INSIGHT – Is a business coach worth it?

Being a business owner can be lonely at times. Who do you talk to when you are not sure of what you need to do next? If you have staff to look after it’s important you behave as a leader and your workforce will want to see you as one – and this is where a good business coach can come in.

In this great INSIGHT post Caroline Rust, Managing Director of Workshops Work shares her hints and tips on business coaching and gives her views on why a business coach really is worth it.

What is coaching?

In its broadest sense, business coaching is about enabling individuals to achieve their potential and make changes through a process of enquiry, reflection and action.

A coach will encourage others to explore problems and opportunities from a wide range of perspectives before encouraging you to choose and commit to a goal or course of action. Coaching styles range from forms which may be almost passive in their delivery to more provocative and directive approaches.

Is a Business Coach worth it?

A key to being successful in business is asking the question, ‘what is the return on my investment?’ Whether that’s time or money, business coaching is both. Business owners need to be crystal clear about what they hope the coaching will help them achieve.

Business coaches can help support growth and change, by helping business owners to think through their options. The truth is that return on any sort of investment is not always easy to express directly in monetary terms. An effective business coach will recognise the need to demonstrate value and relevant business objectives should be identified at the start of the coaching process.

So why hire a coach?

There are many ways that a coach can help to support businesses. On a personal level business owners may need additional skills outside of their area of knowledge to help grow their business. A coach can help the business owner identify their own skills and knowledge gaps, and that of their workforce.

A good coach should provide a fresh pair of eyes. It’s not always easy to see what needs changing and using a coaching service for a short period of time can provide the nudge that many businesses need to get on track or seek out new opportunities. The right coach for you will help you spot what is working and what isn’t. In short a coach can help business owners see things from a fresh perspective (they just need to be willing and open to take part in the process).

A coach will provide a very welcome and safe sounding board for you to explore possibilities without having to commit to action before you are sure it’s a direction you want to travel in.

Typical coaching topics

The following list is not exhaustive and in general business owners may find benefit in coaching by exploring:

  • New skills and knowledge
  • People management issues
  • Ways to grow business
  • Ideas that increase profits
  • Personal development and work/life issues
  • Or to act as a confidential sounding board

How to choose a coach

Recommendation is best and it’s crucial that you trust and feel at ease with your Coach. However the truth is we don’t always get on with everyone we meet, so you may need to search before you find someone who works for you.

Most Coaches are willing to meet up for an informal interview to establish fit before being engaged, so don’t be shy of asking to meet for an non-obligation cappuccino! An effective coach will always have your best interests at heart and should be looking for new ways to stretch you.

As such Coaches will ask lots of questions, after all that their job, but it’s also your time to think and talk about your issues. Beware of anyone who spends most of the time talking about their experiences and themselves!

Professional Coaches work hard to understand firstly what it is their services are required and why. Best practice expects that they provide a ‘terms of engagement’ contract or document, if they avoid this, then avoid them!

Good luck!”

For more information about coaching go to Workshops Work or email caroline@workshopswork.co.uk

INSIGHT: Moving your business to a new area

What do you do when you’re moving your business to another part of the country? That’s precisely what Rob, founder of The Mac Doctor is planning on doing. Coming to Norfolk next month we asked The Mac Doctor to share a few of his top tips for anyone thinking of doing the same – as you can see there’s lots to think about!

“I was delighted to be asked by Business East to contribute a few words about my thoughts on the challenges of moving a business to a new area of the country as that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.

I started a part-time business in Surrey last year after being unceremoniously let go from my previous job in management. I’d gathered so much experience in my field (both through work and personal interest) that I wanted to see if it could become a full time career – and after trying it out, I decided that it is, and it’s something that I want to do too!

“Tricky. In two words; very tricky”

However, having been born and raised in Norfolk, I wanted to return after ten years of doing the ‘London thing’ and firmly plant myself back home with a decent business. The challenges however are an issue and not to be sneezed at. If I could sum it up in one word, it would be ‘tricky’. In two words; ‘very tricky’.

The biggest challenge I have found is exposure. How does a business get to be heard of without being present in the region? Well, that’s where I’ve found online presence to be so valuable. I built my websites in strict accordance with Google’s guidelines, which tell you exactly how to make sure your website gets decent page rankings and search results – and more importantly what to avoid. I am already getting calls from folk around Norwich, and there’s still a few weeks to go before I relocate.

“Twitter has enabled me to be ‘local’ without actually being local yet.”

I’ve also found that quality internet social networking has really helped to put me in contact with local businesses; essential these days. Twitter has been the biggest proponent in this by a long way. It has enabled me to be ‘local’ without actually being local yet. I have had help in management of Twitter by my good friend and business ally at Studio96. He has shown me that it’s not necessarily about followers, more about following and contributing quality input to local businesses. A real bonus on Twitter has been my involvement with Business East, exactly the type of people one needs as a business friend!

“You would be amazed at how effective dropping flyers is”

In addition to online presence I will be pounding the streets of Norwich and the surrounding areas dropping postcards through doors. You would be amazed at how effective dropping flyers is, even in this technical day and age. No end of my current clients have a Mac Doctor flyer on their fridge or corkboard! If you find one on your doormat in the coming weeks, don’t be surprised.

Once the exposure is there of course, business becomes a little easier. Other challenges associated with moving remain (the normal ones; finding a house, change of address, financial balance during the transition, closing everything at one end and opening at the other end etc), but these days the internet really helps in a lot of ways meaning that an afternoon spent at a computer will have most things wrapped up. I’ve found that simply being nice to people when dealing with a challenge of some sort can work wonders – after all, why would anyone want to help out a grumpy guts?!

Despite the challenges I face in the next few weeks, I can’t wait to be back in Norfolk. It will be like coming home, but to a new life and a business that I love doing. I’m looking forward to working with everyone who needs help with their Apple products, no matter what’s required.”

About The Mac Doctor:

My name’s Rob and I’m 36 years young, married to Esther and our first little one is on the way (due 7th April 2012). I longed for the London life ten years ago, but having been there I can truly say how much I love Norfolk and can’t wait to be back. This year will be the toughest year for me yet, but with the help of family, friends and business colleagues, I know it will be a triumphant one – and that’s not a word one hears often these days.

If you need anything Apple repaired you can find The Mac Doctor online and on Twitter.

Focus #8: Fudulous

We’re a big fan of cakes and sweet treats here at Business East. In today’s FOCUS we meet Chrissy Sturgess, who’s the face behind Fudgulous – a hand-made artisan fudge business based in East Harling, Norfolk.

We’ll find out how she makes her fudge so delicious (yes, some fabulous samples was sent to Business East HQ) and the challenges she faces running a small business.

Hi Chrissy – great to meet you. What is Fudgulous, and how do you set yourself apart from your competitors? 

Here at Fudgulous I specialise in creating hand-made artisan fudge to my very own recipe. I use no artificial flavours or preservatives – my fudge contains highquality ingredients and I make it in small batches to achieve the finest quality.

So what products do you sell?

I sell a wide range of products – fudge, toffee, fudge cookies and more! Our favourite flavours are chocolate and vanilla, but I also sell Irish cream, maple syrup, ginger and cappucino. Product-wise you can buy it bagged or boxed, Prices start from £1.50 for 75g

How did you start?

I started Fudgulous in 2011 after cooking a batch of fudge at Christmas to give as presents. I wanted to leave my current job at the time and my Mum suggested I did what I love best – making fudge and selling it.

What got you into making fudge in the first place?

I have always loved cooking.  I was encouraged to cook from a young age, rustling up things from scratch and using fresh ingredients. After nearly five years of working at Holland and Barrett, I decided that it was time for a change and to use my creativity and passion for cooking – I use this appoach with my fudge.

Is fudge experiencing a boost in popularity?

I think there is always a market for fudge. I believe it’s completely different to chocolate so it’s hard to compare.  It’s quite traditional and I don’t think it really goes out of fashion like some food trends on the market at the moment. Like chocolate, people will always buy fudge.

Do you spend any money on marketing Fudgulous?

I have spent very little money on advertising. I use all the free ways of advertising and I always make sure that I am out there selling. A big part of advertising is networking and getting out there – people like to meet the maker of the product.

How can people buy from you?

I have an online shop – and deliver across the UK. You can also buy Fudgulous products at Great Hockham Farmers’ Market, The Lophams Farmers’ Market and direct from my home.

What tips would you give someone who wanted to follow your lead? 

Write a business plan. Test the market for your product before you take it on full time. Don’t spend money on advertising unless you really think it will be worth it. There are lots of free ways of advertising out there like, GBBO, Twitter, Facebook and various websites set up by people who want to help new businesses. Do lots of different events to find out which ones work best for you and keep a regular event somewhere so that people can always find you. It takes a while to build up a reputation and may cost you money but it will pay off in the end.

You can find Fudgulous online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Focus #7: We Love Hoodies

We’ve not had a clothing business on Business East yet, so when Tony Allen from We Love Hoodies got in touch we thought it would make a fantastic FOCUS piece.

In today’s feature Tony tells us all about his business and how you don’t need to spend lots of money to set up a successful e-commerce website.

 

Hi Tony – great to meet you. Tell us about your business

Here at WeLoveHoodies.co.uk we sell plain hoodies for men, women and kids in a wide range of colours and styles. We just do hoodies, plain hoodies, nothing else.

So how did you start the business?

We’ve been printing t-shirts and other garments for a while now. We found our customers really liked plain hoodies and said it was difficult to find a wide range on the high street – so we decided to start a website. E-commerce allows you to target a global marketplace and really interact with your customers through social media, and the lack of major overheads also helps too!

So how did you come up with the name?

We wanted something with the word hoodies in title, something that was simple but effective. We Love Hoodies says what we do and that we have a love for what we sell!

What’s the most popular hoodie would you say? Is there one?

Definitely the biggest seller has been the Hot Pink hoodie, it stands out but also isn’t in your face. The colour is modern, fresh but not too out there to make you look like your style is way off the radar!

Do you have a typical customer?

Well you don’t tend to see out hoodies on OAP coach trips to Margate but we don’t discriminate! Our typical customers are men and women in their late teens up to the mid-thirties. We also get inquiries from dance groups, sports clubs who want something different from the usual drab colours.

So what’s your business plan? Where do you see the business in five years?

The great thing about e-commerce is that you can start small with little outlay and need for deep financial planning. The tools are out there to get you up and running without incurring big costs. Our plan is to be an established go-to site for plain hoodies in the UK. Within the next five years we hope to be able to offer online services where you can design and personalise your hoodie as at the moment the systems out there aren’t as user friendly as we’d like.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of having your own business?

The most rewarding aspect is having control and seeing your ideas come to fruition. Being online, it’s always interesting to see where your orders are coming from. There’s so much out there in online shopping, it always feels good when someone picked your site to spend money with.

What’s been your highlight so far? Any big sales or big orders from other businesses?

We Love Hoodie’s is quite new, the real highlight has been getting those first orders when the site is still in it’s infancy in terms of getting the word out. This is not the first time we’ve had an e-commerce operation, previously we had Premiership footballer Djibril Cisse order from us when he was playing for Marseille so that was a little claim to fame!

Do you spend any money on marketing / advertising?

In the world of social media, the best marketing is word of mouth and interacting with people and this doesn’t really cost. We sometimes spend a little on PPC ads though. Recently we’ve been promoting ourselves by donating money from every order to a charity called The Calm Zone who offer services helping you men with depression. If you can get some good notice online whilst helping out charitable causes then we’d rather do this that just spend money on ads which may not give you a worthwhile return.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Touch wood we haven’t been tested yet! The balance between home and work is easy to maintain when you work on your own. I guess the main challenge is keeping yourself occupied and maintaining focus. We are lucky in a way that our business has good suppliers who delivery quickly and that we are able to process orders easily – that’s the beauty of working with an e-commerce site.

Great interview Tony, thanks for telling us about your business. Before you go though, what tips would you give someone who wanted to follow your lead in selling clothes online?

Just go for it. Don’t spend thousands on getting an online shop designed. You can build an e-commerce site for less than £100 and you don’t need really need any programming skills either. Sure the site may not look amazing but if it’s presentable and most importantly it works then that’s half the battle. When it starts to make money (and hopefully it will) then you can start by investing some of those profits into making your site look better and more functional. I’ve found that as your site looks quite trustworthy, doesn’t seem generic and offers good product info then you will get orders.

You can find We Love Hoodies online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

FOCUS #6 – The Kings Head, Belton

You only have to read the news recently to know that times are incredibly tough for the pub industry. However, it’s not all doom and gloom for quality locals. In today’s FOCUS we meet Kaz Reddy, landlady of The Kings Head, Belton since June 2011.

Hi there Kaz, great to feature you. Let’s start by telling us a bit about your pub

The Kings Head is located in Belton, around six miles from the centre of Gt Yarmouth. We always have something special on offer here – when it’s cold outside we have a roaring fire while in summer you and the kids will enjoy our outdoor family seating area.

Drinks-wise have a wide selection of real ales, lagers, fine wines and non-alcoholic drinks as well as our teas and espressos. We serve a selection of snacks and freshly made sandwiches and at lunchtimes we offer menus that include both traditional, home-cooked meals and light snacks.

How do you get involved in the local community?

Our vision is to make our pub a ‘community centre for all’. First off we are very proud sponsors of Belton FC and Belton FC Under 13s – we support’em, we feed’em and promote’em!

Every Wednesday evening The King’s Head is host to the Belton Slimming World Groups in the Royal Suite which is a great way to meet local mums. We’re going one-step further and will soon be adding Slimming World recipes to our food menu too. Oh, and we also host Age Concern Lunch and Social Club for the over 60s on Fridays too – they’re a lively bunch!

If you’re a out at work all day and are having a parcel delivered we’re registered with “Use your Local” so we can accept it for you and you can pick it up in the evening. So as you can see we really do cater for all ages and get involved with our community as much as we can.

Does the pub have any interesting history?

In the 1900s it was called Belton Gardens, then the Kings Head Hotel and now the Kings Head. We have many old photos including a 1912 photo of the regulars, so this year we’ll be taking a 2012 photo of all our regulars to hang along side it. Our function room The Royal Suite started out as the drill hall for the Belton Home Guard and a photo is proudly displayed in the bar and we are hoping to recreate a little bit of Belton Gardens this year by displaying and planting flowers and borders as it once was – red white and blue to fit the jubilee theme.

Some pubs are really anti-children – would you say you were different?

Absolutely. We are very much a family pub, we are very central in a lively young village. Now I have settled in we will play host to more family evenings to entertain such as discos and theme nights. We already cater for childrens’ birthday parties and hosted a fundraising night for Moorlands Primary school in the village.

Do you spend any money on marketing / advertising?

Very rarely. Having worked in a local school, run the village youth club and football teams for years we already kow a lot of local people so this has helped us immensely. I prefer interacting on Facebook and Twitter and I’ve just learnt to build a website too!

How do you balance work and home life

Err work life balance? What’s that! Running a pub is not a job it’s your whole life. I do try to treat myself now and then by having my nails done and watching Belton FC on a Saturday afternoon.

What tips would you give someone who wanted to follow your lead?

Think outside the box, involve the community in what you’re doing and use local talent and services.

What do you think the future holds for the pub industry? Is it as tough as everyone says?

Yes very tough, it’s 24/7 and you need to be able to wear many hats and do every job role associated with running the business, but ultimately it’s all about your customers and the service you provide.

You can find The Kings Head online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

INSIGHT – Why your business blog isn’t getting viewed

So you’ve got a business blog online and you’re updating it often. You’re uploading pictures, you’re talking about big orders – and yet it feels like you’re just talking to yourself because no-one’s reading it? If you want to stand out from your competition and make your business blog the must-read on the internet, this INSIGHT article aims to give you some guidelines and tips.

Insight 1 – Don’t over advertise.

Too many blogs sell their souls and apply this type of marketing. But you have to consider that your visitors need information, not your marketing gimmicks. Below are some of the annoying adverts that you probably have seen on most blogs online.

  • Annoying pop-ups
  • Blinking adverts
  • Irrelevant advertisements
  • Video adverts

People today are too smart with regards to advertising. Heck, they can even track if an advert is an affiliate product or not. Putting too much emphasis on your desire to earn is not the right way to blogging genius. You need to feed your readers with more content on a regular basis to maintain your blog’s competitive edge.

Insight 2 – Make your blogs genuine

You don’t need to be a great writer to be a great business blogger. Speak from the heart and try and write like you are chatting to the person face-to-face. Try and make your personality shine through – this not only gives your business a human face it makes your readers relate to you. Speak about things that make you happy, sad or angry. If you’ve not had a good day – say so! You don’t need to strive harder just to become an exemplary writer.

Insight 3 – Update your blog often

Simple fact here – a stagnant blog is a worthless blog. I know time is valuable, but business bloggers who don’t have the full commitment shouldn’t be blogging. Think about it, you wouldn’t open your shop every day for a week for a few months, get some regular customers, then close the doors on Wednesday to Saturday, open Sunday, close Monday… it annoys people!

If you have a blog, stick to it. Taking an hour out to make a post every couple of days is simple enough task to do – and it’ll help increase your brand awareness and customer loyalty too. You don’t even need to blog and then publish – WordPress lets you schedule the post – so if you want to set it for a few days down the line then do it! Plus the best part is that once you’ve created your content it will be there for the world to see – whether that’s two months or two years down the line.

Insight 4 – Make your blog easy-to follow

Remember the philosophy of Internet giant Google – “Simplicity is Powerful”. So don’t complicate things with regards to your web design and concentrate more on content and marketing campaign of your site. Categorise your posts in simple-to-follow categories and don’t have too many menus. Archives are good to let people catch up on posts they may have missed, as is a subscribe button.

Insight 5 – Always respond to comments

Comments are great. Having them on your blog tells Google your blog is popular and it shows your posts are interesting and engage debate. Try and end your blog with a question inviting comments and respond when they’re made. You may find you pick up quite a loyal following.

So there you have a few tips to give you an idea on how you can improve your blog as well as your ability to write in a constant basis. Blogging is not entirely a competition, but rather a choice of what you exactly wanted to become. Put love and passion in blogging and you will surely reap the benefits.

FOCUS #5: Photo Gift Art

In today’s FOCUS we meet Mike Scott, the talent behind Photo Gift Art, provider of unique and exclusive personalised photo and word art prints.

Thanks for getting in touch with Business East Mike! So tell us about Photo Gift Art – what exactly is it that you do?

“For people who want something different we offer an extensive range of unique and exclusive personalised photo and word art prints and canvasses. Here at Photo Gift Art we’re on a mission to change houses into homes by replacing boring magnolia walls with conversation-starting photo and word art products. We allow our customers to not only choose the products they want but actually get involved in creating them using our simple design services.

Unlike other companies who offer standard ‘off-the-shelf products’, we have an online design tool for quickly creating your own personalised gift art. This means the customer is creating limited editions which are much more special, meaningful and thoughtful than the norm.

What’s the story behind Photo Gift Art?

Well I was having a conversation with John Potter and Ashley Barnes about how we live in a world where if you go out for a night you are likely to meet someone wearing the exact same shirt as you because everything now is commoditised and standard. We think that people still want to be unique and expressive and especially when it comes to buying gifts. People want to put their own thought and imagination into creating products for those that they care about.

Shortly after this chat I went round a friend’s house to find the same wall canvas on their wall as on my lounge wall and it was then that we decided to start a company that would allow people to create limited editions of one.

How did you come up with the name?

It was quite easy actually – it’s the three things we do ! A lot of our products are photo-based, we also offer a great range of services for photos such as restoration, colourisation and do a fantastic range of caricatures which people love. The gift part came from everything we do is a gift – it might be a gift for yourself, a loved one or someone in the office but it’s always a thoughtful gift. And the art is because we believe that with a little thought, imagination, inspiration and effort that everyone can create art.


What’s the most popular picture people come to you with? Is there one?

We do a product called ‘Likes’ (see picture, left) which allows people to put down things they or their friends like. This has flown out of the door with lots of people ordering having seen them at a friend’s house and wanting to create their own unique versions.

Do you have a typical customer?

Great question, I have checked the Insights on our Facebook page and we have 70% female fans and the majority are in the 25 to 50 age bracket. Saying that I sold a personalised mug to a 92-year-old last week so everyone seems to love our products and the ethos of our company!

Where do you see Photo Gift Art in five years?

The business plan is to build more online design tools to allow people to go wild with their imaginations and create some really innovative products. We are also working on finding a team of designers to help come up with some ideas that we can then allow people to build on (any good designers in the East then get in touch!). In five years we will have a nationally-recognised brand and be the leader in bespoke home art products.

What’s been your highlight so far?

The main highlight has been the feedback, it has been overwhelming. People really love the products we create with them and that makes the job fun. We’ve also picked up nearly 500 Facebook fans in two months which says we must be doing something right. We are branching into some great new business channels – we are currently talking to the offshore industry about some innovative ideas and are currently working hard on our new website.

Do you spend any money on marketing / advertising?

At the moment the majority of our business has been word of mouth and through a shop presence we have down here on the east coast. As the website goes live then we will be moving into social media and online advertising – my background is technical and online marketing so we will get on very well there. We are also working on an old fashioned paper catalogue.

How do you balance work and home life – have you ever had to design something for a tight deadline?

Work and home life are pretty much the same thing for me – I have an office at home and can usually be found in there at strange hours. However, saying that I have two amazing kids and I make sure I protect some time to give them my full attention. My eight year old daughter loves creating word art products with me and her bedroom walls are already looking a little full.

What tips would you give someone who wanted to follow your lead?

If you have an idea and a passion then go for it, we may be told that we are in a period of austerity and that it is all doom and gloom but for us we are trying to make people smile and also create a business off the back of that. Therefore my biggest tip is let nothing and nobody stand in your way of doing what you believe in.

You can find Photo Gift Art on Facebook and on TwitterNew site coming soon!

INSIGHT: How to help people find your website – SEO tips

So you’ve toiled and sweated for hours in writing content for your new website. You’ve mastered the content management system and you’ve finally clicked the live button – congratulations!

However, in order to effectively market your business over the internet, a great website is only half the battle. The other half is making sure people can actually find the site and that it’s marketed and visited. In this very first INSIGHT post, Business East is here to give you some insider knowledge about the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

In a nutshell, SEO is basically ensuring your site is technically accessible to search engines, so they can ‘read’ the content of your site and include it in their results pages when someone searches for relevant terms. The key is to appear as high up the search engine rankings as possible, as research from eConsultancy suggests that 81.7% of search engine users will start a new search if they can’t find what they’re looking for in the first two pages.

There are many things that you can do to make sure your site is accessible and search-engine-friendly. Some are to do with technical aspects of the build, and others are about the content you write, the way you write it, and how you label it.

Insight 1 – Ensure your site is built correctly:

Most hosted websites do this already, but if your website is custom-built, think about the folder structure, site map and html readability. Google doesn’t give you brownie points for a nice-looking site, it wants to be able to ‘crawl’ your site easily.

Insight 2 – Keeping URLs search-engine friendly

Search engines prefer words in URLs to be separated by hyphens or underscores (e.g. http://www.greatcupcakes.com/about-us) so that they recognise the individual words. Keeping your URLs search-engine-friendly is also a good idea (e.g. http://www.ourshop.com/pink-dinner-plate rather than http://www.ourshop.com/product_ID?5564291a).

Insight 3 – Flash content is invisible to search engines

If your site is built entirely in Flash it won’t show up at all. If your site is heavy on flash, make sure there is a text-based description that lives in the HTML to help the search bots. Don’t worry if there’s some Flash on your site though, such as your welcome page, the rest of the content will be picked up anyway.

Insight 4 – Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Without thinking about it too much, what are your top five keywords you want your website to be found for? Ask your friends and family the same thing and then run the searches. Stop if you can’t find your site after three pages – if you can’t find it by then, don’t expect anyone else to. So how can you start moving up the rankings?

  • Ensure your homepage contains 2 or 3 of your top keywords
  • Weave these keywords into your content across your site. When doing this, bear in mind you need to:
  1. Getting the keyword density on the page right
  2. Using the keywords in the headings on the page
  3. Using the keywords in the URL for the page
  4. Using the keywords in metatags for the page
  5. Making sure you’re linking to other relevant pages (within or outside your site) as part of your text

Insight 5 – Blog often

Blogging is a great way to keep your customers informed of your products and services, but it plays a really important role in SEO too. Not only does it tell Google that your site is kept up-to-date with fresh content, it increases the chance of people linking to you. This tells Google your site is worth looking at. If you continually create new and interesting content it will bump you up the search engine rankings and ‘crawl’ your site more often.

Insight 6 – Get social

Social media is playing a more and more important role in SEO too – especially Google+. We’ll speak more about the world of social media in future INSIGHT posts, but until then make sure you’ve set up social media profiles and embedded sharing buttons on your site. Share often and link to your site often.

Insight 7 – Get links

Getting your website up the search rankings can also be helped by what’s known in the industry as “link building”. Big businesses spend millions on this… Do you think it’s a coincidence that moneysupermarket is #1 in Google for ‘car insurance’? They’ve paid literally thousands of sites to link to them using this term. However, you don’t have to spend money on getting links – just offer something other sites don’t and you’ll start building natural links. (hint hint, please link to Business East!)

Insight 8 – Keep up to date with great SEO Websites

The world of SEO is constantly changing. Google continues to change and evolve the ways in which it lists sites, and staying on top of the changes can be a struggle. Don’t worry though, here at Business East we’ll make sure we let you know whenever that happens – so why not subscribe to the blog today?

In the meantime, why not check out some of these great SEO websites – they’re always worth a look:

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Journal

Mashable

OPINION: Why SMEs are so important….

We all know how important small and micro-businesses are to the economy but the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills have released some figures which show why. Apparently:

  • Of every 100 UK businesses, 99 have less than 250 employees
  • There are more than 4.5 million SMEs in the UK
  • Most SMEs have less than 10 employees
  • Of these, 3.3 million employ no-one
  • Almost half of all SMEs are in retail, construction or professional/technical trade
  • Less than 25% of SME employers export

There are, however, a number of areas of concern I have with this kind of information:

  • Firstly, much of the data has been sourced from the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills – the  same government department which simply refuses (at least at the moment) to recognise the separateness of micro-enterprises from the all-encompassing term ‘SME’ which includes companies employing up to 250 staff and turnover in the millions. In fact for bank lending purposes. four major high street banks define SMEs with a turnover anywhere between £15m-£25m per year. I wonder where small and micro-enterprises feature in that definition?
  • Secondly, the estimated number of micro-enterprises in the UK in 2010 was 4.33 million followed by a statement that of these 4.33 million, 3.3 million employ no-one.  Unless I’ve missed something obvious here surely those 3.3 million micro-enterprises/sole traders are by their very definition making not taking a job and if that were not the case then our unemployment figures would be even more shocking than they are? Yes, I understand that encouraging more businesses to take on employees is important but at least first recognise and support the brave step those 3.3 million (and growing) have already taken to make a job for themselves.

I know that many small and micro-enterprises in the UK and beyond are simply getting on with the job in hand – running their businesses, trying to make a living. Yet life could and should be so much better for them – a life where they can make a move from just surviving to thriving, a life where a support infrastructure recognises micro-business and gives proportionate allocation of areas such as government funding and a good package of support particularly at the start-up stage.

This kind of recognition and infrastructure isn’t just achievable it is absolutely necessary to ensure the best possible outcomes for the economy and society as a whole.

FOCUS #4: Angie Giles Hypnotherapy

In today’s Business East Focus we meet Angie Giles, founder of Angie Giles Hypnotherapy. Based in Norwich, Norfolk, Angie provides hypnotherapy and counselling services to help people feel good.

Hi Angie, thanks for contacting Business East! Let’s start by talking about your business, what exactly is it that you do?

“I help people to feel good! I can help with improving confidence, reducing anxiety/stress, weight management, letting go of habits (like smoking) and dealing with phobias and fears. I’ve received training in EMDR (also known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming) and use with this with some clients – this can help with a problem, without the client having to say or know exactly what’s wrong. I’ve worked with men and women of all ages seeking my help to make a change for the better and offer an initial half hour, completely free consultation for potential clients if they want to find out more.”

How did you start your business – was it something you always wanted to do?

“I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and I believe talking about things is a good route to emotional and physical health. I trained in hypnotherapy and counselling in early 2009 but later that year I was made redundant by Aviva. For many years I’d been developing people’s confidence and skills, but on leaving Aviva I wanted to help people achieve more in their lives, beyond the workplace. Redundancy gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream career.”

Do you have any specific qualifications in hypnotherapy then?

“I have a diploma in Hypnotherapy and Counselling Skills (Distinction) along with a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy. I also have a certificate in coach mentoring practice. I believe in being the best at what I do, so I’ve taken additional courses in advanced hypnotherapy and have regular supervision to improve my skills. I’m currently doing a Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner course and learning more life coaching skills, all useful tools to help my clients!”

Has anyone come to you with a strange phobia or fear?

“What may appear to be strange to someone may not be to another! I regularly see clients who have fear of flying, spiders, heights, public speaking and more. Everyone can be helped!”

You say you help with weight loss – is it all in the mind?

“I believe the mind does have a part to play. An overweight person may need help in seeing and believing themselves as a thinner person, like the Napoleon Hill quote: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”. Hypnotherapy is part of the process I use in helping someone detangle old beliefs and connections with food and to keep the weight off in the long-term. I offer an individually tailored treatment, with an initial half hour free consultation. I also co-developed an affordable group weight reduction programme, called HypnoShape®. It’s well-received by clients and is an alternative to usual dieting clubs, not requiring a weigh-in.”

Do you guarantee results from your hypnotherapy?

“I cannot guarantee results, because of the laws in this country surrounding alternative/ complementary medicine. However, I can say hypnotherapy is a valuable tool in helping deal with issues relatively quickly. For example, my ‘quit smoking’ results are very good indeed. I have a high rate of referrals from other clients.”

What would you say is the best thing about working in hypnotherapy?

“Each time I see a client walking out the door with a problem resolved or feeling better, having helped them create more confidence or power. I’m doing something I enjoy and it’s important to me.”

Do you spend any money on marketing / advertising?

“I spend a little bit, but not much. We advertised HypnoShape in a local directory and also in the local newspaper. I’ve also used a Facebook sponsored company advert. I work at the Norfolk Clinic on Magdalen Road here in Norwich and so sometimes we get people who walk in or call to make inquiries.”

How do you balance work and home life – do you work full time as well or is it your sole business?

“I’m working full-time. There is a risk when being self-employed of not ‘turning off’ your business head when you get home. I’ve learnt I need ‘off’ time, so I switch off the phone and computer!”

Where do you see Angie Giles Hypnotherapy in five years?

“I see myself continuing to build a great reputation, receiving referrals for my services, and further collaboration where it helps my future clients. I aim to be at the forefront of developing other people’s skills in this field too.”

What tips would you give someone who wanted to follow your lead?

“Lots of planning and build up your stamina as if you have not run a business before, you have a steep learning curve! Seek the help of someone like NWES or WEETU to help you with business knowledge – I did! Using the skills you already have makes that move into self- employment easier.

However, be very wary of all the different marketing companies and calls for ‘directories’ you might receive in the early stages, avoid feeling pressured. Politely say ‘no’, till you get advice from others in business locally, then you can decide how to proceed. Also informal networking is great – just do it! It may not give immediate returns, though it’s a valuable source of support and information for any new business.”

You can find Angie Giles on her website or follow her on Twitter.