Disability & potential for business start ups – part 2

by | 1st November 2015 | Blog

This is about disability & potential for business start ups.  In my last Post I admitted to all of you that I created my business back to front.  If you want to refresh your memory and have a little laugh at my expense, you can read it again here.

What a plonker!

I have also continued enjoying Emma-Sue’s illuminating book The Advantage: The 7 Soft Skills You Need to Stay One Step Ahead.  This licensed training will joining The Life Coach Station’s repitrior of skills in 2016.

You may recall me saying that I would use this book as reference in this Post; obviously, it will be my own unique perspective.

Darwin talked about it not being the most intelligent and the strongest that survive, but the those that are able to adapt.  What is often referred to as Adaptability.

What is Adaptability?

Every single one of us has the capacity to adapt to different circumstances; it is how humanity has evolved since our earliest ancestors waked the earth.  What separates all of us, however, is our willingness to step outside of what is safe and familiar and confront these beliefs that are often referred to as our comfort zone.  We need to keep an open mind, be receptive to doing things in a new way and adjusting our communication style to specific audiences.

So, lets return to the saga of me and The Life Coach Station, warts and all.

One thing that any person in business regardless as to whether they have a disability must do, is Network.  Some of you will be feeling uncomfortable if you are being honest with yourselves.  The most experienced  thespians admit to feeling nervous before going on stage.  I have met some incredibly effective public speakers who also admit to being effected by nerves.  You should not have failed to notice that I did not use confidence in either case.

Lets assume that we have targeted a Network because it is where our customer personas flourish in their preferred habitat.  We know these people by name, what they like and don’t like, what they would read and we feel their pain.  If not in reality then at least with some degree of sympathy.  Not empathy we don’t know them enough to genuinely be able to walk in their shoes – yet!!

Now also you need to remember that I am visually impaired.

I prepare just like anyone else, should I wear the suit or just a shirt and trousers (obviously shoes in both cases).  Have I got enough business cards.  What is my tactic, pitches are OK, but remember you should be adaptive to the situation you encounter.  I am on my way to an HR network (names not revealed here).  Its not a venue I know so I arrive wondering where the event is being hosted.  Sometimes there is an obvious sign and at others I listen and follow the noise.  This last tactic did in fact lead me to walking in at a coffee break for an internal training course.  Having realised my mistake, I make an exit and decide to ask the Receptionist.  I arrive in the right place and the next reef of hidden rocks awaits me – getting some refreshments.

Now this may sound hard to believe, but what happened next, is not an embellished version of the truth.  In-front of me are two identical hot water dispensers with tiny labels located on the table top.  I want a coffee and have two choices at this point.  I could ask somebody for help.  I could press the plunger on the top of each and see which is dark brown.  Its the first time I have attended this Network so I chose the second option.  To my surprise, both have only hot water inside.  I have a little cue building up behind me so decide to fill my cup with hot water and find the coffee sachet next.  I normally raise the cup to the kettle at home so I don’t overfill it, but can’t do this.  You guessed it, we have a flood of hot water.  A guy in bemusement states, should have gone to Specsavers.

To say I was annoyed was putting it mildly – he apparently worked in HR

So I now have my coffee and look for someone to strike up a conversation with.  This is something I find really works well.  I target anyone not talking to somebody else or as a second option, look for a group which is clearly not circular and therefore closed.  I start a conversation by making small talk and enquire as to what they are hoping to gain from the event.  This is there cue and they will invariably tell me what they do.  Now you will have heard and probably feel that you genuinely listen to what is being said.  You should, but you are here to build your business and the agenda soon gets around to what you do.

Not for me it does not.

As a person who is visually impaired albeit with some useful residual vision, I actively listen and I will ask related questions to check what was being said.  I work best in situations where I am adding value.  You can’t add anything if you don’t know what is there in the first place.  If the conversation has become protracted and there is no sign that they are desperately trying to get rescued by someone else, I will offer to get them another tea or coffee.  Remember the earlier recollection, definitely outside my comfort zone, but not anymore.

Finally, I have an issue I have not yet resolved, can you help?

When attending large Networking Events where everyone is dressed reasonably similar, the only defining factor, is that some are men and some are women.  This has happened more times than I can remember.

I have moved on from my first conversation and look around for a new person to learn from.  I see a person not talking to anyone and head their way.  I say hello only to be met by, “we spoke last month”.  Another difficulty that has me stumped is eye contact.  Visually impaired people are not great with this.  Even worse is when your own eyes don’t behave as they ought to.  Ask me about this and I will explain more.

The issue I am seeking to convey is that having a disability and running your own business will cause you to challenge things that you find extremely uncomfortable about yourself and which will reveal how others really do perceive you.  The guy who suggested I should have gone to Specsavers later came over and offered to loan me his spare pair of glasses!

Here’s some useful help if you need support because of your Disability..

Until next time




Chris Catt

The Enabled Entrepreneur

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