Plan Your Business

December 1, 2015 in Business Networking, Muswell Hill Meetings, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

Whenever anyone launches a business, however small that business is, they need to develop a business plan. In fact, advised Rasheed Ogunlaru, author of the book Soul Trader and speaker at the last Small Business Network meeting on 21 September 2015 in Muswell Hill in north London, all small business owners should update their business plans on a regular basis, and certainly when something changes. “Just come back from holiday? Review your business,” he suggests.

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The New SBN Bright Sparks Meetup – How Did It Go?

March 30, 2015 in Business Networking, Masterminding, Small Business Advice, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

by Liz BygraveSmall Business Network Bright Sparks Meetup

Our very first SBN Bright Sparks Meetup took place on Tuesday 24 March 2015.

I’m delighted to report that it was a fantastic success! This was largely down to business coach Rebecca Fishman’s skill and expertise in facilitating it. Read the rest of this entry →

What Price Success?

March 5, 2015 in Finance, Money, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

As I write this, the headline news in print, on TV and radio and online is the revelation that two leading and respected politicians – Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind – are yet again embroiled in cash for access scandals. It’s quite clear that even the wealthiest and best-known public figures can be corrupted by money.

And while exposing a couple of corrupt politicians may seem like a million miles away from a small business in north London, there is a price for everything and as small business owners, we all have to work out what the best price is for our product or service – and for our sanity. Read the rest of this entry →

How To Get Friends And Influence Customers

February 24, 2015 in Business Networking, Marketing, Meetings, Muswell Hill Meetings, Small Business Advice, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

How influential are you? That’s the question asked by ‘mentalist’ Tom MacKay in his talk at the Small Business Network February 2015 meeting in Muswell Hill, north London. Tom pointed out that influence can mean a number of things, all of which help to attract potential customers.

“You are always influencing and being influenced,” he told the 17 attendees – a smaller group than normal because it was half-term. “And often you don’t even know it.”

Tom split ‘influence’ into six sections, including things like reciprocation (if you do something for someone, that person has an unconscious desire to do something for you) and social proof (if you see other people doing something, it is more likely you will consider it acceptable: if people buy something, you feel you should buy it).

All the small business owners at the networking event were fascinated by Tom’s theory – and his experiments to prove them. But there is one thing he failed to address: what do you do with the people who instinctively rebel against anything that’s meant to be the ‘in’ thing, the ‘done’ thing, or the ‘must-have’?

The regular business talks are not the only feature of the monthly Small Business Network meetings. Networking gives attendees a great opportunity to meet other small business owners who might need their product or service – or if not, maybe knows someone else who does. And in addition to the more common accountants, business coaches and alternative health practitioners, February’s roll call included newcomer and now SBN member, Jackie Beim, who not only teaches the Alexander Technique, but also offers the Shaw Method swimming lessons, combining Alexander Technique with swimming instruction.

For those wanting to get fit, Johanna Green was again offering free taster sessions in Nordic walking or her fitness boot camps and Sarah Montgomery is as ever looking for people who would like to boost their income by selling Forever’s aloe vera products.

Two long-standing sole traders who are members of Small Business Network have added another service to their cvs: accountant Michael Gainey has become finance director of a new theatre production company planning to bring four plays to London this year, and writer Marcia MacLeod is available to speak on writing publicity and other business copy for print and online at seminars, workshops, conferences and other events.

If you want to find out more about networking for small businesses, come along to the next Small Business Network (www.smallbusinessnetwork.biz) meeting on Monday 16 March at 12.30, at Sable D’Or, Muswell Hill Broadway.

Fads and Fancies

February 24, 2015 in Marketing, Small Business Advice, Social Media by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

Have you got the latest smartphone? Do you read all the fashion press? Are you eating your goji berries? (Or is it now avocado smoothies, ugly fruit and yak’s milk cheese?) Is your web site the most stylish on the planet – complete with lots of photos, a list of Facebook ‘likes’, references to other social media and ‘sharing’ your business routine with anyone who cares to look?

In short, are you hip, cool, wicked or whatever the youngsters call it today? Read the rest of this entry →

Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report May 2014

June 24, 2014 in Business Networking, Muswell Hill Meetings, Small Business, Small Business Advice, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

The blazing sunshine was no barrier to networking this month!

Mary McIlroy was one of two new small business owners at the May Small Business Network meeting, held as usual at Sable D’Or in Muswell Hill. Mary is a psychotherapist and councillor, working mainly with those suffering anxiety or trauma or those with relationship problems.

The other new small business owner, Rosie Slosek, is an accounting coach, who ‘helps people do their own accounts’ when first setting up their new small businesses. She advises them on what records to keep, how to keep them, what can be claimed against tax, and so on. Rosie, who calls her business One Man Band Accounting, also helps people deal with chartered accountants and legal issues which arise when starting a new small business.

In all, 17 small business owners were prepared to forego the glorious sunshine to benefit from the networking opportunities provided by the Small Business Network. Tom Trainer and Joanne Clinton of Chartered Accountant Online were at their second meeting, promoting their business of offering an online tax return and accounts service. Joanne joined Tom, who started Chartered Accountant Online, as business development manager.
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What Sort Of Business, Did You Say?!

March 27, 2014 in Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

If you’ve attended a Small Business Network meeting, the chances are you have already launched your small business. But if you are still at the ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ stage, have you thought about what you want to do? How do you decide what sort of business to start? You can’t just pick a product or service you know nothing about!

Most new small business owners launch their business because they want to turn their hobby into a money-maker. But sometimes people fall into their new venture. Perhaps they were made redundant from a full-time job, or went of their own volition, and left with knowledge, skills and contacts in that field. Maybe they started out by helping friends and family: helping a friend pick the perfect wedding dress or a new suit for a killer interview could lead to becoming a personal shopper; learning how to fix your own computer and write your own programmes could morph into a career. Sometimes an opportunity just falls in your lap – like learning reiki or moving from using a product to selling it, just as Sarah Montgomery, who sells Forever’s aloe vera products, has done.
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Online Communication for Small Businesses

March 6, 2013 in Online Marketing, Small Business Advice, Social Media by lizbygrave

Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, isn’t the only one who despairs at the damage texting is doing to our grasp of grammar and punctuation. C U Wed is pretty easy to understand, but what do you do when faced with something like PT t brg X bz?*

Writing to friends doesn’t have to be formal, but when text-speak spills over into business communication, you are looking at a completely different ballgame. Be honest: would you want to do business with someone who could not communicate clearly? Would you want to hire someone who couldn’t write a proper sentence?

But text-speak isn’t the only problem small business owners face. With the growth of email, web sites and social media, we are under increasing pressure to join the cyber race – and that means Tweets, Facebook messages, blogs, and so on. For those lacking natural writing skills, the prospect of turning out Internet copy can be daunting, whatever form it takes. Can I use text-speak in a Tweet? How personal should I be? Do I have to use proper English, proper grammar?  Can’t I be much less formal when I write for the Internet than when producing printed documents?

Yes, the Internet is less formal  – but writing Tweets and blogs carry their own rules. Tweets have to be short, of course, so you need to understand how to get the message across in just 140 characters. No padding there, then. What is it you want to tell people? Say you are promoting a special offer. No point in using the term special offer: it wastes 13 characters. Instead, just put the offer in the Tweet, e.g.: Reiki sessions three for price of two, XX Healing Today (or whatever your business is called) – just 54 characters – and/or your web site.

Facebook page? Keep that short, too, but as there are no length restrictions, you can get a little more descriptive, such as: Reiki transfers universal energy through the healer’s palms to create a state of equilibrium. Ideal for the stressed out modern world Try three taster sessions for the price of two at XX Healing Today.

Blogs can be any length, but the shorter the better. If it’s too long, unless you are another Danielle Steele or Lee Child, readers won’t make it to the end. Don’t ramble. Decide what you want to say before you start, and make sure there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. If you’re not sure how to do that, look at this one and try to determine which is the beginning – and why; how it moves into the middle (the main message); and how it finishes up.

Blogs are not actually that different from printed material. You’ve got room to play around, room to include more information, thoughts, ideas, advice. But make sure you actually do have information, thoughts, ideas, advice; don’t waffle.

Whatever you write, avoid superlatives: you are probably not the only whatever you do in north London, and possibly not the best, either; if you say you are, you had better be able to prove it. Be concrete. Everything you put out there should be easy to read and understand – and that means an ability to explain things clearly, a reasonable grasp of grammar and punctuation – and no text speak, ever.

*Party tomorrow, bring extra booze.

Blogging Tips For Small Businesses

November 22, 2012 in Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, seo, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

I’m doing what many of you do: writing a blog. Those who don’t already put fingers to keyboard are probably thinking about it, because everywhere you look, blogs seem to be the fashionable way to tell people what you’re thinking and to put you and your business in the public eye. In fact, many marketing gurus insist that blogs are the best way for small business owners to create greater awareness of the products and services they offer.

But with such a huge proliferation of blogs over the past 12 months or so – and growing with every click of the mouse – does anyone have time to read them? Who? When? What do you have to do to make your blog stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other blogs floating in cyberspace? How often should you add a new blog to your web site? Should you write blogs for anyone else? And what do you have to put in a blog to ensure that it benefits your small business, rather than put people off?

There are so many variables when it comes to writing a blog that it is hard to be specific about what works and what doesn’t. But every small business owner should think about a few basics. For a start, make it interesting – and often the best way to guarantee that is to write what you’d want to read. A customer or potential customer is likely to be interested in the same things you are, by the very fact they buy, or are thinking of buying, the product or service on offer. An alternative therapist should, therefore, be writing blogs relating to alternative therapy, or at least trying to make a blog relevant to alternative therapy. So they could write about the latest food fashion, but only in as much as it impacts on health. A web designer should write about web sites, but could consider some aspect of journalism or writing in general.

Blogs shouldn’t be too long, since small business owners have enough to do to try to run their businesses without wishing to spend too much time glued to the Internet. I reckon around 500 words is long enough. Don’t add new blogs to your site too often, either. A daily blog can become a most tedious object, both because the reader gets tired of hearing from the same person every day and because the writer runs out of things to say, so the blogs become boring – and even more tedious.

And while most small business people want their blogs on their own web sites, you can often do better by contributing to someone else’s site. Sticking with the alternative therapist, if the therapist wrote a blog for, say, a personal trainer’s web site, or a foodie web site, and linked fitness or diet to their therapy, think of the number of new readers, and hence new potential customers, that could  be reached.

Blogs can certainly attract traffic to any small business web site, but there is one final thing to remember: if you aren’t good at writing, don’t try. It’s better not to have a blog at all than one which is so excruciatingly bad that no one wants to visit your site again.

Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report June 2012

June 26, 2012 in Business Networking, Meetings, Muswell Hill Meetings, Small Business Advice, Small Business Networking, Small Business PR by lizbygrave

23 people attended this June Muswell Hill meeting, including new members Idit Gold, who runs singing groups in Highgate and Islington, and Karen Knott who offers coaching to women in midlife.

Practitioner Jo Tocher, who specialises in helping people with ME, arrived with a noticeable glow and aura of wellness – apparently this was due to having just had a Chi Reflexology session with Louise Exeter!

During the One Minute Go Round, cake maker Debby Sass asked for feedback on her new paper decorative stars, whilst feng shui expert Chrissie Parker gave her tip of the month: to keep electromagnetic devices like mobiles and clock radios to an absolute minimum in the bedroom: time and again she has seen their removal solve long term sleep problems.

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