Time Management Challenges in Business

Time management is such a skill isn’t it? There is so much to fit into a single day when one is self-employed. Even though there are two of us and our mum helps with accounts and she will step into the breach if a staff member is ill, it really can be a challenge to fit it all in.

Time Management Challenges in Business

Although we do delegate responsibilities to staff, there are so many of the little extras that we do ourselves, from covering shifts if a member of staff has to take a child to a doctor’s appointment for example, to trying to fit in the social media, to trying to think outside the box and evaluate our progress with the business.

So many things take ‘just five minutes’, such as writing an update on facebook, to writing a couple of tweets, to pinning some cheese pictures or recipes, to walking around the shop to ensure everything is in order and all those ‘five minutes’ really add up.  We had a meeting yesterday and decided that we need to streamline our time in the shop more, there’s no point in both of us checking the shop (we even met each other in the ‘wine and cheese hamper’ aisle one morning!!!) so we decided we should timetable in that job e.g Matthew does it in the mornings and I do it in the afternoons.  I’m looking after the social media, website and emails solely as we were having to check with each other if we’d responded to tweets or to emails which led to more time-wasting.  It sounds so silly and yet it can happen so easily.

Matthew has a girlfriend now so he is out socialising quite a few evenings each week. We used to spend the evenings catching up on the day and planning ahead. In one way, it is good as we now have a focused meeting in work time but I still find myself working in the evenings, researching franchises for future development and keeping an eye on competitors. Matthew and Mum have been telling me to take more time off, to go out with friends in the evenings and give myself a break but having so many businesses close down after Christmas makes me more determined that we will not be one of them. Is it possible to be addicted to work?!

We made a few small changes in the last fortnight to improve our time management and they have definitely helped. Now to find more ways to improve!

Do you find time management is a challenge in your business? Are there any tools or tips that you could share with us?

If you would like a chance of winning a copy of our book – all about marketing and sales skills for budding entrepreneurs, please ‘pin it to win it’ by clicking that link and pinning the blog post. Thank you.

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Pin It To Win It

We’re launching a ‘Pin It To Win It’ contest on Pinterest.

Marketing Book - The Cheese Mall

All you have to do for a chance to win a copy of our marketing book, is to pin this image of our book into an appropriately named board, such as ‘Business Tips’, ‘Marketing Tips’ or ‘Recommended Books’.

We’re going to let the contest run until the end of the month and we’ll choose the winner by selecting from all the pinners on our source link  which shows us exactly what posts and pictures have been pinned.  It will be interesting too to see how the contest works out, we’re looking on it as a little social media experiment too for our future social media marketing strategy!
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Good luck!

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What’s The Difference Between Goals & Objectives?

Happy New Year everyone. Did you have a great Christmas and new year? Were you happy with your end of year sales?

We’re busy setting our goals for 2013 and beyond at the moment. I’ve noticed that so many people are writing blog posts at the moment advising people to set goals, not new year resolutions, both in their business and in their personal lives. New year resolutions suggests a behavioural shift that might be too extreme for success and that is largely the cause of their failure.

What’s The Difference Between Goals & Objectives?

I can remember when we were writing our business plan, I kept getting confused regarding the difference in goals and objectives Matthew explained it in a very easy-to-follow way.

A Goal is an outcome, it is something you want to accomplish, to achieve.  The goals should be specific, realistic and achievable, eg. one of our key goals was to implement an ‘Internet Marketing Strategy’.

The Objectives are the actions and steps required to achieve the goal. The easiest way to do it is to have three columns, the first showing WHAT needs to be done, what steps need to be taken. The second column would show WHO is going to do it so responsibility has been allocated. The third column should indicate WHEN it will be completed by.

As we projected, our goals and objectives tended to change and had to be constantly reviewed. Having them written down helps us focus, makes us review and if necessary, change the goal posts. It is all about evaluating your performance too and planning your improvements.

Our Internet Marketing Strategy expanded beyond this blog, facebook and twitter. We’ve set up a pinterest account and recently enjoyed taking part in a virtual book tour with six different business bloggers writing reviews about our book which was incredibly exciting. Our Internet Marketing Strategy for 2013 is going to have even clearer goals and objectives but one of the exciting things about social media is that as it constantly changes and evolves, it provides us with more ideas and functionality!

Apart from our goals for the shop, we have a goal to increase our book sales to a certain number.  One of our objectives will be brought into play next week as we will use Pinterest to host a competition and see how it increases brand awareness, click throughs to the website and ultimately, sales. We look forward to sharing our experience of a Pinterest contest with you soon.

Have you set your goals and objectives for 2013?

Posted in Sales and Marketing, Social Media Marketing, The Cheese Mall, Using Social Media, What is Marketing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pre-Christmas Marketing Reaps Rewards

The Cheese MallWe were overwhelmed with the responses to our virtual book tour. All of the six bloggers loved it and each of them focused on different aspects of The Cheese Mall: Key Marketing Skills for the Budding Entrepreneur. What we really appreciated is that they all included their appreciation of marketing concepts of being quite difficult, yet they are written about in such an easy-to-follow, step-by-step and fun method, that the difficult concepts are demystified and made simple for all budding entrepreneurs. Exactly what we set out to do so it seemed like all our Christmases have come at once.

Write on Track held a book giveaway and the winning commentator was Marian Hearne of Herbi & Carni so we’re delighted to be posting  a copy of The Cheese Mall to Marian and hope she enjoys it.

We’d also like to thank Lorna and Marie of Write on Track for organising the book tour so well for us and finding bloggers for us from all around the world, thereby ensuring that our target audience of business owners or start ups were hearing about us.

On another note, we’re noticing that customers are being very careful with their money this Christmas. We’ve been creating lots of cheese and wine hampers in a variety of different price points so they are accessible to more people. I was looking at one hamper website the other day and they had a huge range of hampers but they were all very similar in price.  I know we can’t be all things to all people but we’ve tried to have a selection to suit most purses.  Customers do love to give practical and useful presents and our hampers have the added benefit of being tasty too so they’ve been going down well. They’re a lovely gift for a host or hostess too.

We’ve been using social media to spread brand awareness too which has helped enormously. Many customers tell us they have become fans on facebook and they seem to enjoy getting to know us better both offline and online.

Father Christmas is located quite near us too which is an added benefit, parents look in our window as they are queuing to see him and then come in to buy once the children have seen the great man in red. We have hired some extra staff, ensuring they are well trained in customer service before they go onto the shop floor. As always, customer service is one of our number one priorities.

How are your Christmas preparations going?  Have you set your goals and targets for 2013? Have you reviewed your 2012 goals and established what you will do different and better in 2013?

In our blog post next week, we’ll share our marketing secrets with you for 2013!

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The Cheese Mall Book Goes On a Virtual Book Tour

We have exciting news to share with you this week. Our book is going to be profiled by 6 bloggers in a virtual blog tour. Each blogger will either review The Cheese Mall: Key Marketing Skills for the Budding Entrepreneur or they may examine one chapter or section in more detail. We have no idea what they will write so while it is really exciting, it is also a little nerve-wracking!

Organised by Lorna and Marie of Write on Track, our book is profiled first on their Booked In website which contains information on the book and a link to each of the six bloggers.  Just as an author of a newly published book may visit bookstores for book signings and to launch their book and promote sales, virtual book tours via blogs are becoming a new and popular method for authors to promote their books, particularly if they are self published.  Bloggers receive a copy of the book and write their post on an appointed day.  The bloggers are chosen for the suitability to the subject matter of the book, their writing style, their readership as well as other reasons.  A blog tour for your book is a great way to reach a whole new audience in whatever country you may wish to reach or indeed, appoint a blogger in each continent!

A blog tour normally lasts for a week, one each day.  Ours is running Wednesday to Wednesday with 6 bloggers. We’d really appreciate if you could take part by reading the reviews, commenting on the blogs, asking questions and supporting each of the following bloggers:

Wed 28 November: Olwen Dawe, Irish Business Intelligence

Thur 29 November: The Marketing Eggspert

Friday 30 November: Sage Social

Monday 3 December: Moira Geary Mind Experts Academy

Tuesday 4 December: Julia Barnickle Digital Business Development

Wednesday 5 December: Write On Track *

*To mark the end of the virtual book tour, Write on Track will be giving away a copy of The Cheese Mall to one lucky winner.

Posted in Building a Brand, Social Media Marketing, The Cheese Mall, Using Social Media | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

The wonderful SWOT, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats needs re-examination again in our run up to Christmas.

Just when we had mastered running our own business and were starting to heave little sighs of relief, along comes a threat and takes the wind from our sails!

Have you noticed many empty shops in your home town?  Is the shopping centre reasonably full and the town centre empty?  Is the high street becoming a ghost town?  It seems that more and more shops are closing on a daily basis. A beautiful boutique three doors away from the Cheese Mall has just closed down.

We were just saying to each other a couple of weeks ago on the occasion of our first business birthday that we really shouldn’t be complacent or take our business for granted. Little did we know that a new ‘threat’ in our SWOT was about to emerge in the shape of a new competitor.

‘Our competitor’ taking the sabre to our cheese!! (metaphorically!)

We noticed ‘pop-up’ shops popping up before last Christmas and during a local festival during the summer. These tended to be craft or specialist shops and have always brought more footfall to the town as customers come along to see the new shops and seem happy to spend. Hence, we didn’t see them as a threat at all, they were a strength and an opportunity.

However, last week, a couple of pop up shops have opened just along from our store and one of them is going to be in direct competition to us – selling hampers for Christmas with many of them being food-related.  That was fine but a considerable number of them contain speciality cheeses!  I was so taken aback when I saw it I really didn’t know how to react. To make it worse, our Christmas wrapping and hampers for our wines and cheeses weren’t ready so when we did put them out 3 days later, it might have looked like we were copying the pop up shop!  Many of our regular customers are going along to have a look as it is a new shop and we’re wondering if they are going to do some of their food Christmas shopping there.

I really started to panic but Matthew calmed me down pointing out our 5 P’s again such as the importance of People, ie our customer service and the fact that we have customer loyalty behind us.  I argued with him about Price – should we be reducing our prices but as he stated, there was no point in getting in a price war. We are both selling quality cheeses and as our prices are fair, people know they are getting good value for money.  For now, we just have to wish them well for the 6 weeks that they are there, hope that it doesn’t affect our sales too much and ensure that we are doing everything we can to keep our customers happy and coming back.

As Dad said, the fact that people can travel to our area and know that they can visit two shops that provide speciality food hampers amongst other foodstuffs might even encourage more shoppers. They may even be a complement to our business and become a strength or opportunity rather than a perceived threat.

Time will tell! I will keep you posted. Have you completed a SWOT analysis on your business lately? Did you come across any surprises?

Photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

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Our First Birthday

Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us!  We were a year old last week and we are so chuffed to have made it to our first birthday and still be doing well. The statistics show that a significant number of businesses fail during the first year, often as a result of problems with cashflow.

Marketing tips for budding entrepreneursWe firmly believe that sound business planning is the route to a successful business. By putting in a secure foundation, the ‘house’ or business is as stable as it can be.  We didn’t do a course to help us prepare for business but over the last year I’ve become aware of such courses and I think they offer excellent provision. From Re-con intensive courses for unemployed people with a business idea to Start Your Own Business courses which tend to be one night a week for ten weeks. The business training in schools also focuses on business planning which, if done well, can teach teenagers invaluable skills both for the business they are setting up in school and for later in life too.

I was recently asked if I had to choose one aspect of the business planning that helped us achieve a successful first year in business, and I had to think for a while and revisit the book where Bernie wrote up the process of our business plan.  I decided it would have to be the ‘Marketing Mix’ of Chapter 5.  We recognised that ‘People’ or in other words, our staff was possibly going to be one of the most difficult aspects of the marketing mix to get right so we really worked hard with our interviewing process to ensure we got the right staff and we invest in training for our staff.  Some people would argue that what would happen if we trained our staff and then they left for another business but as a suitable answer would be – wouldn’t it be worse if we didn’t train them and they stayed!  Joking apart, our staff need to know that we appreciate them and a successful business is a team effort, hence last week, we had a party in the shop to celebrate with customers and we also had a party in the evening for our staff.

Another nice birthday present is that the book is now available on Amazon and we’ve received some lovely reviews there already too. If you have read it and enjoyed it, we’d love if you could review it too, it would be hugely appreciated.

Millie xx

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