Author Archives: admin

_What I am pacifically looking for is ....2

It’s Basic Grammar – Let’s Get It Right!

The other day I opened an email newsletter only to be confronted with the opening line “Do you know where you’re business is going?

My shoulders immediately tensed up. Did I want to continue reading this piece if the sender couldn’t even get the opening line grammatically correct?

Misspelling and bad grammar won’t exactly put your business in the best of lights, but surely it’s not too much to ask that we just try to get the basics right, is it? The common ones that never fail to make me cringe to the tips of my toes are:-

  • You’re or Your
  • Its or It’s
  • They’re, Their or There
  • Affect or Effect
  • Who’s or Whose
  • To, too or two

There’s also the spoken faux pas. How many times at networking meetings have you heard someone utter the line “What I am pacifically looking for is …..”   No!   The Pacific is a large and very deep expanse of water. Surely what you mean is “What I am specifically looking for is ……

_What I am pacifically looking for is ....2

Maybe I’m just getting old and grouchy, but there’s really no excuse for basic errors in grammar. Please people, check that you’re using the right words before you hit send – whether it’s a text message, social media post, email or newsletter.

I’ll leave you with a joke that’s almost as old as me:

Q – What do you say when comforting a grammar Nazi?

A – There, their, they’re!

Please feel free to share your grammar gripes in the Comments box below.

candy crush

Fed Up With Candy Crush Requests? Block ‘Em!

Hardly a day goes by without reading a status update on Facebook bemoaning the various game requests that can bombard users to the point of distraction. Did you know that you can block game requests? It takes a matter of minutes to do, and will stop the pesky requests from darkening your profile in the future.


Here’s how:-

  1. From a PC/laptop, log in to your Facebook profile and from the drop-down arrow on the top blue bar, go to Settings


  1. Once in the Settings menu, on the left hand side of screen you should see “Blocking” – select this.



This will give you the option to block users, block app invites, block event invitation and block apps.

  1. Scroll down to Block Apps. In the box, type the name of the app you wish to block – and that’s all there is to it!


See – I told you it was simple!  Happy Facebook time!

pink twitter

Top 5 Tips To Make Your Tweets Sparkle!

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, you can’t have escaped the popularity of micro-blogging social media site, Twitter. Launched in 2006, the site now has over 270 million active users. Businesses of all shapes and sizes across every imaginable industry sector are using Twitter to generate leads and sales, and as a means of communicating with customers. Research has shown that over a third of Twitter users will buy from a brand they follow.

When I’m out and about delivering Twitter training it’s the same issues that crop up every time: not knowing what to say, not knowing when to post and generally being “Twitter shy”. If you can identify with any of those traits, my Top 5 Twitter Tips will hopefully help you overcome your fears, and turn your Twitter feed into something to be proud of.

  1. A decent profile image is a must! Ditch the Twitter egg avatar, avoid the holiday snaps and moon-faced selfies. If you’re using Twitter to promote your business or your services, invest in a session with a photographer and get some profile head-shots taken. An image of you will bring your personality into your Tweets but do you really want potential customers to see you on the beach in your swimwear or throwing shapes on a dancefloor?
  2. Learn to love #hashtags! There are hashtag hours all over the place on Twitter, covering different industries, events, geographic locations, networking groups …. the list is endless. Partaking in a hashtag hour is just like networking, except it takes place on Twitter. It’s a fabulous way to engage with like-minded businesses, and over time it will help to increase your Twitter followers.
  3. Post regularly. One of the keys to Twitter success is a regular presence. This will help to keep your brand on the radar of those following you. I’d suggest a minimum of 3 Tweets a day, plus engagement.
  4. Be relevant. If you are using your Twitter account to grow your business your website should act as your primary source of information. Use your Tweets to lead followers back to your website and to guide them to specific pages on your website. Set up Google Alerts for your industry sector, subscribe to industry journals and newsletters – over the course of a couple of days you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much material you acquire which can be used on social media.
  5. Engage! It’s not called a “social” network for nothing. If you see something of interest, or want to help a fellow business to spread the word re-tweet their tweets. If someone re-tweets you, thank them. Welcome new followers, recommend articles to other users, comment on Tweets in your timeline – there are so many ways to engage!

I hope you’ve found something of use in my Top 5 Twitter Tips. If you’re still baffled by the whole concept of 140 characters, get in touch and #TalkToTao!


Tao’s Top 5 Tips for Effective Networking

I first had the idea of working for myself sometime during 2011, after ranting to my partner how unhappy I was in the job I was doing at the time. He actually planted the first seed, and yes, I laughed! As I thought about it, the idea grew on me and a battle plan was slowly drawn up.

In August 2011, whilst still working part-time in the unhappy job, I attended my first ever networking meeting – a breakfast event, in Cannock town centre. I was so nervous I hardly slept a wink the night before. Entering a room full of established business people at 7.30 in the morning was one of the hardest challenges I’d ever faced – the mixed emotions of not wanting to be left alone, but not really wanting anyone to ask me anything either! I don’t think I ate anything, and I didn’t even have any business cards.

A total newbie novice.


A rabbit in the headlights.

Gradually, things started to change and for the first two years of Tao Business Solutions, I tried so many different networking groups and at times, found I was spending more time networking than actually doing any work. However, my connections were slowly growing, along with my confidence. And my business cards were getting some great feedback …….

Now in my third year of business, I’ve settled on three regular networking groups.

I’ve been a member of WiRE (Women In Rural Enterprise) since 2011 and attend the monthly meetings of the Cannock group. WiRE is a networking group for women and as such, we have a wide range of professions within the group, crossing the divide between creative and service/professional businesses with ease.

I also attend Business For Breakfast (BforB) in Rugeley. We meet on alternate Thursdays at the gorgeous Hawkesyard Estate on the outskirts of Rugeley. I’ve taken on the role of Host for the group, which means that our members and any visiting guests are guaranteed a warm welcome in a professional environment.

Most recently, I’ve joined BriteStart, another referral networking group based in Lichfield. It’s early days yet but so far, so good. I’ve met a great new bunch of people and am looking forward to getting to know them better as 2015 unfolds.

All 3 groups are very different in their dynamics, but the underlying principles are very similar: networking is all about getting to know people, learning more about their business and gaining trust.

If networking isn’t working for you, are your expectations misaligned? Do you enter a room and immediately ask yourself “who can I do business with in this room?” Do you leave a networking event demotivated because you can’t see anyone in the room giving you any business?

It’s time to stop and think!

Whilst we’d all like to gain business from everyone we meet, the truth is, it’s not going to happen. What could happen though is work coming your way through your growing network of connections – the people you have got to know, the people who have grown to like you, and most importantly, those who have learned to trust you.

To put it another way, would you recommend a business or service to someone if you didn’t have complete faith in that business or service yourself?

No. I thought not!

Just remember these Top 5 Tips and watch your business grow.

  1. We’ve all been “The Newbie”. If you see someone standing on their own looking lost at a networking meeting, make the effort to introduce yourself and involve them in the group.
  2. Ask questions. Nobody wants to be stuck with a “me me me” networker. Two ears. One mouth. Think about it!
  3. Most networking groups call for a 60 second “elevator” pitch. Don’t wing it. Plan it. Work on it. Be concise, but be specific as to what you’re looking for and how you can help others in the room.
  4. If you’re attending the same networking group on a regular basis, change your 60 seconds, otherwise your colleagues in the room will know it better than you before too long!
  5. It’s not all about you. Think about how you can help fellow members, either through a referral, a testimonial or a natural synergy between your businesses.


Networking success won’t fall into your lap overnight but keep going and you’ll get there.

Feel free to share any networking success tips so that others can enjoy them too ….. and don’t forget to take your business cards the next time you’re out an about!



Hands Holding Mentor

Monthly Mentoring – and moving forward

In March 2014 I signed up with three fellow small business owners for a monthly mentoring group. We’re all from different business sectors so there’s no clashing in terms of clients or “trade secrets” and we’re pretty much all “one man bands”, although the fourth member of the group is experiencing rapid growth in his business and has recently employed staff, after realising and accepting that he can no longer do everything himself.   The fifth member of the group is our mentor, a local business coach who facilitates the sessions and makes us think for ourselves, Mike Santopietro of Minerva Business Consultants.

We meet once a month, and at first I really didn’t know what to expect from the group sessions. After all, I’m running my business, I have clients, the invoices go out every month and thankfully I get paid for my efforts – so how could I possible need accountability or mentoring?  However, at the end of every session each of us makes approximately three commitments based on the events in the session, which we will endeavour to achieve (or at least progress) by the next monthly meeting.

Not only do I now look forward to my monthly mentoring group, I actually put time aside to do my “homework” and plan for the next meeting. In the six months that we’ve been having the monthly sessions (the get-together in March was a brain-storming exercise) I feel that my business has benefitted in terms of better planning, knowing which direction I want to head towards (and how!) and learning from the others how to resolve everyday obstacles faced by the majority of small business owners.

We’ve tackled issues head-on, come up with our personal visions, our company visions, completed a SWOT analysis and at the time of writing, we’re all trying to get our heads round Critical Success Factors – what makes our businesses tick and how do we move them forward to the next level.

On the other side of the coin, my own business confidence is growing: our round-the-table problem solving sessions give all of us an opportunity to share knowledge and advice with each other, something which until recently, I’d have been horrified at, afraid of not knowing the answer or suggesting the wrong thing.

I also love the level of accountability. As mentioned earlier, every month we commit to a number of pledges, and yes, each pledge is re-visited and reported back to the group with our progress. There’s no hiding place – something I’m really enjoying and a definite factor when it comes to moving my Tao Business Solutions forward.

For anyone thinking of joining a mentoring group, I’d say 100% Go For It – it will help you with any advice, increase your skills and help with any confidence issues you may have. It will also help you to put things into perspective – and can even be an arena in which to vent. It’s an investment in yourself, and one which is worth every penny.

If you’ve had any experience of mentoring, either being mentored or as the mentee, I’d love to hear your comments.

Thank you.

ten comandments

The 10 Commandments For Business Owners

Thou shalt not be perfect, or even try

Thou shalt not try to be all things to all people

Thou shalt leave undone things that ought to be done

Thou shalt not spread thyself too thin

Thou shalt learn to say NO!

Thou shalt schedule time to thyself

Thou shalt switch off and do nothing – regularly

Thou shalt be boring, inelegant, untidy and unattractive at times

Thou shalt not feel guilty

Thou shalt not be thine own worst enemy




It’s A Holiday – leave the gadgets at home!

You’ve worked hard all year for your holiday and the time has finally arrived to think about the packing.  If you’re anything like me, numerous lists are compiled – the packing (suitcase and hand luggage) lists, the books I want to take list, the documentation list, the things I need to do before I go list …… you get the picture!

Going on holiday can raise as many stresses as a bad day in the office, until you get on the plane and finally feel able to relax.  Or do you?

Have you been able to let go of your work commitments?  How many of you reading this will be taking “just a little bit” of work with you this summer?  No doubt you assure the family that it won’t eat into the precious family time you all so richly crave but are you being truly honest with them, and yourself?

Last November I was lucky enough to go on holiday to Australia.   I naturally went into a pre-holiday melt-down.  The fact that the flight to Brisbane coincided with my annual voluntary Children In Need duties just added to my stress levels.  Being the conscientious soul that I am, I even went so far as contacting the hotels we were due to be staying at (3 in total) to ask about WiFi.  Was there any?  Free or chargeable?  Any computers for guests to utilise during their stay ….. and so it went on.

The night before we were due to fly, my Better Half sprang the bombshell on me that not only was he not taking his iPad on holiday with him, but his iPhone was staying in the UK too!  Yes, you read that right folks – no tablet, no phone.  He then advised that I should do likewise.  My goodness!  The world temporarily stopped spinning.  What would I do without my iPad?  How would I cope?  After some considerable discussion, I agreed to play ball and leave the gadgetry at home so that we could enjoy our Ashes experience (ahem ..!) without interruption.  After all, all of my client social media was scheduled to run in my absence, all my clients knew I was off on the trip of a lifetime and actually, there was nothing that couldn’t wait until we got back.

En route to the airport I had the Gadget DTs.  I felt a bit odd, not having my third hand – I couldn’t check-in on Foursquare to tell the world I was at BHX airport!  I couldn’t update my Facebook status with a picture of my first G&T of the holiday, and I couldn’t tweet to inform the world we were in the Departure Lounge.  Did it matter?  Hell, no!

Once we’d checked in at the flight desk, rid ourselves of the suitcases and taken stock of the flight ahead we relaxed.  And do you know what?  It was fabulous!

Two whole weeks went by with no phones, no emails, no texts and it was utter bliss.   I’ll have no hesitation when I take my break in the sun in September to leave the gizmos and gadgets at home, pack the paperbacks and just relax for 10 days – after all, that’s why I run my own business in the first place – work/life balance.

So when you’re drawing up the packing list, think of your family, your health and your own wellbeing.  Most of all, think about time and how precious it is.   I once worked as a PA for a lovely Danish man called Jan (sadly, no longer with us).  Jan said something once which has stayed in my mind ever since:

“Cheryl, the problem with the British is that they live to work.  In Denmark we work to live”.

Trust me when I say that the world really won’t stop turning if nobody can reach you for 2 weeks, and you and your family will be grateful of the break.  At the end of the day, almost everyone takes a holiday – people will understand!  They may even respect a little bit more for your decision.

Happy holiday!




Schools out

School’s Out! How Do You Cope?

For the kids, it’s the highlight of the year.  Six week off school to have fun and generally let their hair down after a year of lessons and homework.  The days are long, with little structure and lots of (perceived) freedom.

For working parents the school summer holidays can be a nightmare.  The days are too long, with the conundrum of child-care to consider, the promise of over-crowded over-priced attractions and if the British summer runs true to form, rainy days of confinement climbing the walls.

So how do working parents cope with the school summer holidays?   I hope my Top 5 Tips give you some ideas of how to make it through to September relatively unscathed!

  1. Plan ahead.  Look at what resources are available to you in terms of other team members, co-workers and outsourcing.  Don’t leave things to the last minute – get into the routine of delegating some of your workload and outsource where possible to lighten the load so you can have some time off.
  2. If you have no alternative than to work and not take any time off, don’t feel guilty – after all, you work to support the family and pay the bills, don’t you?  Are there any family members you can call on for childcare duties?  Is it possible to take turns for “child days” with other business colleagues by way of a rota system?  You’re not the only one in the soup when it comes to work/life balance and school holidays – so work at it together!
  3. Is it possible to work from home?  Although you can’t leave the kids unattended when you go to work for the day, they will make their own entertainment if left to their own devices as you work from home.
  4. Check out local play centres.  We have one in Hednesford that is offering  a summer pass at a very reasonable price which is valid for the entire summer break – they also have free WiFi.  So, as the kids hurl themselves about on the soft play equipment and make their own friends, you can take your tablet or laptop and crack on!
  5. Holiday clubs run in most areas – its also worth asking schools if they have any holiday clubs planned during the school holidays.  Full of activities, a holiday club will not only occupy your little soldiers, it’ll tire them out too!

Please feel free to leave your own tips for others to read – and enjoy the summer!

woman cafe

1-2-1s – The Art Of Planning

Anyone who has met me will know that I am passionate about, and believe in the power of networking.  Anyone who read my last blog will also know that I am meticulous about planning my working week.

When I sat down at my desk the Friday before last to plan for the following week, I noted that I had three 1-2-1s in the diary, all of which had been arranged as a result of regular attendance at my fortnightly networking group.  My diary was telling me that I had 2 meetings on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday.

Now, I accept that running your own business can throw curveballs and I have, on occasion, had to re-arrange 1-2-1s if a last minute deadline has crept up on me or a new project fallen from the sky and into my lap – after all, we’re all in business to make money and look after our clients, right?  Therefore, it was wholly acceptable when I received an email around lunchtime on the Sunday from my first proposed meeting of the week, explaining that workload was heavy and time poor, and could we postpone until things had calmed down.  I replied, thanked the person for the notice given and their courtesy and thought no more of it, other than “I’ve got myself an hour back to do some work”.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning and after an early start I was about to leave the house, 15 minutes before my 1-2-1 was due to begin when I received a phone call from the person I was meant to be meeting, basically apologising, previous meetings over-running, they were running late, just about to start their 9 am meeting (this was at 9.45 am) etc etc.  Bottom line – the 1-2-1 was put off with 15 minutes to spare.

The best of the bunch was Wednesday morning where I had arranged to meet a “social media phobic” (their words, not mine!) for a 1-2-1.  I kept my side of the bargain; I drove to the agreed location (approx. 25 minutes away), ordered myself a cappuccino and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Feeling a bit “billy no mates” sitting alone in a busy café, I texted my meeting to ask if he was running late, to which a very honest text came back “sorry – totally forgot”.

Now, please  forgive me, but my experiences this past week have really made me think about planning 1-2-1s in the future, so I thought I’d share my Top 5 tips for planning 1-2-1s which I hope you find helpful.

  1. If possible, tag a 1-2-1 onto the end of a networking meeting.  That way, you’ll both be in the same venue and the 1-2-1 will become a natural continuation of your networking meeting.
  2. Don’t over-stretch yourself or your time – be realistic.  Meetings have a habit of over-running and traffic has a habit of causing delays.  Arranging several back-to-back meetings in different locations is asking for trouble and ultimately you will be letting somebody down by the end of the day – usually yourself!
  3. Plan.  Plan.  Plan.  Take time at the beginning of the week to make sure you know what commitments you have for the week ahead.   Hopefully this will avoid the “sorry – totally forgot” scenario!
  4. If you do need to postpone, give the other person as much notice as possible.  After all, they’re not running their business with the sole purpose of sitting around waiting for you all day.  Think how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of a short notice cancellation or no-show  ……
  5. Don’t arrange a 1-2-1 for the sake of it.   Yes, getting to know fellow network members is important but be mindful that we’re all busy souls and we’re not going to get to know everyone overnight.   Maybe leave it until you’ve met the person a few times at your networking meetings before diving in with a 1-2-1 request.

As someone pointed out to me on my Facebook page when I mentioned the “sorry – totally forgot” moment:  Woody Allen is quoted as saying “99% of success is just showing up.” And many self-employed people who don’t show up will be the ones wondering why they struggle to pay the bills. It isn’t rocket science.

Now – go forth and network!



Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/
working from home

Distractions Beware! Top 5 Tips For Staying Focused Working From Home

Running your own business can be the most rewarding thing you may ever do in your lifetime.  It can offer you flexibility that those in paid employment may never experience.  It can give you a sense of self-worth and achievement when you receive positive feedback and glowing testimonials  from happy clients and eventually it will also give you an income over and above what you may have earned whilst working for someone else.

However, working from home, as many of us do, can be a challenge in itself with days filled by distractions, temptation and procrastination.  Some might even call it “cherry picking”!

Your success could depend on you remaining focused on running your business, so here are my Top 5 Tips for achieving your goals when working from home.

1. Discipline

The washing needs doing.  The house could do with a quick once-over with the vacuum cleaner.  It’s sunny – I could go for a run, I need to see what time the film starts at the cinema on Saturday  …..


Would you even think of these things if you were working in an office/shop instead of working from home?  Of course you wouldn’t!   You need to treat your working day with the same respect as you would when working at a place of business.

If possible, set your work area away from the family space: use the study (if you have one) or a spare room as an office rather than setting up camp on the dining room table every morning.    OK, this could be tricky for some businesses, such as cake makers or crafters, but just having a permanent designated workspace will in itself give you more discipline to stay focused.   Working in the lounge, hunched over your laptop with the television on in the background won’t turn you into the next Peter Jones!

Every successful business owner needs …….

2. Routine

Have a working day.  Set yourself a time-frame that you will work to and stick to it: have a start time, and a finish time.  If you need to work around school hours, school holidays, fitness classes, dog walks –that’s fine, but build those aspects into your working routine before they become “distractions” (see above!)

Once you have your routine, you’ll need to ……

3. Plan

Every week, without fail, I plan my working week on an A3 desk planner.  My desk planner sits next to me, on my desk, with the things I need to do that week  allocated on a daily basis for each client/task.   Some of my tasks are daily, others weekly or monthly but they’re all noted on my planner.    My planner also includes dog walks, networking meetings, any 1-2-1s, client visits – you get the picture.

IMG_0962As I complete a task, I strike through it with an orange highlighter pen, which gives me an enormous sense of achievement.  My aim, at the end of every working week, is to have more orange than white space on the planner – only then do I know that I’ve achieved the tasks I set myself at the beginning of the week.

Use your planner to make notes and prioritise.  Every now and again you’ll be thrown a curveball and there will be a need to re-jig things:  if that happens, don’t waste time beating yourself up about it.  Just do it, and move on.

As you cross things off your Planner, it’s a good idea to clear you head so you’ll need to ….

4. Take A Break

Make sure you take regular breaks.  Get up from your desk, make yourself (and anyone else in the house!) a drink, get some fresh air.   Take a lunch break.  You’ll quickly lose focus (and interest)  if you sit in front of your screen for 10 hours a day – not to mention the damage it could do to you physically.    And you wonder why you have backache ……

Health and Safety and VDU Workstation Guidelines apply to those of us who work from home as well as those in jobs!

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Switch It Off

You’re doing well.  You’ve got your office in the spare room, you start work at around 9am every morning (preferably not in your pyjamas!), you’ve planned your weekly work schedule and you’ve even managed to reacquaint yourself with the end of the garden during a well-earned break but hang on, what’s this?  Someone wants to follow you on Twitter?  You have a comment on Facebook to read from last night’s status update?  Six new emails?

Distraction Alert!!!

Don’t be afraid to turn off your social media pages and close down your email application if it stops you getting distracted and helps you to get on with some work.  Trust me, the world will not stop spinning if you leave those Twitter interactions for a couple of hours.  There will be no national crisis if you don’t instantly reply to every single email you receive and believe it or not, other people aren’t sitting, waiting with baited breath for you to post your next LinkedIn update or Tweet.

You may find it helpful to plan in to your day certain times for social media and emails – I know of some business owners who only check their emails 3 times a day:  first thing in the morning, again at lunchtime and finally at the end of the working day – and they manage to maintain their sanity and business success at the same time!

I hope you found my Top 5 Tips useful – good luck in implementing them!





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