A time to review


As 2017 draws to a close its a good time to reflect on the year and what we have learned.

2017 has very much been a mixed year for me and I have been taking the opportunity, with the end of the year looming, to reflect on my 50th year. Unlike 2016, which was a bonkers year on the national and international front, 2017 was more challenging personally.

The beginning of the year started with the death of my father and all the stresses and strains the loss of a parent brings. I had already reduced my workload when he was in hospital, so I could support both him and my mother, so at least I had some time to mourn.

This time was also useful in giving me space to review my business and seize the opportunity to move into a new direction, which I would probably have missed otherwise.

In previous newsletters I have written about the new series of books and workshops I have developed for CIMA accountants who want to be successful in self employment.

Having written 2 books and run 6 workshops, and taken on several mentoring clients, I am now at the point where I am considering how this side of my business might develop in 2018.

I have really enjoyed taking the workshops ‘on the road’ and so far have been to Stirling, Scotland and London, as well as running the first two pilot days in Bristol.

I am thrilled with the lovely feedback I have had from the guys who have taken part in the day workshops so I am happy that the material ‘hits the spot’.

However, I have been well outside my comfort zone publicising the events and getting people I have never met signed up. I haven’t had to do this type of marketing and sales activity before so it has all been new to me.

That said, I think we all need a shake up periodically. Not only does it give us the opportunity to test ourselves, but also gives us more energy to do those tasks which have become run of the mill.

It is easy to continue doing the same type of things we always have done in business. If people like what we do we often don’t see any point in changing. However, a shake up brings challenges and challenges usually lead to a more exciting and fulfilling business life.

Do you show business confidence?

A business’s confidence is key to its success.

A confident business does not have to apologise for its existence – it can just get on with providing a great product or service.

In an owner/managed business the level of business confidence conveyed is directly related to the confidence you as the owner have in yourself and your business proposition. Even a business which offers great service and is well respected by its customers can be undermined, if you continually doubt yourself.

So how do you keep your confidence levels boosted?

Firstly, make sure you have a great product/service, which you can easily describe to third parties. If you sell a service, productising elements of your service can make it easier for potential customers to understand what you do.

Talk to your customers so you are clear why they buy from you. Although this might be hard at first, it will enable you to talk confidently to prospective clients about the effectiveness of what you do.

Whilst you are talking to your customers, ask them for testimonials. Not only can you use them in your marketing, they will also boost your confidence.

If you know where you want your business to go, you can confidently decide what you need to do to get you there. So, have a robust, regularly updated business plan. Alongside this, try to build a great business skills base. There are many facets to even small businesses, so the more you know about each of them the more effective, and confident, you will be.

Be part of a strong business network. Business networks are a fundamental part of raising the profile of your business and finding support locally. Regular contact with other business owners, many of whom face similar problems to yours, will help make running your business less lonely too.

Finally, think about how you are presenting yourself. If you are well prepared, wear the right clothes for the right occasion, and think about your body language, you will be best able to express yourself confidently.

If you want a little more help with your business confidence download my free guide to confidence on my website
fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/tools

Which cat are you?

Some of you will have seen my post on LinkedIn talking about a great meeting I had with Trevor Lever of TLC.

Trevor has been a great supporter of my business over the years and is a terrific sales effectiveness coach. Although Trevor is now looking to take a bit of a back seat these days he has been kind enough to share his brilliance with me.

I am very pleased to say that he has given me care of his cats as he doesn’t have as much use for them as he did! I am sure he won’t mind me sharing them with you.

There are four sales cat types: trader cat, poacher cat, farmer cat and hunter cat. As business owners we will often have an affinity for one particular cat but need to be able to ‘play’ at being any cat.

Trader cats are the classic networkers who work hard to develop advocates they can trade referrals with. Reciprocation is the name of their game.

Farmer cats spend most of their time working with existing clients to increase the value of goods and services they can ‘sell’ to them – they concentrate on cultivation.

Poacher cats stalk businesses with the types of clients they want and their clients away. They will use differentiation to make themselves appealing to customers.

Hunter cats are excited by finding new opportunities and new customers who have never used their type of service before. Hunters use education to help new clients understand what they have to offer.

I have to say that of all these types of cat I myself have been least comfortable with being a hunter – and I expect most accountants would feel the same way.

However, I have had to become much more brave in approaching brand new customers since I have started my new venture providing workshops and mentoring for members in practice.

I have had to become more of a “hunter”. It really has not been enough to stay in my corner of the forest waiting for people to come to me!

Although it has been a challenge I am becoming braver by the day!

Fiona 🙂

Let’s get inspired!

It’s interesting how large sporting occasions can inspire us. How many of us runners find ourselves with more of a spring in our step having watched the World Athletics Championships or the Olympics? Just seeing world class athletes such as Mo Farah achieve fantastic results can leave an imprint on us.

And I think we can all do with inspiration. When times are tough it is very easy to start focussing on the negative and to get bogged down with what things are not going to plan.

A far more positive approach is to move past those obstacles and focus on what you can do to move forward. Concentrate on those things you can change rather than on those things you can’t.

At the end of the day we live in a pretty prosperous country and have terrific opportunities residents of the developing world could only dream of.

Someone I find really inspiring is the para-athlete Mark Ormrod. He spoke at the CIMA Members in Practice conference a couple of years ago and got a rare, but well deserved, standing ovation.

Despite losing 3 limbs in Afghanistan Mark has fought all adversity to build an exceptional life for himself and his family. In fact he has just competed in the Invictus games where he won four medals and got an exceptional performance award from Prince Harry.

People do extraordinary things. These people are usually extraordinary individuals but if we can take inspiration from their example we can become, if not extraordinary ourselves, certainly more positive and motivated.

Fiona 🙂

It’s good to talk

The end of June saw the annual CIMA Member in Practice Conference. You may not have any idea what that is but suffice to say it involves lots of accountants getting together for a two day shindig.

Your next thought may well be “Nightmare!”

But I am here to tell you we have the BEST fun and our speakers give us terrific feedback about how they find us as an audience!

For me it is a great opportunity to spend two days just thinking about my own business and not those of my clients. I come away with a shed load of new ideas and more new friends and contacts than I can shake a stick at.

In the past I have presented in break out rooms to a smaller subset of the total audience. This has meant a workshop style of presentation is possible – and fairly low stress if you prepare well.

This conference though I was down to do a main stage slot, for an hour, to pretty much everyone! I even had a couple of the key note speakers (proper professionals on the speaker circuit) sitting in. So no pressure!

Talking on the main stage is a completely different ball game than presenting a workshop and requires a different way of preparing.

For one thing it is less interactive meaning you are less guided by audience questions and have to be more prepared to take the gamble that you are covering all the information the audience may want or need.

You also need to put more effort into producing slides (I don’t usually do slides as death by powerpoint is the death of many presentations) which were engaging.

Thankfully everything went off well and I had some great feedback from MiPs afterwards – I even sold some copies of a book I had written on the theme of my talk.

It was a great experience and one I would be glad to do again – getting out of your comfort zone is generally a good thing. If you can, give it a try!

Fiona 🙂

Welcome to 2017!

dancerAfter a fairly turmultuous 2016, a year which was surprising and sometimes shocking, what will the new year bring? If 2016 has taught us anything it is that it pays to expect the unexpected!

In the next couple of years we will see some big changes – perhaps – in the environment in which we do business – or not! We just don’t know.

But whatever happens it is likely that any changes will be difficult to predict and to plan for robustly. This is because many of the decisions our suppliers, customers and staff will be making are likely to be based on their gut feelings rather than facts. Surely the EU Referendum has shown us that!

So what can we do to make sure we ride any storm?

Well, of course, this time of year is the time when many of us make New Year’s Resolutions and promises about what we are going to change in the coming year. Some of us want to be fitter and/or more flexible so our bodies are better able to meet our needs as we get older (I myself have a big birthday this year – 21 is a great age!!). Some of us want to lose the excess weight that seems to have crept onto our bodies over the years without us particularly noticing.

And some of us want to take control of our finances and to strip out unnecessary spend so we are better able to afford the things that are most important to us.

All of these goals are ones we can apply to making our businesses better able to cope with the change which is coming.

Make your business fitter and more flexible by reviewing how you and your team work. Ensure everyone is motivated to work effectively as part of a well oiled machine.

Strip out any surplus fat. Businesses which has been around for any length of time are likely to have areas which need to be slimmed down or stripped out altogether.

Take control of your finances. Look at what you spend your money on and make sure in the future you don’t waste your hard earned cash. A great place to start is to look at your bills to see where easy money can be saved – in particular utilities, rates, insurances, and IT costs.

And, of course, have a clear contingency plan detailing how you will reduce the risks in your business model. Although you may not know how the business environment will change in 2017 you can fortify your business against failure.

Fiona 🙂

And the spectacle continues!

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-15-10-40I know I have gone on a bit (or a lot) about the events in Rio but I have just been blown away by the team GB success.

I promise this article is the last time I will mention the Olympics – well at least for another four years – but I have been just so inspired by them.

I loved watching the different sports and was stunned when we came 2nd and beat China in the medals table.

The Paralympics has been even better!

Who could fail to be moved by the armless Egyptian table tennis player who held the paddle between his teeth and threw the ball up with his feet?

The tenacity of such athletes who are taking part in sports on a global stage is incredible. In the case of the table tennis player he had no expectation that he would medal – it was enough for him to take part.

Whether they were born with their disability or became disabled later in life due to illness or accident, every athlete’s story was truly inspirational.

So is there anything the Paralympics can teach business people which might help us to thrive?

Firstly, I think we can learn to be more positive. We all have bad days and times when it seems the world is against us. But let’s face it we don’t have to face the problems and prejudice a lot of disabled people have to put up with on a daily basis. If they can flourish with all that is stacked against them – I am sure we can!

Secondly, I think we can learn to be more focussed on our goals. We often don’t achieve what we want because we simply aren’t focussed enough. We allow ourselves to be sidetracked by less important things.

Finally, following the lead of Chumbawumba, I think we can learn to get back up again when we get knocked down. Many paralympians have been knocked down pretty hard (sometimes literally) but have had the mental strength to not only get back up again but to thrive.

Business is challenging and we will all suffer setbacks. The key to getting over these setbacks is to be positive, focussed and to pick ourselves up each time we are knocked down.

Wow – what a spectacle!

IMG_0196

As Chad Le Clos’s father Bert would say it was ‘unbelievable’.

The Rio Olympics was fabulous for Team GB and nearly everyone I have spoken to has been glued to the TV watching their exploits. Of course there were the events we expect to do well in – the track cycling and rowing – and indeed our athletes delivered here.

But there were also the events we did well in that we would never have expected to. The men’s gymnastics was incredible, our hockey girls also won gold for the first time. Then there was the trampolinist who just couldn’t believe her silver medal performance.

Of course there were disappointments – I think we won the prize for the most 4th placed athletes – but overall the consensus seems to be that the team delivered much more than was expected.

Whatever the result there were some key themes which came out of the interviews with both winners and losers: the hard work that goes into preparing for an Olympic Games; the role of the ‘backroom’ team in coaching, supporting and facilitating competitors; and the sacrifices family often have to make.

In short enabling even individual competitors to compete at an Olympics is a team effort.

In business too any successful business owner will have a team around them supporting their decisions and lending the expertise the business owner themselves does not have. There is obviously the support from within the business from key staff. It is vital that everyone in a business contributes to the business success and that the right people are in the right roles.

As well as great staff successful business people cultivate a team of professionals, suppliers, regular customers and introducers around their company.
This support network helps the business to thrive even when conditions are challenging. Just because you are the MD does not mean that you have to know everything about all aspects of business – as long as you have a team around you who can fill in the gaps and help you make the right decisions for your business.

Fiona 🙂

Change is coming – like it or not!

Forecasting

Whether you voted to remain or leave the EU, the fact is that we are all now OUT!

I don’t know about you but I don’t really know what a Britain outside of the EU will look like.

Certainly in the first few months and even the next couple of years, probably much the same as it did before the Referendum.

The pound and stock market plumited on the news but more because the city expected a remain vote. Chances are they will move back upwards – although whether they will reach the pre-Referedum levels remains to be seen.

All I can say is that in the short term our Portugal holiday is suddenly more expensive this summer!

I think it is the unforseen consequenses of Brexit, which will catch people out.

For example, in the meduim term the UK itself may well shrink as a result of the out vote. The SNP has a very good case for saying that, because Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, another Independence Referendum should be held.

After all a main argument for staying in the UK was that Scotland may struggle to become a member of the EU in its own right, but is a member of the EU if it stays in the UK – obviously no longer true.

I suspect there are a large number of multinational companies which chose to base themselves in the UK because we were part of the largest economic body in the world. It will be interesting to see how these companies react to the no vote.

Of local interest – how will the vote affect the French company EDFs plans to invest in Hinkley Point? We will see.

However, as smaller companies these issues are less of a concern than the immediate question of how will our businesses be affected.

And the answer is – none of us knows!

All we can do is to look at our own business and strategic planning and aim to make our companies as robust as we can.

So make sure you spend time reviewing your plan and thinking about how you may need to change it to flourish in the coming period of uncertainty.

Fiona:)