Office 365

 

We have started to use Office 365.

 

I am NOT a technically minded person.  I find it nearly impossible to keep listening when someone tells me about technology.

 

Having said all that until now we have used the free version of Dropbox in the business.  We have hit against storage limits, and were advised to move over to Office 365 which comes with Share Point (for clever sharing) email accounts and One Drive (for some other clever thing – I will remember what it is in a moment).

 

It was all going to be so simple BUT a problem – we have lots of folders then sub folders in our business, and it couldn’t cope.  But now it seems there is a simple solution – we move some of our folders to top level, but still have folders under each of them. Has this made any sense?  Well it kind of does to me.

 

So next week I will try to work out a rational structure for our files and folders and off we go again.

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Recognise your limits

 

Do I recognise my limits? I am 59, my energy is pretty good but there are times when I know I might burn out.  This week I am out 5 nights out of 7.  That is too much for me and makes me stressed/means I don’t sleep well/ starts the downward spiral.

 

I should know better than to allow that to happen.  The key for me and probably most of us it to know when to say no to things.  Hard though when you actually like to be out, and it’s good for business

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A new fireproof filing cabinet

 

We needed a new fireproof filing cabinet. Our safe is almost full with Wills we have written, which is great.  However, getting the safe into the office was a complete nightmare, so I decided that rather than getting another we would buy a fireproof filing cabinet.  I knew it would be heavy but I had no idea it would be as heavy as a safe.

My assistant Laura managed to buy a splendid Chubb filing cabinet on ebay for £150 and astonishingly it was delivered from Northamptonshire to Somerset for £57 (using Shipley to get a good rate) but when it arrived it was quite obvious that many strong men would be needed to get it out of the van and into the office.

 

This is when my lovely office neighbour Snips and his mate Mike dropped everything and made it all happen.  I am SO grateful, and hope they will read this.

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Too posh to push

 

I thought I was too post to push, but here are some of the things I didn’t expect to be doing when I left a grand corporate environment to start my own business:

 

  • Buying the office coffee, tea, milk, loo paper etc
  • Burning confidential waste in an incinerator in your garden every weekend. Believe me the incinerator was one of my best purchases, so much quicker than shredding.  But of course you do have to live in the country.
  • Cycling to the post office with letters that have to be sent recorded delivery and to buy emergency chocolate biscuits – and loving it
  • Doing the cleaning when the cleaner hands in her notice, again!
  • Negotiating hygiene levels with our lovely office neighbours, with whom we share a kitchen and loos. And yes they are all guys, and yes we are mainly dames.
  • Enjoying a quiet Friday afternoon writing this blog.

 

This is obviously why people get office managers.  Maybe soon…

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What turns you on, and off?

 

And I am not hoping to get the wrong sort of search results by having that as a title!

What I mean is, what is it that you get excited about in your business?

For me, it is new projects and ventures, and new people. It isn’t money.

 

I have also learnt a lot about what turns me off and stresses me: people issues, bad vibes in the office, and being late.  But yet I continually organise my time so that I am just in time.  What’s that about?

 

This morning I had 1 ½ hours to kill in London and it was heaven.  I went to a lovely garden centre, chatted to the café staff, sat in the sun and made some leisurely and useful calls, then left with plenty of time to get to Paddington where I did some shopping.  Fab!

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Appear Big

 

 These days it is very easy to appear bigger than you are.  If your website is compelling you can kid people you are an established, large company even if you are a start-up.

 

Some new businesses go further and register for VAT way before they have to in order to create the impression of size.  I would never have done that myself, as my clients benefited directly to the tune of 20% before I had to register for VAT.

 

You should assume that you will be successful.  For example, when you begin even though you can retain most information about prospects in your head you must have systems for recording all your quotes etc.  Start as you intend to go on.

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Make decisions

 

 One of the key skills of a successful entrepreneur is to be able to make decisions relatively quickly.  Where there is choice we can get paralysed by indecision, when what matters is that something gets decided.

When I started I was faced with many decisions, most of them very minor I can now see with hindsight.  How the logo should look, who I should use to build the website, it went on and on.  Now there aren’t as many small decisions, or perhaps I just don’t stress about them so much.  The tricky decisions – and the ones you have to make relate to expansion.  The extra computers, the new systems and most of all the extra people.

It’s important to keep it in perspective, most (all!) decisions we make in my type of business are not a matter of life or death, so just get on with them.

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The medium is the message

 

 

The medium is the message was a soundbite recently used by a friend, borrowed from elsewhere.  I hadn’t heard it before.

 

Apparently most people now hate to be phoned.  Most phone calls are nuisance ones or bad news.  What ever happened to those long chats us oldies used to have?

 

So, messages are relayed via email.  Often unnecessarily to many more people than really need to see it.

 

There is a lot to be said for a phone call, or meeting in person.  The email can be a cowardly way of giving unwelcome news. How we communicate is incredibly important – let’s start a movement to use the medium of phone or real life meetings more often.

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Getting help

 

 

I recognise that I need to get help. I have taken on someone to help me write articles, tweet, post on Linked In and all the stuff we are meant to do to maintain our Google ranking.  It’s good because it will force me to keep at it, and not just do it when I have time, which seems to be less and less often of late.

 

I do believe that it is important – we get a fairish number of enquiries online, so something is working. The enquiries are usually rather price driven but it is probably still worthwhile. The one I dread is the Friday afternoon caller, probably not much else to do and invariably looking for free advice without any intention of instructing us.

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Lunch club

 

 

I love lunch so a lunch club seems a good idea, and a good title for a group which met for the first time recently. We all provide professional services.  It was jolly, and we had a nice lunch sitting outside in the sun.  We are finding our way: will it be useful, will it be enjoyable?  If it ticks either of those boxes its good enough for me.

 

We can share tips on stuff like what IT systems to use, maybe help each other with problems and even possibly refer clients to each other.  Who knows?

 

We are choosing to stay as a small group of 6 so that there is only 1 conversation at any time, and we will have to take care that no-one dominates.  I would rather like it if each of us took turns to ask a left field question to get us thinking in new ways.  I will put it to them next time we meet .

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Welcoming clients

 

 Welcoming clients and the way it is done is incredibly important I know. Some research on dentists revealed that patients care very little about the latest bit of expensive kit, or the fabulous qualifications of their dentist.  What really matters is the quality of the coffee they get, if indeed they get any.  I certainly don’t get any at mine.

 

Research on health and fitness clubs shows that the people most likely to re-join are those who have made friends with other members, so the effort put in to social events, coffee bars and so on is hugely worthwhile.

 

For us the welcome and the quality of the coffee are enormously important, I know.  Anyway the team would all agree our Gaggia coffee machine is essential for our wellbeing.

 

The other area to focus on is the unexpected extra or free gift.  The subject of another blog, perhaps!

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Speaking with authority

Speaking with authority is difficult.  I have recently been listening to the superb Atul Gawande Reith lectures.  He talks such sense; most of the things he says you immediately think “of course” and feel you have known that all along, it’s just that you haven’t articulated it.

 

His delivery is slow, thoughtful, full of anecdotes and doesn’t use many more words than necessary.  The overall effect is of great authority, whilst sounding like someone you might know, and would not be intimidated by.  There is no sense in which he alienates his audience.  His language is simple and clear.

 

If I can only learn to be a little bit more like him when I give talks I will be happy.

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What is our competitive advantage?

 

What is our competitive advantage? Well I have read what has been said about us on vouchedfor. (https://professionals.vouchedfor.co.uk/solicitor/BA6%208LT).  The recurring themes are experience, knowledge, efficiency, friendly.  Someone else said in response to a phone survey that she didn’t feel stupid whatever question they asked.  That resonated with me.  So often professionals have a lot of specialist knowledge and can unknowingly not appreciate when they are losing their audience.  I stop listening/understanding shortly in to any IT advice. At that point my brain drifts off elsewhere and I have lost the plot to such an extent I never recover it.  Not sure how IT advice can be made easier to understand.

 

The trouble with all the nice things listed above is that I feel they are a given.  And it’s so easy for any law firm to say, and isn’t always delivered.  I suppose the somewhat hackneyed way of communication the issue is to say that we have a 5* rating, our clients say all these nice things.  But I still feel I need to find a slightly cleverer way of saying it.  Any ideas greatly appreciated.

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Being Grown Up

 

 I suspect some people go through life never feeling they are properly grown up. I was with a lovely friend who has 2 adult children, a farm, and runs a highly successful organic food business.  She also takes care of her staff, to the extent that she was “next of kin” to a 90+ year old former employee who died recently.

To my astonishment she referred to something as being “very big girl”, as if she wasn’t one herself.  What nonsense!  She is certainly a big girl.

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Finding New Members of Staff

 

I mentioned before I was looking for new members of staff. I met various people via my networks but I now realise there is a flaw in this method. If I reach out to someone and invite them to apply then they hold the balance of power. They probably hadn’t thought of moving, and they already have a job. So I was in the position of having to entice them away with a better salary, better holidays etc. This is not a particularly good start to a relationship so I am going back to the old fashioned method of posting the job.

Initially I am using the Government’s Jobsearch Direct  site which has the great advantage of being free. A real person checks your ad. I was phoned to say I could not say I required 2-3 years’ experience as that implies that the person is young and is therefore discriminatory.

Hopefully I will get some good applicants.  We shall see.

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