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Getting LinkedIn…

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Many people still don’t harness the power of social media platforms like LinkedIn, says Mr. Loadlink.

Ever woken up with a sinking feeling as the events of the previous night (some of them, at least) come flooding back? In truth, my partying days were over a long time ago and I’m grateful that my moral compass remained pointing north most of the time anyway. Further, in my heyday we didn’t have smart phones or social media tracking our every move, giving us opportunities to post our thoughts, and our friends or foes the ability to capture our shortcomings in photos or videos and upload them where the world (and our parents!) could see. Smart phones must bring a whole new dynamic to the heady years of young adulthood.

It’s certainly a changing world, one where we have to deal with trolls (a confrontational or quarrelsome internet user) and catfish (a person who pretends to be someone else online for ill-gotten gain). Our data is no longer kept safe at home or reserved for paper envelopes from the bank marked ‘private’. We’ve all read about Cambridge Analytica gaining access to information on up to 87 million Facebook users, while data leaks are commonplace where a password of no more than a few letters guards what was once kept in a safety deposit box in a safe, down a long staircase, behind a secret door.

A-troll-is-a-confrontational-or-quarrelsome-internet-user-that-negatively-reacts-to-a-person’s-content-or-targets-them-with-varying-degrees-of-abuse

A troll is a confrontational or quarrelsome internet user that negatively reacts to a person’s content or targets them with varying degrees of abuse

But—and it’s a big BUT—we too readily look at the negatives of social media. Come on, did you really used to board public transport and chat to the person next to you? No. We clambered onto the carriages with the same disregard for fellow passengers as we do today and then covered our faces with a broadsheet newspaper. We would tut if someone sneezed and roll our eyes when a dog owner asked for room for their twin Great Danes.

I don’t buy into the scathing criticism youngsters get for “always being on their phones”, nor do I give credence to the suggestion that the upcoming generation are unlucky that they’ll never get a chance to play outside with sticks and pushbikes.

Brand you

There is a lot more incredibly positive behaviour and interaction on social platforms than there is bad. And professionally we have opportunities to upscale our businesses and develop our careers that we’ve never had before. The biggest game-changer, and the crux of this blog, is the rise technology has given to the personal brand. People now have greater control of their image, reputation, and destiny than ever before. There are cynics, of course, who say there’s now more scope for embellishment, but not every curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé printed on paper was 100% accurate. Again I stress that we haven’t devolved; we’re not now a lying race of con artists.

Take professional networking site LinkedIn, for example. There, people can constantly update a profile and connect with whoever they want. Someone even in the early months of employment can showcase their assets, skills, interests, and ambitions, whilst making connections with peers, competitors, and prospective future employers. There’s no need to smuggle paper business cards out of the office to make a private contacts book, or secretly submit a CV to a recruitment agent. We’re now proud owners and ambassadors of our own brand; we control who is attracted to it and we can monetise our abilities more efficiently than ever before—if we get it right.

This is a culture everyone, including employers, should embrace, not fear. I’m passionate about my staff growing their personal brands, particularly on LinkedIn; so much so that I even offered them participation in a one-day course about the platform a week or so ago that I had experienced myself earlier in the year. Our digital profile pictures, bios, posts, likes, comments, and more say so much about us and can yield such results that I felt it was important to back up use of the site with as much intelligence as possible.

I won’t plagiarise specifics but I wanted to share some of the general points garnered in the hope it, first, encourages readers to get more actively involved in LinkedIn and, second, that they do so with the greatest possible impact.

We discussed the use of emojis during the course; I have no problem with adding relevant, fun graphics to my LinkedIn posts

We discussed the use of emojis during the course; I have no problem with adding relevant, fun graphics to my LinkedIn posts

Sell later

The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone looking to use the platform to grow their brand and / or generate revenue, is to engage, collaborate, and share long before they try to push themselves and / or their product onto a contact. The most powerful salesperson in an industry is he or she that is renowned as an expert in that sector. Thought leadership status isn’t gained overnight, however, and can never be acquired without authentically demonstrating a commitment to the positive change of a marketplace.

“Here I am. Buy this,” won’t work. Once a good reputation has been earned, then there’s no harm in presenting a solution to a problem. The recipient will recognise it as a sales pitch but will likely welcome it.

It’s a slow burner, but I’ll incentivise you: LinkedIn offers users access to 500 million people. Each user has an average of 400 connections so every connection one makes opens up ‘second’ connections to the tune of the same number. The most effective way of growing connections is to engage with a target audience. The site makes it easy to locate people by industry, while a deeper drill can identify professionals with a certain job title. Researching what they’re talking about or having sleepless nights over gives a potential contact a magic formula; they can become a problem solver. A request for connection with a polite note gets the ball rolling.

LinkedIn allows users to network with like-minded individuals across the world

LinkedIn allows users to network with like-minded individuals across the world

The leaders of the course Straightpoint (SP) employees took charted the route from ‘known’ to ‘liked’ to ‘trusted’. One can’t leap from one to the other without taking time to post relevant content, interact with other people’s posts, and communicate as an individual. That last point is important because people, as we know, buy from people. LinkedIn is a place where professionals go to hang out with like-minded folks. It’s like the canteen in a workplace or the break room on a jobsite; one has to be friendly, likeable, and add value to the community to be accepted then welcomed back.

An expert once told me that just when a person thinks they’ve got their feet sufficiently under the table to start discussing a sale, that’s when they shouldn’t. “Give, give, give, give some more, then ask,” he said.

Face it

There are seven key elements to a LinkedIn profile: photograph, professional headline, summary, experience, recommendations, skills and endorsements, and contact information. I want to highlight two for further exploration: a person’s photograph and their summary. They were focal points of the aforementioned course content and I see glaring mistakes made in relation to both when I’m on the site—and I’m on there daily for varying periods of time so I feel equipped to judge.

In fact, I’m in the top 1% in both my industry and network social selling indexes (SSI). I tell you not to brag but to point out what can be achieved through a bona fide commitment to an industry and a dedicated, long-term strategy.

The simple criterion for a profile picture is a clear image of a person’s face, as they would look in a business situation. A sun lounger shot is a bad idea (unless one is in the sun-bed trade!) as is one of someone standing outside a tavern in a Hawaiian shirt. A clear, sensible head and shoulders photo is much more effective. It doesn’t have to be boring or neutral like a passport picture, but it must be akin to the professional as they would walk through a boardroom door or report for an interview. It’s a mistake to use a very dated or flattering image because people will be disappointed by the real-life version and, moreover, it might create doubt over an individual’s integrity.

What does your profile picture say about you

What does your profile picture say about you

If they’ve been prepared to mislead on their photo, where else has the truth been given scope?

When writing a LinkedIn summary, stay away from jargon. Nobody really wants to meet a motivated, creative, enthusiastic, passionate, successful, driven, experienced man or woman. Assume visitors to a page or potential connections know that about a person already. Think about how you would speak to someone you met at a conference and write in the same tone. If you’re funny, crack a joke. Refer to yourself in the first person and be interesting. If you shake someone’s hand during lunch at a seminar, you’re unlikely to say, “This is Ivor Bighead and he is a motivated, talented, strategic, all-round good guy with a proven track record,” are you? “Hello, I’m Ivor, I’m hear to learn about ABC and I’m also looking forward to tonight’s networking party,” would work a great deal better. It’s the same on LinkedIn.

Like it

As with most social platforms, the fulcrum for most activity on LinkedIn is the ‘Like’ button. The easiest way to acknowledge a person’s post is to click it so they get a notification. The platform’s algorithms also detect the engagement and filter content accordingly. A dozen likes doesn’t mean 12 people have read something, however. The research that was alluded to in our session stated that users typically get one like for every approx. 140 post views. If a post gets 11 or more likes in the first hour, it will be categorised as ‘popular’ by the algorithms and be made visible to a lot more people, dramatically increasing the chances of it going viral. It’s another reason why it’s important to be relevant, interesting, and non-commercial. Can you see a post like, “Buy my amazing shackles,” going viral as people rush to interact and snap up the stock? No, thought not.

Post content your target audience will like

Post content your target audience will like

LinkedIn is just one social media platform. SP is active on many others, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. There isn’t time to detail our strategies for each in this blog but it’s important to note that tailored content for each vehicle is crucial. There are apps that allow users to post to multiple platforms at the same time but I don’t believe engagement levels are as high as when a Twitter post is targeted for a “look at that news” hungry audience or an Instagram post is photogenic and more laden with hashtags.

Search #loadcell for SP content.

Good social media posts include a call to action, as do most blogs. So call me! I’d be happy to discuss further the matters raised in this article and welcome all feedback.

Mr. Loadlink
dayling@straightpoint.com

Premier Crew…

In a blog about recruitment, Mr. Loadlink explains why getting shut out of his own boardroom was the highlight of 2018 so far, and suggests all business leaders should try it.

Choosing the right people to work for you is key to growing a business.

Choosing the right people to work for you is key to growing a business.

It was like the Mary Celeste (if the merchant brigantine was the premises of a load cell manufacturer). Computer screens were on; many hadn’t gone to screen saver. Desks were strewn with paperwork, Post-it notes, and other stationery. A stack of catalogues had been left on the corner of a table, as though someone expected to walk past and pick them up any minute. A cup of coffee was half-drunk but still steaming.

I was waiting for someone to jump out from behind a cupboard and yell, “Surprise!” But it wasn’t my birthday, nor do we make a habit of playing hide-and-seek in the office. I didn’t hear a fire alarm and I knew a drill wasn’t scheduled. My watch was still ticking and in sync with my mobile phone. I could hear the machine tools at work in our neighbouring building and a DHL lorry had just driven out of the yard, full of load cells. It was business as usual, yet this corner of the office was deserted, and I really wanted to ask someone a question.

As I widened my search I walked past the boardroom. The blinds were closed and the door shut. From the muffled sound of voices I could tell that the missing team members were having a meeting. So, what did I do—burst in and demand an explanation? Listen at the keyhole to check nothing untoward was being discussed? Send a text message to one of them saying, “Caught you red-handed”? How about slam the table and ask where my invitation was? Or demand an explanation as to why important business was being discussed without my knowledge or consent?

Heel click

No, I did none of those. Instead, I smiled and walked back to my office. The question could wait. Being shut out of my own boardroom by a meeting I knew nothing about actually put a bit of a spring in my step. I even thought about doing a heel click as I went around a corner, but luckily thought better of it. Truth is, this wasn’t the first time a meeting has taken place without my knowledge, but the excitement of discovering such get-togethers never wears off. It takes an efficient, mature, well-staffed business for such meetings to happen.

There was a time when I was ordering toilet rolls, changing light bulbs, sweeping the floors, boxing up shipments, selling, quoting, visiting, and more. And that was just on Monday mornings. Nobody even breathed at Straightpoint (SP) without me knowing about it or having something to do with it. It wasn’t because I was a control freak, but that’s how it is for CEOs, managing directors, and business leaders in the early days of ownership or tenure. We all remember being the boss, finance manager, operations guy, marketing team, and product designer all at the same time.

That’s fine in the beginning but as a company grows its manager must recruit wisely and start to delegate certain responsibilities to other people. Gary Mullins, of Action Coach, sums this up well: “Work on the business, not in the business,” he says. What he means is a CEO is more effective if free to represent the company, plan, strategise, and lead. Too many still wear it as a badge of honour that they hold down five different roles at their company. Nobody gives out prizes to business owners who still order ink for the photocopier or come in at the weekend to clean.

A failure to recruit and delegate can result in a business leader trying to keep too many balls in the air. Eventually they’ll drop one.

A failure to recruit and delegate can result in a business leader trying to keep too many balls in the air. Eventually they’ll drop one.

Talking cobblers

If you’re a cobbler, pick the right moment to go headhunting at Oliver Sweeney.

If you’re a cobbler, pick the right moment to go headhunting at Oliver Sweeney.

It’s a piecemeal process and integral to its success is effective and astute recruitment, aligned with the growth and goals of the business. Take a cobbler, for example. When it’s a startup in a garden shed, it’ll be the one man or woman band described above. He or she will be ordering leather, making the shoes, deciding how to market them, trying them on for size, and delivering to customers. As orders grow and a 50-hour week becomes a 60 then 70-hour one, a need to recruit presents itself. A good option might be to hire an apprentice to work so many hours a week around studies. They can deal with ordering, cutting, measuring, and shipping, whilst learning the trade. Breaking the bank to bring in the top person from Oliver Sweeney would be premature, however.

It’s about timing. As the cobbler grows, recruitment has got to be aligned with that expansion. Perhaps once the apprentice is fully qualified and full-time, the third person to join takes care of administration and marketing. As the premises expand or the business relocates, there’ll be a need for additional personnel. Eventually, when a fully staffed production line is generating seven-figure revenue, it might be time to go knocking on the door of the guy from Oliver Sweeney. Not only will the business be able to afford it now, but also it’ll be an altogether more enticing proposition.

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a big advocate of planning and I’d like to think SP’s growth is testament to the value of a strong plan. Even a start-up company with one employee can have an aggressive growth strategy in place. Say, a door manufacturer has ambitions to be a £5m company; they can look at the time, costs, logistics, etc. involved with making one set of doors and upscale accordingly. Even on day one they could list the roles required and set about filling them up as revenues and profits allow.

Role-play

We did the same thing here at SP. What proves effective for us is recruiting to fill two or three roles with one person and adding personnel as workload dictated. For example, a bookkeeper might also wear the purchase order-processing hat until both roles become too demanding; then it might be time to bring someone else in to manage order-processing. A different business might have a delivery and chauffeur service. One man or woman can dress accordingly to fulfill the transportation tasks as long as they’re not needed at the same time. Once it gets to the point where a delivery needs to be made to Portsmouth and a regular client books a ride to Birmingham Airport the same morning, there’s obviously a need to get another driver.

Be mindful that recruitment plans are designed to facilitate not hamper growth. Thus, they’ve got to be flexible. We didn’t necessarily have a role on paper for Wayne Wille, who joined us in the U.S. as technical sales manager a couple of years ago. But with over 20 years of lifting industry experience to offer, it was the right business decision to bring him on board. The aforementioned cobbler might get a knock on the door from the fellow at Mr. Sweeney ahead of time, and they may deem it prudent to get him when they can. Market conditions also dictate. If it wasn’t foreseen that demand for a certain product was going to double, react accordingly; don’t regret it wasn’t in the plan and let a moneymaking opportunity slip away by not properly staffing the production line.

A good barometer by which to measure a company’s status or reputation in an industry is the frequency with which those from competitors or elsewhere in a marketplace looking to switch allegiances approach it. This isn’t a competition (I’ve blogged extensively about my belief in abundance for all companies) but it does give me a tremendous sense of satisfaction when someone from outside the business reaffirms what we think of ourselves on the inside. It’s one thing us communicating to market that our load cells are the best, but when that’s the consensus among competitors and peers, it’s clear we’re doing something right.

Does the competition knock at your door looking for a job?

Does the competition knock at your door looking for a job?

DNA match

Introducing the right people to a company isn’t only based on their experience or résumé. At SP, we’re big believers in hiring professionals whose DNA fits with our culture. Phil Roch, marketing executive; Kyle Milne, technical sales engineer; Marcus MacDonald, machine shop supervisor; and Dave Mullard, business development manager (our latest UK-based heavyweight recruits), all have impressive curriculum vitae, but their attitudes, charisma, and personalities have allowed them to fit in with the existing team and buy into the over-arching SP concept.

It’s true that recruiting at a higher level will cost a business more than the apprentices and junior members of staff that a start-up might acquire. It’s not a reality to be feared, however. Don’t view more experienced personnel as ‘expensive’; look at them in terms of the overall value they’re adding to a business. Of course, if greed is evident in early exchanges or a person senses an opportunity to take advantage this will not only put off the prospective employer but it also raises an issue over the person’s moral fibre. Would you want someone like that working for you?

Sometimes an employer has to conduct a more forensic analysis into a prospective employee’s DNA. It’s not about trying to be too clever or catching people out, but we’ve found that questions like, “How would you sell a load cell?” or “What goes into designing a new force measurement product?” are pretty fruitless in terms of getting to know a person. “Why might you not still be here in two years time?” is one question that often extracts a more interesting, rounded answer.

A new recruit must have SP DNA.

A new recruit must have SP DNA.

Compact DISC

Action Coach introduced us to the DISC profiling system whereby candidates answer simple questions. The resulting score can be analysed and compared to existing employees. It’s doubled up as a great tool for managers as they have an idea of how someone might react under pressure or to a certain situation before they’ve even started. In sporting terms, I guess it’s about knowing who to give the hairdryer treatment to and with whom to take a softer approach. A recruiter might be encouraged or dissuaded if a score suggests the candidate is very similar or completely opposite to those he or she will report to or work alongside.

A key component of successful recruitment is keeping existing employees engaged, motivated, challenged and incentivised. We give our new starters a warm welcome and recruitment usually results in media coverage and a spotlight being shone on the individual. But that doesn’t mean they’re better than what we’ve already got or that we’re introducing new people because of the existing team’s shortcomings. Again, if the DNA match is right, a person will acknowledge the marketing function but recognise that they’re part of a team.

If a business is regularly recruiting, it’s a good idea to empower all staff, particularly those who’ve been on the books a long time, to contribute to strategy and growth. My door is always open and, only recently, Zoe Silk, sales and hire, approached me with a number of good ideas that we will be sure to implement going forward. It’s a surefire way to demotivate and disengage employees to not listen to their ideas or comments, particularly if they’re being relayed from the coalface to a CEO who has lost contact with the market. We have people working at SP who tried to communicate such issues to previous employers but were told their observations, no matter how astute, were not a fit with company policy.

Good luck with your next recruitment campaign!
Mr. Loadlink

www.straightpoint.com