For those who have finished work, or are thinking about it ….

What do you say when asked – “How are you enjoying retirement?” Or is this a question you’ve asked others? The usual answers include, “Don’t know how I found time to go to work”, “Should have done it years ago”, “Can’t stop – I’m off for a round of golf.”

The truth is, it’s a shock to the system with a similar magnitude to other major life events. And you can’t be fully prepared for it any more than you can for setting up home for the first time or becoming a parent. You can imagine, you can plan but the actual reality still has to be experienced to be understood.

Downsides are a sense of loss of:

1. Identity

2. Status

3. The company of colleagues

4. The reason to dress up in the morning

 – to mention just a few.

Upsides include a huge sense of freedom from:

1. Routine

2. Putting on the work face every day

3. Worrying about finances (you probably won’t be earning any more so why worry?)

4. The daily commute

– there are many more.

One of the main benefits I’ve found is that retirees seem to have an enhanced honesty about them. They can agree with one another that running a business, or playing the corporate game “wasn’t all that”. It takes a while to relax into it – it will be 3 years for me this Summer – but there really is life after work and it can be very good. Your comments are welcome.

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Am I hopelessly out of date?

This week I engaged in a discussion on LinkedIn about the type of interaction that is acceptable between new business connections. Is it OK to pitch your business at a new contact, or should you shield your true intent until you’ve wooed them with articles, wise comments and other displays of how brilliant you are? The initiator of the conversation thought the latter. I defended my corner in favour of the direct approach. Surely LinkedIn is today’s alternative to working the room at a networking event? Identify likely prospects, tell them what you do and, if the signals are good, proceed to set up a meeting and sell to them. People who are in the market love to be sold to.

OK – I learned my sales techniques three decades ago. Rapport, reputation, fact-find, presentation, close. A process that was widely understood with no fluffing round the edges. Does this still work now or must business people remain coy; entering into vague flirtations with no clear agenda, no timescale and a lot of wasted effort? Should we just hope that customers will somehow work out that we rank above our competitors because our tweets are regular, our Facebook profile is compelling and we must be a  desirable supplier with our massive online following?

I challenge any business owner to report a ratio of social media activity to sales.

Consider these equations:

Decision maker contact x 10 = meeting x 1

Meeting x 3 = sale x 1

In other words, if you speak (that’s speak, as in using your voice, not via email) to 10 decision makers, you will get one meeting and one out of 3 meetings will result in a sale. These figures hold true over a period for anyone who believes in the product or service they aim to sell. Believe me. It works. I did it, and trained others to do it for 25 years.

All the other stuff you do is not sales but marketing and PR – very important too – but don’t kid yourself that you are selling, unless you are making real life connections with real life buyers.

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Is your time really your own?

Yesterday I passed the time of day with a man who was waiting in the reception area of a business where I also waited. The usual topic of weather came up and he remarked that, as a business owner, his staff holidays took precedence over his own and that he’d missed the best Summer weather this year so far. This reminded me of the many occasions when I had to cancel my own plans to take time off over the years. A notable one was the week before our son’s wedding when we planned to host his bride’s relatives. A key staff member took paternity leave unexpectedly early so my husband and I had to take turns to cover the absence.

Not complaining – it goes with the territory.

It’s easy though to allow yourself to be buffeted by the needs and demands of other people, and of inanimate bodies such as businesses. Baby boomers in particular are often the filling in a family sandwich and they can experience multiple conflicting demands at times – having to deal with the most pressing need and pushing their own preferences to the back of the queue.

It is the ability to prioritise and keep plates spinning that distinguishes those who survive and thrive from those who fall in a heap under pressure. When coaching business owners, I try to pass on    ideas for coping with multiple demands whilst not sacrificing things they may later regret. It’s sometimes a case of “do as I suggest, not as I did”! When, or if, work comes to an end, it’s important to feel that you made the right choices for the right reasons, at least most of the time.

I recommend the free app Headspace to anyone who struggles to find “me time”.

For an informal discussion about how coaching can improve business performance and work/life issues, call me on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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A rose by any other name…

…might smell as sweet but unless it has name awareness, it could sink into oblivion alongside lesser known plant varieties. Finding appropriate names for brands is THE most favourite part of our work. It’s creative, of course, but there is a clearly defined process that we have honed over the years to make it more effective for our clients.

1. Brand positioning questionnaire – to unearth our client’s objectives for their brand.

2. Brand positioning statement – we agree with the client a defined statement about what the brand is to represent, the target market, any differentiating factors and evidence of differences that can be used as part of the marketing messages.

3. Examination of the market sector and the competition. Easier these days with online resources but we still do field work too. What is out there? How should we position our client’s brand so that it fills a gap?

4. Naming – the best bit. At this stage all feasible names are laid out for consideration. There should be a back-story attached to each name – a reason that makes it fit with the brand proposition. We need to think ahead and consider long term potential here, not just the new-born that has been presented to us. 

5. The names are short-listed and the favourites are checked against the trademarks register in the relevant classifications for the brand.

6. Names that have the potential for trademark registration are presented to our client. We normally offer 2-3 at this stage. This may seem like a limited choice but the client can be sure that the names offered are robust in terms of suitability by this stage and it is usual for us to get an instant positive reaction provided the client gave us an accurate brief.

This process ends with a design brief, which is the start of the next creative stage. Over the past 26 years we have named, created and helped to build countless successful brands. You will see them in supermarkets, on billboards, on TV, in magazines and in your home.

Call me if we can help – 07801 251767

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Could the creation of a product be key to reducing your dependence on your service business?

A business advisor once suggested that our business needed to create a PRODUCT in order to become more sustainable. This was an alien idea to us at the time – our business model was based on the supply of bespoke marketing consultancy and design services. We took the suggestion on board however and thought about how we could use existing skills to create something tangible. 

It’s not unusual for consultants to enter publishing of course, with books, periodicals and dissertations providing an income stream. The most obvious idea therefore became our first product – a magazine entitled Business Solutions. It was a showcase for our core business and a really enjoyable exercise. For over 4 years it was both a marketing tool and an income generator in its own right. 

Publishing a profitable magazine is hard work and Business Solutions depended on the continued input of us as the business owners. The publishing industry was also undergoing a digital revolution in 2005-6 when we reluctantly decided to change direction. We wanted a product that could stand on its own feet – a product that had the potential for generating, if not a passive income, repeat orders without constant reinvention.

The story of our chocolate brand, Beyond Dark, developed from this requirement. http://www.beyonddark.co.uk

You might like to explore the potential for your business to develop a product. Call me for a free initial discussion on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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Back to basics – and enjoying it.

This afternoon I have been helping to pack  batches of chocolate for postal delivery to customers in their homes. The direct sales side of our family chocolate business is growing and, before long, fulfilment will need to be outsourced. For now though, the process is for us to receive orders via the website, print out invoices, stick labels onto postal bags, pack the chocolate and take all the bags to the local post office.

I like to read the address labels and think about Mrs Stewart from Newcastle upon Tyne and Mr Killman from Newquay – people living hundreds of miles apart with a common liking for dark chocolate – or maybe they are buying gifts with Mothers’ Day and Easter approaching. I like to make sure the pack is on brand by sourcing black postal bags and I take pride in putting the labels on straight.

As a marketing practitioner in my “day job”, I was rarely involved in the nuts and bolts of clients’ businesses, other than as elements of costs of sales, and I now find it refreshing to take part in the process of getting product from A to B. 

Small business can be very satisfying because it’s easy to see that the effort you put in brings a result, usually with immediate effect. We issue sales emails – we get orders – and we can affect the frequency and size of orders by using promotions. Not an exact science but certainly more so than some of the large, multi-disciplinary, cross-media campaigns that large companies tend to run, particularly in the B2C arena. 

Whilst all elements of the marketing mix are, or have been involved in our chocolate’s journey to market, from branding to pack design, to costing, to launch, to PR, to advertising, etc, etc, it is on a comparatively small scale which makes it manageable and extremely satisfying. The model we have built is scalable  and relatively low risk.

Please let me know if I can help you with branding or route-to-market issues. And, in the meantime, please feel free to use discount code* BD1603 at the checkout on the online shop for a third off our rather lovely chocolate. http://www.beyonddark.co.uk

(And whilst you are on the website, have a look at how we established the world’s first measure of pleasure which won us a spot on the Alan Titchmarsh show. You can also visit this story directly at http://www.measureofpleasure.co.uk)

*offer is limited to current stocks and may be withdrawn without notice.

elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

07801 251767

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Let’s stop the tick-box mentality

This morning it was broadcast that there is a shortage of teachers – this was put down to the demands of OFSTED. If teachers forgot about the scoring system and focused instead on doing the best for pupils, good and excellent results would occur anyway, argued the presenter. But it cannot be denied that pressure is brought to bear on public sector employees to tick the right boxes, sometimes to the detriment of those who should benefit from the service.

Half an hour ago I called a government advice line in response to news about an export initiative I’d read about in LinkedIn. To be sure the person I spoke to was very helpful but all he was equipped to do was take my details including age, disabled status and ethnic background then refer me to another number. I called the other number to be greeted by a mono-tonal voicemail asking me to call back as the lines were all busy.

Am I being unrealistic to say, let’s focus on delivering help and achieving results first, then look at the stats later? There seem to be more people spending time gathering and analysing data than actually doing something meaningful. In these cash poor times, entrepreneurs and small business owners need all the help they can get and form filling is just another disincentive.

By the way, the people manning advice lines are never up to date with business news. They need to be.

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50% chocolate voucher for all.

Would you like to try our chocolate, Beyond Dark Moments of Pleasure? Send me your email address and I’ll forward a voucher code for half price via http://www.beyonddark.co.uk. We are celebrating 5 years of being stocked by supermarkets and health stores this year.   Online sales are also increasing steadily with a high level of repeat orders. We’ve been voted Gold winner in the Healthy Food and Drink Awards by readers of health and fitness magazines. I must admit that, before we launched the brand I had doubts about marketing the health credentials – surely the truly health conscious would go for an apple instead of chocolate, no matter how good the chocolate was? I was pleased to be wrong about this. Even the most stringent healthy eaters enjoy a treat and, by keeping packs of Beyond Dark in the cupboard, desk or car, they avoid snacking on high fat, high sugar alternatives.

We want to spread the word about our brand and your help would be much appreciated. Those of you who know the story may remember that it all started as a way of experiencing the route to market of a consumer brand for ourselves. By doing this we have gained invaluable insights that we use to help our clients.

So, if you have yet to try Beyond Dark, or even if you already buy it, contact me for a voucher and let us know what you think. Send your email address to elainenester@adm-group.co.uk or call 07801251767. We will not share data with third parties but may send information about future offers to you, unless of course you choose to opt out.

Many thanks.

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What will you do differently this year?

In July 2014 I made a change out of necessity, believing it to be temporary, that led to a permanent and dramatic improvement in my life. I stopped going to the office. It started with severe back pain that made it impossible to sit at a desk for more than a few minutes at a time. I worked from home, mainly lying down as I waited for the problem to subside. Investigations failed to find the cause and the pain disappeared as suddenly as it had started about 6 weeks later.

By that time I found that I had no wish to return to the routine that I had followed for over 25 years. It had taken an illness to force a change that I had really been seeking for a long while. Now I have the freedom to use every day as I want. It’s amazingly liberating. Had I not been ill I have no doubt that my 9-5 habit would have continued and my life would have been less fulfilling.

What would you like to change about your business life this year? Be bold and stretch your thoughts. Changes you consider impossible may not be.

We are currently offering our usual free New Year business review for clients – contact me to book a 60-90 minute session followed by a list of ideas/recommendations. Absolutely no charge or obligation – just an opportunity for us to stretch our creative muscles at the start of the year – and for you to get an objective external viewpoint. Subject to availability – your place or ours. 07801251767 or elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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Having the time of your life? Why not?

The phrase “Time is money” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin and generally we accept that in business life. Productivity is a key driver across most, if not all, industry sectors. Of course time is infinitely more valuable than money however and this is often ignored owing to the pressures we put upon ourselves. 

The premise of time as currency was developed in a film that starred Justin Timberlake in 2011. Babies were born with a time allowance of 25 years and this appeared as an illuminated digital counter on their forearm. When that time was running out they could trade labour for additional time and use excess time to buy goods and services. A meal in a restaurant might cost a month, with a generous tip of one week given to the waiter for good service. A car might cost 15 years.

The upside was that nobody aged physically after age 25 and one of the downsides was that “wealthy” people with hundreds of years on their clocks became mentally tired of life. People who were unable to work either “timed out” which was the euphemism for death, or turned to crime. Crime grew up around the theft of time from one person to another which could be done by forcibly touching forearms. People gave time to those they loved, quite literally, by touching arms together.

A very thought-provoking idea don’t you think? If we gave more thought to how we used our time, and if we knew how long we had left to us, we might behave differently. What if a car really did cost 15 years? Maybe it does when you think about the time we have to work in order to buy one. My son worked out when he was young that he had to work for half a day at his holiday job to earn enough for a night out. Time is a currency and it is a finite resource.

Too philosophical for a Monday morning? Let’s bring it back to the real world.

When we cost our goods and services in business, one of the methods used is “Cost plus”, in other words, the cost of time, bought in costs and materials plus a margin for profit. This assumes that enough units will be sold in a period of time to cover all costs and leave a profit. The inexperienced business person may fail to allow for his own time in the costing which can lead to him working for nothing in the early days. I certainly made this mistake myself initially.

For those who are lucky enough to have time left to enjoy life when work has come to an end, time takes on a different meaning. It means freedom, mental space, the ability to choose your true priorities and countless other benefits. It can mean better health and fitness. 

That’s not to say that time spent working is not enjoyable – if you love your work it is very satisfying – but surely the purpose of work is to gain time as opposed to just money? What’s the use of amassing wealth if you have no time to enjoy it? Some might say that it’s not about amassing wealth – they are pedalling hard just to stand still – but that is not a good use of time either.

Exit route planning anyone? Free one hour meeting followed by access to funding for eligible businesses wanting ongoing support. Affordable monthly fees where funding is not available. Call me on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk. Complete confidentiality assured.

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