How To Slow Down And Boost Your Mental Fortitude

I’m pleased to be sharing an article contributed by Wendy Dessler of Clockspot on How To Slow Down And Boost Your Mental Fortitude.  I’m a big believer in working practices that ensure you don’t get stressed and burned out and Wendy has some great ideas for doing exactly that.

An all-too-common trend among entrepreneurs of all stripes is to burn the candle at both ends until there’s nothing left. Productivity is a good thing, but it has to be tempered and controlled for you to wield it the right way. At the same time, though, you’ll not want to cripple your momentum by taking a full-on break from work. What to do? The answer, it turns out, lies in shifting your mentality to handle the strain of staying “switched on” for long stretches of time. Here’s how you can apply this concept in your work.

Boost Your Confidence

You can do this by letting go of insecurities that lead you into thinking that you aren’t capable enough to succeed. Those niggling doubts will eat away at your ability to create and drain on your fortitude. Inoculating yourself by trusting in your prowess will sustain your ability to keep your pace.

Welcome The Failures

If you’re stressing out about everything that could go wrong and how failure will break you as a person or a professional, just stop. The bold know that failure breeds success, as what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. You might slip up a hundred times, but you’ll welcome each setback because it puts you closer to success.

Allow For Small Distractions

Even those with seemingly inexhaustible stores of focus will eventually be worn down by the temptation to goof off.

If you try to fight it for too long, you might end up goofing off longer than you should, though, so periodically, give yourself time to (briefly) do something non-current-work related.

Work on your website, check your page, play your favorite adventure game for a few minutes, and then jump back in the fray.

Monitor Your Caffeine Consumption

Sure, caffeine is great for giving you an extra boost when you’re getting tired, but too much of it will put your adrenaline levels in a state of flux and keep you from maintaining an even pace.

You’ll be up one minute, down the next if you’re downing pot after pot (or can after can if you prefer energy drinks), so limit your intake and enjoy a more level rate of productivity (as opposed to short, unsustainable bursts).

Squash The Beef

Both with yourself and others. You probably already know how negative self-talk can keep you from achieving your potential.

Negative talk about others can do just as much harm, and distract you in much the same way. Don’t spend time comparing yourself to others or tearing others down, as this is completely antithetical to the winner’s mindset.

Take Time To Analyze

You’ve got deadlines, commitments, and a long list of people trying to pull you in different directions.

Do you break down, and stress about how you’re going to get it all done?

Or do you step back, analyze your situation, and formulate a plan by prioritizing smaller goals? A time tracking tool like Clockspot can be of great help here to give you a green light to gain perspective on what you’re trying to achieve and set clear goals.

Know That Change Will Come

Nothing stays the same forever. Do not fear the unknown and don’t become paralyzed by the prospect of things not working out on the first go.

Instead, stay flexible, accept that changes (sometimes outside of your control) are inevitable. When you go with the flow, you will better prepare yourself to recognise the opportunities that manifest during periods of flux.

Crush Interruptions

Crush Interruptions Whilst Nurturing Enquiries

You’ve probably by now seen this clip of Professor Robert Kelly being videobombed by his two children during an interview about Korean politics, or one of its variations which have been spreading like wildfire on social media this last week.  (If you haven’t where have you been as this item has been EVERYWHERE!)

But if you haven’t seen it, I’ll summarise for you.  Professor Kelly is being interviewed from his office live on the BBC News on the subject of North and South Korea, a serious topic, when all of a sudden the door behind him opens and in marches his three year old daughter, dramatically swinging her arms and purposefully heading towards her father in the middle of his interview. The remarkably calm professor puts out his arm to block her from taking centre stage as he attempts to continue. As if this wasn’t enough, next appearing at the door is a baby in a walker, following in the path of his sister. Baby brother is shortly followed by Mum, clearly panicking, she hurls herself though the door, keeping low in an attempt to keep out of vision, hurtles towards her escapee children, who she then pulls backwards out of the room, closing the door behind them.

It has to be said that Kelly does an exceptional job of staying cool under the collar and keeps his composure to carry on through the rest of the report, but to just about everyone else who has witnessed it, it’s been a cause of considerable mirth. Undoubtedly one reason for this video going viral is the humour, but another reason for its popularity is that it’s something a lot of people can relate to on some level or another.

For business owners, particularly those who work from home, many of us can identify.  Although few of us are likely to be caught out like this on national TV, most of us have been in a similar situation on the phone, when perhaps a child comes in to the room, a dog barks, your neighbour starts working on a DIY project etc.  Whilst, we may, like Professor Kelly do our best to maintain composure in these situations, the fact is if it’s an important call your stress levels go up.  You’re concentrating on what the child is doing, praying that they’re not going to make a noise.  You’re trying to give a professional impression but you’re not able to focus properly on the conversation, and you know it.  On the flipside if you do give the call your full attention you ignore your little treasure at your peril.

We’ve probably all been in that situation where the phone rings and you think to yourself ‘dare I answer?’

I’ve felt this way myself on many occasions. As a mum of three boisterous boys, two dogs and two guinea pigs (!) our house is always a bit crazy. Part of being able to work from home and be close to family life is one of the major plus points, but it’s also one of the drawbacks when you’re waiting for an important call.

Using a telephone answering service means that your calls will always be answered in a calm, controlled office environment. There are no kids, no animals, no neighbours with a penchant for DIY or loud music.  You can be sure that calls will always be answered in a promptly by a trained, friendly, professional call handler, who is entirely devoted to answering calls and nothing else.

You need never miss a call again because you’re worried about the background noise, you’re already on the phone, you’re not in the office, you’re in the middle of concentrating on something important etc.

For small business owners, it can make a massive difference.

  • Improved time management,
  • Increased sales leads since you don’t miss any telephone enquiries
  • Giving a professional impression of your business
  • Providing great service
  • Improving work life balance

In addition, a telephone answering service is highly cost effective since you only pay for the calls that we answer.

As we’re on a mission to help small businesses succeed we’re giving you the chance to try our call answering service COMPLETELY FREE for 7 days. We don’t take card details and there’s no obligation to take it further.

Like to see what a difference our call answering service makes.

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Offer expires midnight 31st March 2017.

Subject to fair usage. 10 call units per day.

Know someone else who could benefit from a free trial? Feel free to share.


Automate To Save Time, Be More Efficient & Improve Your Decision Making Ability

I often find myself blogging on the subject of saving time.  Hardly surprising when for many of us small business owners there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to cover the multitude of tasks we all have to deal with throughout the working day.  Most of these tasks are in addition to our core business.  We can end up spending hours every week on fulfilling some of these tasks.  For a business to grow you need to be able to spend time working on your business rather than in the business.

So once again I will find myself attempting to answer the question of how we can save time.

One thing I am a big believer in is automation. Automation is one of the biggest things you can do to save time during the week.  But there are additional benefits as well as saving time which give you even more reason to do it.


Why should you automate?

  • First and foremost it saves time.  Why spend hours doing something yourself manually if a piece of software can automatically do it for you?
  • It saves money if you are paying for people to carry out some of these tasks for you.
  • Eliminates user error – the more times something is redone manually by another person the greater the risk of an error being made.
  • As everyone has a capacity to make a finite number of decisions in a day, it improves your decision-making ability as you don’t have to waste brain power thinking about minor decisions.


What should you automate?

In short, as much as possible!  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Social Media. Using a tool such as Hootsuite enables you to write multiple social media posts in one go, in one place and then schedule them. This enables you to write your posts in bulk and then save time logging in to social media on other occasions and getting distracted.
  2. Invoicing/Credit Control. Many accounting systems such as Kashflow or Xero will allow you to create invoices in bulk and create recurring invoices for regular clients in one go. You can also set up the automated credit control so that not only do the invoices go out on time, but your clients are sent reminders too.  This not only has the benefit of saving time, but ensures that the credit control process is followed to the letter and nothing is overlooked which will certainly help to reduce your time to get paid.
  3. Sending automated emails. Using the automation function within Mailchimp you can drip feed a series of emails to your mailing list.  Once it’s set up all you need to do is add the new person’s email address and it will do it in the background for you.
  4. Email templates. You probably find that you receive a lot of very similar email enquiries about your products or services.  If you haven’t already, automate this process by preparing some templates which can be tweaked accordingly and then sent in response.
  5. PC Backups. Instead of running these manually automate them.  If you are thinking that this wouldn’t save you any time as you don’t back up, then you need to put this in place now.  Losing your files would be a nightmare for most businesses, not to mention a complete waste of time, so make sure it doesn’t happen to you and put an automated system in place asap.
  6. Reporting. It’s always a good idea to check reports to keep a track of how your business is going, but all too often it’s the case that businesses are spending time manipulating one set of data getting it added in to another spreadsheet and changing the formatting.  See what you can do to automate this process.
  7. Blogging. If you have a WordPress blog they have a facility to schedule your posts for whenever you want.  This gives you the option to write multiple posts in one go and then publish them all in regular intervals.  This not only saves time, but also works well during times when you may be on holiday for example but want to keep a post going out each week.
  8. Frequently Asked Questions. If you find that you get certain questions about your products or services asked regularly one way to minimise the time you spend on dealing with these enquiries can be to create a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website.  This won’t eliminate all your queries, but will cut them down. The other advantage of having such a page on your website is that you can turn it in to an opportunity to further sell the benefits of your product or service so it may help to generate more business.
  9. File sharing. Having to email files between colleagues internally is a complete waste of time when you can use a service such as Dropbox to give everyone access to the information they need.
  10. Project Management. A lot of time can be wasted through communicating the same information to people at different times. Using a tool such as Trello or Freedcamp means everyone gets updated automatically on the status of a project.  So for example if Jane is waiting for Richard to finish his stage of the project before she is able to progress to the next stage with hers, she will automatically be notified.  Also is means that all the files and information is in one place, which can save a lot of time in back and forth email communication.
  11. Sales tracking. Using a CRM such as Infusionsoft or Salesforce will automatically remind you of what you need to do to keep moving your leads through the sales funnel.
  12. Website Traffic Tracking. If you have Google Analytics installed on your website you can request reports to be sent to you daily, weekly or monthly.  This is useful as it sends the information to you without you needing to go in and then spend ages looking around the website.
  13. Share calendars. I’m not sure if you would really class this as an automation or not, but I’ve included it because it saves so much time checking diaries with colleagues back and forth when you can just book something in there and then.
  14. Email signatures. If you haven’t already got an email auto signature then create one.  Typing your name and title each time may only take a few seconds each time, but over the course of a day and a week these seconds add up.  Not only that, a proper autosignature looks more professional and can also be used as an opportunity to highlight a product or service that you want to promote.
  15. Pay Bills. If you have bills that you pay regularly setting up regular standing orders or direct debits saves so much time each month making the transactions.  Ensure that you record all of these in your P&L though as it’s easy to forget you are paying something when you don’t actually see the money going out.
  16. Research. Google Alerts is a great tool.  It uses your search terms for your company, industry or competitors and monitors online mentions.  It them compiles them and sends them to you, either in real time or as a daily or weekly report.  This saves countless hours of trawling the internet yourself looking for information and ensures you are kept up to date with relevant information.
  17. Take payments. GoCardless will enable you to take direct debit payments from your clients. This saves a lot of time on credit control and ensures you get paid promptly.  It will also integrate with several online accounting systems saving further time.


The best way to tackle automation.


So there are some generic ideas, to implement and perhaps there could be others relevant to your industry.  The thing to remember is not to get fazed by looking at a list like this.  You can’t do everything at once. Concentrate on one thing at a time.  Automatation saves an incredible amount of time, but sometimes the set up process for an automation can be time consuming. Don’t be put off by this as in the long term this will reap benefits, but at the same time you can’t expect to get everything in place overnight.

Factoring in time each week to work on setting up each of these processes is a good place to start and work through your list.  As time goes on and you achieve more on the list you will find that you have more tasks automated you are saving time each day which can then be used to start other automation processes, work on growing your business, or simply take a well earned rest.

Do you have other ideas for automating processes in your business?  We’re always keen to hear of time saving suggestions so let us know your thoughts and ideas so what we can share them.

If you know anyone else who could be interested in reading this or any other blog posts please do share.


Pay As You Go Telephone Answering

This Week – Pay As You Go Telephone Answering For A Start Up

We’ve fairly recently started working with a new business, who are using our pay as you go telephone answering service.  The company are brand new having just started trading at the beginning of the month.  The three owners of the business are all employed full time currently and are looking to build up the new company to a certain level of turnover before they actually go full time in the business.

Initially this business team are going to work during the evenings and weekends, perhaps taking the occasional day off from their day jobs as they want to retain the income that they currently have.

They wanted to have the appearance to the outside world of being open for business throughout the working week and wanted to look at the most cost effective option.  Using pay as you go telephone answering they will only pay for the calls they use, so for them as a start up it allows quite a lot of flexibility.  The majority of start up businesses that we work with don’t have huge volumes of calls in the first instance, they tend to build up gradually over time.  Working on a pay as you go basis means that they don’t pay for large bundles of calls that they don’t yet need.

Their calls are answered by our team here, who are handling the callers enquiries, taking messages which are then sent on via email and they call back at their convenience, this allows then to carry on without interruption to their day jobs, as they can just check their messages when they are on breaks.  So far we’ve only answered a couple of calls for them, but it’s nice to be able to share in the excitement of our client when they get their first business enquiries come through.

Pay As You Go Telephone Answering

Virtual Office

How to find the right virtual office for your business.

So you’ve made the decision to use a virtual office.  How do you then go about finding the right virtual office for your business?  It’s important to make the right decision as you could be partnering with your virtual office service provider for a number of years to come so spend some time in advance carrying out your research to make the right decision from the start.

There are a number of factors to consider and you should weigh up all of them.



Location should be a major consideration for you in deciding on your virtual office.  The business address plays a crucial role in the impression of your business to the outside world.  You need to weigh up both the prestige factor that your business address will give as well as the likelihood of picking up business in that area.

Think carefully about who your ideal clients are.  Would they be likely to do business with a company in a more upmarket part of town or is something more modest appropriate?  Do your clients want to see you as a local business or is that not important.


The Premises

Although you will not be based from the virtual office it’s still important that the premises themselves, not purely the business address play a very important role.

Ideally visit the premises yourself, or if not at least take a look on Google Places to see the building and what sort of impression that conveys.

Again, just as you considered for location whether the location and address give the right impression for your business, think too of the premises.  Is the building smart, presentable, on a nice street?

Is it obviously a virtual office building or could it be conceivable that your business is actually based in there?


The services

Think carefully about the services you require from your virtual office.  Is it purely telephone answering and a virtual business address or do you require other services too, such as a virtual assistant service?

Make sure you clearly understand the services that the virtual office does offer.

Telephone Answering

What are the hours of business?  Do you need 24/7 telephone answering?  Most businesses don’t need this, but be clear when the opening hours are.  What happens if there is a call out of hours?  Is there a dedicated voicemail for your business?

How will messages be sent to you?

Mail Forwarding

Does the business offer same day mail forwarding?  If not find out how quickly any mail will be forwarded on.

Can you collect the post if you want?  If you do collect will you be informed if you have any mail to be collected?  How will they make contact with you? Will the mail be stored securely?


The size of the company

Think again about the impression that you are trying to convey of your company and choose an appropriate virtual office service provider to partner with.  A larger company with a bigger telephone answering team are likely to convey the impression of your business being considerably larger and busier with more of a call centre feel.  A small business answering service may be able to offer a more bespoke personal service.  Staff are more likely to get to know the businesses that they are working with and will often just know the information about the clients who they are answering the telephone for without having to look up information and may even get to know some regular callers, therefore becoming a convincing part of the team.


Make a phone call

Ring the business yourself and see how they answer.  A phone call to your company may well be the first contact a caller has with your business and it’s absolutely crucial that you make a great first impression.  Is the receptionist’s tone clear and well spoken?  Are they friendly, welcoming and professional?  Above all, ask yourself “Would you be happy if this person was answering the phone for my business?” – if the answer is no then go no further, but if the answer is yes give this company a big plus point as you continue weighing up your options.



Weighing up the costs is an important part of any business decision and this is no exception.  Are there pay as you go telephone answering options or are there virtual office packages available?  Think about how you are likely to use the service.  Are you likely to want them to answer every single call that comes in to your business, or just the overflow calls?  It can be difficult to estimate the volume of calls that come in to your business if you’ve never used a service like this before.  Try keeping a tally over the course of a week of the number of calls that come in to give you a rough idea.  Are you likely to experience periods of higher volume at certain times than others?

Pay as you go telephone answering will provide you with an accurate bill based on the number of call units you have paid – you are only ever going to get charged for what you use.

Virtual office packages offer bundles of minutes, and if you can reasonably accurately forecast the volume of calls you are likely to get this can work out cheaper, but not if you get it wrong.

Find out if the service can change and grow with your business.  If you are just starting up, the chances are you may not receive huge volumes of calls in the early days, but this may well increase as your business becomes more established.  Can you change your plan if needs be depending on your business requirements?

Find out if there are set up costs and what realistic monthly charges may be.

Cost is important but maybe not the most important factor.  If you estimate that one company may cost you £5 per month more, but the address is more appropriate and the telephone answering service is better it is probably worth paying the extra for.


Can you use the business as a both a trading address and a registered office address?

If your business is a Limited Company by law you are required to state your registered office address.  This is an address to receive formal correspondence from HMRC and Companies House.  Check if the price for the virtual office includes both trading address and registered office address if this is what you require.


Can you publicise the address?

Usually you can publish the address of your virtual office, but it is worth checking.  If you want to use this for marketing campaigns, listing on Google, your website, your business cards, any other marketing material do check that this is allowed.


Check the terms of the contract

Are you tied in for a particular length of time or does the contract work on a rolling basis.  If you are confident that you are going to be staying with your virtual office provider for some time there are often cost savings to be made by signing up for longer periods of time and paying up front, but paying monthly offers the opportunity for you to move on should you wish to.


There are quite a lot of factors to be taken in to consideration, but this is an important decision.  The address of your business and the way the telephone is answered is so influential in determining how the outside world views your business and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.


Unsure if a virtual office is right for you?  You might like to read this article on whether to work from home or an office to weigh up the pros and cons.


Do you use a virtual office?  How did you find yours?  Any knowledge you would like to pass on to our readers if you have been through this process yourself?  Please do let us know.


Small Business Brand

How To Reinforce Your Small Business Brand Without Spending A Penny

Everyday Ideas To Promote Your Brand Without Spending Money

It’s difficult to measure the value of your company brand, but one thing is for sure if you have succeeded in developing a strong brand it will engender confidence in your business and help you win and secure clients. If you don’t really have a brand to speak of it will require more effort to develop business.

As small business owners, many of us will be convinced of the importance of a strong brand already, yet the challenge is often how to reinforce that brand on a budget.  Here are a handful of small ideas that everyone can do to reinforce their small business brand.

  1. Your brand is about so much more than your logo. If you haven’t already, ask yourself what kind of values your small business brand stands for and then make sure that you reflect that, in your actions, in the way you treat your customers, in the way you dress and present yourself in general.  If you employ staff make sure that you convey your message to them as well so that they emulate you and your business brand.
  2. Tell people. Get out there and network.  There are many low cost or even free networking events happening all over the country.  If you haven’t already attended any then get out there and start spreading the word about your brand.  It’s important to note here that whilst it’s important to get your message across you should always be polite and respectful to the other people you are networking with, listen to what they are saying and take a genuine interest in them.  Talking over other people or hogging the conversation will not do your brand any favours so take turns appropriately, you might also find some other great businesses that can help you out too.
  3. If you’re brave enough to get out there in to the world and network face to face why not also try social media? Promoting your business through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or any of the other vast number of platforms is free and a great way to get your message out to a sizeable audience.  As with face to face networking be friendly and unselfish to be remembered for the right reasons. Post content that is relevant to your audience and true to your brand, reflecting standards appropriate to your business.
  4. Keep everything consistent. Assuming you have a logo, which every business should, make sure you are using it everywhere, not just on your marketing material, but on all your documents, on your email auto signature, your invoices and for any communication you have with anyone outside the company.  Make sure that your website, business cards and other marketing material all use the same version of your logo and that further than that you have a consistent image, for example always using the same font and overall style.
  5. Make sure your name is known. Just as ensuring that the logo and style of the business is across the board so should your name be.   This may sound obvious, however, businesses with long names may sometimes find themselves abbreviating the name, this is fine if that’s what you’re going to go with, but choose one or the other and stick with it and make sure that that name is known.  For example brief everyone who answers the telephone in your business to answer the telephone professionally using the same company name.

Do you have any other ideas to help small businesses, either in terms of branding or helping businesses to work smarter?  We would love to hear if you do.