How has your office changed since you started your career?

It’s thirty years since I first set foot in an office and it’s incredible how much has changed in that time. British Gas have created an infographic of the evolution of the office since 1700, and I’m sure a time traveller from 1700 wouldn’t even recognise our offices today. One interesting fact is that the typewriter was invented in 1867 – did you know they’d been around that long? I didn’t.

My first experience of an office was when I had two weeks of work experience as a 15-year-old in the late eighties. One of my GCSEs was in office technology – all of which would be laughably obsolete now! – so I spent two weeks as an administrator in the sales department of an engineering company. At that time staff could smoke at their desks, which would seem very strange today, not to mention it being illegal! The most obvious difference was the technology, though. There was no Internet or email, so a large part of the administrator’s role was typing up letters and memos, then circulating them.

The only electronic communication we had was a telex, used mainly for international messages. I had to type up my message on a computer, save it to a very large floppy disk, then walk down two floors to the only computer which was attached to the telex line. This was fairly cutting edge because until that time telexes had essentially been typewriters connected to a phone line. As far as I know there was no fax machine in the building.

By the time I was temping during my university holidays, around five years later, there was a PC on each admin person’s desk, running Windows, and we had a fax machine. As far as I can remember the PCs were used as little more than advanced typewriters. Files were printed on paper and kept in ring binders. I don’t remember any server where you could save files that could be accessed by other members of staff.

Working from home was unusual at that time, partly because it wasn’t part of the culture of most workplaces but also because the technology didn’t exist to make it feasible. If all the files you needed to do your job were on a shelf in the office, then you needed to be there too.

Fast forward to my first proper desk job in 1995 and we finally had email. But only one computer in the department was connected to the server, so you had to use that computer every time you wanted to send an email. Most internal communication was on paper and to contact someone outside the organisation we used the phone or post.  I had my first peek at the Internet in 1995. I thought it was interesting but I couldn’t really understand what I’d use it for other than as a kind of encyclopaedia. How things have changed!

As you can see from the infographic, the Internet has created a revolution in the way we work. The Internet exploded in the 1990s, going from 500,000 users in 1989 to 248 million in 1999.  But it’s not just the availability and the connectivity of the tech that’s made things possible, it’s the cost of the equipment.

By 1998 I’d changed jobs. I had a computer on my desk with email and internet access, which was a huge step forward. But I travelled a lot for work and the small business that employed me couldn’t justify a laptop for me as they were about £2000 each at the time. And that laptop would have been much less powerful than the smartphone an average teenager owns today! By 2001 I was a freelance software trainer and had to buy my own laptop, a mid-range one for £1000 which was still a lot of money at the time.

As the 21st century moved on, Internet speeds became faster, devices became cheaper and mobile technology progressed at a rapid pace. All of this has enabled me to work from home when I had two young children in a way that wouldn’t have been possible ten years before. For us self-employed mums our offices can be anywhere from the kitchen table once the kids are in bed to a soft-play centre in the school holidays. I feel incredibly lucky that that this era in home working and technology happened to fall at the time when I had a young family as it’s given me an ‘office’ and a business that I could only have dreamt of at the start of my career.

How has your office changed since you started your career?

 

Does Your Business Impress People?

Life is increasingly reliant on perception, rather than reality. If you’re running a business, then it doesn’t matter what’s really going on behind the scenes: what matters is that your potential customers see you as a trustworthy, quality company. It’s all about how you’re perceived. A positive image will lead to success; a negative image will lead to, well, less success. So take a look at your business. When people see your company, are they impressed? Are they inspired by what they see, or do they head to look elsewhere? Below, we take a look at some of the tried and tested methods for leaving a positive imprint on customers and fellow businesses.

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At the Office

It would difficult not to be impressed by a company that has large windows, modern decor, and cool features built into their office. The second you walked through the door, you’d get the sense that this was a business that takes themselves seriously, and that they were going places. On the flip side, an office that is small, cramped, dark, and all-around uninspiring would leave you with doubts. So if you’re trying to impress visitors to your office, make sure it’s in line with the image you’re trying to project through your branding, be it that you’re a traditional company, or modern.

Look the Part

Of course, it’s not just the office that’ll impress others. As the company leader, how you present and conduct yourself will also be important. Just as your office should speak to your company branding, your presentation will speak to your personal branding. As such, it’s imperative that you “look the part.” If you want to be taken seriously in business, you should dress properly and arrive at your meetings professionally — this means being well-groomed, well-dressed, and arriving in a clean, tasteful car. If you need a better vehicle for your business, take a look at https://www.tradecarsandcommercials.co.uk/. You don’t need to have a bespoke suit or business wear, but they should be clean and free of scuffs.

Put on a Show

Making sure that the various aspects of your business are watertight will impress new people you meet, but only to a point. To take things further, you’ll need to do things bigger and better — you need to “wow” them. A good way to do this is to put on an event for your business. It could be a launch event, or a celebration of your success, or anything else. The only rule is that you need to ensure that it’s impressive! And that means music, food and drink, a great location, and so on.

Do Things Differently

People these days are impressed by people and companies who do things differently, so give them a little of what they want! Now, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but if you have the opportunity to do things a little bit different from what everyone else is doing, then take it. It’ll make people take notice, if nothing else.

 

Can You Really Find A Balance Between Business And Home Life?

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

When you’re a working mama, you often know that your time can be stretched. Especially when you’re self-employed, run your own business, or work from home. You’ve got a lot on your to-do list and not always enough time to tick everything off. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to struggle forever. Sure, at first, you can feel as if you’re struggling with work and life, because not everything can be a priority. But, is there a way for you to change this? The short answer is, always!

Now, to some, the balance is never quite balanced. There are always going to be things that come your way and throw you out. And this then means that you’re struggling. That there’s no real way for you to figure out how you can make these two sides of your life to work. But there is. Yes, it takes work. And yes it also takes practice, but it’s certainly not impossible. You just have to go through a trial and error process, and most importantly of all, learn to say no! But we’ll talk a lot more about that later.

Let’s take a look at some of the challenges you face and the best ways to remedy them.

Decide What You Want

First of all, you’re going to want to make sure that you know what you want. Do you know what matters most to you?  Do you want a thriving home business or something small-fry and passive? Do you want to be a hands-on mom who’s always there, or a bit more distance? The actual ‘what’ you decide on doesn’t overly matter here – as long as it’s right for you and you’re able to get that idea firmly in your mind.

Set Priorities

Now, when you know what you want, it’s time to work on your priorities. Because if you’re going to be able to find that balance, you need to have things that matter to you more. But when you can prioritize one or two or things things in life, it will help you to get that balance.

Cut The Fat

As you’re going that, you then need to cut the things that don’t matter. Say you have parenting, business, home, social, group, health and fitness, and community commitments, you cannot do them all, so what matters most? Can you get a cleaner or reduce the number of groups you’re in to make balance easier?

Say No More

The next thing that you need to do here is make sure that you’re saying no a lot more! If you always say yes to people in life and you feel like you’re letting people down, see it as you’re out of balance. If you start to say no because you’re focusing on those priorities, you’ll feel much calmer.

Set Boundaries

When it comes to your work, you need boundaries. That’s just how this is. You cannot just take on everything and be available to your clients or customers at all times. Setting working hours and making sure that you’re not accessible around the clock is so important for you here.

Manage Your Time Better

If that sounds alien to you, maybe you’re not managing your time as well as you could be? If you give yourself those set hours, such as 7am-12pm, or 8am-4pm, or even 7-9am and then 4-6pm, then you know you only have set a number of hours to get things done. And your clients know when you contact you too.

Prioritize Productivity

To help you do that, you need to make sure that you are as productive as possible in the time that you’ve set for working. The more productive you are when you’re working, the less time you will need to spend working to get it all done. It can help you to get a better balance.

Separate Your Worlds

Something else that may help you here, is the ability to keep your working world or business and your home life separate. And when you work from home, this may seem hard. But you can do it but creating an office in a space that is not openly integrated with your living space. For this, you may want to convert something like your garage, or even build a space using residential precast concrete retaining walls to make that happen. Then, you can physically keep the worlds apart, which makes balance much easier.

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Switch Off

Now, let’s think more about your home or personal life. If you know that you struggle to separate the worlds because you’re always thinking about work when you’re done, it’s time to learn how to switch off more. You will find that those working hours will help you, and separating the worlds will too, but then you’ll have to intentionally make sure that you are in the moment, rather than still lost in work thoughts!

Be More Present

Now, when you’re aiming to do that, something that will help you, is aiming to be more present. If you’re always in your mind and you’re thinking or planning or worrying, you’re missing out on the moment. And not only that, but if you’re not in work mode when you want to enjoy family time, you’re not making the best use of your time. So aim to be as present as you can at all times.

Align Your Actions

Another thing that you may find really helps you here, is making sure that you align your actions with what you want. If you know that you want to spend more time with your kids, bt you’re always working, then you need to rethink this. However, you should find that if you are being more intentional, you have priorities, and you’re present, you should be able to make this happen!

Assess As You Go Along

Finally, you’re going to want to make sure that this is always seen as a work in progress. Because if you work through each point (or the ones that best speak to you) and then stop, you may find that your time slips and you’re struggling again. This is something that you constantly – and consciously, need to be working on. Make sure that you’re assessing how things are going for you along the way. When you do, you’ll find that it’s much easier for you to make this work.

And that’s all there is to it. Sometimes, it’s easy to think that you’re always going to struggle, and that you’re never going to be able to find a balance in life that you’re happy with – but that’s just not true. You don’t have to find this hard. You really don’t! You can make this work and enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Or, business-life balance, should we see.

The whole idea here, is for you to get better at balancing everything out. If you can make sure that you’re able to set your priorities, be tough on yourself and others, and learn to say no, it gets easier. Because you get a lot clearer on what you need to do. Not only that, but when you can focus more, and use your time more wisely, that helps too!

So, ladies, go forth – know what matters the most to you, be sure to pick and choose the right tools to help you work smarter and live more intentionally. And then, you’ll find that your business-life balance is blossoming!

 

3 Ways to Increase Your Businesses Reach While Working from Home

Working from home is a major life goal for a lot of people, including both entrepreneurs who like the idea of being independent, and setting their own schedules, and also busy parents, who can’t afford to disappear down to the office every day, but who can spend some of their precious (and rare) free time working at a laptop.

But what if you’re interested in working from home, while also having a broader business reach? What if you want to run a national, or international business, but can’t currently afford to spend your time travelling the world, or spending a big chunk of each day in an office?

Here are a few ideas on how to increase your business reach while working from home.

 

Get some employees and vehicles, and develop a premium “outcall” service

 

Depending on the nature of your business, it’s possible that you could run your main operations from home, but then also hire some employees, get a commercial vehicle from a company like https://www.edencommercialsltd.co.uk/locations/cumbria, and develop a premium “outreach” service.

Sure, this will take a bit of work, but it can be pretty rewarding. Maybe you run a small consulting business, and a customer halfway across the country wants to have an in person meeting before deciding whether to use your services.

In this case, a specially trained staff member could go and do the meeting on your behalf, and you could do the key work from home.

Or, maybe you run a small part-time restaurant from home, but you can only afford to be open for a couple of hours a day, and have a limited number of people in the local area who would be interested in stopping by. Hiring someone with a van or car to do deliveries for you could allow you to advertise on bigger websites, and sell a lot more via takeaway orders.

 

Involve yourself in web-based knowledge work that allows you to work for people across vast distances

 

Web-based work is the gold standard when it comes to working from home, and having a large reach. This is because you typically won’t be limited by basic infrastructure and logistical issues. Instead, you’ll often be able to provide your services to people across the country, or across the world, just as easily as you would to someone living three doors down from you.

You could work as a freelance writer or graphics designer, or as a trainer who does consultations via video call.

In any case, moving your career in this direction can open a lot of doors.

 

Make your professional outings count – become a presence at trade fairs and similar events

 

It may be that occasional professional outings could go a long way in helping to expand your reach, and brand reputation. It’s just a matter of making those outings really count, so that you can still manage to spend most of your time at home.

A good idea here could be to identify the biggest trade fairs and relevant professional gatherings for you, and then book yourself a stall.

Even just going to 3 or 4 of these kinds of events a year might really help to make your business into a presence that people recognise.

Image: Freestocks-photos

Business and Budgeting: Where Startups Should Spend Their Money

As a startup business you have plenty of costs to cover to get yourself up and running, but without a huge budget to do so which can cause a bit of a dilemma. For this reason, it’s important to know where you should be spending your money for the most impact, and where savings can be made. Here are three areas where it makes no sense to scrimp, and the investment is worth it.

Good quality equipment

Starting out with the right equipment will set you up for success. If you’re an office based business, this will be things like computers, printers and office phones. If you’re a printing company it will be a high quality commercial printer. If you’re an agriculture business, you’ll need the right farm equipment from sites like pomi.dk/en/. Work out exactly what you’ll need and then do your research to find the best deals. It’s not to say you need everything brand new, used equipment can sometimes be excellent while saving you massively on the RRP. You could even look into hiring equipment if you’re new to business and want to get started right away without a whole lot of money in the bank,

Hiring the right staff

Hiring the right staff for your business is a process. It takes time, and there are costs involved- but don’t scrimp here. Finding the right people is crucial- their experience and hard work could be what you need to make your venture a success. The money will be spent on advertising the role, you then have the time involved in interviewing. And as we know in business, time is money. From there you will need to cover the costs of training, and then pay them a fair wage along with employee benefits. This will ensure people feel secure at work, they’re more likely to stay with you long term instead of seeking out better jobs elsewhere. A high staff turnover rate is really detrimental to your business- it reduces morale, and means you have to cover recruitment and training costs all over again.

Renting the right premises

Your workplace is so important, the four walls in which you do business can be crucial to your success. If you’re a retail business for example, you’ll need the right spot on the highstreet to make the most of foot traffic. If you’re a manufacturing or production company, you’ll need good transport links to haul goods to and fro. Spend time considering what you need from a premises, and be sure to find one that’s right for you. The wrong size, location or lack of accessibility are things that could eventually lead to your downfall as a business.

Where did you spend the most money when you first started up your business? What other areas were a priority for you?

Image: Pixabay

7 Top Tips for Winning Clients for Your Business

Need more high-paying clients, or just more clients in general? You probably think you’ve got your sales-pitch down to fine art, but have you? The reality is, many businesses simply aren’t making the most of their sales and lead-generation process. If you want to start winning more potential clients and customers for your business, you’re in the right place. Let’s look at how to get it done so that your business can grow and make the money that you need it to:

  1. Have a great sales team

Your ability to generate sales (and leads) will obviously start with your sales team. So if you want to succeed, you need a good one. Far too many businesses rely on poor quality sales teams and wonder why they aren’t getting the results they want. Don’t be one of them.

Anyone can get into sales, so that means the quality of your team can vary dramatically. Make sure your interview and hiring processes are on point so that you only hire the best – with relevant experience.

If you’ve already got a team you aren’t completely happy with – all isn’t lost. You CAN retrain and help your current sales workers get better. Make sure nobody comes across as a pushy salesperson, but make sure everyone is motivated to make sales. One of the best ways to motivate your salesforce is to make sure they’ve got a vested financial interest in making sales. After all, people go to work to earn money so they should be on commission at a reasonable level. That’s how many successful sales teams are paid, and for good reason. It generates results.

  1. Make your benefits clear

When you’re trying to convince potential customers or clients, you need to make sure the benefits they’re going to get are as clear as possible. You might think it’s obvious, but it might not be to everyone. Spell it out so the benefits are clear and everyone knows exactly why they want to do business with you. You can also try out the best free marketing proposal template around.

  1. Offer a guarantee

One good way to get rid of anyone’s last-minute objections is to offer a guarantee. Either a money-back one or something similar. Make sure they’ve got no reason to say no, as they’re not risking anything. That’s how guarantees can help.

  1. Reduce your prices

Another way to finally convince someone to start doing business with you who might previously have been unsure is to offer reduced rates or a discount. The cost of something is one area where many people back down, so reducing it could help.

  1. Use testimonials

If you can let people know how happy other customers and clients have been with your business, it could help convince them. That’s why testimonials can be so powerful. Especially if it’s from someone they know or recognise.

  1. Over-deliver

Don’t just do a good job, do a great one. Over-deliver and people will be happy to spread the work and tell even more people about how great you are.

  1. Make sure they’re happy

Don’t let any of your clients leave your business unhappy. Make sure everyone gets what they want and they’ll help by being positive about your business.

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