Saturday, 31 October 2009

Why 'DIY' When You Can Outsource?

I am slightly alarmed at the proliferation of so-called DIY solutions for small businesses.

A quick look at the internet sees people offering DIY solutions for
- accounting
- search engine optimisation
- promotional materials
- PR
- web design
- market research
- creating a brand
- ‘any marketing material’!!
- payroll
- health and safety
- employment law
- company formation
- business planning
- legal solutions
- IT networking
- ISO9000 and so on

I bang on about business owners being control freaks, never letting go... the main thing holding the business back is the owner/manager–director. There is no way that any person could deliver a half-decent result from trying to do almost any of these DIY solutions. You cannot do it yourself! You cannot be an expert in that many fields. And why would you want to?

You should be doing what you are best at. You should be employing the people who are best at function x to do function x. I would not want to look at a DIY manual to consider whether to perform my own heart surgery; I would not look at a DIY solution to figure out how to do my accounts. There are other people far better equipped to do these things.

Anyone who has seen the IKEA shelves I once attempted to put up will understand where I am coming from – reading instructions is not my strong point!

It feels like a no-brainer to outsource most of your non-core operations. Neither I nor my people have the time to be 100% bang up-to-date on payroll legislation and its application, the latest google algorithms, top tax techniques etc. That is why we employ/outsource experts to do the job.

The expert outsourcer can be local; they are an expert in their field, they bring years of their experience to your business but you only pay for the skill as and when you need it. No full-time Finance or HR Director, just an FD or HR Director when you really need one.

On the cost side this is incredibly effective; on the benefit side you get heavy-weight/blue-chip assistance for your less than blue chip business.

Here are a couple of examples of businesses I have recently met who are ‘doing what it says on the tin...’

James Benson – The FD Centre

Sue Tumelty – HR Dept

Peter Prater – QTAC Payroll Systems

Anthony Sherry – Chorus IT

Jason Flintner – Flint Design

(And of course I must add Paul Jobin - The Directors' Centre)

Friday, 30 October 2009

Marketing to Businesses at the Royal Mail - bad timing

According to the BBC, the second day of the second wave of postal strikes has begun at Royal Mail.

Ironically, the Royal Mail have been sending me stuff to help me grow my business!

Two links you should look at are:
The quote I like is the one that says "No matter what your size of business,we've got the answers to all your questions."

Meanwhile we are desperately waiting for an item sent to us by a client on Saturday!


Marketing to Independent Small Businesses - blog entry

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Small Businesses Eye Growth with New, Free Seminars

From Insider Money Talks:

With around half of small business poised to expand in the next 12 months Barclays is offering an additional 26 free business seminars around the country to support the renewed interest in business growth.

Barclays business seminars, with backing from ACCA and Business Link, are presented by a range of business gurus including Rene Carayol.

The Let's Talk Preparing for Growth is a series of nine new seminars from Barclays focusing on business growth.

In addition, Barclays is offering 17 Let's Talk Bright Marketing and More Profit seminars during the second half of the year.

"The focus for many companies has shifted towards growth," said Steve Cooper, Managing Director for Barclays Local Business.

"Expansion can be a positive move for a company, and there are always opportunities for growth, but the reality is that it's also difficult.

This is a chance for businesses to hear experts speak about growing successfully, and also to ask the questions they need to ask."

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: "This is an important initiative by Barclays which I hope helps small businesses get the support they need to grow.

"Small firms depend on bank lending to fulfil their potential and any move like this by lenders to help businesses deal with new challenges is encouraging.

"There is plenty of free advice available for small firms to help them succeed, including from Business Link, and it is important that they take advantage of the full range of support on offer."

The Let's Talk seminar programme is developed by Barclays and delivered by leading business gurus who have worked with organisations across diverse sectors and size, helping companies face the challenges of business by implementing strategies and processes that focus on customers and profitability.

Let's Talk Preparing for Growth will help companies to think about whether their business is in the right shape to look at expanding and how to go about it.

Let's Talk Bright Marketing makes businesses re-think how they get and keep customers, helping them focus their marketing activities more effectively and profitably, see their business and products through their customers' eyes, to take control of their sales and marketing activity.

Let's Talk More Profit makes businesses re-think how they make their money giving them tools and techniques to improve profits in their business, improve cashflow and how to make it all happen by getting more customers, more sales, more profits and more cash.

Insider Money Talks: - the original article
Let's Talk Preparing for Growth - Barclays webpage
Let's Talk Bright Marketing and More Profit - Directors' Centre webpage
Let's Talk Bright Marketing - webpage
Let's Talk More Profit - webpage

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Kiki Maurey's Let's Talk... Events "get businesses going..."

Kiki Maurey, the keynote speaker for The Directors' Centre, is delivering four Let's Talk events for Barclays.

The 'Bright Marketing' and 'More Profit' events are participative and challenging events that make you think about what is best for your business. With a focus on action and results the events now have a special time set aside for participants to network and create business for themselves.

Recent comments about the events include: "challenging, inspiring and motivational", "made me step back and consider what I need to do" and "the push I needed to make the tough decisions". Kiki is an excellent speaker.

The events are always over-subscribed but some tickets are still available via The Directors' Centre.
3rd Nov - Let's Talk... More Profit - Wakefield
4th Nov - Let's Talk... Bright Marketing - Croydon
5th Nov - Let's Talk... Bright Marketing - Heathrow
12th Nov - Let's Talk... More Profit - Newport

Kiki Maurey - find out more about Kiki
The Directors' Centre - homepage
The Directors' Centre Let's Talk Events - webpage for the Let's Talk events
What do people get from attending? - see the blog entry and comments

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Punters Deserve Honest Suppliers

Being dishonest must be bad for business in the long run!

This posting could apply to most industries (I suspect) but the following has been brought to my attention this week.

This is not intended as a 'pop' at certain organisations (I will not name them). However, this behaviour is being talked about (good news: "all publicity is good publicity..."?) but not very positively.

One is a well-known company that was caught red-handed, at two events, removing competitors' business cards on the open business card table and replacing them with their own. The then distributed leaflets 'under-cutting' the event organisers. I worry about their ethics (and their ability to deliver real value to clients) when they are so obsessed with 'getting/stealing the business'.

Does this make business sense? Do people trust people that behave in this way?

The other is a curious happening.

Four different 'renowned' people have sent me so-called personal emails about their unique one-off relationship with a guru (four different ones!) who is doing a free, special, unique, exclusive, matchless, rare, once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated, special, most important event that I cannot afford to miss.

Again the cries of desperation resound. Surely the punters soon realise that it, the 'event of the year', is not quite so unique. All the usual spiel: "time-sensitive offer, nearly fully booked blah, blah".

Does this make business sense? Do people trust people who behave in this way?

The first tactic is unforgivable. The second gives the tag 'all marketers are liars' a ring of truth and may reflect badly on a whole industry.

Maybe these 'tactics' work when appealing to certain audiences?

My feeling is that the whole persistent 'interruption marketing' piece with endless empty breathless promises has been spotted for what it is. Or maybe I am wrong

Monday, 19 October 2009

Accountants - You Have Been Warned

Accountants need to recognise that they won't be remembered as they slip into the blur of 'much of a muchness', 'me too' providers.

More Effective Marketing article from ACCA's In Practice Magazine.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Better to work with more (but shallow) or work with less (but more intensively)

I have come across an interesting challenge.

Is it better to work with more businesses (in a relatively shallow way) or is it better to work with fewer but in a more intense way (and therefore more long-term benefit)?

When working in certain countries I felt sure that the broad but shallow effect wasn't really that effective; my preference was to work longer and deeper with fewer people - by handing over the tools I would be able see more benefit and by creating 'champions' I would see the legacy of locally-owned and adapted toolkits being used.

But does this theory (better to go narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow) hold in the UK?

Applied to your own business (and specifically to your marketing) is it better to narrow your focus and look for deep knowledge in a narrow field (niche) or is it better to go broader and shallower?

Case Study One: the business coach who only sells to dentists charges four times the going rate because of his narrow focus/niche expertise.

Case Study Two: the 'tart with a heart' business will sell anything to anyone and does make sales but she gets known for what she does and becomes known as a 'jack of all trades'... Gets lots of work but at low rates. "Jump!" the clients say. "How high?" she says...

Do you have the bottle to go narrower and deeper in your niche or is the recession making you more of a tart? How do you think this is perceived in the marketplace?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

What does one person in the audience see and hear?

It is always useful to see what other people get out of attending an event. Eilidh Milnes got the following from this week's Let's Talk... More Profit in Crewe.

"Here's a selection of notes I jotted down in his comprehensive course brochure:

1. Hope is not an option (when linked to future profits)
2. Many businesses neglect marketing
3. Practical common sense profitability tactics
4. The Law of the vital few
5. The Law of the trivial many
6. Win the battle of the mind of the customer
7. 78% of people trust recommendations"

Eilidh Milnes - her blog
Let's Talk... More Profit - 12 more events in the current series

Friday, 9 October 2009

National Customer Service Week - Lousy Hotels: when will I Iearn?

I have just come across a blog that suggests that it might be NATIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE WEEK right now.

As an obsessive (of brilliant and dreadful) customer service I was surprised not to know about it. I googled and found National Customer Service Week (good old google) but can't quite tell when it is from the home page!!!


One Irish town. All the B&Bs looked a bit dodgy.

I wished
“If only there were a named/branded cheap and cheerful travel hotel/lodge/inn nearby”. As I uttered the words the place came into sight. Too much synchronicity to deny. Against my better judgement we booked in.

The receptionist was economic with her use of the English language: “100 Euros for bed only”, “Don’t do breakfast. Go to restaurant next door!”, “Paying cash, we’ll need credit card as deposit.” [in case I trash the room?]. I suggest we leave then and there.

Hen night in the first corridor. Pics of the hen on all the doors. Humourously I suggest we leave.

Our corridor had the familiar odour of human urine; you could see the stain on the floor. Again I suggest we leave.

Our bedroom had lost a bedside table; it had been ripped off the wall. The plumbing creaked; the whole system rattled every time anyone in the corridor went to the loo. It is too late; I am too tired and give up trying to leave.
The website doesn’t have a FAQ covering complaints [seriously]. We complained three times at reception, wrote a note, sent a letter and still no reply.

Cheap? No.

Cheerful? No.

They have got away with it again. Or have they?

Long live Trip Advisor... The URL for I-Hate-XXX- is available.
I now have a reason to get up in the morning. Or will complacency get the better of me?

Customer Is King - the book

Thursday, 8 October 2009

What Is The Message?

This one question has focused me on what it is that I am trying to say: "What is the message?"

And the answer is: "Stop p***ing around!" I apologise for the language but that’s it in a nutshell.

Point one: It is all your fault.

You charge too little for your product because you haven’t got the bottle to charge realistic prices. You put up with slow paying customers because you are frightened of losing them. You tolerate sloppy performance from team members to avoid confrontation, It is all about you. There’s no-one else to blame. I am sorry the only person I am talking about is you.

So what's going on? Well, at its simplest we blame everyone else for what’s going on: the government, the bank, the customers, the competitors, the staff, the product. Like a spoilt four year old who has had a rotten day facing the reality that is life, you need to come to terms with the fact that you are the problem. No-one else; just you. It is because of your decisions and your ideas that you are where you are today. Or are you just going to blame someone else (again!).

Point two: Stop procrastinating

Your business is like a rabbit frozen in the headlights, incapable of making a move or a decision, unable to move in one direction or another. Or you will die.

Point three: Speed is of the essence

You need to unfreeze, relax, take stock and weigh up the choices. With great speed you need to take the bold decision: left or right, up or down. Speed is of the essence. The consequences of making no decision are there for all to see. Do you want to be one more piece of roadkill for the statistics book?

Point four: Decide which side of the fence you're going to sit on

The world seems to be dividing into two camps and living in the middle ground is purgatory – similar to choosing the wrong side in the first place. So, are you going to be a) decisive or b) indecisive? Bold or meek? Strong or weak? Grown-up or child-like? Responsible or irresponsible? Bright or stupid? Clever or dumb? Fast or slow?

Point five: Just do it - now

Action has a great power to it. The mere act of taking action opens up possibilities, energy and choice. Without action everything fades into a mediocre dull blob of emptiness.

Point six: Take massive action

Enough or just about enough really is not good enough. Not for anyone. So don’t mess around. If you are going to do something, anything, then do it properly. Or just don’t bother.

Point seven: DIY my foot!

Do you really believe you can create an effective quick fix DIY solution to what you are doing? Remember you are where you are now because of your actions. A word to the wise: try bringing in some experts to help you out. Do that unless you really believe that you are cleverer, smarter, more experienced and wiser than they are. Buyer beware: not all people who claim to be experts will be cleverer, smarter, more experienced and wiser than you. Make sure that they can also get you and your business to move on up to the next level. It is all about results.

So, now is the time to grow up and take responsibility for the successes and failures of your business. Stop blaming other people and take on the challenge as an adult.

It is the classic epic hero story: our hero feels OK then realizes that things aren’t so good. The hero goes on some journey and has to face his/her demons and comes out the other end a stronger and better human being. Lion King, Aladdin, Star Wars, Goonies, James Bond, Pulp Fiction, The Yes Man, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Batman, and King Lear.

I am not sure if Shakespeare would approve of King Lear being summarised as "Stop p***ing around!". But I am sure you get my point. Anyhow, now it’s your turn!

Go for it!

Directors' Centre - the consultancy for business people who want to stop p***ing about!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Seeing The Bright Side

If I take a few quotes from Oliver Horton's article Seeing The Bright Side you get the gist of my argument about surviving the recession:

“Take action now,” advises business consultant Robert Craven from consultancy firm Directors' Centre. “Our experience is that the world divides into those who step up and those who step down."Those who step up, says Craven, decide to work even harder. Those who step down tend to whinge and moan. They don’t want to work harder so their first action is to cut costs.

“If one group of businesses is working 20% harder and the other group is working 20% less hard, that creates a huge gap. Those businesses able to step up have a big advantage,” says Craven.The recession offers an opportunity to steal market share, to focus your business, to go one step ahead of the other guy.

Craven expects to see as many businesses fail after the recession as during it. “It’s a long game, not a sprint,” he says. Craven says business owners need to ask themselves, clearly and honestly, if their business is viable in the short term. And if it is viable in the short term, is it viable in the long term? “If it’s not, then you’re beating your head against a brick wall. Hope is not a method,” he insists.

If you do choose to stay in business, Craven believes you must focus on the basics. Put prices up if possible. Instigate clear marketing. Deliver jaw-dropping service and product. Go the extra mile. Get rid of clients that don’t pay or are just time-wasters. Fix credit terms and a system for collecting the money you’ve earned. Make it easier for people to buy. Talk to clients. Step up sales initiatives. Keep the business moving, keep it alive.

Easier said than done. Or is it? It takes a massive amount of energy to make these things happen.

The consultancy part of our business at The Directors' Centre has started putting in place 'devices' and 'processes' to enable MDs to deliver on the mantra above. Read the case studies posted on the website or call/email Lesley, Paul or myself on +44 (0)1225 851044 to find our more.

Directors' Centre - consultancy for growing businesses

Thursday, 1 October 2009


The Free vs not free argument rages (see the blog entries I want to be free and Expensive is the new free). I say "put your prices up" and they say "offer BOGOF deals" (Buy One Get One Free). The Times Online has very kindly put a whole bunch of special deals all in one place:

Here Times Money lists 10 of the best discounts available on the web this week, with thanks to, and

Shopping and Groceries


The food delivery service Ocado is offering 20 per cent off all orders worth more than £60 until October 5. Enter the code VOU9397362 in the space for a promotional code at the checkout.

Abel & Cole

The organic vegetable service is offering new customers £10 off when they spend £30 online. At the checkout, enter the code TELESUMMER09. The code is valid until October 31.

La Redoute

The French fashion catalogue is offering £15 off all orders over £20. Simply enter the code 8401 at the checkout. It is only available on full priced items in the current season collection.


The outdoor store will cut 10 per cent from your online bill if you add the code next10 at the checkout.


You can get 8 per cent off all compact cameras when shopping online at Jessops until October 9. Simply enter the code CAMERAS8 at the checkout.



The Italian chain is running a buy one, get one for a £1 offer until Sunday October 11. You'll need to register and print out the voucher here.

Pizza Hut

A half price voucher which applies to food but excludes the ever-popular lunch time buffet, happy hour and delivery, among other terms and conditions. It is only available Sunday to Thursday until October 8.


Two for one on all main meals with this voucher until October 4, although not valid at certain restaurants so check for details. Click here to register and print the voucher.

Ha Ha

Another two for one offer at the chain of bar-restaurants. This one is also for main meals. Offer ends on October 12. Only one voucher per party, per day. Click here to register, print the voucher and read the terms and conditions.


Yep, another two for one. Register and print a voucher for the less expensive dish free at breakfast, lunch or dinner until October 4th, not available on Friday or Saturday.


I want to be free - blog entry
Expensive is the new free - blog entry
Times Online