Barclays Bank Computer theft

This is one post what I am going to revise as the story unfolds, so keep an eye on it. The interesting part to me is how do you track people on your sites and places of work? BBC article here

Monitoring People on Site

It is so common to visit a workplace (other than as a customer) and follow someone through a pass-protected door, or sign in yet leave by another entrance and drive away with a visitors pass still in your pocket. So although security is a specialism in its own right I though I would jot down a few questions we all need to consider, then act on if we suspect that our answers are weak.

Visitor Security self-assessment

  • in an emergency am I sure that anyone could know who was left in the building?
  • what help can neighbouring businesses be to each other?
  • how important do people really think visitor books and passes are?
  • can all your colleagues challenge a visitor about their identity confidently and politely? How well would they be supported if their challenge was not well-received?
  • what impression does a visitor get from all the areas they might visit?
  • how well do visitors have to be known before scrutiny is relaxed?
  • if my insurance company tested the system with a visit, how would they rate us as a risk?
  • do you use technology effectively and unobtrusively?

Next Actions

I made this post to gather my thoughts and perhaps help a few people with some searching questions. To me, the points above tell me about your approach to business or project planning, safety, theft, sabotage, intellectual property, branding, leadership and employee relations.

If you want someone who can pose those questions in confidence then help you improve your answers, call me.

Workshop – your next business plan

I have just returned from a very useful workshop held by the Fieldfare LEADER group, which included great advice on keeping records for a grant-funded project and also gave information about future RDPE LEADER grants.

Workshop – Making plans for your future

I am able to work in conjunction with the Fieldfare team and offer a 3-hour workshop for businesses or community organisations to make plans and clarify your ideas for the future. The workshop will be useful for anyone, not just those who have a grant in mind. Here are the key points:

  • housekeeping
    • to take place before the end of March 2013
    • cost approx £20 (plus VAT) per person
    • duration 3 hours, probably to take place on a weekend
    • venue – Winchester
  • content
    • your main goals
    • gathering your ideas
    • what information and resources do you need
    • what about the money

You will leave knowing more about what  you want and what steps will help you to get it. We will decide on follow-up workshops as necessary.

Complete the form below now if you are interested – we can only run with enough applicants.


[contact-form-7 id=”577″ title=”Workshop interest”]

Regulations for Online Sales

Internet Sales

As we lead up to the festive season a lot of people will be buying and selling online.

If your business relies on internet sales, or (selling online) then you need to know about website compliance – distance selling regulations that will apply to you. There are loads of guides to do with website marketing and how to sell online, but it is well worth reading a good guide on how to comply with the rules and regulations that protect people who buy online.

Online Selling Rules

Items bought via your online shop will be subject to the Distance Selling Regulations, and there is a lot of information in the Distance Selling Hub run by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the UK. The five key principles below are taken from the OFT website and if you want to find out if you are doing the right thing, click our links and go straight to the web compliance tips on their website.

We will add more posts when they issue more guidance on internet sales or internet rules and laws.


Excerpt from the OFT site:

 

Five of the simplest ways to make your website more compliant with distance selling regulations are by doing the following:

Providing a full geographic address
Providing a proper email contact address
Flagging up hidden or unexpected charges early in the buying process
Being clear and open about cancellation rights
Providing a full refund plus refund of delivery charges when things go wrong

Click here for more information on how to make sure your website is clear and accurate

 

As you can see – straightforward, practical and useful reminders. Do please google+ or rccommend this page using the links below to share it with your contacts.

Making use of the Festive Break

This is the time of year when you are likely to receive two phases of emails, tweets and blog postings. Phase one (roundabout now) provides a handy list of the business tasks you can do whilst relatively undisturbed or less hectic with meetings. Phase two happens throughout January, and it includes 101 benefits and uses of setting goals and targets for the forthcoming year.

I would like to suggest an alternative to lining up these recommendations, lists and tasks – PAUSE AND LOOK AROUND YOU.

But I love my business

Most of us who run a business do. We have all heard some people in business saying “it’s not really a job, I would do it anyway”, and that may apply to you.

My invitation is to be really honest with yourself and become very aware of the things that you would love to do if your business disappeared for a month without any harm. If you need a help starting your awareness, try exploring the headings of leisure, sport, health, family, friends, your community.

What do I do?

Carry a notebook and pen (electronic stuff tends to have close work links so can be distracting), and as you spend more time thinking about non-business life, jot down the new things that you start to notice. Maybe “call old frinds2, “take a walk”, “read a book”, “try a new recipe”. You will gradually rediscover the activities you used to enjoy when you spent less time on the business.

Even better, instead of writing notes just get up and enjoy the reading, chatting, running or tasting.

What if I have a good business idea?

Well, make a note of it but resist the temptation to dash to the computer and act further. The idea will not get lost – just dealt with after your break.

What will the result be?

Strangely enough, this may take you back to the times of a junior employee – when a day off was a day off, a holiday was just that.

You may not start 2012 with goals or marketing plans, but you may just rediscover the reasons you do what you do and remind yourself what success actually means. That is worth quite a lot.


Whatever your faith or traditions, enjoy the festive break!

Dealing with failure

The word ‘failure’ can be very emotive, and in a business context can be quite debilitating. I was recently asked to do a short workshop of about 45 minutes on the subject of failure and thought that I would share it with you.

Aims of the ‘failure’ workshop

  • to explore what the word means to you
  • to discover your current strategy for failing
  • to leave with a modified strategy that may be more effective

The workshop runs in two sections – the ‘process’ part and the emotional / human part.

Take a minute and to yourself what the subject of failure triggers in your mind, and what failure means to you. Is it ever useful? Is it emotional? Is it alien as a concept? Our group came up with a board full of words, almost all related to emotion rather than pure fact or logic. The factual words we got were ‘outcome’ and ‘goals’.

Perhaps if we had to come up with an emotion-free definition of failure it may be:

‘something that results in an outcome that you did not want, and / or does not result in the outcome that you wanted.’

Setting good outcomes or goals

We discussed a number of formulae for setting good outcomes or goals and, without exploring each one in detail, wondered if we could emphasise two components and also add two more steps to most of the models.

It’s worth emphasising:

  • evidence – make sure that you know what success will look like to avoid a false perception of lack of success
  • control – be very aware of what you have control over before setting a definite goal. If there is something significant that you cannot control, it is unrealistic to expect success all of the time.

What we could add:

  • acceptable tolerances – they exist in engineering, so why do other business settings get encouraged to pin everything down to a specific value rather than an acceptable range?
  • potential side-effects or by-products. Often if an outcome is not achieved there is consolation in the form of lessons learned or other benefits. Why not consider there in advance so that their existence is seen more as  as benefit than spin for something going wrong?

The overall recommendation is to avoid being so specific in your original aims that success or failure balances on a knife edge. This reduces underlying stress and the burst of disappointment, which dissipates as the events fit into perspective.

Reflecting on how we would approach something which could go wrong, we noticed what a more flexible and realistic approach to setting goals could be like.

This ended the ‘process’ part of the workshop.

Emotional reaction to failure

We started the part of the workshop that deals with individual reactions by considering how we would coach a colleague or client through a setback or failure. With that in mind, we contrasted it with the way that we reflect on our own setbacks, and in general found that we offered others more understanding and tolerance than ourselves – even though we were not being insincere or condescending to them.

One of the most common emotions expressed was fear about what might happen, and we will probably follow-up with a workshop on this, because fear of the new or unknown can definitely rectrict business growth and personal development.

For now, the lesson was to treat ourselves at least as well as we do our colleagues to get a more useful reaction to setbacks.

The new strategy

Having gained an appreciation of some practical elements of our processes and some more helpful insights into our own reactions it was time to consider an amended way of approaching important tasks. The steps we considered follow – you can of course expand and fill in stages that you personally find useful:

  • set appropriate goals that you have control over and which make it clear what will have been achieved
    • add acceptable tolerances to some of the figures
    • add a ‘bail-out’ condition, i.e. if things are not working, when is it wise and acceptable to stop
    • be aware of any useful side-effects (including learning and improving) that add to the overall value of the experience
  • monitor your progress
  • review both planned and unplanned benefits and setbacks
  • reconsider your tolerances in the light of your experience – you can probably tighten them a little for next time

Summary

The concept of failure is such a personal that I can’t give a definitive guide in a manageable blog post or even a group workshop. However, here are some of the key points that people found useful:

  • with practise you can replace the word ‘failure’ with more useful ones or focus only on the learning points. This can be useful as long as you appreciate that for many people failure is a real word that triggers real emotions which need to be considered. The well-worn phrase ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ is valid only if it is sincere and acknowledges personal disappointment or frustrations
  • there is a scale between ‘success’ and ‘failure’, with many useful outcomes in between
  • setting useful goals is vital – both to know when you have achieved something and to be aware of what lies along the scale towards total success. Goals can include tolerances, acceptable lessons and the odd surprise
  • the concept of tolerance is not a cop-out. Sometimes second and third place are OK when they lead to first
  • business involves people and people have emotions. It takes skill and practice to work with both emotion and logic, and it is key to recognise which one is influencing the decision process at any one time

So, enjoy tweaking the way that you go about things in order to recognise how far towards the success line your actions are. Failure will still exist, but it may be a place that you are aware of rather than frightened of, and one which you rarely visit.

Succeeding in demonstrations and events

A couple of times I have recently got involved in helping people make the most of their opportunities at events or exhibitions, and someone suggested that I put up a few hints for anyone planning to do a demonstration or have a stand. The notes below are just a short taster of the thought process that can really give you results.

How do I choose the right exhibition to attend?

It can be so tempting and flattering when you are invited to attend or exhibit at a show – with privilege tickets, a guaranteed audience, early discount or other carrot. So always do a bit of research to find out and decide:

  • who typically attends
  • what competition will be there
  • do people visit the event to sell or buy
  • what do you expect your time and money to get you?

What resources do I need?

To some extent, that depends on the answer above – what your aim is. Do you want people to take a sample, book an appointment, experience your product or style of presentation?

If you want people to stop to talk with you then make sure that you have some refreshments ready and space where you can talk undisturbed. All too often people are geared up to give away leaflets and samples but have not planned to help anyone who is really interested. Always have a diary and plenty of business cards, but avoid thinking that success means how many cards you have given out.

Who should be on a stand?

If you are just attending an event, then people on the stand need not necessarily be the subject experts, but they should know what your business or organisation does and does not do. As a minimum they should be able to:

  • make a visitor at ease
  • enquire what the visitor wants and be able to understand their answer
  • explain what your organisation does WITH RESPECT TO the visitor’s needs
  • be able to get them time with the ‘expert’ e.g. book a time for them to chat now or later
  • be able to take detail and make an appointment for a follow-up discussion
  • know when to stop talking and let the visitor think!

Be very aware of the keen helper, who loves what you do but cannot explain it in simple terms or relate it to a visitor’s needs. Equally, a keen helper who is not an expert can provide a good welcome and act as a very good triage system to make you as effective as you can be.

What should I give away?

Basically, something that will remind people of you and which they will not take purely for the sake of it. For example, sweets and pens disappear rapidly but have little benefit to you. Ensure that anything you give out is asked for rather than thrust into people’s hands, and it must contain your contact details and ideally a hint of what you do.

What about doing a demonstration?

In crude terms, do a demo or presentation either when people would not understand what you do from a description, or if they need to see you do it in order to spot the difference from your competition. So a presentation should fit the audience needs, not be a sales pitch. And a free taster session should educate the recipient about you, not just give them something for nothing.

A golden rule is that when you want to demonstrate your skills and not all of the audience can interact, you must have helpers on hand to give people some sort of commentary. Very often an expert can be doing great things and getting a lot of interest, but their helpers cannot capitalise on it by highlighting some of the special bits that they have done to the visitor standing next to them.

Keep your demonstration relatively short (it is not a free training session after all), so that people who found it engaging can speak to you within a very short time and take it forwards. If your slot is too long, they may hang on until you stop but then dash to look at the rest of the show.

Summary

  • know what you want to achieve
  • aim to provide a useful and memorable experience, not a sale to every visitor
  • give away things for a reason
  • have enough help on hand
  • ensure your help is fully briefed
  • even if your aims are low key, be prepared for a flood of enquiries
  • make sure that ‘experts’ are regularly on hand to deal with the post-demo interest
  • make the demo useful, and leave them wanting more!

I hope that you have found a few pointers, and remember that each bullet point is a subject in itself. Have fun!

Opening of Camping Pods at Two Hoots campsite

Today I had one of the occasions which anyone in the coaching world loves – an invitation to the opening of a new business, them launching a new product or a new product or service.

This time the invite came form Caz and Dave, who run the Two Hoots campsite near Alresford in Hampshire. They were opening their new camping pods, washing block and kitchen area.

Having had the vision when they acquired the campsite, they have been working on the plans for well over a year. I helped them with their business planning and finances, which benefited hugely from the support of a LEADER grant from the Fieldfare area. All credit to the Fieldfare team, especially Ken Brown and Eloise Appleby for their support in making this happen.

What now? Well, with bookings ahead of the budget and superb facilities, Caz and Dave will be working on the presence of Two Hoots campsite in a many places as possible, and of course making sure that their visitors get the best experience from their stay. I wish them the very best in building on their success so far.


Find the site at www.twohootscampsite.co.uk.

Getting rid of scam emails and calls

Recent campaigns to prevent scams

February was “Scams Awareness Month” when the government’s National Fraud Authority re-launched its “Action Fraud” 24-hour online reporting service, aimed at reducing letter post and telephone scams said to be cheating Britons out of millions of pounds per year. In March, Action Fraud set up an additional reporting service to tackle scam e-mail messages, establishing a dedicated e-mail address – email@actionfraud.org.uk – where scam messages can simply be forwarded. The plan is for all e-mails sent to Action Fraud to be shared with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by the City of London Police, for collation and analysis. “This will enable crucial intelligence to be gathered and preventative action to be taken, seeking to disrupt the fraudsters and close down the links between them”, according to Dr Bernard Herdan, CEO of the National Fraud Authority, who runs Action Fraud. He added: “This is the first time we have been able to collect and analyse scam mail and e-mails in this way. Collecting intelligence is the key to us being able to disrupt the activities of fraudsters and target their networks for closure”. One bank – HSBC – has been running its own scam reporting service since last year, asking targeted e-mail recipients to forward any suspect messages involving the bank to phishing@hsbc.com.

The response from Action Fraud

If you take up the government’s invitation to forward scam e-mail messages to Action Fraud via email@actionfraud.org.uk, they may be ‘bounced back’ – apparently rejected by a standard spam filtering service (at first glance the worst possible thing to have in place for a service specifically designed to accept mail with dubious content).

But according to Action Fraud “Please note, We have still received the scam emails you forward to us even if you get a bounce back message. The bounce back message just means the email has gone into a holding area for spam, which is then released and received by us as usual”, so all seems OK.

As an alternative, Action Fraud suggest sending printed copies of scam e-mails to their offices in Manchester, although the very information they need – about the true senders of the messages and the ‘click here’ links that reveal the addresses of fraudulent Web sites – are unlikely to survive when translated to paper.

Ideally, you need to forward the entire email in as complete a form as possible – your email viewer (outlook, thunderbird or other) may strip out the details of links)

So, fingers crossed.

Note – this update has been extracted form the monthly newsletter of Zen, a highly recommended broadband provider.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 Explained

As there is a flurry of shopping happening at this time of year, I thought is worth spending a few minutes looking at peoples’ rights.

It can often seem that the SALE of Goods Act is interpreted differently in every place you go to, so I thought that you might like to see some great resources produced by the Office of Fair Trading for both buyers and sellers.

More comprehensive information will be in the Simply Work for Yourself course (launched in January), but meanwhile here is a link to the Office of Fair Trading site for you to have a look at the information yourself. To save time, a couple of the key downloads are listed here.

Sale of Goods Act – guide ‘at a glance’

Sale of Goods Act – explanatory booklet

Enterprise workshops with University students

Last week I had a great day as an ‘expert’, helping with a two-day student course on enterprise in an event called the Dynamo Challenge 2010. It followed the fairly popular format of setting teams a task to develop a business plan for an idea, then having them present the idea to a panel for feedback and marks. So what was that formula that made this one good?

The ‘Dragon’s Den’ experts

The organisers invited a team of about thirty experts, who cam from a broad range of backgrounds. They included accountants from some large firms, business coaches and consultants, marketing consultants and business owners in fields as varied as product design and logistics. Although we only attended the day, we were well briefed on our roles and very much welcomed into the delivery process. For me, it was so good that with minimal time to get to know each other, the experts were able to work well together to coach the students – the last thing they would have wanted was a bunch of smug or very directive ‘experts’ sounding off about what was right, or points-scoring between each other!

The Graduate Enterprise workshop format

The organisers did a good job selecting a venue ( the Marwell Hotel near Winchester) that had good parking, plenty of breakout rooms and an un-stuffy atmosphere. Here are some of the things that I think really contributed to the success:

  • an icebreaker for the undergraduates to meet the experts, who acted as customers in a free-for-all sales hall
  • keeping the energy very high and the activity times short
  • bringing in enough jargon to represent the real world, but making the emphasis practical more than academic
  • keep the spirit of experiential learning – do, reflect, learn, plan. See David Kolb’s learning cycle, (http://www.ldu.leeds.ac.uk/ldu/sddu_multimedia/kolb/static_version.php et al)
  • having meaningful rewards for the winners
  • including ‘meetings’ with the experts as well as information presentations. This again reflected real life, where a business has to find a business advisor and decide what to take on board

Business Startup Courses for the future

So, what do I take away from the event?

Having both lectured on an enterprise course and delivered business coaching for a number of years, I feel that a practical approach is invaluable in preparing for a thriving business. Because there are few right and wrong answers, success is more likely to come from someone who learns from experience and puts their own mark on a process. There is a strong argument that attitude and approach make an entrepreneur, and it is the business theory and academic side that builds on what the entrepreneur starts.

It reminded me how dry some business startup courses aimed at ‘adults’ can be, and is something I will bear in mind to make sure that the Simply Work for Yourself experiences I will run next year alongside the online course will be upbeat, fun, challenging and memorable.