Playing Catch

Holybrook Associates_4412b_resizeAs a communications specialist and trainer, I regularly have cause to explain my playing catch analogy for effective communication. Every time I talk about it, I see people around the room nodding their heads and hear the scribbling of pencils as they make notes to remind themselves. It is a cornerstone of my beliefs about communication, so I love to share it at every opportunity.

I talk about effective communication because I feel strongly that any activity any individual undertakes must be a worthwhile use of their time, especially in busy organisations where everyone already has lots to do. And getting communication right – making a difference, achieving a desired outcome, starting a conversation, changing behaviours, whatever it is – does take time, make no mistake. Of course, the activity that uses up precious time without appearing to have any tangible benefit is always the one that gets pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list, rarely seeing the light of day. Sadly, this is often the lot of communication actions.

So _MG_8044how do you make sure your communication is effective? How do you bring about tangible benefits? (Or intangible ones, for that matter.) My suggestion is to think of effective communication as a game of catch. To be successful in that game, I have to throw the ball AND you have to catch it, and ideally throw it back to me. Then we are playing catch, not just lobbing a ball at each other! So it is with successful communication.

_MG_8048Many times in my career I have heard the cry ‘I don’t understand why they don’t know about my project, I sent the email’. Or ‘They’re complaining they don’t know what actions we took after the staff survey, but we put it in the newsletter’. And so on. But your email means nothing if they didn’t open it; your newsletter piece is pointless if they didn’t have time to read it.

You have to think about how to motivate or engage your audience to catch the ball. That could be through telling a compelling story that they don’t want to miss. Or using an email format that they can view on the bus. Or sending a message from someone they are dying to learn from. There are many options for making that ball as easy to catch as possible, you have to choose the one that’s right for your audience and your message.

If you want some help to make communication in your organisation like a successful game of catch, please get in touch.

Read more from Sarah Browning here  about planning comms over the summer period

My experience as an intern at Holy Brook

A blog post from Samantha Munnelly, studying BA Accounting and Management at the University of Reading, who is completing an internship with HolyBrook Associates over the summer period

ae28677a-8c35-42f8-80bf-09ebc110e01eWith the increasingly competitive job market, it is always a concern that after completing years of education you will fail at obtaining a job. You are constantly told to ‘make yourself stand out’ and ‘put yourself out there’, but it can be hard to know where to start. As someone who has just completed their first year at the University of Reading, it became my mission to search for an internship over the summer period.

Fast forward to now, I was offered the amazing opportunity to experience working at Holy Brook Associates as a student intern through the Reading Internship Scheme. My first couple of days went by so fast, as with starting any new job at first there is so much to learn, but I managed to pick up the speed and get to grips with the work that I was assigned. During my first week, I have been able to get involved with such a diverse range of tasks, from the typical intern roles such as updating client contact details to working on client accounts.

Further into my internship, I was able to train and get certified on Xero, an accounting software and use this to create invoices for Holy Brook, create manual income journals and also add receipts. I also got to take control of the social media posts, scheduling posts and updating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the website. Last week at Holy Brook, we had a team meeting at Ufton Court, which was such an amazing day, it was great to be able to see what the future holds for Holy Brook!

At University we are taught very theoretically, and examined by giving solutions to ‘made up’ problems. Although you do learn the content, it does not give you the best understanding. Being an intern has given me a greater insight into this industry, it has allowed me to apply my theoretical knowledge into the practical field which has been rewarding.

It has been very interesting to be able to understand the amount of diversity that you have to undertake as a small business, the fact that your responsibility does not just amount to one job. Tasks such as IT difficulties, updating social media, and chasing invoices is all tasks that in multinationals would be outsourced and therefore you would never see that side of running a business. However, at HolyBrook Associates you can find yourself doing all three!

It has been such an eye-opening experience and such a privilege to work with such a hard-working team that generally cares about the work that they do and the people they work for. I have had such an amazing time working as part of a team that are so welcoming and made my first experience in working in an office such memorable one! Although I only have a few days left now, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be an intern and I wish that I didn’t have to leave!

Samantha

 

Xero Expenses – how is it changing?

You may have heard that how expense claims in Xero are recorded is changing. But don’t panic if you were using the classic expense claims prior to 10 July 2018, as you will be able to continue using this service, you can read more about continuing to use the classic claims here . However, there is an option, that you can change over to the new updated expense claims – these are the updates:

IMGP8723Automated data capture – when you take a photo and enter a brief description xero will allocate the receipt to the nominal code.  Or you can chose to enter the details manually.

Flexible user permissions.  There are levels of users:

    1. Submitter can submit and view their own claims
    2. Approver is able to submit their own expense claim and submit a claim on behalf of others and approve expenses
    3. Admin manages all expense settings as well as approver role permissions

Prevention in miscoding – set up the codes you want to allow expenses to be coded to.  This avoids expenses being coded to other codes you don’t want them to be coded to.

Improved reports – In the explorer tab, under the expenses, you are able to view a breakdown of expenses by account code or employee.  It also lists them out by approved and paid and submitted.

You can enter on behalf of somebody else.

Able to enter multi-currency.

The new expenses feature is free to try until 28th September for business editions OR the good news is Xero have decided to keep classic expense claims, so if you’ve just got used to it you are in luck it’s here to stay.

If you like the new expenses app then you can continue to use.  After 28th September 2018 there will be a small charge.

The initial cost is £2.50 minimum for using the app and for the first user.  Then it’s £2.50 per additional user submitting an expense claim within the month (You are only charged for the number of people submitting a claim within the month. The charge is per user not expense claim)

  • So for 1 user per month £2.50 (unlimited amount of expense claims)
  • 2 users per month £5.00 = 2 people submitting an unlimited number of expense claims
  • 3 users per month £7.50 = 3 people submitting an unlimited number of expense claims.

You are only charged in the months that a user submits a claim

If you are setting up expenses for the first time then here’s some steps you can follow to get going (only the subscriber of the xero account is able to activate the expenses app):

  1. In the Accounts menu, select Expense Claims.
  2. Click Get started now.
  3. The screen you see is based on whether you have other users in your Xero organisation:
    • If you’re the only user click OK to continue, or invite new users to Xero and give them access to Expenses. There are three Expenses user roles to choose from.
    • If you have other users, select permissions for your individual team members, then click Save roles. If you don’t want to add other users to Expenses, click Just me for now.
  4. ​Select the accounts you want your team to use when creating expense claims, then click Save accounts.
  5. Click either:
    • Enable receipt processing + manual entry to upload receipt data by capturing an image of your receipts with your Android or iOS device.

By enabling receipt processing, you’re allowing a trusted third party to access your receipt data so it can be digitised as expense content in your Xero subscription. You also authorise to enable this feature on behalf of your organisation.

    • Manually enter information each time if you prefer adding the data yourself.

If you would like to switch to using the new expenses app permanently then here’s what you need to do:

7 steps from old to new:

  1. Complete any outstanding expense claims in the classic expenses.  The classic expenses will be phased out by 31 January 2018
  2. View and approve all claims
  3. Know where you can view historical expenses
  4. Get started with the new expenses feature in xero
  5. Set up staff access
  6. Ask staff to submit a claim
  7. Review and approve their claims

 

Rest & Recovery

The summer is now in full swing and the weather has been beautiful in the last couple of months. If you’re anything like me you don’t get the chance to stop and enjoy the weather until its too late! Whether you’re a business owner or a working mother, it can feel like you have a million jobs to do, and even on your day off you’ll find yourself catching up on emails, doing the housework and working until late just to keep on top of things. This is why I think we should address getting well-earned rest and taking the time out of working and how you can take this time out and turn it into positive energy to fuel you for the rest of the year.

By allowing yourself to take the time out and having a little rest and recovery, it allows you to bring perspective and give you the opportunity to step back and reflect on how your business is going. Doing this will give yourself the chance to look at how your business is growing, and maybe implement any procedures to manage this (see here for more information on how to do this).

Reflection may be needed in many areas, such as  to look back on why you decided you set up the business – if you had the vision to have a better work/life balance and now you find yourself not being able to do so, this may be the ideal opportunity to decide how to change this. Or reflection may be needed to look at the direction that your business has taken, is this a positive one, or do you find that it is not headed in the way that you visualised it to be. It is as important to take this time to  look forward and think about where you want to grow, this may be providing more of a certain service or trying something completely different.

As for the benefits of doing so, it has been countlessly proven that giving yourself time out, whether its a holiday or at least a day off per week will allow you to expand your creativity, think outside the box, get more done when you are working and become more focused.

It should not be dismissed the importance of being able to have time for yourself, and doing what you want to do. If you’re worried about how the business can carry on running smoothly whilst you’re away, check out our free resource ’10 top tips on getting things done’, published on Tuesday, which allows you to help prepare things before you go away or generally allowing things to get done more productively.

How to manage growth

Growth is a primary objective for most, if not all businesses. Growth can often happen without noticing, starting out an entrepreneur with a vision, and suddenly a few years later there are 10 employees, this is a scary but exciting change. It is therefore vital that you are able to take control and manage your own growth – don’t let the growth take control of you!

Here at HolyBrook we are at an exciting stage of growth and development  where we have seen an increased demand for our services resulting in the need to add 2 new members to our staff team in the last few months (you can read more about the team here).

Planning for growth

The most common reasons for business failure is due to lack of planning whether short-term or long-term. In order to achieve effective growth the first step is to plan – ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!’- Benjamin Franklin. By regularly reviewing your business plan it ensures that you are regularly meeting the needs of the business. It also allows you to identify key growth areas to target, making growth more focused. Regularly assessing performance against targets means that you are more likely to achieve your goals, investigate and variance and act accordingly. By reviewing finances e.g. through the effective use of Xero, you can monitor patterns and pull off reports to help plan ahead financially. 

It is important to review the staff team so the business is able to support the staff through this period of growth. Making sure they’re kept informed by regular meet-ups and therefore motivated, keeping an eye on their workload, ensuring effective line management support is in place which you allude to in reviewing structures. Maybe consider short-term increase of resources like temporary or casual staff so you’re not over committed but able to meet short-term demands.

Effective communication

A common problem of growing too fast is that communication can become lost between employees. As the business grows, no one fully knows what everyone is doing – resulting in problems such as miscommunication, important information being lost and information being processed slowly from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy. If communication becomes ineffective it can cause productivity and efficiency to decline, which in turn can increase your costs.

Although difficult, it is important to ensure that you are able to keep track of employees whether you have 1 or 100. The solution to this could be reviewing your structure, holding weekly meetings, or using software such as asana and toggl to track what work needs to be done, what work employees are doing, and if there are any overdue work.

Reviewing the structure of the business

Poor structure can be a key indicator of failing to control growth, as well as the previous highlighted issue of poor communication, structure can cause other issues. Different levels of management may need to be established, upskilling existing staff and identifying new line managers to oversee direct reports. This means that higher levels of managements time can be freed up and offers development opportunities for other colleagues.

Expanding too quickly: the problems of rapid growth

It can be mistaken that the growth of accounts receivable means that this will be replicated through cash based growth, this may not be the case. Rapid growth can cause major cash flow problems- overall there are bigger outgoings e.g. as fixed costs increase so you would hope that an increase in income would also increase. It may be true that income increases in the short term, but it may not happen for the long term period. It is therefore important to understand whether this is long term or short term and  ensure that growth is sustainable. Make sure you ask yourself – ‘do you have the amount of resources available for the workload?’ or ‘do you need to increase employees so capacity can increase?’

Another disadvantage of rapid growth can be that the quality of your product or service can increase. Employees take on too much workload so focus on getting as much done rather than the task at hand, this can mean that the business can lose clients and brand competitiveness. To ensure that this doesn’t happen make sure to keep track of quality control and review client feedback as part of your business expansion to protect your clients satisfaction.

A lesson to learn

The common misconception is that all growth is good growth, but this is not the case. Unmanaged growth can lead to inadequate cash flow, costs can increase without revenue increasing proportionally which can eventually result in business failure. Not having the resources to increase capacity can cause growth to come to a standstill and taking on too much workload retrospective to the employees can cause stress and dissatisfaction upon your employees.

Therefore, it can be said that by reviewing your business plan as part of your routine and taking on these other factors will help ensure that your growth is sustainable and you grow the right way!

What winning an award can mean

RE award with Sir John and Sue ReynoldsOur founder Rachel Eden recently won ‘Entrepenuer of the year’ in the Sntander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018, sponsored by Grandesco.  Here she explains what it has meant so far.

When I was nominated for the “Entrepreneur of the year” in the Thames Valley Venus awards It was very tempting to minimise my chances and to just appreciate that I was in the final three, after all I had been a finalist last year and that had been great fun in itself.  Of course the work we do day to day for our clients is the most crucial part of the job, however, I surprised myself by how much it meant to me to actually win.

The awards ceremony itself was of course a fabulous evening and I was surrounded by some amazing women and men, including my sister Miriam and our Coordinator Sabina.  However, there are also some ongoing business benefits.  I would recommend anyone who is sitting on the fence about getting involved in an awards process of any kind to consider them

The impact of having won the award, even in the last 3 weeks has been more than I expected, some obvious but others in areas that I wouldn’t have thought of, and I thought I would share them:

  • It is incredibly motivational for your team.  My team have walked with a bit of a spring in their step for the last few weeks
  • Existing customers are impressed – this is probably obvious but a number of our existing clients have been in touch to say well done, and offer comments on why they agree with the judging panel.
  • It’s a great marketing tool, again this is obvious but this has worked in subtle ways – I’ve not been using it as a reason to work with us, but it has certainly been a talking point that potential clients have raised themselves.
  • It’s really helps with recruitment: we were recruiting 2 new staff members during the process and just being a finalist was a good hook to help with promoting the benefits of working at Holy Brook.  I’ve noticed the business that won ‘Employer of the year’ has been using it in their latest recruitment ad (and I’d note that I think it was very well earnt… M4Promotions are a lovely team, and we use them for our promotional goods)
  • It adds to your credibility when discussing things with business contacts – this I have to admit is something I have noticed particularly with certain male business owners.
  • It’s a good chance to reconnect and motivate key suppliers and associates to work with you – I treat my suppliers as part of my team, so it has worked in a similar way to with my employees
  • You expand your network – I have met some amazing people including some who I have already or might in the future want to buy goods or services from or who might want my services in the future
  • There is always something you can learn from the other people in the process, the other finalists in my category ran very different businesses to mine, but were extremely impressive individuals as were the others in different categories – I have learnt a lot from listening to them.
  • Finally don’t underestimate how motivational for you as the owner or manager to have external recognition of your work and a chance to take stock of how your organisation has progressed.  As the founder of my business I don’t have a ‘manager’ or someone to tell me whether I’m doing a good job, so the external recognition is a great way to remind yourself that you’re on the right path.

I’m delighted to be a winner but many of the benefits from this year I got last year from being a finalist too, so if you are wondering whether or not entering an award is worth while, I would say go for it.  At worst you’ll get to meet some great people and learn from others in the same or related fields!

RE award with Sir John Sue Reynolds Miriam and Sabina

The press release for the awards ceremony is below:                                                             

Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018, in association with Marshall Volkswagen, announce winners at Grand Ceremony!

Winners of the Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018 in association with Marshall Volkswagen were announced at a Grand Ceremony and Gala Dinner at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre, Madejski Stadium on 8th June 2018.

Over 250 guest, finalists and sponsors from across the South East, attended the Inspirational Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner of the Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018, held at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre, Madejski Stadium on 8th June 2018.

The Venus Awards – dubbed by Channel 4 as “The Working Women’s Oscars” – celebrate the vital contribution that women in business make to the local, regional, and national economy, and are unique in that anyone can nominate a friend, client or family member.

Hosts for the evening’s inspiring celebrations were Tara Howard, founder of Venus Awards, and Robert Kenny, The Breeze Radio.

Every sponsor emphasised the outstanding calibre of their category Finalists when presenting the winner with their “Venus” trophy.   

Cheryl Adams, Regional Director, Santander Corporate & Commercial said: “We’ve been supporting the Venus Awards in Thames Valley since launch. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate the outstanding contribution of women in business across the region. We have seen the Venus Awards grow from something quite small to something so impressive and are very proud to be part of it.”

Andrew Lean, Marshall Volkswagen Franchise Director said: “It’s a delight to be part of the Venus Awards, we were also involved last year and it’s a really great fit for us and our business. The Winners ceremony is a fantastic night with a great buzz and atmosphere.”

This year’s Charity Sponsor is Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent. They provide specialist end of life care, aiming to help people live as well as possible with the effects of their conditions by offering care, symptom management and support from a multi-professional team.

The roll call of nominees, finalists, winners and sponsors is a testament to the growing appeal of the Venus Awards in the Thames Valley. This year’s winners will now progress to the Venus Awards National Finals to be held in the Summer of 2018.
 

 Winners of the Santander Thames Valley Venus Awards 2018 in association with Marshall Volkswagen are:

Networker of the Year Award sponsored by Prysm Group:

Jade Binsted
(Ribbons Media)

Marketing & PR Award sponsored by ShowState:

Nikki Ball

(Reading Buses)

Green Business Award sponsored by IKEA:

Julianne Ponan
(Creative Nature)

Employer of the Year sponsored The Breeze Radio:

Judith Tinker
(M-four Promotions Limited)

 Business Mother of the Year Award sponsored by Reading Chronicle:

Rachel Lambden

(Heritage Estate Planning)

Entrepreneur of the Year Award sponsored by Grandesco:

Rachel Eden
(Holy Book Associates Ltd)

HR Manager of the Year Award sponsored by Benefex:

Emily Murphy
(Ikea Group)

Inspirational Woman Award sponsored by Reading University:

Anna Sampson
(Boomerang Creative)

 Sales Director of the Year Award sponsored by Sandler Training:

Sam Stanfield
(poweredbypie)

 Small Business Award sponsored by Local Buzz:

Anna Davis

(Therapists on the High Street)

Lifetime Achievement Award sponsored by Wise Owls:

Gerry Lejeune OBE

(Berkshire Community Foundation)

PA of the Year Award sponsored by Sandler Training:

Kate Napier

(Rank Group)

Influential Woman of the Year Award sponsored by Parfitt Cresswell Solicitors:

Katherine Knight

(Intelligent Health)

Customer Service Award sponsored by Marshall Volkswagen:

Nicola Butler

(Nikki Butler Medical Tattooing)

Director of the Year Award sponsored by Santander:

Sally Preston

(The Kids Food Company Ltd)

Finance Professional of the Year Award sponsored by Rapid Search & Interim and Firefly:

Elona Mortimer-Zhika

(Iris Software Group)

 

 

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Should you publish your pricing?

Sabina ReedOur coordinator, Sabina Reed, shares some thoughts on whether as a business to business supplier you should publish your pricing or not.

Many businesses struggle with a decision about whether to publish their pricing information on their website or to have a price on application approach.

However, prospective clients may be deterred if they must approach you to ask about pricing, perhaps believing that if they have to ask the price if will be out of their affordability range, or that the offering may be too ‘cheap’ – or simply that it will be embarrassing to enquire and then find they can’t afford it.

This creates a dilemma – should you publish your pricing?

At Holy Brook we tend to be pretty transparent about our pricing – for our finance team for example we publish our hourly or daily rates, and our quotes are based on this and an estimate of the time we expect work to take.

Our reason for this is we know that when our customers are looking to make a purchase or obtain a service many businesses spend a lot of time and effort in conducting market research.  When doing so they like to have the facts to hand to enable them to decide.

Of course there are reasons to consider not publishing pricing.

One reason we often hear is that this may lead to the competition or new entrant to the market will find out what you charge and adjust their pricing accordingly, perhaps for a lesser quality offering?

However, if they really want to find out the chances are they already know what you charge. It would only take a call pretending to be a prospective customer or a conversation with a previous client to ascertain a price. In the age of social media, it is easy to access this information.

Alternatively it might be that you like to sit with a potential client and talk them through your service before they make a decision?  This often is right where the service is very personal, although we feel that it makes it easier for people to have a relaxed conversation about this side of things if they already know the sort of price range they are looking at.

Are you worried about deterring people who shop around on price? Don’t be, those people are firstly more likely to be put off by not being able to search and secondly if you are offering a unique service are unlikely to be a regular or loyal client anyway.

Branding also needs to be considered. Are you offering a service that has lots of market competition, or do you offer a bespoke or tailored service or product where no two contracts will be the same?  If, like us, you offer a bespoke service, it might still be worth considering publishing a starting price for the service or product.

Ultimately, it’s your choice whether you publish your pricing, however if you don’t it may be helpful to include a line or two on your site as to why you don’t have your prices on there. Or perhaps try a short trial of adding or removing your prices dependant on how you do it now to see if there is any change in new business enquiries.   You could even publish the pricing for some products and not others – depending on the type of product.

Financial Management Spreadsheet