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?

7 Things That Changed My Life This Year

7 Things That Changed My Life This Year

So it’s that time of year again folks – The snow has rolled in and rolled out again and a new year is round the corner. I can’t believe it was a year ago I wrote my round up post for 2009! For those of you who missed it, I write a summary post each year on the things that changed my life for the better. I hope that in amongst the points, there will be some that you can use to improve your own life for the better, after all this blog is about you guys, not me.

Here’s 2010 coming up.

1) Stephen Coveys Book - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (aff link)
This book has been around for years and I’ve had it on my ‘to read’ list for some time now. I finally got around to reading it this month and I have to say, of all the business books I’ve read (and I read quite a lot), this one is awesome – a real ‘lightbulb moment’ read. In fact, I felt it was so important, that after reading it, I emailed my staff and offered to buy a copy personally for anyone who wanted to read it. I can’t possibly summarise the whole thing here, but if building your business and relationships is important to you then don’t question it, buy it today (It’s like £7 so don’t hang around) and let me know how you get on.

2). YourJobsBoard - http://www.yourjobsboard.co.uk/exeter/
As a bit of a serial entrepreneur I came up with a new business venture this year which aims to change the face of local recruitment. The search engines are going local – You’ll have probably noticed that Google Places is far more prominent (thats the map and pinpoints) and smart phones can geo-locate you (find out where you are) easily in an attempt to offer up content that’s relevant to your area. For this reason, we have built a truly local Jobsite for our town of Exeter. This aims to take on the faceless national jobsites and provide good quality content for the Exeter area. It focuses on the strong links we have with institutions in the area including Exeter University, Exeter Council, Connexions and all the local recruiters and companies looking to advertise their jobs cost effectively. If you’re based in Exeter then make sure you get your jobs on the site asap as it’s currently free for companies to post. Charities will always be able to post their jobs for free.

3). Sandler Training
There is always room to improve. The top athletes in the world have coaches so there should be no pride lost in business coaching of any kind. This year we made the jump and I enrolled on the Sandler Sales Management course. Having started my business at the age of 19 and 11 years on finding myself in charge of more than 10 staff, I’ll openly admit that management was not my strong point. I recognised that, so wanted to better myself. I’m now working with a guy called Andy McCreadie in Exeter on a monthly basis, specifically in sales training and sales management. I’ve learnt so much in the few months I’ve been working with Andy, most noticeably about finding the right clients, qualifying, saying no, shortening our sales cycle and understanding that behaviours drive targets, not the other way around. Sandler offer sales training and management courses all over the world. If you are starting a business yourself or even a few years down the line then I can thoroughly recommend the Sandler guys. If you’re in the Westcountry then let me know if you’re interested in meeting Andy and I’ll set it up for you.

4). My MacBook Pro
I can’t say much more than I’ll never go back to a non apple laptop. Nuff Said! Check out their online store for the latest products.

5). Inbound Marketing Practices
I started practicing true ‘Inbound Marketing’ properly this year, having been dabbling the year before. If you’re unfamiliar with the term it’s essentially where you give value away in return for peoples details (which become leads). You entice people to you by proving your credibility and authority. This year we launched two pieces of fantastic Inbound Marketing Collateral. The first was our social media survey. After 6 or so months of surveying businesses, we collated and crunched the data we had and spent quite a bit of money on producing a glossy 32 page booklet displaying the results which we have been giving away freely in both hard copy format to local businesses and online to anyone who wishes to view the information. We also produced a tool for creating a free social media policy you can give to your staff. We simply ask for details of people who download it in return for the document which we brand up with their logo and company details. Since launching this just a few weeks ago and without much marketing, we’ve had over 50 companies use the policy – all bona fide leads for my business. Think what you can give away today in order to build leads.

6). Travelling on Trains rather than Driving

I used to drive everywhere. I love driving. It’s my favourite. However, when I realised how much time I was spending in a car and not able to work, it frightened me. I now travel by train whenever possible and if its at a weekend then the 1st class upgrade is well worth it at anywhere between £5 and £20 extra a journey. This might sound obvious for the train crew already but Im sure there are other people out there with businesses not realising quite how much you can do if you turn to train travel.

7). Lizz
Ok so I included Lizz last year (my girlfriend for those of you who don’t know) but she is so important to my life that I need to include her again. All I’ll say this year, is that once again, I recognised on a few occasions how important it is to have a strong support network behind you when the chips are down. I had a great year in 2010 but we all have off days and sometimes it can get quite stressful. When that happens to me, Lizz is always there for me. Thank you Lizz x

Now Your Thoughts

  • So what changed your life this year?
  • Who and what made an impact on your 2010?

8 things that changed my life this year

With the end of the year in touching distance, I thought I’d give you a run down of 8 things that happened to me in 2009 that have changed my life positively. The reason for writing this list is that almost all of it is open to you to get involved with too. If I’ve benefited so much from these things, I hope that at least one person reading this takes action to investigate one or two items on the list and see’s their own life positively impacted. (Admittedly a few are a little jokey but that’s just the way I roll) :)

So lets get on – here are 8 things that have positively changed my life in 2009 (in no particular order :)):

1) iPhone – So I’ve gone on quite a bit about this recently and I do understand it splits opinion with Android lovers so I’m just going to tell you a few quick reasons why this has had such a profound affect on my life/business. First of all, it’s not possible to deny this is a sexy piece of kit and pretty much everything on it has been well thought out from a usability point of view. The phone has made a huge difference to the way I interact with email outside the office as well as social media. A huge amount of the buzz surrounding iPhones is the gimmicky apps that you download and hardly ever use, but if you look carefully you can find ones that really do make your life easier and more efficient. I now do at least 75% of my social media work from my phone, on the move, using dead time that I wouldn’t have used before. Here are a couple of examples of apps that have made a differences to me – Tube Deluxe helped me around London recently giving me more time to catch up on other bits of work. The National Rail app tracks GPS on the trains themselves meaning you can see where the train is at any time on the line – genius. TV Guide gets rid of the need for paper based guides. Natwest now have an app that lets me track my money on the move at anytime. Skype lets me phone other Skype users for free and AroundMe has helped me find cabs/hotels and garages a number of times on the move. CoPilot is better than the inbuilt Sat Nav I have in my own car and Google Maps has walked me to a few places I would have got lost trying to find ‘pre-iPhone’. Remember the Milk helps me with GTD (see later)….I could go on and I know I’ve only touched the surface! If you’re in the market for a new phone and think the iPhone is expensive then (compared to other phones) I would agree, but its so much more than a phone and I know its been worth every penny and much much more. This, for me, is an absolute must have gadget.

2) Jeffrey Gitomer – Sales/Positivity Guru. I was lucky enough to be invited to see Jeffrey earlier this year by owner of TheBestOf – Nigel Botterill. I didn’t know who Jeffrey was at the time but trusted Nigel’s opinion and boy am I glad I did. ANYONE in sales or marketing (yes that means you business owners) MUST go and see Jeffrey if possible. He really is a sales legend. I wrote more about him in this post I wrote earlier in the year. I can honestly say that Jeffrey’s one seminar has made a profound difference to the way I treat the sales process now and the way I teach my sales team to treat it too. His Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude book is also a kick up the backside in the way we view our lives and other people. New staff members in my team will now be given one of these books and asked to read it during their first few months with us. I’ve bought every single one of his books now and strongly suggest you consider doing so too. A complete list of Gitomer books can be found on Amazon by clicking the link in this sentence.

3) Social Media – I don’t really know where to start with this. I was dabbling without knowing it for the last couple of years with sites like Facebook/YouTube and LinkedIn but then in Jan of 09 I found Twitter and my life changed (as well as that of our businesses). The clever integration of Social Media has lead to many new services from Optix Solutions, ending up in new work, new joint ventures and alliances, new friends and a very good ROI (yes we’ve been monitoring it). As anyone who knows me personally knows, I love Social Media – I love the connections I’ve made with people all over the world and the new exciting possibilities it brings to businesses willing to get started with it. Much like the buzz of ecommerce when I started out with my web business back in 1999, Social Media has given me a new lust for the Internet and what’s possible for clever, forward thinking businesses. If you’d like further information of Social Media or would like to contract my services in this area, please drop me an email or connect with me on Twitter (@banksy6)

4) White Tea – Alright so maybe this is a bit of a jokey one but I was getting really hacked off with other teas and my friend David Thomas suggested I got involved with White Tea! I didn’t even know this existed! Now a morning doesn’t start properly without a refreshing cup of this amazing drink! (p.s. don’t boil it for more than 1 minute – it ruins it :))

5) GTD – Getting Things Done is a global phenomenon and I never knew about it – until this year. I hold my hands up to the fact that in the past I have struggled hugely to keep all the balls in the air. As a multi-business owner, at any one point I have literally hundreds of things on my to-do list and I’d tried just about every time scheduling/work practice known to man – all to no avail. I had the messiest desk in the office (a source of constant banter for my employees). I never understood how anyone could have a clean desk if they were busy – it escaped me. Then in early 2009 two people I have a lot of respect for in Exeter – Scott Gould and Adam Stone recommended I read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Wow – what a fantastic book/system. It’s given me the tools to operate (most of the time at max efficiency and with a ‘mind like water’ – so I’m at my most creative) This is a very important thing to master as a business owner or you get dragged down in the minutiae of everyday life. I now have a clean (ish) desk and a system that allows me to keep on top of the hundreds of things I have on my plate at any one time. Every business owner should buy this book now.

6) Lizz – Lizz is my girlfriend and one of the points in this list which I hope you won’t be able to take advantage of :) I was a proper bachelor, living the high life for the last 10 years, since leaving university. While busy building a business, I had a lot of fun outside work with friends and family. A couple of years ago my present girlfriend Lizz came along and this year we moved into our first house together. I’ll admit, I was quite apprehensive about losing my independence but moving in with the love of my life (get your puke buckets ready) was the single best thing I did this year. Having a strong support network around you in life when you run a business is one of the most important things you can build. Someone you can share the hard and good times with…find yourself a Lizz if you haven’t already.

7) Apple Mac Shop – This year I got involved in the Apple brand for the first time. I bought an iPhone, we got a Mac Book Pro at work and through this I started to spend some time in the Apple shop in Exeter. I love the place so much so I wrote an article about the experience I had in another blog post.

8 ) Beacon Breakthrough – This one applies to those of you starting up/setup in the South West in the UK. This year, James my business partner and I found out about a new scheme for businesses aiming at becoming Beacon companies for the SW, the turnover threshold of which is £1.5million. For more information on the Beacon scheme check out their website. The Beacon breakthrough forums are aimed at companies that wish to take that next step and learn how already successful companies operate in every area from board setup to marketing to goal setting and planning. It’s a fantastic course and offers amazing value to participant companies. If you’re based in the SW, I would strongly suggest that you put yourself on this course next year as the differences it’s made to my web business are nothing short of phenomenal.

That concludes my line up for 2009. If there is one thing I’m going to be concentrating on next year it’s acting on things (minimising procrastination). I’ve learnt a huge amount this last year and changed my business in many ways because of the things I’ve learnt, books I’ve read and courses I’ve been on – I’d urge you to look down the list again and see if there is anything you can get involved in yourself and please let me know if you do and of course, how it worked for you :)

See you in 2010