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How we worked together to build our business from the ground up!
Nadine and I have worked as partners for over 5 years now, running a successful niche travel company – www.eShores.co.uk – based out of Manchester, UK. We met and developed our ideas from nothing into a small business that has grown substantially in spite of recession and a troubled economy.
Gavin: I’ve always been business minded, and most members of my family have careers built around businesses too. This definitely influenced me to look for ways I could get into business, and as I worked for other companies and helped them grow I realised more than ever that I wanted to run my own. I have a real passion for travel, and decided to try and make something of myself in this industry. I was introduced to Nadine by mutual friends who recommended we get together to discuss ideas; Nadine had over 15 years of experience in the travel industry and was a BDM when we met, so I knew her experience would be valuable.
Nadine: I was brought up around business from a young age, with my father owning a successful business, but I hadn’t given much thought to running my own until later in life. I was working as a business development manager for a travel company when I started to realise I could be doing the same work for myself, and decided I wanted to run my own business. Gavin approached me and explained his interest in working within the travel industry, and I knew that with my industry knowledge and Gavin’s marketing experience, this was too good an opportunity for us to pass up.
Gavin: We made the decision to build a travel business after seeing a gap in the market for specialised, high quality customer service coupled with the ease and availability of phone and online booking. Many online travel companies are all about turnover or budget package holidays, and neglect their customer service – we knew if we could offer luxury holidays and tailored experiences at competitive prices, that we could provide something different and unique to the market at that time.
We launched eShores in 2007. Nadine and I worked from her spare room for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Within 4 months we had built the business up enough to move into a small serviced office and take on 2 members of staff; that’s when we knew eShores had begun!
Nadine: Of course we both struggled to maintain a good work/life balance in the beginning; this is something that I have learnt to deal with and adjust to over time. Being in Travel I am always working – friends and family want advice and tips constantly, but my kids don’t understand the industry so when they’re around the work-talk is put on hold until they go to bed!
Gavin: It will always be difficult to maintain a good balance, but I think I’ve learnt the importance of taking days off and holidays as we’ve grown. When we first started we worked far too many hours and you simply burn yourself out, but now I ensure I get at least one day off a week to relax!
Nadine: We’ve gone from strength to strength since we started out; as we were a fairly new company when the recession hit we simply learnt to work with economic environment as it was back then and remained sensible with our growth and spending. Our target market was customers who could previously afford to take 2-3 holidays a year, so the recession simply meant they were taking 1-2 instead; this meant that we didn’t lose our business altogether, instead just adjusting to a smaller budget. Now the economy is better we realise how bad the recession was, as we have seen large increases in bookings over the last few years! Growing the business at a slow pace and keeping a tight hold on expenditure definitely got us through those years.
Women generally aren’t encouraged to go into business like I did, but I was confident in my knowledge of the growing luxury market and of my knowledge of the travel industry. Teamed up with Gavin’s knowledge of sales and marketing, I knew we had an excellent shot at making this work. My husband and father of course were big influences, both owning their own businesses, and my experience as a BDM pushed me to build my own business.
It is important to be confident in what you know, be realistic at what is achievable within time frames, and have the guts to give it a go!
Gavin: If we could give advice to those just starting out now it would be to choose your market and build it around that; stay focused and don’t try to expand too quickly. Make sure you spend money in the right places and hire the right staff to support you and the business in the future.
Communication is very often the key to client/customer relationships, so it’s important to be punctual with replies to phone calls and emails, and also to be honest. Many people in business make the mistake for example of pretending to know answers to difficult questions they’re asked, which can seem like a good idea in a pitch or a meeting, when in actual fact it’s better to admit your shortcomings, and strive to find out the answer. Learn from the blind-spot in your knowledge and earn the trust of any potential business associates.
Tidy office, tidy mind…
If operating from an office, make sure that the area looks presentable. Potential clients will assume that laziness here is indicative of your attitude towards work in other areas. Little things like tidying thoroughly before meetings and cleaning carpets properly can make a big difference, and will often take up very little time or money. The office space you use doesn’t have to resemble the Google HQ, but even hiring a dedicated cleaner if necessary will be worth it.
It’s not just what you say
Body language is often cited as the most important way to make a good first impression, however it’s also important to remember that having a good mind-set and being prepared will naturally boost your confidence, ultimately reflecting in your body language. The video below, is focused on job interview, has a few tips to remember when meeting people for the first time:
Keep it up
After using some of these tips and securing an order or client, it’s easy to forget about them and move on to the next acquisition, however don’t forget that the most effective marketing tool is still word of mouth, meaning that client retention is doubly important; clients that have been badly treated are unlikely to recommend you to anyone else, and may even pass on negative feedback. Ideally the same rules should apply to long-term clients and regular customers as well as potential ones
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that described how our cultures have been shaped by how leaders use their brains. Although the article didn’t state outright that left-brain dominant leaders are at the source of our problems, this is implied in the text. Since men tend to be the heavier users of the left hemisphere of the brain, I found the article gave evidence to the need to have more women in leadership positions to balance perspective when discussing critical issues.
On a more personal level, I found some great insights in the article to help me better communicate or at least better understand left-brain thinkers. I’ll share a few points here.
But first let me say that yes, there are men who access the right side of their brains proficiently, and even compulsively. However, there have been many studies that indicate that especially under duress, men tend to primarily access their logical, fixate-on-one-point-of-view-and-solve-the-problem-from-here left side of their brains. I talk more about how this plays out in the workplace in this week’s Huffington Post blog entry.
Due to both our biology and our upbringing, women tend to be more balanced, accessing both their right and left hemispheres when solving problems and communicating to others. Or if they lean to one side of the brain, they rely more heavily on their right hemisphere which leads them to focus on nonverbal as well as verbal cues, see interconnections among all parts of an issue, consider social and emotional impact as well as logical outcomes, and relate circumstances to metaphors and stories.
We can argue or be self-righteous all day about who offers a better perspective. The truth is, if we are talking to someone who processes information differently than us then we need to alter our style in order to be heard. I continue to learn this lesson as I teach predominantly left-brain men how to be good leaders. Here are some tips I’ve learned to heed:
1. Women like to talk about relationships and feelings. We like to converse about progress and the details that led up to the results. We like the give and take of talk, but we also like our viewpoints to be validated. Men might tolerate this, but they first want to know what the point is of the conversation. They want to know why “what happened before” is important to the result before listening to the stories. They want their viewpoints validated too even if we think they need more information. Therefore,
- Find common ground first. Agree to the headline and the goal of the conversation.
- Respect each others’ viewpoints.
- Don’t keep talking when the other person mentally checks out.
2. Although men use complaining as a way to vent their emotions, women get emotionally hooked by their words. In other words, when a man complains, the woman worries. Therefore, before reacting women should
- Ask what the man needs right now to feel better about the situation.
- Ask if the situation requires any action or if he is just describing an annoyance he has to live with. If he just needs to rant, you have nothing to worry about.
- Ask if he would be open to exploring other perspectives. If he isn’t thrilled by the idea, don’t push it. And don’t try to make him stop expressing himself. Go do something you enjoy doing instead of listening if his words bother you.
3. Women use small talk and personal compliments to bond. In the middle of a conversation, I might compliment a woman on her hair or her purse. This might lead to a conversation about stylists or shopping before getting back to the topic. Men don’t get that this is about bonding.
- Bond with a man by complimenting what he is saying, not what he is wearing. If you can’t compliment his ideas, ask who, what, where, when, and “what else” questions. Deepen the conversation instead of distracting from it.
- Men like personal compliments, too, but not in front of a group and not when it is out of context.
- If giving a personal compliment could imply a hidden agenda, even if you have none, don’t give it. Men aren’t used to compliments so they sometimes assume you want something from it.
There are a lot more tips available all over the Internet. Some are good. Some promote unfair stereotyping. I think the best advice is to try to discover how best we can connect individually and then honor these differences as natural mental habits. Do have any tips to add?
By Peter Murphy
2. Exude a magnetic charm that makes people want to help
you. In stores and restaurants staff will go out of their
way to serve the few customers who know how to make them
feel special. The same applies at home and at work.
3. Have the courage to ask for more. When you are working
hard without getting the rewards you deserve you need to
stand up and be noticed. Successful people know the power of
4. Laugh at rejection. When you no longer worry about people
saying no to you, everything changes. You can talk to any
individual in authority as an equal, and stand up for
yourself with confidence.
5. Talk with clarity. Do this and people will know exactly
what you want – and give it to you. No more beating around
6. Drop the need for approval. When you let go of the need
to be liked you are more likely to get it. This is one of
the great ironies of life.
7. Start conversations with confidence. This is a crucial
skill that opens doors socially and in business. When you do
this well you can expect greater success.
8. Become a great listener. As a result you will spot subtle
cues that tell you the key points in any negotiation. This
is valuable information that can help you drive a great
9. Never be intimidated by others. When all your
communication is grounded in solid strategies that work you
will have a pervasive inner confidence and strength. You
will come across as someone to be respected and listened to.
10. Quickly deal with people problems. You can develop great
flexibility when it comes to resolving disagreements and
differences of opinion. This will save you lots of time and
11. Stop feeling self-conscious. Get clear about what you
really want. When you focus on that in a special way, your
attention will be on the other person. It then becomes
impossible to freeze because of nerves.
12. Master small talk. This allows you to build rapport with
anyone you meet and even make people eager to help you.
Think of all the interesting and wonderful people you will
Exceptional people skills can be learned. Find a proven
formula and follow it. YOu will be amazed at how quickly you
Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently
produced a very popular free report: 10 Simple Steps to
Developing Communication Confidence. Apply now because it is
available for a limited time only at: