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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.

I was Kicked!

A few months ago, I talked about my son promoting his comic book with Kickstarter. Well he had success and over 200 people now have a copy of the comic. And, it’s good.

In my blog I talked about doing things differently in our current situation; not getting bitter but getting better.

I’ve written for many years and really enjoy doing so, mainly stories for children, about ponies and horses, and due to my son’s success with Kickstarter, I am now giving it a go myself.

You see, due to the effect of the current state of affairs, I’ve had time to write fully and find a great artist to paint the drawings I needed.

So, now I have a possible book being promoted with Kickstarter. I have to say it’s exciting, but also scary. What if I fail?

If you have a moment, love ponies and horses, are interested in a possible Christmas present, or are willing to help me, please do have a look at my book and help me succeed.

Here it is: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidwimblett/bonzo-and-her-grace-a-very-special-pony-rescue?ref=user_menu

Thank you

The West Wing

Time is something that we all have exactly the same amount of as each other and yet some people seem to do so much more with their allotted amount than others.  One of the questions that I am asked the most is how to make more time?  Well, the simple answer is that you can’t.  But, what you can do is save time: make better use of the time that you have.

Most things will take as long as you allow them to.  So, an easy way of saving time is to give everything you do a set amount of time: making it less than you normally might.

One of the biggest users of time are meetings.  Endless meetings, meetings to discuss meetings, meetings because that is what you are suppose to do.

I firmly believe that most meetings could be at least 25% shorter, maybe 50%, and that some meetings need not happen at all.  I will explain my rationale.

Most meetings are given a set time: 30 minutes, an hour, maybe two, maybe even all day.  Then an agenda is worked out to fill the time decided on.  A meeting might be scheduled for 2 hours every week and so it is filled up with stuff to take two hours.  But what if there are only 20 minutes of material to cover?

So, how about trying this?  Decide what needs to be covered in a meeting and however long that requirement is, that is the length of the meeting: whether it be 20 minutes or one hour and thirty-five minutes.  Trust me, no one will complain about having shorter meetings if it means they get something else done.

Another major loss of time in meetings is bad chairmanship; people getting way off the subject in hand and being allowed to waffle.  Every point on the agenda should have a fixed amount of time and then that time stuck to. 

Practise just these two things and I promise you will save hours of time.

I titled this blog ‘The West Wing’ I don’t know if you have ever watched the programme but if you have you will have noticed that some of the President’s meetings are just a few minutes long.  When what needs to be said has been said the meeting is over and it’s on to the next one.  Now before you say “It’s only a TV show” do you really think a President runs the US without having such meetings?

It’s a Rush!

Formula 1 in 1976 was a high point for me. James Hunt (my all-time favourite F1 driver) became World Champion and I had been at the British Grand Prix to see him ‘win’.  Later on I was to meet him and even race against him.  So it was with a feeling of excitement when I first watched ‘Rush’, the film of the story of the 1976 season and his battle with Niki Lauda.  Two very different people but with one common goal, to be the very best; at any cost!

I was a little concerned that they might make my hero out to be something he wasn’t, but from my, albeit limited, knowledge of the man, I think Ron Howard (the director) did a really good job.  I thought the film was brilliant and conveyed the sport as it was at that time.

Now what has ‘Rush’ got to do with us as business owners?  What can we learn from Hunt and Lauda?  Well the first thing is that you can come from totally different backgrounds, have totally different perspectives on life – Hunt and Lauda couldn’t have been more different – but also you have to have a real passion, a burning passion, and determination, if you are going to stand any chance of achieving your goal.

As I say, both Hunt and Lauda had a dream, to be the Formula 1 World Champion, but that was their long-term goal, and along the way there had many short-term goals.  They worked race by race.  Then there were rules, governing bodies, competition from other drivers, the weather, lack of money, the unknown, constant danger and distractions.  In the final race of the season in Japan, Hunt knew where he had to finish in order to be crowned World Champion.  He had his short-term goal which would lead him to his long-term goal.

A major part of their success was down to what each would sacrifice in order to live their dream.  Lauda had to give up his family to race and even James Hunt had to cut back on his ‘activities’ in order to win.  But more than that, it was their total commitment to winning (Hunt was normally physically sick before a race), to being the best, that made them both winners.

So, have you a dream? A goal?  And do you know what it would really need you to do to achieve it?  But, more importantly, have you the drive, the courage, to make it happen?  No matter what the world throws at you.

In the last race in Japan James Hunt had to pit for new tyres just a few laps from the end of the race. To most people his chance of being World Champion was gone.  Ferrari the team Lauda drove for was going mad.  But even then did James Hunt give up?  Many would have and would have said that it just wasn’t to be.

No, this was his dream and nothing was going to stop him.

Down at the local pub!

I was speaking at the same event as Penny Power and as I was on stage directly after her decided to sit in on her session.  She was talking about social media and how so many people get it wrong, as they just broadcast rather than take part in a conversation.  She likened it to moving in to a new village, popping down to the local pub, opening the door and announcing “I’m an architect” rather than going in and sitting at the bar, buying a drink, getting to know the locals, and then them finding out, in time, that you were an architect.  And, it got me thinking.

So many people do just the same when networking.  You meet some, in fact lots, at every networking event there is, they just introduce themselves and then say, “I’m an architect; here’s my card.” And that’s about it!  You can obviously replace architect with: accountant, solicitor, printer, web designer, business coach, mobile phone supplier.  Need I go on?

Well networking is just like social media; it’s about starting a conversation.  It’s about building a relationship.  It’s certainly not about a quick ‘hit’ and moving on.

If you are going to be a really successful networker, to really benefit from networking, you have to be prepared to make an effort, to really get to know the people you meet, and that takes time.

So, please don’t rush in with “I’m an architect”. Instead ask about the other person, have an interesting question or two to ask, and never ‘push’ your business card.  And when they do ask what you do, because they will (it’s the polite thing to do), please don’t say, “I’m an architect”.  That’s just so boring!  Have something interesting to say, like “I help people to live in the home of their dreams!”.

Start a conversation, agree to meet again, contact each other by email, and build a long term relationship, that if mutually beneficial, will bring far greater rewards than anything a quick ‘hit’ will ever bring.

Earn more just by dressing up!

Making a good profit can be a hard thing to achieve, In fact, at times, any profit is hard to make, but so many business owners make this more difficult than it need be.  There are so many ways to make more profit and one of those is to simply charge more for what you do.  Again there are many reasons for charging more for your service but one of the best is just dressing up!

I will assume that you are very good at what you do and that you give an incredible service.  But now I will give you two examples of how the same business might be sold.  For each I will just concentrate on three areas, but I’m sure that you will get the picture.

Method one:  The owner drives up in a dirty three-year old car, his business card is flimsy and has a number crossed out on it, and, to be honest, he looks like he has been away camping for the last few days.

Method two:  The owner drives up in a beautifully clean three-year old car, his business card is branded and printed on a heavy board, and he looks as if he is going somewhere special.

Now remember they are providing exactly the same service.  Which would you more likely give your business to?  But, more importantly, most people would pay more money for the service provided by the second method.

There is another point to my example: you knew the service was the same in both cases, but what if you didn’t?  Who would you have chosen to buy from?

‘Designer’ goods are all about dressing up: charging more and making more profit.  Okay the quality of a £4 pair of jeans from the supermarket is not the same as that of a ‘designer’ pair, but a great deal of the price paid is for the ‘look’ and not totally the product.

So, if you want to increase your profits, why not just try ‘dressing up’ a little? Believe it or not – it does make a difference.

Kick Started

Everyone I know received a bit, or a great deal, of a kick start when they first got their business going; and in fact still do today. It may have been their mum and dad, brother or sister, a friend, another business owner, someone famous on TV, someone in history, or at a live business event. The possibilities are endless but it can make a large difference to someone’s success.

The same is true when things get hard; finding a person that will give you a ‘kick’. The trouble with many business owners is that when their business is running they don’t like to ask others for help when things are tough as it seems weak. Many also think that they know more than most others so they can’t in fact be helped. Often that is a big mistake because often a ‘kick’ makes you think differently – it’s not an obvious answer.

Kickstarter exists to help bring creative projects to life and it can make an enormous difference to how you start a project; a new business.

During the lockdown my son has written a comic book. He has been planning it for years but being ‘locked down’ he was given the time to work on it and Kickstarter gave him the ‘kick’ and the knowledge to launch his comic. I have to say that it has been great and I’m really looking forward to getting my printed copy.

So, now maybe the time that you need a ‘kick’, from a friend, or a mentor, the important thing is to improve the way your business operates, adapt the current situation, and make sure that your business is successful going forward.

If you like adventure have a look at my son’s comic book; it might just give you a little kick (in more ways than one). You can see it here.

Your 3 a-day

No I’m not talking about your fruit or vegetable intake or, in fact, your health. However, I am talking about the health of your business.

We hear a great deal about setting goals. Your five-year plan, your three-year plan, one-year, and I myself really promote the one-month plan. Of course you need a long -term plan, something big in the future, but the reason that most long-term plans fail is because there are no one-month plans made in order to reach the bigger plan.

But even if you have your one-month plans in place, they won’t work unless you take some action; actions that will make your plan possible.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you want to double your turnover in the next two years. Not a bad plan – just imagine what that would do to your business.

Now at a very simple level, you would know how much business you would need in order to double your turnover. But, assuming you didn’t get any extra business from your existing customers, do you know how many new customers you would need?

Assuming you know that number, how would you go about getting that number of new customers?

How many new customers per month would you need?

Depending on your conversion rate how many customer meetings would you need?

And how many leads do you need to get to a customer meeting?

So far we haven’t even thought about extra staff, resources, cash-flow and a whole host of other things.

But even when you have done all of this work, at the moment it’s still all just theory. And this is when the action comes in. What actions will you need to take in order to make your plan, your goal, a reality? Because without any actions you will never achieve your goal.

So, work out what actions you need to take for your goal to succeed. There will be many of them; and then take three of those actions each and every day. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and in goal achievement this has never been truer.

Keep the Cash Flowing

Lack of cash will eventually kill any business, large or small, and it makes no difference whether the business is making good profits. I’m sure that you have heard the saying ‘cash is king’ and this is important in business because it means that you can always cover your costs.

A business owner contacted me because he had serious cash-flow problems. In truth, there was no flow of cash at all. His profitability was good and the company’s turnover more than adequate. So why was there no flow of cash? Simply that no invoices had been sent out for over six weeks. Six weeks and he was wondering why the cash had dried up!

Now before you say ‘well, that’s surely a one-off’ let me tell you that lack of invoicing is pretty common in business. And I’m not just talking about being slow at getting invoices out; I know many companies that don’t send all of their invoices out. It’s totally astonishing!

So here are eight tips on how to make your invoicing process not only effective but that will ensure that the cash keeps flowing. This is one area where having a good system in place will, literally, pay rich dividends.

1)    Invoice every day, week or month, whichever is the most appropriate. The most important thing is to be consistent.

2)    Confirm the amount to be invoiced is correct with your client before invoicing. This solves a lot of problems later on.

3)    Ensure that all order numbers, etc., that are required are included on the invoice. Again this solves problems later on.

4)    Ensure that any credit terms are clear and agreed.

5)    Check that your invoice has been received. Again this reduces future problems, like invoices having never been received and then delaying payment.

6)    If, for example you do a lot of one-off jobs, consider getting a mobile credit card terminal. Don’t be put off by the cost of this service as it is far out-weighed by the advantage of time saved not having to chase up payments later. Plus it’s instant cash.

7)    If you provide credit, call your customer five days before the money becomes due to check that all is okay and that the payment is scheduled.

8)    If payment should fall overdue, call immediately and ask when the payment will be made. Get the name of the person you speak to and the date for when the payment is promised. Don’t be put off from doing this; remember it is your money. It will also demonstrate that you operate a well-run business.

How are your ten best customers doing?

Do you ever wonder how your ten best customers are doing?  In fact, do you know, right now, who your ten best customers are?  If not, I really urge you to find out without delay.

Depending on your type of business, knowing who your best customers are today, six months ago, a year ago, can give you a valuable insight into your business.  Is the order changing.  Have some customers disappeared and others taken their place?  Is their spending going up or falling?  Armed with this information you can not only thank those spending well, but, more importantly, if sales are falling, find out why, and hopefully, be able to do something about those customers before it is too late.

However, back to my original question.  Do you know how well your ten best customers are doing?  Why should you care?

Well, if you know how your best customers are doing it is a good predictor of how your business will be doing in the future.  If your best customers are doing well the odds are that you will be as well.  If, on the other hand, your best customers are finding trading difficult then again it is likely that you will be too.

If, as is more likely, some are doing well and others are not doing so well, do they come from a particular market sector?  If the answer is yes, perhaps it would be worth looking for more business from a successful market sector.

Can you offer this successful market sector something extra?  Something that will get you recognised as a leading supplier in the market place?

Then again, if a client is finding trading difficult, how can you best help them?  Or maybe you should be careful as to what level of business you do with them.

Knowing who your best clients are and how they are doing can be a real key to your own success.  So, please take some time this week to find out who they are and how well they are doing and you could have a great idea as to how well your business will be doing over the coming months.