COULD SOCIAL DISTANCING BE A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY?

We find ourselves in unprecedented times. I’m a small business owner, the same as all my clients, so I understand the sleepless nights and the anxiety over cashflow. But in amongst the doom and gloom there are some inspiring stories of businesses diversifying and doing their bit to try to bring hope and positivity.

Whilst all the current talk is about ‘social distancing’ let’s not forget that we are actually much more connected than we ever have been. Technology and social media mean that it’s easy to keep in touch. Lots of small businesses have started to harness this technology. For instance, my Pilates teacher is now delivering her classes live, on-line, using Zoom. This means that not only is she keeping in touch with existing clients, but she’s also able to reach new clients who might not otherwise be able to attend her classes. In another example, one of our lovely, highly recommended, Greenwich restaurants is offering a takeaway menu. There’s lots of resources out there to help businesses diversify; from running a takeaway to tips for setting up a home office.

So I say to all those fabulous small businesses out there: keep up the innovation, continue to show us your creativity, and let’s see more of these positive stories! If you’d like me to give a shout-out to your coronavirus-busting business diversification story, please contact me. I’ll write you a free case study (first come first served) to publicise your great work in your wider community.  Interested? You can contact me here.

Stay safe and keep positive.

Michelle

HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR STAFF WITH WORKING FROM HOME

The UK government have issued new guidance which encourages people to work from home wherever possible. In these unprecedented times, as we all try to deal with the challenges that Coronavirus presents, managers need to support their staff more than ever.

Many organisations already have working from home policies, but if your small business is new to the concept, you may be wondering how best to support your employees. Working from home could actually offer a new, and more productive way of working that you might want to adopt in your business in the future. However, whilst the current emergency measures are in place, you need to make sure that you consider some key factors to ensure that your working from home measures are successful.

Even if you already have working from home arrangements in place in your small business, there is no time like the present to review them and make sure that they are fit for the purposes of this current, and ever-changing, situation.

Our top tips for supporting your staff with working from home successfully are:

  1. HAVE A POLICY: this might be a very basic document if you’ve never operated working from home before, so don’t make it complicated. Set out transparently what your expectations are and make very clear what the support network around your employees will look like.
  2. MAKE SURE THAT STAFF HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT: Difficulties with technology or access to equipment may cause additional stress and anxiety for your staff. Make sure that you provide the right equipment (eg) laptops, tablets, work mobile phones, etc, and keep a track of what has been issued and to whom. If staff are utilising their own equipment such as a mobile phone, then you may want to reassure them that there will be a system for reimbursing the cost of calls.
  3. THINK ABOUT HEALTH AND SAFETY: Whilst your employees might be working from their own homes, during the time that they are engaged in duties directly related to their employment, don’t forget that you still need to ensure their safety. They are still your employees, and you still have a duty of care to them. You can find out more about your duties on the Health and Safety Executive website here. Draw up a risk assessment checklist and complete this with your employees. Remind them that they still need to avoid everyday hazards such as trailing wires, screen glare, etc. If they live alone, then consider your existing lone working policies. If you don’t have one, then build this in to the new policy. It might be something as simple as an agreed time for them to check in with you at the start and end of the day. Measures like these will show your staff that you view their wellbeing as important.
  4. STAY IN TOUCH: Out of sight is NOT out of mind. There is a danger that staff will feel isolated if they do not have the normal, day to day contact with their colleagues. Encourage continued collaboration. There are a wealth of applications that allow cloud team working, or video and conference calling. Make sure that you use them. For example, consider undertaking 1:1 meetings using WhatsApp video.
  5. DATA SECURITY: Make sure that staff understand that they have to be extra vigilant about ensuring the security of your business information. If they need to take confidential paper files home with them, ensure that they are transported in appropriate bags or containers. Perhaps consider scanning and uploading business-critical documents to a shared cloud system to avoid files having to be taken out of the office. 
  6. BE CLEAR AND CONSISTENT: Send an email to all of the staff involved setting out the relevant policies, documents and considerations, and ensure that key points such as safety and security are highlighted. By sending one overall message to all staff will mean that the messages are clear, consistent and that everyone is acting in the same way.
  7. THINK ABOUT HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Be clear that the new working from home policy is not designed to make people who are ill carry on working. Ensure that staff follow the standard procedures for reporting illness so that you can keep a record of their absence. Also encourage your staff to take the normal breaks that they would have if they were in the office, and to take time for their wellbeing outside of standard working hours. Times are challenging for everyone, and there is likely to be cases of families being taken ill and additional pressures being added to your employees who are working from home. Recognise this and take the time to remind your staff that you care about them. There are resources available from many organisations, such as MIND, to help us all through these difficult times. This is also a good time to remind staff of the standard advice on how to protect ourselves from Coronavirus.
  8. REVIEW THE ARRANGEMENTS: At the time of writing, it is unknown how long the current public health protection measures will be in place. Monitor the situation and advise your staff that a review will be undertaken every day (or every week on a given day) at a specific time. Then send the same communication to all staff so that they are clear on the organisation’s current stance in the light of any new government guidance.

For current government advice on the Coronavirus outbreak for businesses, click here.

We’ve devised a free checklist to help work through the key points. Click here if you’d like to receive it.

Best wishes to all in these difficult times.

Michelle

Blogging: What’s the point?

I haven’t posted for ages. Why? I’d started to wonder what the point was. But many businesses still blog, so I decided to do some research before I abandoned blogging altogether.

Some suggest we should forget about blogging. It’s certainly a noisy world. WordPress say users produce 70 million posts each month. We’re bombarded with content so does anyone read them? Well, WordPress state 77 million comments are made on blogs every month.

Look more closely at the article ‘Blogging is Dead and Buried’ and it’s actually saying that focused content marketing is where the energy should go. Can blogs be included? With new approaches from Google on search ranking, blogs seem like a great way for quality content to be found.

Has my opinion changed? Yes, and I found some great tips on refreshing your blogging strategy for 2020!  My blog will live on, but what do you think: is blogging dead and buried or alive and kicking?

Get in touch to know more about how I plan to take my small business blog forward.

Our Christmas gift to you: top tips for reducing your business’s carbon footprint

Gift box wrapped in brown recycled paper and tied sack rope top view isolated on white background, snowflakes. instagram.The Festive season is upon us. It is, undoubtedly, a time of year when the amount of stuff we waste increases. I found an article published in House Beautiful that suggested that 300,000 tonnes of card packaging was used at Christmas. According to the item, that’s enough to cover Big Ben almost 260,000 times! Read the article here.

The first week of the New Year is traditionally the time that I review my business priorities for the coming 12 months. There’s been so much recorded in the media over recent weeks and months about the damage that is being inflicted upon the planet, so sustainability is going to feature quite heavily in InLet’s objectives.  Progress is already being made, but I’d like to build on that even more. Over the last 12 months, I have made much better use of the electronic systems and processes available to my business. The result of this is that InLet now operates on a virtually paper-free basis. This means that our customers will also benefit from our quest for sustainability as we help them to implement the same types of systems in their businesses too.

So, how can we help you to reduce your business’s carbon footprint? Using our service means that you benefit from our commitment to the environment automatically, but even if your business isn’t yet ready for extra help and support, here are our top 3 apps for a quicker, more efficient and much more environmentally friendly business:

TSHEETS

This is my new favourite app! Whether you have to keep track of the hours worked by a full team of people, or simply to record your own hours worked for your clients or projects, this is a fantastic way to reduce the headache of paper timesheets. Hours are recorded in real-time making it a quicker, more accurate and more efficient system.

The risk of important payroll paperwork getting missed or lost in the system disappears altogether. As the app synchs with the accounting package, Xero, you can produce electronic invoices directly from the data without the need to generate paper invoices to be sent in the post.

Big green ticks for: stationery reduction; synchronisation with Xero to raise electronic invoices and reduce postage

DROPBOX

Files can be safely and securely shared between clients, individuals and teams. The need for a traditional office filing cabinet cluttering up a corner of the room disappears. Access to everything you, your clients and your team needs is possible from anywhere.  Issues with duplication and version control can be completely eradicated.

Big green ticks for: stationery reduction; more efficient use of office space and physical resources

ASANA

Asana is a great way to keep track of process flows and projects. It offers a centralised place for updates to be shared and for communication about specific tasks. Linking to other apps means that files can be easily found and referenced without the need for lots of paper copies of documents. Because communication can be undertaken within the app, there is no need for teams to be constantly working side by side. This can reduce the amount of travelling needed for meetings.

Big green ticks for: reducing the amount of travel needed for staff or clients between sites; reducing the number of documents copied across teams

When your business starts to need additional resources, it’s always worth considering engaging virtual office support like ours. It means that you don’t need to increase the amount of space within your business, or the amount of consumable resources you buy, to get the help you need.

So, on the list of things to achieve at the InLet office in 2019 are: switching lights off every time we leave the office; preserving iPhone battery life to reduce the amount of charging needed; more use of Skype for meetings to reduce car travel. I’d love to  hear you sustainability pledges, so please comment and share your ideas with us.

Thanks for reading, and we wish you a waste-free Christmas and a green and prosperous 2019!

Michelle

The Power of the Written Word

No matter what our business is, we all have to be writers. After all, we have to write something on a daily basis. Be it an email, a business proposal or perhaps a social media post. All of these things require us to harness the power of the written word.

So it goes without saying: good quality writing and running a business go hand in hand. If you want to get your message across clearly and without ambiguity, you need to get your words right. In a global marketplace, your message might reach across countries, and clarity is essential.

In addition, when it comes to communicating clearly with your staff, the written word is crucial. For example, clarity on what is expected of your staff in Job Descriptions will mean that expectations are set out without being open to individual interpretation.

Another huge factor to consider is web presence. With Google constantly ranking websites based on the quality of content, there has never been a more important time to ensure that your business writing is of the highest standard.

Ultimately, conveying a clear message of what your business is all about, what it can do for its customers, and being easily found on the web will all combine to help to raise your profile, your credibility and enable you to reach more customers. Writing also gets you organised: once you’ve written a letter, a report or an email you can save it and keep it electronically without drowning in a sea of paper. Audit trails are worth their weight in gold for running an efficient and productive business too.

Not all of us are confident writers, though. What might take some people half an hour to prepare might take others half a day or more. If the latter applies to you, there’s lots of help out there. Try freelance sites like Freelancers In the UK to search out help if you need it. You can see our posting on the Freelancers In the UK site here, but there are lots of other providers out there.

Meantime, my top tips for harnessing the power of the written word are: always use your spellchecker and don’t forget about punctuation!

Thanks for reading.

Michelle

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Private & Confidential: our promise to you

I’ve been thinking about the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) a lot recently, as, I imagine, have most business owners. As the implementation date of 25 May 2018 draws nearer, the importance of ensuring we’re all ready becomes more urgent.

Following the guidance set out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), I’ve gone through and ticked off the key things to do in preparation for implementation day. These include:

  • Mapping out data flows within my business
  • Documenting the personal data that I hold
  • Reviewing how I ask for consent to hold data
  • Provision of privacy notices
  • Reviewing my processes for holding as well as disposing of data

This list is not exhaustive, and you can undertake a self-assessment of your readiness for GDPR on the ICO website. If you’re a data controller, click here to find out more. I’ve done one, and I now have tailored guidance on what I need to do next to ensure compliance with GDPR.

A key outcome of my review at InLet has been the development of a Privacy Promise. This has been designed to reassure customers and associates that we take our commitment to data privacy and security seriously. Read our Promise here.

Meantime, to make sure that we’re fulfilling our promise, please take 30 seconds to complete this brief confirmation that you’re happy to receive information from us. Your help with this is greatly appreciated.

Overwhelmed with what needs to be done, and need help with administering your GDPR responsibilities? Contact me for a chat on how I can help.

Thanks for reading!

Michelle

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Season’s greetings from InLet Management

We would like to take this opportunity of wishing everyone season’s greetings & best wishes for the New Year🎄. This year, I have taken the decision not to send Christmas cards. Instead, I have made a donation to the Ahoy Centre in support of their work to help disadvantaged young people and disabled adults. More about why later in this post.

Meantime, please note that the InLet Management office will close on Friday 22 December through until Wednesday 3 January 2018 when we will be open for existing workstreams and email enquiries only. Full service resumes on Monday 8 January 2018.

The New Year will ring in a few changes with the InLet Management newsletter which will be reducing in frequency to quarterly. I will also be launching a new service to property and other small businesses. Watch out for news on the brand new HR SOS service. If you don’t already subscribe to our newsletter, you can do so here.

So, more about the Ahoy Centre. Well, they are our chosen charity for 2018. Every year I like to have a challenge, and in 2018 I’m joining a team of 6 other women to row the English channel. This test of endurance is all in support of the Ahoy Centre, a fabulous local charity that helps disadvantaged young people and disabled adults through sailing and rowing. You can keep up to date with our training and progress towards this epic goal by following our team’s blog. Rebels Without Paws would love your support, so please do leave us your comments or find out how else you can help us here.

InLet Management offers a range of operational management, administration, marketing support and HR advice to a range of small businesses.  Contact me for an informal, no obligation chat, to see if I can help you.

Best wishes.

Michelle

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Like the seasons, things change: how do we keep up?

There are so many changes affecting the property and small business sectors at the moment, it can make your head spin. So how are we all supposed to keep up?

On top of enforced changes like legislation, there are also the things that we decide we just need to do differently in our business. I found this when I started to expand my service offering for InLet Management. Juggling the transition period whilst, at the same time, keeping up with service delivery has been challenging. There came a point when I just had to get help because I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

Constant change is now a way of life for all of us. Here’s a taster of just a few recent or up and coming changes from the property sector:

For small businesses in general there’s also:

Whether your business is in property or any other sector, the need to reach out for help from time to time applies regardless. Having a solid team of trusted people that you can call upon to lend a hand is important; especially if you don’t have the luxury of employing those resources in your business. Here’s my top 6 people that I think we all need to have on board from time to time:

  • Operations manager/administration support
  • Accountant/bookkeeper
  • IT expert
  • Business adviser
  • HR adviser
  • Marketing support

So as autumn gets in to full swing, and the leaves fall away from the trees, why not use this as an opportunity to get some clarity? Think about your team and see if you need to reach out and find one of the top 6 to help you to keep on top of the challenges in your small business.

Whether you have a property or other small business, InLet can help you with operations management, administration and marketing support, and HR advice. Feel free to contact me to find out more.

Thanks for reading, and if you think I’ve missed someone off the list of top people to turn to in your small business, please let me know!

Michelle

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Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. What’s the hurry?

I’ve recently come back from a holiday on the Greek island of Lefkas. It was hot, sunny and very, very relaxing. In fact, I think the whole approach to life out there is ‘Manana, Manana….’.  Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. No one’s in a hurry, and everything happens in its own sweet time.

This is an enviable way to live; at least, in some respects. Nobody I met looked stressed or harried. The general approach to life itself was so relaxed I’d go as far as to say it was, in fact, hazardous. Nobody bothered with motorbike helmets. Driving whilst using a mobile on treacherous single-track mountain roads was standard. Hitching a ride on the back of a bin lorry wasn’t cause to be flagged down by the police.

This laid-back approach was apparent in every walk of life and every small business that I came into contact with. Maybe because the resorts were so chock-full of visitors during the summer period, there were enough customers to fill the myriad of restaurants every single day without anyone really trying. There was simply enough business to go round and therefore trying to exceed (or even meet) a customer’s expectations was simply not a priorotiy.  Delivering food to all members of a party in a timely manner without leaving one guest waiting? Offering a drink whilst you waited? Really not important when you firmly believe that all things happen in the fullness of time.

We were staying in a tiny village high up on a mountainside. It was beautiful: picturesque and peaceful. Our nearest restaurant was 2 km away, down a very steep and winding, single-track road. It was packed out every night of the week. A real example of a traditional, family-run Greek Taverna. Tasty food and a very rustic setting. To enjoy your evening, you really had to leave all expectations at the door. Watch carefully and it was clear to see that there wasn’t actually any kind of consistent system to the ‘organised’ chaos. There was definitely a method (or, rather, multiple methods, dependent upon who served you), but it was subject to change and inconsistency at every turn. Ask for the bill at the end of the night, and only the Taverna owner could issue it to you: at your table, whilst at the same time asking you what you’d ordered. For someone like me who likes a clear, lean and obvious process for everything, this drove me absolutely crazy. Over-dinner discussions often centred around: how many more covers could they do if they had a proper system? How many items are missed off the bill because orders aren’t being recorded after the food had left the kitchen? WHAT ON EARTH IS IT DOING TO THEIR BOTTOM LINE?! One evening whilst having this debate (again) we were visited by a Praying Mantis. That definitely changed our topic of conversation, but it did seem to demonstrate that even the insects of Lefkas have that same relaxed and un-ruffled approach to life! It was an amazing creature, and I’ve uploaded a video of him here as a reminder of how we should all just take in the moment and live a little more slowly from time to time.

It’s safe to say that the culture and approach to life and business in Greece is very different. Admirable in lots of ways, but definitely different. I’d have loved to have got stuck in with implementing some processes in almost every business I visited, but I have a feeling that the staff and business owners wouldn’t have had a clue of what I was on about, and would probably have been quite offended! How refreshing to take time out and see life from a different perspective, though. That said, I can’t see this slow pace of life catching on in the UK. Can you?

Thanks for reading!

Michelle, InLet Management

PS: I can definitely recommend Lefkas for a truly relaxing break!

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