What can we do?

As I was out walking this morning reflecting on what a lovely day it was (hence the piccie below) I got to thinking about what an exceptional world we live in – and how much we take it for granted.

I was reminded of the words of the TV advertisement from the WWF. We are the first generation who understands the destructive effect we are having on our planet – and the last who may be able to do anything to stop it!

That is quite a profound statement, and one that makes most of us feel powerless. When big businesses fail to change the way they are acting, what can small businesses do to affect anything?

Well, I guess, we can do our bit.

There are millions of small businesses and together we have a voice. By changing the way we run our businesses we can do our bit to influence opinion – and benefit from reduced costs and increased profits.

Some small businesses I know have started to offset the carbon emissions they are responsible for, so that any negative impacts their businesses may have on the environment are offset by positive ones. In doing so, they have attracted customers who are also mindful of their environmental impact.

Others have moved away from travelling long distances to meetings – which others have also travelled to get to – and moved to online meeting tools such as Zoom. Travel costs are saved, as well as a good chunk of time. 

Where travel is unavoidable some business owners are moving towards public transport – which can often be cheaper and more convenient than using the car – or walking or cycling.

In the office, many small businesses are looking at having online document management systems so that printing is kept to a minimum. This saves paper, ink and time – not to mention office space.

In changing our habits we will also start to influence larger businesses because they will want to sell us the services we use –  and will start to see reductions in sales of those we don’t.

I am in the process of doing an environmental audit of my business to try to minimise the negative impact Bevan Financial Management has on the environment – perhaps you would like to do the same for your business? 

Worst case? We just save some money! Best Case? We save our world!

Fiona

Making networking fun!

Networking is a part of modern business life. As an employee we often have to network within, and outside, the businesses we work in to build relationships that facilitate our jobs.

For business owners networking is even more important, because it is the main way we meet other business people. These may become suppliers, customers or strategic introducers who will (hopefully) refer customers to us. 

Whatever the circumstances networking is the start of building, and then maintaining,  important relationships.

Most networking is done over refreshments of some description and involves a roomful of people, many of them trying to sell to people they have only just met. 

Good networkers know that networking is not about selling – it is about starting a conversation that might, at sometime in the future, lead to business. But there will always be people at a networking event who have not got the memo!

Recently there has been a move away from networking indoors to more outdoors based meetings. For me these are much more fun and are more likely to attact people I will have something in common with.

I love walking and cycling, so networking I can do whilst walking or cycling, with people who like walking and cycling is always going to be a great way to start building profitable business relationships.

Conversations come much more easily when you are not sitting face to face or standing in small groups. It is also easy to move around the group to talk to different people without any awkwardness.

Of course, if there is a coffee and cake stop along the way so much the better!

The best networking event I ever went to was organised by NRG and Raising the Baa. It involved groups of us herding sheep and trying to get them into pens. Some of us were designated as ‘sheep dogs’ and some as ‘farmers’ directing the dogs. It was the BEST fun!

So, if you have the opportunity to try an outdoors networking event – and you love the outdoors – I would really recommend giving it a go. It’s networking, whilst getting fresh air and exercise, with a change of scene from our usual business day. 

What’s not to like!

Fiona

It’s time to get personal

The new year is often the time for resolutions which by this time in the year have often fallen by the way side. Even the resolution to start planning for the next year can be a goal that is never fulfilled. But planning for the future is a key part of making sure that you are in control of your business and your life and not the other way around.

Do you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve personally over the next 20 years? In 2039 when you look back, what goals would you like to have ticked off and what resources do you need to put into place to achieve these goals?

These are questions a good goal based financial planner helps you to get clearly defined.

But why is it important to know the answers to these questions?

Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I am passionate about planning and believe that it is much more likely that we will achieve the results we want, if we have a plan in place. This applies equally to personal goals and to business goals. And they are interlinked. It is unlikely that success meeting a business goal will be meaningful unless personal goals are also met. In fact, I believe our personal hopes and desires should provide the backdrop to our business goals – especially where we are business owners. After all, how is a business successful if it does not reflect the owner’s personal values and fit with their life plan?

I have discovered, by working with my goal based financial planner Andrew Stinchcomb, that there are key things I want to achieve in my life. Some of these things have always been clear to me – others have come to light through discussions with Andrew and my husband, Jeff. The key outcome has been that we now have a clear idea of what we need resource-wise (and this inevitably means money) to make our dreams a reality.

It’s funny what comes out in the wash in our discussions. A while back Jeff and I had a light bulb moment. We had always talked about taking a year out when our boys leave home to travel around Europe in a camper van. It was originally a pretty lose idea and more of a dream than something we thought we might really do. However, this idea crystallised into a key goal during our discussions – such that, should it not happen, I would feel really bereft. Andrew gave us a clear idea of how much per month we needed to save and invest wisely to make it happen.

As my business is my only source of income, I therefore had, and still have, a very clear picture of what I need to accomplish business-wise, in terms of number of clients and levels of income. This has made it much easier for me to identify good opportunities as they are presented to me and to motivate myself. I know what I will be sacrificing if I don’t push myself.

So take a look at your life goals and ask yourself “Is my business providing to route to these goals?”.

🙂

Fiona 

Your destiny is in your hands

As we all get back into the swing of work after the Christmas break it is a good time to look forward to what the new year may have in store for us.

Many businesses will find this year a real challenge. There is a lot of uncertainty around what will happen with regards to Brexit and this uncertainty has already lead to reducing sales and profits for many.

It is interesting that often the unknown has a more detrimental impact on the economy than actual problems. You only have to look at how the pound has plummeted, along with the stock markets, over the last year to see that this is the case – even though we have not left the EU yet.

The economyis driven by confidence and that confidence is fragile. The press frosters negative feelings about the future – because bad news sells papers – and suddenly everyone is in a spin,  confidence collapses and, guess what, the economy suffers. It’s bad news, just as the papers warned!

As business owners we have to be careful that we don’t get caught up in a spiral of negativity. Negativity prevents business growth because good decisions are postponed. Investment in the future is delayed as outcomes become, apparently, more uncertain.

The fact isthat good, focussed, businesses should not be afraid of the future because economic downturns tend to favour them, as less well managed businesses fall out of the market place.

The key to success over the coming months will be to focus on making your business as efficient and effective as possible. This is always the case but less so when the economy is bouyant.

If you need to invest for the future growth of your business don’t put off doing so; but before committing make sure that you have a robust business case for the investment. Be in charge of your own fate.

Many companiescut back on marketing and training, but these are the very things that will help your business to thrive when your competitors are floundering.

Above all makesure that you have updated your business plan and built in some ‘what/if’ scenarios. That way you will be clear on the goals you have for the coming year and what you need to do to achieve them. There is no reason why you shouldn’t reach your pot of gold!

So here it is – Merry Christmas

I was looking through my December posts from previous years for inspiration and thought it was worth revisiting some of the themes. Once again the immortal words of Slade burst out of the speakers of shops once again as they have since 1973. 

Whether they make you smile or shiver will often depend on your frame of mind at the time you hear them – or how often you have already heard them in any one day. I have often wondered how shop workers stop themselves running and screaming from their shops when the constant blaring of Christmas pap gets to much for them!

It is unfortunately a sign of the times that Christmas permeates much of everyday life for so long before the big day itself. I think it detracts from the spirit and excitement of yuletide. Whether you are a Grinch or an elf Christmas will affect your business and, in some cases, drive you up the wall.

Some people go absolutely barmy over decorating their space, love secret santas and are generally pretty unbearable from the beginning of November until New Year. As a business owner it can be difficult to strike a balance between allowing staff to have fun and ensuring that business is not too disrupted.  Even when you strike a balance with your staff doing business at this time of year can be a challenge.

It is very difficult to get any type of decision from potential customers in the run down to Christmas. On the other hand Christmas is often set as the arbitary date for the completion of projects – leading to huge pressures on teams.

Customers will often use the Christmas period as an excuse for not paying invoices, citing Christmas close down and staff holidays as the reason. Normal payment systems often do not kick back in until the 2nd or 3rd week of January. The result can be cash flow problems unless you plan to avoid them.

So, unsurprisingly, it is all about planning for a positive Christmas and making sure that you take control of any challenging situations before they cause you a real problem.

Fiona 🙂

I am still at it!

Unbelievably it was four years ago, September 2013, when I returned from the Entrepreneurs Convention in Birmingham buzzing with ideas.

Helen Lacey, Red Berry Recruitment, and I had a very bouyant discussion on the way home in the car, and I was all inspired to give producing a newsletter for my clients and contacts a try.

48 editions later and, hopefully, I am still producing something worth reading!

So you may well ask “Why?”.

There are various reasons why I find writing this newsletter a great discipline to do each month.

Firstly, despite the joke about creative accountants, I do not have much opportunity to be creative in the day job. Producing a monthly newsletter helps me to feel I am a bit more creative than I would otherwise be.

Secondly, being forced to come up with new material each month flexs my ‘writing muscle’. This has been particularly helpful when I have wanted to write new published material – whether it is the free guides on my website or the three books I now have for sale on Amazon.

Getting started is always the most difficult part of any project so having to ‘get started’ each month on my newsletter is certainly a help.

I have lots of people I would like to keep in touch with and sending the newsletter to these people is one of the tools that allows me to do that.

Finally, I love having the opportunity to feature businesses I have come across, and want to promote, and people I would like to thank publicly.

I have been asked on several occasions why I print the newsletter and send it via snail mail, rather than emailing it.

Nigel Botterill at the Convention pointed out that if you do what everyone else is doing, you will be lost in the noise. I get lots of emailed newsletters and never have time to read them all, so I don’t read any. But I get hardly any mail.

Hopefully you like receiving this newsletter in the post and are more likely to read it because you do.

Fiona 🙂

A year like no other!


Now we are reaching the end of 2016 we can reflect on a year like no other. November saw the election of Donald Trump to the White House and I am still in shock! Not just because I cannot believe that millions of people voted for Trump, but also because it is the latest in a string of decisions which will change our lives fundamentally.

I cannot remember a year like it!

In the UK, of course, we have been focussed on our decision to leave the EU. This sparked a raft of unexpected consequences that are on the face of it unconnected with the intial vote to leave.

Amongst other things Cameron, a vehement remain supporter, felt he had to leave his post along with the Chancellor, ushering the era of May, Hammond and Boris.

Nicola Sturgeon can now smell blood and is gearing up to call for another referendum on whether Scotland should remain in the UK. If there is a vote to leave I believe this will readically change our view of our country’s identity.

Then of course there was Bake Off’s move to from the BBC to Channel 4 – I am too upset to comment on this!

So Trump’s move into the White House is not the only major change in direction we have seen this year – it is, however, the one which will have the biggest long term impact on all of us. Most worrying is his stance on climate change and the likely impact this will have on the US’s willingness to take part in measures to cut green house gasses. The US is the second largest polluter after China, so the fact their leader believes global warming is a conspiracy is deeply worrying.

Any shift in the White House has world wide implications but this one has the potential to extensively effect the global population for generations to come.

So, as business people what can we do?

Companies are regularly rocked by circumstances outside of their control. To avoid being blown off course it is vital to make the core of our businesses as solid as possible.

Having well trained and competent staff; robust management information for effective decision making; sufficient working capital to meet day to day needs; and strong leadership are vital to long term prosperity.

It’s not just the weather we should forecast!

Forecasting

If you mention forecasting in mixed company you can see a small shudder run around the room.

Many business owners don’t know how much money is in their bank account on a day to day basis and look at their accounts only once a year, so the idea of forecasting for the future leaves them cold.

However, in not doing cash flow forecasting (at the very least) these business owners are putting their businesses at real risk.

Until 2008, when overdrafts were pretty easy to come by, you could get away with not managing your money quite so well. But now the banks are reluctant to lend money, businesses that don’t ensure they control their cash flow can find themselves really struggling – even if they are profitable.

Forecasting forward can help ensure you don’t suddenly run out of money. If things are going badly you at least have forewarning of when you MUST get some money in and have time to do something about it. You can then use your forecast to help the bank – or any other parties you are hoping to secure funding from – understand your business and who investing in your business is a good bet for them.

I have written a free guide to help you with forecasting for your business which you can download from my website http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

Fiona 🙂

 

 

The problem with pricing!


Pricing is a big problem for most businesses.

In simple terms if you charge too much you may struggle to get customers. Charge too little and you won’t make enough money.

But pricing can reveal more about your company than you may think.

If you regularly price at a lower level than people would expect to pay for your product/service, prospective clients may assume that your work is of a low quality. So bizarrely you may find you don’t get approached by your ‘perfect’ client because they think you are not up to the job.

On the other hand you can be ‘reassuringly expensive’ and draw people to you.

For help with getting your pricing right you may like to download the free pricing guide on my website http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

Fiona 🙂

Which is your team?

fifa

Well it’s all behind us now!

The World Cup with all its highs and lows is over and, as always, we find ourselves dissappointed at the results.

It occurs to me that this sporting event exemplifies many of the trials and tribulations businesses come across in trying to be successful. If you have a team full of players who are only interested in themselves as individuals, it is likely you will get poor results, even if the players seem to be very talented. However, if you have a team of players who are willing to sacrifice their personal status to further the team’s ambitions, the sum becomes greater than the parts and real magic can result.

Further, it is important that the team has a clear and common vision, which is driven through by the directors. If individuals in the team go in their own direction without reference to the vision, or ignore clear management guidance, the team as a whole will suffer.

So my advice is to look at your business and decide which team you would like to be.

Will your company resemble Brazil, Spain, or indeed England? Or will you be like Germany and hold the World Cup aloft?

Fiona 🙂