Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Winter - the season for listening?

Winter in Tasmania is the known as the quiet season. 
Interstate & international visitors are fewer in this season, and the recent world economic uncertainty has contributed to this season being particular quiet. However, beyond the immediate financial concerns held within the Tasmanian tourism industry, there is something more cyclical that we can examine to our benefit. The four seasons, and in particular, winter. 

There is one thing we can afford to do in winter, that we cant in late spring & early summer (otherwise known as "the silly season"). What we can do now is to utilise the pace of this "slow season" to listen. Listen to the consumer market, address changes that need to be made, and plan for a changed market place. The pre Christmas period doesn't allow us to take time to slow down, reflect, and undertake detailed planning.  

But beyond a business perspective, it is the season to listen to ourselves, think about our own direction, our path, our own journey. It is also the perfect time to make a pot of tea and sit down with a friend and really listen to them. Don’t be in a rush to get back to the office, or to even chip in your thoughts and volunteer "a fix it solution" to their concerns. Just practice listening.  Become mindful that we are usually thinking about our response, rather than actually listening.

So maybe it's time to adopt a new way of looking at winter & the slow season? Accept the reduced pace & pressure & use the season to practice the art of listening. 

Steven Covey in "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" calls for "empathic listening" in his chapter on "First Seek to Understand, before being Understood". 
Peter Guber (Author of "Tell to Win, Connect, Persuade & Triumph, with the hidden power of story", & Producer of Rainman, Batman, & Gorillas in the Mist) http://www.peterguber.com/telltowin/home  in his interview with Tony Robbins (Peak Performance Speaker) http://business.tonyrobbins.com/176/peter-guber-.   talks about "everyone having a story"

Everyone's story needs a voice, but also someone to hear it. It wouldn't be hard to find an article on the reasons Social Media is so popular - it's a way for people to share their story. People want to be heard.   

One of the aspects of the interview between Peter Guber & Tony Robbins was that it highlighted for me the importance of listening to the customers story. The benefits of listening to the customer will ultimately lead to providing what they really want. Winter is a good opportunity for me to practice listening to my customers. 

Whilst tea is an all year round beverage, and arguably consumed in great quantities in the cold season, the business is still affected by reduced tourist numbers to the State. Salamanca Market is far from crowded & cafes & restaurants that serve The Art of Tea are also quieter. But this is the season where I can practice the art of listening.  By listening we be in the best position to provide for that person. Extending this to the future of tourism and sales in State, we can use this time to listen, do "market research" and find out to what consumers really want to experience. 

So go and put the kettle on, make a cuppa and practice listening to your friends & family, the consumer, & importantly to yourself. 

Take a stroll on the beach or in a native forest (with a beanie & coat!) and hear the waves, the wind, the birds.

Allow this to be the season of quiet. It wont be long until it's the silly season again...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

T' heart of tea

Today I walked up over The Hazards range today in Freycinet National Park, to view and experience the beautiful & iconic Wineglass Bay.

I realised that my 3 days R & R,  isnt about taking a break from the business or taking some "me time"... the 2 are in fact 1.
I am the business and the business is me. I am the heart of tea. Now if you are Irish you could, with a nice lilt say T' heart of tea. I thought it even quite peculiar that the spelling the art of tea, by joining the letters, it created "he-art".

It got me thinking. Why is it that I run/manage/own a tea business? Is is because I love tea? Well Yes!
But it's MORE than that. I recently gave a presentation to my Women in Business network group, and in preparing my speech, I started to really think about "why". My presentation wasnt about my 100+ products it was, and is, about the expereince poeple have when they have  a good quality cuppa.

One example I used is this; "if you were just diagnosed with cancer, you wouldnt hurry past a cafe and grab a take-away latte on your way back to work  - would you? No. You are more likely to find yourself at home, or at your sister's, mum's, or girlfriends, with the kettle on for a nice cuppa tea."

It's this kind of experience that is important to me.

Its so important to me that this year I became the Tasmanian Cancer Councils Biggest Morning Tea State sponsor. Yes, its about the experience. Its about the heart of the matter. Its about the people. Its about the community, the sharing, the connections, and the health of the people. It about sitting down together over "a nice cuppa" and talking.

Health - the term, if not followed directly by "& Wellbeing"  is often thought to encompass  "wellbeing",  a trendy word that covers "spiritual & emotional  health".  And right at the centre of this, is your heart.

So its your wellbeing, your emotional & spiritual health, as well as your physical health, that gets me out of bed in the morning (and Im not a morning person by nature).

Having  a quality cup of tea or herbal infusion is one of the best ways to set the pendulum steady when things in life get topsy turvy.
Its simple.
But that is what is at the heart of it for me.

And I think in modern business, there ought be more of this "well-being". Get right to the heart of the matter. Ask yourself, is your heart in it or not? And what exactly is the heart of your business?

 So, for all you tea lovers -  "here's to you, me hearty friends".

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Books & Tea - Business as Unusual

Very excited to have arrive in the post today, something other than cartons of tea... my other love...books.
I have lots of things I love in my life, but tea & books rate very highly, inseparable really in my mind. However more time is currently devoted to drinking/thinking tea, than reading books, but my evening, post putting my 4 y.o to bed, and tending to necessary household tasks, is spent on my ("new"-ish) 1890's Victorian "bedroom" chair, albeit in the lounge room, with at least 1, usually several books at hand (and another cuppa). My perfect Sunday afternoon is a quiet hour or two in a comfy (aforementioned) chair or similar, with a pot of tea and a book or two.

So, my new acquisition is Anita Roddick's (Founder of The Body Shop) "Business as Unusual, My entrepreneurial journey, Profits with Principles".
Im excited. Im so excited Im blogging instead of reading it! Well I read the foreword and I can already see her as my new Hero (gender? PC?). As she notes "Over 2000 stores, 51 coutries, serving over 8 million people a day...." that's enough to make one giddy!

My aspirations arent quite that grand - and maybe hers werent either initially, but the success! Oh what success, she really has put "people, planet, profit" up there in reality. Its not some corporate spin, some new PC trendy line, she believed in it FROM THE ONSET of her business. And that was entrepreneurial back there in the 1980's (will have to ready more to get the exact starting year). She embarked on a difficult journey to give back to the people , directly, and fairly, and not step on the planet with a big ugly corporate boot.

So here we are 2011, I buy The Body Shop products.... do you? What ways, even small ways like deciding to spend a bit extra on mascara (and wear it a little less maybe) to help? Im only small fry, and I only have a limited budget. But I do what I can, when I can, and what I can afford.

Anita Roddick's book is no doubt going to be a bit of a business bible for me, along with Stephen Coveys 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and recently Richard Branson's Business Stripped Bare. Why? They believed. The Created. They Did, and they Are... noble, leading in business success, brave and adventurous. And they did things a little differently. Im Inspired.

I recently sat awake in bed around 2 a.m - as you do sometimes as a small business (and probably large business) owner, mulling over my direction, my passion, my values, and my beliefs.
One of the insights of that little reflection was this:
(and around again, over and over, checking in if you feel its right, the direction, the plans, the actions, the resonating feeling, the reflection, the believing....).
I bet Anita Roddick did - believed, created, did, felt, reviewed.... and her passion caused The Body Shop to be a success story. Im sure some heartache in there too.

Richard Branson believed too - his passion is to give people a good experience, make it better than they expected. Now he has just launched Virgin Oceanic! Taking people to the depths of the 5 deepest oceans. Go Richard! Now he certainly has applied some thinking outside the square, some business unusual.

So its my turn.... perhaps just small steps for a while... Im not aiming multinational, (just yet) but I do care about our planet, people, and in business - some profit, so I can keep giving back, and like Anita, begin to make a difference.

And for a starters,
1. In Aug 2010 I launched my Tassie Devil Tea - why? To contribute to the Save the Tassie Devil Program. www.tassiedevil.com.au
2. I am the new official State sponsor for the Tasmanian Cancer Council's Biggest Morning Tea. Why? Because I care about minimising the risk of cancer, reducing anxiety, stress, depression, and grief, to share a cuppa and feel supported. www.biggestmorningtea.com.au

Im not "pumping up my own tyres" here. I just want to celebrate in the little ways my business is giving back to the planet and its people, my community. Because I believe I can.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Meet me live!

I did it I did it I did it.. I made my first video clip and uploaded it to me website... front page O.M.G ! So meet me there www.artoftea.com.au, or watch me direct on youTube...


Thursday, March 10, 2011

I realised that my blogs need jazzing up, and my website. I hope I can score some blog tutorials from Mongrel Socks, or my social media mate Carinda.

I visited a website/blog today that really spiked my interest in the whole blog scene, she (Ash)
http://www.themiddlefingerproject.org/, maybe a bit of a nutter, but she has some good points....

who is the brand? well get some videos happening... who are you...?? etc etc

So I did, filmed moi... but then I didnt know how to upload to youTube, yet alone link it to my website. I feel so backward!

But Im determined.... so please stick around and have a laugh (if you need to) at my soon to be released first "hi - here's me at Art of Tea" video.

Id love to have some great ones at the Salamanca Market too. Perhaps I can get a friend to film me there . A funny one would be arrival 7am, set up, the day interacting with people, then pack up, all accelerated to about 3 minutes. Its not going to be tomorrow though : )

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Im exhausted, its 6:41pm, Im hungry, still at work and I havent even packed the Salamanca Market trailer yet.
Happily though I have completed an application for a Churchill Scholarship http://churchilltrust.com.au/about/the-trust/ to research ethical and sustainable tea, including carbon costs of shipping tea.
Not that carbon costs to the consumer are at all topical right now... : )

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Doing a little bit for the environment

To live in 2011 and not be wondering how you can "do your bit" for the environment and the planet would be somewhat akin to being a dinosaur.
As some of you may know Im an ex-Environmental Scientist - well - is anyone an ex-professional? Just because I don't source a salary directly anymore, nor have a business card with "Environmental Officer" on it, doesnt mean Ive stopped "doing my bit" for our planet.

My business now contributes to the the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. We sell Tassie Devil Tea, and 50c per box goes to this Appeal. This was my first "direct" contribution to a known conservation program as a business owner. Im pleased as punch.
But my ideas dont stop there.
It been bugging me for quite some time - how much carbon is used importing tea to Australia?
What is the carbon footprint for teabags vs loose leaf tea? Well Im going to investigate....