What Mary Poppins teaches small business owners

Having small children means having to watch films and programmes you normally wouldn’t choose. Sometimes, however, you learn something new when you do, at least, have one eye watching. This weekend somehow ended up with Mary Poppins being watched and this is what I believe small business owners can learn from the lead character

  • Dress to impress

Mary never had a stitch or hair out of place and so came across as the professional she was. Whilst I’m not suggesting you need a lacy collar done up tight, you should always be dressed to ensure both you and the client are comfortable. Tatty jeans and trainers are never going to go down well – even on dress down Friday – but that doesn’t mean a three-piece, tie and cufflinks either.

Wear what works:

  • Is it suitable for the work you’re going to be doing?
  • Does it say the right things about you?
  • Would you be happy if someone walked into your office wearing what you are?
  • Know who your client really is

Whilst Mr Banks should have been paying Mary Poppins’ wages (did he actually pay her before she left?). However, it could easily be said that Jane and Michael were the clients, as it was their lives that Mary quickly impacted. In Edwardian London, the father:child relationship was still described as “Children should be seen and not heard”. So George would simply expect Mary Poppins to ensure this was the case. However, the children seem particularly adept at getting rid of those who displeased them. The previous nanny would not stay a moment longer.

Remember that the person who pays the invoices may not be the person with the most influence.

  • Use the right language

Is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the ultimate in jargon or what? It’s a word only Mary knows the meaning of and will confuse both customers and staff.

Hopefully the consultant speak, like “blue-sky thinking” and “anything outside the box” is long gone. Many people still find it very easy to use their industry jargon, whether talking to colleagues or clients. Whilst it’s okay to use it in the office, remember that most customers won’t know what you’re talking about. Whether they admit it to you is a different matter! If you do this with prospects, there is a real chance they will simply buy from the company that doesn’t overuse jargon – simply because they understand them.

  • It’s not always fun

Most people start a small business because it is something they enjoy doing – or they enjoy the money they expect to get. They expect to have fun doing what they love. Unfortunately there are aspects of running a business that aren’t fun. Accounts definitely falls into that space and some people even think marketing isn’t fun (can you imagine that?) but they need to be done. Mary Poppins recommends a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Ever wondered why you see so many business owners with bowls of sweets on their desks? Perhaps that’s the sugar?

On a more serious note, if you cannot get someone else to do it, look at how you can mix up the jobs you need to do. This can either be in bite-size pieces or by getting the nasty stuff out the way first.

  • Get out at the right time

Mary Poppins could quite easily have stayed with the Banks family and taken their money. The value they would have received would have deteriorated as she’d already delivered the real value she provides. That’s not great.

It can be easy to continue taking the money from a client when you’ve been working with them for some time. Ask yourself: are you still delivering value and as much value as you did originally?

Whilst you will often make a real impact very early on, and then settle down, be careful that you don’t get too comfortable. The last thing you want to do is get to a point where the client asks you to leave – better for you to say it’s time to go.

 

I must admit that I did watch chunks of the film, even if I hadn’t intended to. And I’m glad I did now.