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Keeping Your Business Safe From Hackers

Category : Blogs

 

As business owners, we have to wear a lot of different hats on a day to day basis. From marketing to web development, business coach and finance guru, we need to take control of every element of our business to make sure it runs smoothly. But one area we often forget about is IT. With so many high profile business targeted hacking incidents recently, we wanted to bring your focus back down to the technical side of things. In fact, we asked some of our members what their suggestions were for keeping their business safe from hackers.

 

Install Anti-Virus, Web Filtering And Firewalls 

 

Preventing any form of malware or hacker from entering your business in the first place is undoubtedly the best way to guard against attack. The best way to do this is to adopt what is called a ’layered’ approach to security – in other words, lots of layers of protection. In lay man’s terms, this means implementing anti-virus software on every machine and all servers, putting web filters in place company wide and installing firewalls. It’s essential that you ensure each component of this layered approach is accurately configured and kept up to date in order to work effectively and keep the nasty people away from your data.

 

Use 3rd Party Cloud Suppliers

For smaller businesses who don’t have their own servers, it can be difficult to store all of their data. A great way to get around this, and protect your business data from hackers prying eyes, is to use 3rd party, cloud based suppliers. So maybe you would keep your client contact data base in MailChimp, store your passwords in LastPass and Google Drive to store your backups. Using these off-site systems means that even if your main computer is hacked or becomes infected with malware, this mission critical data is stored safely in a secondary location – and not in your main systems. Because 3rd party suppliers deal with so much of other people’s sensitive data, their security measures are often much better than those we could put in place ourselves, so your data has never been safer.

Back Up Regularly

 

Of course, something completely out of your control could happen, and it’s at that time that you need your final layer of protection – your back up. As a business, you should be doing regular backups of your full systems – and by regular we mean at least once a day (usually done overnight). Not only is this just good practice, but it also protects you against data loss if the rest of your precautions should fail. Users who find themselves the target of an attack, particularly a ransomware attack will be unable to access any live data, but if their back up data is stored off site and separate, it should be untouched. So, if we take the worst-case scenario and a hacker hits at 4.30 in the afternoon, the business will only lose data generated that day, as opposed to everything. This means that you don’t have to panic – you can focus on addressing the problem, shoring up your defences and restore your data quickly once the systems are clear, so you’re back up and running in no time.

Have An IT Specialist On Hand 

 

If the IT starts going funny in your business, or you aren’t sure what’s going on, who you gonna call? (admit it, you sang that). Odds are it’s not Ghostbusters. iInstead it’s likely to be some sort of IT guru. But I know many people who opt to call a friend or family member who knows their way around a computer, rather than finding a business IT specialist. And while uncle Joe might understand how to set up a computer, he probably doesn’t understand your situation, or appreciate how important it is that your data remains safe and your systems get up and running again. Would you use a random friend to deliver your services, or fix the plumbing? Probably not. So we recommend you find yourself an IT specialist who works with small businesses, who can be on hand when you need them, and not charge you when you don’t. There are plenty of them out there – all you need to do is look.

 

Of course, there are many different ways you can protect your business from hackers, and these are just the headline points. To really understand not only how to protect your business, how at risk your business really is, you need to speak to a professional. At 10-12, we bring together professional women from across all industries to help support each other and grow their businesses, including in the IT sector. To find out which group your nearest IT guru is in and arrange a visit, just visit our website today.

 


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Know Your Rights – As A Customer And A Business Owner

Category : Blogs

Know Your Rights

As business owners, we are always striving to provide the best product or service we can to our customers. And we would like to think that all of our customers are delighted with what we provide and that nothing will ever go wrong. Sadly, we all know this isn’t always the case, and bad relationships or interactions do happen. And when they do, it’s important to understand your rights and obligations as a business owner, and what your customers right are as well.

As A Business Owner

Business, Owner

skeeze / Pixabay

As a business owner, you have the right to run your business in any manner you see fit, providing you are not in violation of any laws. This gives you an awful lot of freedoms, but you do need to remember not to tread on any other statutory rights along the way. For example – you have right to expect the best performance from employees or customers. So provided you have documented your expectations from them and made these clear, you have the right to terminate your relationship with them if performance is not satisfactory.

Similarly, you have the right to refuse service to any customer – but you should be careful that you don’t come across as discriminatory. For example, you can’t refuse to bake a wedding cake just because the couple receiving it is gay – that’s really bad. But you can refuse to work with someone if they have failed to pay your invoices for previous work.

You also have the right to make changes to your business, such as structural or pricing changes, and the right to express your opinion on a wide variety of topics. However, you do need to be careful that you aren’t forcing those views on other people or engaging in inappropriate workplace conversations. Do you see where we’re going with this?

While these might be legal rights, there are also some things you can only enforce if your customer has agreed to them in the first place. Elements like payment schedules and copyright for work created can all be decided by you as a business owner, but unless you have a way of showcasing these to your customer, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

This is why it is so important to make sure you have up to date Terms and Conditions displayed at least on your website or better still given to your customer at the point of sale. It’s also valuable for you to invest in a customer relations procedure, so that your customers know how you work from the outset, and a privacy policy explaining your data use and other legal bits and pieces. If you policy is to use money claims courts then include this in your terms and conditions so the client knows what to expect from you as a supplier.

As A Customer

As a customer, you are covered by the consumer rights act, which protects you when you buy goods or services. The basic rules set out under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 mean you can seek governmental help and support when dealing with:

  • Credit and store cards
  • Faulty goods
  • Counterfeit goods
  • Poor service
  • Problems with contracts
  • Problems with builders
  • Rogue traders

If you’re ever not sure on what your customer rights are, here’s a helpful little guide we found that explains it all. Of course, there are slightly different rules depending on whether you are buying goods or services. For goods bought, they must be of ‘satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time.’ With services, the act states that any service should be carried out ‘with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time, at a reasonable price’. This is fairly straightforward and easy to identify if something is not to your satisfaction but sometimes hard to prove in a court of law. Always be very detailed in your communication for services required. Put it in writing and get confirmation from the supplier.

When we live in such a transactional world, it’s important to know your rights. As a business owner, you need to understand what your rights are when providing goods or services, and as a customer you need to know that you are going to be taken care of and not left out of pocket.

If, as a business owner you don’t have any policies and documents in place to tackle this, you could end up in a rather sticky spot. For more information, or to chat with one of our expert members on the subject, just get in touch and 10-12 will point you in the right direction!


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Why You’re Losing Out On Leads – The Perils Of Failing To Follow Up

Category : Blogs

There is an old saying (well, it’s sort of old) in business – “the fortune is in the follow up.” And there is one very good reason that sales people the world over chant this like a mantra every day – it’s true! Following up with clients, suppliers and even people we meet networking can be one of the most important business actions a business owner can take. And yet we still see people fail to follow up on meetings every single month, which of course leads to lost business, which makes us at 10-12 very sad indeed! But why is this?

 

Bad Business Practice

As a general rule, it is considered bad practice not to follow up with people you meet in a business capacity. That along should be enough to convince you, so maybe we should just stop the blog there and go home early.

 

Of course we wouldn’t do that!

 

As a business owner, you should want to run and promote your business as well as possible, and to show that off to other people. This involves following the general guidelines that everyone follows in business, like turning up to work showered and non-smelly, or following up on your meetings. It’s a common courtesy in business that is expected, and failing to do so can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.

 

It Shows That You Don’t Keep Your Word

When we meet new people, we would like to work with, showcasing your reliability is a crucial part of solidifying that relationship and turning it into something long term. If you promise the person you’re meeting to send them across a link or a document, make sure you do it! This little gesture shows that you are willing to put some effort into the relationship (which is what networking is all about really) and above all that you keep your word. No one wants to work with a business person who isn’t reliable – who’s going to be flaky or forget to do things. And while we all understand that life can get hectic sometimes, just a quick acknowledgement can go a long way to showing your commitment.

 

Bad Manners

But above all, forgetting to send someone a quick ‘thank you for your time’ after meeting with them is just rude. A business owners time is valuable, and whether or not you think that meeting with them was worthwhile, you should show some appreciation that they took time out of their undoubtedly busy day to see you. Even if you only chatted for 10 minutes in a wider networking event, sending a quick thank you is not only polite, but it helps cement you in their minds for the future. But if you don’t follow up on a meeting, you are showcasing a level of rudeness – intentional or otherwise-  that reflect very negatively on you as a business person, and show that you aren’t willing to put in the effort to develop the relationship. Overall, it’s just bad manners.

 

Of course, we understand that this just adds to the very long list of things you have to do on a daily basis at work, and sometimes things happen than stop you being able to follow up. But these should be the exceptions, not the rules. Lately we have seen a lot of lovely ladies lose out on some fantastic opportunities, all because they haven’t followed up with the prospect after a meeting. So this month, make sure you don’t lose out – follow up every time and reap the rewards!

If you are unsure on which ways you can follow up with your meetings then a visit to the 10-12 Business Club will help you with this very subject. For every new member we include some helpful tips on ways to followup with clients and other business owners that you meet. Why not find a Networking meeting to come and attend today.


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Business networking 1-2-1 meetings 10to12 Business club

Unleash The Power Of Your 1-2-1 meetings

Here at 10-12, we are big fans of 1-2-1 meetings. So much so, in fact, that we include a special slot for them in our networking events, right at the end. This means that everyone has had a chance to find out who is in the room and what they do, so they can figure out if they want to talk to them further. 1-2-1’s are arguably the most powerful tool we have as networkers, but why?

Why We Have 1-2-1’s In Our Meetings

One of the things our visitors and new members always comment on is the fact that we hold 1-2-1’s within our meeting. For many networking groups it is a bit unusual, as most spend that time doing longer pitches, feature presentations or passing around slips of paper. But we prefer to dedicate time to having short 1-2-1s because it creates a stronger bond between our members and allows us to get to know each other a little better. For visitors, 1-2-1’s allow you to get 10 minutes of someone’s attention and ask them all the burning questions you thought of during their 40 seconds. For members, they help you reconnect and find out new things about your fellow members. The thing that networking is famous for (and women’s groups in particular) is creating meaningful relationships that generate business for everyone involved, and the way to really maximise the chances of that is by utilising those 1-2-1’s.

Taking It Outside

10-12 meeting 1-2-1 meetingsOf course, within the confines of our monthly networking meetings, you only really get 10 minutes to chat – 5 minutes each really. And while that’s really useful for building a foundation and understanding of someone’s business, it’s the external 1-2-1’s they lead on to that are truly powerful. You see, there’s a reason most structured networking groups encourage 1-2-1 discussions and meetings. During these external meetings you have more time, are often in a more comfortable environment and can really dig deep into meaningful conversations about you and your business. The power of 1-2-1’s isn’t really about business – it’s about getting to know someone and making a deep connection that strengthens trust and builds a rapport. All sorts of things can come out during a good 1-2-1, and many friendships have blossomed from them as well. In getting to know other business owners, you get to know who you like, who thinks in the same way as you and really come to understand how you can help each other. Without 1-2-1’s, all you would have to go by is your 40 second pitch and a few brief moments of casual networking, and not much business comes out of that. But with that added trust and bonding that only comes from a one on one meeting, you have a much more powerful tool at your disposal – a networking partner who actively wants to get you business.

10-12 Business Club Networking ReadingUltimately, everyone who comes to our networking group is there for the same reason – to build connections and do business. But expecting someone to want to do business with you and refer people they know to you when they don’t really know you themselves is a bit like expecting to be able to swim after reading a book on it. You can apply all the right techniques and still end up floundering. But by taking the time to get to know someone, showing an interest in their life and business, you can start to build up the trust that leads to fruitful business. Want to see the power of 1-2-1’s in action? Come along to one of our meetings and discover just how good 1-2-1’s are for relationship building.

 


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Tips on Increasing your Profitability

A 10-12 Guide To Increasing Your Profitability

Category : Blogs

Anyone who goes networking is there for the same reason – to gain new business. But at 10-12, we like to take the opportunity to share some knowledge within the room and help all of our lovely members and visitors improve the way their business works. This month, following a fantastic talk by Judith of M-Four Productions, the buzz was all around how you can increase the profitability and revenue of your business. Now I know what you’re thinking, increasing profitability is easy – just increase your prices and sell more, right? But while that attitude might help you make more money in the short term, it’s not a long-term strategy for a more profitable business. So instead, try some of these tips for permanently increasing revenue and profit the 10-12 way.

Make it easy to buyMake It Easy To Buy: One of the easiest ways to increase your profitability is to make it easier for people to buy from you. Look at packaging your services or offering a web shop for products. If it is simple to buy, you will stop losing business.

Monitor Your Sales Activities And Results: Unless you are monitoring what you’re doing and how it performs, you might as well not be doing it. So for every sales activity, track it’s progress and analyse the results at strategic points. This will help you figure out if it’s working or just a waste of time. 

Celebrate Success: Motivation is an important element of good teamwork and successful business. So when you close a big sale or hit a profit target, get your team together and celebrate doing well. This will help motivate them to perform better and solidify relationships. 

Set Goals and rewardsSet Goals And Rewards: Work out where you want to get to in 5 years, and set yourself a series of goals that will help you get there. Break those goals down into actionable points and you will find your yellow brick road to higher profits much easier to walk.

Learn And Develop Yourself: Donald Rumsfeld has a real point when he talked about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. The point being, we don’t know what we don’t know, so it’s important to keep trying to learn. By developing yourself and your skills, you will find your productivity and profitability dramatically increase.

Network, Network, Network: Getting your face out there and building up a presence in the market is essential to success. But more than that, everyone you meet will know hundreds of other people – some of who might be your ideal clients, so don’t miss out on the opportunity! 

Time Efficient in your businessBecome Time Efficient: A lot of business owners complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day, when really they just aren’t using their time efficiently. If you start changing the way you work to be more time efficient, you will see a rise in profitable activity without the extra work.

Copy Successful Competitors: Obviously not in every way, because that would be plagiarism and very damaging. But look at their activities and see if you are able to do similar things. For example, if a successful competitor gets a lot of business from shows, look into displaying at one yourself.

Hire An Industry Sector Mentor: A mentor who is familiar with your industry can help you vastly, because they understand how everything works and the best way to get things done. They will be able to tell you where your time is best spent and help you avoid running down unprofitable roads.

Business, CoachFind A Business Coach To Push And Motivate You: As a more general tool, a business coach can help you refine your business model into something slick and successful. They help you trim fat, hone down processes and plan for success, and coupled with an industry mentor they are a force to be reckoned with.

 

Follow Up Enquires In A Timely Manner: Hundreds of opportunities are lost by businesses every day because they forgot to follow up with customer enquiries. They get busy or just forget, and by the time they remember the customer has moved on to someone who will value their business. Make sure you are following up leads quickly to secure more sales.

Keep Customers Up To Date With What You Do And What You Offer: Even existing customers may not be aware of everything you do. Newsletters are a fantastic way of letting your customers know what’s going on, what offers you have running and how else you can help them. It’s much easier to increase your profits from existing customers than finding new ones – so use them.

Customer DisputeAvoid Customer Disputes: – Sometimes it can’t be helped, but where you can, avoid customer disputes. An unhappy customer will tell their story to more people than a happy customer will, and just a handful of dissatisfied customers can ruin your reputation within that circle.

Work ON Your Business Rather Than Work IN Your Business: This is the first thing your business coach will tell you. Schedule some time and take a step back from your business. Stop doing the physical jobs or services you offer to your clients and take some time to work on your business itself – how it runs and what you could do better.

 Give Away Things For Free: If there’s one thing people love, it’s free stuff. Whether that’s information, services or even a goodie bag full of free trinkets. People respond well to free advice and tend to remember the people who give them free things.

Contract Work That Drains You Of Your Time to others: Finally, know where your skills lie and what you’re not good at, and outsource the things you don’t want to or can’t do, because these are nothing but a drain on your time. Not good with numbers? Hire and accountant. Awful at marketing? Hire a marketing team and copywriter. Learning to play to your strengths will cut a lot of dead time out your schedule, leaving it free for more profitable activities. 

Be your biggest fan in businessAnd above all, be your own biggest fan. This is sometimes the most challenging part of being in business for yourself, and one small knock can easily lead into a spiral of self-doubt. Instead, try and remind yourself that you can do whatever you set your mid to, and you are the best at what you do. After all, if you don’t believe it, how can you expect anyone else to? At 10-12 we are a supportive group of women all helping each other to succeed in business. We act as sounding boards, mentors, friends and advisers, creating a strong network of trust and, ultimately, stronger businesses. If you want to be a part of it, all you need to do is come along and see for yourself. Just book on to one of our monthly meetings as a visitor – we can’t wait to meet you!

 


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Robert burns

What’s Burns night all about?

Category : Guest Blogs

What is Burns night all about? Well for those that have no idea, it is a celebration that happens once a year and is mainly celebrated by Scots people throughout the world. However the intrigue of it all is rubbing off and more Burns nights are appearing every year. Many associations such as Golf clubs love to use Burns Night as an excuse to get their clan together and celebrate the event with Scottish food, songs and poems as well as dancing until the wee small hours, which they call The Burns Supper

In short, Burns Night is the celebration of the Scottish Poet Robert Burns, who? you may ask. Well if you did already know, here is a brief history of the man of the moment for you to make up your own mind if he was a talented poet or just a rouge and womaniser as some have claimed. Whatever your thoughts, he certainly made a lasting impact.

Robert burns

Born on the 25th of January 1759 in Alloway Ayrshire to William Burness a tenant farmer and Agnes Broun. He was one of seven and brought up to work on his father’s farm.  At the age of 15 he penned his first verse “My handsome Nell” which was an ode to one of   the subjects in his life – Scotch women! 

 Burns had several illegitimate children including twins to the woman who eventually became his wife Jean Armour.

 (The poor woman gave birth to 4 children before he married her and 5 more after that and that still did not stop him straying).

  They say that most of Ayrshire is related to him due to his infidelities with the local ladies.   Just look at the poems he wrote on the women of his life, if your name was Anna, Alison, Katie, Mary, Jeanie, Chloris, Clarinda, Nancy, Nell, Molly, Polly, Peggy, Bessie, Jessie, Eliza, Maria, Delia and – rather weirdly – Davies…. To name but a few!

 Burns died at the age of 37 on the same day as his last son Maxwell was born.   There were more than 10,000 people attended his funeral to pay their respects, however his popularity then was nothing compared to the heights it has reached since.  

Burns Night is a celebration of the birth of Rabbie Burns held on or as near to the day of his birth throughout Scotland and all over the world and would undoubtedly have made him proud.  The first Burns night was reputedly held ten years or so later in Tarbolton in Ayrshire of which Burns himself once wrote :

I’ve been tearin’ oot ma hair

Ye’ think ah’d been multin

Trying tae think o a word,

That rymes wie Tarbolton

Burns night celebration

As well as all the poems that he penned there are more than 400 songs in existence written by Burns of which it is said that some of the songs were what he had heard sung in taverns whilst collecting taxes during his days as an excise man.  It is claimed some he did not compose but was just the first to actually write them down! His most famous is Auld Lang Syne and my favourite is:

Cock up your Beaver

When first my brave Johnnie lad came to this town

He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown

But now he had gotten a hat and a feather

Hey, brave Johnnie Lad, Cock up your beaver!

 Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ Sprush!

We’ll over the border and gie them a brush:

There’s somebody there we’ll teach better behaviour –

Hey, brave Johnnie lad, Cock up your beaver!

and the key to a good Burns night is to get a group of friends together, read poems and sing his songs, dance some jigs and most of all enjoy, with losts of toasts!

A History of Robert Burns by Issy Wiggins-Turner

Images Source Burns Scotland


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Is there such a thing as free networking?

I often hear people saying that they will only use free networking rather than a paid membership group as they feel it is better value! Which I totally understand when you are a new start business and funds are limited. However, I have to  say that once you factor in your time, your expense to get there and possibly parking costs, you have to admit that it’s not free.

Ascot Networking for womenAs a small business owner and a start up your time is the most precious thing that you own!  Trying to manage it effectively to produce your work and create sales leads can often be more like a juggling act.  In all of the networking events that I tend, when I speak to people about where their customers come from, the majority will say word of mouth.

Which is great as that’s free advertising? Well Yes and No as you need to first get yourself out there to get that referral in the first place. If you don’t network either online or in person, then no-one will know who you are or what you do.

Free Networking v Paid Networking

So it then comes down to Free networking versus paid networking which can be online or in person. So is Free Networking actually free? Possibly no as free networking takes time out of your day and often with free networking the organisers wont know how many people are going to turn up. After all its free so there is no cancellation fee if someone decides to no longer attend.

House 28 Sherfield On Loddon NetworkingThere is often some hidden cost in “Free Networking” as you have to get there in the first place. If it’s not walking distance then you will need to drive or take public transport so that’s the first hidden cost to you. Once there the event normally will be for a duration of at least 2 hours so your going to want to have a drink of something. Most events that I have gone to have water available so you could save on the cost of a coffee and just drink water, but you will more than likely buy a drink of some kind, be it tea or coffee. Add to this your time out of the office and you can see how Free networking is not actually free.

Of course a paid membership has all those costs too but what more does it offer you? For me it is always about the relationships that you build when networking with the same group, it takes time to get to know people and to find out their strengths and establish who you can recommend to use their services. In return people will get to know you better, your strengths and skills so that they can recommend you and your business.

Paid Networking with Structure

At the 10-12 Business Club, we know that our members and visitors time is precious so we have designed a structured networking event of 2 hours that ensures it is all about business.

We start with 20 minutes of open networking where you can meet new visitors to the group, chat to regular members and build relationships. We then have the opportunity to share your business details with all of the group both in a 40 second pitch and printed materials such as business cards or flyers.

Our business section includes an informative presentation by a member or visitor followed by a Business breakout session on a business topic for that month. The 10-12 Business club have covered many topics from finance, to finding more customers or planning social media campaigns.

The highlight of the meeting ends with 3 x 1-2-1’s which gives you lots of opportunity to get your business in front of everyone at the meeting and possibly talk to most of the people at the meeting.

Is Free Networking worth it?

I have never found with free networking that you have time to build relationships as some people attending these events use it as a business card collecting event.  Some people don’t even want to listen to what you have to say and are more than happy to tell you all about them, even when it is obvious that you have no synergy with each other. However they still want to collect your business card and add you to their mailing list or LinkedIn contacts!

One video that highlights the possible downsides of networking your business is this one which I am happy to say I have never met anyone quite as bad as this man. One thing I can guarantee you as a 10-12 Business Club member, you wont meet him at a meeting, as we don’t allow men! Now there’s one reason as a women business owner to try the 10-12 Business Club


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Storytelling brand image christmas

Storytelling – ‘Tis The Season To Build Relationships

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, when the trees go up, the lights are twinkling and kids are shaking the presents under the tree, desperate to know what’s inside. Christmas means something different and special to every one of us, and it’s because of the relationships we build that every Christmas celebration is so unique and wonderful. But how do you build these relationships with prospects and help turn them into clients? Simple, with brand storytelling and good relationship building. Let’s take John Lewis, the kings of Christmas, for example. 

What’s Great About The John Lewis Adverts – Storytelling

Since 2007, Year on year, John Lewis have been renowned for bringing us a heart-warming and adorable Christmas advert. It’s been something a lot of people now look forward to, and for many, marks the beginning of the Christmas season. But why?

presentWell, for a start they purposefully avoid images of excessive consumerism, which is what we expect at this time of year. Instead they focus on stories, creating narratives that viewers can become invested in. They tested out a few ideas form 2007-2010, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they fully embraced the full-blown narrative approach to advertising, with almost Spielberg-scale schmaltz. That year, their sales role 9.3% compared to the previous year. In the years that followed we’ve had the bear and the hare, Monty the Penguin, the Man on the Moon and Buster the Dog, all of whom buried their way into our hearts and keep the name ‘John Lewis’ in our consciousness. It appears that we can’t wait to find out what each years advert will be, and as soon as it’s released, social media goes into meltdown for the new story.

John Lewis found the perfect combination of brand values, storytelling and music to create perfect sales. Instead of trying to sell us everything they stock, they remind us of what it’s like to be a kid at Christmas by rekindling the emotions we felt when we were young. The themes of family, sharing and wonderment offer an authentic message we can connect and believe with. It’s advertising at it’s very best. John Lewis think so as their budget for advertising this Christmas will be in the region of £6m and they claim that since 2012 their Christmas sales have increased by more than 35 per cent due to the Christmas Adverts. 

But People Caught On… 

As with everything that’s even mildly successful, people caught on and started to try it out for themselves. This year in particular the heart-warming storytelling of John Lewis and this years Buster the dog are facing some heavy competition. From Boots celebrating working women over Christmas with this narrative driven promotion to Morrisons ‘makes it Christmas’ campaign, which shows a happy family together at Christmas, enjoying food – a homely image we all try to mimic at this time of year. For M&S, Mrs Claus helps Santa with his deliveries in a contemporary ‘Christmas with Love’ advert, promoting luxury, togetherness and the power of Christmas. And even Sainsbury’s has chipped in this year with their own storytelling of an animated Christmas musical tale of a busy father desperately trying to find gifts for kids.

Some companies, like fashion brand Burberry have been using Christmas as an opportunity to tell people about their brand values through short films (or long adverts, depending on how you look at it. With the 3 minute advert Burberry wanted to ‘tell the story of Thomas Burberry – pioneer, inventor, innovator, and the man behind the iconic trench coat – in our own words’ This powerful video has already been viewed 13,954,460 times on YouTube since being published, and sales of Burberry have increased this Christmas. Check out this companies storytelling and you will think it is the trailer for a new block buster film!

christmas-kids-giftsEven charities have discovered the power of storytelling adverts. In what has been daubed the most ‘heart-breaking’ advert of the year, Alzheimer’s Research UK teamed up with Stephen Fry to deliver you the story of when Santa forgot Christmas. They have tapped into an issue that plagues thousands across the country and, through this fictional character, have turned it into a story even those without first-hand experience can relate to. If you don’t get a bit teary while watching it, you must have a heart of iron. This advert has been up just 3 weeks, with 153,957 views on YouTube and millions more from TV sets everywhere. Donations are up and more and more people are aware of this disease than ever before. So even though all of these companies have used the John Lewis ideas, all of them are seeing results.

What Does This Have To Do With Relationships?

Everything John Lewis do at Christmas, is designed to create a relationship with their audience, and they do it perfectly. You develop a connection with their brand because of the emotions they evoke and the stories they tell, so viewers are more likely to trust and buy from them. Every business should be learning from this storytelling, regardless of size. For smaller businesses, it’s less about crafting a beautiful advertising campaign and more about telling an honest, genuine story that will help readers get to know you as a brand and trust you.

You can do this through your marketing and About Us page on your website, but a big part of that storytelling comes in the relationships we build during networking. Every time you meet someone for coffee or at a networking meeting, you will talk about something new and learn different things about each other, strengthening the connection between you and reinforcing the idea that you are trustworthy and worthy buying from or referring.

So this year, when you’re enjoying our Christmas networking lunch, make sure you take the time to have a meaningful conversation and get to know someone better. Those strong relationships are the foundation of great business relationships, and that’s how business gets done. From all of us at 10-12, have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year, we hope you have enjoyed our storytelling blog.

merry-xmas


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The Value Of Knowing What You Don’t Know

Category : Blogs

No matter how good we are at what we do, there will always be more to learn. Constant learning and improvement is something that all business owners should do, but there is always a problem – how do you know what you don’t know?

Knowing Our Knowledge Gaps

Everybody in the world has knowledge gaps – they’re just a part of what makes us human. It’s impossible for us to know everything. When it comes to running a business, the number of processes and elements that go into keeping everything running smoothly are mind boggling. At our last 10-12 meeting, we asked one another where we thought our knowledge gaps lay in business, and the answers were really interesting. While one person struggled with the finance side of things, another would mention that maintaining her website was what stymied her. Another mentioned social media as something that completely went over her head, while time management and marketing became an issue for another. Through this discussion we were able to share our knowledge and point people towards experts who could help shore up those knowledge gaps. I would highly recommend going through this exercise if you can, as it can reveal some incredibly useful gaps for you.

The Matrix Of Knowledge

In 2002, Donald Rumsfeld created something called the ‘matrix of knowledge’, which was split into 4 quadrants. These are

Amatrix-of-knowledge. What you know that you know

B. What you don’t know that you know

C. What you know that you don’t know

D. What you don’t know that you don’t know

For most businesses, quadrant A is really simple. We all know what we know. But for some business owners, an outside view (like from a coach, fellow business person or advisor) is needed to understand the other 3 quadrants – particularly quadrant D.

But why is knowing what you don’t know important? Simple, because it stops you making stupid mistakes. There is another theory called The Dunning Kruger Effect, which is defined as ‘cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate’. That’s a lot of complicated words, but what it basically means is that when you don’t know what you don’t know, you can sometimes overestimate your abilities in a given area, because you don’t know any better. The only way to stop this from happening is identifying what you don’t know, and if you can, rectifying it.

When you look at the matrix of knowledge in the context of your business, you will realise that the most valuable knowledge for you lies in quadrant D – things you don’t know you don’t know. Things like a deep understanding of the true behaviour of your clients (instead of what you think they do), a new way of running your finances to save money or a better way to sell to a new market. You can find a lot of this information simply by gathering and analysing big data, or researching and examining information on your business, your industry, your market and the business sector in general.

Understanding what you don’t know is a critical step in improving your business. Doing this you can uncover any holes in your business and start down the road to fixing them, helping improve how your business runs and ultimately your profitability. If you want help identifying your knowledge gaps, or just want to discuss business with like-minded women, come along to a 10-12 meeting and get to know all of our members.


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A Guide To Dealing With Difficult Clients – That won’t Pay!

No matter what you do for a living, there is always one thing you can count on. Difficult clients plague everyone from time to time, and they never get any easier to deal with.  With that in mind we hope our guide To Dealing With Difficult Clients – That won’t Pay, helps you make some changes in your business process. Do any of these issues with clients and invoicing sound familiar to you?:

  • Asking for much more than originally agreed but  insisting the price stays the same.
  • Discounting because they don’t agree with what they have received.
  • Constantly refusing to pay your invoices on time. Or at all!
  • Saying the invoice never arrived, they haven’t seen it!
  • Promising payment that never arrives.

It can be difficult to stay in control of the situation and ensure you don’t end up out of pocket. At a recent 10-12 Business Club meeting this was our the topic of our brainstorming session. We came up with a few ways to keep your cool and deal with difficult clients.

Get Payment Up Front

A lot of the difficulties, we discussed as business owners tended to revolve around customers not paying their bills on time, if at all. Cash flow is a really important thing to all business owners, but even more so to smaller companies or sole traders. Getting invoices paid on time is crucial to your success as a small business!

Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

If you have dealt with a client previously who has missed payment dates, the easiest way to avoid the same issue happening again is to get full payment up front. If your client makes an issue of it, simply explain that due to the issues you experienced last time you worked together, up-front payment is required to ensure payment is received, and no work will be done until this is paid.

You can of course do this with new customers who you believe will be an issue, or instigate it as a general policy if this happens a lot. If you’re not comfortable with asking for so much up front, you could split the difference. Many companies operate on a payment basis of 50% with a confirmed order and balance due on completion or delivery, which helps you and the client with cash flow.

Make sure you have sent your invoice on time and that the client has received it. This can be the biggest delay for any small business in receiving payment for work agreed.

Start Using Service Agreements

‘Scope creep’ can happen during any project, but it tends to happen most in the creative industries, or any area where something is being built.

service-contractThe client will give you an initial brief, but as you go along they start adding things until the workload is actually twice the amount you quoted for. The client of course then expects all of this extra work to be done at the quoted cost, because it’s ‘all in the same project’.

To avoid this, service agreements will become your best friend. When you get the brief for the project, put it into a basic contract and have your client sign it before work commences. You can also include a pricing structure for extra work on top of the agreed brief, based on timescale, volume, whatever you want really. Always include your payment terms and what will happen if they fail to meet them. Summarise the potential costs of non-payment and state that you will take legal action.

You can use the same basic document for every client and simply substitute the brief in each time. By doing this you have it in writing (and signed) exactly what the quote you gave covers, so any extra work can be charged accordingly. Scope creep has become significantly less of a problem for us since we started doing this!

 Develop A Thick Skin

Sometimes no matter what happens, clients can get angry. They might be frustrated that something can’t be done in the time frame, that you won’t do extra work or that you’ve said no to their unreasonable request. Whatever the reason, angry clients can get pretty nasty sometimes.

To be successful in business you need to develop a pretty thick skin to deal with unsatisfied or annoyed people, no matter what they throw at you. Try to remember not to take anything they say personally, and let it roll off you like water off a duck’s back. If you struggle with this, a support network like one of our networking group of ladies is the perfect way to get things off your chest and let people help you, reassure you and get you back on your feet.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say No!

One thing we are all terrible at is saying no to work. When you’re first starting out you never say no to anything, taking on any work you can just to get by. As you grow and establish yourself as a business you can afford to be more selective about the clients you take on (though many of us aren’t).

noThis is an important step, as many of us get an idea of the ‘red flags’ for a difficult client. If you think a prospect will become a difficult client, don’t be afraid to say no! It’s better to spend time searching for a client who will be good to work with and worth what you charge than to accept a client who will be much more work for you. Sometimes, no price is high enough and you just need to walk away. And that’s OK!

Of course there’s lots of advice out there about dealing with difficult clients, search out some excellent blogs online. If you like what you have read then we have plenty more business topics to choose from.

This is the sort of issue we discuss in our meetings, allowing members to air their concerns and business problems and get advice on how to deal with them in a supportive and confidential setting. If you’re interested in visiting one of our groups, click here to book your place. We can’t wait to see you!