From one business to another with love
you and me
As love is certainly in the air this month for Valentine’s Day, we thought this would be a good time to emphasise the love between businesses. A working relationship with business partners also requires regular attention and support like any other long lasting personal one.

When working with someone else, it is essential to fully understand their needs and goals for the relationship and to work out a balance that suits you both. Skillsharing is the perfect example of two skilled professionals merging their skillsets for the greater good. You may be an expert in your field but lacking in basic ability in another. Therefore, you can attempt to learn something new or work together in agreement with someone who can complete certain tasks for you.

Sharing the love

We regularly share the love for our business members and we would like to know, what do you love about self-employment? Comment, like and share on our recent Facebook post. The comment with the most likes will get featured on our home page for a month.

Also, don’t forget we have our quarterly competition still running to win a £40 Amazon voucher, with this round ending 31st March. There's plenty of time to catch up, even if you've just joined. The winner will be splashed across all our Social Media platforms but will only be picked from those with a completed profile, including profile photo and skill set.

All you need to do is to regularly login at Opus Matrix and post any blogs, events, offers or projects you would like to share. The more you post and connect with others, the more chance of winning, as we reward members with points. You will also increase your chances of being seen by your target audience too.

Please note: At the end of each competition the points awarded will go back to zero - this will give our new members a fair chance of winning the next time and should ensure we don't have the same winner twice in a row.

Good luck!

The OM Team

P.S. If you have any queries about your membership, profile or our special offers, please contact [email protected]

The Obstacle Course

I love metaphors and analogies and tonight when writing this blog it came to me that an analogy for starting and running your own business is like participating in an obstacle race. It can be an exciting journey into the unknown with many opportunities to learn about yourself and other people as you race towards success and equally a race with unexpected twists, turns and hurdles that cause you worry and self doubt.

Apparently one of the greatest obstacles to success in adult life is the fear of failure. In fact more than 60% of women admitted that a lack of confidence stopped them from starting their own businesses. I know in my past I have been almost paralysed by the thought of making a mistake in my businesses and looked in all sorts of directions for someone to tell me I was doing the right thing whilst I procrastinated furiously. Fear can be helpful it is the mind's way of telling us that danger or a bumpy road lies ahead. But the thought of fear whether justified or not can harm our creativity and reduce our ambition, it can even make every obstacle seem insurmountable.

However if you, like me enjoy a challenge then whatever hurdle is in front of you, you will find a way to navigate a way round, over, under or through it to achieve your goals. Believe in yourself and your abilities and be patient with your business, as it becomes the success you wish it to be.

Don’t be afraid to take the risks you know within your own wisdom are the right risks to take, fearlessly and enjoy celebrating your successes whether big or small with your friends, family and other business women in your network.

To your continued success,

Jacquie Forde

Ten Tips to Successful Negotiations
negotiate

Source: The G7 Design Business Tips Blog

We negotiate every day in our lives and especially in business, whether you are buying or selling. This article focuses more on the selling side of negotiation, or indeed these tips can be useful for negotiating a strategic partnership of some nature.

First of all, you need to clear your mind of all pre-conceptions that your objective in the negotiation process is to make it as one-sided as you possibly can in your favour, without giving anything away – or that somehow there is a “winner” that will rise from the negotiations. Negotiation should always be about working in partnership to achieve the best for both parties, and setting forth the terms of a healthy and productive business relationship, where both sides benefit, and no one loses out. Here are ten tips you should keep in mind next time you negotiate:

1. “Preparation is the mark of the Professional” – Brian Tracy.
You should always spend time preparing for meetings, and be fully conversant with your own situation and theirs. This means you need to have as much information as you can about the other side – learn what their motivations are, and the reasons for needing what you offer.

2. Know your own limitations and break points – what is the limit of your negotiation, and at what point do you need to walk away? Most imperative of all, prepare yourself to walk away if the deal is unacceptable to you and your business.

3. Don’t play games with the other person. It is far better to be up-front and direct with them, which will save you time, and you will certainly come across as a professional.

4. Allow the other negotiator to propose first. This will give you a lot of insight about a) the value they place on your offerings, and b) how much you can ask for your services. In some cases, you may even discover that they have unrealistic expectations of the cost of your services/products. However, by doing this, you will be in an advantaged position to slide your scale to suit.

5. When you give your prices, set your initial figures as favourable to your side as is plausible. Naturally, if during the course of negotiation your price is reduced, you are losing less if you started high, and vice-versa for buying.

6. Don’t get into a haggle-war! This means, it is better to start with your initial proposals, and after some negotiation put forward a revised proposal – if this is rejected for the second time, it may be time to walk away. You need to judge the situation – depending on the gravity of the deal in question, it may be pertinent to put forward a third proposal, but be aware that the more revisions you put forward beyond two, the other party may begin to lose respect for you and your company, as you appear more and more desperate to close the deal (NB: this does not apply to situations where a deal must be reached, e.g. like negotiating to avoid falling off a fiscal cliff!)

7. At times, there may be certain contracts that are of such high value to your company, and you really do need to succeed in the negotiation process. However, at no point should you ever reveal or imply how much you need the contract from them, as this will give the other party the upper hand, and they will be placed squarely in the driving seat.

8. In situations where the buyer is already sold on you or your company, if you need to lower your price, don’t do this without reducing value in some way.

9. Don’t be over-friendly – this is business! Niceties and pleasantries have their place at the beginning and end of conversations or meetings, but business is business, and you need to focus on your objectives. Disregard whether you like the other party(s) or not, because healthy business relations are founded upon mutual respect and understanding – not a notion of friendship.

10. Listen intently and carefully to what the other associate has to say. This way, you will not come across as single-minded, you will keep a full track of the negotiation, and you will not miss out on vital information, or opportunities to read between the lines of what they are telling you.

Hopefully, by this point you have successfully concluded negotiations, and there is one final point to remember – put it in writing. Then get the other party to confirm the agreed terms with their signature next to yours.

Business is a lot like Gardening

7 Business Growth Tips

Growing a business can be a lot like gardening - just as messy and just as rewarding. Gardening is not rocket science, if you do the right thing at the right time you will succeed. Business is not rocket science either, if you do the right thing at the right time you will succeed! Here are my fail proof gardening and business growth tips:

1. Planning

If you want to plant anything in your garden you need to start with a clear plan. Take time to study the area that you intend to plant in and take time to study the plant’s needs. Are the plant and the part of the garden that you intend to plant it in a good match? Does the area offer the right conditions to match the plant’s needs? Are there already many plants in the same patch of soil? Are there lots of slugs? These are some of the vital questions that must be well thought out before planting anything! In the same way, if you expect your business to grow you should spend some time researching and planning before you do anything else. If you have already ‘planted’ your business, it is not too late to invest in some planning. Is the area suitable for your business and is your expertise suitable for the people you are aiming to reach? Ice is not going to make a great business in Antarctica! Is there enough 'space' for your business or is the competition already fierce? Overcrowding kills businesses! Make sure you can be better or find something else to do. Each question you ask yourself will force you to create a great plan for your business. Each and every time you work on your business plan you could find new and better ways to encourage business growth. Show me your plan I will tell you where your business is going. Not having a plan means you are going nowhere. It could be nowhere quickly or nowhere over a long period of time but nowhere is the ultimate destination. Would you plant in your garden randomly without considering all the necessary factors? The chances are that the plant will die. Most gardeners make sure that they understand the plant's needs and then plan where to plant based on these specific needs. Drainage, sunshine, water and soil type will significantly affect the growth or death of plants. Write your own metaphor based on these factors and see if it helps in your planning.

2. Preparation

Once you are certain that everything is ready for planting, you begin to execute your plan. The first part of the plan is always preparation! Long before you plan you dig, you water, you add fertilizer or manure and you wait. It might seem pointless, like a waste of time, but in reality the longer you take to prepare the better your crop! Business is no different. Prepare your target audience for your business. Make them excited. Get them ready so that when you announce your new business or your new product or service, they will already want it. Marketing is a huge part of preparation just like digging is for a gardener. Set up at least 20 to 30 different marketing pillars that will underpin your business. Another essential part of preparation is to make sure that all your systems work. There is nothing worse than using something that doesn’t work. You will frustrate your clients. If your business relies on your website, test it and test it and test it again until you are sure that it works the way it should. If your business offers some sort of health benefits, test it repeatedly until you are convinced that your product or service really does work. Dig, prod, refresh or do whatever you need to do to prepare.

3. Planting Seeds

Gardening requires a lot of waiting patiently. After all the hard work and digging is done you get busy with planting. Your word really hard at planting every single seed in the right place and you cover it and then you… wait. Waiting is an essential part of gardening and it is also an essential part of business. Imagine if a gardener planted her seeds and then after one day went back to dig them all up to see if they were growing. If she did that a few times the seeds would die because they have been disturbed too often. Business is no different. It is essential that we plant our seeds through advertising, marketing, word of mouth, social media, press, flyers and so much more. We must plant out seeds but we must also wait. Don’t assume because there is a great deal of silence after all your hard work that your seeds are not growing. They take time to grow. People see your adverts but perhaps don’t need what you have to offer right away. Your marketing is well ‘planted’ but people need to see it a few times before the twig that it is exactly what they need. Many factors could cause your seeds to grow or die but one thing is for sure, you must patiently wait and not be discouraged when you don’t see anything come of all your hard work. In times of discouragement simply look out into a garden and remember how long it takes for those little tiny seeds to form and shoot their tiny little stem up out of the ground. If you can patiently wait then you will reap a great harvest from all your tiny seeds. And while you are waiting, do something else. Work on your bookkeeping or on your admin systems, put a filing system in place or do anything else that will help you manage WHEN your seeds begin to grow.

4. Watering Seeds

Seeds need watering after you have planted them in your garden. That’s a given. Planting without watering would be silly. If seeds aren’t watered consistently they won’t grow, they will die. Business ‘seeds’ need watering too and neglecting to do so is just as silly as not watering seeds in your garden and expecting to see results. Consistency is the key. People need to hear the same thing at least six times before it sinks in. They need to hear, read and see your message several times in various different ways. Eventually they will realise that they need to contact you but only after you have consistently repeated your message to them. Subtly is a key too. Watering your seeds with a pressure hose will just blast them out of the soil and destroy them. A gentle rain like spray is all your need when watering the seeds you have planted in your garden. In the same way, your message needs to be subtle and not a full force sales pitch repeatedly. You will lose people this way. Gently sprinkle your message consistently and in time you will see the little seeds growing and bearing fruit. Pushy sales people usually scare people away. Take time to regularly water your potential clients with an appealing message that will encourage them to do business with you.

5. Protecting and Nurturing

Allowing your tender seedlings to be exposed to the elements will hinder their growth and could even lead to their death. When the seedlings push through the ground and show signs of life they need protecting from the sun, wind, hail, frost, bugs and so much more. Business needs protecting and nurturing too. You simply cannot start a business and leave it, expecting it to grow. Various things are dangerous to business and so it is essential to protect and nurture it. Some threats include money, time and health. It is essential that you make sure that you have enough financial backup to keep you through a difficult month or two. Most importantly, don’t allow yourself to accumulate too many overheads at first. No money equals no more business so a healthy cash flow is essential. Another threat is time! If your time is not managed well you could either burn yourself out or invest too much time in the wrong places and end up killing your business. There are many threats to a small business so including a thorough SWOT analysis in your business plan is essential. Don’t assume that your business is safe, protect and nurture it.

6. Pruning

Pruning is what strengthens and maintains plants. It is a practice involving the selective removal of diseased, damaged, dead and non-productive parts of a plant’s branches, buds, or roots. Reasons for pruning include removing dead parts, shaping (by controlling or directing growth) and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. Businesses need pruning too if they are to grow into strong, healthy and prosperous businesses. Prune off dead parts of the business, areas that are not producing a good income or are even a drain on the business. Shape the business into precisely what you want it to be. Most importantly, remove damaged or diseased parts of the business, parts that are haemorrhaging money or time or damaging people. One of the biggest mistakes that business owners make is that they feel the need to be the expert at everything. It would be better use of your time to do what you are good at and leave what you do not excel at. If possible leave it entirely but if it is an essential part of your business outsource it to someone who can do it better than you. Cut off people that are bad for business too. Cut off anything at all that is preventing your business from being strong and healthy.

7. Harvesting

Harvesting is hard work but this is also the fun part, the part where all the hard work pays off. If you planted flower seeds then you get to enjoy the beautiful flowers, if you planted vegetables or fruit then you get to eat from your hard work. In business, this is the part where you make your money, you harvest your return. Harvesting is very rewarding but even in the harvesting stage, you still need to focus on the important next steps. After harvesting take time to plan for the next season. Ask for referrals, create an after sales system, focus on customer care and upselling.

Happy gardening!

Majority of women want gender-specific business support

Source: Herald Scotland

Here is some encouragement for you and one of our 'raison d'être'.

Around 80% of women think gender-specific support is needed to encourage more females to start up their own businesses in Scotland, a conference has heard.
But one-fifth believe there is sufficient backing from existing networks and business groups to help women get new enterprises up and running.

The question of whether tailored support is required to cultivate more female entrepreneurs north of the Border was posed at the Women's Business & Enterprise Conference in Glasgow yesterday.

It sparked a range of views from the 200 delegates in attendance, who heard from a panel of leading female business figures including Nora Senior woman of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

More info: http://www.heraldscotland.com/business/13104009.Majority_of_women_want_gender_specific_business_support/

How 2 Business Coach (How 2 Business Coaching and Consultancy)
November 12, 2014
0

Date: Thursday 01 August
Are You Building a List?

"If you keep on doing what you've always done you'll keep on getting what you've always got." W. L. Bateman
We are creatures of habit - and habits can either make or break us. We often follow patterns of behaviour because they are are comfortable and do not involve change, even when we know a change will improve things.

Most people are either scared or wary of marketing themselves and their business in order to generate new business. However the bottom line is that they would love to make more money, be more profitable, and have a healthy cash flow.

Too often people see new business as winning new clients - but that is not the only route to higher profits. The simplest and least expensive route is to sell to your existing customers. I meet so many people who are desperate to take on new clients, and when you ask them if they have a list of existing clients, more often than not they look at me blankly as if to say - 'I've already sold to them'.

It is significantly more time consuming and costly to win new clients. If you have a list of customers who have already bought from you and are satisfied with what you provided, then you should be continuing to build relationships with them and selling to them when they are ready to buy again. Marketing is all about developing relationships with people, and you do this by creating a database of all your customers and building up a profile of each one over time. Take an interest in you customers, find out what they like and don't like. Send them information that is of value to them.

You do need to win new clients, but your database is your 'list' and it has tremendous value to you if you manage it properly.
If you do not have a detailed list of all your customers - then you are definitely losing business.

Go build that list this week, use it, and see your sales increase almost immediately.

Have a great day.

Practical considerations for backing up data from your computer
July 7, 2014
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Source: Richard Walsh

One of the most tedious tasks of the working day for a small business is taking backup of work done on PC or laptop. However if you don’t want to put your business at risk you will need to make sure you’ve got appropriate procedures in place to safeguard your data. What are some of the most important considerations?

1. Determine what you are trying to backup and where it is. If it is a Word document backup will consist of a single file and will be easy to locate. However if, for example, you have been processing your accounts the data may be spread over several folders or be exported to a single file. Check with your supplier.

2. How rapidly is the data changing? If you are keying in invoices all day you will want to take backup more frequently than if you have just made small changes to Word documents. If the software you are using has an ‘autosave’ feature, switch it on.

3. Cloud backup programs such as Carbonite or Backblaze are very good at automatically recognizing which files have changed and automatically backing them up to ‘the Cloud’ but are not appropriate for largish changing databases – OK for a series of Word documents or photos etc. Don’t rely on Cloud backup as your only method of backup. Data can get lost in the Cloud as well!

4. Be very careful when ‘Copying and Pasting’ data files. It is easy when tired to accidentally copy the wrong way round e.g. to copy a file from a memory stick rather than to the memory stick. The result will be that you have lost all your work and replaced it with the version on the backup medium. Backing up to ‘the Cloud’ avoids this as the backup process is automatically in one direction. Backing up to a blank CD also avoids the problem as there will be nothing on the CD at the start.

5. Remember you can never be quite certain that your backup has worked until a disaster determines that you need to restore it. If the data is very important (e.g. a Business Plan or College dissertation) consider periodically restoring the backup to a colleague’s PC to check its content is what you expect.

6. If you are transferring from an old PC to a new one, keep the old PC in a cupboard for a few months. It can be surprising what you forget to transfer...... and find out you need 3 months down the road!

7. Use more than one backup device. Although you may have a memory stick capable of storing many different versions of your Business Plan at various stages, you still have just one physical backup device. So if it gets lost or damaged, you have lost your entire backup in one go. Ideally mix the types of backup media you use and the timeframe e.g. Memory sticks 1,2 and 3 alternating on a daily basis then overwritten coupled with CDs once per month, permanently recorded.

8. Finally don’t keep all your backup media in a single location. The thief who steals your PC or laptop might very easily also steal all your memory sticks/CDs lying next to it.

Business is not for you?

I have spoken to many people who ask the question...

” Do I still want to be in business?”

I did some personal reflection on that same question; I started up a couple of years ago with a love for what I do and a passion to deliver a service that outwits, outreaches and outdoes everyone in my profession.

Back when I started, I believed my zest for my business would shine through every time. I was inspired and truly thought I couldn’t do anything other than be successful

My excitement did not stop the initial thoughts that everyone trying something big and new has; “Am I ready?” “Is this the right path?” “Who will buy from me?” and of course, “Will anyone buy from me?”

And then a thought came that surprised me, I wasn’t in it for me.

Business isn’t about you – in fact it should never be about you. It’s for the people you serve – your clients, customers and contacts. It’s about their hopes and dreams, their wants and needs, their desires and wishes. You are in business to be there for them, when they need you.

And when you switch to that mindset, the wonderful law of reciprocity kicks in – when you give, you receive.

Not just from whomever you help and serve, but from others too. And that is a blessing that can fill you up and sooth your soul.

So the next time you wonder if you are in business for the right reasons, think of the words of your clients, what have they said to you about what you provide that has made you grateful to be in business.

Do I still want to be in business? You bet!

Do you?

One more thing.....don't keep us a secret, please share this.

The Business model for the 21st Century

All entrepreneurs know that if you buy into a franchise with hard work, significant payment for the franchise and provided you follow the system, you will over time, make money. Given today’s economic climate many people want to start their own business but don’t have the thousands or tens of thousands to put into a business so the question is, is there another way.

Some people are scared to start their own business, after all running your own business is not taught in schools. So if there was a way to try running your own business with little set up cost, support and training similar to a big franchise and can be started part time until the money comes in every month do you think millions of people in the UK would benefit from this.

A friend of mine and industry leader (Eric Worre) has produced a phenomenal documentary which includes interviews with leading personal development leaders like Brian Tracy, Les Brown,Jack Canfield and Robert Kiyosaki.

He interviews one of the worlds most revered economists Harry S Dent and also interviews BNI founder Ivan Misner. This documentary will explain why in the 21st century things are changing quicker than they have ever before and that in order to stay ahead you need to look at multiple sources of income.

I have secured 20 copies at my expense which I am happy to share with you if you go to https://www.risemovie.com/spencerand review the trailer.

If you wish to watch the entire documentary just email [email protected] in the subject matter put "Rise of the entrepreneur" again this is free for you.

To your success
Spencer

Customer Service – do you Deliver?
January 23, 2014
0

Source: Louise Kennedy

Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking around the local area for a new car, it’s never an easy task, when you start to think about purpose, price, size, running costs and the look.
As most females (or it could be just me), I love to shop, I like to know what I am buying, Yes, I want all the details, No, I don’t need the hard sell, I hate to be sold to. So as a potential buyer of a new car, you can imagine what the sales people have been like.

In the last two weeks, I have had ‘the stalker’ (following me around the whole car lot), the ‘information giver’ (on every vehicle), the ‘Stop bothering me’ (get out of the garage its closing time), ‘the nice guy’, ‘the new starter’, ‘the decision maker’ and my favourite the ‘I love Volkswagons, they’re my favourite cars’ guy (now this might not be such a bad statement I know, but coming from someone who works in a Peugeot garage, I found it rather odd). The service I received in each garage provides a personal insight as to whether I would eventually buy from that garage.

This got me thinking about Customer Service as a business owner; The age old saying is people buy from people, after a year and a half of running our business I would 100% agree with this statement. If people have bad service from a business they will never return and they will never recommend you to others.

I started to think about what makes good customer service? Where does my business fit? What do Oculus HR customers think of the service we deliver?
So we decided to ask.

We ask all clients for feedback and testimonials. Which we received, it’s then what to do with the information, obviously promoting on our website and social media but also including quotes within business proposals to potential new businesses. Via this feedback we received a couple of really helpful ideas, that have ensured that we expand our offering as a business, and the packages in a different format, every little bit of information needs to be taken and used positively to aid your service delivery.

We have worked hard to develop relationships, to deliver an outstanding level of service, to always aim higher than the expectation –to give that something extra. All of our business has come from developing relationships and recommendations from others. The key to the success of any business is to continue to maintain this standard and treat every client like they are the most important because, when you think about it…………………they are…..!

More info: http://www.oculus-hr.co.uk/