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Archive for February, 2014

Business Culture – Part 4

If you have a business with employees I strongly recommend engaging them in the process of developing your culture.

This is a good opportunity to review if your employees fit in your business. But, keep in mind that they will probably come up with things that you don’t see and can use.

Once you have developed/documented your culture you need to make sure your business lives by these values. This is best done with support and nurture, however, it should be clear that not living the values after support and culture is unacceptable.

It goes without saying that most importantly you as the leader of the business must be true to the culture. This should not be a problem because you determined the values. Having said that, the values in your culture could be what you “aspire” to be, not what you are.

Think about recognising when your people live the values. There are many ways you can do this including a post on your Website and/or inclusion in your company’s newsletter. You could make a donation to charity in their name and/or perhaps most of all, give them a face-to-face heart-felt thank you.

Think about promotions, pay practices and performance related pay and reward people for living the values. Not necessarily as a bonus but to hit the basic salary – turning up on time and putting the hours in should not be basis of an employees agreement. However, perhaps the most importantly thing is to review your recruitment and training processes.

It is important you develop your own values but here are a few words to get you thinking:


Business Culture – Part 3

This post has some questions to help you discover and develop your business’ culture.

As a business owner you are foremost a leader. But, being a leader doesn’t mean you need to have a big personality with loads of charisma. Many of the most successful business leaders are quiet and thoughtful.

However, being a leader does mean being more open and honest with yourself (and everyone else) about what is inside you than you may have ever been before. Developing your business’ culture can be a journey of self discovery.

You need to be brave and there will be lost of excuses to do something else. But, once you start you will be surprised how quickly you can establish your culture and how profound it is. Remember, the objective is to connect your business and what you do every day to what matters most to you. You will discover or rediscover your true passion.

When you look in the mirror you will feel a sense of pride. When struggling with a difficult challenge you will have the energy of purpose to drive you on. As Accountants in London our culture help me deal with the challenging work.

We can have towards values which result is pleasure and we can have away values which keep us from feeling pain. These questions cover both perspectives and I hope you find them useful:

What do you want to be known for?
Think about your personal brand, your reputation. In other words what you would like people to say about you when you are not in the room.

What do you NOT want to be known for?
Think about the things you do not like in others. Is it not being loyal or perhaps looking out for number one.

If you won the lottery what work would you do for free?
If you were financially independent what would you do? Would you really play golf all day? Most people start a business because they love what they do. What work do you love doing and would do for free if you could?

If you could pay to avoid some work what would it be?
Many business owners find themselves in a position of enjoying some work but almost resenting some work. What would you pay not to do if you could?

What result do you want customers to get from your service/product?
What final outcome do you want for your customer? The outcome we want for you is a business that makes you truly happy. What do you want for your customers?

What do you want customers to avoid by buying your service/product?
Think about what are you helping your customers avoid? We want you to avoid being trapped in your business, feeling frustrated and uninspired.

What motivates you to go the extra mile?
Have a think of work where you over deliver. What gets you motivated enough to do more than people pay you for?

What saps your energy?
We all have things that drain us. It could be people not paying on time or not wanting to do the job properly.

Write the answers down and see if any common themes come up.

Business Culture – Part 2

As Accountants North London, working with small businesses I know many people think ideas like Business Values and Mission Statements are only for big business and question their real value.

Do concepts like vision, values and beliefs really make a difference, especially in small businesses? Well, I see many business (especially big ones) where they clearly don’t make a difference. But, (in my opinion) that is nothing to do with the power of values and beliefs, it is more to do with the way that business has developed them and uses them.

It’s like anything in business….take a Website for example. Some businesses get huge value from their Website, other don’t. It’s not that Websites are bad or good….what matters is how a business uses its Website.

It’s the same for your business’ culture. The key reason why Business Values don’t work is because not enough energy, emotion and passion have gone into developing them.

If you just quickly write a few common and generic value like “we are professional” then don’t be surprised if your business’ culture doesn’t help you. What we are looking for here is deep emotional connection.

To highlight this let me share with you some of our culture at Sackmans. Here is the introduction o the culture section from our brand guidelines:

The culture of Sackmans is of vital importance because it helps us deliver our best work. 

Our culture is determined by the way we behave.  However, more fundamental is our beliefs and attitudes because these determine how we behave. Managing the culture of our brand is as simple as being conscious of and controlling the way we think and then behave. That is, the way we talk to ourselves, the way we perform our work and how we treat people.

Here is an example of how the Sackmans culture impacts me and my business.

It is not enough for me to be a good accountant…I need to believe my “work matters”. I want relationships that truly enhance my client’s lives.

This belief is central to my marketing. When a business owner chooses to work with Sackmans they are deciding and choosing a better life, not just a better accountant.

This belief/value gives me an immense about of energy and determination. My business is not just about making some money, I have a purpose. My work every day has meaning.

Can you see how this also moves the focus away from my price? and goes along way towards building a remarkable brand?

Remember, to be successful with marketing in today’s highly competitive world we all need to strive towards being remarkable.

Perhaps developing your culture will help you demonstrate how remarkable you are.

Business Culture – Part 1

This post is the first in a series of four about how your business’ culture is fundamental to your success.

What is culture?
One definition of Culture is a set of worthwhile share beliefs, values and attitudes. These are the highest priorities, deeply help beliefs and are core to your business and brand. You could call them your business’ guiding principles.

If you think about it, every business has a culture. If you think of an iceberg what you can see is the behaviour and results. However, what drives these is the culture which is below the surface.

A businesses culture will develop whether you plan it or not. It is either explicit and decided upon by the founder/s and management team or left to chance. But, if it is going to happen why not create a culture for your business that you love and inspires people?

The trouble with not defining and managing a business’ culture is that no one knows what the business stands for. Perhaps more important than this is no one know what the business doesn’t stand for. Remember, the essence of strategy is saying no you need a culture to refer to when making important decisions.

It is important to understand that all these things can and do change. What you believe today you may not believe tomorrow. What you used to value may not be as important today. And, depending on your age and experience your attitudes towards certain things may be different.

How important is culture?
Well, everything is important but some things are best considered before others. As Accountants in London who advise small businesses Culture is one of the first things I think you should consider early on.

The thing is, if you don’t have an effective culture you may find yourself experiencing some of the common problems faced by business owners including:

  • Fighting for work on price
  • Feeling uninspired
  • Struggling to motivate employees
  • Lack of focus
  • Stagnation


On the other hand, if you invest time and energy into creating an amazing culture for your business the effects can quickly and dramatically change your business, and your life.

By working on your culture you will :

  • Create a remarkable brand
  • Feel inspired and inspire others
  • Avoid competing on price
  • Attract and retain the best employees
  • Improve all your marketing
  • Identify right customers to work with
  • Help avoid the wrong customers
  • Make difficult decisions easier


You see, when you look at everything through the lens of your culture, like developing a new service or product, writing copy for your Website or taking on employees everything will be different, much easier and effective.

It is important to keep in mind that your business’ culture, like the rest of your business plan is not something you write and file away. The idea is that you keep coming back to it because it’s your lighthouse in a storm.


Social Proof – Part 2

Case Studies are effectively more in-depth testimonials and are an important element of a business’ marketing, especially high price items and important purchases.

Think of a case study as a story and they can be used to:

• Generate leads
• To get PR (publications love real stories of customers)
• Support your pricing
• Convince prospects to buy

It is vital that you have a clear objective for a case study. This means that each one needs to highlight at least one key benefit of your product or service.

It is also important you produce different case studies for different types of customer you have. This will make your testimonials more relevant and powerful to the person reading them.

As an accountant, a case study about how I helped a well established business save lots of tax may be interesting but not necessarily relevant to a start-up. Much better and more effective for a start-up to read about how I helped a new business prepare a business plan and get the bank to support them with an overdraft facility.

The structure of a Case Study is important and here is a suggest format:

• Eye catching headline
• Picture of the customer (preferably professionally shot)
• Outline the situation and problem
• Give details of the implications of the problem
• Explain the solution
• Details the results (including implications)
• Summarise the lessons learned
• Include contact details

The case study can be more compelling if you include comments from the customer and make use of powerful language. Make sure you describing how the customer felt before the solution as well as their feelings afterwards. Use emotive language, similes, metaphors and comparisons to bring your writing to life.

I don’t think you should pay for testimonials or case studies because it sends an unconscious signal to brain that you can buy them rather than work for them; I think you can offer to pay expenses for people that help. You could also offer to make a charitable donation in their name.

At Sackmans Accountants London we use giving via B1G1 to say thanks to clients who help us by providing testimonials and case studies. If you would like to help and give a family in need some help then please give me a call.

Social Proof – Part 1

Social Proof is about using psychology to improve the effectiveness from your marketing.

Humans are essentially social animals and we are influences by the actions of others. You can refer to groups of people as our colleagues, peers, pack, tribe, team or gang and we look at them for clues on what we should be doing.

This is because humans have a powerful psychological need to fit in and be accepted. Years ago this was for survival because we needed our pack to survive. This basic human driver is very much alive in all of us today.

This is a very powerful human driver which can be harnessed in our marketing. Keep in mind that marketing is essentially a “promise” of a benefit and prospects need to believe they will receive the benefit before they buy. If they know others have bought and received the benefit they are much more likely to buy. And, if more people buy your service or product compared to the competition then prospects are more likely to choose you.

At the end of the day, prospects are more likely to believe the word of a fellow customer than the person who will make profit from them.

Here are some ways you can use Social Proof:

• Testimonials
• Case Studies
• Facebook likes
• Twitter followers
• LinkedIn endorsements
• YouTube views
• A community forum
• Celebrity endorsements
• Evidence and statistics

A testimonial is short endorsement from a happy customer. It is often written but, with YouTube being the second largest search engine, videos are being used for maximum effect.

Testimonial can be given and published by you or third parties. For example, Ebay comments, Google Places comments or Tripadvisor reviews. Businesses like Amazon use this to great effect by encouraging their customers to rate books and leave testimonials.

Here are some key elements of a good testimonial:

• Identifies the person giving the testimonial
• Includes contact details of the person
• Outlines a specific benefit they received
• Quantifies the benefit
• Includes a photograph of the person

There are a number of ways to get testimonials. Sometimes you will get letters or more commonly emails of thanks without asking. Follow up on these and turn them into structured testimonials.

You can simply ask for a testimonial or endorsement after a customer uses your service or buys your product. This can be done as a follow up customer care call or simply call or write to your customers asking for some help. Good customers who are happy will be pleased to help and keep in mind that if you sell B2B, testimonials also raise the awareness of the business giving the testimonial.

Most people will be happy to give a testimonial but may not know what to say or be good at writing. They may also not say exactly what you want so, it can be a good idea to offer to draft something for them to consider.

Other ways you can collect and encourage testimonials is with:

• Contents
• Feedback forms/cards
• Questionnaires
• Page on Website for testimonials
• Email footer request

Keep in mind that celebrity endorsements do not have to be global stars; they can be local people who are well known or local businesses.

Once you have testimonials make sure you use them on:

• All offline and online marketing collateral
• Sales presentations and proposals
• Dealing with concerns and objections in sales meetings
• On the walls of your office
• In a book in reception

Now read Social Proof part 2.