Disappointing retail sales in August have confirmed for many what anecdotal evidence had indicated - the Olympics did not provide the promised boost to British shops. Finger-pointing at Stratford, however, may be disguising the creeping impact of falling consumer demand.
The first point to make is that the figures are far from drastic. Sales were down 0.4% compared with the same month last year and 0.6% on 2010, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Indeed the key sentence in the report, missed by most of the mainstream media, was that "the net effect of the Games was minimal as lower footfall in London was offset by a better performance in the rest of the country".
As such, while the games appear to have failed to help retailers overall their impact was limited in a month that Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, acknowledged is "traditionally a weak month for sales".
It may be tempting, even accurate, to blame politicians for over-egging the effect that hosting the Olympics would have on the economy but this does little to explain the underlying trend.
Nevertheless, it's difficult to argue that the performances by TeamGB and now ParalympicsGB have done much to inspire present and future generations, and possibly lead to greater performance within industry and commerce too !?
SimWay had a really enjoyable morning with over 80 member businesses from Rhondda Cynon Taff, Caerphilly and Merthyr Business Clubs and the new Mayor of Merthyr on 17th July.
Wayne from SimWay was delighted to speak on behalf of the RCT Business Club and present a 'spotlight on your business' session outlining what SimWay Business Solutions does to help client organisations to sustain and grow their businesses. We were extremely pleased to have been asked to present and thoroughly enjoyed meeting existing contacts and making new ones during the Speed Networking element of the business breakfast at the Llancaich Fawr Manor. My thanks to Claire Curtis at RCT Business Club for all her help and for asking me to speak at this great event.
With information at our fingertips with smart phones and wifi networks, we try to speed up to match the pace of the action around us. We stay up until 3 am trying to answer all our emails. We twitter, we facebook, and we link-in. We scan news websites wanting to make sure we stay up to date on the latest updates. And we get excited every time we hear the beep or vibration of a new text message. The speed with which information hurtles towards us is unavoidable (and it's getting worse). But trying to catch it all is counterproductive.
At the start of each week, try to develop and write down two lists then review these two lists at the beginning of every day.
Some people already have the first list. Very few have the second. But given how easily we get distracted and how many distractions we have these days, the second is more important than ever.
List 1 - Your Focus List (the road ahead)
Design your time around those things. Because time is your one limited resource and no matter how hard you try, you just can't work 25 / 8 !
List 2 - Your Ignore List (the distractions)
To succeed in using your time wisely, you have to ask the equally important but often avoided complimentary questions:
Please let us know how you get on and whether this helps !
We are delighted to be working with the Centre For Work Based Learning (CWBL) within Cardiff Metropolitan University, as Associates of the Centre - see http://www.uwic.ac.uk/cwbl/about/index.html for more information.
Offering our experience and expertise in Change Management, Performance Improvement and Customer Service Excellence, SimWay's Senior Consultants will be developing and delivering a range of products in conjunction with CWBL to help small to medium sized businesses. These will include:
These products will all be accredited by the University and will offer an entry point to further study, where required and will hopefully provide credit towards a higher level qualification.
We will post more information on this via our website in due course, but we very much look forward to working closely with the team at CWBL over the coming months to develop these products and deliver this much-needed support for businesses and organisations.
Despite the rise in expectations around customer service in recent years, it is still amazing how many businesses don’t capture the competitive advantage excellent customer service can generate. Reaching excellence will:
On the website, we have provided more detailed guidance, but in summary, to capture a competitive advantage by providing excellent customer services business should:
If you want further advice on customer service, please take a look at the advice on the SimWay Resources page of our website or give us a call. We can help you to improve customers' experience of dealing with your business to help you capture a competitive edge.
This blog incorporates elements of the Harvard ManageMentor online module: Business Case Development.
SimWay Business Solutions see the preparation and creation of a Business Case or a Business Plan as being a vital step in laying the foundations for success. There are always alternatives - so it's essential to scope out what you could do before deciding on what you will do.
It is then worth putting effort into properly spelling out what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you will achieve it (keeping an eye on the other options that you discarded - changing your mind now will be less costly than doing so later !).
Identify and estimate the likely costs and benefits, including non-financial ones, and assess what flexibility or contingency can be allowed before the business case or business plan is doomed to failure. It's essential to think about this upfront because some costs will rise and some benefits may reduce !
When building a business case, many managers pick an early solution and fail to explore additional possibilities. Others fail to consider "do nothing" or the status quo as an alternative.
To avoid these traps, bring together the people who will be affected by the outcome of your proposal — these may be customers, frontline workers, suppliers, external or internal advisors, or (in a larger organisation) managers in other departments. Ask them to brainstorm alternatives. To generate as many ideas as possible, record everything without judgment and without discussing pros and cons. Once you have a full list, move on to assessing which are feasible.
SimWay Business Solutions would advise that once you've built a really strong business case - review it, analyse it, learn from it, keep it up to date.....in other words, make it a vital document at the heart of how you're running your business or a project. A business case (in common with a business plan) is worth doing properly and once you've put the effort into producing one, use it, don't file it !
We have a wealth of experience of writing, reviewing, amending and agreeing business cases and business plans in large and small organisations (and some of those in between !).
As such, we have learnt the importance of treating a business case as a living, breathing document. We see a business case or business plan as a type of map which sets out what to do, how to do it, and explains & records why you are doing it ! You can then review your progress against this map in order to ensure that you remain on track and in order to identify and record landmarks and milestones along the way.
We'd be happy to advise, or to help you on any aspect of business planning or on business cases. We'd also happily write one with you (it is yours after all, so why ask someone else to write one for you?). Give us a call if we can help.
In recent months we've been asked several times whether there has ever been a time when more importance has been attached to customer service than there is today. In our opinion, the answer is a resounding NO, there hasn't. And customer expectations are still rising.
That is why we have been working with businesses to help them achieve aspirational level of customer service.
Regardless of business sector or area of public service, we still regularly see significant gaps in how customers are treated. For those businesses that do it well, they are undoubtedly securing a significant competitive advantage and are far more likely to capture customer loyalty as we move out of recession and return to higher spending levels.
Even customer service departments often leave a lot to be desired. We see it and experience it, all too often.
What we see are policies and procedures that set our excellent practice, but service standards falling well below what 'head offices' expect. The good news, is that with a focused approach, standards can be raised very quickly and a new customer service led culture can be generated.
The benefits of taking customer services seriously are likely to be enjoyed for many years to come.
Success, in any aspect of life, invariably requires a lot of hard work. Achieving success in sport, is usually the result of lots of individual work streams coming together into a desired outcome.
The question is whether the attitude applied to achieving sporting excellence provides any learning points for businesses.
Coaching – too few employees in public or private sector organisations receive day-to-day support and tuition in respect of their tasks. Employees are often taught once how to do something and are then left to their own devices for long periods of time, without anyone there to provide ‘expert’ support. In all aspects of sport the role of the coach is critical and pivotal to success, and coaching takes place at least weekly in most sports and quite often far more often than that. Through this attitude to coaching, individuals and teams are given every chance to be the best they can be. A similar approach in business might generate the same opportunity in the work place.
Planning – In respect of getting a ‘result’, sport often uses a great deal of planning. For example, planning may be undertaken in respect of finding the right events to compete in, the standard of the opposition, tactics to be used, strengths and weaknesses, the build up towards the main competition etc. Ideally businesses would plan in much the same way to better understand their competitors, where their strengths lie, where they might be exposed, their route to market, etc.
Learning – Sports people adopt an attitude about learning from their competitors and certainly learning from those who are classed as the best. That learning extends to all aspects of the sport from training, diet, preparation, facilities etc. Some businesses adapt and change what they do but this can take time and many businesses are too slow to do so. That is never more evident than now with many businesses struggling because they have not responded to the arrival of the digital and on-line era or the change in liquidity. In particular, sport’s learning approach crosses international boundaries with relative ease, whereas in business that international perspective is much more rare.
Review/Evaluation – in sport the after event analysis is standard, with sports people using what they have just done to improve in the future. Generally, a review is undertaken with managers and coaches so that there is expert input into the process and a whole team approach to learning. Business could learn a lot from this approach, reviewing and analysing their business processes, skills, knowledge etc. on a regular basis to ensure everything is in place to allow the best possible outcomes for that business. We strongly endorse the use of weekly and certainly monthly team meetings to allow staff to talk about their roles on a regular basis.
Training – in sporting terms this is the difference between succeeding and not. In business terms, you will often hear the term, ‘training is a luxury we can’t afford’. Business can learn a great deal from sport’s approach to training and the priority that is given for it. In business, it is common practice to ‘train on the job’. That is better than no training at all, but how a person performs is then informed by the working practices of a colleague, with organisational culture and work ethos directed by co-workers rather than the organisation. That can often involve short cuts, bad habits, resistance to overarching aims and objectives. The lack of training, the lack of attention to staff skills and the lack of a strategy to help develop staff are all issues in private and public sector organisations which could benefit from the approach in sport which would represent a beacon of good practice.
Support Systems – whilst much of the training in some sport can be a lonely and isolated issue, every successful athlete and sports person has a support system in place behind them to deal with issues that might negatively impact upon performance. This includes physios, dieticians, medical support, psychologists, coach, trainer etc. Businesses often fail to put in place suitable support structures for their staff so that when issues arise they feel isolated and unsupported. A proper support structure including advice on non-work issues would create a much better attitude amongst the workforce and create greater loyalty. Dealing with people’s issues drives happiness and it is a commonly held view that a happy workforce tends to be a more productive workforce.
Team Approach – whilst it is the players/sport people who actually go out and compete, a whole TEAM approach is adopted in sport. In businesses/agencies it is only the best who adopt a team approach. Questions are asked frequently at the moment as to whether other retailers can learn from the John Lewis model of retailing which does hold every member of staff to account for its success and rewards them accordingly. Sadly, too few business/organisations do this and it is the 'bosses' who takes the plaudits when things are going well, and where scapegoating takes place when things are not.
Target Setting – the use of target-setting varies from sport to sport, but is used extensively in some. The purpose of target setting is to move from performing at one standard up to another, but using incremental targets along the way. Performance against those targets are closely monitored in sport and approaches to training and technique will be reviewed regularly. Many businesses and organisations use targets, but few ‘manage’ them. They tend to be paper exercises a lot of the time and are rarely used to drive performance.
Whole Approach – In sport, the state of mind is essential. In that respect sport adopts a whole approach to performing at one's best, with preparation as much to do with the mind as it is with the condition of the body and technique. The business ethos tends to be different, with the workforce largely left to its own devices in respect of a person’s state of mind. Too little attention is given by supervisors and managers to staff well being, and to being focused on the task in hand. In most, if not all businesses there are huge swathes of savings and opportunity costs simply by understanding how their staff spend their working day. That requires effective ‘coaching’ and a ‘whole approach’.
Personal Responsibility – Sports people know what they need to do and the successful ones get on and do it. They remain focused on what they need to do and work tirelessly towards it. Business can be quite different, and many people will do what they need to not what they could do in the work environment. In the worst cases, employees will get away with doing the least they can. An approach which entails a pursuit of excellence in everything an employee does would make a huge difference to the vast majority of businesses.
Right People doing the Right Role – Recruiting the right people to do a particular job is commonplace in sport. It is also commonplace for a person to be sacked if they do not deliver. Despite huge strides under the equal opportunities banner, business is still underpinned by people getting influential jobs (and contracts) because of who they know, not what they know, and how they perform. In comparison to football managers for example, senior managers in business are not held equally to account for the performance of their teams and the achievements of the business.
Can businesses learn from the achievement of sporting excellence?
We think so.
Our market research tells us that many small and medium sized enterprises recognise the benefits mentoring would bring to the business owners and their senior managers, but they feel they can't pay up front when the financial benefits might be realised some way down the road. Similarly, many want business support, especially support to implement a change to their business approach, but feel the up front costs of getting external change experts are prohibitive.
Sadly, many businesses go under because they don't access the support that could save them or help them respond more effectively to market conditions.
At SimWay Business Solutions we genuinely want to help, and we have adapted the way we offer our services to allow us to do that.
Because we are a small business, we don't have the overheads of larger management consultants and our daily rate is at a significant discount in comparison as a result. But we are also prepared to support businesses in bite sized chunks, providing advice and support on a packaged basis.
That means that our pricing structure ranges from the free no-obligation initial meeting, to buying as little as 1 hour of our time, a day, week or month. For some businesses, simply accessing the advice given during the free initial meeting has been enough.
Hopefully our approach means that many small and medium sized enterprises who have been locked out of in depth, experienced business consultancy in the past, can now access the support they need. With sound, experienced advice from proven change managers, we want to see those businesses flourish and protect jobs and livelihoods.
We look forward to discussing how we might be able to help.
Had our second session at the Google Juice Bar this afternoon as part of Google's Getting Wales On-line Programme. Since setting up our website we have had some great advice about content and SEO, but the Juice Bar is just brilliant. Google and all the collaborators in this programme deserve a huge pat on the back.
To get the most out of the session, we did some planning ourselves and identified all of the issues we wanted some advice and guidance on before we arrived. Not only did we get the promised free advice, but in our view it is top quality too, with many of the things we wanted done then and there in front of us.
For businesses who are thinking about setting up a website to support their public offering, or those who have a website that they know needs some work, get down to the Juice Bar and access the free advice. It could make a huge difference to your business.
If you're not sure about anything they are saying or doing, ask and a perfectly simple explanation usually follows. I cannot speak highly enough of the quality of the advice and guidance we have received, by someone who is as passionate about our web offering as we are.
You can book your free 40 minute slot on-line at
Both Simon Deacy and Wayne Morris successfully completed the Introduction to Enterprise Mentoring course with Get Mentoring this week. Get Mentoring (http://getmentoring.org/) is an initiative to unlock, train and support a community of enterprise mentors across the UK.
The initiative's aim is to recruit and train thousands of mentors from the micro, small and medium-sized business community. Having been mentors for some time during their careers and having completed their training, Simon and Wayne both qualified for membership of the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE). The IOEE is the UK's first institute dedicated to 'learning by doing' for anyone thinking about, starting or running their own business and those who support them. Find out more at http://ioee.co.uk/Wayne commented "we are already offering a free, initial consultation with every new client so the request to join this fantastic campaign to support entrepreneurs and small to medium sized businesses was one that SimWay Business Solutions welcomed. It is merely an addition to our existing commitment to helping businesses to survive, thrive and grow. The provision of mentoring services now forms part of a complete package to support SMEs and business owners - together with coaching, training and consultancy."
SimWay Business Solutions were delighted to be invited to present a Breakfast Briefing workshop at Cardiff Business Technology Centre.
Cardiff Business Technology Centre (CBTC) is Cardiff’s leading technology and innovation business location. The Centre is a member of the United Kingdom Science Park Association (UKSPA). It provides thousands of professionals with the information, education, advocacy and networking resources to bring excellence to the process of assisting early-stage companies worldwide.
Entitled Preparing For Change, Simon Deacy and Wayne Morris provided a "thought-provoking" introduction to the importance to business of ensuring readiness for change and for businesses to ensure that they are as competitive as possible - reacting to customer 'hopes and expectations' not just customer needs.Our thanks to Rob, Sian and Sam for organising the event at CBTC and to all of the businesses present, as well as Cardiff University and Cardiff Council representatives who also attended the event.
For more information on CBTC, visit http://www.cbtc.co.uk/
We are often asked "what is change management?". One of the most pre-eminent thinkers on Change Management, Dr. John Kotter, from Harvard Business School, talks about how to win over both hearts and minds in his book "The Heart of Change".
Within Dr Kotter's 8 Step Process, winning hearts and minds is an important part of business thinking and a way to change behaviour in an organisational or a cultural change.
The emotions of business must play an important role to change behaviour to achieve the significant change projects. Getting to the business heart is something that many people miss.
Listen as Dr. Kotter gives some business tips to achieve the heart of change, hosted via YouTube (this video has also now been added to our "CHANGE" page).
To keep momentum in a project, or in a business, or in a charity or public sector organisation, you need to run great meetings.
Make your next meeting more productive with these three simple guidelines:
Restate the meeting's purpose - Even if you think everyone knows it, it helps to remind them and sharpen the group's focus.
Include everyone - If one or two people dominate the conversation and others are shy about leaping in, draw out new people by saying, "Thanks for those ideas, Carl. What are your thoughts about this problem, Megan?"
End well - Close the meeting with an action plan and a clear time frame. State the decisions the group has made, who owns what, and when they need to report back to the team.
SimWay Business Solutions' consultants are experienced senior leaders, managers, coaches and mentors - offering support to businesses, and to individual managers and leaders. We can help your organisation to improve the effectiveness of your performance reviews and meetings to an extent where it helps your business or organisation to deliver better performance. Our consultants are used to delivering such performance improvements in large organisations across the UK and to delivering successful change initiatives and projects - that's our specialism.
Call us to discuss just how we can AND will help your business or organisation to prosper.
An elevator pitch could be a brief e-mail summary of your business. Or it could be a short story that you can tell in the course of a elevator ride. Or, more commonly perhaps, it could be your business pitch at an organised networking event or any event where you have an opportunity to explain what you and your business does in the hope that it opens the door to opportunities or an introduction or referral.
You use the elevator pitch to get meetings with prospective clients, partners or investors. And if you don't have an introduction from someone else (an introducer or referrer), an amazing elevator pitch is critical to a successful cold e-mail or when meeting someone for the first time at an event.
The term 'elevator pitch' was based on the fact that 118 seconds is the length of the average elevator ride in New York City. The first 8 seconds are "the hook" - the time you have to get the 'lean in' factor. That's where you capture the recipient's interest. Those initial 8 seconds are the key - as we all know, first impressions count. With the world seeming to spin faster, 45 seconds is more likely than 118 seconds so practice what you can say and how you say it during 30, 45 and 60 seconds - if you're able to tell them more, they will probably have already 'leaned in'.
It's the quality of the elevator pitch (the introduction to your business and the products and services that it provides) that makes the recipient want to know more.... With this in mind, plan and prepare and practice.
Finally, Best of Luck !
Based on the book by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown
We all know how new projects happen in a predictable world: A team is assembled, a market analysed, a forecast created, and a business plan written. Resources are then gathered, and the plan is set in motion.
But how do you launch new projects in an unpredictable environment? What's the best way to do it in an age where the proliferation of data and opinion makes truly decisive analysis impossible; when faraway events have immediate, unexpected impact; and when the economic crisis has made companies reluctant to take big bets on unproven ideas?
Take a look at what serial entrepreneurs do - they navigate through uncertainty, minimising the risks as they go !
Academics and major consultancy practices have spent years studying these leaders and the logic they use to create new products, services, and business models in situations where the old methods of analysing, forecasting, modelling, planning and allocating no longer work.
A detailed study of 27 serial entrepreneurs, by University of Virginia's Associate Professor of Business, Saras D. Sarasvathy was undertaken, from which the results were enlightening:
· instead of starting with a predetermined goal, these entrepreneurs allow opportunities to emerge:
· instead of focusing on optimal returns, they spend more time considering their acceptable loss; and
· instead of searching for perfect solutions, they look for good-enough ones.
The point is that successful entrepreneurs don’t just “think different.” They translate that thinking into immediate action, often ignoring analysis. Rather than predict the future, they try to create it.
Look at Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz: Coffee sales had been steadily declining for two decades before he came up with the café concept that would grow into a multibillion-dollar business.
This logic shouldn’t be limited to entrepreneurs working outside the bounds of traditional organisations. (After all, Schultz first tested his café idea when Starbucks was a small retailer of coffee beans, teas, and spices, and he was its director of marketing).
We believe that any manager can, and should, follow the same process when confronting the unknown. It presents them with an extremely low-risk way to launch new projects and thus begin to change organisations and improve their performance.
For more information including how we can help you, please visit the rest of our website or give us a call. In addition, please contact us if you would like a free copy of our change model sent to you by e-mail.
The Banks and Local Authority Grants are not your only sources of funds, but when you need funds from the Bank or Local Authority, you complete a Business Plan.
Think about how much cash could be available INSIDE YOUR BUSINESS. Doing what you set out to do in your Business Plan, reviewing how effective that is and making improvements as you go can free up savings and capital, and makes your business more competitive.
What if you could improve efficiency by 10% in:
These are just examples - there are other opportunities in most businesses. Becoming more efficient may release capital for investment and could also enable you to make more use of your assets - people and equipment.
CHANGE takes many forms, but the most common areas in which SimWay helps client organisations is in the following activities:
Give SimWay Business Solutions a call to see how we can help your organisation. We're passionate about helping people....in fact, WE GET A REAL BUZZ FROM DOING SO.
We offer every new client a free, initial consultation so that there is no risk for your organisation - you can identify how we can help and whether that help is right for you.
2012 - Another Difficult Year ?
The Western Mail's 'Business in Wales' supplement on 8th February 2012 reported that according to a NatWest study, 50% of Welsh Small to Medium-sized firms (SMEs) see survival as their biggest challenge in 2012. Interestingly, Scottish SMEs at 58% and Northern Irish SMEs at 54% were even more pessimistic.
The survey comes at a time when there is increasing evidence that the UK is facing a double-dip recession. According to the Welsh companies surveyed:
According to those companies surveyed in Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham and Aberystwyth, not a single one saw opportunities coming from the Olympic Games.
In response to the report, the Federation of Small Businesses commented that their own research had showed that "businesses in Wales are still diversifying, innovating and improving. In the face of obvious adversity, many are still looking to grow and expand."
An additional survey of Federation of Small Businesses' members, the "Voice of Small Business" survey reported in The Western Mail on 22nd February suggested that 56% of Welsh Businesses trying to achieve growth achieved a growth in sales. Meanwhile, 66% of Welsh Businesses have introduced a new or improved product or service over the last 12 months (compared to 53% in 2009). The principal reason for FSB members to apply for financial support is cash flow while 30% of companies see Competition in their market as a barrier or obstacle to success.
SimWay Business Solutions recognise that many areas of business support and advice are provided at little or no cost, thanks to the generous support of Welsh Government and local authorities - hence our focus on providing a specialist change and performance improvement solutions service to help businesses to survive and grow after the initial business start up support runs out. Interestingly, the FSB asked their members what they thought of Local Authority support for businesses - the response being that just 3% said that they were very satisfied with such services and 14% were quite satisfied. However, 18% said that they were quite dissatisfied and 17% were very dissatisfied.
Shortage of Skills was again reported in the FSB Survey as a big issue for businesses in Wales - 22% of respondents stated that this was a barrier or obstable to their success (15% of which reported marketing as a particular problem - although in our experience, identifying 'route to market' is a particular problem that we can and have helped our clients with).
We can help......Coming soon will be the first of a series of Business Support and Training events being run by SimWay in South East Wales......SimWay Business Solutions specialises in helping organisations to implement and manage change successfully - whether that be in launching new products, entering new markets, expanding their operations or becoming more efficient. Call us on 01600 729180 to find out how SimWay can help your business today.
Last week saw the launch of a major new piece of research by the CMI - The Business Benefits of Management and Leadership Development.
Some of the key findings include:
• 43% of managers rate their own line managers as ineffective or highly ineffective
The report – produced jointly with HR consultancy Penna, with researchers at Henley Business School – includes recommendations for employers. The report can be downloaded free of charge at www.managers.org.uk/mldbenefits.
If your business' leadership and management skills need development, please give SimWay a call on 01600 729180 to discuss what you need and whether and how we can help