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


Arganic Oil a niche Success Story

6 August 2012

Arganic_Argan_OilDespite being a ‘jack of all-trades and master of none‘ librarian, I have to admit to not having heard of Argan Oil before. But thanks to Dana Elemara the founder of Arganic I now know much more than I did.

According to Wikipedia Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the Argan tree. It is found in Morocco, and is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties.

The Arganic Oil website expresses it more evocatively:

Argan oil is one of the healthiest and rarest oils in the world coming from the UNESCO protected argan tree. Often nicknamed ‘liquid gold’ this oil was the Berber people’s secret for centuries

It takes approximately 15 hours and 30kg of fruit to produce just 1 litre of argan oil. This lengthy process involves skilled handwork that has been passed down from generations.

In late summer the argan fruit ripens and falls to the ground where it is gathered. It is then laid out in the sun to dry. To make the oil, the dried outer fruit is first removed, then, using traditional artisanal techniques involving stones, the seeds are extracted from the hard inner shell.

Argan TreeUp to this point everything is done by hand, furthermore it is only women involved and this employment provides not only a good source of income in a poor region but an opportunity for them to gain independence. The process is governed by cooperatives who also give these women access to free education, and use some of the profits of the argan oil trade to benefit the local tribes and communities.

The seeds are then cold pressed to extract the oil. Nothing is wasted in the process, the fruit pulp is fed to cattle and the leftover seed pulp is used as fuel. At Arganic we have strict controls at every stage of production.

Dana had attended a couple of events and courses at the Business & IP Centre, but is still relatively new to the library. But it sounds like we have already been of help.

‘I trademarked my name only after being aware of it through the free IP seminar at the British Library and it was one of the best things I could have done at the start of my business as I have come across and won IP issues since.’

Here is her story:

Dana had heard about argan oil through relatives that were raving about it but found it difficult to get hold of in the UK. It was then that she decided to leave her mathematical and corporate background behind and the idea for Arganic came about. Luckily Dana had friends living in Morocco who put her through to the right people and the more she learned about this oil the more she fell in love with it and the important social impact it plays for women in Morocco.

Update

I’ve just received this exciting update from Dana:

What a lovely post, thank you so much. There have been so many things happen since we last met, details on my last newsletter here, including TV appearances. Also last week my argan oil won a gold award from The Guild of Fine Foods, and today I found out that I won a Shell Livewire Grand Ideas award which gives me £1000 and free PR. They said I achieved the highest points in my category, and am now in the run for Young Entrepreneur of the Year which is announced in November. So I am extremely pleased right now.

I am still visiting the library and recommending the business centre constantly.

All the best, Dana

Arganic founder Dana Elemara

Arganic founder Dana Elemara


Could you be our new Jewellery Designer in Residence?

11 May 2012

artquest-on-whiteWe have had our wonderful Inventor in Residence Mark Sheahan pretty much since we opened in 2006, and he has personally helped over 400 inventors.

More recently we have had our Entrepreneur in Residence Stephen Fear.

And now we are looking for a Jewellery Designer in Residence.

TattyDevine_Crystal_Crown_Necklace

Tatty Devine Crystal Crown Necklace

Together with Artquest we have just announced a new research residency for a mid-career London-based jeweller with at least five years’ practice.

This paid opportunity will help a designer take their work in a new direction, be inspired by the Library’s collections and gain business support.

The successful applicant will receive:

  • A bursary of £3,000 to develop (and potentially commercialise) a new body of work using material from the British Library collections.
  • Access to British Library collections and curators.
  • Access to business and intellectual property advice in the Library’s Business & IP Centre, which helps people to set up, run and grow their own business.
  • Marketing support in relation to their activity undertaken on the residency.

The deadline for applications is Monday 9 July 2012.

Maybe you could be the next Tatty Devine?

You can also contact Frances Taylor if you want to be involved in this, or our other projects targeting the library’s creative audiences.


Fixies re-inventing the bicycle

10 May 2012

I never cease to be amazed at the products and services being re-invented for the modern market. I’ve already mentioned the bare-foot running movement and it’s breathtakingly expensive equipment.

Adam rides a Tokyobike Classic © Horst Friedrichs

Image © Horst Friedrichs

However, since my bicycle was recently stolen (UK bike crime figures), I have been on the lookout for a replacement, and intrigued to discover the fixie bike phenomenon. I have to admit I was half-aware of a different and simpler kind of bicycle from my lunch-time wanderings around the Kings Cross area, particularly in the vicinity of the University of the Arts, inhabited by trend-setting students.

My eye was drawn to the almost Nietzschean purity and strong colours. One bike was all-white, even including the drive chain, another was mat black and gold with painted tyres. A recent article in the Evening Standard about Horst Friedrichs‘ new book London’s most stylish cyclists, seemed to only show examples of fixie bikes.

The point is that once you remove the complex Derailleur gears and forget about heavy suspension, bike designers can let the minimalism of the two wheels and frame come to the fore. The fact that these bikes tend to be hundreds of pounds cheaper than their more sophisticated siblings is another attraction.

However, there is just one fly in the ointment, and that is the hilly nature of the geography around my local area. Bicycles developed gears for a reason, and that was to get their riders up hills without having to get off and push every time the slope got steep.

I’ve been assured that in London they work just fine, but I certainly haven’t seen any up on the South Downs on my walks.

Then there is the question of true fixed wheel fixie, or the softy version with a free wheel bearing. I have to say the thought of being thrown over the handlebars because I forgot to keep pedalling when going downhill, does worry me somewhat.

So I have a dilemma, choose a beautiful two wheeled retro bike that harks back to the early days of cycling – and suffer, or go modern for an easy ride.


Early Doors Disco at Drink, Shop and Dance

7 May 2012

DrinkShopandDance_logoI’ve already blogged about Drink Shop & Do – a new kind of consumer experience back in October 2010, and am glad to report they are going from strength to strength.

They have now taken over a former sex shop in the basement and created Drink Shop & Dance.

In something of a bizarre coincidence, it turns out that the husband of a former close colleague of mine from my previous job has a regular slot at DS&D. Andy and Luke have created Early Doors Disco as an alternative to the late night party scene in London. I think they describe what they do better than I could.

Because we know you want to dance…but you also have to work the next day

EarlyDoorsDisco_logoEarly Doors Disco was spawned in the winter months of 2011. We were confused as to why there was no mid-week, early starting indie disco going on for those who wanted to have a few drinks, get their dance on and still be able to get the last train home. So, we got together a few friends, some of our favourite tunes and decided to get our clubnight on, with the help of the lovely folks at Drink, Shop & Dance in Kings Cross.

In terms of music, the hard and fast rule is that everything played after 7.30pm needs to be dance-able, so that you can drop in at any time and dance…for as long or as briefly as you like. Other than that we operate a fairly open music preference, which is really determined by the DJ on the night. Mixing up a bit of indie, pop, electro, soul, funk, rock, 90s hip hop and punk, with a slew of other genres thrown in depending on the feel of the night.

We’re not a fan of rules, but we’ve jotted down a few ‘guides’ for the EDD way of thinking:

  • We want people to dance and have fun. Bad attitudes not welcome!
  • We don’t play self-indulgent tunes… well, not many of them we hope
  • We aren’t a glorified wedding party, or school disco…

I went along last Wednesday and the place was buzzing, even before the official start-time. The point of the story however, is that with just two performances under their belt the story went viral in the mainstream press, including Time Out, Who’s Jack, Londonist, Google London and  The Observer, as well as on a couple of BBC news programs.

This all goes to show that if your new product or service hits the Zeitgeist, then you don’t have to spend money on advertising or promotion, the media will come to you.

Andy and Luke hard at rest - image from Laura Tosney

Andy and Luke hard at rest – image from Laura Tosney


The Apprentice hits the mark with gourmet street food

25 April 2012

Lucky_ChipThis evening’s Apprentice shows the show’s researchers have their ears to the ground with regard to the latest trend in street food retailing.

Pop-up shops selling gourmet fast food is all the rage in the trendier parts of London these days.

Luckily the Kings Cross development area is just one such place, with its Eat Street, just up the road from the updated eponymous station, and literally across the road from the recently opened University of the Arts.

I have been lured over to this new venture on numerous occasions, despite the relatively high prices compared to traditional fast food outlets. But the food has always been worth it, with a notable spicy burger which had a real bite to it.

As was pointed out during this weeks Apprentice episode, branding is a key element of any enterprise, and some of the stalls in Eat Street certainly have memorable names. My favourites are Daddy Donkey, Well Kneaded Ltd, Yum Bun, Hardcore Prawn, and Eat my Pies.

tongue-n-cheekHowever, I think that Tongue ‘n Cheek needs to find a way make its delicious sounding underrated meat cuts and Italian inspired street food treats, such as Ox cheek with caramelized onions and polenta, a bit more accessible given the queue size I observed the other day.

These names certainly compare favourably to the Apprentice team’s choices of Gourmet Scot Pot and Utterly delicious Meatballs.

Update: August 2012: I’m now a regular at Eat Street as their days and stalls expand all the time. I’ve just had probably the best burger I’ve ever tasted from Tongue ‘n Cheek. It was their Heartbreacker Original burger, made from Ox heart and dry aged beef burger, spicy chimichurri sauce, water cress, cheddar and sour cream. And it tasted amazing.