Introducing Dorothy's Vintage

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="4480,4481,4482"] I love to highlight business stories from home-based businesses.

So it was great to hear from Emma Morley, who has just launched a business with her mother Jayne. They’re both fans of vintage (or shabby chic) china and having amassed a fine collection, decided to turn their interest into a business.

Inspired by Jayne's own vintage wedding in 2013, Dorothy’s Vintage specialises in the hire of ‘beautiful vintage china as well as providing afternoon tea services for all type of events’. Mum and daughter can't wait to share their ‘wonderful collection with the world!'

What’s different is that these two vintage fans invite potential customers to their 60s garden summerhouse, named Sheila, to get a feel for the service. Here they experience the afternoon tea while discussing what they want for their event and their budget. Customers go away knowing Dorothy's Vintage have built them ‘a truly bespoke service' for their special event.

While Emma takes care of the social media and marketing, her mum cannot help but find amazing china to add to the collection!

To find out more about Dorothy’s Vintage, named after Emma’s grandmother, take a look at the website or follow @dorothysvintage.  Contact on dorothysvintage@gmail.com.

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

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

More 4-Hour Workweek - Are You Productive or Active?

4-hour-work-week-book In this post looking at the 4-hour workweek theory, we look at the many tips for being productive.

One of my often used words is ‘focus’ and Ferriss is big on making every minute count and not creating tasks for yourself.

If [due to a heart attack] you could only work 2 hours per day, what would you do?

If you had to [with a gun to your head] stop doing 4/5 things, what would they be? Emails, phone calls, advertising, paperwork or my personal favourite, meetings. You can add Facebook to that although I eliminated that almost immediately after I started on it.

Do not multi-task is a hard instruction to stomach for the serial multi tasker but I do get it. Eat first, the do internet research – both become more effective. Similarly, only aim for one or two critical tasks per day and do them completely in one sitting, from start to finish, without moving on to anything else

I love the tips given to offer solutions rather than asking questions:

“Can I make a suggestion?”

“I propose…”

“I’d like to propose…”

“I suggest that..What do you think?”

“Let’s try….and then something else if that doesn’t work.”

These are probably phrases you use any way so it’s a matter of trying them at crucial moments when you want to take control of a situation.

Cut down on reading (ironic as I’m sitting here reading his book.

No newspapers scan headlines as he goes past newsstand. I’m with that one – I feel if I need to know something someone will tell me on Twitter. I do actually like reading and consuming information so most Sundays I will buy the newspaper (which takes me a week to read)

Only read how to books when it’s autobiographical. From now on that’s how I’m going to write my how to articles like that now – ‘how I did it.’

Elimination also means No news – I’ve subscribed to this for most of my working life but if you don’t – he says to go cold turkey for five days

Live on need to know basis – my mind is cluttered enough without filling it with info I have no need for.

Practice the art of non-finishing – a new one on me. I have picked up a few books that I’ve not bonded with, some I have finished and very few have I given up on and that’s mainly if the book goes into a subject matter I’m not comfortable with.

Batching. Doing jobs in batches i.e. emails, paying bills, laundry, shopping,

Virtual Assistants. Have multiple and try to use those organisations that have more than one person so you’re not stuck if they are not available. Give precise instructions (what is it for) and short deadlines. Make sure they can do phone calls (even if you think they are not necessary right now)

Niche market. Creating a demand is hard. Filling in demand is easier. Don’t create a product then find someone to sell it too. Find a market – define our customers, then find or develop a product for them.

So this is another way of saying my main customer theory – ask the customer what they want and give it to them.

Mr F suggests one way to find a niche is to look at magazines with audience of at least 15000 and advertising for under say £3000 and brainstorm what you could sell that audience.

An expert, in the context of selling to a customer, just means knowing more than the customer.

Or you can be perceived to be an expert (and of course become one overtime (4 weeks)

These days, having deliberately slimmed down to become a solopreneur, I want people to know it’s just me. However, when building a company, I think it’s good advice to have multiple email addresses (that are all forwarded to yours) and to have someone answer the phones (I had Miss Moneypenny who picked up the calls when we couldn’t)

Instead of asking permission, seek forgiveness.

Although irrelevant to me, his tips on (gradually) convincing your boss to let you know work from home are brilliant!

A brief version of a brilliant story; fisherman who fishes enough to sell & support family and give to friends then spends his days with his family, doing whatever he wants. Mr Harvard MBA sees this and gives him all the ideas to expand; fish more, buy boats, have employees, move to LA, possibly then to NY to run the now very large company. Some 20-25 years later he could sell up for millions. ‘Then what?’ the fisherman asks. ‘Then you can spend all your days with your family, doing whatever you want…..

And guess what, he’s advocates my beloved re-occurring mini retirement, something I have already done starting with a year out working a few hours per day including 6 months in New York for writing school. Then go and be somewhere else for 6-12 months then move on – something I very much want to do and my preference for it is in Vancouver.

Originally published July 2012

Attitude: 5 ways to keep it positive

Lift yourself above the mundane

1. Goals. Goals. Goals.

Make them. Read them. Achieve them.

Firstly ensure you have written down what you want to achieve this month/this week/today. Secondly, read through your goals every morning before your day gets started. Be sure to do something every day towards your goals, be it a phone call, an email or some research. You will very soon see the difference.

Goals are dreams with deadlines.

 2. Support system

Surround yourself only with positive, supportive people. Happiness breeds happiness and negativity breeds, ……well you know what. On social media and in person, just mix with people who inspire you, support you and give you the inclination to help them too.

The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere – Dale Carnegie

3. Rewards

Promise yourself rewards every step of the way. Be it a biscuit with your coffee when you get a difficult morning task out of the way, a celebratory afternoon off for gaining an important order or an investment in art when you achieve a big milestone.

Tough days don't last very long, but tough people do.

4. Drink in the good news

Avoid the news and newspapers and just keep abreast of what’s going on with the world through headlines and social media.  Instead, substitute for inspiring biographies, magazine articles and blog posts keeping the really good ones handy to read again and again.

You can only have one thought at a time so make it a positive one.

5. Remember the good times

Print out a copy of your biggest order to date/press coverage/testimonials and pop up in front of you. Update your ‘good news notice board’ regularly and whenever you need to remind yourself why you are doing this, take a good long look and remember how good the success felt. Now get that feeling again.(See Rewards, above)

You can hit a target you can see.

How to merge your home business and home life

These days, for anyone starting a business, the idea of working from an office barely enters their head. If you can run your business from a computer/phone/kitchen table, you can run it from anywhere. There are now 2.5 million home business owners in the UK, (according to new Office for National Statistics analysis from Direct Line for Business). That means a whopping 52% of the UK’s small businesses are home based; eight per cent of the UK’s total workforce. There is a school of thought that every home business should have a separate office, a desk, a decent chair, storage space. But does every home have a spare room? Does it need to? After all, if you love what you do, which is the reason a number of us start our businesses in the first place, then what’s the harm in it merging into your home just as it does with your life in general?

Sherif Office

Five tips on working from home

Dishes

The joy of working from home can also be the distraction. If you’re the sort of person that can’t concentrate if there is a pile of washing up to be done, just do it! Forward planning means that you will wake up in the morning with the washing up done/stacked. However, if you’d rather spend those precious few hours in the evening with your loved ones/TV/wine, then use those little household jobs to give your eyes a strict break from the laptop for a disciplined 5-10 minutes every two or three hours during the day.

Distraction

Talking of which, are other people at home when you are trying to earn your living? Do you remember when you worked with other people: the banter, the jokes, the coffee rounds? All very lovely but none of these activities earn you a living. Try negotiating. Use different rooms or develop a time-share plan on who has the home and who has client meetings/dog walking/coffee shop working.

Desk or sofa?

Health practioners will tell you to buy a proper desk chair and have it at the correct height for your desk. All good advice but if popping over to the sofa stretches your legs and means your creativity is flowing, then so be it. Just get up and move every hour so you are not in the same position, put a timer on if you must but keep your body healthy and your mind productive by working from where it’s most creative for you.

Office and storage

If you have the room for a separate office, then great, for storage if nothing else. Or just have a cupboard where all your ‘office’ goes into. Just pull out your laptop or whatever you’re working on but leave all your stationery, files and equipment out of site in the cupboard named ‘office.’

There is always the option of utilising a storage facility to keep your dwelling homely and tidy.

Clocking Off

Take breakfast when you’re hungry which may not necessarily be first thing for you. Perhaps aim to catch up on emails/orders/social media/goal setting first thing before you reward yourself with a hearty breakfast.

At the other end of the working day, pop your laptop lid down to finish whenever is right for you. If that means you work through the night and sleep in the day, so be it. Unless you have clients needing to speak to you during the day of course! One of the benefits of working from home is the flexibility so walk the dog, do the laundry and socialise whenever you want to. Thankfully, you plan your own time. Just remember to take those breaks, go out and meet people and keep loving what you do!

Join the business conversation on Twitter. Add #CraftyBreak to your tweets each Wednesday 1-2pm.

Rickie has been in business since 2004 and splits her time between writing, running workshops and organising events to promote small business. Contact on rickie@craftyskills.co.uk or via @CraftySkills1