Delighted to be the “Coffee with…” Feature in Business Success Magazine

Not only was I delighted to be the “Coffee with…” feature in the latest edition of Business Success Magazine, I am also on the cover!

When someone asks you how did you get where you are today, it really makes you realise that all the achievements and skills, the highs, the lows and everything you have done to date makes you who you are today.

Each and every job, skill, knock back and celebration along your journey is valuable experience in the role you do now. Just think back to what you have learned in the past, the wealth of knowledge you have acquired over the years and the transferable skills that brings.

That’s what I have gained from this experience. I already draw from the past and bring that knowledge into the work I do with my clients now. However, actually answering the questions for the “Coffee with…” feature has rewarded me in other ways too. I have recalled skills I had long forgotten and it has inspired me to develop the #90DayBusinessMentor Programme. After all, every business and project I have ever started, I have launched within 90 Days, so it’s a proven concept!

Here is an extract of some of the tips I shared in the feature:

Tip #1:  Write down a business goal. Make it a SMART one and give it a 30-day timescale. Now break it down into small chunks ie manageable tasks you can work on each day. Tick them off as you complete them and feel that sense of achievement once you have achieved the end result.

Tip #2: Think about what you have achieved in your business to date. See if you can write down 30 things you have achieved, one per day. It’s difficult at first, but as you get started the achievements will flow and you may even exceed 30.

Tip #3: Enter yourself or your business for an Award. It could be national or local. The process itself makes you sit down and really think about your achievements to date, where you are now and where you’re going.

To read the full article and business tips, you can subscribe to Business Success Magazine here

Knowing how to negotiate and when to stop! My Dragons’ Den Review of Episode 3 for Enterprise Nation

Here is my review of the third episode in the current series of Dragons’ Den for Enterprise Nation, which highlights some key business lessons.

1. Be a great negotiator, but know when to stop

Negotiation skills are vital in business. However, when pitching for work, you need to be clear about how far you are willing to push the boundaries and avoid the risk losing the deal altogether.

A great tactic is to plan your best, worst and likely scenarios in advance and know how you are prepared to go.

Bucharest born Alex Busianu had a great accent, according to Deborah Meaden, but it would take more than that to win over the Dragons.

His business, Temporary Forevers, a name which didn’t impress Peter Jones, sells luxury leather travel, laptop and camera bags.

It would have been very easy to forget the product entirely after Jenny Campbell and Peter Jones both offered to invest and Alex’s hard negotiation that followed.

It soon became evident that Alex was an aggressive negotiator, knowing exactly what he was prepared to give.

Initially though, Alex lost a Dragon in Jenny Campbell after she withdrew on the basis it was clear that Alex wanted to work with Peter.

Peter could have very easily withdrawn at that point but admired Alex’s negotiation style. A risky tactic which paid off in this instance.

In contrast, Claire Gelder of Wool Couture was offered investment by Touker Suleyman and Tej Lalvani.

She gave 30% equity for £50,000, more than the 10% she was originally wishing to give.

She chose to accept on the basis that the input from two Dragons with experience was more valuable to her than the risk losing that investment via negotiation.

2. Know your route to market

Large brands pay significant sums for product placement on supermarket shelves. This is key to driving customer sales. If a supermarket doesn’t know where to place your product the customer won’t know where to find it either.

Having a clear sales strategy, knowing who your customer is and where they are, are all essential for future sales for your product or service.

Having a great product and being a great person is clearly not enough.

Deborah Meaden loved ex-police woman Rayeesa Asghar-Sandys’ passion for Indian food, coupled with a great tasting natural and healthy frozen product from her business, Rayeesa’s Indian Kitchen.

The other Dragons were equally impressed but sadly her stand alone freezer concept for supermarkets clearly wasn’t viable.

Rayeesa had sold in farmers’ markets and hadn’t really explored fully her next route to market, demonstrating that you need to identify where you are going to sell your product.

Rayeesa received some great advice from Tej Lalvani who suggested that she built her brand and sells online therefore avoiding the refrigeration problem.

3. Ensure that you, and your business, are investor ready

Being ‘investor ready’ means having a realistic valuation and knowing your figures inside out (including the difference between turnover, gross profit and net profit).

You should also have full knowledge of every aspect of your business and have the capacity to do a deal.

You need to back your valuation up with hard figures, have a detailed business plan and three year cash flow forecast.

Getting a Dragon on board is only the first step and a detailed due diligence process will follow any offer of investment.

Although Claire Gelder initially forgot to factor in her labour cost when quoting her profit figures, she soon recovered under gentle prompting from Deborah Meaden and secured an investment offer.

Not so fortunate was ex-Army inventor Michael Gormley of Go Bubble. Whilst he had a credible invention at first sight, to keep champagne fizzy, following further probing it soon became apparent that the invention was a prototype.

Michael was unsure where he was in the patent application process, admitted there had already been a £2m investment and had no sales.

Clever questioning from Peter Jones clarified that Michael only owned 10% equity in the business.

There was clearly no room for movement and his request for investment was destined to fail as he didn’t have the capacity to make decisions on behalf of the company.

Previous reviews:

Enterprise Nation member Sandra Garlick, a former employment and business law solicitor, works with businesses via her consultancy SG Business Consulting and will deliver one-on-one advice in the Adviser Zone at Enterprise Nation’s Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in October.

Copying, Competition or a Compliment?

What do you do when someone blatantly copies what you are doing?

Your initial reaction may be to go in all guns blazing but what are you going to achieve?

Copying your work or plagiarising your content is actually actionable and you are perfectly within your rights to challenge this behaviour, especially if it is leading to confusion within your marketplace and causing you damage as a result.

Copyright  – an automatic right and arises whenever an individual or company creates a work. To qualify, a work should be regarded as original, and exhibit a degree of labour, skill or judgement

Passing Off – The law of passing off prevents one trader from misrepresenting goods or services as being the goods and services of another, and also prevents a trader from holding out his or her goods or services as having some association or connection with another when this is not true

Plagiarism – the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own

Someone who is passing off your content, name or brand as their own may cause you damage financially. You often see the big brands challenge the smaller ones if they are alerted to similarities in names, brands or content.

Usually a simple communication, in writing, to the alleged offender is sufficient but sometimes you need to seek legal advice and take a more formal approach if it’s ignored.

Competition is different. It’s healthy to have competition and you would naturally expect it, unless your service or product is totally unique.

It’s always wise to see what your competition is up to. It keeps you on your toes and alerts you to anything where your competition might be crossing the boundaries which impacts on your own business.

Look at your competitors from time to time and carry out a competitor analysis. See what they are doing, how are they promoting themselves. Are they doing it in a good way? Can you learn anything from what they are doing? Do you notice what they are doing, that isn’t so great? Can you spot, bad grammar, loading errors and out of date information on your competitors’ websites and marketing collateral.

Compliment Can you treat it as a compliment? Everyone loves a compliment after all.

Yes, you may have spent hours, days, weeks building up a brand or idea and your competitor simply comes along, copies your ideas, your marketing and it looks so similar that people start commenting that you should do something about it.

However, quite often these cloned businesses fail. They haven’t thought about the detail, the financials, undergone the planning and often haven’t done the background work on the project or idea. At the outset, they think they can do it better. Some might, but the vast majority fail as they haven’t carried out the work required to get to that point.

Here’s where you can simply sit back and watch and take it as a compliment that they think your idea or concept is so great and original, that they want to do it too.

I get to wear a floaty dress and I need your support

It’s Day 55/90…of my personal #90DayChallenge to reach fitness and lose weight. This coincided with me being selected to take part in Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice Strictly Christmas in December. A great opportunity to combine my own personal fitness challenge with raising money for a great local charity. However, I need your support to reach my £500 fundraising target.

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Well despite losing 7lbs in the last two weeks, I’ve hit a bit of a plateau. I blame the solar eclipse for the fact that I lost my mojo. Yesterday was all about hot chocolate and cake! I never eat cake but for some reason yesterday I just needed it, so I had it. I also had wine! For me it’s all about choices and not about deprivation. Sometimes we all need a little bit of what we desire along the way.

Today’s a different story…I’ve had yoghurt and fruit and I’m off for a run later. My goal is to run 5k by the end of my #90DayChallenge.

Most Saturdays I volunteer at Parkrun Coventry. I’m the one in the yellow vest being a marshall with my dog (AKA Marshall Dog). We are usually positioned at the bottom end of the War Memorial Park. If you’re passing give us a wave.

It will be a different story in a couple of weeks when I am on the volunteer roster for my first tail walker/runner role. If anyone wants to join me, you are more than welcome. I will be the one at the back with Marshall Dog. The last time I did this was the same day I broke my ankle so this is a huge milestone for me, both physically and mentally.

Meanwhile…

The excitement about Strictly Christmas is building as each Contestant is being revealed over the course of the coming days/weeks. You can follow all of the progress and reveals on the Strictly Christmas Facebook Page.

My excitement is building too as I realise that I get to wear one of those floaty dresses to dance in.

Strictly Christmas is organised by volunteers to raise vital funds for Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice in Coventry. Tickets are already on sale for the evening show on 9th December and for the lunchtime show on 10th December. As well as an impressive line up of judges, including Anna Kennedy OBE who featured in the first People’s Strictly for Comic Relief, you will also get to  see some of the dresses worn by celebrities and dancers of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing! (Exact dresses to be confirmed)

If you want to know why I’m supporting this challenge you can read all about it here.

In the meantime, I need your support to help me reach my target of £500. I will be posting regular updates about my progress and you can support me via my JustGiving page

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Follow Strictly Christmas on Facebook and Twitter

I’m Running! My ‘Strictly Christmas’ training regime in aid of Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!I am on Day 43/90…of a personal #90DayChallenge I set myself to reach fitness and lose a bit of weight along the way. This coincided with me being selected to take part in Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice Strictly Christmas in December. What a great opportunity to combine my own personal fitness challenge with raising money for a great local charity.

I am now walking most days, counting my steps and eating a healthy diet.  However, a huge leap for me last week was signing up for the Couch to 5K “Run Like a Girl” (RLAG) 8 week challenge organised by Sky Blues in the Community through their In it Together project.  So last Monday I turned up feeling slightly nervous at the War Memorial Park, along with 150 other local women, in my trainers ready to commence Week 1.

I don’t really know what I was expecting…perhaps a few breathing exercises, maybe a few stretches or even a talk about how we were going to build up to the magical 5k?  I certainly wasn’t expecting to actually run on Week 1!

However, I soon got into the flow of the 90 second runs and 2 minute walks which I generally used to gasp for air before we set off again.  The biggest challenge for me was trying to forget about my ankle and once I got over the mental hurdle of actually running on it, I enjoyed it.  In fact, the more I did, the easier it became until I was actually quite disappointed when the final whistle went at the end of the last 90 second run.

Now just to clarify…when I say run, I mean a sort of gentle jog. To me it was running, it was definitely faster than my walking pace as I couldn’t speak while doing it, so it definitely counts as a run….a whole 3.4k and over 5,000 steps. So I am actually looking forward to Week 2.

All this activity must be working because I jumped on the scales last week and dropped 5lbs!

Strictly Christmas is organised by volunteers to raise vital funds for Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice in Coventry. Tickets are already on sale for the evening show on 9th December and for the lunchtime show on 10th December. As well as an impressive line up of judges, including Anna Kennedy OBE who featured in the first People’s Strictly for Comic Relief, you will be able to see dresses worn by celebrities and dancers of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing! (Exact dresses to be confirmed)

If you want to know why I’m supporting this challenge you can read all about it here.

In the meantime, your support would be greatly appreciated. I will be posting regular updates about my progress and you can support me via my JustGiving page

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Follow Strictly Christmas on Facebook and Twitter

It’s official! I’m very excited to be a contestant in ‘Strictly Christmas’ in aid of Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice

This is the start of a huge personal challenge for me having recovered from a badly broken ankle last year.  Little did I know that I would spend 6 months on crutches, gain over 2 stone in weight and face almost 18 months of pain, coupled with the inability to walk properly.

30 days ago I started my own personal #90DayChallenge to fitness. Over the last 30 days I have been walking almost every day and, although I still have some pain, I can now easily walk 5k (in trainers).

The next 60 days are all about preparation for the intense training for Strictly Christmas. I will be eating healthy and my gym visits will be less about chatting, eating and drinking coffee and more about actually entering the gym to do a workout. The dance training commences in early October.

So why Strictly Christmas? Basically, I am a supporter of Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice in Coventry. I help through a variety of local business activities to raise vital funds each year for the charity. However, I wanted to do something personally and this seemed a great way to do it. The event is organised by a group of volunteers and I am one of 20 contestants taking part. Tickets are already on sale for the evening show on 9th December and the lunchtime event on 10th December.

I’ve always wanted to be able to glide effortlessly across a dance floor…Strictly style. In my head I’m the most amazing dancer with great rhythm and footwork, usually after a few glasses of wine! However, the harsh reality is that I  leave a trail of trodden toes, stumbles and I’m sure that I resemble an elephant with two left feet. Quite simply, I can strut my stuff on my own but put me with a partner and it all goes to pieces. I can’t wait to meet my dancing partner…I hope he has the patience of a saint and protective footwear!

I will be posting regular updates about my progress and you can support me via my JustGiving page

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