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26 posts categorized "Social enterprise"

18 March 2013

21 November 2012

02 October 2012

Soul Trader – Putting the heart back into your business

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Rasheed_OgunlaruRasheed Ogunlaru, life and business coach has been a Business & IP Centre partner since our earliest days. In addition to running the Your life, your business workshop once a month in the Centre and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs with TieUK, he singlehandedly converted me to the benefits of life coaching.

I have to admit that perhaps due to a scientific background, or perhaps just plain old cynicism, I had always been wary of life coaching. I decided the only way to address this prejudice was to attend Rasheed’s workshop five years ago. After three hours I was entirely convinced by his eminently practical approach, to putting your heart and soul into your business.
So it is great to see his practical philosophy translated from workshop to published book in the form of Soul Trader published by Kogan Page. And having read it through this week,  I would put it at the top of my list of recommended reading for everyone starting (or growing) a business. I am still a big fan of Starting Your Own Business: The Good, The Bad and The Unexpected by David Lester, but Rasheed has addressed the key issue of what you really want to get from starting a business, and to make sure you end up running it, instead of it running you and your life.

Soul_Trader_coverHis introduction sums it up nicely:

Most people do not go into business solely to make money. They want to make a living, make an impact, make a contribution, make a statement, make something of real worth and value. They want to enjoy what they do, and make themselves happy and their families secure and proud. They want to make a break from the humdrum, and express their skill and abilities. But sooner or later many business owners fall into the same old trap, lose sight of what’s important and struggle with life balance.

The book consists of eight C’s made up of seven chapters and a ‘plus’ which focusses on insights to help anticipate and embrace Change.

  1. Clarity: Know your mission, talents and values.
  2. Customers: See life through customers’ eyes to win their custom and loyalty.
  3. Courage:  Unleash your inspiration / wisdom and adopt an athlete’s attitude.
  4. Co-operation: Punch over your weight; collaborate. Use / build your network.
  5. Conversations: Learn the art to connect, converse, create and convert leads.
  6. Creativity: Know when to work, rest and be at your best, (re)gain life balance.
  7. Compassion: Connect from the heart – be transformational not transactional.

Early on Rasheed gets the you to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. Which is an excellent way of discovering what you do well, and what you need to work on or get help with.

heart_and_chairThe book is peppered with examples from his hundreds of clients over the years, and covers a problem I have encountered many times, which he calls the ‘blindness of the visionary’. People become so (understandably) obsessed by their business idea or invention, they completely forget about their customers. This leads to a very expensive and risky approach to market research, where you bring your product or service to the market and then find out if anyone will buy it. Much better to find out as you develop your idea and tailor it to what you customers say they want.

Once again Rasheed gives a practical solution to this problem by showing how to map out your customers. He also explains how to develop a set of customer ‘scenarios’, to help understand the psychology of your customers. He doesn’t shy away from the realities of doing business in the real world as a soul trader. Without sufficient income (and avoiding the number one cause of failure – cash-flow) your business will not survive. Even social enterprises have to generate enough money to pay their staff and to invest in growth if they are to succeed. These are the hard questions that so many avoid tackling in their business plans:

  1. How much money to you need to live on, and to break even in business?
  2. How much money do you seek to make this year, next year and the year after in turnover – before costs and tax – and in your personal profit after cost and tax?
  3. On average how many sales or customer does that equate to per month and year?
  4. What specific action are needed to reach those goals, and what are the challenges?
  5. What evidence, research and assumptions are those figures based on?
  6. Looking again at those figures, what are a) realistic, b) optimistic and c) pessimistic sales figures for the next 12 months, and what would they mean to you and your business?
  7. What are your main products and services? How are they priced? What are all the costs involved? Which are the most lucrative? Which incur the most costs? Which involve the most hard work? Which are most dear to your heart and to your customers?

I have been talking to lots of makers recently such as jewellers, and many haven’t properly come to terms with the issue of wanting to make everything by hand themselves, but also selling enough items to make a living.

Rachel_ElnaughCourage is term one doesn’t  come across often in business books, but Rasheed rightly recognises that this is an essential ingredient in business, and gives practical tips on how you can develop it. I am constantly in awe of the people I meet who are at the beginning of a journey that would terrify me. The book contains an example from ex-Dragon and Business & IP Centre supporter Rachel Elnaugh. Rasheed asked one simple question during an advice session, and at a stroke gave her an insight which revolutionised her life. “I can honestly say that session with Rasheed was like walking through a doorway that has led me into a completely new and completely fulfilling life where success, money and love are all now flowering.”

Cooperation is an undervalued aspect of business, with many people I meet worrying about their competition before they have even started trading. The book talks about the importance of developing business partnerships through cooperation. And again Rasheed gives practical advice on how to grow and then utilize your support networks.

Conversations, which convert contacts into customers replace the ‘hard sell’ for soul traders. After all, no-one wants to be sold to, but everyone wants their opinion to be listened to. This chapter also includes how conversations work via social media channels and what precautions you need to take them online. There a lots of practical examples here, including how to deal with complaints by using, Acknowledge – Reflect back – Say what you can do.

Towards the end of the book Rasheed introduces his two-page business plan. As he says, ‘Business plans are written for two purposes and for two audiences: 1) for you to identify who and where you are, where you’re going and how you’ll get there; and 2) for investors or funders for the same purpose. If you’re seeking funding from others then you’ll need a longer, more detailed business plan…”

To sum up, I found Soul Trader to be clear and simple, friendly and supportive, passionate and soulful – just like Rasheed himself.

21 February 2012

Blogging for fun and profit

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wordpressSorry for starting with such a cliché headline, but I am conducting a scientific blogging experiment, more of which later on.

This post (my 509th to be precise) is about why I blog, and why any start-up or small business should seriously consider blogging.

This evening I am giving a talk as part of our Web in Feb series of events. The title is Business Blog – Live, and I am looking forward to some lively debate about the whys and wherefores of blogging for business.

I have already posted up my slides on Slideshare and am happy to share some of my key points below:

typepad

Why do I blog?

  • By accident… the idea was to show a colleague how to blog
  • Because it works – 25% of traffic to the Business & IP Centre website – 200,000 hits in 4 years – comments and feedback
  • Because I enjoy it – writing about interest business ideas
  • It is easy… and free – well not quite, now I am paying $20 a year for an advert free WordPress
  • It is my memory of events and ideas – I want to be able to look back in a few years time
  • I believe it helps the reputation of the Centre… and hopefully mine too – only my readers can be the judge of that!

Blogger

Why you should blog

  • To build trust – ‘real’ people vs anonymous business – this is an increasing desire from customers
  • To build an audience – you can start before you business goes live – you might even attract some pre-launch orders
  • Increase SEO without the risk – Google loves blogs-hates cheaters so keep away from search engine optimisers with ‘magical’ properties
  • Drive traffic to your website – see Google above
  • Be seen as an expert in your field – requires insightful, quality content – but hopefully you will have this if you are starting a business
  • Reach a wider market – word of mouth referrals – one post might go viral

posterous-logo

  • With passion… and patience – wait at least six months for the numbers to come through
  • For your audience – you do know your potential customers likes and needs… don’t you?
  • Mainly about things related to your business – don’t stray too far off base
  • Headings must be ‘Ronsealed’ -
  • Regularly – a minimum of once a week
  • Content must be engaging / surprising / controversial / intriguing
  • Length must be ‘just right’ – somewhere between Stephen Fry’s blessays and Euan Semple’s The Obvious.
  • Leveraging your other social media channels – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, +Google
  • Using your web domain if possible – to maximise traffic to your website
  • Promote using contacts and ‘Blogroll’
  • Measure using built in tools or Google Analytics
  • Handling comments and spam – to moderate or tolerate comment trolls

Ah yes, back to my scientific experiment. I want to prove that even by picking a popular title for this blog post, it will still soar up the Google rankings the minute it is published. Time to find out!

23 December 2011

Digital Strategies for Heritage – DISH 2011 Rotterdam

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Dish_logoThe Digital Strategies for Heritage 2011 conference (DISH 2011) was a new name to me until quite recently.

This could be explained by the fact that my job is all about helping aspiring entrepreneurs with their information needs, rather than digitising parts of the enormous British Library collection.

However, one of the four strands of DISH 2011, held from 7 December in Rotterdam, was Business for Heritage, and I was asked to speak at session on Organisations that Redesigned their Business  Models.

I certainly believe the Business & IP Centre is an excellent example of how a library can deliver a different kind of service, to support its community and economy. As well as giving a talk about the development of the Centre and the services we deliver, I was also asked to offer myself up as a trained business advisor.

Quite a few conference attendees applied for these one to one advice sessions, and I selected four I felt I could help the most. It was fascinating to hear first hand about some of the projects my clients were undertaking, and the challenges they were facing. In most cases it involved persuading staff with somewhat traditional and cautious attitudes to adopt new technologies and new ways of working. These were issues we had faced in developing the Business & IP Centre.

Overall I found the conference to be extremely well organised with fascinating speakers and interesting and engaged attendees. I would thoroughly recommend attending any future DISH conferences.

Here are my notes from the two days of the event:

I got off to an excellent start when I found myself sitting next to the conference chair Chris Batt and his charming wife Adie, who also happens to be his business partner, on the flight out to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). So I was able to get the inside track even before arriving in Rotterdam.

Chris has been a key figure in the information world for many years including  Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). However, this was the first time I had had the opportunity to speak to him.

Chris_BattWednesday 7th December – Introduction from Chris Batt, Conference Chair

DISH has now seven years experience, and aims to be a toolbox with practical solutions, rather than just keep on saying it is a ‘good thing’.

The four themes for the conference are:

  • ­    Business for heritage
  • ­    Crowdsourcing and co-creation
  • ­    Institutional change
  • ­    Building a New Public Space
DISH_2011_introduction

Image by DEN (Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland)

We are living in a time of uncertainty, complexity and change, but more than ever a need for us to think strategically.

In the private sector it is a case of ‘a thousand flowers blooming’, but each one is aiming for market domination. And how can you tell which will be the success story?

We are moving from Evolution to Revolution (look at the recent changes in the music industry), also in some cases Extinction.

There are big differences between the public and private sectors, but both are serving the same customers.

In the public sector how does the weeding of the ‘thousand flowers’ take place, when there isn’t the private sector market control elements.

Do we undertake cost benefit analysis for our digitisation projects?

When looking at the UK government departmental strategies and cooperation, it is a case of ‘the whole being less than the sum of the parts’.

Chris asked the audience what ‘being ahead of the wave’ meant to them.
Is it the Institution, the Project, the Sector, or Public knowledge institutions?

To make progress we need to move from being technicians to strategists, and from an institutional focus to a consumer focus.

Katherine_WatsonLiving the Digital Shift – Katherine Watson – Director, European Cultural Foundation

  • We need to start with the person not with the technical tool.
  • We should look into the future, and ask ourselves how will the current six year old in school be wanting to use your services when they are ready?
  • Looking to the past is not helpful.
  • The economic crisis means that our funding landscape is crumbling around us.
  • In the future it will not be ‘back to business as normal’.
  • Rapid change means that it is not possible to predict the future with risk free certainty.

Amber_CaseCyborg anthropology and the future of interfaces – Amber Case

Although something of a surprising presence at a conference on digital strategies, Amber’s talk was absolutely fascinating, and I am still pondering on the implications of what she said. You can catch some of the same points in her TED Women talk.

The traditional tools that humans use have changed very little over thousands of years. Whereas computers have changed beyond recognition in less than 50 years.

The idea of Cyborg Anthropology first came about in 1941, when a group of scientists and technologists first met to review impact of computer technology on people. In 1992 it became a formal academic subject.

Becoming a cyborg
When you first go online, you have to start making decisions about how you will present your virtual self, and how closely related this will be to your ‘real’ self. You are likely to adjust this version of you based on feedback from your contacts.

The future

  • We will see more Calm Technology, which appears when you need it, and disappears when you don’t.
  • Technologists try to digitise old technology and nearly always fail. For example trying to ‘grab’ a virtual page and turn it, instead of pressing a button.
  • We need to have technologies which give us superhuman powers, eg Flipboard
  • There will be an increasing merging of tech with real life. E.g. body implants.
  • Real-time gaming eg MapAttack
  • Home automation that actually works.
  • The interface will begin to disappear, so that actions are reduced, queries are eliminated. E.g. Kinect for Xbox®
  • The best technology is invisible… like a book.

Q&A
Q. How do you cope with the way technology negatively impacts available time and the ability to concentrate?
A. Amber recommended moderation in all things includes technology. She recently took 3 weeks away from her email and social media to read a book a day. The government in Singapore has proposed its citizens should turn off technology an hour before bed-time to give their brains time to settle down so their sleep is effective.

Charles_LeadbetterCulture and Social Media – Charles Leadbetter

The answer lies in ‘creative muddling through’, using skill-full incompleteness.

Charles used an excellent analogy of the development of the wine industry over the last 50 years to illustrate different models of customer service that relate to the Cultural Heritage sector.

French wine is elitist, their bottles (with just a front label) give almost no clue to an amateur wine drinker as to the nature of the wine they will find inside. You need to know their language, geography, horticulture and coding systems.
The message is, ‘keep away, unless you know what you are dealing with’.

In contrast Australian wines are consumer friendly. They have colourful modern labels on the front and lots of helpful information on the back, explaining the grapes that make up the contents, and what the wine will smell and taste like. They a have a handy screw top, so you don’t even need to drink the whole bottle in one go.
The message is, ‘I go very well with your Chicken Korma’.

Because of these changes New World wines are now the largest selling in the world.

Then there is the rapidly expanding area of home made wine. People are planting their own garden vineyards and buying the wine making kit from the web. Needless to say the quality of wine produced ranges from the undrinkable to excellent.
The message here is, ‘anyone can have a go’.

Next Charles looked at four distribution models and the challenges they present for the cultural sector.

1. How we communicate

Communication

2. Where ideas come from.

Contributors

Compare this to what he called the evil genius of Simon Cowel managed to operate in three out of four sectors.

Contributors X Factor

He was particularly impressed by how Apple have been so successful, by creating a ‘guild’ of followers (customers) who believe their Apple products are helping them to live better, more modern lives.

3. How has society changed?

change

In the future to grow big with small investment will require seeing yourself as a movement, or networks with values and ideologies, not institutions, with opening hours, collections and catalogues. Social media and the web gives an opportunity to do this.

He gave the example of Barcelona football club as the kind of organisation which exemplifies this approach.

The English, who invented football, developed a game in which defenders never went beyond the half-way line. They repelled attacks with physicality and generally ‘booted’ the ball up the pitch to their attackers who had the skill to put the ball in to their opponents net.

The ball only ever went straight up and down the pitch. The occasional creative player would attempt to move the ball across the pitch instead.

However, Barcelona developed ‘total football’, where everyone is a key player with skill. The ball always moves across the pitch, never along it, the team aim is to never lose possession, and everyone has to contribute.

This has made them into the most successful football team in the world.

For Charles cultural institutions must learn that the way to win is, not to be brilliant and individualistic, but to remain part of the network, to pass, to constantly move, look for space and find interesting angles, to always remain linked. If you are not open to people passing the ‘ball’ to you, no one will be interested in playing with you.

In other words, play culture, like Barcelona play football.

Thursday 8 December

Michael_EdsonCome let us go boldly into the Future – Michael Edson

Michael gave the closing keynote talk, which was more a call to arms than an academic treatise.

He spent some time talking about future predictions from the last 50 years. He pointed out that even those ideas we think of as new, such as The Long Tail, Joy’s Law, Cognitive Surplus, Network Effects, Moores’s Law & Mobile, and Every user a Hero are no longer really new.

He built towards his message that the ‘future is now’. So we should stop worrying about what may or may not be coming down the wire, and start engaging with our present future.

He summed up with three key questions we should all be asking ourselves:
1.    What world am I living in?
2.    What impact do I want to have?
3.    What should I do today?

He also strongly recommended The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun.

I have been attending keynote talks at library and information conferences for over 20 years now, and in all that time I have only seen two genuinely evangelical speakers from an information background.

The first was Eugenie Prime at SLA Conference in Seattle in 1997, when she called on all librarians to quit whining about image and begin walking the walk. And to earn respect by forgetting about our negative image and doing our jobs better than anyone else could.

Michael Edson qualifies as the second. The audience left his session inspired to tackle this particular professional challenge. No more whinging about all the problems we face, but to focus on the solutions.

You can watch his talk on Vimeo.

09 March 2011

Escape the City is one year old

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Having worked for 16 years in the City of London for an investment firm, I can relate strongly to Escape the City.

I also used to manage a colleague, who left my team to successfully fulfil his dream of creating an alternative therapy business in New Zealand (Sacred Moves ~ Yoga, 5Rhythms Dance and Massage Therapies).

Escape the City was set up by Dom Jackman and Rob Symington who found their own way out and wanted to help others (our story).

We are on a mission to liberate talented people from unfulfilling corporate jobs.

We are assembling a community of corporate professionals who want to escape the corporate mainstream and do something different with their lives and their careers.

Our objective is to build and maintain a platform that connects these ambitious and talented people with exciting career changes, innovative business start-ups and epic adventures.

We know that there is more to life than doing work that doesn’t matter to you. We want to help people to find ways of spending their working lives doing exciting and fulfilling work.

Escape the City is now a year old and has 26,550  subscribers to their weekly escape opportunities email, and over 4,500 followers on Facebook.

Below is a clip from their new video with my favourite escape story.

EscapetheCity

31 December 2010

A member-owned supermarket on my doorstep

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The-Peoples-Supermarket Although I had noticed a new supermarket in Lamb’s Conduit Street passing by on My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’. I hadn’t realised it was a revolutionary, shopper owned and supported cooperative until I saw it featured in my Springwise newsletter.

Though the first food co-op opened in the UK back in 1844, according to Google, such cooperatives have not been a familiar sight in Europe in recent years, despite a certain popularity in the United States. Until now, that is. In fact, with the recent launch of the People’s Supermarket, Londoners recently gained a new place to find affordable food.

Only members can shop at the People’s Supermarket, but they all get a 10 percent discount on prices as well as a say in how the store is run. In exchange, members pay an annual membership fee of GBP 25, and they also pledge to volunteer four hours of their time per month working as store staff. Because the supermarket’s workforce is nearly all volunteers, staff costs are kept low this way — an advantage that can be passed on in lower prices. Any profits that are earned, meanwhile, get put back into the store to bring down prices even further.

Food co-ops are not uncommon in the US, but it’s interesting to see their reemergence in the UK following a bout of unusually tough times. Could this be the beginning of a widespread comeback…?
http://www.springwise.com

The People’s SupermarketIdentity Designed is a showcase and forum for those involved in the design of brand identities.

Time Out says:
We’ve followed the slow and steady success of The People’s Supermarket, a carrot-packed co-operative outlet in Bloomsbury. Fighting off Tesco for a site in one of London’s most independently spirited neighbourhoods, The People’s Supermarket is a project close to the heart of celeb chef Arthur Potts-Dawson and ex-Marks & Spencer executive Kate Wickes-Bull.

The duo have rallied the local community into buying into the scheme – literally. Although anyone can shop at the store, full membership (which scores you a 10 per cent discount and a say in how the shop is run) will cost you £25 and four hours per month working in the store. What you get is fresh, locally sourced (when possible) supermarket fare, dirt cheap and airfreight free; new jobs for locals; and all profits going back into the business. For its founders, this is the beginning of a retail revolution – but for us, it’s a genuine alternative to the major supermarkets aggressively taking over our streets.

30 December 2010

Looking forward to a greener New Year with my Keep Cup

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Red_med_keepcup Just before the holidays our intranet announced that we could ‘buy a reusable cup and receive 10 free hot drinks’. This was part of the Library’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

I was keen to try it out, and have been using my Keep Cup for a couple of weeks now, and am very happy with it. According to their blog, Pret have also recently trialled the Keep Cup.

The cups, available in a range of colours, cost £6.00 but customers receive 10 free hot drinks as an incentive.  The disposable cups that the Library uses for its takeaway hot drinks have a waterproof waxed coating that means that they cannot be recycled. As part of the Library’s on-going initiative to reduce waste, Peyton & Byrne have identified a product that will reduce the amount of takeaway cups used and provide staff with a better quality takeaway hot drink.

The KeepCup is a high quality reusable cup manufactured from the safest food grade plastic. It is for use with either hot or cold drinks. It has a sealable lid and sipper hole and is pleasing to drink from with the lid either on or off.

It is thermally insulated, keeping coffee hot for 30-40 minutes longer than a disposable cup. Each cup also has a thermal silicone band to ensure the cup can be carried comfortably and safely.