Apart from networking (see below), I use this newsletter to spread the Clarihon 'gospel'. If you know of anyone who might appreciate it, please forward it on to them.
On a technical note, I only have a very limited selection of e-mail readers. If this newsletter doesn't display correctly in yours, please let me know which reader it is, which version and brief details of the problems you see. Thanks in advance.
My ramblings in this issue start with an easy question: How do you get new business?
If you only trade on the net then you rely heavily on your web site, e-mail and Search Engines like Google etc.
If you sell through a high street shop you rely on people coming in through the door and your shop needs to be both accessible and attractive.
What if you sell a service though? Sure, you can use the Internet - or even operate from a shop - but a large part of of your sales and marketing strategy will be getting face to face with potential clients and associates. Much of this might consist of networking - meeting other people in a business or private capacity.
To some people, this is what gives them a buzz from running a business. For others, in terms of enjoyment, it ranks somewhere above visiting the dentist and below sending a cheque to the tax man.
I guess I sit somewhere in the middle. Whereabouts in the middle is determined by the type of networking I'm engaged in. For me, it takes four general forms:
- unstructured. This would include open or 'chatting' sessions, especially before business events. It might also include open or members evenings organised by business groups. The whole event is 'free-form' and informal
- semi-structured. Some breakfasts, lunches and dinners where attendees are encouraged to mingle and chat before and during the meal. I also think of a set seating plan or fixed agenda.
- structured business gatherings. Here the whole event is run to a specific plan and includes seminars, presentations and most breakfast clubs
- serendipity. All other social and business events where I'll meet and chat to other people just because we're there. Networking is not the aim of the event.
Now I might come across as outgoing, lippy, jokey (and plenty of other things I'm sure) but wandering up to people and going 'Hi, I'm Nigel, fly me" (or whatever) doesn't come naturally. Sit me down with a bunch of strangers around a breakfast/lunch/dinner table and it all seems so much easier. Maybe it's the food (a weakness of mine) but I prefer to chat with someone I haven't had to approach, especially if we've introduced ourselves via some sort of 'round table' system.
I guess that's why I've always enjoyed the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) dinners and the Reading Business Club breakfasts (more below). At the former it's open to all but there are set table layouts which change between the main and dessert courses. At the latter there is only one large table and between 15 and 25 members plus invited guests.
Of course I'm missing out by not using the other types of networking styles but at least I do actually get out and do it - and enjoy it too! With the wide variety of networking events available there's something for everyone. All you need to do is find one that suits.....
If you're interested in my experiences of and views on over a dozen networking groups, please e-mail me and I'll give you details.
One man's meat is another man's poison. That seems to be especially true with web sites. In my article Web site design - you can't please everyone! I'll explain what I mean.
Multifunction laser printers - I succumbed (partly on the 'toys for boys' principle) to the lure of a colour multifunction laser printer the other day. There's now a nice shiny Epson Aculaser CX11NF sitting in the corner of my office. With networked printing, fax, scanning and photocopy facilities built in, my wife can now use them all from her office. It cost £500 + VAT but with Epson's £200 cashback I'm only paying £300. I'll let you know how we get on in the next issue.
Latest statistics - A quick update on the latest figures from Thecounter.com. They show that now only 16% of people still use 14"/800 x 600 pixel screens. Over 80% have 17"/1024 x 768 screens or larger still. The day of the week on which most people do their browsing appears to be Monday and Tuesday at 16-17% each. For the rest of the week the figure only varies between 11 and 13%. 88%+ of people browsing the Internet do so with Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), and almost all of those with version 6.0 or above. Most of the rest are using Firefox. Although Firefox is free, more secure and a better browser then IE, there are still some sites that don't work correctly when viewed with it. You can download it from the Firefox site.
Whilst I'm talking about browsers, the latest beta version (2.0) of IE 7 is now available to download from Microsoft.
For those in need of a bit of a boost to their enthusiasm or efficiency, James Butler of Painless Business is offering a complimentary session of business coaching. James is one of the straightest and most positive people I know and his monthly newsletter is a gem - but watch out for the painful puns at the bottom. If he can't get you running back to your desk with a skip in your step after a coaching session, no-one can!
If you could do with some help with your office IT, Axis Business Solutions are worth contacting. They get glowing praise from their clients, give great deals on hardware and have several very nifty gadgets (how about a solar-powered mobile phone charger?). Add in some excellent deals on broadband and business phone lines and Axis are well worth a look.
Tip 1: If you're new to web sites or thinking of having your web site redesigned/rebuilt/updated, here are some words of wisdom to consider .
Tip 2: Following on from tip 1, there's a lot of misinformation available about the benefits of whiz-bang add-ons for web sites. In most cases they're a waste of money and will detract from your site - depite the increase in broadband (see above). This Myths of Web Design article explains further.
Tip 3: If you sell products or services from your site or you collect information from people who browse it (even via e-mail), you should seriously consider having a privacy statement. You might have no intention of selling their details on or to regularly e-mail them with news and offers etc but they don't know that. A simple statement on the page where information is collected, or a visible link to a page where it can be found, will suffice.
Tip 4: When using Internet Explorer 6 with a wheel mouse, you can use it to quickly increase or decrease the size of text. Just hold down the CONTROL key and scroll the wheel up to increase text size. Hold down the CONTROL key and scroll the wheel down to decrease text size.
Reading Business Club
The Reading Business Club meet fortnightly for breakfast at Sonning Golf Club. Memebership is currently restricted to 25 people but guests of members are welcome. Each trade or business area is represented by only one member but overlaps can occur, should this be approved by the affected member(s). There are a wide range of skills and services available through the club and it provides a very supportive framework for guests and members alike.
If you're interested in coming along, please contact the club via the website, www.readingbusinessclub.com.
The club are hosting a Health and Safety seminar at Sonning Golf Club on Thursday July 13th. The cost will be approximately £75 and will include morning & afternoon refreshments and a buffet lunch.
The main presentation will be given by Philip Wicks of PHW Business Services. Other presentations will be given, including one by Dave Chard of Kingsbridge Risk Solutions.
If you would like to be informed of the effects that Health and Safety issues can have on the bottom line of your business, please contact us or the club for more details.