Category: Articles


Whether you are an established company or just starting out, in today’s competitive market place business owners need to focus on their core products and services and not allow piles of paperwork and administration to weigh them down.

Identifying and addressing this essential requirement is Business Visions (BV) main focus by underpinning the needs of businesses during the critical and extremely challenging period of business creation and development. “Our services are built on your success”.

BV start at the very beginning – by developing a support package that each business owner and their staff can work with. Companies with good administration and back-up systems are in control and are more likely to succeed. 

“Each of our clients have different requirements and we are able to tailor our service to their needs. We offer a flexible approach to business, as new and expanding businesses spend most of their day trying to generate revenue, we are there for them whenever they need help”

Starting up a business carries a financial risk – businesses are not always in a position to invest a lot of money but equally need to maintain a healthy cash flow and ensure t heir business remains profitable. BV was established to help businesses by taking away the stress created by mountains of paperwork and other task requiring expertise, leaving people to concentrate on what they do best and the things they enjoy.

Isn’t it time to reclaim your weekends and evenings and put yourself back in control of your business?tree

 

 

 

Success or FailureNumerous overwhelming duties accompany being a business owner.  No matter what size the company is, the proprietor acquires certain responsibilities and obligations along with the business’s benefits and profits.  A business owner’s primary duty is to ensure success.  But to ensure the business’s success, the owner must constantly:

  • Oversee and/or carry out the business administration tasks
  • Oversee and/or perform the accounting, bookkeeping and/or recordkeeping tasks
  • Oversee and/or conduct research and development of new products and/or services
  • Oversee or conduct marketing and sales tasks on a regular basis
  • Oversee and/or carry out the production and delivery of products and/or services on a regular basis
  • Oversee and/or provide excellent telephonic customer service
  • Oversee and/or perform human resources tasks
  • Oversee and/or provide for employee healthcare, retirement and other benefits
  • Oversee and/or perform finance management and legal department tasks
  • Ensure the workplace is safe and healthy for employees, third parties and the environment
  • Make business plans, set business goals, make important business decisions, and set company policies and standards

Each of these tasks can be very time consuming.  Several of the tasks require performing work typically performed by licensed professionals, such as managing legal, financial and accounting matters.  Other tasks require having specific knowledge and a special set of skills, such as excellent communication, typing and mathematical skills.  Other tasks require having a vast amount of experience, such as in product production, marketing and sales.  With 4.6 million out of 4.8 million UK enterprises being micro businesses, it is easy to understand why the proprietors quickly become overwhelmed by having so many duties and obligations.

In many instances, owners may find themselves having to do work they have no training or experience in performing.  Due to work overload, many of the aforementioned tasks may not be done in a timely manner or on a consistent basis.  Yet, each of these factors can lead to costly mistakes being made and the eventual failure of the business venture.

Delegating Work via Outsourcing

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band?

Fortunately, business proprietors can delegate most of these daunting tasks to other people, thus freeing up their time and reducing their workloads.  Delegating the work ensures that it is performed in a timely manner by qualified people. In a large company, the aforementioned tasks are mostly delegated to various employees.  However, whether you own a large, medium, or small business, it may be better to outsource this work to business support companies such as Business Visions rather than have the work done in-house.  Employees may or may not get the job done well and in a timely manner, and their services may be more costly when all the factors are considered.

For instance, Business Visions provides a wide range of business support services.  The company provides full virtual office and call answering services, thus eliminating the need to hire a secretary, receptionist or personal assistant.  Business Visions also provides other forms of business administrative support, as well as can assist you with marketing and sales tasks, accounting, bookkeeping, and transcription tasks.  They can also chase payments for you, create marketing brochures and sales presentations, design and host your website, and manage your daily appointments.

Benefits of Outsourcing

Business support companies like Business Visions can also help reduce your employees’ workload, freeing them to do the more important tasks.  They can also help carry the workload while your employees are on holiday or out on sick leave.  A business support company is especially beneficial to use when you have need of temporary or seasonal help.  Moreover, outsourcing the work can reduce a company’s overhead expenses by reducing the need to hire extra employees.  Outsourcing also reduces the need to purchase certain types of business equipment.  Thus, business support companies such as Business Visions can help a company become more efficient and profitable.  The more efficient and profitable a business is; then the more viable and successful it becomes.

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Academic Success: Utilising Transcription Services for Students

No matter what country a student resides in, the student will eventually be required to submit typewritten assignments. This is especially true for students obtaining a secondary or tertiary level of education. However, typing skills are not even taught in some schools nowadays. It is merely assumed the students will pick up keyboarding skills via use of personal computers, smart phones and ipods. Unfortunately, not all students acquire adequate typing and transcription skills in this manner. In some instances, even students who have sufficient typing and transcription skills lack the time to prepare the documentation in a timely manner. Nonetheless, the students must turn in neatly typed, accurate documents in a timely manner in order to achieve academic success.

Examples of Typewritten Assignments

For instance, consider how many types of coursework are expected to be submitted in typewritten format. Book reports, dissertations, essays, research papers, term papers, and focus group discussions are all typically typewritten assignments. Numerous other homework assignments may also require the use of typing and transcription skills. Each of these aforementioned school projects may have a high impact on the student’s final grades. Thus, how neat, timely and accurate the typewritten pages are help determine whether the student passes or fails the course.

Student’s Options

Students have numerous options as to how they complete the typewritten assignments. Those scholars who cannot type may invest 400-600 hours into developing their touch-typing skills and become master typists. Another option for the student is to have a classmate, friend, or relative do the typing. Although this is usually an inexpensive method, it does not ensure the work will be completed in the right format, be error-free or be done in a timely manner.

Alternatively, non-typing students, as well as those students who lack time, can hire a transcription service, such as Business Visions, to prepare the documentation for them. The student will still have to complete the fundamental assignment, but the transcriptionist can do all the typing and proofreading. In most cases, the transcriptionist can have the document prepared within 24-72 hours, depending on the size and complicity of the project. Many transcription services offer student discount rates. Moreover, the transcriptionist will typically guarantee a 95% – 98% accuracy rate.

Benefits of Using a Transcription Service

Numerous benefits are derived from using a transcription service instead of doing the typing yourself. Foremost, it reduces the stress involved with completing the assignment. Secondly, it frees up the student’s time and attention, thus allowing the scholar to focus on other academic assignments. Thirdly, hiring a transcription service provides the student with outsourcing labour experience, which will be very beneficial in various areas of the student’s adult life. Other benefits accompany hiring a transcriptionist to do the typing and transcribing as well. However, the benefits vary from individual to individual.

Are you a business owner or a self-employed labourer – Nowadays, many people find themselves self-employed and working from home.

Not knowing how to classify the work they do, some people refer to themselves as being self-employed labourers.  Some classify themselves as small business owners.  Their family and other members of society may regard these individuals as being temporarily unemployed, since they are not full-time employees nor fully-operate a legally established business.

However, various governmental bureaus and private corporations have given many of these individuals “home-based micro business with sole trader proprietorship” status due to legal issues.  This leads to people assuming that the terms “business owner” and “self-employed” are interchangeable and mean the same thing.  However, this is not necessarily true.  Whereas most business owners are self-employed, not all self-employed people are business owners.  Some people merely work as independent contact labourers or earn irregular income via utilisation of their skills or hobbies.

What Constitutes Being a Business Owner?

There are numerous elements to being a business proprietor.  No matter what size the company is, the owner acquires certain responsibilities and obligations along with the enterprise’s benefits and profits.  Mostly, the proprietor must ensure the business’s success by constantly:

  • Overseeing and/or carrying out the business administration tasks
  • Overseeing and/or performing the accounting, bookkeeping and/or recordkeeping tasks
  • Overseeing and/or conducting research and development of new products and/or services
  • Overseeing or conducting marketing and sales on a regular basis
  • Overseeing and/or carrying out the production and delivery of products and/or services on a regular basis
  • Overseeing and/or providing human resource tasks
  • Overseeing and/or providing for employee healthcare, retirement and other benefits
  • Overseeing and/or performing finance management and legal department tasks
  • Ensuring the workplace is safe and healthy for employees, third parties and the environment
  • Making business plans, setting business goals, making important business decisions, and setting company policies and standards

The business owner may choose to do all the aforementioned work or delegate this work out to other people.  Nonetheless, it is still primarily the proprietor’s responsibility, no matter who actually performs the tasks. Therefore, it is no wonder that most people do not lightly enter the field of business ownership.

What Constitutes Being a Self-Employed Labourer?

On the other hand, many self-employed people do not engage in the aspects of daily business operations or management on a regular basis.  Some even purposely avoid or completely ignore the responsibility that typically comes with being a sole trader.  These people merely find ways of earning an income by being a self-employed labourer.  They may provide a variety of services, such as mowing the grass or childcare to family, friends and neighbours on either a regular or an irregular basis.  Alternatively, the person may turn a hobby into an occasional paid venture or occasionally sell items at the local car boot market.  Self-employed people may even earn money by sporadically contributing content to websites or winning contests.

Distinguishing the Differences between a Business Owners and a Self-Employed Labourer

Thus, there are several ways to distinguish a business owner from a self-employed labourer.  One way is to assess how much responsibility, especially legal and financial liability that the individual willingly accepts.  Another way to tell the difference is to evaluate the amount of time, dedication, commitment and investment that the individual gives to the enterprise.  Lastly, you can tell the difference between being a business owner and being a self-employed or independent contract labourer by considering what tasks are being performed on a daily basis.

If you still cannot clearly determine which you are, then ask yourself the following questions.  Are you promoting your services to strangers as well as to family, friends and neighbours?  Do you promote your services via public media, such as advertising in newspapers, radio announcements, television adverts, or on a website?  Do you consistently offer the same services and products in a reliable manner?  If so, then you should consider yourself a business owner.  If not, then you probably should consider yourself a self-employed labourer.  However, if you do work for others under a signed contract, then you may still be considered an independent contractor legally, even if you own a business.

The everyday cycles of upsizing and downsizing

The everyday cycles of upsizing and downsizing

The Vicious Cycles of Upsizing and Downsizing

Have you ever wondered why the upsizing and downsizing of businesses and governments make such a huge impact on the various aspects of society?  Due to all of the recent media coverage of businesses and government upsizing and downsizing, I have given quite a bit of thought to this lately.  I have come to the startling realisation that businesses and governments are mere extensions of all the private individuals that make up society.  And that as extensions, businesses and governments are simply extending the natural cycles of upsizing and downsizing that is inherent in all living creatures to the business and political realms.

What is even more startling is the realisation that most humans are not aware they are participating in the cycles of upsizing and downsizing on a daily basis.  Nor are most people aware that they are making a significant impact on society via their participation in these somewhat vicious cycles.  Yet, it is the daily upsizing and downsizing decisions made by individual consumers and citizens that eventually lead to the upsizing and downsizing of businesses and governments.

What is upsizing and downsizing?

In order to understand how humans have an inherent tendency to upsize and downsize, you first have to know what those terms mean.  According to the Oxford dictionary, the term “upsize” means to increase the size, extent or complexity of something or to undergo an increase in size, extent or complexity.  The Oxford dictionary defines “downsize” as making something smaller or to make a company smaller by shedding staff.  However, we all know that downsizing a business means much more than just shedding staff.  A company downsize entails a complete reorganisation of that company and its entire business operations. Nevertheless, since all humans make decisions whether to increase or decrease the size, extent or complexity of something, then all humans are involved with upsizing and downsizing to some degree.

An Average Person’s Cycle

Most of the upsizing and downsizing decisions humans make start out as subconscious choices.  They are made as instinctive reactions meant to satisfy physical, emotional or mental needs, without much actual thought given to the options.  For instance, a newborn baby may upsize the amount of food intake when it is hungry.  The same baby may choose to increase his or her sleep while decreasing the amount of food intake when the child is not as hungry.

As the child grows up, he or she starts making more conscious, more complex upsizing and downsizing decisions.  The individual chooses which foods and drinks to upsize and downsize, based on personal preferences, health condition, cost, and the extent of hunger and thirst. As the child passes through various stages of life, he or she also starts making upsizing and downsizing decisions more frequently.

The cycle becomes a natural part of life, as the individual applies this principle to every aspect of their lifestyle. The person may choose to increase of decrease the amount spent on clothing, transportation, food, shelter, education, healthcare, and/or entertainment.  The person’s choices of employment are also affected by decisions to upsize or downsize his or her income and other benefits.  For instance, the person may choose to increase his or her income by upsizing the amount of pay for employment.  Or perhaps, he or she decides to decrease the income by retiring or changing jobs.  The individual continues the cycle with every purchase, every lifestyle change, and as every need and desire is sated or a new one arises.

How the Upsizing and Downsizing Cycle Becomes Vicious

When properly planned, upsizing and downsizing may have numerous benefits, whether it is an individual, family, business or government entity performing the upsize or downsize.  However, if the upsizing or downsizing is forced upon a person, business or government, then it can have severe negative effects.  Unfortunately, most of the downsizing of businesses and governments are forced occurrences.  And once one part of the linked chain of consumer, business and government is forced to take any drastic action, then the rest are forced to react to the changed set of circumstances too.  So the cycle may start out with a group of consumers changing their preferred diet.  This lessened demand for the food they were eating makes the producers of foods for the old diet have to downsize, possibly making it impossible for the business to stay afloat.  In the meantime, the increased demand may make another business upsize at a time when it was not prepared to do so.  The company may go into a huge amount of debt, which forces it to lose its ability to stay competitive.  Both companies may end up having to raise the prices of their products, passing the cost on to the consumers.  The additional cost of the products makes the consumers and other businesses that rely on those products to have to find ways of reducing their spending or else increase their own income.  Those who are not able to do either may end up going bankrupt, which in turn sets off another chain reaction.

How to Break the Vicious Cycle

Success or Failure

Success or Failure

Now that the vicious cycle has caused such a huge downturn of the global economy, the only way to right it is for everyone to pull together.  Consumers, businesses and government entities must remember that they are all links in one chain and do have an effect on each other.   Consumers must be willing to spend money in order for businesses to exist.  Businesses and governments need to exist in order to provide employment, products and services to the consumers, thus providing consumers the money to spend.

If the negative impacts are going to be turned into positive ones, then someone has to stop the chain reactions by making some planned upsizing and downsizing decisions that will benefit the consumer, the business and the government.  For instance, a company that has to downsize could lessen the negative impact on the local community and government by outsourcing some work to other local businesses.  Consumers can also help lessen the negative effects by making a more conscious effort to help support the local businesses.  Consumers, businesses and governments can form networks that help each other out.  These networks can work together to adequately plan out any upsizing or downsizing so no one is forced into making an upsize or downsize at the wrong time. And most importantly, larger companies can network with smaller companies to help each other upsize and downsize in a way that does not create a huge amount of unemployment among the consumers.

Business Success: Am I Comparing Apples to Oranges? – Trying to compare and imitate other business formats – does it work?

I always wondered about the idiom “comparing apples to oranges” and wondered where it came from and why we use it. One internet site terms it as “Something which occurs when two items or groups of items are both the same and different simultaneously.” (Wikipedia, 2013) I found this very interesting and started thinking about it from a business point of view.

For instance, you cannot use the same standards as you use for an orange to tell if an apple is over-ripe. You cannot know if you will like the taste of an apple by biting into an orange. Nor can you judge if you are getting a great bargain if basing the price comparison on the differences in prices for apples and oranges. Apples will typically always be less expensive than oranges, unless the apples are imported and the oranges are locally grown. Suffice it to say the person will likely make costly mistakes if he or she purchases the apples based on information that only applies to oranges.

Comparing Apples To Oranges

The advantages and disadvantages of making business comparisons

Comparing Businesses

This also applies to comparing businesses and business operations. Frequently, business owners are tempted to judge the level of their own success by comparing it to another business owners’ success. It is also quite common for one business to try to imitate the exact business model used by another business in order to achieve the same level of success. This is especially true for smaller operations, but can be seen in much larger organisations.

Are there any Advantages?

There are some advantages to comparing business models and operations, as long as the businesses are very similar to each other. Hope, inspiration and creative solutions for common problems can be gleamed from observing successful businesses and their owners. For instance, a mobile hairdresser may discover ways to improve his or her services by studying how other mobile hairdressers are delivering mobile services.

The same hairdresser may also discover a new technology is available or find a new hair tonic supplier by studying other successful hairdressers. However, the mobile hairdresser should not expect to achieve the same level of success by merely imitating what other hairdressers are doing. Imitation items seldom receive the same acclaim and value as an original product. Thus, a business that merely imitates another business is not likely to acquire the same level of success as the business it is imitating.

Are there any Disadvantages?

There are also disadvantages to comparing one’s success level and business model to that of another individual or business. An entrepreneur may become discouraged and/or unduly stressed by making inaccurate comparisons. They may also end up making costly errors in judgement and setting unrealistic goals due to using poor methods of comparison. This lack of making accurate comparisons can even lead to the demise of the business.

Due to the uniqueness of each entrepreneur, employee and sub-contractor, there simply is no accurate way to identify each individual’s exact impact on the business’s success or failure.  Even if identical twins utilised identical business models and resources for identical businesses, the results may come out entirely different.  This is due to the differences between the two individuals’ life experiences, personal perspectives, skill levels, capabilities and personalities just to mention a few.

For instance, one internet-marketer nearly gave up on his business due to a recent comparison he made between his website and other internet-marketers’ websites.  He felt like he was a total failure merely because his website was not getting as much traffic or earning as much money as these other websites.

As is common, the internet-marketer had failed to realise that the websites he had chosen for his original comparison were too dissimilar to his own to make the comparison worthwhile.  The other websites generated incomes in different ways and the owners had resources that this internet-marketer did not have available to him.  They also attracted an entirely different set of consumers and advertisers.  Therefore, there was no way that the internet-marketer could have utilised the same business models, internet tools and resources to make his website as popular or profitable.

orange apple

Fortunately, this internet-marketer changed his mind about quitting after a good friend showed him how inaccurate the comparisons were due to the dissimilarities.  Moreover, the internet-marketer finally realised he was progressing quite well, after reflecting upon his own goals, decisions, resources and definition of business success.

Success via Comparison and Imitation

An individual may become more successful after conducting comparisons between themselves and other businesses. However, each business owner must also realise that it is impossible to conduct an entirely accurate comparison, even between two similar businesses as naturally other factors such as personality or cash flow will doubtless impact on the result.

Thus, the best way to be successful using comparison and imitation is to remember – “Am I comparing apples to oranges”.

Crowdsourcing: Are We Making Humans Obsolete? Will commercial crowdsourcing eventually lead to human obsoletion in the work force, despite its current numerous advantages.

Crowdsourcing: Are We Making Humans Obsolete?

Crowdsourcing: Are We Making Humans Obsolete?

Crowdsourcing is nothing new, although its popularity as a source of cheap labour is fairly recent due to new Internet technology.  Originally, crowdsourcing (CS) was intended to be a way of tapping into the combined brain power of the masses to resolve various issues for the benefit of all mankind.  However, CS is now being used to exploit and manipulate the massive global population into providing cheap labour.  All types of businesses and government agencies now engage in crowdsourcing.

CS is also being used to improve the “artificial intelligence” capabilities of various devices, such as computers, cars, planes, and phones.   Why are the machines being made smarter?  It is so humans will no longer be needed to do the tasks the machines are being “trained” to do.  These tasks started out as mundane tasks that humans allegedly prefer not to do.  However, they are now advancing into more complex tasks and causing unemployment for various sectors of the global population.  Thus, although there may be numerous advantages to crowdsourcing in the short term, one must question what the long term impacts crowdsourcing will have on the human race.

Changing from Traditional to Outsourcing to Crowdsourcing

The primary disadvantage of CS is that it is now replacing outsourcing as a way of reducing business expenses.  Many humans felt the economic crunch when large corporations changed from traditional business models to outsourcing models.  Unemployment in various sectors of the population was a direct result of large companies outsourcing work to other countries.   And as a chain reaction to the unemployment, consumers quit buying expensive and unnecessary products and services.  This in turn, led to even more unemployment, business closings and economic hardships.  Continuing the chain reaction, the businesses were forced to continue outsourcing in order to maintain profitability and marketplace competitiveness.

As a direct result of unemployment and indirectly as a result of outsourcing, many individuals began operating small, home-based businesses all around the world.  By 2012, just in the UK alone, 4.6 million of 4.8 million businesses were small, sole-proprietor businesses.  After discovering the numerous drawbacks to using cheap labour from other countries, the larger corporations became the clientele for these micro businesses. The micro businesses could not cope with all the workload and outsourced some of the tasks to other local micro businesses.  Thus, people were again employed, only at a lesser rate of pay and amount of available work.  The economy started to improve until crowdsourcing became a part of the new business models.  Crowdsourcing became a feasible business model once all of the unemployed and under-employed masses became connected to the internet.

This is because many of the unemployed and under-employed workers did not actually start up micro businesses.  They simply started earning a marginal income by contributing to CS projects and various websites.  The individuals were merely classified as micro businesses for tax purposes. However, many individuals participate in crowdsourcing without even realising they are doing so.

For instance, people contribute articles, videos, poetry, photography; and music to various contests and web sites. These contests, surveys and websites are operated by business enterprises that use the supplied content in numerous ways.  Many will perform mundane tasks such as posting to a blog or forum, proofreading articles, or rating short audio and video clips for just a few pence per task performed.  Paying a few pence instead of several pounds or euros for someone to perform these mundane but essential tasks greatly benefits the companies. Other individuals submit their ideas for new inventions, solutions to industrial problems, or perform transcription or data entry tasks in exchange for a small monetary compensation, prize reward or kudos.  This saves the companies the hassle and cost of hiring an employee or outsourcing the work to a professional contractor.

Some people are conscious that they are participating in crowdsourcing. They do so to gain recognition, as an outlet for their unused skills, or to test their own abilities.  Some participate in order to gain knowledge or to share their knowledge with other people.  Others participate because it is their only option for working from home or earning any income.  These people are content to get very little in return for their contributions.  What they may not be aware of is the fact that they are contributing to the unemployment of people who are better qualified for the job.  For that matter, they may even be contributing to their own eventual unemployment problems.

Possible Negative Impact of Crowdsourcing

By providing their skills, knowledge and creative talents for less than minimum wage, people participating in CS are providing businesses with an alternative to hiring highly qualified employees.  They are also helping the businesses avoid outsourcing the work to other businesses and professional freelancers.  They are also contributing to the poorer quality in many products and services, such as magazines, newspapers, health management care and customer care services.

Additionally, they are contributing to the trend for replacing humans with machines to do various jobs, such as in the office and clerical fields.  Due to volunteers working on CS projects, computers are being “trained” to replace office clerks, secretaries, receptionists, transcriptionists and customer care specialists.  Professional writers, photographers, reporters, editors, and printing offices are also becoming redundant as various tools of the trade become imbued with artificial intelligence and speech recognition technology.

And in the United States, a crowdsourcer even used the combined information gathered from air traffic controllers to develop a software programme.  That software programme is now being used to replace those same air traffic controllers. The air traffic controllers had been under the impression that the project’s purpose was to standardise some of the tasks and make aviation safer. Apparently the crowdsourcer considers unmanned air traffic control towers to be safer for aviation than having humans man the towers.

More Negative Impacts

 Moreover, various companies are already developing vehicles that can operate without a human at the onboard controls.  Think about the drone planes, drone tanks and monorail trains.  Furthermore think about the new cars that drive and park themselves.  Eventually, pilots, chauffeurs, cab drivers, engineers, and bus drivers will become redundant too.  And since they are now working on androids that can imitate humans, flight attendants and other service oriented jobs are in danger.  And with the new push to automate healthcare, many nurses, physician’s assistants and lab technicians will most likely become nonessential employees too.

Another negative impact of crowdsourcing could be humans becoming dumber instead of smarter.  They may also become less physically and mentally healthy.  The more machines do the creative thinking and problem-solving, then the less frequently humans will use their own minds. Plus, the more we change our speech patterns to better communicate with the “smart” devices, the less capable we become at communicating with other humans.  Most people do not have an adequate command of their own native languages the way it is.  And the more physical tasks the devices perform then the fewer reasons people have for participating in physical activates.  Look at how many people started living sedentary lifestyles once the use of computers and televisions became more widespread.  The overall situation would be enough to create more mental anguish and instability for the majority of humans whose lives have been devalued by the use of crowdsourcing.

Beneficial Impact of Crowdsourcing

CS does have many advantages, when truly used for the benefit of mankind and not just for commercial profits.  For instance, it can be used as a way to decrease hunger, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and prejudices simply by making the mass populations more aware of the extent of these social problems.  The crowdsourcing allows millions of people to become aware of the issue and to actively work on ways to resolve them.

It is also a good way for people to share and gain knowledge about anything and everything.  Many breakthroughs in various fields of research have been made by tapping into the combined intelligence and capabilities of the general population.  Numerous breakthroughs have also been made by tapping into the combined intelligence and capabilities of specifically targeted sectors of the mass population.  Unfortunately, not all of the breakthroughs have benefited the masses as much as they have benefited individual commercial enterprises

Therefore, CS should not be banned entirely.  However, those who provide crowdsourcing services need to seriously consider the impacts they are making on society and their own lives.  Humans must start asking why we need smarter devices to do the work we can do for ourselves or have another human do for us. We must also ask ourselves why we continue to let commercial enterprises devalue us as human beings.

We should make the businesses stick to traditional or outsourcing business models.  And only use crowdsourcing for truly humanitarian purposes.  However, eventually, some enterprising individual will find a way to take the combined information that has been amassed and turn it into a commercial enterprise.  So even when working on humanitarian crowdsourcing projects we should ask ourselves if we are making humans obsolete by performing the tasks for little to no compensation.

What and When to Outsource – 7 Top Tips to help you decide what and when to outsource.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing – making your business more productive and profitable

Outsourcing necessary but time consuming business administration chores can make your business more productive, profitable and motivating.

Many small businesses complain they are ‘drowning in paperwork’ from all the invoicing, chasing accounts, paying employees, dealing with HMRC, promoting and marketing of their company. Added to this is the problem of fielding the many incoming telephone calls are often cited as the main chores that really sap the time, energy and motivation of business owners.

Outsourcing can be a valuable and strategic tool for making your business more productive and profitable – if you know when and how to take advantage of it. The key factors that need to be considered  are WHICH business functions are suitable to be outsourced and WHEN is the best time to ‘farm out’ this work for someone else to do.

Stop and consider what your ‘core’ business is? Are the tasks helping you to grow your core business?

What is your main skill set? Are the tasks taking you away from what you do best?

Here are 7 Top Tips to help you make your decision about WHAT and WHEN to outsource:

  1. Outsource tasks that are not central to generating profits, competitive success or help you to grow your business.
  2. Outsource routine but necessary jobs that regularly ‘sap’ your valuable time and energy.
  3. Outsource tasks that reoccur regularly – like basic administration.
  4. Outsource tasks that are less expensive to have someone externally to do than to do yourself – or by a member of your own staff.
  5. Outsource activities that CAN be done cheaper in-house, but that drain the resources of you or your team and get in the way of achieving something EVEN MORE valuable to your business.
  6. Outsource when the task requires a skill that is so specialised that it’s just impractical to have a regular employee do it badly and take more time than a professional – i.e. designing and building a website, transcription, or writing marketing copy and image manipulation.
  7. Consider outsourcing when the activity that needs doing is one that nobody wants to do or feels they can do it well.

And don’t just look at the cost of outsourcing – think about the time and money it will SAVE you – and how it will motivate you to focus on the core activities of your business!

Outsourcing is a viable option for everything from transcription and dictation, bookkeeping, telephone answering, databases and mailings, graphic design, marketing, event organisation and website design. The key advantage of outsourcing is that it enables you to invest your resources into more profitable activities that drives your business forward.

Related article – ‘Outsourcing: You can’t afford not to’ The Globe and Mail  http://tiny.ly/fqw8

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/your-business/exit/taxation/outsourcing-you-cant-afford-not-to/article1942750/

 

Networking and Outsourcing: Have We Come Full-Circle

Networking and Outsourcing: Have We Come Full-Circle

Networking and Outsourcing: Have we come full-circle?

A recent business statistical analysis written for Parliament by Chris Rhodes provided me with some rather interesting business information.  I was stunned by the fact that 4.6 million of the 4.8 million UK businesses were micro enterprises in 2012.  The analysis also reported that the majority of these micro enterprises were sole-proprietor businesses, with no additional employees.   This made me wonder just how well all these sole traders were managing the extreme amount of work that comes with operating any business.  It is difficult enough to cope with the workload when there are several employees to assist with the various tasks, so I have a hard time imagining that the majority of the 4.6 million sole-traders are handling all of the work without any help from others.  Then I realised that most of them were relying on networking and outsourcing, and this made me ask myself, “Have we came full-circle in our economic development in the UK?”

UK Economic Systems

If we look at the history of the UK’s economic systems, we find that the UK started out with an economic system based on hunting, fishing, and bartering or trading.  Then our ancestors switched to an agrarian system, based primarily on agriculture, along with trading.  Next came a period in which the domestic system was used.  This structure was also known as the putting-out or cottage system, because people manufactured finished products in their homes.  A manufacturer would provide raw materials to the cottage dwellers so they could assemble a finished product.  Next, the finished products were sold to the business owner who had provided the raw materials, with the cost of the materials being subtracted from the cost.  Then the products were sold back to the cottage dwellers or elsewhere at a much higher price.  Thus, the manufacturing, textile and retail industries expanded.   The factory system eventually replaced the domestic system during the Industrial Revolution.

During the UK’s colonisation period, mercantilism became the primary economic system.  The UK business owners had a built-in customer base.  Mercantilism required the colonists to conduct all of their trading and business within the British Empire and capitalism replaced mercantilism as the British Empire started giving more autonomy to its colonies.  As capitalism and the Industrial Revolution took hold, large corporations and global business conglomerations arose, especially in the manufacturing and finance industries.

Solutions in the Ancient Past

In the ancient past, all mankind relied upon themselves or micro businesses for every type of product and service.  There were no large corporations or business conglomerations to satisfy massive demands.  However, there are several differences between the ancient micro businesses and the modern day ones.  For instance, there was a smaller human population demanding the products and services provided by commercial businesses in ancient times. Many of the businesses were also set up as partnerships with the government or as monopolies that had very little competition from marketplace rivals.

The business owners did utilise networking and outsourcing to help create, produce and market products or services.  However, many of them also relied on uncompensated or low-cost labour that was not officially classified as employees.  For instances, during the Celtic and Roman times of occupation, slaves were used for labour.  The Saxons and Vikings also had slaves.  However, slave labour was primarily utilised in its colonies, while apprentices and poorly paid peasants were used in the British Isles.  In the UK, slave labour had gradually been replaced with indentured servants and apprentices, as well as by women and children labourers.  And eventually the machines and new technologies began to replace both, the unskilled labourers and the craftsmen.

Modern Day Workload

However, the work required to properly operate a business has not changed much despite the passage of thousands of years.  In modern times, as it was in the ancient past, a business owner has to perform many duties.  There are the administrative responsibilities, such as bookkeeping, accounting, and daily correspondence.  And then there are the tasks created by the need to research, create, produce and market the products or services.   Additionally, there are the everyday jobs that come with taking and filling the orders.  And of course, the business proprietor must provide good customer services if he or she wants to succeed.

As in the past, governments are forming partnerships with privately owned businesses to accomplish their social and economic goals.  And in turn, these businesses must keep up with the demands of their potential customers.  They must also beat out the fierce competition in a global marketplace that is flooded with competent rivals. However, due to the increase in costs and laws governing the business realm, proprietors now have fewer options for coping with the workload.   Entrepreneurs can no longer rely upon uncompensated forced labour or low-waged employees to perform the majority of the tasks.  Yet, the workload is too much for any person to handle single-handedly.

Modern Day Solutions

So nowadays, modern day businesses of all sizes are discovering that the only way to survive is to utilise a system of networking and outsourcing.  Larger companies are regaining their competitive edge by downsizing and outsourcing some of the administrative work to small, home-based virtual offices and transcription businesses.  These smaller businesses typically perform the administrative tasks related to accounting, record keeping, bookkeeping, accounting, and customer services.  Some of the smaller companies provide sales and marketing support, or provide the services that would normally be handled by a secretary, personal assistant or receptionist.  Some also provide the essential technological support, website designing, computer programming, and website maintenance that modern businesses must have.

Nonetheless, even the smaller businesses need extra help with their workload.  Due to the costs and employment laws, most small to medium sized businesses cannot afford to take on permanent employees.  Yet, without more people to do the work, a business cannot easily expand or gain a competitive edge over its global rivals.  The business is limited to whatever skills, talents, and expertise that the owner/operator has, which may not be enough to keep the business going.  So it is essential for the small to medium sized businesses to network with each other, as well as network with the larger companies.

Thus, the UK economic system may have come full-circle by returning to the cottage system.  Perhaps we have indeed returned to the economic system that worked best for UK citizens, since this system allows people to once again work from home.  However, there is a huge difference between the current putting-out system of the past and present.  The current putting-out system utilises well-trained, well-paid adults to provide the services instead of unskilled, uneducated peasants and children.  Thus, this system could eventually help the UK regain its supremacy of the global marketplace in every industry, once we have learned how to properly use the system.

Common Business Mistakes

How common mistakes may make businesses lose money and waste other valuable resources

Did you throw away your money due to making common business mistakes?

Sometimes it may seem like that is all you are succeeding at when you own or manage a business.For no matter what size business it is or how much expertise you have, you will make some costly mistakes once in awhile. Unfortunately, many proprietors and managers are completely unaware that they have made or are in the process of making costly errors. Thus, they may not know they are wasting or losing money, valuable resources or good business opportunities. This is especially true during the start-up stage, but can also occur at any stage of the enterprise’s development.

To demonstrate my point, I will present real-life scenarios utilising a fictional business with a fictional sole trader proprietor. Although the scenarios describe a small to medium sized business with a sole trader proprietor, these same errors apply to all business owners or managers of any size company. To make reading the article more enjoyable, see if you can spot all of Mr. Blunderhead’s mistakes before I reveal them at the end of the story.

Mr. Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts Shoppe

Start-up Stage:

William Blunderhead lost his job when the local brewery closed its doors a year ago. Unable to find new employment within easy commuting distance, Mr. Blunderhead began doing paid odd jobs for family, friends and neighbours. In his spare time, William indulged in his hobby of making handcrafted items. He mostly used whatever scraps he could find lying around his property, so it did not cost much to craft the items.

His wife, Martha Blunderhead, started using the items as gifts due to being short on funds for purchasing new items. Wanting to help young couple out, many of their relatives, friends and neighbours began buying the handcrafted bird feeders, bird houses and picture frames that William made. They paid outrageous prices despite knowing that the products were made from inferior materials and were of low quality compared to similar items made by more expert craftsmen. However, these friends, relatives and neighbours never let on that they were only purchasing the items to help the couple out. They all made a big fuss over the handcrafted items and praised William for his craftsmanship.

This success selling items to people he knew gave Mr. Blunderhead the idea that he should turn his hobby into an official money-making activity. He decided to use the last of his savings to purchase the raw materials to craft a small variety of items. After spending many hours crafting several items, William took them to the local car-boot market to sell. He set the same outrageous prices for the products as he had received from his relatives, friends and neighbours for similar items.

At first, Mr. Blunderhead only succeeded at selling one or two lower-priced items. Then he noticed that his rivals were selling similar factory-made products at a lesser price than he was charging for the handcrafted items. Seeing his competitors were making more sales than he was, William decided to lower his products’ prices. Due to the lower prices and spending an entire weekend at the car-boot peddling his wares, he managed to sell his entire inventory.

First Expansion:

After a few more successful weekends of selling his handcrafts at the local car-boot market, Mr. Blunderhead decided it was time to expand his business. He borrowed money from a relative to purchase a small travel trailer and more raw materials. William then increased the amount of items and variety of products. He started selling the handcrafts at a variety of venues, including art and craft festivals, car-boot markets, and on consignment in local shops. William based his product pricing on whatever similar factory-made products were currently selling for, no matter which venue or location he was at. Yet, despite his good intentions to run a business, Mr. Blunderhead still spent the majority of his time earning income from odd jobs for family, friends and neighbours. He did not consistently put crafts on consignment in shops. Nor did William consistently attend the festivals and car-booth events to sell his products.

Second Expansion:

After eight months of random self-employment and successfully randomly selling handcrafted items, William decided to officially become a business owner. He applied for the necessary permits and licenses, took out a small business loan, and rented a small shop close to his home. Then Mr. Blunderhead bought a previously-owned computer system to help with the administrative tasks. Thus, William became the sole proprietor of Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts Shoppe.

Not being used to being a full-time entrepreneur, Mr. Blunderhead sometimes found it hard to say focused on the handcrafting business. William made a few sales during the first month, but did not earn enough income to meet his personal and business needs. He also discovered that he disliked doing lots of paperwork and accounting.

Feeling pressured to make a more reliable income, Mr. Blunderhead once again turned to doing odd jobs. Since William was the sole employee of Blunderhead’s Handy Handcraft Shoppe, the shop was frequently closed whenever he was too busy with other projects. And he failed to set up a call service to field calls when he was too busy or away and could not answer the phone.

Third Expansion:

Eventually, Martha took over managing the shop so William could focus on making the bigger crafted items and doing odd jobs. She started adding in her own small handcrafted items and taking in consignments from other craft persons. Under Martha’s diligent care, Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts became a flourishing business.

Fourth Expansion:

Once the business became viable, William decided that they could double their income if they just had a way of speeding up the crafting process so they could maintain a bigger inventory. He also decided that it was time to start promoting the business, so he took out adverts in the local newspaper and set up a website. For the website, he chose to design his own site, utilising the free online web hosting and web design tools. He created a nice looking website and then sat back, waiting for all the new orders to arrive from people flocking to his website.

Expecting there to be a big influx in orders due to the new website and newspaper ads, William also hired two new employees. He’s planning on relocating Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts Shoppe to an empty shop on London’s High Street next year, if everything goes as planned. William thinks that if he can sell a few products at a higher price to London’s most elite citizens, then he and Martha will no longer have to work such long hours as they are currently working.

Mr. Blunderhead’s Mistakes

Mr. Blunderhead has made several errors that are common amongst business start-ups. However, he also made some that occur in well-established enterprises, as well as some that occur in much larger businesses. Were you able to find all of William’s errors?

Here’s a list of the errors he has made:

  • Reaction vs. planned action – Mr. Blunderhead did not carefully plan out his entire business operation prior to start-up. Instead, he was merely reacting to his circumstances. A successful entrepreneur takes time to plan out the various phases of the business, and prepares for the various possible consequences of all actions. He or she also sets attainable goals and reasonable deadlines for achieving them, and then re-evaluates the goals and business plan frequently. He or she then makes any necessary changes to the business operation or goals to fit his or her current and future needs and lifestyle. William also failed to take into consideration his lack of commitment, dedication, knowledge, training, and skills for being the owner of a handcrafting business. He should have found ways to compensate for these prior to opening the business.
  • Market research – Mr. Blunderhead did not conduct any market research prior to producing or pricing the products. He did not bother to find out what the current demand was or what his potential customers had a need for. William also did not research the true value of his products prior to pricing them.
  • One-size-fits-all, did not select a target market for each product – Mr. Blunderhead assumed that his products and prices were suited to everyone and did not select a specific target market for his sales pitch campaigns. He simply tried to sell his products to the whole world, or at least to everyone he came in contact with. He also mistakenly assumed that the customers who shop in High Street shops would want the same type of crafts as those who shop at car-boot markets. A successful entrepreneur focuses attention on a specific group of potential customers and gears the entire business towards satisfying that specific group’s needs and desires. Each individual is a unique being and likes to be treated as one. Not every person in the world needs each and every product or service, so it is a waste of resources to try to sell everyone those products and services. Nor is every person in the world willing to pay the same price for any particular product. Some customers are willing to pay higher prices while others will demand lower prices due to their particular life circumstances and how much value they place on the product.
  • Liability insurance – Mr. Blunderhead did not purchase adequate amounts of public and product liability insurance prior to selling his very first handcrafted items. He made himself and his family vulnerable to law suits, which could cost them everything they own. It could also cost him future assets as well.
  • Upsized too soon – Mr. Blunderhead opened a business and went into a large amount of debt without first considering all of the consequences of his actions. He did not take into consideration possible failure or the amount of time (usually at least two years) and effort it takes to establish a profitable business. Mr. Blunderhead also upsized at times when he was short on funds and ill-prepared for taking more orders for his products. He also placed himself in the position of needing to hire someone else at a time when he could not afford to do so. Moreover, Mr. Blunderhead upsized his business based off of pure hope instead of facts. He based it off the hope of having more customers rather than off the fact of actually having those customers. So if he fails to acquire more customers, then he has also placed himself in the position of facing a forced downsizing.
  • Lack of dedication and commitment – Mr. Blunderhead was not fully dedicated or fully committed to his business. He failed to be consistent in his hours of operation, and in his work ethics. Having erratic business hours drives away potential customers as well as establishes a poor reputation. It certainly creates a bad impression, especially if it is the first impression. A successful entrepreneur finds reasons to stay motivated, to stick to a routine work schedule, and to love his or her business on a daily basis. A successful entrepreneur also learns how to balance personal and business routines so that one does not interfere with the other.
  • Poor customer service, lack of communication – Mr. Blunderhead failed to give his customers, suppliers and other businesses a way to communicate with him. Old and potential new customers could not place orders or obtain information. Nor could they give positive feedback or express their dissatisfaction with a product. Suppliers could not ask questions about his orders or let him know when there was a problem with the order he had placed. And other businesses could not contact him with offers to network or outsource work orders to him. Even when he was in the shop, Mr. Blunderhead could miss some of these important calls if he happened to be too busy to answer the phone in a timely manner or was tied up on another line. A successful entrepreneur always makes it easy for customers, suppliers and other businesses to contact him or her via phone calls, emails, text messages and/or in-person visits.
  • Utilising used equipment vs. new equipment – Mr. Blunderhead failed to properly determine which tools and equipment he should purchase brand new and which to purchase as previously-owned. Although he could probably safely buy a used scroll saw, Mr. Blunderhead should not have bought an outdated computer system that did not come with a minimum warranty and tech support. William does not have enough computer skills, training or knowledge to repair the system or the funds to pay for repairs if the computer crashes. He should have also ensured the computer came with all the correct programs and applications installed that he required for his business use, since he did not have that much computer knowledge.
  • Methods of promoting business – William did not carefully select the methods for promoting his business. He did not think of a specific target market when advertising. Nor did William fully understand how to set up and use a website for commercial purposes. He did not understand the need for proper website maintenance, nor did he understand how search engine optimization plays into the website’s ranking in search results. He allowed his website to become stagnant over time. He also failed to take advantage of low-cost marketing strategies, such as utilising press releases.

There are numerous other mistakes that are commonly made by businesses of all sizes. Some of them are made due to not seeking expert advice and others are made from following the advice from other people. Many are made by overestimating or underestimating a person’s skills, knowledge, talents and capabilities. For instance, Mr. Blunderhead overestimated his business management abilities and underestimated his wife’s abilities, talents and knowledge.

Biggest Mistake Business People Make

However, one of the biggest mistakes that are made, yet seldom recognized is simply failing to perceive the situation through the other person’s eyes. All people tend to cope with any given situation by drawing upon their own perspectives of the situation and what they believe is the truth.  And no two people perceive anything in an identical manner, including absolute truths.

For instance, say a customer claims that a chair that Mr. Blunderhead crafted had fell apart when she sat down, without there being any mitigating circumstances. Mr. Blunderhead does not believe the customer’s claim, since he had crafted the chair to hold a large, heavy person and this customer was very petite. He insists there must have been some type of mitigating circumstances, which may have voided the product’s warranty.

The truth is that a supplier had provided Mr. Blunderhead with defective waterproofing sealants. Not realising the sealant was defective; William had coated the chair with the sealant and claimed it was safe to leave the chair outdoors. The customer had then purchased the chair and placed the allegedly waterproof chair in her garden. After repeatedly being exposed to rain showers, the moisture seeped through and began to weaken the wood. Eventually, the wood was weakened enough that the chair fell apart when the customer sat down. So as far as the customer knows, there were no mitigating circumstances. She truly believes the chair fell apart merely due to her sitting down in it.

As Mr. Blunderhead keeps trying to negate her claims, the customer becomes angry and threatens to file a lawsuit if Mr. Blunderhead does not honour the warranty. They have reached a standoff due to each person believing they are right and the other one must be wrong.

Nevertheless, if Mr. Blunderhead wants to save his business and reputation, he must act as if he believed the customer’s claim is true. Otherwise, the miffed customer may indeed follow through on her threat to sue. At the very least, she will spread the word that Mr. Blunderhead does not keep his word. She will spread her version of the truth to whoever will listen to her, who in turn will spread the rumours to everyone they know. This will most likely cause Mr. Blunderhead to lose potential customers and many sales.

However, this principle applies to all the various aspects of business operations and not just the customer care aspect. It should be applied when conducting market research, advertising, developing products, managing employees, and networking with suppliers and other businesses. Nevertheless, this principle does not apply to making mistakes. It really does not matter whether someone else thinks you are wasting valuable resources or throwing away your money. Only you can determine whether you are wasting these resources or throwing away your money due to making common business mistakes.

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band?

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band?

Have you ever stopped to consider why employers highly value employees who are very adept at multitasking? If you have ever seen a one-man band, then you may understand why.  For you see, one-man bands may present perfect examples of how people attempted to multitask in the workplace as far back as the thirteenth century.

Most likely, some forms of multitasking have been around from the beginning of human existence.  Nonetheless, as it is with numerous other basic human abilities, most people remain inept at multitasking, especially when in the workplace. Thus, there is a high value placed upon those who can adequately multitask. However, not only do the one-man bands exemplify antiquated efforts at multitasking in the work place, they also demonstrate why most modern day people are still inept at multitasking.

What it Takes to be a One-Man Band

In order to be a successful one-man band, a musician must be very adept at playing several instruments well and have a thorough knowledge of music.  To play any musical instrument well, an individual must be proficient at listening, maintaining a steady pace, diaphragm breathing, interpreting verbal and non-verbal messages, and have great eye-to hand coordination. The person must be detail-oriented, as well as be able to adapt to changes quickly.  The person must also be able to engage both sides of his or her brain simultaneously.

Moreover, the musician must be able to produce the precise sound at just the right moment, for the specific length, and in the correct order.  He or she may also have to turn pages of a music book while playing the instrument, as well as memorize numerous songs.  The person must also have a thorough knowledge of where to place his or her hands and the positioning of lips or other body parts while producing each sound.

For an individual to be a successful one-person band, he or she must be able to do all the aforementioned things for each and every instrument that the individual opts to use for the “band”.  For example, if the person chose to use a guitar, drum, and harmonica, then the individual would have to know how to produce the proper notes on all three instruments.  He or she would have to transpose the music into a key that was compatible for all three instruments, and would have to know which instrument to use to play each of the harmonized parts.  The musician would simultaneously have to be able to keep beating the drum at exactly the right pace while strumming chords on the guitar and playing the melody on the harmonica.  Some of the songs or instruments may require the musician to read music in both, bass and treble clef simultaneously. If the individual is not extremely adept at multitasking or playing each instrument, then he or she only succeeds in creating raucous noises.  He or she fails to produce any pleasant, recognizable music, thus driving away the audience.

What it takes to be Successful at Multitasking

Just as it takes a certain set of skills to be a successful one-man band, it takes certain skills to be good at multitasking in general.  The person must be able to divide his or her attention while performing several actions simultaneously.  Therefore, the person must be able to use both sides of the brain simultaneously.  The person must be proficient in time management, stress management, crisis management, communication skills, and very detailed-oriented.  Like the musician, the individual must be able to perform actions instinctively and via memorization while using conscious thoughts and various body parts to perform other actions. He or she must be good at problem-solving, as well as be very decisive.  The person must be able to see the entire situation while dealing with each smaller detail in a proper, timely manner.

Multitasking vs. Rapid Task Switching

As one can see, it takes a very special type of person to truly multitask.  In most instances, humans simply rapidly switch between several tasks, making it seem as if they are doing all the tasks simultaneously.  Even most computers do not truly multitask, despite having the term “multitasking” be coined by computer science literature.  Some psychologists think that multitasking is humanly impossible while others think that doing so would harm the brain in some ways.  Yet, there are a few jobs that do require the human to actually multitask and not just rapidly task switch.  Transcriptionists, receptionists, surgeons, musicians and chefs all must be efficient at multitasking to some degree in order to be successful. Law enforcement officers, combat soldiers, parents, teachers and childcare providers must also multitask to some degree.

Research has proven that actual multitasking can save a person money and time, if done to an adequate degree.  On the other hand, according to Wikipedia (Human Multitasking) rapid task switching has been proven to end up costing the person more time and money due to the lack of focusing on any task sufficiently. Most people make mistakes when they cannot focus their full attention on what they are doing.  So the experts at Forbes (Multitasking: Good or Bad?) recommend that people should multitask whenever possible, but avoid rapid task switching by having more than one person performing the tasks that must be done simultaneously.

So if you are trying to imitate a one-man band and do everything yourself, you may want to consider outsourcing some of the administrative tasks to a virtual office or personal assistant.  If you watch the one-man bands closely, you will see most of them are merely rapidly switching between the various instruments and seldom play the instruments simultaneously.  Listening closely to that one-man band is sufficient evidence as to why it does not pay to be chinky when it comes to delegating tasks to other people.

 

Do I Dare Not Work While on Holiday?

Do I Dare Not Work While on Holiday?

Do I Dare NOT to Work While on Holiday? The folly of working while on holiday.

I recently read a BBC News article that was originally written in 2010.  According to the article Would More Holidays Be Good for Americans, the majority of Americans only get nine or less days of paid holiday per year.  And apparently, most Americans work right through their paid holidays for various reasons.  Reading this article made me glad that I lived in the UK where paid holidays are guaranteed by statutory law.  Then I came across this Citizens Advice Bureau article, “Thousands of workers denied legal right to paid holiday, says CAB report,” which was written in 2011.  The article made me realise that nearly 88,000 UK citizens work all year long without taking the paid holidays that they are entitled to.  Most of the reasons given by the UK citizens match those given by the Americans.  So it made me wonder just how many UK citizens currently ask themselves, “Do I dare not work while on holiday?”.

Reasons given for Working

Fear of losing their employment is the most common reason given for working while on holiday or for not taking a paid holiday.  This is the most common one because it is the one given by most Americans in all positions and the majority of low-income, low-skilled U.K. employees. Many employees were afraid to demand the allotted time off due to the management’s policies of firing anyone who made waves.  Others simply were afraid they would be replaced by the individuals who were filling in for them.  Still others were not even aware they were entitled to time off.

Having too heavy a workload or fear of being unable to catch up with the workload upon return from a holiday was the next most common reason given. This reason was mostly given by small business owners, as well as by employees who worked for short-staffed companies and government agencies.  The third primary reason was the individual did not want someone else to do his or her job due to fear the other person would mess everything up and cause extra work for the individual or cause the company to lose money.  This reason was mostly given by individuals employed in a management position or business owners.  The last common reason was that the individual did not enjoy having that much down time.  This would indicate the individual was a workaholic.  Or perhaps, the individual merely did not enjoy being alone or around his or her family and friends for extended periods.

THE PERILS of Working While on Holiday

Having a creative mind, I started envisioning an entire company where everyone insisted on working while on holiday.  I tried to imagine what it would be like if all the different types of fears existed among a large corporation’s employees. This is what I envisioned:

My story starts with Mr. George Peabody, the owner of a large chain of retail stores that caters to the elite upper class.  M. Peabody, having been sent off to a boarding school at an early age by a workaholic father, eventually married a well-to-do socialite at the age of twenty.  He had mostly married for the sake of moving up the social ladder and tapping into the young socialite’s inheritance.  By the age of 45, George had turned into a replica of his workaholic father.  He spent many hours working away at the office due to not wanting to deal with all the unpleasant family issues.  And he found excuses to bring his work along with him on the family’s month-long holiday.

Chain Reaction

Although Mr. Peabody was a workaholic, he did not expect his employees to give up their holidays or to work on them.  He even arranged to outsource some of the computer department’s work so the employees could take a longer holiday.  However, George was not much of a communicator and he failed to inform his employees what his intentions were.

So while Mr. Peabody was aboard the cruise liner touring the Caribbean Sea, his senior managers were left to implement the plan for outsourcing the computer department’s work.  Thinking that Mr. Peabody intended to permanently replace the tech support and customer service teams, the senior managers started letting a few of the non-essential, inept staff members go in order to finance the outsourcing project.  And to get the project done in a timely manner before the rest of the staff went on holiday, the senior managers either cancelled their own scheduled holiday travel or took their work on holiday with them.  Each senior manager was afraid to let someone else do the work, in case the other person messed up the project.  They were also afraid to not follow the owner’s example and emulate his work ethics, since each had been selected for their positions based on their productivity.

Since the senior management did not inform the lower management what the plans for implementing the new outsourcing project was, some of the lower management also started cancelling holiday plans and letting inept employees go.  They too started taking work projects home with them.  And when the company ran into complications due to the cultural differences, they turned to the employees for help in training the outsourcer’s staff.

The employees, who had no idea of what was happening, thought they were going to be replaced by the outsourcer’s staff.  They were too afraid of losing their jobs if they went on holiday or did not take their work projects along with them.  The employees became very demoralised and less productive.  Many sought employment elsewhere, figuring they were going to lose their jobs anyway.  This forced the remaining staff to work harder, frequently leading to employee absenteeism due to ill health caused by the additional stress.

Poor Mr. Peabody

In the meantime, Mr. Peabody was having his own set of work challenges.  After spending a small fortune on internet connections and sea to shore calls to keep up with emails and set up important appointments, George lost his smart phone.  The expensive phone, with all his important contacts’ information, took a dive overboard when George’s grandchildren accidentally tripped him.  The children had grown restless while waiting for George to take them swimming and had started rough-housing too close to George’s legs.  This would not have been too much of a disaster if the loss of the smart phone had not been preceded by the loss of his laptop.  A street urchin in the first port of call decided he needed the laptop more than Mr. Peabody did.   Then the ship was delayed and George was unable to arrive at the set appointments on time.  However, George had no way of contacting anyone to cancel the important appointments, since by then, the ship was too far out to sea to make a ship to shore call to his secretary.

The Happy Ending

Due to finally giving in and letting himself enjoy his time with his family and at sea, Mr. Peabody returned from his holiday well rested.  He felt truly inspired and invigorated by his recent travels to new shores.  However, due to the lack of communication, misinterpretation of intentions, and George’s work ethics, he returned to a company that was on the brink of total ruin.  Fortunately, Mr. Peabody was able to salvage his corporation by calling a company meeting.  He informed everyone what his intentions had been.  He then hired a local outsourcing company to handle all of the work for each department as he sent that particular department’s staff on a very well earned holiday.  Mr. Peabody also made it a new policy that no work was to leave the office, especially while the employee was on holiday.

The LOST ART of Transcribing – should transcription be treated as a ‘lost’ art – how transcriptionists and transcribers were viewed throughout history.

The Lost Art of Transcription

Should transcription be treated as a ”lost” art?

Recently, a friend and I were discussing how people frequently fail to perceive transcribing as a lost writing art.  Perhaps this failure is due to the common misconception that just about anyone can easily perform the duties of a transcriber nowadays.  Or perhaps, this oversight is due to the fact that most people simply do not think of transcription as any type of art, let alone as lost art.  Even the most skilled transcriptionists tend to forget they are among a special class of artists.  So perhaps it is time for everyone to revise their perspectives of transcription, especially now that there is a high demand for skilled transcribers.

Is Writing an Art, Craft, or Neither?

One of the major reasons for all this confusion is that there are numerous ideologies as to what comprises art and what comprises craftwork.  Some people think of writing as a form of art while others consider writing to be a type of craft or trade.  Others may consider writing to be neither art nor craft, since it lies somewhere between the two. 

Transcribing frequently requires the transcriptionist to have the skills of an artist and the knowledge of a craftsperson.  And still others consider transcription as a form of writing that should not be considered as an art or as a craft.  This is due to its more common legal and medical applications as well as the use of transcription for commercial, religious and political purposes.

However, historians and archaeologists have clearly demonstrated that transcribing developed as a very valuable form of art thousands of years ago.  In its original form, transcribing was carried out by well-trained scribes that were held in high regard throughout various cultures and countries.  These scribes were considered artisans despite the fact that the majority of their work was carried out for commercial, religious, legal, medical and political reasons.

Technology’s Affect on Transcribing as an Art

Up until the eighteenth century, there was very little confusion as to what constituted art, craft and professional work.  All forms of writing were considered to be works of art until the invention of the printing press occurred.  After the invention of the printing press and other technologies, the accepted standards and definitions for arts, crafts and professional trades became more controversial.  Reading and writing became more common skills among the various populations, which then made  the skills and knowledge required of transcribers appear less specialized and valuable. 

The same problem arose in other areas of art as well, when new technology made it easier to produce and reproduce painted artwork. Some would argue that screen printing and computerized graphic artwork should not be considered to be true forms of art.  Yet, a great deal of artistic ability and a high level of skill are essential for anyone who wishes to be successful in these fields of employment.

Misconceptions about Transcription

Common misconceptions also contribute to the confusion as to whether transcription is an art, craft or neither.  These misconceptions are intentionally and unintentionally spread via numerous forms of media that is produced by government agencies, commercial entities, and educational institutions.  With current economic trends forcing businesses to downsize and unemployment rates to rise, various government agencies are encouraging citizens to become self-employed transcriptionists. The government’s perspective tends to treat transcribing any type of data as easy to do, if a person has basic typing or keyboarding skills and the right equipment.  Numerous educational institutions and private industries which profit by selling training materials and courses also project this ideology to the mass population.

Numerous entrepreneurs and employers are also under the impression that anyone with basic typing skills and modern equipment should be capable of performing transcription tasks.  Then there are all those commercial enterprises which earn their income by convincing people that they can perform these tasks simply by using the companies’ products.  For instance, allegedly anyone can write a novel or business letter simply by utilising a software program that has the computer type whatever the person says into the microphone.  Supposedly, the document will come out perfectly, with no errors, even on the first try.  However, this simply is not true.  It typically takes a person literally hundreds of hours training any computer with speech recognition capabilities to even begin to recognize the person’s speech patterns.  The documents are filled with numerous errors, and the spell-checker does not catch all of these errors.

Why Transcribing Should Be Considered an Art

The value of any form of art is determined by how common the skills and knowledge required of the person performing the work are among the general members of society.  For instance, most humans can draw or paint on a basic level, such as drawing stick figures on paper.  However, very few can create an intricate, realistic portrait utilising oil paints, paint brushes and canvas.  The same holds true for musicians.  Everyone can produce sounds in a variety of ways, but not everyone can produce sounds with a perfect pitch, flow, and rhythm.  Nor can very many people accurately compose, arrange or transpose music onto a sheet of paper for multiple instruments.

Just as painting, sculpting, and playing an instrument on a professional level requires a person to have a special set of skills, talent, knowledge and expertise, so does writing.  While most humans are now capable of basic reading and writing skills, they do not have the special set of skills, talent, expertise, and knowledge that are essential for performing transcription. 

Most of the general population do not have an excellent command of their native language or the English language, including accurate use of grammar, syntax, spelling and vocabulary.  Even fewer humans develop excellent listening skills or are able to distinguish the various distorted sound and voices on a recording.  Still fewer can type verbatim what they hear being said at the same time as they are listening to a variety of people talking simultaneously.

A transcriptionist must type while listening to a warped recording of people speaking with varying voice quality, accents, tones, inflections and speeds of talking.  Since very few people are capable of performing these tasks, transcribing, especially in the form of transcription, should be considered a valuable art form.  And since fewer people are putting out the effort to truly develop each of the essential skills and their knowledge of the various languages, transcribing is indeed rapidly becoming a lost art, despite the recent increase in the number of transcription services.

Outsourcing – the secret to working smarter, not harder for business success! – focus your energy and skills on what you do best.

Working smarter not harder

Start working smarter not harder for business success

Ask anyone who has fulfilled their ambition to grow a thriving and healthy business what their secret is and they will tell you that they focused their energies and skills on what they do best!

Why many business owners fail is because they try to do everything for themselves. They run themselves ragged sorting out their website; organising advertising; figuring out their daily bookkeeping, sending out invoices and chasing payment; fielding phone calls; spending hours if not days on administration. They spend their precious time on necessary, but very time consuming and energy sapping tasks that could actually be done by someone else!

Smart successful business owners learn NOT to get swamped by all these jobs.

Instead, they spend their time doing what they are best at, using their specific talents to grow their business, engage with clients and take their business forward.

So, how is this possible?

Well, they outsource the jobs that get in the way of progress. They use a telephone answering service to free up their time and ensure that every prospective customer enquiry is answered professionally; get bookkeeping support to keep their accounts up-to-date, and they hire the services of a brilliant PA to keep them organised and deal with the day-to-day administration.

“Oh!” you say, “but this sounds expensive”. Well, actually it is not. Because these days you do not need to employ an office full of staff. The smart solution is to outsource the tasks you can off-load, by buying just the specific support you need.

So, the choice is easy… continue to spend all your energy making the wheels just keep turning in your business, or are you going to take the clever route and forge ahead in the direction you really want to go whilst someone else gets to grips with all those other jobs?

Many great Virtual PA’s and business support companies offer cost effective and efficient ‘virtual’ or ‘cloud’ services, so consider contacting one to see how they can assist your company.

For more information on some of the services click here or contact us, we would love to hear from you.

7 Simple Ways to Generate More Enquiries for your Business – These 7 powerful principles have transformed the fortunes of many local businesses.

Take a minute to read through each one and consider how they could benefit your business. They may seem obvious at first glance, but ask yourself… do you actually apply them on a regular basis?

BE PERSONAL… Stop hiding behind your logo… ‘people do business with people’! When showcasing your business, introduce the people behind your brand – it builds a huge amount of trust, brings your company to life and makes your potential customers feel at ease when making contact with you.

BE KNOWN… Most business opportunities come as a direct result of people knowing each other. Get yourself known personally by those who can refer business to you, build mutually-beneficial relationships and pro-actively generate ongoing ‘word of mouth’ opportunities.

BE FOUND… Make sure that when potential customers are searching for information relating to your specific services they end up with your business in front of them. These people are looking to do business with someone… make sure they find YOU.

BE INTERESTING… Potential customers like lots of useful and interesting information but only if it’s well written and simple to understand. Give your potential customers the information they want to know in a clear and easy to read format.

BE CREDIBLE… People are less trusting than ever. Make sure that potential customers perceive you to be an expert in your field and give lots of supporting evidence to back up your reliability and quality of service.

BE IN TOUCH… People’s circumstances change all the time. Have a system in place to keep in contact with your potential customers on a regular basis… you never know when they will need your services.

BE CONTACTABLE… It sounds obvious but… make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get in touch with you.

Dave Sharpe

What are YOUR Business Challenges? – Have you considered what your business challenges are and how you are going to overcome them.

Focusing on doing what matters, what is important and what will get the biggest results.

To get the business to a stage where I can take some time out each week, and a holiday each year.

Expand the operation so I can take advantage of an already solid and profitable business model.

Working ON my business, rather than IN it.

Building better levels of service and more rewarding customer experiences.

Having a Hotline to a ‘team’ member who can help me stay focused, get things done and help me grow the business.

Helping my team, and me, get better use of our time and stop working reactively, putting out fires, and become more pro-active about building the company.

Developing and building a strong working team so I can, not just manage, but lead my company forward.

To help me find or re-find my passion and get my heart and mind focused on enjoying running and building my business.

Finding a business support company that is both efficient and effective to help me add the right, motivated people to my team.

Deliver superior levels of customer service, create raving fans, and repeat buyers time after time.

As technology develops and new ‘trendy’ methods of advertising become available, we are often looking at revolutionary ways of building our business and trying to find the newest tricks to win more business. Could the multitude of novel methods be clouding your strategy?

Experience has taught me that to succeed you simply have to follow what successful people do. This logic surely applies to businesses too, and I am amazed by the simple lessons applied by major corporations, that bring great results and can be simply applied to your business too.

There are only 3 ways to build a business.

  1. Find more customers
  2. Get your customers to increase their order value
  3. Increase the frequency that your customers shop with you

What can we learn from the ‘big boys’ that can help us acquire new customers…?

Most of us are simply looking to win market share from our competitors. Our most precious assets are our existing customers and these can be our strongest ally in the quest for winning new customers. Two international brands that do this better than most are Next and Sky. Both of these businesses, at nearly every opportunity, invite their customers to introduce them to their friends and family. Sounds simple; and you will often here me say “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” But by creating a “win-win” offer, these global brands are acquiring new customers from their competitors. Are you asking your existing customers to recommend you? If not- start today and you will be amazed by the results.

In terms of helping customers to increase their order value, the Jedi masters are all on the high street. Fast food outlets like McDonalds, and Supermarkets like Tescos, make huge impacts on their bottom lines by drastically increasing the size of their average order values. They do this in some very simple ways…

  • Supermarkets place the everyday necessity items in far reaching corners of the store to ensure that you walk past the maximum number of offers on route. How could you put your offers in front of your customers more often?
  • Several multi-buy offers are positioned on the ends of aisles to encourage you to buy more than you require. What offers could you create to encourage your customers to increase the amount they buy from you?
  • Products that compliment one another are strategically positioned together to promote link purchases. If McDonalds can offer “fries” with every burger then what should you be offering alongside your product/service offerings?
  • Convenient additions of new products, that are desirable to your current customers, can prevent them going elsewhere. What are your customers buying from someone else that they could buy from you?  McDonalds produced a veggie burger and Tescos started selling clothes. What could you add to your portfolio to make your customers life easier and safeguard them from your competition?

We all know that it is easier to get more business from an existing customer than it is to find one from scratch. So, what can we do to keep them coming back? Understanding what big businesses do to encourage this leaves a trail of clues towards strategies that can work for us.

The underlying factor to continue to get your customers to return time and time again is to be genuinely great at what you do. If your service standard is below par then the techniques that follow will not work. What we are really looking to achieve is loyalty. Repeat business is based on loyalty and in the first instance this must be earned. Once you have earned loyalty to your business, I see 3 main areas where you can influence the frequency of customer transactions.

  1. Controlling the process. On of the finest examples in the world at doing this is the Hairdressing industry. Upon delivering their work they will rarely let a customer leave the salon without booking their next appointment. How could you further control the next transaction your customer makes?
  2. Membership or retained income. This is practiced by health clubs and gyms to great success; however an example you can also consider is that of the football club season ticket. A season ticket gives its owner access to all the league home matches and priority on all cup matches and away games, all for a slightly reduced investment than the combined cost for all the scheduled games. It also gives the owner a guaranteed seat at all games that results in a feeling of belonging and privilege.

These are the qualities you should look to replicate if you are to create a membership product. These customers will be your most raving fans and should receive your very best level of ‘rock star’ service. They will be the first to buy additional products and services and should not be taken for granted. All service-based businesses could offer a retained service for a fixed monthly fee, but remember to undersell and over deliver.

  1. Communication. Getting people back to shop with you is largely a case of being able to effectively communicate with them. This can only be done if you understand your customers and have their contact details. Great examples of this come from our nations banks. They are obliged to send us monthly statements and letters. In each of these communications we are encouraged to shop again with these service providers. Another great example of this just last week came to me from Pizza Hut. A few weeks ago I ordered a pizza for delivery and they requested my mobile number. The pizza was delivered, paid for and very much enjoyed. Two weeks later, at 4pm on a Friday, I received a text from Pizza Hut with a great offer to use that night. As such we ate pizza again, however, without that text we would have eaten elsewhere. How could you better communicate with your existing customers to keep them coming back?

In summary, I am hoping you can clearly see that the challenges that we face in growing our own businesses are being addressed every day by some of the biggest brands we know. It can be lonely in business, but we are in the market place every single day- from sitting in traffic staring at the back of a bus to watching TV in the evening. Successes leave clues. Keep your senses open to what others are doing around you, learn from their actions and then take action for yourself.

Phil Jones

What should be your free giveaway?

It’s very interesting how opinions have changed over the last few years in marketing about what your free giveaway should be. I don’t mean the format it should take (i.e. report, e-book, newsletter etc), but what the topic should be and the type of people it should attract.

I know I have certainly changed my opinion.

For the last few years in my business, I’ve been giving away 50 free ways to promote your business and you know what, it’s got results. I’ve attracted lots and lots of new contacts to my business and they’ve all been very happy to give me their contact details.

The theory then goes that once they’ve given you their contact details and therefore expressed interest in what you do, they should go onto buy from you, right?

Well no actually. Not necessarily.

The chances are actually much higher that they’ll grab your free giveaway with both hands and you’ll never hear from them again.

Now I’m not saying that offering a free giveaway is the wrong thing to do, but you must be very careful with what information you give away in order to attract the right people to your business.

If I offer 50 free ways to promote your business, who am I attracting with this information?

I’m attracting people who DON’T WANT to spend any money on marketing.

Is that who I want to attract? Well, no not really.

Who I want to attract are small business owners who want some help with their marketing AND who are willing to pay for someone to help them with it.

Could I change my free offering to attract these sorts of people? Absolutely! While I may not as many people signing up, they would be much more qualified and therefore much more likely to turn into clients.

While this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give these people free information, what they do get will a) much more tailored and personalised to them and b) much more likely to result in sales.

So if you currently offer something free to your contacts in order to get them to sign up for something, make sure that what you’re offering appeals the right set of customers that you’re trying to attract.

Think carefully about your offer and make sure you are attracting the right people to your business.

Ed: Thanks to Helen Dowling for another great blog.

 

If I ask most small business owners, they will tell me how brilliant they are at sales. All they need to do (they will tell me) is get in front of the perfect client and they’ll turn them into a sale.

I can tell you from working with many, many small business owners over the years, that there is rarely such a thing as sitting down in front of the perfect client. In reality, a small business owner will need some degree of sales skills in order to turn a potential client into an actual client.

So my question today is what should be in your sales kit so that no matter what the potential client throws at you, you have all the tools in your arsenal in order to deal with it.

A good sales kit doesn’t necessarily need to be materials that you take along with you but ideally you should have thought these through and be prepared before you go along to a sales meeting.

In my sales kit I have the following:

  • A good pen and some sort of good notepad so I can record what was said
  • Sales literature such as brochures, flyers, business cards etc
  • A list of frequently asked questions so that I know that no matter what the question is I can answer it
  • Diagrams and exercises so that I can demonstrate a technique or idea to a potential client
  • Active listening skills so that I really hear what a potential client is telling me
  • Proposal templates so that I can quickly get a proposal back to a potential client
  • Ways to close the sale or ask what the next step is
  • Always having a chat on the phone first to properly qualify the potential client – is it worth my time going to meet them?

The fact is, when I first started my business, I was really rubbish at sales. I didn’t listen to the potential client and just sat there and told them how we could help rather than listen to what they wanted.

It was only after a good deal of lost sales and opportunities that I realised that clients would very often tell you what they wanted if only you would listen to it.

Once I started to do this, and put together great ways of answering the questions they asked. Believe me answering the question “why did you study Psychology at Luton University?” with “Because I didn’t do as well in my A levels as I wanted to” does not impress a potential client. I know as that’s what I once said.

Now I have ‘political correct’ answers – answers that sound great and can really sell my products and services no matter what is thrown at me.

I have also developed diagrams and exercises so that I can visually explain to a client what we do. Although I don’t have these formally created (as I want to keep the meeting informal), I do have these in my head and can bring them out at any moment to explain a difficult concept to a client.

So do you have all of these tools in your sales kit and how good are you at using them?

A good question to ask yourself is: if you had 10 potential clients, how many of them (being really honest) would you turn into clients? If your answer is anything below 8 out of 10, there is definitely room for improvement.

Thank you to Exceptional Thinking for this blog.

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