Is Your Home Suitable To Run Your Business From?

Running your business from home is a low cost alternative to hiring commercial premises to operate your business from.

But before diving in and taking the plunge it’s worth considering if your home is in fact a suitable base for your business.

If you haven’t already read our first blog in this series on the Pros And Cons Of Running Your Business From Home I recommend you go back and read it as it provides a good general overview of the benefits and drawbacks that you will want to consider in the first place.

This blog will talk primarily about the specifics of YOUR home and help you determine it’s suitability for running a business from.

First of all, there are three main types of businesses that I will talk about in this post.

A premises based business, this is a business where your customers or clients will come to visit you.

A client based business, this is where you will be mainly based on customers premises.

A virtual business, this is a business where you don’t really need to meet your clients at all.

Each of these businesses will have different needs and considerations.  You may find that your own business overlaps a couple of the categories and that’s fine, these are not hard and fast rules, they are more guidelines as to what could or could not be suitable in different circumstances.

You will need to consider the following factors no matter what type of business you run, though some of these may be more relevant than others to different businesses.

1. Location.

First of all, consider the location of your home.  This is most relevant for premises based businesses and client based businesses, less so for virtual businesses, though it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

If you are a premises based business where your clients will come to you, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Is your address within a reasonable distance of your ideal customer?  Don’t just assume that people will be prepared to travel to you.  You have to make it as easy as possible for your customers to get to you if you want sales.

Check your home is in a suitable location

Are you in the centre of the area of your ideal customers? Are there good transport links to get to your location?  Is there adequate parking?

The nature of your business and it’s uniqueness will affect how far people are prepared to travel.  If you do offer something that’s truly unique your customers could well be prepared to travel a little further to get to you. On the other hand, if your customer would find other people doing what you do in a location that is closer and more convenient to them they may be tempted to go there instead.  People often make buying decisions based on convenience so don’t underestimate the location of your competition either.

Does your address match with the image of the business?  For example, if your business is in the high end, luxury sector, customers will most likely expect a high end address.  Before they even get to your address a potential customer could be put off by an address being the wrong side of town.

Is there likely to be a big increase in traffic of people visiting your premises and parking on the street?  If so, it’s possible that you may need to apply for planning permission so check on your local council website for further details.

If you are a client based business ask yourself these questions.

How far are you from your clients? How far are you prepared to travel?  Again, depending on the nature of your business, this could be something that could win or lose a sale for you depending on customer perception, even if they would never have to visit your premises themselves.

Close proximity to customers is a major plus point for many people, whatever type of business you’re in.  If you’re further away and need to travel regularly to your client’s premises, even if you know you can make the journey, a potential client can still be put off by you having to travel a long distance on the basis that you may not be able to make it at some point in the future.

Certain locations are synonymous with certain industries and an address in a particular location can build confidence, even if they never attend those premises.  (For example a doctor on Harley Street or a tailor on Saville Row.) It’s often worth considering the potential sales vales of a good address.

If you’re a virtual business, your address matters less, but it still matters.  Always go back to thinking about your ideal customer.  Would they be happy to pay money to a business at your address?

2. Your Premises.

Next, consider the premises themselves.  This may be your home and therefore difficult to look at objectively, but try to view if from a potential customers eyes.

Go outside your premises first of all. Imagine you are looking at your home for the first time.  Look at it, not as your home, but as your business.  Does it look presentable, well maintained and welcoming?

Your potential customers can be either enticed in or put off depending on the curb appeal of your property.  If it’s in a bad state of repair or overgrown with weeds you could find yourself losing business and not even knowing why if customers don’t want to knock on the door.

Approach the front door and walk inside the property, again imagining yourself seeing your home for the first time.  A customer is not going to see the whole of the house but look at the bits they will see.

 

As a minimum you’re going to have to have somewhere to speak to your customers. To make them feel welcome it’s always good to have somewhere comfortable for them to sit.  You’re likely to need to be able to make a drink for them, they may also ask to use the bathroom.  Make sure that any areas of your house that your customer would either enter, or pass through are appropriate.

Are you going to have a separate room that your customer that your customer will come in to or are they going to be in the main area of your house?  Think what your customer would reasonably expect to do on a visit to your business premises and ask yourself if your home fulfils that criteria.

Even if your customer is never going to come to your home you still need to consider whether the premises are suitable. Do you require just an office space, or are you perhaps making something?  If so do you have the necessary space to make the product, store your materials, any tools or stock?

 

The outside of your property is still important even if no one is visiting.  Many people will do a Google search on a business before making contact.  A photo of your premises on your business listing on Google goes a long way to building trust, particularly if you are a client based business or a virtual business.  Seeing the premises gives you credibility, the customer can see you are real, so use this to your advantage if you can.

3. Your Neighbours.

Whether you run a business from home or not, the importance of being on good terms with your neighbours can’t be underestimated.  When you do run a business from home good neighbourly relations are of HUGE importance.

A friendly neighbour will happily sign for packages and smile at your customers as they arrive.  A disgruntled neighbour on the other hand can be extremely obstructive.

When you are assessing your home for suitability, factor in also the neighbours and the impression they give.

You could keep the house in immaculate condition, but if your neighbours are blaring out music at top volume or having a full scale row, the chances are this is going to scare off potential clients.

Asking a neighbour to modify their behaviour is never an easy task, but if you are on bad terms with them to start with, forget it.  asking them to turn the music down when you blocked their drive the day before will never go down well.

You have to be prepared to give the neighbour the same courtesy you expect of them and if you’re running a business it’s really going to be worth going the extra mile to nurture that relationship.  Show them your appreciation.

If your business is one which makes a lot of noise it’s worth talking to them honestly about it in advance and seeing how they feel.

Say thank you

The odd little present or thank you card does a long way to help cultivate a good relationship and people are often more understanding if they feel appreciated.

 

4. Your family/the people you live with.

The decision to run a business from your home, if you share your home with others, is never one you should take by yourself.

You need to consider the implications running your business from home will have on the whole family, not just you.  Equally you need to consider the impact your family will have on your business.

Before you go ahead, sit down and talk with everyone about your business and give your reasons for wanting to run the business from home.  (See the Pros and Cons of Running Your Business From Home for some ideas to start with)

Tell them exactly how it will impact on them.  It’s important to tell it exactly how it is, warts and all and not to attempt to oversell it.  When reality sets in if the situation is worse than they were led to believe for the others around you this can lead to resentment of both you and the business.

Let them know what’s expected of them, i.e. not plating loud music between certain hours, being courteous to visitors, tidying up after themselves etc.  as with your neighbours, show them appreciation for everything they do to support your business.

A united family supporting your business can be a real asset, but a customer being met with an annoyed, scowling teenager can cause you problems.

Set out what you agree to do as well, for example, particular working hours and stick to it.

Be realistic about what you can expect from your family.

It’s a good idea to have regular reviews with the family about what’s working and what could be improved.  Be prepared to listen and take on board other people’s feelings, even if it’s not really what you want to hear. Constant communication is the key.  It’s important to be united, don’t let basing your business from home cause problems between yourself and your family.

So now you have a good idea whether your home is suitable to run your business from.  The question is now are you the right type of person to work from home?  Next week in the next blog in this series, we’ll be examining how to find out if you have the right personality traits to work from home and how to go about cultivating the right focus.

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pros and cons of running your business from home

The Pros And Cons Of Running Your Business From Home

 

Welcome to the first of a series of blog posts about running a business from home.

For the first installment, we’re kicking off with the pros and cons of running a business from home.

The Pros and Cons of Running A Business From Home

Before you decide whether running your business from home is right for you, you should weigh up the various pros and cons of running your business from home as opposed to an office or other premises.

Every business is unique, just as every home and premises is so give careful attention to all the contributing factors before you make your decision.

The Pros of Running Your Business From Home

1. It’s low cost.

In any business you always need to be mindful of costs and keep your overheads to a minimum.  Premises are often a significant expense for business owners  and running your business from home can cut that out.  Furthermore, you may even be able to claim expenses for it.

2. There’s no commute.

No getting stuck in traffic jams, no missing the train, no standing at the bus stop in the rain. You’re already there.  No time taken out of your day to get to work and no expense to get there.

3. It’s flexible.

You’re not tied in.  If you decide at any point that you want to move to another premises, you don’t have to give notice to yourself to move.  For this reason running your business from home can be a good temporary solution if you know that your business could be going through a period of change in future.

4. There are less distractions.

Although there are distractions at home, often these are things which are more within your control, for example less people walking in, likely to be less noise.

5. You’re closer to your family.

One of the reasons most people cite for working from home is getting to spend more time with family and improving work life balance.  Be sure to have guidelines in place though when you first start about family time and work time which everyone needs to stick to, otherwise this can end up on the list of cons as you’ll read shortly.

Combine work and family life

6. You can set your own schedule.

Not having a premises to go to often also means that you aren’t constrained by particular opening hours of the premises, so in theory you can adapt your own schedule to suit you.

 

The Cons of Running Your Business From Home

1.It can be isolating.

Running a business from home often means you are working by yourself. Depending on the nature of your business, you may go days at work without seeing anyone else.  Make a conscious effort to stay connected with people.  Arrange to meet people for coffee once or twice a week to keep up your social interaction, if you can combine it with a bit of networking so much the better.

meeting friends for coffee

2. You’re always at work.

Just as when you go to work you’re always at home, when you are at home you’re always at work.  It can be hard to switch off at the end of the day.  Set yourself boundaries just as you would if you worked in an office.  Have a clear dedicated work space, ideally in a separate room that you can close the door on at the end of the day.  If that’s not possible at least make sure you tidy your work things away at the end of the day so you’re not always reminded of a nagging to do list.  Have a set time to finish, leave your work behind as much as you can at the end of the day.

Sometimes when you work from home you never escape the office

3. You are less visible.

If you don’t have a premises that can effectively act as a shop window you’re unlikely to get business from people just turning up at your place of work. These days so many people carry out internet research before they buy anything so make sure you have an online presence.  List your business on Google My Business to help with your Google rankings.  If you don’t want to use your home address you can always use a virtual office.

4. It can put a strain on family life.

Ironically, although spending more time with the family is one of the most popular reasons for running a business from home if not managed properly running your business from home can actually put more of a strain on relationships and family life.  Communication is key here and making sure you are all in agreement on what’s going to work for everyone.  Also look out for our later blog post in this series on how to achieve work life balance when you work from home.

5. You can start slacking off.

Just as it’s possible to not switch off from work, it’s also possible to feel a bit too comfortable in your surroundings and begin to slack off.  Make sure you have a dedicated work space in your home to work from.  Train yourself that when you’re in that place, you’re there to work.  In this series there is another blog post coming on determining if you have the right personality to work from home.

Weighing up the pros and cons of running a business from home is definitely a good place to start.  Next week we’ll start by delving a bit deeper, the subject is Is My Home Suitable To Run A Business From. Sign up here to get this post delivered direct to your inbox to make sure you don’t miss it.

 

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 Plumfund.com 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.

12 Productivity Tips for Work Wise Week

As you’ve probably noticed already, productivity is pretty important to us at Virtual Head Office.

Getting productive makes a huge difference to the success of your business, not to mention your stress levels.  Work Wise Week, which runs from 14th to 20th May 2017 is all about helping people to work smarter rather than harder.

When I was asked by QuickBooks to contribute to this graphic that they were compiling, I jumped at the chance.

Take a look here at the tips that have been compiled, not just from me, but a wide range of contributors and start implementing some of them today.

If all of this has you inspired to get more productive, then why not sign up for our FREE 5 Day Productivity Email Course?  CLICK HERE to sign up and start becoming more productive today

Productivity Tips For Work Wise Week

These tips will make a huge difference to your business productivity and definitely make your life easier, so I would recommend you make them habit, not just something you try out for Work Wise Week.

None of these things are difficult, you may even know some of these things already.  But are you doing them?  It’s one thing to know something but only actually acting on it will make a difference to your business.  Try and implement at least one of these things today and see what a difference it makes.  You’ll soon start seeing results.

Do you have any other productivity tips that you’d like to share?  I would love to hear them if you do. More often than not it’s the small tweaks that make the real difference rather than the huge changes.

If you’d like to join for our FREE Productivity Mini Course to get more idea for small changes that make a big difference then sign up now.

Outsourcing: The Ultimate Guide for Small Business Owners

Outsourcing: The Ultimate Guide For Small Business Owners

 

Outsourcing is the practice where companies large or small use resources outside of their own company to fulfill certain functions.  Small businesses in particular, who seek to keep headcount and costs down will tend to outsource a lot.  In fact, I’ll be willing to guess that you are probably already outsourcing at least one function of your business already.

Outsourcing is on the increase.  It’s no surprise really.  There has been  increase in start up businesses in recent years, combined with tough market conditions. Businesses are seeking to keep costs down and this has led to a demand for outsourcing. Add to that an increase in the technology which enables people to work from anywhere and share information. Outsourcing has become easier. This trend looks set to continue.

Why should you outsource?

It’s Low Cost. 

The number one reason businesses choose to outsource tasks is that it’s the most cost effective option.  The cost to a business of an employee on the payroll is high. As we as their pay, you will have to pay them salary, holiday, sick pay, National Insurance contributions and other benefits.  If that person works in your office you will need to have the space to accommodate them, a desk and a computer.  You may well also need to invest in training to keep their skills up to date in line with the changing demands of the role.

With outsourcing you will only ever pay for the work that is actually done.  Unlike when you have an employee during the quieter periods who is sitting there with nothing to do.  Typically when you outsource the person that does the work for you will just concentrate on one type of work, such as bookkeeping.  Concentrating on just one type of work means that tasks are completed quicker. For example just concentrating on bookkeeping, rather than trying to answer the phone and deal with enquiries as well as bookkeeping.

 

You utilise a specialist skillset for each task.

Using a bookkeeper for bookkeeping, a social media specialist for social media etc. means that you are utilising someone with a more in depth knowledge of their job. A specialist therefore performs better in their role than someone fulfilling a diverse range of tasks as they have learned their craft.  A specialist skillset therefore results in a higher quality of work.

Outsourcing Helps Build A Team of Specialists

Outsourcing frees up time.  

So you’ve started your own business, you’re an entrepreneur, but how do you actually go about fulfilling your goals for your business?  Whatever your business goals,  you need to keep a firm eye on them and spend time every day working towards those goals in order to achieve them. Sounds great in theory, but it’s not always the reality.  Often finding the time to focus on something you are trying to achieve in 5 years’ time can be shunted down in the pecking order to deal with an urgent deadline. Sound familiar?  If you’ve outsourced the task to someone else you don’t have to be bogged down by the mundane but necessary tasks.

It increases productivity. 

Everyone gets on with the thing they do best and what they are most efficient at. As a business owner you can concentrate on growing the business and driving it forward.

It’s a flexible solution. 

Some months you may find you utilise an outsourcing partner quite intensively, the next month you may find you don’t use them at all.  It can adapt to your business needs.

All of the above points are well documented, measurable benefits of outsourcing. Something I believe in addition, which is not so easy to measure is the impact on performance of enjoying what you do. 

Naturally delegating activities to other people frees up your time to spend on doing what you do best, what you enjoy and what you can earn your money from.  Imagine how you would feel about your working week if you were spending more of your time doing what you love.  Would this make you feel more positive and motivated about your working week?  If you answered yes, would feeling more positive also make you more productive and potentially more profitable?

Not only that, for the businesses that you outsource to, that particular task is their core business, and what they love doing. By outsourcing to specialists, you are freeing up your own time to concentrate on what you are passionate about.  You are also ensuring that all aspects of your business are run by those with both the skills, enthusiasm and motivation to do it. You are bringing enthusiasm you need to ensure your company is performing at it’s best.

 

 

What should you outsource?

Broadly speaking anything which is not a core activity of your business, however, you can break that down in to two categories:

Repetitive tasks:

This may include things such as data entry, book keeping, answering the telephone, credit control or other administration.  In other words time consuming tasks which prevent you from focusing on what is important. What is important for you as a business owner to focus on? Business owners should concentrate on profit generating core business activities and working towards business growth. Everything else can be delegated.

Specialised tasks:

This would include activities such as accountancy, IT support, web development, graphic design, HR or any activity that you don’t have the skills to carry out yourself professionally.  These are the kind of tasks that if you attempt to do yourself it would be time consuming to learn how to fulfil them. Furthermore, the chances are if your core skills are in another area you risk not doing a professional job.

To decide what to outsource first you can conduct an analysis.  Make a list of all the tasks that you are spending a lot of time on, as well as those which you feel are not being fulfilled properly at the moment and then seek out some help.

Consider outsourcing these tasks:

Outsourcing - 20 Tasks To Outsource

When should you outsource?

The truth is the time is different for every business.  Some may outsource from the start, bookkeeping for example is quite a common task to outsource from the outset.  Similarly, many businesses will outsource the development and updating of the website from the beginning.

For most small businesses, what tends to happen is outsourcing is something that happens incrementally as time goes on.  When you find that a particular task is taking up a lot of time and is getting in the way of more productive and profitable duties, then it’s time to look at outsourcing.  The trick is to see the progression of the amount of time spent on a particular task and find an outsourcing partner before you get too busy.  You need to plan in time to both find an outsourcing partner and then briefing them.  You do need to expect to make an investment of time at the outset with outsourcing, before everything can be handed over.

 

 

How to find an outsourcing partner?

Who do you outsource to?

Recommendations are always a good place to start.  Ask trusted business associates if they outsource any tasks and if they can recommend anyone.  If not, LinkedIn and Facebook groups can be a mine of information, as well as networking and of course a good old Google search. You can also consider using resources such as www.upwork.com and www.fiverr.co.uk.

Should you outsource services internationally?

This is a subject of some debate.  Undoubtedly there can be cost savings by getting things done overseas.  This does not necessarily mean that the quality will be better or worse.  There are things you do need to consider though.  For example, a VA in another country will be working in a different time zone. Does this matter to you? Some business owners like to be working at the same time to react to things throughout the day. Others like the fact that they go to bed and wake up to a ticked off To Do List.

Ultimately I would say it depends what you are planning on outsourcing and if it really makes a difference to that particular service. For example, you may be happy to have documents created overseas, but would like to have all of your calls answered locally.

How to get the best from the relationship when you outsource.

The single most thing in the relationship with an outsourcing partner is communication.  You need to communicate clearly, very specifically and honestly.

Never assume the outsourcer knows what you are thinking.  Give them the information they need to fulfil the task, but no more than necessary.

The most effective way to communicate the tasks is to have a very clear documented process for everything you need them to perform.  Don’t attempt to hand over any work until you have a system in place that you can hand over to someone else.

outsourcing and good communication

Make sure you discuss:

  • Exactly what they need to do and what the deliverables are.
  • The ultimate project deadline date as well as dates of any key milestones along the way.
  • How the two of you will communicate, i.e. will you have a weekly catch up to discuss progress? By email or phone? This is your opportunity to ensure work is staying on track and if there is anything you need to bring to their attention you can do it here.  Always be completely honest if there is anything you are not entirely happy with.
  • Price and payment terms.
  • Whether you would like them to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Do you find it hard to let go?

Many business owners do.  It’s understandable. Your business is your baby. However, to grow your business, in fact for it actually to become a proper business and not just a job for you, you will need to delegate to others. Whether you are delegating to an employee or outsourcing if you really struggle with letting go, make that clear to the outsourcing partner from the start.

Outsourcing providers work with a variety of different people and they will certainly be used to being nervous about handing work over.  Tell them from the start how you feel, if you would describe yourself as a control freak make them aware right from the start, so they know that you need to be kept well informed along the way. It set’s the expectation from the start and results in a much better relationship from the outset.

 

 

How to develop specific instructions for your outsourcing partner.

Follow these steps to take each task and develop a process for it.

  • Break each task down into a series of mini tasks/instructions.
  • List each step of each mini task.
  • Use screenshots if possible.
  • Be very specific, i.e. include font, font size, image sizes, file formats etc.
  • Detail the frequency of the task, i.e. every Monday or last day of the month etc.
  • Attempt to follow your own instructions before you hand over. Do nothing but what is detailed on the instructions. Can you follow them and get the desired outcome? If not, add in more information until you can.

Effective Outsourcing Instructions

Working with an outsourcing partner will require some investment of time initially. You will need to both source the appropriate supplier and then properly brief them on the work that needs to be done.  You may find that at first you need to work quite closely with your outsourcing partner to ensure they fully understand your requirements.  This is time well spent though. If you work with them and provide regular feedback the outsourcers will soon learn.

Freeing up your time from low level tasks as well as those you don’t really have the skills to do enables you to focus on your core areas of business.  It enables you to push forward with working towards goals.  Done effectively, outsourcing can help you build a flexible, highly skilled team at low cost. Use it to free up your time to enable you to grow your business and your profits.

Take our FREE 5 Day Outsourcing Challenge now to become an outsourcing pro!

 

 

 

 

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.

Start Your Free Trial Now.

Start Your FREE 7 Days

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.

Self Motivation

Managing Your Own Motivation

There’s no doubt that whether you run your own business or not, one of the keys to success is having the right mindset and a huge amount of this is down to motivation.  When you run your own business there’s no one else to come along and gee you up, so you have to do it yourself.  This is not always easy, particularly if you’re going through a tough time in your business, but approaching managing your motivation as a priority will soon start to pay dividends.

The first thing you need to think about is exactly what motivates you.  You need to understand this fundamental before you can actually move on with motivating yourself.  This is something unique to YOU. Your key motive may not necessarily be the first thing you think of.  For example, a lot of people may say they are motivated by money, but dig a bit deeper and you realise it’s usually not actually the money but what that enables you to buy, be that the ability to spend more quality time with those who are important to you, perhaps it’s being able to afford that dream house.  Whatever it is that you dream of for your life, that is what you need to focus on.

The next step is to set yourself goals, both personal and business goals.  These goals need to be big, but at the same time realistic.  Think about where you want to be in 5 years’ time in your personal life.  What would you need to achieve in your business to enable that?  Once you have a long term business and personal goal, you then need to break these major goals down into smaller goals and milestones for both business and personal achievements. Read more about setting SMART goals and how to break them down into actionable steps here.

Every single day you need to understand why you are doing what you’re doing and how that fits in with the overall strategy.  Spending an hour out of your day today sending a marketing email may seem completely unrelated to buying that farmhouse you’ve always dreamed of, but if you understand how it fits in to the bigger picture and how these tiny steps will ultimately lead you to your goal then all of a sudden the smaller tasks feel a lot more exciting.

Creating mini milestones along the way is crucial.  These mini milestones help you to both ensure that you are on track with achieving your ultimate goals and are cause for celebration in their own right.  Decide on key milestones and what you should do as a celebration when you achieve them. Make sure you reward yourself properly.  These celebrations act as incentives in their own right to spur you on to achieve the next reward and the next.  They also drive you on and ensure you keep moving towards the ultimate goal as well as having some enjoyment along the way.  Uplifting moments that cheer you up have a massive impact on motivation, so allow yourself to enjoy your successes.

Whilst it’s important to keep progressing towards your goals it’s also important to acknowledge that there will be setbacks along the way, probably quite a lot of them.  Managing motivation when things are going well is one thing, but it’s a lot more difficult when things don’t go to plan.

This is where you really need to remember your ultimate motivation and why you are doing what you are doing. You need to understand the importance of overcoming the obstacle in front of you and how that will take you closer to your goal. The more you start to think in this way the easier it becomes to develop the right approach to these situations and deal with problems quickly.  Solving a problem, however small, can in itself give you a boost and feed in to your motivation.

It’s really important not to fear failure.  If you do this you will never move outside of your comfort zone and progress personally or professionally.  Thomas Edison famously had over 10,000 attempts at creating a lightbulb before he got it right, but in spite of these ‘failures’ he continued to innovate and still motivated himself. He considered each of his earlier attempts as another method he had learned of how not to make a lightbulb.

Having someone else to help you with your motivation and helping them with theirs is a massive spur on.  For one thing making a commitment in front of someone else about what you want to achieve is an extra incentive to progress and work towards your milestones.  Helping them to achieve success as well, or even just seeing them succeed and knowing it’s been part of them following their own plan is also hugely motivating.

It’s important that you surround yourself as much as possible with positive people who will also encourage, motivate and inspire you.  Try to steer away from negative people who will bring you down as they will certainly have a counter productive effect on your motivation.

The most important thing, as with most aspects of business is to get on and do it. Realising at the end of the day that you have taken another step towards achieving your goals will certainly compel you to do the same tomorrow.

Feel free to share if you know anyone who could do with a burst of motivation to help them achieve their goals.

Small Business Blogs

5 Small Business Blogs To Read Regularly

5 Small Business Blogs I Love

It’s nearly Valentine’s day so in keeping with the love theme I’m spreading the love and sharing my 5 favourite small business blogs.  These are in no particular order.

  1. Hubspot. I’m a big fan of Hubspot all round really, their free CRM is amazing, and through using that I found their blog. The blog is crammed with content on sales and marketing related topics and full of useful ideas to implement.
  2. Startups.co.uk. A useful website for all small businesses, not just startups. The blog is a useful collection of articles which range from tips and how-tos to inspirational stories from entrepreneurs.
  3. Businesszone.co.uk. Again a useful resource on a whole range of topics of interest to the small business owner ranging from law, finance, marketing, human resources and much more
  4. Google Small Business Blog. If you read my blog reasonably frequently you’ll often see me make reference to Google. Let’s face it, every business needs to get their website found by Google.  This blog, although not particularly regularly updated gives useful insights for small business owners to make the most of the various Google tools that are out there.
  5. Birds On The Blog. A blog written by business women for business women on a variety of topics in a friendly, down to earth style.

Are there any blogs you read regularly?

 

Automate

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.