Blue Sky Thinking, Under Blue Skies

 

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The weather in the west coast of Scotland has been fantastic this week.  It’s the sort of weather that makes you stare out of your office window and wish you could work outside.  Is that really such a ludicrous idea?

We don’t think so!  Between us this week we’ve worked in parks, gardens and strolled in the sun between field-visits and it’s been nothing short of absolutely lovely…and productive too!

When morale is high, productivity is also high.  So if people would rather be in the sun why not let them?  Let’s face it, in the UK it will never be a permanent arrangement and with modern tech there’s not much to stop you.  You could create your own space outside that has the functionality of an office by utilising the resources you already have, mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones.

There’s nothing like warm sunny days, fresh air, nature and blue skies to help you feel positive.  These can, of course, be distractions but they’re the sort that can make you more creative and energised; a far cry from a stuffy office.  Feeling the breeze instead of air conditioning, natural light instead of fluorescent bulbs, a view instead of wall art – it all has an uplifting, positive impact.  It makes sense that the more happy or comfortable you are on a hot day the more you’ll achieve.  The outdoors can be an inspiring surrounding, boosting morale and offering the best of both worlds, you can enjoy the heatwave and get on with your work without constantly checking how long it is till home time.

Try not to let the imbedded associations we have with sun and leisure make it difficult to stay focused on work.  Approach your tasks in the same way as you normally would, prioritising and managing your time.   You might even find that you get more done because you’re relaxed or because you want to finish your tasks early to enjoy some recreational time in the sun.

If you can’t move everything outside for the full day, try to set a little time aside to work outdoors.  Cafes and restaurants often have tables outside that can be stimulating office alternatives, suitable for working for a couple of hours.

Make sure you’re prepared, check that your devices are fully charged and anti-glare screens will also be handy.   If you don’t have any countryside beauty spots or parks nearby why not try working from a beer garden?  As long as you don’t get too distracted by the beer you’ll reap all the benefits of working in the sun and you don’t have to worry about practical things like wi-fi connections…or the loo.  Oh, and don’t forget your sun screen.

The weather will turn soon (perhaps in a couple of hours) but the sunshine will be back soon enough.  When it returns, make the most of it.  Have some fun while you work and soak up some vitamin-D.

Calling all Irvine businesses…

If you see Catherine and Claire wandering around Irvine on Thursday, pop over for a chat.  We are looking for restaurants, cafés and bars to advertise on our Irvine Visitor’s Map.

We have limited availability so if you would like to guarantee being included catch us before Thursday and we can secure your advert.

The map is A3 sized with 20 advert slots around the edge with your premises highlighted on the map.  Each advert is 7cm wide by 3.95cm tall.  5000 full colour, glossy copies will be distributed to homes and businesses in the Irvine area.  We are happy to use an existing advert if you have one but just as happy to design one for you at no extra charge!  Get in touch to book your space or if you would like more information.

You can reach us on Facebook, Twitter, or email us at info@scruffydug.com

Speak to you soon!

TED talks, Scruffy listens

This Friday Glasgow are hosting a fabulous TEDx event and to get us in the mood we have been watching some videos of previous TEDx talks. We stumbled on the video below and it struck a chord, so we thought we’d share it. When forming a start-up an entrepreneur should look at their skills and assess their approach to business, the way they think.  Rather than seeking out like-minded people when you need to bring someone else to the party it’s better to work with people who not only have different skills but an alternative way of working. This video has some ideas on how to get your business off the ground and thriving with the right combination of mindsets and how to kick things off again if things get a bit stale.

What does your hue say about you?: Part two

 

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In part two we’ll look at another four colours and let you know how these are typically used in business to convey the personality of a brand.  When conveying your company image, the colour scheme of your logo or branding is your first chance to make an impression.

 

Purple

Purple is often used to denote individuality and compassion.  It shows depth of creativity and emotion, with a lack of convention.  It’s a colour that people automatically associate with quality products, that’s why companies like Cadbury’s and Premier Inn use it, to forge that association at the first impressions stage.   Purple is also associated with imagination which is why it crops up now and again in entertainment, the Game logo or E4 for example.

Pink

Pink is usually seen as a feminine colour, associated with intuition and love, and branding and media tends to reinforce this.  Barbie, Cosmopolitan and Hello Kitty are pink because social convention suggests it will appeal, and it often does, to their target market.  However, in recent years this trend has been changing and pink shouldn’t be written off as gender specific.  BBC three, hmv and T-Mobile all introduced pink logos in the last 15 years, widening the scope of pink shades to suggest forward-thinking, off the wall or entertainment associations.

Black

Black is classy.  It’s sleek and it shouts luxury.  Only it doesn’t shout – it whispers, but people listen none the less.  It speaks of quality, intelligence and style.  This is demonstrated in logos from the BBC and HBO to ADIDAS and Nike, through to the heights of Channel, Dolce and Gabanna, and BMW.  If you were going to choose a personification of these concepts it would probably be James Bond…wait, what colour is the 007 logo? Black.

Orange

If your colour choice is orange then you should be relying on your instincts and be spontaneous.  It shows freedom and optimism and, like yellow, is just fun.  Used by brands like Fanta, Nickelodeon and Penguin Books, it’s exciting.  I’m sure a big telecom company used it, but I can’t think of their name…

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If you want to be a pro, act like a pro

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How a small business or start up is perceived is important.  New or small businesses can sometimes struggle to compete with larger or more established outfits for a number of reasons.  It’s important to take whatever steps you can to enable you to compete and network on the same level.  You don’t want seem like you’re peering round the corner to see what the cool kids are up to.  You want to walk up and fit right in.

Visibly operating in a professional manner will help immensely with this.  Firstly, be confident when you’re talking about what you do, use phrases like “I will do that” not “I’ll try to do that” or “I think I can do that”, your customers need to trust that you are more than capable of doing the job.   That said, you should always be open and honest when you are offering an opinion, this will reinforce that you are an expert and ensures that your integrity remains intact.  Always have your goals clearly mapped out so that you never fail to explain who you are, what you do and why, that way you’re never caught off guard.  It’s also a good idea get into the habit of concentrating on what the people that you are dealing with actually need.  This is the basis for being able to develop your perception skills so that you can anticipate solutions to possible problems, again adding to your overall effectiveness.

Having the right website has a huge impact on the image of your business, as you know from our previous blogs.  Having good quality photographs or graphics is key for grabbing attention and creating immediately positive impressions.  It’s also important to back that up with other small things that add to your professionalism and ultimately the confidence you instil in potential clients.  This includes business cards and dedicated phone numbers and email addresses – it makes a much better impression to have your business name rather than something like @hotmail to give out to customers or when you’re networking.

Depending on what type of business you are in a uniform can be a significant step in portraying professionalism, simply sticking to a colour scheme or having your logo on your t-shirt you can build a positive reputation for your company.  This also applies to your workplace, whether that’s your home, a restaurant you meet in, or an office.

There are lots of things to think about and first impressions count so remember to layer up elements of your image as and when you can afford them.  For example, hold music; playing music while someone is on hold is part of good customer service but it has other benefits too.  The variety of music needs to be an appropriate fit for your business, so that it enhances your image.  You can make good use of hold time by including small informative pieces, don’t go with the “your call is important…” type stuff that bores or annoys most people. Instead, you should share information about new products or your range of services.  The time will pass quicker for your customer and you have the chance to promote to a temporarily captive audience.

You believe in yourself enough to enter into the world of business, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and make sure you portray that belief and make it infectious.  It’s good to be humble, but don’t be meek.  Stop peering round the corner; come on in and get noticed.

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Find the right home for your business

When you’re starting out in business you want to keep spending to a minimum. Expenditures are weighed up, deliberated over, and some will wake you up at 3am and insist you ponder till the birds start singing.  For many people starting up a new business, or trying to cut costs in an existing one, office space can be the source of many stress headaches or sleepless nights.  More and more people are opting to operate without a bricks and mortar base. So, office or no office – what’s the best option?

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It’s arguably much easier to maintain a team mentality and a sense of inclusion if everyone in your team is in the same place but there are other benefits from having an office base.  Your team are more likely to learn from each other organically as they converse about the projects they’re working on and any stumbling blocks they’re encountering.  Casual conversation can actually help to keep the whole team informed and working together as a unit.

Some people are more likely to thrive in a professional environment, being able to physically separate home life from work life helps focus and it often makes them more productive.  By having your team together in one place you can reinforce your company’s ideals and goals through your office branding. You can also monitor consistency in your team and your meetings or presentations will have a human touch.

No office

Having an office is expensive.  It can be a huge drain on the resources of a small business and with so many effective methods of communicating and connecting readily available it’s entirely possible to run your business with each team member working from home.  As well as being able to communicate via email, telephone and Skype, you can also use project management software that helps your business function well in a virtual world.  You can create an inclusive environment by using things like Google Chat to allow people to have the same type of informal conversation they would have in an office.

Many people are more productive when they can work in their own space, without the distractions that come with working in an office.  Similarly, people who work on the move and choose to work from different places are often found to be, not just productive, but creative because they receive a wider variety of stimulus and interaction than those who are based in an office.

It comes down to what works best for your type of business and which approach is best for your staff.  There are undoubtedly many reasons for and against but is there a middle ground?

 

Hot desks

There is always a third way, and if neither of the above options seem quite right for you, hot desking may be the answer. If you don’t want, or can’t afford your own office space, there are options available where you can reap all the benefits of an office for a fraction of the outlay.  Not to mention the time saved in administration and replenishment of sundries that come with running an office.

There are organisations out there who offer space to rent in their office on a desk by desk basis. This way you have access to the internet, printers, tea and coffee facilities, meeting rooms, etc., without the headache of running your own gaff.  This way you can scale and grow your business naturally, moving to premises of your own eventually, once you have the need.

It gives you a fantastic opportunity to network with other new businesses and in some cases hot desk offices will have experts on hand to offer advice and assistance.  With a hot desk you can have the best of both worlds, a few less sleepless nights, and get on with growing your business.

There are options beyond the traditional office for companies willing to think outside of the box. Don’t get trapped by your preconceptions, if you want to be in a professional environment, find a business space, whether your own office or a hot desk.  On the other hand, if you feel like you’re stuck in a corporate machine you can shred its constraints and fly free, work on the move.  Or find a new way that specifically meets your needs.  Business favours the innovative, don’t be afraid to be different.

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What does your hue say about you? (part 1)

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The colours in your logo and branding are often the basis for first impressions so it’s important to make sure the colours are appropriate and portray your intended image.  There are countless examples of branding out there that conform to a select colour group, that’s not a random thing; colour schemes provoke emotional responses that affect our attitude toward a product or service. Companies carefully select colours purposefully.  Just for starters we’ve outlined four basic colours and what they represent.

R e d

Red is used to denote power, ambition, boldness and strength but also passion, action, excitement and energy.  Unsurprisingly in that case, many of the most instantly recognisable logos are red, and even though they’re worlds apart they do tick at least one of the boxes for red connotations.  For example, Santander, Virgin, Lego, Mitsubishi, Kellogg’s and The Rolling Stones are each appealing to completely different markets but they’re using red to capture the essence of what they are all about.

Y e l l o w

Yellow is often used to motivate and encourage.  It’s seen as a welcoming colour indicative of freedom, impulsiveness and optimism.  That being the case yellow seems the obvious colour choice for a wide range of logos and it’s used by all sorts of companies, from Post-It to Ferrari, even in band logos, like Nirvana for example, and information sharing businesses like IMDB or Yell.com.

G r e e n

As you might expect green is used in a lot of environmental fields, or by companies trying to portray a more nature-friendly, fresh image.  It also signifies growth, suggests safety, prosperity and restoration as well as health and wellbeing.  It’s for these reasons that we see green appearing in logos for supermarkets such as Waitrose and Asda, recreationally for example the Holiday Inn logo, in food products like breath mints, in agriculture take John Deere for example, or in fuel companies as with BP.

B l u e

Blue is a colour that people tend to associate with trust, openness and awareness as well as determination and control.  Many companies have used this to their advantage, once again covering a variety of organisation types, from Twitter and Skype to NHS or Oral B, Ford, PayPal and Hewlett Packard.  Blue also appears in music related logos like iTunes and Napster and is often paired with other colours to generate multiple associations, for instance Pepsi paired blue and red or Pampers who paired blue with yellow.

As you can see you can say a lot with just a colour, and perhaps find a way to connect with your customer early on.  We look at more colours later in the week in part two.  In the meantime, click the links below to hear more news from Scruffy Dug on Facebook and Twitter.

An untapped market: Internet users over 75

 

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There are untapped markets all around us, and some of them could actually benefit from being brought into the fold, as well as provide you with the benefit of an increased customer base.  Take for example the recent statistical bulletin from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on internet users in the UK.  It highlights the lack of engagement of over 75s and disabled people through online mediums and how, although figures are low, this is changing.

A whole new demographic has been entering the online world, and they have needs and interests that need catered for.  The number of adult users overall has increased to 87% yet less than a third of women over the age of 75 have used the internet.  Despite this, the numbers are rising – and quickly, over the last five years internet usage in this demographic has increased by a whopping 169%. With around two thirds of this potential market not using the internet business owners need to remember that we can do more to engage with people and help them interact in, and see the benefits of, an online space.

Perhaps it’s worth looking at the areas where over 75s do respond in high numbers, for example television shopping channels have a high percentage of older customers and the reason for that is because it feels more engaging.  So perhaps there is something in that approach that online businesses can adopt.  It’s worth noting however that more and more people are finding that same feeling of engagement and interaction they experience with things like shopping channels through social media.  Surely it can only be a matter of time until this spills over into other areas such as retail or information gathering.

Take my grandmother, Meg, for example.  With a large family spread across different parts of the world she would have nowhere near as many interactions with her grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Learning how to use Facebook has enabled her to keep in touch, maintain old and form new social interactions.

People can find a new lease of life in on an online platform, as the aging population becomes more tech savvy this is online activity looks set to rise.  Making the use of the internet accessible and approachable it will allow this much-ignored demographic to make worthwhile social and economic contributions to your business.  Now is the time to find a way to appeal to and involve the over 75s, to create a more inclusive online world.  With the growing number of older social media users it’s fair to say that there’s now even more wisdom and experience for us all to learn from, we should gather round and engage.

If this is something that you would like to look into for your own business Scruffy Dug Design Solutions can help you create a website and online presence to help you reach all of your potential customers.

Visit our web site to find out more about what we offer here:  http://www.scruffydug.com/packages/

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What’s stopping you:

Many people dream about starting their own business but never quite get the ball rolling. It’s really easy to come up with excuses, many of which appear to be completely valid but some of the most common reasons for not branching out on your own are easier to surmount than you might think.

The financial impact of starting a business can be daunting but there are plenty of options out there that offer guidance and funding for start-ups to help you get on your way without having substantial cash reserves of your own. One option is to look for ‘angel’ investors, friends and family who can contribute to the business.  You can also try crowd funding, an increasingly popular method for fundraising, through platforms like Kickstarter and Gofundme.  Other options for financing your business are the Prince’s Trust, Business Gateway, Entrepreneurial Spark, Scottish Enterprise; each of these organisations not only has the ability to provide funding but can give you information and sometimes even mentorship.

There’s no doubt that getting a business on its feet can be stressful and time consuming.  Feeling like you don’t have the time in between work and family commitments is a stumbling block for many budding entrepreneurs.  Making sure you make the most of how you spend your time can eliminate this to a significant extent.  Prioritise your free time to take constructive steps to develop your idea and put your plans together. Allocate a portion of your time each day to your new venture, stick to a plan to help you stay focused.

A lack of experience in management often puts people off a new venture, or doubts about their ability to be a good boss.   From the initial idea, to the operation of your business, confidence is important. It’s much easier to talk yourself down and convince yourself you can’t manage a team.  Don’t make that excuse, developing managerial and leadership skills happens through experience, you’ll be amazed at how well you can guide people when you believe in an idea.  Remember you don’t have to do it on your own; many of the operational aspects of your business or time consuming projects can be outsourced. This allows you to spend more time concentrating on advancing your leadership skills through hands-on experience and evolving your techniques and enhancing your company.

 

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