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June 2009

When working "on" your business feels like working "in" your business


There's something wrong with the title, not? I'm sure you, like me, have been told many times that the only way to grow your business is by working "on" your business; where working "in" the business only means you're working for a wage, nothing more.
Some state you should dedicate at least 3 hours a week on working "on" your business and preferably more than that. Working "on" your business to improve sales rates, conversion rates, customer care, worth of mouth and overall performances. To increase profit.

So what is working "in" your business really?

Welcoming visitors in your showroom? Delivering ordered materials to your client? Calculating and writing a quotation for a prospect? Carrying out a survey to determine what and how many materials and labour are needed? Doing the actual work of - in our case - installing or maintaining a wooden floor? Following up on prospects? Sending out snail mail letters to existing clients to remind them of the need of maintenance? Writing another follow-up message or newsletter broadcast for your email campaigns? Washing our van to make sure it always looks presentable? Counting stock so no job is delayed because of shortness in materials? Replying quickly and adequate to emails coming in from prospects/clients? Keeping your website up to date with the latest news on products, procedures and prices? Keeping the books up to date so suppliers are paid in time to continue a good relationship with them?

Isn't every single one of those tasks dedicated to provide your prospects/clients with the best available products/services your business can provide?
So isn't working "in" your business also working "on" your business?

Or do I see this wrong?

I got confused this week - sitting in our sunny garden one evening after work - pondering about all the things I'd done that day and the days before. It felt I only had been doing 'regular' tasks, taking care of our prospects and clients any which way. Shouldn't I make more time available for working "on" the business instead? But where would my and my partner's tasks be different then?

I mean, if my dear partner - who does the surveys, fitting, most of the deliveries and maintenance services - doesn't have the right materials at the right time, drives in a dirty van and doesn't pay respect to the prospect/client with his manners, that wouldn't do our "worth of mouth" and therefore existing and future profits no good at all. Same with all our marketing and systems/procedures I take care off. All are in fact targeted to provide our prospects/clients with the best possible service (be it physical products or simple advice) we can give them.

Teamwork250w So perhaps the title is wrong and should it say: when working "in" your business feels like working "on" your business?
'Cos when is "in" actually only "in" and "on" actually only "on"?

Or perhaps we need a completely different phrase all together? How about:
Working "with" your business?

What do you think?

Off line business activities online, recap of last week

Compnetwork Have you ever realised how many 'standard' business tasks can now be done online?

We have been using Internet banking the moment it came available: constant instant overview of your going in's and out's. On the road? Access your bank's website anywhere you are and take care of your finances.

More and more service providers notify us we can find our latest invoice online. And then I'm not even talking about all the standard essential office products you can buy online nowadays, from stationery to coffee pods, study books etc - all delivered to your front door without you having to go out. Our own business has its own secure webshop and we dispatch products all over the UK (some through drop-shipping, some through our local post-office).

Create your own website with a blog platform

Marketing is more and more done on-line:

using blog platform software for your business website (again, accessible everywhere you are to add, edit and comment/answer questions left by your website visitors).

AWeber startegies and tactics for small businesses email-marketing: how often I access AWeber you don't want to know, queueing 'blog-alerts' to subscribers interested in wooden flooring, writing and sending out our monthly newsletter, checking how well all the marketing messages are performing and which headline in which webform works best (split-testing). Instant access to statistics: what you can measure you can improve.

If you need an internet ad campaign: Google Adwords is your tool. Easy to set up and to control your spending. Another great on-line tool.
(Although.... yesterday I received a discount voucher - valid till the end of this month - for Adwords from a friend as thank you for some SEO I'd done for his latest website. When I entered the code into my billing page of my long term Google Adwords account I got the following message: my account was too old to redeem this voucher! As if Google isn't making enough money already!! Too old to be treated as a respected client? End of rant.)

Customer care can be done online too these days with one of my favourite programs: ScreenSteps Desktop and ScreenSteps Live. Publish the answers to your frequently asked questions online (written in Desktop so you can publish and combine in multiple ways) and direct your prospects/clients to the appropriate page in the manual using ScreenSteps latest innovation: Live Support System.

(Blue Mango Learning System announced last week the price for ScreenSteps Desktop Pro is - IMHO finally! - going to be increased with $ 20.00. Since the release of the latest version 2.6 the value of the program is tripled if not quadrupled and rightly so should the price reflect this. If you hurry you can still get this excellent and multifunctional program for the old price of $ 59.95. Offer end Wednesday 17 June)

 Another online software I used this week is perhaps also the latest 'innovation' of off-line business tasks now available online: bookkeeping! Liberty Accounting comes complete with Payroll and is one - if not the - first to include filling your VAT return through their program.Liberty
(Side-note: the program was recommended by our business adviser for my neighbour who had asked both him and me for advice on accounting. All three of us can access the program: the owner of the business, the 'bookkeeper' of the business and the accountant of the business - how's that for multi-functionality?)

All the above programs I've used this last week - a short week for us after our well deserved break last weekend - and makes you wonder/ponder if the 'virtual office' or 'virtual business' is about to truly become a fact?

How many online tools are you using for standard 'off line' business activities yourself? And what other tasks can you see being turned online in the near future?

We're off Jazzing again.

Jazzweekend It's that time of the year again, our home town in The Netherlands is organising its annual Jazz Weekend this weekend. We've made it a habit of travelling down there for a few days as annual (according to some a "well-deserved") short break.

It's a time to meet up with friends we haven't seen for almost a year, to visit family we haven't seen for almost 6 months and of course to enjoy various styles of Jazz.

Eventually we always end up visiting one or two suppliers in our home town too - you can take the directors out of the business, but not the business out of the directors!

This year I promised myself and my partner I wouldn't touch any Internet related equipment, so no email, twitter, facebook, AWeber or any other browsing activity. Not even checking the three DIY-forums we regularly contribute to for problems we might be able to help out on.
I think I'll survive ;-)

One item I always take with me I definitely refuse to leave behind: a notebook and pen. You'll never known when inspiration for a new or better marketing or business-concept idea hits.

Wishing you all a very pleasant weekend and 'see' you Tuesday.