Sunday, 13 February 2011

Biz Bites

The Scottish Conference for Social and Private Enterprise is held annually here in Perth, run by Perth College UHI in conjunction with Perth and Kinross Social Economy Partnership. Gibson and I attended the first in 2009 and it really fired us up so this year since we have felt so slow to get motivated  we decided we needed a dose of NewBiz'11 and joined the other 300 delegates at Perth Concert Hall for another excellent day of networking,  ideas, motivation and very nice food.

This conference is aimed at budding entrepreneurs from the private and social enterprise sectors and existing businesses. It is as beneficial to those of us who have been hacking away at running our businesses for ages as it is for the fresh new and excited, I think we all need a good injection of ideas and that business BUZZZZ in our veins every now and again and Gibson and I certainly felt the benefit of a bit of that drug.
So who spoke, what was it about and more importantly what did we learn that we can share with you?

Let's start with the keynote speaker The Badger aka Ruth Badger best known for her appearance in the television programme "The Apprentice".

Ruth Badger
Ruth was very good...she would need to be, I think she said she did 3 presentations a week. It's a bit of a scatter gun approach. She fires stories, biz bites, bon mots...she is so obviously driven by steam, gas and coal to just make money and she makes no bones about the fact that she has no real qualifications to her name, so all this success seems very possible to the average Jo. She does fire home a number of points that are vital in business and probably in life too:
  1. Know the Goal -  set goals, know where you are going and in particular set sales goals (I know you artists out there are saying "I don't do selling" but this is vital)
  2. Keep Hold of your Costs - know your baseline costs and your project costs at each stage, then you will understand your profit
  3. What Makes You  Different - find your USP (unique selling point) and it can be as simple as "I turn up for the gig"
  4. Turn Up For The Gig - if you don't get up and out there, no-one will call to see if you are OK, you have to be there to get the customer, to price the work, to do the work
  5. Keep It Simple - you can build a business in your back bedroom with a cell phone, a domain name and a pad of paper to start with, you don't need fancy offices, stationary or cars to be better than the next guy and succeed.
I think that everyone in business needs reminding of all of these seemingly obvious points. Even after 25 years in business I can genuinely say that at any one time there may be as many as 3 that I will forget to put into practice (not telling which).

Next came the panel discussion 'Been There, Done That, Got the T-shirt'  with Angie Foreman, John Gillespie and Gavin Oattes. Angie Foreman is Social Enterprise Manager at Dundee International Women' Centre; John Gillespie celebrity hairdresser from Perth and Gavin Oattes a recent Dragon's Den contender and owner of Tree of Knowledge
What did these 3 people offer in the way of help to businesses? Well, Angie was able to demonstrate Keep it Simple - she realised that she needed to make it easy for the people involved in her business to participate and that meant something as simple as not saying "your late" to a member of staff that was unable to arrive at the classic 9 am. Instead she changed the start simple, how easy to get the best from your staff.
John Gillespie demonstrated Turn Up For The Gig -  he went to competitions and just by being there he was in the race so by being in the race he had a chance to win, and he did. Sometimes putting your neck on the line is worth it because no-one else wants to and because you turned up, and your competition didn't, you get the prize.
Gavin Oattes once again demonstrated Keep It Simple - in fact keep it fun, he gave an extremely amusing and very well presented talk about the importance of fun in the workplace, and reaching your inner child to reduce stress. Check out the video at the end of this post to see Gavin in action and you will see why we enjoyed his contribution so much.

After a really excellent, healthy and tasty lunch (rare at this type of event) there were workshops for us all to attend. Gibson and I split up and I headed off to Jackie Wade's Workshop  "Selling – A vital habit or a quick fix"
What did I leave with? What Makes You Different - if you have difficulty working this out then think about value. What is your value to the customer? What do you or your company add, what do you take away? So for us at Carte Blanche I think we add beauty to your environment; what do we take away, we take away problems, such as a damaged piece of marble needing matched or an impossible surface to wallpaper that needs character. In that simple evaluation you have your USP and your pitch.
Secondly I joined John Campbell of Precedent in a workshop entitled Doing Business with Social Media.

John Campbell
Initially I have to say that I wasn't convinced this was a great workshop, not sure what I gleaned from it and feeling that John had assumed to much existing knowledge of his audience and tried to cram too much into a short workshop, however I came home to find I had picked up rather a lot. He demonstrated Know the Goal which seems a fairly bizarre thing to suggest for social networking., however how many of us think social networking is GREAT fpor business. we join Twitter, Facebook, create business pages, tweet, post and realise all we have done is told the world what we ate for lunch so nil business benefit. There is a difference between successful business networking and just hanging with your mates online and you should set goals and then evaluate what is most successful. I now have Tweet Deck, and have discovered Social Mention. So I think I came away with a fair bit actually.

That was Tuesday and on Wednesday we met with our new business advisor from Perth and Kinross Economic Development Sam Greer. For those that haven't discovered Economic Development then do what I did and phone them up and ask them what they do, they will be only too glad to tell you and they are an amazing resource for business in this county.

We ran from our excellent meeting to an event run by Business Gateway. An entertaining (if not a little loud) comedy performance from Rachel Bridge - writer, journalist and public speaker specialising in entrepreneurship, start ups and growing businesses. Rachel was promoting her latest book "How To Make a Million Before Lunch"

Rachel gave us an amusing insight on what it really takes to run your own business and guess what messages she was ultimately giving us - Ohhhh I don't need to tell you, yes, most of them were the same as we had heard lots about the day before but one thing that she really drove home that had been talked about on Tuesday but not as directly and that is that if you have a good idea...go out and just

DO IT!!!

Gavin Oattes - the video I promised. This is Gavin presenting a very similar talk to the one that he gave at the conference at the opening night of a Scottish Company Uniq

Cait Whitson
Carte Blanche Decorative Painters

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