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Small business owners are once again showing the little guy will take on the big guy, and this time it’s by vouching for their business.

Clubbing together, some independents are offering Loyalty Scheme deals digitally, re-directing business via mobile or smart cards, and offering the same rights for faithful local buyers that national schemes have.

Directed for best effect, executed appropriately and well, the customer experience is available as a big opportunity for a small business.

Sell to their needs, not yours – Earl G. Graves

Image credit: Hotash  Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

The sun had hardly set on an announcement that RBS, the bank with kinetic pull from politicians,  could see itself and Lloyds Banking Group going out to ‘public’  ownership when RBS’s CEO, with a mixed public image, built around a £45Bn public bailout to turn around a failing bank   and  added  contentious bonuses, ( Stephen Hester ) announces his resignation.

The ride isn’t over yet. 

Image credit: Elliot Brown  Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

An ex-FBI Agent recently told me that information is taken from businesses by unhappy employees  – Can’t argue with that!

Nor can I argue with the UK’s SME Finance Monitor Report citing businesses’ biggest obstacle for the coming 12 months is facing the current economic climate…. and, (something I’d positively encourage) is that a majority are choosing to pay-down debts rather than take on more borrowing.

But, as business’ time-line is controlled by one major factor - an ability to adapt - the caveat is, without balancing short-term restraint with long-term viability, sustaining a business on the medium-term is likely to be effected…..and any long-term value is lost.

Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

I Know Diddly Squat – It’s Time to Go

By the time you’ll be reading this I’ll be gone – and (for once) I’m excited about what I’m leaving for.

Not that my mantelpiece is bedecked with richly embossed ivory and cream invitations to reflect a successful business and social life but I do get the occasional email, sometimes even a letter, offering me an attendee place at some conference or presentation… and grateful I am for the invite. It’s appeasing to be considered suitable as a guest. The thing is, from experience, some conferences just don’t come up to expectations and I leave feeling like a judge on a talent show –  not wanting to offend my hosts but realising any constructive criticism is but a drop in the ocean.  Over the years I’ve become increasingly selective in the exchange of my precious commodity (time)  for the objective gained as offered by attending conventions, conferences and the like.

The potential of some ‘musing’  time away from the office is inviting in itself; A lengthy journey can be a time of contemplation, a time to reflect on the day ahead or the variety of topics, panels, speakers and day in general left behind.  Until realisation dawns of an all-too-often chaotic train journey or the car drive fraught with delays ….and the motorbike was never a practical option (sold last year).  Bike
Excuses,  I hear myself say. I usually manage to come away from these things with something more useful than a pen or key fob; that is, I can’t recall coming away without learning something that I didn’t know …or meet someone whom I’ve wanted to match their remote telephone voice with their face. But in my view, most of the events of the type I’m invited to follow a well-oiled format of a) being further afield than warrants the journey b) could be done in half the time except (a) means logistics dictate and c) the equation of benefit for my business is too often lost through (a) and (b) coming into play.

Yet, when there is a topic of which I know diddly squat, offered by a fully-versed speaker, (a), (b) and (c) are scrubbed out. Inspired, I can be found irrationally giving out reason why I must attend.

Business people all over the UK are invited to attend seminars and conferences with all manner of titles – so how do you choose whether to attend (or not) when staying at home with online options can be so much less hassle?  Is it only those in which your interests are represented? What’s your validation for taking the step to spend your precious time (and money) to listen to someone offering up their ideas? Do you only go to those which offer one perspective (a self-sponsored event) or would you want to consider an objective perspective being offered? How do you identify where your business might have gaps that need filling and who is best to fill those gaps of information for you?

For me it’s the independents coming together (it’s always the Independent) that offers the most fulfilling experience. They’ve usually got significant speakers, well thought-out argument, experience and fascinating insight or knowledge. Sufficient to connect with me and get the grey cells turning … which, as the greater the power the greater the responsibility, can only add value for me and results for my business.
IndependentThinker

Image credits: Elias Gayles,  SUF,  Evie E.    Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

 

Getting to grips with technology can be a problem, being concerned about security; Website attacks, emails going missing, computer viruses - All are understandable. But businesses practicing without email….. How?

What is the reasoning behind a resistant micro or smaller business to an email account?

My flabber has been  gasted by perfectly serious businesses telling me they don’t have email, with my mind sent mostly reeling by those with smart phones and pc’s, laptops and dongles, dishes with satellite and broadband with sleigh-bells (slight exaggeration).

It isn’t a secret formula, I genuinely don’t know how those, without access to the magic juice of internet, manage to do business – especially with a retail element that incurs stockist and customer communication. Mobile point of sale must seem like War of the Worlds to them, or any who haven’t yet realised the low-cost entry potential to reaching customers.

Old fashioned Customer Service is strengthened with new technology.

Image credit: Sean MacEntee   Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

The Business Of Consulting

I’d spent the best part of a much needed weekend break… shopping.  The sun (hidden since last September) managed to burn into the face of my android assistant, before moving onto my head until I had the headache of a man who’d run a marathon dressed as a Styrofoam marshmallow.   Frustration, searching for a PC router on a Sunday, when it really could have waited another day to speak to the right people, was fuelled by overheating, wanting a bargain and increasingly needing a drink.

Hints from the office router that it had `had enough’ had been emitted daily during the prior week as  it had teasingly started casting a shadow of doubt we’d have a work space without lit screens full of YouTube wonder; while we pretended to be busy (that bit was a joke, but fearing its demise was on the cards, wasn’t). I sincerely thought circumnavigating inconvenience wouldn’t be a problem; intervention when the office was closed and before the next week started seemed (at the time) a good idea.  I now realise I was afflicted with naivety.

Shopping around on the internet would give me an idea of what I wanted, then I only needed to find someone with commercial savvy who stocked it, place my order online and pick it up via a stop-off for some energising sugar-highs to get me through the Grand Prix later that afternoon (a sort of placebo sugar rush for the bits between the Pole start and waiting for the finish). Connecting with my new purchase wouldn’t be a problem, retailers of this size are set up to handle all types of customer, I could be a toddler deciding to set up a birthday wish-list on mum and dad’s credit card or an antisocial tech-wiz who gets organised through their keyboard: Sorted!

Not being sure what I wanted – let alone what I needed – was all brought home to me as the day slipped away. What a fool I was, thinking that choosing, purchasing and collecting something could be sooo easy….

I’d found what I thought I’d wanted, I tried to speak with someone (several times) to get advice before I purchased, I’d gone down to the store (as advised) only to find none in stock. I’d gone back online, clicked to order from another store, got right though to purchasing when the ‘do not pass go’ (out of stock) alert came up. It’s irrelevant going through the entire day’s scenario. What I wanted I couldn’t get and, I later learnt, had I got it, it wouldn’t have been what I needed. What I needed wasn’t obvious and, as I later learnt, I didn’t understand it’s what I really wanted.  I’d experienced a type of boot-on-the-other-foot. What would have been relatively Lilliputian, had it been commercial or business finance related, managed to make me feel like a tethered Gulliver. Hardware was hard work.

The downside was my ‘day of rest’ disappeared (and no boss to moan to), the upside was I managed to find a really useful hardware guy to add to the outsourcing stable. But letting myself be driven into cheating my business by taking a shortcut is the most galling. I was lucky this time; it could have cost me heavily.

Image credit: pasukaru76  Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

 

No surprise that less than one in five respondents believes ‘a business or governmental leader will actually tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue’, as shown in the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer.

`Academics, technical experts and a person like yourself ‘ were revealed, in the global survey, to be nearly twice as trusted as a Chief Executive or Government official. With the driver cited as unethical behaviour, banks and financial services were the least trusted sector. In the UK 78% were aware of banking scandals (which statistical 22% were unaware?) and the most trusted sector was technology.

And what of small business?  The most trusted were in the West, with industrialised countries trusting small business 30% more than big business, and developing countries trusting big business more than small business (only by a small margin).

Building on an ability to (almost) immediately connect with us all, and being always available therefore dependable (a bit like how we most of us like to see ourselves and our friends), plus it’s a kind of technical expert, there’s little wonder In Google We Trust .

Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

Knowing enough to know, that we don’t sufficiently know enough to know how the Funding for Lending  is working, is sufficient to know we know enough to feel reassured, after listening and watching an increased floundering from a variant of lender managers, working with the scheme, as a  gurgled excuse (not reasoned response) is the suggestive qualifying factor -  There’s a new order within their employment arena.

It might be there is a threat of being taken out to the dog’s home hanging over them because Andrex-puppy enthusiasm is in short supply. A metaphoric ball we recently rolled the way of a lender, whose bright eyes and wet nose indicated a healthy ability (that too was a metaphor – not the symptoms of hay fever), after pawing (metaphor again) it around a while, the killer response was ‘not willing to support it’ – which we read as ‘can’t be bothered’, ‘not worth the effort’.

FFL ‘should allow banks to increase the availability of credit’  but, from the figures given out (August to December 2012), the imbalance between the  BofE suggested £14bn withdrawn from FFL, and the lending figures for the same period, it didn’t happen. Now, BofE  has finalised plans to extend FFL:  2015 not January 2014, additionally, during 2013 every £1 lent out offers access to £10 drawdown. But is this a clue as to why excuse and not reason was given from the business manager who takes his orders from above (another manager – not to be misconstrued with God)?

Or is it that to unravel the new order of supply and demand it’s enough to know that nobody knows enough? 

Image credit: den99   Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013

 


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