In 1976. I went to St. Andrew’s university to study biochemistry. That’s not quite how it worked out. Four years later, I left with a degree that included economics psychology and computer programming. From there, I joined the insurance industry. Training as an underwriter, I learned to price future risk through an insurance premium. It taught me a lot about ambiguity and uncertainty. 20 years later I was a skilled risk manager, for LloydsTSB, running a big department and a number of projects. That had built an understanding of how to create collaborative groups, and manage budgets and more. In 2004 I began my own consultancy business.
In the time that has passed since then, I have been learning about many aspects of running a small business as well as bringing my specialist skills to other business owners who can benefit from what I know, what I can do, and the experience that I have gathered doing it.
My journey has given me the opportunity to gather knowledge, hone skills and build experience around a wide variety of things that affect businesses. Without question that experience, those skills, and that knowledge has enabled me to create and build a business, supporting and helping other small business owners to understand better how to create a strategy that will deliver to them. I’m not alone, many other consultants and coaches and mentors have taken similar journeys in building their own businesses.
My journey is unique to me, just as yours is unique to you. but one thing I’m clear on is that they have created a mountain of value, The knowledge that I’ve gathered, the experience that I’ve used and the skills that I’ve honed have created the ability to mentor others and to support them as they grow their businesses.
Your Journey so far has created a mountain of value.
That mountain of value that you have built and created has enabled you to build your business. You provide others with the opportunity to share your knowledge and your experience through your products and services. When we look back we can see how all our experience and skills join up, but as Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech, you cannot join the dots looking forward.
I know that there are a thousand and one other mentors like me who could support a business like yours. I’m left asking “why would any business choose me over any of those others?” I know there’s a reality here. That reality is that mountain of value. It is my past experience. It is the knowledge that I gained at university and throughout life. After that, the skills that I’ve honed around, understanding risk around pricing risk around strategy in small businesses and the implications of implementing those strategies. It comes from my ability to facilitate discussions and understanding to clarify and uncover insight. There is literally nobody else in the world who has had the journey that I’ve had.
There’s nobody else in the world who has created the same mountain of value that I stand upon. Nobody else has the mountain that you’re standing on.
Nobody else, anywhere, has that mountain.
What is clear is that it is only when I was clear about how that value was created, about how the experience I had over 20 and more years is relevant. It is all relevant today in the strategic work that I do as a mentor to small businesses, but it’s applied in a different context. Understanding how the skills that I honed and how they apply in the context of my clients means that I have to understand the numbers, the risks and opportunities and the value of them. I know that I can really support businesses to understand the risks they face and to create value for them, in their context, in a much more effective way.
So, I am proud of what I know, and I’m proud of how I apply it to support others. Mostly though I’m proud of what they do with that knowledge to help them hone the skills that they need. I’m proud of how that reduces the risk for them. That’s a perfect example of the connection to the things I learned years ago. Our work together short circuits some of the things that need to be learned, avoid repeating old mistakes.
Be proud of what you know, and how you apply it to others.
There’s a final point to all of this. A final point that cannot be ignored too often. Consultants and coaches and mentors encourage us to seek a “USP” – a unique selling proposition. Something that will allow a business to stand out from the crowd. Something that makes our product or service different from everybody else’s in the market. Yet, I would contend, that for almost all businesses, and almost all products and services there is not uniqueness in the product. I’m a business mentor, as I’ve said, there are a thousand and one (perhaps many more) others, just like me, supporting businesses like my client’s businesses, sharing their knowledge and experience in pretty much the same way. Does that concern me? Not at all.
It is up to my clients and my prospects to decide which, if any, of the plethora of coaches, mentors, consultants and advisors best meet their needs. How do they decide? By looking at the service? Or by looking at the experience that we have? By understanding the skills that is being brought to the party? Or, by deciding whether there is the right chemistry between them and their preferred partner? Perhaps too they want to have fun as well as working to achieve their objectives. Probably a bit of all of that, wouldn’t you agree? I know I cannot answer all those questions for them. What I know is that I don’t bring a unique selling proposition, but I do bring a unique proposition, so do you.
Your unique proposition is you.
One thing to note is that when I recognised that the things that my clients really valued weren’t always the things that I thought important. To get to the root of that I had to ask them and I also worked with my mentors to help me get to grips with what they really were. Seek answers in the company of you trusted partners, and when you have some test them out. If you attract more, of the right clients, then you know you are on the right track.
If you would like to speak to me to explore any aspect of the issue this blog raises, do book a half-hour appointment here.
Image by: William Buist © 2020