A taster of whats to come from Gary Brown at An Post's #Growmybusiness 2015, Dublin & Cork

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What Irish Businesses Can Learn From Michael Flatley

Every business, large or small, the length and breadth of the country, is looking to be different from its competitors in some way, shape or form. Every business wants to stand out from the crowd and be noticed, it wants to be the ‘purple cow in the field’, so to speak.

Businesses are looking to draw attention to themselves in order to attract customers. To do this, there is first a need for the business to develop a real point of difference, or as we marketers call it, a USP – unique selling point. The search for this elusive USP can be very daunting for many companies, particularly small businesses and SMEs, which tend to have limited marketing budgets and lesser resources.

The thinking seems to be that lots of money must be spent to achieve the stand out they so desire, yet this is not necessarily the case. It does, however, require a bit of thinking time. This thinking time should focus on ‘trying to do different things, rather than trying to do things differently’. Doing different things can be a game changer for small businesses, because it requires a genuine re-think and a change of mindset. This doesn’t have to cost money, instead it requires focus, a sense of purpose and, most importantly, a shift in attitude.

An attitude can’t be bought, but it can be generated, fostered, and put to use. You see, attitude is even more important than planning and strategising. So, begin by focusing on developing an attitude that encourages you to look at everything your business is doing and ask yourself, how can we be different, different in our approach to customers, different in our outlook? And can we embrace and foster a different attitude to our business? How can we be different to everyone else in our marketplace?

Very often, being different requires a bending of normal rules, or in some cases, a complete break with convention. However, in many cases, a very small change is all that’s required to give your business a distinct point of difference and to make it stand out. And here’s the good bit – it doesn’t always have to come at a cost. This is where Mr Flatley comes in.

Now, love him or loathe him, Michael Flatley is an extremely successful, multi talented individual. We’re all aware of his prowess as a dancer, but very few of us know that he’s also a very accomplished flautist and, in his younger days, he was a very talented and successful amateur boxer. So, take him on at your peril!

Being talented is obviously great, but it was his attitude that made Michael a global superstar, and a one man, dancing global brand. You see, Michael Flatley challenged the long established norms of traditional Irish dancing. He broke the rules and became a hugely successful, mega rich superstar, and he did this by making one small change. He dared to be different from all of the other Irish dancers around him. How? Well, he simply unclamped his arms from his sides! Yes, imagine, he dared to raise his arms! And, simply by raising his arms, against all the old conventions of Irish dancing, Michael Flatley sprang into superstardom.

That one, beautifully simple act of raising his arms allowed him to jump higher, twist higher, kick higher, and it catapulted Irish dancing on to the global stage. So, you see, sometimes the smallest change and the slightest tweak in how you go about your business, can give you the edge and make you stand out from your competitors, without having to cost the earth.

So, dare to be different, especially if you’re a small business and don’t have lots of key decision makers to run your ideas by. Don’t be afraid, because if you make a change quickly, it can be reversed quickly. It is, of course, important to be nimble and flexible. That’s where small businesses have the advantage over bigger enterprises, because they can affect and implement changes and different practices relatively quickly.

The Irish economy is full of small and dynamic businesses that are not just surviving, but thriving. They are thriving, because at the vanguard of their ethos, is an appetite for change, along with a strong desire to stand out and be different. If you dare to be different, and to be seen to be different, then you can’t help but stand out. And, if you stand out, you’ll be remarked on and you’ll be remembered. As a small business, you should be asking yourself, how can I make my business remarkable? How can I get prospects and customers alike to enthuse about something that we do that’s different?

Let me give you an example. A friend of mine was staying in a lovely little hotel in Kerry recently where he was bowled over by the service, the hospitality and, of course, the beautiful scenery. Now, all of the hotels and guesthouses in the immediate area share the same scenery. However, his hotel did something that, for him, was remarkable. Something that took a lot of thought on the part of the hotel, but was small and inexpensive. Having spent their first night in the hotel, he and his wife headed to their car the next morning, which was parked in the hotel car park. They were planning a drive around the scenic Ring of Kerry. When they got to the car, he noticed a small note on the windscreen that read – ‘We decided to give your windscreen a wash, so you can really enjoy the beautiful scenery.’ The note was duly signed by the hotel manager! Wonderful, small, and remarkable, because my friend hasn’t stopped talking about it, or the hotel, since he’s come back.

So, again, it doesn’t need to cost the earth to be different, or to be remarkable. It does require taking some time out with your partners and your staff and challenging each other to start being different in order to make your business stand out from the crowd. Being different sometimes requires you to challenge the norms, break the rules, and change how you go about your business. Sometimes a small change can make a huge impact. Just ask Michael Flatley!

Gary Brown is Executive Chairman of Target McConnells, one of Ireland’s largest Advertising and Marketing Agencies.

Gary will be speaking at An Post's #GrowMyBusiness events November 10th In Dublin and November 12th in Cork, Book your tickets now @ www.anpost.ie/growmybusiness



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