5 Easy Ice Breakers to Use at Events

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If you’re in business, it’s a great idea to get out and about to meet fellow business owners. It gets you away from your desk/studio/laptop and you learn from others. Admittedly, when I started out back in 2004, it was no fun for me until I learned the following tips.

It’s so much easier now with social media so as I once wrote, use the internet to get off the internet! Here are the tips that work for me:

  1. Walk into a room smiling. Smile at everyone; the staff, the people you pass coming in just in case you see them later and everyone that's already at the event. A smile is the most inviting sign and people will gravitate towards you.
  2. Use social media to find out who you (vaguely) know that will be at the event and agree to look out for each other. Mentioning what you are wearing will help!
  3. Ask the host to introduce you to someone.
  4. Ask the first person you speak to introduce you to someone else.
  5. When you do speak to someone, a great conversation opener is ‘who can I can introduce you to?’ This doesn't just mean people in the room. You can connect them to your contact then and there via social media or drop them an email after the event. Another connection made!

If you have any other ice breakers, do share them below or vial @RickieWrites!

Five Ways to Get Retweeted

Keep the tweet short Remember when people RT the message includes your Twitter name. Under 100 characters is fantastic as people can RT from any platform without having to edit to fit.

Also, when people read it quickly they can make a faster decision on whether to retweet.

Say something topical

A tweet that includes words such as ‘breaking news’ or ‘NEW’ draws attention.

Or tweet about something very topical (or trending).

Include a link

Adding a link gives the tweet value as people can click for more information. Remember to shrink all your links to keep your tweet short!

Tweet at the right time

When is the right time?

That will depend on what your business is and when your following is watching. Safe to say, in most cases, tweeting late at night is unlikely to reach a lot of people.  There are services available that will tell you when your followers are most active.

Competition

Run a competition that includes the line, RT this to enter!

What gets you most engagement on Twitter? Do add your comments below or tweet @BusinessFaves.

What’s your definition of success?

Is greed still good or are there more important aspirations? Do we still regard the old stereotype of having an abundance of money/cars/homes means success? Or does happiness equal success?

Is the freedom to choose the life you want to live the ultimate luxury? Be that a family life, living in the country or a life of adventure - or all three!

Yes, financial stability is important however, here is what makes me love life, every minute of it:

The Fun/Fun balance

Being able to do whatever I want to do every day is my definition of happiness, which ultimately equal success. Waking up and looking forward to the day, whichever the day is, fired up with ideas (too many in my case!) is what inspires me to get up and going. My aim is to love what I do 90% of the time – the other 10% is dealing with finances or fixing technical errors, never fun for me but obviously a joy if that’s what you love to do!

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Being able to travel

Travel is my main motivation, outside the need to eat, be warm etc! Over the years I’ve changed my business it works around my life and love of travel rather than having the other way around. In recent years, I’ve put my lifestyle first and everything else around that. It’s amazing how much more successful I feel now!

Surrounded by fabulous people

Collaborating with and mixing only with people I want to is vital to my success and well-being.  I strive to choose my clients, my colleagues and partners and surround myself with enthusiastic, happy and positive people.

Fresh coffee. Good cake

Do I need to explain that one?!

People often comment on how lucky I am to do what I love, live where I want, travel and be who I want to be. I’ll share what I say to them – luck has nothing to do with it! We make our own luck and can change anything about our lives, anytime. If we want to badly enough.

What’s your definition of success? Have you already achieved success without knowing it?

Please comment below of tweet me on @BusinessFaves or @RickieWrites

5 Tips To Get Your CV Noticed

As a former recruiter and hirer, I know that I spent no more than 20-30 seconds on a CV before I either rejected it or kept it in the ‘read’ folder. This is what made me keep hold of it: Call me

Ensure all your contact details are on, most vitally email address and mobile phone number. Address is not as important if space is tight but town/city and county is. Make it easy for us to contact you or we’ll just move on to the next person.

Mind the gap

Ensure the potential employer knows precisely what you have been doing for the last six years at least. If you have been unemployed for more than a month or two, say so, or better still say something like ‘undertook online Microsoft training while actively seeking employment’ or ‘volunteered to gain additional experience while seeking employment.’

Use bullets

It makes the CV easier and quicker to read which increases your chance of being put on the interview pile.

Be a Star

Under each job, add bullet pointed list of achievements. Find at least 2 for each role and up to about five looks good. Think hard about what you achieved in that role, especially anything that can be quantified by saving the organisation time or money. Even if you were the ‘social secretary’ that organised events that gave your colleagues the feel-good factor at work.

Stick to two

Really, just do that.

Good luck!

Rickie

Book a Get AHead in your career session

Rickie spent over 10 years hiring staff in organisations and five years in recruitment before setting up her own business in 2004. Contact via @BusinessFaves, or @RickieWrites or email.

Five Ways to Be Effective

Call time! Give yourself a deadline for each task and once the timer goes off, switch over to the next job.

  • Plan your day, or whatever time you have, for the important tasks

  • Give each task a time slot

  • Include time slots for social media, emails, finances, telephone conversations and other essentials depending on the requirements of your business. I tend to check in with emails every 2-3 hours.

Needless to say, turn off phones/email/social media notifications during this productive period.  This will give you absolute focus and you’ll have lots ticked off your to-do list. Promise!

To give you an example, here’s one of my laptop based mornings:5 ways to get productive

Urgent tasks will always get done so try this method for important projects, all those items on your to do list that you know will help grow your business in the long-term that get pushed to the bottom. Bring them to the top and watch your business grow!

If you finish early, try to move right on to the next one without distraction. Place any unfinished tasks into the next ‘productive period’.

Mix it up

Blend what you love with the vitals.

We love what we do but there are always joyless tasks to do. For me it’s anything to do with finances!

So how about mixing up the tasks? After you’ve completed a less enjoyable task, follow with something you relish. It will sure make you complete that first task faster too!

Work out what’s best for you; some people like to get all the tough assignments  completed on one day, others like to just handle one a day and spread them out, but do alternate them with those you love.

Share the load

I’m a big fan of beg, borrow or barter. Is there a fellow business owner you can team up with and swap tasks? Perhaps one person loves excel spreadsheets (where are they?!) and another prefers the joy of designing posters or the creative work on websites?

The result is two happy people who have the fun of doing the tasks they love and helping another business grow! A beautiful friendship is formed!

Reward yourself

Whether it’s a coffee after a tough morning on WordPress or a new tablet to celebrate a major new client – presents are good!

More often it’s the simple pleasures of a good biscuit with your coffee or a hot lunch. Whatever keeps you going, have that as your own personal enticement to get those tasks completed.

Free marketing

Social media is in the main, free to use so it’s obvious we are all going to use this as part of our marketing strategy. Planning the times you set up your messages and engage with your potential customers is key.

The big tip here is to use a social media platform such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. These allow you to schedule messages and have multiple accounts on one platform so you can see and manage at a glance.

Of course, as I always advise, use scheduled messages with caution as people like to see that you are available to engage with after you’ve published an update.

Do you already use any of these? Do share your thoughts by adding your comments below!

By Rickie, who has been working with small businesses since 2004. Contact via @RickieWrites or @CraftySkills1

Coworking etiquette

Coworking is an excuse to work with other people for those who normally fly solo. As a aerial co-worker, here are my guidelines for perfect harmony.

  • Background noise is a plus of co-working, the energy is contagious, but if it’s quiet and you’re taking a long phone call, it’s a good idea to step away from the group for a while so as to not disrupt conversation or their work flow.
  • Similarly, if you need some uninterrupted time to focus, a subtle way of letting people know is putting some noise-reducing headphones in your ears, even if you’re not listening to anything. Just indicate when you back in the fold.
  • If you’re say you going to attend, turn up as people will be expecting you.
  • Make a point of saying hello to everyone, find out what their needs are and see if you can help or introduce them to anyone. If someone's helped you out, the simplest way of saying thanks (and making friends) is to offer to buy them a coffee!
  • Keep the place tidy and just take up the space you need and everyone will get along famously!

 By Rickie, founder of Birmingham Jelly who can be contacted via @RickieWrites

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Out of Office Messages

What does your 'out of office' message say about you? We’re back soon!

This one says everything we need to know:

  • Reason for out-of-office
  • Duration that you’re away
  • If you’ll check emails at all ie once a day
  • When you are back and ready to respond

The permanent out of office

Can be good if you really cannot answer on a daily basis but really, is it good practise to avoid responding within 24 hours? If you must use, how about adding alternative contact details instead?

Out of Office on long after return

If your email system doesn’t allow you to set start and end dates for your out–of-office to be on, how about putting a reminder in your calendar to turn it off on the day you return? We know you’re back!

Lack of action point

  • What should we do if we can’t get hold of you?
  • Is there an alternative contact or any information?
  • Does your alternative contact know their name has been given?

Busy

  • We’re too busy to answer your email.

Great, so you don’t want my business then?

What’s your idea of a great out-of-office message? Do share it below or tweet us on @CraftySkills1

How To Love Email (again)

Once upon a time, emails were a revolution. They single handily diminished the need for time consuming phone calls, short texts and slow snail mail.  Now we have so many other methods of communication in the form of social media, emails have a hard time. We hear of people battling with their in-box like it’s a task they need to do before they get on with more productive work. Surely they are a means to get work done? To me,  emails mean engagement, business growth, productivity or delivering an efficient service. So here are some tips to help you learn to love email again!

  • Set up folders, tabs or labels. This enables you to pop emails you don’t need to react to immediately away from your inbox, out of eyesight. That leaves you with a clear, inviting inbox.
  • If it takes less than a minute or so, respond to the email immediately and delete if you no longer need it. If it takes more than two minutes, set up a reminder to act on it at a realistic time through your email system.
  • Have a system; for the emails that don’t need an immediate response pop them into folders or mark with colour coded labels. You could do this by project or the day of the week you will work on them. If you just need to keep confirmations emails as proof of purchase or a booking, it can go in another folder so you have for reference until it’s OK to delete. You can do this automatically from some email platforms.
  • Make the delete button your friend.

If you don’t need the email, delete as soon as you see it. If your settings are correct, it will be in your ‘delete’ folder if you change your mind. It’s all about keeping your inbox as clear as possible to make you more productive. How about setting yourself a goal of how many emails remain in your inbox when you close down for the day?!

  • Ensure your emails are synchronised with your phone so you can maximise time spent in queues, waiting for the bus or on the train. Imagine how many emails you can work on if, on average you are ‘waiting’ even just for an hour a week?
  • How many of those newsletters do you really read? If you do, pop them into a folder and read them say once a week with a nice drink and really make that time productive by learning from them. If you find you routinely delete the newsletter or just don’t read it, unsubscribe. It’s helpful to tell the sender the reason why if they ask as, in future, they may send them less frequently and with more relevant content.

How about unsubscribing from one newsletter a day to begin with? Think of how much time you will be saving by this time next week!

  • Finally, the most recent tip I have put into practice is to only refresh emails to come through when I’m ready to receive rather than them coming through constantly. No notifications or flashing lights to distract you giving you complete control of your emails!

What are your email management aims? Do share them with us below!

If you need help with managing and loving emails again, book a one2one email management workshop with Rickie here and you’ll soon be back to growing your business! For help with choosing the right email system and other digital tools to make you more efficient talk to Tim from indieLove here

Making CoWorking Productive

If you work mainly on your own, co-working is a great way to exchange ideas, share knowledge and meet people. If an excuse was needed, it’s the perfect one to get out and have some banter! Here are our top tips to ways to make it fun and productive and be the go-to co-worker:

  • Plan your work for co-working days. What short, simple, tasks can you do that will withstand interruptions and background banter? Research, writing your action plan or goals or creating new website contact are great jobs to do with people around you to help. Or use it as a day to catch up on responding to and clearing all your emails.
  • Being able to brainstorm ideas in real time is enough to spur you on to take that new project forward. Now people know about it, they will be asking you for an update, encouraging you to doing it!
  • If you’re spending a few hours at the co-working venue, take your meetings there. It breaks up the day, stretches your legs and is an excellent opportunity to fit in those coffee-catch-ups with people who want to meet with you all in one. Bonus, you don’t have to go outdoors or make the coffee!
  • This is also the place to ask questions; need an app to help organise your time better? Someone here will know one and not only recommend it, but happily show you how to use it, saving you time and sealing a new friendship into the bargain.
  • Lock in to your tasks in hand and only get up to get another drink/lunch/bathroom break when you deserve it!
  • Coworking is a fantastic way of keeping abreast of business news, contacts and technology.

Moe information about the co-working event  Birmingham Jelly can be found here.

To improve your time-management skills and work productively, book a one2one and learn how!

8 Top Tips to Start a Cake Business

A few weeks ago we featured fantastic 5-9er Yvonne from Kake and Cupkakery. [gallery type="circle" ids="2807,2843,2839"]

This week, she has kindly agreed to share her 'top tips to starting  up a cakey biz':

  1. Research you area, find out about the competition, what they do, what they charge and build a local network. Just because another business is competition doesn’t mean you cannot support each other.
  2. Know your skill set and limitations,  if there is an area you’re not confident in practice, go on course. YouTube is amazing for free tutorials as  is Facebook.
  3. Know your cost and be honest with yourself regarding quoting and charging for cake. You have to earn some money!
  4. Find your niche, is it wedding cakes, cake pops, novelty cakes, macaroons or cupcakes?
  5. Use social media, it is absolutely free and remember you get out of it what you put in.
  6. Network! I have met and made some amazing contacts through networking.
  7. Get friends and family to recommend you and get them to keep their ear to the ground about any events where you can get to promote your business.
  8. And remember people buy from people. It’s your character and customer service that will play a big part in your business.

Find out more on Facebook or Cupkakery and www.letthemeatkake.co.uk Keep in touch with Yvonne by twitter @Cupkakery or her blog.

Connecting: Making Friends in Business

How to love networking

If the word ‘networking’ fills you with dread, I sympathise with you.  Perhaps the word conjures up images of walking into a room full of suited strangers, all laughing and talking to each other and ignoring you. Or worse, people who you have no wish to know thrusting their business cards in your hand to sell you their product.

However, networking is really about connecting, exchanging information and building relationships. Getting out and mixing with other people is very healthy and essential to your business, if not your sanity.  I strongly recommend building an inner circle of people you can rely on and those that can rely on you and this is how you will find those you haven’t yet met through social media.

Business events

So here some tips on making these events productive, easy and fun!

  1. Realise that the people in the networking room are unlikely to be your customers. Phew! Once that pressure is off, you can relax, be yourself, have a big confident smile for everyone you make eye contact with and talk to many people. They may be suppliers, collaborators, know potential clients or they may become clients in months or years to come so go forth and make friends!
  2. Ask people what they need and most importantly, as you have two ears and one mouth, listen to them and see how you can help them and who you can introduce them to. Even if you are new to business, you are an expert at something and they will appreciate your advice. In my experience, this gives your both credibility and a warm glow!
  3. Have a few questions up your sleeve in case you get stuck for conversation. Something like; I’m thinking of changing my phone, what do you all recommend? Anyone used a virtual assistant? Printers, how do you find one that always works?!
  4. Avoid being that guy! Even if the person you are talking to is a little, how shall we say, dull, avoid temptation to look over their shoulder! Instead either stand with your back to people so there is nothing over their shoulder but a wall, so you concentrate or deliberately open up the circle where you are standing so it looks inviting for someone to join in the conversation. Alternatively, walk them across to someone you do know to introduce them. Keep productive while remaining a friendly networker!
  5. Coffee. This is what you have come for; to invite people out for coffee who may become one of your inner circle. Aim to find one or two people who you get on with and ask them out for a coffee. (It’s not dissimilar to dating, in fact) Arrange where and when or agree to email within a set time – say 24 hours. On that note, if someone promises to contact you in a set period of time and they forget about you, just think twice if you’d like them to be in your inner circle after all.

[box type="tick" style="rounded"]What are your top tips for making friends at business events? Please do add them below![/box]

Rickie is the founder of co-working event Jelly, co-hosts Likemind and is co-organiser of Birmingham Entrepreneurs. Follow @CraftySkills1 or join the business conversation on #CraftyBreak each Wednesday 1-2pm

Working 5-9: Cupkakery

Like many creative businesses Yvonne, a chef with a BA and MA in hospitality, started her cake business after making cakes for family and friends. Having self-funded, the first issue on the agenda was refining the business and after some time, Cupkakery (dessert style cupcakes) and Kake (celebration cakes) have become the two defined brands.

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Two years down the line and Yvonne has definite goals in the forefront of her mind of taking Cupkakery and Kake to the next level. The challenge is still to make what she loves doing, profitable.

However, the love of creating magnificent cakes is there and Yvonne is determined ‘to earn a living from something’ she loves doing having spent her ‘career running other people’s businesses.’ With Yvonne’s determination, we are routing for her to run her own business full time!

 Time management

To keep on top of everything as a 5-9er, Yvonne explains, ‘your time management has to be to the minute and no matter how long you think a task will take, it always takes longer!’ So Yvonne is looking forward to one day not having to sacrifice her social life. Having said that, delightfully, Sunday is a non-negotiable family day and admin time at her desk has to be planned around that.

Smart working is helped by Yvonne’s team of the iphone/ipad/icalendar plus Wunderlist for the to-do list.

 Marketing

Yvonne is active on free social media and even uses Hootsuite to schedule activity where necessary. This type of marketing provides a fair amount of leads plus a great reputation means Yvonne now receives ‘priceless’ word of mouth recommendations too.[gallery type="square" ids="2837,2838,2839"]

We ask all business owners, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give anyone who is contemplating giving up their social life and starting a business instead? ‘I wouldn't give up a social life but adapt it. It’s important to still have time for yourself, to see friends and family so just schedule some ‘me time’ in.

Final word from Yvonne about the future: 'I'm always willing to learn so when I identify a need I seek out the relevant training.'

Find out more on Facebook or Cupkakery and www.letthemeatkake.co.uk Keep in touch with Yvonne by twitter @Cupkakery or her blog.