Investing in marketing? Get your head straight first!

Marketing focus – get focus before you spend money

I love working with people who are curious about what could be better in their business. Isabel, Director at The Real Business Club, reflects on working with a recent business owner client. We met through The Real Business Club’s marketing workshops in Thatcham.

Here’s a succinct portrait of the business owner. His overall challenge was that felt his marketing focus was unclear. He had:


  • skills
  • knowledge
  • track record
  • potential for a great business


But he also had brain fuddle

  • who or what was his real target market?
  • what website wording would get the market buying?
  • what goals should he really have?


Here is what came from the session with Isabel

Benefits – Investing his time in stepping back made a fundamental shift of thinking possible and led him to finding SOLUTIONS and

  • Confidence in decision making
  • Increased motivation
  • Options worth building on
  • Realisation – that even better is possible


What is your marketing focus like? If you are so busy or unsure why not head for coaching to use your brains!


This client’s top tips in a nutshell

  • “Are you struggling to find the answers on your own? .. then ..I strongly recommend investing time with Isabel and I can guarantee the time will be well spent!”
  • If your business is wearing out your brain – invest time (even just a couple of hours) in getting clarity and focus
  • As a business owner you are the decision maker. If you are so busy you don’t know whether you are coming or going – take time to become more effective.
  • Use your brains! Work out what you are best at and that customers want!


Would better marketing focus improve your business?

Could some coaching help your business? Let’s have a chat. Call me on 07759 074864


If you are a business owner who wants to freshen up your marketing why not come along to our workshops


CONNECT with Isabel on Linked in:

National Insurance Changes – What do I need to know?

Since its introduction in 1911, National Insurance (NI) has developed from a form of protection against ill-health and unemployment to include a wider range of benefits.

It continues to change. It now helps people build entitlement to the state pension and other state benefits including maternity allowance and incapacity benefit. But if you don’t pay in, you don’t get the benefits!

Are you self-employed?

So as a self-employed person, have you contributed enough years? How will you know? One way to find out is to obtain a pension forecast.

NI rates for self-employed people depend on how much profit is made. But there is always the option to make voluntary contributions. The Real Business Club can help you do this.

Class Rates for 201TAT6/17
Class 2 £2.80 a week on profits of £5,965 and over
Class 4 9% on profits between £8,060 – £43,000 2% on profits above £43,000


From the 2015/16 tax year most self-employed people pay their NI contributions through self-assessment. If this is you, are you completing the right boxes on your Tax Return?

The government has announced that class 2 NI will be abolished from April 2018. At the same time class 4 will be reformed so that self-employed people can still build entitlement to state benefits. We don’t yet know how this will work, but we will continue to keep you informed of any changes.

Working Abroad?

At present people working abroad may not have to pay NI, but this will depend on where they work and how long they are abroad. If you work within the EU, you need to be aware that the Laws governing NI contributions may change as part of the UK’s exit from the EU. The rules for working outside the European Economic Area are more complicated. So advice and help is essential.

To get the correct help and advice for YOU, email or call Dawn  0118 9680813



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

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!




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!

Customer payments….

Do your customers pay on time?

How frustrating when they don’t and the impact this has to your cashflow!  Below are some suggestions as to how to make it easy for your customers to pay you, however some may well seem obvious, but you will be surprised by the number of businesses that don’t do these simple steps, however some may .

  • Always include your bank details on your invoices to enable online transfers to be made (Bank Name, Sort Code, Account Number).  This is one of the quickest / easiest way for you to receive the money due to you.  It is usually the cheapest way to receive money into your business bank account.
  • Ensure that all relevant / important information is on your invoices too – such as registration number, mailing address (just in case they insist on sending a cheque!), VAT number if applicable.
  • Schedule time in your diary to send invoices in a timely fashion.  Dependent on the nature of your business this could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
  • Have clear payment terms and conditions in your contract and repeated again on the invoice, with an explanation of the consequences of late payments.

If you are a service industry how do you invoice your time?  Do you track your hours?  There are a number of free online tools to enable you to do this – one we have experience of is MyHours – – it really can help when you are working on a project – you might just be surprised how much time you’ve actually used!

For larger companies, it really can pay to send a monthly statement out as well as the invoices.  Many of the larger companies wait for a monthly statement to arrive before they make payment.

We hope that you’ve found this information useful.  For further assistance please do contact Dawn.