I have been travelling, so apologies for the delay between now and my previos post... So.. This week's post... I'll let you see for yourself;)
About 8 years ago I met with the general manager of one of Australia's largest apparel brands. At that time I was young, hungry for success and naive to the what I was doing and even where I was heading the company we had just started. The company was based from my kitchen (formally known as the boardroom). I did the graphic design and built the internet site in my bedroom. Distribution / operations was in the lounge room. It was at this stage I think I started to stop listening to what people were telling me. I found it easier to do what I knew needed to be done. I didn't handle criticism and rejection too well so in part I think that's how I started selling on the internet. In those days it really was a one way conversation. Fear also played a very big part in how the company made it through the earlier days.
One of my early customers was also the senior manager of a major Australian underwear company. At first I was quite surprised why someone of this stature would be buying my garments. I was quite proud of myself thinking their interest was purely because they liked the garments I made. Eventually a meeting was organized and my curiosity to know why landed me in a pub in Sydney. If it wasn't for my naivety and learning not to listen I think I would have left the meeting quite upset and believing what I was going to do could never be done. The most significant point they made that has stuck in my mind purely for motivation was the point they made that eventually I would run out of energy and get to a point where I realized just how out of my depth I was in what I was trying to achieve. For some strange reason I strive on the thought of failure and also those who believe I am nothing more than a 'bum'. I have what you could call 'Pandoras' box. So when I got home I tucked all the comments made into this box for safe keeping. On I went again, with my heart in one hand and ear plugs in the other. So many mistakes I made, and in retrospective I'm glad I made, though it did make some of the more simple tasks very difficult to complete.
A short time ago I participated in a television program called 'Secret Millionaire'. The idea of the show is to have a millionaire live a lifestyle the same as those people they intend to help financially. To do this, I had to listen to peoples stories and connect with people in a way I actually had forgotten to do. I'll never forget Brooke (the series Producer) spending time to teach me how to listen again. Let's just say it was one of the toughest lessons I have had to learn in a long time. When I eventually discovered my ears again - wow. What an amazing experience. i realize this sounds stupid and as I type this I still can't believe I lost such a basic skill. The way I do business is my using all my senses including my gut - which has alway been the strength of my convictions and beliefs. Weeks have now passed and I have just returned from another world trip meeting buyers and media partners for a variety of reasons. On this trip I noticed a huge significant difference in the way I conducted the meetings but also what I achieved. Typically at the end of each meeting you shake hands, talk about something lame and exit on cue. This time for me, I was laughing and hugging and kissing the people I met, as the connection I made with them was far more significant. And even better sometimes it did not involve alcohol (which I always find appealing when jet lag has kicked in). Who would have thought listening could create the strongest relationships and even more significant both parties walk away feeling they have achieved something significant. I can imagine many readers would be thinking how the hell could someone have a company like this and not listen to those around. I did listen however not with my ears. For the first many years most of my time was telling people about the company and what my company will achieve and what it can deliver for them. This type of conversation is typically one sided so me having to listen to myself was really not that necessary.
Today I still catch myself not listening in some instances, however now in the majority of times I am listening. I do find it harder because I have to think even faster. In my role its all about how many 'plates' I can spin and at what speed. The bigger the company, the more plates and the faster it all seems to spin. Listening on top of this is proving a challenge, however I think I'm starting to enjoy it.
For those of you who know me, now realize why I seldom use the telephone. Texting is far more productive for a person like myself.
So in the early days, listening is not really the most important asset you need to become successful. I believe naivety is a real winner; well for myself anyway. The one that still shadows my thoughts every now and then is the comment that I would eventually run out of energy and soon I will fail. As I type this I do have a rather cheeky smirk on my face, because this person who made those statements is no longer employed by this company. The company is basically bankrupt with the banks having the controlling interest in how it is being run. And this person. Well, I have a lot to thank them for. Without their words of wisdom I possibly would not have the company I have today. And thankfully at this time, not listening was a major factor in our companies success.