The end of the beginning.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind The Gap – A Ditherers Perspective

Having just been bitten by the blogging bug and the notion that there might be people out there prepared to read something I’ve written, I couldn’t resist this week’s WordPress ¬†writing challenge

Email salutations should not be an issue. As someone said in the comments page “email is really not a divisive issue”. They are right in principle but in practice it’s a different story. Or maybe it’s just me.

I’ve found myself on many occasions writing an email in a few seconds then agonising over whether to go with Hi, Dear, Good Morning or some other option. It’s crazy I know but I just can’t help myself. I wouldn’t count myself as a ditherer, but I’m probably not the best judge of that, so why does it cause me such a problem?

I’m just old enough to remember the days before email was around. Who am I kidding I remember black and white TV, but only just. So could it be that old habits die hard and years of trying to get the right etiquette when writing a letter remains buried in my mind? If you remember writing letters then I suppose it must stay with you it can’t just vanish so there probably is something in that.

Maybe it’s a fear that its yet another symptom of slipping social standards. But I reckon that since I recently managed to cope with seeing the British Prime Minister appearing in a One Direction video, without feeling the need to write to No 10 expressing my discomfort, then the social standards thing doesn’t bother me too much.

I do think that the context of the email has an impact on my thought process and potential for dithering. If I receive an email from a client or potential client which starts “Dear Ian” I’m thrown into a mild panic. How do I respond? “Hi” would be my usual approach. But that might not go down well with them and they may never spend another penny with my business. So the dither begins and I run through all the options over and over again. As I write this I realise how ludicrous a notion this might seem so god knows what anyone still with me at this stage must be thinking.

Non work emails are easier I display an unwavering loyalty to “Hi”. I’ve no idea why I just do.

The contributor who said “there’s a lot of big stuff going on in the world…this is a non issue” is absolutely right. So I won’t waste any more of your time on it.

Best wishes, regards, yours sincerely, yours faithfully or whatever!!



Black Friday will become Happy Monday

Friday 12th July will most likely pass by for most people without incident, but for a couple of colleagues and I it’s shaping up to be Black Friday. But more of that later.

Today I have resolved to start writing a blog. Like millions of others before me I start off full of enthusiasm but safe in the knowledge that the world has been waiting for the day when my words of wisdom will be available online.

The thing which has motivated me to start this is a negative event. The final day of a contract which we have managed very successfully for 10 years. So while this particular blog entry might be a bit morose and backward looking, the one thing I will guarantee is that future entries will be much more positive.

I thought it would be interesting to record how things progress over the next twelve months as an essentially new business rises out of the old one which has been around since 1994. But as I’m writing that I am realising that it’s not the first time this has happened to us.

In 1994 we provided training for aspiring entrepreneurs. By 2003 we were doing advice, consultancy and training for pretty much the same market. By 2007 the training market had started to reduce and we had begun to experiment with video production, largely as an alternative way to deliver training. From Monday 15th July it will all be about the video production, no more advice or consultancy.

So in reality, over almost 20 years in business, this is the fourth version of Development Partners.

At this point I had been planning having a bit of a rant about the loss of the contract I mentioned at the start. But do you know I reckon that’s not a great use of time, energy or space in this article. So instead of a rant I want to try to work out three things I have learned from the experience in the hope that if you are still reading then you might get something helpful out of it all. So here goes:

The first lesson has to be never to assume that what you think is important is what matters most to the client. We wrongly assumed that regular client satisfaction ratings of over 90%, a ten year track record and our local roots would be enough to make our proposal very difficult to beat. But we got that wrong, very wrong. In a retendering exercise which turned into a two horse race, we came second.

If we planned to continue in the advice and consultancy field I’d want to know how I managed to get this so badly wrong. But as I’ve already said that isn’t where our future lies so the lesson has simply to be make no assumptions and take nothing for granted.

Having our video production team in place and having spent the past 3 years building this part of the business I now truly appreciate how valuable time spent developing this has really been. Instead of having to carry on trying to make something work, which we knew would be an uphill struggle when the major contract eventually went elsewhere, we had a choice.

The lesson for me then was to look at the worst case scenario for the business and make sure I had a Plan B. Having a positive option to choose rather than a series of last resorts has made this whole experience much easier to deal with. And now that Plan B is in fact Plan A it feels pretty good.

The final lesson for me is stick with the things you get most enjoyment from. The video production part of what we do has been a new challenge but it’s also been fun. It’s much easier to throw yourself into something that you enjoy. I watched Ron Howard on Top Gear say recently that he enjoys his work¬† so much that he doesn’t need a hobby. That’s a great place to be in work terms.

At the start of this ramble I said that this was the real Black Friday. Do you know what? Now it doesn’t feel at all gloomy. I’m actually looking forward to a Happy Monday.

I’ll be back sometime next week to update the world on what the new DP has been up to and what I’ve learned in the process.

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