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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Your opinion matters!

This month’s InLet Management blog is all about YOU. I’m in the process of developing my business, and whilst I think I know what our existing and prospective customers want, I don’t know for sure.

I’m asking for your assistance to help me to help you. That’s why I’m asking you to complete my 60 second survey about your single biggest business/operational challenge right now. The reason for doing this? Well: my customers matter and if I can help you with that challenge, then I’d like to be able to.

Before I devised our questionnaire I did some research and in this blog post, I wanted to share some of the useful information that I’ve gathered about the importance of customer care standards in small businesses. Because my main customer base is currently small businesses in the property sector, I’ve looked specifically at how customer care relates to landlords, letting agents and other property businesses. However, the principles apply to any small business and I’m hoping that my research will also help other organisations like yours.

This month’s InLet newsletter also focuses on small business customer care hints and tips. If you’re not already on our mailing list, you can join here to access regular free resources for your own business. As a taster, here are our top 7 key points gained from our research:

  • Show your customers that you care: have a Customer Care Policy that you share with them, reference on your website and in your marketing materials. If you’re a landlord with a small portfolio, a checklist of commitments that you strive to achieve for your tenants would work just as well.
  • Enable your customers to communicate with you. I love one tip about creating an on-line community just for your customers or tenants to raise questions or give feedback.
  • Communicate with your customers regularly, and proactively seek their feedback. Questionnaires are a quick and easy way to do this, and there are lots of apps that you can use to make the job even easier. I love SurveyMonkey.
  • Don’t be a jobs worth! If you can justifiably offer a little flexibility without breaking necessary rules or, more importantly, laws, and without opening the floodgates, then, why not?
  • Be responsive: what’s a reasonable timescale within which to respond to issues? Define this within your business and stick to it. Delays often frustrate customers, particularly if there is no apparent reason for them.
  • Get your paperwork in order! A chaotic or disorganised approach will be apparent to your customers. Document systems and procedures and ensure that they’re applied across your team. This will mean that all of your customers get an efficient and responsive service.
  • Business is about people: listen to what your customers say, particularly if they’re unhappy about something. Allow them to speak, clarify their points, reflect back your understanding and apologise where it’s clear things haven’t gone as they should have. Don’t blame!

As a landlord myself, I have tenant customers as well as business support and inventory clients. My top tip? Have a procedure for dealing with every aspect of your business so that you can be responsive and transparent. It also saves you time as you don’t need to re-invent the wheel every time an issue crops up.

Can’t find the time to write a customer care checklist or procedure, or to work though a system to create an on-line community? Give me a call for a no obligation chat on how I can help you with you business support and operational procedures.

Before you go: don’t forget the InLet Management 60 second survey. I’d really value your input on the types of things you need help with in your small business.

Thanks for reading!

Michelle

 

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Getting your small business ready for the summer holidays

The summer holidays are fast approaching, and if you’re beginning to worry about how your business will tick over in your absence, it’s time to start planning.

Most of us are so tied up in our day-to-day operations, that after the glow of having booked your holiday has worn off, and you’ve got stuck back in to the nitty-gritty, before you know it, your departure date is looming. Setting off on your holiday feeling drained and stressed because you’ve been running around at the last minute trying to get things organised isn’t a great way to start that rare period of rest and relaxation. You want to head off feeling accomplished and calm knowing that everything is going to run smoothly in your absence.

So where do you start? My recommendation is that you take half an hour away from the operational stuff, grab a coffee (or tea), a pen and a piece of paper and find somewhere quiet. With a clear head, you can start making a list; scope out what’s in the pipeline (or projected to be) during the period that you’re away. Get a feel for where the priorities are going to be.

This list will be your master plan for what needs to happen and enables you to do what needs to be done, delegate what you can (or engage external support) and identify what can wait until you return. The advantage of doing this is that on that first day back after a lovely holiday, you’ve already got the makings of a plan of action for those first few days to help to you ease you back into work.

If you’re struggling to prioritise what needs to be done, delegated or put into the pending tray until your return, run a quick risk analysis on a separate piece of paper. Think of your worst case scenarios and work back from the ideal solution that you’d put in place if these things happened while you’re away. Thinking of cost implications, reputational risk, sales figures, etc, will all help to identify the key areas for your plan. The additional benefit of this risk analysis approach is that in working through potential problems, you can also develop a contingency plan of what needs to happen in your absence if something goes wrong.

I also recommend notifying your key clients and customers of your holiday dates. It keeps them informed and shows them how valued they are. It also gives you a chance to explain who their key point of contact is while you’re away. If you’re intending to work remotely while on holiday, it also gives you an opportunity to identify in advance specific dates and timeslots when you will be available (eg) by mobile, email or Skype. Don’t forget to check WiFi connectivity at your destination if you’re indenting to keep in touch while you’re away.

Think about using tools that enable you to schedule things like your social media in advance, or out of office auto responders, telephone answering services, outsourced resource services, or other workflow systems that you already have established in your business. We love BufferApp for social media, and Asana for scoping out monthly tasks to help plan in advance each work stream. This makes it easier to identify what needs to happen, when, or what can wait until you get back.

I’ve devised a small business holiday planning checklist that you can access here to help you get organised and, ultimately, head off on your holidays ready to relax without the constant worry of what might crop up while you’re away. Use the checklist to build your contingency plans and ensure that everyone knows what they need to do while you’re not there.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your holiday! If you’ve got hints and tips to get holiday-ready in your small business, or stories of where you wished you had been, we’d love to hear them. Please do leave us a comment below.

Michelle

InLet Management

The Manifesto we believe you MUST read this election season

The General Election is now just days away. There’s simply no getting away from it, and the debate goes on as to how the result might impact the property market. However, after a recent book recommendation, I’ve been reading a manifesto of a different type: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

I have to admit that, on first hearing the title, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be a dry, boring read. Nothing could be further from the truth: with reference to plane crashes and surgical mishaps, it puts forward some sobering examples of where things have gone horribly wrong.

The Checklist Manifesto is a fascinating insight in to how some of the most complex professions in the world attain consistent high standards through the use of the humble checklist. From surgery, to air flight through to the construction of major multi-storey buildings, the lessons shared in this book demonstrate a convincing argument for using checklists in any business or profession.

Whilst none of the services delivered by InLet Management are life or death, one thing that we always strive for is consistency and high standards. Arguably this might be easier to achieve in a very small business, but on reflection a lot of what we deliver at InLet is already based on checklists. From business support services, to inventory provision, we use checklists to keep track of things and to accurately record vital information every single day.

Far from creating an onerous additional step to our daily routines, Gawande talks about the power of having simple, measurable and transmissible steps to achieve consistent results and high standards. Be it large-scale, multi-disciplinary construction businesses or investment financiers, he explores how any business can benefit from using checklists to reduce errors and significantly increase efficiency. Gawande believes that checklists enable us to free our brains from having to remember the routine, simple tasks that often get forgotten and, when they are, lead to errors, inconsistencies and reduced quality.

For some real-life examples of the power of checklists, you can take a look at one of the examples that Gawande references in the book. A video outlining the crash landing of BA Flight 38 flying from Beijing to London on 17 January 2008 can be seen here. You can also see a speech from Captain Peter Burkill, Pilot of the plane at the time, referencing teamwork and the procedures followed here. Pilots (like surgeons) use checklists every day and, without question, these checklists add immeasurable value to what they do.

Read Gawande’s book and judge for yourself how checklists might help you in your business. OK, maybe you won’t save a life (although you might if you offer services such as plumbing or electrical installation), but I bet you’ll create greater efficiency and, chances are, you’ll also improve your bottom line as a result.

If you’d like to know more about how we use checklists at InLet, or explore how we could help you to develop them for your business, then please do get in touch. Meantime, if you do read Gawande’s book, let us know what you thought of it.

Thanks for reading!

Michelle