Business Cards

I don’t know about you, but I have looked at a lot of business cards in my time, especially since I have started the Admin Angel element of my business. One of the roles that I offer to businesses is to populate spreadsheets with information from the business cards they have collected while networking. This is a useful way of collecting the data in one place to use when referring your contacts to each other, and to use as the basis of any mailing or information sheets you may decide to do for your business.

But – and this is a big but – you don’t always get the information you need from the business cards you receive.

What do you do?

I don’t have the benefit of having met many of the people whose business cards I am using to garner the information and I regularly cannot tell what business the person is in who has given out the card. Even if the business area is obvious – what is the Unique Selling Point (USP)? Sometimes I have met the person that has given the card, but I cannot always remember them as I do a lot of networking, as do the people whose cards I am collating.

Contact Information

I am amazed at how often business cards do not have basic contact information on them – like a phone number, email or website. How are the people you have met going to contact you if you don’t include this information? Quite often there is 1 or 2 of the 3 elements I have listed, but I personally feel that you need all 3 to be an effective business. Different clients have different preferred ways of contacting their potential business providers and by closing down any of the routes listed above you are not helping your business to grow.

Some cards do not have the name of the person who has handed it out – only the business they are representing. This will not help with future contacts and does not help you to work out who is being effective in getting additional trade for your business.

Additional Information

In these days of online networking it is also a good idea to include your online networking links, any of which could act as your website if you feel you cannot afford one yet, or don’t have the time to maintain more than one online presence. You have a range of potential sites – Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest to name a few that I have used. I wouldn’t recommend listing all of them on your card as you would need an A4 sheet and it would be overwhelming. My next post will be on my observations about the benefits of different kinds of social media for different types of businesses.

Legibility

Some business cards look beautiful and very fancy, but finding, and reading, the information on them can be very difficult. So please, please think about the legibility of the print – size and the contrasts between the colour of the print and the back ground are very important. Make sure that the key contact information and name stand out in particular.

The other element of legibility is how cluttered the business card is – so be selective, but make sure that the card links to other potential sources of information.

Any other points?

I have heard lots of comments about using both sides of the card – this is great to get more information across but leave some space for a note to be written on the card as many people, myself included, like to make a note of where I have collected each business card. This helps me to see which networking groups are getting me the best contacts, but it also acts as a memory jogger if I am trying to remember more about the person who gave me the card.

Using colour or a distinctive shape to make your card stand out. A good idea, but remember that people who collect business cards will often store them in a business card box if yours doesn’t fit it could get lost. Also don’t let the colour or design take away from legibility or the information you are trying to pass on ( see my other points above).

I know my businessIMG_0689 cards are not perfect, and I will definitely be redesigning the Business Consultant one in the future as my business has developed and changed since I designed these. In the interests of openness, though I thought it a good idea to share my own cards so you can critique them too.

 

 

 

How does a grandmother who is blind share books with her grandchildren?

This post has been inspired by the fact that the first 2 weeks in June 2013 is Make a Noise in Libraries (MANIL) Fortnight which is an annual campaign to bring public libraries and blind and partially sighted people together to improve access to books and information.manil13pic

Eileen Finch is a grandmother who could not find any books on the market that were suitable for her to share with her grandchildren. She decided to create her own children’s books in a unique format – giant print with Braille and illustrations. If you want to see the range of books she has published then go to her website access2books  where you can also buy the books yourself. You could also ask your local library if they have them in stock – and if they don’t suggest that they so. The list of libraries that currently stock the books can be found here.

So why have I put this into my management musings blog? It is because the journey that Elaine went through is one that anyone with a passion and an idea can follow to make a change they believe in, or to create a new business.

The key things that Elaine did were to:

  • Identify a gap/ need
  • Research the potential solutions and current provision.
  • Obtain an IP Publishing licence
  • Negotiate with publishers to use 30 popular UK books
  • Painstakingly redesign the books into a format which is more accessible and shareable for people with a visual impairment.
  • Work out a way of printing and binding the finished work into a book format. The type of paper and binding used were particular problems. In the end she had to design and make her own binding equipment.
  • Find funding to keep the project going
  • Find outlets to access the mainstream library market – Peter’s Children’s books of Birmingham helped by ordering a set based on the prototype.
  • Create a business format to procedure and market the books – in this case a Community Interest Project.

The books look brilliant and having Braille as well as large print and pictures widens the range of people who can use them- have a look for yourself. 

This is an impressive story of determination and persistence that we can all learn from, in particular:

  1. Focus on the final outcome when things get difficult
  2. If you cannot find the solution you need then create them
  3. The road to success is not easy, but if your dream is big enough, and your desire is strong enough you will succeed.

Make a Noise in Libraries Fortnight is run by RNIB National Library Service.

My views on the Arts Council England “The library of the future” report

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Dudley Library, West Midlands

I was very heartened when I started reading the ‘Library of the Future’ report that the consultation has shown that the Arts Council England (ACE) understand the importance of libraries in that:

They are much loved and expected to continue offering the same services as they have for many years, but they are also expected to respond to big changes in how people live their lives.

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England.

The four priorities to sustain and develop a 21st century library service are not ones that anyone with a passion for libraries would argue with:

  1. Place the library as the hub of a community
  2. Make the most of digital technology and creative media
  3. Ensure that libraries are resilient and sustainable
  4. Deliver the right skills for those who work for libraries.

My concern is that, at the start of the 21st Century, the excellent library services  in the country are already doing most of this (including Dudley which I managed until march 2013)- so what do they have to aspire to? They can continue to improve and develop as they have in the past, but they will be developing their own challenges.

The challenges listed in the report under each of these headline priorities take things a little further – although again a lot of this is already happening.

The challenge with the biggest change from the current situation is in the development of some of the digital and virtual offers in libraries. These are the areas which could be part of a national virtual library service as there are major economies of scale. Although this is referred to in passing there is little information about how this will be achieved. With the current budget situation and the fact that a harder future is anticipated there will not be many library services who will have the resources to develop the resources if they do not work together effectively. Maybe that is a role for the Society of Chief Librarians to take up – developing digital and virtual national offers for individual library services to buy into?

I am concerned about the promotion of a document previously published by ACE on Community Libraries being referred to in the section on making libraries resilient and sustainable. This earlier document describes libraries at very early stages of developing community led models and so it is not  proved that they are sustainable yet. In addition, ACE need to be aware that good quality professional libraries need professional librarians to manage them working with communities, not just strong communities. The way this is section is laid out does not make this as clear as I would have expected it to be as I know this was raised as part of the consultation which has informed this report.

I know that this report is a mark in the sand for ACE as part of their managing their role in relation to libraries. In some ways the report is not the major issue as it does clearly state why libraries are important. What is more important is what happens now as budgets tighten and decisions are made which will influence the effectiveness  of library services for the rest of this century. Many library services need clear leadership and support to develop effective plans for the future, not just an active debate.

There are a lot of good statements about libraries and their importance – so I will watch with interest to see what is done with them in the future.

I hope that I, through my consultancy and mentoring, will be able to support and work with colleagues in keeping the good quality and professional library services in the coming years by developing innovative, sustainable solutions.

Is starting 2 new businesses at the same time a good idea?

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my previous post Feel the Fear and do it anyway I explained about the big step I had made in deciding to take redundancy and try out a completely new way of living. I have worked in local authorities for over 30 years – and without a break for just over 26 years so this is a really big life change for me.

I decided that I did not want to focus on a single career any more, but that I would like to develop a portfolio to make sure I did not have all of my eggs in one basket. This was even more important as I was not going to have a regular pay cheque to rely on and would have to rely in the vagaries of the market – and my ability to market my own businesses.

Why did I chose the 2 businesses that I am now developing?

I chose them because they both build on my core values of helping other people to improve themselves and my desire to get back to working directly with, and helping, people. I also wanted to continue to use and develop the skills I have developed throughout my professional life as I had worked hard to learn and apply them and still have a lot to give back to all of the professions I embrace.

When developing new businesses from a standing start it is important to realise that you will be very lucky if you get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It is important, though, to measure what you are doing for your businesses each day so that you know you are moving them forward a little bit. This is a very different way of planning to that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. When starting a new business you also need clear outcomes, but the timing of them is difficult when you are still establishing yourself, and how do you know if they are realistic? Instead it is important to give yourself activity goals for every day – as you can measure your achievement if these and the more effective and positive activity you do the more likely it is your business venture will be successful.

How do you know what activity goals you need to set?

By talking to others who have gone through the same process and who can give you an idea of which activities you need to do, and for how long, before you start to see the desired outcomes that you want from your business. This can include developing a presence in the areas where people looking for your kind of business congregate – either online or face to face, the number of calls you need to make to prospects, the type of information you need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I cannot tell you yet if I have made the right choice – come back and see me again in December to see how I am doing with my 2 businesses Kate Millin Consulting and KMC Forever.