• Elton Cilliers

My values - Working with Elton

Updated: 6 days ago

I've often mentioned and written a blog post about the importance of knowing your ideal client as a small (or large) business owner.

What I haven't yet spoken about really is the importance of also knowing when a potential client isn't for you. And also, are you right for the client?

My discovery calls for example are an opportunity for myself and a potential client to meet and get a feel for each other. And it's not simply about, "Can I help this person?" or "Can he help me?" but more importantly, "Is this someone I could work with?".

So in this blog post, I'll let you know my values and hopefully provide an insight into what it's like to work with me.

It's all about respect

I think my most important value is respect. I treat everyone I meet with respect until they give me a reason not to do so.

I also, therefore, expect respect from the clients I choose to work with. If the first contact I have with someone contains the words, "What' your best price?" or "can you do it for less/free?" then they have immediately shown no respect to me and are not likely to be someone I would work with.

The problem for me personally, based on personal experience thus far in my existence is that if people don't respect your time and knowledge by asking a discount on your pricing then they are going to be total nightmare clients to work with. They will have unrealistic expectations. They will not be responsive when you request any information. They will miss deadlines on tasks assigned to them but still insist you deliver to your agreed deadlines.

It's tempting, especially when finances are tight to just accept any client willing to pay for your services. And when you're just starting out, you may want to consider coming in at realistic prices based on experience as a business owner (not your overall industry or niche experience). But assuming you have priced yourself appropriately, you should be very wary of agreeing to lower your prices any further. I promise you, based on my experiences and those of freelancers on social media, it very rarely turns out positively when a lead starts out with a discount request.

When you allow a lead to talk you down on your price you're immediately setting the example that you are a pushover. This is not a great example to set early on in any relationship.

Respect is mutual. Respect my time and expertise I bring to your business and I'll absolutely respect you as my client and do my utmost to deliver beyond your expectations.

1. Diligent work ethic

When I work with a client they can be assured that when we agree on a deadline, it won't be missed on my part. The only times I have had projects delayed is when the client has been unable to meet agreed deadlines. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often as my client understands that to achieve their deadline we need to work together as a team to make it happen.

Whilst I get things done quicker than most, this does not mean that I am not thoroughly diligent in the work and services I provide my clients. The reason I get things done sooner is down to point 2 below.

2. Not money driven

This may sound odd to other business owners. My decision to start up my own business had zero to do with becoming rich or living a lavish life. Financially, my only goal is to earn sufficient to cover my current obligations and a little extra for a modest social life.

Because I have no ambitions of living a life of luxury I, therefore, limit the number of clients I work with. It is for this reason that I am able to deliver work quicker than most other freelancers and small business owners. I simply don't have the financial ambitions many other business owners have. It is also the reason why the clients I do work with can be assured of projects being delivered to agreed levels and deadlines throughout our engagement.

3. Freedom is desired

My primary reason for choosing to go self-employed is to eventually have more freedom in my life. I am under no delusion that this is an overnight thing, however, I have started taking the actions that will see me setting off on an indefinite road trip of 30 UK & European countries.

I was born and spent the first 27 years of my life in South Africa. I have always had a sense of wanderlust from as early as I can remember when I used to watch the likes of Sir David Attenborough on telly and dreaming of being a photographer on his crew and travelling the world.

I immigrated to England in 1999 and have, unfortunately, due to my career, not done as much travelling as I would have liked. In fact, I travelled more for business than for pleasure.

Shortly after a redundancy, that already had me seriously considering going self-employed, a childhood friend with whom I was very close passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep. He was 2 years older than me. It devasted me. I knew his dreams. I knew the things he planned and wanted to do. And I knew he ran out of time.

I don't want this for me. That may sound incredibly selfish but I credit my friends passing as my awakening. My realisation that my time on this planet is fleeting and that I simply cannot waste any more of it putting off my dream of exploring as much of the world as I possibly can. His widow kindly donated a personal belonging of his to me which I will be taking along with me on my travels to photograph in each country that I visit as a homage to this great man.

4. Authentic

There is a lot of talk by so-called 'experts' about being authentic and showing that in the content you put out, especially so as a small business owner in a competitive industry. You have to stand out from your competition and let people get to know you. People buy from people after all.

But even those experts aren't truly authentic. Why? Because they are driven by a different desire. Success.

With success comes a certain level of mask-wearing. You don't want to be truly authentic in case you offend someone or a group of people. Now obviously, if you bare prejudice of any sort, then it's probably best you keep your thoughts to yourself as those types of comments are never going to turn out well for your business, unless of course, your ideal clients bare similar prejudice.

But I see so many experts that never really give their opinion on anything. For example Brexit. Many never took a stance. Sitting on the fence was seen as being the best brand strategy. My opinion on Brexit is simple, it should never have happened and I hate the fact that the UK (primarily England and Wales) want to divide themselves further from the greater world society. And we'll leave it at that.

I am as authentic as I can possibly be in my values, thoughts and content that I put out.

I have put off creating videos because I feel this societal pressure to look a certain way, for the videos to be a certain quality etc. But I will be changing this shortly and am in the process of planning a YouTube channel. The videos you can expect to see, well let's just say, please don't have any expectations. I hope that the content of the video, rather than the production level of them will hold more value for those who watch them.

I will create educational videos, I will post behind the scenes videos from both my photography and consulting businesses and I'm also likely to post more random stuff like singing poorly as I play the guitar, or simply sharing some thoughts. I am even considering the idea of creating videos of myself reading my blog posts for those who would benefit from an audio option.

But what you can be sure of is that what you see or read, will be authentic. I'm not trying to impress you with flashiness, I hope that my experience and character will convince you I'm someone you will enjoy working with.

5. Honest to a fault

About 10 years ago I read 'The Four Agreements' by Don Miguel Ruiz for the first time. It is a book I read a few times a year. I have purchased 3 copies thus far of the book and as it happens will need to purchase my 4th as I appear to have donated my last to someone I thought could benefit from reading it.

I'm not entirely sure what it is about the book that caused it to have such an impact on my life but I can honestly say that it was life-changing for me.

One of the many changes in my life since reading the book is that I am now brutally honest. One of the four agreements is 'Be impeccable with your word'.

Therefore, if I speak to a lead and I honestly believe that I cannot provide them with the value they seek, I will simply not take them on as a client. I will instead refer them to someone I know can provide the services they require better than me. There are those 'experts' who will proclaim, "Fake it till you make it", well I'm sorry but I'm not a fan. I would hate to think that when I spend my money with someone they are faking their ability to deliver!

Therefore, based on respect being foremost, I will not fake it if I feel that I do not have the necessary background, knowledge, experience and skill to deliver to your requirements. I simply will not take your money if I feel you wouldn't be comfortable leaving me a positive review.

Due to this honesty, I will also often challenge my business clients when we are discussing plans for their business. The client is always right until they are wrong. And when you make a poor decision in a small business environment it could literally make or break you. If I am concerned about an idea or goal you have, I will raise concerns with an evidence-based argument as to why I think it may not be a good business decision. Whether you take that advice is entirely down to you but I will have a clear conscious knowing I raised the concern with you. When I'm engaged with a project for you, your success is as important to me as it is to you. Why? Because if your business fails then I lose you as a client! I am in business to get retainer clients which can make my travel dreams a reality. It is my absolute desire to make sure your business succeeds. The longer you're a happy client, the longer I can live my dream, why wouldn't I be invested in your business success?

6. Genuine desire to please

I have spent almost the entirety of my employed life working in a sales-type capacity. As a technical consultant, it was my responsibility to provide the technical demonstrations of the products the company I was working for at the time sold. I joined the sales team in putting together proposals, delivering the demonstrations, project management delivery of the solution to new client wins and finally provide account management services to those accounts.

Client services and customer satisfaction has therefore been at the forefront of my role for almost 3 decades. I have won several awards and accolades during this time in my various positions and am very good at keeping my clients happy. I had a 95-98% retention rate of accounts I was responsible for in those businesses which operated a license-based model.

Now as I run my own business, those values are at the forefront of all interactions I have with my leads and clients.

Basically, my thought process is simple. Treat this person so that they will WANT to leave you a positive review.

As important as your money is to me in making my travel ambitions a reality having a client that is willing to recommend me is equally as important. Because that recommendation could potentially mean more time on the road.

So you can rest assured that if we decide to work together you will always get my absolute best efforts.

7. Prejudism isn't for me

Whilst I have never truly been prejudice to any group of people, I do know that I suffered domestication during my upbringing. We all do. None of us is born racist. None of us is born homophobic. It's something we learn.

Whilst reading the Four Agreements the other significant change in my life is ridding myself of any prejudices I did bare.

Don't get me wrong, I will always have a judgement for certain types of people, like mass murderers, serial killers etc, but I bare no prejudice against people for their ethnicity, gender preference or opinions.

The only thing I care about is how you treat me and others. If you treat others with respect, then I really don't give a toss what colour you are, what you refer to yourself as, what your sexual orientation is, whether you're religious or not etc. Those things simply do not matter to me if you are a decent human.

So if you bare a large prejudice, it's probably best we don't work together especially if you are vocal about your prejudice.

8. Charity work

One of the things I want to do more of as a small business owner is to donate my time to support small charities along my travels. I started a project in 2020 with the goal of working with 20 charities in 2020. Unfortunately due to COVID and lockdowns, I was only able to work with 5 charities. However this project (#roadtrip4charity) will continue indefinitely and be one of the goals of my travels.

I have a special interest in supporting mental health, homelessness and animal welfare charities.

I intend to use my freedom as a small business owner without financial success ambitions to give back wherever I'm able. Charity work isn't something I can honestly say was important to me as little as 10 years ago. I donated money now and then but hadn't volunteered my time or efforts to help. I absolutely loved working the 5 charities I was able to work with during 2020 and am really looking forward to working with many more in the future.

So if you are a charity, or someone who finds the personal value of charity work then it's highly likely we will work well together.

9. Buddhist

While I can't strictly call myself a Buddist, because what I know about Buddhism is probably embarrassing, when I am faced with this question on a form, this is the option I select.

I was raised Christian and regularly attended church and Sunday school weekly. Until about age 16 when I simply couldn't get my head around sections of the bible and how it contradicted the world in which I was then living, Durban, South Africa. A country where so-called devoted Christians could seriously hate another human because of the colour of their skin. I simply couldn't be part of a religion that seemingly made this acceptable,

I've explored a few religions and none of them appeals to me.

Then I looked into Buddhism after someone recommended a book for those with a basic interest in Buddhism. The book is called The Buddha, Geoff and Me and it instigated an interest in me to look a little more into Buddhism. Obviously, I've heard of Buddhism, I've watched a few documentaries about Buddha as many have. But when I started digging below the surface a little, I realised that in my opinion (and those of most non-Westerners) Buddhism isn't a religion.

I consider Buddhism to be guidelines for living life. Buddha wasn't a god. Everyone has the ability to achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha whereas, in most religions, God is something that mere mortals can never achieve. Buddhism, from what I can tell, doesn't worship any gods.

It may also have to do because as far as I can make out, the core of Buddhism aligns with my core value, respect. Respect for every living thing.

The reason I don't confidently call myself a Buddist is for a couple of reasons, 1, I simply haven't researched enough about it to have a serious and in-depth discussion on the topic and 2, I eat meat.

However, in October 2020 I made the decision to switch to a vegan diet. It does come with caveats, however!

As I like to submerge myself in the culture of countries I visit, it is likely that I will eat meat dishes on my travels. However, this will be the exception rather than the rule. For example, if I'm presented the opportunity of being invited to eat with a local in their home, I will not refuse. The main hope for my travels is really to get to experience each country I visit and to learn as much as I can about the country and its people. So whilst I will only cook vegan meals for myself, I will not forego the opportunity to experience meeting a new person for the sake of my dietary choices.

10. I believe in aliens.

And finally, it's probably important for you to know my stance of aliens.

Yup, I for sure believe there is other life out there.

I don't for a second proclaim to even have the faintest idea about quantum physics but from the little, I do know, is that it's a big old place the universe. It wasn't that long ago we considered the milky way to be our universe. Then we realised we were merely a galaxy. Then that we were merely one of several galaxies. Now the number of galaxies we believe exist is simply a figure I can't get my head around.

So baring all that in mind, I simply can't be naive enough to think that Earth is the only planet capable of supporting life.

I'm not suggesting that they are green or grey little beings with large eyes or the 'greys' as they are referred to, but life of some sort. Adapted to their environment. Life exists almost everywhere on earth. In the deepest depths of our oceans to lakes of acid in Africa.

So yea, I believe there is alien life, possibly on many of the planets out there, they likely just look very different. Perhaps, as we venture further and further into space we will find confirmation of this, possibly in my lifetime?

It's okay if you don't believe in aliens, it's not a deciding factor for me personally as to whether we are a good fit, but thought it best to put my stance out there for those who may think me slightly mental.


I hope the above has given you some insight into my values and what it may be like to work with me.

You can always be assured of my best efforts in making a success of your business as your success is my success. There is no greater driver.

If you'd like to have a chat about my services and how I can help your business, use the contact form below and I'll get back to you as soon as possible for a short chat.

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