Luck or Hard Work?

Luck or Hard Work?

A few days ago I was talking to a potential supplier for my wedding next year. Somehow conversation turned to their website and we got chatting about their overall, online presence. Conversation then turned to the challenges  they have (needing more traffic, spending too much on adwords, no way of emailing their database easily) I offered up a bit of free advice and naturally this lead on to what I did for a living (they didn’t know until this point). It transpired that they’d been wondering what to do about their site for some time now, so applying the ‘don’t ask, don’t get principal’ I asked if we could perhaps quote for their digital work. They said they’d be delighted for us to do so.

My partner and I have a bit of a running joke that I somehow manage to turn normal conversations with people in my personal life into work related ones, which in turn, often end up with opportunities for my business. She turned to me on this occasion as we got back into the car, and said ‘you really are so lucky‘.

Now I have a strong belief that this isn’t luck. Why? I believe that as a business owner/entrepreneur/salesperson/whatever you want to call yourself, you constantly have to have your antenna up, open to opportunities. If you’re doing this regularly enough then its merely a matter of time before one of these opportunities comes off. Some might even call it a game of numbers!

So the old adage, ‘you make your own luck’ is, in my opinion, a very true one.

New to business? In Sales? Consistently put yourself in situations where opportunities arise and when they do, grasp them with all you’ve got. I can promise you it works, I practice what I preach :)

Now Your Thoughts

  • Got any stories which felt a little bit like fate/right place-right time?

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This blog is now featured on Alltop

This blog is now featured on Alltop

Howdy folks, you may just have noticed this lovely badge to the right hand side of my blog. If you don’t know, Alltop aim to bring the best blogs to our attention in a number of different categories. I’m incredibly chuffed that they’ve added mine to the ‘startups’ section.

If you’ve not visited Alltop before then I encourage you to do so – there is soooo much great content to feast yourself on.

While you’re there you can create your own ‘MyAlltop’ page and add feeds (including mine hopefully) to your dashboard.

If you know of other blogs you think should be included then you can submit them here: http://alltop.com/submission/

p.s You can now add your email address to my ‘newsletter’ signup. I’ll be adding value to this group of people as often as possible – they will receive things from me that others don’t have access to, so please signup today.



p.p.s. If you like what you’ve read here then you should sign up to my RSS feed and every time I update this site the post will be sent to your reader automatically.

8 of my top articles, all in one place…

8 of my top articles, all in one place…

One of the things its easy to forget when you’ve been blogging for a long time is all the great posts and content you’ve put together over the years. All that effort you put in, potentially lost in the mists of time.

Unless a user finds your posts by a search engine, its unlikely they’ll navigate back over years worth of content – lets face it, who has the time for that?

There is an easy solution to this though – A ’round up’ post. A collection of posts from your blog linked to from another post just like this. It could be your ‘favourite 5 articles’, ’7 posts you’ve written on a  particular topic’, it could just be a random mixture you want to highlight for another reason.

So with that in mind, here is one from me.

I use a tool called Postrank (owned by Google) to help me work out which of my posts are well received and which flop. It scores on all sorts of metrics like comments/shares etc…

So here are my top 8 posts of all time according to my post rank stats – enjoy:

1). Here’s a great way to loose some customers – I got quite miffed one holiday in Cornwall a year or so ago and decided to rant a little on my blog. Right or wrong, this post topped the charts!

2). Do what you do best and delegate the rest – A post about my framework for delegation, essential as your company grows.

3). 7 Super useful resources for busy business owners – Gotta love a list of useful resources. It seems other people did too.

4). Facebook Places – Are you Aware – One of my most commented on posts so it clearly hit a nerve. A post about thinking before you ‘check-in’

5). If I were a solicitor… – Here’s a post for all solicitors thinking about how to use social media. Loads of great ideas, crowd-sourced from others as well.

6). The sale ain’t made ‘til the bill is paid! – Putting together a policy on money and collecting it is essential to any business, large or small. This post gives some hints and tips on this topic.

7). 5 traits successful business owners have – This one got a lot of traction. The title speaks for itself.

8). Cash Flow is King! Guide to setting up a cash flow forecast - My most visited post (and one of my oldest) by a long way. It proves that if you give a bit of value away you get search engine listings and lots of traffic in return.

Now Your Thoughts

  • If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog and have others you think I’ve missed out please do highlight them.
  • Have you thought about doing a round up post yourself? Its really quite fun to reminisce…

Photo courtesy of Fabio Marini under creative commons

p.s You can now add your email address to my ‘newsletter’ signup. I’ll be adding value to this group of people as often as possible – they will receive things from me that others don’t have access to, so please signup today.



p.p.s. If you like what you’ve read here then you should sign up to my RSS feed and every time I update this site the post will be sent to your reader automatically.

2011 – 7 Things that changed my life….

2011 – 7 Things that changed my life….

Hey folks, firstly a very happy New Year to you all. I wish you the very best for 2012.

If you do one thing this year make it your objective to go out of your way to help others succeed with their goals and yours will follow on.

So in the now great tradition, here is my summary post of the last year and the things both in and out of work that changed my life for the better. Remember this isn’t just about me telling you how great 2011 was for me, it’s written because if just one of the things that had a huge impact on my life, could affect yours in the same way then it will have served its purpose.

By the way, if you’re interested – here were 2010 and 2009‘s lists.

1). Having made it onto the list two years on the trot but not made the top spot (there is no order in this list unless you’re my partner by the way) – its Lizz again. This year was very special for us as we recently got engaged. I finally started to feel that settling down and building a family was what I wanted to do and I can’t think of anyone better to do that with than Lizz. For risk of sounding corny, I do actually believe we were made for each other. We were both so overwhelmed by the support and congratulations we got back from everyone when they heard – it was my number one high point of the year.

2). Tilly Talking – My niece is now talking and turning into a proper little human being. There is something you can’t put into words about the feeling you get when a little person bounds up to you with a beaming smile and full of happiness. It’s a shame we lose some of this as adults – we need to do all we can to regain it – it’s going to be on my list for 2012.

As Will Ferrell in Elf says, “I just like to smile, smiling’s my favourite.” – let’s all try a bit more of that this year.

3). OK onto the less personal ones now. Having signed up for it a couple of years ago, I re-found Evernote and now it organises my life. Evernote is a fantastic program which has mobile, desktop & web versions and also sits on any device you might have. You can keep notes/files etc all categorised for easy recall and as it’s across devices you can be pretty much anywhere with all your stuff available to you. I use it for work and home. Here’s a great tip – as people tell you things they like/want through the year, make notes in evernote, take pictures if you can and email them in and then when it gets to Christmas/Birthdays you have a ready made list of things people actually want :)

4). Nudgemail – I have a pretty bad memory. Well in fact I don’t think that’s entirely true, I just have an awful lot to remember so some of it slips through. No more though! Nope, I use a fantastic tool called Nudgemail which simply emails me on the date I ask it to – either with a cc of an original email I sent it, or just a reminder. Anything I delegate now gets nudged so I can forget about it and move on. An awesome tool folks.

5). Business Away Days – We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the day to day goings on in a business but it can be crippling for you if you don’t take time out to think, plan, innovate and consult others. I do this quarterly for a whole day, with two of my best friends (and local business owners) and monthly for a meal where we work on goal setting and holding each other accountable to these targets. The latter is in more of a  bitesize format (3 small goals a month) where as the former is much bigger picture. If you don’t have a group like this already, I heartily recommend it for 2012.

6). Cooking – Sunday is now MY cooking day and I love it. I regularly spend the afternoon considering what crazy concoction I can dream up, then going out to buy the ingredients and finally preparing and cooking it for Lizz and I. Running a business can be quite stressful, afterall you have to be a boss, a friend, a colleague an advisor, an inspirer and you have to make sure that at the end of the month, you have enough work coming in to meet the outgoings (and hopefully a bit more for some profit!) – oh and all that happens every single month. All these challenges can take their toll on you, however successful your business is. It’s extremely hard to turn off (many would say you never do). I’ve found that cooking is something that helps me to relax, unwind and put aside the challenges of the moment. It’s got to be one of the most therapeutic things you can do.

7). Envirosend Email Marketing – We launched our email marketing product, Envirosend, this year and it’s flying. We have loads of clients using it very effectively to reach out to their prospects and clients on a regular basis. All businesses should have some sort of email marketing system in place. It is a very low cost, very effective medium for marketing. If you’re not talking to your database regularly, perhaps today is as good a day as any to start. The guys at Optix can help you with a demo if you’re interested in seeing this product.

So there you have it, just a few of the things that changed my life this year for the better. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into 2012 – lets make it a cracking year folks.

Now Your Thoughts

  • So what changed your life this year?
  • Who and what made an impact on your 2011?

Do you look for Opportunities or Obstacles?

Do you look for Opportunities or Obstacles?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I took the www.Kolbe.com personality test a few weeks ago and it showed that I have an extremely high level of what’s called ‘quick start‘ in their system. I love new ideas, vision, creation of new concepts, problem solving and thinking outside the box. On the flip side, I’m pretty awful at ‘follow through‘ which means I need people around me who can take on these new ideas and make them fly.

One of the things I know I do is to look for and see opportunity in everything around me, so this got me wondering if other entrepreneurs and business owners are wired in a similar way.

Since thinking about this I’ve analyzed a lot of the conversations I’ve had with other people to see what I might have done or said in their position and I noticed something very interesting. A select few people seem to walk around looking for opportunity. Any conversation, problem or challenge presents a chance to do something different. In my game it might be to sell something new to a client for example. Others seem to see obstacles – they start their sentences with things like, “We probably can’t do that because…”, “I’m not sure they’d want that”, “I don’t think that’s a good idea”.

Is one way right and one wrong? I’m sure theres a place for both and sometimes I know I need grounding so it’s probably no bad thing to be challenged every now and again. I do however truly believe that entrepreneurs look for opportunity in everything. Safe doesn’t work for them. They don’t need the comfort of knowing what’s round the corner or doing the same thing day in day out.

Earlier in the year I attended LikeMinds in Exeter and saw Luke Johnson (Channel 4, FT Columnist, Pizza Express, Strada, The Ivy…) speak about what makes an Entrepreneur. It was absolutely fascinating and resonated with me completely. Here are some of the words Luke used to explain the psyche of this type of person:

Grit, determination, discipline, optimism, hard working, going against trend, desire gain rather than fear loss and relentless.

He then used a phrase I loved: “The future belongs to the optimist” – How true.

When asked how he has been so successful, he simply said he has always been alive to the opportunities and that it’s often random interactions that open doors. A mantra I certainly live my life by.

This was proved to me once again this week, when after a very long day at work, the last thing I felt like doing was attending an evening do but I knew I needed to make the effort and within 5 mins of walking through the door, two huge work opportunities presented themselves out of no-where. If I’d not gone that night, I would have lost both.

I enjoy looking for opportunities where others can’t see them, it gives me a buzz. How about you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Which camp do you fall into?
  • Do you agree with me that entrepreneurs look for opportunity?

Feeling Festive

So I’ve woken up this morning and I’m feeling quite festive. The tree went up yesterday and as I opened our sitting room door, that wonderful smell of pine needles flooded out. You just can’t beat that.

Some of you might know that I have a brand called Envirosend, which is awesome email marketing software. You can find out more here: http://www.envirosend.co.uk

For this week only I’m going to offer the complete upfront costs off this system for 3 people who write to me at alastair@iambanksy.co.uk with the reason they should have the system in their business and how they plan to use it to build their business. I’ll draw the names out of a hat if I get an influx of people who are interested.

That’s a saving of just under £600 and includes: Setup/Training (phone) and 1 designed template.

There are just two stipulations:

1). You must agree to pay the £50 we normally give to Devon Wildlife Trust. We don’t want them missing out so this will be your only upfront cost.
2). Let us know how much data you have (must have given you permission to send to them – we don’t do spam at Envirosend)

I look forward to hearing your suggestions and hopefully getting to work with you soon,

Alastair

When I grow Up…

When I grow Up…

When I was growing up there were a number of people in my life that I looked up to – family members, inspirational teachers, sports stars and family friends all featured. When I consider the person I am today – my morals, my feelings towards others, my views on business and so much more I can see elements of these people in me.

Without realising it, I have become a product of my environment. As I’ve grown up I’ve continued to seek out new role models and people that I aspire to be like or learn something from. I’m sure a few of you probably put names like Branson, Steve Jobs, maybe even Lord Sugar in your role model lists but sometimes it’s the people that are on your door step that have the most to offer.

My Dad plays a huge part in my business life – I bounce ideas off him regularly, he chairs one of my companies boards as a non-exec. He is there for me when I need that experience and I’ve often said that if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I can never thank him enough for that.

I’m lucky that my job takes me into hundreds of businesses as a consultant and trusted advisor. I get to meet more people running businesses around the country than I ever dreamed I would have done. Every person I meet is an opportunity to learn. Every now and then I meet someone I know I can learn a lot from and I make it my business to do so. I ask questions, I show interest, I forget my path for that moment and concentrate on others. I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same.

There are a few people I’d like to pay special tribute to (business wise). Maybe you could consider doing the same today.

Ken Rudge – A good friend and businessman who lives and works in Devon. A very sensible head on him and doesn’t pull any punches.

James Trebble – Never have I met anyone who is so positive. Whatever life throws at this serial entrepreneur, he gets up, dusts down and gets on with it. An absolute delight to spend time with, everyone needs a JT in their life.

*Worth noting here that myself, James and Ken take a day a quarter out of our businesses to get together and talk about challenges, set goals and think about the next big thing for our companies – this is absolute gold dust.

James Dawkins – My business partner for 12 years. We might bicker every now and then but we’ve never fallen out and in 12 years I think that’s pretty impressive. He’s the ying to my yang (soppy I know!).

Nick Sprague – Ultra successful businessman and philanthropist. I think it’s important to have business goals in life and and mine are based on what this man has achieved. Not only does he have a number of successful businesses but he enjoys life, helps charities (even setup his own: http://www.parabottle.co.uk) and has a wonderful home life. If I’m where Nick is in a few years, I’ll be a very happy man.

My list could easily go on…

In my opinion its vital to surround yourself with successful and positive people. Role models are so important to have. If you’ve not done it already, seek yours out and make them a part of what you do.

Now Your Thoughts

  • Who inspires you? Give them a shout out on this blog. They deserve the recognition right?
  • How much of an impact did your childhood role models have on you?

Parabottle – An Amazing New Charity

Parabottle – An Amazing New Charity

I’m not going to tell you about a new business idea today, or a piece of online marketing advice, or a way that I’ve setup a process in my business. I’m going to tell you about a really exciting new charity Parabottle, that I’ve been asked to get involved in with the hope that I can raise awareness of their objectives and even better, that some of you reading this will feel you might just be able to help with a small donation or simply telling others about this post – that’s down to you though of course.

Nick Sprague is a very successful business man in Devon (UK). A client of mine for a number of years and more recently has become more of a friend. Nick came to me last year asking if I’d like to be involved in this new charity and when he explained the concept I was hooked – I hope you will be too.

Did you know that when the Haiti disaster struck, despite being as close as 2 hours from Miami, it was incredibly difficult to get aid to the people who needed it straight away. It is my understanding that more people have now died in the time after the earthquake than the actual quake itself!!! A horrific statistic.

It was on hearing this news on the Radio one day that Nick thought to himself there must be something he can do about this. An epic challenge for someone to take on I’m sure you’ll agree.

You may well have come across Shelter Box – A Cornish charity which are doing remarkable things in the world of aid. These boxes can keep whole families alive for a very long time but due to their size and requirement for transport they can’t always get to places of need quickly. This is where Nick’s idea for Parabottle fits in.

Nick drew up plans for a bottle which contains basic provisions for aid (water, foil blanket and matches at the very least). The lid would have a parachute designed into it and within the first 24-48 hrs of a disaster these bottles could be dropped from planes where conventional aid cannot reach.

As you can probably appreciate, getting something like this off the ground is no mean feat! The first challenge was getting it through the charity commission in order to become registered, something in fact the CEO and founder of Shelter Box, Tom Henderson kindly helped Nick with.

This brings us to the here and now. The next step for this fledgling charity is to have the prototype designed and tested by Airborne Systems later this year.

Currently the new charity needs all the help it can get and is looking for people to get behind it and (hopefully) make this Devon’s answer to Cornwall’s amazing Shelter Box. More importantly, to make this a reality and start saving lives.

I’d ask you to do three things for me today if you can spare just 5 minutes:

1). Take a look at the website: http://www.parabottle.org.uk/

2). Make sure your sound is turned up full and watch the amazing video (on the homepage) which sums the concept up better than I probably have in this post.

3). Consider whether you might like to be involved personally (you can donate here: http://www.justgiving.com/parabottle/ or perhaps you’d consider making Parabottle your chosen charity).

If you are interested in getting involved then I know Nick and the team at Parabottle would be keen to hear from you – just email me your details and how you would like to help on alastair@iambanksy.co.uk

We already delighted that PWC got behind the project running a quiz in Bristol in aid of the charity and Michelmores kindly allowed Parabottle to say a few words at their recent business breakfast. A huge thank you to both those companies.

I don’t often use my blog as a platform for this kind of thing but this is something that is very important to me and if I can raise the profile of this new charity to help it off the ground then I think that’s ok in my book. You can expect my usual style post back again soon :)

Do you laugh in the face of adversity?

Do you laugh in the face of adversity?

This week I watched the 1993 film, Alive (Aff link). It absolutely gripped me. I watched ‘the making of’ documentary, read all the wikipedia articles I could find and the life stories of the remarkable men who were involved.

If you’re unaware of the story, in 1972 a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team to Chile crashed in the Andes. There were 33 survivors. After 8 days, a search from 3 countries was called off as it was presumed there was no way anyone could still be alive and they couldn’t see the plane (which was white) in amongst some of the worst snow fall they’d had in years.

Over the next few weeks a number of the party died due to injuries and then as if this wasn’t bad enough, they were then caught in an Avalanche! 19 Survived. After running out of rations and in order to keep alive they had made the difficult decision to eat the bodies of the deceased (their friends and family)! A horrendous thought but one that ultimately saved their lives. The avalanche had hit on the 17th day and they went on to stay alive on that mountain for an INCREDIBLE 72 days in total. Without wishing to cut this fascinating story short (I recommend you watch the film/read the book – aff links) what happened towards the end of this story amazes me even further. Two of the a group – Parrado and Canessa took it on themselves to trek from the crash site, across some of the most difficult mountain terrain for 10 days before they finally found a Chilean Huaso and they were able to get a rescue crew to the others. In total 16 survived the 72 day ordeal.

Why am I writing about this? What bearing can this possibly have on your business? Well I hope the clue was in the title. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have been completely gripped by this story. These people didn’t give up in what must have been some of the worst conditions ever endured by man and not only did they not give up, two of them became hero’s to the others, performing a feat which would be remarkable given the latest modern day equipment, warmest clothes and tents possible, let alone after 62 days living in the conditions I’ve mentioned above.

What can we take from this? Heart I hope. In our lives we all come across difficult times. In our businesses we’ll take hits. There will almost certainly be ups and downs.

Remember that it’s not the situation itself that is a problem or depressing or puts you in a bad mood – thats your choice – you decide how you’re going to react to what’s been served up to you. Your attitude will dictate the way you deal with the various challenges thrown at you in life.

I have so much respect for those 16 people (especially the two that made that trek). It put some of the minor trials and tribulations in my own life clearly into perspective and I hope that when I’m next feeling overwhelmed by something, that I will remember this story and what was humanly possible when faced with adversity.

I hope you will too.

Now Your Thoughts

  • Do you have any methods you use for keeping calm and carrying on?
  • Have you watched the film/read the book? What were your thoughts?

How to be found in Google

How to be found in Google

When you type your name into Google what comes up?

Are you the 1st result? Are you 2nd? Please tell me you’re on the first page right? No? Really?

When I go for a meeting with anyone, when I listen to someone speak, the first thing I do is Google their name and if they don’t appear at least once on the first page that’s a report card on them I’m afraid. If your job is such that you need to keep out of the public eye then I’d understand but for those of you trying to build businesses and get yourself out there you’re going to need to get yourself out there. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this today.

1). Get yourself a blog. Don’t just add it to a free wordpress or blogger hosting account. Shell out a few pennies and have it hosted properly on its own domain. Consider buying a domain with your own name if it’s still available. If it’s not, then write a great biography page with your name mentioned in it.

2). Get active on Twitter and LinkedIn. These two sites are huge and very well respected by the likes of Google. When you signup try and choose a name which is something to do with you if possible. If not then make sure you at least give the network your full name where it asks for it. Create a biography page/section that describes you, your location (because people will use that to search too) and your interests if possible. Now get active on these channels. Engage with people on Twitter, link people to things of interest that you find and connect with people on LinkedIn – be proactive, don’t just wait to accept peoples invites and wonder what to do then.

3). Get listed on your company website – Does your company site have a team page you can be added to? Does it have a blog you could write for? Ask the powers that be how you can be featured more online and if you are the powers that be, make this happen :)

4). Write for your local paper or at least get them to write about you! Local papers are also well respected in search engines due to the amount of fresh content they are churning out and size of their sites. A few stories every now and again could see you getting listed in Google more often. If your story is good enough the paper will want it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get after all!

So there you have it, a few ways to start improving your ‘googleability’ (not sure if I just made that up or not). If you’re looking for the edge over your competitors this point should really be up near the top of your to do list.

Image courtesy of Molly Stevens

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any other suggestions for helping get listed in Google?
  • Have you used the search engine giant to do research yourself?