Soul Trader – Putting the heart back into your business

2 October 2012

Rasheed_OgunlaruRasheed Ogunlaru, life and business coach has been a Business & IP Centre partner since our earliest days. In addition to running the Your life, your business workshop once a month in the Centre and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs with TieUK, he singlehandedly converted me to the benefits of life coaching.

I have to admit that perhaps due to a scientific background, or perhaps just plain old cynicism, I had always been wary of life coaching. I decided the only way to address this prejudice was to attend Rasheed’s workshop five years ago. After three hours I was entirely convinced by his eminently practical approach, to putting your heart and soul into your business.
So it is great to see his practical philosophy translated from workshop to published book in the form of Soul Trader published by Kogan Page. And having read it through this week,  I would put it at the top of my list of recommended reading for everyone starting (or growing) a business. I am still a big fan of Starting Your Own Business: The Good, The Bad and The Unexpected by David Lester, but Rasheed has addressed the key issue of what you really want to get from starting a business, and to make sure you end up running it, instead of it running you and your life.

Soul_Trader_coverHis introduction sums it up nicely:

Most people do not go into business solely to make money. They want to make a living, make an impact, make a contribution, make a statement, make something of real worth and value. They want to enjoy what they do, and make themselves happy and their families secure and proud. They want to make a break from the humdrum, and express their skill and abilities. But sooner or later many business owners fall into the same old trap, lose sight of what’s important and struggle with life balance.

The book consists of eight C’s made up of seven chapters and a ‘plus’ which focusses on insights to help anticipate and embrace Change.

  1. Clarity: Know your mission, talents and values.
  2. Customers: See life through customers’ eyes to win their custom and loyalty.
  3. Courage:  Unleash your inspiration / wisdom and adopt an athlete’s attitude.
  4. Co-operation: Punch over your weight; collaborate. Use / build your network.
  5. Conversations: Learn the art to connect, converse, create and convert leads.
  6. Creativity: Know when to work, rest and be at your best, (re)gain life balance.
  7. Compassion: Connect from the heart – be transformational not transactional.

Early on Rasheed gets the you to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. Which is an excellent way of discovering what you do well, and what you need to work on or get help with.

heart_and_chairThe book is peppered with examples from his hundreds of clients over the years, and covers a problem I have encountered many times, which he calls the ‘blindness of the visionary’. People become so (understandably) obsessed by their business idea or invention, they completely forget about their customers. This leads to a very expensive and risky approach to market research, where you bring your product or service to the market and then find out if anyone will buy it. Much better to find out as you develop your idea and tailor it to what you customers say they want.

Once again Rasheed gives a practical solution to this problem by showing how to map out your customers. He also explains how to develop a set of customer ‘scenarios’, to help understand the psychology of your customers. He doesn’t shy away from the realities of doing business in the real world as a soul trader. Without sufficient income (and avoiding the number one cause of failure – cash-flow) your business will not survive. Even social enterprises have to generate enough money to pay their staff and to invest in growth if they are to succeed. These are the hard questions that so many avoid tackling in their business plans:

  1. How much money to you need to live on, and to break even in business?
  2. How much money do you seek to make this year, next year and the year after in turnover – before costs and tax – and in your personal profit after cost and tax?
  3. On average how many sales or customer does that equate to per month and year?
  4. What specific action are needed to reach those goals, and what are the challenges?
  5. What evidence, research and assumptions are those figures based on?
  6. Looking again at those figures, what are a) realistic, b) optimistic and c) pessimistic sales figures for the next 12 months, and what would they mean to you and your business?
  7. What are your main products and services? How are they priced? What are all the costs involved? Which are the most lucrative? Which incur the most costs? Which involve the most hard work? Which are most dear to your heart and to your customers?

I have been talking to lots of makers recently such as jewellers, and many haven’t properly come to terms with the issue of wanting to make everything by hand themselves, but also selling enough items to make a living.

Rachel_ElnaughCourage is term one doesn’t  come across often in business books, but Rasheed rightly recognises that this is an essential ingredient in business, and gives practical tips on how you can develop it. I am constantly in awe of the people I meet who are at the beginning of a journey that would terrify me. The book contains an example from ex-Dragon and Business & IP Centre supporter Rachel Elnaugh. Rasheed asked one simple question during an advice session, and at a stroke gave her an insight which revolutionised her life. “I can honestly say that session with Rasheed was like walking through a doorway that has led me into a completely new and completely fulfilling life where success, money and love are all now flowering.”

Cooperation is an undervalued aspect of business, with many people I meet worrying about their competition before they have even started trading. The book talks about the importance of developing business partnerships through cooperation. And again Rasheed gives practical advice on how to grow and then utilize your support networks.

Conversations, which convert contacts into customers replace the ‘hard sell’ for soul traders. After all, no-one wants to be sold to, but everyone wants their opinion to be listened to. This chapter also includes how conversations work via social media channels and what precautions you need to take them online. There a lots of practical examples here, including how to deal with complaints by using, Acknowledge – Reflect back – Say what you can do.

Towards the end of the book Rasheed introduces his two-page business plan. As he says, ‘Business plans are written for two purposes and for two audiences: 1) for you to identify who and where you are, where you’re going and how you’ll get there; and 2) for investors or funders for the same purpose. If you’re seeking funding from others then you’ll need a longer, more detailed business plan…”

To sum up, I found Soul Trader to be clear and simple, friendly and supportive, passionate and soulful – just like Rasheed himself.


Our YouTube channel is now up to 341 thousand hits

22 August 2012

youtube-logo

Back in October 2011 I wrote Our YouTube channel gets 250 thousand hits.

This has proved to be a very popular topic on my blog recently, so I feel obliged to point out that the number is increasing rapidly, and today stands at 341,492.

Our BIPCTV channel has been going since the Centre opened in 2006, when we began posting recordings of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events, and our success stories.

The most recent upload was From Battlefield to Business, and run in partnership with Heropreneurs, Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, British Legion, Franchising Works and Help for Heroes.

The wonderful Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce still tops the charts with 25,541 views, but he has stiff competition from Success Stories Guy Jeremiah of Aquatina Ltd, and William de Lucy from  Amplify Trading.

However my favourite remains Sam Roddick, founder of the ‘erotic emporium’ Coco De Mer, and daughter of Body Shop legend Dame Anita Roddick. She describes herself as an activist first and accidental entrepreneur second.

http://www.youtube.com/bipctv

Levi Roots


Going for gold with our Inspiring Entrepreneurs – preview

16 May 2012

Stephen_FearIn keeping with our exciting new Innovating for Growth Programme, our next Inspiring Entrepreneurs event next Wednesday is Going for Gold.

It’s for people who want to take their business to the next level but aren’t sure how. Come along and hear from serial entrepreneur Stephen Fear, Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup Cup and Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends.

Stephen is an experienced and skilled entrepreneur, his first business was for a cleaning formula made in a garage at the age of 16. He opened his first ‘office’ in a red phone box and has gone on to work on 64 different ventures across the globe.

The evening will also give you the opportunity to learn more about our exciting new business support programme, Innovating for Growth. If you are a London-based small business looking to grow, but aren’t sure how to take the next steps, we can help provide expert advice and support on business strategy and sustainability, branding, intellectual property, developing your product and getting it to the right markets.

Stephen Fear
Stephen is an experienced and skilled entrepreneur, his first business being a cleaning formula made in a garage at the age of 16. He opened his first ‘office’ in a red phone box when he heard on the news that new laws would force food manufacturers to change the way they clean ovens. The Bristol-born businessman hung up an ‘Out of Order’ sign outside the phone box, charmed an operator into pretending to be his secretary, persuaded a US firm to sell its oven-cleaner product to him, and was soon dealing with the world’s biggest food brands.

He an his son, Leon Fear, now run a multinational trading juggernaut incorporating 64 companies with interests in everything from hotels to manufacturing.

Mandy_HabermanMandy Haberman
Starting out with no experience in product design or business, Mandy Haberman came up with the revolutionary design of the ‘no spills’ Anywayup® cup for babies, which has gained turnover of £10m per year since launching in 1995. Mandy can also give invaluable insight into more practical entrepreneurial skills such as dealing with the legalities and patenting of an invention, having fought through a court battle with a major corporation, who used her patented technology for their own range of non-drip cups.

Cate TrotterCate Trotter
Cate is the Founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends, a London-based trendspotting consultancy. Since graduating in Design from Goldsmiths, she has worked as a marketing consultant for brands such as Lloyds TSB, Tesco and Unilever. She set up Insider Trends in 2008, specialising in demonstrating how trends are coming to life in the world around us. Clients such as Philips, Nokia, Marks & Spencer, Absolut Vodka and American Express have used its trend tours, presentations, reports and workshops to gain a tangible understanding of otherwise abstract trend theories.

Cate regularly runs workshops at the Centre and is one of our success stories.


Could you be the next Business & IP Centre Success Story?

3 May 2012

I love hearing and writing about our Success Stories, so it is great to hear that we have created a web page to find even more.

Like all good marketing, becoming a Success Story is a win-win. We get to show how our customers have benefited from our services, and they get great publicity for their business.

To apply, you just need to visit our Success Stories web page. And don’t forget to visit our BIPC YouTube channel to check out the rest.

.

Success Story: Sheila Holdsworth, Know Knockers

Benefits of being a Business & IP Centre success story

  • Extra promotion for your business and product or service to a wide network
  • Increased exposure for your brand
  • Increased web traffic to your site
  • Opportunity to use promotional images or video for your own advertising purposes
  • Invitations to networking events to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs and key stakeholders
  • Regular contact and updates with Business & IP Centre staff and business partners
  • Highlighted internally at the British Library through internal communications channels such as the staff Intranet or newsletter

Success story guidelines:

  • You must be a registered user of the Centre
  • You should be able to demonstrate that the Centre has played a significant role in the development of your innovation, product or service. Ie. illustrate specific practical advantages from using the Centre and its services.
  • You should have attended at least one workshop (run by either British Library or one of our external partners).
  • Your innovation, product, service must have been launched successfully and your company trading for a minimum of 12 months.
  • You must be able provide evidence of ownership of the IP (e.g. a patent) in the case of a new product or process.
  • The story of your innovation, product or service is likely to be attractive to the press/media in the opinion of the British Library press office.
  • Your product or service displays the best of UK entrepreneurship and innovation in the opinion of the British Library
  • The case studies cover a wide range of different business sectors.
  • The case studies are representative of all entrepreneurs, including women and BAMEs.

Let our Industry Guides show you the way

23 April 2012

industry guides

I was rather surprised to discover this morning that I have failed to blog about our wonderful Industry Guides. This is even more of a crime when I consider how my colleagues have toiled over them every six-months to hand-pick the best information for researching key industries.

Although by no means comprehensive (not really possible in the British Library due to our vast range of content), these guides highlight useful databases, publications and websites, hopefully in an industry or topic you want to research.

Below is a list of our current guides:

 


Totseat – our Scottish Success Story

4 April 2012

totseat logoIt was great to hear from Rachel Jones the inventor and founder of Totseat who are based in Edinburgh.

She told me how the first Totseat was created from her wedding dress (with an understanding husband watching while she chopped it up). This followed on from a disastrous meal out with a small child – and various filthy high-chairs being proffered from the downstairs loo.

Totseat-DenimThe purpose was to create a safe haven from any adult chair for a small child – i.e. replacing a traditional high-chair when none was available, or they are too filthy to use. Rachel created a cotton Totseat from the original silk version, and enlisted the help of a friend to make it child safe. Soon lots of her friends wanted one too.

Being somewhat neurotic, Rachel took safety to heart and enlisted help of BSI test house, paediatricians, physiotherapists and the Child Accident Prevention Trust. With the safety attributes firmly embedded, she made 20 prototypes, with slight variables, (all by hand) and lent them to 20 families – along with a disposable camera – requesting as many testing experiences as possible.

Rachel then visited the British Library Business & IP Centre to see what other brands were ‘out there’ on international basis. As well as looking at trademarks, names, patent and design rights.

Several months and 900 testing experiences later Rachel had a ‘final prototype’, and managed to secure an appointment with John Lewis for a ‘reality check’. But it turned out that John Lewis loved it. Her reaction was, ‘yikes’!

She continued to use the Business & IP Centre for Mintel and Keynote research papers on state of ‘the nation’ (Childcare industry, nursery industry, accessories etc). She found this invaluable, as access to these reports are otherwise totally out of financial reach – and this sort of information remains a key part of their business planning and strategy.

Since going into production four years ago UK growth has been strong in high street stores, and now export growth is surging ahead with 40 plus countries. Totseat is now the leading product in its class, with multiple award wins, recognising its design, and safety attributes.

And now Totseat has been joined by Oobicoo, which was short-listed for Best Soft Toy 2012. The adorable, cuddly, soft toy tot Oobicoo is made from gorgeous soft plush and, at 60cm tall, is the perfect size to be an instant baby brother, sister or best friend.

Rachel describes the British Library as a ‘magnificent mind-space’ whether exploring, befriending or nurturing information for both day to day and strategic business.


Another great Inspiring Entrepreneurs with Mothers of Invention

19 March 2012

Another fantastic event this evening with a range of inspiring women entrepreneurs and their stories.

Jones_EmmaThe event was chaired with great warmth, energy and humour by Emma Jones  who launched her first business at age 27, and successfully sold it two years later. In 2006 she launched Enterprise Nation as a website to help anyone start and grow a business from home. The company has since expanded to offer online services, publications, events and finance to small businesses across the UK. Emma is also co-founder of StartUp Britain, and currently acting as the campaign’s chief executive.

Sophie_CornishAs co-founder of shopping website notonthehighstreet.com, Sophie Cornish has won many prestigious awards including the ECMOD Direct Commerce Award for the last three consecutive years and the Online Retail Award Prix D’or 2010. They now host over 2,500 businesses on notonthehighstreet selling 40,000 different products.

They came to the British Library Business & IP Centre early on to look at trends in Internet retailing. And worked hard on their business plan to the extent that they new their numbers inside out. Sohpie emphasised that creating a brand is the key challenge for any business.

Her tips were:

  • Own your mistakes
  • There is no silver bullet
  • Hard work is your unique selling point
  • Cash is king

Kamal_BasranFrom helping her parents prepare samosas for the English pub they ran, to setting up her own food business The Authentic Food Company in 1985, Kamal Basran indulged her passion for cooking authentic Indian food and opened a small business supplying local catering establishments with hand-made samosas and other Indian snack food.

Today, the company has over 240 employees and has a turnover of over £31 million. The company are supplying many of the UK’s top hotels, pub chains, restaurants and retail outlets with the range of quality international cuisine.

When Kamal started out in business, she was a full-time teacher, settled in a comfortable lifestyle, married with two children. While out shopping she saw some ready made samosas, but once home discovered they tasted horrible and threw them into the dustbin. This was the trigger for starting her own business. She had no idea how to start, but wonders in retrospect if this is perhaps the best way.

She began making 600 samosas a week, and grew the business to over a million meals a week.

Her tips were:

Number one priority was to organise her children.
Then, learn how to do everything yourself (nothing is too menial).
Finally, don’t listen to other people (especially your parents!)

Her reasons for success were:

  1. Target your market
  2. Grow gradually
  3. People – 25 nationalities
  4. Products – are the best quality
  5. Customers – we love our customers

Rosie_WolfendenRosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine are the founders of Tatty Devine whose distinctive fashion designs have made them brand leaders. In 2011 they had a boom year, with a £1 million turnover and kick started 2012 with opening a Selfridges pop up shop which launched their new silver label. The two London Tatty Devine boutiques are located in Brick Lane and Covent Garden.

Harriet_VineThey are independently run and design every piece, 99% of the jewellery is made by hand in their workshops (based in London and Kent). Their custom-made jewellery has been worn by everyone from Claudia Schiffer to Jessie J.

They are very proud of producing their own book on How to Make Jewellery.

In the last two years they have started letting others in to their business, such as developing a new website, to enable them to concentrate on the jewellery.

Christina_RichardsonChristina Richardson is founder of The Nurture Network the UK’s first on-demand marketing department for start-ups and entrepreneurial growth businesses. Christina has spent much of her career managing and growing FMCG brands worth in excess of £100 million.

Now she and her blue-chip trained team, work flexibly across multiple businesses – being their marketing expertise, part time or for specific projects – calling in creative specialists from their network as and when they are needed.

Her tips for new businesses:

  1. You need to give yourself the strongest foundations you can. Be distinctly different by playing a different game.
  2. Define your brand by being clear on your ‘onlyness’. Think about who your brand would be if it were a person.
  3. Test your brand out with real people.
  4. Have a vision, but with numbers. Know the future you want to create.

And for existing businesses:

  1. Marketing is everything that touches your consumer.
  2. Always think consumer first. Choose which group will be your most valuable customers. This will inform your marketing chooses.
  3. Plan with the end in mind and be objectives driven.
  4. Use everything you can do to spread your brand
  5. Bootstrap and collaborate

The evening closed with a lively question and answer session followed by some serious networking until closing time.


Make it, Sell it in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library

23 November 2011

Many thanks to Fran Taylor for this report on Make it, Sell it:

On Friday we ran the very first of our ‘Make it, Sell it’ events, designed to help jewellery and crafts makers to commercialise their designs.

Around 90 makers came to the Business & IP Centre networking area during the day.  In a ‘speed dating’ style format, they got to meet some great names from brands such as Etsy, Real Business, Tatty Devine, Folksy, Artquest, the Design Trust and Wolf & Badger.

In what was described by Time Out as “an Antiques Roadshow-esque” show and tell, attendees could also bring along their work. I loved all the products on show, but here were some of the ones that caught my eye:

Camilla Smith-Westergaard from Butterscotch & Beesting has designed an amazing range of circus and magic inspired confectionery. She has created a really distinct and strong brand through her own illustrations.

Butterscotch & Beesting Circus

Laura Brannon produces unusual, fine-art style pieces of jewellery under the theme of ‘Dead lights’.   She reuses household materials from shower heads to rubber and foam.

Laura Brannon lucy

Belinda from Bels Art World produces fantastic illustrations in the form of calendars, bags, cards and zines.

Bels Art World

Last but not least, Jo Cameron of Wild Fowl Designs makes contemporary earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets.  This was one of my favourite designs from her range, which Jo also wore on the day. It’s always good to wear your own products…

Wild Fowl Designs


Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011

14 November 2011

GEW_logoTonight as night as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week we held another great Inspiring Entrepreneurs. This time the topic was Question Time for Entrepreneurs, and was a chance to grill our assembled panel of experts.

Emma Bridgewater, Chairman and Founder of Emma Bridgewater Ltd, Vernon W. Hill II, Co-founder and Vice Chairman of Metro Bank, Lara Morgan, Founder of Pacific Direct Group Ltd and Company Shortcuts Ltd and Tim Campbell, Founder of the Bright Ideas Trust.

Jonathan Moules, enterprise correspondent at The Financial Times, was in charge of moderating the team.

Emma BridgewaterEmma Bridgewater admitted her business was more home counties than ‘wild west’.

You will have to go through tough times. So even if you don’t feel strong enough, when it is your company, you feel differently about it.

You will surprised how creative you can be in business when you first start out and have no money.

Having to think about accounts was something unpleasant, but necessary.

Her value add, was to make modern dishwater friendly pottery.

‘We have spent ‘shed loads’ of money trying to protect our designs. I don’t think it is possible to protect them.’ The next new design is the key to success. And your brand.

Vernon W Hill IIVernon W. Hill II managed to extend his five minute introduction into an impassioned 15 minute talk about the amazing success of his banking ventures.

Be aware of the brand hierarchy: Basic brands,
Emotional Brands and Legendary Brands. When you reach the top stage you have fans not customers.

You need a clear business model that differentiates you from the competition. The culture of your company must be unique but matched to your business model. Your business execution must be fanatatical

In the US they gave away 28 million pens, and they were trying to get the number up. They let dogs in on the theory that if you love my dog, you must love me.

Metro Bank have 90 percent customer satisfaction rate, Barlcays has minus 35 percent.

Emotional brands create massive value. Look at the example of Apple who grew from a five percent market share less than 10 years ago.

Are you really emotionally and equipped to go down the entrepreneurial road? Ask yourselves does your product or service add value? What is different about you? Successful entrepreneurs start with the end result, not the process of getting there. In the UK we concentrate too much on the technicalities.

He went through 15 years of the press saying ‘this won’t work’, so having a thick skin is essential.

Ninety percent of people they see looking for investment don’t have a business plan, they just have hope. Not good enough! If you don’t have convincing numbers to raise money you will fail.

‘My problem is dealing with the government every day!’

In the US they were recruiting 6,000 jobs a year, most came from existing staff contacts. If they didn’t smile in the first interview then they were out.

Lara MorganLara Morgan.

The ability to just keep going is vitally important. Jack of all trades and a master of one, where you recruit others to fill in the other roles required.

She worked on her own for two years, morning, noon and night. Her first recruit was a ‘gobby’ hocky player who had the ability, and could be taught the skill required.

Be aware that you can recruit people if you are creative as employers, find out what will lure someone in other than money.

You can actually learn lots of good stuff from books. This is a solution Lara has applied on many occasions.

Understanding finance was a painful part of becoming a successful business. You don’t need to to do the numbers, you do need to understand them.

Finding the right staff, means being utterly rigorous in you recruitment process. Make sure you test skills, because there is a lot of flannel from candidates. Check with your receptionist for their behaviour. Maths, English and culture tests are key. Invest time in this and you will be rewarded.

It took several years to work out what our USP was. It became representing the best products to the best hotels. A key to this was understanding the market place and the competition better than anyone else.

There are very few new ideas, so you just need be aware of how you are different and better.

Tim CampbellTim Campbell

There is a huge value in mentors and advisors. Having a wise head behind you will help solve some of your issues. Having a loyal team with you on your journey will be a key to your success.

Entrepreneurs need to learn to rely on others to deliver the expertise required for the business.

You may need to extend your sales technique to family and friends in order to raise capital for your business. However, business angels are sitting there waiting to find ideas to invest in. There needs to be a better way to bring these two together.

You can’t expect people to invest in your idea if you aren’t prepared to stand by the loan, or put in your own money.

Employing people who don’t have the same passion as you do, is the biggest problem. Managing them out is incredibly difficult. You need to be incredibly clear about what you want from your recruits.

Don’t compete on price, there will always be someone cheaper.

Intellectual protection can be a very costly route to protect something that may not be unique enough. Speed to market is your best protection.

You can learn from other first mover’s mistakes.

The time to pull the plug on his business, was when he realised he could not get the 2,000 outlets needed to reach the minimum size. There is an inner voice you can hear when you go to sleep at night. Listen to it, and to advisers you trust.

There is nothing wrong with a lifestyle business (small scale).

 

Video now live here, Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011 by BIPCTV’s channel

Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011

by BIPCTV’s channe


Create your elevator pitch with Amber Raney-Kincade

19 October 2011
CN_Tower_lift

Photo by Abdou.W

You step into a lift and someone asks “What do you do?” They are getting off in a few floors, so you only have seconds to gain their interest and pass off your business card. How will they remember you? Amber Raney-Kincade’s workshop is dedicated to creating your specific elevator pitch. You will leave this seminar with a pitch you can begin using immediately.

I attended this workshop yesterday at the City Business Library near the Barbican as part of my journey to create the perfect elevator pitch for the Business & IP Centre (How elevated is your pitch?) Read on to see if I have succeeded.

I have included Amber’s description of her workshop in full above, as it is a wonderful example of a pitch in its own right.

I have decided for this workshop review to try and give an insight into the process. So I am going to include my working notes for my pitch, along with the topics covered by Amber.

1. The five W’s and H are common approaches when first tackling a business related problem, and are used here:

Who is the subject of the elevator pitch?
The British Library Business & IP Centre
What does the person or business do?
We provide information, training and support for inventors and start-up business.
Where does the business or service operate?
We are located within the British Library at St Pancras in north London. Next door to Kings Cross.
When is the service available?
We are open Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 8pm (5pm on Fridays and Saturdays).
Why offer the product or service?
We want to make use of our existing information to make the British Library more useful to inventors and start-up business.
How does the product or service work?
We give free on-site access to millions of pounds of market research reports, directories, trade journals, company databases, with workshops and free advice clinics.

2. Understand the pains of your customers, so you can present your solutions to their problems.
For the Business & IP Centre customers this includes a lack of knowledge of:
o    Their market place
o    Their competitors
o    Relevant legislation
o    Intellectual Property protection
o    Facts to back up their gut feelings
o    How to prioritise

3. Next Amber made us look at the components of our business or service
What is the service, product, company etc?
Information, training and support for inventors and start-up business.
What problems does it solve?
Inventors and start-up business need to know more about their market place, their competitors, relevant legislation, Intellectual Property  protection, facts to back up their gut feelings and how to prioritise.
How am I different?
We hold the largest collection of freely available market research and business information in the world. We understand the role of intellectual property in protecting a start-up or growing business.
Why should your customers care?
So you don’t waste time and money, and make the right decisions for your business.

4. Amber showed us how to structure a pitch. It needs to:
–    Have a hook
–    Be straightforward (especially no jargon)
–    Establish credibility (name drop if possible)
–    Show passion for what you are doing
–    Be about informing, not bragging about you or your business
–    Not be all about you – needs to be about their needs – not yours

5. Then you need to think about background information
Who are your competitors now (be honest and realistic)?
o    For the Business & IP Centre we have partners and competitors in the shape of other business libraries, Business Link and local authority enterprise agencies.
­Who are you not like?
o    We are not patent attorneys giving legal advice
o    We do not provide incubation space
o    We don’t register companies or trademarks
­ What are your Unique Selling Points?
o    The depth and breadth of our content.
o    Our specialist knowledge and expertise.
o    Our combination of business and intellectual property knowledge.
­ What is your motivation / objectives?
o    To help inventors and individuals start and grow successful businesses.
o    To contribute to the growth of the UK economy.
­ Who is your idea client?
o    Inventors and early stage business start-ups

5. Amber ran through lots of good, bad and indifferent real examples of elevator pitches she has come across. This lead to a heated debate amongst the attendees, but with broad agreement of which was best and why.

6. We then had five minutes to come up with a pitch, which we presented to the room. The next twenty minutes consisted of a lively session where we helped each other improve our pitches.

7. Finally Amber gave us a formula to apply in the unlikely event that we had not managed to produce a suitable pitch during the workshop.

 

So after all that work, here is my shiny new pitch:

Are you ready to take the leap to start your own business?

At the Business & IP Centre in the British Library we provide free information, workshops and advice on your markets, competitors, legislation and in fact pretty much anything you need to start or grow your business.

Please let me know what you think, and how it could be improved.

Thanks again to Amber for a great workshop.

Amber_Raney-Kincade

http://www.raney-kincade.co.uk/Raney-Kincade/Home.html

https://ninfield.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/how-elevated-is-your-pitch/


Dee Dee’s Vintage, another Business & IP Centre Success Story

27 September 2011

Dee_Dees_Vintage_logoI received a lovely surprise tweet recently. ” Hi Neil! I had a one-to-one with you  couple of years ago. Still implementing your advice – it was great!

It was from Dee Dee O’Connell, the founder of Dee Dee’s Vintage.  And after my blushes died down, I recalled the information advice clinic where we met. In particular I remember being impressed about how much thought Dee Dee had already given to her business idea, and how resourceful she had been.

Dee Dee didn’t have the delightful logo above at the time, or her partner Ian White.  But I was confident she would be successful, with her enthusiasm and expert knowledge of the vintage clothing market place, and her entrepreneurial spirit.

I get a lovely warm glow from being a small part of our success stories.

Below is the blurb from their website www.deedeesvintage.com:

Dee Dee’s Vintage is a brand new online shop, specialising in Americana and classic British vintage clothing. We began life back in June ‘09 as a stall at the Vintage Pop-Up Market at Brick Lane, East London. We can now be found at selected vintage fairs, markets and festivals all over the UK. Check out our blog for the latest updates on our events.

We’re based at The Print House in Dalston, East London – home of Dalston Roof Park and Café Oto.

They are also on Facebook and Twitter: www.facebook.com/deedeesvintage
twitter.com/deedeesvintage

Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White

Dee Dee's Vintage with Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White


Here’s one we helped earlier – Seasoned culinary courses

15 June 2011

Seasoned logoWe love hearing about people who we have helped, but it is even more gratifying when they contact us themselves to say thank you.

Last week we received this lovely email from Clare Tetley of Seasoned Ltd:

 

Clare_TetleyDear Business & IP Centre

A quick thank you for your help whilst setting up my business.

I spent one year living in London and researching my start-up business with you at the Business & IP Centre.  I attended a number of start-up courses which were fantastically helpful – everything from ‘knowing your market’ to SEO, IP and networking events.

I started Seasoned just over a year ago and so far business is growing and work is strong.

Here is a clip from ITV’s ‘Be Your Own boss’ series with an interview about setting up a business in a recession which you may like to see.

Many thanks again and I hope to continue visiting your events to further my knowledge.

Clare

Clare Tetley
Seasoned Ltd
01283 810275
www.seasonedcourses.com


Our Marketing Masterclass with Alasdair Inglis of Grow

9 June 2011

grow_header1A couple of weeks ago I attended this excellent workshop from Alasdair Inglis of Grow, the small business marketing experts.

I liked the fact that Alasdair started the half day session by saying that his aim was for everyone attending to leave with a minimum of five concrete things they will do for their business.

I was also impressed by the way he refuses to use PowerPoint. Instead he handed out detailed notes and had lots of photos on screen to illustrate his points.

Alasdair started by briefly covering the standard elements of a small business sales and marketing strategy:
– What are you selling
– What is your USP (unique selling proposition)
– Competitor analysis
– Who are your customers
– Lead generation – which methods are appropriate

He quickly launched into the marketing ideas and concepts we needed to understand to give us a competitive edge.

The first of these was understanding the power of customer testimonials:
–    These can be the most valuable form of marketing in the long run, especially if you manage to get an influential customer to sing your praises.
–    Work out what questions you need to ask to generate testimonials
–    Make sure they include some measure of the benefit of your product or service.

Then we looked at the power of case studies and success stories
–    These are more in depth than testimonials and can include video.
–    They should include the problem – what we did – the positive result
–    When making video testimonials make sure you concentrate on the sound quality over the visuals. It is worth investing in a directional microphone.
–    We have used our Success Stories on our YouTube channel to generate 200,000 views.

The power of having a customer database
–    For long term success you should have a database with all your customers details and purchases in one place. This could be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or a full CRM (customer relationship management) systems such as SalesForce.
–    The best way to think about what to keep, is what would someone need to know to keep your business going if you were away from the office.

Know your competitors – ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’.
–    Take advantage of your competitors hard work to develop their products or services and their understanding of the customers they market to.
–    Sign up to your competitors email lists using your personal email address. Gives you insight into their marketing strategy.
–    Look at their websites and Facebook pages.
–    Use seospyglass.com to check out where your competitors are promoting themselves on the web.

Know your target market
–    Get to know your ideal customer – where do they live, shop, eat?
–    This will impact your choice of marketing strategy.

Understand the marketing funnel
–    Don’t try and get a sale straight away, build up to the sale.
–    You need to have a really good opening offer that hooks people in so you get them into your funnel.
–    Three examples
o    Free download – build up price as the customer goes deeper into the funnel.
o    First contact is a cold lead – move them from warm to hot to customer to raving fan
o    Initial enquiry from customer – build information until they become a customer.

Have an irresistible offer
–    What irresistible offer does your business have, so that people who first come into contact with your product or service make contact with you or buy from you?
–    Examples would include: first session free, money back guarantee, discount for first order, vouchers.

Understand the importance of having a clear call to action
–    Give people a compelling reason to get in contact.
–    E.G. On your website
o    Call you
o    Ask questions
o    Email you
o    Buy from you
o    Join your email list
o    Request information

Focus on benefits rather than features
– Look at all your marketing materials and re-word them.

Understand what problems do you solve for your customers.
–    What factors might make their business fail.
–    What market are they will be operating in – Information about their competitors and customers.

Be aware of approximately how much do you earn from each customer during their lifetime?
–    This will have a big impact on how you price and market your services.

‘If you sow seeds all year round, you get vegetables all year round.
–    Make sure you have a variety of customers, like a garden with a mixture of plants
–    This can help when a recession hits, or you lose one set of customers.
–    Examples:
o    Customer who buy or work with you once
o    Ad hoc customers
o    Regular repeat customers
o    Make sure you have a lead generation system in place that gives you a steady stream of leads.

Be aware of the importance of Search Engine Optimisation, especially on Google.
–    Google has revolutionised marketing, triggering a move from masculine to feminine.
–    Masculine – going out searching for customers using adverts, yellow pages and telemarketing
–    Feminine – waiting to found, by being attractive to your customers, let them come to you.

Alasdair covered quite a bit more during a very full half day, so I recommend you book yourself on and find out more.

One of the additional benefits of these workshops is meeting aspiring entrepreneurs, and it was here that I got talking to Bertie Stephens about Flubit. I’ve joined the fun Flubitron club


The professionals: business bootcamp

6 June 2011

business-bootcamp-logoFollowing swiftly on from the launch (Boris boots up Business Bootcamps at the British Library), our very own camp is nearly here.

Put together by experts and business owners, this two day bootcamp is designed specifically for sole traders in the professional services, from IT consultants, marketing freelancers to accountants. We have noticed that many people are setting up their own businesses, based on their professional skills after having been made redundant.

The content across both days covers all of the essential issues you are likely to face as a new business.

Along with practical exercises and inspirational presentations, you will receive a fact-file of research reports and guides to use afterwards which would cost in excess of £500.

The benefits of the bootcamp:
• Meet with like-minded people
• Understand how effective networking can boost your business
• How to present a perfect pitch
• Best practice look at financial viable models
• Get information on professional service delivery from the experts
• Discover more about how to refresh your business plan
• Introductory guide to intellectual property
• Develop a strategy to carry your business forward.
Experts

• Johnny Martin – get to grips with your finances with the no.1 small business numbers coach.

• Nick Winton – understand how to grow your client base and potential profits with clever strategy and lead generation.

• Rasheed Ogunlaru – how you can learn to ‘be your brand’ and grow your profile with effective networking.

Event details:
Mon 13 June 2011, 09.30 – 20.00. Tues 14 June, 09.30 – 17.00 at the British Library Business & IP Centre.

Cost: £125

Booking: The professionals: a business bootcamp


Business planning workshop with Company Partners

30 March 2011

My colleague Raika Wokoeck kindly agreed to write up this workshop for the blog:

As part of my Masters in Information and Library Studies I am completing a management course which requires me to write a business plan for a fictitious new service. If, however, you have only ever worked in Humanities based environment this can prove not only tricky but quite difficult. Yes, I’ve read the literature and I can write it in a Word document but putting theory into practice turned into a challenging task.

However, being an employee of The British Library does have its advantages, and I was able to attend one of the Business & IP Centre’s workshops on 16 March.

company-partners-logoLawrence Gilbert, the founder of Company Partners and Alan Gleeson of Palo Alto Software were presenting a comprehensive ‘how to do’ workshop on the do’s and don’ts of business plan writing. The attendees came from various backgrounds and were interested in start-up as well as continuing business plans, and contributed actively. This very interactive group made the workshop even more enjoyable.

After everyone introduced themselves, Lawrence started the half-day workshop by talking about the secrets of successful entrepreneurs. The part that I found the most helpful, however, was the following presentation on how to structure a business plan and what makes it a successful one. Lawrence provided a practical insight through case studies and examples helping us to understand the practicalities and purposes of a business plan.

Business-Plan-ProAt the end Alan took over and presented the Business Plan Pro software, how to use it and what it can do to help you writing your business plan… I so want this software now. There are two editions available, Premier (£129.99) and Standard (£79.99),

Sadly the workshop was the last one at Business & IP Centre for the time being due to funding issues, although I hope it will return soon. Keep an eye out for it on the Business & IP Centre website at or Palo Alto’s website.


Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Mothers of Invention

26 March 2011

Last week was a busy one for me with three events worth noting. The most memorable, for two reasons, was our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Mothers of Invention evening.

One, because – sadly this is likely to be last of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events for the foreseeable future, due to our funding running out. Secondly, because I got to show Natasha Kaplinsky around the Business & IP Centre. She got quite excited about our Success Stories, in particular the David versus Goliath saga of Mandy Haberman’s Any Way Up Cup.

Natasha had kindly agree to chair our session of four inspirational and pioneering female entrepreneurs.

Although businesses run by women contribute £130 billion a year to the UK economy, still only 15% are led by women. I am proud to say that 50% of the people we help in the Business & IP Centre are women, so we are doing our bit to help redress this inequality.

Mama-MioSian Sutherland the co-founder of Mama Mio skincare was our first speaker. Since starting five years ago Mama Mio is now distributed in 2500 stores and five spas in eight countries.

Their mission is very simple and straightforward – to be the most recommended skincare brand in the world.

Sian described the three key ingredients to competing – Business, Brand and  Product.

To her brand is the most important ingredient for long term business success. And that chimes with several of my recent blog posts on the subject of branding.

She explained how you need to gain brand loyalty using emotion, rather than price.

Sian’s vital ingredients for success:

  • ­        learn from the mistakes of others
  • ­        use the ‘why bother test’
  • ­        don’t follow trends or fads
  • ­        understand who your customer is
  • ­        know how to talk to your customers
  • ­        have a unique and own-able brand tone of voice
  • ­        deliver on every level to your customers
  • ­        make you customers feel special
  • ­        have a plan
  • ­        if it was easy, everyone would do it
  • ­        love what you do, and do what you love

Sara Murray is serial entrepreneur having founded the price comparison website, confused.com and more recently developed buddi, a miniaturised tracking device for vulnerable people..

She told us that success does not come overnight. It takes on average eight years for a business to become successful.

Buddi is Sara’s third business, and the initial idea was to give the product away and charge a rental. However this approach was rejected by her investors, so she went back with a revised plan which was accepted. So the lesson there, is be adaptable.

She said that luck favours the persistent, failure is good, and that you shouldn’t wait for the big idea to come along – just get on with it and see what happens.

Every product however good will eventually becomes obsolete, so you need to develop a range of products in order to have a successful business.

For funding, forget about the banks, use Angel investors, friends and family.

Vanessa Heywood created  Tiny Mites Music in 2004 to provide music and drama classes for pre-school children. By 2010, Tiny Mites Music was being performed in over 80 day-care nurseries and at holiday parks across the UK.

In November 2010, Vanessa was the recipient of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs.

She told her heart-rending story of having to bring up two small children on her own while trying to cope with MS.

Shazia Awan is the founder and Director of Peachy Pink.  a ladies shaping and anti-cellulite underwear brand launched in 2009. In late 2010, Shazia introduced Max Core, shaping and posture-control garments for men.

Every bank she went to for funding said the business would fail, so Peachy Pink started with life based on her savings and credit card.

The great thing about starting your own business is that no one can tell you how to market your products.

Peachy PinkPeach Pink was launched with fifty women walking down Oxford Street just wearing their underwear. This generated a great deal of press coverage for free.

Now Shazia has launched a search for the peachiest bottom in the UK

Last year she launched Max Core for men, a posture control clothing, purely from demand from customers. Her initial product line sold out within a week.

She feels that unique selling points are key for new products, for use in marketing and promotional activities.

Success comes from a great product, innovation and PR.


Apprentice Kim and her Marketing Masters Series

31 January 2011

Kimberly_DavisLast week I was fortunate enough to attend the first of Kimberly Davis‘ (a contestant on the 2009 series of the Apprentice), Marketing Masters Series.

The day on Marketing Foundations was an excellent overview of how to market and promote your business, and ended with an inspiring talk from author and motivational speaker, Brad (Get Off Your Arse) Burton.

Here are my notes from the day:

Marketing Masters Series – Marketing Foundations – Tuesday 18 January 2011, London

Definition
–    The external perception of your company
–    Anything and everything your company does

Difference between sales and marketing
–    Marketing is long-term and has a slow build
–    Sales is short-term is about converting interest into sales
–    The Ying and Yang of business – requires different personality types

The Marketing Umbrella

1. Research
–    Necessary, even for a local business
–    Understand your customers
–    Understand your competitors – strengths, weakness, prices
–    Work out your USP – what is going to make you truly unique – ‘we provide excellent customer service’ won’t cut it.

2. Branding – the promise you make to your customers
–    Think of one word that represents your business. E.g. Volvo = safety, Rolls Royce = luxury
–    The devil is in the detail. Example of the five days of training Kimberly was required to take before her first day in a Pier 1 store in New York.
–    Create a brand book for your business

3. Writing and editing
–    KISS – keep it simple stupid
–    If your product is good, it will speak for itself – it won’t need to be hyped up
–    Use the reverse pyramid approach to writing – the most important words first – the most important points at the top

4. Develop the perfect elevator pitch
–    Not a list of what you can do
–    or an advert
–    You need to catch the interest of your ‘victim’.
–    E.g. My name is xxx and my company is xxx and we do xxx for xxx
–    Leave them intrigued and wanting to know more

5. PR vs Advertising
–    PR is what other people say about you
–    Advertising is what you say about you
–    If you do use advertising, make sure it includes a call to action. E.g discount coupon.
–    Remember the two second attention span of your audience
–    Keep to the moto – less is more
–    Word of mouth advertising is the best you can get. Examples of the Body Shop, Starbucks and Molton Brown – they don’t use adverts

6. Mailshots
–    Flyers are only any use for local businesses
–    Use them with incentives such as coupons

7. Print and production
–    Quality is important, as it reflects your quality. Example of ENO poster for Carmen

8. Merchandising
–    Makes money for you while you sleep – don’t use ‘chockeys’

9.  Events and promotions
–    Make sure you brand is maintained. E.G Ben & Jerry’s Sundae on the Common event

10. Sponsorship and Partners
–    Are there partners who fit well with your business?

11. Online Marketing
–    Purpose – to lead your customers to call you for more information
–    Build your database by giving something for free
–    Three tiers of website design (it is unlikely one person can do all):
o    Design
o    Construction
o    E-commerce
–    Seach Engine Optimisation (SEO)
o    Links
o    Articles
o    Key words
o    Blogs

12. Video and Multimedia
–    Mobile applications (Aps)
–    Presentations
–    POP (Point of Purchase)
–    Promotional videos (easy to record using modern technology) – use it show experience of person, product, service
–    DVD’s
–    Media

13. Social Media – How can social media help my business? (lots of people signed up, but only half on a daily basis)
Use for:
Research – Sales – Database (new contacts) – Customer Service – PR – Events and Promotion – VIP contacts – Networking – Referrals – Recruitment

14. Customer Service
–    examples of good and bad service

15. Create a Marketing Plan
–    ‘if you fail to plan, you can plan to fail’ – unknown
–    Architects, sailors etc

16. Create a System that helps your business – e.g. Event booking, emailing
–    Don’t make people wait
–    Automated system
–    Work smarter, not harder

17. Put together your dream team
–    Don’t try and do everything yourself
–    Surround yourself by experts you can trust

18. Get professional advice from someone who has done it
–    Smarta
–    British Library Business & IP Centre
–    Business Links

19. Network
–    test your elevator pitch
–    80 percent of business comes from networking
–    Pay forward relationships

20. Measure, measure, measure
–    It’s vital to know what’s working and what’s not
–    Use different promotional codes to track success
–    Surveys – e.g. Survey Monkey

Example of a very expensive mistake
–    Don’t cut marketing spend as it is a false economy
–    Don’t try and do everything yourself
–    You need to invest in your business – are you investing in holidays?
–    If you don’t have the time to do it right, then you must have the time to do it over again
–    Compare the cost of doing to the cost of not doing
–    You must be willing to make a financial commitment to your business


Company Partners top ten most common business plan mistakes

30 December 2010

Lawrence Gilbert at Company Partners has come up with his top ten most common business plan mistakes.

As someone who spends much of his time helping entrepreneurs develop their business plans, Lawrence has seen many hundreds.

Top ten business plan mistakes

  1. Typos and spellings – it sounds small, but it is a killer. Nowadays there is just no excuse. My own spelling is atrocious, but I use a spell checker all the time. Use a spell checker, proof-read your work, or get a friend to proof-read it. Sloppiness in producing the plan will indicate sloppiness in your business.
  2. Poor structure – again no excuse. There are templates and examples around, we ourselves run business plan workshops and there’s software that will structure it for you.
  3. Executive Summary – people get confused as to what that is. It’s simply a short, punchy, straight-to-the-point summary of all else in the plan. About 2 pages, that is interesting enough and factual enough to almost stand-alone. After reading it, you should want to reach for the phone to contact the author, or at least feel you want to read more in the main plan. Although at the front, it’s the last section to be done.
  4. No contact details on the cover page. Someone reading the plan shouldn’t have to hunt through it for contact details – put them clearly on the cover.
  5. Over hyped – expressions such as “fantastic”, “unique”, “incredible” are meaningless and over-hyping your product or service shows naivety. This is closely coupled to the next point…
  6. Lack of evidence – if you state a market figure, or statistic, try and show where it came from. It gains credibility. Do real market research; don’t just ask friends and family (they don’t count).
  7. No effort made to sell the product/service – the proof of the concept comes when you get sales. There are many, many, good ideas around, but not all of them are commercial. Will customers actually give you their cash for your product? Get out there and make some sales, show it will be bought.
  8. Not using Appendix’s – cluttering up the plan with pages of market statistics is not conducive to having it read. No one will struggle through a badly organised plan, just mention the facts and refer to the full information in the relevant appendix.
  9. No detail to the sales and marketing plan – it’s as though you think that the product/service will sell itself – it won’t. This is often the worse part of the plans we see.
  10. Unbelievable and incomplete financials – We’ve all seen the “hockey-stick” projections, where in the first year the revenues are minimal, but then by golly they shoot up at an incredible rate. Having unrealistic numbers, or incomplete numbers, or contradicting numbers are all plan killers.