A-Head for Success

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A-Z of Business: X- X-Ray Vision – Know your Business Inside Out

Business performance

Your business results don’t reflect the effort you put in. Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone.  Indeed, some of my clients have been working so hard that they are nearing burnout.  This is often because they are focusing on the wrong thing, which they believe to be the right thing.  This is why having a forensic view of your company – x-ray vision – helps you to focus on those factors which make the biggest difference to your success.  Working smart, not working hard is the difference which makes the difference.  Productivity, not activity.

For example, if you are spending a lot of time bringing in new business but haemorrhaging customers out the back door, your efforts will be as effective as attempting to fix a burst pipe with a sticking plaster.

Or perhaps you are spending your time bringing in new business that you don’t have the infrastructure to support?  Like building a house without it’s foundations.

Maybe your customer service is poor and you are busy sending out feedback forms when really the problem is that your hiring processes and training do not enforce your company value of customer satisfaction?

Or is your business booming but your customer’s aren’t paying their invoices?  This is where success leads to ruin.

So, x-ray vision on the essentials helps you work strategically – making the right decisions about how you spend your time and your money and what will be the best strategy to take your business forward.  The first step is to get yourself some key performance indicators.  These help you to measure your performance against target on areas you consider to be important, for example:

  • Turnover
  • Profit
  • Product revenues
  • Sales growth
  • Cost of sales
  • Costs
  • Performance against budget
  • Sales conversion ratio
  • New sales by marketing method
  • ROI (see individual blog about this)
  • Revenue by customer
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee performance
  • Revenue by employee
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints
  • Customer complaints resolved
  • There are also various KPIs for:
    • Social media
    • Site engine optimisation
    • Call centre performance

Lies and statistics

A lot of clients view a nice big turnover as proof of their success and they just work very hard at increasing that number.  However, a forensic examination of the statistics will let them know whether there is also a healthy profit because if the ratio of profit to turnover is low, you are working hard for little reward.  It will help you look at what is creating the biggest profit and whether you need to make a loss on something to bring in profit on something else.  This is both an art and a science.  Also, if you are producing lots of nice big invoices but not getting paid because your credit control is not effective, that turnover is meaningless.

Here are my 5 steps to help you take control of your business with x-ray vision:

  1. Consider what KPIs you want in your business (the above are just a few examples)
  2. Regularly review performance against these
  3. Look at the relationship between them
  4. Decide what is causing the positive results and do more of those
  5. Determine what is causing negative results and take remedial action.  Make sure there will not be negative consequences elsewhere.

Remember that an x-ray shows you what is wrong structurally, it is up to you to find out the cause and to take appropriate action.

If you need help with any of this – it is hard doing it for yourself – do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  I look forward to hearing from you!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: U – USP – Why You Need One

Unique Selling Point

Do you really need a Unique Selling Point?  What happens if you don’t have one?  Well, unless you are in an industry with no competitors then your USP is what will set you apart.  It will give your prospects a reason to go with you instead of someone else.

In a struggling economy, you need all the competitive advantage you can get.  And if you are looking for a job, you need that competitive edge too. 

So, why should someone buy your product?  It is no longer enough to say “we are the best”, you need to say how.  And it needs to be based on reality rather than an aspiration that you are working towards. 

There was a wonderful sign displayed which went like this:

“We offer three kinds of service – Good, Cheap or Fast.  You can pick any two.  Good and cheap won’t be fast.  Good and fast won’t be cheap.  Cheap and fast won’t be good.  ”

At the gym yesterday, my personal trainer said the best advice he was given is to always think of yourself as number two so that you would still strive to do better.  This reminded me of the Avis USP which is “We are number two – we try harder.”  What a great USP which succeeds in turning a negative into a massive positive.

Apple’s USP is to think differently – they are the company best known for their innovation, having broken many technological boundaries.  They can be relied upon to be innovative, fun and customer-focused.

If you are finding it difficult to identify your USP, go back to testimonials you have been given by your customers.  It is easy to forget these but hopefully you have kept a log of them.  Also, consider what your competitors are doing and what they are promising.  How are you different to them?  What are the problems you are solving for your customers?

Let’s take an example.  For an IT support company, their customers may suffer from not being terribly IT literate, having to wait a long time before an engineer can fix their problem, or their technology is stopping them from getting on with their work

Let’s look at the customers’problem, potential USPs and their corresponding straplines:

  1. Waiting a long time for an engineer
    • USP – getting their IT problems solved quickly
    • Strapline – Your IT Support within 24 hours or quicker
  2. Not very IT literate
    • USP – use jargon free communication so that the problem is easier to understand
    • Strapline – Taking the Jargon out of IT Support
  3. Technology stopping them from working
    • USP – getting you up and running quickly
    • Strapline –Helping you to work when your computer doesn’t
  4. Frustrated that every problem seems to mean a new computer
    • USP – providing the simplest, most cost effective solutions
    • Strapline – Simple Solutions to Complicated Problems

Whatever your USP, do make sure that you live and breathe it.  You don’t want your USP to be “tried and failed” – it should enhance your reputation, not undermine it. 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: S – Selling: Your 6 Steps to Success

Sales

Sales are the lifeblood of any business and the ability to sell is an art-form.  That’s why sales people get paid so well.

It’s also inextricably linked to reputation.  So, whatever commitments you make in the sales process, it’s important to be sure that you can meet them.  It can be tempting, especially if you are chasing targets, to make a sale at any cost.  Promising impossible delivery terms, or unworkable modifications, just to get them to sign the order, can be an expensive mistake.

Conversely, being honest with a prospect if you feel your product isn’t right for them, increases your credibility, your reputation and the potential for future sales and ongoing referrals.  Your prospect understands that you have their best interests at heart so they will trust you should their needs change in the future.

Selling requires a variety of skills, from the ability to build rapport, to excellent listening and communication skills.  The ability to handle objections is possibly the most difficult component and was the subject of a previous article (view).  It requires the ability to influence effectively (view) and to negotiate well (view).

Following is a simple sales process.  To illustrate it in action, let’s suppose you are selling a printer:

  1. Build rapport
  2. Background information
    • How long have you had your existing printer?  What features are you looking for?  What kind of volume do you need it to produce?
  3. What problem are you trying to solve?
    • “We’d like to save money on ink; We’d like to improve reliability and print quality and we’d like to increase the number of functions – ie print on A3, collate reports and staple”
  4. What effect is the problem having on you?  This helps the prospect to identify with the pain of the problem.
    • “The current printer is slow, unreliable and often breaks down – last time it meant that the reports weren’t ready for the board meeting.”
  5. Suggest a positive outcome to their problem.  This will move them from the pain of the problem to the pleasure of the solution, making them more open to saying “yes”.
    • “Our model XYZ123 will produce high quality print, 50% faster than your current printer at a 20% saving on your current cartridges.  Not only that, it will collate and staple your reports for you.”
  6. Ask for the sale – the most important part!
    • There are various closing techniques, the simplest of which are:
      • Direct – “This seems to address all your needs whilst making savings for you.  Would you like to buy this model?”
      • Assumptive – “When would you like it delivered?”

It is easy to blame the product or the price for lack of sales, but often the issue is more about not having aligned your solution to the client’s needs.  Remember that selling is an art-form.  Do read the objection-handling and negotiating articles mentioned above for more information.  Also, why not call for some 1:1 coaching so that you can have a personalised input on how to improve your sales success?  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: O – Objection Handling – The Ten Essentials

Objection handling

 

Objections are an inevitable part of any selling process – whether you are selling products, services or an idea.  It is the part of the sale which leaves all but the very best sales people, influencers and negotiators trembling behind a façade of the “this-doesn’t-bother-me-at-all” faux-smile.  It’s what keeps most would-be sales people hiding under a duvet of busy-ness so they never get to make the call which could result in the rejection they fear so much.  And this is because they personalise the “rejection”.  They make it about themselves rather than a legitimate (or smoke-screen) concern. 

Sales is really a numbers game and you need to get through so many rejections before you can make one sale.  Objections are often a signal for more information and here are a few ideas to help you through with greater ease:

  1. First and foremost, don’t take it personally.  You can no more be an effective salesperson without objections as you could be an effective car without wheels.  Think of objections, instead, as “feedback”.
  2. The second “secret” is to build emotional resilience.  That’s a big subject to which I devote a whole chapter in my book 21 Ways and 21 Days to the Life You Want.  However, one quick way of building resilience is to view every experience as a learning opportunity.
  3. Prepare by listing all the objections you think you may receive – here are some common ones:
    • Price
    • Delivery terms
    • They already have a current supplier
  4. Practice active listening so that you really understand what they are saying, not what you want to hear or what fits into your well-prepared script.
  5. The easiest objection handling technique (and there are many) is the shopping list technique.  It flushes out any possible objections up front.  To do this, you need to elicit all their wants in advance and write them down.  When they have finished, ask “Anything else?” until you are sure you have everything.  Then say “So, if we meet all these needs, you will want to go ahead?”  This, of course, is assuming that you’re actually speaking to the decision maker.
  6. Think of your offering in terms of features and benefits.  Let’s say that you are selling a gardening magazine.  The feature may be that it is full of interesting articles by some of the country’s top experts.  The benefit might include some of the following: that it will provide easy-to-follow answers to all their gardening problems right when they need it so that they can enjoy a beautiful garden all-year round; they will spend less money on plants which were never suitable for their garden in the first place; they will be able to enjoy a hobby rather than be frustrated by the lack of progress; they will learn new skills, and create a space where they can relax/have fun with their kids/entertain friends/grow organic vegetables to make healthy meals for their families; they will have more time to enjoy being in their garden rather than working on their garden, etc.  The idea is to find out what they want and sell to those rather than have a blanket list.
  7. Avoid giving too many benefits because you dilute the message – just focus on their specific wants and needs.
  8. Move them through negative states into the positive state you want them to experience, ie. from cynicism to curiosity to openness and finally to enthusiasm.  I cover this in my Influencing for Better Business course.
  9. Once you have taken them through each of their shopping list items, ask if there is anything else they need.  Then, for any ongoing objections ask “If I could deal with this, would you be ready to go ahead?”.  Then come up with a solution to the problem that they are happy with. 
  10. When all objections are handled, ask for the sale.  You will be surprised how many people miss off this important element. 

I couldn’t finish this article without my bonus tip – limit your sales calls and sandwich them in between enjoyable activities that give you a sense of achievement.  This helps you to stay resourceful and to maintain your energy levels and resilience. 

If you would like to learn more about how you can handle objections, why not book for a coaching session, or onto my next Influencing for Better Business course?  Investing in yourself in this way can really yield exceptional results.  Call 0845 130 0854 for more information on how to accelerate your success.
 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: N – Negotiating With Integrity

Negotiation

Being able to negotiate with integrity is vital to profitability and also for relationships. Effective negotiation is less about winning as it is about creatively finding a way in which both parties get what they need.  Sometimes this will involve compromise, where each party makes concessions to the other.  Sometimes it will involve backing down in the interest of maintaining a positive ongoing relationship – short-term pain for long-term gain.

There is an art to knowing when to concede, when to power- through at all costs, when to collaborate and when to compromise, or even withdraw altogether.  Here are my top tips for negotiating with integrity:

  1. Be clear about what you want and the minimum you will accept but don’t talk about your minimum too early as it will weaken your position.
  2. Create a resourceful state prior to the negotiation.  Useful states are powerful, calm, creative, respectful and influential.
  3. Listen more than you talk so that you can ascertain what’s important to them and where you might be able to seek leverage.
  4. Always find points of agreement first.  This creates a “yes-set” which makes it easier for the other person to continue agreeing with you.
  5. Show the value in what you are offering so that the negotiation is not just about price.
  6. Use positive language such as “My price is…”.  Too many people use softer language such as “I’m looking for…” which is subtext for “I am expecting less so push me as much as you want – I will give in really quickly”.
  7. Use silence positively.  Once you have stated your price (or your condition, wants, needs), be silent.  Over-explaining weakens your position.
  8. Be clear about the specific need of the other party, sometimes we negotiate on the wrong thing.  They might be concerned about cash flow or speedy delivery over price for example.
  9. Price is just one area for negotiation but also consider discounts for volume, including training in the price, payment terms, contract periods, etc.  This adds value to the negotiation so that price becomes less of a block.
  10. Use “If you …I will” when talking about concessions.  Much stronger than “If I … will you” which tells them that you are ready to concede first, thereby reducing your negotiating power.

Negotiating is a powerful tool which can be very effective when used correctly.  However, applied clumsily, it can damage relationships and profits.  If you would like help, why not book some coaching by calling 0845 130 0854.

In the meantime, you might want to check out our Influencing Skills Course on 19th September, which also has some powerful techniques to help you.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: K – Knowledge – Your Competitive Edge?

It is estimated that 15% of success is from your technical skills whereas 85% is through gaining trust and respect.  So, what has knowledge to do with this?  Plenty, as it happens.  Knowledge covers the whole spectrum.  Good technical skills are, of course, important.  But not if the knowledge is out of date.  Technology is changing all the time – as are trends – and it is essential to keep abreast of what’s going on in your market place and in your profession.

Solicitors and doctors go through years of training in their profession before they are able to practice.  Yet, how much training have you had to run your own department, or your own business?  How much knowledge have you acquired to help you be successful?  Whether you are running a department or a business of your own, the knowledge you need to be effective is extremely broad and most people simply muddle through.  In the meantime, what happens to the trust and respect essential to 85% of your success?

The following table helps you to understand some of the fundamentals for trust and respect and the kind of knowledge you need for them:

TRUST AND RESPECT KNOW-HOW
Good people and rapport skills Influencing and leadership
Doing what you say you will do Planning and organising
Doing an excellent job Technical and delegation
Managing complaints effectively Problem solving and conflict management
Meeting your obligations Business acumen and resource management
Emotional intelligence Understanding of people and yourself and how to manage yourself and your relationships in times of stress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business knowledge – such as sales, marketing, finance, operations –  is important whether you run your own business or manage a department as you need to see how everything fits together.  These will help you to exploit strengths, minimise weaknesses, seize opportunities and handle threats from a point of strength.

So, how can you increase your knowledge?  Through coaching, training, reflective learning and study.  Often, you don’t know what you don’t know (in the case of business, ignorance is not bliss) and it is helpful to have someone there who can help you see your blind-spot. Having your own coach and mentor is an excellent step to take to help you stay on top of your game.  For more information call 0845 130 0854 for a no obligation chat.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: I – Influencing Skills

The ability to positively influence others with integrity is a key skill in business.  It affects your ability to have people buy into you, your business, your product and your ideas.  It impacts your leadership style and your ability to build constructive relationships.  It can also be incredibly stressful if you are unable to influence people constructively, impacting your productivity, your sales and even your profitability.

Influence is about your ability to have a positive effect on someone.  It differs from manipulation in that it is undertaken with integrity and regard to the interest of the other party.   It’s about having people buy in to your ideas and perspectives, so that they say ‘yes’ to you more.

 

The talent for influence requires flexibility in style, clarity of outcome, the ability to understand a situation from several perspectives, and creating and maintaining a resourceful state, particularly during times of conflict, or when the stakes are high.

It is not about imposing but inspiring someone to take a particular action, while maintaining strong rapport and building positive relationships.

There are numerous language patterns which enhance your capacity to increase your powers of influence which are too numerous to go into in this short article but which I teach to many of my clients and which I include on my Influencing Skills training course.  The issue, though, is not what the skills are, but the effect that they can have on your success.  They can help you deal with objections and concerns so that you are able to transform potentially negative situations elegantly. It’s the YES factor!

 

Whether your intention is to create change, elicit support or diffuse potentially contentious situations, influencing skills can be a real boon to you in your business.

For further details, please contact Tricia Woolfrey on 0845 130 0854 or see www.pw-consulting.co.uk.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: F – Finance – 5 Tips to Help Your Business Succeed

 

1.  Cash is King

Cash flow is the main reason for business succeeding or failing.  An apparently successful business may have a full order book, and even good levels of projected profit, but if funds cannot be collected from customers in a reasonable timescale the business will fail.  You should ensure your customers are aware of your payment terms before carrying out tasks and where possible advanced payments, should be requested.

Tip – Get paid on time by ensuring you have regular communication with your customer and that you have an effective credit control procedure.

 

2.  Overtrading

This is where a business has a full order book but struggles to convert turnover (sales) into profit.  This situation usually develops when tasks are taken on at a cheaper rate when compared to competitors in order to secure orders.  Subsequently, the business becomes very busy but the income generated is not sufficient in order make a profit, and so the business fails.  This strategy can be used carefully in order to try and build a reputation but for small businesses it should not be used in the long-term.  Remember “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity”.

Tip – You are usually in business to make money so ensure you do not under-sell your products or services unless you have a clearly defined plan.

3.  Control the Controllable

Fixed costs – these costs do not vary regardless of the business activity undertaken, i.e. rent and rates.

Variable costs – these are dependant on the level of activity, i.e. heat and light or staff overtime.

Tight control and effective monitoring of these costs is essential.  Whilst fixed costs by their very nature are easier to control, effective negotiation with suppliers is an important step.  Variable costs can often get out of control if not properly managed, i.e. buying stock recklessly can tie up cash and may lead to unforeseen losses.

Tip – Ensure there is an efficient method of recording  and managing costs.  Monitor them on a regular basis.

4.  Supplier Relationships

Negotiating with your suppliers is important in order to gain value for money but when evaluating a potential supplier do not focus solely on the costs.  You should try and build a close working relationship with your suppliers and also consider the following:

  1. Product efficiency – do they have a good reputation for supplying reliable products?
  2. Delivery – can delivery be made in a timely manner?
  3. Payment Terms – extended terms can often ease your own cash flow concerns.

Tip – Ensure you question potential suppliers to ensure they meet your key criteria.

5.  Initial Funding

Many small businesses often underestimate the amount of necessary funding needed to commence trading or start a new product line or service.  This lack of funding will immediately restrict any business capacity and will greatly threaten the potential growth and stability of your business.  Always identify and try to properly estimate the amount of money needed to launch your business and to cover the costs for at least the first year which should include both running expenses and capital investment.

Tip – Take time to plan the financial implications of your business plans.

With thanks to:

Colin Bentall FCCA
Ford Bentall LLP
www.fordbentall.co.uk

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A-Z of Business: C – Customer

Customers are the lifeblood of any business.  It doesn’t matter how good your product or service, if you don’t have customers willing to buy, you have nothing.  In such challenging times, and considering the cost of attracting just one customer (have you ever done the maths on this?), customer retention is a stronger strategy than customer attraction could ever be.

Yet, it seems that customer care has taken a back seat to profit.  A short-term tactic with long-term consequences.  And yet, effective customer care does not have to be costly.  Not only that, you can expect to see your profits increase as your customers stay longer, buy more and refer more.  And the benefits don’t end there – your employees will be happier.  I am always struck by the check out staff at supermarkets who don’t acknowledge you – how unhappy they look.  I pay extra where the staff are happier – it makes such a difference to the buying experience.

Below are my top ten tips for customer retention.

All customers:

  1. Acknowledge them by name if known, and a warm smile – a genuine smile even comes across over the phone.
  2. Tell them you’ll be with them in a moment if you are busy with someone else.  If it will be more than a moment – let them know in advance.  Set realistic expectations.
  3. Ask yourself how your processes and actions serve customer needs and affects their experience .
  4. Make sure your staff are knowledgeable and find answers to questions if in doubt.  Saying “I don’t know” is just not acceptable.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver – essential for trust.  Do keep them updated if delays are foreseen.
  6. Hire and train staff who have a strong customer service orientation – be uncompromising about this.  Any apathy or negativity affects profit and morale of other staff members.
  7. Treat your customers how you want to be treated yourself.  You know how it feels when you are respected and when you are treated well.  I am reminded of a friend of mine who recently reported that she closed her bank account as her bank was offering new customers a better interest rate, despite the fact she had been a loyal customer for years.

The biggest risk factor in terms of customers is how you deal with them when there’s a problem.  Here are my top tips to deal with unhappy customers:

  1. Respond positively and empathetically:
    • Thank them – their feedback is a gift and helps you improve your business.
    • Be quick to apologise authentically.
  2. Inform them of what you will do with their feedback – and then make sure you do what you say you will do– it will help build your business in all kinds of positive ways.
  3. Resolve problems quickly and thoroughly.  Be sure to give a little extra to make up for the inconvenience.

Responding well to complaints can not only redeem you in the eyes of the customers but make a complainant into an ambassador for your company, bringing in new business.

Finally, one last thought – do make it easy for people to do business with you – don’t let apathy be your only weapon for customer retention.  Delight them and make raving fans.

To your success!

Tricia Woolfrey

PS  Customer attraction and retention are a very complex area – to book a consultation to find out how you can gain more business through customers new and existing, call 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey

Tricia Woolfrey is a business, performance and productivity coach, helping people to succeed in their business, and for their business to succeed. She has extensive experience with clients across several business sectors, including IT, telecoms, event management, entertainment, recruitment, finance, PR, coaching and therapy, support services, legal and more, ranging from large corporates to start-ups and the solo-preneurs. 

Prior to running her own consultancy, she was Group HR Director for a multi-national organisation and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. Her integrative approach to change has had profound results for individuals and organisations alike.

“The results there were nothing short of fantastic”- Guy Apple, VP Marketing & Sales, NVT, UK

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A-Z of Business: B – Brand

We normally think of brand in terms of  company name, tag-line or logo and it’s an important part of your marketing.  Personally, I view brand as much more than this.  Let’s say your company name is  “Precision Accountancy Partners”, there is a promise implied in that name which suggests a level of accuracy and professionalism.

This message can be undermined unless you make sure that the following supports this message:

  • The quality and design of your business card and website
  • Your personal image – how you dress and how well you are groomed
  • Your voice
  • The words and language you use
  • Your body language
  • The behaviours you choose
  • The decisions you make
  • The quality of your work
  • Whether you deliver on promises
  • Whether you turn up on time
  • How organised you are

Whether you mean to or not, you are constantly communicating your brand.  I wonder what message you are sending out?  How does this compare with how you want to be perceived?  If there is a mismatch, what can you do to get back on track?  Sending out the right message can make all the difference for you and your business or career.

As Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney said “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”  If you want to know more, why not book a session so you give your business the best chance of ongoing success?  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to find out more.

To your success!

Tricia Woolfrey

PS  Have you recently had a psychometric profile?  This can really help you to understand your strengths and blindspots so you can work at your very best.  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to find out more.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey

Tricia Woolfrey is a business, performance and productivity coach, helping people to succeed in their business, and for their business to succeed. She has extensive experience with clients across several business sectors, including IT, telecoms, event management, entertainment, recruitment, finance, PR, coaching and therapy, support services, legal and more, ranging from large corporates to start-ups and the solo-preneurs.

Prior to running her own consultancy, she was Group HR Director for a multi-national organisation and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. Her integrative approach to change has had profound results for individuals and organisations alike.

“The results there were nothing short of fantastic”- Guy Apple, VP Marketing & Sales, NVT, UK

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