Preventing the horrible side of a business tsunami – self management and sanity checking.


7 top tips – day to day and long term

Does it always feel good being a business owner?  It all feels lovely when business is going well doesn’t it?  Money coming in, feeling pleased at customer or client feedback and being satisfied with achieving goals.  But it doesn’t always go like this does it?  It’s not easy to talk about either! Sometimes it is just overwhelming and you end up trying to do everything and run / manage all aspects of the business.


The Real Business Club has known a few business owners recently who have faced real business struggles and Isabel asked them about what was going on and what would have helped.  In the next few weeks we will be putting out some blogs on the themes of how to manage when business feels crap.  The starting point is not being embarrassed about talking about this kind of thing!

Managing feelings of being swamped and overwhelmed

Here are some of the issues that are recognizable:

  • Too much to do (some of which may feel and be completely fruitless!) & feelings of too little time;
  • When it is not going well and desperation or frustration creeps in;
  • Finance pressure: when bills are still roaring towards you and money is not coming in;
  • Trying to be “out there” to grab what looks like it might be going;
  • Extreme Juggling: you are in overdrive but not sure that anything is working – panic sets in;
  • Unplanned & unexpected family situations and complexity that can bring pressure;
  • Health issues that can become related;
  • Mental well-being: eg not even wanting to talk and having a mental state that is bruised and “wants to be alone”, even depression;
  • Managing a spiral and being conscious of “slide”.

Top tips – monthly – actively.  If you didn’t do some of these when you started then why not plan some time to do this soon?

  1. Think through contingency with real objective “worse case” foresight – for income and for family situations;
  2. Actively consider the impact of family crisis on your business – eldercare, childcare, relationship breakdowns;
  3. Understand what and who really matters.  Define these, write them down even so that you can keep some focus and confidence in what you are doing;
  4. Keep looking for opportunities but be consistent in where you are looking and what for – plan a strategy and don’t be blown about by the waves.

Top tips – long term strategies


  1. Plan “stand back” time actively – get out of the gold fish bowl and get some distance, have a coaching type session maybe?
  2. Actively plan in a review / discussion process (probably not just a “one off” when the water is rushing towards you!) with somebody who can be your outside reality check – someone who can help you be objective and on whom you can call, trust and rely;
  3. Decide on a safe physical or mental place that you can go to for “refreshment” and space – a regular spa day, a garden, a hobby that is escapism, a faith based activity.

If you are reading this and the tsunami has already reached you here are some useful resources / links:

Reading Your Way are hosting an open afternoon on 19th May 2016, from 1-4pm. More information can be found here:

The charity Mind also provides some great supportive information.


If this has been useful but you need some help carrying out the top tips (coaching etc) then contact The Real Business Club for advice and support either call 0118 9680813 or email

Workplace Pensions – Auto Enrolment

Do you employ at least one person?  If you do, you now have certain legal duties, which are listed below.

  1. You will have a staging date – this is when the law comes into effect for you.  The Pensions Regulator will have or will be sending each employer a letter with this date.
  2. You will need to confirm the primary and secondary contact for your company.  They will be responsible for making sure the legal duties are met.
  3. You can choose a pension scheme that is right for the company or join the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) set up by the government.
  4. You will need to work out which employees need to be in the pension scheme.  This will depend on their earnings and age.
  5. It is your legal duty to write to all your staff to explain how Auto Enrolment applies to them.
  6. You will have a deadline to complete your compliance declaration otherwise fines maybe imposed.
  7. Then of course there will be ongoing tasks which will include keeping accurate records.

All a bit confusing?  Find out more from a trainer from the Pensions regulator at our workshop in Bracknell on the 11th April?

For further details and to book please click here.


‘Help to Buy’ ISA

Help to Buy ISA – what are you or your children doing with their Christmas cash gifts?

If you’re a first time buyer, or your children are, save up to £200 a month towards a first home with a Help to Buy ISA and the government will boost the savings by 25%.

‘Help to Buy ISA’ accounts have been available since 1st December.  They will be on the market to open for 4 years, but once you have opened an account there’s no limit on how you long you can save for.

Make an initial deposit of £1,000 when you open the account – in addition to normal monthly savings.

There is no minimum monthly deposit – but you can save up to £200 a month.

Accounts are limited to one per person rather than one per home – so those buying together can both receive a bonus.

The bonus is available to first time buyers purchasing UK properties.

To claim the minimum bonus of £400 per person save £1,600.

Save £12,000 to benefit from the maximum bonus of £3,000 per person boosting your deposit savings to £15,000.

Each account is individual only available to those who are 16 and over.

Even if you take advantage of the initial £1,000 lump sum allowance, it would take four years and seven months of paying £200 a month before you could claim the full £3,000 bonus.  So it could be a late 21st or early 22nd birthday present for your children!  But of course it MUST be opened by them.

The bonus will be only be available on home purchases of up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 outside London and paid when your first home is purchased.

If you’re saving into a Help to Buy ISA you can’t save into another Cash ISA at the same time.

You don’t have to stick with the same product through the lifetime of the scheme and can transfer out to a different provider.

Providers are free to set their own interest rates so, as with any savings product, it’s a good idea to compare and shop around for the best option for you.

The initial wave of Help to Buy ISA interest rates announced by providers were competitive, although it’s important to remember that variable interest rates could change at any time.

Of course, the money you’ve saved is yours to do with as you wish, as is the interest, but if you withdraw it and spend it on something other than a home, you won’t get the bonus payment.

Finally, bear in mind that the bonus can only be used to buy a home – not for anything else.

How easy is it to claim the bonus?

This bonus will be paid at the point you’re ready to buy your first home – you’ll need to close your ISA account when you’re ready to purchase and you’ll receive a closing letter from the ISA provider.

You then give this closing letter to your solicitor, who in turn applies online for the government bonus.

The bonus is transferred to the solicitor, who then completes the purchase of your new home using the full bonus amount.


As there’s some admin involved in this process, make sure you make your solicitor aware well in advance that you plan to use your Help to Buy bonus, so this can be planned into the timescales for completing your purchase.

For any further information please contact Dawn Edwards.

Top tips to get YOU paid at the right time

Did you know that small businesses are waiting on average 72 days before receiving payment?  In order to help, the government has and will be enforcing new measures, including:

  • Amended late payment legislation, which came into force in March 2013.  The rules are simple – debtors will be forced to pay interest and reimburse reasonable recovery costs of the business if they don’t pay for goods and services on time.  This means that payment must be made in 60 days for businesses and 30 days for public authorities.
  • In addition, a Small business Commissioner will be appointed and they will provide advice and be the first point of contact for small businesses.  In addition, they will offer mediation on a voluntary basis, as well as handle and investigate complaints.

In the meantime, what can you realistically do? Well, try these 5 Top Tips from Dawn…

5 Top Tips that REALLY CAN make a difference to your business …..

  • Negotiate your payment terms and conditions with clients and suppliers at the start of your working relationship.  The maximum is 30 days for public sector and 60 days for other businesses.
  • Make sure you issue your invoices immediately and they contain the correct information including details requested by your client or supplier.
  • Make sure your invoices contain details of the statutory interest that can be charged which is 8% over the Bank of England rate.
  • Remember you can also charge a fixed charge of between £40 and £100 depending on the amount of the debt.
  • Be prepared to carry through the interest and debt measures.

When considering your business processes, some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do you negotiate your terms of payment with your clients and suppliers from the start of your working relationship?  Does doing this frighten you?
  • Do you understand the payment method with your suppliers?  (Payable order details, invoice payment cut-off date and invoice sent electronically or by post.)  Do you know what these terms mean?  Did you answer Yes or No to this question?
  • What do you do when payment isn’t made on time? Talk to us about your options.

Being paid late is unacceptable.  You have worked hard, be paid on time.  So let Focus Port at The Real Business Club help you get paid on time.    Improve your growth and productivity and don’t put your otherwise successful business at risk.  Contact

Top tips for Effective Business Collaboration

“Working in partnership” and variations of this kind of expression are everywhere!  You see it on the sides of contractors vans driving round towns for instance.  The Real Business Club has worked with all kinds of “partners” in the past.  But what does this really mean?

Here are some top tips for you, from our experience of supporting other people, as well as working as a successful and evolved partnership for over the last 6 years.  These apply if you are serious about working together.  There is a lot more of course – but here are just some top tips for effective business collaboration:

  • Each have your own self awareness of aims, skills, styles, enthusiasms, maybe even use Belbin team role preferences as a measure;
  • If you know your Myers Briggs profiles bring them – discuss them;
  • Check out your values, motives and attitudes (eg toward risk) – do they align?
  • Take real time to understand each other before putting in any money – be willing to discuss uncomfortable things;
  • Think through decision making – how will it be done, how will it be robust;
  • Start with clear communication, if there seem to be differences talk them through – don’t be afraid;
  • If you have been friends, before thinking about business together, work through the impact that the business dynamic will have – be realistic;
  • If the business involves ideas / original material then seek advice on Intellectual Property aspects;
  • Have an agreement you sign up to – especially if money is involved.

Very importantly and before any real money is put in

  • Have someone give objective coaching – have a session together with a coach who is not part of the dynamic and who can help each party think clearly.

Last week Isabel (the coaching side of The Real Business Club) was doing a coaching session with a business owner.  The owner is considering some working relationships she has and how to make the best of them.  She is thinking about quite serious matters – so it is not just a basic type of collaboration like a recommendation or a “shall we run an event together” type level.

The coaching covered considerations to make sure that the owner’s collaborations got off on the right footing.  As a summary, these included for each party to have a clear understanding of:

  • each others aims and aspirations;
  • what success looks like – and does each have the same picture?
  • how decisions are going to be made;
  • what kind of styles of communication and working each brings to the table;
  • what kind of personalities and communication styles each has;
  • what kind of roles and skills would be needed and whether working together completed them;

There are many important angles to consider financially – here are just a few:

  • what were the risks for each person in the business and what are attitudes to risk;
  • how would they put in money;
  • how would they take out money
  • how long did each have before the business had to turn to profit
  • what kind of agreement document should we have?

The Real Business Club has tools that help people explore working together and can provide experienced coaching as well as advice on agreements and documents.

Sales, the life blood of business

If sales don’t matter to you then you can stop reading now!

Don’t sell: Help! Challenge your mind set and see the results!

“Don’t sell: Help!” is a top sales tip for any business.

The journey of learning about sales and selling can be a rocky road.  Some businesses never get on the road properly; people try things; some are naturally good, others hate the word; some have perceptions of it being “American” or “sales is not for me”.

Sales may not be natural.  Sales may even be a word that you turn away from.  However particularly if you run your own business sales matter, don’t they?  If they don’t, then you can stop reading now.  If they do, then read on.  Here are a few headings and thoughts to improve your successful in sales.

Do you know what success will be for you and your business?
This is a basic question but of course the answer to it both reveals and motivates.  Not knowing the answer means “shooting in the dark”.  Defining what success will look like, feel like and enable, really clarifies what you are doing and why.

Do you know your business purpose?
Answering why you do what you do, and who your business is designed to benefit, has a powerful impact on you and how you work with people.  Knowing what problem you can solve more effectively than anyone else, gives direction to your sales, saving time, money and effort.

How confident are you?
This, of course, can be a challenge but working out your confidence in your product or service and in your ability to deliver, is essential.  If you don’t feel confident this comes over to potential customers.  Do what it takes to develop your confidence.

What does the universe of your potential customers look like?
With purpose, confidence and knowledge of your product who are the potential customers?  Have you “walked through their day” so that you know how what you do might help them?  How will you make them feel?  Do you have target customers and do you have a clear process that helps you reach them?  Think about what they fear and what they desire.

Do you have a straightforward sales strategy that you know works and why?
Strategy can sound a grand word – but having something that both suits you and works is what you are aiming for. It’s not about a “shop bought” strategy that someone else has filled in for you!  Have a clear description of what you do, use questions, listen well and have a process are tips to increase your confidence.  There is much more of course!

How are you at “closing the sale”?
Many people struggle with this! We walk away with a “maybe” from the person we have been talking to.  We spend time and money based on this “maybe”.  That’s frustrating, isn’t it? If you understand their need, know that they have the budget and authority, and have their time frame you will be nearing to asking “Let’s get a start date then”!

Got you thinking? If you would like to improve your sales success through answering these essential questions then The Real Business Club is working with Max Barbour at Sales Revolution to provide high quality training from the voice of sales experience.

Work and Careers Fair – March 25th

Work and Careers Fair – West Berkshire

This year The Real Business Club is delighted to be exhibiting and presenting at the 5th West Berkshire Work and Careers Fair, taking place on Wednesday March 25th from 10.00am-3.30pm (Free entry!)  Further details regarding this event can be found on this flyer, or by visiting their website.

Each year, the aim of this event is to demonstrate job vacancies, training opportunities and careers advice to the residents of West Berkshire and neighbouring areas, by bringing together a cross section of businesses, organisations and recruiters.

In addition to the many exhibitors, there is a variety of workshops available throughout the day – further details can be found here.

The Real Business Club workshops are:

10.15am – Self Employed?  Getting & Keeping Customers & Clients

11.30am – Self Employed?  Get Your Tax Benefits Right from the start

2.15pm – Starting a Business?  Choosing the Right Legal Status

We do hope you’ll stop by our stand and say hello on what is going to be a very busy day!




Presentation Skills – Top Tips

Presentation skills – getting comfortable and managing any nervousness.  Get your speech flowing!

As well as death and paying taxes it is almost inevitable that all of us in business will, at some point, have to present information in front of others. Whether it is a 60 seconds at networking, talking through a proposal to a potential customer or client, or a more formal “speech” in some context.

The other evening I was at a meeting and a person really struggled to say clearly even quite simple information about who they were and what they did.  In fact what they said came out a bit like this picture!

Clogged up flowTheir nerves and lack of simple techniques clogged up the flow of what they wanted to say.  The message had no impact and was lost in the moment of delivery.

Here are some top tips – some physical and some mental. If you do a lot of presentations and feel that you struggle and it is letting down your business – then come and have a talk with us. We offer training and coaching that can get this sorted out!


  • Do something physical before the presentation – take deep breaths, press your hands together to relieve tension, do muscle-relaxation exercises, take a walk, run on the spot, do aerobics, jog – whatever suits you to get in the zone.
  • During the presentation, concentrate on taking full, deep breaths.  Oxygen will improve both your nerves and your voice projection.  Practice so that it can become subconscious.


  • Admit to yourself that nervousness is part of doing it. A little “motivational stress” is a good thing.  Turn your nervousness into energy.
  • Surround yourself with friendly people before your presentation. Expert speakers routinely use this technique.  By surrounding yourself with people before your presentation, you reduce the impact of switching from being “off the stage” to being “on the stage.”

Preventing fear through organising yourself and what you are going to say.

  • The big secret to overcoming nervousness is organizing your presentation clearly.  Research shows that the major reason people feel stage fright stems from worrying that they will forget what they want to say – they will “freeze” and go into automatic and panic modes – the stream of thought gets full of fear and head clutter!
  • If the context is right then start with ‘thank-you’s’.  Have a simple structure that suits the occasion and your style – which can be a variation on the old tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, tell them it and then tell them again – a simple message well conveyed is better than a congested stream.

This is in part based on training that Indigo Business (London) has delivered.  It’s a great organization – especially if you are interested in lateral thinking styles and how to get your organization more creative!  Check out


Business Survival Top Tips after 5 years – still plenty to learn!

There are lots of good survival tips out there.

Richard Branson – he’s survived and prospered.  Martin Sorrell – amazing track record.  Peter Jones – doing OK(!).  Ray Mears – in the jungle or in the dessert.

The Real Business Club – OK so we are not quite in this league.

We have done some looking back on the first of our five years and this has been a worthwhile experience.  We have learned a lot – including that we don’t know everything!  But then I suppose even the characters named above don’t know everything!

Here are some tips – of course we have not got it all

  • Hold your nerve – we did not know where it was going when we started and when we try new things we are not always sure – but we will give it a go and take the learning we can
  • Hold on to core values – we started out with some aims and these have values under them that guide what we are doing.  I don’t mean anything grand by this – just that there are things we will do and things we won’t!
  • Be flexible and creative – we have tried not to get stuck into ways of doing things and always ask ourselves and review – do we still need to do this?  Is this what businesses want?  Is there a better way of doing this?  Are we missing an opportunity?
  • Know what you mean by “productivity” – not just being busy but being genuinely productive for yourself – and if you don’t know, this means have a word with us!
  • Regularly look at the strategy and the operational sides – try to avoid just being so “strategic” that customers don’t know what it is you are doing and avoid being so operational and granular that it’s just about processes
  • Enjoy the feedback you get – take this as a reward because at the top of a small business it can be hard to find praise.
  • Work hard – work smart – keep an eye on profit, not on turnover
  • Try out things and watch what happens – it’s your business and don’t be put in a box.
  • Kiss some frogs and learn from it – others will come along who say they want to work with you, or you want to work with them – in the end not all these will work out – some will and some won’t!
  • Invest in yourself – take time for training and be thinking for the here and now and the what next – and of course you can put the cost against tax too!
  • Thank people who help you – it’s just nice to do – we did at our 5th Birthday networking event – because without these people we would not have got so far and learned so much
  • Work with others that you can have fun with – it is likely you started your business wanting to enjoy it – so having fun matters.

If we can help you put these tips into action – either through helping you make more time, sorting out the money bit or through coaching then get in touch.  Our support service – Focus Port – might be just right (click here for further information!).

For The Real Business Club the context of being partners has brought a terrifically valuable dynamic.  We know that partnership does not suit everyone but here is what we have found valuable:

  • Honesty and openness
  • Complementary skills
  • Common attitudes

Talk to us if you or your business needs a new view or someone else to objectively come along side you and prepare it for the years ahead.

And the next five years……………….

So what did Richard Branson say?

Check him out here – a good read we thought – some we have done and some we have not!

Innovative thinking to bring in profit

“I told you that would never work……..”! Innovative thinking to bring in profit.

Here is a quote from Richard Branson’s business journey that I think applies well to innovation in smaller businesses:

‘Be creative. Innovate consistently on the little things that the big companies ignore. Little things often make big differences in business.’

It’s a challenging and changing world – if you don’t change, your business might get left behind.

Most businesses whatever size cannot survive and grow just on their history or reputation.  Look at Tesco and look at Waitrose!  The competition can be creeping up without even being noticed.

Apart from anything else being creative is just more interesting – businesses can loose their freshness and passion by being stuck in a rut – and this comes over to customers and potential customers.

We have seen and heard these barriers to fresh thinking and the asset this can be

  • Fear
  • Complacency and comfort zone
  • Insanity

Fear – of changing a formula that has become a “tradition” or set in stone – and this can happen pretty quickly even in one man bands!

Complacency and comfort zone thinking – It’s going OK and there aren’t any competitors to the kind of services we offer.  There is always competition whether it is direct in the same business sector or potential customers distracted by other things.

Insanity – just keep doing the same thing, working harder and hoping that we get different answers to challenges to profit.  For most of us there are 24 hours in the day!  Stop and think and get another viewpoint you can trust.

Once you have begun wanting creativity here is something else Richard Branson says:

‘Don’t hesitate to seek external help or advice where need be. Sometimes, it takes an external, emotionally unattached individual to detect your business flaws and render unbiased advice.’

Some simple steps to start innovation moving

  • Listen to your customers – talk to them about all kinds of aspects of their business, listen to how they express problems/ hassles/ frustrations. Listen as if you are not trying to sell what you already do for them.
  • Consider working in new ways or with new people.
  • Watch competitors and think about what you can improve or reshape or offer in a different way from them.
  • Think about the customers you do want – and being creative about how you would get them to look at your business service.
  • Take time and opportunity to think differently – it does take time but if you are sliding towards insanity, financial loss or breakdown then this has to be worth considering!
  • Read a magazine about something you don’t know anything about and play with how what’s in it may apply to your business.

Get some objective views on your ideas – talk to The Real Business Club.

Consider the risks – of not changing. – risks both business and personal.

Don’t be afraid – do the thinking on paper before risking any money!

Keep core values and USPs of skills, knowledge or reputational elements – but adapt services round them in response to the market, technology or customer thoughts.

Practically innovation can be incremental or disruptive and dramatic.

“Incremental” is through tips included here – changing elements of the service or changing how it is delivered.

“Disruptive” is through significant novelty – a totally new service or product that has not existed before.

Realistically most of us are going to be incrementally innovating – but some businesses never move!  And we don’t think that is an option these days!  Holding your place in the market and expecting loyalty is not so easy these days.

If you want that external objective support then contact The Real Business Club and let’s talk

We have a track record of innovation – starting from the word “go” it’s in our DNA.  We do this through the things we have said here and a conversation at most partners meetings.  Our innovation has come through tools that Isabel has developed since her MBA where she specialised in Innovation and change.

These growth and coaching tools are available to YOUR BUSINESS!  Call us and let’s have a conversation.  Of course if you want to catch our eye then here are some suggestions.

  • Come to our 5th Birthday networking and have a chat
  • Call us at the number to the top right of your screen
  • Hire a hot air balloon and fly down the M4 trailing a notice to us.

Our genuine experience and integration of tools and methods helps us with businesses that want to explore how they adapt/ change/ improve/ re position services or products.

The Branson quotes are taken from a very short and punchy web page – well worth a look: