Friday, March 30, 2012

Tales My Mother Told Me. Tale 7 "Here Comes The Fair -Weather Friend"

"You  don't go praying at the temple without
something on your mind"

Welcome to tales my mother told me...

Tale Seven: "Here Comes The Fair-Weather Friend!"- Vinh Van Lam

You may be wondering why I’ve used the Chinese idiom which translates as "You don't go praying at the temple without something on your mind" when talking about this week’s tale "Here Comes the Fair-Weather Friend". Let me explain...

This tale took place in our factory office. I was there with Mum doing my homework then my Mum's assistant came in and told her that Mr Dong is here to see her and Dad.

"Oh! Uncle Dong, what a surprise! When was the last time he came to see us Mum? I asked.

“It must be quite a while ago.” Mum replied.

“I wonder what he wants from us this time?" I asked inquisitively.

Mum looked at me and smiled.

Then I said out loud "無事不登三寶殿"  Which translates best as; "You don't go praying at the temple without something on your mind"

Shoo! Be quiet little one... Uncle Dong may hear you, naughty boy!” Mum scolded me with a grin.

So about one hour later Mum returned to the office and I asked her "Did you give Uncle Dong what he asked for Mum?

"Not this time my little one" she replied.

Even though I loved using Chinese idioms to express what I was thinking, most of the time I did not really understand the deeper meaning of it all, or understand the context. Perhaps I was too young to comprehend fully.

I am sure you all can relate to this... For example, how often to we use phrases like "Fair Dinkum"? Or "Bob's your Uncle"? We know when to say those phrases in a particular situation, but do we fully understand why this slang is used, or where it came from?

I certainly didn’t understand the phrase, so I asked Mum to explain the meaning behind this Chinese idiom.

Here is what Mum told me...

"My little one, this idiom is often used in everyday conversation. It translates as  "You don't go praying at the temple without something on your mind". As humans we all do things for a reason, and mostly for our own personal gain.”

“The idiom suggests that a temple is not a place where people go to just hangout. People only attend the temple when the festivals are on, when they want something from God, or when they want to find some peace of mind like praying for their family, for luck, for health, or for good fortune and wealth...”

“So if people have no reason to go, if they don’t want something, then the last place they would go would be to the temple?" I asked to clarify.

“Exactly, my little one” Mum replied.

So, in Uncle Dong's case we hardly see him. He only turns up on our door when he wants something from us. This was especially true in good times, when our family business was thriving. But I remembered too that when we needed his help he was nowhere to be found.

While writing this tale I couldn’t find an English equivalent to this Chinese idiom. So I asked my partner Stuart, who suggested “Fair-weather friend”.

He also decided to post a message on Twitter and to see what others thought...

Within a few minutes we had received words like leech, user, wishy-washy, back-stabber and a couple more suggestions for fair-weather friend. But there was no real  equivalent for it.

After some discussion and contemplation we decided that "The Fair-Weather Friend" was the best match to the Chinese idiom.

A "Fair-Weather Friend" is a friend who is only around when they need you and when it's convenient to them, when there’s fair weather in other words... The minute they see the first sign of trouble (or bad weather) they will drop their friendship with you and move away.

So that’s how I came to sub title this tale "Here Comes The Fair-Weather Friend".

Now let's take a look at this tale and see how we can apply it to the business world. 

This tale is about relationships and connecting with people.

If you are running a business it is best for you to connect with the people around you regularly. The more closely you build a good relationship with others the easier it is for you to ask for help when you need it.

Take a look at Mr. Dong... Mum and Dad had helped him lots in the past and once he got what he wanted, he disappeared until he needed help again. Then he would turn up on our doorstep looking for more.

In business, as in life, there’s a balance of giving and taking. You can’t be successful if you’re all of one, or if you’re all of the other... You need to help others, and you need to be able to ask for help from others too. There’s a balance.

Have you ever tried to ask a favour from someone you haven't seen for a long time, or from a business acquaintance that you hardly associate with? The chances of gaining that favour from them would be minimal. But if you have a good relationship, and you maintain that relationship, a helping hand from them would be much more forthcoming.

Here is another example...

At our family business we get plenty of sales reps coming to see us.

Some are great at connecting with their clients. They visit regularly and get regular orders too.

There are however, plenty of Fair-Weather sales reps who only turn up when their business is slow, and when they need sales to meet their target. They are also the type of people who come in, start to complain about their business being slow, and hassle you for orders.

So here are some tips to help you steer clear of becoming a fear-weather business owner:
1.      Have a 90 day marketing plan:
·         Plan out your communications with your stakeholders: e.g. customers, suppliers, employees, etc.
·         Determine how regularly you want to communicate with your stakeholders: e.g., weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
·         Select the best communication channels: e.g. Email, newsletters, visitation, phone. Social network, trade shows, etc.
·         Select the products or services you would like to feature or promote. This gives you a real reason to connect with your customers.

Ask yourself with these questions:
·         When was the last time you connected with your audience?
·         How did you feel? What went well for you?
·         What were the challenges?
·         What would you do different next time?

Tune in for next week tale eight...  "Confidence & Competence"

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