Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Life on Fast Forward

Just a quick note, firstly to apologise for not posting anything recently. The 'maternity leave' is now well and truly over and I feel as though I have been catapulted back into the fast lane.

However, just to let you know I will be both speaking and exhibiting at the Business Start Up Show at London's Olympia this Friday 2 and Saturday 3 November - my stand is number 298 so please do pop by and see me if you are coming.

Entrance to the Show is completely free and there are lots of brilliant speakers lined up - including Stelios and my good friend Peter Jones (this could prove interesting!)

See you there.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Caan Breathes New Life Into Stale Den

Couldn't help but tune into the new series of Dragons' Den last night, and I have to say I was very impressed with James Caan as the new Dragon in the line up. He was positive and fair to all the entrepreneurs who pitched, as well as being tough when he needed to be - as well as holding his own brilliantly with the other Dragons. A real professional, and a good choice on the part of the BBC who has breathed new life into what was becoming an increasingly stale format.

Glad also to see that Ms Meaden has at last invested a little of her wealth in a personal stylist and image makeover (miaow!). Her stone suit and tailored blonder haircut were so much more flattering and up to date than her previous navy pinstripe 'John Lewis Shop Assistant' ensemble.

But the highlight of the Show has to be Peter Jones' arrogant retort to the pair who were planning to launch a dating agency, and dared to invite him to use their service.

'I don't need a dating agency because I'm seriously good looking and wealthy' came Jones' reply.

Not because he already has a long suffering other half by whom he has had two children then...?

Good looking? Maybe. Wealthy? For the moment perhaps, yes. Attractive? Definitely no.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Dragons' Den Hits New Low

I wanted to hang fire about commenting on the latest trailer for the new series of Dragons' Den, which has caused so much controversy on the web this week, until I had actually seen it.

Which I did this morning.

Just in case you haven't seen the trailer, it features the line up of 5 Dragons, arms folded looking down their noses at a miniature man on the floor beneath them doing his pitch, after which Deborah Meaden crushes him underfoot with her red soled stiletto shoe.

And quite frankly I think it's pretty shocking.

Shocking firstly that the BBC production team are so badly out of touch with what is going on in the UK Small Business Sector that they can even have thought to put together something which is so derisory and unsupportive of new entrepreneurial talent in this country.

Shocking secondly that the 'Dragons' actually agreed to allow themselves to be featured in this way.

Whatever shreds of credibility Dragons' Den may have had left as a 'business show' have now finally evaporated. The trailer finally portrays the show for what it really is - Coliseum TV created exclusively for the torture of those who manage to get featured on the show, and entertainment for the masses.

Not to mention an ego massage for the 'Dragons' - who all seem to be stuck in the oh-so-outdated '80's 'greed is good' alpha business stereotype. An image which is completely out of touch with the majority of the UK's successful entrepreneurs, who are generally hugely supportive of those just starting out on their business journey.

What a real shame for a show that started out with so much promise to be a great role model for British Business.

In my view it's time for the BBC to recognise that it exists for more than just to produce shows which can achieve good audience ratings - and seriously review the show's creative direction.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Gordon Brown Shambles

It has been quite amusing to observe the events in politics over the past week and watch just how quickly Gordon Brown has shot himself in the foot so soon after taking over.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a Conservative through and through. As a young career girl working in the City during the '80s the excitement of the Thatcher years was palpable. I also think David Cameron is the greatest thing to happen to the Tories since they lost Thatcher (hugely charismatic, very handsome and I also think he has great integrity). And appearing on stage in a Dragons' Den style policy review panel at last year's Conservative Party Conference with Oliver Letwin, Anne Widdecombe and Michael Brown has to be one of the biggest honours of my career to date.

By contrast to the newly emerging fresher, younger and much more dashing Conservative Party, Gordon Brown looks like a tired old windbag. Nervous and jittery in front of the cameras and always awkward in the presence of the media. None more so than appearing in the desert with the troops in a hot and uncomfortable looking navy suit and blue tie, totally inappropriate for the occasion.

In every Party Political Broadcast and interview he spouts about 'change' and 'building a stronger Britain' - almost as if he hasn't been around for the past decade and had nothing to do with the state the country now finds itself in. The attempt to distance himself from the Blair Government simply isn't working.

The speculation over a possible November Election should have been nipped in the bud as soon as it was aired - not allowed to carry on while Gordon assessed how the polls were unfolding only to back out scared at the last possible moment. It seems to the passive onlooker that 'Being PM' is more important to Brown than any consideration for this country or the opinions of its electorate.

And then to the Inheritance Tax debacle.

Gloriously trumped by George Osborne's announcement last week that the Tories would raise the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1million, yesterday's announcement by Alistair Darling that the threshold would rise to £600k looked like a feeble copycat response, never mind the fact it was probably decided well before the Tory Party Conference. And why wasn't the decision made years before by Brown himself, while he was Chancellor?

In short, during just one week the Labour Party has descended into a shambles, quite simply due to indecisive leadership on the part of their woolly new leader Gordon Brown.

All Cameron & Co have to do now is play the waiting game until they win in 2009.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Another One Off The Production Line...

OK I know this is a Business Blog, but if you will allow me a temporary transgression I would like to let you know that Baby #5 did indeed arrive - at 2.40am on Wednesday 3 October - another boy weighing in at 7lb 9oz.

Definitely my last - especially given it was a very fast and traumatic birth!

I would like to thank Caroline the midwife at Darley Birth Centre for putting up with my screams of agony, as well as Newborn Nannies who eventually found me a brilliant maternity nurse (see my earlier Blog about nanny problems), who has been a wonderful support since she arrived with us and a luxury I would recommend all new mums to invest in for the first few weeks of new baby at home.

[And, no, 'Sweeting' I'm not earning any kick-back from giving these recommendations!!!]


Tuesday, 2 October 2007

A Few Thoughts on Franchising...

One of the most emotive responses that I receive from my Entrepreneurial Profiling Test is from people highly indignant at my suggestion that they should perhaps consider franchising as their first venture into business, as an alternative to starting a completely new business from scratch.

It seems that for some franchising is still a dirty word in business - and that it is somehow a 'fake' alternative to going into business proper.

The other side of the coin is of course the emails I receive from people, typically 12 to 18 months in to their business journey, who have tried to start a business completely from scratch and who are beginning to realise just how difficult (and expensive) that is.

Creating a brand identity alone, along with all the brand collateral needed for certain businesses (signage, brochures, websites etc) for just one business location/outlet can cost tens of thousands of pounds. More often than not it's an area where many businesses skimp - and end up looking unprofessional and amateurish.

That's before you even begin to consider all the costs of setting up operational systems, bespoke software, supply chains and processes/know how - as well as the cost of the kind of 'trial and error' mistakes you inevitably make when you decide to go it alone.

Franchising gives you a ready made solution usually for an all in one fee - which allows you to focus on revenue generation practically from Day One - as well as fantastic training and ongoing support.

The results of my Profile Test show that over 80% of people thinking of going into business really should consider looking at the franchise sector as their first venture into business. The failure rate is less than 5% (compared to something like 67% in the start up sector); it's much easier to finance your start up costs, and with most franchises you can actually sell them on for more than they cost you once you have momentum going. Alternatively put a manager in to run them and use the money generated for your completely new business a couple of years down the line - once you have experience in business.

This week is the National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC - and I would normally be there speaking if I weren't currently 9 months' pregnant! If you are thinking of going into business I would suggest it's well worth a visit - and particularly if you Profile under my free Test as a Safepreneur/Execpreneur/Dadpreneur or Mumpreneur.

Alternatively visit the UK Franchise Directory Site which gives you a complete listing on every franchise currently available in the UK.

As with any business opportunity, you still need to be very careful which franchise you go for - and indeed some of the more established ones have very strict criteria on who they will allow to run one of their franchises - but it's an avenue well worth exploring.

Good luck!