Why analytics is ruining your small business.

As a small business owner we’re constantly told that we can look at the stats for pretty much everything we do and how insightful and useful they will be to us. Well, possibly controversially, I have to tell you it’s not true!

There is a fantastic amount of data out there readily available to us. The insights provided on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pintrest, not forgetting of course Google Analytics, is mind blowing, seriously, even if you’ve ever looked at the information available I would bet that you’ve not experienced the full plethora of data and have only really scratched the surface.

We’re constantly told by all the social media gurus and the marketing experts (whose adverts conveniently pop upon Facebook when we have just looked at our stats) that we should, no we must use all the analytics and insights available to us in order to have a successful business and to drive our market influence to a point where people come to us. We are coerced into looking at graphs, economic, social, geographical, heck even psycho-graphic demographics, and are made to feel slightly inferior if we haven’t analysed our analysis to a point of exhaustion. If you don’t know the exact time of day that your best customers (and you know who they are through extensive analysis of your customer base) are on your pages and website you’re domed to fail. You’re expected to know which channel they prefer to buy your services from, what other business they like to interact with, what they had for breakfast, what newspaper they read and that their dog is called Fred. And that’s the problem.

There is so much information out there that it’s easy to get bogged down in the numbers, the graphs, the analytics, the collection and presentation of the information. Don’t get me wrong, I love these sorts of numbers, the power they have to help consumers find the exact right product, at the right price, in the right place at the right time for them is incredible. The ability for businesses to be able to use information to target their products and the marketing of them to an audience who not only wants them but has a need for them is overwhelmingly exciting for me. The power of data is phenomenal and with my history as a database marketer it’s no surprise that I love this sort of information but it used to be my full time job to collect, analyse and present and make decisions on this sort of data, now it’s a small part of all the other jobs I have to do in order to run my own small business.

I’ve done it myself, I’ve thought I’ll have a look at my Google Analytics, see where my website traffic is coming from and who they are. Or maybe even looked at my Facebook page analysis to verify who interacts with Lubylu on there. Whilst it’s important to keep a check on the high level information, I’ve been known to think I’ll just create a spreadsheet for the data so I can analyse the trends going forward. I’ll just colour code those columns and cells in the spreadsheet and then maybe even add a conditional format and throw in a pivot table to aid with my analysis later on. The problem is at this point I’ve probably wasted half a day, time I should have been either making candles, ordering new supplies or actually contacting customers and maybe even trying to actually grow my customer base. Analytics can be used as distraction technique, one which you can pretend to yourself isn’t actually a waste of time and in fact it’s something you practically have to do in order to survive the bear pit of a market place out there. I call this ‘Procrastination Analysis’!

It reminds me of when I was studying for my ‘A’ levels and the lengths I would go to to create the most beautiful revision timetable. This was in the days before computers took over everything graphic so it was all hand done, multi-coloured pens were used to co-ordinate topics and subjects, stickers, drawings, plans were made, themes were introduced and be called revision. It wasn’t of course, it was a delaying tactic to try and put off the studying of the Tudors and the Stewarts and the European Wars of Religion and other such subjects that were never going to be as interesting as who was doing what with whom in the 6th form common room!

As small business owners we have a finite amount of time to get everything done. The team running the business is often very limited and the number of tasks that need to be done very large. Whilst data is your friend and it is necessary that you have an understanding of what is available to you, how to use it and a high level knowledge of some of the key insights, it’s not necessary for small business owners to spend their very valuable time and effort trying to get to grips with data that wont help them make their day to day decisions.

The key element for me is to ask ‘What decision will I make from this information?’ If the data available to you is really just of interest and it’s not going to impact how you market your product, the strategy of your business or even your product design going forward then I would suggest that spending time on them is ruining your business.

Lucy Pimblott,

Owner of Lubylu Ltd ethical home fragrance products and previously a data geek!

 

How to survive a really crap week…!

Last week was just that, a really crap week! I can’t put my finger on exactly why but for a variety of different reasons I didn’t achieve what I’d hoped to, I didn’t have that ‘wow’ passionate feeling about my business choices all week, I know I focused far too much on what other people were doing and how they seemed to be achieving goal after goal as if they were lined up at a net without a keeper. But do you know what, it’s OK?!

It really is, and I’d have to say that my one success of the week is that I have come out of it knowing that whilst it was a crap week, I know it’s just one week out of my journey and one week will not define the experience or my success.

I don’t want you to think I’m doing the dramatic ‘aww poor me’ attention seeking thing that so many people do, I want to explain why having a bad day, week or even month is OK, in fact, it’s probably a good thing. Sounds daft I know but allowing yourself to experience periods when you’re not so buoyantly enthusiastic about everything means that you value it all the more when you are and when you genuinely feel it.

If next week is just as bad or worse, I will have to look at why and investigate what I’m doing that I could change. Notice I’ve placed the emphasis on me and making a change not what I’m doing wrong. It’s important that we recognise that as small business one of our main superpowers is that we have ultimate decision making capacity, we are in charge of our own destiny. Each decision doesn’t have to be scrutinised by middle management in different departments only to be lost on a senior manager’s desk for sign off, no, we can make a decision and make it happen!

Also, I said ‘change’ not ‘what I’m doing wrong’ as I don’t believe that it is healthy or beneficial to small businesses to view things that aren’t going exactly to plan as things that they have done wrong, beating yourself up about situations that have occurred even though you used your best judgement at the time will simply leave a negative trace on your emotions about your business. It’s best to accept that they are just not working for the business at that point in time and it’s time to work out what needs changing and to implement that change with the minimum of fuss. On the Entrepreneurial Spark programme and according to the principals in “The Lean Start-up” by Eric Rees, it’s called pivoting. Whatever you call it, it’s crucial to be constantly analysing your small business to see what’s working for you and for your customers and being open to changing what isn’t.

We have the power to fix a situation, to make a decision and implement it quickly so let’s use it! Have a great week…

Lucy

Lubylu Ltd www.lubylu.com

Feeling inadequate….?

If you’re feeling inadequate when comparing yourself or your business to others, my first point to make is don’t do that, but if you must, make sure you know the full story as often, what you see on the surface is very different to the reality of the situation.

I was in the gym this morning (I like saying that, don’t get to do it that often). I tried out a new piece of equipment, a bit like the elliptical trainer but your feet go side to side not round and round, anyway, it’s kind of weird but good for your thighs! The machine started on a nice middle level 5, it was hard, really hard, thigh burningly can’t get your breath hard, after 5 mins I wanted to quit but I didn’t. The lady next to me had been on her machine before I started and was powering away, she had a great rhythm going and didn’t seem to be struggling much. I thought maybe she’s on a really low level, maybe she just looks like she’s really fit but no, I snuck a little look at her machine, made sure I knew where to look on the screen so I wouldn’t be seen nosying and guess what, she was on level 14!!! Wow, did I feel inadequate??

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But then I started thinking, I have no idea whether or not this lady is a semi professional athlete. She could be well into training for some kind of endurance challenge, she could have been training all her life and she’s just well, amazingly fit and healthy. The truth is, I didn’t know and I still don’t, I didn’t have enough breath left to strike up a conversation with her, staying upright was challenge enough for me at that point! I don’t know her back -story, I don’t know her journey, her history meaning I can’t compare her performance on the crazy exercise machine with mine.

In a similar way with business, you can’t compare your journey and where you are on your journey with other businesses until you know the full story. It might look like a company has achieved and amazing overnight success (I did a blog about that previously)  but you don’t know on the surface how many years have gone into that ‘overnight’ success!

I had the privilege of listening to one such business last week. Their rise to mainstream brand awareness and their awe inspiring increase in turnover from a few thousand pounds to over half a million in 18 months seemed so incredible it was almost deflating for those who haven’t managed that yet. Listening to all the elements of business that they have had to become experts in such as manufacturing, importing, exporting, licensing, social media and so many other crucial business areas I felt overwhelmed and very inadequate that I had not managed half of the things they had. While I was feeling shockingly deflated at my own lack of experience and expertise gained in my two and a half years of running Lubylu full time I heard something crucial to the story. The business owner had actually been in business for over 20 years! They were,  in their own words a ‘serial entrepreneur’. Light bulb moment for me, I lifted my head, a smile grew as I realised that their current and no doubt ongoing success is actually the culmination of 20 years experience in various business. It’s not just the 18 months in the current business, it’s the result of all the lessons learned along the way. There have no doubt been many other successes and probably a few failures too but it suddenly made me realise that I’m not behind the curve, I’m not lagging behind I am in fact right on track. It’s my track, my journey and to quote the famous Desiderata poem ‘no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should’.

It’s only natural that we compare ourselves to others and in some respects it’s useful to provide us with a level of healthy competition, but you must remember to make sure you know the full story. If you compare apples with potatoes, the potatoes will always come out looking a bit odd and bumpy!

Lucy, Chief Glitter Sprinkler at Lubylu Ltd

http://www.lubylu.com

 

Turning a negative into positive motivation.

I know as part of my ‘e-spark’ journey I will be asked to look at my motivation for wanting a place on the programme and a desk in the Hub and it got me thinking as to why I feel Lubylu® and I deserve the opportunity.

I can’t move too far away from the fact that for quite a while now I have known deep down in my soul that Lubylu® is destined to be a well-known household name brand in the world of home fragrance and possibly even bath and body. I know that Lubylu® will achieve respect for what is created, how the business is run and the support and opportunities that will be afforded to others, but there’s something else, something a little more personal if I’m honest.

I want to do it just to bloody well show that I can! To prove to people that a business where you make lovely scented products, create beautiful bath body and home décor items and basically have fun with fragrance, colour and glitter can have a significantly positive economic and social impact on the community. I wanted to show that I can run a business and that I can do it well. I am proud of what I have achieved so far and I’m even learning to be quite vocal about how proud I am of myself and my business.

A comment was made to me quite innocently back in summer of 2016 when I moved into my lovely new workshop / office at Church Fenton. It was a huge step for me, now I have actual bills to pay and what was essentially a hobby business became a proper ‘grown up’ business that has to make money to keep going. One of the guys from one of the other businesses, a much more well established business, in that actually employs people and have engineers and everything, threw away a comment to me in chatting of ‘I assume your business isn’t one that pays the bills for your family’. Now I know he didn’t mean to be condescending or to devalue my business at all, he really didn’t see that what he said was negative but it made me take a step back, deep breath and politely reply that my business does OK thanks and I very much enjoy what I do. I couldn’t think of much else to say without going into the details of how Mr P and I split our family finances and I don’t really see that as anyone else’s concern.

This negative comment and assumption that Lubylu® is just a ‘little’ business that me, as the wife, potters about at just to keep me busy, has spurred me on to prove him and anyone else who thinks that wrong. It’s made me even more determined that one day soon Lubylu® will be a desirable sought after product and brand, one of the ones that people recommend to their friends and love giving as gifts.

It seems that I’ll have quite a bit to say when I’m next asked what my motivation for developing Lubylu® is! 😉

Lucy
Chief Glitter Sprinkler
Lubylu Ltd
www.lubylu.com

Running 10k is like running a business!

running

I ran my last 10k while in my 30’s this morning. I make it sound like it’s something I do all the time but actually it’s only my 3rd ever 10k race. I didn’t do it in any earth shattering, record breaking time but I did it (1hr 3mins and that is my personal best). There were about 500 other runners all doing their thing for their own reasons whether it be to raise money or for personal fitness goals, we were all there, with our lycra on, running apps at the ready, prepared to challenge ourselves on a lovely Sunday morning in October.

Obviously it gave me an hour to think (during the parts when I wasn’t having to solely concentrate on just breathing in and out!) and made me realise that all the runners could represent businesses and the market place in general. We’re all there with our own agendas, business plans, goals and missions but the actual end game, to make money, is the same. Some businesses may be seeking to make money for good causes to give back to communities whilst other may have the goal of being able to buy their CEO a new helicopter but the basic mission is the same, make money.

All the runners had very different styles – yes I did people watch whilst running, I couldn’t help it! There are those who are very determined, focused individuals who have clearly trained extremely hard and are ready to do a paltry 10k in about 30mins. They know what needs doing and they are the people to do it. There are business owners like that too and sometimes they can make people like me feel quite inferior, they don’t mean to but by their sheer confidence in their own abilities they seem to over shadow those of us who prefer to take a slower more subtle approach to things. Neither is right nor wrong but it doesn’t hurt for the less out-going of us to remember that we’re all going in the same direction and we will get there too, we maybe get enjoy the scenery a bit more along the way as we travel at a steadier pace!

I loved the runners who were a little more flamboyant in their running style, hands waving, listening to music and just doing their own sweet thing (think Phoebe from Friends in that episode where she and Rachel go running in Central Park!) They were enjoying the journey and their participation in it just as some more quirky business leaders run their business in a slightly less than conventional manner. They maybe take more risks and do things a little differently but that’s great, by their trialling new and innovative business methods, some which will be amazing successes, some maybe not so much, we all get to learn and develop new strategies for growing our businesses and potentially new products and market places to enter.

I also realised that my position in the run overall was synonymous with my business and how I feel about it especially at the moment. At about 4k, there were loads of people ahead of me and probably a few people behind me, but that didn’t matter at all, what really matters is I was there! I got up, I showed I up and I was doing it my way, I was enjoying it (even the hills which were hard work). I didn’t stop going forwards and I reached the end, just as everyone else did, and I think even managed to do it with a smile on my face!

Off the grid

special skipsea stones
Far Grange View
Who needs the Med?

We’ve just got back from a week away at the East Coast staying at a Holiday Home Park (an exclusive caravan park with fantastic facilities) where phone signals are weak and intermittent, 4 or even 3G data services are virtually none existent, as for widespread wifi, you’ll waste a lot of battery life searching unsuccessfully for one!

Sounds terrible at first BUT it’s actually been quite cathartic. Without constant contact with the outside world, the background noise of other people’s status updates, tweets and checkins we’ve been able to slow down, relax and do the things we want to do when we want to do them, the only time constraint being the onsite swimming timetable. We’ve been to a rock factory where the kids have made rock (it’s harder to roll molten sugar then you think, kudos to the people who do it all day, everyday!) and chocolate lollies, walks on the beach looking for the perfect stones to paint and ‘special’ shells which absolutely must be brought back with us. Pipsqueak has spent most of the week outside playing, running around and properly playing, like kids should be able to do in the summer holidays.

We’ve even had to talk to each other, proper conversations involving hopes and dreams for the future, plans and aspirations, the sort of topics you never seem to find the time for when your everyday life of work, school, childcare, running a home, is rushing about around you. Mr P is self employed as well so we rarely find the time to discuss the futures of our businesses to make sure that we are on track and actually heading in the right and same direction.

It’s been good to have some ‘down time’, time and head space for thought, reflection and conversation. It’s certainly given us as a family the renewed energy and impetus to drive our businesses forward and an understanding of where we are heading. Now safely back in the land of fibre optic, satellite TV and a decent mobile phone signal, I find myself reaching for my phone to see what the latest bleep, bing or ping from it actually signifies but stopping myself and wondering if it really matters to what I’m currently doing; chances are it doesn’t and it can wait, just a little bit, until I’m ready to give it my full attention. How long this restraint against instant technology will last, I don’t know, but so far so good and my levels of concentration are much improved!

http://www.lubylu.com

“I’m marvelous thanks, how are you?”

6 months ago when office colleagues asked me how I was as part of the usual morning greeting, that was my usual stock response. Said with either fake enthusiasm or very real sarcasm, some never could quite tell which, I felt that I should at least say positive words whether I meant them or not even if it was just wind people up!

Now when I say it, I mean it, I really do. It might sound trite but since leaving the corporate world I am much happier about work and basically life in general.

The transition to working from home is taking some adjusting to, more so than I expected if I’m honest. I used to work from home one day a week and found it to be a most productive day but when you’re at home all day (well it’s only school hours really but that’s a whole other blog post) every day it can be hard to focus on work rather than the household chores. I raised this with Mr P the other evening, who has worked from home for over 10 years now, and he says that at first it is tricky and that it takes some practice to be able to ignore the household chores while you’re meant to be working, but it would seem that this is an art he has perfected 😉

Whilst I do cherish being able to work from home and the fact that my business can be done at any time of day or night, I know I need to be careful that I don’t do just that, work all day and all night! I do love what I do and I think that even if it wasn’t the occupation that pays my bills, I would still be doing something creative but I know I need to be cautious not to become too blinkered. I love opportunities to leave the house, meet people, chat with them, see the ‘real’ world and use this to gain useful insights as to what the world is doing, what my customers and prospects want and where I can take my business.

At the moment ( I am only 4 months into this full time running a business malarkey) I am financially poorer than I was on a regular wage with paid sick, paid holidays, pension scheme etc… but I’m excited every day by the possibilities that lie ahead. Each day, even with my endless and detailed ‘to do’ lists, provides an opportunity for me to do my best and to develop my business my way. Money to fix the air bag squib on my car (who knew it one of those) eats into my budget more significantly and saving for holidays take more planning but we’re still having holidays and that’s no mean feat!

The financial uncertainty, the distraction by household necessities and even the price of an air bag squib eating into my savings are all welcome prices to pay to not suffer that ‘Sunday night dread’ that inevitably merges into Monday morning moroseness and just sets you up for an unfulfilled week of somebody else’s stress….  🙂