Fox & Squirrel tours range in sizes. Sometimes they are attended by a few and other tours get booked 65 journalists. Our clients come from all around the world and from all walks of life. It is the opportunity to meet this diverse people that is one of my greatest pleasures of my job. Sharing a London moment with a captivated audience can create friendships and indeed many of my clients I can now call my friends. Interestingly some have even become my business mentors.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet an American couple who became a reference for me on how to run my business. Both are acclaimed doctors from the U.S. They were staying at The Connaught and booked fashion and food tours with me through the hotel’s concierge. Half way through our first tour, we decided to have a coffee break. Sipping on our cappuccinos their success became apparent to me. It was difficult not to notice. For those that know me know that I do not shy away from asking questions, and on this occasion I definitely didn’t stop. In a frank manner, in a way that an American can appreciate more than a Brit would, I asked how they had got to where they are.
Mr Doctor very bluntly admitted that when he was starting off he accepted every challenge even if that seemed too hard. He had a ‘Just say Yes’ attitude. By saying yes to difficult and varied tasks it urged him never to become complacent. The challenge made him research for hours and hours in order to find a solution to some of his trickiest medical cases. Importantly, he never shied away from asking for help, opinion and expertise. When necessary he’d go out of his way to ensure he found someone better than he was that could help. When this happened he made sure he’d look over the expert’s shoulder, take notes and make sure he learned from them. By conditioning himself to always seek a positive outcome he opened himself up to progress.
I am not a doctor and admittedly my career will never have the life or death significance that the daily life of my cardiologist- client- friend’s work life entails. However, since our encounter two years ago, I adopted Mr Doctor’s attitude. Personally, my opinion is that by doing so I am continuously moulding myself into becoming a solution maker.
2 weeks ago when a recurring client commissioned Fox & Squirrel at the very last minute to tour 65 journalists, I was reminded of the ‘Just say Yes’ power. Below I’ve outlined the scenario, the lessons and the outcomes of putting into action this attitude.
Scenario: One week to find 7 expert photography guides that could each tour groups of 9 journalists through a London Royal Park. I did not know whether the journalists spoke English and nor did my client. This meant I also had to find 7 Spanish -speaking translators. The 7 -day deadline conveniently coincided with the Easter break. They say that the hardest word in the English language is no, in this case with the fear of failure looming over me, saying no seemed a much easier option than saying yes. Nonetheless, I took the gamble, said yes and proceeded to take a few deep breaths.
No 1: Dedicate 15 minutes to drawing up an action plan. Always remember that one thing leads to another so if you are doing a list try and start with the one action that will lead you to the most outcomes. Pyramid diagrams help more than simple to do list do. I am all about the visual representation.
No 2: In this case I searched for fellow street photography walk companies, i.e.: my competitors. By not fearing my competitors I turned many of them into collaborators. Thank you to Linda Wisdom of Street Photography
No 3: If you are hiring your competitors confidently declare your clients as your own and wave your confidentiality clause. However, it is also important to remember that no one wants to be blacklisted in a community of creative freelancers so most decent people will behave and not pose a threat to your business.
No4: When your Yes is time sensitive like mine was do not bother with emails. Pick up the phone and speak to whoever you need with confidence. Thank you to Iwona for sparing the time to take my call and for so quickly arranging to meet me.
No 5: It is also important to start your hunt for collaborators by ringing relevant acquaintances. On this occasion I rang an old photographer acquaintance of mine who I had worked with at Claridges. She quickly said yes and also offered to help me find more photographers If you have a personal link then use it, this route will always be more fruitful.
Thank you to Britta, Carlos and Clive
No 6 : I am a real perfectionist and quality is paramount to me. When your work relies on hiring freelancers always use a specialist or aggregated source. I sent out a tweet for Spanish speakers and I got inundated with emails; I had not time to sieve through emails or the skills to test their Spanish. In this case twitter was not helpful. Instead I sent a quick note to Blue Badge Guide website and was sent 7 delightful Spanish speaking guides, who had all passed the Blue Badge Spanish exam, a qualification I could trust.
No 7: Treat all new collaborators to a drink at the pub. Make sure you congratulate your new team for pulling through a last minute request. It is during this down time that you will get to form really beneficial and professional relationship.
The outcome: By saying yes, I ended up organising my largest corporate event since starting Fox & Squirrel in 2010. My hard work coupled with the attitude to keep an open mind resulted in maintaining my longstanding client happy. It also gained me a swanky new testimonial. However, with the benefit of hindsight the most important outcome was that I ended up meeting 14 individuals all of whom have the potential to become future collaborators and new business leads. In addition, I have increased my pool of resources that in the future I can rely on to deliver a fantastic event. It will also position myself as a source for others. And, by being a source of information and knowledge you remain a solution maker. Even you if you cannot fulfil a client’s needs the chances are your pool of experts can. Just Say Yes…