How To Keep Your Emails Under Control

How To Keep Your Emails Under Control

How many emails do you have in your inbox?

So how many emails do you have sat unchecked in your inbox?  I had a message from a lady yesterday who had 16555!!!!  And yes, she told me this was not a typing error!!  This is a frightening thought.  If you have read the article The dangers of an overflowing inbox you will know that this could be costing her business a great deal of money from missed opportunities and disgruntled clients.

But if you find yourself in this situation, or something rather less extreme but still rather concerning, read on to find out what to do.

How to clear and control your email inbox

Firstly, if you have anything like the amount of undealt with emails as above, you are going to have to be ruthless.  It takes time for this amount to build up so, in the law of averages, anyone who had anything you needed to respond to will have probably given up on you by now.

Block out a day to deal with them

To really sort out your inbox problem, you are going to have to put aside some time.

Block a day out in your diary and turn off everything apart from your emails.  That means your phone, Facebook and anything else that is going to distract you.

The five-second rule

Sort your emails in reverse order and then be strict.  Click on each one and give yourself no more than 5 seconds to decide whether to ditch it or deal with it.  I don’t mean deal with it now.  I mean that it is important enough to keep and deal with later.  If you haven’t made the decision within 5 seconds, the decision has been made for you.  Go ahead and hit delete.

Be strong here folks.  It is the only way you are going to get through this with the minimum amount of pain.

Now based on the extreme example above of 16,555 emails, using this method would take a full 23 hours to complete and that is not allowing for any comfort breaks, food or drink breaks or your eyes giving up completely on what they are focusing on.

So in this scenario, I would simply go in and delete all but the last two months’ worth of mail (or even more than that if you get over 150 emails per day).

Hopefully by the end of this, and yes it will take time, you will have a slightly more manageable number to deal with so give yourself a pat on the back.

Block out more time

Yes, more time is needed.  These emails didn’t all pop up at once overnight so don’t think they can all be dealt with instantly.

You now need to go back and once again in reverse order, deal with them.  This does not mean reading them and saving them for later or putting them into a folder.  You won’t ever get back to them.  Deal with them or delete.  Ruthless and simple once again.  If you need to send a reply to someone, make it short and sweet.  Try and keep it to a one-liner where possible.

If you have subscribed to newsletters and have articles you want to read, later on, my guess is that you won’t have time, so get rid of them and have a clear inbox to read new articles as they come in. If you really have to keep them, send them to Evernote or create a folder on your bookmarks bar and save each article in there.

How to keep future emails under control

Once you have completed the mammoth challenge, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back and give yourself a treat – I believe treats are incredibly important to reward ourselves having done a good job!

But how are you going to control your inbox in the future?

Unsubscribe

First of all, go visit Unroll Me.  This is a neat bit of kit (and free) that lets you see how many sites, newsletters etc you have subscribed to.  It can be quite scary!  It will scan your inbox and then give you the option of choosing which subscriptions you want to keep and which you want to delete.  You will probably find that you have signed up to numerous ones just to get a freebie or access to a site, so if the site no longer interests you, get rid of it.

As the site says:

With just one click, you can unsubscribe from the emails that you never want to see again. And for the subscriptions, you’d still like to receive? Add them to your Rollup!  Instead of being bothered with newsletters and deals every 3 minutes, your subscriptions are organized into one daily email, sent to you at the time of your choosing.

Make sure you put all your non-work subscriptions into Rollup and have them delivered at a time when you are not normally working.  I set mine for the evening when (hopefully) I have finished work and am on downtime.

Dealing with new emails

Remember how you dealt with all those old emails?  That is exactly how you need to deal with new ones.  You read, take action, and delete or save.  No scrolling through to see which ones you want to read.  Deal with and move on.

This does take practice, but I promise you, it is worth it when you get the hang of it.

If you really struggle, have just one folder titled ‘to deal with later’.  Diarise once a week to go through this folder and anything that gets to one-month-old needs to be deleted.  If you haven’t dealt with it by now, you never will.

Getting and keeping emails under control is an important daily process that will help you be more productive and help you make sure you don’t miss that all-important gem that you may have otherwise missed.

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Small business tips for surviving the coronavirus

Small business tips for surviving the coronavirus

Take a look through these tips to help your small business survive (and retain a sense of humour where possible).

Tip number one is to not panic. Panic doesn’t help anything and is more likely to harm your business than the virus itself.

Communicate

Now, more than ever, it’s critical to communicate with your customers about what protective measures you’re putting in place and how they will be protected when they visit your business.

Let them know you are taking the situation seriously and care about their welfare.  Make the communication about the customer though, not just about you.  I saw one post where the business owner was telling people they didn’t want to get infected, so customers needed to ensure they didn’t have the virus before visiting.  Yes, a valid point but the way it was worded would have put me off visiting even if I knew I was clear.

Take a tip from this gym who are retaining a sense of humour (love the last paragraph)

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Look at your cash flow NOW

Cash is king.  Do not wait until you run out.

Take a good hard look at your cash flow.  How much do you have on hand and how long will it realistically last for?  Can you make it last for six months or longer?  If not, what can you do about it?  How you cut costs or increase income.  It’s time to get creative and think outside the box. More on this in a moment.

Control expenses

When was the last time you took a good hard look at where your money is going?  Are there any areas that you can cut costs? Do you have online or magazine subscriptions that you don’t really use?  Cancel or pause them.  Are you paying too much for your insurance? Are you spending money on Facebook ads that have never got you a return on investment?  Stop them!

Talk to suppliers and see if you can work together to find a way to ease the burden for you both.

Reduce what you pay yourself. Yes, it’s time to tighten your belt.

Look at your household budget also as to where you can make savings.  Is now the time to switch energy supplier and get a better deal?

Again, how many subscriptions do you have.  Do you really need Amazon Prime, Audible, Sky and Netflix?  How about dropping one or more for a few months.

How often do you eat out or grab takeaways?  If income is reduced, it’s time to start cooking fresh again (if you can get your hands on pasta and rice that is!).  Look on the positive of how much healthier you will be.


Get creative with your marketing and services. 

Now is the time to look at doing things differently.  A few quick ideas are listed below:

Travel and tourism

The travel, tourism and hospitality businesses are being hit hard.  So are those businesses that run workshops and conferences.

Where your business simply cannot deliver what you normally do, create vouchers for the future and promote the hell out of these.

This one is going to take some effort, but if you have clients who have had to cancel travel plans, how about offering a ‘holiday box’.  Create holiday boxes for different countries. For France, you could include French wine, cheese, croissants and a recipe card for Coq au Vin or a voucher to a local French restaurant (providing they are still open!)  Yes, this will take planning and may not be right for you or your business but it’s trying to come up with creative ideas for extra income.

Or how about a Live the Spanish Life card.  Jot down what clients have to do each day for a week in a typical Spanish day.  Include dressing up for mid-morning coffee and a light bite to eat, afternoon Siesta, sightseeing (suggest a video set in Spain), go for a stroll and eating tapas.

Workshops

If you run workshops, think about running smaller groups and explaining that you will be keeping participants two metres apart.

If workshops etc cannot run, either because you need to cancel or the participant does not want to attend anymore, offer a credit note for a future date rather than a refund which will hit your bottom line.

Can you run the workshop via group video conferencing?  Send everyone the materials they will need or ask them to get their own.

Food industry

If you are in the food industry, can you do deliveries or offer take-aways.  A pub/restaurant local to me has already set up a takeaway and delivery service.  They are staying calm and thinking ahead!

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Coaches and counsellors

If you are a coach or counsellor, continue sessions where possible via video conferencing.

Fitness instructors

Record do at home routines and send to members.  Do a group online session – could be fun!

Masseurs/Beauty therapists

Create gift cards and vouchers.  Sell your massage oils and products.

All businesses

Offer gift cards for later use – this can apply to practically anything!

Is there anything you can start to sell online?  Products are easy but even with services, how about doing some video tutorials and selling? Your loyal customers may be happy to purchase these from you to help support you.

Cleaners/Declutters

If your clients are virus-free, assure them you are too and promote that cleanliness is even more important now.


Increase your marketing efforts

If more people are going to be at home, more people may have time to go online.  Up your online marketing. 

Ask customers to support you.  There are still plenty of people who aren’t panicking and whilst they can, are going about their daily lives as normal.  I saw a post for a pub that explained that they were starting to struggle.  They explained what precautions they were taking and asked for people to support them.  I visited them yesterday!

Support local businesses during coronavirus

The day to day practicalities

Work remotely

If you employ staff, can they work remotely?  Test out a system now rather than wait.  Set up a remote work policy that covers when you expect your team to be online or available, how to communicate (via email, video call etc), and what each team member is responsible for.

Have an emergency plan

If you get the virus you need to be prepared.

Keep your database up to date of everyone you meet through your business.  You will need to let them know if you become infected.

Let customers know what has happened, how long you will be closed for and when you will re-open.  Assure them you will open only when you have had the all-clear and a deep clean has taken place

In a worst-case scenario, if your business goes on lockdown, use the time wisely.  Do a full business review.  What has been working and what hasn’t.  What could you do differently?

I had a client call me who was in complete meltdown as her business is suffering terribly already.  Once we got through the tears and panic, we came up with some ideas for the future that she would have never thought about otherwise.  As she said ‘she was suicidal when she called me but finished up laughing and excited for the future.

You are not alone in this.  There will be people far worse off than you are.  You WILL get through this, however painful the process. Just keep things in perspective and if all else fails, remember the Buddhist chart to worrying:

P.S. Keep an eye on the government advice and business grant and business rate relief

P.P.S. If you would like a chat about how to help your business survive or help with your marketing get in touch

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How The Collapse Of Thomas Cook Affects Your Business

How The Collapse Of Thomas Cook Affects Your Business

This week has seen the very sad news of Thomas Cook going into administration.

And let me tell you if a long-standing firm of 178 years in business can collapse, then we should all sit up and take notice.

Why?

Because if it can happen to a household name paying directors huge sums of money, it can happen to ‘amateurs’ like you and me.

In my humble opinion, there are two key reasons for the collapse of Thomas Cook.  And they can both easily happen to you.

They didn’t manage the money

The first and most easily identifiable reason is they simply didn’t manage the money.  End of!  A business is only successful if it is profitable, and Thomas Cook wasn’t.

Yes, that is a hugely simplistic statement to make but I see all too many small businesses go under for the same reason.

They forget to review their outgoings and make changes or cuts where needed such as Thomas Cook keeping over 500 high street outlets when other travel companies moved solely online.  They make investments that haven’t been researched thoroughly enough and which don’t give a return on investment.  Thomas Cook merged with a company that had only ever once made a profit itself.

This causes the business to sink deeper and deeper into debt and take riskier gambles to try and recoup their losses.  It’s a road to disaster.

Cashflow isn’t planned such as with Thomas Cook taking booking payments in the first part of the year but then having huge costs going out in the latter part of the year when income was low.

And owners keep paying themselves even when the business is in financial trouble.  Thomas Cook continued to pay dividends right up to last November even though they had been in serious trouble for some time.  If the profits aren’t there, stop paying yourself until they are!

They didn’t keep up with the changing needs of customers

The holiday choices of Thomas Cook customers have changed, but they didn’t identify this and react quickly enough.

As already mentioned, Thomas Cook kept 500 outlets on the high street with high rental and staffing costs where most people started to book online.
The holiday choices of their customers changed.  Rather than the traditional beach holiday, customers started to book more city breaks.  Thomas Cook failed to react to this and other travel agents picked up the city break business.

And of course, the B-word had an impact.  Brexit!  With the uncertainty of the British population not knowing what was going to happen economically, many decided to stay put in the UK to take their holiday.  Thomas Cook didn’t take advantage of that.

Harsh lessons here and it is terribly sad that such a long-standing company is no more.

But whatever the size of your company, the basics are the same for all.

  1. Constantly track the finances.  The essentials are to track money coming in and money going out.  You need to look at ways to make more money and save more money if things are tight.  Don’t stick your head in the sand.
  2. Keep up to date with the changing needs of your customers.  Trends come and go.  Changes happen to your industry.  Economic pressures change consumer spending.  You need to keep on top of this.

P.S.  If you want help to track your finances and to keep up with the changing needs of customers, come join the members club.  Don’t get left behind.

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How To Know If You Have A Business Or A Hobby

How To Know If You Have A Business Or A Hobby

Are you running a business or hobby?

Are you showing up in your business the way you would show up for a ‘real’ job working for someone else?

What I mean is… are you completing your money-making and key tasks daily? Even when you’re tired and don’t feel like it.

When we work for someone else, we always show up.  We drag ourselves to work even when we don’t feel like it.  We might be feeling de-motivated or stayed out too late the night before, but we still show up.

But so many times we give ourselves excuses in our businesses and the work that matters never actually gets done.

  • “I’m tired today. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
  • “The sun is shining.  I’m off to the beach for the day.”
  • “There’s a sale on in my favourite shop.  I think I’ll skip work and go to that.”

Yes, we work for ourselves to give ourselves the flexibility that a 9 – 5 job doesn’t allow.  Yes, there are times when you should take a day out and do some self-care or indulge yourself.

But, if you truly want a successful business for the long term, you must stop the half-hearted excuses and step up to create that future you so badly want.

Think of yourself as an employee of your business.  Would your boss allow you the number of excuses you are coming up with on a regular basis such as showing up late, leaving early or procrastinating over key activities?

If you are not working to the same conditions that you would for someone else in your business, you are giving excuses!

This is the difference between having a business or a hobby.

I see a lot of people with hobbies. And it’s because they aren’t focused on doing the work that matters.

Write yourself a contract of employment.  Set out your responsibilities and set your working hours.  Factor in how many days off you will have.  Set yourself targets and what reward you will have for achieving these.

It’s your business on your terms.  But treat it as a business and not a hobby if you truly want a different life than you have now.

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How To Deal With A Customer Complaint

How To Deal With A Customer Complaint

The thing we all hate happens. We get a customer complaint. It is inevitable that we will all get an unhappy customer at times but it is how we deal with them that matters.

We have two choices. We can either go on the defensive and potentially make matters worse, or we can use the opportunity to learn and improve our business for the future.

Problems are pregnant with possibilities

Generally, unless there is a fundamental fault with the product or service you are providing (and which you need to acknowledge and fix immediately), complaints arise from a misunderstanding between parties.

It may something as simple as an order arriving on a date that the customer believes is late but you believe is on time.  This will lead to you needing to set out your delivery policy in a more clear way.

It may be you supply a product such as a handbag and a customer complaint is the bag is not as large as shown in the picture.  This leads to more details needed with your images. Put the bag against something for scale in pictures or quote measurements.

But whatever the complaint, most can be resolved if dealt with in the right manner.

I met a client recently who had received a complaint and her reaction was to say ‘how dare he?’ and tell me how she was going to phone him and tell him in no uncertain terms how unhappy she was with him.  I can just about guarantee 100% with this attitude that this customer will never do business with my client again and will more than likely tell friends and family never to deal with her again either.

I sat her down and asked her to put herself in the customer’s shoes.  Something had happened that caused him to be unhappy and less than satisfied.  Finding out what this was and how to avoid the situation again in the future was imperative.  She needed to look upon this complaint as an opportunity to improve her business so that she did not find herself in the same situation again in the future and to help her improve customer satisfaction to retain other clients.

And again, very recently, I had someone who lost their key client. Why? Because he dared to complain about the standard of work and she took umbrage at this and had an argument with him over it. She is now left struggling to replace the income he took elsewhere.

How to deal with a customer complaint

Stay calm

The first thing to do is to stay calm and try not to take the complaint personally.  The complainant is usually dissatisfied with the product or service and not you personally.  Try to distance yourself and your feelings and put things into perspective.  Taking things personally will only lead to an emotional response that is likely to make matters worse.

Acknowledge the complaint

You then need to acknowledge the customer complaint and apologise for how the complainant is feeling.  This is not accepting responsibility but is showing empathy for how the other person feels and letting them know you wish to help.

Get the complaint in writing

Wherever possible, ask for the complaint in writing.  Or if the person is complaining to you verbally, let them know you are going to write everything down so you can ensure you have all the facts and do not forget anything.  This can help as when someone starts to write, they can realise how unreasonable they may be or how they may have overreacted somewhat.  Also, if they are in front of you and angry, they will see that you cannot write as fast as they speak and so will have to slow down, which in return will give them more time to breathe and calm down.

Take time to review

You do not need to give a solution immediately if you do not want to.  You can let them know that you are going to review the complaint, look into what has happened and will get them back to them with a response in a specified timescale.

This both gives the complainant the satisfaction that you have listened and something is being done and also gives you the time to consider what has happened and what you will do to resolve the situation.

Decide upon a solution or response

Now you need to get on and look into the situation and decide what you are going to do.  This will depend entirely upon your business and what the complaint relates to.  It could be a refund, a product replacement or simply an apology and assurance it won’t happen again if relevant.

If however, you find the complaint to be unfounded, be careful with your response.  Be clear that you have investigated the matter, fully understand their frustration but then explain why you feel there is not a complaint to answer.

Respond to the complainant

Do make sure you feedback to the customer within the timescale given or be prepared for the complaint to be escalated upon.

Always stay calm, speak slowly if talking to the customer, and assure them you are taking the complaint seriously as you value their custom.

Even if you cannot come to an amicable solution, they will hopefully appreciate that you have taken the time and trouble to listen and try to do something for them.

Document every customer complaint

Now document everything.  Just in case this complaint does not get resolved and is taken further, or resurrects its ugly head in the future, make sure you have all conversations and facts documented with dates and time.

The exception to the rule

There is always the exception to the rule of course and you may have the misfortune to come across someone who complains just for the fun of it.  This person is just out to cause trouble and the best thing to do is to apologise for the way they are feeling and state that you are not a good fit for each other and therefore it will be best to not deal with each other again.  Do not let these people bully you or get you to cave in to unreasonable demands.

Mary Angelou

Just remember, the customer will not so much remember what you said, but more how you made them feel.  Do your best to leave them feeling you took the time to take them seriously and valued their custom.  You may not do business with them again, but it may a good case of damage limitation as if they know you genuinely cared, they are less likely to bad mouth you to future prospects.

Hopefully, by using this method, any customer complaint you have will be dealt with amicably and gain you a reputation for excellent customer care.

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What to do when you’re feeling exhausted

What to do when you’re feeling exhausted

Now then, quite a few women I have spoken with recently have told me they are feeling exhausted (and I include myself in that group)

When we feel tired and exhausted, the immediate tendency is to rest. We take time out.  We sleep, meditate, take a bath, have a massage etc.

Yes, these things are important and you do need to rest but something I have learned along the way is that rest must be interspersed with activity.  Sometimes, particularly when we are feeling low, continual resting can exacerbate the situation.  The less we do, the less energy we have.

It really can help to beat exhaustion by getting up and do something active. This doesn’t have to be a 10-mile run.  It could be something as simple as putting on your favourite upbeat music and having a boogie around the kitchen.  Ok, you don’t have to go quite as far as the picture below but you get my drift.

What to do when you are feeling exhausted

But I’m simply too tired I hear you say.  Yes, it can be incredibly hard to get up and move when you are feeling drained and exhausted but just take it in tiny steps. 

Rather than thinking you have to go for a run, just put on your running gear and decide to go for a 10-minute walk.  Once you are out the door you may just find that you want to jog for a minute or two.  Don’t plan to dance.  Just put the music on and see what happens.  Do 10-star jumps.  Or 5 if 10 seem too much.  Or even 2.  Something is better than nothing.  It’s usually that initial moment of action is all that is needed to help change our mindset and get us moving.

Movement can help release energy and endorphins which in turn make us feel better.  Getting the balance of rest and activity is key when we are feeling low. Try it for yourself and let me know in the comments below if it works for you.

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