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Welcome…

Thank you for finding my blog; I hope you enjoy reading it and also find it useful.

So why am I writing a business blog?

In answer to that, I guess I need to start at the beginning. I’ve never been one for lots of rules and taking orders from other people. I know it’s a fact of life and at some point we all have to, but I wanted to minimise these things as much as I possibly could and so at the age of 21 I started my first business.

As both my business and my commitments grew (a mortgage and a growing family) so did the rules and having to do what others say. But I still wanted to ‘play’ a little at business and at the same time earn some extra money for the fun things I wanted that my mortgage payments wouldn’t let me have, and so I’ve always been involved with other businesses; mostly successful but some not so.

Building businesses successfully from scratch, coupled with the knowledge gained of other business sectors, has given me not only a great deal of enjoyment but also invaluable practical experiences.

I now concentrate on providing support, marketing advice, networking know-how, plus a wide-range of other business learning. Often this leads to mentoring and consultancy.

And, that is why I’m writing this blog because business owners might just find my ideas and experience pretty useful.

What’s your challenge?

I bet you have a challenge. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if you had a few challenges in your head.

Something like ten sit-ups this week, a 5k run in 29 minutes, swimming 50 lengths, cooking a delicious paella, getting up on time, eating more vegetables, to drink a pint of water, sort out the pile of papers on your floor, call a friend, stop watching four hours of TV every day, to climb a famous peak, the list is endless and personal. But, of course, the challenge is achieving them.

And, this brings me to your business. What are your challenges? Your goals? Your targets? How will you achieve them? And when?

In fact have you got any challenges set?

More business, more effective marketing, keeping customers longer, happier and more productive staff, a first holiday, a better return, a five year plan.

What have you planned? And, do you know how to accomplish it?

Let’s say that you need five new customers (and, of course, what type). What’s your conversion rate? Shall we say one out of three? So, you need to offer your product/service to 15 prospects. Then we have to know how many people we have to market to in order to get those 15 prospects and of course how to achieve this. What method to use?

First you need a target and then the way to achieve it. It’s a great challenge and one that can give you amazing results.

So, have you a real target planned and set? If not, there’s your first challenge.

Let me know if you would like a little help. I might even tell you mine!

A lady on a train!

At the weekend I was travelling by train from Birmingham (I had no petrol) back to home (Surrey). The carriages were packed, with many people standing, and someone was already in booked my seat.

We had a quick chat and it turned out that her seat was the empty seat beside her, so I said no problem, I was happy to sit there instead. 

I had been to a two-day business convention, so for the first 20 minutes of the journey, I just thought over some of the very useful ideas that had been given to us (there had been over a 1,200 delegates at the ICC) and which I would implement first.

It was at this moment that I glanced across to the lady next to me working on her laptop and saw that she had an Entrepreneurs Circle email on screen. I couldn’t believe it, as that had been the convention I had just left. So, I asked her if she had been there as well; and, of course, she had.

For the next hour we talked about what we had liked, a little bit regarding what we weren’t so sure about, the people we had meet, but most importantly what we were going to be doing in the future and essentially what we would be doing in the coming week.

Because, as I’m sure you know, it’s not what you learn that counts but if you actually do it. That’s what will make the difference.

Neve’s (the lady I was sitting with) main business, Speaker Studio, sounded perfect for just about everyone in business, as how you say something really makes a difference, and certainly would help everyone who networks. Including me!

We had a very good ‘meeting’ and will be meeting again.

So, if you are a little nervous, or not too sure about how best to speak, then I can suggest you have a chat with Neve, as she is very helpful.

Speak your way to Success.

Are you lost for words at your Networking events?

And now, maybe worse, as networking events that are getting going again, after a long break.

Most of us have been there: a room full of people in front of us, prospects everywhere, and we can’t think of a word to say.

And, more often than not, refuge is found with a glass of wine. We might in the course of the event collect a few business cards. But usually, once we have finished our complimentary glass of wine, we find an excuse to leave.

We may even be spotted by a friendly fellow networker who introduces themselves. But after asking a couple of easy opening questions and getting just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for answers they decide that there are more interesting things going on almost anywhere else in the room.

Well, if this picture is even a little like you, it doesn’t have to be.  A few ready made questions and answers will soon have you networking just like everyone else seems to be in the room.  But, first of all let me assure you that you are not the only person feeling as you do. Many will be, it’s just that you are all circulating the room and smiling at all that pass you by!

So, how about that first easy question?  Everyone asks it.  ‘How’s business?’  Your answer might be, ‘Fine’ or maybe, ‘Oh, we are really busy’.  The trouble with those answers is that it doesn’t really leave you anywhere to progress to. The answer may as well be, ‘That’s great!’

But, how about, if instead, you answered, ‘Really great! We have just finished a large project for our biggest client. We had to turn it around in record time, and I’m now looking for a similar job.’  The next comment is likely to be, ‘Tell me more’.

The secret is to have a few answers planned in advance: answers that are not only interesting in themselves but that invite another question.  Then once the conversation starts and you begin to relax you never know where things might lead.  You may just find your next big customer and don’t forget you can use that same great answer for more than one person.

However, sometimes you have to make the first move and again this is easy if you have a few ready prepared questions up your sleeve.  Start by scanning the room and finding someone much like you on their own, looking a little lost.  Go up to them and introduce yourself using just your first name and ask them theirs.  Then follow up with one of your prepared questions.

Why not try one of the following or make up your own with similar ideas?

1)      How did they hear about the event and do they know the host?

2)      Did they come to the event for a special reason?

3)      What is it that they do?

4)      How long have they been doing that?

5)      What made them choose that line of work?

6)      What’s the best thing about what they do?

7)      What kind of business are they looking for?

8)      Is there anyone that you might know that they would like to be introduced to (this person might even be at the event)?

9)      Who is their biggest competitor?

10)  How many people work with them?

All these questions need more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and also the answers will tell you something about the person, their company, and if you want to start a relationship with them.

Remember, the objective at a networking event is the start of a relationship, your next meeting, not a quick sale.

So, never be lost for words at a networking event again and you will see that there is no need to feel on your own, as instead you may be starting lasting and worthwhile connections with the people that you meet.

Guitar Village

I was at Guitar Village, in Farnham, today looking at the Ukuleles; they are beautiful and my birthday is soon!

However, I’m finding it almost impossible to choose one, as I like so many; not just because of their sound but also their looks and the way they are made. Such lovely woods are used, such as mahogany, koa, maple, rosewood, cedar and spruce. Then there are the different makes and types: soprano, concert, tenor, etc. (plus they are all different sizes).

I asked Richard in the shop for help and he advised that, as a beginner, it would be best to decide on how much I would be willing to spend and then buy the one I liked the look and feel of best. He then added that after six months, if I’d become a keen player, that I can look again, as I’ll have a much better idea of what would work best for me.

His advice was perfect and is just the same in business. In business there are numerous things to do and often because of that nothing much gets done. So, think about it, what one thing could you do this week that would be good for your business? Then just ‘park’ everything else and do it. I’m pretty sure that you will see the difference it makes.

Richard also added something else, which I agree with, and in fact am doing. Having a ukulele and spending some time strumming is a great way to relax and get away from the pressure of your work. I’ve got to agree that it’s fun. So, if things are tough at the moment why not get a ukulele and try it?!

Guitar Village – let Richard know that I suggested you came to see him.

Farnham, Surrey, Business Networking – 19th August

9 Days to go!!

You may have read my blog, back in June 2020, about getting Kick Started. If not here it is – Kick Started.

It was about one of my sons writing his first Comic Book; it was all about The Hoards of Surrey. It’s a great story, has some brilliant art, and is about a very British treasure hunt! Well it was a success and now Part Two is being produced.

The Hoards of Surrey

Again it is with Kickstarter and well worth a look; Kickstarter could be just what you want for something you are working on.

But, back to my sons Comic Book, you can even pledge for Book One as well. And, get your own commissioned deal by the artist.

So, please do have a look and pass on the link, I would love to see Part Two in print, but there is only nine days left for his success. You can have a look here.

Thank you.

Standing on a chair!

In a few months’ time, networking (in groups) should return and it got me thinking.  You know the sort of thing, loads of business owners in a room, food and drink, lots of noise, so you have to shout to make yourself heard, and a few people get to give a sales pitch.  And, unless you are standing in the front row, or the event has a PA, they can’t be heard and so everyone just continues talking, not taking the slightest bit of notice.

Pretty much a waste of time!  Well at one event I remember one of the speakers did their best to be heard; to stand out.  They jumped up on a chair and spoke from there.  From where I was, at least I could see him, but I still couldn’t hear a word that he said.

And, it got me thinking about standing out from the crowd. About a business having a USP (Unique Selling Proposition); a thing that makes you special. I had already met three photographers that evening and they had all said pretty much the same thing; great pictures, latest technology, reliable service.  And, that their prices were coming down all the time.  They had nothing unique, so the only thing that they could sell was on price.

So, my question is – what is your USP?  When you next go networking and your competition is in the room, how will you stand out?  What makes you truly different?

Here are three things that might help you to develop a really valuable USP.  That will help you to win more business and be able to charge more.

  1. You can’t use what you see as benefits that your competition would also use, or for that matter are just expected of any good supplier.  For example: outstanding photography, reliable, we go the extra mile.  It has to be unique.
  2. Really dig down into what you do.  Ask a friend to ask you this question, “So, why is that good?”  And, get them to keep asking you the same question until your answer really makes them say, “Okay, now I’m interested!”  For example: the computers you sell have the latest chip.  “So, why is that good?”  The answer might be because data is processed faster.  “So, why is that good?”  The answer might be because then you get you work done faster.  “So, why is that good?”  Get the idea?  You just go on and on, until you really hit the reason that matters.
  3. A real success story.  I heard a great example of this recently from a garage. Like most garages they did servicing, MOTs and body repairs. But, how about this for being truly unique?  They service a fleet of Mercedes for a Royal family.  Now that has to put them a step above the norm.

So, develop a one-off USP and you really will stand out when networking and it will help you win more business.

What is Carbon Neutrality (Net Zero)?

Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal (often through carbon offsetting) or simply eliminating carbon emissions altogether (the transition to the “post-carbon economy”). 

It is used in the context of carbon dioxide-releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, agriculture, and industrial processes. For many businesses this could be a case of making sure equipment is turned off when not in use, being more energy efficient and obtaining a green source of energy.

But what does this mean for your business? Well, there will come a time when the government will put pressure on businesses by legislation and making it compulsory for businesses across the country to reduce their carbon footprint.

Some businesses have already started the change by looking at a greener form of energy, which in turn reduces their carbon production.

For example Full Power recognises that change needs to happen now. By looking at a business’s utility output they can help to reduce their carbon footprint by procuring a greener option and help them to get on track with not only the government’s requirements but the ethics of that business.

Full Power work with all the green and renewable suppliers in the commercial market to ensure that the supply is the right fit for your business.

So, now is the time to start thinking, and if you would like to know a bit more, do get in touch.

End Times…

We all set start times for things – let’s face it, it would be pretty difficult not to. But very few of us set end times. A time that whatever we are doing will end.

In fact, talking of start times, let’s cover those first. Have you ever thought about making a start time not on the hour? Most meetings are naturally set on the hour.  10.00am – 11.00am – 2.00pm that sort of thing.

So how about instead of setting a time of say 10.00am you go for 10.15am? It’s amazing the difference it makes. Psychologically it says the meeting will be shorter – because people’s minds work in hours. And of course it marks you out as different. You stand out. It’s a small thing but it helps you to be remembered.

But put that together with end times and you have a real winner.

Most people don’t set end times for their meetings and so their meetings take as long as they – well take. In consequence they allow any meetings they have a large window of time. Extra time in case they run-over. Or even – just because they don’t have much else to do. Nothing planned. The thing is these people don’t value their time. The amazing thing is that time is the only thing we can’t get more of – when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Why do meetings drift? The simple answer is because most people don’t plan their meetings. They have a broad topic (or an overloaded topic) – but that’s about it. So it’s impossible to know how long they will take.

So a great place, maybe the only place, to start is to plan your meetings; by doing that you will have a good idea of an end time.

On the other hand – just set an end time in the first place. You will be amazed at how much more focused your meetings will become and because of that a great deal more productive.

Now this might seem like a small thing (and you might already do it) – but it can have enormous benefits.

One of which is with diary dates. If you look at the average person’s diary they are filled with a lot of ‘air’.  Shall we say coffee time, or catching up on social media – that sort of thing. For example: meeting at 9.00am – not sure when it will end, so maybe the next meeting will be a 11.00am. Time for a coffee in between – or look around the shops. I bet you’ve been guilty of that. I know I used to be.

Worse still, I know business owners who never book more than one meeting in the morning and another in the afternoon! Why? Because they just don’t know how long their meetings will take. Nothing has been set.  It could be 20 minutes, on the other hand it could be two hours. Result? Lots of lost time.

Now just imagine what a difference there would be if you set an end time and didn’t start on the hour.

First meeting at 9.15am – finish by 10.00am. Next meeting at 10.30am ending at 11.30am. Meeting after that starts at 12.00 and ends at 12.45pm. All made possible by setting end times.

With clear focus and planning, meetings will be both shorter and more productive. Making it possible to have two, maybe three, meetings where before you had just the one.

Just think what that would do to your own personal productivity! Scary isn’t it?

But it doesn’t have to end there. Because all ‘meetings’ can have a fixed end time. Zoom calls, video calls, even plain old phone calls.

I know someone who only takes phone calls in the afternoon and they are all booked in slots of 15 and 20 minutes – on top of which before the call is made he has a rough agenda for the call. The amount of work this guy gets done in a day is just staggering.

If you value the limited time you have – please plan and set end times (end times made possible due to the planning) – I promise that you will discover time that you thought just didn’t exist.

Well that’s it, four really useful business practice thoughts that will give you more time.

I hope that you will implement some, if not all four, into your business and that you reap the rewards from doing so. If you do, frankly, the results will amaze you. And please don’t even think for the moment that you don’t have the time – because you do.

You will have hours, and I do mean hours, of extra time. But more importantly you will find that time pressure disappears and with that a vast amount of stress.

And it doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone can save some time. From maybe just a couple of hours a week to, in some cases, whole days. I’ve seen it!

Whichever it is, you don’t need much of an imagination, to see how the extra time would make a massive difference to your business – in fact your way of life.

You would have control; more time to work on your business. You could have a better work life balance. And, I’d almost guarantee, fewer sleepless nights.

No hair cut!

A friend of mine owns a hairdressing salon which is closed and has been for a great deal in the last year due to the lockdowns.

And because of this, people are trying all sorts of things: cutting, hair colours, new styles, with some being done by themselves and others by close contacts (in their bubble), who are prepared to take the chance for them. Some are successful and others are…well, not so good. Other people are just waiting for a haircut; I’m one of those!

Anyway, back to my friend and others like him; those who have no business at the moment. Week by week it’s getting harder for them and it’s not just about the lack of business now, as for some of them it is the damage that less business will do in the future when lockdown is lifted. I don’t know about you, but I know that things won’t suddenly go back to how they were. A great deal of business just won’t return; some things are changed permanently or, at the very least, long-term.

However, for some, like my friend, things are far better than they might have been. Why? Because he has spent a number of years building himself a residual income just like me. I build my residual income business for two reasons: one, to have extra holidays each year, and two, to add to my pension when I retire. But, the thing I like best about my residual income, is that it pops into my bank account every month, whether I’ve done any work or not, and will do long into the future.

What it’s doing for my friend at the moment is taking lots of earning pressure and worry off him.

Residual income is not a get-rich-scheme, although you can earn nicely pretty quickly, it’s more about thinking five, even ten, years into the future. The great thing is that there’s nothing to lose by trying it, but maybe something wonderful to gain. My friend has really discovered this.

So, if this interests you, have a look, as I say, there’s nothing to lose and now might just be an appropriate time to find out how good it could be. There are many options available. Two, connected services, which I find are very workable together are Full Power (commercial) and Utility Warehouse (domestic) energy. Just click on their names if you would like to know more, or give me a call.