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Welcome to my blog

 

Hi, this blog features a variety of articles on Business.

 

There are business tips and advice and news information from a range of sources.

 

Its informative and designed to help you think about how an what you can do to grow your company.

 

Feel free to share or copy the information.

By T Horsley, Nov 10 2017 05:20PM

Having spent 3 weeks on a beach in Italy this year (One of my goals) I noticed a man everyday walking up and down selling kites, nothing odd about that you might say, as on many foreign beaches people often wander up and down selling their wares.


I watched with interest though. Each morning he would start with some 15 kites floating in the breeze to catch people's attention and then he would slowly make his way up the beach selling a couple here and there. At the end of the day as he came past there was maybe 1 or 2 left, along with a few he was carrying in his bag.


Very enterprising and obviously worth his while. I left the beach mid afternoon most days and what struck me was that no one was actually flying any kites. So the following week I took a bit more interest and watched him. He would sell a kite, show them how to use it and move on.


What was interesting was the person who bought the kite, either mum or dad with a child in tow got the kite up in the air for a few moments, handed it to the child and in turn after few moments watched the kite crash to the ground. OK, so a bit of a learning curve needed, but after several attempts either mum or dad would give up and/or the child would lose interest relegating the kite to sun bathe on the sandy beach, abandonded and never again used. You may have experienced something very similar yourselves.


This is in essence the same as in business, as a business owner whether on your own or with staff you see something, bright, new, looks easy enough, doesn't sound too expensive and you jump straight in, such as magazine advertising, exhibitions, or social media.


After a while nothing seems to be being achieved, you lose patience, money of course and then you drop it and move on. The amount of businesses I see jumping into areas in which they have little or no understanding continues at a remarkable rate. Ideal for those who are selling the service of course but less appeaing to those having tried it and saw little or no results.


I have long advocated that a business owner should seek advice before engaging in what seems like a cystal oppotunity or keeping up with the Jones's (to coin an old saying)


Getting help may well cost money but and there is always a but, in my experience it is money well spent because having objective, unbiased advice is paramount to the sucess of your business.


Having an initial chat costs nothing, need to bounce an ideal, give me a ring, or drop me an email trevor.horsley@businessfrontiers.co.uk before you, crash the kite.

By T Horsley, Jan 22 2015 11:42AM

The curve by the way never ends but what does it really mean? Depending on what your objectives, lifestyle and expectations are, will really determine the answer to this question but I do have a few.


Lets just take business, for many, the day to day running of the business throws up many challenges. Whether its delivery, orders, maintenance, finance, staff, operations, marketing, there is always something which needs your attention and its never ending.


Being ahead of the curve therefore can be applied singularly or grouped. The overall answer though is a sense of well-being.


Being well ahead of the curve means that you have plenty of breathing space and can channel your efforts into maximising the parts of the business that although doing well could be more effective.


Being a head of the curve means that you have a decent order intake, a good pipeline, delivery mechanism which is optimised, no real cash flow or staff issues and you can take an impromptu break whenever you feel like it and the business will not suffer for it.


Oh, not you then, maybe sometimes and bits of it but not all at the same time. I know what mean, you seem to excel in one area and another is biting you, you solve that then its something else, constant and whilst for many not insurmountable you do wonder if it will ever come good all at the same time.


For many and I expect you may have been here yourself, the inevitable is snapping at your heels.


I have no magic potion for you by the way;just some words which you may wish to reflect on and better still, if in your own way act upon them.


Each business is different, of course it is but most operate in a similar manner. You may have seen my series on How to, which covers various tasks within your business all of which you may need to address at some point.


Prioritise is the way forwad but look at it from a different ppoint of view, of all the things on your list, in your head or daily activities whatever they are, look at them from 'What happens if I don't do this by then?" This will give you your priority list, it will also focus your mind and get things into perspective.


Once you have prioritised, then allocate both time and people to do them. Being ahead of the curve is not about being lucky it is about being structured and focussed. Your business can get ahead if you take the time, you are very good at what you do but you could stretch and you never know, it might just take you ahead of, the curve.


Sam Horsley

By T Horsley, Jul 7 2014 03:49PM

Custoner Experience.


'New customers', is typically the response I get when I ask businss people what they want more of..(time, money; two other great contenders), yes they love the ones they have but new ones would be good but there is a dilemmma, 'if i stop working on what I have, I might not get finished the contracts I've got at the moment, which is generating me income and if I do stop, then where, when, what, how do I go about getting new ones.


It can be time consuming and costly.


There are some that say 'I don't need any new ones, I've got a full order book for the next few months and I get recommended so I don't need to market myself' etc etc, you may know a few of these, I do and for all of you out there that believe that then it's a very naive position to take.


I don't care how good you think you are or how confident you are that you will secure more business from recommendations or how full your order book is. It can go spectacularly wrong in a heartbeat.


How do I know? Becasue I have seen it and will continue to see it, you may have already experienced it yourself. A small example of this, walk down any high street and see what shops are there, go back 9 months later, how many are empty? Now you may say 'oh they went bust because everyone buys their product off the internet, or the business rates were too high or the owner of the shop put the rent up.' The moment after you have had that thought you know for a fact that it is wrong. Why do people go out of business? Almost always, customer experience.


I can use any example in any industry to prove my point.


A good example though of customer experience lies with a coffee shop in Cheltenham. Cheltenham like many towns has a lot of places to eat and drink. The shop in question, is not in a prime location, the pavement outside is big enough for a pushchair and on a very busy road, no parking and not near any other major barnded shops which would attract passing customers. He opened up 3 years ago, no catering or retail experience, coffee, cake, soup, sandwiches, strange music and not the most comfortable chairs to sit on. Caters for about 20 if all the tables are full. Opens at 8:30 shuts at 6.


Quality home made food, very friendly service, attention to detail, clean and they remember you. Busy all day, 6 days a week. The overall experience you get using this coffee shop demonstrates why he is still in business.


It doesn't matter what you think of your products, service and history, it's what the customer thinks and their experience in dealing with you. If you have an enquiry how do you follow it up, very recently I had two very different requirements and put out enquiries and requests for information. Of the 8 local companies I contacted only 2 responded and only 1 of them followed it up properly.


A lead is like gold dust. Some of you make it very difficult to buy from you. So the customer experience is incredibly poor before you have even started.


I read a short while ago that if you got a lead you should only chase them 3 times then essentially forget them. What crap, just because you can't get hold of them when it is convenient to you, how about trying to contact them when it's covenient to them. In other words keep going until you actually do get hold of them.


What was their experience when they tried to contact you, are you easily found, is it easy for them to contact you. If you are on Facebook, put your phone number, email in a prominent place. Many don't. have a look at some of your 'friends' business pages and see how many of them have any contact details at all.


When you do get an enquiry, what does the customer receive, how would you like to get what you send them or how would you feel about the message you leave. When you deliver something, what is their experience in receiving it, was it late, the right colour, style, did you communicate with them enough times to keep them updated on the progress.


This is just the start of a massive subject, the customer pays your wages and they will come back to you time and time again if you give them a good experience, we are all in very competitive markets and whilst you may have a full order book now or rely on recommendations it only takes one customer whose experience of any part of your business is not satisfactory and they tell everyone they meet how bad you are and as you know, bad news travels fast.


Very few people I know actually know what their customers think of them, too afraid to ask or in most cases sheer arrogance in the thought that the product or service they provide is brilliant and they have no need to find out. Sadly though, this is where you lose business. Also it takes money to find out, oh dear that dreaded thing money; you mean you actually have to spend money to find out what people think of you?


If you want an objective point of view and new clients and keep the ones you have, its your choice.


I provide a 20 page Customer Experience report on your company. Best 150 quid you will ever spend. Call me 07774 938 836 - (don't forget to leave a message) or email me. trevor.horsley@businessfrontiers.co.uk to find out more.

By T Horsley, Feb 7 2014 04:42PM

So you have asked the questions of yourself and one hopes that you have been able to answer them all honestly. Why honestly, well if you fudge or lie all you are doing is pushing the way you can build your business bigger and better further away. In Part 2 we asked the questions, here we explore the answers.


Question 1


What exactly do you do? This is the starting point.


May seem a bit odd, given say for an example, you are a plumber or an accountant. Seems obvious but is it. What is your core skill, almost every business has sub levels of expertise. Understanding these will position you better in your chosen market.


It’s very important to understand exactly what it is you do, not what you think you do but in real life exactly what it is. One of the many ways to answer this question is ask 4 or 5 other people what they think your business is all about.


The answers may surprise but are a very good insight into how others perceive the business you are in. None of the answers you get are wrong so don’t judge, take on board and then return to where you started and then write down a clear description of what you do. From this you can then start to build a marketing plan etc.


Question 2


Who or what is your target market?


Fundamental to the success of the company is, knowing who they are actually going to market/sell their product or service too.


The purpose here is to make you focus, there is no point doing the shot gun approach, everyone everywhere, that never works, its time consuming and can be very expensive. Look back on the last year and the type of sales you made or customers who used you.


Look at their age, their market, where they live, what you sold/installed etc. In addition to this look at what you wanted to deliver and see if this actually matches up with any of your customers.


If you had a green widget that was brilliant but only 2 clients took them on board yet you sold 50 yellow buttons then its time to re-evaluate what it is. Hence question No 1. Once you have this information then you are better able to target your potential customers more clearly.


Question 3


Who delivers the service you offer?


Can you control how and when your product or service is delivered to your clients and does your current system work. It may well be you, so you need a good delivery mechanism in place.


Taking an order is one thing, getting it to the customer in a satisfactory, on time, on budget, correct way is another. Damage can be dome to your company if you fail any of the above. This is where you need to set the expectation level of the customer correctly.


Explore your supply chain, whatever it is and then add some time to it. The time you add to it will be dependant on your experience, on your work load etc but its important here to always add a bit just dealing with the ‘in case’ factor. A clear delivery mechanism and expectation level will make things far easier for you to retain that customer.


Question 4

Is your pricing structure correct?


In other words are you going to make money out of this venture, I’m not talking about making millions, for most of us its more about making a good living with perks.


Almost everyone I see has the wrong pricing structure, now before you go off on one and say I’m commission only, I’m told what I can sell it for, I’m restricted by contract, take a breath. The pricing structure includes many different elements it is not just the price of the product. If you are on commission only is it the best rate, is there room for negotiation, can you up sell while you are there, are there other people who offer a better rate.


If it’s a fixed price, what about volume, other suppliers etc. Can you add for delivery, training, maintenance, upgrades, review visits, telephone support, additional contracts, other products. Whatever it is you have options, if of course you are not making any money at it and you can’t add more then you have to question why are you doing this in the first place. The reasoning here, is this is your business, its not a job, its your future you are working towards so you need to get it right.


Question 5


Do you need more clients?


Is your existing client base sufficient enough for you grow your business or do you think you may need to add some new clients along the way?


Might seem like a stupid question, almost everyone again I speak to when asked say I need more customers. However, look carefully at your current client base, the age, demographic, wealth, expansion and products they have purchased from you.


What is the lifetime value of that client. Work it out. What happens if you lose one or two, what’s the value to the business, how much in other words will you lose, then look at this and decide how many you would need to replace the ones you have lost. It is a relatively simple exercise and every business needs to look at this every quarter. If you are not doing or don’t know how too, ask for some advice.


Question 6


What do you expect to end up with in the end?


Retirement may seem a long way off, you may of course decide that you don’t want to retire just keep working, or of course you may have the view that you could pass the business onto an heir or even sell it one day. If not and I suspect like many it will still be yours at the end, what exactly do you want it to look like?


It may seem a long way off but unless you have some milestones, then you may still be operating in 5 or 10 years time the same as you are now. Setting an objective or several then monitoring the progress, adapting and adjusting as you go will always ensure that whatever it is you want at the end, you should be able to get a fair proportion of it if not all.


As with any business it needs to flow, it needs to embrace the current market and it needs to be able to respond to changes and prepare for the future. If you don’t pay attention to it then your the business will just drift.


It’s not hard, nor that expensive to get advice, the hardest part for most businesses is actually deciding they want more. I read an article recently about half a dozen of the top business people, how they succeeded and what they suggested SME’s or Sole Traders etc should do.


One of the main points that they made was that they all sought advice, Richard Branson stated that even today he has a mentor. I’m not suggesting you get a mentor but I do strongly suggest that if you have any questions if want more out of your business then get some practical sound business advice..


Give me call, an informal chat doesn’t cost anything.


By T Horsley, Dec 31 2013 12:54PM

On the eve of another year it’s always worth while to take a look back at how well you did during the last twelve months. If you haven’t been preparing for 2014 in the last two months then, well, you have a few more hours and maybe the rest of the week to do so.


The Christmas break for business this year is a difficult one and falls within the middle of the week and then of course, New Years day the following week, so for many millions of people they will have had two full weeks off work. Back to reality on the 6th Jan.


This for some, who do not have the full two weeks off, is a time to sort out the admin, clear the emails, update the phone records, year end accounts, statements, invoices and letters to those who owe you money. (there is a book to help you with that). Plus and I do hope you will, review the strategy for growing your business next year. When I say reviewing, I applaud those of you for having it prepared but for those of you who have not, in between the left over christmas cake and haggis get one done.


Don’t make resolutions, set a few goals based on your strategy which should look at a number of keys areas.


Product portfolio, customers, pricing, marketing, training and development and personal circumstances. Flesh out a few details on each of these and it will soon build into a strategy for the coming year.


Past performance, ie what worked well and what didn’t also needs close examination, look at each customer, what they bought from you the pricing and delivery of it and how did you get that business? I have never yet met a business person who doesn’t want more business or to make more money from the business they have, but each year sadly, they look back and see that they have either lost business or some customers they relied on for work just don’t use them any more, and they don’t know why.


‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got’


This holds true for a number of different reasons, mainly because your customers are changing, not so much changing themselves more as to how they buy and the criteria as to who they buy from, is changing. If you don’t look at this and revisit the way you sell, you will fail.


Year on year how can you tell if it is getting better for you or not, well the most obvious is your yearly accounts. My accountant is brilliant and she is incredibly patient with me. After harassing me for several months she eventually created my accounts for submission at the end of the month having given her all the details about four days before I see that my profit margin and turnover had increased on the previous year, and I also know roughly that 2013-14 will also be better than this.


Now customers come and go, contracts come and go, there is a certain amount of bread and butter business for everyone and if you can add 10% to this and gain 10% more customers and increase your profit margin by 10% overall then you are building a solid foundation to your business.


Of course there are periods when you will make substantially more and there will be times when your customer base declines but as long as you are consistent with the development of the business you will succeed.


Adapting your portfolio and strategy is key to making sure that if parts of your business are not doing as well as they should, you have other areas which can grow and offset these more difficult avenues for you. This however, is a strength that many can’t or won’t embrace, either because they are too afraid of change or are so stuck in the belief that what they are doing will reap the rewards of the past, sadly this is rarely the case and by the time they realise this its too late.


"it is not the strongest of the species that survives, notr the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change" - Charles Darwin


If you are not sure or would like some advice, ask, it’s a strength not a failure.


Don't forget, in all of this you do have a personal life, work life balance and all that, subject for another day, if you are going to a party tonight or just being with friends have a good time, me, I'm indulging in a passion of mine, I've got a gig as a DJ for the evening to a couple hundred people. Disco time, its going to be fun.


So, Happy New Year! - actually I don’t really care if it’s happy for you or not, I’m not your nanny;


I prefer to wish you a Prosperous New Year.



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Most of the articles are written by myself or I have extracted parts from published information from people who I feel have something to offer.

 

Other articles are a straight copy of what someone else has written and I have shared this with you as I believe it adds value to your business experience.

 

So the authors are and will be referenced under:

 

T Horsley

C Shaw

Kim Garst

David Zaleski

James Caan

Chris Green

Ian Stanley

Emile Darwin

Samantha Horsley