Archives for June 2014

The Failure Shop

Photo by Jon Stow

Photo by Jon Stow

There is a new business in our urban village and I really hope they are successful. The owners have taken a shop at the end of the “main drag” and we have a new florist. It is quite a good position for passing trade. I bought a pot plant from them which was on display outside the shop, and perhaps the position will suit a florist more than the other businesses that have occupied that shop. Oh, yes, there have been quite a few.

It is important for any new business owner to do their “homework”. How much is the rent? Will the turnover sufficiently exceed the running costs to make a good enough profit for a “living wage” for the owners? How well connected are they to encourage visitors from outside the village to pick up the telephone and order from them? Have they thought about networking? Can they crack the corporate market and supply flowers to office reception areas? Any long-term contract can be very lucrative for a florist.

Being specific, the shop now occupied by the new florist has previously been occupied by two different estate agents and by a bookseller, all within the past five years. One would have thought that passing customers or “footfall” might have been quite good, but those businesses have gone.

I can see one big obstacle for our newcomers. There is already a very well established florist in the village by the entrance to the main shopping car park. That florist is very good, and my wife and I have bought from them on many occasions. Our customer loyalty tends to be towards them, naturally enough.

I do hope there is enough custom locally to support two florists well, so that “The Failure Shop” no longer has that title in my mind. The owners seem like nice people, and I wish them well. They will have to go several extra miles, but maybe they can.

Was it small business or the internet that changed my life?

Seafront bikes

Seafront bikes

It is no secret that I started my own business after the world of employment left me, and I could not get another job. There was no grand plan. I just got “on my bike” to get some money coming in.

Back then, 2002, the main way of getting business (I thought) was advertising. I have written before about the money spent on directories such as Yellow Pages and Thomson Local. They were a waste of time and that was because they really said nothing about my business apart from listing it under a category, but also because customers were actually talking to each other, exchanging information on-line, and yes, getting out of the door and networking.

I did not have much idea about social media in those days, but they were early days. I wonder how much I would have become involved if it had not been for business needs. Would I ever have “done” Twitter and Facebook? I suppose it was the other way round as Facebook was first, but I “do” Twitter a lot more.

It is not as though I ever was exactly afraid of computers. I am a techy sort of guy. I had a Sinclair ZX81, a BBC computer and an IBM AT PC running DOS. I programmed in Sinclair BASIC and in MS BASIC, not very well, but I had the enthusiasm. I frequented bulletin boards. It did not make me social.

In 2003 I had realised that face-to-face networking might be a good idea. I had a business coach who thought it was, though he had not tried it. I went to the local Ecademy group, and three days later met Thomas Power at a seminar in London. He and Ecademy taught me so much about networking, on-line and off-line that it is hard to imagine a business or personal life without it.

I have become a very social person, and social media and on-line marketing are how I get most of my business. Of course the biggest benefit is in making so many new friends; real friends who have helped me as I hope I might now and again have helped them.

I know a lot of employee techies who do not really “get” social media. They may mess around on Facebook but I wonder if they have really made new friends as I have, or whether they just interact with the old ones. Some techies view all social media with disdain and are paranoid about personal security and identity theft. They know how everything works, but they cannot see the purpose or the potential, only the low-risk threat.

For myself and my business there is a great world out there, I have made a lot of real friends I could not have found in any other way, and I am grateful. I think I am a totally different person from the one I would have been, stuck in a job in town. I feel I am happier and more at ease with myself as an independent player, and have been set free by the tools I first found through Ecademy. Being in business brought me to social and business networking. Would the second have happened without the first? I don’t know.

Has your life been changed in the same way?

Burying the bad news

iStock_000005618867XSmallGoogle is being required by the European Court to allow individuals to request that certain personal information about them will; not be found in a search. This does not mean that if you already know the web address where such information is to be found you cannot see it. It is just that Google cannot lead you there.

This is rather worrying and one wonders exactly whose rights are being protected here. This article states: “the BBC learned that more than half of the requests sent to Google from UK individuals involved convicted criminals.” Well, if I want to know whether my potential client has a criminal conviction, or to make a quick judgement as to whether I should see the person in the first place, I think I have the right to be forewarned.

On a non-business level, surely we should have the right to find out whether our new love is a criminal or dangerous? Fortunately I am not in the dating market, and we are very happy, thank you.

This brings us to consider how much information about ourselves we should share on the good old world wide web. I am very active on various social networking sites, particularly Twitter. I have a moderate number of friends on Facebook; not thousands, you understand. This is because I do like to have some idea who everyone is. Most of the hundreds I have met, and if not then either my friends I have met know these others, or they are quite famous bloggers who have allowed me the honour of being their friend.

Also on Facebook, I do not believe in sharing every personal detail as some do. Some things are private, although there is really nothing in my private life I am ashamed of (honest, guv).

I tweet a lot. It is mainly business-related content, though not salesy stuff. I do let slip some geeky and technology related material, but that is me. I do not usually tell anyone what is going on at home – not even what we are having for dinner.

I have several websites, all of which have some information about me, mainly business. The exception is the health issues I have blogged, and that is because I believe people, and especially men, need to be conscious that they are not invulnerable to becoming ill.

You will have gathered that if you type “Jon Stow” into Google or any other search engine, there will be a lot about me; more than about all the other Jon Stows. I have a high profile, and nearly everything you will find on the first few search engine pages will be fairly recent and probably no more than two or three years old. You will get tired after that. There is nothing I have to hide anyway, going back however far you wish.

Some people have had embarrassments in business though, or even worse. Someone I have worked with quite a few years ago is not at all active on-line. He has one business website and as far as I know is not at all active in social media. Consequently one frightful business mess which did not reflect well on him always comes up on a name search. This financial scandal, in which my ex-colleague may in reality have done nothing wrong, took place fifteen years ago. Because his name is not very common and because even that long ago newspapers and trade magazines published on-line, the stories will be on page one of any search.

I think it would be in the interest of this guy to be very active on social networking sites, at least for a year or so. The search engines like newer stuff. The old embarrassing stuff can be buried further down, and perhaps not come to light on a cursory search for this individual’s name.

I enjoy the positive benefits of my higher on-line profile, because they lift me up the scale of being noticed. It just occurs to me that negative stuff can be buried with a bit of work, while avoiding restricting our rights to know what we should about people, and without restricting our personal freedom.

What say you?