Tag Archives: social media

Make money, save money and stay competitive in 2018!

Next month, David Taylor, Digital Management Consultant, will be at Church Street Library running a free workshop about how to navigate today’s digital marketplace. Over to David to tell us more…

Like it or not we are in a predominantly digital age. Technology has moved so fast that it is affecting almost every part of our lives. Social media, data security, virtual reality, Blockchain, artificial intelligence, Big Data – the list goes on.

Unfortunately, many small businesses – indeed a large amount of organisations both large and small – are woefully unprepared to meet the challenges of this new landscape.

A report out last year by Lloyds found that 1.6 million small business lack even basic digital skills. That’s thousands of businesses who are potentially at risk of going bust or at the very least, not being able to compete.

However, no one should be surprised by this. Most human beings don’t like change – including business owners – especially when it is as potentially life-changing as the one we’re all experiencing as a result of technological advances.

Doing nothing is really not an option though and hoping that tried and trusted methods of marketing, sales, HR, IT etc. will somehow carry on working is a fantasy.

The key thing is to have a proper digital strategy for your business. One which takes into account the changing business landscape and helps you plan for the future, as best you can.

At a free event at 6pm on Wednesday 11 April, held at Westminster’s Church Street Library, I will be talking about how you can take advantage of this new digital world, reach out to today’s tech-savvy customers and ultimately future-proof your business.

As well as speaking inside the library, we will also be live streaming the event as a simulcast via the Westminster Business Information Point Facebook page and via my Twitter account – links below

The 45-minute talk can be distilled down to doing three things really well:

Innovating – small businesses should be looking to disrupt, challenge and find new ways of reaching out to customers. Don’t just wait for all your rivals to gain competitive advantage over you because you are too scared of ‘doing something different’!

Educating – nothing stands still and the pace of change is actually speeding up. So it is vital that you constantly upskill, learn new ways of doing business and bring in bright people to work around you. There is no excuse for failing to learn new skills. Never before have we had so many free resources at our fingertips.

Relating – business is all about your customer. Who are they, where are they, what do they want and how can you reach them in the most efficient manner possible. This is particularly true in today’s multi-channel, digitally powered world. So it’s vital that you strive to relate to your customers, employees, suppliers and advocates.

I look forward to seeing you on 11th!

David Taylor

Sign up to attend in person here 

Watch on Facebook Live here

Watch on Twitter here


It was a library, Jim, but not as we know it

Browne system issue tray. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Happy National Libraries Day!

Ask any person on the street “What is a library?” and they will probably say something like “A public building with books you can borrow”. That is indeed the case, but a modern day library offers much, much more, and a library card is the key. How? It’s all down to the development of computers and especially the Internet and World Wide Web in the 80s and 90s.

St. Marylebone library book label and pocket

Just a generation ago, things were very different. With no computers, most libraries issued books using the Browne system. Books had a pocket holding a card which gave the book’s number and author/title details. Readers were given a number of pocket tickets with their name and address details. They tendered one of these for each book borrowed and the book’s card was placed in the pocket ticket and then filed in a rack before (or behind) a date due marker. On returning a book, the racks would be searched for the matching card and the ticket returned. Returns and renewals could only be done at the library where the books were borrowed. Readers with overdue books would get posted reminders.

City of Westminster catalogue card

The library catalogue was a large set of drawers in which were inserted 5in x 3in cards for each book – one filed by author, and one by title or class number. The catalogue would only show books at that library, and would not show whether the book was in or on loan. When new books were added or old books withdrawn, the cards had to be manually filed or removed. By the 1970s, new technology saw the introduction of a system-wide catalogue on microfilm or microfiche. But it would still not show whether the books were in the library or on loan.

City of Westminster tokens

With fewer alternatives available, reading was a far more popular activity, and the library was so busy, especially at lunchtimes, that in 1952 Westminster dispensed with the Browne system. Instead readers were given plastic tokens which they handed over for all but the most expensive books. There was no record of who had out what books, so no overdue letters could be sent, but once a year each reader was written to and they had to produce all their tokens or pay a forfeit. This system was to last until a computerised management system was introduced from 1984.

City of Westminster renewal letter

As well as books, readers could borrow gramophone records, although there were strict rules about their care. The records themselves were not on the shelves. Instead there were display racks of the cards from which borrowers made their choice and then exchanged the card for the recording – supplied in a carrying case.

City of Westminster Gramophone library rules

Reference libraries had shelves upon shelves of atlases, dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias etc, often out of date even before being published. Some directories even came in loose-leaf binders so that update replacement pages could be supplied. [I remember it well. Ed.]

Westminster Libraries still lend books, but now you can browse the catalogue of all the branches from home or while out and about on your phone, check the availability of books and reserve them online. Not just for Westminster but also Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries too. You can renew items online and return them to any library in the three boroughs.

Westminster Libraries catalogue, February 2015

We no longer have gramophone records (or the cassettes which followed them) but we do lend CDs, DVDs and Talking Books on CD. You can even get something to read or listen to without visiting a library building at all, as we have e-books, e-magazines and e-audiobooks too.

E-books from Westminster Libraries

When you visit ‘in-library’ there is more on offer than just what we lend. There may be reading clubs or writing groups, author talks, computing or English classes, careers advice sessions, and a range of health promotions. There may be children’s homework clubs and holiday reading clubs and craft events. It varies from library to library, but the website will have all the details – and if you follow us on Twitter – or just keep an eye on the right hand column of this blog – you’ll get updates on all our special events as well!

BTL Ravel workshop with Pimlico Academy students, April 2014

Those groaning shelves of reference books are much reduced now, replaced by public computers to use and study space with free wi-fi access. But don’t go thinking that there is any less information available – far from it! With the 24/7 library your library card gives you access to a staggering wealth of information for free on our subscription databases. Business information, the arts, family history and worldwide newspapers are amongst the resources available – much of it accessible from anywhere that you can get online and, as it says, available 24/7 – not just when the library is open.

Marketline - one of our many online resources

People have predicted the end of libraries in our present digital, connected world. Well they may have changed in ways unimaginable a generation ago but they are still a thriving, valued part of the community. Who knows what changes another generation will bring? I expect and hope there will still be something people call a ‘library’. But will it contain books? – well perhaps the trend is already starting…

Charing Cross Library 1948

[Malcolm, who has seen and embraced it all in his 40+ years at Westminster]

Business Focus: Dominica Alicia

Dominica AliciaSocial media entrepreneur Dominica Alicia recently gave a presentation at Paddington Library’s Business Information Point. Afterwards we spoke to her about how she approaches her business.

What’s your professional background?
I have been an employee for almost 12 years. I started working at the age of 15 because I wasn’t getting any pocket money and felt worse off than my friends and classmates. I got my first job as a sales assistant in one of the clothes shops in my town. I was attending college from Monday to Friday and working over the weekends. At the age of 19, I passed my exams to get into business school, but due to lack of funds, I was forced to find a full-time job and study part-time. I have two faculties: Finance and Strategic Management.

My first “real” and full-time job was as a sales assistant in a mobile phone shop, where I got promoted to a shop manager within just 2 months. That’s how my “employee career” started… My friends were telling me that I had been born with a silver spoon because at the age of 19, I was in a high management position and earning good money. Over the next 8 years, I climbed the career ladder in big international companies such as Orange and Yum!, where I was responsible for day-to-day management, marketing and recruitment.

What made you decide to start a business?
As a child, I wanted to become a doctor. I loved helping people out and for me, at that time, being a doctor was the only way to do it. When I was 12, I met my grandpa, who was a successful entrepreneur, and he became my first business mentor. My meeting with him had a huge impact on my future. Over the time, I knew that I wanted to have my own business in the future, a business that would help people. Despite the fact that I have been very successful in my job, something has always pestered me. I have had in mind all the lessons my grandpa taught me. I had so many ideas but it was difficult to implement them in my work place. I felt limited, like a slave. I earned a lot, but I hardly had any money. My childhood dreams about helping people kept coming back to me, but I had no idea how to make a business out of it. Finally, to my friends’ amazement, I left my job and moved to the UK. And that’s how everything started.

What is your business model?
I have a couple of businesses at the moment, or let’s call them “income streams”, like consultancy, training company and a marketing agency. In Wealth Business Experience, my team and I help businesses to attract more clients using online marketing techniques, mainly local marketing and social media. I am also an internet marketer, so I follow the newest strategies and apply them to my businesses first. If they work for me, I use them also for my clients. I am a totally results-driven person and if a client pays for a service, he/she must receive Return On Investment.

Before you started the business did you have a business plan?~
Yes and no. As soon as I left my job in the UK (as I was working here for a while), I started an eBay business. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but, at least, I had some freedom and could implement my own ideas. One day I received an email from some unknown source with an invitation to a marketing seminar. I decided to give it a try and went to learn new strategies on how to advertise my eBay shop.
It was the biggest eye-opening event in my life. Over 3 days, I learnt more than I had during my 5 years of formal studies. I realised that if I learnt this stuff, and offered it to businesses, I would be able to not only build a strong business, but help people at the same time. It was also a great consultancy opportunity, something that made me even happier, since I love meeting new people. Right after the event I started applying some strategies to my eBay shop and my sales increased by 250% just over a two-month period.
My friends got interested and since they were running some businesses as well, I started sharing with them some ideas. They got results and sent me some referrals. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning, and there was no plan at all. Howeve,r before I decided to dedicate myself to this business and close the eBay shop, I spent a good couple of weeks on doing market research, analysing the competition, identifying a profile of my ideal client, setting up goals etc. I started small with some online marketing consultancy, but my business took off the ground very quickly and I knew that I would achieve whatever I wanted.

Where did you get the capital to start? Was it easy to get funding?
I started this business with next to no money. I did invest in an online marketing course and mentoring, which helped me to start with my consultancy. It was around £2500 from my savings. I have never asked for any capital to grow my business. I did not need to. I had enough clients in my first month to make a living. I am still investing in my knowledge, but I don’t hesitate to do it, because it helps me to provide outstanding services and better results for my clients:

Better Results = More Happy Clients = More Referrals = More Money

How long have you been in business and what are the key challenges you have faced?
I’ve been in business for 2 years now. There were many challenges. When you are an employee, others organize the time for you. There are some rules and guidelines, which you need to stick to. When you are working at home, there are plenty of distractions around you, like a ringing phone, distracting and time consuming websites, preparing another cup of tea… to name but a few. You really need to master the planning and stick to it. Otherwise, you will fail…
Another challenge is having undecided clients. There’s nothing wrong with them, we are here to help and advise. However I once had a client for website development. I did not sign a contract with them and the project took 8 months. They had no idea, what they wanted and kept changing the design… It cost me a lot – not only money and time, but also shattered nerves.

What’s the most important part about running a business?
You need to be really persistent, as there will be some ups… and downs! Running a business is not a rocket science though, if you have a plan. Set up your goals and measure your progress. Lots of businesses do not monitor their results. You have to know your numbers. What is your financial goal for this month, this week? What is the lifetime value of your client?

What’s your approach to cash flow?
As you probably noticed, I am really focused on numbers. And I know my numbers. I constantly monitor and measure my results. I know exactly how much I spent on every area of my business. I always pay 10% of all income to my “Financial Freedom Account”. This money is being invested in gold and forex and creates some passive income for me. This is always first. Then I pay all other expenses: salaries, trainings, stationery, etc.

What advice would you give someone thinking of starting their own business?
Do proper planning. Set up your goals. Ask yourself what you would like to achieve in 1 month, 1 year, 5 years…? How do you see yourself in 1 month, 1 year and 5 years? Research your market? Find out what the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors are. Define the profile of your ideal client. Brainstorm some marketing ideas. That’s really at least 70% of success. Ensure you measure and monitor your progress. Know your numbers: how much and by when?
You need to get it right. Time management and other skills – you can learn them over the time, but planning is the most important part.


How to get the most out of LinkedIn

Chris CarterMore than 40 people attended this recent event at Westminster Reference Library, a strong indicator of the increased interest in Social Media for Business.

This seminar was aimed at those still unsure of the benefits and those that may have been registered for some time but still unclear about how to make it work for them.

The presentation covered a good number of LinkedIn applications and for each one Chris Carter demonstrated how this growing networking tool can best contribute to finding a job and expanding your social network with very little effort.

Judging from the participants’ various questions and reactions the presentation was very relevant. Chris succeeded in bringing some clarity, structure and fun into this successful business tool, so much so that we had to gently nudge the audience away as the event overran by more than an hour (and just in case you wondered – no, no wine was served!).

Here are a few of the comments:

“I now feel equipped to take my LinkedIn network and profile to a stage of active professional use, rather than just an address book.”

“Very thorough, [Chris] explained each section in detail.”

“Thank you for the event, very enlightening.”

“I now have an action plan of at least 15 ways to improve how I use LinkedIn.”

“Good presentation, excellent tips given.”

“Useful information, especially to promote my business.”

“Good, [Chris] knows her stuff and the screen demos were very useful.”

You can find out about future Business events at Westminster Reference Library, Pimlico Library, Paddington Library and Church Street Library by liking the Westminster BIPs Facebook page, or following @WCCLibraries on Twitter.


Business Focus: Cemanthe Harries

Cemanthe Harris, of New Media Angels, visited Pimlico LibraryRecently, Cemanthe Harries, founder of New Media Angels, came to Pimlico Library to present a seminar on Social Media.

Pimlico library is one of four Westminster libraries with a specialist Business Information Point (BIP). In addition to providing a wide range of hard copy and online business resources, BIPs host regular seminars, presentations and workshops with special guest presenters.

After the seminar we got a chance to speak to Cemanthe about how she approaches her business. This is the first in an occasional series hearing from presenters who have had practical experience in creating, running or advising small and medium sized businesses, with the aim of giving would-be entrepreneurs an insight into starting and running a business.

What’s your professional background?
I have had a very varied portfolio career, basically just about any job where you don’t need a degree! This enables me to understand a multitude of industries and their target market. Most of my jobs in some way or another have been managing a community of some sort – whether internal with employees or external with customers/clients, and I’ve also always been very involved with customer service (which translates very well now to what we do as a company).

What made you decide to start a business?
It was less starting a business, and more knowing that I could no longer work for someone else. I’ve been entrepreneurial my whole life, and the freedom and flexibility of running your own business was very appealing, and seemed a natural choice for my skills. I would say that it is probably easier to do a job for someone else and know where your next paycheck is coming from, but I wouldn’t swap back to that for anything! When you run your own business – your ideas, skills and passion are valued, and there is no limit to your earnings.

What is your business model?
My team and myself help businesses manage their community of current customers/prospective customers using social media platforms. I also train people how to use the Big 5 (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Blogging and YouTube) for promoting their business and connecting with their market. We specialise in the relationship building side of social media, which is good as that’s what it’s all about and where you attain the most success!

Before you started your business did you have a business plan?
No, for various reasons. With the type of business I set up, I learnt as I go, which you can do in Social Media as it changes so much. It was more important to me that I retain the flexibility of not planning in advance what I was going to do so that I could change with the market. Now that I know what it is I want to do and we are more stable as a business, I’m sitting down to do a business plan. We do business plans for clients in my new company, so I do see the value it brings to them and I would recommend it.

Where did you get the capital to start? Was it easy to get funding?
I started my business with next to no money. It started with doing websites on an ad-hoc/word of mouth basis for people I knew through my last job. I soon began to do about 3 or 4 a month, which provided enough income to sustain me. The capital I had for my business was gained through my own hard work. At the time I considered potentially applying for funding or a loan, but now looking back I’m glad I didn’t, as my business is mine and the challenges have made me stronger and able to help other start-ups to do the same.

How long have you been in business and what are the key challenges you have faced? I’ve been in business for 2.5 years now. The key challenges were many! Most notably I had a situation where I allowed someone not to sign a contract before I did work for her, resulting in her owing me £7000 for the work done and refusing to pay – so I had to write it off! I also lost my previous business (which I had as a sole trader) when someone registered the business name as a limited company and had a similar website/domain name and services! My top 2 tips for any business owner would be: ALWAYS get a contract signed before you do work and protect your company name as best you can.

What’s the most important part about running a business?
Definitely persistence and belief in yourself, tenacity, persevering past the point of giving up, learning as much as you can from other people who have done it before, being clear on what you want to achieve, managing your finances, looking after your clients and taking time out every now and then for a duvet day too!

What’s your approach to cash flow?
One of my weaknesses was understanding the numbers and cashflow of a business, so at the start I was living hand to payment and client to client, however, now I’m more focused so my approach is different. I understand that cash is king, so I try to make sure that I have enough of it for unexpected emergencies, I pay staff first, use my credit card for the big things, try to focus my spending on what I absolutely need (although I have a weakness for stationery!), manage income and outgoings, and I make sure that I now save 10% of everything I earn every month, without fail.

What advice would you give someone thinking of starting his or her own business?
Things I wish I’d known before starting and learning the hard way: understanding the numbers in a business, marketing ideas and making sure the proper paperwork, like contracts, are in place! My advice would also be to work towards delegation of the things in your business that take up more time than you have time to do them, use social media to raise your profile and connect with your target market, attend as much free training as you can get initially, and always follow up with people!

For future Pimlico BIP and other events please keep an eye on Pimlico Library events page, or follow @WCCLibraries on Twitter.