Tag Archives: people

Wise words from StartUp 2019 

Last Saturday I was in London for StartUp 2019 – a wonderful diverse gathering of entrepreneurs at all stages in their business start-up journeys (it seems we all have to be on a ‘journey’ these days). I’d been so impressed by StartUp 2018 I just had to return; I wasn’t disappointed…  

On getting started

“You have to ask a lot of favours at the start. Talk to as many people as possible and you may get lucky.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“Don’t start promoting your new business too early; people get bored. 6 – 8 weeks before you launch is enough time to build interest and excitement.”  Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

 “At the start I was vomiting every day through stress. Stress is a function of uncertainty and when you start a business everything is uncertain. I didn’t understand all the elements [of starting a business] – all start-ups go through this at some stage.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“ Startup is the hardest you’ll ever work; forget work-life balance. For success it will be all-consuming – it takes a lot, it’s not for the faint-hearted.“ Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Don’t jump too soon [from your paid employment] … when you go fulltime so much more will happen. I took a sabbatical when our business started.”  Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

 “There’s no point in turning up unless you’re going to do quality. It costs the same to do a bad job badly as a good job well.”  Mike Soutar @mikesoutar

“Hold off getting your first employee as long as possible. You’ll know when the time is right – for me it was starting to do a bad job, I was reducing my face-to-face contact [with clients and other stakeholders]” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

On funding your start-up

“Don’t raise money until you have to (and don’t listen to people that tell you otherwise)” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

 “I told my first investors (43 friends) – ‘whatever you invest, expect to lose it’.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“It was eight months before we got our first investment – through cold-calling but via connections… You need to be clear about your ambitions and risk tolerances. With money you can make mistakes but blowing your life-savings is best avoided!” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

On choosing an investor… “There’s a real difference between a ‘cash provider’ and a ‘passionate partner’… If you have the right partner it doesn’t feel like you’re giving away part of your business; more like you’re gaining.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

The importance of other people

“Employing the right people is almost the hardest part of any business – if you get it right everything else falls into place, bit it takes time and mistakes.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“You can be a lone wolf, but if you want to scale your business you need to establish relationships you can trust early on. Draw on your past experience and contacts – you can’t be an expert at everything!” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“Have a strong business partner or someone else you can share your bad days with.”

“Your support network is incredibly important. You need people around you to remind you it’s not good for your health to immerse yourself in your business.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“Have someone to whom you’re ‘accountable’ – it could be someone in a different business.”

“When you’re feeling down, go back to your clients and users [why you’re in business] it will give you a lot of energy.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

Marketing – what works?

“It’s important you’ve got a point of difference. Imagine you’re opening a magazine of your choice – could it feature your product/ brand; is it newsworthy?   Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Building credibility, trust, face-to-face relationships, and referrals” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

 “Find influencers who believe in what you’re doing – not necessarily the people with the biggest following, it’s important they are the right sort of person’”  Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Three mistakes with PR [press/public relations]: a fear of self-promotion; having no press hook [for your approach to media outlets]; going in cold [so do your research before approaching a journalist]” Amanda Ruiz @amandaruizuk

On PR on a budget… “Don’t ‘say and spray’ – personalise your message to journalists, get to know them, understand their work and interests. Get on their radar in a good way (don’t stalk them!) help them to help you. Pitch to the right editor in the right publication. Get into the head of the magazine’s readers (and the editor).” Amanda Ruiz @amandaruizuk

How to succeed

“I like the uncomfortable times, big challenges, building stuff, constructing a business.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Protecting my intellectual property was really important for me. I recommend you protect it and then stand up for yourself. I was supported by my online customers – whom I regard as friends more than followers – sharing [the infringements] and getting angry.” Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“If you go into a business with a plan to sell it, it’ll never work.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Ask yourself – will you still love what you’re doing in 5- 10 years? Your heart and soul should be in it when you start your business.”   Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Base your price on the market, not your costs.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Not everyone is going to invent Facebook. Ideas are overrated – it’s the execution that matters.” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“If you’re a good leader, it’s because you can make decisions, quickly, with limited data. Some will be good decisions, some bad…. Decision-making to a businessman is like clay to a sculptor.” Mike Soutar @mikesoutar

“We look at four areas of risk: financial (mainly cashflow); people (having good staff); operational (coping with growth, including space); change (limiting your ‘operational debt’).”  Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

On embracing change…

“Be brave, your business plan will change, go with it – be open to change, consider the implications of each new step.” Carly Menken, Head of SME Trading, Direct Line for Business

“Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know – find out, learn, it will get sorted.” Hayley McClelland, The Fairy Dogmothers

“Back yourself – talk to others in a similar position” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“Be willing to accept change and reflect on making the most of it. Make time to step back from the day-to-day – let the thinking part of your brain take over from the execution part – to be strategic.” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

“Learn how to ‘chunk down’. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so break down [your challenges] into parts, small milestones. Change your perspective – if you have a ‘freeze moment’ go away, re-think, take a chance, learn from failure.” Carly Menken, Head of SME Trading, Direct Line for Business

And finally…

A new word: Brexhaustion. Two new abbreviations: EIS – Enterprise Investment Scheme (‘like Giftaid for investors’) and UGC – User Generated Content. A career-change website with an emphasis on business start-up https://www.escapethecity.org A book recommendation: https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jamie-Waller/Unsexy-Business–How-12-entrepreneurs-in-ordinary-busines/22722516

What I learned at StartUp 2018  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/enterprise-essentials-21-tips-from-startup-2018 

The story so far

latitude-books-2I was thinking about the power of storytelling the other day when advising young entrepreneurs about how to present their business ideas without using jargon, exaggeration or clichés. In other words, without bullshit. How do you grab attention in a matter of seconds; leading to the much-talked about ‘elevator pitch’?

One way is to say something that surprises your audience. I recently saw a beautifully designed standing desk. It was being promoted with a question – ‘did you know that standing for an average three hours a day at your desk for a year burns more calories than running ten marathons?’

Yes – it surprised me as well. I regret I couldn’t afford to buy that particular standing desk, but the appeal of such calorie loss (even if it’s not true!) while using my laptop was enough to inspire me to design and make my own not-so-beautiful standing desk from an abandoned wooden garden chair.

Another way to connect powerfully with an audience is through storytelling. Antony ‘Tas’ Tasgal, author of ‘The Storytelling Book’, believes stories are under-rated and under-used in business. After being exposed to around 6,000 business presentations, Tas is leading the fight against the debilitating effects of Powerpoint (which he describes as “people in power who can’t make their point”).

But the battle is not yet won; we continue to be bombarded by bullet points and deluged with data. Too often we still experience the mind-numbing effect of the presenter reading each slide as if s/he is seeing it for the first time, which may be the case. And often all this follows a delay to get the computer to talk to the projector. Never perform with children, animals … and technology.

Tas believes we need to develop and polish our story-telling skills, to bring the human element back into business transactions. “We often forget that all of us in sales, marketing and communications are – at least partly – in the business of storytelling” he says “We seem to have fallen headlong into a culture in which business thinking, business talking and business doing have been overtaken by a system that is contrary to our hard-wired storytelling instincts…”

Which is not to say that words alone can always tell the full story. Despite widespread condemnation of the misuse and abuse of statistics, figures do, of course, have a role to play. A fellow business adviser once suggested ‘never present figures without a story, and never tell a story without figures’. Accountants would, of course, argue that a set of figures tell a story without need for further embellishment…

latitude-books-1In the non-for-private-profit world, the art of storytelling can also be used to communicate a charity’s mission effectively, particularly when the stories feature real life experiences. A useful communication tool for trustees and directors is a small set of postcard-sized profiles of individuals who have benefited from the charity’s support. Each one describes the individual’s situation when they first contacted the charity, how the charity worked with them, and their new situation after the charity’s intervention. It has everything – a focus on real people and real benefits, bringing authenticity to the illustration.

A final word from marketing man Andy Bounds “Facts tell, stories sell. Tell stories about what you’ve done for others; don’t just list facts about what you do.” Andy Bounds has made a name for himself writing about ways to make ideas sticky. But that’s another story…

Further insights into the use of stories:

The Storytelling Book http://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Tasgal/The-Storytelling-Book–Finding-the-Golden-Thread-in-Your-Communications/17487848

A great infographic on capturing and using stories  http://www.imaginepub.com/Image/zTSY2BGi00imRglC0cmfgw/0/0

A word of warning from Seth Godin http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/01/3-d-printers-the-blockchain-and-drones.html

Why stories are good for our brains http://lifehacker.com/5965703/the-science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains

Storytelling and presentations http://blog.strategicedge.co.uk/2015/03/better-storytelling-in-your-presentations.html

 

 

When customer care doesn’t have to costa lot

coffe-mugIn 2002, I visited a community café in Market Rasen in Lincolnshire – I was helping to set up something similar in the Cambridgeshire Fens at the time.  The entrepreneurial organisers of the café – Arena – had recently paid £2,000 for an Italian coffee maker (a machine, not a barista) and I’m not sure they didn’t have to import it direct from Italy.

I use their purchase – a bold and costly investment at that time – in marketing courses as an example of a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that differentiated Arena from the other two cafes in the town – a greasy spoon and a teashop with doyleys. (If you’re too young to know what doyleys or greasy spoons are, look them up).  They made excellent coffee at a time when that was hard to find, particularly in a market town, and people used to travel from far and wide for Arena’s continental offering. But that wasn’t all; the baristas taught their customers how to use the machine and had them judge each other’s brews. ‘Barista of the Week’ posters adorned the walls of the café.

I’m sorry to report that the Arena Café closed in 2009 after the best part of a decade, so it looks like their USP had a limited shelf-life.

Of course, excellent coffee wouldn’t be such a strong USP these days with coffee shops on every corner. The theory goes that everybody now has to make great coffee because customers expect it, right? And all the competition means cafes have to look after their customers or they close, right? And the best coffee shops are local and independent, right?

Well, no – not in my experience.

All I want from a high street coffee shop is decent coffee (but I’m easy to please…) and somewhere I can relax with no hassle from staff – so passive, reactive customer care does me fine. Which is not easy to find in many popular coffee and cake outlets where they want to get you out as quickly as possible once you’ve stopped spending. I once heard that a famous burger chain tilted their seats forward slightly to discourage customers from staying too long, but that may be an urban myth.

we-dont-rush-our-coffeeSo, I’m happy to commend a chain of coffee shops – Costa – for treating their customers like adults, and for being friendly and laid back. My day-job means I meet enterprising young people for 1-2-1 advice sessions on a regular basis. A coffee shop is ideal – a public place where they can relax, stay out of the cold, and get a hot drink. Costa coffee shops are particularly suitable because they’re ubiquitous, accessible, usually have enough space and, above all, the staff are relaxed about me staying all day to meet a steady stream of visitors.

In practice I introduce myself when I arrive and explain what I’m doing. They seem to be genuinely interested – one manager wanted me to take a look at his business plan (part of my job) for a new venture, another offered commiserations when two young people failed to turn up. In every location I’ve been to, the staff have let me set up a tab and I pay for all the drinks when I leave. They haven’t learnt my name yet or started making my regular drink (medium Americano in a takeaway cup since you ask…) as I walk through the door, but that might come with time.

Another way to build your reputation is through consistently good service (assuming you have a winning formula). A recent return to a Costa coffee shop was just as I’d hoped – the manager welcomed me; said he remembered me from last time (I bet he says that to everyone) then left me well alone until it was time to pay.

Afterword: Yes, I know the chain is run by a hospitality conglomerate, I know that their coffee shops are franchises, but I still want to drink to their continued success.

 

Green and Grey – A Christmas Gift Guide

green-grey-logoThis is a shameless plug for the work of some of the wonderful people I met at the Festival of Thrift in Redcar back in September. We share a passion for taking reclaimed materials – other people’s waste – and turning them into festival-of-thrift-logostylish, quality products. Some are functional, some are artful, all are crafted with care for the environment and recognise the charm of the old (green and grey … geddit?) Thoughtful gifts created by makers who know the true meaning of value.


Purepallets founder and son http://www.remadeinbritain.com/purepallets/ with a small selection of there lovely stuff

Purepallets founder and son http://www.remadeinbritain.com/purepallets/ with a small selection of their lovely stuff

101 uses for an old washing machine drum from www.upcycled-cumbria.co.uk/

101 uses for an old washing machine drum from www.upcycled-cumbria.co.uk/

 

 

Upcycled cycle parts -discover your inner tube with www.veloculture.co.uk

Upcycling -discover your inner tube with www.veloculture.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a budding Seasick Steve? Diddley Bros can help www.diddleybros.co.uk

Are you a budding Seasick Steve? Diddley Bros can help www.diddleybros.co.uk

 

 

 

 

A sunny serenade from Mr Spatchcock (or was it Mr Wurzill?) www.spatchcockand wurzill.com

A sunny serenade from Mr Spatchcock (or is that Mr Wurzill?) www.spatchcockandwurzill.com

 

 

Ten green bottles (with candles) from www.upcycleupnorth.co.uk

Ten green bottles (with candles) from www.upcycleupnorth.co.uk

 

Small really is beautiful when you're a Beady Magpie www.beadymagpie.wordpress.com/

Small really is beautiful when you’re a Beady Magpie www.beadymagpie.wordpress.com/

Brilliant birdfeeders from BerryBootique https://www.facebook.com/BerryBootique/

Brilliant birdfeeders from Berry Bootique https://www.facebook.com/BerryBootique/

Drinks cans to artworks by Sarah Turner http://sarahturner.co.uk/

Drinks cans to artworks by Sarah Turner I like the can-do attitude! http://sarahturner.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

A balanced approach to wine drinking with www.gwkwoodshed.org.uk

A balanced approach to wine drinking with www.gwkwoodshed.org.uk

 

 

See you at the Festival of Thrift in 2017? www.festivalofthrift.co.uk

See you at the Festival of Thrift in 2017? www.festivalofthrift.co.uk

From tabletop to laptop – Recover

Latest in the More Expert by Experience series. For other profiles, see http://bit.ly/1rd75hZ

Recover logoWhen I last spoke to Ian Block about his business plan, he’d three years to achieve self-funding from sales of quality upcycled pre-loved furniture. At that time (February 2014) Recover – the social enterprise he leads in Welwyn Garden City – was one year old. I wondered how the three year plan had progressed over the previous two years.

“Our mission has remained the same throughout” confirms Ian “It’s about helping people reintegrate and get themselves worthwhile employment that will stay with them, and help them to be the best they can be; that they feel fulfilled and their lives are worthwhile.”

I asked whether there had been any surprises – good or bad. Continuing the theme of benefiting the volunteers, Ian points to success at the rate at which people have gained and used new skills. Recover has helped raise expectations to the stage where, says Ian, most volunteers are keen to progress.

Looking back, Recover have learnt some hard lessons about the reality of working with people who are furthest from the jobs market. One lesson is a well-known ‘problem of success’ for many social enterprises – that the most capable and productive unemployed volunteers move to paid jobs – an occupational hazard! And for those that remain…

Recover people and products

“There are a broader range of issues facing our volunteers than we anticipated. Their lives are complicated and it takes more time and support for people to move on and stay moved on, particularly when they are older or have lower self-esteem.”

“We thought that the majority of volunteers would progress relatively quickly and then help run Recover. But once out of treatment, when they come to us, the original problems may resurface; they need a lot of hand-holding to develop a sense of self-worth.”   

The first step, of what is often a long journey, is turning up on a regular basis – establishing some structure and routine. Recover offers work and life skills development through refurbishing quality, high-end furniture and Ian doesn’t underestimate the challenge.

“We’re not making sandwiches here – the work takes skill, concentration, focus, practice creativity, Recover recoveringtechnique. We’ve developed methods, systems and processes to keep it as simple as possible, but it still takes a lot of time to teach and embed the learning.”

The intensity of the hands-on support for volunteers means that Ian is finding it harder to balance the books from sales than he’d anticipated. Recover is currently aiming for 50% of income from sales and 50% from funding.

The biggest single development over the past 12 months has been the transition to independence from Recover’s parent charity. Recover is now a Company Limited by Guarantee and Registered Charity in its own right. This means more paperwork as back office functions are taken in-house, including insurance, funding applications, and reporting to the new directors.

Despite the increased demands on his time, Ian is clear about what matters “My priorities are supporting our team and making money. The backroom work has to be fitted in around that. Reporting alone could become a fulltime job if you let it – I started out working on dining tables, now I spend a lot of time on computerised tables!”

Looking ahead, it’s about finding the right balance between growth and consolidation. For Ian the books must balance to keep the doors open. Recover aspires to raise their 50:50 funding/earning ratio to 100% income from trading, but wisely he doesn’t set a date for this.

In the meantime, Recover are getting to grips with pricing – an issue for many social enterprises and an area where Ian is learning fast ‘what works’.

                                                                     Ian gets hands on

“We’re educating people about value – the quality and cost of our work. We’ve been  able to reduce prices as we’ve got better  and faster at refurbishment. The pieces   that we turn into ‘artisan one-of- kind items’ are well-priced compared with mass produced generic flat pack furniture from economy high street chain stores. Items     we don’t refurbish are sold at considerably lower prices than charity shops. Sometimes, we just ask people on low income for a donation that suits their budget.”

Another ‘problem of success’ – in addition to losing the most capable volunteers – relates to Recover’s high profile (“done without any paid advertising” adds Ian proudly).  The two staff members are finding increased demands on their time – from media people, businesses (all support welcome!) and statutory sector staff.

A timely reminder that I’ve taken over an hour of Ian’s time. As I leave, he joins his team for lunch which, he tells me, will be a main meal of the day for some. Yes – two years on from our original meeting, the strengths and values of Recover are still very much in evidence.

 Further information and contact:

http://www.recoverteam.co.uk https://www.facebook.com/recoverteam.co.uk https://twitter.com/RecoverTeam

https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-art-of-adding-value (February 2014)

 

 

Repair Shed Star – Seamus

The Repair Shed brings older men (and women) together to stay healthier and happier for longer by making, mending and learning. Member profiles are based on recorded interviews by evaluator Nick Parsons

Seamus“I hope I’ll be coming here until they put me on a boat and send me down the canal!”  Seamus, Repair Shed member since June 2014

I have had mixed fortunes in my life that have meant my circumstances have changed quite a bit over the years. I was one of the people who used to get people in to do work – I had a lot of people working for me. When you lose that, you lose the confidence. At the moment I’m unemployed.

I’m always at The Repair Shed on Thursdays. I lend my hand to anything – I’m involved in woodwork, electrics, and the Community Repair Days. The whole idea is great – I’ve discovered skills I didn’t know I had and made things I didn’t think I could.

I’m a team player – this gives me the opportunity to meet people; the Shed gets me out. We are skilled people – it is great to see people using those skills again. I hope I will be coming here until they put me on a boat and send me down the canal!

All the people here are great guys – you come here, you have to interact, and you realise what other people’s lives are like. It’s not too intense. People are thinking how to use their brains again, and to problem-solve. For instance, we have to do such-and-such a project, so how are we going to do it? … Your brain could die if it’s not used. Coming to The Repair Shed makes me use my brain.

IMG_7606Let’s face it – if you can go somewhere, laugh a little, do some work, and do something for the community, what can be better – it’s wonderful.                 

More about The Repair Shed at           www.facebook.com/TheRepairShed      www.communityactiondacorum.org/The-Repair-Shed

Signs of the times

wheathampstead-village-photo-a2

Last Friday (Black Friday) I took a walk around the evocatively named Wheathamstead – a picturesque Hertfordshire village listed as England’s 20th richest in a 2011 survey. I drive through the place pretty much every weekday but only really visit the fish and chip shop and public toilet.

I realised how little I knew about Wheathamstead when looking at the notice board by the car park. An advert for Small Business Saturday exhorted shoppers to ‘shop local’ on at least one day – 5 December 2015 in the UK – fair enough.

sIGN OF TIMES 3But it was another advertisement on the notice board that surprised me – for the Wheathamstead Food Bank. Yes, a food bank.

Decades ago I remember being told by someone who knew about such things, that there were children dying of malnutrition in Chester. Hard to believe if you know Chester, but that was 45 years ago. It’s scandalous that Wheathamstead in 2015 is not immune from the ravages of government cuts. And the austerity doesn’t stop at the Food Bank – around the corner outside the church is a banner advertising the Credit Union. A Credit Union is a save and borrow facility helping those the high street banks won’t touch; not the sort of resident you’d expect to find in a village like Wheathamstead.

Which brings me to my passion for ‘make and mend’ to save money and the environment. I’ve always wondered why the much publicised mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ does not include the fourth R – repair.

At the Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead, we’re trying to do our bit to rectify this omission. This year we’ve run four very successful Community Repair Days – people bring their broken items, we assess them for free and, if possible, we fix them. We also do affordable paid-for repairs, but we’re not in the business of putting professional repairers out of business. We describe our facility as ‘a clinic not a hospital’ – if we can’t do a relatively quick fix but decide the item is repairable, we’ll recommend local businesses that may be able to help.

So, last Black Friday – a US import that in my opinion brings out the worst in otherwise reasonable people – I had my eyes opened in Wheathamstead. They say that poor people living in affluent areas are doubly disadvantaged because they are effectively invisible. Not so in Wheathamstead it would seem – the whole community appears to be pulling together in hard times. A silver lining in a dark grey cloud.

For photos of the Repair Shed Community Repair Days go to www.facebook.com/TheRepairShed More about Small Business Saturday at http://www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com