Small Business Support Blog

If you are interested in reading about how to get your business visible online, with regular insights into being an entrepreneur and navigating your way through the business world, then this blog is for you!

We regularly post interesting articles on topics on leadership, management and visibility - with guest articles and features from experts in their field.

If you are interested in collaborating and would like to do a guest feature then please email [email protected] 

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  1. Guest Blog - How interior design can affect your productivity in your business

    office image credit NAB Brisbane by Woods Bagot

    A guest blog by Angela Bamforth, Founder of Three Interiors Design

    Whether we work in an office solo or with a large team, we all want a healthy, happy workspace. The modern office has gone through significant changes over the past 20 years. In the past decade, workplaces have seen a decline in cubicles and the rise of creative ideas on the office floor. While the trends keep on changing, the one thing that will remain permanent is the impact of the environment on the performance of an employee.

    So how does interior design benefit office employees?

    Companies have now realized the significance of office workplace design and are aware that interior design is more than just fabric and furniture! By incorporating the right office design, you can enhance employee experience and overall productivity.

    Given employees spend almost 50% of their time at work, it’s important to create an environment that fosters productivity and encourages engagement.

    Examples of how good interior design promotes employee productivity in the workplace:

    1. Promotes Human Interaction

    Humans are social animals, so it is natural for us to follow our instincts and interact with our fellow colleagues. Interaction leads to a sense of community as we work towards finding a solution to the same problem, therefore meaningful interactions in the workplace allow us to work better and accomplish more.

    Steve Jobs, for example, placed bathrooms on the middle floor of the Pixar headquarters in the hope of creating as many interactions between the employees as possible. A Norwegian company by the name of Telenor saw an increase of 20% in sales after they changed the placement of the coffee machine! Central staircases also create an area where people will interact, with large landings a good place to catch up and have a chat with colleagues.

    2.      Provides Natural Light

    Humans need exposure to natural light in order to regulate mood, to experience feelings of happiness and to sleep well. A 2014 study found that workers in areas of the office without windows scored lower on quality life measures related to health problems and vitality. The workers that had none to little exposure to natural light slept on average 46 minutes less than those that had exposure. The study also found that workers without exposure to natural light had poorer outcomes in measures of sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disruption and daytime dysfunction.

    Good interior design will incorporate lots of natural light in the form of large windows and furniture placement to maximise exposure.

    Office image credit Nurus

    3. Gives pleasant distraction from work

    A distraction at work isn't actually a bad thing. Especially not if the distraction is good interior design incorporating art. In fact, it's quite the opposite; the art and decor of a workspace can boost productivity.

    Dr. Craig Knight, who has studied the psychology of workspaces for over 12 years at the University of Exeter says, “if you enrich a space people feel much happier and work better; a very good way of doing this is by using art”.

    According to a survey conducted by the Business Committee for the Arts, 82% of employees said art was important in the work environment, and 73% percent said their view of the company would change if the art were removed.

    By eliciting positive emotions, stimulating ideas and giving employees something visually appealing to look at while they work, art can make a huge difference in employee satisfaction, wellbeing, and productivity. This is true for the overall interior design – offices don’t need to be dowdy, grey spaces. They can be stimulating, fun and follow the company’s brand through furniture and furnishings. Introducing breakout areas with comfy seating and a café culture is becoming more and more popular.

    4.      Inspires creativity

    Creativity is important to any business, no matter what you do. It really just means ‘new ideas’ and interior design can create the environment to foster creative thinking

    Good workplace design can reduce the strain on employees, freeing up their brains to do their thing, whilst properly designed spaces can enable collaboration, aiding the creative process.

    How interior design can affect you as a small business owner.

    As a small business it be really challenging when your office is also your home. The idllyic pictures of entrepreneuers working in their gardens and beautiful summer houses can be a far cry from the reality of trying to finsd space at the end of a dining table which is already home to a pile of ironing and the kids homework. Here are a few tips to creating a productive space for your small business at home:

    • Have a dedicated area. However small, if you are wanting to take your business seriosuly then you should look to have a dedicated work space that allows you to store yoru important equipment and materials to run your business. 
    • Minimise distractions. If one of the reasons for having a home office is so that you can also look after the children and maintain the home then try to maintain an area that gives you the room to work, and then focus on your other responsibilities. Look into time management techniques such as time blocking that will help you to create routine and structure. Sometimes doing this can feel impossible because your children are very young or have additional needs, but finding dedicated time will allow you to be "in the moment" when you are focussing on tasks.
    • Clear the clutter. You do not need to go fully Marie Kondo to achieve this, but find another place for the pile of ironing, and make the children clear away the homework (or your other half if they are sharing the space too). Consider everyone having a dedicated storage box to put their things in when their tasks are finished if you can't have a full on office to yourself. It's called making your own ideal and it can really work!
    • Provide something for yourself that will lift the senses. This could be an uplifting piece of art or a motivational quote poster; or it could be a scented reed diffuser that helps to calm your mind. These small gestures while you are working can make a real difference to your productiveity and motivation.

     

    Andrea Bamforth is an experienced interior design consultant, and the owner of leading Cheshire interior studio Three Interiors Design. Specialising in creating authentic spaces for home and office, Andrea has a wealth of knowledge and skill in designing bespoke solutions for those looking for style and functionality. 

  2. Why I’ve been struggling to write a blog post this month...

     PRW Wine
     
     
    Normally I’m great at blogging. I find inspiration from a question posed in my membership group, or I find something random comes to me at 4am and I tap furiously away on my iPhone pouring out what I hope will be valuable content to my audience. But this month I’ve really struggled and I thought, actually there may be others who are struggling too, and so I thought if I write down reasons why you may be struggling and share some ideas on what to do about it then this may actually be a useful blog post (oh the irony eh?!)
     
    So here goes, reasons why you may be struggling with writing blog posts (there are definitely several that apply to me in this...)
     

    1. Everyone else has already written about it...

     
    This one is a classic - why write a blog on something that a million other people have already written about? I hear and feel you on this one - I mean every single online visibility topic has been done to death (thanks Neil Patel lol) so why write anymore about it?
     
    Here’s the thing - they haven’t written about it from your perspective. Your audience want to hear your opinion on it, your experience and your ideas. If you have a following then you have people interested in you, so don’t think that people aren’t interested. If every topic has been written about before think about what makes your opinion different about a topic and talk about why it’s different.
     
    Top Tip: Write down a topic and then brainstorm all of the perspectives that have been shared on it. Look at what your perspective is. That is your blog post - comparing the different perspectives and giving people your clear opinion...
     
    2. I don’t know how to write a good blog post...
     
    I love this one. There are literally thousands of searches conducted into google on this exact topic. There are two things to consider here - writing good content, and writing discoverable content.
     
    Writing good content means putting the reader at the heart of what you are writing. Think about what question you are looking to answer for them or information are you helping them to discover. I start every post with asking myself the question “what do I want my reader to know, feel and take away from this?” And that normally helps to give me the impetus to write content that will resonate with my audience. Try not to fixate on being the oracle, focus on being helpful or entertaining. My Gran would always say that if people weren’t helping her or amusing her then she wasn’t interested in them and even though this may seem brutal it’s not a bad way to consider things!
     
    On the other hand writing content that is discoverable is something different entirely... There is a knack to writing blog posts for SEO, particularly when there is already a lot of content existing in the webisphere, but for the purposes of this blog post we are focussing on getting you creating content rather than fixating on the discoverability of it (not least because it’s a full on topic that requires its own post entirely, but also because I want you to read this till then end and I fear you may get distracted if it gets too long).
     
    The moral of this question/story - you need to get over yourself. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right. And only you can change your mindset on it. Writing a good blog post is about writing for your audience, not for you.
     
    Top Tip: Give yourself a structure for writing the post - an introduction of what the topic is about, three main paragraphs to solve the problem or explore the issue, then a conclusion which brings it back to the beginning. 
     
     
    Struggling to write a blog
     
     
    3. Even if it hasn't all been said before, I don’t know what to write about...
     
    If you feel like you  don’t know what’s good to write about, you are in the same boat as a lot of your friends as the song would say!
     
    Content inspiration can be a bitch I’m not going to lie, and it can be a real blocker to creating stuff to put out there, but again this is linked to what I referenced before. People want to hear your perspective, and they want to hear your ideas. I’ve written a whole post on content inspiration which can hopefully help you, but fundamentally think about what questions your audience are asking, or think about ways you can entertain them. Forget that it may have been written about before, no one else is you.
     
    Top Tip: Take a look at Google Trends and see what people are searching for - this can give you inspiration to address what is on peoples minds...
     
    4. It’s not the right time to be putting myself out there...
     
    Ahh this recently-made-popular-chestnut is a goodie! The lockdown paralysis gremlins telling you that you shouldn’t be marketing yourself, or “putting yourself out there” because it’s insensitive in the current climate. Well I call bull on that.
     
    Now more than ever people need to hear that you are there for them, answering their questions, supporting their needs and showing up (when you have something helpful or entertaining to say). I spent 30 minutes searching how to apply eyeliner as an escape the other day - so however “trivial” it may seem (and it’s not) there is space for it, there is a need for it and you are worthy of sharing it.
     
    Just don’t write for the sake of it, and don’t write because you are feeling a pressure to “pivot” or show up because everyone else is. As you’ll see running through this entire post, write to help, or to entertain. If you can’t do that, then yeah it’s not the right time to be showing up...
     
    Top Tip: Sell the sunshine not the sunscreen. Talk about how your business brings results or solutions, or sparks joy and desire. This is far more effective than just talking abot features and benefits.
     
    5. No one reads blog posts anymore do they, so what is the point?
     
    This is a great question that I always love to answer. People read stuff that’s interesting. People read stuff that helps them to answer a question, solve a problem, satisfy a desire (I had to get that in somewhere!) or discover something new. So if you are writing a blog for the sake of writing a blog then chances are no one will read it. If you are writing a blog to stuff a load of keywords into your website then you need to bin off whatever SEO advice you’ve been given.
     
    Write to share good content. Write to help. To entertain, and people will read. I’m starting to sound like a broken record now aren’t I?!
     
    Top Tip: Share your blog on your social media profiles - and dont forget Pinterest! Pinterest is brilliant for being able to share your blog multiple times with different pin titles.
     
    6. I’m terrible at writing, I don’t have the confidence...
     
    I used to fixate on finding the right tone and language for blog posts, convinced that I needed to sound like a bunch of other influencers. Then I realised that a. I wasn’t American and trying to write like one made me sound ridiculous and b. My audience aren’t interested in me sounding like everyone else because they come to me for me, not for me to sound like Oprah (and before you get your pitchforks out Trolls, no I’m not comparing myself to bloody Oprah).
     
    If you write like you act and speak in real life, people will resonate with the content and will respond to it.
     
    Top Tip: Add keywords into your meta data to make your post more discoverable without having to detract away from the tone of your blog post
     
    blogging for small business
     
    7. I can’t find the time to create blog posts...
     
    This one has been a real one for me this month, and I’ll admit that finding time to commit at least a thousand words to a blog post has felt like a monumental chore, so if you are feeling this, I feel you.
     
    My time management is not something that I pride myself on so I’m not about to give you some inspiring nuggets on how to effectively plan your time (I wrote this week on Instagram about needing more time and headspace!) but suffice to say if you can block out an hour to write something helpful or entertaining, this will help your overall online visibility.
     
    Top Tip: Establish a routine to blog once a month minimum for yourself, and once a month minimum to guest for someone else - it will massively help your overall visibility and build up your website quality
     
    8. I just CBA...
     
    Motivation is a true gremlin I’m not going to lie. Week ten billion of lockdown and my motivation for being an inspiration 24/7 has definitely waned, so if you are feeling like you can’t be bothered, then I can totally relate. What is keeping me going at the moment is the momentum of my online visibility challenge which is happening at the end of May. Otherwise I might be completely lost in a sea of wine and snacky snacks somewhere in the recesses of my house!
     
    The thing to think about here though is that you do have influence, however small your audience, you do have the ability to shape someone’s thinking. So if you can help, or entertain, and you can muster some energy, then write it. Then reward yourself with wine. Or gin (I know a good luxury gin if you don’t...)
     
     
    In this post I’ve tried to share some honest challenges and objections that you may be feeling about blogging, and hopefully given you some reassurance and inspiration to get writing again. The important thing to remember is being genuine and authentic is what will engage and build your audience. So if after this you are still struggling with writing a blog post - maybe write about why you are struggling? You never know who it might help...