Smart working

10 ways to simplify your business

  1. -POPWhat’s your number? What do you need to earn to be happy? What would you like to give to be happy? What’s your definition of success? Have a number – don’t be vague or live in a world of generalities; otherwise you might just become one. Be crystal clear on your number – it can guide everything else you do…
  2. Have a plan. Once clear on your number you need to break it down into your goals – 5 yr / 1 yr / quarterly / monthly / weekly / daily. Hold weekly stand-up meetings with key management to agree what you have collectively achieved this week and what you will achieve together next week. This avoids descending into daily unimportant (although often disarmingly urgent) trivia.
  3. Schedule all tasks in a calendar – share it with key colleagues (maybe family too). So that – as the old saying goes – you should always finish your day on paper before you start it. Remember, what gets scheduled gets done.
  4. Implement systems that can be repeated. This often a painful process but go forward on the basis of thinking “I will do this only once and document it so that others can do it after me”.
  5. Automate your business processes and connect them using cloud technology:- Xero accounting to Capsule CRM to Vend HQ to Harvest time tracking and the list goes on. Tools like IFFFT and Zapier can assist too.
  6. Always be mindful of the 80/20 rule – test your assumptions regarding your (supposed) best (or for that matter) worst customers and the same for your team, suppliers etc. What might be draining your business of time and money (probably both)? How can you squeeze more out of less?
  7. Find leverage. Identify what networks or partners could help you reach out to your preferred customers more quickly if you were to partner up together. You might be targeting the same group of customers. Leverage can be obtained by working together.
  8. Don’t get side-tracked chasing the next shiny object. Marketing is the lifeblood of your business and you should find a handful of ways of generating more leads than you need by mastering them. Don’t fall into the trap of throwing time and money into the next social media channel without mastering some trusted reliable methodologies first.
  9. Don’t fall into the trap of “analysis paralysis”. Strategy can rarely be tested on paper or in a boardroom. It is best learnt on the fly. Test, test, test. Mini projects rolled out that give you information from which you can make more informed strategic decisions.
  10. Keep it simple. Business is complex but we are often guilty of paddling around in circles for fear of making mistakes. By making some seemingly simple steps we can drive forward whilst constantly tweaking as conditions change.

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Which apps have claimed your £1bn of mobile space?

The space on the homescreen of your mobile phone is some of the most valuable real estate in the world – worth a cool £1bn to app developers!

Here are the select few apps that have currently made it onto the homescreen of my Google Nexus 4 phone – they are, I suppose, my ‘£1bn apps’:

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Capsule CRM – the best CRM solution ever! (also, a client (not biased, honest!))

Google Music – Liked Spotify but liking Google Play too. Helped by the fact its a couple of £’s per month cheaper for what appears to be pretty much the same range of music. Interface not quite as user-friendly as Spotify though and downloads seem to take longer…

Evernote – still hard to beat to capture those lists and thoughts. Google Keep has a long way to go IMHO.

Plume – Twitter interface. Not thrilled with it I must confess but it does the job. Free version (cheap-skate I know!) so I get those annoying adds. Wish there was better search capability.

DoggCatcher – my podcast hub. I listen to tonnes of podcasts so this app gets well used. A good app overall but I still miss Tunecast, an app I used to use on iOS (not available on Android as far as I am aware). Again, search facility is lacking in functionality.

Google+ – increasingly flicking to Google+ in preference to Plume (Twitter). I like the scrolling of the Google+ app and the visual qualities are great. My photos are automatically uploaded from my phone so its becoming an increasingly powerful and appealing hub. Watch this space.

Linkedin – Linkedin is an important source of contacts for my work so I use it a fair amount. The app is okay but is still no competition for the web.

Xero – our accounting package of choice. Loved by our clients. Loved by us.

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Feedly – I mourned the day that Google Reader was disbanded but Feedly has picked up the reins well for my RSS feeds. Don’t dip in as often as I used to (not sure why really?) as the app has got better and better. Slick interface and good visuals.

Audible – I chew through audiobooks when on journeys in the car so this app is an absolute must for me. Fortunately it works well and allows for audiobooks to be purchased and downloaded directly through the app which is perfect (didn’t used to be possible).

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Amazon Kindle – again, like Audible and DoggCatcher this is one well worn app on my homescreen. I’m surprised the glass isn’t wearing away where the app sits as I keep on clicking on it! App works well. Can click into Amazon Kindle store to add new ebooks (this functionality was removed by Apple on my iOS but not sure if this is still the case?). Love the way you can sample books plus the recommendations along the bottom of the screen. All very neat.

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YouTube – enough said

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Google Play Store – from where the fun and functionality is sourced!

Google Chrome – the browser of choice. Surely!

Lost track of what this is called? Google Hangouts / Talk / Chat – I’m lost! Anyhow, it seems to work well for texting and chat.

Gmail – works well. Easy to switch between accounts. Been toying with Boomerang. Any other suggestions?

What apps get onto your £1bn space on your phone? Which apps should I be testing?

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Maximising the impact of the 80/20 principle

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.49.29I’ve been enjoying a good book by Google Adwords legend Perry Marshall on applying the 80/20 principle to sales and marketing: 80/20 Sales and Marketing

Like Perry, I found that Richard Koch’s seminal book The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less had a huge impact on me and the way in which I viewed business and, in all honesty, the world in general. After immersing yourself in this book you start to see 80/20 patterns all around.

In essence, the theory holds – with frightening consistency – that 20% of inputs have 80% of results.

In fact, the only noticeable criticism of the 80/20 principle is that it appears to be moving closer to 90/10!

So a handful of customers or clients might make up 80% of profits or worse, a handful of customers might cause 80% of the headaches!

Seeking out the vital few in every situation can have huge benefits particularly in relation to our most precious resource – time.

What makes Perry Marshall’s interpretation extra useful is how he drills down into the fractal nature of the 80/20 principle. So 20% of your clients might make up 80% of your profits but you can drill down further – in this case, 20% of your top 20% of customers will make up 80% of the 80% of profits. Drilling down repeatedly helps us to seek out the vital few.

Also, look out for the Power Curve in terms of how to maximise pricing opportunities. I won’t spoil this but the book is well worth the investment and it provides links to an online tool for testing the Power Curve. I would recommend Richard Koch’s book as a primer if you haven’t already read it.

I am currently reading Think Inside The Box: Discover the exceptional business inside your organization
which looks at useful and interesting ways of applying the 80/20 principle within organisations. A good recommendation from the 80/20 man himself, Richard Koch.

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10 benefits of working with a cloud accountant

  1. We  work together on the same figures – working in real-time.
  2. We can step in and advise early if something looks amiss or where there’s a potential planning opportunity.
  3. You know where you are in terms of business performance now. Today. This week. This Month. And so can act upon it.
  4. We can work at your pace and share our work progress in shared secure online drives – transparency reigns!
  5. We can work together anytime, anywhere. Whether you are in London, Cornwall, Bristol, Aberdeen or closer to home in the north west. Location really doesn’t matter to access the best accountancy services today.
  6. We will always be working on the latest versions of our accounting, CRM, etc saas based software as they can be updated by the service providers online. No more waiting for CD ROM patches and updates.
  7. The days of attempting (and often failing!) to email large files plus the potential for confusion over latest versions are long gone. We handle all data securely in the cloud which makes everything much easier.
  8. New tech add-ons are released regularly to further streamline processes and reduce admin.
  9. Year-end accounting work becomes a formality rather than an information sharing event – there should be no ‘news’ at your year end.
  10. We can now truly become an extension of your management team.

So what are you waiting for…..?

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How to upgrade from Tiger direct to Snow Leopard

Although I’ve had few problems with the Tiger OS X operating system for my Apple Mac, there’ve been a few occasions recently where applications have not supported Tiger (e.g. Google Chrome, Evernote etc) – this is only going to get worse.

So I thought I’d better make the move from Tiger to the latest Mac OS Snow Leopard. Easier said than done.

Here’s how I managed to upgrade from Tiger to Snow Leopard.

First, let’s address my two initial points of confusion:

  1. Can you move straight from Tiger to Snow Leopard? There is little guidance on this but the answer is YES (provided you’ve got the right hardware i.e. Mac with an Intel Processor . 1 GB of RAM. DVD drive for installation and 5GB of spare hard drive disk space).
  2. Is it a case of just sticking the Snow Leopard CD ROM in to update and sitting back – NO!

(I wonder whether point 1 is not widely publicised because plenty of folk will have paid £100+ to upgrade from Tiger to Leopard OS when it was launched a couple of years ago (before the launch of Snow Leopard) however, now you can jump directly from Tiger to Snow Leopard for just £25!)

As you have gathered from point 2 above, I did initially just shove the Snow Leopard disk, rebooted my Macbook (holding down the C key to activate the installation process) and installed it. Beforehand, I had ensured that I had cleared up my disk using the handy Disk Inventory X free tool to free up the minimum 5 GB. I had also backed up my data.

It all appeared to install fine, but when I clicked on Safari, iTunes, Finder and pretty much any other application (apart from Firefox) it failed showing an error message along the lines of “Safari quit unexpectedly”.  So frustrating!

Here was my Twitter feed at the time!:

After much searching online using trusty Firefox (with Safari now defunct) for possible explanations, I found the following which came to the rescue:

This article. – although the disk permissions etc didn’t actually help, it was the reference to the “fresh installation” that opened my eyes to the fact I’d probably missed something…..

This video showed exactly what I should have done – basically, erase Tiger OS. Having followed this advice, it worked perfectly.

I hope this works for you too.

10 tips for getting more stuff done

  1. Plan your day but build in contingency time for last minute emergencies (they always happen!).
  2. Open email first thing in the morning and deal with emails that can be sorted within a few minutes. Then close it, ideally until lunchtime when you can revisit. Reopen at close of play. 3 focused email processing stints. Good luck (still struggling with this myself).
  3. Close that internet browser!
  4. Get some quiet / alone time. Shut your door if you have an office or find a quiet space if you’re open plan (or go to your local coffee shop).
  5. Use autotext shortcuts where possible e.g. in a Blackberry go to ‘Options’ then ‘Autotext’ and insert commonly used email terms (e.g. ‘R’ for ‘Regards’). Saves you a ton of time when you’re on the move.
  6. Ask yourself “Am I the right person to be doing this? or “Is this the best use of my time?”. If not delegate or outsource it.
  7. Treat ‘To-do lists’ with care. Make sure you put your most important task at the top and don’t allow yourself to jump to the easier stuff until you’ve completed it. The danger of to-do lists is that we become obsessed with the thrill of crossing actions out and so end up focusing on the low value easy stuff (often without realising it).
  8. Turn off the ‘New Mail received’ chime and notifier on your email.
  9. Have stand-up meetings only. This makes everyone focus on the important stuff, keeps meetings shorter and minimises the risk of chit-chat.
  10. Get out for some fresh air or exercise. Even if its only for 30 mins. A refreshed mind is usually more focused and productive.

Any further productivity tips to add?

How to listen to your customers and competitors online using Google

It is really important that you are listening to the comments being made online by your customers regarding your business products or services. Also to monitor industry trends and news – plus to keep an eye on your competitors.

This allows you to be responsive to any complaints or erroneous information that may be published online and keep abreast of what aspects of your business that your customers are raving about – so that you can concentrate on doing more of it.

I have turned my Google homepage into a real-time database of news and information pulling articles from across the world as they are published – and its really simple.

Watch this short video in which I show you how to do it.

A couple of top tips before watching:

  1. Click on the Full Screen View option in the bottom right of the above video to enlarge the viewing screen.
  2. I continually refer to RSS Feeds which is the technology behind delivering the articles and news feeds directly to your Google homepage – it stands for Really Simple Syndication but you don’t need to know much more than that (I just like to consider it as magic!).
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