Another new business year has well and truly dawned. It brings with it heaps of great opportunities for those of us focused enough to seize them. These opportunities are not all just about closing deals immediately, they also include what I consider to be an integral part of business, entrepreneurship and life. It is, the constant opportunity to learn. “Why do I need to learn?” you may wonder, the answer is because none of us will ever know everything, ever.

My dad had a massive interest and appreciation for education and the opportunity to learn. He placed a huge value on it. I think this stemmed from the fact that the privilege of an education was one he was not afforded and one he would have loved. The man had an amazingly bright mind and loved academia, he was self taught, and from an early age, he was determined that myself and my brothers would complete a full education and “get the piece of paper” we needed. In amongst all that he said quietly to me that “you cannot teach or beat common sense or street smarts Mags”. He excelled in sales and was the top salesman in Ireland for three+ consecutive years (something I learned by accident!!). I asked him how did he learn so much in his life, his answer, I knew what I needed to learn, he knew his strengths and he also knew his weaknesses, he connected and he listened, he understood people. I can still hear him say….”We have two ears and one mouth” and “conversation is a two way process”….and as a youngster and teenager we used to have the obvious reaction to those two lines….eyes to heaven!!! I realised that……he was right.

One of the best people in my life to show you the power of listening and observation is my mum, Mrs.B as we call her is so clued in and should have worked in intelligence!! She would teach us all so much about the power of listening and really hearing what is being said and what can be learned from every conversation. She will ask a question when she needs to and go to seek information from the experts when she needs to. Simple powerful activity that can change your days in a really positive way.

I believe that one of the most detrimental characteristics of an aspiring entrepreneur, business person or indeed anyone, is the lack of inclination to learn and to listen, to respect the voice of experience (the ability to recognise experience) and to really listen but also to really hear what is been delivered and said. And there is a subtle difference between listening and hearing ladies and gents.

When you depart from a position of paid employment to that of the self employed, you are entering a whole new realm of amazing possibility and opportunity that is there for the taking. You are also entering a world of uncertainty, excitement, challenge, striving and passion. It is not necessarily better, just different, it is a different world, one you can make your own.

I have met countless business owners and people with really great concepts, great minds and some with really great well established businesses. Some have that innate passion to really succeed and are so willing and open to learning, really valuing qualified advice and taking action to get to where they want to go and I absolutely love that energy and hunger to get something done. I live and breath business, success in life and in business. With all my being, I champion anyone who is really trying and yearning to succeed and exceed expectation(s). I honestly get a real buzz when I see “a plan come together ” for someone in business and in life. That piece is at my core as a person.

I have seen people who are passionless, have great potential, so much skill, priceless experience, huge talent and knowledge but little “umph” or fire in their belly, no passion. Most of all, they don’t allow themselves and their ears an opportunity to listen, to hear and ultimately learn just one thing that may help them to get to where they need to be. They are robbing themselves of opportunities without realising it.

One case in point, a business that was being set up a number of years ago, great talent at the helm, good concept, great contacts, what was happening?, the  cart was being put before the horse. Why was this happening? There are possibly more than one reason and I can never be 100% sure. I can only surmise that it lay with the fact that the creators had come from a very corporately structured and supported background and just didnt feel the need for guidance. I think they assumed it would be what I refer to as “magic wand wonder”.They wanted to be another corporate in record time. However, the big entities start out as small businesses and grow gradually with help along the way. They are fantastic minds and great people but had no plan, didn’t feel the need to learn about running a business and just wanted instant sales, and as we all know, it dosnt work that way. The biggest piece missing was that passion, interest and drive, if it was there it was not apparent.

Another example was a business which wanted ideas, wanted to increase revenue and develop even further. They are a well established successful business and really have a fantastic offering to customers. They were provided with lots of good ideas worth consideration when building revenue opportunities but the one failing, they did not want to listen, learn or try ways of  building business and seizing new opportunities, they were not open to considering change. They had reached a stage in their business life cycle where they needed to evolve, up the ante but without learning and listening they were going to remain as they were.

We have the example of Jo Malone of the absolutely stunning perfume range (can I just say, I adore this range as an aside, love love everything about it!), anyhow, back to the topic at hand! Jo Malone is a successful entrepreneur who had a vision but needed help and guidance and learned constantly, firstly from her mum and then from doubting perfumists in France and low and behold all that learning has taken her to lofty business heights. She always asked to learn the lessons and went to the experts to find out the “how to” of what she needed to do. The extra reason I like this lady is the fact that she never forgot her humble beginnings, continues to learn herself, to help others in business, to impart her own knowledge and experience to those who want to learn and to strive.

I also remember of two gents who strolled into my working day in Cork many years ago where I worked. They wanted to talk out their concept for an existing online business where you could advertise rental properties and maybe other properties. They were in the first five years of the business and really had that determination to take it further. I looked at their site and thought “this is brave stuff” and I also thought as they left, they are going to do something great online because they have determination. They had that fire in the belly that I mentioned earlier, they could see their potential, while also recognising where they needed to learn. They spoke I listened and vice versa, they wanted to learn, they knew they didnt have it polished and top notch just yet but in time they developed what is now a leading online site and brand.

Why am I relaying this in January 2018? It is the start of another exciting year full of lots of pieces, opportunities, challenges and chances to succeed.  I do not want potential to falter because of an inability to open your ears, open your mind, listen, learn and try. It drives me demented when we as people with skill and ability think we know everything. It dosn’t make us any better or worse as people, it can be the difference between failing and succeeding not just in business but in life.

My parents house is full of books, lots of books. Dad couldn’t get enough of reading and the books were the type of books, that to be honest, when we were growing up they were “boring”. As we got older, went to college and started working they became so full of learning and little gems of information and enlightenment and I started to dip in and out of them. In this fantastically technologically advanced age, we need to remember to learn offline too, read books and connect with people, we can all learn something from each other.

So far this year, I have stocked up on books to read, learn and take inspiration from and I know I will learn something from every book I read this year. I have enrolled in a number of groups of business owners where I know I will learn and also where I can impart knowledge and I have signed up for a new systems learning course. The people who teach me the most in my life both personally and professionally are my counterparts, my clients, my husband and my close friends.

The day I stop learning is definitely the day I close my business. In business, growing sales and sustaining business is always a key focus and rightly so, sales & marketing are central to this. In Sales & Marketing, it should not be about who talks the most, it may be more about having a healthy balance between listening, learning and conversing. So, this January, get planning, get reviewing, connect, learn from each other, ask yourself “what do I need to learn or who do I need to speak to or contact to take my business to where I want it to be?” and grow your business, read, aim high and achieve and most of all, take time to listen, you will learn something for sure and it will cost you nothing but it could make you so much.

Are you interested in growing your business in 2018? Do you need to create a plan to succeed? Talk to us today here and we will help you to get your business in front of more of your ideal clients and recharge revenue.

Wishing you a great working week.

Mags @ Bofin Consultancy