Getting to know you!

“Piglet is so small that he slips into a pocket, where it is very comfortable to feel him when you are not quite sure whether twice seven is twelve or twenty-two.” This Pooh quote is all about having someone you can call on to help when you need it – and don’t we all need people like that!

Successful business owners surround themselves with people who can do the jobs in their company that they cannot do, so they can concentrate on their own strengths. Obviously having employees is one way of filling the skills gap – another is to use consultants and other professionals.

So how do you find skilled professionals who will add great value to your business?

For me referrals and recommendations are the only way to go. If someone I know well has introduced me to someone they have worked with before, I can shortcut the due dilligence process. In my experience good people hang out with other good people.

I make sure that I network in groups that help me to find great people I can use myself and recommend to clients and other contacts. I love meeting new people and networking groups are a great way to keep in contact with my strategic partners regularly. Clearly networking can require quite a lot of time but these days I can enhance my networking by using online tools.

In this respect I like LinkedIn because it allows people to recommend me, and I can read recommendations given to people I might be thinking of using, in a quick and easy to use format. I can also catch up with what’s important to them through blogs and posts.

If I have had a great service from someone I make sure I recommend them so that their profile on LinkedIn is enhanced – I also ask people I have worked with the recommend me. When I get a good recommendation it is a great morale booster and helps others to get a feel of what working with me would feel like.

It’s easy to put networking on the back burner when we get busy but we must continue to do the things that got us busy – or we will experience periods of slack time when one job comes to an end and before restarting our networking re-fills our time again.

Collaboration is fun!


You may well have picked up – because I mentioned it more than once! – that I have a pet project I have been collaborating with Trevor Lever on.

What started out as a one book project soon became two books as we realised that we had enough material to split into two bite-sized, practical handbooks. These will be How to Have Fun Selling and How to Have Fun Marketing.

These first two books will be specifically aimed at accountants in practice but will later be combined into one book for any professional who struggles with sales and marketing.

The collaboration has been a perfect way of focussing on a specific group of people who need help. I know the target audience very well, whilst Trevor knows all about the material we are conveying.

As part of the information gathering stage we had two days of working together to make sure that I captured all his great stuff. Everything was recorded so that I could go back to the converstations when I came to write the two handbooks.

I was able to give Trevor insights into how accountants thought – which he sometimes found astonishing – so he was able to give specific guidance into processes and procedures to help unstick specific problems.

I have learned a terrific amount and, as Trevor has passed on his great teaching materials too, I have been able to confidently transfer some of what I learned into a half day workshop.

My husband Jeff has had ‘fun’ adapting Trevor’s cat images into some great pictures to add some colour to the books. After all you cannot create books called How to Have Fun … if they are not fun to read!

What I have learned (on top of Trevor’s sales and marketing insights) is that if we are able to find fellow professionals to collaborate with, we can enhance our own businesses and provide something different to our customers.

This has no downside and will often lead us into some really interesting areas of learning we had not considered before.

So be open to opportunities and see where they will lead!

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 🙂

Minding your Ps and Qs

Jenny and Michael thumbs up

Running your own business can be the biggest thrill you will achieve in your working life, or the most stressful and demoralising experience you can imagine. On some days it is both!

However, I have come to realise from my own experience, from talking to business owners, and from gurus such as Ron Baker, Peter Thompson and Steven Covey, that running a successful business is all about minding your Ps and Qs.

Given the stresses involved in running your own business it is vital you are passionate about your product or service. Let’s face it, it is much easier to engage with potential customers if you can show passion for what you do.

Once you know what you want to do, you need to have a robust plan. We business owners are often knowledgeable about our product or service but avoid those business areas we struggle with – often marketing, sales or finance. The process of creating a business plan forces us to review ALL the areas of our business which are crucial to our future success.

We need to present ourselves to the market. If, like me you run a service lead business, one of the best ways to do this is to network. People buy from people they trust so you need to be out there meeting, and getting to know, local business owners.

Consulting professionals to help in areas you are not expert in is wise. Very few of us are instinctive business people and there will be one or two areas we struggle with. Interesting it is often more cost effective to get an expert in to do an efficient job than to try and do it ourselves.

To me a key element of a quality service is communication – this means listening and responding to clients’ concerns. Even if you sell a product there is a service element to what you do and this will be your contact with your customer.

Effective communication will allow you to qualify a potential client’s needs and what they particularly value. Having established value it should be fairly easy to give them a price.

To close, your business will not be measured by the outside world on what it is but on what people perceive it to be. So keep your ear to the ground and ensure peoples’ perception matches your reality.

Fiona 🙂

Two’s company – or even three!

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 🙂

It’s all about relationships!

image001One of the key ways small business owners in the service sector get business is through referrals – either from customers or from strategic introducers they know well.

But many of us are not very good at requesting referrals or managing the referral process. We often don’t even know the value of a good referral to our business.

In fact, how many of the referrals you get are of the type you want? Or do you end up meeting with prospects, which have been referred to you by a ‘good’ referral partner (by good I mean someone we feel knows our business needs), only to find that they are not the type of prospect you need at all?

Unless we take some level of control over the referral process it is unlikely we will get exactly the type of introductions we need.

One way of taking control is to build really solid relationships with a few referral partners who are regularly updated on they type of business you need – and similarly keep you updated on the business they need. That way you are more likely to get the leads you need.

You can even take it further and include these guys as part of your team. I have this type of relationship with a marketing expert. If one of our clients needs what the other offers we introduce them in a joint meeting (which is free to the client). We discuss their needs, and offer a way forward for the client, after identifying the key areas they need to address.

This is a very powerful model because everyone benefits. The referrer benefits because they are seen as a problem solver who can find solutions beyond their area of expertise by their client; the referree benefits because they have a solid introduction to a potential new client; and the client obviously benefits because their problems are solved with the minimum of effort.

So, if you are looking to grow you business in a controlled manner, review how you get your referrals and work on how you can get a higher quality of introductions.

Fiona 🙂

Your world in your website!

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Why do we have a website?

When I first started my business I felt I had to have a website. I never thought I would get business through the internet but understood that businesses that do not have a website often don’t ‘exist’. Now obviously they do in the real world but the business environment today is so internet orientated that businesses have to be virtual or prospective clients don’t believe they are ‘real’.

This is, of course, bonkers because anyone can pretend to be anything on the web. But there you are – it’s just the way it is.

Think about it – if you are going to have a meeting with someone, or are looking to buy a product/service, where is the first place you go? Even if you are not looking to the internet to make the initial connection with a business you will want to find out more about them by looking them up on line.

So I knew I should have a website but really just thought it would be a ‘brochure’ giving people and idea of what I do.

However, over the years I have come to think differently. I now look at my website as a way of promoting not just me and my business, but also those business people I have come to know and admire.

My website is now not just about what I do but also about the strategic partners I work with, links to my clients websites to raise their profile, space to provide free information, a place to promote events, a home for my blog …  In short it is a reflection of my whole business.

I now believe my website gives a true picture of what anyone will get when working with me – good or bad. This means that people who are not ‘my type of people’ will be deterred by what they see, whilst people who like what I have done will probably like the way I work.

I am very fortunate in that I have a husband who is very talented at translating what I want and how I want it. But I think we can all create something special with our websites these days as content management systems become more flexible and easy to use.

My latest tweak to the website is to have a link page to my book so hopefully anyone who is interested can get hold of a copy really easily.

But we are planning some bigger changes as following an excellent session by Graham Jones at this year’s MiP conference I have been inspired make it easier for potential customers to very quickly find the help they need. Whilst there is lots of information on my website it is perhaps now too big to be navigated efficiently. So this is the challenge for the summer!

I hope this inspires you to look at your own website. Try to see it from someone else’s point of view and ask yourself if it really shows your business in the best light.

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 🙂

A little help from my friends!

In my last blog I complained of being uninspired after a long winter.

Well things have moved on a bit since then and I am feeling much more positive now. One of the reasons for this is that I have had a little help from my friends!

At a small networking event I go to at the end of each month, where I meet up with several of my key strategic partners, I complained that I was uninspired and was looking for something new.

The response was ‘Why didn’t you say? You’ve been pretty busy over the last couple of years and we thought you were full – not looking for new clients/challenges!’

A great lead has since been given to me from this group, which I think will be the type of challenge I am looking for. The same introducer has other good leads to give me if I need further new work.

As a result of the same meeting I am having a 121 this afternoon with a couple of great business people I have known for a long time to see how we can refer and work together.

What an excellent outcome from just asking for a little help.

Sometimes I think we assume our strategic introducers and contacts know exactly where we are an what we are looking for. But how will they know unless we tell them!!

It’s been a good lesson for me to remind me that it is not good enough just to talk generally about our businesses at networking events. To get real results we have to be clearer about what we need and specific about how people can help us.

Coincidentally, a couple of leads have come from my website. One was not so hot, because he was attracted by the look and feel of the site, but on reading it he realised I did not offer what he needed. However, he still contacted me just in case! I was able to refer him onto someone who could definitely help.

The second website lead could be a great in the future, but the business was not quite ready for the help the owner was considering – putting together a business plan to get bank funding. However, I was able to set him on the right path so he could make progress.

Was it that I had put out vibes into the cosmos and the cosmos has answered? I don’t think so. But I do think that we need to be open minded to receive good opportunties – and we are not always open to new challenges and situations because we are stuck in a rut.

So get out there and be positive.

Fiona 🙂

Minding your Ps and Qs

Running your own business can be the biggest thrill you will achieve in your working life, or the most stressful and demoralising experience you can imagine. On some days it is both!

 However, I have come to realise from my own experience, from talking to business owners, and from gurus such as Ron Baker, Peter Thompson and Steven Covey, that running a successful business is all about minding your Ps and Qs.

 Given the stresses involved in running your own business it is vital you are passionate about your product or service. Let’s face it, it is much easier to engage with potential customers if you can show passion for what you do.

 Once you know what you want to do, you need to have a robust plan. We business owners are often knowledgeable about our product or service but avoid those business areas we struggle with – often marketing, sales or finance. The process of creating a business plan forces us to review ALL the areas of our business which are crucial to our future success.

 We need to present ourselves to the market. If, like me you run a service lead business, one of the best ways to do this is to network. People buy from people they trust so you need to be out there meeting, and getting to know, local business owners.

 Consulting professionals to help in areas you are not expert in is wise. Very few of us are instinctive business people and there will be one or two areas we struggle with. Interesting it is often more cost effective to get an expert in to do an efficient job than to try and do it ourselves.

 To me a key element of a quality service is communication – this means listening and responding to clients’ concerns. Even if you sell a product there is a service element to what you do and this will be your contact with your customer.

 Effective communication will allow you to qualify a potential client’s needs and what they particularly value. Having established value it should be fairly easy to give them a price.

 To close, your business will not be measured by the outside world on what it is but on what people perceive it to be. So keep your ear to the ground and ensure peoples’ perception matches your reality.

Fiona 🙂