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My experience working with a wide range of young businesses, from complex financial software through to artisan food producers says, it is easy to get distracted by products and forget that the underlying success drivers are the same regardless of what you make or do.

girl at wall

A visit to The Climbing Wall in Sandyford, a 3 week old fledgling business already packed with happy customers on a freezing January night made me stop to think.  What gets customers in this case to a business with no marketing or advertising budget?  What separates success and disaster for a young business in the early scary days?

“The wall” is an indoor state of the art climbing wall in Sandyford industrial estate. So, your business is very different, but the same answers apply and will help you succeed early.
  • Passionate attention to  all customers, including the ones future customers. I dragged along a friend who doesn’t climb, and had no intention of doing so.  She instantly felt welcome, even though climbing up the wall until then was something she only does at business meetings. Your customers may come in many forms and will have different needs. See the world from their perspective – are they confused? Scared? Stressed? Finding it hard to park? At the Wall you feel safe and at ease. And yes, of course, she climbed. And is now hooked.
  • Create a happy place where staff are as engaged as you are in looking after customers with care. Your staff must feel like a really core part of your baby business.  Get them on board and make sure to find ways of harnessing all their bright ideas about how to make your project a success
  • Know your customers intimately before you start. Alan and Brian really understand their market, and are well networked. They already understood exactly what climbers want and immediately ran simple high impact events that have built up loyalty, traffic to The Wall and loads of Word of Mouth publicity, always the most powerful form of marketing. This also helps you create a sense of community and shared values among your customer base, so your customers stay longer and believe in what you do.  Happy customers come back.
  • Be clever about how to position and communicate what you offer: .The Wall makes canny use of social media and press coverage to get the story out in a more targeted and dynamic way than any ad ever will.  Network, but be savvy about how you use that precious network.
  • Know your competition equally intimately, know when to compete (and how) and when to collaborate. Sometimes collaboration is the right strategy – work together and instead of splitting a new small market you can grow it together, creating greater awareness by acting as a group and attracting more people to a new service or product.
  • Good team - make sure all the practical stuff is under control.  The top team here includes a marketing whizz and an employment law specialist.  They have team skills to make sure the business is set up on a sound financial footing, property and planning skills and expertise to make sure design and operations are top class.
  • Finally – do something you love. The chances are you will be very good at it!
  Moira Creedon is a facilitator and consultant in Strategic Finance and has worked with both corporate and public sector clients worldwide helping decision makers at strategic level to understand finance and improve their ability to formulate and implement strategy. She teaches on IMI’s Diploma in Management and a number of Short Programmes including the Senior Executive Programme. See our Spring 2015 schedules here: IMI Diplomas Spring 2015 and IMI Short Programmes Spring 2015 [post_title] => 'Off the Wall' tips for early business success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wall-tips-early-business-success [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:58:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:58:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22406 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2018-03-15 12:47:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-15 12:47:02 [post_content] => [post_title] => Being an Authentic Leader: The Emotional Intelligence Connection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => authentic-leader-emotional-intelligence-connection [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-13 06:41:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-13 06:41:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11945 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2015-10-05 11:20:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-05 11:20:50 [post_content] =>
Thimon de Jong runs over the past ten years has consulted with leading organisations such as Ikea, Deloitte, Aon, Samsung and GDF Suez, on sharpening their business strategies to sync with wider socio-cultural trends. Thimon runs his own company, Whetston, a strategic foresight think tank. He also teaches at Utrecht University on how sociocultural trends can be used to improve business strategy. He will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015 IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

TDJ: Develop a digitally balanced business strategy

IMI: What does this mean? TDJ: Society, human behaviour, business: our world is rapidly getting more and more digital. But parallel to this development, the need for the real, the personal and the unconnected is growing. In the future, a successful strategy will cater both these trends with a digital balance in any part of business: products, services, marketing communication, HR etc. IMI: Where should we look for further information? TDJ: This fall, I will release a series of articles on this, published via LinkedIn and my website: NMC 2015 A4 HEADER Thimon de Jong is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to [post_title] => "Develop a digitally balanced business strategy" Six Word Wisdom from Thimon de Jong [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => develop-digitally-balanced-business-strategy-six-word-wisdom-thimon-de-jong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:39:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:39:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Derek Fox

Derek Fox

29th Mar 2018

Derek Fox delivers on IMI’s programme’s ‘Think on Your Feet’ and ‘Presenting with Impact’

Related Articles

'Off the Wall' tips for early business success
Being an Authentic Leader: The Emotional Intelligence Connection
"Develop a digitally balanced business strategy" Six Word Wisdom from Thimon de Jong

Communicating in an Emergency

On January 15th, 2009 captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger relayed the following message to the air-traffic controllers at New York’s JFK airport:

  1. Hit birds.
  2. We’ve lost thrust on both engines.
  3. We’re turning back towards LaGuardia.

The rest is history. Thankfully after an emergency landing in the Hudson river all 155 people on the plane were pulled to safety by emergency crews. The media hailed the captain as a hero and his ability to keep a cool head and communicate clearly in a crisis situation was the reason everyone survived. Hopefully you will never be in this situation, but how do you communicate in an emergency?

Clear Messaging

The Think on Your Feet programme emphasises clarity of communication (Photo source)

.With the recent weather conditions, the media was full of emergency communications, providing updates and information to enable Ireland to prepare for, deal with, and recover from storm Emma and the ‘Beast from the East’. During the communications the message was clear:

  1. Red weather warning
  2. Very dangerous
  3. Stay indoors

Notice a similarity with the structure of the captain’s message? When it comes to communicating there are three golden rules, they are:

  1. Clarity
  2. Brevity
  3. Impact

Clarity is all about ensuring the message is clear, it will be understood, it will not be misinterpreted. Brevity is about keeping the message concise, saying only what needs to be said, avoiding waffle. Impact is about making sure the message is remembered, it has an impact, people act on it.

Clarity, Brevity and Impact

Clarity, Brevity and Impact are the foundations of a communications model known as ‘Think on Your Feet®’ which was originally developed by Dr. Keith Spicer, a prominent Canadian public figure. He was the first Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada and the former Chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The model is designed to work one to one, one to a few and one to many. When you have lots of time, a little time or no time at all. In addition, it can be applied to face to face, phone or written communications. The marvel of this model is in its simplicity. At the core of the model is a communication structure that is supported with a set of delivery plans. One of these plans is known as the clock plan..

The Clock Plan

The clock plan moves via points in time, such as, last week, this week, next week or the 70’s, the 80’s the 90’s. So, let’s say you are working on a critical project and last week was a disaster, you are behind schedule and over budget. It’s Monday morning and you are dreading bumping into the boss. For you, this is an emergency.

Just as you turn the corner to head for the stairs your worst nightmare comes through, right in front of you is the boss, and he asks, ‘Well Sam how is the project going?’. Think fast, you could lie, but if the boss finds out you are in trouble. You could tell them how bad it is, but that risks a grilling by the boss.

Using the model as a guide you can use a phrase like: ‘Last week we had a disaster, but this week we will fix that, and by next week we will be back on track’.

By demonstrating you are aware of what happened in the past, what needs to be done in the present, and what results are expected in the future, you leave your boss with the feeling you are in control of the project.

It may not be ‘‘Sully’’ landing a plane on a river, but using a structured method of communicating can certainly help in our own, more personal, emergencies.


Derek Fox delivers on IMI’s programme’s ‘Think on Your Feet’ and ‘Presenting with Impact’ and is an expert in management development, innovation and interpersonal communications. Derek has published a number of books including his bestselling titles in both Psychology (DISCovering your style and dealing with difficult people) and Presentation skills (Presenting without fear).