from you but it also comes from your customers.

henry ford It is rumoured that Henry Ford said

”If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”

Which is true. But if he had not listened to their needs afterwards we would still be hand starting our cars and wearing driving goggles.

Customer feedback surveys provide an invaluable place for customers to let you know about the innovation they desire. That’s not to say that every single piece of feedback with be an innovation nugget but you only need a couple of nuggets a year to drive your business forward.

It can seem daunting (and scary) to run a feedback process but it doesn’t have to be.

Adam Ramshaw is the CEO of Genroe and has developed a the “The Complete Small Business Customer Feedback Kit” The kit is the easiest system available to implement a simple but effective customer feedback program in your business. Find out more at this link, click here

Contact Adam on his website with any further questions

Business the Simple Way

lemonade kid

The Basics…

selling lemonadeKeep it Simple Stupid

In the next 6 months I will be writing a series of articles called ‘Business the Simple Way’… Marketing the Simple Way, Planning the Simple Way, systemisation the Simple Way, etc etc.

I’m inspired to talk about ‘Business the Simple Way for a couple of reasons.

  • I think we tend to get overwhelmed a lot in business, because we make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.
  • Seth Godin was in Sydney the other day and he always inspires me to simplify things.

Seth Godin

One of Seth Godin’s golden quotes is this one:

To be successful in business you only have to do two things:

  • Do great work
  • Make sure lots of people know about it.

seth godin Seth Godin is spot on…as so often… That’s really how simple it is.

But be careful. Don’t confuse the word ‘Simple’ with the word ‘Easy’. They’re not the same at all.

Einstein said (well allegedly anyway, more quotes are attributed to Einstein than any man could possibly have fitted in a life time, along with Mandela, and Churchill): “Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”

So lets make business as simple as possible but no simpler.

At its most simple level, business is the process of obtaining something for a certain cost and then selling it to someone for an increased cost.

Don’t confuse that statement with the Purpose of business, but it does define the process of business. So if we want to practice business the simple way, we must constantly ask ourselves how we can stay as close as possible to that simplicity.

The simplest way

What is the simplest way to run the process of business?

I believe there are 10 key questions you need to answer as simply as possible to do Business the Simple Way:

  1. Why does my business exist? (Purpose)
  2. How do we make money in my business? (Business Model)
  3. Where are we going and how are we going to get there? (Goals and Planning)
  4. How do we manage our numbers? (Financial management and measurement)
  5. How do we find our customers and help them buy our stuff? (Marketing and Sales)
  6. How do we produce and deliver our stuff? (Products and services)
  7. How do we run the business as a consistent machine? (Management)
  8. How do we ensure consistency and continual improvements in our products or services (Systems and Processes)
  9. How do we find and keep the best people? (Staff)
  10. What does it mean to for me to run a business? (Leadership)

I think that the work of the business owner is to be constantly looking for the simplest answers to those ten questions.

John’s supermarket

To illustrate what I’m talking about, lets have a look at one of my favourite customers and how simply he answers the ten questions for his business.

supermarketJohn owns a small chain of supermarkets, and those of you who have read my books might recognise him from one of the business bedtime stories.

  1. The simplest answer that John has for question 1 is this: We make it easy for our customers to access a range of quality foods
  2. At question 2, John says: We make money by buying our many lines at wholesale prices and selling them at retail prices. We have extensive and ongoing negotiations with our suppliers to get the best prices from them so that we can maintain our margins while being competitive with other supermarkets.
  3. We want to have established 50 stores in NSW by 2030 and we plan to get there by expanding 1 store at a time and not moving forward until the last addition to the stable is profitable.
  4. We are always measuring and comparing against benchmarks across the whole of the business.
  5. We are established locally and each store operates in a small local area. New customers come to us by word of mouth because of how easy it is for them to access a large range of quality foods.
  6. We constantly look to find new suppliers with interesting and high quality foods that are not available in the major supermarkets
  7. We hold regular staff meetings and performance reviews at all levels and our systems are all geared for regularity and repeatability
  8. We have created manuals and systems for all jobs in the business and train staff in the use of the manuals. We have regular meetings to explore opportunities for improvement.
  9. My staff and customers know that we are always on the lookout for great new people to join the team. I pay my people well and give them lots of challenges and opportunities to develop. I also offer opportunities for career advancement within the business. I do not hire external managers, rather I train and promote from within.
  10. I see myself as a servant of my people. It is my role to give them the greatest opportunities to grow, develop and do well.

Your turn

I want to help you answer those questions yourself in your business. So in the series of articles and videos that you’ll receive in the next months I will explore each of the ten questions with you.

In the mean time… why don’t you pick one of the ten questions and see how you can answer it in the simplest way possible?

I’d love to hear what comes up for you, please email me with your thoughts and comments?