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Monthly Archives: July 2017

Small business chat update – Suzi Brown

Small business chat update – Suzi Brown

Hello! It’s time for another Small Business Update. Do you enjoy reading these? Please do comment or like the article if you do! Today, we’re catching up with Suzi Brown from The Smart Bear Digital Consultancy, who I first chatted to in June 2014  and again in July 2015 and July 2016. When I asked her then, with her business growing fast, having moved into an office and with lots of ideas floating around, she said, “Judging by how we have grown in this year, I expect my turnover will be at least 50% more – perhaps we’ll need bigger offices!” Read on to see how she’s done in the past year …

Hello again, Suzi. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes, business has doubled since this time last year and it’s going from strength to strength in both terms of website builds, WordPress development and search engine optimisation.

Wow! What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We’ve introduced new services and streamlined our products, introducing a new customer service system to make everything go smoothly from start to finish. We also took this step with our systems because a new member of staff is starting with us in September and we wanted to make it as easy as possible for her to hit the ground running.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I’ve learned to constantly evolve the company to make it more efficient, which has been essential with the amount of work coming in. We’ve also learned that it’s OK to advertise. Up until now we’ve never advertised as we’ve always had a steady stream of work and didn’t think we’d cope with any huge influx. But, now we can handle a lot more and so we’ve placed an advert in a local business magazine to off our advertising journey.

Any more hints and tips for people?

We’ve enjoyed moving our systems to a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system which has a lot of useful built-in tools – tools we were using several different systems for before. Although we have to pay for the CRM, it’s been really worthwhile and makes us more efficient and professional, and saves time in the long run.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Next year, we’ll have our new member of staff installed and I think the business will have evolved again, organically, in tune with her talents and strengths.

What a fabulous and exciting time for Smart Bear and Suzi! It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on developing your business and streamlining systems, but especially in those early years. But it’s exciting, too, and I wish them all the best of luck with that first hire (new offices last year, first member of staff this year: it’s all looking good!)

You can find Suzi and Smart Bear Digital Consultancy here:

Suzi Brown
07927533075
www.thesmartbear.co.uk
Email Suzi
Facebook
Twitter
Google+

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Tricky words: What does falsify mean?

I occasionally write about tricky words rather than troublesome pairs on this blog, and here’s one that always makes me feel a little uneasy. When that happens, I look it up (a large part of being a decent editor / proofreader is knowing when to look stuff up), and I find I have had to look this one up a few times.

So, falsify.

The most common meaning for “to falsify”, in my opinion, is the one around making something become false. You might change something to mislead “We falsified the results to make it look like smoking is good for you”. You are effectively changing something, a document or some results, in order to deceive people. Falsification is the noun for the action of falsifying, and a falsifier does it.

But the other meaning is to prove to be false, or to disprove. In this case, it’s the opposite of verify, and is used in, for example, social sciences and economics texts (which is where I tend to find it). It looks odd to me when I read, “We falsified the results”, but here the writer is using it in this second meaning: “We proved the results to be false”.

To be honest, I’d rather move away from possible misinterpretation and use “we proved the results to be false” or “we verified that the hypothesis could not be proved” rather than “we falsified the results” or “we falsified the hypothesis”. However, my editing policy is to tread lightly, and it is an acceptable term, found in all the major dictionaries, so it’s not something I would change lightly (although I might make a note for the author if the text was going into general rather than academic circulation).


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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Be careful, Writing

 

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Small business chat update – Debbie Copas

Small business chat update – Debbie Copas

Good morning, if you’re reading this “live” and welcome to another Small Business Update with an interviewee we’ve been talking to for a good few years now, Debbie Copas from Norfolk Coastal Holidays. We originally met Debbie in March 2013, and checked in with her in March 2014, May 2015 and June 2016 (about those dates; it’s not usually my interviewees being late with their replies but a scheduling thing on my part, as I tend to do the updates in the order in which they came in. It suddenly struck me that readers might think my interviewees weren’t organised: not the case!). When I asked Debbie last time where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied “I am just embarking on a 100 day challenge; my goal is to get my accounts up to date and then put in place a system to ensure I complete all necessary tasks on a monthly basis. I’m fed up with the annual rush in January to get things up to date! If I achieve that, I plan on rewarding myself with an online course to learn more about creating a travel guide. I hope I will be making more regular visits to Norfolk (assuming my youngest gets to University) and being more proactive in looking for properties to add to my portfolio. Maybe I will have achieved last year’s goals too, with a logo and so on, but I won’t beat myself up if I haven’t. Life’s too short!” Let’s see how she’s got on with those plans …

Hello again, Debbie, just when you’re busy but sometimes have last-minute availability on your properties, and thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

This time round, I think I can say I’m much further forward than I thought I’d be but in a completely different direction!

Exciting! What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Where do I start? So many changes that it’s no longer possible to predict where things will be, it really is a case of rolling with the punches. The business is just starting to expand in a way I’d previously hoped for, but that hadn’t quite fallen into place. I have just taken on two new properties to manage the bookings in the last two months, Church Cottage and The Barnhouse. They are both inland rather than right by the coast, but it’s still only a short drive to the many wonderful beaches along the Norfolk coastline. I find that my guests always go about and about exploring so they both combine the best of the Norfolk countryside and the coast. One is a beautiful Grade II listed thatched cottage and the other a 220 year old converted single storey barn. Such beautiful buildings that encompass the wide variety of properties on offer when you choose to stay in Norfolk.

Even more exciting and not publicised at all yet, is that we have just bought another holiday property ourselves. It is in need of a full renovation as it has damp and so the plaster needs stripping off before we start to build it back up. I’m sad that it’s too far away to do the renovation ourselves but am hopeful that the builder, when he eventually starts, will do a great job. More than that I won’t say at this stage. All to be revealed in due course!

Changes at home have been monumental and that also has a huge impact on my business. My husband left the company he was working for in October. He has now started his own company, something he never thought he’d do, in consultancy work. It’s allowed him some time out as he thinks about how he wants the final years of his career to pan out, which may possibly not be another full time job. So he’s at home a lot sharing my workplace and that’s a BIG change to adjust to!

My youngest is just back from university after a year with plenty of ups and downs. My daughter is back from her global travels earlier than planned and the eldest is still thinking about buying his first home. Brexit, elections and more have not helped him with that decision! So I’m definitely not an empty nester and that also impacts on my work life. Your children are never too old to need your time and love, but that’s what being a mum is all about. A lifetime job and let no-one tell you otherwise!

What’s the same? I still don’t have a logo, although I experimented with one and have the concept in place. That’s a procrastinator for you! I didn’t get to do that online course I was thinking about either. The one constant is that we still live in the same house and hopefully will do until it’s time to downsize. It’s nice to be in our forever home to provide the stability a family needs in this constantly changing world.

Wow – busy times! What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I’ve learned not to panic when life throws curveballs, but I think I already knew that! I’m calm by nature when dealing with a crisis and there have been lots of those this last year. Another loss, when a friends husband died after a battle with bowel cancer, so life really is too short.

I got up to date with my accounts as planned, but am steadily falling behind again. I have researched accounting software but have found it a very difficult process. I bought a package on the advice of a salesperson but it was completely wrong for my business and didn’t do most of the things that I needed it to. I took out a trial on another but didn’t have enough time to devote to it so barely scratched the surface before the trial ran out. My email to the salesperson who was so keen to sign me up has gone unanswered. I’m not impressed with the customer service which falls so low below what I’m proud to offer in my business. I’m really surprised how difficult it is to find the right answer. I’m now at the stage where I think I may need to pay someone to find me the right package and give me some advice on how to set it up.

I’m glad I didn’t know that something I was involved with on Facebook would implode in a way I didn’t dream possible. It was a very unpleasant period in my life when you realise how much your work in cyberspace can impact on you as an individual. The upside was that I had more support than I could have hoped for from my cyberfriends. The positive from hanging out in cyberspace was that I enjoyed a short break in Wales in the company of some of the wonderful owners I have met online in the last couple of years, where we exchanged news and generally enjoyed being in each other’s company; people who all understand the business of holiday rental and who don’t think you rude when you have your head down in your phone or computer because you’re busy answering enquiries!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Not to try to do everything yourself as your business expands? I’m not good at keeping up with paperwork and general admin. I employed my daughter between her return from travels and starting a new job and she was such a help. Between us we were able to move forward on a really big project that I had put off for ages, updating my welcome folder or rather creating a new one from scratch. Now it’s in place, I’ve thought of more things to add and will make further changes to the layout. I have always known I’m a procrastinator so anything that helps me focus is a good thing. This year I’ve read The 15 Minute Rule: How to stop procrastinating and take charge of your life. I think I need to reread it regularly to keep me on the right path!

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

This next year will be all about the new property, getting it ready for guests, sourcing furniture etc plus getting the marketing and welcome folder ready. Hopefully the new properties will find their niche as they are both bigger properties than I currently offer, so I need to build up a customer base of larger families and group bookings for those. They’re both great for a cross generational family holiday for example, where mum and dad and the kids take along granny and grandpa! Maybe more owners will approach me to manage theirs, who knows, but it’s exciting not knowing quite where the future will lead!

Goodness me, what a busy year! It’s interesting that I have a lot of interviewees who have small children, but obviously that worry doesn’t stop as they grow up! I have seen quite a few Facebook issues with small businesses (see my last interview with Stevie Maiden in a different field altogether) but indeed, there are those support systems, too. And as for admin, I think we all suffer there, don’t we. I’m up to date with everything for the business, of course, but do need to sit down and update the indexes on this blog … Anyway, good luck to Debbie as she enters maybe a quieter year and well done for slowly expanding and keeping hold of all the reins!

Instagram: www.instagram.com/norfolkcoastalholidays/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/NorfolkCoastalHolidays

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NorfolkCoastal

Website: www.norfolkcoastalholidays.co.uk

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Sere, seer or sear?

Sere, seer or sear?

 

This Troublesome Trio was suggested to me by the ever-helpful Linda from Linda Proofreads – thank you! Those among you with good memories will recall that she’s suggested pairs before – they can’t be infinite but I certainly haven’t thought of them all yet.

So three words with very different meanings that are spelled differently but are all pronounced the same.

Sere is an adjective (and a literary one at that) which means “withered” and can also be spelled sear, and I always thought it meant dry and kind of nobly so, so that shows it’s always worth looking things up in a variety of sources before you confidently bung down what you think something means from your vast experience, etc. It’s also a fairly new word (only around 120 years old) for a series of animal or plant communities which have been formed from succession, for example the endless lavender plants that my garden produces, one from the other but still in the same area.

A seer is a person who can see visions of the future, a prophet or the like. Seer can also be used in a very old-fashioned way to describe someone who sees a specific thing, but I would shy away from using it in that sense, to be honest. It’s also an Asian unit of weight. Who knew?

To sear (a verb) means to burn or even scorch something with an intense and sudden heat, and is often used to describe browning meat or other foods at a high temperature. As an extension into a metaphor, something can be seared into your memory of mind, fixed there, the vision of something which you can’t now “unsee”, for example. A searing pain is a strong and sudden burning sensation.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Errors, Language use

 

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Small business chat update – Stevie Maiden

Small business chat update – Stevie Maiden

It’s update time with Stevie Maiden from Maidens Fayre. When we first met Stevie in June 2013, she ran a small business Facebook group and was building up her jams, chutneys and pickles business. Updates in July 2014 , 2015 and 2016 she shared the ups and downs of life at fairs and shows while she tried to achieve that delicate work-life balance. In 2016, this was her plan for this year: “I hope to be selling into more retail outlets and doing less standing in fields in the rain,” but unfortunately life had something different in store.

Hello, Stevie! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Sadly not. I had a nasty fall after I completed last years answers. It’s meant I’ve had to cut back considerably.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m still working, but I’ve lost heart in it. I’m considering putting the business up for sale. My deteriorating health has meant that I can’t work as hard as I did. It’s still my only source of income, so I have to stick at it

What have you learned and what do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Well, I’ve learned that if you advertise your ideas on Facebook, your competitors WILL copy them.

What hints and tips do you have for people?

I’d say have a back-up plan. I loved this business so much and I never thought I would stop. Be prepared that it might happen to you.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

I really hope I get my enthusiasm back and if not, I really hope to sell the business as a going concern

I’m so sorry that Stevie’s had a hard time this year and has lost enthusiasm as a result. I am grateful for her honesty in sharing this with us – it’s good to remember times can be hard and scary as well as easy and fun, and it is indeed important to have a back-up plan. I hope there’s no selling of the business and lots of selling of jam and chutney involved this year!

You can find Stevie online on the Maidens Fayre Facebook page and get in touch with her there.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 3: How do I prevent spam comments from being posted on my blog?

How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 3: How do I prevent spam comments from being posted on my blog?

In this article you’re going to learn some general tips for avoiding getting spam comments on your blog. Hopefully you’ve already read Article 1 in the series and understand what spam comments are and why you should stop them, and you’ve looked at some examples of spam and learned how to tell a spam comment from a real comment in Article 2.

How do I stop spam getting published in my blog comments?

There are two ways to stop spam appearing in your blog comments, and you do need to use them together to be completely effective:

  1. Make sure your blogging software’s spam filter is turned on to its highest level
  2. Make sure you moderate comments before displaying them

There are of course variations within both of these, so I’ll talk about them one by one.

Setting up your spam filter

This is general information, and I don’t have access to all of the blogging platforms, but most platforms (WordPress, Blogger, etc.) will have spam filter in place already. This will stop anything hugely obvious, like millions of links in a comment or keywords that we can all think of that we see a lot in spam emails, etc.

Often, you can set the level of spam filtering or what gets done with the spam comments.

For example, in WordPress.com, I can choose to set these options:

  • Either the worst and most persistent spam is silently discarded OR all spam is put into the spam review folder so I can review it
  • I can list keywords which I want to always make a comment go into spam (I haven’t bothered with this as my spam is very varied!)
  • I can select how many links need to be in a comment before it automatically goes into the spam folder (I allow up to two, allowing people to share information, their own book review, etc. without being penalised

How do I select the spam filter options for my blog?

In WordPress, I find the spam filter options in Settings – Discussion.

All blogging platforms will have some kind of Settings area where you can find this information. If you use another platform than WordPress.com, maybe you’d like to add a comment detailing where to find the spam filters in your platform, and I’ll add that information to this article.

Moderating comments

It’s essential to set up some sort of moderation on comments that people try to place on your blog. Although blogging platforms’ spam filters are pretty good, they won’t catch everything, particularly those cleverer ones disguised as praise with only one (or no) links that we saw last time.

When you decide to moderate comments, it means that when someone types a comment on your blog, you will receive an email with that comment, which you can then accept, delete or mark as spam. You click a link in the email, decide what you want to do with the comment, and your blogging platform will display it, delete it or note that the person is spamming (I use delete for an accidental spam or the odd duplicated comment).

There are options here, too, the most common being:

  • Moderate every single comment that is made on your blog
  • Moderate just the first comment from a particular commenter (usually defined by their email address) – each subsequent comment by someone whose first comment you’ve approved will be approved automatically

I have chosen the second option, because most spam is automated, so there’s little danger that you’ll accept someone’s comment and then find them spamming you all over the place.

I do have all comments emailed to me anyway, to make sure that I see and can respond to them, but moderating just the first one means I don’t have to click through and accept, delete or mark as spam every time I receive a comment from someone who’s commented previously.

How do I choose which comments to moderate?

In WordPress, comment moderation is in the same place as the spam filtering options: Settings – Discussion. In other platforms, look for Discussion or Comments in the Settings (again, please share where this is on your platform if you don’t use WordPress.

How do I check for comments that aren’t spam?

Occasionally, your blogging platform will get all over-excited and mark something as spam that isn’t spam. Maybe it contains a keyword it doesn’t like, or maybe it’s got more than the number of links you usually allow – but for innocent reasons.

Each blogging platform has a place to view comments which will include your spam queue, spam folder, etc. I just pop there and have a look every so often – you can mark a legitimate comment as not spam and it will show on your article.


This article has given some general information about how best to prevent spam comments from making their way onto your blog.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Do post any questions or comments below; your comments may affect the content of my next article!

Other relevant posts on this blog

How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 1: Why do people spam my blog and why should I stop them?

How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 2: How do I tell if a comment is spam?

Reciprocity and Social Media – how to negotiate social media kindly and politely

How to maintain a good online reputation – my hints and tips

10 reasons to start a blog – why you should do it now!

10 reasons NOT to write a blog – and why you should stop and think, at least!

Top 10 blogging sins – avoid these if you can!

Scheduling blog posts and keeping going – scheduling the posts and the writing of them

How do I keep people engaged with my blog? – comments and reciprocity

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2017 in Blogging, Business

 

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Small business chat update – Dick Margulis

Small business chat update – Dick Margulis

It’s Small Business Update time with  Dick Margulis from Dick Margulis Creative Services – he makes books, in effect, providing a range of services for authors. We first chatted to Dick back in February 2012, and then again in March 2013, March 2014, May 2015 and most recently, June 2016.  This time last year, this was his plan: “Y’know, I’ve been talking about our cohousing project for so long, saying that this would be the year we finally moved in, that I’m thinking I’m going to give the project the code name Jerusalem. As in “next year in Jerusalem.” <sardonic_laugh />” Let’s see what’s going on in his work life at the moment …

Hello again, Dick! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

No. At least not physically. Yet more bureaucratic hurdles have delayed the start of construction on our cohousing project. In a triumph of obstinacy over common sense, though, we persist.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m still doing what I love, helping people realize their vision of a beautiful, well-made book with which to convey their ideas, their stories, their legacies. What is new is that I’ve developed a specialty—still just a small part of my practice—of recreating the look and feel of typesetting from bygone eras. By using modern digital fonts and standard software rather than the far costlier approach of reproducing old techniques with antique equipment in a museum-like environment, I can bring in these special projects within affordable budgets. Plus I have a lot of fun doing it.

You can read all about Dick’s new type project here – with images, so do pop through to have a look!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

The things I’ve learned since the elevation of Donald Trump are all things I wish I’d never learned. Let’s leave it at that.

I’d say that was completely fair enough! Any more hints and tips for people?

The world did not spring into existence fully formed the day you were born. Your elders may actually know things you don’t know—useful things—and you should allow for that possibility before waving them away.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Every day brings a new outrage that I can’t have foreseen, so I’m not about to guess at what lies a year hence.

I love Dick’s new project with the bygone type – I hope you did click through to have a look as it’s fabulous work. I hope things improve regarding housing and politics, and stay just as inventive and creative in his work life!

You can find Dick Margulis here:

Dick Margulis Creative Services
284 West Elm Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06515
+ 1 (203)389-4413 office
+ 1 (203)464-3199 mobile
www.dmargulis.com (site)
www.ampersandvirgule.com (blog)

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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