Be Your Own Boss – BBC Series

I’ve long been a fan of Dragon’s Den, but BBC3’s new series, “Be Your Own Boss” goes much further and a lot deeper into the realities of becoming a new entrepreneur.

Richard Reed, founder of Innocent Drinks, sets out to find Britain’s wannabe entrepreneurs. He’s looking for tomorrow’s potential high flyers to invest in with a million pounds of his own money. Starting out with 500 possibles Richard and his team of fellow entrepreneurs have to narrow these down to just a handful of likely prospects.

During the 6 part series, Richard will select three each week and give them a challenge to prove their worth, before deciding whether to invest in them or not. Some of the businesses are already operating but need funding to grow but others are barely more than an idea.

At the time of writing, the series is two episodes into it’s run. In week one only one of the three succeeds in getting the funding they need but in episode 2, two out of the three get the investment that could make their dream a reality.

This is real ‘hands on’ stuff, not just a pitch like on Dragon’s Den. The perils and pitfalls of business are very apparent, as are the qualities needed by the true entrepreneur if they are to get past the first hurdle. This is not just entertaining but extremely good learning if you want to start your own business.

If you truly want to be your own boss this TV series is a must watch training programme. Although two episodes have already aired, you can still catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Catch up with episode 1 here:

Then go to episode 2 right here:

The series has accompanying information on the series on the BBC website:

Enjoy! But take lots of notes, this will be a very valuable education.

Let me know what you think of the show and any ways you think it has or will help you in your business venture. You can use the comments box below.  Feel free to share this post via Facebook, Twitter, Google + etc.


Disclaimer: This article has been a review of a BBC TV series. Neither nor Attitude Ltd are connected in any way with the BBC or any participants in the Be Your Own Boss TV series. All relevant copyrights are acknowledged.

Selling for the Bashfull

I was reading one of the marketing blogs I follow the other day and, amongst the comments on a post on selling, a number of people admitted to being shy and finding it difficult to hold up a conversation never mind selling to people. This was holding them back in business as they just didn’t have the confidence to go out and sell. They had confidence in their product, just not in themselves.

Being so reserved actually stops you from being the kind of aggressive or ‘pushy’ salesman we all hate, and that’s a good thing. People are becoming very resistant to the traditional ‘the more you talk, the more you sell’ approach, especially when it’s over-hyped! What people are looking for is answers to questions, solutions to problems and how to achieve eternal happiness :-). And they’ll happily pay whoever can supply what they want.

Now, I used to be shy too, I guess I still can be reserved sometimes. When I first started out selling, friends and family were aghast! “How is John ever going to sell anything?” was the question they all asked. But I had learned that the best conversationalists do more listening than talking.

Most people love to talk about themselves if you press the right button. You do that by asking targeted questions that get them talking. Questions about their interests, problems, dreams etc. then listen, I mean really listen, because they are going to tell you what to sell them. If they start to dry up ask a question about something they’ve just told you, something that will tell you more about what they want out of life. After a while they’ll think you’re their best pal and will listen to your recommendations. Use this technique in conversation, in selling, even in dating (boy, does it work well there 🙂 )

It doesn’t have to be face to face, but it works really well in that form.  You can do it over the phone, in a sales letter or on a website. This is really what Geoff (the guy who’s post I was reading) is doing with his blog. He listens to the ‘online conversation’, posts a comment or a question here and there and people answer him, so he learns what he needs to keep the conversation  going and the sales coming in.

When you know what people want, you don’t have to ‘sell’ them anything, you just have to let them know where they can get it and that’s from you. Everyone is good at something and usually that ‘something’ is being sold profitably by someone, somewhere. If you are good at a particular thing, they might just as well buy it from you, especially if you are better than wherever they are getting it at the moment. Or better still, if they can’t find it at all.

But you do have to join the conversation, go on, just do it!

Good selling!


PS  I  got a great product idea just from reading the comments section and by listening to and  understanding the readers’ concerns. So I’m really glad I joined in the conversation.

Sales Commission Abolished

Before all sales people, associates and affiliates panic let me explain that the above headline applies only to Financial Services Products in UK.

The UK Financial Services Authority have had concerns for some time that financial services products are too often recommended by unscrupulous financial advisers on the basis of the amount of commission they receive rather than being the best product for the client.

The majority of professional financial advisers in UK, and elsewhere, take pains to provide clients with the best advice they can but there has been a persistent band of rogue advisers who think only of themselves.

If your business is in financial services you will probably have seen this coming. But read on as I shall be coming back to you later…

If you are not in financial services then this doesn’t affect you, does it?

Well, yes it does! Especially if you have been used to getting your financial advice for free. Or apparently for free…

Most people in UK don’t pay an adviser for recommending life insurance, investments, pensions etc. because the adviser has been remunerated by the life, investment or pension company by way of commission on the sale. Obviously the companies paying this commission have to make it back in some way and that is by some form of management charge built into the product. This means that the client is actually paying this commission indirectly.

Under the new system, the client (you) will be expected to pay the adviser a fee for the financial advice given. This should mean that the product should be better value for money as there are no commission charges to account for and your adviser has no reason not to recommend the best product for your needs.

However, if you take financial advice but take no action on that advice you will still have to pay the adviser’s fee. Unlike in the commission situation where you can just walk away leaving the adviser with nothing.

Now, back to the financial advisers out there.

The good thing about this change is that you will always be able to get paid for financial advice you give regardless of whether the client takes that advice or not. You will be free to advise the client on any course of action you feel is appropriate to their financial circumstances without any concerns about likely remuneration.

Your only problems, if you have not been charging on a fees basis up until now, is one of educating the client in the new ways of financial services and setting up the appropriate contracts and procedures to handle the new regime.

I’ve been talking to a very senior financial adviser about this as he has operated a fees based financial service for over twenty years now. He certainly understands the problems facing commission based financial advisers over the next couple of years.

In fact he has been helping many financial advisers move over to a fees based system for the last ten years or so.

His name is Terence P O’Halloran, ‘ Terry’ to his friends, and he has been a major player in the industry for well over thirty years. Terry first unveiled his Fee-Pac product for financial advisers over ten years ago and has steadfastly kept it up to date, improved, evolved and expanded it over the years into a major package suitable for any fees based profession.

Fee-Pac now includes a full video training seminar on setting up a fees based business, complete client and adviser documentation as well as all the admin files needed to set up a successful fees based practice. This is an extremely professional piece of kit.

If you are a financial adviser or thinking of getting into that business then check out Fee-Pac here. I can’t believe how little he is charging for it considering its potential value to you in the coming months.

Interesting times ahead!

A Penny For Your Thoughts

I was deep in thought about a topic for the blog when my wife uttered that well know phrase “A penny for your thoughts“, “meaning – what are you thinking about”.

The topic I was considering was how to find out what my customers would need next, a preliminary to product creation. Her enquiry gave me the blindingly obvious thought, why not just ask them! Why not just make a list of my best and most influential customers and ring them up and ask “what 3 things connected with telecoms would help you to grow or better manage your business right now?Telecoms is my primary business as you probably already know.

Once I get a selection of typical responses from my customers, I can then look at how I might deliver what they have asked for. But better still, I can then contact prospective customers with the same question. Rather than take the usual telesales route of trying to pitch prospects on a particular service, I can ask them what they want with a fair idea of what their responses may be based on the results of my customer conversations.

Approaching prospective customers is a little trickier so a ‘softly, softly’ approach is best. I would simply ask if they could spare a minute to give me their thoughts on what 3 things about their telecoms would most help their business to move forward in the present economy.

You see, when you ask other people their opinion and express an interest in their business, they open up and are happy to talk to you. The normal ‘sales barriers’ come down leading to some very useful discussion, and what’s more – they will remember you as someone genuinely interested in their welfare not just as some salesman trying to make a buck.

So where does the ‘penny’ come in? Well, at current business phone rates (UK) that penny buys me a minutes worth of phone time, the very minute that I asked the prospect to spare me to give me their thoughts.

Of course most of them will talk for longer once they get started but by then I’ve turned a prospective customer in to a warm lead and a probable future customer.

A penny for your thoughts“, a very inexpensive way to find out what the market will buy from you next!

Try it, let me know how you get on.

PS (shameless plug warning!) If you are a UK based business here’s where you can get your business calls at a penny a minute.

Selling Information

The Mail Order industry has always had a thriving information marketing element, as has the new internet marketing arena. The best known example in both industries is the business opportunity or ‘get rich quick!’ sector of the information market. But information products are selling in huge quantities in many markets: Language learning, stock market trading, pet care, parenting, personal development, improving your golf, fly fishing, learn to play guitar, cook books, gardening books – are just a tiny few examples.

So why am I telling you this? Well, selling information is an ideal ‘work from home’ venture. Many well known information publishers started out as home based businesses and quite a large number of people would prefer to continue to operate from home. It suits their lifestyle, gives them freedom and generates a potentially good income. The attraction of information products to the mail order industry has always been the excellent profit margins to be had, but with the advent of the internet it has become even better. Marketing costs are lower on the internet, you can reach a wider market, people are actively looking for information on the internet and electronic, downloadable products are cheaper to produce and deliver than physical mail order products.

But what really sparked me off on this topic is a series of short ‘bite sized’ audio interviews I’ve been listening to on the future of information marketing. I’ve been ploughing through a series of 72  15-minute interviews with some of the most successful people in the business on their views of where information marketing is heading in the next few years. Some of their ideas have really got my head buzzing (and my ears ringing 🙂  I must give the MP3 player a rest!)

The set also comes with a 70 minute overview of the series which the interviewer has promised I can give to any of my readers who might be interested. If you would like a copy, post a comment below and I’ll see you get one.

Speaking of information marketing, the latest sponsor advert on the right of this page (bottom right of the block) is for a new book on quick cash tips for affiliate marketers. I’m a great believer in affiliate marketing, as you know, but I was amazed at some of the results people have been getting with these ideas.

Showcase Market and Sell

Lincoln Showcase

I recently attended an exhibition specifically designed to help small to medium businesses to market their business to other businesses and to large corporate and public sector buyers. I was there to promote my telephone numbers business (0800, 0844, 0845 etc.) and my internet business, WordPress Websites to the business sector.

The exhibition was funded by our regional development agency in the UK East Midlands as part of their assistance to business during the present recession, which meant the entire event was free of charge for both exhibitors and visitors. There were several events throughout the region, but the one I attended was in Lincoln, where I have my own businesses.

The exhibition followed a familiar but successful format consisting of a large exhibition area containing some 50 exhibitors and a seminar room hosting short business presentations throughout the day. The seminars brought in a lot of visitors who may well not have been attracted to the exhibition on its own and, being business seminars, they brought in a very specifically targeted audience. This ensured that exhibitors had to deal with very few ‘gawpers’ and ‘time wasters’.

The format was also useful in that during the seminars the exhibition hall was fairly quiet. This gave exhibitors the time to network with one another and gain business that way.

I was next to a local video production company run by a friend of mine and during one of these quiet spells we took one of his video cameras and an outside broadcast microphone and I interviewed a number of exhibitors about their business. It was a spontaneous opportunity to network in a new and different way and, at the same time, promote the idea of marketing with web based video.

You can see the results here –> Lincoln Showcase

Can you think of a novel new way to network or promote your business?

Don’t Assume – Research!

Here’s an overdue tip I should have shared with you earlier. I was reminded of it when I ran one of my regular Web Academy courses recently. This was an advanced course, and promoted as such, but I kept getting asked questions about some pretty basic stuff. Now, I never mind going over the basics with my delegates, but it occured to me that my readers may be in a similar position with their customers.

We often tend to believe that our customers know more than they actually do. We become so immersed in our own industry and take so much for granted that we forget that what we consider everyday knowledge is completely new and valuable to others.

I’ve often shared information that I considered common knowledge, only to find that it was just what a very grateful customer needed right then!

There are a number of lessons here and a couple of ways to profit from this. The main lesson is – Never Assume the customer knows what you or your product does. Never Assume that you know what the customer wants. In both cases check – research your customers and your marketplace and find out what they need and what they don’t know.

And the two ways to profit?

1. Keeping customers informed of information that could help them or is even vital to them always leads to more business, either directly or via recommendation.

2. The information you have that you could or should share may be so valuable that it is worth money. People would gladly buy it if it was packaged and promoted correctly. The ‘Information Business’ in this world is worth billions. Could you pick up your share with what you know?

Predicting the Future

Over the next few weeks every pundit on the planet will have a go at predicting the future. I have just looked at some 10-50 year predictions from a couple of years ago and several have already happened. But no-one predicted this year’s financial problems, even though the signs were already there.

So what does it all mean?

It means that the future is coming up so fast that by the time we have made our forecasts, they could well have become history already! The present economic situation hit us hard and fast and took most people completely by surprise. The next change could happen just as fast, but what it will be – who knows?

But one thing I can tell you is that, just as the current situation is creating winners as well as losers, so will the next change…. and the next…. and the next!

Looking back I’ve been a winner more often than I’ve been a loser. Even the one occasion that I appeared at first glance to be a loser, turned around the other way and sent me in a direction I would never have expected. So how did I do that?

Opportunity Knocks!

No! Nothing to do with the TV talent show that nobody remembers. During periods of change opportunity is everywhere and during periods of rapid change, the opportunties really come thick and fast – so look out for them. Focus on opportunities not problems. Smart business people of the past learned the easy way to do business:

“Find out what people want and help them to get it!”

Simple? Obvious? Common Sense? Yes! So why are so many businesses still trying so hard and spending so much money to try to convince us we want stuff that we really neither want nor need? Because in a boom when many consumers have more money than sense, it can work. But in an economic downturn, when everyone is watching the cash and being very careful how they spend it, you had better be offering them exactly what they want and need in their current situation.

The business that can understand what their customers want most right now, and that can deliver it in terms of quality, service and value, will always prosper.

Think positive and Roll on 2009! 🙂

Mail Order Business

In my last article on mail order I left you thinking about what gets you really excited and enthusiastic. I asked you to think also about things you know or are skilled at that would be of interest to other people who are excited about the same things you are. I also suggested that you would need to get some idea of how popular this area of interest is in order to establish the market potential.

If you completed this task you should now have at least one idea, probably more, about what you could sell and who might be interested in buying it. The really great thing about turning your passion into a product, or range of products, is that you will already be familiar with your market. You will know what people like you are looking for and what will really excite them. This knowledge should put you well ahead of those who are less personally involved in this area of business.

The benefits of mail order are that you don’t need retail premises, a small mail order business can easily operate from home – many do! You can target a readily identifiable market based on the ideas you’ve evolved. Your main costs are product production, packaging, delivery and marketing. The key areas focus on are, Product, Price, Positioning, Promotion, Packaging and People!


If you know your market as well as you should you will know what features to incorporate into your product in order to appeal to and satisfy your customers. Whether you create a product of your own or source one from someone else is a decision you need to take.

The simple way is to look for an existing product that you know will appeal to your market, and then negotiate a deal with the producer to supply you at wholesale giving you a good profit margin on the resale price. The advantage to this is that you can bring a product to market more quickly than having to design and produce it yourself. A major drawback is that the product may already be being sold in the marketplace. The customer may already be familiar with it and even be aware of the value according to the price being charged by others. This limits your pricing options which in turn may mean that the profit margin available may not be enough to cover marketing and delivery costs and still leave something for your trouble.

Creating you own product, whilst slower and more expensive initially, gives you the opportunity to offer something new to the market on which you can put your own price. Your own product cannot be obtained from any one else so you will not be competing with others selling exactly the same thing. You also have the opportunity to establish your own brand.

This does not have to be an either/or choice. To be successful in mail order you need a range of products. It is almost impossible to succeed in mail order with a single product as the cost of making the first (only) sale to a customer is very high. Most mail order profit is made on what is known as the ‘back end’, the additional products you are able to sell to customers in the future. Therefore you could have a mix of your own and externally sourced products.


The price you charge for your product is critical to your success. It needs to be acceptable to the customer in exchange for the value that you deliver. It also needs to be high enough to cover all your costs, including marketing, and return a profit sufficient to make your business viable. Price too high and the customer may not buy, price too low and you will not make a profit, or even make a loss. One key thing to remember is that price is perceived as a measure of quality. Pricing too low can often devalue the product and lead the customer to believe that it is less valuable than it really is!


Product positioning aligns very closely with price. Positioning your product as uniquely valuable, luxurious, rare or of a specialist nature will command a higher price. Positioning it as a budget or commodity item available to many will devalue the product and reduce the price it will command. Mail order works best for high margin, high value items that people cannot get anywhere else.


Advertising and marketing costs can be very high in mail order. It is the only way you bring your product to the attention of your market. Great care needs to be taken to promote the benefits and advantages of the product to the right people at the right time. In most businesses a high proportion of advertising costs are often wasted, getting very little return in the way of custom. The high costs of mail order promotion mean that you cannot afford too much wasted advertising.

There are four main ways of promoting your product to your market place, each with their own range of options.

Conventional Media Advertising

These include Options such as newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, leaflet distribution. They can be national or local in all cases. For specialist mail order products highly targeted magazines are often the best. For products with a wider public appeal the Sunday newspapers are often popular. The only way to determine the right options are by research followed by careful testing.

Direct Mail

Many mail order marketers prefer this method of promotion as it can be easier to send the right marketing message directly to a targeted list of potential buyers. This involves initially acquiring a mailing list of prospects. The simple way is by renting or buying mailing lists from approved mail list brokers. (You can get more information on list brokers from the Direct Mail Association). Another way is by using low cost classified ‘teaser’ ads to generate enquiries and develop your own list. Promoting your product to the customer list of other businesses on a profit share basis is yet another option. The secret to success is to choose the right lists, those which have been proven to produce sales of similar or related products.

As your business grows you will develop your own list of customers to whom you can mail follow up offers whenever you want to bring a new product to market. Look after these customers extremely well, they are the life blood of your business.

Internet Marketing

Increasingly these days, mail order marketers are turning to the internet. Web marketing, online marketing, internet marketing, email marketing are all terms you will see describing their activities. The internet opens up a huge market enabling businesses to reach many more customers than before at generally lower cost than traditional marketing methods. However, as its popularity grows so does the competition which means it is getting harder and more costly to reach this market. Fortunately for you, many businesses are still unfamiliar with the new marketing techniques and are making big mistakes. If you take the trouble to learn how to do it properly, internet marketing can be very successful, even for the smaller or newer business. The internet has leveled the playing field. I will be writing a separate series of articles on internet marketing as we go forward.

Referral Marketing

Word of Mouth marketing has been the way most businesses have grown naturally over the years. Referral marketing is simply taking control of word of mouth marketing rather than letting it happen haphazardly. It can be used by any business whether conventional or mail order and it can be used both offline and online (internet). Referral marketing can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • Incentives for existing customers to recommend you to others e.g. vouchers towards future purchases, free gifts for referring others etc.
  • Network Marketing – growing a network of people who will actively promote your product to friends and contacts, and encourage others to do the same, in return for a share in the profits from resulting sales.
  • Associate or Affiliate Marketing – building a sales team, working on a commission basis, to sell your products. Self Employed Sales associates have been used by many businesses over the years to sell their products and services. In fact I began my sales career as a self employed sales associate back in 1978! Catalogue agents who deliver catalogues to households and take orders for products to be delivered to them are a version of this familiar to the mail order industry. The term ‘Affiliate’ is being used to describe the same type of activity on the internet. In fact Affiliate Marketing online is a huge growth area at present.


Packaging is a very important component of a mail order business. The design of the product pack carries the BRANDING of the product. It needs to promote the quality of the product, highlight the benefits and advantages and satisfy the customer as soon as they receive it that they have bought exactly what they want before they even open it! The packaging also has to protect the product in transit to the customer to ensure that it arrives undamaged and in pristine condition. It also has to meet any specifications of the delivery carrier in terms of size and weight. Getting this right can save you money on delivery costs. It also needs to enable the product to be easily repackaged securely in the event that the customer needs to return it.


By people I mean customers, the people you need to please the most who will decide the fate of your businesses. Keep them happy and they will keep buying and recommend your services to others. Upset them and they will desert you and tell the whole world about it!


When you send a purchase to a customer they are already in a pleasant frame of mind towards you, you have delivered on your promise. In addition you have already paid for this delivery, so don’t waste these two key benefits to your business. Make sure you include quality promotional literature on other products in your range in the delivery package. You will be pleasantly surprised at how soon the customer re-orders. This is FREE marketing and it is where you will make most of your profits.

Good Fortune!

Competition or Co-operation

Do you have a list of enquirers who never bought from you?

Sure you do, and so do your competitors!

If you don’t have what they want, maybe your competitor does. So why not swap lists? Or better still, recommend your competitor’s product to your list, and get your competitor to market your product to his list. Then share the profits. Simple – and it really impresses the customer too.

Better still, do a google search for websites selling similar, complementary or related stuff and see if they have an affiliate program. Check out the quality of their products and customer service and you could find yourself with a whole new product range to promote to your customers.

If you are new to affiliate marketing, or have never heard of it! Get more information at