Online Business Networking

All forms of Business Networking need to be viewed with cynicism.

Brilliant marketing creates the idea that new opportunities come directly from the events or your online presence.

Can that really be true? Learn from the experience of others.

Business Networking Experience – Online

Over the years online business networking has contributed to the growth of Ontogeny. However, a short piece of research linked to use of time in the workplace provided a stark lesson.

For example: An average week for a small business owner started clearing the weekends email messages. 

20% of the messages were junk. – zero impact as all deleted

50% existing customers and staff. – 2 hours to respond to all the correspondence

18% enquiries generated from direct marketing and website enquiries. – as much time as it required

12% Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter DM. – 3 hours to review all the content, one item a genuine contact.

The value of the business owners time came into the equation. The Return on Time Invested made interesting reading. Online Business Networking required a disproportionate commitment of additional resources for a neglible financial return.

Business Networking Events

Experience is an excellent tutor, however, choose to learn from others. Reading feedback from the businesses that use the network events to sell products and services is often the only preparation involved.

When deciding which events to attend ask 3 questions:

  1. Who is running the event and what do they really know about business in my sector? (Trade shows are always a better investment)
  2. Who provides the positive feedback on the event site, are they businesses that primarily sell advice, legal or accounting?
  3. What am I sacrificing to attend, could my time be more effectively used?

Time is the resource you are spending, once committed there isn’t a way of recycling it or reusing it.

Most business networking events have a theme, therefore, be selective, chose to attend for a purpose.

Dangerous Place to be informed

The Business Online Networks are dangerous. The information presented as factual often needs a health warning.

A couple of recent incidents highlighted this. Two Small Business Owners use the largest online Business Network.

Signing up to a group exposed both to advice provided by someone purporting to be a veteran business marketing consultant. Having read the article and the plaudit comments that followed both implemented the marketing adjustment.

Both lost contract because they no longer complied with the EU Directive for GDPR. A simple mistake, they didn’t check the advice. However, it highlights the issue that individuals can hide behind the networking site, cut, copy and paste articles, sell ideas and create mayhem.

Oh it may be worth pursuing the advisor through an insurance claim, the odds are that the author doesn’t have any.

Luddite, Cynic or Realist

Every tool in your box can work effectively, but it requires skill. Therefore, address the real issue, is Business Networking enhancing our operation?

It is a great distraction, a great way to meet people and chat, but are we making it work for us? Do we really know what we want to achieve through the networking activity?

If employees or directors insist that this is a great use of time, get them to explain where the benefit has impacted on the business and how this is a platform for the future.

The mantra is “It’s good to talk”. Sometimes, more often that not it is better to be selective about who we talk to and what we decide we want to talk about.

To attend an event with the idea that sales will come from it review how effective that has been.

Once a business owner asked us to prove the point. So we agreed that he would attend 2 breakfast events and then we would use the same amount of time cold calling at a local industrial estate.

He bought a new printer, agreed to go out for drinks and sponsored a charity. Our salesperson converted 4 cold calls to repeat business clients, which paid for the purchases and sponsorship.

Conclusion

Make informed and educated choices. Your time is precious, when at work don’t waste on business and face tot face networking if the sales conversion rates can’t justify the commitment.

Remember online Business Networking Sites are the most effective place to prey on the unprepared. The online world is dangerous.

Create a clear strategy, understand what you need to get from the network and never commit more time than you can afford.

Strategy and Planning Tools

The need for expert guidance is always important, we provide our clients with access to our Professional Directory. The people you contact know what they are doing and quickly establish the safe practices every business needs.

Contact us to access our Professional Directory.

 

Bidding Tips #3 – Research

Bid Research has two elements:

  1. Find funders
  2. Funded Projects 

Funding Cloud

Research the Public Databases

The common approach is approach the known funding providers, Trusts and Foundations supporting a sector. It is successful!

However, more information is contained in the data with an alteration to research approach.

Charities, Trusts and Foundations want to be found. They expect to be approached. The art is in the selection process.

Search the formatted data using keywords, grant values and other filters to reduce the time spent is valuable.

However, experience demonstrates that sometimes the data isn’t complete.

Therefore, expansive filters and focus on your beneficiaries to get the most out of the database.

The alternative process.

Create your own list of preferred funders. The Charities Register is a public database and every charity is required to register. Therefore, you have access to every local and regional organisation linked to your community.

Start the search based on locality.

Review every local Charity and isolate all those with grant making powers.

Sort with three fields:

  1. Funders
  2. Potential Partners
  3. Other

 

Review the list of Trustees and look for people you know. It is productive.

Also by reviewing the information funding activities in your community are a potential source of income.

For example: A Sailing Skills Charity held an annual dinner. Another charity looking to fundraise locally looked at how they could add value to the event. The outcome created a 30% funding boost.

Funded Projects

Few Grant Making Trusts and Foundations wish to remain annonymous, therefore, the local research highlights which Charities are investing in the local community.

Additionally encouraging the expansion the footprint in an area of benefit for a grant making body is appealing for a variety of reasons. Learn to exploit the opportunities.

The Funders provide lists of projects, review the projects in detail, look at all published documentation. Once you identify the trend in funding – the similarities it becomes clear where the application is focused.

A volunteer spending 2 hours per week completing this research broadens the potential funding base.

Conclusion

Consequently, a professional fundraiser uses solid reseach to limit the number of wasted applications. Making the time spent fundraising count! If 20% of the time is researching funders that is time well used.

All of the information is in the Public Domain, however knowing where to start is one issue, the thought that is costs to engage a fundraiser is another and making all the count can perplex Trustees.

Remember, funding research is never wasted. Use the networking, partnering and information to support future bids. However, more importantly, raise money locally.

We will be producing newsletters and blogs dedicated to Fundraising, an introduction for beginners and running events, masterclasses, posting videos for those wanting more support.

Contact us 

Opportunity Sourcing

The right Opportunity “enables” the tender writing team.

Tender writing is competitive, therefore, the goal must be achievable!

The right tender opportunity empowers the team and the content.

Three points to consider

TiGolf Link not wasted I hope Time, Evidence, Experienceme

Experience

Evidence

 

Time

Create time and prepare for the “Opportunity”.  Consequently time to correct and polish.

Short lead times create stress, consequently unnecessary tension. A listener hears tension in the voice, the buyer reads uncertainty.

Consequently Team Directors that exploit all the lead time ensure a competitive potential winning tender!

The Lesson therefore:-
Prepare the opportunity,
remain focused!
Experience

The “opportunity” builds on the existing experience of the business.

Tight fitting, verbous tenders are likened to slim fit suits on overweight models. Everyone can see the problems.

An experienced team tailors the presentation of information to suit the tender opportunity.

The lack of experience is evident in the repetitous structure of the tender.

Engender collective ownership of the opportunity when drawing on the experience of the business. Everyone supports the winning team.

Evidence

The “opportunity” creates a broad scope for evidence.

One project referred to 10 tens in a tender response can emphasise the lack of experience. Evidence embeds the competence and flexibility.

Use images, photographs, charts, case studies and customer feedback.

Ensure the evidence is specific, clear and linked to the specific evaluation measure for maximum scoring.

                                               Evidence pyramid

In contrast, gathering evidence after the opportunity is published again creates an unnecessary pressure. The combination is often skewed or the linking points tenuoius.

Create a library of evidence.Likewise The Winning tender requires excellent preparation.

Competition

Be Realistic!

Example: How many of the 124 football clubs in the FA Cup (from the first round proper) have the potential to win the trophy?

All 124 participants. But, only 20 survive to the 3rd round when the big clubs join in. For that reason: Who are the more confident? Who has a better chance to win?

The Lesson therefore:-
Start from a position of confidence. 

Therefore, apply this winning tender writing process. Establish the core elements of the bid, settle them before the opportunity is published and provide the evidence.

That completes compliance.

Establish the financial security of the business and that creates the business competence.

Stage three is where the competitive element and skill of the tender writing team secures the business.

winning opportunities

Conclusion

Compliance and financial competence meet the “opportunity” requirements. Therefore, the team remain focused on winning.

Winning tenders require the right opportunity selection, therefore use the best notification services.

Furthermore Outsource to Tender Management and Writing professionals.

Ensure the preparation, resources, document management and ongoing evidence collation, start with confidence.

Contact Mark to discuss the service we provide. Finally discuss the training options available to bid writing teams.

Consequently:
Develop the Winning Habit! 

 

Business Focus

Critically so much business focus is drifting to a nonsense that affects very few UK companies.

Whatever Happens – Politically, Economically or Socially there is a decision we must make.

A cruise ship that ran aground is seen off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island January 14, 2012. At least three people were killed and rescuers were looking for other victims on Saturday after Costa Concordia, a large Italian cruise ship, carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground overnight, took on water and tipped over. REUTERS/Remo Casilli (ITALY – Tags: DISASTER MARITIME TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) – RTR2W9G2

Passengers, Spectators or Entreprenuers?

Napolean describe Britain as a nation of shop-keepers. Today he would describe the residents as nervous shoppers.

Britain imports more than it exports to Europe. That allows for greater local growth in business.

The last 40 years has seen the redundancy of heavy manufacturing, the development of a service economy and a pool of talent in new sectors.

Therefore, the decision has to be do the businesses of Britain exploit the opportunity or become a victim of change.

Focus and Guts

A fool and his money are easily parted. Billions is paid out every year to develop competitive companies in other EU Member States. As a Business Consultant the first thing I would advise a company is stop subsidising your competitors.

Understand the marketplace. Learn to create locally and generate opportunities. An economy that relies on external stimulation is an economy that can collapse overnight.

Debt Economics

The economic principle of a debt fueled economy is dangerous because everyone owes everyone else and eventually someone has to be paid. Then the dominos begin to fall.

Debt inflates the economy. If individuals are prepared to borrow more to buy what they want the price can contiue to rise. When more save and fewer people buy immediately prices fall. Hence all the high street sales.

A simple principle. If all your personal debts were called in tomorrow apart from a mortgage on a property would you be solvent? How long would it take to pay off the debt at your current income?

Debt fuels pay rises, the media and advertisers say people deserve better but the reality is it can’t be afforded.

Policy Failure is no excuse

All government policy – economic and social is bound to fail someone. There are so many reasons for reaching that conclusion, however, the issue for individuals remains who do I want to be able to blame?

Governments are there to carry the blame for things that fail.

Health and Social Care is failing because UK residents don’t want to pay for it. Countries that don’t have the NHS don’t pay as much in tax but that is because they don’t have the welfare state.

People need to realise that the choices made on tax affect the collective welfare, but the priority today is self interest.

Conclusion

Watch the government, wait for an outcome you can’t control and play on as the ship sicks without trace.

Or do something, anything to bring energy into the business, focus on quality, design, innovation and creativity. Win business because it isn’t looking for you, therefore sell, trade, grow and develop.

Looking for innovative solutions – pick up the phone and call us or contact us. The longer businesses wait the more difficult the pathway.

For example have you decided where you can import alternative product from? or Better where can you export your products and services to?

Don’t be niave the marketplace isn’t waiting for you if you are doing nothing now. Let the CBI, FSB, IoDs and other bodies argue the politics its about time to get up and do something positive.

Fundraising Tips – #1

Funding Cloud Fundraising is the greatest challenge all not for profit, voluntary and charity organisations daily. We hear the stories of great projects and support programmes losing funding and closing their doors. The simple reason is there are so many good causes and not enough funds to go around. 

I began working on all types of fundraising activities in my teenage years. Quite by accident – I had an idea, the event organiser said “Yes – if you can find a sponsor”. Everyone said it would be difficult but it wasn’t, I just asked business owners to help. I ended up with more money than I needed and it went to the organiser.

From that point forward, I was hooked.

Tip #1 – Ask

Luke FitzHerbet (former Director DSC – deceased) frequently explained that the Ask is critical. 

Three points in creating the “Ask”:

  1. Make it clear you are asking
  2. Tell the whole truth – why the money is needed now!
  3. Explain how they will see the impact

Learning ask effectively is important. It is worth practicing! The Fundraising workshops we run focus on the practical elements of preparing to ask, asking and reptition. There aren’t specific rules in the face to face encounter, however, it is important that you know how the money is going to be used.

When approached in the street or at the door I always ask the fundraiser to explain how my donation is divided up. They are often paid, so how much of my donation goes to the company that is paying them? Who are the other recipients before the final beneficiary? This often presents a problem! Coming unprepared means they leave with nothing.

Fundraising Event – Asking  

The bucket gets passed around and everyone is expected to drop money in for the charitable cause. Consequently, guests are intimidated into giving. However, the cause may not be mentioned but it should be clear to everyone where the funds are going.

The Event Ask requires greater transparency. So again make it clear that you are asking not demanding, not looking to embarrass them into giving. Treat the donors with the dignity and respect you want the beneficiaries to be shown. 

Conclusion

Fundraising can be fun. Therefore, it should be productive and it must be fully accountable.

Getting the Ask right is a simple step to fundraising success. 

Bid and Trust  based fundraising requires the same approach to Asking. Contact the Tender Management team for more details of our training workshops, fundraising support and event management services.  

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Factoring and Tenders

Factoring affects the financial credibility of a small business.

What is Factoring?

Investopedia describes Factoring as:

What is a ‘Factor’

A factor is a financial intermediary that purchases receivables from a company. A factor is essentially a funding source that agrees to pay the company the value of the invoice less a discount for commission and fees. The factor advances most of the invoiced amount to the company immediately and the balance upon receipt of funds from the invoiced party.

Read more: Factor

Harsh measure
                    How it works

Businesses that need to resort to Factoring Agents immediately inform the buyer that cashflow is an issue. Isn’t it confidential? No! When a business collaborates with an agency the paperwork includes a “charge” against the business. So the first credit check or compliance audit shows the priority charge against the business.

Money for Invoices

Sounds great on the face of it. The Factoring Agent rates of payment of your invoice then the balance less fees when the account is settled, it can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Factoring as a first stop demonstrates a lack of confidence in customer relationships or satisfaction, it is also evidence of poor risk management, because too few Small Businesses understand how their marketplace works, they arrive with the invoice, its part paid but what impact does this have on the longterm cashflow?

I have an example for you to ponder on.

A Home Care Support provider has a contract for 300 hours a week. Great news!

The terms are non-negotiable; payment within 14 days of invoice – subject to authorisation and satisfaction.

To win the contract they looked at the competition, the common pricing structure and decided to undercut the hour rate by 10%.

They have the staff, care package and the start date.

Knowing the cost of an overdraft the decision to factor seems reasonable.

Invoice for 1st weeks hours is sent in knowing it will be paid in 14 days subject to satisfactory terms met; so they factor the invoice and receive 75% of the value immediately. They repeat this every week for 6 weeks. What is the cumilative impact on the business? Great they can pay staff wages but suddenly they are aware that the balance is critical and they are under pressure to meet increasing demands.

What if one invoice is challenged? How does that impact on the business?

Its not all negative, businesses survive and come through this but there is a valuable lesson in this for all business owners.

Playing catch-up on cashflow as a new business is a struggle because the gap is always widening is an unnecessary burden, Plan Strategically and work into the contract, no one wants to see the business struggle, so work with the goodwill.

Is Factoring wrong?  

Not at all but for a new start up with a limited customer base it is very dangerous. A single disputed invoice can break the bank.

Understanding the risk should create an awareness to exhaust all the other solutions.

The primary way to avoid the issue in the first place remains know the real costs of your operational activity, breakeven point, profit and investment calculations before you take on a contract, then  you know the impact of undercutting that price.

In the case to ponder above after three months a business was already losing 7%, it stripped out the profit, the Directors could not pay themselves, ending with another charge on the business for a mortgage..

1st Principle of Bidding

Understand how much you can afford to charge and what that unit cost or hourly rate covers.

Working with KKS Management clients we calculate three figures:

  1. The minimum you can afford to charge
  2. The clear contingency and reinvestment sum
  3. A real profit margin

Winning new business is difficult, invest well in the process and understand the financial needs of your business and factoring becomes a measured response to slow paying loyal clients that you can afford to carry.Essential Tender Quality mark

Grow carefully and sustainably! Looking to grab loads contracts at the lowest price is an unsustainable approach. Competitive Tendering requires more investment, knowledge and planning, this is the primary investment strategy every business needs.

Anyone can set up in Business but not everyone can make a success of it. Improve your odds by getting sound advice

Strategic Planning

The importance of strategic planning in small and medium sized businesses  is easily overlooked. The business owner or senior manager that fails to plan strategically is creating a recipe that inevitably leaves the business on the back foot. 

Plan the route to success.

Developing Strategically

Creating Success

“My target is to run faster than anyone has ever run before!” a simple statement, or how about “I want to own the best car sales business around”. Two great statements but they have one thing in common – both require and reality check.

Personally I’m 60 years old, overweight and have coronary problems – I couldn’t achieve the first but physically it is now impossible. Nor could I achieve the second because I have no interest in cars and my enthusiasm would soon wain. Is that what I mean by a reality check?

No. To achieve anything worthwhile, we all need a clear plan.

The “reality check” is the planning process. We have to ask the right questions and respond with honest answers.

When Usain Bolt decided he wanted to run faster than anyone before him he knew this, the same with every highly successful business. Many successful business owners don’t realise they have a plan but they implement the key components.

To be successful in business requires that we understand the importance of maximising the skills, talents and resources we have.

A clear overview of what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it is a basic form of strategic development.

A Strategy requires a Target outcome!

So, strategy creation follows a five-stage process:

  1. Analysis
  2. Opportunities and options
  3. Bench Test
  4. Evaluating 
  5. Selection and progress review

Many have heard of TOWS, SWOT, PEST, PESTO but experience demonstrates that you have all the tools and put them to use, however, it is critical that these are applied with a strong dose of realism.

Strategic Analysis

“Know thyself” is often thought to be the basis of this but again knowing your business isn’t enough, we must position the business. One tool seldom used now is analysis of local market share. If no one is buying locally why will that change if you suddenly decide to become international?

Leadership Capacity

The critical question must be am I skilled enough to create business growth? “I started the business – so of course I am” is a poor starting. Learning in business is the key to strategic and operational growth. Therefore, my next question is “what new skills have I gained and what skills do I need?”

Recently I was asked to calculate the hourly rate for company looking to grow. Straightforward enough but how had they set the figure before? Asked around to see what competitors were charging and priced themselves £2 an hour lower. This was ridiculous!

Isolate the capacity you require, either learn the skills or buy them in at a fixed price. Never fall prey to an open-ended consultancy, create a project based approach.

Business Capability and Capacity

We can all review our resources, liabilities, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Explore the Core Competencies of key members of your team. It could be time to part company with some of the management team or staff. If you are buying in skills from consultants that senior staff should have then be honest with. Train them or replace them.

Understanding and working with the unique strengths of the business enables the team to consolidate, focus and develop.

This analysis can lead to painful outcomes but remember your teenage years – growing is painful. The greatest asset and liability of any business is the people who work in it and yet they remain critical when setting yourself apart from your competitors.

Once you have an understanding of your own capacity, capabilities and a realistic target for the business systems then apply the same rigorous approach to:

  • The business environment
  • the marketplace
  • existing customers
  • Target customers
  • competitors
  • direction

Introduce Strategic Planning 

                                                                                                                                  

I was always taught that plagiarism is a fools game in the education sector because if I found something of interest on a subject the likelihood is that my tutors will have already used it. So I am going to credit every other blog and newsletter writer I have ever read because I know that many of my ideas and comments are not unique, however, they do reflect those who influenced my business development approach. 

 

2019 Tender Writing

2019 the year of growth for small businesses.

Reshaping the trading arrangements for large international companies is going to be painful, especially for the Public Sector.

Challenge

The challenges include understanding the private sector, having been used to large multinationals controlled by EU Regulation. The new marketplace is an opportunity for local business owners to take back the contracts lost to EU based companies.

Winning business from a risk averse public sector requires strategic planning and development. Answer questions before the buyer realises what they should be asking.

Fear

The biggest fear is a skills drain, explain how your company is going to fill the gaps. Why your structure provides the openness and accountability required because you’re based in the local community.

2019 is a year of opportunity, more markets because the UK is a net importer therefore, the priority is replace the imported products and services. For example: retro fitting dual fuel (hybrid technology) reduces the need for improting vehicles. It costs less than buying new and offers the UK an innovation niche.

The application of technology is simple, cost of production lower than most engineering companies realise and the market is massive.

Politics doesn’t drive business interest or the marketplace unless business allow that to happen.

Options and Opportunities

Before investment and funding businesses need to have a clear plan, effective systems and baggage free market conditions. The Business Consultancy Network portal creates those bespoke solutions for companies looking forward to growth and expansion.

We focus on the needs of the small business, creating a competitive profile and developing simple win strategies that demonstrate the flexibility and cost effectiveness of the UK Small Business owners.

Contact us for early booking details and looking forward to seeing you there.

Business Support

Business support in practice.

The holistic development of a business remains one of the most exciting parts of working with Small, Medium and Micro enterprises.

We have been providing this support for 35 years.

Developing our core practice skills working for Public, Private, Small Business, Social Enterprise and Not for Profit businesses.

The team is innovative, dynamic because they apply their scalable management, strategic development skills to all businesses. Consequently, enhances the offer to businesses.

Our Offer

Mark P Trotter established the inital structure, attracting talented freelancers  and businesses who had demonstrated to him that they are “the best” in their chosen skill.

The links with technical and copywriters; graphic designers; marketing specialists; bookkeeping; accountants; health and safety; training providers enhance the offer to local businesses. We work with proven talent to ensure a single point of contact.

Mark P Trotter offer:

    • Business development services;
    • Extra hands to work alongside your project team,
    • outsourced services;
    • Business planning;
    • bid and tender writing;
    • policy management;
    • bookkeeping;
    • skills analysis and gap management;
    • training; and
    • development.

Access to the dynamic team and inclusive approach is the equivelent of attaching a booster to your business.

All prices quoted and agreed are fixed (conditions apply). Follow the blog.

Quality

People are at the heart of every business. Therefore, support comes with a commitment to quality improvement. This is achieved using practical Essential Tender Quality markdevelopment and support systems.

Quality must be auditable, therefore, we ensure that the tools you use to measure quality are applied to the service you provide.

Contact

Start small and test out our skills! because we work alongside you as we deliver you decide how we take the working relationship forward.

Therefore, the key part of the offer is our experience which has taught that business owners often know what the issues are and the extra hands we offer present the opportunity to meet the challenges positively.