The revolution might be televised

I was blogging from beyond the grave (outside the office) last week because I was away filming a well-known teatime television quiz show.


Although I’m bound by the Official Secrets Act and can’t say what happened, it was a great day and I had a lot of fun.


It’s strange though how it seems that “being on telly” is still quite a big deal, and how my friends and family are still really intrigued by what happened and how it all works backstage.


There’s also the novelty factor of meeting “celebrities”, etc.


My thinking is that the medium would have been diluted somewhat by the internet.


Being broadcast to a wider audience is no longer something exclusive to the world of television or film, as pretty much everyone has several social media accounts.


People can have their actions, thoughts and opinions beamed around the world at any time, sometimes to an audience many times bigger than the ones even the most popular television programmes get.


But yet saying you’re going to be on television elicits a reaction that you might not necessarily get if you were, for example, telling people you live-stream PC games to a regular sizable audience on an evening.


Or that you have thousands of Instagram followers who love what you’re having for tea every night.


I think it comes down to being given the thumbs up by professionals who are paying good money to have you appear on their highly-regulated, advertising-driven TV channel. There’s a filter in place there, and it’s still unusual to get beyond that.


In relation to this blog, what I’m trying to say is that there’s probably still value in television advertising, even if you’re a small business.


Apparently we still see an average of 47 adverts on telly every day. That’s a lot higher than I thought.


And the prices for advertising on ITV’s regional networks can be as little as £5,000. Of course this is still a decent-sized sum for most, but not as out of reach as I initially thought.


Turns out neither are a lot of forms of adverting that are largely considered to only be for the big boys.


You don’t need to go viral or spam social media to be seen.


See what your more traditional, but still really viable options are here:


It’s all in Module 10 by the way.



Honesty is the best policy – blogging to a loyal readership

While writing our latest upcoming course about content marketing, I started thinking about what makes an audience come back to a blog or social media account.


There’s a lot of people out there writing articles and giving you the hard facts on a subject.


Whereas they’re very useful when the time is right, they’re often unlikely to make a reader want to return for more on a voluntary basis.


Some of the most successful blogs out there seem to be those ones written by mums, where they throw out funny stories about family life.


There’s a few of them I’ve seen ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ on Facebook, so I can’t remember what they’re called but it usually comes across as a kind of “confessional” where they don’t hold back about how stressful parenting can be and how annoying they sometimes find their kids.


Some of the success seems to come down to the honest nature of it, and how it contrasts with the image a lot of people like to portray on social media. It’ll strike a chord with a lot of people.


That “insider-knowledge” thing works really well.


Another example is a blog called Digitiser 2000. In the 1990s the writer used to be the computer games journalist on Teletext, who used to publish daily.


The irreverent humour and numerous in-jokes helped create a very loyal readership, but this was also helped massively by not being biased toward or against certain games companies, as most other gaming magazines were.


In fact, I’m quite sure they had the tagline “we hate everyone equally”. It gave the impression that their opinions and reviews could be trusted and taken seriously, as you knew that they wouldn’t give weight to a particular publisher or console unfairly.


Digitiser wrapped up in 2003, but re-emerged online late in 2015 to the joy of the old readership.


Clearly the fan-base was still there, built up over several years back in the Teletext days over a decade ago.


This was proven by the willingness of readers to crowdfund the new website via Patreon, simply so it doesn’t go away again.


Even though these two examples weren’t created with making a profit in mind, reader loyalty means that the blogging mums can release a book people are willing to pay for, and the Teletext games journo can ask for sponsorship to keep the project going.


It’s a powerful tool, and one we look at further in our Guide to Website Builders for Small Business along with other online marketing methods:



Don’t put the cart before the horse when business planning

As shown by previous blog posts, every now and again I like to visit the business forum pages and see what queries entrepreneurs are posing to the community there.


Some of the most interesting ones are about marketing, as they nearly always give excellent advice.


This is the case with one story I’ve been following.


It’s a software firm offering bespoke accounting software. By the sounds of it, they build the software you need from the ground up based on exactly what you need from it.


Apparently this normally costs thousands as a one-off payment, but this firm allow clients to subscribe for a more reasonable fee.


The reason they’re posting on the forum is because even though they already have a couple of clients signed up, they have numerous visitors to their website who aren’t translating into customers.


All the responses from the community about why this may be so make a lot of sense.


  • Work out who needs your product, and who their influencers are.
  • Develop a unique selling point; what makes your software different?
  • As usual, sell the benefits not the features. The seller is very proud of their work and wants to show what it can do, but not seeing things from a customer’s point of view.
  • On the website, say what the product is right away to eliminate confusion.
  • Explain what the different options for a customer needing accounting software would be – and how choosing your option is best.


To be fair, this advice could be taken on by almost any entrepreneur or start up.


At least three of the points should come under your Business Plan, which you should create right at the beginning of your venture.


So even if you have a great product, you shouldn’t put the cart before the horse and hope it finds its target market all by itself.


But you will need more information that those five points.


Find out what they are here:



No ball games? Camaraderie in the workplace

Following yesterday’s post about Neil’s eBook ‘Engage for Profit’ going on sale, I’m going to continue with the employee engagement theme.


There’s a chapter of the book about changes that can be made in the workplace to increase engagement.


One tip is to encourage camaraderie.


It says: “Encouraging your teams to get to know each other and build bonds can be a really effective way of increasing engagement.


It will encourage your workers to consider themselves as part of a team and take responsibility for their role and obligations to co-workers.”


In truth, this can be achieved through the smallest of changes.


I remember when I worked at a previous job. There was a small basketball hoop in the office, and after a few weeks a kind of unofficial basketball league emerged.


Every now and again someone would have a shot at the basket, with different points for successful shots further away etc.


It wasn’t much, but it encouraged a sense of fun within the office – broke the ice with new starters, was a talking point, you know, that kind of thing.


Unfortunately, a new manager came in one day and immediately took it down.


Apparently it was unprofessional and a waste of time.


Don’t get me wrong, I’d understand that stance if the ball was flying around constantly in an unsafe way, but it really wasn’t.


The heavy-handedness of the manager naturally left everyone feeling deflated, and, despite it only being a minor thing, it basically made everyone in the office feel like idiots who couldn’t be trusted.


Bizarrely, said management then attempted to bring in their own fun by setting up a Nintendo Wii in the next room.


An activity that would surely take longer and be more disruptive in the long term.


It ended up being a total failure, as the sudden U-turn seemed somewhat patronising and hypocritical.


So the takeaway from this for managers is to not shut down any genuine camaraderie or sense of fun your employees have.


By all means, try to channel that into something that can suit both employees and management, but simply shutting it down and branding it as “unprofessional” won’t do you any favours.


So what’s the best tactic for a manager? Have a read of Neil’s book and see:



Engage for Profit eBook – now available on Amazon

Did you know that Made Not Born MD Neil Atkinson has a book out?


You do now – Engage for Profit is available on Amazon as an eBook for only 99p, or for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited customer.


The book looks into the benefits of employee engagement, and how it can give your business committed employees, increased productivity, fewer absences, increased loyalty and more ‘brand ambassadors’.


It’ll also explore the following:


  • How grievances can actually be good for your company
  • The tell-tale habits of a bad manager
  • Why employees being at work isn’t always the best case scenario
  • How your workplace environment can affect staff sickness rates
  • What you can do to get to the root of any problems within your business


It might be the best 99p you ever spend!


Download it right here:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.1 – Managing cash flow

We’re finally at the end of this week’s countdown of the top 6 finance-related issues that keep business owners awake at night!


It’s also World Sleep Day, so it’s worked out perfectly. In case you haven’t been reading up to now (boo) here’s the rest of the list:


  1. Being as tax efficient as possible
  2. Understanding your business’s profitability
  3. Not knowing how your business is performing
  4. Finding funding
  5. Up-to-date bookkeeping


So what’s number 1? Here it is…




It’s in the title of this post anyway – it’s managing cash flow.


Clearly managing cash flow is the most worrying issue – with nearly three-quarters (74.3%) of respondents citing it as a current or previous concern.


Breaking that down further reveals that 31% considered it an issue that they are working to resolve.


40.7% said it used to be an issue, but they’d now resolved it.


Only 2.6% said it was a problem that they hadn’t got round to addressing yet.


This shows that although worrying about cash flow is a problem for many, it is more than possible to tackle it.


The worry about cash flow is understandable – your business needs cash in order to survive.


In comparison to another similar problem – profitability – cash flow is concerned with the cash you have in your business right now as opposed to the cash you’re owed.


Of course, you could be owed all the money in the world, but if you don’t have it in your business now then you can’t pay your bills.


So it’s obvious why it’s the number one issue on KPMG’s report.


The report does reveal how the business leaders solved the problem, however.


According to the anecdotal evidence, the answer was to move to cloud-based accounting software and change internal business practices:


“Lack of up to date management info [was a concern]. Switched to cloud-based system; was very successful.”


“Ability to produce monthly reports without having someone creating them in Excel… Implementing and customising CRM allows us to report weekly again without someone having to produce the reports.”


“Using a programme like Xero has been very successful.”


For the changes to internal business practices, the respondents even mentioned cash flow specifically:


“Cash flow was a major concern, so we adapted our reporting to make it more accurate so we had a clearer idea of our present and future cash position.”


“[Addressed] cash flow and profitability… by involving the staff in targets for success [and] altering our terms of business to invoicing on the date the ‘deal is done’.”


The anecdotal evidence is backed up by the statistics. When it came to moving to cloud-based accounting software, 54.5% of respondents said it had been “extremely successful” in solving their problem.


A further 24.1% in addition said it had been “quite successful”.


Cash flow isn’t a problem that comes under the usual remit of a hired accountant, so this could be why it is a problem.


Through cloud-based software, a business owner can get a clearer picture of how they’re doing and “run a tighter ship”, so to speak.


Naturally, this is going to help them sleep easier at night.


Before concluding this week’s blogging about the KPMG report, I’ll mention that the statistics show that the more finance-related issue a business owner has, the more disturbed their sleep patterns are.


By giving more tasks to their accountant, finding an accountant who can help, or moving their financial forecasting to cloud-based software, they are significantly reducing the issues that are causing them stress and keeping them up.


It’s also creating an environment conducive to success and growth, where an entrepreneur can concentrate on promoting their business and selling their products.


Overall, if you want to put your financial issues to bed and grow your business too, go here:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.2 – Being as tax efficient as possible

Trying to be as tax efficient as possible is a big concern keeping business owners awake.


That’s according to KPMG’s survey of 250 business leaders, where it placed 2nd on the list of financial issues depriving entrepreneurs of sleep.


10.9% said it is a current issue but haven’t addressed it yet.


28.9% said it was a current concern they’re working to resolve.


25.9% had it as a previous concern, now resolved.


So out of all 250 respondents, only 34.2% didn’t worry about being tax efficient.


It seems a bit strange too, as other tax-related concerns, such as filling out tax returns correctly and on-time are considered a very low priority issue.


I think the problem here isn’t so much the businesses not being tax compliant, but just feeling that they’re paying too much tax.


They could be in the wrong tax bracket, or know they’re missing out on certain tax breaks that would save them a lot of money.


Without bringing it up directly, there are many accountants who probably wouldn’t think to go the extra mile and research how a client could pay less tax.


They’d just believe that keeping the client tax compliant was enough, and that would constitute “doing their job”.


If you feel this is the case, then maybe your accountant isn’t right for you.


A really good accountant should use their experience to know what relief you could be entitled to.


Depending on the size of your business, it’s geographical location, and the industry you trade in, you could be paying incorrect business rates to your local council.


Would you know if you qualify for tax relief through capital allowances, research and development, or by being considered part of the creative industry?


Many don’t, and end up paying too much.


One of the case studies on the report is from a happy business owner who got a second opinion: “We changed from LLP to LTD as format was resulting in extremely high tax bills. Suggested by new accountant and the new structure suits our company much better.”


Which goes to show, it can’t hurt to ask.


And if your accountant can’t help, perhaps find one that can:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.3 – Understanding your business’s profitability

We’re down to number 3 on our countdown of financial issues that affect business owners’ sleep patterns.


This time round, KPMG found from their survey of 250 business leaders that not understanding the profitability of their business was a big concern.


28.5% said it was a current concern that they were working to resolve.


29.2% said it was a past concern that had now been resolved. 3.4% said it was a concern, but they hadn’t tackled it yet.


This shows that the business leaders clearly believe it’s a real priority.


When it comes to running a successful business, profitability is what keeps your company going.


It’s a measure of your overall profit, worked out by offsetting income against expenditure. While similar to cash flow, it is more concerned with prospective figures rather than the cash that’s in the business right now.


This includes any outstanding invoices you’re owed, and of course income can vary due to fluctuating sales and prices.


Not knowing exactly when money will make its way into your business can cause business owners to worry.


It’s also an extra hassle having to chase up invoices from troublesome customers.


If this continues on a long-term basis, it’s easy to see why an entrepreneur could lose sleep over it.


According to the survey, the solution here was a combination of seeking additional support from their accountant and also changing internal business practices.


A quote from the report says: “Just understanding more about our profitability and getting an accurate handle on this through the year (rather than just at year end). Resolved by spending more time with our accountant to help understand how to interpret the data.”


Another states: “[Addressed] cash-flow and profitability… by involving the staff in targets for success [and] altering our terms of business to invoicing on the date the ‘deal is done’.”


So the key to knowing the profitability of your business is to ask for more from your accountant so they can give you an overview on a regular basis.


This is helped by tightening up your payment terms, so you’re not waiting for money you’re owed indefinitely.


It sounds like common sense, but these simple things can help your business and your personal wellbeing.


If you’re in the dark about your business’s profitability, help is at hand.


You can find an accountant and tips on staying in profit right here:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.4 – Not knowing how your business is performing

According to KPMG Small Business Accounting’s recent survey, the 4th most common financial issue that affects the sleep patterns of business owners is not having an up-to-date picture of business performance.


Luckily, this seems to be a problem that a lot of the business leaders have been proactive in trying to resolve.


2.6% of the 250 respondents said it was a current concern they hadn’t addressed yet.


However, 22.6% had it down as a concern that they were actively trying to resolve, and 24.1% said it used to be a concern that is now resolved.


Ultimately, even though not knowing the current state of your business’s performance is a big problem experienced by many, it is an issue that seems quite easy to address.


The worry would come from either sitting at home, or up in bed, not knowing what the exact income from your day’s trading was.


Even worse, you may not know what your outgoings were.


If you’re absolutely convinced you’re not breaking even, or if there’s a nagging doubt at the back of your mind, then you’d struggle to sleep.


You could of course call your accountant, but that’d have to wait ‘til morning. It doesn’t help your cause at that exact moment in time.


Which is why the remedy for this problem is, as the report states; “Deploying technology”.


Namely, the technology is cloud-based accounting software so you can access your business accounts at any time.


“Lack of up to date management info [was a concern]. Switched to cloud-based system; was very successful.”




“Using a programme like Xero has been very successful.”


In fact, bringing in cloud-based accounting was the most effective remedy overall, with more than half (54.5%) of respondents deeming it to have been “extremely” successful – with a further 24.1% stating that it has been “quite” successful.


The statistics speak for themselves.


If you need it too, you can find a list of recommended accounting software programs in our Guide to Accounts for Small Businesses here: