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Sam is one of my younger brothers studying Product Design and Manufacture at Loughborough, this is his blog :) Enjoy!

Disclaimer
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

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    # Monday, December 09, 2013

    Don’t dwell - get over it and move on

    Monday, December 09, 2013 9:33:12 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    One thing that always amazes me in business is the tendency people have to dwell on things and then miss opportunities that are out there.

    If you spot an opportunity then weigh up the pros and cons of the opportunity, what it will cost and the expected outcome. If it still looks like a good idea and the costs weigh up then you should do it.

    Just as equally, when something goes wrong, review what happened, analyse what you could have done about it and then work out a way forward.

    Obviously there are exceptions to the rule but by remaining proactive and reactive to situations you will ensure that you're more likely to survive.

    In short, don't over think things.
     

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

    # Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    Do you know where your company’s skills are lacking?

    Tuesday, October 30, 2012 9:58:51 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    We're recruiting again and to work out what type of recruit we would benefit from the most, we decided to try and assess our strengths and weaknesses. It was a really useful exercise and meant that we were quickly able to identify which areas we should increase capacity in.

    I am over-simplifying the skillsets a touch here, but when we were assessing what we use to create our websites, we boiled it down to:

    • Design
    • HTML/CSS (to be fair, this could be split into two)
    • JavaScript (annotated below as jQuery)
    • ASP.Net, ASP.Net MVC, PHP (or other dynamic language)
    • C# / VB
    • SQL (the database interaction)

    We did this so we could map out the skillsets we had internally and where we would gain the most benefit in our next employee (we're hiring again if you're interested, get in touch). It turns out that our skills internally are fairly well balanced at the moment:

    WP_000249

    Looking at that however it's evident that we're a little light on the frontend side of things (HTML/CSS/JavaScript). That's not necessarily a bad thing as it's often quicker than the more codey aspects, so one developer can keep a couple of backend developers going. Another thing that I've over-simplified in this chart is the level each resource has so it may be worth factoring that in as well.

    So what did we conclude? Looking at that, I'd say we're looking for someone who is a little more backend based.

    How does your company's skillset look?

     

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

    # Sunday, May 27, 2012

    From Side Line to Full Time - my DDD South West presentation

    Sunday, May 27, 2012 7:42:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

    imageThanks to all of you who came to my DDD South West talk, I really enjoyed and I hope you did too (and found it useful).

    For the benefit of you who came -and those who couldn't make it, here's the slide deck from my DDD South West talk on getting started in business.

     

     

    Note: Apparently you need to view the slide deck in full screen to view the notes (you'll need them).

    If you have any questions/feedback etc please get in touch via email or twitter, I'd love to hear from you.

    Finally, please do let me know how you get on, I'd love to hear what you get up to!

     

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

    # Monday, February 20, 2012

    How to read and interpret a cohort chart - cohort analysis Part 2

    Monday, February 20, 2012 2:31:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    In my last post about Cohort analysis I briefly introduced what a cohort graph is, in this one I'm going to go into a little more detail about how you can use it. I'm planning on releasing some code so you can add it to your reporting suite in another post but if you can't wait until then, I've thrown up a quick online cohort generator at: www.quickcohort.com -just dump your data into it and click graph.

    What can the cohort chart tell us?

    A cohort chart can give you an idea of customer loyalty -and- an indication of potential problems in their lifecycle.

    The key metric it gives us is customer loyalty. This is also one of the most frequently ignored metrics in every company (mostly because people aren't clear on how to measure it) yet it's probably one of the most important at the same time.

    What is Customer Loyalty?

    That depends very much on your business and as a result the graphs will likely look very different. It's probably easiest to compare what a couple of business types -a retailer and an online magazine- might consider loyalty.

    Retailer Magazine
    • Repeat sales
    • Visits to the store
    • Engagement with the store e.g. email opens
    • Multiple Logins
    • Subscription
    • Number of comments on an article

    As you can see, although there may be some cross overs (Visits to the store and Logins are probably quantified by a similar metric) the "what" depends very much on your business but the longer the duration between the first and last engagement in all scenarios above is how you can demonstrate loyalty.

    How should I read a cohort chart?

    Unlike most tables which you read left to right (a row at a time), you'll probably get more value out of a cohort chart from reading it by a column at a time. This will enable you to spot possible problems in the user's lifecycle.

    Problem points in the user's lifecycle can often be spotted where the colours change in the same column. The greater the difference between the shades of colour, the bigger difference is between the two months. In a perfect world, 100% of the customers from Month 0 will still be using your site in Month 12 but life is rarely like that.

    Looking at the chart below of user logins over time, the eager should spot that there are three months which appear to have issues: Month 3, Month 5 and Month 9:

    Cohort-Created-To-Signup-Problem

    If you're not sure on what you're looking for, you're spotting those columns which have a similarly shaded background which then lightens in the next month (or in the case of Month 9 is completely unshaded.

    What does this mean?

    As the chart above was logins over time, a quick glance over this cohort chart this would suggest the following to me:

    • Overall there is a pretty good retention for the users (the percentage of customers going from month to month are pretty high)
    • The majority of users only remain engaged up to month 3, at which point a lot of users lose interest in the site
    • There is a clear drop off in customer retention after month 9
    • The eldest customers had the best retention rates (despite the drop off in Month 9, 30-40% of visitors were still coming back until then)

    When reading a cohort chart, you can generally discount the last cell of each cohort as it's the current month.

    What might the cohort chart look like?

    Repeat Sales

    Logically, to be a repeat customer, you have to make at least two purchase from the retailer so the duration we're interested in (the month) is the period between the first purchase and most recent purchase.

    First Date (Month 0): First Purchase
    Last Date (Month x): Most Recent Purchase

    Check out the cohort chart below and see what you can interpret.

    Cohort-Created-To-First-Purchse[3]

    Remember, Month 0 represents the first purchase -all customers appear in this column. Looking over the cohort chart, of the 69 customers the retailer had in October 2010, 39% (27 customers) were still around in November 2010 (month 1), 21% (15 customers) were still around in December 2010 and so on.

    None of the 69 customers who made their first purchase in October 2010 are still a customer 12 months later (although if your customers tend to make a purchase near the end of the month, the customer who made a purchase in September 2011 may still make a purchase).

    So looking at that chart, 30-40% of customers would make a second purchase 2 months after their first purchase. Of the older customers (those which first purchased before March 2011) 10% would make another purchase 5-6 months later.

    What else can we gleam?

    There are a few interesting things with the chart above, another is the sudden drop off in month 3 for those customers who first purchased in May/Jun 2011, similarly, the customers who signed up in Mar/Apr 2011 also stumbled in the same month, that could indicate some form of seasonal trend or change in marketing.

    With a little background you will be able to get a much better insight into the meaning behind some of the numbers. If for instance you had changed your marketing routine around Jun 2011 this might explain the difference in numbers. It might be that your business is very seasonal (in which as you'd be better to look at a 24 month chart rather than 12 month).

    Keeping a record of what you were doing around the different months is important, for instance you might start a pay-per-click campaign. Everyone's happy because you notice an increase in sales (so an increase in Month 0) but are they a valuable customer (a repeat purchaser) or a one-off? Cohort chart analysis will quickly highlight this to you as the increase in Month 0 will be reflected in Month 1.

    Although time will tell, it would appear that a lot of customers make another purchase about 2 months after their first. This could be co-incidence or it might be that you're selling a product with a small sample accessory (e.g. a free pack of chalk with each chalkboard) and that sample pack runs out after a couple of months. Alternatively it could be a fault in the product e.g. you sell hinges and the oil runs out after a couple of months so they're buying more grease. By adding a little context to the data you'll likely get even more interesting stats out (we certainly have in the past).

    Visits to the store or customer engagement

    Things start to get really interesting when you start comparing two cohort charts for the same customer base and period against each other.

    First Date (Month 0): First Purchase
    Last Date (Month x): Most Recent Login

    What's interesting when you compare the two charts is most of the customers who have made a purchase are still returning to the site (over 30% are still logging in in Month 11). This would suggest there's not as greater a problem with customer retention as there is with sales.

    This could be because your store sells seasonal products but you keep customers engaged, it might just be a co-incidence but it should drive investigation.

    Cohort-Created-To-Last-Purchse[3]

    What Can I do with this information?

    In isolation it's helpful but only really gives you a top level view on a customer's lifetime with you, it's when you're able to combine this data with knowledge of your business, sales statistics, marketing strategy and information such as a customer's LTV (Lifetime Value) that it gets really interesting and useful.

    Using a cohort chart and average sale value, you can use it as part of your sales forecasting and predict what your company's sales will be going forwards e.g.: if the Average Order Value is £10 and your average first 5 months looked like this:

    Month: 0 1 2 3 4
    Customer Trend 1,000 500 200 100 10

    You'll then know that of the 1,000 or so customers which sign up in the current month your revenue is likely to look something like this:

    Month: 0 1 2 3 4
    Expected Sales £10,000 £3,000 £1,000 £900 £100

    How have I got to those numbers? Well, of the 1,000 customers that purchase this month, 50% will make another purchase on or after month 1 and 20% will make a purchase on or after month 2. With this in mind, of the 1,000 customers from Month 0, 30% will make a purchase in Month 1 so the calculation is as follows:

    ([Number of customers] * [Percentage Returning in Month]) * [Average Order Value] = [Expected Sales]

    (1,000 * 30%) * £10 = £3,000

    There are a few assumptions with doing it like this -for instance, customers who purchase monthly will only be counted once etc but this is still a good start.

    Using a cohort chart with sales data becomes very powerful as you're able to get a really good insight into whether campaigns are generating worthwhile leads or just generating traffic to the sites. If you're interested in reading more about that I'll overview it in another post as that gets pretty heavy on number crunching.

    If you find that customers tend to drop off after a set number of months then it might be worth setting up some form of customer engagement which is triggered just before this point e.g. an email upselling a product that complements theirs or asking them to get in touch with feedback.

     

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

    # Monday, December 12, 2011

    Start-up's golden triangle of customer loyalty - cohort analysis Part 1

    Monday, December 12, 2011 5:13:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    If you're from a financial or medical background you'll probably already be familiar with cohort analysis but more recently it's become a very popular way of measuring customer loyalty among your consumers. I've been playing with it with our customers for a while now and I think many more businesses can benefit from it's insights.

    Once you've worked out the customer's lifetime value (often referred to as LTV), average order spend and time until first purchase, your analysis often end there. LTV is better than nothing however you may be missing some major issues in their journey. Lets for example say you sell a widget. Your widget lasts 12 months but needs to be oiled every 3 months. Your gut tells you that this is the case but proving this is difficult without analysing each client individually.

    Individually you can't gain a great insight into your customer as each is slightly different. Cohort analysis works around the granularity and groups customers together into cohorts. Each cohort is based on a fixed point in the customer's timeline with you -for instance the date/time they signed up or their first order. We can then use this fixed point to compare other customers who have gone past the same period in their lifetime (or not as the case may be) to spot trends.

    The easiest way to understand you group the users is to imagine the following timeline of customer signups, we have three customers (Green, Blue and Red) and they all signup up at different times throughout a 6 month period:

    20111212-Cohorts-Timeline

    Spotting trends in these customers is less than obvious however all customers have passed through a number of similar points in their lifecycle (in this example month 1, month 2 and month 3) so looking at the data from this perspective will help you spot the trends:

    20111212-Cohorts-Lifecycle

    Most cohort analysis groups customers into monthly groups however the size of each group will depend on the number of signups/orders you have e.g. a system like Twitter will have enough data to produce cohorts on a minute or even second basis. By grouping customers together in this way you can then spot seasonal trends and retention (the length of time you keep a customer).

    What does a cohort chart look like?

    A cohort chart looks like this:

    Cohort-Created-To-Last-Login

    You get this very distinctive triangle because the users on the first row are your eldest users and will have been with you for the longest time (which is also why they have the longest row). The users on the last row have just joined in the current month so have the shortest row.

    The chart above is rather encouraging; it's from one of our e-commerce clients and it shows really a rather dedicated customer base -a year after signing up 41% of the customers are still logging into the system!

    You may also notice an interesting dip in retention for those customers who signed up in Dec 2010/Jan 2011. Although additional investigation is required, the type of customer base they have is very busy during these months so they've probably forgotten about signing up. This does however leave a prime opportunity for them to be contacted directly and encouraged back.

    In my next cohort analysis blog post I'll overview how you can read and interpret the chart in more detail and use it to spot trends.
     

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

    # Friday, February 25, 2011

    Recurring payment provider options for a UK start-up

    Friday, February 25, 2011 3:42:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
    paymentgatewaylogos[1]

    As many of you will know, we're currently in the process of launching a new online service -Crisis Cover which is a digital safe for your business' digital assets. A week before the launch we ran into a  slight hiccup in regards our payment gateway. The problem is simple:

    The trouble with this: to trade for a year, we need some way of taking payments for the service; so we had to start looking into alternative payment gateways.

    Our requirements

    • Low processing fees as the lowest plan is only £4.99
    • UK based payment gateway
    • Offer (or didn't require) a merchant account number
    • Billable in GBP
    • Handles the recurring element of the payments (so we didn't need to write a custom handler)
    • Trusted brand
    • Allows on-site payments (though this wasn't too much of a priority)

    The payment gateways we looked into were:

    Skip Our findings and jump to our conclusion.

    Our findings

    PayPal

    For

    • Quick setup
    • Known and trusted brand
    • Wide market penetration
    • Simple integration
    • Fully managed service
    • No merchant account number required

    Against

    • High monthly charge for a business account with montly recurring payments
    • Perceived as a B2C service rather than a B2B service
    • Constantly tries to upsell it's payment system to the customer (although the Website Payment Pro onsite option should work around that)
    • A large number of mix-and-match services it's hard to identify which one you need

    Verdict

    Although PayPal's offering is very appealing, it is still perceived very much as B2C service which is the main reason we decided against it. In addition to this, their monthly charge for the service we need and processing fees make it a potentially unviable solution to launch with.

    For recurring payments, you will need Website Payments Pro with their monthly subscription upgrade which is currently an additional £20pcm (it's buried deep but you can learn more on this page -click the "Reporting & Back Office" tab).

    Google Checkout

    For

    • No setup charge or monthly fee
    • Quick setup
    • Known and trusted brand
    • Simple integration
    • No merchant account number required

    Against

    • Offsite payment (thought they suggest you can do onsite too)
    • Recurring payments are in beta
    • General "feel" of the checkout experience is clunky
    • Not clear how to checkout if you don't have a Google Account

    Verdict

    Google's offering is certainly very appealing however the lack of non-beta subscription services meant that we didn't explore it further.

    SagePay

    For

    • No setup charge
    • Simple billing model
    • Known and trusted brand
    • Simple integration
    • No merchant account number required

    Against

    • No recurring payment facility
    • Potentially slow setup

    Verdict

    SagePay's offering is a good solution that we have integrated with many times. Their API makes taking payments onsite quick and simple however there is currently no recurring payment system built in so we initially discounted them*.

    * See conclusion

    Zuora

    For

    • Complete solution (apparently)

    Against

    • Overly flashy website that doesn't tell you how much it costs
    • Appears to be predominantly US based

    Verdict

    Although it may seem petty, if you can't find out even the most basic information on the company website it makes me think that they're massively overpriced or not ready to take clients. So sadly, Zuora were ignored due to the lack of useful information.

    Recurly

    For

    • Handles recurring payments
    • Quick setup
    • Simple integration
    • Fully managed service
    • Invisible to the customer

    Against

    • Not a payment gateway
    • Another additional monthly cost

    Verdict

    We've come across Recurly before and we initially discounted it as we didn't understand what it was/did. On revisiting their service in more detail however we realised what it does -and it's actually pretty good/helpful.

    Recurly is not a payment gateway. Now I've got that out of the way, I should explain what it is. Recurly is a system that integrates with third party payment gateways e.g. SagePay and enables you to use these third party payment gateways to take recurring payments without requiring Continuous Authority with the acquiring bank.

    This is massively important because Continuous Authority is usually what a start-up gets rejected on. Continuous Authority is basically a contract between the acquiring bank (the one "taking" the money) and the customer's bank which allows the acquiring bank to charge the customer (in theory) whenever -and however much- they like. This is obviously seen as a trust issue -especially when the company is a new entity with no trading history.

    So Recurly opens up a whole new potential avenue of payment providers (within their group of partners of course!) which is when we took another look at SagePay.

    AlertPay

    For

    • No setup charge or monthly fee
    • Handles recurring payments
    • Active development community

    Against

    • Appears to be a similar concept to PayPal (encourages the user to have an AlertPay account)
    • Lots of very small small print (check their prices page and "Some industries may be subject to a fee of 3.90 % + £0.59 GBP or equivalent for receiving funds from e-wallet and 6.40 % + £0.39 GBP for receiving funds by credit card")

    Verdict

    The offering from AlertPay looks good however because it encourages users to sign up for one of their accounts and they've not got enough market penetration yet to be a known/trusted brand which is a key factor in our decision.

    CheddarGetter

    For

    • Handles recurring payments
    • Quick setup
    • Simple integration
    • Fully managed service
    • Invisible to the customer

    Against

    • Requires a Merchant Account
    • Very costly
    • Not a payment gateway

    Verdict

    CheddarGetter is very similar to Recurly, just more costly. It's also not clear if your Merchant Account requires Continuous Authority.

    Spreedly

    For

    • Handles recurring payments
    • Quick setup
    • Simple integration
    • Fully managed service
    • Invisible to the customer

    Against

    • Not a payment gateway

    Verdict

    Spreedly is very similar to Recurly as well. We would need to compare them side by side sperately but although the website was clean and clear, the price reasonable (for 200 customers it would be $10pcm cheaper than Recurly). The lack of "pretty" information without signing up put us off. We read through the gumph however we were still left feeling it wasn't quite up to the same standard as Recurly.

    Chargify

    For

    • Handles recurring payments
    • Quick setup
    • Simple integration
    • Fully managed service
    • Invisible to the customer

    Against

    • Monthly charge
    • Requires a merchant account

    Verdict

    We came across Chargify very early on and again is very similar to Recurly, they've recently changed their pricing structure which has made it completely unfeasible to even consider them.

    Authorize.Net

    For

    • Handles recurring payments
    • Quick setup
    • Simple integration
    • Fully managed service

    Against

    • Primarily US based
    • $99.00 setup fee
    • Monthly fee of $30

    Verdict

    Authorize.Net offer the entire solution for what is a relatively low monthly fee however as they're mainly a US based company, this raises complications for us as a UK based company.

    Xylyx

    For

    • Quick setup
    • Simple integration
    • Low processing charges
    • No setup fee
    • Based in the UK

    Against

    • Doesn't yet handle recurring payments
    • Backed by www.moneybookers.com so encourages the user to sign up for an acount

    Verdict

    We immediately signed up to Xylyx having spoken to Robert Atkin who overviewed their offering to us in some detail. It's a very good service all in all however the one thing that let it down for us was the fact that they don't yet have recurring billing built in (though it's due to launch this month).

    If we were looking for a standard payment gateway (or when they've rolled out their repeat payments) we'd look at Xylyx again. Despite a somewhat bland website, Robert was very helpful.

    The Conclusion

    After carefully reviewing the options available to us, if you're looking to setup a service in the UK with recurring payments and minimal fuss I recommend the following order of options:

    • Recurly with SagePay
    • Spreedly with SagePay
    • Recurly with Authorise.Net
    • Spreedly with Authorise.Net
    • Recurly with PayPal Website Pro
    • PayPal Website Pro with recurring billing
     

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

    # Monday, December 20, 2010

    Calculating what an employee will cost you

    Monday, December 20, 2010 10:17:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    240510c239ad497f876efc732b22a2f1_7As people are now looking to employ I thought it would be helpful to overview the general costs involved with employing someone in the UK and how you can factor that back to an hourly charge.

    Some Assumptions

    1. As most of my readers are within the IT industry, I've based these figures on hiring within our sector
    2. For simplicity's sake, someone who is over 21 (minimum wage and the factors vary when employing someone younger).
    3. The employ won't earn over £844 (around £44,000pa) to avoid needing to account for different NI values (refer to Directgov for more information)

    The calculations

    I've created a spreadsheet for you which calculates the hourly cost for employees on various salary levels. It should be fairly self explanatory, if it's not, leave a comment and I'll explain as necessary.

    SalaryGrades

    Download: Hourly_Rates_Breakdown.xls

    Other costs to consider

    Once employed, there are a number of other costs that haven't been factored into the spreadsheet:

    Downtime

    It's unlikely that your employee will be working at full capacity (if they are you should consider employing another!) so it is important factor in some downtime within your calculations.

    First Year

    Although the process of employment doesn't have to be too costly by using free job sites and pre-written employment contracts, there is still an inherent cost with employing someone.

    Think carefully about what you'll need to buy for the new employee -you will need to give them somewhere to work (i.e. a desk), something to use to do the work (i.e. a computer) and importantly somewhere for them to sit!

    On-going

    As everything in business needs to be broken down to a monetary value so here are some other things that you will need to factor into your calculations:

    • Office space -apportion the employee's area of the office's rent
    • Stationary -pens, paper and ink all costs
    • Telephone
    • Training/course fees
    • Electricity
    • Software and licenses
    • Business insurance (if this is your first employee this is likely to increase substantially)

    Conclusion

    Breaking the salary down to an hourly charge should help give you confidence in being able to afford the additional resource. If you're working flat out at £50ph and finding that work isn't getting done, you can in theory employ someone at around £25,000pa and by keeping them busy still earn £55,594.66 (approximately!) yourself without needing to do any work. I'm sure you can see that by adding to your team and keeping them busy you can very quickly start growing your business.

    It's also worth noting, when making a considerable investment such as employing someone, it would be wise to have a contract written specifically for your role.

     

    Update: I've already had some great feedback on the spreadsheet courtesy of Sean Ronan from Active Pixels. He added a new table "Weekly billable hours needed to break even". This breaks the total cost of employing someone down into the weeks they can actually work. As they're unlikely to work 52 weeks a year, it works out the number of weeks based on the other information you entered. Great idea, thanks Sean.

     

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    # Monday, July 27, 2009

    CodeGarden 09 Open Space Minutes - Space 1: How to sell Umbraco

    Monday, July 27, 2009 10:53:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

    It's taken some time to get here and there's still more to add as I think this is a pretty big topic but I thought I'd get started. I wanted to keep the session more focused on the selling points of Umbraco and how people pitch Umbraco to the clients than selling techniques which on the whole we managed to do.

    The first thing I stressed was that I wasn't going to teach you how to sell or selling techniques as I've never found that hard selling works -though I'm not saying it doesn't, I just prefer to educate the client into the most suitable solution (even if that isn't us).

    There were a number of questions that were raised and I'll answer what I can here, if you were at the session and I've missed something, please let me know and I'll get it added:

    1. What are the key selling points of Umbraco
    2. How do you pitch Umbraco
    3. Do you tell clients it's open source (or use that as a sales point)?
    4. How do you price Umbraco
    5. Once you've won, what do you ask your client
    6. How do you support Umbraco
    7. How do you get around the question of "What happens if you get hit by a bus?"

    What are the key selling points of Umbraco

    A couple of the attendees came up with better 30second sales pitches so I'm sure they'll post those up shortly but here's a few I remember:

    • It's easy to use -you don't need any previous computer experience
    • You can edit any page's content yourself at any time
    • It's highly flexible and lightweight
    • It's search engine friendly
    • It's open source (this really can be a selling point at the right time)

    Do you tell clients it's open source (or use that as a sales point)?

    We do and we don't. Again it really comes down to who you're pitching Umbraco to. Where the client has had issues with developers not releasing source etc then it's clearly a selling point.

    Generally we do tend to explain to clients that we will base their website on an open source project that we then build on and customise further to suit their needs and that by using best practice methodologies, any developer can in theory pick up the system and continue to develop it (even if they have no experience of Umbraco).

    How do you price Umbraco

    This question was asked in a couple of different ways throughout the session and it's a topic in itself (see the article I wrote a while ago about pricing your work).

    If you look at Umbraco in the right way you'll see that it's actually rather easy to price as there are a few components that you can sell either individually or together:

    • Installation and configuration
    • Customisation
    • Hosting
    • Support

    All you need to do is work out a minimum cost for each component and then that will give you a core system cost.

    Once you have your core Umbraco costs (don't forget to factor in your license costs) you can then alter the costs accordingly for your client -and this has to be on a case-by-case basis. 

    How do you pitch Umbraco

    This is easy, there are so many selling points to Umbraco that regardless of what the client is looking for, as long as it's CMS based, Umbraco will have some benefit you can overview to the client.

    When pitching Umbraco, we have found educating the user as to the benefits and what the client should be looking for in other systems. If you do this, then the majority of the time, the rest of the competition falls by the wayside.

    If the client is a large corporate it's always worth mentioning that it offers much of the functionality that SharePoint does but with little of the cost (or setup pain!).

    Once you've won the contract, what do you ask your client

    The first thing to do is to get all the information you need to complete your contract (or at least tell your client what you'll need and when). You should know what you'll need already but we tend to ask for:

    • Design inspiration (websites the client does and doesn't like -and why)
    • Logos and other source imagery
    • Text for the website (you'd be best to load the initial content during training but get the client to think about it while you're developing or you'll never get there!)

    Next, you'll need to make sure your paperwork is in order. Once you have agreed the general premise of your contract, it's important that you confirm all deliverables (what you'll be doing for the client) in a work order with the client. This avoids an ambiguity on what you'll be delivering and when. This doesn't need to be pages of text (though sometimes it needs to be) but avoids disagreements later.

    You should always request signed work order and deposit (we request a minimum of 20% regardless of project spend) at a minimum before starting any work.

    Once you have the signed work order (you sign one for the client to keep and keep one yourself), you can start thinking about the project. If it'll take longer than a week to deliver, I recommend you provide the client with rough timescales, this will have the added benefit of helping you focus your mind.

    How do you support Umbraco

    This is something that Paul Sterling addressed through another session and if he doesn't write up his notes I'll make a few notes in another post.

    How do you get around the question of "What happens if you get hit by a bus?"

    Although this was asked a couple of times throughout the session, I avoided answering it a little due to a conflict of interest. For the past few months we've been working hard on a new system called Crisis Cover which has been designed to help you with this exact question.

    apple-touch-icon[1] Crisis Cover monitors you to ensure that you're still around and if you don't respond to a number of alerts, it will contact your clients informing there's something wrong.

    I'll post more information about Crisis Cover, but if you're interested in getting involved with the beta, leave me your email and I'll get one sent out.

    In Closing

    There is a lot of information about selling and business in general in my previous post "Business start-up advice" which if you're starting out, I really recommend you reading as it should give you a really good start (and includes example Service Level Agreements, Contracts and other useful documents).

     

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    # Sunday, January 25, 2009

    New Years Resolutions and Getting rid of deadwood

    Sunday, January 25, 2009 1:37:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    Log in the sandHave you made any New Year's resolutions this year? -That's a question I'm sure you've been asked a dozen times already this year. New Year's resolutions have always amused me, the thought that people wait around for months to make (often) big changes in their life has baffled me.

    If you run a business you'll know that it's important to review, assess and action a huge number of factors pretty much on a daily basis, if you don't, your business is likely to be slow to react to changes within your market place and so struggle.

    I think its human nature to have a point to focus on whether it's the beginning of a new year, a holiday, even the recession but why wait until the end of the week? Or even better when you identify a problem? Surely that would be better?

    That said the New Year and the recession are giving companies (including The Site Doctor) the perfect opportunity to clean out the deadwood within their businesses and reassess everyone's roles.

    What do you do? Do you review weekly, monthly or annually? At The Site Doctor we have weekly meetings to review the previous week's successes, failures, evaluate next week's goals and more importantly to identify areas that require attention. This doesn't need to take long but it allows you to react quickly to emerging issues and limit the impact it could have.

    If you're being hit by the recession (my sympathies go out to you if they are affecting your business) then you should be asking yourself "If I had reviewed our current position sooner, would I have been able to spot any warning signs?". I rather suspect if you are on top of your business you would have been able to.

    If I were you, I'd look to make my New Year's resolution this year to not need one next year because you action the issues as soon as they arise.

     

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    # Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Do you yell dot com?

    Thursday, August 28, 2008 7:53:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

    We've recently (and somewhat oddly) had a lot of dealings with Yellow Pages. In the past when asked, I've suggested people shouldn't bother with paying to be listed within the Yellow Pages -especially if you're an IT related company. This was purely based on my experience of stupid numbers of callers wanting an e-commerce site for £50 and the fact that I've believed for a long time that it's quickly losing any useful market share thanks to the likes of Google, Yahoo! and MSN. Now however I've got several reasons not to.

    A little history/background for those of you who aren't aware who, or what Yellow Pages is

    Yellow Pages has for a long time been the place to find the telephone number of a local company. It neatly organises everything from your local kebab shop to your nearest funeral parlor (not saying the two are linked!).

    Yellow Pages ran into a problem a few years ago that I don't think they ever really realised/addressed -this little thing that wouldn't catch on called the Internet. Although they launched a website somewhere around 2001 they were (IIRC) more interested in competing for the 118* directory service (btw how many variations are there? 35ish? -How many do you remember!). Then, by the time they started to realise the potential of the web over the premium rate call lines, they pricked their ears up.

    But instead of following suit on the web by opening their service up as widely as possible, they decided to dig their head into the sand and take the same course of action many large corporate do of "We're so big, we don't need you piddly client, you need us", and this leads me to believe Yellow Pages (and to a large extent) yell.com will soon be a thing of the past (thankfully some might say).

    So what's my gripe? What've they done to me?

    Nothing is the simplest response but that's also what they've done trying to satisfy a couple of our clients. I'll refer to two of these to argue my point, both SMEs, for arguments sake we'll call them Company A and Company B.

    Company A

    Company A spends approximately £5,000 advertising in Yellow Pages each year. This equates to about 20% of their turnover (a fair chunk of it!). Company A has also had a website for the past few years. Originally developed by Yellow Pages, but updated by us in 2003.

    Ever since the website was created, Company A claimed that the majority (est. 80%+) of their custom came from Yellow Pages so each year, when the Yellow Pages rep gave them a call happily invested yet more money.

    Recently though, Company A decided to redesign their website as their old one wasn't snazzy enough anymore. Despite fairly heavy traffic and our objections, the decision was made to turn off the existing website (rather than replacing it a temporary holding page) while the new site was being designed and developed. This was only going to take a month (it took a little less than this). But in this time, Company A found that his bookings for the next month or so were massively down on the same period last year. As soon as this was realised, a holding page was put online with a telephone number but it served to prove a point -Yellow Pages' share of the "record search" industry is depleting.

    I realise that it's not always as cut-and-dry as I've made it out to be here (mainly for simplicities sake) but the most of the traffic to the site originates from keyword searches on the service rather than the company name or direct traffic (suggesting that they're not looking at Yellow Pages and then coming to the site).

    Further to this shock, Yellow Pages originally registered the domain name for this client but despite having fully paid all his accounts, Yellow Pages are yet to release the domain name into our control (we've been chasing them since 2003). This is despite several promises (both verbally and written) that they would release the domain. Needless to say this was unnecessary aggravation over something quite minor.

    Thanks to the trouble caused over the domain (and apparent lack of interest from Yellow Pages -despite a huge spend) Company A is now looking at completely stopping their advertising with Yellow Pages.

    Company B

    Unlike Company A, Company B has historically had a much smaller spend. Usually opting for the smallest advert in a single directory because very little business has come from previous adverts. Company B is in a fairly competitive industry but features prominently.

    This year when the Yellow Pages sales rep came calling, they explained to Company B the reason they'd only seen a very small return on their investment was because they were advertising in very few of the Yellow Pages directories. To get more sales Company B should advertise in two other directories and pay for a premium listing which would ensure his company was always on the first page within his area. This sounded reasonable -and logical (advertise in more places, get more enquiries) and as Company B had had a few good months trading decided it was a good investment.

    For the first month or so Company B checked on their yell.com listing every few days, sure enough there they were on the first page. A couple of months on and several hundred pounds later however, something wasn't right. Where Company B had previously had 2-3 enquiries in the same period this year they'd had none. Company B asked us to look into their online position as far as Yellow Pages' yell.com was concerned and despite being promised a first page position on certain areas/phrases, they were rarely appearing inside the top 40 enhanced listings (there are currently 47 listings).

    Somewhat concerned Company B decided to monitor the situation and started to monitor their position regularly (and we did too). Between all the visits, they were lucky if their result showed up in the results for the areas they serviced -let alone the one they were based in! Having spent over 3 times what they did the previous year, Company B felt somewhat cheated by the sales person so decided to complain.

    The customer services rep was somewhat dismissive of Company B's claims and told him that he was appearing in the searches but despite this, they would have their sales team look into what he felt he was sold. The sales team phoned back and informed Company B that they'd only paid for an enhanced listing -which meant the advert wouldn't always be on the first page and there was no way the salesman would have said this as this would cost several thousand pounds. Company B however remembers the salesman stating this so asks us to talk to them about not appearing in the results as when asked, the rep started "talking technical".

    When I called to discuss the account I was meet with a very pleasant lady "Sarah" who was the technical sales person who after spouting a little crap about web metrics explained the situation:

    After this she hung up (I kid you not). Ok the easiest way out of the conversation by Company B hit the roof when they heard.

    We're still awaiting an explanation but have mysteriously started to appear on the first page more often-than-not. Clearly they have some weighting system at play...

    So what's my point?

    I don't think I really have a point, I just felt like a rant but here are a couple of other reasons why I think Yellow Pages sucks and won't be around for much longer:

    Enquiry rates down

    I heard another advisor talking about some analysis he had been involved in with a local company. For the past few years they had been recording every enquiry to their firm and aggregating the statistics for comparison at the end of the financial year to decide on whether to advertise next year.

    These are the approximate number of enquiries per month:

    · 04/05: 110

    · 05/06: 80

    · 06/07: 40

    · 07/08: 32

    Their service is not seasonal and the competition has not changed dramatically over the years (certainly not enough to warrant the change seen here). Furthermore their turnover had been increasing. Oh, and the advert for comparisons sake was always the same.

    I'd love to get hold of some statistics on Yell.com and Yellow Pages enquiries in general to see if this matches the general trend. Google Trends suggests it's started to drop a little.

    Prices staying the same

    Despite massive competition online, Yellow Pages are still charging a fair whack for their service and have no intention of changing this. I think as soon as the smaller advertiser cottons on to the fact that they can run a pretty intense pay-per-click campaign for the same amount of cash and reach a larger audience Yellow Pages will be in some serious trouble.

    Non-recyclable

    Would you believe it? In this day and age, for some reason our recycling people won't take away your Yellow Pages? I tried putting it out a few times but each time they lifted it out and put it back in the box for me.

    I expect there's some logical reason for it but I know very few households now that keep the heavy directory so where do they all go? The tips? Disgraceful!

    That said, I think I do have a point. I think Yellow Pages is a very good example of a company that has disgraceful customer service. Taking the two (I have more) examples mentioned here I think the issues could have easily been rectified:

    Company A: Transfer the domain into the control of the client.

    Company B: Simply apologise for the misunderstanding (no-one said they were sorry for the misunderstanding, instead they just made out that Company B was stupid) and if needs be, offer some form of discounted service next year.

    I can only hope that Yellow Pages reads this and realises they're going to seriously P off their loyal customers in time to save themselves, but I don't think my blog is important enough for that to happen yet, sadly.

    If you're asking me in the future. Steer clear of Yellow Pages and talk to us about some Google AdWords advertising.

     

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    # Thursday, July 03, 2008

    Market rates –can I have the same hourly rate for all clients?

    Thursday, July 03, 2008 8:36:01 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

    This started out as a response to a comment and then I thought it might be better as a post in it's own right.

    In his comment David Conlisk said:

    First off Tim very well done on providing some excellent information on the site. I've just spent my first afternoon as my own boss reading your business start-up advice and it's been excellent (it's called research, not slacking off!)

    One question I would ask you about this post is what about market rates? I am going from being a contractor on an hourly rate to being a limited company. I never considered working out a base rate like you've done, instead I spoke to as many people as possible in the marketplace to gauge what the rates are and I price accordingly. Of course this works fine for more corporate clients, but I doubt I could charge smaller companies similar rates. Let's hope I can make a good enough impression on my corporate clients to keep that kind of work coming in!

    Keep up the good work,

    David

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your kind words, I'm glad to hear you found it of use.

    In regards market rates, it's one of the oldest debates in the book AFAIK and has a rather unhelpful answer of "You should charge what you feel comfortable charging". I'll try to improve on that a little as it's always hard but in essence it's true. Basically from experience I would keep it as simple as possible, have as few rates as possible for all clients, just make sure you feel you're worth the rate in your own mind.

    Although you need to keep an eye on the "market rates", you'll find your rate will determine the type of client you work with. Being the cheapest on the market is not necessarily a good thing. One advantage of offering a freelance service to other development companies is that we get to see what happens when your prices are rock bottom -take it from me, more often than not, it's more hassle than it's worth. When you have someone going el-cheapo all the way you often find they're overly picky about every aspect and require a lot more management time (that's not to say those paying higher rates aren't, I guess you just notice it more).

    As long as you're reasonable with your rates, clients who are willing to pay your rates, will use you (they may complain a little but it's unlikely) but at the end you'll both be happy with the work produced. As long as you believe in yourself -and your rates, this will be conveyed to your clients so if you know you're value for money you will be able to justify it to any client (corporate or otherwise). It's up to the client to decide whether you're value for money.

    Believe it or not the service industry is not the only industry to set it's fees and then get them negotiated on -Stacey used to work in Debenhams a few years ago, for those of you who don't know what Debenhams is, it's a large department store in the UK, they sell items for a set fee, everyone knows this but regardless of this she still had people trying to negotiate on the fee. Be open to negotiation but don't be silly about it otherwise the client may always expect a discount of that level (so stick to no more than a 10% variation).

    Don't worry about having clients not use you because of your rate, as long as you're around the market rate there will be a client for you. At the end of the day, you can't realistically expect to service every prospect that comes through your doors -sometimes you just have to say "sorry that's the price".

    I'm not saying charge £1,000ph when the market rate is £10ph as that's just silly but I would say your base rate shouldn't be cheaper than the market rate or more than 3 times the market rate (unless your service really is that good and you're bogged down with work [I did have a link for here about an ?SEO company charging $1,000ph and still being too busy but I can't find it atm], in which case go for it!).

    Tip: How do you find out market rates? That's simple, find a couple of companies who offer similar services, to a similar client base who are a similar size to you, call them up and just ask them what their daily rates are. Call 10 or so companies and you should have a few prices to compare :)

    Another tip: Always ask for an rough idea of their budget -even if it's just a range, this will give you a good idea of they're realistic or not.

    And one more: Don't forget your rates don't need to be fixed. If you find you're too busy, increase your rates a little, if you're too quiet (whereas everyone else is really busy) then you may need to look into how you market your business, your presentation skills and finally possibly reducing your rates.

    A word of warning: I would avoid dropping your rate "for the nice client" as the majority of times you'll end up regretting it, either because it gets out of control and you get frustrated because "you're doing them a favour" whereas they feel they just negotiated your service rates down (and so should be getting the same level of service. Remember, it's business, you don't need to do anyone a favour, charge what you feel is fair for your time and you'll always enjoy your work :)

    On the flip side of this, if you're lucky enough to get a large corporate, make sure your rate is their market rate as we've lost work for being too cheap (and in my eyes we were already overcharging for the workload).

    It's easy to be busy and cheap, but being a busy fool is no way to live!

    HTH

    Tim

     

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    # Thursday, June 12, 2008

    The Site Doctor gets creative with print

    Thursday, June 12, 2008 9:59:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

    After months of  painstaking work I can FINALLY reveal what we've been beavering away on -our new brochure with a twist. If you're involved in marketing at all you're probably already aware how hard it is to print interactive designs. Regardless of that, we needed some way of advertising so we got our thinking caps on.

    The brief was simple: we needed to come up with a way of marketing our bespoke design and development services. Being a creative company we also wanted something that stood out from the other 1,001 West Midlands based web design companies. It should also reflect the attention to detail and quality that goes into our web design and development.

    Our target audience was to be high end management so the brochure had to be quick and easy to navigate, have clear calls to actions and require minimum effort to read (unlike my blog!!).

    As all "good" ideas* start with a pen, napkin and one too many coffees, we trotted off to our favourite Costa for a brain storming session and here's what we came up with:

    * not all good ideas do but some do but it's a good excuse for a coffee.

    We went through all sorts of ideas ranging from having themed TicTacs produced, to sending out branded bottles of wine, most of the ideas were dismissed because they had either already been done or would just be binned/eaten and forgotten. We needed something that stood out.

    For those of you who can't understand our scribbling's, we decided upon a brochure with a twist (or two).

    The First idea was to make the brochure quick and simple to navigate -like the websites we develop so we decided to go a little Avant Garde (off the wall/pushing the boundaries) and opted for a coloured tabbed navigation system, the idea was taken in part from an Argos catalogue which uses colours to separate the sections. I felt combining the tabs and colours would ensure the brochure was quick and easy to use.

    The next issue we addressed was how to get the reader to open the brochure, it sounds silly but getting someone to open the brochure (let alone reading it) is pretty hard to do so we decided to offer the reader an incentive and what was better than our new stressball? Why not put one on the front of the brochure?

    I've jumped a few stages in our thinking but here's the final product -a brochure with a stressball attached to the front, mimicking a pill packet (complete with foil on the inside to get the pill out), coloured tab page navigation and loads more.

     

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    # Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Taking the stress out of web design with The Site Doctor's new marketing "gimmick"

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008 7:08:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

    So the logo and new website was complete, next we needed a marketing gimmick and a way to promote our services. We already had an idea of how we were going to promote ourselves but we needed a way of making it stand out.

    We needed something that fitted with our new pill shaped logo but what? A label on some wine? Coloured TicTacs? Pens, Badges, Stickers...? They'd all been done before 101 times and we wanted to be different.

    After banging heads together for a while it struck me, the perfect "gimmick" to go with our new brand identity had been around for years -in fact I got the inspiration from my mum who was a GP in Plymouth for many years. As a kid, I remember when she came home after a medical convention with hundreds of freebies including pens, post-its and calculators, but the one that got me thinking was the stressballs. She used to get pill shaped stress balls... What could be more perfect I ask you?

    It sounds silly but getting a Red and White coloured stressball wasn't easy, I called around tens if not hundreds of suppliers, all of whom were able to supply us with Orange/White or Blue/White or All White stressballs but Red/White would take weeks to manufacture. The problem it turns out is that nearly all stressballs are made in China and there is only a single UK importer who all agents buy off. That combined with the Chinese new year made lead times grow exponentially.

    Thanks to the wonderful power of Google, we did manage to find a supplier (in the UK no less) that was able to custom print the stressballs so watch this space for the outcome!
     

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    # Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    The Site Doctor is hiring!

    Wednesday, April 30, 2008 4:18:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

    Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the pending credit crunch, we're hiring as work is piling in and we need help :). So if you're a developer, designer, sales person, marketing guru -or you're just plain bored check out The Site Doctor's vacancies page for the great posts currently up for grabs!

    Not sure why you should come and work with us? There are way too many reasons to list in one go but here are my top 5:

    • You'll have a great boss (ok I'm a touch biased)
    • We have 20% time (every Friday we down tools and do something cool -that doesn't relate to the main projects you're working on at the time -more about that another day)
    • We're committed to your development and will fund courses etc
    • There are bonuses to be had for referrals and working hard!
    • You get your Birthday as an additional bank holiday so you never need to worry about booking it off again!

    Oh and there's free Tea and Coffee -so I guess that's 6 reasons to get in touch.

    For more information about the posts available (more being added later this week) check out The Site Doctor vacancies page.

     

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    # Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Site, Sight, Stacey, Stacie and all the other ways you can spell The Site Doctor wrong

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008 9:54:08 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    One of the quandaries I've had for a while with The Site Doctor is our name, it sounds silly but I've lost count of the number of times I've had to spell out "site", it may not be too obvious why at first glance but there's two common spellings of "site" -one relates to websites, building etc, the other opticians (sight). Silly eh!

    It has never really bothered me in the past but now that I have Stacey working with me we run into another issue -not only does she have a difficult to spell surname (Shapcott), people use so many inflections of "Stacey" it's comical. So this week I've taken it upon myself to sort this and have gone all out creating email aliases (we used to just have name@, name.lastname@, initiallastname@) but Stacey now has Stacie, Stace, Stacee and numerous other counterparts.

    In an effort to make life easier for our clients, we've also got a few more domain names that point to our main domain name which include:

    www.thesitedoc.co.uk

    www.thesitedr.co.uk

    www.sitedoc.co.uk

    and my favourite:

    www.thesightdoctor.co.uk

    A little overkill perhaps but for the sake of £20 I thought it was worth it ;)

    Moral of the story: Don't have a long winded name that has words that sound similar to others in it ;)

     

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    # Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Stacey's first day and the company is incorporated

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008 3:48:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    Today is Stacey's second day and change is already abreast, Monday was somewhat quiet on the business front with Gym, Hair Cuts, Lunch, Shopping and numerous phone calls but today things have really started moving -the first port of call was going Ltd:

    Congratulations...

    We are pleased to advise you that your company, THE SITE DOCTOR LTD has been accepted for incorporation by Companies House

    To my foreign readers this means that my West Midlands based web design company The Site Doctor is now officially listed with Companies House -we've got a certificate 'n everything...

    Although it was a "real" company, now the main benefit is If The Site Doctor Ltd was to go bankrupt, each shareholder is responsible only for the amount they have invested in the company -so if The Site Doctor Ltd was to go bankrupt (which I hope it doesn't!) I won't lose our house!

    Watch this space as The Site Doctor Ltd and it's new branding will be launched later this month...
     

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    # Friday, February 08, 2008

    The turnover challenge 2008

    Friday, February 08, 2008 4:02:36 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    I'm always up for a laugh and a challenge -especially where business is concerned, without pushing yourself I think your company will just shrivel up and die. This time however I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew -which may very well result in public humiliation, women's clothing and the most bizarre gym session ever!

    While "playing" squash the other day with a mate of mine -Ian- who runs Avant Garde - a hair salon based in my local gym Next Generation and I jested about challenging each other to increasing our turnover to (for me anyway) ridiculous heights for the tax return 08/09 and so began the turnover challenge 2008.

    The aim of the game is simple -we have to turnover more than £x00,000 in the next tax year. For a little more fun we decided to add in a forfeit for the company who earned the least. What's the forfeit I hear you cry! Well that's what's up for debate at the moment but basically it should be:

    • Fun!
    • Suitably humiliating to make sure you don't want to lose!
    • Non-financial
    • Non-harmful to us (i.e. no tattoos, piercing's etc)
    • Non-harmful to the businesses
    • Non-harmful to others
    • Legal!

    We've come up with a few ideas but I thought I'd throw it out there for other ideas as I'm sure something amusing will come up! My fav's so far:

    1. A gym session in women's clothing: miniskirt, sports top and high heels (knowing Ian he'll wear the panties too!)
    2. Do a parachute -though I think that's something I want to try anyhow...
    3. Paragliding/Snowboarding/Other etc in the nuddy
    4. (Me) -become a hairdresser (Ian) -learn to code

    The thing I like about the gym session is that it's scaleable i.e. "for every £10k difference in turnover, the other has to run for another minute on the treadmill..."

    If you don't think that's a hard challenge, put it this way, to meet the target we've both got to more than double our turnover. If neither of us make it I suggest you get a weeks pass at my local gym -Next Generation April 2009!

    You've got until April 1st 2008 to get the forfeit ideas in...

     

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    # Sunday, December 30, 2007

    How is your business perceived? You'll soon find out when you break big news...

    Sunday, December 30, 2007 2:13:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    What I have found the most incredible about Stacey leaving her job to come work with me is the fact that you soon start to find out how people perceive your business. I try not to talk to people in too much depth about what's going on with The Site Doctor as generally when people ask "How's the business going?" I've realised they don't want you to reel off how much debt you're in (they're not sure whether to pity you or whether you're asking for money) -or how much money you're making (which is just seen as gloating) but with something as momentums as this people start sticking their oar in...

    Although after talking it through with them people can see that it's going to make life better all round (and hopefully richer in the longer term -not just financially) the initial reaction is generally one of amazement that we'd even be considering it what with the company being so "small". People find it very hard to comprehend that although we work from an office at the back of the house, the business earns enough to support the two of us.

    I realise they don't mean to be insulting in anyway and they only have our best interests at heart but sometimes the cliches rule through -I think my favourite comment was from my mother who after listening to the reasoning behind the move (which included making a saving as we won't initially need to get a larger office to accommodate the new staff) said that we would need to get an office straight away, "a flag ship office" as she put it.

    A little bewildered as to why she would say such a thing her response made me smile even more "it will appear more professional to the outside world". I admit, getting an office is on the cards for next year however the fact that in the 5 years we've now been operating I know of only one occasion when we've had a client ask to come to our offices so why incur such an expense merely for show? Of course what she meant to say however was "it would appear more professional to the family" ;)

    I should add at this point that I love my mother to bits but I am still astonished at the assumptions people make about a business based on what they see (rather than hear).

     

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    # Monday, December 03, 2007

    February 8th - a date for your diary!

    Monday, December 03, 2007 5:13:35 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    Well it's been a hectic few days what with breaking the news to everyone and getting things in place but we've finally got Stacey's management to give her a leaving date -February 8th. It's still a fair way off but a lot better than we were expecting (sometime in March) so we can't complain.

    I just hope the new office is in place in time -let alone the new website (still very much in development)!

     

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    # Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    The office to end all offices

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 6:31:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    Some of you have already heard about my miss fortune with the office flooding. It's thrown things up in the air somewhat at a time when I could really do without it.

    The bonus however is that I get to have a nice new office fitted (hopefully on the insurance) but that's turning out to be a saga in itself. As with any large expenditure we've gone out and got a few quotes from companies such as Sharps, Neville Johnson and some other smaller companies to get an idea of costs etc. To say there is a wide range in the price is an understatement -they range from £1,000 to over £16,000! The office is only 9ft x 9ft which means it'd be £1,777 per square foot! How nuts is that!!

    Anyway, I thought people might like to see what I'm thinking about having fitted atm.

    Now that Stacey is soon going to be working with me we ideally I need to cram (and it is a matter of cramming) two people into the office space and I think the solution of having the two terminals sitting back to back but offset like this will work nicely. The other problem I have is the size of my screens, at the moment they measure 115cm wide and my old desk meant I was sitting too close to them and would end up with screen burn but this design should allow me to sit far enough away.

    I'll probably remove it shortly but the program that I used to layout the room has a 3D export that you can checkout at: www.thesitedoctor.co.uk/office/

     

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    # Saturday, November 17, 2007

    The morning after the day before

    Saturday, November 17, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    So it's done :) Stacey's out, though it wasn't easy. Her boss made her explain her reasons for leaving to the Finance Director and basically justify herself for leaving.

    After talking about it we think that's because there's more to this than they're letting on as it seems really odd she needs to justify leaving but that's not for discussion here :) so YEY the clocks ticking! We're waiting for a leaving date at the moment but be sure there'll be a ticker at the bottom of my blog soon!

    Good on Stacey for sticking up for her cause! Now to tell the friends and family who'll be more than discouraging I'm sure.

     

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    # Friday, November 16, 2007

    Friday - crunch time

    Friday, November 16, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    So today's Friday and saga of Stacey's rejected  resignation is about to climax, I don't know about you but I'm excited ;)

    Who thinks she'll cave in and accept their silly offer? And what'll that wizard be I wonder ;)

    Tune in tomorrow for an update!

    I don't think she'll cave in, I think she'll stick at it...

     

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    Friday - crunch time
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    CategoriesTags: Expanding Your Business
    # Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Day 2 - Did she or didn't she?

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007 11:12:11 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    Ok, so the attempt at drama failed! Believe it or not Stacey had the guts to do it, she handed in her resignation so it's only a matter of months/weeks before she's working with me full time right? Well we're not sure...

    Turns out that when she handed in her letter of resignation her boss refused to accept it (being the diligent worker that she is I can completely understand that!) and instead he told her that he was going to put it in his drawer and not mention it to anyone to give her time to re-think and discuss it on Friday.

    So the question is, will Stacey give in and chose the route of more money and/or less working hours over working with me? Well the suspense is killing me -probably more than you but I doubt she'll stay as she's already made up her mind and has started to get excited.

    As far as the risk element goes -which is what I think would put her off- she's realised:

    1. There's enough work for her to do here
    2. If there isn't she can get another job
    3. She's chartered which means companies are screaming out for her skills so she can do agency work...

    All good in my books but we'll have to wait until Friday to find out!

    I can only imagine how the conversation went:

    Stacey: "Please accept my resignation, here's a letter explaining why"

    Boss: "No, sorry, I won't. Nope, no way, you can't"

    Stacey: "Well I am, it's not you, it's me"

    Boss: "Tell you what, lets hide this letter and pretend it wasn't written, I won't tell if you don't"

    Stacey: "I'm still leaving"

    Boss: "Tell me what you want that'll make you stay -more money? Fewer hours? Less work..."

    Stacey: "Nothing, I'm leaving"

    Boss: "Well, have a think, lets not rush into anything"

    Stacey: "I've been thinking about it for months, I'm leaving"

    Boss: "Lets discuss it on Friday, have a think about what you want/need and I'll sort it"

    Stacey: "Fine whatever makes it easier for you. I'm still leaving"

     

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    # Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    TOP SECRET - Today's the day!

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007 9:49:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

    Ok so today's quite an exciting -and pretty scary day. After a few months of speculating, Stacey has finally decided to hand in her notice and come and work with me full time. It's scary because although I know it'll make her much happier and drive the business forward but it also means that the business will now be the bread winner (main household earner) so there's no more time for messing around!

    I think it'll be quite an interesting time both for us and for others worried about doing the same sort of thing so I'm going to try and keep a fairly up-to-date diary of the events, trials and tribulations here.

    The main concern from Stacey's point of view is that as it's a web development business she can't add anything to it which I personally think is tosh as there is a lot of non-specialised work involved in running a business which she will be able to do and there are many paid aspects of our work that she can get involved with as well.

    Anyway, here goes, lets just hope she remembers to hand in her notice ;)

     

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