Money Trainers – a personal finances guide – for sole traders and small business.

What the Self Employed and Small Business Owners Need To Know About…

The money project.

Personal Finances and whole load of boring but important stuff.

A rough guide for the self employed and small business owners who need to be more Ninja than ever before.

Warning : contains swear words and scenes of violence. Parental guidance and all that.

Oxford Dictionaries describes the meaning of Ninja as “A person who excels in a particular skill or activity.”

 Of course this complicated world of social media and 24/7 online access to all the information in the world; reviews, howto guides and experts seem to indicate that the world, her husband and his dog know more than you about everything – so why should they buy from you?

 Fact is information does not confer the ability to do or understand. This gives you an edge in what you do – you just need to be more Ninja, more expert in your ability to:-

  • Get your point across
  • Provide a brilliant service
  • Charge accordingly
  • Make the most of your personal and business finances
  • Enjoy the journey

Do one or more of these and things will start to change for you, and change quickly.

 It’s funny. Business has changed a lot in recent years, well the tactics have.

 People haven’t changed much in thirty thousand years, which should make business quite simple…

… Do or make something people want at a price that suits them, make an offer and exchange value. That’s business.

 Your personal finances are also simple.

 There are basic principles, fundamentals that turn ordinary people into financially independent, stand alone individuals.

 They use a handful of tried and tested principles and have done for years, so I’ve included them. Fact is, if all you need to do in order to become wealthy was sit in front of a local high street financial adviser for thirty minutes every year – we’d all be lining up in the high street to meet one. Reality is, that’s just bobbins!

 Many advisers and most high street financial firms have been fined by the various regulators, and the advice industry has collapsed by 90% or so in the last thirty years – consumers have worked out that they don’t add much value.


This short volume is the most linked to and read content from my own websites (over a period of 18 years). Information many would prefer you didn’t have.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever without express written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Please refer all pertinent questions to the publisher.

© Richard Smith 2019

Welcome to my church – The Church of the Irreverent. My church.

Before I get complaints about the order of this content you’ll note a couple of things, there is no particular order nor is it in the order of most linked to, most read or most commented on. But it is in there that I wanted it in.

Order of Service.

Start Here

No One Is Coming To Save You

Small Biz Lead Generation – Raising Your Profile.

Knowing Your Business Numbers

Time Freedom – time is the only thing you cannot get more of.

Tick- Tock – Tick – Tock

Small Business, Artificial Intelligence And Old Stuff

Small Business Lead Generation – Old Stuff Still Works.

Resistance Is Futile

Growing Your Business By 20% in a Few Months

State of Self Employed Pensions (2016)

Which Pension Pig is feeding at your trough?

Alison Average – Just an Ordinary British Girl

My Obsession With Honda Moped Engines And Your Business.

Only Three Ways

Sales and Selling Has Changed

Optimistic Biases

2015 Pension Changes – What Do They Mean To You?

What’s Happening To Pensions From April 2015?

After April 2015.

Death Benefits

The Cost Of All This Flexibility

6925 Or So Reasons To Take Personal Control.

Financial Independence

Your Future

Self Reliance

Uncertainty – Government – Jobs – Globalisation – Brexit

Automation and Jobs – The Future Of Work.

Spending Less Than You Earn

Top Money Principles

Millionaire Facts

Unable To Handle Money By Design

ASSET ALLOCATION

Investment Timing

Problem With State Pensions

DEAL WITH DEBT

Repay/Overpay

True Cost Of Credit – Alison Average (repeated)

Do This In Your Business and Get Results.

Who’d Want a Job

I don’t often read the papers.

Leads The Beating Heart Of Your Business.

Sacrificing Your First Born

Death and Dying – The Woe Of The Remaining Shareholder.

State Pension Changes – Pension Charges (ad-nauseum)

Business Lesson From Nursery Rhymes – There’s a Hole In My Bucket…

Journal – if you don’t write things down you’ll never know.

Adwords – Remarketing

Finding A Rhinoceros

Renting- Get Your Own Back

Email Marketing – It’s All About The Relationships

Death Benefit Taxation from .gov.uk

Government Brochure – Pension Changes

Annuity

Start Here

Thank you for purchasing. In return I’d like to offer you something of even further value.

 A session with me, thirty minutes of practical optimism (realism) where I can provide you with specific professional advice about starting, running and managing your business and your personal or business financial planning.

Even if you glass is half empty — we can refill it.

 I Guarantee you it’ll be worth several hundreds of pounds immediately, and if you take it on board and use it I know that it will end up being worth many tens of thousands of pounds to you over your lifetime.

 Good news is, you can then pass the wisdom on to your kids and grandkids. Meaning it’s value will be many hundreds of times it’s cost – which is the price of this book.

 I do like the sound of my own voice, having spent over twenty five years running a successful financial advisory practice working mainly in the area of divorce and financial mediation. I’ve done a lot of talking and have a lot to say.

 I understand that as a business owner I can’t please all of the people all of the time – so I don’t try. This is a lesson that many of my startups have ignored right up until the point we work together.

 I have mentored and trained financial advisers and worked on sales and business development for advisers, app developers, I.T businesses, and a woo woo hypnotherapist amongst others.

 Originally from North London, Winchmore Hill. Where I lived until my early twenties. My granddad was an old school rag and bone man, and my father was a baker. I understand hustle and process it’s built into my genes. Look, baking bread is process – you need the ingredients in the right order for the right amount of time and correct heat etc. If you get it wrong you don’t get bread. Business is the same.

 I believe that women are the stronger sex – and I can prove it. Look, I accept my place in life as a man.

 Fact is they only need us as sperm donors, everything else they can do themselves. Once they work out how to synthesise sperm that will be the end of the male species, be nice to them.

 That’s probably all you need to know about me for the time; I do have higher level financial services qualifications therefore I am qualified to talk about the things I post and write about.

 I do have an overwhelming feeling of joy to finally put all of these words in one place. These chapters are the sweary wisdom found in my work and with the benefit of hindsight. They are also the most visited pages from three websites.

 You can get your own updates direct to your inbox by firing off an email to book@therichardsmith.com guarantee it’ll be worth it.

 Two illnesses made me realise that most financial planning was a ‘crock of shit.“ Yeah I’d been lied to, even when creating my own plan.

 Most small businesses do not survive in case of serious illness, disability or a serious cashflow upset of a senior team member. Fact!

 Basically, if your income stops as you stop working then your investment planning, business and everything else falls apart.

 Sadly most financial professionals ignore that point.

 Sure they’ll sell you a possible solution, reality is the structure of your personal finances and your business should be such that it continues to work for you even if you’re not able.

 Knowing this, is a great way to structure a business to build a life and I suggest you ignore what the ‘financial services’ professionals recommend you do.

 Most of them are still working on 1974 principles and the world is very different now.

 If you can build an automated income around products, systems, investments and tools – you then make your money work hard – you won’t need that much advice I assure you.

 The very rich don’t lean on or listen to conventional advisers – making money work for you is a clear process and not about advice. Becoming financially independent is about knowing the processes and making them work.

 Adviser solutions include the dreaded pensions, half dead insurance (often called critical illness cover) and then the conventional life assurances, and income protection type plans. Many of which offer little in the way of solving the problem, that of outliving your money or making your money work hard for you; nor do these allow you to leverage your money.

 These solutions just provide an amount of cash for when the event happens, which is not the same as planning for the event that you know is going to happen.

 You are dying and things will break, you just don’t know when.

 Seven years on from my own illnesses I now run a small (er) consultancy, telling the truth about making your business work hard for you, investing, money, internet marketing, sales, offline marketing and life.

 My work has been featured by Brighton University, Financial Adviser magazine and Barnet University amongst others. I’m only telling you this because all of the above surprised me, guess they think I’m good at what I do even if my own mind won’t accept it fully.

 My irreverent approach annoys some, but all of what I say is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

 Let me tell you how to avoid the almighty fuck ups and move slowly toward some kind of freedom.

 Janice Joplin sang “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I don’t quite agree, but it is an interesting line. Having nothing to lose is an interesting position to be in.

 Of course it means you have everything to gain. Staying on the same pithy lines. JK Rowling said

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

 Mull over those for a few minutes. They may change your life. Money is a problem. Not having it, is a problem. Having a large amount of it takes time and effort to manage – it’s a problem.

Not having it is a constant time struggle to get it.

 That is why systems and processes are important.

 You wouldn’t dream of travelling to Spain without a simple plan, or arranging a Stag Night.

 A plan is one of the most important things you can have, little happens without one. You’d be surprised at the number of people who drift through life without even a simple plan.

 Like a lot of people, I once believed that the professionals I met in a working environment and whom I asked to do work for me were honest and able; accountants, web designers, Adwords guys, solicitors, financial specialists, mentors, people selling bright new ideas…

 …All of these specialists I naively accepted into my working life only to find many were plainly crooks, scallywags and charlatans and most were not up to scratch.

 So I’ve been on a mission to tell the truth about some of these subjects and more, sure I’ve spent hours of time understanding them but you know what – very little of it is complicated. Once you start to dig beneath the veneer many of these seemingly ‘hard’ things are much easier than we think.

 It’s why accountants and financial advisers work in contracting industries. It’s why the income of solicitors is decreasing and why many professions are struggling to survive. The information that was once made privy to just a few educated professionals is now available via a search on a smartphone.

 Information is not knowledge or a skill but it’s a great start in our understanding.

 Look, I couldn’t make a tree or create a living rabbit and no I can’t take a cat apart and put it back together again.

 None of what we do as investors, businesses owners or parents is as complicated as making a rabbit or a putting a cat’s internals together in the right order. We can grow a tree, just can’t make one.

 This is great news for us all, if it’s not overly complicated it means we can learn how to do it and get the results we need.

 One lesson I’ll give you now which should ‘strike a note’ is this.

 It’s not the cleverest, most erudite, or the hardest working that become rich, successful and adored by millions.

 Sure talent is talent, and those at the top of the pile have a certain innate thing going on. But most wealthy and happy people just soak up what’s around them, learn what’s required, learn from their mistakes and just get on with it.

 Provided you fail a lot, find out what doesn’t work, piss off a few people along the way – eventually you’ll arrive at that panacea, your very own Eden. Where you command what, where, why and enjoy the riches.

 Some important things about finding Eden are worth sharing now.

  1. It takes longer than you think
  2. You may not arrive – so enjoy the journey
  3. De-clutter your life of negs and naysayers now
  4. Time is the only thing you cannot buy more of

Pink Floyd wrote.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking

Racing around to come up behind you again

The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older

Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

Hold on to that for a minute.

Time

Time spent with your gorgeous partner in your favourite restaurant, eating your favourite food and thinking about the sex you’re going have afterwards goes as quickly as the time spent trying to make a payroll deadline when the overdraft is close to being maxed out.

 Time spent with your hands in a fire seems to drag on forever. As Einstein said (ok maybe not with these words) “time is relative to where you are and what you are doing.”

 Time spent avoiding getting ‘bitten on the bum’, doing income tax, finding new clients, making sure you are profitable, knowing your numbers, looking after good staff members, testing your marketing, working out how to increase prices. Is all time well spent.

 Time spent watching trash TV, nosing around the internet, getting emotionally involved with things that you didn’t care about last year. It’s all a waste of valuable, can’t get no more of it – time.

 You can always get more money, you can never get more time.

Urgent or important.

Not all events, people or businesses processes are equal. It’s not possible to earn a ‘mill’ a year doin’ £8.50 an hour work – not enough hours. Choose wisely where to spend your time. Avoid letting things become urgent, in particular where the problem is not yours.

 Four words that I like to start my presentations with – you are gonna die (thanks to Gary V for that).

 What you do between now and then is important. Tick tock.

 You might think you need to know how to fly a plane in order to run an airline, you don’t (ask Branson). But having knowledge of how a plane works and the mechanics of an airline and an airline business is important if you are to be a success. Sure, you’ll need some well rounded and knowledgeable people to help you along the way but you don’t need to be an expert in what you do.

 When you are ready to start learning a different approach fire off an email to:-

book@therichardsmith.com 

 You’ll be welcomed into my inner sanctum or as my wife calls it “my lair” – sounds creepy, but it’s not.

In a nutshell.

 Don’t listen to everyone you meet, some of them are plain stupid. Look for what’s obvious, often this is not what everyone else is doing.

 Ignore what you been told about business, investing or becoming financially independent; it’s not complicated or particularly hard.

 Looking at what everyone else is doing, and then doing the opposite is a good start.

 Look at the wealthy people you know, what do they do? Do the same as them.

 Do nothing get nothing. You and I both are entitled to nothing, not now not ever. The market only rewards us for the value we add – don’t add value and you don’t get anything.

 If you are not asking for sales, asking for the order, asking for a favour you’ll never get an answer. Which means your answer is always no. Action, action, action.

Writing Things Down

If it’s not written down it either won’t happen, didn’t happen or shouldn’t have happened. The most successful of my clients (and the world in general) write a lot of things down. Use a Journal.

 Brainfarts – those little thoughts that appear can be exciting, but are often forgotten in the same time it takes for a fart smell to leave the room.

 Sometimes they are insightful and other times of no use. But write them down, it creates space in your head for other thoughts, if your life is full of stuff then nothing new can come into it.

 Your mind is no different – write your thoughts down. Give yourself some space. You’ll be having a few as you read, write them down. They maybe handy for later.

Observe a lot, observe your own mind, observe people the marketplace, not what’s going on, the things you see – some of these are important.

 I’m not sure where this short story first came from. I was told it or read it a long while ago. If you know who first told it please get in touch and I’ll credit it.

~#~

 There was an old man caught in a flood, he ends up drowning, gets to heaven and he asks St Peter why God had let him die?

 St Peter looks a little confused and the man states again “I was praying for God to save me and he didn’t – why didn’t he come, why didn’t he answer my prayer and save me from certain death?”

 St Peter looked at the man and said “let me check the records and I’ll get back to you.” He disappears for five minutes and comes back with a small piece of paper in hand.

“Having checked the logs I’m sorry to say your recollection of the events leading up to your death are confused, at 8am this morning we sent a Police Car, at 11.41am an Ambulance , at 3pm we sent Father Patrick and at 5pm a Helicopter, all you’d tell them was that you were waiting for God to come and save you – we were all trying very hard, but you didn’t see the signs.”

~#~

 Often that voice in our head is a sign, a warning, a message; perhaps even a little nag that something needs changing. Do you hear it, can you see the signs in front of you? They are nearly always there just often misinterpreted or worse still not seen.

 Make sure you write them down, just in case they are a sign. The second time you hear it or see it – maybe just maybe it’ll make more sense.

 Note: I’m not talking about the negative voice in your head, the one that tells you that “you’re stupid and this’ll never work.” Not that one – I call that the Idiot, it’s not real or you. Get a journal, use it.

Sit- Rep

One little exercise I ask members of my mentoring group (the Ninjas) to do is to create a ‘sit rep’ like they do in the Army.

 Note down, what’s happening, what’s on your mind, what problems you have. Put them in your journal, leave them for twenty four hours. Tell your mind that’s what you are going to do, and then go do something else.

 Firstly, it shuts up the voice in your head – you’ve told it what you plan to do and written it down. The ’Idiot’ shuts up.

 Look at the ‘sit rep’ in the morning. What problems have been solved without input, some just disappear.

 What new ideas have you come up with to solve the problem(s)? Amazing eh!

 My further collection of thoughts and comments along with some of my best advice follows. Enjoy, and when you’re ready to get a shimmy on in your biz, get in touch.

No One Is Coming To Save You

No matter what you think about politics, local or national. No matter what you think about things changing, no matter how much you hope or pray…

…No one is coming down the high street on a White Charger to scoop you up, to save your arse.

 Hoping that one day a simple tool, a one click button or a groundbreaking process; or a forward thinking politician will arrive with a change that improves your business, your finances and your emotional life beyond recognition – in a good way – is a false hope.

 Sure a hope that things will change, things will get better is something that is built into our DNA. Hope springs eternal. Good luck with it.

 Nothing changes on it’s own, little gets better without outside help or without some force being put on it – poked.

 You need to take your own hope, scoop it up and put it in your own little bag, place it in your pocket. Keep it there as a reminder that hope is good but it changes nothing.

 Then go take some action to move things forward. Hope delivers when you combine it with action. Use hope as a rabbit’s foot or a lucky coin, keep it with you. Just don’t rely on it as a viable method of solving anything.

 Meanwhile, no one cares about you, so you might as well go on and be the one thing you want to be, to make the change you deserve. Just remember no one is waiting to hand it to you. There is no invite to the party at the top, your seat at the table is waiting for you. But you have to earn your place.

 Like the Roman’s fighting the Celts, those little celtish fuckers had a habit of turning up when least expected, and knifing the highly trained Romans in the arse, in the woods, in the dark whilst it was raining.

 The Celts also made pretty good roads.

 Surprise yourself and be more Celt. But don’t wait for a White Knight on her charger – – she ain’t coming, not now not ever.

Small Biz Lead Generation – Raising Your Profile.

Big up myself. The lady I use to do some coding has been in touch this week to let me know that chunks of my content has been used for research and sessions as part of a Brighton Uni – business course.

 Can tell you this, that pleased me. I have in the past lectured at Barnet Uni on digital business and business planning as part of their Business Degree course. Can you imagine, sweary ol’ me, in front of a bunch of students. They loved the irreverence of it.

 Business Lesson in that. Put your content out there, promote it and you’ll either be put on a pedestal by someone else or not, none of us know. But by doing nothing, standing for nothing, not having an opinion means you won’t ever be asked to lecture to a group on your specialist subject.

 Just look how that happens now, the next time you turn on Radio 4, Newsnight or open the Telegraph. You’ll read, watch or hear content from ‘experts’. Who are these people?

 They are the ones that have dared put their opinion out into the ether and are Googleable. Most know little, and some nothing, honestly. Their specialist knowledge can often written on the back of a postcard but they dared to have a published opinion and made sure that opinion was known.

 Go publish your opinion, your knowledge. Put yourself on the Golden Pedestal of Knowledge on your specialist subject – dare ya.

 As further evidence of how that works I have had a good number of articles in some very erudite and paid for publications. Each publication approached me.

Knowing Your Business Numbers

Every business owner I have ever worked with has missed out on money and usually it’s because of a few simple things that have not been done. Let me explain.

Let’s say you make and sell a widget.

 It sells for £1 and costs £.50p to make, market, sell and ship. Profit is £.50p. Simple enough, the return on investment is 100%.

Decrease the costs of sale to £.40p (20%) by

  • Reducing your marketing costs
  • Increasing your sales conversion rates
  • Putting in place follow up processes
  • Chasing repeat orders/upsells
  • Asking for referral business or introductions
  • Reducing your Adword spend
  • Using social media
  • Using email marketing
  • Using joint ventures

 If possible reduce other costs, website, stationary, banking, staff, heat and light – all of these are finite but useful options.

 Good news is, by reducing costs by 20% you actually increase margins to 125% without doing much else.

 Of course testing some price increases and finding new markets and uses for your widgets means you could increase profits exponentially.

 The idea is that you don’t do this all at once, you do it over a period of weeks or months and test all the time.

 This is what I call — going deep instead of wide.

 It really is about knowing your numbers, knowing exactly what happens when you start a marketing campaign, send an email or do some social media posting – it’s all trackable, and if it’s trackable you can make money from it (oh, if it’s not trackable stop doing it).

 Yup that includes stupid stuff like placing in ads in Catholic Today when you sell contraceptive devices, ok bit extreme that one – but get my drift.

 Meanwhile if you want evidence of how this number thing works in the real world, go look at insurance company profits.

 These are business that really know their numbers – they provide you with a quote that accurately represents their risk and future profit need, by knowing their numbers they can afford to pay the following PER CLICK on Adwords (July 2017 pricing).

  • Home and contents insurance £13 per click
  • Car insurance £5.59 per click *
  • Professional indemnity insurance £38.39

*for ‘comparison insurance’ it’s over £12

 Let me ask you how can any business afford to pay this kind of figure?

 The answer is this. The businesses that know their numbers can.

 Now I know you’ll give me all of the reasons you don’t, can’t and won’t know your numbers, three more reasons to come and join me over at the Ninjas.

 Interesting point, the top three most expensive ‘clicks’ on Google are Loans and Insurance, followed by Mortgage and Mortgage – you didn’t know that- there is whole market for misspelt words on Google did you?

 Numbers are important, knowing yours more so. Get this part of your business right and things will soon start to change.

Time Freedom – time is the only thing you cannot get more of.

Use it wisely you never know when it’s going to run out.

 Take five minutes and look around, everything you see has been created by someone, they made money from it. They exchanged their creation time for money.

 Money buys freedom, fact. Money can’t buy time we know that. But it can buy you the freedom to do what you want with your time which is very helpful.

 The same thinking, doing the same things that have led you to now, to here will never deliver financial independence or they would have done so by now.

 If your bank balance is not going up daily or at least monthly something’s not right. Even if you don’t want to focus more on the money, use your bank balance to keep score – to work out where you are in the game.

 Where are you now. How much have you got, what are you worth?

Go on add it up. This is a powerful exercise.

 Get to a total of everything you own. And then add up all the income you’ve ever had in your life.

 All of the wages, gifts – everything that’s ever passed through your fingers. Do it roughly there is no need to be penny accurate.

 I know you can’t remember you salary in 1981 or 1996 but do your best. Once you have two figures:-

  1. What you are worth today.
  2. How much money you’ve had.

Add them together.

 Surprising isn’t it. All that money that’s just gone into the ether with some remaining in assets. Instead of your money working for you, you’ve been trading your life to accrue it and then spent most of it on stuff.

 Selling your time for money is not a good thing (think job). Many of you reading this will either be just over broke or slightly over and have assets that are non income producing – not working for you.

 I know what this feels like. I spent a chunk of my life like that in two separate instalments. One caused by divorce and the other by ill health. I am not completely over that yet, but I am working towards a brighter future

 Remember this, once you have exchanged your pound (the one you’ve spent time earning) for something else, a Skinny Latte, Iphone or whatever widget you’ve purchased. That pound (time) will never come back to you again, it’s gone. It’s been exchanged.

 You’ve traded your life for money and then given it up to someone else in exchange for what?

 It won’t be more life, you can’t get any more.

 Sure having money means you may be able to extend your life by a bit, maybe months or possibly a few years but that’s it.

Stop Wasting Time on TV

Sure catching up on world affairs is important, but watching soaps, Eastenders etc. Is not really a good use of your life.

 Let me ask you about the world affairs thing, even if you know what’s going on (and it’s always historic) can you change any of it, has your life, day, week or month been transformed by your new knowledge of what Trump or Macron said next?


 The Brexit thing is also amazing, instead of considering what is going to happen next, spend your time on what the opportunities are going to be?


 Probably not! Ask yourself the question – what value is there for me in watching another hour of TV?

 It’s the Matrix. All the time you are stuck in front of it you are transported into someone else’s world.

 You’ll be watching people who are doing their dream jobs, living their dream lives. It really is the opium of the masses. Do I watch Towie and some of Love Island- sure.

 Why, because they are mildly amusing but also full of little snippets that I can wind into an article or a PR item, maybe even to see what advertisers are saying.

 But not spending hours on the sofa.

Tick- Tock – Tick – Tock

Don’t Wait

The clock is ticking. I’ve met so many people who are waiting. Waiting for the markets to settle down, waiting until the right job to come along, waiting for Labour or the Lib-Dems to be elected…

 There is no point in becoming one of life’s waiters.

 All of the self development knowledge in the world tells us that time is important – once wasted it never comes back. It’s exactly the same as spending money – once spent on stuff if never comes back. Getting more money is pretty easy once you know how, but you will never get more time – for the second time.

 Waiting is something us humans (or Brits) seem to be good at. There is no time to wait, you’ll be dead before anything good happens to you.

 We (all of us) waste the only resource that is not replaceable – those minutes and hours we get every day.

 For those of us lucky enough to arrive at age 75 you would have lived for about 657,000 hours, and slept for about 217,000 of them leaving 440,000.

 Of which some 192,000 are used up for an education (assumed to age 22).

 You are left with 248,000 with 27,000 or so spent on holiday (chillaxing for 3 weeks every year) leaving 190,000 hours left, to work (58,000 odd) and enjoy.

Facts About Time

Every minute of every day resets every minute, what you did in the last minute does not need to resemble the next minute. You can apply that to the hour, day, week, month and year.

 What happened yesterday does not force the same to happen today, you have a choice. Make different decisions. Don’t waste time.

 Using money wisely allows you to leverage time, having investment income means you can chill in the bath, watch your favourite team play, spend time with your loved ones, watch TV even.

 Having income that you are not working for allows you to spend money on a house cleaner, a car valet all manner of time saving things.    

 You will then have time to enjoy your life, not wait for a time when you are invited by your pension provider to enjoy it. Being half dead before you become financially independent is not the right answer.

 Follow the steps, join me over at the Ninja’s; review, test alter and adapt but don’t sit on your hands and wait.

Drop me an email book@therichardsmith.com and I’ll send you some more handy tools and tricks.


“Buy experiences not stuff” Richard Smith.

Spending time in Costa talking about the weather and spending a tenner on coffee and cake is not an experience.

Might seem like it, but it’s not.


 Don’t bother trying to reinvent anything, it takes much too much time, you have enough to learn for the time being.

 Put in place some of the things you’ll learn here, and once they have started to work for you and pay an income, then you can start to look at the other options and maybe start to create your own way.

At the moment, use your time wisely.

Eighteen ways to save time or to at least use it wisely

  • Spend the first hour of everyday working on  your business, focus
  • Turn off your phone, email, social at least daily
  • Write a ‘will do’ list every evening
  • Use the 90 day goal setting approach
  • Do your homework
  • Question each task
  • Don’t answer your phone
  • Make callbacks between one and two every day
  • Respond to email one or twice everyday
  • Never move paper twice
  • Delegate
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Get an assistant
  • Template responses
  • Document your processes and then outsource
  • Focus on the high value work. Marketing  

planning, building relationships

  •  Start a journal and use it
  • Use a diary/crm so your mind doesn’t need a reminder

Small Business, Artificial Intelligence And Old Stuff

There’s lots of talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the moment and for most small businesses and in sales and marketing it’s not going to have much of an effect, well at least not for the time being.

 But for retail I think It’s going to be an issue in the same way robotics has changed manufacturing.

 Interesting that Amazon, Apple and Google have all recently launched AI tools that are promising the earth, and with large chunks of the BBC’s online content being ‘machine led and written’ it’s interesting times.

 That said, a well crafted email from a friend or trusted individual will do wonders to open doors or lift the spirits and sometimes provide some timely guidance.

 One game changer in town is Persado, which claims to be taking engagement to a new level, via social and email content that ‘ticks the boxes’ (just hate that phrase).

 A lot of multinationals are using Persado as a content/engagement farm and it claiming great results. For me, I’m not buying into the hype just yet.

Persado is the first, it won’t be the last.

 When you start to look at the key points on this subject you’ll note that:

 The English language only has 26 letters, from which there are many millions of books that have been created, some of these have been around since before the printing press – often called Pre Gutenberg books and these continue to sell in the many hundreds of thousands each year.

 It takes a certain kind of human to write information that lasts for more than twenty generations, to engage thoughtfully and to provide answers.

 Machines ain’t that good yet. Sure they may be better than the average content writer but never as good as a simple, well crafted message to a friend, or from your GP or Oncologist.

 For us humans, it’s the contents of the message and the meaning that’s important. Writing should have an emotional connection if it is to make sense, to be enjoyed and remembered.

Machines are not going to achieve that just yet.

Small Business Lead Generation – Old Stuff Still Works.

In the depth of an old paper file I found an article I wrote some years back (2008) it’s still relevant today. So I thought I’d share.

 Us self employed entrepreneurial types are always looking for the next thing, another angle, something else to look at, something else to solve a problem.

 So we turn to books, the internet, certain podcasts and to people we share our lives with. Often looking for that one little snippet, the last bit of the jigsaw that makes it all complete. Once we’ve found that everything will work out just so. Won’t it?

 But the market moves on. Google change their algorithm slightly, the cost of adwords creeps up, someone ‘up north or darn sarf’ starts to undercut your pricing and very soon the agitation that caused you to start your business in the first place, that need for freedom, the need to do it your way, to offer something different starts to become a noose around your neck…

 …Slowly tightening but without anyone really pulling on it. At the moment it’s just a feeling that things are not what they were, for some reason it doesn’t feel right. A nag, a sleepless night, a call from the bank, your online system falling over. Your reaction is to immediately feel like it’s the end of the world, this is something big.

 So you keep reading, researching, being nosey, looking around like a Meerkat on steroids, hoping for the next new thing. You buy some books, purchase some training, maybe even some consultancy, a year on things have just got worse.

Stop.

 This is what happens to hundreds and thousands of small business owners every year, you spend time learning, understanding and then nothing. I call it ‘bright shiny new thing’ syndrome and it ends up as ‘shelf help’ in that it sits on the shelf and stares at you.

 There is little that is new, much of what you read and see is recycled, repeated, washed and rinsed, repackaged.

 On the internet, online and in books much of the stuff you’ll get access to is regurgitated, stories that are told time and time again, and you have to stop.

 Do nothing with any new stuff until you have actioned that last thing you learned, the last snippet you picked up. If you’ve not taken action on it – you’ve just been diagnosed with ‘bright shiny new thing’ disease and your business, your life is not going to change until you start to take action on, to put into practice the thing you have just spent time and money on.

 I’ve seen it hundreds of times and it’s real. A very real illness.

 So please don’t be that guy (or gal). Whatever you picked up the last time you learned something, if you haven’t yet put it into practice stop where you are.

 Do not do another thing until you’ve started using the thing you already know about.

 There is a problem, and it’s this. You ain’t doing what you should be doing with stuff you already know, knowing more stuff ain’t gonna help.

Go fucking do.

 There is a reason a lot of pre Gutenberg books continue to sell (remember these are the books that were printed before mass low cost printing was available) and the reason they continue to sell is because the information contained in them is timeless and still relevant today.

 These books are based around principles, fundamental things that make everything work.

Stop wasting your time on new things. Look at what’s working for you now, yeah really look and then go do a lot more of it. Meanwhile, test some different approaches whilst continuing to work the old – you’ll be amazed at how much of a shift you get.

 You’ll find plenty of things that work but not until you start to take some action.

 Action action action. I’m starting to sound like a broken record now.

 Do something, send an email, get a list of prospects and phone them, reach out to your suppliers, these are the people you pay, ask them if you can do some cross marketing, offer to do the same for them first.

You’ve got loads of options, just go do something.

 Here is a short list of books that will teach you something on most of the pages. Yeah sure there’s some that will piss people off, religious, non religious, geeks and freaks, a few hard to read, some a bit easier.

 Just remember this, there is a reason these books survive, unlike Greenshield Stamps, Woolworths and a ton of other casualties of the last fifty years.

Here they are not in any particular order.

The Confessions of St. Augustine

The Bible

The New Testament

The Old Testament

The Apocrypha of the Bible

The Book of Proverbs

The Republic by Plato

On the Brevity of Life by Seneca

Apology by Plato

The Histories of Herodotus

Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Tao Te Ching

Histories of Cornelius Tacitus

Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas

Analects of Confucius

Lives of Plutarch

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The works of Aristotle

The works of Hippocrates

I Ching

The Enneads of Plotinus

Elements by Euclid

The Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius

Geography by Ptolemy

The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer

The Odes of Horace

The Kama Sutra

The Quran

Canon of Medicine by Avicenna

The Canterbury Tales Chaucer

The Bhagavad Gita/The Upanishads

The Aeneid of Virgil

The Arabian Nights

The Divine Comedy by Dante

Go read some of these, I know you’ll be surprised.

Resistance Is Futile

Title is probably taken from a Doctor Who (circa 1967) or maybe even later, it certainly appeared as line in Star Trek very recently, so why the reference?

 Here is the rub with resistance. Change is the only constant and our minds hate it, the Lizard Brain (Amygdala) a tiny but ancient part of our human brain hates it.

 Change is bad as far as it’s concerned – reason being is this.

 It has no references for new things, it just doesn’t make sense to it; new environments – think a dark forest and your car breaking down; or a party full of strangers. It kicks off your flight or fight response even if the environment is harmless. It’s what it does and it’s learned over the millennia to do just that.

 It’s one of the reasons you and I exist, we’ve evolved to this point and it’s the Lizard Brain that’s kept us safe. But where does this resistance come in, what causes it.

 I’ve not done a lot of research on the subject but have read enough to explain a couple of things. We know that in order to move forward in our personal or business lives we need to overcome resistance, until we get our head around this there can be no change.

 So here are a couple of mind tools to use in order to overcome resistance.

  1. Focus on the benefits the change will bring you or your customer.
  1. Work out the pressure points, exactly what is it that’s causing the resistance and are these things real?
  2. Are you lacking skills, do you need to learn these skills or can you buy them?
  1. Can you do some testing to try out the change? Bounce all of the above off your peer group see what they say.

 Once you’ve done these things test the resistance levels again. If they’ve not reduced, then perhaps you need to consider carefully if you really want the change you are asking for.

 Perhaps it’s the (your) reason why you do what you do. Having a mission, a bloody great objective that drives you on is important. Just being half interested in something, just kind of maybe it would be nice to do, doesn’t really cut it.

 Resistance should’s all over a small why. Should do that, should do this, should’ve done it last week. You end up shoulding all over yourself.

 When you are having a bad day, some arse on social media has been rude to you, when you’ve not converted a lead for weeks – your why will drive you on.

Short term goals.

Often the gooroos talk about setting big goals, SMART ones, audacious ones, change the ffin’ world ones.

 It’s all too much for your mind to understand fully, sure we all want the riches, the big house, the cars and cash in the bank. That’s a given, why make a long term goal out if it.

 In order to keep your mind focused don’t ever set goals longer than three months – this keeps your head in the game. If you can’t change things in three months, you’re either lazy or stupid or need some help. Harsh? Well three months is a long enough for anyone to get change.

Growing Your Business By 20% in a Few Months

Have you thought that it might be possible?

I can tell you that it is. There is a secret sauce.

This is the thing you need to have.

 A Loyalty Scheme – something that all of your customers can buy into, to accept a relationship with you in return for your very best offers and online/offline content.

 Preferably one that automates your messaging and social posting, and at the same time controls your testimonials, and is findable by the internet search engines – to make you Googleable.

 Customers love them – but they must be easy to use and controlled by you.

 You’ll need automated messaging built in – no more having to cut and paste hundreds of emails or sms messages; or worse still using your mobile.

 Email and SMS messaging should be preset for holidays and high days.

 You’ll need to build in Daily Deals and offers – you can base these on a limited number/ or increasing in price – the same as Groupon or Wowcher without the cost and loss of control.

 Throw in a direct mail facility – so you can create postcards/letters and flyers on your computer and get them printed and posted without leaving the office – at a far lower cost than print and post. Importantly you can schedule these to support your email, sms and social marketing.

 This is a very powerful marketing and sales system for your business.

 Build in a complete CRM system (Customer Relationship Management), a high quality diary and contact manager and your business sales will start to change dramatically.

 By getting control over customer reviews you build in powerful tools = a war chest. Simple redirects keep you in control – a tell us first box.

 Once you’ve collected your own customer data, that can be extended to collect reviews in real time – with you in full control.

 This kind of system means you can increase sales in a way that can be controlled by you, and get your very best customers coming back and build in a review and testimonial process.

 No matter what kind of digital marketing you have tried before this beats them all because it finally integrates big chunks of pre sales admin and allows you to cross sell, upsell and maintain those all important customer relationships.

 It Is Proven That Loyalty Schemes Are A Sure Fire Way To Guarantee Repeat Business. Until now it has not been cost effective for small firms to do this.

2017 technology means every business owner that wants one, can have one.

Loyalty Schemes – Keep Customers Fact!

 There is a lot more science behind these schemes than most small business owners actually know – the factual research follows, evidence is evidence.

 Price is not the main reason for customer churn, it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service – Accenture global customer satisfaction report.

How do you manage pricing and customer service?

 A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related – Bain & Company research.

How do you monitor in real time your customer service?

 The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Marketing Metrics research.

Based on these stats only the plain stupid will ignore existing customers.

 For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent – Lee Resource research.

Without having a conversation with you will never know.

 A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10% – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy. 

How do you retain customers?

The reason the largest UK firms use some form of Loyalty Scheme is – because they work.

 A timely offer sent via the post, email or text message just when you think you have been forgotten gets you running back to the shop to buy some more of whatever it is that’s being offered.

 Like Pavlov’s Dog who salivated when a bell was rung – customers come running back.

 Of all the strategies I have put in place for clients over the last ten years – it’s communication and offers that keeps them coming back for more, creating regular and loyal customers.

 Importantly they allow you to educate and inform your customers – at the same time increase sales.

  • Loyalty schemes make your customers feel wanted.
  • Loyalty schemes make your customers feel like they have a special deal.
  • Loyalty schemes make your customers want more.          

With recent changes in technology and costs falling rapidly for web based platforms you can now compete with the ‘big players’ in your marketplace.

 Once your customers are part of your scheme you have them for life, provided you keep them updated with regular offers and deals they will keep coming back.

Helps You Build A Community Of Loyal Customers – a fan base, a tribe.

Your skill is doing what you do and doing it well.

 By making sure your offers are perfectly structured and timed you can switch offers on and off at will.  

 Even if you don’t know the best time to make an offer there are steps you can take to find out what they want, and I’ll help you along the way, whenever you need.

 These offers can be sent via the post, email or text message whenever you decide. You manage the entire process.

 If your business doesn’t have one of these you are missing out. It’s taken me over five years to develop this, yeah sure I could have gone and purchased a license for an all singing all dancing ‘till based’ system, problem is most small businesses don’t have the £20k to implement and then £1.5k per month to service.

Good job you won’t need that kind of cash to have one of these working for you.

State of Self Employed Pensions (2016)

Which Pension Pig is feeding at your trough?

 Every year one of the main UK financial publications produces a pension survey; it’s a whole of market thing where all of the main pension providers submit a return.

 It provides a snapshot of actual investment returns over a range of timescales. Effectively it shows in real terms, if you did x you would end up with y.

 I enjoy reading it, because I am a geek when it comes to pensions and the truth around these things.

 See, these pension plans are so damn complicated and few consumers really understand them.

 Complexity is just one of the problems you face when considering making a plan for the future, but more on that in a bit.

 If you invested £200 per month (ignoring tax relief for the moment) you could have ended up with any of the following results.

*Source Money Management Pension Survey

 What’s brilliant about these figures is that it shows up in clear detail why your choice of pension provider is important, but also why the choice of fund is equally as important. More important than both of those, is the level of charges.

 Pensions have gone through great change in recent years and very few of the plans in the marketplace do what you think they are doing – looking after you.

 Based on my maths it would seem that the pension provider, and the taxman does nearly as good as you via pensions and you take all of the risk.

 The world of pensions has moved on substantially in the last five years and in my experience most financial advisers have not.

I’ll gladly send you some of my online tools just get in touch.

 I’ll even give you thirty minutes at no charge – just don’t tell everyone.

 You can’t ignore your long term planning – it’s the reason we all do what we do – to make the long term better.

 Question is what to do next, put your money into stock so you can sell more, pay off your mortgage or plough money into pensions.

 The last of those is probably the last thing you should do.

Alison Average – Just an Ordinary British Girl

Let me introduce Alison, she was wondering where all of her money went on a monthly basis, so I helped her by showing how her lifetime of money would look if she did nothing, made no plans.

Her working lifetime spend repaying debt and taxation is below.

 Alison Average was twenty years of age on the 18th January 2016. Her working life will be 48 years.

 Assuming she continues working she can expect to get £115 per week from the State Pension Scheme, starting on the 18th January 2064. July 2017 update – now a year later – guess where this is going?

Alison works in an average job for average pay of £26,500. This means that over a lifetime she will earn £1,272,000. It’s likely to be substantially more than that, inflation and job progression etc will help to boost her lifetime earnings. She should be pleased with that, a lifetime millionaire – only it’s paid in instalments.

 Ordinary people like Alison don’t get to keep all of their income.

 Some of it will be taxed and other bits forced into pensions; she also has living costs to find, she is the same as you and I.

 When I first started looking at the true effects of lifetime taxation on ordinary people I did a double take – just didn’t really believe the figures.

 So here are the figures. Remember these the next time you head over to the Ballot Box to cast your vote – you pay dearly for these people. Which is why managing your taxes makes more sense now than ever.

Alison Average – A Lifetime of Taxation and Debt Repayment.

Lifetime Income Tax And National Insurance£258,624
Lifetime Travel Costs£76,800
Total Mortgage Costs £205,500 borrowed (Interest £75K)£75,000
Council Tax (48 years)£48,000
Fuel Duty£35,948
VAT£34,560
Wine Duty£13,728
Stamp Duty£7,500
Credit Card Interest£6,350
Insurance Premium Tax£5,928
Home Fuel VAT£2,995
Lifetime Income Net£1,272,000
Total Tax And Interest£559,083
For Alison£712,917
In Percentage Terms Alison Keeps56.05%

 After Income Tax and National Insurance Alison gets around £1758 per month, however her gross pay is £2208.33 per month, which means £449 is deducted before she gets it. Over her working life she gives to the government via income taxes £258,624.

She did not opt to do a degree or she would have had to fund the costs of that, and could have had around £50,000 in debt to repay, interesting that the interest charge on this amount in 2017 will be 6.1%.

 Alison does not have the means to buy a house on her own she could not afford one. She has found a flat which is ideal, but she will have to commute into London – it’s not possible to find a flat within her budget and within walking distance of her work.

 She will have a season ticket cost of £1600 per year, or £76,800 over her working life.

 She decides to buy the flat at £145,000 with a mortgage via one of the major high street lenders, she borrows 95% (£130,000). Her mum helped out with the deposit.

 Monthly cost assuming interest rates remain the same is £685 which means she will pay back around £205,000 over the life of the mortgage, and pay around £1,000 per annum in Council Tax over her remaining working life, if Alison lives to average age (81.5) she can expect this to total over £61,500.

 As she is buying her own home, she will also have to find Stamp Duty. Assuming she only moves three times during her lifetime than she’ll have to find another £7500 or so (assuming she buys at current prices).

 Of course if she is lucky enough, saves and invests wisely then she could end up investing in property (one strategy that works) under the new rules for stamp duty she could pay substantially more in this kind of tax.

 That said the new (current) tax rules around Buy to Let will have a large impact looking forward, so perhaps she’ll leave that for the time being.

 Her mum got her a car for her birthday, and she spends around £20 every week on fuel, visiting family and her boyfriend.

 Based on an average of £80 month (£960 per year), she has to pay Fuel Duty at 57.95p per litre, and of course VAT. Fuel Duty is £556.32 per year and VAT making up another £192 every year.

 Over Alison’s working life that makes around £36,000 in additional taxation.

 Alison also drinks the odd glass of wine with her friends; she’s not sure but thinks it’s around the government guidelines which is two 750cl bottles per week, meaning the total Wine Duty cost is about £5.50 per week or £13,728 over her working life.

 She does have some other expenses, and Alison spends around £300 per month on food and clothing. Most of which has VAT added. She’s not sure of her itemised spending but she thinks most of it includes VAT, so around £60 per month goes to the Treasury. £34,560 over her working life.

 A few years ago she went on a very nice holiday and she put the cost of this on her credit card which leaves her with just half of the UK average debt of £4500.

 This is likely to be paid off over the next ten years or so if she doesn’t increase her balance any more ( and based on average repayment times). The current interest rate on her card is 18.9% and if she makes the minimum payment she should clear the balance completely in around 31 years, and pay £6350 in interest.

 There are some incidental taxes, and these should be considered.

 Her home and car insurance has insurance premium tax (IPT) added at 9.5%. (IPT is 12% from June 2017) Alison pays £900 for her car insurance and £400 for home contents, making £123.50 per year or £5928 over her working life.

 Another incidental is the effect of VAT on home energy, as Alison is conservative user she only spends £104 per month on both, however the vat is £5.20 per month or £2995 over her working life, increasing to £3837 over her lifetime.

 Consider another of Alison’s additional payments – her pension. It’s likely she will be taking home less income to the tune of about £100 per month by making a pension contribution, however based on the level of charges (assumed 2%) she could expect to lose around 20% of her fund every ten years.

 Noting that if her pension fund ends up as nothing because of poor investment returns there is no recourse on the state or the company – she would have some comeback for just about every other consumer purchase, but none for pension non performance or excessive charges. Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is the right statement to use when talking about pensions.

 Despite various searches around the Government portals like Money Advice Service and the Financial Conduct Authority, the Pension Advisory service it’s not possible to clearly clarify the impact of charges, those sites that should offer calculators don’t.

 She can’t believe that in 2017 there is no simple method of comparison for pension providers and no Government intention of providing one.

 If she opts for Pension Freedom at retirement her overall charges will increase substantially.

 There are a number of things Alison Average can do to help with the amount of tax she pays, and by arranging her finances differently she could be saving many tens of thousands of pounds over her lifetime.

 Even if she manages to build up as little as two years salary, invested this will make a massive difference to her pre zimmer and post zimmer life.

 If Alison saves at least some of her money for her use rather than for everyone else to use – spent money is enjoyed by others and not by you; she could…

 Take longer holidays, perhaps a month off every year in the middle of winter.

 Take mini breaks of a couple of months every couple of years, like a mini retirement.

 Cash in the bank is freedom.

My Obsession With Honda Moped Engines And Your Business.

 As a child I was obsessed with finding out how stuff worked. I was the kid taking apart Honda moped engines in the kitchen on a Saturday as soon as mum popped out shopping. This ended up in later life with a compulsion to deconstruct stuff – to find out what was going and how or why it worked.

 It also stood me well, being able to rewire houses and put clutches in cars in my youth.

 My mum was always a bit pissed on her return – as there was nearly always a pool of oil on the kitchen floor when she returned to the house from a few hours at Tesco.

 This obsession caused me some problems in later life when I discovered computers, I actually really enjoyed taking them apart over the weekend. Not just apart but into bits.

 Once, when working for a large UK insurance company I dismantled the ‘company laptop’ and was forced to take it back to the office on Monday morning with a blank face – “I dunno why it won’t turn on it just won’t” – I never did take one of theirs apart again.

 That was during the 1990’s and a Toshiba Laptop was an expensive bit of kit.

What Has This Got To Do With You?

You are currently spending money on promoting your business, this money often hard earned has been taken and used by a third party. Which on the face of it seems a fair exchange. You handed over some cash and expected something in return, and what you got was something very different.

 Let me ask you – has your phone rang since you spent the money, and if so has it rung in proportion to the spend on advertising – has the number of leads gone up since the ad appeared?

 What about your online advertising? If you are using a directory listing or pay per click or even some kind of social media marketing. Is it working; is your phone ringing more since you started doing this?

Is the return more than the cost?

Why I Love Taking Things Apart

When I left the large UK insurer (now merged with Aviva) I moved to managing my own teams (still with the habit of taking things apart) I spent hours testing options like the phone and direct mail with different members of sales staff, and testing all sorts of things in order to generate leads.

 Of course some of these would not work now as we have different approaches but without testing you just don’t know. You need to know what happens to each moving part of your sales system.

 I have also revived a couple of business secrets, one of which is still ignored by most businesses.

 The need to test stuff and to work things out has led me to here and now. With such a range of options to develop sales many owners are sucked in by parasitic sales people who are just pushing the same stuff they always have.

 If you Google ‘marketing for small business’ there are millions of options – most want to sell you a system a process. But not a true answer, and certainly no hand holding. Which is where I come in.

 I know you are not testing your advertising and I know the medium you have chosen to get your sales message is not working as well as it could. You may well ask how I know!

 At the moment most small businesses do not use any form of tracking, tracking your customer through a ‘lead generation process’ is probably the most important thing you can do – don’t do it and it’ll cost you sales and therefore money.

 How do I know this? I am the guy who has deconstructed most things at some point and now it’s how I partially earn my living. Not engines or laptops but sales processes and marketing systems.

 As I write this in 2013 the choices you have in relation to getting your sales message out to the market is just amazing, probably overwhelming!

 And that’s a problem because the more complex the options the less decisions you will make.

 Have you ever been into Starbucks or Costa and tried to order a coffee? The Barista normally looks at you like you have dog shit on your shirt, and then points to a list of over twenty coffee’s behind him.

 You are in exactly the same position when deciding to create the marketing medium for your business – there are just too many options, so you stick with the first offer to take your money, and it sucks.

 Local Newspapers. Most local newspapers end up in the bottom of a Guinea Pig cage/Cat litter tray (choose your own pet) paid for by you.

 Even if you were to make a choice for your marketing, which one do you choose?

 You could call a specialist, social media, pay per click, SEO, PR, web designer, graphic artist.

 The list goes on and on. Few of these people have ever created a sales and marketing campaign and often have never sold anything, let alone deconstructed a Honda moped engine, a laptop or a sales process.

 Go ask them to explain the difference between a two stroke and a four stroke engine, the difference between diesel and petrol engines. The benefits of SEO over Adwords – most can’t or won’t.

 Which is why I always start my work with new clients focusing on what they have and teaching you how to max out on these before you spend another penny.

 Like finding a good fishing spot, or a full well. You should keep dipping your rod, filling your bucket until the bucket stops filling or fish stop biting.

 I call it going deep instead of wide. Meanwhile, start to test other mediums, other approaches looking for that all elusive panacea.

 Because until you have found out what actually works in your market, until you have tested and grown a number of systems you will never know what is going to work.

 However with simple system it’s possible to get close to Model A.

Business marketing – What People Think The Model Looks Like.

Spend Money – Model A        Spend Money Model B (sales are top right)

 Because until you have found out what actually works in your market, until you have tested and grown a number of systems you will never know what is going to work. However with simple systems it’s possible to get close to Model A.

 I work with business owners who want to make more sales and I help them alter, adapt and change what’s going on. Without breaking what is currently working – that way sales can only go one way … up!

 Nearly all businesses do one or two types of lead generation and rarely cross sell other products or services, or even cross market – those that do (think Amazon as the best at it) end up being massive businesses.

 What about partnerships and joint ventures? This has made millions for Airlines and still produces millions for the magazine industry.

 A clear process for cross marketing – is one way of ballooning profits..

Importantly for you there is a formula to do just this.

 Small business sales and marketing is formulaic, in that it’s possible to have in place a series of things that you do (parts of a formula) that come together as a whole which gives you a process to work with.

 The full formula is like baking a cake, you need a recipe.

 But if you don’t follow a cake recipe correctly, it won’t rise or won’t taste right or something will go wrong with it – it’s a chemical thing; whereas a Sunday roast is more complicated in terms of ingredients but a lot more forgiving. Little too much salt, a little over cooking and it’s not a disaster. Not so with a cake.

 It’s all cooking just different.

Same with business.

 Business formulae can be outsourced or handed over to staff or a third party – a freelancer in order for them to work parts of your system which frees you up to build your business. Like having or even being your own chef.

A system/formula = leverage. Whoop whoop.

 Most of the work you do can be done by someone else. If you follow a formula and the processes contained within it, you can trust just about anyone to do it. Importantly, which is where it gets really sexy is that much of it can be …

…AUTOMATED

 No human hands at all.

So what is one of the secrets? 

FMP + A = Follow up Marketing Plan +

Automation.

 This is one of the things that set’s the men and the boys apart. It’s ballsy and ignored by many as ‘ being far to intensive for my business’ or worse still ‘that wouldn’t work for us’ which is plainly rubbish.

 Your business deals with people and they want to feel connected and in touch. Not ignored.

An Aside

That hottie you met in the bar last week, and you enjoyed a moment or two with – that’s there again tonight, is not going to be very forgiving when you blank them completely. It’s human nature to be rattled by something like that. Customers are no different. Don’t blank them, date them.

 This is the biggie, the one that changes everything. Whether you’re buying in leads via Facebook at .50p a pop or doing email marketing via a joint venture partner.

FMP + A is a game changer.

 It is now possible to track your customers movements and actions and provide them with information and education when they want it – without you touching it.

 Importantly the systems you need to put this in place are so easy to implement (once you know how).

 My work with businesses like yours helps put all of the above in place, to teach you how to really grow your business without spending any more on conventional marketing. Or at least continue the conversation with the hottie until you decide enough is enough.

 It’s a sustainable and great way to grow a business, is easy to replicate and is guaranteed.

 Don’t forget – change is coming whether you like it or not and you have a simple decision – grasp that change now or be left behind.

Only Three Ways

Diploma in Management Studies 1980 – Henley.

 During that time there was a real state of flux around business with a good number of ‘management guru’s’ telling us how to start, run and manage things very differently.

 Most of what was taught then is ignored now, save three thing and they now seem to have been forgotten.

Here they are:

There are only three ways to grow a business.

1. Get more customers

2. Increase the value of sales to those customers

3. Get customers buying more often.

 The easiest way by far to grow a business is the use of 2 and 3 and 1 needs to be tested to be effective.

 For number 2 and 3 think Amazon and McDonald’s two of the most successful businesses on the planet.

Just by “Going Large” increases profits by about a third! Amazon always provide an ‘other customers also..’ link.

 Can you imagine a simple question, increasing profits by thirty percent?

It does. Don’t ever get bogged down with anything else in your business, use these simple rules to grow sales exponentially. There are only three.

Sales and Selling Has Changed

Not so long ago there was no symmetry in the sales process. The seller had all of the information and all the buyer bought to the table was the means to pay.

 Sellers ruled the world and there was nothing the purchaser could do about it.

 Then this brand new world arrived, the information age, the age of the internet. The age of limitless information.

 This new world of selling is more pull than push, more equal than ever.

 Let me outline the immediate areas for you to take action on or at least show how to amend your current sales and marketing activities.

 It’s important you don’t stop what you are doing. Maintaining sales is something that must be done, but you need to start building in your new approaches and testing all the time to make sure your new strategies outperform the old. Dropping those that don’t.

 There is something about business marketing that some firms seem to think more complex than it really is, and the reality is that the opposite is true. It is now easier than ever to get your message out to your chosen marketplace, using your chosen medium.

 Oh and don’t listen the braless, smock wearing, soya latte drinking, organic linen underwear mob over any of the ‘marketing institutes’ they’ll teach you nothing.

 But if no one knows what you do, if you don’t promote your great services and products (sales and marketing) there will never be a line of buyers waiting. Don’t ask don’t get, you may have heard that before.

 No longer have do you have to use ad agencies in order to place advertisements in the press, or magazines. Nor do you need permission from any third party in order to place ads online or off.

 Business marketing and then client relationship building should be the sole focus of all business owners, most of the time. Further, this is just another skill you need to know and understand, it is the most important role in your business. It’s much too important to outsource or to allow a third party to control.

 Yes you can delegate and you should, but you must keep control and understand the processes and options.

 The final part of this new world is the use of metrics – really understanding what is going on inside your business. If you don’t know then you don’t know.

 Not so long ago the car salesman knew all of the information about the vehicle. Nothing it seemed was understood by the buyer. If the buyer wanted information about the car, they had a few reviews in magazines and information from friends and family but that was about it.

An Austin 1300GT – why did I ever buy it?

 When I managed to save enough to purchase my first car, I had £900 of fresh and crisp ten pound notes. Thumbing through the local paper looking at ads.

 Found what I wanted. It had some service history and a new MOT. Perfect, a white Austin 1300 GT.

Did I need to know more?

 It looked good in the paper so I called the dealer and he offered me a deal, come down drive it – make an offer. How could I resist?

 Finally got off the bus outside of the dealer’s corner plot in Palmers Green (that’s North London) and it was parked on the front, all gleaming.

 It had the black interior and a vinyl roof. The ultimate in cool!

 At the time there was nothing I could check, just a viewing and a quick drive and the deal was done. How proud was I.

 Within weeks little niggles started to appear and it turned out to be a rotten wreck. I ended up taking up matters with the MOT station and submitting a formal complaint.

 Cars don’t rot in weeks and the MOT test was surely flawed. It should never have passed an MOT let alone be sold as good.

 You may remember the song from Godspell.

…if you are smart you will learn your lesson well.

 And I sure did that I can assure you.

 The car itself was pretty poor, but was very poor by design. And it sure wasn’t helped by some of the ‘work’ that had been done to it by the dealer. I assume.

 The car was unroadworthy and should never have passed an MOT test.

 The dealer knew exactly what he was selling – the knowledge was asymmetric I understood little and he knew it all.

 But the bill of sale binding my purchase was watertight. Those words that are forever etched on my mind – Sold as Seen and Approved

 Later in the 80s Lemon Laws were introduced to solve some of the problems with cars. These Lemon Laws were introduced to protect consumers across the world. These laws prevented the sale of known problem vehicles and other appliances.

For Years It Had Been All Too Easy.

It was easy for the car salesman to dupe the buyer into making a decision – they had all of the information about the product being sold and if it was a used car, usually some connection with the previous owner.

 The latin term caveat emptor ( buyer beware)was then known by everyone, except me.

 Buying anything twenty five years ago was a leap of faith, buying anything on price twenty five years ago meant getting on the phone, jumping in the car or browsing through catalogues for hours. Nothing was easy.

 Moving forward to today, there are loads of magazines and dedicated TV channels for just about every subject. If you want a review from your peers in the world of consumer products there are websites and related media everywhere.

 Everybody’s an expert and all of the information is out there is free and sometimes a little unhinged. More often than not a little ‘dunning-kruger’.

 Of course not all you read on the internet or in Newspapers is true and accurate, you just need to look at the reviews on hotel or holiday resorts to find out everyone’s opinion.

 The public can say what they want and where they like online. Websites and forums, the likes of Qype have millions of reviews listed, some of these are not accurate or true but who cares. The public lap up the details and make decisions based on what they find.

 I have no idea how much a Which ‘Five Star Rating’ is worth in sales, nor how many more Top Gear ‘reasonably priced’ cars have been sold – but it will have an impact we know that.

 But there is more to it than that. Going back to the car analogy.

 Every consumer can now check lots of information online and off, for a small payment they can now get access to background checks – insurance write off information, manufacturer recalls, independent reviews and much more.

 MOT’s can be checked online and cars that are not roadworthy just don’t get past the MOT tester.

 You may remember going to a restaurant whilst on holiday, looked nice from the outside and with the band playing it was perfect.

 Food seemed reasonably priced, in you went. Experience was not good, service was poor and the food just about acceptable.

 Pricewise all of the food was more than that stated on the menu. All in all a complete rip off. Twenty years ago you’d just write it off as a bad experience, as a one off.

 And plenty of overseas restaurant owners made good money ripping off tourists. No more, we now have Google and Tripadvisor.

Information is symmetrical.

No longer is the salesman the only source of information.

 For car manufacturers (indeed every seller of products) the problem is even greater, customer service or lack of is soon reported.

 Shared on social platforms and forums, indexed by Google and returned in search results. Warts and all are there for all to be seen.

 What was Asymmetric is now Symmetrical. Skewed ever so slightly in favour of those holding the cash.

 Now we have a situation turned on its head, the information is out there. Everything a customer needs to know is published for their reading or listening pleasure to anyone that wants to know.

 What started to become symmetrical in the late 80’s with the likes of Which Magazine and What Car has now become very asymmetric only in the customer’s favour. Why?

 Because the customer now has access to the information – at the end of the smartphone or tablet, even from some car dashboards. Everything they need to know is available and they also have the money.

 Every transaction is a movement of value – who has the cash is in charge of the deal.

 Some of this has been seized on by a number of firms, getting a coffee while browsing in a shop, music in banks. All of this is designed to relax the customer – make it easy for them to consume, to lull them in. It’s all about creating an experience.

 Of course some firms have become more creative than that and are putting together finance deals that surprise and encourage customers to buy cars and other expensive items. Given that small family hatchback is now the same price per month as the combined cost of gas and electricity. I am not surprised that car sales have remained fairly buoyant.

 It’s worked so well that in 2017 the Bank of England is warning of a car finance bubble. By my reckoning new car sales are increasing not because of sales or marketing skills. It is entirely because of creative finance deals.

 And if you are not selling cars you’ll be faced with similar issues that will be larger or smaller depending on your product or service.

 At one time there was a clear path, the salesman had the information and knowledge, all the customer had was the money. Now the customer has access to the knowledge and has the money.

Selling has changed forever.

 Price comparison sites tell the potential consumer of your service how much they should expect to pay. Identical mass produced products can be compared in an instant.

 Ebay and Amazon are pushing their largest retailers to offer ‘includes shipping’ prices to make it easier for them [Ebay and Amazon] to gain market share. This means that your customer can make an immediate decision to buy knowing that the total cost of the product competes. If you are selling mass produced products for a mass market you are in a lot of trouble.

 Customer complaints and poor service – it’s very quick for bad news to be shared, and with reviews and ‘seller ratings’ you can very quickly work out what deal to go for.

 You know that within seconds information about your business can be given to fifty or more people using any one of the many networks, dependent on their own privacy settings this could be appearing in thousands of feeds.

Where are we now?

 Over the last few years I have met a good number of business owners who are moving away from having salespeople, experienced and suited.

 To having great customer service people, happy to chat and pour a coffee.

 Using social selling and building relationships around the itch cycles for your business (three years for cars, five for houses, six for caravans) – all your salespeople should be doing is building relationships and using the information to hand, looking inside the CRM, sending real letters with real stamps. Engaging with real people.

 August 2017. It seems that Royal Mail has been removed from the FTSE 100 list of the largest UK firms due to falling revenues. Mainly a reduction in direct mail. Great news here is that with fewer and fewer businesses competing using this medium you could be stealing business from them very easily.

 From a car manufacturer’s perspective all of the brand building is done by them, the information is published – at the dealer you just need competent communicators that have all of the skills of an Oncologist – to make you feel at ease at the moment of most pain, and to stay in touch.

 Of all the new cars I have purchased in the last ten years (4 all new) only one ‘salesperson’ has bothered to stay in touch – and they have won two of the deals. Why? Because they care about me. I don’t care much for the cars – they are ok.

 But cars are not my thing. I replace them often because I hate the repair thing, and only want to drive them. Not sit in workshop waiting.

 Both of my last replacements started with an email – Hiya Richard, long time no speak, how are the kids? Fancy a coffee if you are passing or something non salesy.

 Can do you brilliant deal on a part-ex if you are interested?

 I replied – popped in for a coffee, done a deal. All in all the process lasted two weeks. All of my personal information was pre populated on the finance forms, read, approved and I awaited the call when it was ready for collection.

 Dealer gets one more on the board and gets a valuable part exchange. The wheels of business turn nicely – when you use the systems that are available. When you focus on relationships and not selling.

Easy.

 I didn’t need to research, all of the content I needed was available. I liked the guy at the garage, he followed up in non salesy way and gave me what I wanted. Simple.

 If I did want to know more I am sure an email back would have provided some selected independent reviews, and supporting information. Just enough information to make a buying decision.

 No amount of social media, online or offline marketing, direct mail or other would have made me call the garage, but a timely email – how are you? Started it all .

 My question to you is what are you doing to engage with your customers on their itch cycle, you are sitting on records and information that are a goldmine – that just needs digging for.

 The sales in your business are direct reflection to the level of engagement with your customers, is your coffee hot, do you have staff that can converse and not sell, do you have staff that can follow up?

 That is the key to sales when information is everywhere – and the money is on one side.

 Your business depends on making sure you control the information, and control the relationship.

 This ensures you are not competing with every other me too business in the marketplace.

 Try it, phone or email a client today.

 Ask them how they are, ask them if they fancy a coffee. You will do business this week I promise. Whatever you do don’t try and sell them a thing.

Optimistic Biases

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get my

head around a number of business decisions, perhaps

offloading some clients that are no longer serving

me as well as they were along with some other changes.

 Working through the decision making process I’m reminded that a little part of my mind is overly optimistic.

 Two clients have taken up much more of my time in the last six months than all of the rest, sure they have their own difficulties and I’ve been able to help them. That’s good.

 Problem is they are not serving me well, not allowing me to develop a couple of things I want to do.

So here’s the problem.

The smoker who thinks it won’t kill him, it’ll kill the other guy.

The teenager who is drinking heavily thinks – it’ll be alright – it makes me more confident which is a good thing, right?

 These are known as optimistic biases and they are not good for us. Despite the evidence against the view we sometimes think we’ll get away with it, things will turn around, clients will change.

 In a world of practical optimism (realism) you know the answer to the questions and the sooner you accept that and push forward your own agenda the quicker you’ll get the change you need. What things do you have biases about?

Go change them.

2015 Pension Changes – What Do They Mean To You?

Pensions have been changing in recent years and the changes that arrived in April 2015 have been mentioned as radical and massive but the reality is it’s just an extension of what has been happening for the last ten years or more.

 Technology has made it far easier to manage your own finances and with the availability of high quality information it’s now incredibly simple for individuals to take control and benefit from a far lower level of charges; amongst other important things.

 The facts are that most Independent Advisers and Investment experts get it wrong in particular in relation to investment choices.

Or we would all be rich, right!

 Just a few of the things that I explain to my mentees have the power to fundamentally improve your financial position very quickly, and these few things are just not used by most financial professionals as they are deemed to be too simple or two basic.

Examples of these are below.

 There is one thing you can invest in that is guaranteed to provide better investment returns than 70% of managed funds. Tracker funds.

 One thing you can change to make sure you are protected in any investment market conditions. Asset allocation.

 Change the way your cash deposits are structured can improve your returns by 8 x when compared with a building society/bank account. Correct use of the Peer to Peer platforms.

 By timing your investments you could have had returns at least 6% better in 2014, 7.2% better in 2015 and 5% better in 2016, that’s the same amount of money going in but substantially better returns. Most of this is too much trouble for the average advisory firm – as I keep saying, why should they bother, it’s not their money.

 Pensions – the difference between a low cost provider and the average provider could cost you 40% of your pension every ten years.

 Even if you are using a financial adviser did you know that you could be paying over half the value of your investments in charges over a normal lifetime.

 It’s the above things that most ‘super rich’ are aware of and do – and if you want the same results as them you should simply do the same.

 Despite twenty six years of financial services regulation the rogue providers, poor quality advisers, high charging plans and poor investment performance still continue to be widespread.

 Interestingly enough on the investment performance side of things, there are specific rules about all kinds of things but nothing in relation to performance. No matter what charges you pay – there is no guarantee of any future return.

How can that be? It can be because there has been a spectacular failure of regulation over many years.

Warning on Pensions.

There are a large number of fraudsters offering to ‘bust your pension’ or ‘help you invest your pension in property’ around at the moment and nearly all of these are scams or plans so expensive as to not really be of any benefit.

 Pension rules have been around for years subsequently any gaps in the rules that may disadvantage the Inland Revenue have been closed.

 I can assure you. If it looks or sounds too good to be true, I can assure you that it is.

 UK Government has promised time and time again to shut down some of the bad players, however don’t hold your breath for these to be stopped anytime soon. As I said before, hoping for a change in Government rules and regulations in your favour is unlikely. Sad but true.

What’s Happening To Pensions From April 2015?

At the moment if you have a pension you can do several things with it at your chosen retirement date – from age 55.

Take some tax free cash or not.

Take some tax free cash and income or not.

Purchase an annuity with the fund.

Leave the fund invested but take an income.

Do nothing and leave the fund as is – stop or continue contributions.

After April 2015.

You will be able to access all of your pension fund as cash but it will be taxable in part, and that needs to be carefully considered.

 Is this a massive change? Well yes and no. For quite a while now you have been able to draw income from your pension fund instead of being forced to buy an annuity, and the industry is getting all excited about the changes but in reality most of the options have been around for a while.

 The changes from April 2015 will allow you to draw tax free cash and then the remaining fund as a lump sum less income tax if you wish. Now this means that you will be able to draw on a pot of cash and be left with no pension.

This is not a problem provided you are aware of it.

Income Tax (2017/18

If you have annual income up to £45,000 you are a basic-rate taxpayer and pay tax at 20% (with an £11.500 personal allowance). If you have income over this limit you pay tax at 40% on income over £45,001. If you have income over £150,000 this is taxed at 45%.

 If you decide to take cash from your pension under the new rules then the amount will be added to your earned income and will be taxed accordingly. You will have to do the sums to make sure you don’t end up with a higher rate income tax liability and make sure you do this before you touch your pensions.

1. Tax free cash of 25% of your pension fund is always tax free.

2. The balance drawn from your pension either as income or as a lump sum is taxable and will be taxed in full at 40%. You’ll have to reclaim this if you are a basic rate taxpayer.

Importantly if you draw on your pension benefits any future pension contributions are capped, this is to stop pension recycling.

Death Benefits

The treasury has also provided some help with more tax efficiency by making changes to the rules relating to death benefits.

 Broadly these mean that the death of a pension owner before age 75 can pass on pension benefits without the old 55% tax liability used to exist.

 Some good news on this area of planning and one that has further uses.

The Cost Of All This Flexibility

As always you the consumer will be expected to pick up the bill for charges to your pension contracts and the more flexibility you get the more you pay in charges.

 Most financial advisers are charging at least 2% of the fund value for initial advice and then the provider takes their slice which could be at least 1.5% of the fund, and you could then face annual charges which will be either fixed or variable.

 When you add up these investment charges you can expect at least 3.5% of your fund go in initial charges, and at least 2% to go in annual charges making some 5.5% of your pension fund going in the first year.

 With a £100k pot that’s some £5500 going immediately. If your adviser is charging 1% p.a to oversee your fund and the investment funds add on a .5% (at least) in annual charge you can expect £1425 to be taken in the second year.

 Pension flexibility has just cost you £6925 based on a £100k pot. No wonder the industry is getting excited.

 Now you know why I teach people like you to take control of their pensions – there are at least 6925 reasons in the above scenario.

 By taking charge of your own planning you could reduce annual and set up costs to below £400 dependent on the options selected.

 Ongoing costs will also be less than .6% in total – that’s £600 instead of £1425.

6925 Or So Reasons To Take Personal Control.

 It is very easy to take investment costs of nearly seven grand and reduce that to less than one, if you like percentages that’s an 85.82% saving.

 Now you may think you have do a lot of work to make those savings. Fact is you will take less than four hours of your time and around 30 minutes per month to manage (maybe even less).

I have placed the notes on Pension Flexibility in the back.

Financial Independence

Over the last few weeks I have been presenting at a number of events, attended by mainly ‘older’ people – certainly 45 plus. They have been amazed at how things have changed in recent years.

 Some of the things I have shared even surprised me, and I have been working with personal and business finance for the last thirty years or so.

 University costs are now charged at a rate of £9k every year along with grants being withdrawn – and recent changes to include trainee Nurses who will also be charged for their fees.

 Care Fees if you need them in later life are nearly always charged back to individuals and even if you qualify for Continuing Care (the funded NHS cover) you’ll still have to find about a grand a week, that is unless you are just about dead or have less than £23,750 banked.

 Inheritance tax – which is now levied on pretty ordinary homes. Certainly if you purchased your home during the 1970 – 1994 period there is more than an outside chance your estate will have to pay this tax, especially if it’s in the South East. That said many other areas of the UK have seen good returns which may well end up taxed on death.

 Mandatory pension contributions via Auto Enrolment and a reduction in the level of State Pension. Reductions in State Pensions alone are costing couples more than £20,000.

 Interesting to note that the Government scheme NEST has lost a big chunk of cash to fraud, is not living up to its promise in terms of reducing charges for members and is controlled by TATA – yup the Indian owned outsourcing and everything else business.

 These changes all subtly introduced to our welfare and education systems are bringing change to all of our lives and there is probably little we can do about them.

 There is no doubt that we are seeing a withdrawal of state benefits in order for this government or the next to balance its books.

 With a growing elderly population it is more than likely we will see more and more reductions in what the state provides. Living longer is great, provided of course you can afford if.

 If you are under 30 now you need to consider carefully what needs to happen to your personal finances in order for you to be FI (financially independent) before you get to 60.

 If you are under 40 you need to consider the above, and to make a shorter term plan to reduce your overall level of taxation; at the same time make sure your income levels can be maintained. Reducing debt now and managing your budget will be very helpful. Damn boring but very sensible.

 If you are under 50 with perhaps some eighteen years left until you retire you should be considering your existing investments, the charges therein and your longer term plan. Converting your investments into ‘income producing’ now will make a lot of sense.

 Ignore what you are told about having a ‘growth fund’ income is where it’s always been. Once paid it’s your forever, unlike the growth.

 Great Britain and the rest of the world are changing dramatically, but financial plans seem to be stuck in the 1960’s.

 Look around before you make any decisions, come to one of my workshops, get on my email list. Do something.

Drop an email to book@therichardsmith.com for a start. We’ll keep you updated.

Your Future

Let me ask you some questions about your financial future.

Do you think it’s looking good?

Do you have a plan in place?

Are you sure of your future income?

Is this income guaranteed?

If you stop work does the income stop?

Do you know how much tax you will have to pay?

 What happens to us normally is we leave school or Uni, get a job, a lover or partner and then find somewhere to live. Work hard, retire and then die.

Cheerful when it’s said like that.

 That pattern seemed to make sense up until the 1970’s when jobs were for life, or at least close, life expectancy after retirement was two to five years.

 This was supported by pension schemes designed in the 1930’s that were expected to pay out a pension for a very short number of years.

 Things have moved on. Life expectancy is now 79 for men and 82 for women. The amount of cash required for a comfortable retirement is now considerably more.

 Low interest rates mean the income from Annuity (income for life) type products has been eroded massively.

 By investing and saving wisely and by using a few ‘wealth tricks’ it’s possible for you to thrive in the future. It’s not possible using conventional pension investments – you know hand over your cash and hope.

You’ll need a bit of this.

Self Reliance

You may have heard this term many times before, ‘you need to be self reliant’ ‘don’t depend on anyone else’ or the one I like more is ‘take control’.

 Of course the people who say these things are normally directing the comment at someone else, as if to teach them something, to make them more independent; and it makes some sense if only they (you) understood what to do next.

 Being self reliant means knowing and then having a plan. If you don’t manage resources like money they soon go. One of my best loved quotes when working with people is this snippet

“You get what you focus on.”

 Meaning, if you concentrate really hard and focus on what makes sense with a little bit of plan – like an end game. You will end up with more of that something than when you started. Fact.

 Now I am not talking about getting rich quick, or smart hacks to win the lottery or any other rubbish. I am talking about growing your knowledge, skills and pot of money to the point where you don’t have to rely on others.

 Of course you may choose to rely on others, no man is an island and all that and that’s a good thing.

 Self reliance means that whatever happens, recessions, Brexit, cash crises, house prices crashing etc etc. You are not affected or even bothered.

 This status is far easier to achieve than you think. So for the moment just think about what it is you need to do, to learn or to adjust in order to be self reliant.

What do you think it will take?

 I know that you’ll probably complicate the hell out of your answers, simply because that voice inside your head (yup I have one as well) will shout, impossible, give it up. Don’t listen, it’s hard, you’re not up to it…

Listen, can you hear it?

 Self reliance is a learned skill. Making your money work hard for you is also a learned skill and one that has been understood by plenty of people before you.

Start practising and learning, you’ll be surprised.

Uncertainty – Government – Jobs – Globalisation – Brexit

The reason we all have to take money and business matters seriously is because of the uncertainty around our lives. Of course, there are some things that seem to be certain.

 The continuing increase in house prices because the population is growing and we are not building enough.

 The constant rise in taxation – as governments borrow more and more the debt has to be serviced. At the moment in the UK, the Government spend on servicing debt is about the same as the wages bill for the entire NHS. If you keep borrowing you need to get enough income to cover the cost of borrowing.

 The death of old industries and businesses; think BHS or Woolworths, Chinese Steel imports, Coal. Means we need to be more understanding of the change that is coming.

 No matter where you look there is uncertainty, change. Part of this is driven by globalisation and the rise of the new economies in the east and south.

 But with this uncertainty investment markets are volatile, they move up and down. With those movements you can time your investments to suit you. Buy cheap.

 Every cloud eh. The fact is there is opportunity wherever you look.

 With all of this happening to us and nearly all of these things being outside of our control we need to focus on what we can control and change. Market timing is one of these.

 Of course houses are expensive, but that does not mean we should not work towards owning one, it’s never been easier to build and grow an investment portfolio or to save money by comparing suppliers of just about everything. Using this portfolio as a building block to support a property purchase makes sense.

 Making long term decisions always wins over short term ones. You just need to do it.

 Planning your business and finances is all about looking for opportunity and understanding what your options are and not just placing hard earned cash into the next shiny thing you find.

Automation and Jobs – The Future Of Work.

Being Financially Independent (FI) means you won’t be concerned when the business automation and driverless vehicles start to change the world.

 We have already seen old style industries destroyed by the internet, automated tills at Tesco and the whole Brexit thing bringing its own challenges. All of this means that traditional work is changing, jobs your children will be doing probably don’t exist now. Work that you used to do probably doesn’t get done any more.

 Change is always coming towards you and with technology driving things very quickly the pace of change is likely to be mind blowing for many.

 But what if it didn’t matter what happened to the world of work, what if you could spend your time looking at investment opportunities in the new world, what if you have enough capital invested to help you fund the training you needed to take advantage of the new world?

Would you then worry about the future?

Financial independence allows you that kind of freedom.

How much money do you think you will need to become financially independent?

 When I ask this question in seminars and workshops I get a range of random answers.

 Most responses are in the tens of millions, sometimes billions; the fact is we need a lot less than we think we need. Let me put some facts on that.

 To generate an income of around £21,187 (UK average wage after tax 2016 figures ) you will need a fund of around £430,000 or so (there are some variables within that), but actually if you do things in a slightly different way, you can achieve this level of income on a lot less capital.

 Remember this, if you are no longer having to work full time, and don’t have travel and other work costs you can actually survive on a lot less.

 I want you to know that the amount of money you actually need is probably a lot less than you think you’ll need and becoming FI is actually easily achievable by you in your lifetime.

 Go read Alison Average again and think about what she could do differently, or get on the list book@therichardsmith.com.

 You may think that getting hold of £430,000 is presently outside of your skills or knowledge, and that maybe the truth now, but let me assure you it’s actually easier than you think.

It’s not only about the money.

 It’s about freedom, it’s about knowing how to generate income. It’s about thinking differently about money and then finding out more so that you can be free.

 Free of a boring job and free to live the life you want and it’s never been easier.

 Having worked with many rich people over the years I can assure you the common answer they all give is this when I ask them how.

 They say, make a plan and work hard to change the plan when required and eventually you end up wealthy. Maybe even rich.

 Many of the super rich have ended up so because of a simple opportunity that arrived in their inbox and because they had some available cash; they could invest and this one opportunity provided the tipping point to true wealth.

 The more research I’ve done the more this seems to be the case, one opportunity arrives. Often with another shortly behind and the next thing, financial independence appears. This frees up time which allows more time to research and focus.

 Over the next few years a few more opportunities arise and that’s it. Boom. True wealth.

 This connected world we live in today has made many things possible, things that our parents could never imagine are now with us and working for us provided we choose to use them.

 Even if you are as young as fourteen it’s possible for you to make the sale of products through social media, list them on Ebay or Amazon. Once you have a process for it, you just repeat it. That’s never been possible before in our parents or grandparents lifetimes.

 Don’t accept the old school thinking – get an education, get a good job, work hard for forty years and retire. Those days are long gone.

Spending Less Than You Earn

I never said that these ideas would be complex, and this basic rule of financial management has been with us since the beginning of time – if you don’t spend less than you earn, you’ll never have any to invest.

 With nothing to invest your future will never be better than your now!

 Spending less than you earn is simple, provided you follow a few steps. Create a budget, be mindful about what and how you spend.

 Every pound you earn has some value, once you pass on this pound to a.n other the value passes. They now have control of it.

 Making sure you hang on to the money that you’ve exchanged valuable time for is one part of making sure you eventually end up with enough.

Remember that time is something you never get back.

 Make sure you use this millionaire tip when buying anything.


 Leave the buying decision for at least ten days after first realising the need to own or do something.


 It’s simplicity should indicate how powerful this can be. See, wherever we look there is hype and buy now signals. By making sure you delay the purchase, delay you own gratification the more money you will save and the better off you will be.

 Never ever buy anything on impulse, your brain is wired to get an immediate response. By choosing not to act on this impulse you are taking control.

Deferring a buying decision is an important thing to do and the next tool to use is also an important one.

Try this when you next pop into wherever you normally shop. Get your shopping list out, you do shop with a list don’t you?

 Once you get to the aisle where your next product is located, look around and find a competing product (I have done this with everything from gravy granules to cars and it works nearly every time) you will be able to find a competing product for cheaper, hopefully a whole pound maybe, just maybe you will have to spread it across two products.

£1 saved = £1 earned.

You will immediately be better of by £1.

 Congratulations that £1 should go into your savings pot and start to work hard for you. The next time you are out shopping, mindfully look around at other similar items. It’s possible to save 10% or more on every weekly shop, just by looking around.

Really, just by looking around.

 Practice Mindful Shopping is simply noting the conversation going on in your head and asking. Do I need it now, can I buy it cheaper, what are the alternatives?

 Make sure you wait for an answer, sometimes our internal voice is busy?

 Every time you save a pound, move it to your savings.

 You can use a large pot, and bank it weekly; or use one of the banking apps on your phone that allows micro transfers.

 Every time you make a saving move it, become a hoarder of pounds.

 The same mindful spending applies to everything on your bank statement, review utilities, insurances and car finances. There are thousands of pounds to be saved. Stop watching others live their dreams on TV and spend a few hours working towards yours.

 You may want to consider joining one of my meetups where look at these areas in depth. These are a bit like a local slimming club, but we talk about making money work for us rather than losing weight.

Top Money Principles

Tactics come and go, but timeless principles remain the same. With all of my business and personal clients I show them how to focus on and use only the things that fit with the basic principles.

They are important and they are all below.

  • Spend less than you earn and invest the rest
  • Invest in your education
  • Take a long term view
  • Start now
  • Research
  • Test
  • Understand
  • Invest for income
  • Allocate your assets – don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  •  Never invest for tax reasons alone
  • Use modern investment products
  • Buy cheap
  • Invest on the dips and at no other time
  • Invest efficiently using an online platform/package/broker
  • Be aware of taxes and tax efficiency. Use allowances like Capital Gains Tax before pension investments.
  • Observe what everyone else is doing and do the opposite:

The masses spend what they don’t have, on stuff they don’t need, they don’t look to reduce costs, most don’t look to see what they can take advantage of.

Millionaire Facts

There are now 715,000 millionaires living in the UK (source Guardian 2015/16) there are some 12 million, millionaires in the world.

 Becoming wealthy is not complicated, plenty of people have done it before you. The facts, the evidence is all around you.

 I have been wealthy and poor. Seen many of the hyped up instant solutions and followed the plans that the financial services industry wants you to follow – I guarantee you that they will never work, never give you control and never fully deliver. Simply because the plans they offer are flawed and not based on sound enough principles.

 There isn’t a single financial adviser on the planet that can show you how to become wealthy, if there were they would be doing it for themselves.

 Most advisers just show how to do the things they have been trained to do, and few are wealthy – if they were you’d never get an appointment to see one.

 Becoming financially independent at an early age needs a very different approach, it’s a different journey.

        Don’t think for one moment that I am trying to patronise or browbeat you. I just want you to know the truth and if it helps you move forward, then I have done what I wanted to do for you – move you forward.

 If you want to become financially independent then you simple need to do what financially independent people have done before you. That starts with spending wisely.

 Find a penny pick it up and all day you’ll have good luck, find enough pennies and you’ll end up with independence. The little starling that flies thousands of miles every year does so one wing beat at a time. You’d be wise to do the same.

Unable To Handle Money By Design

Since we first arrived as modern humans (probably around the 1900’s) we wanted independence. independence from the landlord, independence from the market. Be able to make decisions for themselves.

 It’s not something we are taught by our parents or by the schools, it’s not something the Church thought it was right to do, very little in any religious books to explain how money works. Indeed most religions seem to treat money as something that is not good.

 Yet religion seems to do pretty well out of money. The Vatican is said to be worth around £10 billion, Church of England around £7 billion and the Mormon’s around £30 billion. Is there something the church doesn’t want to share.

 In the UK and most of Europe during its long history it was only the wealthy and religious classes that were taught to read and write.

No surprise then that money management was not taught. Fuck, don’t the peasants have any of the secrets. No sir.

 Indeed, the poor are busy trying to get through this day and the next with no eye on the future. Seems like most religions wanted to keep them that way and it seems to have worked.

 With most religious organisations running food banks yet nothing (or little) seems to go on to really help people help themselves. I might be wrong on this but somehow doubt it. BTW – always happy to correct this, please get in touch if you know different.

 Getting back to the here and now. It’s really only this last century and probably since the 1930’s that money has been available to invest and save. Prior to that few had anything spare.

 We all know how to grow plants and vegetables. It’s something our parents have done with us and something it’s easy to do, we know the process. In fact, most of us could manage the basics of a farm quite easily. It’s knowledge that we have.

 Investing in a pension is something that is not only boring – and it forces us to think about being close to death. But they are complicated, and made more so by the industry, people find it easy to walk into a Bookmakers or to put money on the Lottery. But a pension!

 We can all farm, or at least with some simple skills you can start to farm. Farming is about leverage, doing something once, checking and adjusting and finally reaping the rewards. Money is very similar.

Farming Our Way Forward

 I like to incubate duck eggs, buying fertile eggs every March and hatching them) all you do is follow the process.

 Buy the eggs, keep them warm, make sure they are kept the right way up. Twenty eight days after putting them in the incubator I have ducklings. Eggs are purchased at a pound each, ducklings are sold at £7.50 a pop. Every 28 days my money grows by 750%. I am a duck fiend – love having them around. Of course if I had more room, I have more. Look I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love having ducklings in the house. I do something I really enjoy and it actually makes money – ok, not fortunes but…

 Growing plants, like potatoes or cauliflower is something nearly all of us can do. Provided the soil has enough nutrients, and we keep the seeds watered, keep the weeds away – a few weeks after planting we have something we can eat.

 Growing money follows identical principles. Decide, sow, titivate and wait. However, like nurturing a fruit tree, investing money correctly brings regular windfalls – income. The larger the tree grows the more fruit it brings. One tree, many crops.

        I know that for reasons of education, many humans seem to never have enough money, can never earn enough. For some reason they seem not to understand or be able to comprehend how to get, keep and grow money.

 But, as you have just read the simple farming analogy – it’s not complicated; you do need to know one end of a mower from another, and what a bag of seeds looks like. Once you know, it’s actually quite simple.

 Many of us forget that, not so long ago we were not able to ride a bike, drive a car, manage teenagers. The list is endless, thousands of things we could not do, but now we can.

 Making money work for you rather than against you is a learned process. Importantly, once you know something then you know.

 We have just not evolved enough yet to understand money, it’s a recent thing in our systems. The stock market, business, investing, tax are things that we just don’t understand naturally. But if you draw the comparison to farming you’ll start to notice some strong similarities.

 That said, once you start to get the basics – it all falls into place. It’s like farming.

 Before the 1930’s few had money, certainly there was little need to be able to manage pensions or be concerned about income and or capital gains tax to any great extent. It’s changed, it’s a new world. A world that once you start to embrace is a great place to be.

        Everything travels at the speed of light now. You can now look up interesting opinions online and make decisions to buy or sell immediately. At the speed of light and at low cost. Information that was once only available to a few is now available to all of us.

But…

        Information is not knowledge. It’s just information, my plan is to show you just how to use that information and to turn it into knowledge – which means you being able to take some action on it.

 Financial freedom is waiting for you, all you need to do is walk towards it.

 There is enough money around for everyone, all you need do is claim your share.

I am on the same journey as you.

 For lots of reasons I nearly lost it all, because I thought someone cared, that someone had my best interests at heart, that they would look after me. I was wrong – and I don’t want anyone to make the same mistakes.

 There is no happy ending unless you (and I) make it so, there is no Knight in Shining Armour riding a white charger down the high street. Said that before.

Just Find Yourself An Adviser – Then Do What He (or she) Says.

 If only it was that easy, everyone of us would be rollin’ in it by now. Five minutes in front of an adviser, get a little plan together and off you go.

 Yeah right. It’s never been that easy, and much of the industry is too busy lining it’s own pockets supported by the various regulators – that are all funded by a levy on the industry. There is a vested interest in keeping things broadly the same.

 It’s the same over at Ofgem, the people that regulate the gas and electricity supply firms – every now and again they stamp their feet and fine a few firms, but in the main not much changes from year to year.

        I knew (know) that the financial services industry was not doing the best it could for its customers. This is an industry that I have been a part of for nearly thirty years, but in the last ten years or so the stars have aligned to make it so easy to take charge of your own financial future. All you need is some tips, tricks and assistance. Welcome on board.

ASSET ALLOCATION

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

 You may well have heard of that line before and not fully understood what it actually meant. I’ll nutshell it for you; if you invest in many different company shares or funds you lessen the risk of the investment collapsing on you.

 Investing on one company share, means that if that business goes to the dogs, then your investment is worthless. If you invest in ten or twenty company shares and one goes under then you still hold the other investments.

 Asset allocation is more important than your choice of fund or manager. By spreading your investment across a wide range of investments and geographical areas you spread your risk.

 I helped create one of the first asset allocation tools for the adviser industry. A group of us sat down to consider carefully – what was the one thing that made more difference to investment performance than anything else.

 Trust my assurances that this asset allocation feature is far more important than the choice of fund or fund manager, and more important than the individual share or adviser.

 It may well be that you have some cash in the bank, own a home and have some pensions investments. It could be said that you are invested in cash, property and the stock market. And this is the start of asset allocation.

 By spreading your investments across all of the above, plus peer to peer, government bonds (often called Gilts) and then a range of stock market investments you build in safety.

 You and I have no idea which market sector, which share, fund or other investment is going to up or down. Nor do those people in the marketplace who say they do. They are all guessing.

 By investing in a wide range of investments you increase the chances of you making a ‘right’ investment, by investing for income there is a greater chance you’ll end up winning rather than losing.

 Now, a typical stock market investment asset allocation looks something like this.

20% Fixed Interest

30% UK Equity Income

20% USA Equity Income

10% Property

10% Asia

10% South America

 Now, you and I have no idea which market is going to perform best. Yet we know that some markets are more volatile (go up and down) more than others.

 By spreading investments across a wide range of sectors and geography we spread our risk (asset allocation).

 For those of you that have been on one of my workshops, you’ll understand a bit more about how effective these tools are.

 By making sure you have allocated cash (having it in the bank – not invested) when the markets dip or fall you have cash available to invest is one of the ‘rich tricks’. Buy cheap!

Investment Timing

From 2003 – 2007 your investment in the FTSE 100 index would have doubled in value if you invested on the dips.

 Conversely had you purchased an investment via your adviser or broker without taking marketing timing (invest on the dips) into account your investment in the same index would have not have grown since October 2000, the last time the index got close to 7000.

Looking forward to recent movements, assuming a £1,000 investment on the dips and the highs (ignoring charges) you’d been more than ten percent better off.

By making a lump sum investment of £3,000 initially in September 2015 on the low in the index and based on a recent high you’d end up with a gain of just £269.

Buying low makes investment sense.

 There are very few advisers that would have encouraged you to buy on the dips, and most of the regulatory guidance doesn’t mention it.

 Some will talk about ‘pound cost averaging’ which they say solves the investment timing problem. It doesn’t.

 With the power of asset allocation working and using some of the modern online platforms it’s actually very easy to do.

 Let me put it to you this way. If you knew the price of bread, new cars, houses were going to fall in value at some time in the future and you really wanted one. When would you buy? Would you buy now or would you wait?

 The fact is everything has a price fluctuation, the key is you making a decision to invest at the right time. If you don’t need it now, then you don’t have to buy it now.

 Importantly as a principle, this is one that will make you money over the longer term. 1% falls in the FTSE 100 index are regular, and the same applies to nearly all investment markets worldwide.

 It’s not the only strategy you should use but one that makes a whole load of sense.

 These daily fluctuations in the overall value of the shares can and should be exploited.

 As you can see from the charts, at the beginning of September 2013 it was below 6,000 and quickly rose to above 6200 and fell back again to 6000 odd. You could have invested at any of the lows and made some fairly quick profits.

By doing this consistently, you will make more money than by investing passively. Provided you deal with your asset allocation correctly you’ll never have to worry.

Problem With State Pensions

Somewhere else in this collection you’ll read more about how the world has changed, and you may get the impression that I think change is a bad thing. I don’t.

 Change is the only constant, if things don’t change they die. If bridges and buildings don’t swing and flex they break.

 Tree’s can’t move when water is short, but humans can. Tree’s die, humans move on or die.

 Pensions have changed dramatically in recent years and since self employed pensions were introduced in the 1970’s (these were the forerunners of the personal pensions we have today) much has happened.

 We are living longer to start with and pensions were originally designed to cope with five to eight years of life expectancy and now we are living for twenty or more years after retirement.

 Because of this the State Pension has been forced to change, retirement ages are now moving towards our 70’s.

 For those of you born from 1975 onwards will see your State Pension reduced dramatically. For those of you born later than 1951 you have already seen a reduction in your pension by being forced to draw it later.

 There is more to come on pensions, but for the moment download these two documents, print them off, complete them and post them off. I think you will be surprised by the results.

State Pension Forecast Form

This is the form required for you to get a State Pension Statement (Forecast). Drop me an email if you can’t find one and I’ll help you out.

Personal Pension Information Request.

This is a document to send to your pension provider(s) in order to get a pension statement plus a little more important information. I know you’ll be surprised when you get the figures back.

 Probably the best tenner you’ve ever spent. Don’t even worry about getting stuck, just get in touch and I’ll help you through it.

 The document and calculator will highlight where you can save many tens of thousands of pounds in pension charges – most older plans have charges of at least 2.5% per year (x 10 years that’s 25% of your fund gone in charges) now you see why it’s important.

Pension Freedom

The cynic in me initially thought that these changes were introduced to increase the level of income tax generated and to provide a boost to the economy as pension funds were accessed early.

 Two years on I still think that, but have changed my mind slightly. The biggest winners are the insurance providers and pension scheme managers who have now have a bit more control over your money and for a longer period of time.

 Pension Freedom contracts tend to have higher charges than conventional pensions.

 If you are at an age where you can start drawing on your pensions then my thinking is you probably should.

 That’s not advice it’s just me saying that having invested funds outside of pensions is probably better for you than inside them.

 You just need to make sure you are not triggering high tax charges and penalties just to free yourself of the pension.

 Importantly if there is any form of guarantee within your present plans or you are a member of a defined benefit pension scheme (sometimes called final salary) then you will need to do some more comparisons before making a final decision.

 Broadly speaking pension freedom is a good thing, but charges are a problem.

DEAL WITH DEBT

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and sixpence, result happiness.

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

 Current UK National Debt – the amount owed by the government is £1.88 trillion (est) July 2017 up from £1.56 trillion in May 2016. At the end of February 2016 personal debt – the amount owed by us all personally was £1.53 trillion in June 2017 up from £1.46 trillion May 2016

 Just so you know: a trillion seconds = 31,688 years or would take to you back to 29,000 years bc. We had just domesticated dogs and created the first oven.

 Jesus was just a twinkle in an eye somewhere. Modern humans had only just started to appear on the planet.

 There is something about debt, on one level it seems we can’t live without it, yet millions do manage it.

 Supported by the government and the banks we are encouraged to live now, buy now, have it all now on borrowed money – effectively mortgaging your future very nicely.

 Borrow if you need, just understand how bad it can be for your financial health – like smoking it feels good at the time, but stuck in a cancer ward with terminal lung cancer does not seem that great.

Go read again the section on Optimistic Biases.

 Borrow more than you should and a proper shit storm is coming at best, at worst – a really big shit storm.

 The message we get from all of those trying to sell us things is this. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you have x or y. Just do it!

 It’s called marketing, and that is probably a good thing, keeping the wheels of the economy moving etc.

 You just need to be aware of how that fits with your plans of managing money and living within your means.

 There are many problems with free spending and borrowing kind go ask anyone with debt. Most of the stuff we all buy on credit is just stuff; first problem is this.

 It’s a poor man’s (or woman’s) approach to life. The wealthy understand the truth about borrowing – you mortgage your future income in order to get that car or holiday this week rather than next month or next year. Waiting for the right time, perhaps when you have saved enough, is a rich thinking trick (or tool).

Go read Alison Average again.

 Wealthy people, those that are able to earn and keep hold of money have very different spending patterns to most of us, and certainly don’t borrow to buy stuff.

 Working on your buying decisions is one way to ensure you become FI (financial independent) at some time in your life.

 Long after the buzz of the purchase has gone, you will still be paying for it out of your future income. Debt, effectively robs you of a future, an independent future.

 It’s also stressful, and stress is a killer. Debt equals death, bit harsh, but go ask anyone in debt.

Repay/Overpay

I have a budget planner available from my website email me and ask me for a copy of it.

 On the debt side of this planner I ask you to rank debt in order of its interest charge.

 Often you will find that the actual interest charge on much of your debt varies from 16% – 28% right down to as low as 1% for mortgages.

 You should then consider what borrowing can be repaid without penalty – credit cards are not normally a problem, but loans and other types of finance may have a penalty, check first.

 Once you know what the most expensive debt is you should start to make larger payments to this, and maintain the minimum or contracted payment to the rest of your debt.

 This method provides you with a ‘snowball effect’ as the more expensive debt starts to reduce, thus you’ll be paying less interest and more capital; forcing the debt to reduce.

 As I said before this is not complicated but it does need action from you.

True Cost Of Credit – Alison Average (repeated)

A few years ago Alison went on a very nice holiday and she put the cost of this on her credit card which leaves her with just half of the UK average debt of £4500.

 This is likely to be paid off over the next ten years or so if she doesn’t spend any more on her card. Based on average repayment time, and an interest rate of 18.9% assuming she makes the minimum payment she should clear the balance completely in around 31 years, and pay £6350 in interest. Total cost is over ten grand.

 Let me ask this. Was your holiday really worth £10k?

Do This In Your Business and Get Results.

My little one ended up with a flat tyre on Saturday evening. It was Dad to the rescue.

 My local tyre place offered me a budget price when I popped in with a wheel this morning. I never buy cheap tyres, and ended up with a premium range purchase at £55 rather than £40, but I had to ask. It wasn’t offered.

 Don’t make the same mistake every business owner makes and assume I want the cheapest option. Fact is, if everyone was purchasing cheap – there would be no premium ranges on sale. Assume your customer only wants the cheapest and you’ll leave many £’s of profit on the table.

 They are coming in to buy so why not give them a chance to decide what they want, rather than you telling them. You are not your customer, you don’t decide how much they spend – they do!

 The same tyre place didn’t offer me a discount on a future purchase if I join the email list, or an add on Twitter or Facegram, or collect my home address and mobile number.

 It could have been as simple as “we offer a special service to our existing customers – pre arranged fitting times that save you waiting, and discounts on some products and services, no obligation. Just join us on Facegramtwit or leave your email address here”

 There is a ton of new business to be done without spending more money on advertising – but you do need to work at it.

That’s why my offer (at the end) is so valuable.

Who’d Want a Job

 I’ve just picked up my copy of Marketing Week which has headlined that ‘Santander employ over 300 members of staff on one hour contracts, yeah, that’s right one hour.

 It’s funny, that us business owners always think that employees have the best of it, when in fact the opposite can be true.

 What happens I wonder when Santander reduce this one hour to nil (zero hours), my guess is not much.

 This issue is not going away, having a job is now as risky as running a business, only you are in charge of your business.

But what happens to your business when?

 Google change the rules and your website goes from page one to page seven.

 Facebook stops you targeting people that have liked your pages.

 When a small change in legislation means you can’t call your ‘past customer list’ (GDPR from 2018).

 All of these things have happened in recent years and months, and will continue to happen.

 When people stop reading newspapers, advertising in them is no longer a viable solution to getting new clients – go and check out the Guardian website.

 They are reduced to begging for payment halfway down an article – hoping you’ll drop them a pittance or something.

 If are doing the same as my local tyre shop you don’t have much choice but to join the losers relying on the Big G.

 Clickbait – “Doctors thought this baby was dying until this happened” adverts all over the place – online there are more and more of these appearing.

Yet, the cost for each click is going up.

 How is a business like yours going to cut through or even afford these costs of this? Clickbait, in my opinion just aggravates customers so they are less likely to click on the links on web pages; I’m absolutely sure about this.

 Meanwhile, when you are ready to get some uber friendly help on this – and move towards your business being self sufficient you can join my ‘self employed Ninja group of die hards’.

 You can be doing more and more to make sure your business helps more and more – but you can’t do this in the old ways. Remember, the more people you help the more sales you’ll make and the more money you’ll bank – not fucking complicated is it.

I don’t often read the papers.

When I do there’s always a black cloud that starts to appear. This morning I’d been drawn into the news from the Telegraph that ‘retail sales’ are down and Easter looks like it’s going to be bad for much of the high street.

 Visa are reporting in the same article that spending is down by quite a lot. Blah, blah. It goes on and on. Bad news sells newspapers I guess.

 Meanwhile some of the larger retailers are focusing on the experience, which is why you’ll keep seeing coffee bars appearing, like inside Next or a Starbucks inside the local cinema, and there is a reason for this.

 Either people have enough stuff or they just want to spend hard earned on other things.

 For me I don’t see how sitting in a Next drinking coffee is an experience.

 This seems to be supported by Visa who say that cinema and hotel spending is up. Ok, perhaps not enough for a complete trend, but interesting to note.

 Meanwhile Amazon are looking to take on an army of ‘home workers’ – minimum wage type stuff to work in their customer services departments.

 Not in the valuable office/warehouse space but at home, where the employee picks up the heating costs over the winter, avoids travel and clothing costs, may even save a little on child care – but does get them freedom from the office politics – I’d hope so.

 I really don’t miss those ‘coffee machine moments’ with the negative idiot from admin.

What does all this add up to?

Change.

 It’s the only thing that’s a constant. Go read some of the Buddhist writings on the subject. It’s not the strongest or largest that survive, it’s the most adaptable and usually small.

 Just look at what happens when the railway or buses start to play up, go ask some of the business in Brighton about the impact of the Southern Rail disputes on retailers in the Laines, or the Irish shopkeepers about the bus strikes over there which are causing mayhem.

 Everyone of these businesses is dependent on someone else, something else filling an important role – like getting new business in.

 The key for you, in your business, especially if it’s retail is this. What are you reliant on, who is going to guarantee you the footfall so you can make sales?

 If it’s not you then Southern Rail, the bus drivers, the local council – they all decide, not you.

 And that’s no way to run a business.

 That’s why I teach small businesses how to get this online stuff sorted out, how to build a massive database of information and connections, how to be self reliant and know what to do next. Systems, principles, automation.

 Once you have some of this stuff you become a tiny but invincible business that can go do epic stuff, feed your kids, have time out of the office. Know what pensions to avoid, and advisers to swerve. You really can have it all.

Leads The Beating Heart Of Your Business.

Of all things I speak with business owners about, this is always the fly in the ointment, the elephant in the room. It’s the one thing that everyone thinks should be a priority and rarely is.

 You all know, that without new leads coming into your business it’s dead in the water.

 Of course existing customers can be sold to again and again, and most firms are woefully bad at that. But it’s the new business that is going to really grow your ickle biz into a massive future business. If you ain’t growing new customers you ain’t ever going to have a future. Not as a big business or a small one.

New leads are the lifeblood of any business, but…

Existing customers are the rock solid foundations.

 How do you go about solving the ‘must get new leads’ conundrum. Back in the dark ages you’d run some local advertising, newspaper or magazines and if you were a medium sized firm maybe some radio ads.

 Of course you could have thrown in a mix of PR and some direct mail – sounds so quaint now doesn’t it. Writing letters to potential customers.

 And then the Big G arrived on the scene and shortly after the oxytocin boosting social platforms with the images of Sausage Dog puppies and kittens.

 Running ads on either of these was guaranteed to bring home the bacon.

 That’s until customers had the staying power of fish, return on spend with social was brilliant when it first appeared but is now going the same way as Google pay per click – with around 20% of advertisers making it pay, 80% of them losing money on the deal.

 One downside was the cost of developing a working website, and none of the designers you met could even begin to help you solve the £500 per month cost of clicks and the lack of conversions.

 As things have become more and more competitive the cost of the same clicks has doubled and the social ads are not far behind, to top it all the Big G changes its mind every ten minutes with another update – are you on page 1 or 7 in search results?

Depends what day it is I guess.

 Email, which is still the killer application (you can’t even have an electricity account without one) – few small business use this to their advantage.

 SMS – “couldn’t possibly use that, what an intrusion!”

Well it’s not if you are under a certain age.

 It’s all a bloody conundrum. All you want to do is run the business, get on with what it is you do. Problem is those days are over, being an Accountant, Estate Agent, Widget maker or whatever is no longer enough. It’s all so… competitive.

 So we’ll blame immigration, Trump, Europe, Google, the Inland Revenue. In fact it seems there are a million and one excuses from all quarters, no one wants to admit that actually they don’t have a system for attracting new customers, no systems for follow up or building automated solutions to do that for you.

 Instead have systems and online content that’s not fit for purpose and staff that don’t quite get it on the customer service angle, and then offer no real differentiation or dare to cross sell products and other bolt ons.

 I have bought and sold three houses (serial mover me) all from separate independent Estate Agents not one of them has a) thanked me for the business b) followed up c) tried to cross sell something. Got all the usual bullshit about ‘speaking with their mortgage advisers’ yeah sorry mate, no legal requirement to do that.

 In all fairness, their manners aside I would have been happy to buy from or via every one of them again. Only not one of them asked.

 Of course when I’ve asked the question – why no follow up I been given every excuse…

…from data protection rules to poor quality staff, frankly it’s just B.S.

 I even drove from Sussex to Kent to avoid using one local car dealer, and even they haven’t followed up – despite me telling sales guy why I drove a 100 mile round trip.

 You never ever deserve to get repeat business and you never ever deserve to get an enquiry. Your new customers need to be wooed and attracted, like finding that first soul mate.

 Get good at that, actually, you only need to better than your mate in the pub in order to get the hottie in the local bar. Your competition is always weaker than you think.

 I can assure you of this. Every business could be better off by many tens of thousands of pounds, probably more. Just by having in place a re-marketing plan, even a simple diary would help. They could also benefit from some system changes, automation and the creation of lead generating processes.

 Provided you get at least half of these right you’ll soon start to increase turnover/profit and have more time on the golf course.

Sacrificing Your First Born

 In 2017 it all seems a bit different, harder.

 Everyone seems distracted, heads stuck into phones, earbuds in. All stuck in their own little world. How do you as a business owner break through all of that?

 Now, the information that was once privy to a few people– the sellers. Is now available to everyone via the internet. Competitor analysis is now at the end of a smartphone, if you make or sell widget A and your closest competition makes widget B some forty miles away, then your customer will know. It will probably appear in the same search page.

 The customer then makes a decision based on factors such as price, perceived quality, delivery times, collection times, is it simple to buy, is there a one click button, is delivery guaranteed.

 Can I collect during the evening, is there a choice of colours, how can they trust you, the list goes on.

 The small problem for you as a business owner is this, you are not making the decision to sell; your potential customer is making a decision to buy (or not) from you, they are really in control. I’ve explained earlier about the issue of information symmetry, describing how information control is now firmly in the consumer’s domain and not yours.

 But is that really true?

 By taking a slightly different approach with your sales and marketing, being more honest about what makes you different, what makes your product different, by using the relationship you have built to create rapport and empathy with your potential customer; you will automatically make your business and your product different – make it stand out.

 Therefore making the decision to buy process much simpler. The problem is most business owners don’t and it’s a road (even a fairly long one) to the poorhouse.

 The evidence is all around you, the thousands of small businesses that don’t make it past their first three years of trading. Nearly all of these are either trying to sell something that consumers don’t want or don’t stand out as being worthy.

 The first plumber that offers guaranteed appointments, with staff in suits or offers a no mess guarantee and brings their own tea and coffee will be the one that makes the most money locally.

 The first Accountant that does evening visits, with a no cost guarantee – i.e that offers to save at least as much tax as their annual charge, will also be the one that does more business than the competitors.

 And each of those plumbers and accountants will provide hundreds of reasons of why they can’t do any of that and that explains why they’ll be history sooner than they think.

 The hairdresser that offers a pre-club blow dry with a limo to the pub on Saturday evenings will be the busiest. I can hear you laughing at these, but I am not trying to be funny. These really are things that people want.

 Fact is you need to make yourself different, do something different.

 If you want to build a unique club of raving fans you need to stand out, stand for something. Or not.

 The choice is yours, but the information dump is going to increase as Google and Facebook along with others continue to push for more data, and make this available to everyone. All of that information is going shift what people know and who they interact with.

 Once you have worked out what your differences are, what you do that makes you stand out, you then need to build some technology into the sales process and then start to tell your story. It’s so darn easy now.

 Your story is important, it makes you unique, stand out. You didn’t start selling tyres or tiling bathrooms just because you just needed the money, you developed and learned an aptitude for it, you love doing the awkward job that no one else likes – whatever it is tell your story.

 None of these are the right answer for you, sometimes the answers maybe more than one of these.

 I speak to business owners every day (I do actually live by what I say) who want a quick fix, to sell some vouchers, to do some social media, to run some Google ads – all of which are doomed to failure in the short to medium term.

 Really, you may as well sit in your back garden and burn five pound notes, at least the fire will keep you warm for a bit!

 They are doomed to failure because that’s what everyone else is doing, all looking for a quick solution when what’s required is a long term game plan.

 I dare you to look after your customers like you are going to be serving them for the next hundred years, go on I dare you. That’ll make you stand out.

On Social Media

How many retweets, likes or shares have you banked this week? How many vouchers have you sold with no profit?

 These things are only tools to help you with your message, they are tactics. Tiny tools to help you on your way – they are not business processes that are tried and tested.

 Cashflow, deal flow and a return on the cash spent is the only thing you should be focused on.

 Importantly, by using many of these social media tools you don’t even own the content or the platform or the relationship with the potential customer. Your Facebook page can be pulled by them at any time. Your Google Ads can be banned, or your site delisted at any time. Then what?

 Boom, your business is gone.

 Your business can make more sales, you can increase your profits and put more cash in your pocket along with burying your competitors all at the same time. But you can’t do that copying everyone else.

 There are easy ways of doing business, more fun ways of doing more business.

 You can keep your first born for the time being, you won’t have to drown kittens or pay me the King’s Ransom I’m worth in order to get some solutions from me – pinky promise. Get in touch.

Death and Dying – The Woe Of The Remaining Shareholder.

 During the last few weeks I have been presenting at a number of events on this tricky subject, one thing that sticks out is the massive lack of knowledge with key shareholders in many SMEs.

 My friend Paul was one of those affected by a number of events that had a profound impact. Company was doing £1.5m t/o with ten or so staff.

 Owned by Paul and his old friend equally. His friend died in a car accident, overnight he’s lost a mate, a key technical guy in the business and on top of those problems, he now has to deal with his wife who is now a key shareholder.

 He thought that it would all be smooth, he’s known her for years. It ticked along quite nicely once an understanding was agreed until….

 … Eighteen months later she meets a new man, and now he is running a business with her and her new boyfriend. There is no need for details but you can imagine what an impact all of this had.

 Emotionally and mentally drained in very short period.

 She had no business skills but the new boyfriend had plenty and was always around with some constructive comment around staffing, marketing and business processes.

 Paul had no money to buy her out, well not at the money she wanted.

Key question is…

 Do you really want to run your business with one of your shareholder’s wives and their new partners?

Guess is the answer is no!

 Cos they are great fun at a BBQ or a London hotel over a Bank Holiday weekend, does not qualify them to make buying decisions about widgets from Germany or Croatia.

 Thing is, if you don’t make a plan for otherwise you have that to look forward to. Death really is the end, what’s left is heartache and misery – if you don’t have a plan for your limited company.

State Pension Changes – Pension Charges (ad-nauseum)

I go on and on about this subject because it’s important, the employed, self employed – workers; are being royally screwed by an industry and regulators that don’t care.

 1995 and the Pensions Act of the same year gave us a number of changes, one of which was the equalisation of State Pension ages – making boys and girls retire at the same age, eventually.

 Of course the changes were blamed on EU law but the truth is everyone knew that there was not enough money to keep the pension system afloat.

 The Government of the time was helped through the changes by simply stating – ‘it’s not our fault, the EU made us do it.’

 Not sure about you, but I was 34 at the time. Heavily into building my career as a financial adviser, and was about to add my first child to the family – and of course any increase to the State Pension would not affect me for some 31 (thirty one years) so nothing to worry about!

 More change arrived a few years later in 2007 when the State Pension Age was further increased to 68 (I can see a trend coming here), and again in 2011 in the Pensions Bill there were further changes made.

 Edit – Guess what, it’s July 2017. Summer recess for Government arrives and the announcement is that we’ve been shafted again and can’t discuss it until late September because Parliament is off for the summer. Utter, utter bastards.

 Like you, I was not concerned about these increases then; far too young and with a range of other priorities like a mortgage and getting my two children through their education, at the same time trying to hold a marriage together – pensions could wait.

 As I hit my mid fifties, the pressures changed as they do for us all. It’s more about planning a few more weeks away from the office, rather than concentrating on the hussle and bussle of business life. This of course has given me some more thinking time, and I have realised that – – I have been royally shafted and it doesn’t feel nice.

Here’s The Story.

 Despite the politicians of all colours telling us we have never had it so good or that a little austerity is a good thing – it’ll reduce spending.

 State Pension Age Changes – have cost me over £15,000 in lost income and my wife over £12,000 as they have moved my pension age to 68 with no compensation, for us it’s a £27,000 grab.

 How much have they cost you? My thinking is you probably don’t know. It’s the Ostrich syndrome most people have when it comes to longer term planning – fingers crossed it will be alright in the end.

 Our minds can’t cope with stuff that is so far off and Government exploits that and then with our short term memory – we tend to forget.

 Obviously something had to give as there is not enough National Insurance coming in to pay pensions, we are living longer and therefore retired for longer. This was spotted in the late 1980’s, it ain’t new.

 By the way, there is no pot of National Insurance in order to pay pensions, it’s a pay as you go service.

Expect this trend to continue.

 If you are reliant on your State Promise (Pension) expect it to be reduced even further. It’s been on it’s way down for the last thirty years or so, a fair bet is that this trend will continue. Something about one of Isaac Newton’s Laws springs to mind, forgotten it?


Newton’s First Law

every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force


Government is pushing hard on pensions and they will move and are likely to stay in motion.

Pension Freedom arrived. Another little gift for advisers and the pension industry. Of course if you are a pension provider or adviser you’d want more pensions and they have certainly got that.

 No matter what you try and do with your pension pot, someone else maintains control of it and charges you for the privilege.

 If you have what they call ‘safeguarded’ benefits of more than £30,000 it’s another nice gift to the industry because you are forced by law to take advice from a suitably authorised adviser – and there are not enough to go around. The industry has collapsed in recent years.

 This special breed of adviser, that you are forced to use can charge what they like. I have recently been quoted 10% of my fund in order for one of these advisers to give me some advice.

 Given that you can do nothing about it, if you want the ‘freedom’ you have to pay it does seem more than a little unfair.

 Ongoing Charges – with modern investment management tools making changes to your pension investments is simple – point and click in the main so why all the ffin’ charges?

 Despite the changes in the marketplace, with online and low cost providers – advisers still get favourable treatment in relation to VAT on their services (exempt) and chunk of your pension fund every year for what they call – ongoing management.

 Can you imagine using a Solicitor to purchase your house (still far more complex than the setting up of a pension) and the firm coming back every year to take a small slice of the current value – and you not being fully aware of it being taken and the Solicitor not having to raise an invoice for it?

 I doubt you get a pension statement every year that shows in big letters on the front of the statement – ACME ADVISERS HAVE BEEN PAID £x FOR THEIR SERVICES.

 What you do get is a paragraph on page seven of eleven stating the charge in eight point font, the larger the fund, the older you are likely to be and the more chance your macular degeneration would have stopped you being able to read it.

 Auto Enrolment another gift for the industry “Mandatory Pension Contributions” with fixed charges and no guarantees of anything.

 No matter how bad the investment returns are, no matter how bad the administration standards are, the provider still gets paid. And they make you jump through ‘burning admin hoops’ if you dare want to move YOUR cash.

 And still the industry crows on about the efficiency of pensions which is a myth.

 It was Steve Webb – the only pensions minister to really tell the truth about pensions, he stated that “pensions are tax deferred savings” not tax free.

 Of course there may be some tax breaks, but they are just that breaks. Eventually someone has to pay tax on pension benefits drawn from any pension. If not now then whenever. This of course guarantees a return of at least some pension to the Government via income tax, in return for the tax breaks Government seems to be rewarded very nicely thank you.

 No risk and close to a guaranteed return, without even having to cover any of the costs of the investment.

 What Else? Well our former man in the Treasury has been on rant for a few months about charges.

 Indeed George Osborne announced reviews into Pension Charges. The way he talks it seems like something may happen.

 However another of Newton’s Laws is in play here, if there is no force on an object it doesn’t move. It’s a law.

 Nothing has changed yet, no force on it. The providers retort is simple – there are contractual obligations. Utter bastards.

 Something every regulator has known since regulation. Don’t expect things to change any time soon.

Two Realities

 I have never met anyone who thought that locking hard earned cash away for 40 years or more was a good plan to become rich, and certainly not one that was dipped for charges every few days.

 Despite a good run at things successive governments have not made pensions work for the masses, of course they make sense as a planning exercise, but not as an investment vehicle, not as they are.

 If you are a teacher, work in local government or are an MP your situation is a bit different.

 Under the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS) The taxpayer picks up the liability of your valuable guaranteed pension.

The current liability (to be funded by you and I) is £194,838 million based on the last accounts (14/15) and it’s running costs are in the region of £61 million for the same year.

 The Teachers Pension Scheme is also an interesting one. With an unfunded liability of some £200bn (that’s right billion) according to the accounts in 2012 (can’t find any later ones). It’s clear that the money to fund all of this has to come from somewhere, just don’t delude yourself it won’t be you, the probability is that it will.

Pensions Four Things You Should Do Today

        Review

        Check

        Understand

        Compare

        Get out

 Since I left the regulated financial services industry in 2010 things have changed a lot, but the industry really doesn’t want you to know that.

 I have a Pension Resource Pack available if you want to uncover the truth about your pensions. This pack covers some important points about your pensions and includes a number of templates and action steps, so you can find out the truth.

Business Lesson From Nursery Rhymes – There’s a Hole In My Bucket…

…Dear Liza a hole.

Do you remember the nursery rhyme, that ended up going round in circles, no matter how Henry tried to repair his bucket, deadlock was the only outcome.

The bucket still leaks no matter what he tries.

 Business owners seem to spend so much of their time trying to fill their buckets, only with far more expensive things than water. Leads!

 Leads are the lifeblood of any business; so the marketing gurus will tell you. The mantra “you must focus on getting new clients into your business or you will die” is the one that’s normally spouted.

 Of course it’s a popular mantra – keep a good flow of leads coming into the business – top up the bucket!

 But it’s flawed. It does create freedom from worry – the phone just keeps on ringing if you are lucky.

 The problem with this one strategy is – it’s just not efficient; you end up leaving many thousands in profit on the floor, and it’s no way to grow a business long term.

 The maths of it are simple. Existing clients are more profitable, fact! You can keep chasing the new clients with all of the expense incurred, or build and alternative reality.

 Fish in your own bucket once it’s full but you must make sure the holes are plugged first.

 The benefits are obvious – the people in the bucket already know, like and trust you; are aware of what you do and how you do it, they are prepositioned to buy.

 Maybe not now but with a little planning and communication with them it is far easier to sell more stuff to them than it is to new customers.

 There are other benefits of having relationships with existing customers – more referrals, higher spend and far more profitable sales are a few. The main thing is the reduced cost, in that it’s going to be a lot less expensive to sell to someone that already knows you.

 Based on some recent work I have been doing, sales from existing clients are being picked up at virtually no cost, and the average sale is higher.

 Average sale is up from £42 to £49 and marketing costs are reduced to less than 3% of turnover from 5%. Do the maths in your own business.

 Here are a couple of snippets that will help you grow business from your existing customers.

 Regular emails – not the ‘look at us ain’t we great’ or the idiotic emails that many send. You know the type ‘Acme Limited Newsletter’ (I cringe when I hear the word newsletter even mentioned in an email) you need to send problem solving emails, preferably with a story and then ask them to buy something.

 Paper Newsletters – sent at least monthly (get in touch for some tricks on this), again with no ‘salesy stuff’ just, information and an offer. No one likes to read a smarmy sales pitch from a supplier.

 Telephone – put a dedicated team in place to call customers on a regular basis, not to sell anything just to chat. Yes I know that might sound a bit intensive – but if you don’t care for your customers who will?

 You won’t ever know when your customers decide to start using your competitor unless you do at least some of the above.

 There are plenty of benefits to using just the above three things, and I can hear you all groaning that ‘this won’t work in my business’ or ‘how can I resource this’ along with loads of other negatives. The FACT is this it works – this is working smart and not hard.

 Put some processes to work so you can stop chasing the new business so hard and bring some quality into play. Look we all need new leads and you need to create a process for that, but the real long term gain is what you already have in your bucket – farming not hunting.

 Cash Flow will be improved along with a corresponding increase in profits, all by putting in place a few systems.

Journal – if you don’t write things down you’ll never know.

The most successful people I know use one these every morning. Be fluid with it every day. Just write what’s on your mind.

 Use it in ninety day pulses which means you are planning for three months at a time.

 Write something daily, clear your mind. Dump the head trash. If something is bugging you write it down, that should quieten the chimp – it thinks you are going to do something about it. Now it’s written down it doesn’t need to remind you.

 Set some plans for the coming quarter, write these in the journal. Things you need/want to achieve.

 Have a couple, sell ten products, get an email list of twenty, build a targeted social media presence.

 Write these down in the journal, look at them every day and then create some action around them; three things maybe, and then do them. The first few hours of every day( or at least an hour) should be working for you and not in the business, promise you’ll thank me for that.

 Every Sunday, do your homework. Review the journal from the past six days, what happened, how much did you get done, how much has changed? Plan for the week ahead.

 This whole goal setting thing is also bollocks.

 Everyone is told, think big, make a long term plan. Problem with that is our minds are wired very differently, and it wants a fix now. Somewhere in the middle is a nice balance. 90 days would be an example.

 I firmly believe that we are all river people, drifting from one island to another, yeah the eye is on the sea but for the minute let’s have a look around here.

Adwords – Remarketing

Not so long ago the only options you had for marketing your business were the Yellow Pages, local and national press, radio and TV and direct mail (bit out of vogue now, which means you should be doing a lot more of it, but that’s not for now).

 Since the dawn of the internet plenty of firms have tried to create platforms that worked and before Google there were a number offering what was called ‘banner ads’ that were held at the top or side of the internet browser screen.

 They were simple to install and use, and customers weren’t blind to them. My first e-commerce operation in 2001 (Two Big Shoes – oversize mens shoes from Italy) was supported with Banner Ads and we did very nicely from it.

 Once the 400lb Gorilla of them all – Google rolled out their platform things changed dramatically, the targeting and testing of ads became easier and easier.

 Of course millions were made and lost, people got banned and the rules ‘quality guidelines’ changed all of the time.

 The bad guys made their money and left. Leaving behind something that made the Google boy’s very rich – and good luck to them. Not only was the search engine one of the best we’ve ever seen, the ad machine behind it was brilliantly made and delivered.

 Fact is, being able to put your ad in front of someone who is searching for what it is you sell or do is something we’ve never had before.

 Up until then it was all about brand ads, think Coca-Cola or Tesco, and then running ads in local magazines – Tree’s Cut/Gardens mowed – free quotes, what I call hope marketing; because you only have the hope that the right person will see your message.

 But with the Big G it was different it was now possible to target those people directly. Amazeballs.

 Man on the street looking for a Plumber meant you could drop a link into his search results with your ad.

Had never been possible before.

 Now we have ads on mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop, watch, inside apps, with Facebook and Instagram, all supported by Snapchat and Twitter. A seemingly endless choice.

 Thing is this, all of the platforms are different and require a different plan. That said the old rules of marketing still apply. Your choice of platform will depend on where your market hangs out. No point whatsoever advertising high end investment advice on Snapchat as your market just ain’t there.

 Go read the next chapter on finding a White Rhino for more on this.

 Meanwhile there are a couple of additional points, basics if you like for any of you thinking about Adwords or Facebook pay per click.

 Firstly, people go to Facebook to be social and not to buy. Move from your usual pitch to a party conversation on Facebook and you’ll find you’ll get better results.

 We’ve all been there, minding our own business at a summer BBQ and a guy turns up and introduces himself as Colin, after a few seconds finding out your name and without even knowing anything about you, he…

 … Launches into his pitch about changing your life with his brand new concept that is changing the way people buy cosmetics, washing powder, underwear, wedding dresses – whatever.

 He then insists on swapping contact details so can run you through the full presentation later in the week.

 He might not look like it, but he comes across like an ageing porn star looking to do one last film for old times sake – don’t be like Colin.

Back to Google Ads.

If you’re not testing your ads, not testing your landing pages, not testing your keywords/phrases, not using Remarketing and then not adding value in advance, you are missing out.

And that’s just the start.

 It’s possible to get twice the click through rate at half the price by doing some simple things – that’s two clicks for £13 if you trying to get ‘Insurance Comparison Quote’ traffic. Which is obviously better than £13 per click.

 Importantly, all you need to do is configure your ads properly. Key to this, so few actually understand how to do that and even fewer do it.

 Based on industry stats around 80% of Google (and Bing) advertisers don’t return a profit, that is an effective Google Tax on the bulk of you reading this.

 Once the new interface is rolled out (during 2017) you’ll be able to optimise for clicks and calls along with shedload of other options – you are aware of the changes aren’t you?

 Meanwhile, remarketing is important. You might not agree with it, you may think it’s unethical and plain wrong. Well is not as bad as some things I can think of so get over yourself just this once.

 Remarketing avoids the sex on first date question, it’s a chat over coffee and then dinner. Yeah, it builds better relationships and makes you more likely to get your end result.

Get in touch when you’re ready to get a proper handle on this Adwords stuff.

Finding A Rhinoceros

The summer in the UK will soon be coming to an end, and of course in the southern hemisphere spring is starting, every couple of years I spend at least a week game hunting in South Africa. For those who have not been there; the Big Game is well worth going to see at least once in a lifetime.

 My story here is about preparation and of course hunting, it is a skill that is easy to learn provided of course you get the basics right. I wanted to see a White Rhino some years ago and ended up settling for the Black Rhino and the Southern White.

 So here are the steps you need to take to find one of these elusive and rare creatures.

Edit 2017 – there are no White Rhino left. Estimated to be only three white and two thousand odd black, with around 17,500 Southern White Rhino.

 Get yourself to Africa, after identifying it is indeed a Southern White Rhino/Black Rhino you want to spot.

 If you are looking for Northern White Rhino all you need is a Zoo as all the survivors are in captivity.

 So I trust it will be the Southern White Rhino for you, as it was for me.

 Establishing the target now makes life a little simpler, all we now need to do is establish a couple of further points to make our lives a little easier. Some pointers for you (things we need to know).

  •  Habitat – where it lives, where it hangs out, what time it feeds and breeds. White Rhino are grazers therefore living in the African Grasslands (Savannah) if you are not there, the chances are a bit slim.
  • Feeding and Drinking what it eats, and where it drinks (there is a good chance it will hang out in these places at least once per day).
  • Play Areas – where it meets its mate (the opposite sex) as it will often turn up there a specific times, there is a breeding season for most of us.

 Once you have identified all of these things you can start your hunt, however preparation is the key, you will need; basic camping and survival supplies such as sunscreen, bug spray, mosquito netting, a flashlight and first aid supplies, you get my drift.

 Not forgetting of course some hired help, some maps and of course a decent vehicle (not forgetting fuel).

 You will also need to make sure you have enough cash to cover travel expenses and associated costs, and make sure you have all of the right Passports and Visas etc etc.

 Once you have all of this place you are in a position to hunt Rhino and I wish you good luck.

 You can of course wonder about the relevance of this story and wonder how it fits with the modern business world.

 It’s simple, replace Rhino in the above text and replace it with “Ideal Client” and you have the start of your Marketing Plan, in order to build your business you need to identify what it is you want for your business and to make sure you target only your ideal client.

 I have spoken to many business owners who tell me that everyone is their target market? To that my response is always – really?

 Does that include, time wasters, poor people, pains in the arse, needy, ugly, micro businesses. Of course your target client is not everyone.

 Fact: The more focused your business the more success you will have. Look around you the supporting evidence for that is everywhere.

 If you knew your Oncologist was also a part time Radiologist or heart specialist would you still trust them as much? There is a reason specialists earn more than generalists.

 The solution for today in this frenetic multi media world where you are bombarded with bad news and advertising is to have some focus, hang out where your target is and present to them in a way that fits their lifestyles, needs and objectives. Importantly by using the various modern methods you can “get them to know and like you” using automation.

 Once you have them in your sights, you might have several chances to ‘get them’, and sometimes you might have turn up at the water hole at regular intervals in order to get your photograph.

 What I can confirm to you is this, targeted preparation is key and of course a prerequisite in this modern business world.

Good Luck and happy hunting.

Richard

Supplier of sunscreen, bug spray, mosquito netting, a flashlight and first aid supplies

Renting- Get Your Own Back

This whole financial planning malarkey has never looked so different. The financial ‘advice’ industry has collapsed with most of the old style advisers (what I call commision animals) disappearing and now everyone wants to be a wealth manager or summat.

 Bottom line is few really add any value and as I’ve said before:

 “If all you needed to do in order to become financially independent was to sit down in front of an adviser for thirty minutes a year and pay them for an hour of time – we’d all be lining up, down the highstreet.

 Demand would be so strong we’d need millions of advisers, not just the thirty thousand odd there are now. Fact is that’s not true, advisers don’t make people wealthy, you need more than advice and sadly that’s a truth the industry won’t admit.” Richard Smith

 When I initially said that it was like lighting a firework – never seen so many trolls. But hey, the truth is painful.

 Meanwhile according to Generation Rent some fifty percent of the UK population no longer own homes, but rent. Whatever the figures it’s been a slippery slope since the Banking Crisis in 2007/8 and home ownership has slipped.

 Of course you can blame this on lots of things, the rise of gig economy, immigration, more self employed etc. There is no one answer this.

 Interesting to note however the special tax treatment of owning your own home.

 No capital gains tax on sale no matter how much profit you make.

 Allowances on death which means having a £1m home means you are unlikely to pay any inheritance tax (assumes death after April 2017). Provided you are married.

 I wrote to George Osborne’s office on this matter and got a curt reply, which was interesting – yeah nothing changing there anytime soon.

 So if you own or let out a house/flat you are treated more favourably than if you rent under the present rules. This amazed me. Come 2020 when the new rules on buy to let arrive that may not be the case.

What then to do?

 I looked around at a couple of options for this and the most sound get back is this.

 Start a little business, part time. Even reduce your full time hours to suit. Get some income rolling in and then designate one room in your rented home as your ‘home office’. Dependent on the amount of income you get from your business, will depend on how much you can claim back as a business expense.

 Fact is, you may never be as well off as homeowner, but it’s a damn fine start. Don’t forget that whatever expenses you have that are ‘wholly and exclusively’ for business purposes can also be used to reduce profits from your business.

 Now I’m not saying you should act fraudulently but you owe it to yourself to make the rules work for you rather than the other way around. Start a business, pay less tax.

#~#

From the Government website

https://www.gov.uk/expenses-if-youre-self-employed/overview

If you work from home

You may be able to claim a proportion of your costs for things like:

  • heating
  • electricity
  • Council Tax
  • mortgage interest or rent
  • internet and telephone use

 You’ll need to find a reasonable method of dividing your costs, eg by the number of rooms you use for business or the amount of time you spend working from home.

Example You have 4 rooms in your home, one of which you use only as an office.

 Your electricity bill for the year is £400. Assuming all the rooms in your home use equal amounts of electricity, you can claim £100 as allowable expenses (£400 divided by 4).

 If you worked only one day a week from home, you could claim £14.29 as allowable expenses (£100 divided by 7).

#~#

Email Marketing – It’s All About The Relationships

Some of you already know that I love email.

 Just think about how you use it. Personal messages from the other half, arrangements for a family summer bash, updates from the dentist.

 All the things that are personal to us and that used to be posted now comes down the ether into our email.

 Post, physical mail is a thing of the past, it’s all about the technology and email on the so called smartphone, let me tell you they ain’t that smart.

 But they are always on, an always on connection to email.

 Which is why you should be using more of it.

 Not sending update after update but using it to build a relationship with your customers and potential customers, using it as an influencing tool to provide your expertise when it’s needed.

Importantly it’s cheap and dead easy to use.

 Email is and always has been the killer application for the modern age, it transcends Social Media – you can’t have a conversation in 140 characters (but you should write email headlines in 130 – that’s for another time). You can’t pay your gas bill without one.

Ignore email at your peril.

 Remember I mentioned earlier about this whole issue of sex on first date, well email is the baby oil on the whole arrangement sliding from a coffee to bed in easy steps. Trust me.

 Provided you add value and don’t get all salesy on them, email works and works well.

 There are no right answers for your business, no one size fits all which is why I offer a full done with you service along with the consultancy and planning options.

 I suggest that you now get over to www.therichardsmith.com or www.thefinancezone.co.uk

 and leave your email address, or fire off an email to book@therichardsmith.com so you can have the future insights immediately along with the rest of the valuable stuff I share out over there.

 Whatever happens I wish you will with your life and your business. Stay cool eh and stop wasting time.

You are gonna die and sooner than you think.

All Rights Reserved 2017.

© 2017 Richard Smith

www.therichardsmith.com

www.thefinancezone.co.uk

www.moneytrainers.co.uk

Pension Flexibility Notes

Notes on pension flexibility

Death Benefit Taxation from .gov.uk

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-abolishes-55-tax-on-pension-funds-at-death

 From next year, individuals with a drawdown arrangement or with uncrystallised pension funds will be able to nominate a beneficiary to pass their pension if they die.

 If the individual dies before they reach the age of 75, they will be able to give their remaining defined contribution pension to anyone as a lump sum completely tax free, if it is in a drawdown account or uncrystallised.

 The person receiving the pension will pay no tax on the money they withdraw from that pension, whether it is taken as a single lump sum, or accessed through drawdown.

 Anyone who dies with a drawdown arrangement or with uncrystallised pension funds at or over the age of 75 will also be able to nominate a beneficiary to pass their pension to.

 The nominated beneficiary will be able to access the pension funds flexibly, at any age, and pay tax at their marginal rate of income tax.

 There are no restrictions on how much of the pension fund the beneficiary can withdraw at any one time. There will also be an option to receive the pension as a lump sum payment, subject to a tax charge of 45%.

Government Brochure – Pension Changes

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301563/Pensions_fact_sheet_v8.pdf

Annuity

 Annuity a fixed income for life or a shorter period of time. With many modern annuities you can build in some flexibility so these should be discounted.

 Often for people who have health problems or are overweight, are smokers or have a range of life shortening conditions an improved annuity rate is available. I have a dedicated section in my training for this area of financial planning. For some these have been proven to be a great investment, but are not for everyone.