Cotton Court Business Centre

Entrepreneur

Managing Small Business Stress

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Stress is something that all of us have to deal with at various parts of our lives. Some of us are more susceptible than others, and everyone deals with it in different ways.

Stress is your body’s way of responding to dangers, threats and demands. The chemicals released prepare your body to react, and kick your body into its fight, flight or freeze response. At one point it helped our ancestors deal with ongoing threats like sabre-tooth tigers and competitor tribes. 

Whilst some stress can be good, and indeed some people thrive from having small amounts of stress in their lives, in larger doses or over a prolonged period of time it can have serious consequences on your mental and physical wellbeing, and there are even significant links between stress and serious diseases such as cancer.

This Monday saw the launch of International Stress Awareness week. A week organised by the International Stress Management Association to raise awareness of the condition, as well as promote stress prevention and wellbeing.

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you will be no stranger to regular bouts of stress. Like me, you’ve no doubt at some point been sat on the floor with your head in your hands wondering what the hell you’re doing in business or how you’re going to get out of whatever pickle you’re in.

Every part of your business has the potential to increase your stress levels and give you sleepless nights. Whether it’s a lack of new customers, HR issues, competitors or one of the many other working parts of your operation, your mind will constantly be ticking over.

The bottom line is, owning or operating a business is stressful. The sooner you learn to manage that stress or even make it work to your advantage the better. Because it’s always going to come back!

I spin many plates across my personal and professional life. I have days that feel like everything is getting on top of me and I want to go into ‘shutdown mode’, days where I feel like everything is going the best it can be and I’m unstoppable, and days where I feel like the stress is a good thing, something that pushes me to do my best work.

I’ve put together my top tips for managing stress in small business. I try to follow these rules as much as possible, but like everyone else, sometimes fail at my own game and let the big S word get the better of me.

Keep your eye on the prize

Begin with the end in mind, and have a clear understanding of what it is you are working towards; be it the small milestone or the massive end-goal. Visualising the prize at the end helps motivate us and cut through the white noise of stress and anxiety.

Break down the tasks for the day, write a list and strike them off as you achieve each milestone. It will help you see that you’re actually making headway and that you’re getting on top of the stress that’s trying to stand in your way.

One of my main motivators is keeping a promise to my parents that I’d buy them a villa in Menorca to spend their retirement in. Whilst I know it isn’t the exact property I’m going to get them, I keep a picture of the type of villa I’d like them to have, and from time-to-time look at it to remind me of what I’m working towards.

Maybe you’ve got a new addition to the family on the way? Maybe you’re looking to buy your first home with your partner? Visualising these things can help you cut through the stress and get your head back in the game.

Take a nap

There’s very few people that work in Cotton Court that haven’t walked in on me taking a cap-nap in a conference room, or found me having a snooze in a reclined car seat on the car park (there’s videos to prove it). But that isn’t because I’m lazy! It’s because I’m being proactive in managing my productivity and stress (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). 

When it all gets too much and I feel like the stress is getting on top of me, I go into ‘shutdown mode’. I can be staring at my screen for 15 minutes with no work being done, desperately trying to squeeze out some productivity. Tight temples, pounding heart and a cluttered mind all work against me, with the frustration of not completing any work adding to my stress levels and completing the vicious circle of work related stress.

When I get to this stage I ‘reset’ my mind and body with a quick 20-30 minute nap. Sometimes I use guided hypnosis videos from YouTube (check out Michael Sealey) to help me declutter my mind, reset my stress levels and get me back in the productive zone.

Why not longer? Have you ever woken up from a nap and felt worse for it? It’s likely because you’ve had too long of a sleep. When you sleep hormones (such as Melatonin amongst others) are released to regulate your sleep cycle, send you into a deep slumber and immobilise your body.

Once you’ve gone into this deep sleep cycle, being woken from it can feel like the morning after a particularly heavy drinking session. Getting just the right amount of sleep is essential to napping. Too much and you will feel worse, too little and you won’t feel the benefits. Experts recommend napping for between 20 – 45 minutes maximum to destress and increase productivity.

Go for a walk

If napping isn’t your style, or you’ve just woken up and need some extra help de-stressing; a walk may be the answer.

It’s important to take regular breaks away from your workspace to rest your mind, refocus your thoughts and declutter your brain. Whilst it works away 24 hours a day, the brain is just like any other part of your body. It needs time to recover from activities and process thoughts.

Just like your computer needs to be reset or shut down from time-to-time, your brain needs sleep, or even just to take a short break from strenuous or taxing activities in order to run at optimal levels.

Go for a walk around the block, to the local park or just pace around the car park to get some fresh air and think about something different than the tasks at hand. It’s absolutely amazing for lowering your stress levels and returning you to a happy and productive place.

You might want to go one step further and factor in breaks as a pre-emptive measure. Last year I had a particularly heavy workload one week, and researched different ways I could manage my stress and productivity in order to ensure I completed the projects on time.

I came across a technique called Pomodoro. It encourages people to work for short timed periods (usually 25 minutes) before taking enforced short breaks. It has a devout following, and has been validated by science as an effective time management technique. Whilst I found it wasn’t something I’d like to do every day of the week, it did help me complete the work at hand and managed my stress levels considerably. I still use it when the workload gets particularly hectic! Look it up and give it a try.

Eat right, drink right

This is a simple one and doesn’t need much explaining. The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ has much truth in it. Ensuring you eat a varied and healthy diet has obvious physiological benefits, but what does it have to do with stress? The link between physical and mental wellbeing has been proven time and time again, but still doesn’t seem to get the recognition within mainstream society. A healthy body will support a healthy mind, and visa versa.

Think of food as the fuel you put into your car. If you don’t put enough in, it runs out and won’t move. If you put the wrong fuel in, it doesn’t work.

The same can be said for water and staying hydrated. Your brain needs water to function, as does the rest of your body. Try to work towards drinking 2 litres of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and keep your brain working at optimal levels.

I keep a big 2.2 litre sports bottle on my desk and aim to drink a full one each day. I’ve found my reliance on things like caffeine lowers, I feel more relaxed and at ease, and I’m more focused.

In short, eat & drink what your body needs in enough quantity with the right quality and it will have a direct benefit in reducing your stress levels.

Work it out

Aside from helping you get buff, increasing your confidence and giving you a good routine, working out releases endorphins and other chemicals that fight stress and increase happiness.

Work out regularly to prevent the onset of stress before it even happens, or to tackle existing stress.

I aim to train every morning before coming into the office, and I find that my first few hours produce some of my best work. I can sometimes do a full days worth of work before lunchtime and I feel absolutely great about it. It helps keep the stress at bay, and even if there are external factors that throw some stress into the mix, I’ve been known to go down to the gym and trash it out on a treadmill or give the heavy bag a good work out (imagining someone else’s face is optional)

Exercise is great for preventing or fighting stress. Give yourself a good workout and I promise it will help those stress levels dwindle.

Finally…

Everyone will have their own way of preventing or dealing with stress. The important thing to note is that you’re going to experience it at some point, whether you’re in business or not, it’s how you handle it that will determine how much it affects you, your business and family.

Establish what works for you, include as part of your daily routine or even just use it as an ‘in case of emergency break glass’ kit for when everything gets too much.

These techniques will certainly help you if applied correctly, but there’s never a true fool-proof way to defeat what nature gave us. If they don’t work, don’t get disheartened. Pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and remember that regardless what’s causing you stress in the first place, you’ve always got the gift of free will, your health, people to support you and remember that even if you can’t see them right now, you’ve always got alternative options.

If you’ve got any ways to deal with stress that we’ve not mentioned here, or want to add to my existing list then please get in touch and let me know! Email me HERE, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Jack Barron

Marketing Director

Banking Heavyweight Leaves Corporate World to Launch VibePay

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Cotton Court client, Luke Massie of Vibe Tickets has joined forces with former City trader and mobile payments veteran, Gary Prince. Prince has left a 20-year career in mobile payments working for the world’s biggest blue chips to launch VibePay with the young entrepreneur.
In an bold move, the payments expert (whose experience includes projects with the likes of Barclays, O2, Vodafone, BT, VocaLink and Costa Express) is rejecting opportunities with some of banking’s biggest names to go into business with Vibe!
As Managing Director of VibePay, Prince is heading up the firm’s mission to make payments simple while offering a guarantee of no fees to its customers.
A payment platform offering direct-to-bank payments to people and businesses, VibePay was founded in early 2018 when changes to open banking legislation allowed regulated businesses to access UK banks’ payments infrastructure.
Prince says: “I’ve never settled for the status quo. In 2005 when a big employer told me there was no future in mobile, I knew it was time for me to move on. I have to be moving forward and making progress and I’ve never done that at such a pace as I have at VibePay.
“I live and breathe all things payment and my focus is always on the customer’s perspective. The big players are just not geared up to give consumers what they want. Making a payment is secondary – nobody wakes up thinking they want to make payments but they do want to pay for their travel or their fuel and buy a coffee in the simplest and safest way possible.
“That’s what VibePay is about. We don’t shroud things in complicated tech speak or banking jargon – traditional banks do that to try to justify their snail’s pace and to disguise their lack of innovation. We just listen to customers, feedback into our engineering team and we make things happen quickly.”
Luke says: “We’ve grown Vibe Tickets into a main contender for fans to buy and sell tickets and we listened to our customers when we integrated a third-party payments provider to complete the transactions. It was a hassle and it cost them money. It went against everything the Vibe Group stands for. We had no choice but to create our own alternative.
“The changes to open banking legislation, my initial meetings with Gary and the immediate interest from some of the country’s best payments industry techies in what we were doing showed we’d hit on something at the right time. The payments market is ripe for disruption. It’s stuck in the dark ages when customers couldn’t choose, they made do with what they were offered. VibePay is revolutionary in that respect.”
According to the UK Card Payments 2017 end-of-year report, almost 14.5 billion debit card transactions were performed in the UK last year, 37 per cent of which were carried out online. By 2020, Accenture’s Open Banking market report suggests 33 per cent of online debit transactions will be direct from customer bank accounts, representing 1.75 billon transactions with a value of £64.7bn
VibePay aims to remove debit card payments, fee-charging card schemes from the process and allowing consumers to pay merchants in real time, direct from their bank account, reducing online fraud and resulting in better cash flow for merchants who will receive value on funds sooner than via debit cards.
Open Banking, which is being adopted widely across the globe, gives customers the choice of who to make payments with for the first time. VibePay’s Open Banking platform will either be launched under the VibePay brand or under licence with an in-country partner.

Manchester Marketers Relocate to Cotton Court

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Manchester marketing consultancy Invoke Media has relocated its operation to Cotton Court Business Centre to support SMEs in the Lancashire area.

Invoke have been utilising Cotton Court for a number of years, making use of the second and fifth floor desk space, as well as meeting rooms to service their Central Lancashire based clients.

Jack Barron, Director, Invoke Media

Invoke director Jack Barron took on a role as Interim Marketing Director at Cotton Court in 2017, before becoming a permanent fixture in Spring of this year. This has has a direct influence on his decision to move the business to Cotton Court on a full-time basis.

“Obviously working in Cotton Court a number of days a week has had a massive impact on my decision to move the business to Preston. Whilst Manchester is only a short drive away, it has become apparent that moving between the two cities is not only inefficient, but unnecessary. Cotton Court has absolutely everything we need to run our business and provide a high level of service to our clients” says Jack. 

 

Invoke intend to make use of Cotton Court’s tech suite and virtual office services to support their move and overall operation, including the launch of a set of new services tailored specifically at Lancashire SMEs.

Invoke’s latest offerings include marketing support packages designed to make high quality marketing accessible to micro businesses, and their unique virtual marketing services aimed at SMEs who are looking to improve profitability through strategic marketing; with the flagship virtual marketing director service taking the lead.

He continues…

“We’re committed to helping micro, small and medium sized businesses achieve success. I’ll be looking to continue the work I do through Cotton Court into my own business by making marketing more accessible for Lancashire SMEs. Marketing is one of the premier components of business management & revenue generation, yet accessing it is out of reach for many. We’re hoping to change that with the new range of services we’re providing with the support of Cotton Court Business Centre”.

Invoke currently occupy space on the second and fifth floor of Cotton Court Business Centre, and make use of call handling, registered address, desk space and office services.

Find out more about Invoke Media helping Lancashire SMEs HERE.

Think What You Want…But Think Different

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Last week our Managing Director Robert Binns flew out to Ibiza, but probably not for the reason you’re thinking.

Whilst still managing a little bit of downtime to enjoy the hedonistic delights the island has to offer, Robert was there to attend a lecture by the world renowned chef Ferran Adrià on creative thinking, run in conjunction with Estrella Damn.

Considered by many as the world’s best chef, Ferran is no stranger to thinking outside the box. Best known for his outlandish creations and deconstruction of dishes, he’s turned his attention to helping others understand his creative methodology.

Known as ‘Sapiens’, the methodology and accompanying lectures aim to give a more complete and comprehensive view of the creative processes he has applied to gastronomy. The aim is to understand that something might seem simple at first sight, but can be improved if we use our creative capacity to the maximum. Whilst food may be his example, the process can be applied to whatever your passion or profession may be.

The invite only event featured an international audience, all looking to expand their capacity for creative thinking. We’re all looking forward to hearing the key takeaways (pun intended) that Robert got from the lecture in our next team meeting.

 

Living for the weekend?

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6 Ways to Motivate Your Team on a Monday Morning

 

Getting going after a weekend of relaxing or hedonistic pursuits can be a struggle for the best of us. Whether it’s a 2 day hangover or just plain old Monday blues slowing you down at the start of the week, you (and your business!) don’t have to suffer from lost productivity & poor output.

 

We’re taking a quick look at how you can best motivate yourself and your team on Monday morning, to ensure you get back into the groove as quickly as possible.

 

  1. Look Forward

 

Plan in advance on the previous Friday and make a to-do list of the things you NEED to achieve, and the things you WANT to achieve in the following week. Break them down, and while taking into account time critical tasks, set some small and easy tasks for Monday morning to get you going…

 

  1. Ease into it

 

In most cases, so long as there isn’t any time critical tasks that need to be achieved on Monday, you don’t need to start on the biggest things first. Starting with unenjoyable or large tasks can be daunting and demotivating. Psychology tells us that when we experience even small amounts of success, our brains produce dopamine; giving us feelings of pleasure & motivation. It’s these ‘little victories’ that spur us on to finish the monster tasks! Read more here…

 

  1. Flexible working

 

As long as your specific business circumstances allow, you should stagger your employee work times or allow for flexible working whenever possible. Some people just aren’t morning people and this is only going to be exasperated by two days of breaking routine and a rush hour commute. Allowing an employee an extra hour in bed could pay in dividends for your business; meaning you all hit the ground running and give it your all.

 

  1. Get Together

 

Make the time to meet with your team first thing or as soon after you start back after the weekend. Keep it short & sweet, take the time to ask about their weekend and find out any issues they may be having (either personal or work) Monday morning is the perfect time for you as a leader to set the frame for the week ahead, identify and deal with any issues, as well as engaging your team as a leader should. You don’t want to blur the work/personal boundaries too much, but you should have a genuine interest in what your team have been up to, and what’s on their mind. They’ll appreciate you caring, but know if it’s insincere.

 

  1. Remind them of the bigger picture, but don’t forget the milestones

 

It’s easy for people to work in a silo or forget the overall goal they’re working towards. Your Monday meeting is an excellent opportunity to get them fired up for that end of year bonus or awards ceremony, but equally as important of an opportunity to make clear the little goals that will get them there. Set or remind of the small weekly milestones that they can achieve to meet the bigger ones long term.

 

  1. Lead by example

 

Your team look to you for inspiration and example. Even if you’re not feeling the love at 8am on a Monday, get yourself in the right headspace and come in with bags of enthusiasm. Make sure you’re there on time, with the right attitude and practice what you preach. How can you expect your team to do their best work if you’re not making the effort yourself?

Working 9 ’til 5: Is it Time for a Change in Working Hours?

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With flexible working now becoming increasingly popular we take a look at what UK workers think about the standard 9-5 day

More than half (58.6 per cent) of UK workers believe that the traditional 9-5 is an outdated concept, with three quarters (77.2 per cent) admitting that they work better at certain times of day. This is according to a recent study from CV-Library.

The survey of 1,200 professionals explored how the nation’s workers feel about 9-5 working hours, and whether these are still fit for purpose. The data revealed that two thirds (67.6 per cent) would prefer to work hours that suited their natural pattern and when they work best. When asked what time of day they are most productive, respondents cited the following:

In the morning – 64.2%

In the afternoon – 20.9%

In the evening – 9.3%

Late at night – 5.6%

Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library, comments, ‘There are ongoing debates surrounding the traditional 9-5 and whether this ‘one size fits all’ approach is still beneficial. It’s clear from the data that UK professionals know their own work patterns and would prefer to tailor their working hours around when they’re at their most productive. Allowing for more flexible hours could be hugely beneficial, not only to employees but also their employers. Something as simple as letting staff start an hour earlier or later depending on their needs could be all it takes.‘That said, flexible working does tend to bring with it issues of work-life balance. Doing away with the structured 9-5 could further blur the lines between work and private life”

By taking this approach, it’s vital that you monitor your employees contracted hours and not putting in too much overtime. According to the study, a whopping 86% of working professionals believe that all companies should offer flexible working and of these 86% only one quarter have the opportunity to work from home when they would like too.

Biggins concludes, ‘Flexible working is becoming increasingly popular, and is, in fact, something many professionals take into consideration when applying for jobs. Businesses need to consider carefully whether they should be offering this style of working, as this could be the key to securing and retaining talented members of staff. Not only this, but with such a huge percentage saying they work better, or just as well, at home, employers can feel safe in the knowledge that they’re getting the most from their workforce, even when they aren’t operating under the traditional 9-5.

Flexible working is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the debate of working hours, with more and more people choosing to work remotely is it time that your company embraces the future?

Entrepreneurs: Making Your Small Business Look Bigger

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If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you may have at times looked into ways to make your business appear larger and more established than it is. There’s numerous benefits of doing so, and dependent on your industry may even be essential to winning clients.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to the business world, humans and animals alike have always used the perception of size and stature as a way to ward off dangerous predators or lure in potential mates. Whether it’s puffing your chest out or fanning a tail feather, nature has got it covered.

But why?

Why would you want to mislead people about the size of your business? Well I’m sorry to say, regardless of what you may have been told, size does matter. There are of course occasions where this isn’t the case, but for many, a well established business that is turning over large amounts of revenue and has its own staff, is a successful business.

In the minds of your customers, success often means that a business must be doing something right. That they’re obviously providing a good level of service and that they know what they’re doing. Of course we can all think of examples where this isn’t the case.

Making your business look established and larger than it is can have numerous benefits. They include and are not limited to:

  • Added credibility
  • Able to win larger contracts
  • Can compete with larger competitors
  • Customers feel more secure
  • Suppliers feel more secure

It’s not lying

Unless you outright make claims about the size of your business or how long it’s been running, you aren’t lying. You are changing the perception of your business in the eyes of your customers. That’s what we call ‘positioning’ in the marketing world.

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, the difference between success and failure can at times hinge on the revenue from a small number of clients. Every single client win has a big impact, and every single loss has an even bigger one.

Ethically positioning your business to appear larger and more established isn’t a dark art or deceptive. It’s a smart business move that can improve the confidence of your potential and existing customers. Helping you win crucial new clients and maintain the confidence of existing ones.

We’ve created a short ebook to help entrepreneurs and small business owners make their businesses look more successful. Download it HERE.