Posts Tagged ‘success’

This week, Doug Richard, former Dragons’ Den investor and founder of the School for Startups hosted a ‘bootcamp’ for social enterprises in London. Much of the day focused on comparing businesses run to generate profit for shareholders with those run to create a social impact. Just how “business-y” should a social enterprise be?

Richard attempted to answer the question by focusing on the realities of running a social enterprise in a competitive marketplace. Here are eight lessons that every social entrepreneur would do well to bear in mind:

  1. Don’t assume that being “good” is good enough. If the sole difference between your social enterprise and other businesses in the same marketplace is that you are “ethical”, ask whether that is enough in itself. You may need to rethink your offer or your business model.
  2. You’re in the business of marketing and selling something to somebody. Whatever your ethical objective, you can’t achieve it unless you are selling people something they actually want. Like any business, you need to know your customers, understand your market, and so on. As Doug Richard puts it: “Understand the industry you are in and you can understand how to prosper within it.”
  3. People will not queue up to give you money. Just because you are doing “good”, that doesn’t mean people will lend to you or invest in your business. The “market” is mostly indifferent to the good that you do; your enterprise has to be strong enough to survive on its own terms.
  4. Do one thing and do it well. Successful businesses tend to have one type of expertise; those trying to do too much often over-reach themselves and fail. “A narrow business is better than a vague one,” according to Richard. Whether it’s the thing you’re selling or the thing you’re giving, do one thing and do it well.
  5. You don’t have to be a “social enterprise” to be a social enterprise. The legal forms of social enterprises (such as Community Interest Companies) are still evolving and you may find they limit your capacity to grow. There’s nothing wrong with being a limited company with a social purpose. Richard advises going down this route and incorporating your ethical aims into your company memorandum and articles. (NB: this can be a confusing area as this blog by The Capable Manager explains. Mi-Tee have also kindly offered to share their solution to this problem if you contact them via their website).
  6. Present your cause in a way that actually engages people. As Julie Devonshire of Global Ethics Limited, which runs The One Foundation, puts it: “You have to make your cause so brilliant that people will not just listen but will get off their backsides and act for you.”
  7. Try to avoid paying for anything. Global Ethics Ltd got BT to give them £3.3 million of human resources. They also paid just £293 for a television advert that would normally cost £200,000. Do everything in your power to persuade people to give you things for nothing.
  8. Don’t give it all away. Says Doug: “You need to give away exactly as much as your business model can afford to sustain and to grow.” It’s obvious really; if you’re giving everything away, you have nothing left to develop your enterprise so you can give even more away in future.

Simon Wicks, BHP Information Solutions


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We’re fast approaching the end of the year.

Who’s going to admit it? At least one of us has said “I don’t know where it went!”  It’s almost as traditional as putting mince pies out for Santa!

Have you actually considered what you did achieve this year? Whether it’s in business or your personal life, what can you honestly say you are proud to have accomplished in 2009?

The beginning of a year can start with great intentions filled with New Year’s Resolutions and comments such as “this is the year it will happen”. The question is, at what point do we review the last twelve months, allowing ourselves to celebrate successes and use our experience to improve?

The answer is NOW!

Allow yourself at least half an hour to consider the following points, which will enable you to make your plan of action for 2010 a lot more effective.

  • What were your three principal ambitions for this year? Write them down followed by the answers to the following:
  • How successful were you on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • What would have made the difference between the score you gave and a 10….or an 11?
  • How often did you monitor your progress? Would it have been helpful to have done this more often?
  • If your priorities changed throughout the year, did you adapt your goals to ensure they were still realistic and achievable?
  • Did you use all resources available to you? What or who else could you have used?
  • Take five minutes away from these questions to make a cup of tea, check your email or make some calls.

…go on, put the kettle on!

Now, imagine the answers you have in front of you are not yours, but those of a colleague who has requested your help. They’ve asked for your opinion on each of the points and are in need of complete honesty to help them improve for the future. What would you say to them? 

  • Do you think the scores they gave were reasonable?  
  • If they say that they did not adapt during change, or they didn’t use all available resources – ask them why?  Was something holding them back? What obstacles prevented them from achieving each of these goals and how could they have overcome these?
  • In what way have you seen them progress and grow this year? What do you see as their main achievements?

Finally, I’d like you to raise your mug (you did make that tea, didn’t you?) and congratulate yourself on everything you achieved during such a testing year – here’s to even more success in 2010…CHEERS!!

To find out more about hgcoaching please visit www.hgcoaching.wordpress.com, follow me on Twitter @hgcoaching or contact Holly at hollygordon@btinternet.com


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Start up business owners absolutely can’t ignore the opportunities that are available online to market their small business. As great an opportunity as there is, it’s also a pretty daunting task for a new business – especially if you’re not an expert in getting attention on the web.

The good news is, keeping it simple is one of the best ways you can ensure that your website is ticking all of the boxes and serving the purpose it needs to for potential customers or business partners.

Stefan Tornquist, Research Director of Marketing Sherpa, talks about improving your search rankings organically through relevant website content. As a small business owner, how easy do you find it to write copy and articles for your business? Is it something you can do yourself, or do you prefer to outsource this job?

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Issue 1 “We have those sales figures Steve, I just need to go through the paperwork and tally them up…”

How can you boost sales? There are many options, however two obvious ways are: review your current sales process, and develop your sales staff.

The issue

So I arrive at my new clients premises to do the exploratory meeting and see if I can help them boost their sales. First step? Review the process.

In response to a question like “So how are sales going at the minute?” I often get wordy answers which talk about results in a very general way. I enjoy hearing the owners’ perspective on it; it’s good to get a feel for their industry & business from their point of view.

However it’s when I start asking for specifics, “What volume of enquiries are you getting?” that I regularly get a response along the lines of: “We have that figure Steve; I just need to go through the paperwork and work it out…”

The response

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again “if you can’t (or in this case don’t) measure it, you can’t manage it”

If you’re already tracking your enquiries – great! Be mindful here; are you only tracking this in terms of knowing where your valuable marketing budget should be spent? This is crucial of course, but it would be useful to know how effective you are with each of those leads wouldn’t it?

There are many ways to measure sales effectiveness, but here are some basic measurements that can help build a picture of your current business performance:

  1. Sales
    • a. Sales by number (volume of sales)
    • b. Sales in good old pounds sterling (value of sales)
    • c. Sales Conversion rate = ‘Total Sales’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
  2. Sales’ Cost
    • Cost of an Enquiry = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
    • Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
    • Total Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Costs’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
  3. Sales’ Value
    • ‘Average Worth’ of a customer = ‘Total Revenue’ divided by ‘Number of Customers’
    • …it’s also worth looking at the average lifetime of a customer.
    • ..and the most popular product choice.

N.B. The above calculations should have specific timeframes. To use the most obvious examples: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly & Annual.

Interesting to note, often well established companies struggle to provide these figures, though the reasons be different from a start up business: perhaps they have too many measurements (can’t see the wood for the trees) or simply with the passage of time their ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are no longer ‘Key’ anymore!

So you want to boost your sales? You need to lead your salespeople! Current frontline sales-relevant figures are the first step!

Action: Does this relate to you & your business? If so, based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?

Related Articles: This is the first in the series: “Boosting sales: Things my new business clients say to me” which follows this introductory piece ‘Your new business is exciting isn’t it!? DON’T talk about it!’ See it here: Part 1 Part 2


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In the last post I raised the idea that hearing about random aspects of your new business start-up is not necessarily what the customer wants.

Which depot the product has come from, or indeed difficulties in setting the service up, are unlikely to be helpful features! Giving unnecessary background info could even be detrimental to selling your fantastic product/service – loose lips sink ships, as they say.

The worst examples of this type tend to be around those features that aren’t developed. You know the ones: “our delivery service isn’t quite set up currently”, or “24hr functionality wasn’t ready for the launch date” etc. As a customer, isn’t it great to hear about something that you want, but can’t have yet? Of course not!

Simple steps to fix

  1. Ask questions about them, their use & their situation
  2. Then talk about what they can have (not what they can’t)
  3. Get to the sales decision, and regardless of the outcome
  4. NOW you can let them know about upcoming developments.

If they’ve already purchased, great! If not, you’ve made them aware for future reference. As a brief aside it’s probably a good idea in this case to get the customers details and contact him when the service he wants is up and running!

Okay so in truth, I’m not really saying don’t talk about your business at all. Local people are often interested in local businesses, especially new ones, and it IS a good way to build your relationship with your customers. Chatting enthusiastically about yourself and your business is great for developing that rapport.

The real point I’m trying to make here is to differentiate between background chit chat (optional) and the sales process that you will need to walk your customer through to solve their problem (obligatory!)

ACTION: Does this relate to you & your business? Based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?


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So your new venture is probably consuming each and every day at the minute. It’s probably also a fair bet to say that you’re pretty passionate about this exhilarating step in your life to date. I’m no psychologist, but in these circumstances it would seem fairly natural to want to share some of the details with interested parties – right? No-one can fault you for that, can they? Of course not…unless they’re not human…

…hmm…or a stakeholder in this business…or a customer!!

All too often I have seen SMEs fall into this trap. The owner is so impassioned that he will talk more to his clientele about the business and its merits (or worse – it’s difficulties!) than about them (the customer) and their need.

Take the example of buying a radio. Do you want the audiophile salesperson to tell about every radio in the shop? No! Do you want to hear about where they came from?  Probably not. Do you want to hear about the latest & greatest radio? Maybe. What about the difficult morning they’ve just had? Gotta be a no, right?

How about if the clearly knowledgeable salesperson showed an interest in what you want the radio for, checked your planned/current use, thought for a moment and said:

“I have just the thing for you…you mentioned (X) well this radio is great because it (insert feature that delivers/improves X)…and something that I think will be really useful in your particular situation is (Y) because…”

…a resounding YES! I hope!

More to come in Pt 2!

ACTION: Does this relate to you & your business? Based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?


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Not a particularly cheery headline for a business startup blog, but it’s an interesting observation which we can all learn from.

Richard Reed - webRichard Reed is co-founder of Innocent Drinks, a very successful business which brings fresh, tasty smoothies (and food products as it turns out) to a health conscious market in the UK, and now further afield.  I interviewed Richard yesterday for yourBusinessChannel’s latest series on business startups.

It was a refreshingly straight-forward interview.  No business jargon.  No pretence.  No corporate positioning.  I asked pretty straight-forward questions, and Richard gave pretty straight-forward answers.  You see, one of the things that has clearly driven the success of Innocent Drinks is that they are honest and uncomplicated in the way that they talk about their business.  They call it “innocent” language.  And the language reflects their way of doing business – which is also said to be “innocent” in all respects.

Anyway, we spoke at some length about starting up a business, having great business ideas and such like.  And during this refreshingly honest conversation, Richard said that when you have refined your entrepreneurial idea – the idea which will be the driving force behind your new startup business – be prepared for hundreds of people to tell you your idea isn’t going to work. That’s right.  They’re going to try to dissuade you.

Richard’s advice?  Be ready for people to try to shoot your idea down, but if you truly believe in it, don’t listen to them.  Keep going, and make your idea come to life.

Great advice from a thoroughly likeable, straight-talking and clearly very succussful guy whose business has just received a £30m injection of cash from Coca Cola.

Oh, and for anyone who feels a bit squeemish about Coke buying into Innocent, I asked Richard about that and got a very interesting reply, which we’ll publish soon.

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