Are you as financially savvy as you need to be?

Jenny teaching

As business owners we need our businesses to make money.

In my opinion an established business which does not pay its owner(s) a decent wage is really a hobby. So given that we need our businesses to make money it follows that we need to be sufficiently au fe with business finances to understand if our business is running our finances, or whether we our running our business finances.

Unfortunately, a large numbers of business owners are not financially savvy enough.

If you would like to see if you are one of these, try answering the questions below:

Do you have a clear financial plan?
Do you know if your business is currently profitable?
At this point do you know how much money is in your bank and what money you can expect in and out of your bank account over the next month?
Do you know what customers/products/services are profitable?
Do you have a robust invoicing and debt collection system so clients pay you in a reasonable time (do you know what reasonable is?)?
Are you always able to pay your suppliers on time?
Can you always pay your salary/dividend/drawings?
Do you know how much you have to sell, and at what price, to provide the lifestyle you want?
If the answer to two or more of these questions is “no” you are probably not as financially savvy as you need to be to run your business effectively.

However, help is at hand and there are ways you can help yourself.

If you have an accountant/bookkeeper ask them questions about your financial position and what you could do to improve it
Talk to your business friends who seem to be financially sorted and ask them what they do
There are volumes of business books out there that can help you understand the basics
Take time to properly plan
You may want to go on a finance for non-financial managers course to learn the basics in a workshop setting.
Finally, I have written a series of FREE financial and business guides which you can download from my website http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

You can download as many or as few of the guides as you like without registering so please do take advantage of them.

Fiona 🙂

Radio Gaga!

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Last week I was given the opportunity to be part of the Packed Lunch radio programme on Glastonbury FM.

I had not previously thought about talking on the radio. But when Alan Philpott proposed the idea it appealed to me, because it gave me the chance to talk about how business owners in the local area could tackle some of their issues.

Fortunately, the programme was prerecorded so it was not too scary. I knew if I made a complete hash of it we could just start again – just as well!!

We recorded 3 15 minute slots to go out in future programmes and these first slots covered how confidence effects business performance, the benefits of business planning, and how to price effectively. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to cover further subjects later in the year.

I have no idea whether anyone will listen but I gained from having taken part.

Doing this type of exercise reminds us that we really do know a substantial amount about our subject – which in turn makes it easier for us to be confident when talking to prospective clients. For me, it also enabled me to give some practical tips to business owners I would not otherwise reach.

So if you have the opportunity to take part in a radio programme I would definitely recommend it.

Fiona 🙂

Conferences rock!

I thought as a conference I am organising is just around the corner it would be a good time to revisit the theme of professional conferences.

I have been to the CIMA Members in Practise conference for years and have always got key benefits from going:

  1. The conference is excellent for CPD, which as a professional management accountant, is vital. Although I don’t do tax or compliance myself I do need enough knowledge to help point clients in the right direction and conference is a good place to top up my knowledge.
  2. As well as specific CPD on accountancy issues we also have great key note speakers who motivate me to have the best business I can.
  3. Finally on the CPD front, sales and marketing is always a challenge for me and we have great workshops on how to get our messages across.
  4. For me, though, conference is about much more than just getting CPD. Because conference is full of like-minded individuals it is a great place to build relationships, which can carry me through the year. Working on our own can be a lonely place and these relationships help me to keep a balanced view of my world.
  5. And let’s not forget the gala dinner, disco, and the ‘craic’ at the bar! We have such a good time and, as I don’t get out very often, it is one of the few evenings in the year when I feel like a grown up!

I am really excited about what I will learn from this year’s conference but there is a sting in the tail.

Again I am chair of the conference (no pressure!!).

Last year the conference nightmares included not bringing the speaker slides and having to wing a presentation because one of the speakers didn’t turn up (could happen for real!). My nightmare of choice this year has been that a random eastern European pipe band crashes the event and plunges us all into chaos.

Nightmares aside I know it will all be OK because we have put many hours of preparation into it and we know we have a great programme.

So, if you are cogitating about whether to go to your professional conference (especially if you have not gone before) my advice is ‘give it a go’. You will probably get much more out of it than you ever imagined!

Fiona 🙂

Connecting is the key!

I have long believed that effective networking is key to business success. This is particularly so for business to business services. However, it is always difficult to decide which of the numerous networking groups are best for your particular business. It is very easy to waste time and money doing lots of ineffective networking – by ineffective I mean networking which does not result in building ‘real’ business relationships.

I believe that successful networking is less about the format and the networking organisation and more about the individuals in the group. Are they the type of people who are moving in the same markets as you? Are they talking to the people you want to talk to? Can you see yourself building great referral relationships with them? If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions the chances are you have found a netwoking group which may well work for you.

So how do you get the best out of networking meetings?

Having a plan is an excellent start. Some groups provide a list of people who have booked for the meeting so look at who is going and decide who you want to talk to. Groups with a sit down meal often give you the opportunity for you to request to sit next to a particular person – or at least on the same table as that person. So use this facility.

If you have been invited to a group by a member discuss with them in advance who in the group would be good contacts for you. If they can introduce you to each other through LinkedIn or by email in advance you will be happier approaching them at the meeting.

After the meeting FOLLOW UP! However, well you got along with the people you meet they will soon forget you if you don’t follow up with further ‘get to know you properly meetings’ (or 121s). Remember everyone in the room will be meeting lots of people all the time – you need to find a way to make sure they keep you in mind if you want them to work with you.

So, I would like to sign off by saying that it does not matter how many people you meet during your networking – what matters is how many of them you follow up and build a mutually productive relationship with.

Fiona 🙂

Read all about it!

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It is now 6 months since I started writing and distributing my newsletter Bright Business Bulletin and I have certainly learned a lot along the way.

I came up with the idea of producing a monthly printed newsletter at the Entrepreneur’s Convention back in September. Two clear messages of the Convention were that doing what every on else was doing was not a sensible way to stand out in business, and that if you have an idea you should act on it quickly. A perfect idea which is not put into action is worthless. However, an imperfect but relevant idea that comes to fruition will move you forward.

I have always liked the idea of producing a newsletter with genuinely useful information. I felt that sending out an e-newsletter would not be the best use of my time as most people receive many emailed newsletters but few actually get read.

So I decided that my newsletter had to be printed and sent out the old fashioned way by Royal Mail – in red envelopes of course! I would send it out to 80 people I thought would be interested and who I wanted to keep in touch with – clients, strategic introducers, business partners etc. (I have since made the newsletter available to download from my website).

For the October newsletter I had only 3 days to design my newsletter format, write the content, source envelopes, get it printed, stuffed in envelopes and posted (as well as doing the day job!), because I was due to go on holiday. It was tight but I did it!

Having just sent out my 6th newsletter I certainly feel a sense of achievement.

The feedback I have had has been really gratifying. People are clearly reading the newsletters and engaged enough to comment back to me about what they like, to thank me if I have featured their business, and take part in the competition I ran.

So what have I learned so far?

Firstly, and most importantly, have a format that is easy to follow each month, so you are not confronted by a blank sheet of paper. I have clear smallish sections that are easy to think about in isolation. For example, I have my Pooh quote of the month, Ask Jenny (my financial agony aunt column), featured business and partner, Michael’s minutes and dates for your diary, as standard columns.

Secondly, it may seem like a big commitment to do a newsletter monthly but, like blog writing, once you get into the habit it is relatively easy. It is difficult to get into a habit if you only do an activity irregularly or quarterly.

Finally, having sections about other people and their businesses is a great idea, because it is easier to write about others than ourselves, and readers love the fact that someone else is interested enough in them to write about them.

Now I am not worried about what I will write about each month but actually enjoy the challenge of creating something interesting.

So, if you are thinking about creating a newsletter don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it – just do it!

Fiona 🙂

Read all about it!

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My last post was all about the Entrepreneur’s Convention and how motivated I was when I came back.

Just to prove this was so I thought I would base this blog on my journey writing a newsletter for the first time, and what I got out of it.

I gave myself four days to get it in the post, because I was due to go away for a long weekend with my mum for her birthday on the Thursday morning and I knew that if I waited until I came back momentum would be lost.

I had no idea what tool to use as I didn’t have Microsoft Publisher as part of my Office package – and Publisher was the only tool I knew. After some research we found Swift Publisher 3. This tool was relatively inexpensive ($18 I think) but had the professional look I was after. Package bought and downloaded it was time to think of a theme and title.

After much head scratching my hubby came up with a great title. As my blog is Bright Business Thoughts how about Bright Business Bulletin? Perfect!!

Then it was a case of using branding and pictures I already had on my website to give the right look and feel.

Content was the next issue. As the newsletter is for clients and other good business contacts it is important to me that they get value from the newsletter. It is not to be about me but about other interesting businesses and with useful tips and advice.

The Entrepreneur’s Convention was an ideal lead article as it was topical and of interest to an audience of entrepreneurs and business people.

The rest of the newsletter was filled with regular features I plan to run each month: A quote from that great business guru Winnie the Pooh; a slot with our financial agony aunt Jenny; Michael’s minutes where Michael gives us a quick tip on time management; dates for your diary; and a community section featuring a great business; someone who has helped me in the month and a partner of the month (someone I recommend).

I have had some good feedback so hopefully it is the right mix of content and entertainment.

I met my ‘in the post’ target – just!

By the end of Monday I had the newsletter at the printers, the envelopes ordered and the stamps bought. By the end of Tuesday I had the list of recipients prepared and labels printed. The envelopes arrived Wednesday pm so I was able to label and fill them before popping them in the post by 6pm Wednesday evening.

So what did I learn? Firstly, you can achieve a lot when you give yourself a deadline – even if the tight schedule meant a typo missed editorship! Secondly, a good tool takes a lot of the stress away from doing a project. And thirdly, I am very lucky to have a husband who is very good at graphics and is happy to help!

Fiona 🙂

A little (more) help from my friends

I have blogged several times about conferences but this blog is focussed slightly differently from the others.

I was co-chair of the CIMA MiP conference a couple of weeks ago and I have to say it went better than I could have expected.

We had excellent speakers and Kate Gibson (Kate Gibson Events), who organises the liaison with the hotel and books the evening entertainment, did a fabulous job as usual.

We also had a super team on the CIMA staff and BPP who sorted out the bookings and did much of the admin.

But what made conference such a success is that it really was a team effort. The conference is run by and for MiPs – no one apart from the staff and Kate run events on this scale as their day job.

I was really gratified that so many delegates were happy to pitch in and help – whether it was introducing speakers, offering to be mentors or just sharing their experiences and knowledge.

In particular, the MiP panel committee members were stars doing much more than their fair share.

All this meant that the conference – the most stressful thing I think I have ever done and I am still catching up on the sleepless nights – went without a hitch.

Thanks to everyone.

I am so glad I did it as it stretched my comfort zone, which I think is something we should all do regularly.

Fiona 🙂

My business world on a page (or four!)

Following a conversation with one of my strategic partners I realised that I had not prepared any new marketing material for some time.

He wanted something, which would clearly show people what I can do for their businesses, so that when he comes across one of his connections struggling to master their business finances he could give them the leaflet.

I have to admit I have gone through fazes of being very lazy in marketing my business, because most of my work is regular monthly accounts and forecasts. However, of course, I am always hoping to help new businesses.

So I decided I must take his lead and come up with something great!

It was quite an enlightening exercise. I have a website I am very proud of and used the look and feel and summarised various pieces of information I had there into a four page A5 leaflet.

But I had to think clearly about what key pieces of information were needed. What would business people most be interested in? Should I include testimonials? Why would anyone read at at all?

It was important to me that it was visually good so I liberally splattered it with the pictures my hubby has so expertly done for my website and guides and I think it is not a bad job!!

If you are interested please do download –  any comments would be gratefully received!!

Mastering your business finances is the key to having a successful business LinkedIn

Fiona 🙂

Oh to be inspired!!

It has been quite a while since my last blog, which is unusual as I try to blog pretty regularly.

The reason for my tardiness is that I have, quite simply, been completely uninspired! I have even found tweeting subjects (surely the easiest thing to do) difficult to find – and so have been silent on that front too.

So I thought a good topic for this blog was being uninspired and how inspiration to perk up our businesses, or even just our blogs, can desert us!

For me, I think the problem has been that I am a little stuck in a rut and the grey weather is not helping at all. One week flows into the next with little to distinguish one from another.

I need a project.

So that is what I am on the look out for. A project I can get my teeth stuck into, which will re-motivate me and stop the rot.

So if you, or someone you know, has the same problem perhaps we could get together and help each other get back on track. Or perhaps you have a project you need help with.

If so please do contact me.

Fiona 🙂

 

Two, or even three’s, company

As a small business owner marketing can be hard work and expensive. Whether you are going down the networking route, doing presentations, or marketing yourself through more traditional methods, such as adverts, it takes time and money to do it right.

However, there are ways to reduce the costs, and the time you have to spend.

By teaming up with other business owners you can share the marketing time and expense.

An obvious collusion is to put together a presentation with a couple of likeminded businesses in complementary fields. For example, an employment lawyer could run a seminar with an HR expert and a payroll company.

The costs of the venue, refreshments, seminar marketing,  handouts etc. could then be shared three ways. As an individual you also only have to prepare enough material for a third of the presentation time – thus saving you time and effort.

There are also hidden benefits of doing  joint presentations. Each professional will get a better understanding of the others’ fields. This will make it easier for them to refer their clients in areas they are not, themselves, familiar.

Another way of colluding is having a common website, blog, or other social media presence. I am currently involved in helping put together a fantastic website to introduce business owners to management accountants in their area.

The benefit of such a scheme is that we can create a really great website, which is inexpensive for each accountant, because of the numbers of people who will be advertised on it.

So, why not have a think about which of your business contacts you can do a joint piece of marketing with and see where it takes you.

Fiona 🙂