Learning the hard way in his first job propelled Mark Shraga to become a super sales whizz and he’s now CEO of a new technology company. He cites Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) as one of the keys to his business success.
You are CEO of broadband company New Star Networks (NSN) Ltd. What spurred your interest in NLP?
I have been interested in it for 18 years, since I started out in sales in telecoms. I was thrown in at the deep end and had to do door-to-door selling to businesses all over London. I struggled with confidence and dealing with some pretty harsh objections, sometimes having abuse hurled at me because I was selling door to door. Then I started reading Anthony Robbins, the NLP-influenced US businessman and self-help author.
I related to and picked up the ideas quickly. Within a couple of weeks I had turned things around using NLP and was selling like wildfire.
Over the years I have continued my journey with NLP to Trainer level, and have also completed a Masters Degree in Applied Coaching, building on my experiences with NLP to find other ways of working to get the best out of myself and others. Our listing as Deloitte’s 49th fastest growing tech company in the UK last year (with 315% growth) was a direct result of our focus on coaching our people to get the best out of themselves.
Can you explain briefly what NLP is and how it relates to business?
NLP looks at how we use language to make sense of the world and of ourselves. A key technique in NLP is called reframing. Here’s an example: think of something bad that happened to you recently. This could be missing a train, getting a parking ticket or even bankrupting your business.
Now change your viewpoint so you can see something unique that you have learned from this experience that is useful to you.
Write this down as a maxim of the wisdom you have gained (and add more if there are more – there are often many things to gain from a failure). The negative experience is reframed as a useful (if still undesirable) one and you gain a truth or a way of getting more from your life going forward.
This process is also good for staying resourceful and helping people maintain a positive mental and emotional state. When we go into negative states our options narrow and we focus on the problem and not the solution.
In this way NLP is super helpful in business and other aspects of life; there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback, and we are designed to thrive if we take the feedback and learn from it.
How has it helped you personally in the way you run your business?
Neuro Linguistic Programming focuses on shifting perspectives to those of the people around you – in other words, you both benefit from putting yourself in their shoes. I find this immensely powerful in working to motivate others and in creating deals that work for all parties involved.
How can NLP help people who are just starting a business?
Starting a business requires real dedication, quick thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution and advanced negotiation skills with investors and clients. NLP has some simple and easy models that can help give entrepreneurs the edge in all of these situations.
Do you think it is possible to change the way you run a business (in a positive way) via this method?
Absolutely, and the fundamental way to do this from an NLP perspective is to ensure you fully respect all the people you work with and employ. Listening to others and asking for as much feedback as you can from your team is key.
How will this help you in business?
Keeping communication flowing between all parties in your business is paramount, as is learning how to make the most of what is being communicated. What this will lead to is more of your people engaged in the goals of your business, ie. it’s a win-win situation. It also means that you will reduce conflict and misunderstanding in your business – this is essential when trying to get the extra mile out of limited funding because this may be a phase in the life of the business where people are perhaps not being paid top dollar.
What are your three top tips on how you can use NLP for new businesses?
The first relates across the board but ties in to any business plan: the map is not merely the territory it portrays, it is only a means to navigate the way forward. Always remember that it will need constant updating as the land will always surprise you with hidden nuances. I’ve found it beneficial to remember this on more than one occasion.
Number two is, respect everyone you meet and be curious about them. For this to work you have to listen more than you speak and you will learn everything you need to know about the other person in order to have a successful commercial relationship.
Number three is to keep checking that what you think you have communicated is actually what has been understood.
It may surprise you how often someone will make sense of what you say from their perspective, but actually completely misinterpret you.
This in NLP is stated as ‘the meaning of any communication is what has been understood, not what you thought you just said.’