I get asked a lot about what my business does. Many people know that I am a Chartered Accountant and I undertake consulting work – mainly in strategy, managing risks and helping businesses achieve their goals. That people know this is a bit to do with this column, but it is mainly thanks to the best PR of all: word of mouth.
Speaking of word of mouth, I got asked last week if I'd retired. Absolutely not!
Being a person who comes from a family that likes to use their brain and, most of all, help people, I think that I will likely continue to do what I do until I am physically unable to do it.
But I have been thinking a fair bit about how to describe the newest iteration of my business (Zenith Solutions). For example, in a meeting with a current project I am part of, we spent some time talking about values and the competitive advantage of the undertaking.
The leader of the discussion perfectly summarised what the collective group is all about and the objectives of the work. And, in short, those are the key elements of how you should describe your business – your values, what you are here to do, who you are, who you do it for and how you do it.
Certain management writers have espoused the value of having a "10-second elevator speech" to describe your business and, to be fair, it is a pretty good idea in that you could (with the right words and delivery) start a business relationship if what you say matches with a business need. The challenge that most businesses have is that they offer a wide range of service lines and have access to deep experience and skillsets.
I actually got put on the spot while in Auckland on business recently and was asked to describe what I do in 10 seconds. I said: "My business is about future-proofing. We assist SME and larger businesses. Through strategic thinking and mitigation of risk, we help our clients to be more successful, profitable and achieve longevity." While I think I used more than the allotted 10 seconds, my "speech" was the quickest of the group and it sparked two, what could prove to be, quite valuable follow-on conversations.
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It certainly sounded better than listing all the things we do together with specialist services like governance advice and succession planning and others. In the cases where there are too many facets to the business to be named individually, your 10-second elevator speech could have the person you were talking to leaving the elevator before you finished. So, it helps to think about it and practice.
However, for the most part, I also find that people are interested in what you have to say generally.
I am not surprised by the fact that strangers will ask me what work I do as a means of starting a conversation – it is a solid place to start. Also, people who know me will ask how's work? I have been trying lately to leave the "work-related" questions until later in the conversation.
I am finding that I tend to have better and more interesting discussions with people when activities outside of work are the topic. A recent marketing book that I read recommended that the best business relationships are actually built on shared interests, rather than shared business goals. The sweet spot is where the interests and the business goals intertwine.
So, have a quick 10-second summary about your business, but also think about how you can find out more about the other person rather than just being a "pitch".
Next time you see me, ask me about "Vinyl (the band)" or my latest gym workout!