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.

Does your business card leave people in the dark?

You’ve been out networking, had a productive time and given out lots of your business cards.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your card?  Is it, and more importantly, are you remembered, or does it just end up in the rubbish bin?

Is, in fact, your business card worth keeping?

I ask this because all too often I am handed a card that just has a name and a mobile phone number on it.  Sometimes it will have a company name, but often the company name gives me no clue as to what the person does.  And likewise, the email address doesn’t either, as often it is just a name with a number added to @.

If your card is anything like this the chances are that it will end up in the rubbish bin.  After all, I can hardly ring you up and say, “I’ve no idea what you do, or where you are based, but let’s do some business.”  It’s just not going to happen!

Now you might be thinking I’m not very good at networking, as having met someone I can make notes on their card (not always possible on some cards), which of course I do, but, and it’s a big but, why take the chance on someone else making notes about you, when you have the perfect opportunity to tell them exactly what you want them to know?  Why risk your business card ending up in a bin somewhere?  Wasting your very valuable time spent networking.

In any market place you need an edge over your competition: that something extra.  So, why not increase the odds of your business card being kept, improving the chance of future business, by simply improving the information on your card?

A man’s place!

I was out with a friend of mine recently when a coat in a shop window caught her eye and she asked if I minded if we went in so that she could try it on.  Well what does a gentleman do in such circumstances?  “Of course not”, I replied cheerfully.

While she went off to try her coat I did what most men do on these occasions; try to keep out of the way, not look too bored, and of course say the right thing when asked (only joking).

So, I had a look around. The shop was certainly full of some beautiful clothes, but that wasn’t what had got my interest.  It was the fact that this business owner really knew their stuff.

They had some very nice looking shoes; expensive.  However, it was the sign behind them that was just brilliant.  It said that they only purchased a small number of shoes so that they remained exclusive and when the shoes were gone, well that was it, they were gone.  So if you loved the shoes you had better buy them.  They had covered it all; quality, fashion, scarcity and fear of loss.

David Wimblett Shoes

However, it was the next thing I spotted that I really liked.  A magazine, lying on a small table. On the cover was a beautiful woman in a red dress (I love red).  On two sides of the table were chairs and they were out of everyone’s way.  I sat and picked up the magazine.  Underneath was a magazine about motor racing, under that a magazine on shooting, and then one on sport.  This was just perfect.  And then ‘the penny dropped’.

What a brilliant idea!  Keep the man happy and guess what? The lady will spend more.  And she did.

But, there was still one last thing to come.  The loyalty card. And even this was clever.  Firstly, my friend had already earned four points and she only needed ten points to get her first reward, but the really smart thing was that the card stayed in the shop.  Therefore she could never forget it and miss out on those valuable points. But even better, anyone could use it for her; so even more custom for the shop.  Now that’s very clever.

Obviously my friend would return, she also had a place where people could buy her presents (and she would earn extra loyalty points), and of course those people might buy for themselves and the whole process would start again.  As I said – very clever.

So, what could you do in your business that would have the same result?

Smashed!

Work progresses well in our lovely new home in the Surrey Hills. In our garden we have the more usual birds but also ducks, pheasants and a heron (I think he is fishing).

Currently we are working on the design of our en-suite and have spent a great deal of time choosing the furniture, tiles, fittings and taps. One of these items was a lovely white ceramic counter top basin chosen to go with a lovely oak vanity unit found on the internet.

The unit arrived well packed on a pallet but without the basin. This it turned out was coming from another supplier. A few days later a delivery man arrived at our door and, as he handed me the box he was carrying, I heard the sound of broken ceramic. I suggested he take the box back but he replied that his was to deliver not take returns (not the best customer service).

When I opened the box my fears were realised as the basin was smashed to pieces. What surprised me was that a ceramic bowl could just be placed into a standard cardboard carton without any additional packing.

smashed sink

A quick phone call, resulted in the company apologising for the mishap, that they would get a replacement basin sent out immediately, with extra packing.

Pretty good customer service and I have to say that I was pretty impressed. After all, mistakes happen and it’s how they are put right that makes the difference.

A couple of days later another delivery man knocked at my door and as he handed the box to me I heard the same sound of broken ceramic.

When I opened the box, there was the smashed basin. Again just placed in a cardboard carton; the extra packing consisted of a layer of bubblewrap wrapped around the outside of the carton.

Needless to say I didn’t ask for a third bowl to be sent but instead asked for a refund (given) and sourced, as it turned out, a far more beautiful basin locally.

But this is what I don’t understand. How is this business making any money? Two basins delivered and smashed and no sale – no income at all.

Even more mystifying is what sort of manufacture puts a delicate ceramic basin into a plain cardboard carton without any packing? I’m sure a little polystyrene would have done the job.

I can only assume that these basins are normally collected (even that doesn’t make any sense) and not delivered by courier, with no thought being given to the extra requirements of that service. But even then, when pointed out, no proper thought was given to a process that clearly wasn’t working.

So, are you providing a service that may have changed in some way that needs some extra thinking to ensure that you are providing the best possible service?

I love this mailing!

It’s taken me a while for me to write this blog because I didn’t want you, my reader, to think I was easily taken in. But I just love this mailing.

It arrived on my doormat some months ago and I knew exactly what it was; someone was trying to sell me something. In fact I put the envelope, un-opened, straight into the recycling. As I say, I knew exactly what it was. But something at the back of my brain was nagging me. ‘You’re not average’, it was saying. But I knew it was just a ploy. ‘Forget it!’ I told myself.

Envelope Mailing

I did forget it for a while but finally succumbed, retrieved the envelope from the re-cycling and opened it. And, of course, I was right. I was trying to be sold something I didn’t want.

But, that’s the point of great marketing – or, more importantly, a great ‘hook’.

You have to get opened whatever it is that you are sending out. You have to get the next paragraph of a letter read or the line in an advert. And the way you do that is with a brilliant ‘hook’. Be it a Subject Line of an email, the Headline in an advert, the title of a letter, the first words on your website, and yes, the words on an envelope.

Your most important job is to get people to read about whatever it is that you are selling and the better your ‘hook’ is, the more enquiries, and therefore sales, you will get.

Do this right and people will just have to open (read) and see what comes next. Almost against their will!

One tip, write your copy first and then work on the headline until you get it right.

Networking – the biggest mistake: selling!

I was at a networking event recently with well over two hundred other business people.  About half way through the evening there was a speaker. He asked us all a question.  ‘How many of you are here this evening with something to sell?’  Just about every hand went up.  He then asked us another question.  ‘How many of you are here to buy something?’  For the second time my hand didn’t move, but what was more to the point, only a few hands went up.  The speaker then said, ‘Well you are all pretty much stuffed then aren’t you!’  Everyone laughed, but he had made his point!

So, what’s the point of networking?

Well, it’s certainly not to sell.  If you think about it logically, what are the chances of someone you don’t know, wanting to buy what you are selling, just at that exact moment?  Answer: just about zero.

There is only one reason to go networking and only one.  Forget collecting business cards, eating great food, or not so great food, and having a glass of wine.

Networking is all about the beginning of a relationship.  Finding people that are also interested in exploring the possibilities of a future relationship and who are happy to meet at a later date for a coffee.  That’s it! Nothing more.

So, forget all of your sales brochures and samples, and instead find out who is at the networking event, who may be a good contact for you, and how you in turn may be a good contact for them.  Locate them, introduce yourself politely, ask lots about them, ask interesting questions, listen intently and see if they would like to meet another time.

I promise you, you will soon have a diary of appointments, and not just a desk piled high with soon forgotten business cards.