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Why Action Learning can help your business to grow

I first came across Action Learning as a tool for experiential learning, personal and professional growth, when I was the National Volunteer Manager for The Prince’s Trust back in, ooh, probably 1999-2000.

The National Centre for Volunteering Organisations were wanting to help charities grow their managers and leaders skills, so they put on a number of sessions to show how Action Learning could help individuals and the organisations grow. I was fortunate enough to have been allowed the “time off” (as it was seen in those days), to take part in the initial session. I remember loving it on that first day, and putting a business case together to the HR Director to allow me to be involved with a year long Action Learning set with other charity managers.

It was an amazing year of growth and development for all of us personally, and the areas we were responsible for in our organisations. My memory has faded, but I remember our group had managers (of all sorts of department areas), from RNIB, The National Trust, English Cricket Board, and a lovely charity which looked after a historic boat on the Thames.

Action learning is an approach to solving real problems that involves taking action and reflecting upon the results, which helps improve the problem-solving process, as well as the solutions developed by the team. The action learning process includes:

  1. a real problem that is important, critical, and usually complex,
  2. a diverse problem-solving team or “set”,
  3. a process that promotes curiosity, inquiry, and reflection,
  4. a requirement that talk be converted into action and, ultimately, a solution, and
  5. a commitment to learning.


I remember taking issues to this group which I couldn’t discuss internally at The Trust due to office politics, or I’d tried and I hadn’t been heard. The results we all achieved over that year were amazing. Not just personally, but for our organisations. It wasn’t just about being heard and allowed to share our concerns with interested people who wanted to help us as individuals, but it was about being able to get to the root of the issue, and either resolve it, or find a solution to the issue we’d raised with the action learning set.

How Action Learning can help your business grow

My next taste of action learning in action was when I took part in the LEAD programme, at UCLAN in 2010. The action learning part of the programme was one of the main draws for me as it had been so powerful earlier in my career. I knew I could take business issues to this group of small and medium sized business owners and I could work out my next steps.

It’s actually from this group, that the Bra Lady network was developed, and I know other business owners also had similar ‘epiphany’ moments in the action learning sets.

How does action learning help your business grow?

action learning helps your business growAs a business owner, when you grow, your business grows too. So anything you can do to help yourself grow personally will have a knock on effect on your business.

When you use action learning in a group, or set as they’re often known, you are committing to take action in front of that group. Part of the sign up to be part of the group is to take action. How many times have you been on training and said you were going to do something from that training, and actually not? Well, you’re committing to this small group, who’ve heard you talk passionately about this thing you want to crack in your business, and you’ll be reporting back to them next time. You’re going to take the action aren’t you?

Being part of an action learning set gives you a small group of people who want you to succeed, who have all sorts of knowledge and experience, and contacts. By taking your business issue to this group and asking them to help you explore the options available to you, you’ll be getting a wide range of views and opinions to consider. You don’t have to take any of them on board, if you don’t want to. No-one in the group is going to force you to do anything.

Simply the act of sharing and exploring your business issue, helps you really understand the issue, and the action you’re wanting to take. Even if that action is nothing. Sometimes that happens, and that’s fine. However, but exploring the issue with the action learning set, you’ve cleared the issue from your to do list, and your head, and you’ve got space for the next thing you want to deal with.

Using action learning in your business

There are ways you can use action learning in your business, which offer the opportunity for cross team action learning sets to explore issues together. A number of educational and NHS establishments continue to use action learning as way of delving deeper into issues across departments, and helping colleagues understand cross organisational issues.

For smaller teams, or a one person business, joining up with other business owners in an action learning set, often with a facilitator, at least to start with, can help you learn the skills you need to question yourself and your business to learn by itself, and implement different ways of doing business.

Confident Business Owner uses action learning

As part of our Confident business owner programme, we’re using action learning sets as part of the development of individual business owners to grow themselves and their businesses. If you’d like to learn more about this programme, or how you can access an action learning set local to you, get in touch.

What’s your experience of action learning? Have you used it in your business? Was it beneficial?



Business tools can be time savers as well as growth tools

There are many ways we can grow our businesses, but business tools and systems are one of the quickest and easiest ways to grow your business, without too many tears.

“What do you mean by tools?” I hear you cry! Well, tools are anything that will help make your business processes easier and/or quicker.

It’s not just getting an extra pair of hands, (who you have to train to do the tasks), but systems and software can make a massive difference to your business, and your personal time working in the business.

How do you manage your customer or client details? Do you have them written in a little black book? Or on a spreadsheet? Would you like to be able to add notes to customer details so that you don’t need to remember conversations. The system does that for you. One system we really like, which is called a CRM system (Customer relationship management), is Capsule CRM. We’ve found it easy to use, it links with google mail, and mailchimp which were important for our clients. It can link to all sorts of other systems too if you want it to.

How do you manage your finances? Do you stuff all your receipts into a box & give them to your accountant or bookeeper at the end of the year? Or do you keep your spreadsheet or accounts system up to date every week? Whatever bookeeping system you use, this is a business tool.

Can you see? It doesn’t have to be something weird and wonderful to be a useful tool for your business!

There are tools for scheduling social media posts for your business, and scheduling appointments with customers, tools for creating beautiful images for your website or blog posts, tools for more efficient team working. In fact, there’s tools for all sorts of things to help you grow your business quickly and easily. There’s even tools to link the tools up if they’re not set up to talk to each other automatically – a tool called Zapier where you create Zaps to connect systems together.

There are so many tools to choose from, our advice to clients is try a few out and find what works for you. Just because we love Capsule CRM doesn’t mean you will too. You may find Zoho easier to navigate, or it looks better to you. Most business system tools have free trials, so use them. Put some time aside and try things out, and find the one/s that work for you.

One of the go to places where a lot of these whizzy tools are available, is AppSumo. They offer, often at the start of the growth phase for a business tool, special offers, or deals, which in turn helps the developer to improve the business tool. You can grab bargains for whatever area of work you’re wanting to improve.

appsumo blackfriday business tools offerHowever, AppSumo have put together a Briefcase full of business tools for entrepreneurs and business owners which covers most of the basics. These business tools are tried and tested, and you can get access to them all with one simple monthly payment. We really like this idea for small business owners – you know what you’re paying, and you know the systems work.

Tools we’re especially loving (as they’re new to us and we’re enjoying playing with them, plus getting so much benefit already), are GRUM (This is going to be in the Black Friday offer from AppSumo, so don’t miss out on lifetime access) – being able to schedule Instagram posts is fantastic for us. Yes, it’s important to be live on social media, but the fact you can create images on your laptop, then schedule them once in the knowledge that they’ll be sent out when you want, is perfect.

WEBSITE AUDITOR is a fabulous tool helping you to analyse your website, the traffic to it, and give you ideas of how to improve your site so it can be found more easily. You can even make the changes inside the website auditor software, making it simple to use, for everyone – even those with no technical skills. This is currently available with a massive discount for lifetime access, and we can highly recommend it.

We love business tools, and encourage our clients to make use of software and technology within their businesses to make life, and business, more straight forward.

If you’d like help with your business systems, or need help with setting business tools up, or linking them together so they talk to each other, get in touch. We can do this for you, and make the business tools you choose to use, even easier! We can even arrange training for you and your team, on site, or online, if you prefer to learn from another business owner how to make the best use of a business tool in your particular business.

What are your favourite business tools?


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SarkeMedia courses

We love what we do, supporting clients. You may be surprised that we work with specialists too. We’re always learning new tips, and keeping up to date of new software and algorithm changes. We may sometimes suggest you learn from a specialist, and/or we’ll walk alongside you and a specialist with a particular project. We’ll always give you options, as we all learn in different ways, and what suits your business partner, may not suit your style.

thank you sarkemedia from managethosethingsOne of our favourite companies we often refer clients to, offer training, coaching and 1 to 1 support, are Sarah and Kevin Arrow from SarkeMedia who run the Online Visibility academy. We’ve worked with Sarah and Kevin for years, so we can highly recommend their work.

Some of our own courses dovetail into their work, like our Get your website working course will lead you onto some of their courses for more detailed work, learning about a specific area of work, or to really drill into an area you need to really master in your business.

Whilst we recommend Sarkemedia and the Arrows to you, for their breadth of knowledge and success with online visibility for themselves and their clients, here’s some highlights some of clients have enjoyed with them directly:

Leads and LinkedIn – This package to teach you how to use LinkedIn to generate more leads is taught through daily emails with a task to learn or do each day. The Leads and LinkedIn programme is supported by the Arrows through a LinkedIn group (where else!). If LinkedIn is where your potential clients hang out, then you need to be there to hang out with them too.

Business Blogging Challenge – This is a 30 day challenge, delivered by email every day, which takes you through everything you need to know about Business blogging. From why you should have a business blog, to how to set it up, to keywords, (what they are and how to find yours), images, linking, guest blogging, and all things in between. This challenge is supported by a Facebook group which has over 4,000 people either doing the challenge or who’ve completed it.

Marketing Success Strategy Bundle – An amazing bundle of marketing strategies for whichever way you want to promote your business. Done for you marketing strategies which take the effort out of the planning and scratching your head stage, so you simply use your time to get on and do the marketing for your business. We love this one 🙂

Optimise Anything – Just like it says, this course will teach you how to optimise anything. Not only is it important to optimise your website to be found for your keywords, but you’ll also learn how to optimise your Facebook page, your Instagram account, your twitter feed, and many more things you may not have thought can be optimised. Ensuring everything is optimised helps your online visibility, and ensures people find you and trust you for what you do.

This programme is delivered in an online course format, with tutorials, checklists and support. You go as fast or as slow as you want.

Create a business website from scratch – Using WordPress. Step by step tutorials to show you how to set up a wordpress website from scratch. Yes, it’s that simple!

Client Clairvoyance – Find out what your clients are looking for, and develope your business to suit their requirements. Then use that knowledge to market to them in the way that suits them best. If you’re currently unsure what your clients are really after, this will lead you through a step by step process.

Delivered on their course platform for you to go as fast or slow as you like.

Autumn Bundle of Awesomeness – An amazing package of a variety of courses with Sarkemedia old branding which they’re virtually giving away at this price! Even if you don’t need something right now, grab it as you have lifetime access to all their courses.


Manage Those Things can help you manage all aspects of your business. Sometimes, however, we’ll advise you to work, or learn from, specialists, like Sarah and Kevin from Sarkemedia. If you’re wanting to improve your Online Visibility, talk to us about your goals and where you are now, and we’ll advise the best way forward for you.

Have you done any of Sarkemedia’s courses? Are they right for you?


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Are you rushing around getting nothing done?

Life is busy, we all know that. Having a business is often a challenge, particular when we first start. We have lists for this, and that, and we do our best to get it done, but it feels like there’s lots of rushing but nothing gets done.

Feel familiar?

There’s so many different ways you can slow down, but how do you find what’s right for you? That’s right, you try them out and see what works! Yes, that’s simple enough isn’t it? But how do you find the time to try out new things when you’re so busy rushing around getting nothing done?

stop, listen to yourself, get things doneLet’s work through a few options and see if we can find something that feels right to start with.

Tips for getting things done without rushing around all the time

  1. Stop. Take a break.

    You may think that stopping and taking a break is counter productive when you have so much you want to get done. But trust me. When you stop, and take a break (that’s really important!), your brain and body slow down. They thank you for the time out. By doing something different in your break from rushing around, you’ll find your brain re-works your list and prioritises it, so when you come back to work you’ll be very focused and will just crack on with one thing at a time. Doing one thing at a time, to completion, is much more productive than trying to complete lots of things at the same time.

  2. Plan.

    You’ve probably heard, “Fail to plan = plan to fail”? Well, just spending a bit of time planning is well worth it. Are there things you’re doing that someone else could do? Do you have to do them at all? Prioritising through your planning will be so valuable, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

  3. Meditate.

    OK, so this may seem a bit “woo woo”, but this really does give your brain time to be still. We know of so many people who’ve benefitted from just 10 minutes a day of meditation. I’m sure you can fit 10 minutes of Headspace in each day? Go on, try it and let us know how you feel.

  4. Good food and exercise during the day

    You may have your health and fitness schedule sorted. Fabulous. However, could you do some of your activity during your workday? Could you have walking meetings instead of meeting in a cafe? Are you drinking enough water? (we’re going to be coming back to this soon, but for now, ensure you’re drinking 2 litres of plain water each day). What you eat and drink, and the exercise you do all helps you to stop running around. Your body and brain will function better. Need help with this? Our friends at Stay Fit and Healthy have a free 30 day challenge to help you look at the little things you can do each day to improve this aspect of your life.

  5. Listen to yourself

    You know the answer only too well, but you may not be being honest with yourself. Your rushing around may be hiding the fact that you’ve got a hard decision to make, and you’re putting it off. Stop. Listen. And then take the action which feels right. Tracey-Jane has written about this. Listen and trust yourself, you’re right! It doesn’t matter what your mentor, business adviser or partner is saying, it’s what’s right for you that’s important. Act on that.

One of the most important things we do when we work with clients is encourage them to listen to themselves. Spending time with us gives you time out of your business to stop, think, listen and we help you to plan your next steps. We’re facilitators. We can do things for you with done for you packages. We can teach you how to do things in your business if that’s best for you. But you have to work out what’s best for you in the first place.

Stop rushing around, and spend a bit of time thinking and planning. If you’d like our help to facilitate this, book a session with us, and let’s listen to you whilst you work out how you’re going to stop rushing around in the future 🙂

Any other tips for getting things done you’d add to this list?

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Get your website working for you

One of the hardest things in business is to keep juggling all the plates just to stand still. Or that’s what it feels like!

We’ve been there, (and have these moments of juggling every few months!), when you’ve spent months getting your website just right. You’ve worked hard finding the right words, sourcing the right images. You’ve tested all the functions and that the pages link together. You’ve had friends and family test the site for you too, and you all jumped with excitement when the site went live. Yay! All that hard work at an end.

My website is live, now what?

So, what are you doing now? Your website’s live, right? So nothing more to do on that. Tick it off your list and move on to the next big item on your business agenda.



In some ways, now your website is live, this is when the work really starts. Now you need to keep the website updated. You may need to update links on the site, and certainly ensure, if it’s an online shop, that the stock is right, and listed at the right price.

You know your website looks fantastic, and has a wonderful widget that is amazing and is perfect for your ideal customer to find exactly what they want. If only they came onto your website and used it!

Now you know your web developer told you that they’d fully SEOd the site, so the customers should be coming easily shouldn’t they? You even paid extra for that part of the service, so you know it’s all fine. You just need to wait until google finds you. All will be well. Right?


Get your website working for you

Your website is an asset to your business. You’ve spent hours getting it just right, and maybe spent quite a bit on it too, so your accountant may well be telling you it better be a good investment and work as you’ve said in your business plan, “or else”. Well, that can be a pressure too can’t it? Making the financials work out?

You can affect who finds your website. You can affect how many potential customers know about you. In fact, it’s often this one thing which frustrates us more than anything else – the fact that business owners put so much time (and money) into a website, then just leave it.

When you recruit a new member to the team, do you just leave them to it? Or do you welcome them, nuture them and develop them?

When you buy a new piece of equipment or software, do you just buy it then forget about it? Or do you spend time learning about it, and how to make best use of all the functions to make your business more efficient?

So why not your website? Why do you leave it alone?

Well, many business owners we support leave it alone for these reasons:

  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have the money to put any more into the website
  • I don’t know what to do
  • I’ve lost interest – all my effort went into creating
  • It’s not my job
  • I’m paying someone else to do that

We don’t think that’s right that you should leave this wonderful asset unattended. It really doesn’t take much to keep on top of things. Even if you ask someone else to do it for you, you need to know what they’re doing, so you can check that things are working OK, and you’re getting value for money.

This 40 minute tutorial shows you the basics of what you need to do, each month, to keep growing and developing your website, to make it work for you. You’ll get the basics of what you need to do to get your website working for you.

If you want to skip the tutorial and just grab the checklist, well, it may not make total sense, but it’s here for you anyway. Who are we to tell you what’s best for you?

Get your website working for you course

And if you’re really serious about making your website work for you, we’ve created a step by step course just for you. We’re teaching this live over 4 weeks, with some lovely experts, including online marketing expert Alison Rothwell. For more details and to sign up at a bargain price (you wouldn’t even have access to Alison for 20 minutes at this price, but she’s agreed to be part of our teaching team).

You’ll get lifetime access to the course materials, so you can come back again and again to re-watch the step by step tutorials.

get your website working for you

Don’t delay – the course starts 6th November, and will never be at the bargain price of £47 again, so join now and get your website working for your business in 2017 🙂



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Domain names, hosting, and servers – what do I need?

domain names hosting and servers what do i need

Domain names, hosting and servers what do i need?

This is a question we get asked a lot when meeting business owners, or business start ups. Even established businesses get confused about domain names hosting and servers when they are looking at revamping or upgrading their website. Here’s some guidance for you to get you more confident to make the decisions you need for your business.

Website terms

When you create a website, for the first time, or re-do a website, many business owners get confused by the terminology web developers use, or what they actually need to do. Being baffled by words doesn’t fill you with confidence when you’re working hard to get your website created, and ready to go live does it?

Domain names

You can own as many domain names as you like, and you buy these through a domain registrar. To check who owns a domain name, use Nominet, or to check who you can register a domain through, use this list here. All registrars will have different prices, so you may want to shop around to save a couple of pounds. We recommend 4UHosting.co.uk who we’ve used for the past 13 years and are UK based, with excellent support.

Website Hosting or Server Space

These terms are often used interchangeably, so don’t be alarmed if the person you’re talking to uses both terms.

Every website needs to have some server space where all the files of the website are stored. They are essentially separate coded files, which link together, (much like the links from this page to other internet pages), and are stored on a big computer. If you are sorting your own website out, you need to purchase some website hosting.

Now, website hosting comes in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no one recommendation for all sites. The questions you need to ask yourself, and your web developer if you have one, are:

  • How much space do you need (if you’re a new website, 5GB is probably enough to start with)?
  • What bandwidth do you need (this is for the traffic to your site). If you’re expecting large scale traffic from a TV advertising campaign, go large, otherwise, for new sites, 50GB monthly bandwidth is likely to be enough
  • What functions do you need on your server? Do you need a MySQL database (you do if you’re using WordPress)
  • How often does the server backup the site? What happens if there’s a malfunction – does the server set your backup site live?
  • Can the server space grow quickly and easily if my website traffic grows quickly and I need more bandwidth, or I need more space for a new function for the site?
  • What support does the company offer & is it in the right time zone for me, when I need it?

The other question you’ll need to think about is, “Do I want a shared server, a cloud server or a dedicated server?”

A shared server is usually the cheapest option, and is one where your website shares a server with many other website owners. This big computer will have lots of files and folders on it, and will have lots of traffic coming to all the different websites stored there. This can be a problem sometimes, if you’re sharing with a site which gets high traffic at certain times and leaves less bandwidth for your visitors. However, when you’re starting out, this is likely to be a good option for you. Cheapest is not always best though, as some hosting companies don’t manage their shared servers as well as others.

A cloud server is a good option for growing websites, or where you get heavy traffic, even if only for short bursts. This option will store your files on ‘clouds’, thus spreading your website across a few different spaces to spread the load, spread the risk, and have more flexibility if there are issues with a site or a server.

A dedicated server is one which only your website uses. You will secure the right space and bandwidth for you with the hosting company, and only you and your website technicians will have access to this space. This reduces all the risk of being infected by other websites on a server, and is suitable for those websites which need more space, and where your budget allows this level of support from the hosting company.

How are you creating your website

Again there’s many options, which is often why people find it confusing, especially when they are starting out.

You can start with free site on someone else’s server, like wix.com or wordpress.com, but you won’t always be able to have your own domain name linked to it e.g. mydomain.co.uk It may look something like mydomain.wix.com. If you need your own domain name, then check carefully before starting on one of these sites, as they’re all different.

Then you can use premium versions of templated sites, again, wix.com or ekm.com for a shopping site. These have templates you can use to set up your site and make it look like the image in your head. If you’re wanting total free reign on the design of the site, these options may not suit you, as web developers don’t have access to a lot of the styling of the site.

You can create your own WordPress website, on your own server space, or you can invite a web developer to set the site up for you. You can use free wordpress templates, which have elements of customisation, or you can choose some paid for themes (often one off charges), to create your totally bespoke site. There are also website developers who will create the site from scratch on wordpress for you (creating style sheets).

Obviously, the cost goes up, with each of these options. Website design is mainly about the time taken to style the site, and then add all the functions you require. A shopping site will take longer to style than an information site.

Finally, you can get a website development company to create a totally bespoke website for you. Depending on your end goal, and what you want the site to do for you, this can be an excellent option to ensure the site looks right to the customer, and the backend of the site is simple enough for you and your team to update.

Still confused? Need some help? Ready to get your website started, but not sure your next steps?

Contact us, and let’s talk you through your options. We have a few web developement teams we work with, plus our own in house web developer to help you fix those little bits which are causing you a headache! We also project manage website development projects from start to finish, or from whatever stage you need support.

We’re here to help you Manage Those Things, so get in touch & let’s get the website in your head, onto a server and live 🙂






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Getting organised Tips

When we’re trying to juggle lots of things, the most important thing to ensure we get things done, is to get organised.

Many of us use online organisers and notebook systems, like Evernote, or google calendar, (yes, we’re an android/google house here) to manage reminders of tasks, meetings, and capture information for using in the future.

Getting organised tips

I’m personally a fan of writing things down. It helps me remember things I need to do, and process those things into pockets of time, or slots in my head and then my diary. My friend recently bought me a “List Book” with sticky notes, and list pages which has been perfect for the way I work.

We’ll look at CRM systems, (Customer relationship management), in the future. Today is just about the basics.


Getting organised tips

Whilst this isn’t an exhaustive list, it should help you work out a system for you, and your team, to get organised and get the tasks completed on time:

  • Have a diary which is accessible to your team and/or family and ALL use it. If you use a hard copy and an online calendar, make sure they are the same at least once a week.
  • Have one, yes one, To Do list. The master copy if you like. Ideally break this down into smaller tasks, and have headings for each part of the business or family life it affects e.g. Finances, Website, Customer service, Shopping.
  • From the To Do list, prioritise one thing each week from each heading.
  • Create a weekly activity planner and add your priorities into this planner. Ensure the planner has all your meetings, time out, children’s activities and dentist appointments in it, so you have slots of time to schedule your tasks into.
  • If you manage a team of people, assign tasks from the priority lists with the day and time they need completing. Set reminders on your phone/calendar to follow up the work has been completed.
  • If you use an online task planner, at the end of each day, update it.
  • Using a paper planner, cross things off as you do them.
  • If a task hasn’t been completed, ensure you write it on another day’s planner to complete, or assign to a team member with the deadline for completion
  • Don’t beat yourself up if the tasks don’t get done because of an unexpected emergency. Simply reschedule & update customers, if it may affect them. Customers are humans too, and whilst we do our best to complete work on time, life does sometimes get in the way. They usually understand if they’re made aware at the earliest point in time

What are your getting organised tips to make this work around the house and in your business?