Recent blog posts

Here’s the last post with a copy of a section of the report I did a few years ago to help explain the possibilities of the internet, click here to see the first post and link to all the various parts. Also, Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power”

4.6 - Who Updates Things?

4.6.1 - A classic misunderstanding people have is that they presumably spend hours and hours wading through techie information in order to update their websites or internet presence, when in actual fact there are other friends or employees who can do this for you, and even users themselves (if you think about it, Facebook is really just made up of other people’s information with the Facebook owners not needing to do an awful lot.).

4.6.2 - Plus all these changes are easy to do online – you can log in behind the scenes of the website and start making changes simply and intuitively. And such updates are more administrative and routine, able to easily fit into everybody’s day and duties, not necessarily your own. You just need a system in place and training on how to do it.

4.7 - How Are You Going To Advertise?

4.7.1 - As well as advertising the website and internet presence offline, there is whole world of advertising and marketing your site in the virtual internet world right from paid advertising to getting your website well connected. The two important ingredients for this is useful information and content, and influential internet links to other sites.

4.7.2 - As mentioned earlier, it is key to be clear on what you're trying to achieve as there is no point wasting time and money doing something that you actually don’t really need or want.


4.8 - Track The Stats

4.8.1 - I know it sounds boring, but it’s important to monitor the success of your website so you can make any changes one step at a time. There are different ways of doing this so you can easily know how many visitors you’ve had, what they do on your website, where they come from, how they found you, and what actions they take on you website.

5.0 - Summary

Before you rush into any website or internet initiative it is absolutely key to understand what you're trying to achieve and then make sure it happens. If you just don’t feel at ease with something and you’re getting baffled with all the techie side, then I often say don’t do it – your ‘gut’ instinct is often the best measure of effectiveness.

Feel free to contact me on the below details if you have any specific queries or just want a sounding board for what you’re planning.

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Here’s the next post with a copy of a section of the report I did a few years ago to help explain the possibilities of the internet, click here to see the first post and link to all the various parts. Also, Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power”

4.2 – K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple And Stupid

4.2.1 - Start off really simple and only add things you really need. The internet is a fast moving place, and people are often more impatient – if it takes too long to update a page, or it's too cluttered and confusing, they will probably give up and leave. But if it looks appealing and straight forward and easy to use and navigate around, then you’re increasing the chance of people sticking around and doing what you want them to do.

4.2.2 - Also it is fundamental to keep seeing it from other people’s perspectives and what they want and need, not what you want.

4.3 - Think Of The Bigger Picture

4.3.1 - Start seeing things as a process or jigsaw with different things needing to nicely link together to achieve your goals, rather than just one aspect automatically answering all your problems. So you may only need people to find out more information about you whereas any interaction with them will be offline, or it may be a way of generating new leads which can then be followed up in a different fashion.

4.4 - How Do You Want To Interact With People?

4.4.1 – On one extreme you can be very reactive and just have a website for people to check you out when they want to, or you may want to develop customer and client relationships. There are all kinds of ways from Social Media like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, to keeping ongoing dialogue, to noting people’s email addresses and sending them helpful newsletters, to setting up user profiles and on a website, or forums and submission forms

4.5 - Keep It Fresh

4.5.1 - As mentioned earlier, 10 years ago it was impressive just to get any website up and running for years afterwards. Things have moved on though, and keeping it fresh in terms of appearance and information is now key, with any outdated or inaccurate presence suggesting that you may be complacent with things.

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Here’s the next post with a copy of a section of the report I did a few years ago to help explain the possibilities of the internet, click here to see the first post and link to all the various parts. Also, Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power”

3.6 - There Is Greater Return On Investment From The Internet

3.6.1 - You will basically get more for your money generally speaking than traditional offline marketing methods. So as an example, you could be in the realm of hundreds of pounds for local adverts (and that’s every time) whereas
once you’re setup on the internet it’s simply a case of updating to keep the ‘traffic’ coming.

3.7 - The Internet Is Easy To Use

3.7.1 - Probably one of the biggest issues people have difficulty in understanding is how easy it can be to effectively use the internet. The difficult part is establishing a strategy and setting up the right presence and network – a lot of things then bumble along, with any updates being fairly straight forward and routine and easy to delegate.

4.0 – What To Consider

Here are the eight principles you need to look at to make sure you’re heading in the right direction with your internet strategy. Get these right and the rest will fall into place:

4.1 - What Do You Want People To Do?

4.1.1 - Really straight forward but so easily missed by people, probably because whenever they think of the internet and the virtual world they subconsciously switch off and presume that it will magically bring in whatever they are expecting.

4.1.2 - On one extreme you may be expecting your ideal client or visitor to find and visit your site on the internet – on the other extreme, you may be wanting to just give your website address to people maybe on a business card or letter or advert and invite them to visit to find out more about you. And when they reach your website, are you expecting them to send you an email or call you to pay for your services?

4.1.3 - There is a vast difference between these two extremes. On one side, you can quite easily put a website up which looks reasonable and only costing tens of pounds, but if you want a new website to pull in lots more customers from the internet then that’s a whole different ball game in terms of marketing your website online, and then how the website will keep people interested, for example keeping it fresh with information that they want.

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Here’s the next post with a copy of a section of the report I did a few years ago to help explain the possibilities of the internet, click here to see the first post and link to all the various parts. Also, Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power”

3.3 - People Are Spending More Money On The Internet

3.3.1 - Surprisingly spend on the internet has continued to increase the last few years while we go through a recession and the offline world has experienced decline.

3.3.2 – Morgan Stanley published another report in August 2009 regarding revenue and profit being generated by mainstream websites. For example, $11.66 billion was generated through Google in 2007, increasing to $15.857 in 2008 and estimated $17.483 billion in 2009 (only $19 million in 2000). With Amazon it was $14.836 billion in 2007 to an estimated $23.694 billion in 2009 –

that’s over 50% increase in 2 years through a world-wide economic recession, and is still continuing.

3.3.3 - Once people trust the internet and it is accessible anytime then the result is people’s willingness to spend online. Plus it can be more convenient in terms of being easier to purchase without the hassle of going to a traditional bricks and mortor business and the deliverability being even better with right on your doorstep service within days or even hours of purchase.

3.45- People Are Using The Internet To Make Offline Purchases

3.4.1 - And the spending does not just stay online. There are still advantages to buying off line such as having a choice, the reliability of real life situations to decide, and some things simply not easily being available over the internet (yet). But the clever way is to use the internet to research before you then buy offline such as hunting down bargains through the search engines, checking out YouTube videos, finding out where to go in your local area, or researching into what exactly the right product or service is to buy.

3.4.2 - As an example, many people “Google” a particular service in their area, with 40% of all Google searches now involving local geographical terms.

3.5 - Your Competitors Are Probably Already Using The Internet Effectively

3.5.1 - People are now realising the potential of the internet and they are responding, including more than likely your own competitors. Have they already got a website? If you imagine yourself as a customer, can they find your competitor more easily than yourself?

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Here’s the next post with a copy of a section of the report I did a few years ago to help explain the possibilities of the internet, click here to see the first post and link to all the various parts. Also, Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power”

3.2 - People Are Integrating The Internet Into Their Daily Lives

3.2.1 - Winding the clock back again, using the internet 10 years ago was a big thing involving say one PC at home or at work with slow connection and other users to work around. Nowadays it’s not only faster and more easily accessible at work or home or in shops or even on the move through a mobile phone, but it is more naturally fitting into people's busy lives.

3.2.2 - Wherever they are and at whatever time, whether on their own or with friends, they not only have easy internet access but they almost can not function without it – you try and tell a young person to live without it for even 24 hours and their world will unfortunately fall apart.

3.2.3 – Morgan Stanley published “The Mobile Internet Report Setup” in December 2009 which identifies how the people use the internet through mobile phones and how it is becoming more interactive, popular, and with wider uses than just voice calls. The average US mobile phone user spends 40 minutes per day using them, with voice calls being 70% of this time - however iPhone users average 60 minutes per day with 45% only being voice calls, the majority being text messages (14%), emails (12%), music (10%), games (8%), internet (9%), and other (2%). With the latest mobiles, people now spend less time talking on them compared to other internet-related uses.

3.2.4 – Mary Walker an Internet Analyst at Morgan Stanley issued “State Of The Internet” report dated 12 April 2010 stating that mobile data traffic is predicted to increase by almost 4,000% by 2014 (yes, that’s 4000%). She confirms that one major implication of this is yet further increase in eCommerce i.e. business over the internet with features such a location-based services, time-based offers, mobile coupons, push notifications. Social networking generally exceeded email in terms of time spent using back in 2007 at approx 100 billion minutes per month globally – in 2010 it was twice that.

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Here’s the next post with a copy of a section of the report I did a few years ago to help explain the possibilities of the internet, click here to see the first post and link to all the various parts. Also, Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power”

2.7 - Although both these examples are different methods, they are still achieving similar goals such as:

• More customers and business, and therefore income…
• Reduced costs and overheads with offline advertising methods costing a lot nowadays...
• Improved profit with income increasing and costs falling…
• Greater customer and client satisfaction and retention, with effective ways of keeping in contact, gaining feedback, and offering discounts and valuable information…

And that’s what it’s all about.

3.0 – The Internet’s Importance

Here are seven reasons why it is important to ensure that you are making the most of the internet:

3.1 - People Are More Trusting Of The Internet Nowadays

3.1.1 - Do you remember when the internet first took off in the late nineties? It was such a novelty and a totally different way of communicating that people were sceptical in terms of reliability, confidentiality, and usability. However today there are substantial brands such as Google, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and YouTube which people have come to trust just as much, infact possibly more than offline brands such as banks, supermarkets, shops, and clothing.

3.1.2 – And this effects everyone, not just youngsters. Nielson published a report in June 2009 called “How Teens Use Media” – although teens love the internet, they spend far less time browsing than adults (11 hours 32 minutes per month on average compared to 29 hours and 15 minutes for adults). Teens also spend 35% less time watching online video than adults aged 25-34, although they do re-call ads better when watching TV shows online than they do on TV.

1.1.3 – The PEW Research Centre’s Internet & American Life Project in 2009 confirmed that older generations use the internet more for information searches, emailing, and buying products, whereas younger ones for socialising and entertainment. The 70 – 75 year old group has infact seen the biggest increase in internet use from 26% in 2005 to 45% in 2009 – the middle-age group led the way in online shopping and banking.

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Here’s the next post with a copy of a section of the report I did a few years ago to help explain the possibilities of the internet, click here to see the first post. Also, Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power”

2.0 - Achieving Clear Goals

2.1 - Here are two examples of clients I have worked with.

2.2 - Mark wanted to start his own business in a very specialist construction niche in commercial property. He believed that having a website would cream in new business or so he’d heard from a friend. He knew I did websites and asked what I thought, which began with talking through what he actually wanted to achieve.

2.3 - We concluded that in actual fact he needed to speak direct with other contractors in the area to secure work as a sub-contractor, and all it would take is a few regular sources to have consistent work. So the best way was to actually put a very basic website on the internet and send an old fashioned letter to these suppliers (I helped him find a list of names and addresses) and simply have a website there to refer to and show more details about him and his business.

2.4 - No need to fath around trying to get people finding his website on the internet because contractors would not be looking on the internet for him – simple really, and infact it meant I didn’t need to do an awful lot.

2.5 - Another example though is Ian who is the landlord of a popular pub in Derbyshire. He hadn’t had a website all these years and thrived simply by word of mouth and ‘offline’ marketing. But the time came to get with the times and build up other areas of the pub such as bed and breakfast and restaurant facilities, so we chatted through the options.

2.6 - Now in this situation he was seeking lots of people looking for a good pub on the internet as well as noting the website on any publicity material, therefore as well as producing a great looking website with all the right details on we focussed on getting it found on the internet, so for example coming up at the top of Google for local searches.

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A few years ago I created a free report as an overview to the internet for businesses, to appreciate the possibilities and help dovetail into their needs. So this started looking at an overview of the internet and its importance, but then homing in on what your specific needs and requirements are. It looks at the different aspects of the internet, so not just the bog-standard main websites but all the other angles like social media, use of mobile phones, and just what people are spending. It then looks at what practical steps you can take to start applying to your situation, the important thing being to understand what direction you’re first going in to then work out the detail.

Contact Me if you’d like the full PDF-copy of the Free Starter called “How To Harness The Internet’s Power” – in the meantime, I’ll post different sections of these as blog posts over the next few weeks, the first introduction one below:

1.0 - Introduction

1.1 - This is a short report on the internet and websites and how exactly to harness the potential of them for your needs. Although this is predominately in a business context, they are the same principles for other areas of life for example a hobby or interest, a voluntary organisation, or just socially.

1.2 - You will of course be aware of how the internet has effected modern life nowadays, and even heard of success stories right from businesses blossoming, having information easily to hand, and communication improving. The internet has also evolved over the last 15 years – in the late nineties and early naughties it was an impressive thing to just have any form of website on the internet, whereas nowadays it needs to be more active with fresh updates which people can interact with.

1.3 - This report focuses on the important aspects of the internet and websites working to fulfil your needs. It is not a full ins-and-outs ‘user manual’ but food for thought and ideas to get you thinking and then doing something yourself or by hiring someone to help you. Infact it is going to be most helpful if you do have someone helping because they can be doing all the technical things while you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve - without this focus it is easy to waste your hard earned efforts and money.

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Posted by on in The Website Waiter

The other Saturday I popped into by local Dunelm store to buy a blind. It only needed to be a straight forward magnolia one for a set size, so after a quick browse in the blind section and check of sizes and costs I selected the right one and headed to the till to pay up.

It was here that the till operator offered me a piece of paper looking a lot like an A5 sized advertisement flyer therefore first impressions suggesting some kind of offer they were advertising. They then continued to explain that it was a safety sheet to explain about the safe use of the blind I was purchasing for when children are around.

I instinctively said no it’s OK as kids won’t be near, but it kept niggling at me while I was then paying up – not so much as a need, but intrigued by the way they were communicating this to people. It seemed unusual, almost old-school, whereas now surely there should be a slick warning on the blind packaging, or a clever internet link to read more or even see a quick video about.

It therefore got me thinking about good old slips of paper to hand out and to communicate things to people, whether customers and clients, suppliers, or the general public. And I reckon there are 3 cool lessons to learn from this:

1. The principle of a hand-out is good. There’s something about receiving it in your hand there-and-then, something tangible in your palms that you can touch and feel and then read. We’re probably all still used to these being handed to us on the streets or somewhere advertising something, particularly A5 sized. While some will be blatant advertising that causes us to instinctively turn off, they can provide offers and deals which can get more interesting.

2. The information being communicated can be wide, but needs to be interesting. So here it was all about “Blind Safety Guidance” – not the most interesting subject in the world, but nicely done in actual fact. A couple of simple diagrams, not a lot of waffle text, and Dunelm branding colour scheme.

3. The way it is delivered is important. So these were not just placed inside the blind as often these warning-style ones are, or even on a stand or being dished out, but it was actually a good strategic point at the till. The lady simply had a pile of these next to her, and I guess with Dunelm selling so many blinds they are more geared up to this and simply handing these out naturally to people who buy a blind. Great timing and approach.

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This news piece caught my eye with working in property, the London Fire Brigade naming and shaming the worst buildings with records of non-urgent lift call outs. So if a lift in a building stops and they are called out to help people out but the individual is still safe inside the lift, then this is classed as non-urgent (only authorised people can access a closed lift with someone in there, whether a lift contractor or the fire brigade).

Although all about lifts, it does raise a few interesting points:

1. Simply releasing quirky stats can raise wider awareness. Doesn’t matter whether they are the results of a survey, a questionnaire, actual facts and figures of a service - they can still be used to inform others. Often they are there anyway within a business and easily accessible, other times you may need to make an effort to establish or at least assimilate them all together. However you get them, they are often there for every business, and whilst a lot can bore you to tears, particularly when you’re not in that business niche, you can come across things like this that intrigue people and therefore make good marketing fodder. What can be hum-drum stats to you can fascinate others.

2. Be ready on the receiving end to defend anything like released about your business, both specifically or your business niche generally. So although this example seems all doom and gloom (bad news making the headlines unfortunately), there is some good news amongst this, with a 54% decrease in call outs since 2008. That’s a dawn impressive reduction that seems to be just brushed over, and likewise can be hidden away in a otherwise remaining glass-half-empty type approach. Plus, in this scenario, it’s not explained why there are these amounts of calls outs; maybe that’s just ‘normal’ when you take the sheer number of lifts in London and just general wear and tear. It’s therefore all about the presentation of the facts, and by using the same ones and maybe some more you could end up with a completely different impression.

3. Think about visually representing the stats. Most people are not geared to love figures, therefore we have to work at closely reading text and digest the true meaning of figures. Hence the presentation of these in other ways opens up other ways of communication and help others appreciate them. So maybe through pie charts, or in this case maybe even nice images of maybe lifts and fire men and then numbers around them.

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A trade body for insolvency called R2 announced the results of a survey in the West Midlands about people’s personal level of debt, both the actual stats and then people’s perspectives on this. With times being hard and credit becoming almost second nature to people this has become a worrying trend on the increase, with some interesting results on what it means for individuals. Here’s some of the main findings:

1. Half of adults are infact worried about their debt, with popular types being mortgages, credit cards, bank loans, and overdrafts. This is actually people’s perspective on debt, so in reality there will be those with relatively low degrees but with a greater fear-factor of it, whereas on the other extreme those with significant amounts of debt which are not showing any signs of concern.

2. A quarter of adults then expect their personal finances to get worse over the next 6 months (from when the survey was taken). This is worrying, as it’s one thing to have concerns over an existing situation but another to believe things are going to get worse rather than feeling as if they can get on top of and deal with.

3. Nearly a half of adults are finding it difficult to make it to the next pay day. Getting-through-the-month is popular, with the text book answer being careful budgeting beforehand although easier said than done in difficult circumstances.

4. For those struggling to cover bills 60% believe this is from rising costs in food and utility bills. A surprising find that so many people think this, as opposed to other costs such as one-off expenditure, or servicing debt.

5. Professionals and youngsters are more optimistic than say the unskilled and older, which could be due to falling inflation and an increasing economy. Understandably those with time and skills on their hands will be more hopeful at steering themselves through these difficult times.

The more careful planning that can be made with personal finances the better, including helping to reduce any one-off costs, setting realistic budgets, and then keeping a track on how this actually works out in reality.

There’s help online from sites like Martin Lewis’ moneysavingexpert.com or you can speak with local financial advisors or accountants to help you get sorted. You have to make sure this is helpful and unbiased advice though, rather than resorting to say your current bank or mortgage provider just because they are easily available or pushy – shop around, and make sure you get the full picture.

Tagged in: accountant
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Posted by on in The Website Waiter

Everywhere you turn you’re being asked for feedback on things. Were we happy with this and that, can we respond to whatever survey when such-and-such contacts us, and can we spend 2 minutes just filling this and that in.

Only this week at my bank they asked if I’d been contacted by an agency about completing a survey. I said no, and they confirmed that by using my card in their reader for the transaction it may trigger someone contacting for us for feedback on the service I had received from them that day. They asked if I was happy with this which I confirmed, and that of course I would say so if asked by whoever would contact me. I sympathised with this lady, as she obviously had to come out with this preamble and it just seemed over the top.

Another example is when you’re eating in a pub or restaurant – someone will always come over and ask how things are going and if there are any problems, sometimes more than once. The principle is fine, but not when it all comes across as almost automated. If you’re with a group of people all with mouths full of food and they announce this to everyone, you’re therefore waiting for someone to say yes before they’re happy and leave. Awkward.

It feels like the modern world has now caught on to the important principle of feedback but now taken it too far. This is important to help determine how successful a certain product or service has been in fulfilling customer needs – hearing straight from them, not some assumed sales figures. You can then fine-tune and improve things.

So OK, great in principle, but here’s some practicalities to help get right and not be over-the-top:

1. Come up with a comfortable way for people to communicate this. So rather than always asking when people are eating, at a more appropriate and natural time afterwards, or by a fun form with a prize.

2. Don’t miss use the results. This includes passing the results to any other Tom Dick and Harry, or using it to whip staff into better service rather than it help look at the overall service. If people know it is being misused, then this can actually come across when they’re trying to establish.

3. Reward people for completing. This doesn’t have to be a holiday abroad, or a new IPad (which still seems poplar), but maybe just a few chocolates or thankyou card/slip.

4. Train people to apply in the natural course of contact with people. So rather than having to force the issue with every customer that walks through their doors, train them to gauge the right time maybe during conversation and only when right. Go for quality not quantity of results.

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Accountants often talk about ‘profit’, which of course is what business is there for to make. We may then visualise this as actual cash that can be used and is sat somewhere waiting to be claimed. Generally speaking yes, although ‘profit’ and ‘cash’ are two different entities.  

Your accounts are geared to show profit (or loss) within them, and assets (or liabilities) owned. By their nature they are helping to account-for and display the figures in a set format which ends up as this end figure. Even on an international basis there are accounting standards to even help see similarities between accounts in different countries, so you can then start comparing one business A’s accounts with another business B’s accounts.

This standardised format of figures can also be submitted to authorities like Companies House and HMRC, and shown to others wanting to see the viability of a business. Try giving any other general explanation or version-of-the-figures and they will get suspicious, after all it’s right and proper that a qualified accountant displays these in the correct way and signs them off.

This format can be ideal for larger businesses where essential figures can be quoted and referred to by other people and reports, for example how profit before tax has increased or decreased over time, and how depreciations is being assumed for certain assets etc.

The problem comes with often smaller businesses where the figures do actually mean real-cash to someone. So if the accounts are showing that you made a whopping x amount of profit last year, then surely there is x amount of cash now sat in the bank ready to be used however. Reality though can be different – you can be profitable on paper but have no money available, and also (although less often) losses on paper but somehow money in the bank.

This is where you need to quiz your accountant. It’s not that they’re doing anything wrong, they just need to help you de-jargonise this profit language and help you appreciate what this means in reality with yours or your business’ cash-flow.

Often you just need to trace where the actual cash is to mirror the profit – maybe customers or clients owe you money, and you simply need to carry out some credit-control and chase these which will be accounted for in the books but not actually paid into your bank as of yet.

On the other side, there may be issues with paying suppliers and those you incur expenditure with. You may have needed to pay someone in advance, a classic example is rent on commercial property in the UK which is often paid 3 months in advance therefore a whole 3-months cash may have left your bank but you have only needed to account for an apportionment of this cost in your accounts.

Likewise, you may have excessive cash from not yet actually paying a supplier that has already invoiced you and therefore showing as cost in your accounts and reducing your profit – you’ll therefore have more money in your bank than what you think.

In short – make sure your local accountant helps explain this so you know what actual profit means in the real world of cash. 

Tagged in: accountant
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In the last 3 weeks I’ve seen 3 types of ‘cold-call’ style marketing techniques in action, all over the top.

The first is one referred to recently whilst selling my car – text messages out of the blue offering to take the car off my hands for a bargain price. You’ve probably seen the TV adverts – the ‘we-really-really-want-to-buy-any-kind of-car’ type adverts, that make it seem just too easy. You simply take a few seconds to tap in the car details, and voila they provide you with a price and can arrange just like that.

It just doesn’t sit right though, playing on people’s ignorance and frustration, for when you’re trying to sell something as big as a car you do get fed up of all the hassle and false interest, and the whole idea of an easy selling-process seems ideal. But there is a price – you will pay dramatically below what you’d receive if you sold yourself, even simply putting on eBay in an auction. They cleverly market that it’s probably a better value than what you would get if you traded your car in at a dealer for a new one, but that’s the point – it’s more or less at that trade value which is a less more than the ‘retail’ value from being sold direct to someone.

Personally I think there’s a niche there for a ‘car broker’ – someone who genuinally offers to help sell a car on yoru behalf, like what an estate agent is for houses.

Secondly, and related to this, is when a friend had someone hit their car which triggered their car insurance paying out. Suddenly there was interest from the ‘where there’s a blame there’s a claim’ type companies looking at compensations. This incident must have triggered something on the great insurance-database in virtual work somewhere that all these claim companies have access to and suddenly ping information out on.

Thirdly, a local business relocated to new premises and they were inundated with utility-saving companies contacting them for better deals on their new utility accounts. And not just a few, 10s and 10s and 10s of these. Again, the great utility-database somewhere must have noted this change of address which was picked up by these types of companies or individuals hungry for a quick sale. These new business starts and relocation lists are actually easily available from offerings such as Thomson Local as part of their advertising packages, offering an opportunity to contact companies at such critical decision-points. Nice idea from their perspective, but an annoyance from a consumer’s perspective.

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My car’s been for sale for a few weeks now with interesting responses. All the advertising is channelled through online mediums nowadays, even with newspaper adverts you enter details through the newspaper’s website. So I’ve done for a mixed bag of the mainstream means such as ebay and auto trader, some more local and general ones like local newspapers and free-ads type websites, to specialist websites such as piston heads and Alfa-specialists. Even Gumtree thrown in there as well.

So here’s 3 interesting trends I’ve spotted:


1. Sale value – what something is truly worth is derived from what someone will pay for it, stemmed from a conversation with a local accountant concerning ‘value’ and ‘worth’. Simple. The difficulty though is making sure that that person sees the true worth and value in any particular item, rather than just the ‘normal’ market value. So with this car it is admitably being advertised on the high side, and although that automatically rules out those who are just looking at shear price and a bargain for bargain’s sake, it is genuinely worth this to someone who wants this particular type of car and the peace of mind that it’s sorted for years to come. It actually stands me at much more cost-wise after the purchase price and works, but of course it’s the worth to the buyer not my cost that determines the value. The conclusion when I spoke with the Alfa specialist – you really need to target the right kind of buyer who will appreciate this ‘cost’ value, otherwise it’s a long drawn our affair waiting for someone almost randomly to appear.

2. Silly Offers - there’s been a few, surprisingly through text messages out the blue from websites offering to take-any-car-now. I did try one and entered the details of the car, all very easy and straight forward. Alas the value was ridiculously low, with of course behind these glitzy website they are taking them at low prices to sell them on at a higher ones. It feels wrong though the way in which they advertise it as a bargain – all up for clever marketing, but this just don’t seem right.

3. Scans – a classic email was received from a guy wanting to but the car for his son but he’s away and will have to pay through PayPal (PayPal cleverly mentioned I guess, as known to be secure). Last minute there was a problem with paying his agent to collect, so could I pay the agent if he paid into my PayPal on top of the purchase price. Sounds too good to be true. I’m told the money was transferred to me but I never received, yet the payment was needed to the agent. What was amusing is how long the emails were, someone trying their dawn hardest to spin the story to the n’th degree, and then the final icing on the cake being an email from the “’Metropolitan Police’ threatening action for non-payment to the agent!


Anyway, the sale goes on.

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The other weekend I helped arrange an expert decorator give an hour’s talk all about painting and decorating. I know the decorator who is a professional decorator with over 20 years experience (including painting the Severn Bridge at one point), and at my local Church there’s a need to get the brushes out and help paint the new building. So putting these two things together along with some volunteers, the idea was born for Roy to share some of his vast experience in the trade.

The plan was to make this longer, actually a whole morning including practical training-on-the-spot and painting walls under Roy’s supervision. Time didn’t allow though, so it was only an hour, and infact only a handful of people in the end including a complete newbie, a few DIYers who had made-do with what they had picked up over the years, and even a lady who is going back to Zimbabwe and wanted to learn decorating-skills to encourage some local people to paint-up some of their buildings.

In the end it was amazing, and beyond everyone’s expectations. What was almost throw-away comments and general thoughts to Roy were pearls of wisdom to us all. Years of experience filtered into an hour’s time, focused by people specific questions and problems, proved worth beyond measure.

It also proved the point that is definitely worth doing this kind of thing for whatever subject and with people you know who can genuinely help out – whether people in your profession, or hobby, or general interest. In terms of some practicalities for arranging something like this, here’s a few pieces of advice:


1. Relax. The more people are in the mode of just an informal chat, the more open people will be both giving and receiving the advice.

2. Questions. Get people asking questions, and have a few up your sleeve as well in case the conversation dries up. Keep them open ended, so with decorating maybe something like how do you do prepare a wall for painting, rather than ‘do you need to always undercoat a wall to prepare?’ which has a simple yes/no answer.

3. Reward. Offer something back to the person who has given, a free lunch, a gift, after all they have given up their time for this (although they will really enjoy themselves).

4. Record. Think of the best way to record the ‘training’ whether just taking notes or an audio recording (you can easily take video clips as well on mobile phones). You can even do this if they are not physically there, for example recording phone calls over Skype free of charge.

5. Communicate. Whatever the best way is to communicate the results of this, whether written notes, a nice video presentation, maybe even images and a power-point presentation.

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Sheer genius. Presumably it wasn’t planned, but this is almost priceless good advertising for Dominos Pizza – nice one.

The story in short – a guy buys a pizza from his local Dominos in Newport, and the person who processes his payment from his bank card mistakenly adds too many digits which ends up in a  whopping £179,932.32 being actually taken from his bank account and sending him into serious overdraft. It appears to be an error on both parts – the pizza-person who tapped in the wrong digits, but then his own bank who actually authorised such a huge amount of money from his account. In actual fact that can be to Dominos benefit, after all these things can happen and the banks should have the final fail-safe procedure to stop this happening. All is sorted though, and the Newport pizza-eater is given £100 compensation.

What struck me about this though is when I turned on my HTC work mobile phone one morning last week. It’s set up to show snippets of news items on the main screen, which to be honest I never look at. But this caught my eye, firstly from the bright Dominos logos standing out, and then the killer headline about such a crazy amount being charged to this poor guy in Newport. It was enough to make me stop and open up the news article and see what it was all about – completely intriguing.

What then struck me is how many other people would have done the same, many thousands, possibly even millions. Spotting the nice images, the catchy headline, being intrigued and finding out more. Fantastic brand awareness for Dominos pizza which would cost a fortune otherwise to establish big-name companies in people’s sight, whether adverts at football games (e.g. world cup), or logos pasted everywhere. Even bad publicity in most cases can be good, by simply getting the name out there – but with this situation even better when they’re only partially to blame with it boiling down to human error that has been nicely sorted rather than the actual ‘company’ operating badly.

Ok, so here’s a few lessons to learn I think:

1. Look for good publicity angles like this, and get someone who knows what they’re doing to milk it for your business. It will need the right angle and presentation, and just the right controversial angle to get noticed.

2. If ever you’re at the receiving end of such advertising then be careful what you say. Ideally say nothing, and run pasty PR people to gauge it right.

3. Re-use the original piece for further attention, particularly to your clients, database list, social media followers, colleagues/employees. Again, milk it.

 

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Yorkshire bank revealed the results of a survey at the start of the year, based upon what SMEs in the West Midlands think about business growth. This reveals what businesses actually think – not what reality necessarily is, or what experts tell us about the economy and business growth, but real-life businesses and their take on things.

So here’s 5 surprising finds from this:

1. Over a fifth of SMEs do not seek business-growth advice. Wow, you would have thought every single business is looking to grow to some degree, even if it is just a goal that never actually ends up happening for whatever reason. It may be that businesses are focusing on just survival in these difficult times rather than actual growth, or maybe they do want to grow but simply don’t have the budget or resources to and therefore not even expecting to do so. Another possibility is that they are self-sufficient, looking at growth in their own way and not needing advice which is what this statistics refers to. Or maybe they see business growth as naturally happening, a good example being a solid family business that simply focuses on doing a good job and treating people well, and relying upon word-of-mouth to naturally bring in any new business and let nature takes it course.

2. There are 83% of businesses seeking to invest in the future. In the majority of cases this will mean a cost and investment now with an expected greater return at some point in the future, hence clear business growth. It can though mean self-survival – investing something now simply to tick-over in hard times rather than specific business growth.

3. 50% believe that there is  enough private- and public-sector help available when it comes to business development. A little surprising, as you would have thought that more businesses may like they’re left in the dark when in actual fact they do appreciate that help is available, but it may be more of a case of successfully accessing and applying this.

4. Two thirds of SMEs believe that obtaining professional advice is important, and will do at least annually. Furthermore there is 40% who seek at least monthly, which is a good indicator that businesses see the importance or regular on-going support rather than just a one-off blitz.

5. They provide a breakdown of where this advice comes from, as below. An interesting issue if when advisors fall between different categories, and the ever-increasing demand to be multi-skilled, something we’ve spotted with working with Accountants through the BEST Accountants In Walsall service and the increasing need for them to offer wider business-growth advice as well as pure accountancy.

• Trade bodies, for example Federation of Small Businesses, peers, free websites, and banks – 26%
• Law and regulation – 30%
• Issues specify to an industry – 24%
• Ways to increase your business – 24%

All in all, sounds promising – businesses are looking at business growth, and seeing the value in seeking advice to help accomplish this.

Tagged in: accountant
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Posted by on in The Website Waiter

I have an Alfa 159 for sale hence a quick blog post with details and spec on for people to refer to if interested. There’s also a flashy video clip, and click here to see more photos through Google Plus Photos. It’s a cracking car, absolutely nothing wrong with it, with a completely genuine reason for sale.

I originally purchased because it was in top condition and had a text book service record. It’s always been under a company-car lease agreement and therefore has a full service history with stamped-book from approved garages.

It has10 months MOT and tax on it, plus recent new service. The only problem I did have was the dual-mass flywheel and clutch needing replacement (a wear-and-tear item), and also work on the valves and the manifold to sort out a small problem at tick over. All done at a great local Alfa specialist garage WAD Alfa who did a whole diagnostics test and now know the car inside out.

Although it has done many miles at just over 143k, it’s in good condition and still ‘tight’ whereas other lower-mileage ones wouldn’t be. The Alfa-specialist is happy to vouch for this and speak with potential buyers, and kindly placing on their own website.

Anyway, in terms of spec and features, here’s a quick summary:

* Full service history like mentioned, with an approved dealer and garage, the last one only recently in April this year.

* Only 2 owners from new apart myself recently, and that was company leasing car agreements which ran out after 5 years (hence the spot-on service record).

* 10 months MOT left (renewed in April along with the last service).

* New dual-mass flywheel and clutch in the last month or so, plus work on the engine butterfly valves and a new aluminium (not plastic) manifold. This was by an Alfa-specialist garage with paperwork to vouch for and offer to discuss direct with serious interested buyers.

* In exceptional-condition that is still ‘tight’. A full diagnostics carried out by a local Alfa garage. 

* 1.9 litre 16v turbo diesel JTDM engine meaning good power at 150 bhp – has a nice kick, with no turbo issues or things like smoke coming out of the back. It’s also great fuel economy for such power with over 50 mpg. The engine runs beautifully and has been thoroughly checked following works as above.

* New Cam belt in the last month or so, done to be on the safe side when the engine and clutch works completed.

* 6-speed gearbox, which has already been replaced, which because it was under a warranty/service agreement at the time it didn’t automatically have a new clutch then (pity).

* A 2009, 09 model, only 5 years old.

* The top-spec “Lusso” which includes things like power steering, central locking, airbags in loads of places, height adjustable steering wheel, and electric windows

* The “Sportwagon” estate version with rear boot cover and split rear seats to easily open up the rear of the car (clever high-tailgate design by Alfa)

* Alloy wheels and 4 good quality Michelin tyres, and just a few scuffs on the front ones. These clean-look alloys I reckon are the best designed ones you can get on any Alfa 159 which I think came in with this new face-lift edition.

* Dark grey colour with matching bumpers and side trims, in great condition. If you look hard enough there is the odd stone chip at the front which has been spot-painted, and an ever-so-slight scuff near one of the rear wheel arches, but nothing to worry about.

* Black leather seats in a sporty but comfy shape with the imprinted Alfa logo

* An excellent-condition interior that still looks and smells new. No notable wear and tear, only the smallest things you would expect after a few years – a very small scratch on a front seat, a slight stain around the gear shift rubber (will probably clean off).

* Standard Alfa-fitted car radio and CD player with integrated USB Bluetooth with media player connection with full steering-wheel stereo controls

* Standard-fitted Blue and Me hand-free system with voice recognition blue-tooth mobile phone-system that automatically works through the car stereo and speakers

* Dual-zone air conditioning and climate control and heating controls for both passenger and driver.

* Central locking and alarm with a spare key and zapper

* Cruise control

* Push-button start button

* Door mirrors which are full electronically adjustable/heated/folding

* Fitted rear parking sensors

* Separate front fog lights to complement the legendary 3-lamp front head lights

* VDC with hill-holder facility (plus ADS and ASR and EBD and Brake Assist)

* Visibility pack fully fitted

* Rear wiper, although at the moment not working and will need looking at, probably just a loose wire or something. 

A whole bag of goodies in a top-nick car - Contact Me for any more info

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Fascinating. Kids as young as 6 being trained to develop computer ‘code’ with the hope of becoming tomorrow’s billionaires. They describe it as like learning another language, which I can actually relate to in a strange way – you need to learn the main terminology and ‘words’ that you code with, but then how all these hinge together to form ‘sentences’ and paragraphs’ that make sense and actually form something. You can then improve your ‘grammar’ to give it that extra per-zaz, and to help other coders and programmers who look at it afterwards make sense of the flow.

The frightening things though is that this has become ever-increasingly easy for people to access and do, although at the same time dealing with greater complexities. So as long as you have access to a computer and the internet you can start coding away. There are tonnes of resources and help to self-learn, with plenty of different ways and programmes to do this.

There is also the ability to be more self-sufficient, with the ability to easily work by yourself from home, teach yourself the tricks of the trade, set yourself up and freelance to people on or offline, and have opportunities to fine-tune your skills on different projects even if it’s just for free to start with (people are generally impressed by this, for someone to offer to create code to help with x y z problem they have).

In terms of types of coding then it’s vast. Whether complicated software and ‘widgets’, code on websites and internet pages, and of course the ever-popular Apps for smart phones and Pads.

One of the greatest opportunities as well is to find the right opportunity for new coding. In the ideal world you learn the skill of coding so easily that it becomes your second nature, and you then naturally start spotting opportunities in almost day-to-day life to use your new found coding skills to solve problems. It’s like learning a foreign language and now being able to freely be a part of that culture and suddenly spotting things that otherwise you wouldn’t see. Opportunity seems to knock on your door you turn to.

Back to this news article on the BBC website, youngsters are now seeing this as a serious career option, whether it’s steady learning or a crash course and ‘camp’ in coding. If a person can learn the techie language when they’re young they have their whole life ahead to then use this and see great fruits from their hard work. And the rewards can apparently be amazing, particularly for the best of the best.

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