The B Word

Some phrases stick in your head for a long time. A rather colourful Product Development lecturer once commented that ‘accountants are the condom on the (man parts) of progress’. I have censored his statement here for obvious reasons but the intent of his remark is clear. Looking at creativity by what your budget allows you to achieve limits your fullest potential.

So why do budgets – the B-word – have such a bad name? After all, managing budgets is a great skill to have. We are encouraged to be wise and mindful of our resources. 

In creative terms, working with a budget as you develop your ideas or ambition is like buying a dress and then dieting to fit into it. Of course you should be aware of your current financial means. However, they should not dictate how ambitious you can be.

A good idea comes from being able to think freely and creatively. That should also apply to how you view using your money. A helpful process for thinking this through is:

  1. What could you do if money wasn’t a concern?
  2. Are you able to fund it with your existing budget?
  3. How else could you get it done?
  4. Who else would be interested in getting the most out of the idea? (see post on partnerships)

Budgets are a tool rather than a permission to make something amazing happen. The discipline and strategy of budget management are good for things you want to control. However, chances are you do not want to limit your best possible ideas before you have had them because you don’t think you can afford it.

To get the best out of your creative process, teams or efforts, forget the B-Word. At least until you have a good enough idea. Then use your best budgeting skills to make it happen.

Idea 2.0: Upgrading Your Vision

You start out on your creative and ambitious journey with high hopes. The sky is the limit, and you’ve got just what the world needs to make it a better place. You make the best cupcakes. You are a genius with raising capital. You are the best motivational speaker for your target audience. In short, you’ve found your purpose in life! You sell most of everything you’ve got and invest heavily into your business or career. Good? Great!

Then something happens. As you work through it, there are a few new things you discover. Things are not exactly how they first appeared. This isn’t a bad thing. Often after immersing yourself deeper into something, you discover so much more. Your original idea was just the tip of the iceberg. You can do so much more here! On the other hand, after spending some time in the reality of your ambition, you realise it is not quite what you expected.

Now what do you do? No one wants to appear to be making a u-turn. Would your stakeholders, fellow investors, family, friends and haters see you as flighty or as a failure? Would they say of you that you lack commitment or, worse, your vision was shaky to begin with?

Take heart. The first thing to recognise is that you know more than anyone else about what is truly happening. If you have seen a better opportunity for your business, then it is in your interest in the long run to explore it. Also, if you have misjudged your original vision, the best thing you could do for yourself is reconsider.

In the creative relationship, there are three parts: you, the business and your idea or vision. Ideally, all three will be in harmony. When they are out of sync, a decision has to be made. When minor adjustments does not bring it all back together again, it might be time to upgrade your vision.

Here are some suggestions of how to handle it:

Check your emotions. What you might be experiencing is excitement about new opportunities. There isn’t anything specifically wrong with your first goal. You’re simply enthusing about a new challenge. Put it to the side for a while; you might feel differently about it later.

Build on idea one. Consider whether this is an add-on to your current ambitions rather than a brand new idea. Some things might take time to build and your first idea might be the foundation for a bigger opportunity. It will give you more contacts and credibility in for the future.

Compare both visions. Be rigorous with evaluating the benefits and costs of both options – with the same criteria. Compare like with like, rather than like with love. It will help to write them out with equal depth. Be very honest with yourself here. It may help to do this with someone objective.

Sell on or shut down. Your original thought was a good one, although it might not be the best one for you. You may not be the best person to take it forward. Is there anyone else excited about it that you can hand it on to? You could consider licensing it to someone, selling it on or closing down the business completely.

Bernard P Achampong

Make PR a priority for your business in 2014!

However brilliant your product or service, if nobody knows about it then your business will struggle to make sales, and a business without sales is a failure in motion.

Here are some tips from PR expert Jessica Huie on how to make sure your business is planted firmly in the awareness of your target audience in 2014:

• Inject your human interest story into your branding

Nothing is more powerful than authenticity in PR. If you genuinely believe that your business adds value to your customer’s lives, then its important to communicate that personally. By being visible rather than relying on your faceless brand to sell itself, you allow your customers the opportunity to understand the ethos behind your brand and your business values, and if you are marketing to the right audience then your values will resonate with them and make them more likely to buy. 

We live in a society overwhelmed by choice, which make it all the more necessary to let your customers understand your own personal human-interest story. Do this by asking yourself what the inspiration behind your business was, what is your vision? How are you improving, changing or inventing something which will benefit your audience? Give your customers an insight into the entrepreneur behind the business through your PR materials and watch how effective this PR approach can be.

• Be patient and consistent

PR unlike advertising is not a quick hit. It requires a consistent and ongoing effort in order to be most effective. A customer’s buying journey begins with awareness followed by familiarity before moving to consideration purchase and then loyalty. So the more that customers become aware of your brand the better – hence where the outdated all publicity is good publicity line comes from. Equally unlike advertising (which is more expensive,) PR is not guaranteed. It requires the creation of a news angle e.g.; ‘Huie’s brand secure record sales targets in Selfridges,’ ‘Celebrities endorse Huie’s brand,’ in order to capture the imagination of the media and inspire them to write about you/your business.

• Create a 12 month plan

If we consider the first part of the year, New Years Day, Valentines, Mother’s Day, these occasions may well have an impact on your customer’s buying patterns. Creating a press release which is ‘pegged’ on to these occasions will increase your chance of securing media interest, so plan ahead and be aware of media lead times so you don’t miss out on a PR opportunity.

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• Stay abreast of current affairs and their relevance to your business

If we look at the stories currently in the media, Rail fare increases, 100 year jail sentences considered, the Princes Trust survey findings that three quarters of a million young people in the UK have nothing to live for due to unemployment levels, each of these news stories may represent a PR opportunity depending on your business or service. By staying aware of current news you can include reactive PR into your strategy as well as proactive, producing press releases offering a contribution to a current news debate, a solution to a problem being discussed or an alternate opinion.

• Truly understand your customer

A useful exercise is spending time thinking about your customer in depth. Where do they live, how old are they, where do they grocery shop, go on holiday, are they property owners? Once you can answer these questions you’ll begin to create a picture of your customer which will allow you to easily move on to the next point…

• Seek out ideal potential partners for cross promotion

By truly understanding your customer you can identify other brands that share your target market. This synergy create the perfect opportunity to collaborate with brands who may be bigger or more established than you and cross promote by marketing to their audience as well as your own and of course returning the favour. List five brands that are not your competition, but share your target audience as your partnership targets.

• Be giving

It was one of rap music’s richest entrepreneurs, Russell Simmons who said “you can never get before you give.” It’s a blueprint which can be hugely effective once you work out what you can actually afford to give away.

Free stuff creates a buzz, creates awareness, encourages people to try your products, creates positive brand association and a buying habit. In this era its easy to create a product designed purely to be given away free. Think E-books and audio tapes, the ideas are endless.

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• Be creative

Creativity for me, is the best part of PR. Unlike advertising, which has a very set agenda and sales pitch, PR is whatever you decide to make it. Are you a fashion brand? Then create a piece for the royal baby, run a take-away food chain? Deliver to the homeless on Christmas day. PR can do good whilst creating opportunities to secure media coverage in the process.

• Think global

Your business reach is only as limited as your mindset. If you or your PR team are creating a press release then why limit your focus to the UK? The vast majority of media is also online now and if your business is international then you’d be crazy not to raise awareness globally. That said, focus on one territory at a time for maximum impact.

• Ensure you have effective tools

Undeniably the most important tip. Your press release is your business shop window and will create a first impression. Ensure it is professional, and includes all of the crucial information, and use the first paragraph to sum up your news angle succinctly. 

Jessica Huie, Founder of JH Public Relations and Color blind Cards is an entrepreneur with 15 years media experience, having worked with some of the UK’s best known celebrities, entrepreneurs and brands. 

JH PR’s Do Your Own PR package includes a tailored press release, founder’s biog and media contact list and is priced at £300. 

To kick off 2014 with an affordable PR campaign that impacts, contact JH Public Relations info@jhpr.co.uk 0203 282 7577 www.JHPR.co.uk

The Brownstone method for success.

Remember that 90s R&B girl group?  The chorus to their hit ‘If You Love Me‘ is a simple model for turning your dreams and ambitions into a success:

  • Say it – Declare it and share it; not wishful or empty words. Once you understand exactly what you want to achieve, you can communicate it – in detail, over and over again.  Got it? Good. Now you’re in the best place to begin.

  • Do it – There is nothing more powerful to making your dreams real than starting to do it. Doing it means trying, failing, and trying again.  Do it until you get it right. Do it a little bit at a time; practice, build up, save up… whatever it takes. It’s simpler one step at a time.

  • Show it – Once you’ve done it, let people know about it. It’s your testimony. Tell them where you were, where you are now and how you got here. Showing your success will also inspire others to do the same.

And now you’re ready to start your next dream.

Saying Goodbye to 2015

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Before we make those grand plans for 2016, take a moment to consider this: how much of what you want for next year is based on what you didn’t get this year?

If your goals for 2016 are completing something you began in 2015, there might be a very good reason why you didn’t get it done this year. Was it a lack of time? Perhaps unrealistic expectations? Unreliable partners who let you down? Maybe a poor balance between personal and professional priorities?

Whatever the reasons are, wouldn’t it be great to know you’re going into the new year without making the same errors again? Not only that, how about making plans for 2016 without the baggage of the things, people, finance problem, etc. that held you back in the past twelve months?

Walking away from 2015 takes more than simply leaving the past behind and hoping it fades into the background. It usually doesn’t. We come across the same challenges, bump into the same people or have to deal with the same financial deficits. We suggests some practical ways of moving forward while locking the past in the past.

Accept It

As tough as this might sound, let the past go. In other words, draw a line under it. We use the ending of a film as an analogy here. Some films have a happy ending, others don’t. Some things in your 2015 had a happy ending, others didn’t. Let the credits roll and move on. Say to yourself “That was a bad situation. I lost X, I trusted Y, I spent X and it didn’t work out.” That’s the end of the story. No comebacks and no sequels. 

I did say it was tough. Everything is a lesson, or at least it is when you ask yourself “What could I have done differently?” Sometimes it’s obvious that you missed something. Faced with the same situation again you would definitely do something else. Accept that as the lesson. You may also learn that the situation was out of your control. Nothing you could have done or said would have changed the outcome. Accept that too. Now take stock and eject that movie.

Formalise It

In some cases, a business deal or relationship might be on-going. This is the perfect time of year to put some boundaries or formality around it. Perhaps someone has offered to help you with promotions for a reciprocal service. Did you receive the support for your product or service you expected?  

Whether you did or not, this is a great stage to say “let’s do more of what’s been working” or “let’s reconsider how we can work together better”. You should have numbers or anecdotal evidence to back up your conversation. Does one unit of your service have the same value to your partner? Have you been doing all the work while they have only showed up at the end?

It is worth taking time out to talk it through with them to get everything straightened out. You’re potentially going to invest  another 365 days of your time, resource and effort with them; putting aside a day to work it all out properly  leaves you with 364 days of a great partnership.

Leave It

Lethal B said it best, “Leeeave it, yeah!” Seriously. Some things are literally best left in the past. That means all of it. That thing, the deal, the person, the company, the hurt, the tears… all of it. You have sat down and considered what went wrong, or could have been done differently. You’ve decided it is not profitable to take forward into 2016. Now leave it. You can’t take everything or everyone forward with you. 

The more you are already carrying, the less you can pick up in the new year – new opportunities, new ideas, new collaborators. It is never easy to start a new partnership in 2016 when things are left ambiguous with a former colleague. It just gets awkward. It is better to go it alone, with fewer  resources, fewer contacts… especially as those haven’t helped you in the past year. Be professional, tie up the loose ends and leave it as amicably as possible. Remember this is about winning with a lesson, not looking for payback. If there is good will, you might even work together again in future, so be completely transparent and respectful.

What about the money?

What have you actually lost in real terms? There are certain things you can’t claim back: time, emotional or physical investment, hurt, ideas. You can’t get them back. Money is a different matter.  It does two things in our opinion. Firstly there might be amounts owed to you based on receipts, invoices and contracts. If you have these, you can pursue your expenses for services and goods you might have outstanding; legally if you have to.  

However if you don’t have any of this to support your claim, there is a second purpose for money. Value. You may find that the real value of the disappointment you are holding on to, when you weigh it up against your loss, is out of proportion. There’s no need to lose sleep over £200 when your future business is worth a lot more. The way I think about it, there are business courses which would cost ten times as much. If you’ve learned a lesson and know how not to repeat it, then it’s money well spent. Cut your losses. Yes, that phrase has meaning. Cut your losses and move on.

Whatever you have planned for 2016, I wish you well and pray that it is not at the cost of lessons learned from 2015. Here’s to a successful year ahead.

No Money, No Problem.

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Of course finance is important.  Cash flow is the life blood of any business, and chasing payment (ultimately, not getting paid) is a pain in the… assets.

However a lot of entrepreneurs say you have to be willing to work for free or next to nothing when you’re starting a business. So what do you do when you find yourself in that situation where you’re doing work without getting paid?  Even if you are working speculatively, you’re committing your valuable time and expertise which is worth something.  We think you could consider the following 3 ways of getting the best from the situation.

1. Ask for expenses.  Your full fee may not be available – either because you haven’t yet proven your business to ask for your full fee, or the client needs your services and products but has a limited budget.  Often a request for expenses (travel, consumables, legal or research costs) will be honoured if you can make a fair case for it.  For example, if you have to travel from London to Birmingham to speak at a conference, you can ask for train fare to be covered.  In our experience, a fraction of the bill is met more favourably than the whole fee.

2. Ask for testimonials.  Obviously your clients sees the value of your work.  If they didn’t, they would not have asked you to be part of their project.  Providing you with a testimonial is like giving a recommendation to future clients.  You can ask for a testimonial in a number of ways; either as an email request at the end of your work or with a feedback form (less formal).  Whichever way you ask for it, getting that testimonial will help you get more work in the future.

3. Ask to document your involvement. Depending on your business, you might be able to photograph, film or in some other way capture your role or your work for your website, showreel or portfolio.  For instance, if there is an important or well-known person involved, you could be filmed or photographed with them.  If that is not your preferred style, why not suggest a ‘day in the life’ article for your local newspaper or industry related blog.  Using it on your own website will give potential clients a better idea of how you work… more importantly, what you’re worth.

However you do it, getting some credit back for what you do is important to sustain your business.  While you’re working for someone else, you’re still working and there has to be some benefit to your business.  The best case scenario when working with no money is to agree all three of the above with your client.  This can be done at the point that they tell you they are unable to pay your costs.  Then confirm it in writing and make sure you stick to it… for your own benefit.

The Fisherman and the Businessman

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.

As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish. The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?”

The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”


The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

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