Money Talks #3: Talking About It

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This series is all about talking about money and getting it out in the open. We are relatively bad at talking about money – in both our business or personal lives. In the first instalment, I discussed our relationship with our finances. Even before we have counted what we have, how do we feel about the issue of money? Are we fearful, ambitious or out of control? Knowing where we stand with our cash is the first area to master.

Then I talked about managing what you do have coming in and going out. How we manage the little we have will help when the millions are rolling in. Let’s be frank, if we can’t handle £1000 a month effectively we’ll be swamped when we get £100,000! Managing money is about principles and systems, rather than luck or coincidence. If ‘hope’ is the way we are planning on balancing the books, we are a liability to our financial future – according to my former accountant.

The third instalment addresses the delicate issue of talking about money. I was surprised that more people are find it easier talking about their relationship history than their financial one. This is even more of a problem when it comes to discussing your income, salary or fee (a freelancer’s and contractor’s nightmare). We can help. Here are five ways to get the most out of your money conversations.

Know Your Worth

Often we are excited about an opportunity and want to get stuck in quickly. We have to be sure that it’s worth our time. Once you know your worth, you can confidently talk about how much you should be getting paid to be part of it. Your skills are the way you pay your bills. Each hour given to someone costs you something. So whether it’s your day rate or what your monthly target is, understanding what you are worth is vital. Research what the going rate is for what you do. Email a few competitors and get quotes. If your industry has a professional body or association, they will often have a sample rate card. Don’t forget to include your costs to finish the job, as well as what you want to personally get paid.

Sometimes it’s your time rather than your money that’s important. We have personal goals (such us spending more time with family, friends, working out, etc.). Consider whether taking on that new project is truly worth the effort when compared with spending a quiet weekend with your loved ones.

Know What To Say

It’s easier to ask about money without feeling awkward by having a set form of words. Yes, literally have money catchphrases that you are comfortable with. That way asking about or chasing money doesn’t feel so personal i.e. “what’s the budget for this project?” Or ask “how are the costs being covered?” The more you speak with others about money, the more you’ll hear these phrases coming up over and over again.

Also your actions with paying others say a lot about you. If you are often evasive about money or you’re regularly having to explain to people you work with why they aren’t getting paid – whatever the reason – they will be looking at you cautiously. Your actions show them that you aren’t looking out for their financial interests. Whether they tell you about it or not, once you’ve short changed or delayed paying someone what you owe or promised them, I can guarantee you that you’re no longer number 1 on their ‘eager to work with’ list.

Know When You’re Getting Paid

Whenever you agree how much your are getting paid, also ask WHEN you will be paid. Again, use those money catchphrases to help yourself out. Ask “and what are the payment terms, 30 days on receipt of invoice?” You are not asking anything that any credible business hasn’t already considered.

Often the person who is responsible for sorting out your payments is not the same person you’re speaking to about the business. Find out who the finance contact is and get both a phone number and email address for them. If you have to chase them, you’ll have their direct contact details. It will save you having to awkwardly remind someone you’ve worked closely with for money.

If you do have to chase an unpaid invoice, call first then follow up with an email to confirm what you’ve spoken about on the phone. It’s in your interest that you stay on top of what’s happening with your money, which you have worked hard for.

No Money, No Problem

Sometimes, we will be presented with an opportunity which has very little money in it. That might be because it’s charity work or simply a very small budget. Know your worth and consider if you can still benefit while working for free. I discussed that two years ago when because of contractual terms, I couldn’t earn any additional income. Also most of the work was for very small businesses or social enterprises. Here’s the original article about working for free and still benefiting with expenses and testimonials.

Scratch My Back…

Finally, there is absolutely no money to this gig. Neither is there the opportunity to leverage the work for your profile – no expenses, no testimonials, no opportunity to document your work. There is still a way of getting something out of the deal – trading skills or contacts.

Trading skills is the most obvious, and is very common. An accountant will set up the finance system for a new design business in exchange for an updated website. A cake maker will sponsor a motivational speaker’s event in return for some one-on-one advice. However you do it, make sure you have a record of what you are trading and what you are receiving. It’s still a contract and it has a value. It has to make sense to you. Don’t exchange a year’s worth of service for the equivalent of an afternoon’s work for the other person. If that’s the case, consider offering a discount on your service or product rather than the full service in exchange.

You can also trade contacts. Remember networking is the lifeblood of your business, and if you can be connected with more businesses or a key skill you need through someone else’s contacts – bingo! You’re still winning. Ask for an introduction, with a glowing testimonial of your great work, and go on to do greater things… all without a single penny changing hands.

Foreword: Understanding Leadership

I was recently asked to write a few words as an introduction to a book. I thought I would share it:

Like any discipline, Leadership is a journey. It is a process of time and experience, belief and will, trial after failure. The leader you’re going to be is entirely based on your unique set of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual settings. Often it can be in spite of those same traits.

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A great teacher once said that project management is like juggling eggs. In that same context, Leadership is ensuring those eggs don’t fall. Part of your roles as a leader is directive; giving each egg enough energy and direction to go up in the air. There is also a role to delegate; to let go of the eggs with the secure knowledge that because you have understood the properties and abilities of your eggs, you can allow them to travel through the air unaided. You trust that they will come down where you expect them to. That is also the final part of your role. You are there to catch and support them when they come down.

If you have little experience of being a leader, that description may seem odd to you. After all, aren’t you the one who is in charge? Aren’t you the boss? The head honcho? The if-I-say-jump-you-say-how-high guy? Those are only effects of good leadership. You become the respected and listened-to one because you are a good leader. It’s not the other way round. Those come because you are recognised by your team as someone who can keep everyone on the winning side. Acting important without mastering good leadership is like trying to cough enough times so you can catch a cold. It’s not going to happen. You will meet those kinds of people on your journey. No one wants to work with them.

This book lays down the rudimentary foundations of the aspect of leading spiritually. So here’s the first secret… all leadership is spiritual. Managers can get away with moving tasks and targets around with money or manpower to get the job done. A leader relies on trust, hope and faith in their team and their desired outcomes. Understanding the areas highlighted in each chapter will bring you closer to mastering the full set of spiritual tools needed to be a winner. Think of these as the top line headings and use them as a template to explore deeper your own style of leadership – no matter what your beliefs are.

There’s one final thing to say about your journey into leadership. If you have to tell people you’re a good leader, you’re not a good leader. They should know what you are by the way they interact with you and feel when they are in your team. Think of it another way, do you ever wonder about the DJ in the club who is constantly telling you to get up, get on the dance floor, put your hands up, make some noise? Well, if they were a good DJ would you not be doing those things already? If they have to remind you to get on the floor and enjoy yourself, surely there is something missing.

I wish you the best for your leadership journey and pray that your ability to believe, unique personality and leadership style are so naturally fused that everyone you work with never wants to leave your dance floor.’

Re-rewind when the crowd says Bo!

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One of the things I loved about growing up in the 90s was discovering ‘The Rewind’. That moment at the party when the crowd responds loudly to a song and the DJ spins it back to the beginning. Oh man, that was a lot of fun. However it was often not so much fun for the DJ whose responsibility it was to get that moment right. There’s nothing more tense than a rewind followed by an  awkward silence while he (or she) struggles to find the beginning of the record. Trust me, it’s a lot of pressure when you’ve got a room full of eyes glaring at you while they wait for the party to start again.

The last few months have felt like a long rewind moment for me. There’s been the excitement of retraining for a new career, taking on new projects and new responsibilities. At the same time, there’s the angst around trying to refocus and head off in a brand new direction. 

You see, the rewind bit is relatively easy. You can stop doing what you were doing… with the right motivation. Maybe it is the promise of a brighter future or the relief from a challenging past. However the tricky part is setting yourself up doing something new. There’s likely to be questions like: 

  • Will I make it in this new venture?
  • Is this the right decision right now?
  • How will I match the financial or emotional security of the previous job, and of course
  • What happens if I fail?

Just like the nervous DJ, you have a number of tools at your disposal to help make the resetting and restarting process as painless as possible. DJs have their headphones, and all kinds of meters, markers and faders which when used appropriately helps them get the party restarted with little interruption to the good vibe. 

This months’ mailer is dedicated to all who were going through a period of Rewind, Reset and Restart. So, welcome to the party 🙂 and watch this space.

#IAMWRITINGTHEBOOK: How To Plan Your Book.

The hardest part of writing a book is not starting it; it’s completing it. This is because somewhere on route, from the first to the last page, we get a little lost. What begins as an exciting burst of creative energy fizzles into a dull fraction of your incomplete work. What happened?

It works like this: If I plan to get to Manchester from London, I don’t simply start driving until I run out of steam. It’s good to have a destination and key milestones on route. I know I’ll need to go via either the M40 or the M1. Then when I get to Birmingham, I consider, do I take the M6 or the Toll road?

With our 13 Step Book Plan, you stand a better chance of reaching those milestones on route to your completed book. You’ll need a pen and pad for this (or computer, however our preference is actually writing it out). Here goes:

Write the numbers 1 to 13 along one side of a piece of paper. These will be the numbers for thirteen sentences you’re about to create, so give yourself plenty of space.

2. The Beginning. Write a sentence about how you want your book to start next to number 1. The characters, location, expertise or knowledge that you want the reader to know in the beginning. If you’re writing a novel about a person on a self-discovery journey, where will they start? What is their current emotional state? If it’s a business manual think about what level of knowledge you expect from your typical reader? If you’re teaching a new method, what should they already know: do they have a degree in Management, have they worked in a business or know nothing at all? Write it as a single sentence, e.g. The reader has never written a business plan or Marcel is about to have his life changed by the mysterious girl on the bus.

3. The End. How will the book end? What’s the last thing you want to communicate before your reader closes the last page? What is the big revelation or the nugget of wisdom and experience that you want to share? Try to communicate that as the sentence that just goes just before the words ‘The End’. Write this out next to number 13. For example: And they lived together in Barbados for the rest of their lives… or So now you know everything you need to make vegan burgers.

4. Meet Me Halfway. Consider the middle point between the beginning and the end. Halfway through the book, what do you want -to- the reader to know? Write a sentence next to number 6 which states By this stage of the book… we will know the heroine’s secret or we should understand the difference between Dating and Courting or I have introduced my mediation technique. Remember it’s about being halfway through the physical pages of the book, not necessarily of your story. This is the 50 page mark if your story book is 100 pages long. You don’t need to count pages, just have a sense of what you want to have written about when halfway through.

5. Half the Halves. Do the same for the points midway between the beginning and the middle (i.e. number 4) and halfway between the middle and the end (i.e. number 10). Again write a By this stage of the book… sentence about what you want to be saying a quarter and three-quarters into your masterpiece.

6. Step It Up. You will have two empty numbers between each of the major milestones of your book. Think of these as two steps to get from one stage to the other. Write in here two important moments or bits of information which will follow each other to get from the beginning to the quarter mark, then quarter to the halfway mark… and so on. You will find that this is where a lot of your thinking, rethinking, changing, rewriting etc. happens. That’s fine. All your thoughts here are helping you really define your story. When you come to write the book itself, you will find that you’ve already had those random thoughts and are less likely to go off track. 

7. The End. Yes, that’s your 13 Step Book Plan. If you’ve put all your energies into getting this part right, you will find the process of writing feels smoother than previous attempts.

The difference now is that you have a destination, a route and a map. When you get lost, you simply look back at your map and get yourself back on track. I hope this has helped you make progress.

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