If you can’t say something nice…

There are a few people you come across in the flesh or in social media are like Marmite. You either love them or you can’t stand them. There is really nothing in between. Yet if you really don’t like someone, perhaps it is better to keep your own counsel.

In a private forum recently I saw some unpleasant comments about someone I know well. I rather took against the commenter and the people who “liked” her comments. We Marmite lovers really get put off those who say nasty things about it, or make snide comments about our friends. Do not the naysayers know that they damage their reputation?

As Thumper said “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.”

Do you have a tax issue I can help you with? Get in touch and I will guide you.

My Twitter for business rules

  • No politics
  • No following back of people using software to follow me
  • No following of people who just post quotes
  • No following of those who intend to be offensive whether with swear words or wind-up comments
  • Follow genuine likeable people
  • Follow people with quality postings
  • Follow people in my business unless they transgress another rule
  • Try to tweet valuable content but not news stories followers might have seen or can see for themselves.
  • Engage with those I follow and who follow me
  • Re-tweet posts of value

I have no compunction about unfollowing people who annoy me.

Oh, and keep the politics out of Facebook and other social media too. Thank you.

Do you have a tax issue I can help you with? Get in touch and I will guide you.


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?


Do I deserve to be whipped?

Out and about

I am about on social networks mainly for marketing purposes. At least that was how it was in the beginning. However, having built relationships on-line, some become friendships on-line or off-line.

I enjoy discussions in various forums, whether business or social. I like to express my opinion., otherwise why would I take part? Very occasionally I might say something to which another person might take offence, but certainly I would not set out to upset anybody, and I hope I would be ready to apologise. As I have said before, our on-line reputations are important and easily damaged with a loose comment. If someone is hurt we have to “kiss them better”.

Taking the flak

We have to accept that our views and, I guess our morality, are not shared by everyone else. The other day I expressed an opinion in response to a forum question. That opinion was that stealing from the Government by fiddling one’s tax returns was wrong. It is not a particularly controversial view I would have thought, but some apparently believe that the Government should have higher priorities than catching the small scale tax dodgers. Perhaps they do need to prioritise, but that is no reason to let anyone get away with it, at least in my opinion.

If you have been free with your opinions you have to take some flak. It is fine for people to disagree with me. At least they take notice. Having a opinion and expressing it is better than firing quotations of the great and the good into the internet ether as some do to boost their Klout score.

For thinking this small-scale tax-stealing was wrong, I was called “holier than thou”. I was rather hurt. In fact I was rather more hurt than when I was called without provocation a very bad word in a private forum long ago. That was more about networkers I was seen as being associated with. Being called “holier than thou” was more personal.

I felt less hurt after I reasoned that maybe it was a back-handed compliment about my adhering to my beliefs.

Following our path

What we have to do is to be wary of damaging our reputation but carry on with what we believe. We have to be out there with our marketing, and we need to participate in forums to maintain our reputations, and because we are intelligent opinionated people.


We have to take a whipping now and again. Maybe I deserved it. At least I got noticed. The pain was probably worth it.

Here is a relevant quotation from Leo Burnett, and early twentieth-century advertising executive which I promise not to tweet:

“If you don’t get noticed, you don’t have anything. You just have to be noticed, but the art is in getting noticed naturally, without screaming or without tricks.”

So that’s all right then. Or is it?

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Adding value by business blogging – a personal view


English: Screenshot of the blogging system Wor...

English: Screenshot of the blogging system WordPress using the theme "Twenty Ten". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


People ask me why I blog. Those who don’t, and probably don’t read other people’s blogs ask that question, usually followed with “I don’t know how you find the time”.

I am not the first to talk about the raison d’etre of blogging. You will find many posts about this on the web, and there are many different driving forces, but they are all about the writers sharing information. In the case of a business blog like this, I share my personal views on business issues and based on my own experience. That experience may not be the same as others; in fact of course it won’t be.


The honest and obvious answer as to why On Our Bikes came about is as a way of marketing my business, or, I suppose, my businesses. I share what I know and hope people find it useful and even entertaining at times. After all, what I write about is what I have observed, what I have done, and of course what has happened to me even when I did not plan or want it to.

Without focussed marketing a business is lost, so of course I find the time to write.

Does it work? Yes, I get traffic to this blog and it channels hits on my other websites, which leads to business.


Do I expect dozens of comments? Well, I like comments because people have engaged with what I write if they do take the trouble to post, but comments are not a measure of success of a blog in terms of whether it works for the writer. After all, a well-known blogger has 54,000 subscribers to get his posts by email and presumably is read by many more, yet even he seems to average less than 50 comments. Yes, I would love 50 comments, but as they say, do the math. OK, I’ll do it for you. That is a response rate of 0.09% even on the 54,000. So comments are not a measure. And this blogger writes great stuff.


Blogging is not about gaming Google either. I don’t even know how to do that though I get found very easily directly through Bikes or through the sidebar links to my sites elsewhere. What I do know is that it has at least three functions for me:

  • Marketing my businesses
  • Meeting more people on-line, which may lead to off-line meetings
  • Relaxation which sharpens my business thinking.

What do you get out from blogging?

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We are on Alltop

Image representing Alltop as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

For those who don’t know, Alltop is an article and blog aggregator, bringing in content from news stations, newspapers, magazines, on-line articles and blogs. Alltop was founded by the great Guy Kawasaki. And now it includes On Our Bikes.

To get the best explanation of what Alltop is and what it can do for you, just let Alltop tell you.  Watch the video. You can see not only how it works from a user point of view, but how you can apply to have your own website listed and your feed included.

From the point of view of On Our Bikes, I hope the listing will stimulate a lot of traffic, and of course traffic means business either directly or indirectly through recommendation.

I feel very honoured and privileged that Alltop has included Bikes in the Small Business section. To be honest, I had almost forgotten about applying, and certainly had not expected to be listed, because I don’t suppose they have just anyone. Currently and understandably we are right at the bottom, but we are now wearing the badge with pride on the right of the blog.

I like Alltop. You don’t just have to scan through all the vast amount of feeds all the time. You can select your favourites for regular visits and browse and add new topics when you have the time.

Why don’t you try it if you haven’t already?

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Why it is good to have a quiet time in business

A Spring walk next to the hornbeam wood.

We all like to be busy. I like to be busy. What is important for us is to be busy doing useful things, and not to be too busy that we are not thinking and planning.

Being busy is good for an active mind, but I have always found it valuable to give myself a break outside the work environment. I go to the gym quite a lot, but that also involves being busy and thinking what I am doing while I am doing it. It isn’t the sort of break from work I need for my mind.

I need to relax and let my mind relax. I recommend you try it. I go for a walk and listen to the birds, and try to pick them out and have a good look at them. I am lucky, or maybe it is by design that I live close to woods and open fields and not too far from the river. Sometimes I like just to sit quietly.

A quiet time with Gandhi in Tavistock Square

I have been trying to have quiet times during the day a long time before I set up my own businesses. When I worked in London I always walked in my lunch hour and after work. A decade or more ago I was able to spend time sitting quietly in the pleasant squares of Bloomsbury, close to where I worked.

In my quiet times I have most of my best ideas for improving and expanding my business, and for going in new directions. Many of my blog posts originate from observing when I am out or from just letting my mind drift. The more I relax, the fitter my mind is and the better I am when I get back to work.

Of course we are all different, but this works for me. Why don’t you try it? Do you like to get out for a breather in the fresh air?

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Can small businesses live off referrals?

Mountains don't travel well!

In my work I talk to many small business owners, and on a daily basis. Some in professional services are doing pretty well without making any effort to market. This is because they provide their clients with reliable, dependable support, and in return their clients recommend them to others. That way they have a steady stream of new business to replace the natural wastage, which is often due to other clients retiring and very often selling up.

These established businesses living off recommendations generally are not looking to grow too much, but their owners find themselves able to live a comfortable living. That’s great, isn’t it, in a time when the general business is difficult?

The whole world of small business isn’t like that though. I was talking to the owner of a start-up business two years old, and he told me that business was really very poor. They had hardly any clients coming to them. I commented that they did not seem to have a website and that they were almost invisible in the search engines. The owner said “But in our line we get all our business through word of mouth”; in other words through referrals. Except they aren’t getting any. This is two years down the line.

In some ways I understand my friend’s comment. I believe that once he worked in one of those established businesses I mentioned at the beginning; one where the work just kept coming in because their good service reputation was passed on by word of mouth. In a start up business you just don’t have that. You have to take the initiative. It is no good expecting the mountain to come to Mohamed.

A small business has to market. Any professional service business must have a website, and preferably a blog or good content showing the expertise of the owners. Content marketing for goodness sake! Then once a few clients come along and sign up, rightly convinced you know what you are talking about, they will talk about you. Your best marketers are your client advocates, but you have to have a virtual shop to display your wares.

It’s no good hiding your light under a bushel, especially as we all need money to live on. It’s really not true that if you build it they will come (sorry, Kevin).  You need publicity, your potential clients need to know where to come and they need to know what great stuff they will get when they arrive.

Are you hiding or is it easy to find you?

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Why it is the season for bright ideas

Christmas sky

Christmas is upon us. Unless our business is a 365-day-a-year sort of business we do need to take a break for a few days. It will do us good. If you do have a 365-day-a-year business I am sure you delegate to others so that you can grab time off later.

One advantage for me is that I have some of my best ideas when I am relaxing and not working. I expect you do too. Sometimes inspiration strikes when I am out for a walk, sometimes sitting at home. Now and again I have good ideas when taking a shower.

It is important to write down a good idea when you have one, or use a voice recorder. Otherwise those ideas can evaporate like the memories of many of our dreams. Getting out of the shower, of course we have to avoid getting water in our electronics or getting our notepaper soggy.

Grab those ideas, take care of those candles and have a Merry Christmas. I will be back after Christmas to wish you a Happy New Year.

The blog post that never was

Since I started blogging in earnest (and do you realise that there are over 200 posts here at On Our Bikes?) I have found that in writing down my experiences I have helped my own business thinking. It has also often been good for me to let off a bit of steam. I was going to say it was therapeutic, but that is a bit of a grand word for a blog, isn’t it?

As I write this, over the last week certain on-line occurrences involving bloggers and social media people I like has got me going. I have seen spats and unpleasantness. I wrote a blog post about it because I was upset for certain parties and found myself believing other friends were wrong.

A sky to chill out under

The trouble was that after writing that post I realised that some who might read it would recognise themselves and would take offence. There has been quite enough pain already so I pulled the post before it was published. It has ended up “on the spike”.

Just the same, I do think that writing down my thoughts eased my stress and in rationalising the issues I have been able to put the upset behind me. I managed to chill out.

Do you write posts on your blog and then have second thoughts? Do you find that writing about an incident helps you, particularly when you have been upset? Have you ever published a post and then regretted it? What did you do?