Monday, 17 December 2012

Small business predictions for 2013… and how to deal with them

2012 has been a rocky ride for some of us, a blinding success for others. So what’s on the cards for 2013? And what can you do about it?

Niche your business

According to Emma Jones, the founder of Enterprise Nation ( and a respected small business expert, niches will be bigger than ever next year. If you can niche your business so it points at a highly specific set of prospects, dovetailing with their exact needs, you could be onto a winner.

Take your small business abroad

The same goes for going global as new and emerging technologies make becoming a micro-multinational a feasible and desirable aim for small businesses. Going global can be as simple as setting up on Etsy or Ebay or as complex as opening up a completely new presence or a fresh offering to target foreign shores.

If you can’t compete at home, is the competitive landscape clearer abroad? It’s worth thinking about and any number of businesses are springing up to help facilitate it. Take Ann Hughes (, the VAT Lady, whose import and export training puts small businesses in a good position to grow without falling foul of the scary tax and VAT man.

Stay small and beautiful

The face of the employment is changing fast too. Jones also predicts that more small business owners will aim for better turnover without increasing their headcount and staff overheads. There’s a growing movement towards outsourcing to freelancers, e-workers, home-workers and external consultants. An excellent way to keep your business nimble, fast and flexible, it also benefits the job market and the economy as a whole.

See beyond the gloom and doom

What does the government say? Typically gloomy, they predict dire times ahead with more cuts and growth bumbling along the bottom, either flat-lining or even – worst case scenario - shrinking. But there’s no reason why you can’t thrive in a steady economy, one that might not be growing but is managing to stand nice and still!

Pressurise lenders

The banks? They’re flush with government cash, handed over specifically to lend to small businesses. But according to many, they’re still not lending. If you need working capital, investment or funds for growth why not try alternative lending? Or change banks? Or take the Squeaky Wheel approach and keep on at your lender until they tell you where to go or you actually get somewhere? Keep up the pressure and the dam might eventually break… we can only hope!   

Tell a good story

The author Ian Sanders ( catches the tail of the Zeitgeist by predicting that more people will want to hear about a business’s values rather than how big and powerful they are. He joins a growing flurry of marketing folk who advocate the fine art of presenting the benefits instead of majoring on a product or services’ features, being honest, human, helpful and personal, putting trust at the heart of your marketing proposition. And it’s something everyone can do.

Hijack the new media and mobile revolution

Britain comes top of the world league for shopping online. We love it. Everyone loves video - the medium is causing a huge marketing splash. And according to research experts Gartner, mobile phones are set to overtake PCs by 2013 as the most popular way to get online. Can the mobile web deliver extra potential to your small business? Are you making the most of every online opportunity?  If not, it’s time to get busy.  

Get social

Online marketing is undergoing a seismic shift, mostly because of Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm updates. We’re moving towards building communities and sharing exciting stuff, away from hard sells and traditional marketing. Can you zero in on niche markets via social media?

What’s your small business prediction for 2013?

We’d love to hear your ideas and share the with Curry Club fans. Feel free to leave a comment! 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Learning new stuff for better small business performance

You’ve had a brilliant business idea. Or you’re brilliant at what you do, your speciality. Either way it doesn’t automatically mean you’re equally adept at every aspect of running a business. You can’t afford to employ experts in the early stages. Perhaps you don’t want to expand, happy as you are, there’s nothing wrong with that. But unless you’re a superhero you’ll need to brush up in some areas and learn new skills.

Pinning down the grey areas

1.       Jot down a list of your business-related strengths and weaknesses  
2.       Look for patterns and group your blank spots logically: 

·         Administrative
·         Financial
·         Systems
·         Sales
·         Marketing

3.       Put your blank spots in priority order using your business plan as a guide, basing your decisions on what you want your business to achieve and when.

Delve into DIY online learning

If you want to learn it there’ll be a course about it online. Often hundreds or thousands of choices from a vast choice of suppliers including trusted quality stalwarts like the Open University. You can take your pick from videos, how-to guides, animations, interactive and distance learning courses and qualifications, from dummy to degree-level and beyond.

Lose yourself in real books and ebooks

If reading is your favourite way to soak up new information, Amazon is a reliable source of new and used textbooks and course books. There’s also a world of useful stuff available on Kindle.

Face to face learning at our city’s excellent FE college

City College Brighton & Hove runs an impressive array of professional courses for the business community. Their part-time courses in employment-focused subjects are perfect for sprucing up your skills and boosting your capabilities. Courses are taught by people with recent industry experience, with professional backgrounds and recognised qualifications.

Private tuition

Do you know an expert, or know someone who does? Would they be willing to give you tuition on a paid or barter basis? Or would you like someone to simply be there for you, answering tricky issues you come across in your e-learning, testing your knowledge ad egging you on? Private one-to-one tuition and support suits some of us better than classes or DIY learning. It depends on your personal preferences.  If you’d benefit from private tuition you could even ask around at our next Curry Club event.  You never know!   

Business training in Brighton and Hove

We’re lucky to have a wealth of excellent training providers in the city. Here are just a few of them:

·         Silicon Beach Training (
·         Integration Training (
·         Achieve Coaching and Training (
·         The University of Brighton - Training and professional development (
·         The Life Project (
·         Sussex Chamber of Commerce (
·         Pitman Training Brighton (
·         David Foster Associates Limited (

Thursday, 8 November 2012

10 Great Reasons to Outsource Your Payroll

 Big businesses can afford to maintain big payroll departments. For small businesses however, an in-house payroll service is a money burner. If you calculate the hours your employees spend on payroll-related activities, plus payroll software costs, training costs, printers, printing and distributing payslips, creating tax documents etc, you could be surprised by the result when you compare that amount to the cost a  payroll service provider can offer.

The payroll function can consume a large proportion of your staff resources, especially if the staff in charge of the payroll are not trained specifically to deal with it or have the payroll function as a smaller part of their overall responsibilities.  The benefits of  outsourcing the payroll include freeing up these resources allowing your staff to concentrate on more essential tasks.  You may even be able to reduce your staff's size. Outsourced functions also give you better scope for expansion of your company with scalable services suited to your business.

It can often be expensive to employ staff with the necessary training to operate a payroll system. For smaller companies where the payroll role is not enough to warrant a full-time employee, you may have to use your current staff to train in payroll as an additional responsibility to their core role. Your payroll staff will also need to keep up to date with the latest tax procedures and legislation.

Certain types of employment can lead to complicated payroll structures or scenarios. It pays to have a wealth of experience at your disposal which is something you are unlikely to have with a small in-house payroll department. A good payroll service provider will know all the ins and outs of payroll-related tax  laws and latest government legislation.

As payroll service providers are specialists, they can process even the most complex payrolls at a great speed, providing a quick turnaround time on your payroll when required.

Payroll mistakes can be painful, upsetting and stressful.  A good payroll service provider is far less likely to make a serious error than your in-house staff, as you are paying them for their expertise, knowledge and finely-tuned checking procedures they have in place.

In-house payroll activities function as reliably as the people doing the work. With a payroll service, output, speed and quality won't vary in accordance with holidays and sickness. There is always a risk that you may lose one of the key members of staff that deal with your payroll and all their knowledge walks away with them. If this happens you could find it extremely difficult to replace them, causing a logistical nightmare come payday. You also won't have to spend time training new staff or helping them to understand your business's payroll system.

Many payroll bureaux can offer small  and medium sized business total payroll packages in which all your payroll requirements can be met. With outsourced solutions, these packages are often flexible to meet your specific business model so you don't end up paying for something that includes services you don't need or misses key features that you do need.

Do you have the time and energy to closely supervise your business's payroll for time and rate abuses and other shady activities?  Most payroll bureaux have technologies that can spot and alert clients to various types of payroll fraud, such as payment manipulation and 'phantom workers'.

There's a lot to be said for the peace of mind that outsourcing payroll services can bring to a business owner or manager. No headaches, no hassles, no stress, no worries: You're left to focus on running your business knowing you payroll obligations are dealt with correctly, efficiently and lawfully.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Mentioning the ‘C’ word – 7 tips for a happy marketing Xmas

Should you advertise during the run up to Christmas?

Millions of British companies and organisations spend time and money jumping on board the annual Xmas marketing bandwagon. But is it always a good idea?  

It’s a bit like the Olympics, where everyone who was anyone came up with an Olympic themed special offer or marketing campaign. Did they all attract loads of new customers and inspire existing customers to buy more? No idea, but common sense suggests there must have been an element of Olympics marketing fatigue and the same thing probably happens at Christmas.  

Standing out from the crowd

It’s hard enough standing out from the crowd as it is. But when the entire crowd joins in it makes your marketing life much more of a challenge. Do you have the budget to spend your way to visibility amongst the noise? Or would you be better off lying low ‘til the new year, when everyone gets back to normal?

NOT driving people nuts!

It might turn out that Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in your sector, full stop. Some people get stuck in as early as September, but does mentioning the C word four months in advance annoy people more than it attracts them?

If you can’t find a logical, clear, practical connection between the stuff you sell and Christmas, is it worth bothering? If your offer or campaign is less than relevant to the season, which many are, will it have the right kind of impact or will it fall flat?

Waiting for better media buying deals

Many direct marketers stop sending out campaigns half way through October because their message just gets lost in the Christmas frenzy. And media buying often costs less after the festive season is done and dusted. It’s a matter of supply and demand: when demand is high, prices go up. In the new year, when demand is lower, it can be easier to find good deals on ad space and advertorials as well as negotiate free or cheap editorial.   

What about email marketing? If your inbox is anything like yours it’ll be filling up with Christmas messages already. Would it be better to leave it until the fuss is over and things have died down? Or can you make yourself heard amongst the rubbish? The same goes for your newsletter. Your customers and prospects might thank you more if you just wish them season’s greetings and leave it at that –what do you think?  It’s all worth mulling over first. 

Whatever you sell it’s worth bearing in mind that female target audiences are traditionally busier than blokes, more so the closer we get to the day itself. We’re supposed to be equals these days but buying gifts, decorating the house, sending cards, buying food and cooking tends to be woman’s work in the majority of households. If your target audience is females over eighteen, it might be safest to leave them to get on with it!

7 tips for a happy marketing Christmas

1.     Keep it real – if the things you sell have absolutely no connection with Christmas, think twice about marketing at this time of year
2.     If your media costs are going to end up higher than normal because of Christmas, do your sums. Will your usual response and conversion rates cover the cost? If response goes down, what’s the worst case scenario? If you think you’ll end up making a loss, step away
3.     Plan everything like a military campaign to maximise your chances, creating a dedicated Xmas marketing plan
4.     Choose your target audience/s carefully, establish what they do at this time of year (buy gifts, buy supplies, ignore the whole thing in a business context) and tailor your offers as closely as you can to their needs. It’s always important but even more so at times like this, when targeting might be your only real way to stand out
5.     Remember that benefits sell much better than features. Again it’s always important but it’s more important than ever at Christmas, especially for people buying gifts. When you’re buying a gift you often need more detail than when you’re buying for yourself. You want to make exactly the right choice and benefit-led communications do a much better job the feature-led. It’s no good telling people what the buttons on a gadget are. They want to know all the good things the button functions will do for them. Don’t say this gadget has a ‘go faster’ button. Say the gadget’s ‘go faster’ button increases your play speed by at least 50%
6.     Do unto others. Use your most powerful tool, your consumer head, to gauge whether you’d appreciate and enjoy the offer yourself. If you wouldn’t, tweak it until it sounds like something you’d be thrilled to receive at this time of year
7.     Make your message the best it can be – creative, funny, beautiful to look at, quirky, rude, compelling, awe inspiring… whatever it takes to cut through the babble

Monday, 15 October 2012

National Minimum Wage October 2012

The national minimum wage (NMW) is the set minimum hourly rate that UK employers must pay their workers. There are three aged based rates and an apprentice rate which are usually updated in October each year.
Almost all workers who work in the UK are entitled to the NMW, except self-employed people and children who are still of compulsary school age.

The rates from October 2012 are as follows:

Adult Rate (21 and over):  Increase of 11 pence to £6.19 an hour

The 18-20 year olds rate will remain at £4.98 an hour

The 16-17 year olds rate will remain at £3.68 an hour

The apprentice rate: Increase of 5 pence to £2.65 an hour

HMRC enforces the national minimum wage and if they find you have underpaid the NMW they will issue a notice of underpayment showing the arrears you must pay to your workers and possible penalties you must pay HMRC.  Does your payroll software flag up when employees rates are due to be reviewed? Check your employees' ages and make sure you increase their houlry  rates when applicable.

Monday, 8 October 2012

EC Sales List - Reporting EU Sales to HMRC

If your business is registered for VAT in the UK and you sell goods or services to VAT registered customers in other EU countries you are required to submit an EC sales list (known as ECSL or form VAT 101) to HMRC.

Why HMRC needs EC Sales Lists

The information you give on the ESL is used by the tax authorities in other EU countries. They use it to check that the businesses you've supplied your goods and/or services to are dealing with the VAT correctly.

The details are also used to build up anonymous statistics showing how goods are traded in the EU.

The same thing happens if your business receives goods from a supplier in another EU country. Your supplier also completes a similar sales list showing the value of the goods and/or services they've supplied to you.

EC Sales Lists - the basics

All VAT-registered businesses in the UK that supply goods to a VAT-registered customer in another EU country must provide HMRC with information about the supplies.

There is no threshold for ESLs - you must list every supply, no matter how small.
  • You submit the details on what's known as an ESL.
  • This contains details of:
  • Your customer
  • The relevant country code
  • The value of the goods and/or services

An EC Sales Declaration


The ECSL is generally submitted quarterly, but businesses that export goods totalling more than £35,000 (excluding VAT) per quarter must complete an ECSL every month.

When you completes box 8 on their VAT return because you have sold goods to a VAT registered business in another EU country, the Tax Office will automatically send you an ECSL form to complete.

If you move your own goods to a branch or subsidiary of your business in another EU country, this movement is treated the same as if to a third party and will also have to be entered on the ECSL for that period.

The paper ECSL form must be submitted within 14 days of the end of the reporting period. You can also complete the ECSL online, and have 21 days from the end of the period to submit the form. Note that this deadline is well before the deadline for your regular quarterly VAT return


If your business only sells services to other EU countries you can continue to submit a quarterly ECSL, but they can opt to submit monthly ECSL forms.  You will not have entered this sale in box 8 of the VAT return so there is no reminder that you have to complete an ECSL.

If your client moves their own goods to a branch or subsidiary of their business in another EU country, they may also have to complete an ECSL for that period.

Ann Hughes

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Social Loafing

Why Social Loafing is good for small business owners  

You’re a contractor, a freelancer or a small business owner.
Are you missing out on having loads of colleagues, people who can pitch in, lend their expertise and dream up fresh angles? If you’re drowning – not waving – and you’re finding it difficult to cope with all the work, would having a team on the job mean you’d get stuff done faster, in direct proportion to the number of extra hands on board?

Not necessarily. We assume that when we’re joined by others, together we’ll work harder and become more accomplished. But in reality, research proves we don’t pull anywhere near as much weight in a group as we do on our own. Once we have willing helpers, we slack off and invest less effort because we know our work will be pooled. And we know we won’t be judged on our individual efforts, either!

Evolved behaviour

Social loafing isn’t conscious. It’s one of those unconscious behaviours humans have evolved, probably because in evolutionary terms there’s no need to knock yourself out expending valuable energy when the burden can be shared.

Blindfold tug of war

How do the egg heads know there’s such a thing as social loafing? In one experiment the psychologist Alan Ingham set up a blindfold tug of war, with one person at each end of the rope. When he told them they were part of a team, they pulled 18% less hard than when they were told they were alone.

You can read about more social loafing experiments in the book, ‘You Are Not So Smart’ by David McRaney.

Why’s it good for lone cowboys?

The strange phenomenon of Social Loafing works to your advantage. You can drop the notion that the faster you can grow and take more people on, the more efficient things will get. You do a fantastic job on your own. Well done! When you do expand your business, just remember to put some careful thought into the way you distribute tasks and share responsibilities.

That way you’ll get the very best out of everyone.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Reach the top of your own mountain!

As an active networker, I’m often asked to represent groups that are run and operated by someone else. “It’ll raise your profile!” is the usual reason given.  Although that’s not in question, have you ever wondered what it’ll be like to lead your own? Operating ‘third party’ groups is great and I would recommend it.  I’ve done so myself and what I learned in a short space of time has been invaluable. Running your own is an entirely different ball game! There’s no big ‘system’ to lean on and the ultimate responsibility is on you.

With a solid networking grounding, here’s a question:  Why not climb up and reach the top your own mountain?

My late father, a distinguished army officer in WW2, who fought alongside Lord Mountbatten and his troops to help liberate Malaya, (now Malaysia and Singapore), mentored me to lead. Until I started my own business, I hadn’t really considered that I was in fact more active than most in various leadership roles from a young boy, throughout my adolescence, (more in my LinkedIn profile), and into the business world. I’ll never forget his pride when I became Head Boy of a UK boarding school, despite my not being considered a top academic.  Heck, when I arrived at the school at nine years of age, I was the boy who had the “funny accent”, (the Couplands and extended family were – and our family ‘hub’ still is – based in Singapore).

The bar is constantly being raised. Expectations are higher. Effective leadership can be a great solution.

I have come to the realisation that, in order to make a real difference, great leadership has to be at the core of almost everything one does in the world of business. I have shared with those I coach in marketing that the bar was and is still being raised. People’s expectations in what a business person has to offer are higher than ever. Why?  Well, there are several reasons. The main ones are lack of time; ever increasing competition and what I often term as ‘noise’.

So what do I mean by noise?

The fact that we live in a busier, more crowded world is a given, so that’s not what I’m covering here. What I mean is I often hear fellow networkers claim that they’ll start something for themselves, however don’t really deliver – assuming they started in the first place!  Ideas are the easy part. Most can come up with great ideas so, to me, there’s nothing in the slightest bit exclusive about that.  Action and action with great results is an entirely different matter! Sure, there are and will be plenty of mistakes, disappointments and regrets along the way. Isn’t life about that anyway?

Being a leader should no longer be regarded as something one can aspire to be. In my view, it has never been so vital in the business world.

Ever presented in front of audiences that consist of your customers, your network and your competitors? I can tell you, it’s no mean feat, however seldom have I found such a rewarding experience. In fact, taking on the mantle such as this has so far been one of the best things we have done so far since I started my business. Great relationships and business that resulted exceeded our own expectations.

So whether it’s networking, a committee or your business, why not climb and be at the top of your own mountain? I’m not saying I’m there yet however, for me, one or two mountains aren’t enough, I’m climbing more and, although my legs can sometimes hurt like mad, there’s no way I’m turning back!

There are no “you have to’s!” here, I‘m deliberately being thought-provoking.

…and what about representing someone else? (I’m not referring to advocating here, which is of course a great thing to do). If you represent someone else, ever considered removing the billboard of him / her / their logo at events and representing yourself?  It could well be time to move on and, usually, the best time is when you feel you’re at your (or their?!) peak. Don’t just imagine being at the top of your own mountain, why not do something about it?  It’s called change and a change that should have an even better view!

Reach the top of your own mountain! It doesn't have to be the tallest

What I seldom see are people truly aspiring, taking focussed action at coming out of their comfort zone and at least trying to lead and carve their own way, representing themselves and leading – no matter how large or small the initiative.

Those that do get more respect through what they have achieved anyway and, even if they end up doing something else later, it’s most certainly not failure as they’ve climbed their own mountain, took a deep breath of satisfaction and took in the view.

 Now how exclusive is that?!

John Coupland
@networkerplus Social Media

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Organisational Stress and Sustainable Wellbeing

Stress is a real issue in the workplace and a growing problem. 

Employers recognise the benefits of a stable and well trained workforce; the immediate benefits include an engaged workforce as well as reduced recruitment, training and sick pay costs.

Poor health is one factor that can undermine a sustainable workforce.

More than ever, a wellbeing strategy is a must have if you want your staff to compete and gain an edge from your competitors then you need to look after them.

Firstly, it is very important to understand the culture of the company, the market, the environment, the clients, the demand of the jobs and on the very top knowing your people. They are the ones the day in day out deal with those factors regularly.

The approach used will determine the results. Involve your people, ask them about their challenges, about what they need andhow you can support them as an employer.

Define your strategy to achieve sustainability. It’s not good doing something for the sake of it. You will achieve sustainable wellbeing if you use a holistic approach considering the mind, body and spirit about the employee.

Psychological health, physical health, emotional wellbeing, financial wellbeing – consider all of these then bring the organisation into the equation. Important aspects such as culture, values, internal procedures, communication channels and other factors in your organisation should be looked at.

Sustainable wellbeing will not only make your organisation a stronger business to compete in the market, but also will prevent health and wellbeing absenteeism through a cared approach where the employee comes first. If you get the balance right the results can be magnificent in your business, reducing illnesses, stress levels, increased motivation, sense of belonging and loyalty.

The corporate world is evolving all the time. Do not spend time and money providing training and development that nobody wants; focus on people’s wellbeing now.

It’s all about the approach, it’s all about people.

With a big thank you to Joao Bocas, CEO of Sports13 for submitting this article.

Sports13 are Specialists in Health, Performance & Wellbeing,
T - 01273 810277
M - 07731983936

Monday, 6 August 2012

Follow that star! Harnessing our city’s thriving economy

The British economy shrank by 0.7% between April and June, sending everyone into a spin yet again. But according to an article in The Argus, Sussex’s businesses are bucking the economic trend with confidence surprisingly high.

Despite the gloom and doom, in Brighton and Hove we’re fortunate enough to be experiencing steady economic growth. And we’re doing it all on our own, without much help from those in power. Well done, us.

What can local businesses do to take advantage of the situation?

The news is a serious shot in the arm for local businesses like ours. So what can small business owners do to ride the wave?

Catching different fish

If you haven’t done it already, get cracking and update your prospect database. There’s plenty of fresh potential in town. 

Most of our members operate business-to-business, so think creatively about the kind of businesses that will benefit from your services. If you’re not in the new media sector, it’s the hottest industry in town – can you hook into it? Scour the Argus for inspiration, check the jobs pages to see who’s recruiting (therefore growing).

Making sure you look the part

Does your business look, feel and sound professional or is your public face letting you down? If you’ve been putting it off because you’re too busy, or too busy trying to get busy, now’s the time to overhaul your online and printed collateral. When you look and sound the part, you’ll attract more business. 

Putting yourself about

Are you networking yet?

There are loads of business networking events in Brighton and Hove, all different. If you haven’t experienced a Curry Club event yet, sign up for the next one. Alternatively, pick your weapons based on personal research: choose your top six networks, going by what they say on their websites, and sample them for real so you know for sure the winner (or winners) tick the right boxes.

What about marketing? If you don’t do much, it’s time to make your voice heard so the city’s exciting new prospects can find you. It’s a bit like that film, Field of Dreams. You can’t just build a business and hope customers will magically arrive. You need to tell them you’re here.

Altering your mind-set

There’s a growing body of evidence proving that believing success is possible, better still probable, helps you achieve it in real life. Positive thinking is a handy business tool, and this week’s good news about the local economy gives everyone a solid reason to perk up, gird their loins and take a fresh look at the possibilities.

Don’t believe a word of it? Here’s a fun experiment for you

First, think of something that annoyed you recently. Go over it again and again, re-running it and remembering the feelings you had at the time. Continue for ten minutes and notice how you feel worse as time passes. By the end of the process you’ll probably be livid, fit to kill.

Second, think about something that made you feel really happy. Ruminate, daydream and re-experience it for ten minutes and notice how much happier you feel, and how much more positive you are about your working day. Better? 

You’re in control of how you feel, so let the good news about Sussex’s lively economic landscape drive your attitude to business. You might as well be optimistic, there’s nothing to lose! 

What are you doing to make the most of Sussex’s thriving business scene? Leave a comment and let us know.     

Friday, 13 July 2012

4 great tools to help you overcome small business overload

I mentioned at one of our Brighton Business Curry Clubs that I answered 10,000 emails in 12 months. When we launched the Gatwick Diamond Business Curry Club a month ago, I had 600 emails in 4 days. I answer each of them individually but I understand it when my clients complain of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails that come flooding in. Just knowing there is an ever increasing number of people to reply to can cause stress and panic and is a great cause of bad time management.
How do you react when you’re suffering from overload? Your poor old short term memory can only hold onto so much stuff at any one time and when it overflows, you might find yourself sitting blankly in front of your screen with no idea what you were just doing. Or repeating the same tasks. Or feeling like someone’s stuck a spoon in your brain and stirred it… hard. It’s horrible, and boy does it prevent you from getting things done.

Tools are the answer. Use them wisely, grasshopper, and they’ll save your sanity on a regular basis as well as helping you churn through your work with much less pain and angst.

Googlemail is great if you’re on the move, accessible from any computer or your smartphone. And millions of us use it to keep our email under control.

It blocks spam before it reaches your inbox. There’s a huge amount of space, so much that you may as well call it ‘unlimited’. You can search within Gmail to locate specific messages and it matches messages with responses so you don’t lose track of conversations.

There’s a Priority Inbox at Beta testing stage, which separates important messages from the gumph automatically. You can use Gmail to call other countries at low rates. There’s built-in chat with voice and video, plus super-secure HTTPS encryption.  

How to get it? Sign up for a Google account and follow the signs. 

ActiveInbox is a free plugin/add-on for Gmail which integrates seamlessly with your calendar and other tools. It makes organising tasks and project folders in Gmail easy, so you can work with other people better. It deals with the horrors of email overload by achieving inbox zero – what a relief! You can even use it for creative Customer Relationship Management.

If your email inbox is in a perpetual state of chaos, Activeinbox will soon sort you out. It’s a simple way to organise your Gmail life so you never lose or miss another message or forget a vital task. It keys directly into your Gmail account and transforms it into a wonderfully simple and intuitive task manager.

You can give each email a status and guarantee it gets completed. You can set deadlines and escalate emails elsewhere, achieving perfect filing. Oh, joy!

You can surface important work by moving relevant messages into a project folder as well as store actions, useful information and links to Conversation Notes. Clever shortcuts make cleaning out your inbox a dream. And Activeinbox’s Active Results tool is great for giving you a crystal clear focus on projects, people and deadlines. It’s built by local people, who created the system with the principles and best practices behind Getting Things Done in mind.  Download the free extension here. There is also a Plus version with extra features - if you mention the Brighton Business Curry Club I'll double your free trial to a month.

Disclaimer: I thought this product was so great that I contacted them – turns out the developer is based in Brighton so after a chat to give him some of my thoughts and suggestions from a user’s point of view - now he’s one of my clients and I look after the support (and lots of emails) that come in from the thousands of users around the world who also think ActiveInbox is great.

Remember The Milk 
A bunch of perceptive Aussies created Remember The Milk as a replacement for the slapdash post-it and back-of-your-hand approach to getting things done that so many of us resort to. With its help you can make managing tasks an enjoyable experience instead of an ongoing nightmare of mayhem and chaos.
Here’s a list of what it’ll help you with:
  • Manage tasks fast and easily with due dates, handy keyboard shortcuts and more
  • ‘Locate’ your tasks in the real world – for example pin your reminder to buy milk on a map, on the location of the supermarket
  • Access tasks via your mobile, print lists and populate weekly planners in seconds, plus a calendar facility and Atom/RSS feeds
  • Get SMS, emails and messenger reminders on the move
  • Collaborate, share, send and publish tasks (plan world domination, do the washing up…)
  • Plan, prioritise and postpone with ease, and set repeat tasks months ahead
  •  Create a task cloud in seconds, with tools for tagging, lists and notes
  • Add and search tasks wherever you are
Rapportive shows you everything about your contacts from your inbox. It doesn't help directly with overload, but it does give you essential insights into who is emailing you. You can see their gravatar if they have one, and what they do: their job, company and LinkedIn profile. It pulls in their location, what they’re getting up to with MailChimp and more.

Why bother? It’s useful for establishing a rapport, making contact with people near you, sharing interests and social media activity. It’s great for growing your online network because you can follow people on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etcetera, all without clicking away from your inbox. You can even leave notes for people on their Google profile from your email client.  In February 2012 LinkedIn decided they liked Rapportive so much, they bought the company.

Why suffer? Let tools relieve your GTD burden
If it’s high time you gave yourself a break, click through and get your life back in shape!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Great Home for Curry Club - The Sussex Cricket Ground

The Sussex County Cricket Ground
 The Sussex County Cricket Club is the new home of the Brighton Business Curry Club.

"One of the largest informal networking events in Brighton and Hove."

What with the redevelopment of the PROBIZ County Ground in Hove, the Sussex Cricket Ground have the perfect venue to see the event attract more happy networkers while enjoying a great curry! Here is a little more information about the venue.

Delicious Indian Food

Event and Catering Expertise

1839 Hospitality & Events are able to cater for any kind of event with various different rooms around 'The PROBIZ' giving the option of a modern, adaptable and purpose-built facility compared to the more historic and nostalgic setting.

The Boundary Rooms, built in 2010, can be used for a variety of different functions, seating 300 for dinner as a whole or 60 in each private module if required.

It is extremely popular for Matchday Hospitality with its private viewing area and decking which offers an excellent view of the action.


The Spen Cama Pavilion

The recently refurbished Spen Cama Pavilion, one of the oldest of its kind in County Cricket, now plays host to three very different rooms. It comprises of the spacious Long Room and the charming Dining Room, with a brand new entrance at the back of the Pavilion constructed from scratch. The excellent facilities, which have already received superb feedback over the past twelve months, are developing a blossoming reputation in the City of Brighton & Hove for hosting a range of different events.


Maintaining History and Tradition

The Long Room, which includes the newly refurbished Jim Parks Bar, maintains all the history and tradition of the Pavilion whilst also providing a modern function area, as does The Dining Room which forms the part of the Pavilion nearest the Cromwell Road End.

The Museum, situated in the lower part of the Pavilion, is also suitable for drinks receptions and small parties.

A Venue for Many Occasions

The County now have ample facilities to hold family celebration and occasions, weddings and seasonal celebrations. Not forgetting the business side of the organisation with conferences, teambuilding, small trade shows and seminars, with Sussex CCC being recently nominated in the Brighton & Hove Business Awards Category of 'Best Place to Entertain Your Clients.'

Why does Sussex Cricket Ground work for the Brighton Curry Club?

 Here are a few words from Nick Harvey, one of the Curry Club organisers and founders explaining why the venue works so well:

"Having spoken to a number of event organisers in Sussex, plus having attended a number of events personally at the ground, the Sussex Cricket Ground seemed like a fine choice for our event. Free parking for our attendees, an accessible location, plus great quality food were the obvious draws to the venue; plus in addition to this we have been very impressed in the investment into state of the art facilities. What's more, the team there have an enthusiasm to deliver events which match your expectations and this has been important as we try and improve the offering of the Curry Club."

Getting in Touch

For those looking for more information about 1839:
Or e-mail

Kevin Berry is Sussex’s Catering & Hospitality Manager and he can be contacted on 01273 827124.

Here are a few more images from our most recent business networking event which was held on Tuesday 12th July. The fantastic images are courtesy of Paul Fletcher Photography. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Why Most Business Owners Fail At Social Media Marketing

Imagine this for a second... you’re at a networking event, and talking to people. Someone walks through the door who you’ve not met before and to nobody in particular says...


What do you do next? Ignore them and turn away to continue your conversation? Perhaps you figure you’ll give them a chance so go over to chat.

You shake hands and introduce yourself and tell them that you’re moving into new office premises next week and are busy sourcing the furnishings and equipment.

In response the person replies “well, here is the order form, sign here and I can sell you some whiteboards for your new office... you get one free if you order today.”

What are the chances that you’ll order their whiteboards? Slim to none I reckon!

Yet, every single day, business owners make this critical error in their social media marketing. They sell on first interaction, spend too much time broadcasting and not enough time listening.

If the person selling the whiteboards had taken the time to talk to you first, they may have discovered that you already have whiteboards, but you know someone else who could be interested.

Or they may have realised that when they stop staring at the pound signs over your head, you are an interesting person to talk to, and while you may not be a customer or referrer straightaway, it doesn’t matter because they’ve discovered you have plenty of other stuff in common.

The big difference you can make in social media marketing that will generate more sales is to;


Because, if you can get this right, you create emotional connections with everyone you come into contact with... and I’m sure you’ve heard that most people make emotional buying decisions? Making sales on social media is easy, providing you give people what they want from you.

So, how do you get this right? You SMILE...

S – Solutions:

If you see a tweet or Facebook/Linked in post from someone asking a question and you know the answer, give them the solution they are looking for. You’ll see lots of questions and it is a great way to share your knowledge and expertise... plus you’ll find plenty of opportunities to pass referrals too... double win!

M – Make people feel valued:

It’s a common human trait to make instant judgements. I urge you not to do this on social media but to treat everyone you come into contact with as if they were the most special person in your life at that moment. You know, just because someone doesn’t appear to be a potential client, you might be right, you could be very wrong but more importantly, who do they know?

You want everyone who comes into contact with you to leave with a positive impression... if they don’t, they’re never going to rave about you to their friends or contacts. And how much business will that cost you?

I – Inform, educate and entertain:

Share content that will add value to your followers... whether it is your own or you’ve sourced it elsewhere. Stay true to yourself, don’t try and be someone you’re not but if you have a love of F1 or an opinion on something, share this stuff. People buy from people and you may find clients where you find common interests.

Be careful with humour though, don’t say anything that could cause offence... no matter how funny it might seem at the time. And it’s never a good idea to post when you’re angry or drunk. Step away from the internet. You could damage your brand!

L- Listen:

Make time to listen to what the people around you are saying. To give them what they ask or hope for, you need to know what that is, so spend more time listening than talking. In social media terms that means more time commenting and replying to people than talking about your business. That leads me nicely onto...

E – Engage:

If you make the effort to talk to 6 new people a day on social media, in a year, 2,000+ new people will know who you are... and many (not all, I won’t lie to you) will become customers, referrers and raving fans. Search for keywords and phrases relevant to the problems your products and services solve for your customers and give the poster what they are asking or hoping for.

What I really want you to take away from this post is that your mindset is so important when you are marketing your business on social media. Don’t do anything expecting sales in return. You’ll get more sales if you give of yourself freely and because you care about the people around you.

And when you care about others, they’ll care about you too... and we’re back at the emotional sales decisions again. I promise you one thing, most of your competitors are too busy selling to care so you’ll be their go-to person when they are ready to buy what you offer.


Veronica Pullen has been building profitable relationships on social media for over 15 years and teaches business owners and business celebrities how to generate more sales from social media in her Academy training.

Based in Redhill she is the Surrey Mirror Social Media Columnist and has recently joined our team at the Gatwick Curry Club. Download her free eBook “Unlock The 3 Secrets To Skyrocket your Sales From Twitter” by visiting or follow her on Twitter @VeronicaPullen

Monday, 2 July 2012

Understanding the Benefits of Networking.

Get to know other businesses
Networking Effectiveness.

Recently there have been some great online discussions about whether networking yields the results that you want it to, offering some great insights as to what it means to different business people.

Here is our understanding of networking, what it means to us and how you can use it to your benefit.

Getting to Know Local Businesses
Networking is an incredible tool for generating business in our opinion and it is something which helps businesses understand the different business types that are out there. Also, you can learn a lot about how other businesses conduct themselves, along with what opportunities and challenges they each face on a month to month basis.

So we think there is a lot of added value in networking as you learn about the 'business' environment from each other, plus you see familiar faces time and time again and this allows individuals to open up and trust each other a little more.

Success in networking isn’t guaranteed though and it depends to which business type or industry type you are operating in, your attitude to networking and your ability to spot an opportunity. You never want to be too pushy and it is about the getting the balance right.
"It takes a combination of factors to get networking right; part Ambassador, part sales person and part psychologist. Networking is a skill which fine tunes itself over time, the most important things is to learn from the whole experience and continually quantify how the process is helping your business."
Developing Business Relationships
Be yourself

Networking enhances the process of relationship marketing and relationship building whereby each contact could possibly become a buyer of your products or services.

On the other hand these contacts can  become ‘sales ambassadors’ for your business if they enjoy your personality and what you stand for. Always bare this in mind, you never know where your business may come and it is amazing when you get a referral from a fellow networker.

With all this in mind though, you have to ask yourself the following questions about networking as your time and energy is important to you:
  • Is the perception of what I’m presenting as good as it can be? 
This means 'YOU'. Your delivery, what you wear, your business cards, your body language etc. Ask a friend/ business acquaintance for an honest appraisal of your perception and how it could be improved. This is a great exercise and one that will help you immensely.
  • Is there an opportunity to follow up on this contact? 
Should you add them to your address book, send a full introductory email, a proposal, suggest a face to face meeting - or do nothing at all? Only you can answer this one. Think about any buying signals in a conversation, what will this contact mean to you? The most important thing is to leave a new introduction with a pleasant feeling, this way everything is left positive.

Engage and learn
  • Is this the right networking event for you? 
There are many different networking events out there and you have to look at the positives and negatives of each event. Do you feel comfortable, what are the costs, do you like the format, does it have potential ?

Some people don’t network and they can be incredibly successful. There could be many reasons for this.

Some people don’t network and have very little business.

We personally generate about 50% of business through 'business networking' then about 50% through referrals. Networking sits very prominently within our marketing plan. 
"Networking helps with the development of an individual too and enhances ones ability to communicate. Success in networking takes time, so regular attendance, NOT selling to others directly, but following up on conversations."

 We hope that this article has been  of use and you can pick up a few pointers which will help you improve your networking. Please remember, networking is just one activity within a whole spectrum of sales and marketing activities.

For a list of other networking events to try, please refer to this list.