What are we so scared of?


It was an important meeting. A meeting that would be the beginning of beautiful and important things. We would hatch fun and creative plans together. We would make an impact on the community. We would grow our businesses. The limits were endless.

We would talk all things of mutual benefit. Quoting big numbers, and breaking them down into practical milestones, and then into bite sized chunks we could then divvy up and assign to each other. Then, we would have further meetings, do work with each other, plan events, continue to build our relationship, and build a new world. A world of laughter. A world of success. A world of joy.

But alas, this is the meeting that never happened. It is the possibly that was shut down within minutes when the fear got in the way.

The fear of people stealing from us. The fear of people using us. The fear of being sold to. The fear of getting the raw deal. The fear of being inferior. The fear of failure. The fear of success.

Maybe it is all of these things, or maybe what has been proposed to us just isn’t interesting. It is not compelling. It is not useful, or of value.

This situation is such a tough one to crack. When working with other businesses (B2B), it astounds me how much push back there is to enthusiasm. When a small business, or a solopreneur approaches another business to do some simple cross-promotion, or to join in a partnership of some description, there seems to be a fear, or a scepticism that is stronger than any other force. But why? What is this fear? Where does it comes from?

The answer to this is probably quite complex. There are perhaps Ted Talks and Harvard Business Review articles proclaiming to tell us the core of this phenomenon. But of interest to me is the sheer volume of people that can’t see a good deal in front of them when they see it. The definition of strong business to me is strong community.

If I can help my next-door neighbour be a stronger business then that is good for me. If I can help my industry be stronger then that is good for me. Isn’t it?

The need to rid our instincts of fear is vital. The only way forward is to be brave. Be bold. Listen to offers. Be willing to be sold to. Be open to doing something new or different. Be ready to put a little extra effort in to try something new out.

This does not mean that the rules are off and a free-for-all is now the norm. No. All business decisions need to be analysed and every opportunity still needs to be deconstructed for fit and purpose. But, instead of rubbishing an idea, or an activity straight up, we need to propose ways we can do something. How about, we ask “how can this work?”

It is amazing where this sort of thinking can take us. It can even take us to a point where we realise that the person sitting opposite us cannot help us at this time, and we cannot help them. By exploring possibility and investigating the up-side, we can even say no, and shake hands with genuine pleasure and friendliness. Yes – it is possible!

We hear of luck in business a lot. We all need a little bit of luck along the way, right? This is countered by the argument that hard work and persistence brings more opportunity and therefore more luck. I feel that this sort of argument is bogged down by semantics. The core of it is that there are multiple opportunities which come to us every day. Opportunities to grow our business. Opportunities to answer our needs and help us smash through our obstacles.

The question is, will you let that fear drive your actions, or will you ask, “how can this work?”

I hope you do. It will most likely open many doors that were not there before. Just like magic. It’s exciting. Join the party.

My top 5 Cringe Sights!

Walking into a retail environment, whether it is a butcher, a salon, a shopping centre boutique, or a cafe, there are some sights I see which I know are hurting business results. I call these my “cringe-moments”. When I was a retail manager I swear that I would commonly have these moments every time I walked into my store. Now, there is an element of being the fun police here, and for that I apologise, well… just a little bit. On the other hand high standards have never been so important, and apathy around this translates to the customer experience suffering, and therefore less return business and less money in the till.

Here are 5 of the most common and most cringe-worthy I see all too often:


Look at your frontage. Yes, stop reading and look at it now! If it needs a touch of paint, if there is a poster half hanging, or no window display at all then sort it out within the next 24 hours. This is your face and the body language of your business is crucial to make people welcome. Otherwise, you are encouraging people to walk on by.


Is it open? I am an eco-champion at heart and power conservation is dear to me, but high level lighting is a real priority in retail. Maybe a fluoro needs to be replaced, or a new light fixture needs to be installed, either way, light and bright is the name of the game. Beautiful products can look really dull without the right lighting.


Number one on the roles & responsibilities handbook that every staff member gets when they start in your business is that cleaning is mandatory. If your store is clean, then clean it more. Many retailers think their store is clean, but fresh eyes will commonly see things which you do not. If you have a team culture where cleanliness is not a top priority, please take action to change this. Remember that we eat with our eyes.


Out of date promotions and marketing is a common problem, even in larger businesses that should know better. New Year Sales in January or even February? Winter Warmers in August? New Lines just in, when they just aren’t new anymore?! If you don’t have a marketing schedule lined up at least six months in advance then this scenario will occur in your business. It is confusing for customers and staff alike. Also, keep promotions sharp, to the point, and easy to follow. If you can’t explain it in one sentence then ditch it.


The Point of Sale, or Cash & Wrap area is the central nervous system of your business. It can act as your reception, office, call center, and is of course where money is taken. Never under-estimate the importance of this area. Too often I see spare desks from the place I used to live/work-at being used for this area. Along with this, scanners don’t work, bags are not ready, till roll is empty, staplers missing, pens don’t work and cards/brochures are out-dated or have run out. I cringe when I see people fumbling about to put through a simple transaction. Avoid this at all costs people – it’s excruciating to watch from a customer point of view, and no fun for the staff member.

So, that’s it. Consciously, or sub-consciously your staff and customers are noticing many of these “Cringes” if they exist in your business. If you have none of them present in your business, then your business must be flying! The reality is that some of these will exist in your business all the time. When one is fixed, another needs attention. However, if you have tried to sort these out, but are having no success then engage an expert to help. One thing that is crucial – take your head-out-of the-sand if you’ve been living with some of these for a while. They hurt business results, and many make for a lowered enjoyment at work for the business owner, manager, or staff.

My motto is simple “Cringe and act, cringe and ACT!”.