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I’ll be running a real-life workshop in Brighton on the 27th June 2019 on how to get your price right for small businesses. I don’t do many of these anymore so this might be your only chance to come and work with me in the flesh.

What the workshop is about

It’s two hours dedicated to helping you sort out the number one thing you can do to help your business succeed. Yes, you’ll be able to confidently say how much you should charge your customers from now on.

Clue – it will probably be more than you do now. But you need to come to the workshop to work out exactly how much more.

And, once we know how much you have to charge, we’ll work on some great ideas for improving your marketing so your customers will be totally happy to pay your new price.

Where and when

It’s at 9.30 am on the 27th of June, in Platform 9.

I’m doing the workshop with Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, so it’s at their ridiculously low price of just £44 for members and £54 for non-members. And you get a free copy of my Sweetspot Pricing book included with that, which would normally cost you £13.

What will I get out of it?

Well, I did a mini version of this workshop before. One of the attendees came up to me in the street a couple of months later and told me that she’d done what I’d suggested and changed her pricing strategy and was now 2k a month better off. I wish I’d taken a photo of her big smile at the time, but it was a bit like this…

How to book your place

There’s a maximum of 25 people on the workshop, so I’d get in fast. Here’s how to book your place 

What if I live miles away?

Well, you’ve got two choices here. You can either have a lovely tax deductible trip to Brighton, maybe tying in the workshop with a coffee and cake with me to talk about doing some work together to boost your business. Or you can just get a copy of the Sweetspot Pricing book and the resource pack which takes you through the same pricing methodology and marketing tips. It’s slightly less fun than the workshop, and probably has fewer swear words.

Here’s how to get the Sweetspot Pricing book and the resource pack…

The post Workshop in Brighton – Getting your price right appeared first on The Joy of Business.

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No one knows what’s happening. No one understands Brexit anyway. But there are ways to protect your business from the negative impact of Brexit.

And by now, we’re all bored of trying to work out what’s going on with votes in Parliament, Teresa May, Corbyn and all of the rest of them. It’s like an unfunny comedy show that has been running for years. Except that Brexit is also scary because we don’t know what the impact will be.

Whether you think Brexit is a good idea and you can’t wait for it to get going, or you are marching for a People’s Vote to try to stop it altogether, you still have your business to think about. 41 per cent of UK businesses have done zero planning or preparation for Brexit. Probably because we don’t know what form it might take, or what we should do to prepare our companies if it does happen.

You can’t do anything to change what’s happening in the news. So, let’s stop watching that comedy show, and try out some of these ideas to protect your business from the negative impacts of Brexit.

Here we go…

What you can do

Let’s look at some of the potential negative impact of Brexit to your business so you can start protecting your business now.

The most obvious one is that there’s a slow down in the UK economy. That’s already happening – we’re looking at 0.18% growth just now, with 1.9% inflation.

Yeah, yeah, boring figures. What does that really mean for my business?

In practice, this means that your customers are likely to be spending less money. What I’m seeing is that my clients who sell to big companies are having to wait for longer for decisions from their clients. And clients who are selling to consumers are having to work harder to get the same level of sales.

No one knows whether Brexit might cause a recession, but we want you to be prepared for this either way. In the 2007 recession, the businesses who did well were the ones who had some cash in the bank and were able to quickly change the way they did business.

Brexit proof your business tip 1

Build up some cash in your business account now. This will mean that you can wait out any storm because you can still pay the bills, even if the number of clients or projects slows down. This will help protect your business from the negative impact of Brexit.

And, the businesses which did well in the last recession were the ones which were able to invest because they had some cash behind them. They were in great shape once the economy started moving again, and had a head start on their growth plans.

Tip 2 – Get some different customers

If you currently only sell in the UK, think about getting some new customers from overseas. It might be that the UK economy goes the way of Greece or Spain, healthy economies which ground to a halt in only a few months. The companies which survived there are the ones who were selling internationally, so their customers were in stronger economies, while their costs at home were kept low.

We don’t want you to be at risk if the UK economy goes wobbly.

Can you start selling to the other English speaking countries in the world? Maybe it’s time to start thinking about offering your services in the US and Canada. I’ve just started working with one company in India, and another in Hong Kong, and I’m going to push for more of this to Brexit proof the Joy of Business.

If thinking about how to protect your business from the impacts of Brexit gets you started on selling more abroad, this might well be good for your business anyway. Creating more opportunities for some exciting new customers is a good thing, no matter what happens with Brexit.

Ironically, some of the strongest economies and the ones which will still be easiest to export to are in the EU. Don’t write these countries off. It might become more challenging to export to the EU if Brexit goes ahead, and maybe you’ll to pay tariffs to sell your goods and services there, but it won’t be impossible.

Which brings us on to tip number 3…

Some practical tricks to have up your sleeve

Some of the discussion about what post-Brexit Britain would look like has looked at potential bottlenecks at UK ports as lorries full of exports try to clear a new customs process if we go out of the single market. Or going through the non-EU passport control section into France, rather than just whooshing through on the Eurostar.

I have no idea if this is going to happen, but maybe you can move away from the world of physical products and escape all of this. And cut your costs and sell more at the same time.


If you sell services, you don’t need to be physically present for those client meetings. I changed the way I work and became a 90% online business advisor a couple of years ago. Which means I can sell my business coaching and programmes overseas, to Hong Kong, India and Slovenia with just a bit of thinking about time zones. It’s made my business much more efficient, and clients seem to like it too. And that definitely means I have some protection from the negative impacts of Brexit.

Some goods are always going to need to be moved about physically. If you make artisan jam, your customer in Slovenia is not going to be interested in a digital version. But, maybe you can avoid the lorry queues post-Brexit even if what you sell has to be physical.

Wendy Ward has done this successfully with her sewing patterns. She now sells globally and gives her customers a choice of a pdf pattern they can download, or a paper pattern. The pdfs automatically do well for her in the US and Europe.

Maybe you can make a digital version of your product like Wendy, and increase sales while expanding into new markets. And reducing the need to hold stock or supplies.

Or can you licence your design for someone else to sell it into their home market? If you make specialist motor parts, pens or cleaning products, can you get someone else to do all the hard work of selling them in another country, based on your specification?

Setting up a joint venture based on licencing your intellectual property rather than the goods themselves could be a very lucrative way forward for your business.

And while you’re going virtual…

UK businesses are already finding it difficult to find staff because there are less EU citizens here to choose from when recruiting. And some companies now have people leaving because they are uncertain of their future in the UK.  Given that it’s already challenging to find high-quality staff, this trend is going to make life a lot more complicated.

So why not make your company virtual and be able to choose applicants from anywhere in the world, so you can be sure of getting the best quality candidates? Maybe you can start with some of your existing staff and set up systems so they can work from home and get more done, so it’s all ready for your next appointment.

The other business benefits from this are potentially huge. You don’t need to pay for office space for all your staff, people are more productive when they’re not crowded into an office full of other people interrupting them, and you’ll get some peace and quiet to get things done. Plus staff love this trust, freedom and flexibility. And maybe you could attract some great people who don’t need to be paid Brighton or London rates.

There are legal rules about how you can and can’t have people working for you from abroad, so do get specialist advice on contracting workers correctly.

Why not move your company to the EU?

This is what hundreds of companies are already doing. They’re either setting up sister companies in other EU locations or moving the whole thing to Paris or Amsterdam. This might be worth thinking about if you’re serious about the need to protect your business from the negative impact of Brexit.

The Financial Times reports that Amsterdam will soon be the leading English speaking capital of the EU. And one of my clients who is moving to Amsterdam to be with her partner (nothing to do with Brexit) reports that the city is full of UK companies who have relocated there in the last 18 months.

By the way, if you’re going to do this, I’d probably avoid Amsterdam as it’s nearly as expensive as London. Other European cities are available.

How I can help

This article has come from my experience of helping ambitious owners of small businesses to make their companies more successful. And it’s based on 18 years of experience of doing just this.

If you’d like help with moving into new countries or new markets, making your company into a virtual organisation, or generally protecting your business from the negative impact of Brexit, we should have a (virtual) coffee and chat. Here’s how to make that happen.

The post How to protect your business from going bust because of Brexit appeared first on The Joy of Business.

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I’m looking for a talented enthusiastic content marketing manager to join the Joy of Business team for 2.5 days per week

We are a small virtual team, so you may be in Brighton where the founder Julia Chanteray is based, or anywhere in the world. You might be returning to work after having a break to have children, working part-time while you travel, or want a steady contract to balance the rest of your freelancing work.

We’re committed to flexible working with a strong ethos of learning and development. You can arrange the hours you work to be balanced with the rest of your life, including working reduced hours during term time if required.

This position will start in June 2019.

What does the job involve?

The Joy of Business uses a content marketing approach to bring in new clients and this is developing all the time. We use a mixture of blogging, SEO and video to attract people, and then provide tons of value through email nurture and great content.

You’ll be working on:
  • Content strategy for blogging
  • Developing lead magnets and building the email list
  • Email marketing flows
  • Video marketing
  • A product launch
  • Automating the sales process using online tools
  • Managing the Facebook ads campaign
  • SEO, writing meta descriptions and researching key words
I’m looking for someone who is:
  • A good writer who can adapt to the Joy of Business tone of voice
  • A very high standard of literacy and tonnes of visual and written creativity
  • A brilliant editor, who can take my copy for editing and improve it
  • Knowledgeable about content marketing strategy
  • Interested in small business
  • Wants to be involved with a progressive company with clear ethics and values
  • Comfortable and proficient with using online/cloud-based software and able to learn new skills quickly
  • Extremely detail oriented, no typos allowed
  • Comfortable with different forms of content and how they fit together, eg, blogs, videos, quizzes, surveys etc
  • Able to manage your own workload, and prioritise tasks
  • Able to work on your own and without supervision
  • Committed to learning new skills, ideas and software
Typical job activities

This role is very varied, so on any particular day you might be:

  • Proofing copy for blogs, books, and products
  • Designing course handouts
  • Uploading blog posts and finding images
  • Designing e-books
  • Improving the SEO on an old blog post
  • Setting up an email automation series
  • Monitoring FB ads
  • Running a closed Slack group for course participants
Practical details

Office hours are 10-6, Monday to Friday, UK time.  The hours of work will be 18.5 hours per week, and these can be worked as flexible as you wish.  If you’re Brighton based, you may be working part of the time from Platform 9 in Hove, or you may be entirely virtual, checking in with me and the team by Zoom and email.

You have the option of applying for this as a salaried role, paid through a UK company, where you need to be eligible to work in the UK/EU, or you can apply for this role as a self-employed contractor, so you’ll need to be actually self-employed with other clients.


2.5 days per week or 18.5 hours per week, flexible working.

Salary range – 25 – 30k pa pro rata (ie, half full time)

How to apply

Please complete this form to let me know you’re interested. I like to have everything in the same place, with a lovely automated process, so please only use the form, don’t email or call me.

powered by Typeform

The post Vacancy – Content Marketing Manager appeared first on The Joy of Business.

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Productised services (or productised consultancy) is a replacement for traditional consulting. It’s the opposite of the billable hours model but doesn’t have all the investment cost and difficulties of selling full-on products.

Here’s how the productised services business model works.

Productised services is just a set of services you do in a set way. You decide how you can best meet your clients’ needs and wrap up your answer to their problems in one particular way.  This makes it easy for them to just pick up your services and get going with them.

Like a box of chocolates, you package up your services so people can choose what they want and get going.

As a business model it’s a bit different to the traditional divide between products and services. One person described it as non-binary, in the same way that non-binary people are a bit different from the traditional divide between men and women. And given how many people seem to be coming out as non-binary, we might see a whole lot more businesses coming out with productised services.

You have a few options as to how you put together your productised services offering.

Productised services packages

This is where you package up what you do and offer it as the solution to a particular set of client problems. You might offer a choice of different packages, or just one.

My 2-hour strategy sessions are like this. The people who book these have a particular business challenge they want to get some advice on, such as how to give away shares to a key member of staff or to get me to check over their pricing strategy.

They don’t need my ongoing business coaching because they just have one thing they want my help with. And they definitely don’t need me pitching all kinds of full-on help with running their business and charging them for dozens of hours of consultancy time.

They can click on the strategy session button, pay me £300 and schedule a time for us to meet up online. Job done.

Productised consulting – outcomes only

You’ll notice a theme here of how you can make products of your consultancy services.Traditional consultancy is based on the billable hours business model where the client pays for every hour that you work for them.

This is a hassle for you as the consultant. You have to always be filling in your timesheet, and thinking of ways to increase the number of billable hours you can charge for. This isn’t very satisfying for many of the intelligent people I work with, as they don’t want to charge by the hour. The satisfaction of the work for them is about achieving the right outcome for the client. Coming up with the elegant solution, not maximising the number of hours they’re on the job.

That’s why clients laugh in recognition when I tell them that we have to get them out of the prostitute business model of the billable hours.

Outcomes only productised consulting is one way out of this dilemma so you can concentrate on achieving the outcomes for your clients. It works very well when your customers are paying you for something only you can provide – the sum of your experience and expertise so you can give them the cool new way of looking at the problem.

An example of outcomes only productised consulting

My pal Ian helps companies to move forward on tech projects. Ian goes into a company where they want to streamline their sales process or develop a new SaaS product and spends some time with them every week. He helps them get organised and deal with the tech challenges. And he does research, a bit of coding and brings in other talented people.

What Ian doesn’t do is stay around for longer than he’s needed, or become a team leader or manager. He could do – many of these companies would love to have him permanently. But he’d wants to be able to do several projects at once, and spread himself around a bit.

His clients don’t care if he’s there for an hour or 20 hours each week. What they want is someone who will help them get to the end point, the bit where they can sell their new SaaS product and make money, or stop losing potential sales because their sales process is leaky.

How you can be like Ian

It takes a little bit of bottle to be able to sell like this. You do need to believe in yourself. Or at least act like you do. And you do need to have put the time into developing above average skills. If you are inexperienced or just starting out, this wouldn’t necessarily be the productised consulting package I’d recommend for you.

But, for many people this is exactly the right way to make the most of your skills. You get great results for your clients and get paid at a good rate.

I’ve helped quite a few clients put together a marketing plan to position their business in this way. And to set their sweetspot price to make this all worthwhile. If this sounds like your ideal way of working, let’s have a chat about how to make that transition.

Recurring productised services

The third option with productised services is to do your thing for your clients on an ongoing basis, but in a structured way with clear boundaries. This makes is different from the retainer business model.

Here’s an example of recurring productised services

Imagine that you are a Facebook ads expert. Your productised service is a monthly management service to put together Facebook ads for your clients. You agree in advance with them how much they want to spend, and you spend your time looking for ways for your clients to get better results with their Facebook ads but by spending less money. Nice selling point, when every other Facebook ads manager is selling their services on a proportion of the ad spend.

You’ve done lots of Facebook ads before, so you know how long it will take on average to do a campaign for a new client, and how much will be needed as upfront pre-loaded work, and how much time it will take you in subsequent months.

And off you go. You’re selling something a certain group of people need. And you know how many you can take on, so you can set your sweetspot price for each package that you sell.

Why would you want to switch to productised services?

I have two good reasons why you might want to switch entirely to productised services, or at least start to try them out as your introductory product.

Reason number one – it’s good for your clients. Clients want certainty. They want to know what they’re buying, how much it costs and know that they’re covered. They don’t want to get ripped off, but they also don’t want to have to sign off your time sheet or agree to an increase in the number of hours each time you do a bit more or a bit less work for them. Working through the productised services business model means that your clients know what they’re getting and how it all works.

Reason number two – it’s good for you. Productised services can mean that you can charge more money, which means you make more money and have more fun. And because you are being super clear with your clients, you can do this in an ethical way, without ripping anyone off. And you can have more lovely clients to work with because offering a productised service means that you can stand out from your competitors. You can be confident, clear, and your marketing can focus on the problems you can solve for your clients. Which should be the basis of all great marketing after all.

Want some support to get going with the transition to productised services?

Sometimes it really helps to get someone else’s perspective on how you package up what you sell. Not mention getting some help in assessing the right price to charge for those packages, and working out how to sell lots of them.

Here are some ways I can help with that:

1. If you’re making the change from traditional billable hours consulting to productised services and want to spend a couple of hours going over your proposed packages, you can book a couple of hours with me to make sure you’ve got this covered. Here’s how to book a one-off strategy session with me

2. If you’d like to talk about getting ongoing one to one business coaching for repositioning and pivoting your business, here’s how to get together for a coffee and cake, either in person in Brighton, or online if you’re somewhere else in the world.

3. Getting the right business model is a big part of the Remarkable Business programme I run. Check out when Remarkable Business is next scheduled here…

Photo credits

Linda Sondergaard, Brunno Tozzo from Unsplash, Ruth Hartnup from Flickr Creative Commons

The post Productised services – the alternative to being a consultant appeared first on The Joy of Business.

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This is a guest blog by Vanessa O’Shea from CultureShapers. Vanessa has just published her book Shaping Your Workplace Culture, so it’s great to get the highlights here.

Over to Vanessa…

Whether it’s those cool people at Google with their nap pods and free haircuts, or media companies with beer o’clock on Fridays, we know that culture is important.

But what does it actually mean? How do we build a good culture within our businesses? And, as a small business, is it worth it?

Culture 101

Culture essentially describes the environment in which behaviours are encouraged, or not tolerated. It’s the result of a group’s values, beliefs, taboos, written and unwritten rules.

Perks are appreciated, but I think there is a more fundamental way of shaping your culture; below, I have outlined my suggested steps to shaping a good culture. As an aid, I have used a small but growing techie business based in Brighton to illustrate each step. See if you can guess who they are (the answer is at the end).

1. Know your mission

If your staff team know what your mission is, they will be able to link what they do, to the business achieving its mission. It’s a sure way to find meaning in your work. Mission statements can be literal or broad as in this example:

Example: “to be a company that our customers love working with, and our employees love working for.”

2. Identify your values.

Your values are your principles that are needed to help you achieve your mission. You use your values as the filter through which everything you do, decisions, actions, behaviours. One good way to identify your values is to identify one person in the organisation who reflects the company well and identify what their qualities are (there are some other ideas outlined in my book, p.51)

Example: “Relationship – to create long-term relationships with our clients.”

3. Put them to action – embed them.

Being a company that follows through on what it declares is key. We believe to be true, what we experience rather than what we are told. This is how you develop a culture that reflects your values.

Example “Ask job applicants to complete a strengths questionnaire. Applicants that have relationship building strengths have a much better chance of joining the team.” 

4. Develop ‘culture-shaping’ leaders

As we know, it’s the boss who sets the culture in a company – for a positive or negative effect. There are some key qualities that I have observed over the years, as being key to influencing the culture in a positive way. They include qualities such as resilience, communication, decision making and emotional intelligence. Here is how our techie company nurtures empowerment and emotional intelligence:

Example: “We coach each other informally and in 360 reviews.”

Your culture will determine how valued, appreciated, and ultimately how productive your staff are. As to whether it’s worth building a strong culture as a small business, the way that Brightec (our mystery business) keep winning awards (6 industry awards either won or shortlisted in 2018) is evidence that investing in your culture brings business success.

For more info on the impact of certain cultures on business success, a 4-stage model on shaping culture and how to train yourself/your managers on the seven key qualities needed to create a good culture, check Vanessa’s new book Shaping Your Workplace Culture 

The post How small businesses can create a good workplace culture appeared first on The Joy of Business.

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One of my clients asked me for some recommendations for advanced marketing books during one of our business advice sessions, I had to think carefully because she already knows tons about marketing, but I came up with this list for her.

My recommendations for advanced marketing books

So, here are the best marketing books I’ve found which are a bit more advanced and ideal for when you want to take your skills to the next level.

They are all small business marketing books, rather than many advanced marketing books which are more for big corporates.

Robert Cialdini’s Influence

Influence is the classic book on influencing and persuasion tactics in marketing. It’s written pre-internet, but there’s tons of stuff here that is very applicable to online marketing. It’s brilliant, just brilliant, and I use Cialdini’s ideas all the time when helping clients develop marketing campaigns.

I’ve written my thoughts on how to apply these ideas for small businesses – here’s the one about the photocopier queue and the one about the reciprocity principle.

And if you get my exclusive tips and ideas by email, when you read Cialdini’s Influence, you’ll recognise my story of “The Business Advisor and the Three Cocktail Shakers”.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

Robert Cialdini’s Pre-suasion

Pre-suasion is the follow-up book to Influence and considers much more about how you can get people ready to buy from you. It made me think about some new techniques for my sales funnel

When you’re working on building your audience/tribe for online marketing or want some great ideas to increase your conversion when selling face to face, this is powerful stuff. Very much an advanced marketing book, but a very easy and compelling read.

Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini

Chip and Dan Heath – Made to Stick

You want your brand and your marketing to be remembered, right? This excellent book deconstructs stories that stick in people’s heads, such as urban myths and scientific “facts” which are untrue, to find out why they stick in people’s heads.

And then they give you a great formula, so you can write your blogs and emails so that they stick in the minds of your potential customers. Very useful for content marketing and brand building.

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

Ian Brodie – Email Persuasion

A highly practical book about email marketing, based on Ian’s own experience of growing a list and converting those people to buy from him using email.

The book is written for Ian’s audience of coaches and consultants, but the practical parts of it can easily be used if you’re using email marketing for, say, e-commerce.

Email Persuasion is a starter book for email marketing, so doesn’t go too much into more advanced techniques such as tagging and segmentation. But I’ve included it in the advanced marketing books section here because even the most sophisticated marketers seem to ignore email marketing. Given that email marketing can be much more useful in your sales funnel than, say, social media, developing your skills here can boost your business a lot.

Copyhackers – Conversion Copywriting 101/10x courses

Not a book. Conversion Copywriting is a free online course on…well, conversion copywriting. I’ve also bought and worked through the 10x emails and 10x launches courses, which are only open at certain times of the year.

I’ve included this as it’s probably easier to learn the copywriting skills you need for marketing from an online course than a book, so this is a better option to get going with getting to be a great writer.

And when they open up one of the paid for marketing based courses, do invest in it if you can. And work through it. Getting good at this could change your business forever, and save you a fortune in paying copywriters.

Seth Godin – This is Marketing

This is Seth’s latest book, and I’ve just started reading it. If you haven’t read the others, begin with Purple Cow (here’s my starter synopsis) and go through Permission Marketing and We are All Weird.

The last two are out of date in some ways, they talk about companies which have gone bust, and he wrote them before social media was invented. But the principles are still valid – have conversations with your audience, stand out from the crowd, build your brand for your tribe and not the lowest common denominator because you don’t need everyone and their dog to buy from you.

This is Marketing by Seth Godin

Wayne Baker – Achieving Success Through Social Capital

This book changed my thoughts on networking and tribe building a lot and helped me to develop much more of a system for developing my social capital.

A little more challenging to read as this is from an academic perspective, rather than a business book, but not difficult.

It is invaluable when you want to sell using a networking strategy, and has tons of tips on how to make the most of the time and effort you invest in building networks of people who can help your business and buy from you. Definitely one of the advanced marketing books, and one to make you think.

Achieving Success Through Social Capital

David McCandless – Knowledge is Beautiful

Knowledge is Beautiful is a book about presenting big data through graphics. So why is it in my advanced marketing books section?

Because sometimes you want that edge. That different way of presenting your company, your brand or the impact of your products. Or you want to get across that you do your thing better than your competitors.

And because putting your information out using graphics is an excellent way for people to remember you – maybe it’s part of your Purple Cow. Representing your information in this way won’t be for everyone, but it’s worth thinking about whether you could include this in your marketing in some way.

And, even if you can’t, or this approach isn’t right for you, get this book anyway because it’s beautiful and will give you some way of reflecting on what you do and thinking differently.

Knowledge is Beautiful by David McCandless

Other books for the advanced business owner

If you’ve got this far, you must be the kind of business owner who likes reading as a way of learning more about how to help you your business to succeed. These books aren’t small business marketing books, but they will help you to develop your business.

My Sweetspot Pricing book will help you to get your pricing right and has a whole bunch of advanced marketing tactics to make sure that you can sell at the price you need to charge.

Tales of Everyday Business Folk is a gentle story of one woman’s business journey, with lots of points that I’m sure you’ll recognise from your adventures in business.

Your recommendations?

What would you recommend to add to this list? If you were talking to my lovely client about some great small business marketing books, for someone who already had the basics covered, what would you recommend them to read? Drop me a line and let me know which advanced marketing books you would want me to recommend to my clients.

Transparency note

If you follow the links above, it is possible that Amazon will pay me as much as 40p when you buy one of these books. Last year I earned enough from this to buy me 7 bars of quality chocolate. Feel free to buy them from wherever you want though, or get them from the library. I can do without extra chocolate. I think.

Some more good ideas for your business?

I send out regular ideas, tips and thoughts by email with exclusive content. You can get my weekly business stories about what I’ve learnt on my own business journey and from clients here

Photo credit to Paul Schafer on Unsplash

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Many years ago, I was part of a lovely fast-growing tech company worth millions. Then I was fired, unemployed and wondering what on earth had happened to my life. That’s the short version.

Here’s what happened next. You might find it handy next time something disastrous happens.

Sitting under a tree

I had lots of time on my hands since I didn’t have a job any more. So, I used to go to the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh a lot and hang out there.

It’s beautiful, and it’s free, which is great when you’re suddenly unemployed and sad. I found a particular group of trees, a ring of redwoods which became my spot to go to and feel safe and think.

That summer, I did a lot of writing so that I could get all my confused feelings out. I ended up taking part of what I was writing and putting it into a special section of my Filofax. You can pretty much tell that this happened in 1999 when I say that I had a Filofax and a PalmPilot.

That section was headed up “Lessons Learned”.

The point of the “Lessons Learned” section

Most of what I was writing was just a jumble of self-pity and “why me?” along with a lot of anger towards my one-time business partners. But the lessons learned section was incredibly useful.

I still keep my notes from that time, and I’ve carried on writing down lessons I’ve learned. The list from that time included things like:

  • Never try to run a company which is undercapitalised
  • Remember that people turn weird when large sums of money are involved
  • Cash flow is the most important
  • Be glad that you didn’t invest your house in this, cos it wouldn’t have saved the business, and you’d be homeless now
And the big one
  • It’s only money. You can always earn some more money.

These are valuable lessons I’ve used dozens of times since then, in my businesses and by sharing these with my clients in my business advice sessions.

Lessons Learned doesn’t have to be for the big things

I’ve continued with my lessons learned section, and nowadays it lives in my bullet journal planner. Here are some recent ones:

  • “Balancing your laptop on a fruit bowl does not work. Buy a laptop stand” From my trip to Berlin in the summer when my Zoom calls were a bit wobbly and my desk was less than ergonomic.
  • “Getting up early is only beneficial if you start doing things when you wake up. Otherwise, it’s a bit depressing”. From noticing my change from a night owl type to a skylark type.
Why this is useful

The lessons learned technique is helpful in a couple of ways.

Firstly, it takes those negative emotions like, “aargh, I’ve lost everything I’ve worked for”, or “this bloody Airbnb doesn’t have any books to balance my laptop on” and transforms them into a neat package of something useful.

This takes some of the negativity away, leaving you better equipped to deal with whatever joke life is playing on you.

And writing down the lessons learned helps to stop you from making those mistakes again. In fact, you can see that many of these translate into things to do. Or things not to do.

Here’s the lovely laptop stand I bought, and here’s how to get in touch if you want to talk about the many many lessons I’ve learned over the years about how to manage cash flow in a business.

How I help

My work is all about helping people with small businesses to build and develop bigger, stronger companies. It’s all about helping people to make more money, and have more fun.

Here are some ways I can help you and your business:

Photo credits to 85fifteen from Unsplash, Jul1_en on Flickr, Skylark by Neil Smith on Flickr and Vervate.

The post The lessons learned technique appeared first on The Joy of Business.

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If you’re not sure that you’re good enough to charge more money, then it can be a good idea to get better at what you do.

If you’re not sure that the software you’ve developed is good enough to price at the top of the market, what do you need to do to make it better?  Are you the best yoga teacher in the world?  Or at least in wherever you live.

Do you make the cutest teddy bears or the best environmental cleaner that you can possibly make?

If your answer is a resounding yes, then skip ahead to the next blogs on marketing to find out how to make yourself look good. If not, here are some thoughts on how to make sure that you’re the best.

Here’s how to get better at what you do Learn more

The people I’ve worked with who have been very successful and charged a lot of money for what they do, are people who have spent a lot of time learning how to do what they do well.

I don’t mean, go and do a degree or an MBA, but watch a YouTube video on sewing techniques to help you make your teddy bear leg seams stronger, take an online course on new programming techniques, go on a super advanced yoga course to find out about extreme breathing techniques.

Learn around your subject

Most people learn about their area of expertise and define that quite narrowly.  But the people who are exceptional (and therefore who can easily justify charging the top prices) tend to learn about all sorts of stuff around their subject.

So, if you want to sell the cutest teddy bears, maybe you need to know about the history of teddy bears, what makes for the highest priced collectable antique bears, and a bit about child psychology and attachment theory.


Malcolm Gladwell says that you need to have done 10,000 hours of something to get good at it.  That’s about ten years of doing 4 hours a day of what you do, every working day. That’s a hell of a long time.

If you’re new at what you do, then get in as much practice as you can. Maybe you are a trainer, find groups that you can train for free, just for the chance to get in a room and do your thing. Or if you make exquisite high-end corsets, you need to do a lot of practice pieces.

Doctors practice suturing on pigs trotters for hours on end before they get to have a go on humans, so think about what is your equivalent of the pig trotter.

Get an advisor

I don’t necessarily mean a business advisor like me (although getting business advice can be a good idea too). Find yourself, someone who is already good at something similar (but maybe non-competitive) and see if you can hang out with them and help out.

A trainer might want to volunteer to co-facilitate at a meeting with someone who trains in a different area, to get the practice of being in the room.  Or she might volunteer to work alongside someone who is experienced in working with a difficult group, such as working with unemployed people who are learning maths.

Hang out with other people who do something similar

It’s often beneficial to be around people who are interested in the same things as you.  If you’re a designer, you might want to join a design networking group, and immerse yourself in the world of people who care about typography.  If you can’t find a similar group near you, find one online or set up a Meet-Up yourself.

How this works in practice

Often, when I suggest this to people, especially if they’re pretty experienced, they can be sceptical. Especially, when I’m effectively telling them to do work for free when we’re supposed to be working on getting them more money.  But, as long as you’re not giving your real work away for free, this strategy works well.

Firstly, you’re getting practice which is always going to make you better at what you do.

Secondly, you’re gaining more confidence (especially if you do things which are slightly outside of your usual way of working like working with a difficult client group).

And you’re establishing a group of people who know you and know your work. So there’s a good chance that they’re going to recommend you for something that you can get paid for.

If you need to get better at the business side of things

My business advice clients come to me because they need some help in getting better at the business side of things.

They might be already doing some of the things I talk about here to get even better at what they sell, but admit that they don’t know how to do the business parts, the marketing, finance and business process elements that go towards having a great business which makes good money for them.

If this sounds like you, and you’d like to have a chat about how we could work together to get your business rolling, here’s how it all works.

You can book a preliminary coffee and cake session (including coffee and cake by Zoom) to talk about whether this is the right help for you, right here.

Photo credit – Rafael Montilla, Erik Brolin and Marlon Lara from Unsplash, and Vervate

The post How to get better at what you do appeared first on The Joy of Business.

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I thought I’d share some of the tips for using Zoom for meetings and conference calls I’ve learnt over the last 18 months.

95% of the time I’m an online business advisor nowadays, so I use Zoom a lot. And because we’re also a virtual team (I’m in Brighton or travelling, and Assima is in Birmingham), our team meetings are on Zoom as well. So, I spend a lot of time in Zoom. Talking into the light coming from my webcam.

What’s Zoom, Julia?

Zoom is like Skype, so you can use it for talking to people online, running meetings, doing webinars and conference calls. They have roughly the same functionality, so if you’ve used Skype you can easily use Zoom, but there’s one big difference. Zoom works. It works about a thousand times better than Skype. And if you want to have a call of more than just two people, Zoom works about a million times better than Skype.

What I’ve been using Zoom for

I started off just switching my coaching sessions for people outside of Brighton from Skype to Zoom. The quality of the calls is much better – I never have to switch my video off to be able to hear my client nowadays.

But then I started to use it for much more. This article is to share some of the tips for using Zoom for larger meetings and conference calls, plus how to run workshops using Zoom. I’m pretty sure you can work out the one to one calls for yourself.

I’ve used Zoom for calls where my client was in one country and the person she wanted to bring in as a business partner was in another. I did a sales meeting with the two directors of a company, where they both worked from home in different cities.

I’ve interviewed people for my blog, recorded some videos of me talking to the camera, and run a weekly team meeting for a project with 12 people on Zoom. I use Zoom for the fortnightly workshops in my Remarkable Business programme, and I record our sessions and put them up on a members-only area of the website afterwards.

I’ve run discussion workshops with larger groups, some of which had 45 participants. And I’m going to be running some free workshops next year, which I reckon will attract more than 100 at a time.

Here are some tips from what I’ve learnt so far: Tips for using Zoom for a meeting or conference call for three or four people.
  • Give people instructions for using Zoom beforehand, so they know that they will probably have to download some software before the meeting.
  • Be prepared for some small talk or a very general welcome and introduction at the beginning because not everyone will join in on time. If you set the meeting time for 10 am, some people will still be downloading Zoom and getting set up at 10.05am, and some people will already be in the meeting.
  • Be there on time, maybe a couple of minutes early so you can be there to welcome people. Otherwise, any early people will be looking at a message saying “waiting for the host to start the meeting” and then get bored and go off to check Facebook.
  • Remember that some people will be using Zoom on their phone and will be wandering around their office or putting the kettle on while you talk. That can be disconcerting at first, so be prepared.
Using Zoom for  larger meetings and conference calls

When you start using Zoom for a larger group of people, like any meeting the dynamic changes as you add more people. Three or four people can just have a chat, and unless someone has terrible manners the flow of conversation will usually regulate itself.

When you get above this number, you need to steer things a little more, or it can get out of hand. On Zoom, people can’t make the same signals with their body language as they can in a meeting, so you need to be more tuned into what’s going on.

It is more difficult for someone to start talking over someone else, or to get into a shouting match, as Zoom doesn’t know which person to give the mic to. Which I think is an advantage compared to real life meetings. And, as the host, you can mute someone if they’re objectionable. I’ve never had to do this, but a couple of times where I’ve had exceptionally opinionated people on the call, I’ve found it reassuring to have this in my back pocket.

Tips or using Zoom in workshops

I’ve found it really useful to set some ground rules before getting going. In some of my larger calls, I used the same sort of ground rules I’d use if I were running a formal meeting.

For one discussion meeting with a dozen people, I got everyone to agree to abide by Chatham House confidentiality rules, and I explained people would need to put their hands up to speak.

I ran one where I knew feelings were running high on a particular subject, and I reminded everyone that they had to be kind to one another. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it calmed things down, and everyone got to say what they wanted to.

The rule about putting your hand up works well. In a real-life meeting, someone can catch your eye, or start speaking just after another person has finished. This doesn’t work so well in Zoom, as there aren’t the same social signals.

Getting people to put their hands up to speak, even in a group of just six participants, makes it a lot easier to notice when someone wants to talk. You can also keep an eye on the quiet people, and make sure they can get in to contribute as well. These are often the folk who have the good ideas, so you want to be able to pick up on when they do want to speak.

Using Zooms chat function

Zoom also has a chat function where people can type in messages or put up links to websites. Mostly, people use this in a super polite way, maybe to say bye if they have to leave the meeting early or to give a useful website as part of the discussion.

I’ve had a couple of more raucous meetings where two of the participants started a second conversation in the chat. I think they were trying to get more airtime in the meeting so that they could monopolise the discussion.

I have to say this threw me for a minute or two, and I couldn’t concentrate on what people were saying, who had their hand up, and these two going on with their chat messages. Especially as what they were saying was pretty controversial.

I had to ask people on the spur of the moment not to run side conversations in the chat. Be warned about this, as it might happen to you, especially if you’re running larger conference calls.

Tips for using Zoom for webinars or teaching online

If you’re running a webinar using Zoom, the focus is usually on you and what you’re talking about. That’s what they’ve come along for.

If you’re going to do this lecture style where it’s you talking, maybe with some slides and the other people listening, you might want to mute all the other people from the start. This has the advantage of keeping the background noise levels down, especially as not everyone realises that if they don’t mute themselves, everyone else is going to hear them typing furiously or eating a bag of crisps while they watch.

I did have one person who forgot to mute herself and joined our workshop on her phone while she was on the bus. I was distracted from explaining different kinds of business models because we could hear all the bus announcements from her journey.

If you want to run a more participatory, workshop-style webinar, Zoom works well for this as well. You can even put people into separate break out rooms to do an exercise for a while, just like if you were running a workshop in real life.

If you have more than, say, eight people in the workshop, you probably want to get people to put their hands up to ask a question. And if you want them to speak, you’ll have to ask them by name, just turning to them or looking at them as you would in a regular workshop won’t work.

Other tips for using Zoom for meetings and conference calls

Don’t forget to make sure people can see you. If you’re sitting with a window behind you, the other people will only see a silhouette of you.

Do check your hair and appearance in a mirror before the call. I see a lot of people jump at the sight of themselves at the beginning of the call, and then start smoothing out their hair. No spot pushing, even if the other people haven’t arrived yet.

Remember to look at the camera sometimes, not just the screen. Looking at the camera makes for a more honest connection because then you are effectively looking into someone’s eyes.

When other people are talking, amplify your body language to give clear signals. You might shake your head, or give a thumbs up. Or just remember to smile more. That tells people that you’re engaged. You need to do a bit more of this on Zoom than if you were in the room for real.

If you’re going to share the screen, either to show a powerpoint presentation or to demo something to the others, be aware that Zoom will show anything that’s on your screen if you click on “screen”.

It’s probably good to close down any windows which you wouldn’t want other people to see before the meeting, just in case. You might not want to share your bank account, cat videos or your email to your mum.

Make more of an effort than usual to be the host, even if you’re not hosting the meeting. The actual host will appreciate this, as she’s probably busy getting her notes ready or checking if everyone’s here.

Here are some ways I can help you and your business:

Photo credits to Zoom; webcam, desktop phone and hand by Pxhere;  freestocks.org on Unsplash

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Here’s a guide to giving shares to your spouse, i.e. your wife, husband or civil partner. It’s just for business owners with limited companies who want to give shares to their partner.

If you want to give some shares in a big company like BP to your partner, this isn’t the right guide for you. If you’re looking for a more general guide to giving shares to an employee or a director of the business, you probably want to read How to Give Away Shares in Your Business.

Let’s look at who you might want to give shares to.

Giving shares to your spouse, wife, husband or civil partner

Giving shares to your spouse is the most frequent situation here. It’s usually where one person has set up a business, and their husband or wife is working for the company.

They might be working all week in your business, doing a bit of admin to help out. Or they may not be working in the company at all because they are busy with their own business, job or looking after children.

Giving shares to family members or children

There are a couple of reasons why you might want to give shares to family members. It might be that your son or daughter is working in the business and you want to give them some shares now because you want them to take over eventually.

Or you might want to give shares to your children so that you can pay them dividends from your business.

I’ve seen a few people want to do this because of the increased tax on dividends for the company owner. Why not share out the tax burden, especially when your children might not be using all of their allowances. And some people want to give shares to their children because they are planning for the long-term and want to avoid inheritance tax.

Or you might want to get your grandad, auntie or cousin Bertie to put some money into your company, and you’re giving shares to this family member in return for the money they’re investing.

Giving shares to your partner who you’re not legally married to

Maybe like me, you’re one of those who has never bothered to go to the trouble of getting legally married, but you’re with a long-term partner. You might want to give shares to your partner for the same reasons as you would want to give shares to your spouse that you’re legally married to. But although we think of this as the same situation, HMRC will see this as very different.

Giving shares to employees or an investor

This is completely different, and if you’re thinking about giving shares to employees or an investor, you need to read this article instead. Unless your employee or investor is your wife.

Giving shares to family members when you set up the company

This is the simplest way to do it. When you set up the company, you decide that you’re going to give some shares to family members. There’s no tax implication because the company has no value when you first set it up, so you’re not giving anyone any assets that HMRC would be interested in. And you can allocate the shares in the same paperwork that you use to set up the limited company.

But if you’re just about to set up your limited company and blissfully give 50% of your shares to your spouse, children, or Uncle Bertie, do read the next bit first.

Do you really want to give shares to your spouse?

I’ve never met your wife/husband/partner/eldest son, so I can’t comment on your relationship. They might be the loveliest, most loyal wonderful person ever. I hope they are. But…all of the 130,473 couples who got divorced last year probably thought that their new wife or husband was the loveliest, most loyal person ever when they got married. And as those stats are even higher for couples who live together and then split up, we do know that these setups don’t last forever.

Your company might last for longer than your marriage.

Sorry. But it gets worse.

You can’t split up from your children; they’re always going to be your child. But you also don’t know if you’re going to want your son or daughter to be working in the company forever. Or that you’re going to want to pay them dividends every year.

One of my clients gave his daughter shares in his company some years ago so he could give her dividends while she was at university. He thought it would be a smart way of helping her out financially. And a way of saving some tax of course. But then she graduated and got her career going, and now she earns more than he does. But he still has to pay her dividends, because he didn’t set it up in the right way. See below, when I talk about A and B classes of shares.

Very often people give shares to family members because they want to be generous, or because they think there’s a tax advantage in doing this. But it’s worth considering this carefully before you give away 50% of the business. You can’t easily take the shares back once you give shares to a family member.

Giving shares to your spouse when you’re already trading

If you didn’t give any shares to your spouse or other family members when you first set the company up, but you decide that you want to now, there are few things to think about first.

The classic situation is where you’re making some money from the company, and your partner is working part-time, or looking after your children. And they’re not using all of their tax allowance. You, on the other hand, are paying yourself the maximum dividends from the company before having to pay higher rate tax.

So, you start to eye up your partner’s unused tax allowance and think that you could take more out of the company if you could give shares to your partner. And they could use that to pay off the mortgage or buy you both a holiday.

It used to be that you would claim that your wife (it usually was this way round) worked in the company, give her some shares, and then pay her a salary and some dividends. Saving you lots of tax, getting your mortgage paid off faster and you could enjoy the holiday your wife had bought for you both.

But it’s not so simple, here’s why

I know people still do this because they tell me about it in the pub. But it’s not so simple nowadays. If your partner or child doesn’t truly work in the company, HMRC can challenge this, and you might have to prove that they work there.

In this situation, especially if your company has some decent profits, you need to get a good accountant to advise you on how to give shares to your wife, covering what proportion of the company you can allocate to them. Plus, the level of dividends and salary you can pay out to them. Get your accountant to do the sums for you to see if it’s worth doing.

If your partner works in the business, you can legitimately give them shares and pay them a salary based on the work they do. Some people have tried to reduce their corporation tax bill by claiming their partner works in the business and paying them a salary for some imaginary work. HMRC know all these dodges and look out for companies doing this, so don’t try this one.

If your partner is a director or company secretary, you may be able to pay them a little bit each year for taking on this responsibility. Remember that making someone a director also gives them a degree of control of your business, so think this one through as well.

Tax on shares you give to your wife, husband or partner

If you’re officially married, you can give shares in your company to your wife or husband and they won’t have to pay any capital gains tax, even if your business is worth serious money. They will have to pay income tax on any dividends you give them from the company, and the amount of tax they will have to pay will depend on how much income they have from elsewhere.

If you’re not officially married, then your beloved might have to pay Capital Gains Tax on those lovely shares you give them in your company. If your business is making a good profit and is worth real money, then HMRC will see you giving something of value to another person. And as we know, whenever something with value changes hands, HMRC want their share. They notice your partner getting more capital, even though in this case, it’s shares, not cash, and they want to charge them Capital Gains Tax.

Here’s a very rough example

If your business is making profits of 80k a year, it might be worth 280k. If you give 25% of the shares to your partner who you’re not married to, HMRC will say that you’ve effectively given them 70k (25% of the 280k). They have made a capital gain in accountant language. They then have to pay HMRC Capital Gains Tax of 10% of 70k less the 11.1k capital gains tax allowance. That works out to 5.9k on their tax bill.

All of these numbers vary a lot according to how your business might be valued, and your partners’ other earnings, so don’t take them as being directly relevant to your situation. Get an accountant to do the working out for you; they love this kind of thing. And they can talk to you about the tax savings of setting up a pension for your partner as well, which you should also take into account.

The thing to think about here is whether it’s worth generating a potential capital gains tax bill by your gift of shares to your partner and if you will save enough money by paying less dividend tax.

Think about what kind of shares you want to give to your family member

Many business owners decide to give class B shares to their spouse, so they can decide year by year how much dividend they pay to them. As the business owner, you usually have class A shares.

If these are the only shares you’ve issued, they will automatically be class A shares. You can decide to give your spouse class B shares so that you don’t automatically have to pay them dividends in precisely the same way as you pay yourself the dividends.

What my client who gave his daughter shares while she was at university, could have done was to allocate her the 15% of the company in class B shares. Then when she had her own money, later on, he could have stopped paying her the dividend, and keep it all for himself. She wouldn’t have minded, because all she wanted was some extra cash while she was at university. The same applies if you want to give shares to your wife, husband or Uncle Bertie.

It keeps your options open.

But, let’s look ahead

Giving shares to a family member isn’t just about being able to give someone dividends. If you give them shares, they will continue to own those shares. And if you want to sell the company, the new owner will probably want to buy all of the shares.

Look ahead to 10 years from now. If you give shares to a family member now, when you come to sell the company, they will still have the shares.

Maybe you sell your business for 10m. Nice. But, say you’ve given 15% of the shares to your partner, instead of getting 10m, you’ll get 8.5m. And your partner will get 1.5m. This might be a good thing, as you’ll be able to use your partner’s capital gains tax allowance and between you, you’ll pay less tax. Or you won’t care, you’ve got 8.5m.

When it might not be so good

There are a couple of horrible things that might happen to think through here. I hope they won’t, but it’s worth just spending a few moments on the worst-case scenarios.

What if you give 15% (or 49%) to your partner, and five years later, you get divorced. They still own the shares, just like they still own the jacket you got them for their birthday.

Or worse. What if you give 15% of the company to your grown-up son. And then (I told you this was horrible) he dies. And in his will, all his property goes to his wife. Now your daughter in law owns 15% of your company. Which you’re just about to sell for 10m.

This may not be a big deal for you. Maybe you’re perfectly happy for your daughter in law to inherit shares in your company if something bad happens to your son. Or for your ex to still own shares after the divorce. But, again, you might want to keep your options open here, just in case your relationships change in the future in a way which you can’t predict at the moment.

Get a shareholders agreement whenever you give shares to a family member

I always recommend getting a shareholders agreement when you give shares to a family member, even if you’re giving shares to your wife or someone very close to you. The shareholder agreement protects you in case anything changes in the future.

Don’t be put off by the hassle of doing this, see it as insurance against bad things happening in the future. The shareholder agreement can be set up so that the shares are automatically returned to you (or to the company) if you’re no longer married, or if someone dies.

Help with working all of this out

Giving shares to your partner or anyone else can be confusing, so it can be useful to talk this over with someone else who has done this a few times. People often come to me for a couple of hours of advice to get all this clear, so they know exactly what they should do.

You can book a 2-hour session with me to get this straight in your head and make sure you have everything right before proceeding.  Here’s how to set up a meeting.

Other helpful articles about how to give shares to others

You might want to also read these articles about shares and equity:

The main article on giving shares to other people – How to give shares in your business

Giving shares and equity away

Getting investment into your business

The difference between share options and shares for small businesses

The big danger in chasing investment

What are growth shares?

The advantages and disadvantages of a share issue

Photo credits to David Everett, Diomari Madular, rawpixel, Toa Heftiba from Unsplash, Elliot Brown from Flickr and Liz Finlayson from Vervate

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