2013

Yearly Archives

  • Why take on a voluntary role?

     

    With the summer nearly over, children back to school and my Bedfordshire BusinessWomen (BBW) Presidential year is coming to an end. As a business woman in 2013, I have been taking some time to consider how worthwhile my role as President has been to my business and to the services that I offer to my clients.

    Being President has added real value to my business and whilst the workload has been at times overwhelming, I have a much stronger portfolio of skills and experience as a result. Anyone considering taking up a voluntary role should consider these business benefits, which often cannot be achieved any other way. 

    So, I wanted to share some of my highlights of being President of BBW during the last year.

    October 2012 and our 25th year of networking started on a high as Finalists for Fundraiser of the year 2012 at the Pride in Bedford Awards. Our first event was an evening fashion show at Mercedes Benz of Bedford, where some of our members modeled on the catwalk.

    November 2012 was an exceptional month, winning the Community Investment Award, at the Beds & Luton Business Excellence Awards 2012, and at the same event Finalists for Enterprising Organisation of the year 2012, as well as Runners-Up for Networking Group of the Year 2012 at the East of England Business Champions 2012. 

    We were treated to breakfast in the Mayors parlour and later in November, afternoon tea at Woburn with workshops delivered by members. After a great Christmas afternoon event with fun, frolics and Santa, at the Embankment Hotel, in December, we started 2013 off with the traditional ‘Man Day’ at Millbrook Proving Ground, with over 60 men and women experiencing an exciting day of high-speed pro-drives, professional networking and inspiring presentations.  We also celebrated with our annual International Women’s Day event, sponsored by Bedford College, where we were dined in decadent surroundings at the Mansion House, Old Warden.

    Always keen to raise money for charity, other than The Road Victims Trust  (RVT)my charity of the year, we took part in the Ladies Driving Challenge, RAF Alconbury, for The Fire Fighters Charity, raising over £1,000, this was definitely one of my highlights from the year.

    There are many more highlights; yoga at Champney’s in March, joint FSB Business Expo in April, Putteridge Bury in May, Lifestyle event, Luton Hoo in July and my leaving event, an afternoon garden party at Milton Ernest.

    New for my year are monthly workshops at the i-Lab run by our own members and any member is welcome to run workshops, or share with BBW, aspects of their business, we actively encourage joint working and networking outside of BBW events.

    It wouldn’t be right to finish this review without mentioning our spectacular 25th anniversary ball and awards evening in June at the Sharnbrook Hotel – a truly glamorous event and very befitting of such a wonderful group of ladies and of course also winning the FSB Best Networking Group 2013 in June.

    Finally, I would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has contributed to BBW in some way, for supporting me as President, and made this another successful year for us all. I wish Emma and the members of BBW all the very best for the coming 12 months.

    Amanda Murrell

     

     

  • Mentors – we all need them!

    The last few weeks have given us all some much-needed sunshine and with the school holidays now upon us it is really starting to feel like summer. This time last year we were all enthralled with the Olympic and Paralympic Games and once again the county has come alive, this time with the excitement of the arrival of the Royal Baby, with many local business offering something special to support this wonderful event.

    Whether you run a business, work in a small company or run a household, having a mentor or a network that can give you advice and support can make the difference between success and failure. As a business coach, mentor and trainer, I am a great believer in supporting people to exceed their potential and have been working with a number of local businesses, both small and large, to provide coaching and mentoring services and also workshops to support companies through periods of change. It isn’t a weakness to ask for help, in fact every great leader in business has at least one person who they meet with regularly to bounce ideas or problems off; that is what helps to make them so successful.

    And with that in mind it is also important that we all find an opportunity this month to take some time out for ourselves so that we can relax, unwind and rebalance, ready for the challenges ahead. It doesn’t have to be a long holiday or trip abroad – a simple hour or two of escapism is often enough to refresh and refocus our minds. Last week I was invited to experience a fish pedicure, which was both invigorating and relaxing, and a very therapeutic way to spend some time without the pressures of work. 

    Amanda Murrell

     

  • Winning an award makes it all worthwhile

    This month I am going to write from my President of Bedfordshire Business Women role for a change! Especially as this has been one of the most amazing months for me both personally and professionally as a result of my Presidency.

    June 2013 was a monumental month for Bedfordshire Business Women (BBW) with the prestigious BBW awards and 25th anniversary ball taking place at The Sharnbrook Hotel. After months of preparation and many a sleepless night, to stand back and look at the amazing women and all they have achieved throughout the year, made me feel very proud and very privileged to be a part of such a fantastic group.

    When I took over as President of BBW I never thought I would remember people’s names but looking round the room it was like an extended family. I know every member’s name and even some of the names of their support networks, and it was so nice to talk to people in the glittering but relaxed environment.

    The announcement of the award winners was the surprising part of the evening. Nobody, including me, was aware of the results, as the whole process had been outsourced to ensure complete fairness and independence.  And I was absolutely shocked (but truly delighted) to have won the Bedfordshire Business Woman of the Year Award 2013. This is the first award I have ever won and I am still pinching myself!  Thank you to everyone who took part in the process, whether through nominating someone or through your award submission, and well done to everyone involved.

    For anyone entering an award, the process itself really focuses you to think about what you have achieved and is a great way to record and reflect on your progress. And even if you are not the overall winner, it will give you a tremendous confidence boost, and encourages you to go back to colleagues/associates for testimonials. And if you are a winner, then you can use that success to keep building your business for the future.

    So, after a fabulous night of good times and success, on behalf of BBW I would like to express thanks to both the Mayor and Richard Fuller MP for their support to BBW, and of course to all of our wonderful sponsors and supporters on the night, without you we could not have made the night so memorable.

    I would encourage any woman in business in Bedfordshire to come along to one of our meetings. BBW is a friendly group, where we offer support and encouragement to all of our members and guests, we provide plenty of opportunities for women in business to collaborate and work for each other.

    Amanda Murrell

  • The value of work-life balance!

    Having spent a good proportion of this week working on Bedfordshire BusinessWomen, trying to juggle my business and all of the other domestic duties it has been quite difficult to get a good balance.

    That is where it is so difficult to balance your work life between the business that is paying the bills and the pro-bono work.

    We have to be capable of knowing at what level we get involved with the pro-bono work and there is no crystal ball that will tell you when, if or what opportunities might arise from such work.

    It is through experience that we learn but sometimes we learn a very hard lesson that can be at a huge cost to a small business.  Ensuring that invoicing is kept up to date and you are on top of it is critical and making sure that terms and conditions are issued at the point you raise an invoice so that the two can be sent together is equally important.  Very often we do not think to send a cancellation policy, but if a client cancels part, or all of the contract with short notice you may still have to pay a cancellation fee to those you have commissioned to work with you, or printing costs etc, which can leave you out of pocket.

    At the end of the day we are all in business to make money and have a good quality of life so if you are doing more pro-bono work than paid and you are not getting invoices paid then that quality of life will suffer.  I am not saying that you should not do any voluntary work but to get the balance right.

    Amanda Murrell

  • Awards – we need the application as much as we need to win!

    We all know that in order to make our business unique, credible and worth investing in, it’s important that we can prove our worth.  There are many ways to achieve this but one of the most effective is to enter and win awards, this confirms that your business has been benchmarked against others, has been through a scrutiny process and that it is a credible and successful business.

    Entering and winning awards can raise your profile, enhance your reputation, allow you to receive the recognition you deserve, instil trust, attract new business and ultimately make you more profitable.

    Compiling the application for an award is an incredible way to focus your mind on your achievements and provides the opportunity to ask your clients for testimonials. 

    Spending time on your business and not in your business is a valuable activity for us all.

    Amanda Murrell

  • The benefits of good communication skills

    Attending an acting workshop recently reinforced my opinion on how important good communication is in every aspect of our lives, it is the basis for all human interaction and is therefore essential to the smooth running of any business. Clear, precise communication can reduce wasted effort and resources, and avoid frustrating delays.

    Barriers to effective communication can retard or distort the message and intention of the message being conveyed which may result in failure of the communication process or an effect that is undesirable such as conflict. These include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotions, language, silence, communication apprehension, gender differences and political correctness.

    For many of us communication can be particularly difficult when there is something negative to say, or when someone needs to be interrupted or stopped and being able to extract and relay information without upsetting or irritating people is a key communication skill.

    Conflict can occur if there has been a breakdown or barrier in the communication.  Managing conflict can be very costly.  Recent research has proved that UK managers spend up to 1.8hrs per week dealing with workplace conflict. It would therefore make more sense to try to prevent unnecessary conflict than spend time managing the consequences.

    Another major reason for conflict during communication is when someone feels as though they are being blamed for something. It is therefore helpful to find ways of avoiding direct blame, you might want to outline how you feel about what is happening rather than what they are doing, i.e. separate the behaviour from the person, for example;

    • ‘I feel as though I’m not being listened to’, rather than ‘You are not listening to me.’
    • ‘This kind of behaviour is not conducive to a good working relationship’, rather than ‘you are acting like a prima donna and it’s sabotaging this project.’

    There are many other reasons why conflict can occur which are too numerous to cover here but in my communication workshops we go more in depth and learn how to be effective communicators, how to manage conflict and change and how to reduce some of the barriers to communication. For more information email; info@amassocs.com .

    Research shows that the majority of our communication is non verbal, also known as body language. In fact, 63-93% of communication is non-verbal. Some of non verbal communication includes, gesture, body language or posture; facial expression and eye contact, object communication such as clothing, hairstyles, architecture, symbols infographics, and tone of voice as well as through an aggregate of the above.

    As a type of face-to-face communication, body language and choice of tone play a significant role, and may have a greater impact upon the listener than informational content.

    It can be easy for us to focus on speaking; we want to get our points out there, because we usually have lots to say! However, to be a great communicator, you also need to step back, let the other person talk, and just listen……

    Listening is hard work, which is why effective listening is called active listening. When we listen actively, we need to give our undivided attention to the sender of the message.

    But even the best communicators can sometimes be misunderstood, and need help to hone their skills. We will never get it right all of the time and in most cases we just need to take some breathing space to think before communicating so that emotions don’t take over, a few minutes to reflect can save a lot of time and energy in the long run.

    Amanda Murrell

  • Is growth closer than we think?

    How great it is to see the sun and it is amazing how much better everything appears when the sun shines. So it is pretty encouraging all round especially with the news this week that according to the preliminary GDP data released by the Office of National Statistics last month, the UK economy grew by 0.3 per cent between Q4 and Q1.

    In the process, the UK narrowly avoided falling into an unprecedented ‘triple dip’ recession, following the ‘double dip’ at the start of 2012 and the initial – much sharper – fall in output in 2008/09. Courtesy of http://www.thisismoney.co.uk

    Though it is important not to assume that the economy will be as it was pre 2009 we should none the less take heart in the fact that trade does seem to be increasing, so we need to be ready and plan ahead.

    We know that working hard as an entrepreneur comes with the territory, and work-life balance isn’t a luxury most young entrepreneurs can afford. But you can take it too far and wear yourself out, which won’t do you or your business any favours. So in terms of planning you need to take into account the hard work that is necessary to build your business, while allowing free time for recharging when necessary.

    When you are not worn out all of the time you can enjoy what you are doing more.  Getting enjoyment and fulfilment out of your business should be at the top of your priority list, as a lot of other pieces fall into place when that’s taken care of. Plus one of the other unexpected benefits will be that you will run your business better.

    When you’re exhausted, you think you’re making good decisions, but your thought processes can be skewed. Taking time out of the business will give you more clarity, help you to focus on long term business planning and even improve your relationships with staff, vendors and customers.

    So it is important to take time out and enjoy the sunshine making the most of it when you can.  Another feel good factor is to be around like minded people to share your successes and concerns.

    Amanda Murrell

  • International Women’s Day

    As we approach International Women’s Day, March 8th, it makes me think about all of the very successful women there are in business.  But according to recent research, women in business still tend to be at a distinct disadvantage when securing funding for their business (it does not say why or what funding), it also found that women tend to be charged higher rates of interest when taking out loans – an average of 2.9%, substantially more than the 1.9% average charged to men.  Despite these statistics (statistics don’t always reflect the true picture) the UK now houses a thriving female entrepreneurial community.

    According to Daniel Goleman the author of “The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights” one of the reasons why women are effective leaders is because on average they outdo men when it comes to sensing a person’s feelings in the moment and more attuned to Emotional Intelligence (the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions).

    Psychology Today recently featured Meg Whitman, former CEO of ebay and current CEO of HP for leading with emotional intelligence. During her eight years with ebay it was the fastest growing company in history. In her book The Power of Many, she writes: “I believe that being willing and able to actively listen is a vital skill for any leader. Not only is listening the right thing to, an antidote to arrogance, it also leads to all sorts of competitive advantages.”

    Use your Emotional Intelligence to develop “perspective” – patterns of recognition combined with experience – within your company. (Doctors do it all the time by building up case histories and finding patterns of symptoms.) People without perspective see the world from their own limited viewpoint and keep pushing that viewpoint. When you have perspective, you can step outside your own worldview and acknowledge other perspectives – your customers’, your colleagues’, your direct reports’, and your boss’s.

    It makes sense that today’s organizations will struggle to survive, much less thrive, if they are simply a collection of IQ skills – finance, statistics, information systems, product development, technology, manufacturing, delivery, marketing, etc.

    IQ skills need to be balanced with elements of Emotional Intelligence – honesty, trust, integrity, intuition, imagination, resilience, purpose, commitment, influence, motivation, sensitivity, empathy, humour, courage, conscience and humility.

    Use feedback from your heart, not just your head. It’s what ignites creative genius, keeps us honest with ourselves, shapes trusting relationships, provides an inner compass for our business lives and careers, guides us to unexpected possibilities, and may even save us or our company from disaster. As Emotional Intelligence is more and more frequently linked to success and profitability, it is gaining legitimacy – even among some of its sceptics.

    Amanda Murrell

     

  • The value of networking

    We all know how tough it is in the business world at the moment, we need to be able to talk to likeminded professionals, be more innovative in the way we operate and investigate potential collaboration or partnership working in order to maximise our earning capacity.

    Business culture is extremely people centric, with an emphasis on trust, familiarity and relationship building at the core of most business deals.  As the saying goes “it’s not what you know it’s who you know”.

    One of the most effective ways to meet and find business opportunities is through networking, across the globe there are a plethora of networking groups of all varying size and membership; which one you choose will be down to individual preference.  Networking is all about building relationships and connections in a purposeful, organised way and not just an opportunity to quickly acquire names of people. It provides the ideal environment to learn what potential clients need and want also the opportunity to see what competitors are doing.  

    Building a good credible rapport with someone can take place immediately or can take many months to cultivate, referrals are based on one common human value, summed up as ‘Givers Gain’ or ‘what goes around, comes around’ or if you prefer ‘you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours’. Whichever way you choose to describe it, this principle undeniably works. Networking will not always provide you with an instant result you just never know when a referral may happen, and the business landscape is always changing bringing with it opportunities.  

    It is so important that your elevator pitch (your 30-60 second or four sentences long, company introduction) is succinct and really portrays what you do as that is your first impression to really showcase you and your business.

    Networking is here to stay and is a really useful marketing tool if used correctly.

    Happy networking.

    Amanda Murrell

  • Welcome to 2013 – a year of prosperity!

    Well here we are again, the end of another year.  Whatever your business, the end of the year is a great time for reflection, and I for one will use it as a time to look back over  the past twelve months,  consider the highs and lows and review my  ambitions and targets.  The New Year can even prompt us to make life-changing decisions;  as the saying goes “out with the old and in with the new”.

    Whatever path you choose to take in 2013, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have good supportive networks, especially if you are in business on your own; to boost you when you feel alone, to offer support and advice through both the good and bad times and to share in the celebration of your successes. Decisions always seem easier when you have someone to bounce ideas off in your personal life, and this goes for your business life too.

    We’ve all heard time and time again that anything worth accomplishing is worth fighting for and taking a new direction in 2013 may well be the most rewarding and satisfying thing you have ever done.  If you are not enjoying work, if you feel unhappy and have lost the drive and passion for what you do then I urge you to use this time of the year to really take stock and reassess your business, job and personal life, thinking long and hard about what it is you’d really like to do.  Think of that ‘gap in the market’ you have spotted, that niche that needs filling and ‘go for it’!

    But, if you do decide to make a change and perhaps start up on your own, you need to be aware that running  your own business will not be easy.  It will test you mentally, physically and emotionally.  It will test your relationships and your finances.  However, overcoming challenges can give you an incredible buzz, and having the tenacity and resilience, particularly in this economic climate, to seek knowledge, resources, contacts and customer base will pay dividends.  Increasing and retaining customers is paramount for our survival, so think about being unique and special and develop sound business values which can be the key to success and satisfaction. 

    So that is your New Year’s Resolution sorted but we mustn’t forget that Christmas is a time when people think about giving.   I believe that as business men and women, we have a genuine responsibility to society, and we are often placed in the fortunate position of being able to give something back.  I know I have a very real desire to improve the lives of individuals and ensure that ethical values permeate every aspect of my business.  We should all be committed to providing locally-focussed environmentally-friendly products and services wherever possible.

    Giving back also includes charitable donations, and which one we choose will depend on our own life experiences, often positive but also sadly, sometimes tragic.  The way we donate may be through purchasing charity Christmas cards, running marathons or simply setting up a monthly direct debit to the charity of our choice,  all very real ways we can all make a difference to others less fortunate.

    Merry Christmas and a very prosperous New Year to you all.