A MISCELLANY OF BRILLIANCE – PART 1
As anyone who has been in this community for any length of time knows, we are all about collaboration and radical generosity. And one of the most collaborative and generous things you can do, in my opinion, is to offer recommendations and referrals. In this post, I’m offering you some of my BEST recommendations and referrals.
People ask for my opinion a lot. And by people, I mean you – the wonderful Actually community. You want to know what kind of database to use, which bank to bank with, who can help you with your branding, your finances, your mindset, your speaking skills and so on.
And sometimes the answer is ‘Us….we can help you with that.’ But, as shocking as it may seem, we can’t do everything and we’re not everybody’s cup of tea (although if you’re reading this we are hopefully YOUR cuppa!).
So I thought I would gather together in one place my best recommendations and referrals for you to keep handy when the time comes. This week – part one of my miscellany of brilliance for business owners.
1. Best Database
If I had a pound for every time I am asked this question…OK, here goes.
Firstly, do you need a database at all? Well, in theory, no. If you’re a tiny business with only a handful of clients and you don’t want to grow or email them anything more complicated than an appointment confirmation then you COULD an Excel spreadsheet.
But most of you WILL need a database and the decision about which one to use will depend on:
- How big your list is now
- How big you’d like it to be
- How much money you have to invest
- How complex the automations and sequences are that you’d like to run
If your list is relatively small and not likely to grow much, if you don’t have much to invest and / or the automations you want to run are not that complex, then one of the free or lower price databases like MailChimp or MailerLite will work perfectly well.
If, however, you have a larger list (1000+) or you know that you want to grow your list significantly and you want to be able to run more complicated automations or segment your list to create more targeted campaigns, then we recommend ActiveCampaign.
2. Best Business Bank
As far as I am concerned there is ONLY one bank worth banking with in the UK and that’s Starling Bank. Admittedly I am slightly biased since they were once my client and I helped launch them – but I do also happen to think they are the best and apparently 82% of their business banking customers agree.
My top three reasons for preferring Starling? It’s free. They provide 24/7 customer support and you can talk to an ACTUAL human being. My account integrates with my finance package which makes my life SO much easier!
3. Best Finance Packages
Talking of finances, you may have clients who are happy to pay by bank transfer but if you want them to be able to pay by credit card, bank card or in instalments – you’re going to need a payment system. We use Stripe. We did a lot of research and in the end it came down to this: their fees were the lowest.
And at some point you’re going to need an accounting package to track all of those payments, create and send invoices, track payments and give you a proper overview of your finances. I recommend Xero. But I also recommend you check with your accountant what system they use / prefer. We went with Xero because it is so comprehensive but also because our accountant recommended it.
4. Best Accountancy Support
Talking of which, there is ONLY ONE person I recommend for accountancy support. She is a legend. She must be….she puts up with me and does both my personal and my business accounts and tax returns! She is Nicola Deverson – the Founder of Envision Partnership. Nicola is fabulously knowledgeable, infinitely patient, wonderfully good-humoured and utterly brilliant at what she does. She also has a programme educating female founders about finance which I thoroughly recommend. And if you are a member of Actually JFDI (so much more than a membership!) – you’ll several training videos from Nicola in the JFDI Cavern – Training section. Aren’t you lucky?
5. Best Business Insurance
I am a loyal customer – when I like a company I go ‘all-in’ which is why my house insurance and business insurance are all with one company: Hiscox. Their cover is comprehensive and their customer service is second to none. For the coaches amongst you, they’ve also built up quite a specialism in insuring coaches. Worth chatting to them.
6. Best Business & Marketing Strategist
Ummmm….rude. 😉 What do you think I do all day? Twiddle my thumbs? Business & marketing strategy is my bread and butter darling. 🙂
There are lots of people out there who claim to be able to advise you about strategy. And I think most of them fall into one of two groups:
- They have created and grown a successful business and believe that ‘strategy’ is simply telling you how to do what they did.
- They have actually studied strategy, know what it is (clue – it’s not what the people in group 1 think) but they can’t explain it in simple language.
The problem with group 1 is that they don’t actually understand strategy – if they did they would know that just because their approach worked for them doesn’t mean it will work for someone else. And the problem with the second group is obvious – you can’t understand a word they are saying!
My recommendation is that you ask anyone claiming to be a business or marketing strategist to tell you what business strategy is. If they simply start telling you about what they did or you can’t understand their answer – well to quote one rather amusing TikTok-er ‘à la poubelle’*.
My answer is this: strategy is a description of how you’ll get from where you are now to where you want to be. It’s entirely different for every client because it has to be based on a deep understanding of that individual and their business: their strengths and weaknesses, their market, their aims.
If you’d like my advice about the right strategy or approach to achieve your business and marketing aims then why not book a Power Hour?
Ok that’s enough for Part 1. Check back soon for Part 2.
YOU HAVE MARKETING SUPERPOWERS®
You’re not bad at promoting your business, you’re just trying to do it in a way that doesn’t work for you.
Find out what your MARKETING SUPERPOWERS ® are and start communicating with your audience in a way that resonates with them & feels comfortable, authentic and natural for YOU.
Phew! Doesn’t that sounds awesome?
week I wrote a newsletter that caused more people to unsubscribe from my list than almost anything I have ever written before. I'm not concerned - clearly they are not my people - but I thought I'd share it here so you can tell me: would this cause YOU to unsubscribe?
"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels."
I remember the first time I heard that quote.
I was in my teens. I laughed.
Then as I began to think seriously about my career, my Mum explained to me that to be a successful career woman meant working twice as hard as a man to be considered half as good (and paid half as much).
I was in my early twenties. I thought she was exaggerating.
After I burnt out for the second time, I went to a conference and listened to a passionate and eloquent woman - who has subsequently become a great friend - explain something that should have been utterly obvious to me: that our entire cultural paradigm is based on structures set up by men and for men.
I was in my forties. And I cried.
Because it is exhausting having to don your Superwoman cape every day to ‘compete’ in the workplace.
As a single woman, I didn’t have to juggle work with family.
As a white, middle-class, cis-gendered, heterosexual and mainly able-bodied woman, I wasn’t dealing with the raft of intersectional prejudices beyond your average, everyday sexism.
But I was still exhausted.
And it wasn’t just because the systems that we work within weren’t designed for women but for men who had stay-at-home wives doing all of the work in the home.
It’s because for me - as for so many women - every day was and is a balancing act.
Every day is a tightrope walk between safety and danger; between being listened to and dismissed; between familiarity and harassment; between authenticity and playing the game.
Every day is a fight to be seen, to be heard, to be respected, to be autonomous, to be considered, to be valued, to be safe.
In the workplace, in our social spaces, in our homes, in our politics, in our media.
This week my friend and client Harriet Waley-Cohen shared a post about this on LinkedIn. I’m going to share a section of her post here because she has put this so much more eloquently than I could:
"Sometimes it amazes me that there isn't a massive uprising.
Women are fed up of being objectified and judged on our looks, and only respected by how fu*&able we are deemed to be.
We are exhausted by feeling unsafe everywhere we go and watching our backs.
We are exasperated with not being paid the same, of our careers, choices and finances being marginalised because of caring expectations.
We are in despair about our allegations against powerful men being ignored because these men are too valuable to be held to account.
We are done with being told our tone of voice is the bloody problem, that we are too emotional.
We have had enough of not being able to trust the police or the legal system, and of people saying 'innocent until proven guilty' when the stats for prosecutions are laughably low and we all know most rapists never face any real consequences.
We are fed up of being told that it's not all men, because we never said it was, and it hurts to see so few men actively working towards making things better."
There has been an outpouring of grief, support and righteous anger in the comments on Harriet’s post. Of course there has. Because this is nearly every woman’s lived experience. And it is not OK.
I have written about these issues before in this newsletter. In the wake of the Sarah Everard murder and after the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade. And there’s a part of me that didn’t want to write about this again. A part of me was concerned that you - my wonderful community - would grow bored of me ‘ranting on’ about this issue. A part of me that feared being judged or dismissed.
And that’s exhausting too, right?
The constant self-censorship. The constant voice in my head telling me that I can’t say this, shouldn’t write about that, mustn’t be too emotional, too strident, too ‘shouty’.
Well, in the nicest possible sense: f*&k that.
I am in my fifties now and as tired as some people may be of hearing me talk about these things, trust me I am WAY more tired of still having to talk about them. But until there is equity, it is up to every one of us to keep ‘banging on’.
And we need to do more than rant, we need to ACT.
Because here’s the thing, whatever your gender, you can either be an ally or you can be complicit in the problem. Please choose to be an ally. Here are three things you can do:
- Support people like Harriet when they share publicly about these issues. This kind of content often attracts trolls and the ‘not all men’ brigade - and it can be overwhelming to have to do all the rebuttal yourself. Another friend and client - the fabulous Stephanie Aitken, also did a post this week on a related topic and spent many hours having to deal with trolls in the comments. Help them.
- Call out misogyny, sexism, harassment, prejudice and bigotry when you see it - and when you feel safe to do so. I’m not advocating that you intervene when doing so would put you in real physical danger. But if a colleague makes an off-colour remark; if a family member behaves in a way that is inappropriate; if a friend displays ignorance, aggression or bias: name it. Don’t just smile and secretly roll your eyes. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t be afraid to be ‘awkward’. Have the conversation.
- Engage the next generation. Several of the commenters on Harriet’s post talked about children watching violent porn. They shared stories of how boys’ attitudes to girls are in some cases worse now than they were when I was a teen. The murder of Elianne Andam this week makes it clear just how important it is to speak to our children about these issues. Talk to the young people in your life. Find out about their experiences. Give them a safe space to explore these issues. And educate them about respect and equity. If we are going to break this cycle, this is VITAL work. Don’t shy away from it.
There is so much more that we could all be doing but this would be an amazing start!
OK. Rant over, for today.
I’m not promising I won’t come back to this again.
My most fervent wish is that there will come a day when it won’t be necessary.
I hope to see that day in my lifetime.
My biggest fear is that I will not.
I think that will do for now - I do hope it has been helpful!
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