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Posts Tagged ‘skills’

Dear aspiring mumpreneur,

I’m writing this open letter to you to outline some crucial points that I wish someone had laid out for me. I’ll keep it as short as possible because I know your time is precious but I’m sure that if you read this through, you’ll save a ton of time in the long run.

If you are truly serious about becoming a part of the wonderful world of mumpreneurialism, read carefully what I have written below, you’ll gain the information you need to act now and get in the right mindset.

Here are, not necessarily in the best order, my top tips to set you on your way:

  • You don’t need a university education to start a business… but you do need passion. If you have enough passion for what you are about to embark on then your chances of success are already sky high.
  • Market research ― please do your market research before you steam ahead with any product or idea. Just because you think it’s good – doesn’t mean it is and on the flip side, if someone tells you it sucks ― it doesn’t mean that it does. You need to get out there and research your target market, then and only then can you move forward.
  • Do your best to start your business on a shoe string, and then start to invest the revenue you make back in. You won’t turn a ‘profit’ for some time but your business asset will be growing substantially.
  • You have an array of skills at your disposal because you are a resourceful woman but it never hurts to brush up or learn new skills as you go. Unless you are hiring professionals you will need to know about marketing, social media, basic technical skills (if you don’t have a web designer), search engines, advertising, networking, blogging… but before you panic, there are resources out there to make this process painless and you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to know the basics and get a little bit of experience and training.
  • Find a mentor or a few people that you admire and have a good connection with. If they are knowledgeable and willing to help you, then grab it with both hands and learn from them. It’s far better to connect, follow and utilise a small number of people rather than hopping from site to site trying to find answers.
  • Be strict with your time – time management is an art and one that you would do well to master. Some of the key areas to running a successful business are self-discipline, focus and managing your time effectively. Procrastination is an entrepreneur’s worst enemy and very common downfall. My best piece of advice here is to get yourself a simple kitchen timer and work in solid chunks of thirty minutes at a time. Within that period you focus on the task at hand – no email, no calls no Twitter (gasp!) or Facebook ― unless of course networking is your thirty minute task.
  • Fail fast – I suggested you do your research and work on some skills but ultimately put something out there, get going, don’t drag your heels waiting for perfection. If your project isn’t going to work then fail fast and move on to the next venture.
  • Set yourself up with a blog – preferably a self-hosted WordPress blog. Start talking about your business with the passion that you have for it. Draw your niche market in to your blog with insightful posts about you, your business, your plans and anything else that will interest THEM.
  • Network and revel in the strong support of the Mumpreneur community that is already out there. You’ll never be judged, you’ll always receive encouragement, opinions, advice and you will have the opportunity to create partnerships and life-long friends. Remember that these Mumpreneurs know exactly the struggles, hopes, fears and aspirations you have, because they have them too. Whilst it’s really important to get your family and friends behind you, the Mumpreneurs you meet online will understand your business goals and any problems you face far better than any of your offline friends. So don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
  • Learn the way of the Web 2.0 world of marketing and build relationships with your customers. Be completely transparent and react quickly to any queries, complaints or mentions of your business. Times have changed and the playing field has been leveled – you have the same social tools to market your business as the big guns, so utilise them well.
  • Suppress your whiny inner voice – the one that tells you you’re useless and makes you doubt every move that you make. Have faith in yourself and believe that you will succeed. If you can get yourself into the right mindset then half your battle is won. Never lose sight of your goals, always tackle everything with a passion and drive that feels like fuel running through you ― if it doesn’t feel like that ― something isn’t right!
  • Finally – be happy! Make time for yourself and your family because without them it will all be for nothing. You will need to work hard, you’ll likely be up to the early hours of the morning day in, day out to make this really work, but the passion you have for it will see you through, the love for your family will keep you going and the time and patience you allow yourself on this journey of discovery will make you feel proud, enlightened and like you’ve scaled the highest mountain.

So there you have it, the open advice that I wish I could have received when I first started out. I hope that it serves you well and that you go on to be truly successful and accomplish all that you set out to achieve. Maybe you could look me up in the Mumpreneur community and let me know how you’re getting on sometime ― I’d love to hear all about it.

So, from one Mumpreneur to another – good luck, stay focused and live each day to the max!

Nikki Backshall, WebMums.com

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For many Start-ups, the website is an early investment, and for many more an early headache. To avoid common mistakes, it can be good to adjust the way you think about your site. Rather than thinking of it as a project or a tool, think of it as your first employee – a valued member of the team to be nurtured and developed.

Key ways in which a website is like an employee:

  • It has a specific set of tasks to perform
  • It needs a development plan if it is to continue to perform at its best
  • It needs regular updates to stay current – like a training plan
  • It relies on input from various other team members to do its job
  • Not everyone will like it all of the time

A website has a permanent, full time, role in your business: It never ceases to amaze me how many small businesses think of a website as a self-contained project – with beginning, a middle and (even more worryingly) an end. You wouldn’t recruit someone into your business and think that, once they’d signed the contract, their job was complete or that they’d stay exactly the same as the day they walked through the door. Neither should you think the same of your website.

A person comes to your company with some skills and knowledge, but over time they will gain more specific knowledge about your company, and become more skilled as they learn on the job or undergo formal training and development. A website is just the same – however well conceived and delivered, it is only when real people start to interact with it that you’ll know what really works, and what doesn’t, on your site. Through reviewing analytics and undertaking user-testing and feedback, you will be able to constantly refine and improve your website’s performance. Which brings me to performance… you’re likely to set of minimum performance standards for your staff, have you done the same for your website? And, do you have the tools to measure against those standards.

And of course, things change. Think also of a scenario in which your employee’s area of the business is subject to some sort of change (legal, environmental, new product, etc.) – they’ll need to adapt and respond. Your website is no different. Just because it was beautiful when you launched it, it may not be in a new context. What’s more, this is technology we’re talking about. The tech big boys work to a circa 6 month product development cycle – the pace of change is fast and furious. If your website is to stay current, you’ll need to keep an eye out for the new trends, like Twitter, Tag Clouds, etc… and whatever is just around the corner.

But, it many ways it is even better than an employee:

  • It never sleeps
  • It doesn’t take holidays
  • It won’t sue you if you change its role or replace it with a new one

Useful people management techniques you can apply to your website:

  • Write it a job spec
  • Set a basic salary (hosting, support, regular updates)
  • Set a commission plan (invest a percentage of the revenue it delivers back into traffic generation and improvements)
  • Have a weekly one-to-one (update content, check stats)
  • Conduct a monthly review (stats, performance targets, etc)
  • Conduct a quarterly appraisal – consider a 360 appraisal where you get feedback from all users
  • Set a ‘training’ budget – essential updates, spring cleaning, new features

For many businesses, the website is probably quite an early investment – thinking of it as your first ‘employee’ is a healthy starting point – meaning you’ll feel happier with seeing it as an ongoing task rather than a one-off project. For other businesses, particularly ecommerce businesses, your website is more like a team of employees, rather than just the one – and just like a team of people you’ll need to think about the way that individuals interact, etc.

This is even more critical in a Startup. By the very nature of your business being new, you’ll need to test and learn. And what’s more, money is tight at the beginning of any business – if you simply invest and ignore, you’re wasting precious funds. By going into a relationship with your website, based on the certain knowledge that it is an ongoing task, your initial and ongoing investments are money well spent.

So, if you think your web project has come to an end because you’ve gone live… I advise you to think again. I advise you to think of your website as a valued member of your team and to treat it accordingly.

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At the recent SWERDA annual general meeting, the great and the good from regional government and business agreed that investing in skills is the way to survive and thrive through the credit crunch.

Eminent panel members made a passionate and persuasive case for continued investment in skills by employers and local government. The gist of it was that in these straightened times it is even more important than ever to hold onto key staff. It is their skills and dedication that makes gives one company a core competence over another.

60% of current SME staff will still be in post in 10 years… another great reason to invest in their skills today.

When asked if they would be investing in training during this downturn, a straw poll of the estimated 200 businesspeople in attendance saw about 80 or so put their hands up. A brave handful said they would not or could not.

Now people are funny, and don’t always do what they say. If you’ve ever done any political canvassing you’ll know what I mean. During networking time at the meeting I asked a number of people whether they would, in fact, be spending on training and skills over the next period. Many privately admitted that, while they can see a case for it, they would have to think long and hard about using money on staff training, when it was getting more difficult to pay next month’s wage bill. Training was seen by these people as a cost, not an investment.

Happily my own employer takes the view that skilling up key employees is a good investment. So, it was a real shame that recently some training I’d lined up was cancelled by the training company, with no notice.

Don’t get me started on customer service.

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