An article from Community Member Gary Longden. Gary is a brilliant writer and teacher. He is recognised as one of the Countries finest poets and writers. Wheather fiction or factual essay, his work is sublime to read and enjoy. You can access Gary’s superb WordPress site here.
My First Year on the Lizian Team
“Gary Longden is a poet, literary events organiser, workshop leader on creative spiritual writing, and a Past Lives Tarot Card reader. More commonly he is to be found, wearing a purple top hat, supporting his partner, Past Life Regressionist Jane Osborne, doing as he is told.”
I have been active in the Mind Body and Spirit world for five years now. My conventional working background has been in Estate Agency, property and land. My soul has always been in the Arts, particularly theatre and poetry. I am a past Staffordshire Poet Laureate. Although I have always had a strong Spiritual side in my beliefs and writing, it is since I met Jane Osborne, the Past Life Regressionist, that I have found myself increasingly involved in the practical side of the community, visiting Churches, helping with workshops, offering Past Life tarot readings, and exhibiting at fairs.
When I first met Liz and Ian, I felt a connection. They too had a business background. Mind Body and Spirit has an arty, ethereal, esoteric feel to it, the polar opposite to big business. What surprised me was how many of the precepts of business were transferable to the MBS world. Something which Liz and Ian clearly feel as well.
I believe that excellence is a goal in its own right. As a child I remember my father saying; “I don’t mind what you do when you grow up, but if you end up sweeping the streets, make sure that you do it well.” Excellence feels good. Excellence looks good. It does not matter whether the task is cleaning a mirror, or exceeding your annual business target. The feeling is the same. The great thing about the pursuit of excellence is that it never stops. That mirror will need cleaning again, another year brings another set of targets, every year world sporting records are set. It becomes apparent that excellence is about how you go about doing things, rather than the end result. If the component parts are excellent, so the finished article will be. Why can’t every aspect of our Reader, Retail, or Service stall and service be excellent? The devil is indeed in the detail. There is a lovely story about the car magnate Henry Ford the second. He was flying Pan Am when he noticed a coffee cup ring stain on his fold-down tray. He never flew Pan Am again. His reason? If Pan Am could not be bothered to clean the coffee stains on the trays, what else could they not be bothered to do? ( like service the engines!).
There is a paradox about the competition. On the one hand, you cannot control the competition, “if it is to be me, it is up to me.” On the other, there are a finite number of ways to do things. Studying the competition, striving to emulate best practice, and avoid the worst, saves a lot of time.
There is a mistaken belief that success and riches are about secrets, innovation, and closely guarded magic formulas. In a handful of situations, it is true. But in the overwhelming majority of instances, it is not. It is about people doing the right things, well, consistently. Having a website that works and is up to date, a telephone number that is answered, or has a messaging service which is replied to, an email address which works, and is replied to promptly, a service/stock which is available when the customer wants it, you might be surprised to learn that just these things will put you ahead of many.
Jane and I visit dozens of events and hundreds of stalls. Every time we learn something new about good practice, and much about what not to do. Customers also visit dozens of events and hundreds of stalls – why put ourselves at a disadvantage by being not as well informed as our customers?
Mind Body Spirit is a passion, a calling. Selling stock and service is a business. That business will be enhanced by passion, but be made by preparation. We recently visited Cleopatra’s Wholesale Warehouse in Manchester. It is a wonderful, cavernous place containing over one hundred thousand items. Sales are high value but from low numbers of customers. The staff have time to talk. “So what are your three best selling items?” I asked. Not just one, but three staff, we’re happy to help. What we liked did not matter. What would sell did. The voice of the people is the voice of God. We emerged wiser and with three saleable lines. As a vendor there is a paradox, we can like the things we like but must sell the things that the public likes. The two may not be the same.
Display banners have become increasingly sophisticated, accessible, and cheaper in recent years. An absolute basic business principle is, “Who/what are you, and what’s in it for the customer?” It is understandable that stall holders will want to maximise their selling space, but is the proposition coherent? I sometimes look at stalls, and banners, and have little idea about what the stall is all about. As display options have increased, so some vendors idea of how to promote themselves seem to have become more confused.
In life everything changes, nothing stands still. It is the same in business. If we don’t change at least as fast as those around us, we go backwards It is an uncomfortable thought. When I was a child, circuses would attract thousands, greyhound racing attendances were often over ten thousand, speedway the same. Now circuses are almost gone, greyhound racing not far behind, speedway hanging on. Local to me Derby and Burton upon Trent markets are moribund. All are examples of events and businesses which allowed the speed of change to outstrip them. Mind Body Spirit events and their exhibitors need to be mindful of this. The good news is that social media has created a networking marketing opportunity the likes of which we have never seen before. The bad news is that some goods traditionally sold at MBS fairs can be bought online from the comfort of your home. The brilliant news is that MBS events provide face to face interaction for readers and therapists and the opportunity for social interaction with stall holders, and with each other.
I applaud Liz and Ian’s efforts to diversify the stallholder base. There are dangers. When does a MBS event stop being a MBS event and just a fair? It is a balance which will need to be struck by trial and error. But one thing is for certain. If MBS events do not evolve, the very best that will happen is that they will stand still, the likelihood that they will dwindle.
I can’t wait for Trowell!
Thank You Gary for your kind words and insight – Ian