Speaking for business

As you probably know I speak professionally, and so I often get asked for tips on how people can improve their speaking. 

Please see my article on basic Zoom meetings. Get your camera angle, lights and sound all set up even for normal meetings. 

For speaking on webinars rather than just meetings:

  • I speak professionally after years of practice and training from the Professional Speaking Association! (The speaker’s equivalent of ICAEW). If you want to run a professional event hire a professional speaker, just as you would use a professional accountant.
  • I don’t use a script so, after writing the talk, I set aside a whole day or more for rehearsing in the week before the event.
  • Any slides should enhance your event. If you’re just going to read from your slides then you’re not adding any value.
  • I have crib notes on my keyboard for any facts I might forget but they need to be big enough to read without my glasses!
  • As I’m talking about my own subject matter I can tweak the talk as I go to adapt to timing (often needed when other speakers overrun). In an event where I can see my audience I can even adapt the content to spend more time on a topic where they look engaged and skip over anything that is of less interest to them.
  • DO NOT OVER RUN as it is rude to other speakers and the event organiser. If you’re organising events please be clear on how long the actual talk should be and whether introductions and questions need to be included in this time.
  • If I’m MCing an event I hold cue cards in my hand (or on my keyboard) but I still try to rehearse introductions beforehand so that I can look at the camera/audience as much as possible.  
  • Use a professional MC for your events. They will ensure that everything runs to time even if you have less experienced speakers.
  • Have a dedicated person to look after your AV.
  • Ensure that you have a diverse mix of speakers. If anybody needs help with this then feel free to contact me as I know hundreds of speakers who cover a range of topics.

A lot of people are setting up online courses so I’m hosting a webinar on Tuesday 20th October to share how I create and host our coaching programmes on Thinkific.

Working from home – the long game

As some parts of the country are in local lockdown and we’ve all been encouraged to work from home again we need to get set up properly for working from home.

For 7 months now businesses have been making excuses for poor service and blaming working from home. Frankly, apart from a few badly hit sectors, if you haven’t adapted by now then it sounds a bit hollow. (If you want ideas on how to adapt then watch Hudson Business Advice’s old ‘One for All’ Covid videos or book onto their 30 day Makeover course starting 1 November – see www.hudsonbusiness.co.uk for further information).

Employers still expecting their team to work from their premises need to have a pretty good risk assessment, and some types of business may also be called upon to explain WHY they can’t mitigate risks by working from home.

Make it easier to work from home with:

  • VOIP phone system for external calls or an alternative method of contacting the team. I have a VOIP phone but I also use Answer It answering service to take messages or redirect calls.
  • Paperless systems. Even the smallest businesses can store information in the cloud for free or cheaply. Where possible send out information electronically to minimise the number of people touching a document. I use the business version of Onedrive.
  • Online signatures for contracts, accounts etc. I use Signable and Accountancy Manager for the two sides of my business.
  • Internal communications for managing work. Invest in a workflow system. I use Trello, Active Campaign and Accountancy Manager for the different aspects of my businesses
  • Informal internal communications such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

There are plenty of other cheap or free ways to run your business from home now that we have time to catch our breath and plan.

Is free really free?

When we say that something is free we usually mean that no money changes hands. But hopefully there is an exchange of value. For instance, I hope that these tips help you and/or your business is some way.

Salesmen often use the phrase “what have you got to lose?” when they try to book some of our time for a chat or a software demo. Well, actually, I will be losing time and for any business owner time is a precious commodity. (Thanks for taking the time to ready this, by the way).

Or perhaps we exchange our contact information for a free webinar. Yes, we too see interest in our free webinars as a legitimate business reason to think you might be interested in the paid advice that we provide as well as further webinars. It’s why we always include an Unsubscribe button in our newsletters in case you really aren’t interested.

There’s also the opportunity cost of watching a webinar when you could be spending time earning money elsewhere, so I need to be pretty certain that those webinars will prove to be a good investment of your time once you’ve signed up. It’s also why we make a donation of 1 day’s education to a Kenyan girl as a thank you to those of you who turn up.

So, next time you offer something “free” as part of your marketing, make sure that there is some value being exchanged.

What is decision fatigue? (part 2)

Decision fatigue is the exhaustion that comes with making constant decisions. My tip this week is to remove some more of the smaller decisions in your life, so here are some ideas for deciding what to eat AND trying to keep it healthy(ish).

I really admire those people who spend a day each weekend bulk cooking for the whole week. Although I love cooking I’m not that organised.

  1. Plan your meals a week ahead so that you don’t end up ordering a takeaway or snacking on junk just because you’re hungry and can’t decide what to eat.
  2. Cook double quantities and freeze half for a busy day.
  3. Order a veg box. You just have to cook what turns up, whether you like it or not. If anybody has any recipes for courgettes where you can’t taste the courgettes then please send them to me. It’s not just the veg box but the only things I have growing in my garden are tomatoes and … courgettes.
  4. Order a fruit box. Healthy snacks! Also pots of dried fruit and bowls of homemade popcorn instead of crisps for those who prefer something savoury.
  5. ‘Hello Fresh’ and similar meal boxes. Choose them in a matter of minutes ready for the following week. It’s great for trying new things and they come with brilliant instructions so the teens are able to cook a meal without input from me.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

What is decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue is the exhaustion that comes with making constant decisions. My tip this week is to remove some of the smaller decisions in your life so here are some ideas for deciding what to wear.

I’d like to think that I simplified my wardrobe long before Steve Jobs or Barack Obama but I don’t know when they started to wear their ‘uniform’ rather than spending time deciding what to wear each day.

  1. The simplest thing is to limit your wardrobe to one main colour so that you need fewer changes to match outfits. You may have noticed that I’m almost always wearing blue with black footwear.
  2. I also wear branded polo shirts and jeans for normal work days. They’re as comfortable as a t-shirt so can be worn when working from home but the collar makes them slightly smarter. Choose something that matches your business image.
  3. These days I follow a 333 clothes system where I choose 33 items of clothing (excluding underwear and sports kit) to last me 3 months. Any seasonal clothes get stored in a box in the loft. I’m pleasantly surprised that I haven’t needed to cheat yet but you set your own rules.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

Underselling or underserving

Many of us are nervous of appearing too “salesy” but do we end up underserving our clients/customers as a result?

Thinking back to a long lunch with a friend a while ago now. We ordered our food and drinks and enjoyed a good chat. But the food took a long time to come, a minor irritation as we hadn’t been prewarned but we weren’t in a rush. We had, however, finished our drinks and wanted to order more.

There was no server in sight so we became very conscious of the food delay as well as our lack of drinks.

If only somebody had stopped by to ask if we needed anything else we would have continued our conversation over fresh drinks and stopped looking at our watches.

In failing to sell to us they actually ended up underserving us. They could have sold 22% extra (I’m an accountant, of course I worked it out!) AND had very satisfied customers.

So don’t be embarrassed about upselling or cross selling if you think your client/customer needs it (and, if they don’t need it you shouldn’t be trying to sell it to them anyway!).

What to do when staff outgrow you

In a small business it isn’t always possible to provide a full career path for all your team. Even if you are growing your growth rate may not be the same as that of each individual employee.

So what can you do when a member of staff asks for more responsibility, a promotion and/or a pay rise?

  • Decide whether they are ready to take the step up with your support
  • Check your business plan to see if it is possible to accelerate any recruitment or restructuring that you had planned
  • Decide whether you want to keep the individual in your organisation by adapting your plan to include them
  • If you can’t accommodate their needs then switch your role to one of career mentor and help them to move on to the most suitable role outside your organisation.

It’s always sad to lose a good member of the team but sometimes their needs are no longer compatible with those of the business and you need to go your separate ways rather than force them to stay and become frustrated.

What can I claim for using my home for business?

Yes, we claimed a small amount for you working from home for Upstarter for November 2019 and I have a note to do a proper calculation.

How many rooms do you have in your home excluding kitchen/bathrooms? Do you have a whole room dedicated to the businesses or is it only a half? Eg if you have 6 rooms in your home and a dedicated home office then 1/6 of the costs of running your home relate to your office.

BUT your office is probably used for your home admin at weekends too so maybe 5/7 is business related. As the office is not used for business 100% of the time it is not subject to capital gains tax when you sell your home. This means that 1/6 x 5/7 of your costs relate to the business.

Included in your costs are:

  • Mortgage interest (not repayment) or rent
  • Council tax
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Cleaner
  • Some other costs are also acceptable so talk to us about anything else.

Sole traders and partnerships can just include these costs as capital introduced to the business. Limited companies will need a licence from the director to the company.

Quick software hacks

Software is changing all the time but here are a few useful bits that you may not have spotted in your existing software:


  • I still come across people who haven’t set up bank rules for repeating payments such as rates and salaries.
  • If you’re an accountant or bookkeeper using Xero then it is worth doing their online certification course to learn all the main tips and tricks.
  • There is a new short term cashflow report which can be particularly useful at this time. It forecasts your cashflow for the next 7-30 days based on invoice due dates although it doesn’t include payments for such things as salaries and taxes.
  • Use the invoice reminders to gently chase overdue invoices where customers may have forgotten them.

Thrivecart are offering a lifetime subscription for you to handle all your online sales through one platform. You will still need to use a payment provider. We use Stripe for card sales but you can use GoCardless or Paypal.

  • ​Many apps that don’t have a direct interface can be connected by using Zapier. An action in one app can trigger an action in another app using Zapier rather than coding. It’s so simple that even I can do it (and I haven’t even done the training yet).

Let me know your other hacks and shortcuts as efficiency is so important in business.