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Managing risks in your business

This month we have a guest blog from ISO Expertise Limited – Quality and Environmental Management Consultants supporting businesses to grow and reach new markets by implementing Quality and Environmental Management systems certified to ISO:9001 and ISO:14001.

When setting up in business you often consider the risks

  • Will it be a success?
  • Will I get any customers?
  • Will I get the right staff?
  • Will I make any money?

You calculate how much of a risk it is and then you take the leap of faith or you decide the risk is just too high and decide against it. You then set up your business and get fully immersed in the day to day and often if you are not careful the business can start to manage you.

An important thing to remember is the need to assess risk ongoing within your business. This is crucial and helps you to prepare for all eventualities and ensure that your business can continue to thrive no matter what may be thrown at it.

The best way to manage this is by taking some time out to consider what all the risks are to your business. You could carry out a SWOT analysis – a document where you list your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Particularly the weaknesses and threats sections will highlight areas you need to control.

You can then manage these by  setting up a log to record

  1. All the risks you can identify
  2. What controls you currently have in place
  3. How high a risk is it? Score 1 low to 5 high
  4. What you need to do to reduce the level of risk
  5. Who will be responsible for this action
  6. When does it need to be done by
  7. Review Date – make sure you review this document regularly

From every risk there is an opportunity to improve. Here are some examples to get you started

Example One Sole trader working alone
Risk I work on my own what happens if I am sick or unable to work
Controls currently in place I have a system to diarise all forthcoming work and a client database with all client info
How high is the risk 4
Action to reduce risk Collaborate with a trusted source who can support with workloads if something unforeseen was to occur
Appoint responsibility Yourself and make sure you do it soon so you can reduce the risk to the business
Review in 3 months

 

Example Two Limited company 20 staff
Risk Different data held on each individual PC and not using a central server for storage – Loss of Data in event of hack/breakdown
Controls currently in place Limited no cloud back up in place
How high is risk 5
Action to reduce risk 1.       Purchase server so all data can be accessed centrally (May be subject to finance available)2.       Organize cloud back up of all machines
Who will be responsible Managing Director/IT Dept/IT contractor
When Urgent

 

As you can see from these two examples by recording all this information it adds control to the process and helps you to prioritise risks in your business. Failure to address risks can have severe consequences especially for smaller businesses. Therefore by adopting this process you can be as prepared as possible and the impact, if something does happen, is reduced significantly. It also creates many opportunities for ways to improve the way you work. Rather than fear the risk – look at the positive and realise all the good that will come of it.

Risk Management is just one of the business tools that ISO9001 and ISO14001 gives you. These internationally recognised business standards set a framework to keep your business in control of all its activities and includes the target of continual improvement. If you would like to learn more about implementing the principles of ISO9001 and ISO14001 to your business please get in touch

Business Networking – Not for Me? Are you sure about that?

If someone had said to me 10 years ago, I could stand in front of a room full of my peers and deliver a 10-minute presentation – I would never have believed it?

Or I could stand and make an acceptance speech to a room of 150-200 people when I collected an Award for the Best Service Business 2014– me win an award what on earth for?

Or that I would have the opportunity to become a partner in an existing successful business and build my knowledge and experience in a completely new business sector?

Well, all these things happened, and it is thanks to networking for all of them. As a child I was very shy and lacked confidence. Starting my own business back in 2009 was more out of necessity of my family situation than a drive and ambition to succeed. Yet as the years have passed my confidence has grown along with my drive and ambition to succeed.

So, what was it about networking that made these things happen for me? Networking to me was not just about getting people to refer business to me. It was

The support network I needed to draw on

The advice, support and experience of people who had been in business for much longer than me

Sharing what went wrong for them so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes

I had always worked in a corporate environment so attending networking meetings was like getting back into the corporate world but this time I was in control of my own destiny.

Furthermore, networking has enabled me to grow my business by using associates who have been introduced to me via trusted business connections. The opportunity to set up a second business in 2014 came from an introduction from the first networking meeting I ever attended. As I write this blog, I am currently in negotiations with another trusted contact introduced via networking on how we can work together to grow my 2nd business.

So, before you rule out networking as not for you why not go along and see for yourself. There are different events whether you prefer

  • Morning
  • Lunchtime
  • Evening
  • Formal structured meetings
  • Informal – mingling – no pressure
  • Ladies Only Groups

Find a group that works for you and your business.

Networking is fantastic for self-development as it forces you out of your comfort zone and challenges you as a person. So before you think that networking lark is not for me – give it a go, you’ll never know until you try it!

Research networking in your area and see who you can meet who can make a huge difference to you and your business.

A Simple Hello could lead to a Million Things – What have you got to lose?

If you want any advice on networking groups in the Tamworth area give us a shout

Ladies in business why not join us monthly at our Ladies Networking at The Mill Group we meet 2nd Friday of every month

Who do I need to be? To be a successful small business owner

Fancy starting your own business. Who do I need to be, to be a successful business owner?

Do you own a small business and find yourself asking that question from time to time?

I am sure I am not alone as I have asked myself that question many times over the last 10 years. My journey has been one of many winding paths and turns, ups and downs. It has also been character building and has forced me to step outside my comfort zone.

I have put together my top 5 traits of a successsful business owner:

Patience – your dream career/company is unlikely to materialise overnight. To avoid throwing in the towel at every hurdle you will need to have patience.  You will work very hard and do long hours as you strive to get your venture off the ground, and this is likely to be with little or no income too when you first start out.

 

Hard working– In the early days you will feel like you are working 24/7 as you will not switch off the minute you leave your place of employment. The upside is it is such an exciting experience being your own boss. Allowing your creativity to flow and being able to make decisions without having to consult anyone else. Hard work is what will make the difference between success and failure. But the rewards and sense of achievement are so worth it.

Resilience – There is often a lot to learn when you switch from being employed to working for yourself. There are so many more responsibilities which you probably didn’t have to worry about before.  So often working for yourself is viewed by outsiders as the easy option – however the truth is there will be knock backs, unsuccessful outcomes and missed opportunities and resilience is one of the traits you will master to manage these setbacks.

Flexible – You will write a business plan and envisage your future business. As you start to put into practice the steps of your plan you may see things differently. The ability to be flexible and not rigid in your way of doing things will enable you to move forward and in the right direction to meet the needs of your customers. Always ask for feedback from all sources this will help you to understand how your product or service is being received. Use this feedback to fine tune your offering to ensure that you get the best results.

Committed– Remember your why. Why did you set up your business? If you have adopted the above 4 characteristics you are on the right road. Commit to it, stay focused. Mix with like-minded individuals and never be afraid to ask for support. Many experienced business owners are delighted to offer advice and support. It is always good to get a view from a different perspective. There will be tough times but show commitment and never give up.

What do you think? Have you got the stamina to run your own business?

Out of all the highs and lows I can honestly say I would not change any step of my journey. It is very rewarding and getting recommendations and repeat business tells you – you are doing something right! I love being my own boss, constantly learning new skills, forcing myself out of my comfort zone. I constantly amaze myself with the tasks I set myself or the jobs I hear myself saying yes to and then must find out how to do it!

If you are currently in the process of starting your business – Good luck and enjoy the ride.

Sharon

How to Identify your Ideal Audience

How to Identify Your Ideal Audience

“Market to everyone, reach no one”

We all know that if we’re marketing to everyone, we’ll end up attracting no-one, so it’s not rocket science that we should take time to identify who our ideal customer is and make sure we’re marketing directly to them.

It’s an ongoing process, but here’s how we can work out who our ‘ideal’ customers are in 5 steps;

Step #1: Ensure your brand has a strong identity and obvious values

I can’t stress how important this is so make sure you do it first! You can’t hope to gain your ideal customer if your brand needs lots of work. Customers won’t be impressed and will be put off from doing business with you!

Step #2: Take a look at your current clients

Identify the ideal!

  • What do you know about your current clients?
  • What did they come to you for?
  • Where did you find them or how did they find you?
  • What groups do they belong to?
  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • What makes them ideal for your business?

Not only will this help to find trends in your customer base and help you to identify the demographic of your customers, but it could give you a clue as to which marketing methods will be the most effective.

Step #3: Look at your ‘non’ ideal clients
  • What makes them not ideal for you?
  • Are they only spending small amounts infrequently?
  • Are they making lots of enquiries but not actually converting to sales?
  • Are they totally the wrong demographic for your business aims?

Just to note – this could be anything really that makes them ‘non’ ideal for you – this will vary from business to business so be careful not to discount any potential customer because you feel they aren’t ‘ideal’, just don’t spend lots of money marketing to them!

Step #4: Focus your attention

Now you’ve worked out who your ideal customers are and identified the type of audience you are looking to attract, then make sure you focus and direct your marketing to reach out to these people in particular.

Step #5: Review

Don’t get caught on autopilot! I suggest reviewing and identifying your ‘ideal’ audience at least once a year to make sure you are still marketing to the right people. Your business may have changed, or your audience and their needs and views might have changed, so tweak things to make sure you’re still getting the return on your marketing outgoings.

If you need help discovering your ideal client, give us a call or you can contact Jacqueline by email at jacqueline@yourlocalpa.com

Look for more hints and tips on marketing your business to your ideal audience follow us on our social media platforms Instagram   Facebook

LinkedIn

Happy International Women’s Day

Today is the day we celebrate International Women’s Day so why do we recognise it?

International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

As a woman and a business woman I have had the opportunity to be surrounded by some fantastic women and have many to thank for the advice and support I have received throughout my life and even more so during the last 9 years since I set up my own business.

As a way of recognising the support I have received over the years in 2015 I decided to set up my own business networking group. To offer support to women in business who were starting their journey and may benefit from a few words of wisdom. To give encouragement to any women in business that they were not alone and to provide an environment where they felt comfortable to ask for support, advice and share ideas.

Our monthly meeting is being held today and to recognise International Women’s Day we will be sharing our success stories and celebrating our many achievements. Self-development is another huge area that has helped the women of today to have the courage to step forward with confidence and to realise all their hopes and dreams.

With each year women are becoming a force to be reckoned with – Happy International Women’s Day to all the fabulous women out there – Enjoy!

Social Meidia

Are you a fan of social media?

Social media for business and personal use is very different and should be approached very differently when it comes to your online business profile.

Whether you are a fan or not – social media is recognised as the way consumers are making buying decisions nowadays. The choice is entirely yours whether you want to avoid it like the plague or get involved and raise your company’s profile online.

If you do decide to take the plunge and put your company out there, then there are a few ground rules that you should follow to ensure that you get the best results for your efforts.

Let’s expel a few myths

Being on every social media channel will mean you get the most opportunities. It’s just not the case, if you spread yourself too thinly across all channels the chances are no one will see anything you are doing, and you will be wasting time, effort and money.

In contrast, focusing on one or two channels and doing them well will get you far more leverage than the first option. The key here is being consistent.

Doing a hard sell regime of buy this product, buy that product again is likely to put off your audience too.

Via your social media, you want to be building trust with your audience and showing them who you are as a company. The key here is being authentic.

The secret to doing well on social media starts with identifying who your ideal customers and target market are and getting to know them well.  That means you need to identify who your target audience are?

Ask yourself these questions –

  • Selling to B2C – Business to Consumer
  • How old are they?
  • Where are they geographically – UK, regionally based, worldwide?
  • Are they married, single, families?
  • What are they likely to be interested in?
  • What income level are they?

You can even drill right down to what car do they drive, what are their hobbies, do they have pets, what clubs are they members of.

Selling to B2B

What sort of companies are interested in your product or service?

Who within that company do you need to target to get your message across?

What sort of businesses can you collaborate with or complement the product or service you sell?

By identifying all these elements, you will have a clear idea of who you want to get your message out to. It is then, that you can decide which platforms you want to focus your attention on when it comes to online marketing.

One social media platform that ticks the boxes for most business owners is LinkedIn. 

Keyboard LinkedIn Button

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to access to high ranking individuals within a company who you want to talk to. If you were trying the offline method, you would very likely have to go through several secretaries/gatekeepers to get to speak to them and unless you have the very best social/communication skills the chances are that you will be stopped in your tracks before you get to the target.

With LinkedIn, you have the ability to send a message and direct connection request to the person you want to connect with and worded correctly you have a much-increased chance of success. LinkedIn is also a great way of building relationships and identifying potential collaborators or synergy businesses that can work together. The key to success with LinkedIn is to build rapport and a relationship online that can move towards an offline face to face meeting to strengthen the relationship further and potentially lead to revenue and sales/business opportunities.

Facebook is still a very popular platform if you do not sell business to business and the general public are your target audience.

Facebook

Facebook has lots of opportunities to interact with your audience through posting on your business page, creating a group for your industry where likeminded people can hang out and interact and you are the facilitator so again you are building relationships with your audience.

Sponsored advertising on Facebook gets your message out to a wider audience and you can select the target whether that be geographical, or age/gender related etc.

Why not consider Instagram If you have a very visual product or service and a younger audience

Instagram is a very fast-growing platform that is bringing fantastic results for businesses. Again, by identifying your customer you will know what your audience will be looking for and you will be providing that in your content.

High quality images and preferably your own images rather than stock images will get you great results.

Instagram stories are ideal for putting the real personal touch to your business so whilst your main feed images will be very neat and polished, with Stories you can be a bit more relaxed and show the human side to your business. The use of hashtags on Instagram will get your message out to a wider audience and you can use up to 30 hashtags on each post. These are words prefixed by a # and words relating to the theme of your content added so anyone following or searching for that hashtag will see your content.

Another platform which does well for businesses is Twitter.

Twitter is very fast moving and to get noticed amongst the noise this is the channel that takes the most commitment and consistency. You need to be posting about 5 posts per day to have any chance of being spotted on Twitter!

Twitter is a great way to follow your competitors and see what they are up to.

Twitter Lists are where you can keep an eye on the competition without following them, it just keeps you up to date with what your target audience will also be seeing from companies offering similar products or services to you.

A great way to interact in real-time on Twitter is by following twitter hours in your local area. Twitter hours are set at the same time each week and you would put out your message (tweet) and add the twitter hour hashtag – then to keep up with the conversations you just search the # for the twitter hour you are on and you can see what everyone is saying and you can reply, re-post their message to your contacts by re-tweeting, liking it etc.

As you can see, I have only mentioned 4 social media platforms here and there are endless possibilities out there with 100’s of other channels, Pinterest is another popular platform.

To recap, as I said at the start of this blog don’t spread yourself thinly: –

  • Identify your audience
  • Find out where they are likely to hang out
  • Focus on those 1 or 2 channels where your audience will be
  • Share content that they will want to see – Always think ‘What’s in it For Them’ – its not about you it’s about them
  • Build trust – be authentic to your company – its values, its reputation and put that voice out on social media so it ties in with all your branding and marketing activities
  • Show the personal side to your business – post pictures of staff members (with their permission), post shots of your product or service in action, share testimonials from happy customers
  • If you get complaints online be sure to always respond to them in a positive manner. Remember we are Brits we will tell everyone if we have bad service, we rarely tell anyone if it was good!

I hope this has given you some insight into the myriad of opportunities out there on social media.

A key element of remaining consistent on social media is time

Help Support Advice

Do you have the time to do this yourself or would it be more beneficial to outsource this task? We can help you every step of the way from identifying your target audience, which channels to use, what to post, creating posts, through to working with you to manage the whole process. If time or knowledge is what has been holding you back, then let’s have a chat to see how I can help you.

 

Free GDPR workshop a great success this week

On Wednesday lunchtime this week Sharon Louca and Jacqueline Leake hosted a Free Talk on the impending GDPR regulations to small business owners from the local area. They provided information on the new legislation along with some practical tips on what they need to do to work towards being compliant for the 25th May deadline.

The workshop was very well received and the attendees confirmed that they had felt the session was really useful and had increased their understanding of what they need to do.

If you know of anyone who is looking for support with GDPR talk to us about workshops and practical support available

How much Do You Love your Business?

As February is the month of Love? How much do you Love your Business?

Are you giving it the time and attention that it needs? Are you nurturing it, so it will blossom and grow?

So many of us spend so much time on running our businesses, chasing the next sale, keeping our clients and staff happy. But how regularly are you setting time out of your day to day to focus on the future?

Did you set goals in January this year, do you have a plan in place of where you want your business to be in 6 months, 12 months, 5 years.

There are so many quotes out there – “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important” Stephen Covey

Are you guilty of that?

If so why not set aside an hour a day in your diary to focus on your business. If you can dedicate more time to it even better. For just £30 you can hire one of our small offices for half a day. Where you can switch off your phone and dedicate 4 quiet hours to really thinking about where you want to be and what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it.

“If you have a goal, write it down. If you do not write it down, it is not a goal it is a wish” Steve Maraboli

To show our love for our business our special offer for February for small office room hire £25 half day and £40 full day – contact us and quote ref: LOVEBIZ to claim

Your Local PA is expanding – introducing Jacqueline Leake

You employ a Virtual Assistant to help you when you need that extra support in your business. But what happens when your Virtual Assistant gets busy what do they do?

They look to other VAs to help, but there are lots of VA’s out there so how do they find the right person to support their business.

Sharon Louca from Your Local Pa has experienced this dilemma recently. She set up Your Local Pa in 2009 to meet the demands of small business owners who were playing all roles in their business and not always achieving everything they needed to. Sharon has supported many businesses from all different sectors – assisting with anything from small tasks like CV and report writing through to managing complete projects.

Networking at local business events has been the contributing factor to the growth of her business. It is through the trust and relationships built over time that has encouraged this growth. The highlights being Awarded Best Service Business of the Year Award at The Tamworth, Lichfield and Sutton Coldfield Networking Awards and opening The Mill Business Centre in Tamworth in 2014. For the last 2 years, Sharon has been considering working with an associate VA to assist with her workloads and to enable her to grow her business further.

Sharon said, “I wanted to focus more time to working ON my business and to do that recognized that I would need support with current workloads. The problem has been finding the right VA who shares my work ethic and who can deliver a high standard of service in the timescales required by the client.. After much searching, I found the ideal candidate in Jacqueline Leake.

When you find a good Associate, it’s fantastic to have someone there to lighten the load who you can trust to work to the same standards as you, building a relationship and then knowing your client is in safe hands.”

Jacqueline was introduced to me by a fellow networking contact, Jacqueline started her own virtual assistant firm this summer and works from her home office based in Nuneaton.

Jacqueline said, “I was introduced to Sharon when I was considering whether a VA job was for me, and she kindly spent some time talking to me about being a Virtual Assistant and what it was like to run your own business.

We seemed to get on really well and at a subsequent meeting Sharon told me she was looking to grow her business, I jumped at the opportunity to say I would be really interested in becoming her VAA (Virtual Assistant Associate) it is a great way for me to build up a portfolio of work and help Sharon achieve her goals of expanding Your local PA.”

Are you looking for a trusted business partner to join you and help you manage your time more effectively? Then look no further talk to Sharon and Jacqueline to find out how they can help you and your business to thrive.  Email sharon@yourlocalpa.com or call 01827 768430.

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