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Dying Communities & Spanish Tax – CertainShops Newsletter March 2008

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Previous customers rave about the professionals you will find on CertainShops

Free PR workshop offer

Spanish Tax

Last chance to win some sexy shoes or a photo session…..

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SUZY’S DIARY

It was when I found the car keys in the fridge that even my eldest son cried out “Mummy, you need to take a break!”. Realizing that all 9 years of him was absolutely right, I said: “Yes, Henry, I need to book a weekend away!”

“My name’s Joseph”, he replied tartly. With haste I leapt onto the laptop and logged onto CertainShops – professionals online where I went straight to the Work/Life Balance section and booked myself a weekend in a Venetian Palazo, had my flights organised for me, and took along my wise young son who had been complaining for some time that I spent too much time on the computer.

Promising to leave my laptop at home, I realised that I still needed to get quotes for an event I am planning in the Autumn. Luckily, I was able to take my wireless enabled IPhone with me.

Whilst my young son believed me to be listening to Carmen via my headphones, I was secretly logged onto CertainShops and contacting Website designers and PR companies online without him suspecting a thing.

By requesting quotes and arranging to meet up with various vetted professionals next week while I was queuing at the Airport, that allowed me to relax when we got to Venice and spend some quality time with at least one of my children. If only I could remember which one he is….

PROFESSIONAL SPOTLIGHTS

Juan Carlos Venegas, Fiscal Accounts – Tax Consultant

THE SPANISH EXPERIENCE, THE SUN AND…TAXES!

This article only intends to give a quick overview on the Spanish tax systems and some of the main taxes which apply in the territory of Spain. Its purpose is NOT to give free tax advice as such, but in order to understand the Spanish tax system, it is important to know the political map of Spain.

Spain comprises 17 Autonomies (including the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands), as well as the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Africa.

The Basque country and Navarra have their own income tax systems.

PERSONAL INCOME TAX

Individuals are subject to income tax levied on behalf of the state and the autonomous regions. No separate capital gains tax exists.

Residence

An individual is a resident of Spain for tax purposes if:

he/she stays in Spain for more than 183 days in any calendar year (art. 9 IRPF)
his/her center of vita interest, i.e. his/her economic interest or business or professional activities, is in Spain .

In the absence of proof to the contrary, a married individual is deemed to be resident of Spain if the permanent home of his spouse and dependent minor children is in Spain.

Individuals who move their residence into Spain may elect to be taxed under the rules of individual income tax on residents or the rules of income tax on non-residents in the tax year in which he/she moves to Spain and the following 5 tax years whenever the following conditions are met:

he/she has not been resident in Spain any time during the preceding 10 years;
he/she moves to Spain because of an employment contract;
he/she works physically in Spain for a company or entity resident in Spain or for a Spanish permanent resident of a non-resident entity; and
his/her salary income is not exempt from non-resident income tax.

Therefore, residents are liable to income tax on individuals (IRPF) in respect of their worldwide income. Non-residents are liable to income tax on non-residents (IRNR) only on their Spanish-source income.

(IRPF – Impuesto sobre la Renta de las personas físicas)
(IRNR – Impuesto sobre la Renta de no residentes)

Business Income

Business income includes income from business and professional activities.

There are three different methods of computation:

1-the normal direct method
2-the simplified direct method. For taxpayers whose turnover is under €600,000 or who are in their first year of operation
3-the objective method. It is more appropriate for businessmen engaged in listed activities, e.g. restaurants, as they may determine their net (notional) income according to certain parameters: square metres, employees.

Rates on general income

Taxable income is classified into: employment income, investment income, business income.

The tax revenue resulting from the rate is assigned to the autonomous regions, which are empowered to modify it.

Personal deductions, allowances and credits apply.

Taxable period

The taxable period for individuals is the calendar year.

Tax returns and assessment

Resident taxpayers may elect to file a single or a joint tax return. Resident taxpayers who are members of the same family unit have the option to file a joint tax return for the household.

A family unit consists of husband and wife, their minor children (under 18 years of age) and their disabled children regardless of age and, in the case of legally separated spouses or de facto unions, the father or the mother and the children living with either of them. Joint tax returns do not allow splitting of income.

The annual return for a tax year must be filed and any outstanding tax paid in the period 1 May to 30 June following the end of the tax year. It may be paid in two instalments, 60% by 20 June and the remainder by 5 November of that year.

Entrepreneurs and professionals are required to file quarterly returns and make advance payments by 20 April, 20 July and 20 October of the current year and 30 January of the next year on account of final income tax liability for the current year.

NET WEALTH TAX

The taxable persons are resident individuals.

This tax is levied on the worldwide assets of resident individuals. The value of the taxpayer’s primary residence is exempt up to €150,253.03.

Non-residents individuals are liable to net wealth tax on assets situated or deemed to be situated in Spain, unless expressly exempt or unless a tax treaty provides otherwise.

Rates on net wealth tax and assessment

The autonomous regions are authorized to set their own tax rates within certain limits. If they fail to do so, the national standard table will apply.

Each resident taxpayer is entitled to a deduction which may vary from one region to another. The standard deduction is €108,182.18, which will apply if a region fails to set its own one.

The rates go from 0.2% to 2.5% for amount over €167,129.45 in different bandwidths.

Each year the tax return must be filed together with the income tax return, accompanied by the payment of tax, in the period 1 May to 30 June of the current year.

PROPERTY TRANSFER AND STAMP DUTY

The tax is levied on property transfers, corporate transactions and stamp duties.
Property transfers: this tax must be paid upon purchase of estate to a private individual, establishing rights in rem (e.g. a usufruct), acquisition of a registered interest in property, etc.
This tax is levied at a general rate of 6% of the purchasing price.
The autonomous regions are authorized to set their own rates within certain limits. Most regions apply a rate of 7% of the purchasing price.
Stamp duty: The tax shall be paid upon signature of a public deed, of notarial documents, registry office documents…
The rate applicable differs from one case to another.
This tax shall be paid at the Treasury office (Delegación de Hacienda) of the corresponding region within 30 working days after signature of the deed or the contract.
No transfer tax or stamp duty is levied where the transaction is subject to VAT.

LOCAL TAXES

Tax on the increase in the value of the urban land (Plusvalía) is the Spanish municipal tax voluntarily empowered and administered by the local council.
The tax base is calculated by applying a rate, which varies on each municipality, to the value of the property at the time of transfer, it also takes consideration on how long has the seller been in possession of the property.
Tax on economic activities is a direct tax levied annually on the exercise of a business, professional, or artistic activity, regardless this activity is performed in business premises or not.

The amount of tax due depends on the activities carried out by the taxpayer and the surface area of the business/professional premises, as corrected by certain coefficients and increased by a provincial surcharge.

CORPORATION TAX

Corporate income tax is levied on all legal entities resident in or having a permanent establishment in Spain.

Resident companies are liable to corporate income tax on their worldwide income and capital gains

A company is resident in Spain if it meets one of the following conditions:

it is incorporated under Spanish law;
its legal seat is located in the territory of Spain; or
its place of effective management is in Spain.

The general rate of corporate income tax is 32.5% for 2007. It will be 30% for 2008 and later years.

The withholding rate on dividends and other profit distributions, on interest and royalties is 18%. Stock dividends are not subject to tax.

As a general rule, the tax year coincides with the calendar year, but companies may file their returns with reference to their financial year.

During the tax year resident companies and permanent establishments must make tax prepayments in three instalments by 20 April, 20 October and 20 December.

The balance of the tax, if any, is payable at the time of filing the annual return. Any excess tax paid is refunded.

VAT

Spain imposes a valued added tax (IVA) in respect of taxable supplies of goods and services in mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands, thus excluding the Canary Islands and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Africa.

The Canary Islands levy a type of valued added tax (IGIC) on taxable supplies of goods and services within the Canary Islands.

The rates of IVA in mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands are:

standard rate of 16%. The taxable supplies at the standard rate are not defined in the legislation; therefore it is applied by exclusion.
Reduced rate of 7%: Water, dwellings, transport, tourism
Super-reduced rate of 4%: books, magazines, papers, basic necessities.

Assessment

Resident taxpayers must submit quarterly returns. However, companies whose turnover has exceeded, during the immediately previous calendar year, €6,010,121.04 must file monthly returns.

The returns are due within 20 days of the end of the prescribed accounting period for which the return is made.

Even if you are not buying a place in Spain, but need a reliable bookkeeper and tax consultant, then contact Juan Carlos by clicking here or via this link: http://www.certainshops.com/service-provider.php?sp=11

SPANISH HOLIDAY…..


If you just want to go and spend some time in Spain, why not benefit from a 10% Discount for CertainShops readers for a wonderful holiday in a former Buddhist retreat in a natural park in the hills above Granada?

In addition to the Certain Shops offer there is also an eco discount for anyone taking the train to get there, and if that wasn’t enough, ten percent off for each person you recommend that results in a confirmed booking. If you get enough that means your stay is free!

Please see www.lapena.co.uk for information on this very special place.

Don’t forget that Jean Young can organise your travel – you will find her here…..


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THE CERTAIN WAY OF LIVING LIFE


“The Death of Communities – or new ones evolving?”

Join in on our discussion on how joining new communities can ensure sustainable business success…….

“It was too hard!”

They cried – but this time round the competition was

really easy, so we will have a winner in early April. For your last chance to play

(it’s really quick), click here to win some sexy shoes, a photographic session or a Tachyon sphere…..

“Free PR workshops”

Ethical PR company Blue Rocket have kindly offered to provide a free PR workshop to their fellow CertainShops service providers and our newsletter readers. They will give us a good insight into how to manage our PR with plenty of inside knowledge and helpful advice. Their offices are at 115 Church Road. Hove. BN3 2AF (near Hove station, or a short taxi ride from Brighton station).

The proposed dates are: 24th or 25th of April – 3 hours morning or afternoon. Places are limited so please get back to me quickly at suzy@certainshops.com.

“Why does a small business need to worry about CSR?”

Absenteeism costs the UK £11.6bn according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Better work-life policies make people healthier and happier and so, less likely to take time off work. Today, CSR is about a company’s attitude, the benefits to the bottom line through reduced recruitment costs.

“Many companies measure their CSR impacts and many now report a triple bottom line (Financial, Social and Environment impact/performance) whilst still keeping the shareholders happy. In fact, it has been proven that a company adopting sustainable business practices will be more profitable — this has encouraged many more companies to jump on the bandwagon, some are still in it for the PR opportunities but many are realising that CSR actually makes business sense,” says Lorraine Bell, CSR & Community Relations Consultant; www.ebbscic.co.uk

“Some articles on ethical business please….”

 

 

The management of business ethics


Guardian Climate Change article


Ethical Business or just the ‘green wash’ (full article)

(thanks to Philip Lauro)

READER OFFERS

10% Discount for CertainShops readers for a wonderful holiday in Spain in a former Buddhist retreat in a natural park in the hills above Granada.

La Pena is a beautiful building in a natural park in the mountains of southern Granada. It comes with 22 acres of land with olive and almond trees and offers amazing views over the mountains with distant views of the sea. It offers the perfect tranquil getaway and antedote to city dwelling. La Pena is also a 40 minute drive from the coast and about a 45 minute drive from Granada city. Granada and Malaga airports are also quite close by.

In addition to the Certain Shops offer we are also offering ten percent off for anyone who books before the end of Febuary 2007, a further eco offer for anyone taking the train to get there and if that wasn’t enough ten percent for each person you recommend that results in a confirmed booking. If you get enough that means your stay is free!

Please see www.lapena.co.uk for information on this very special place.

In the Frame

For any CertainShops newsletter readers who commission me to take their photos, be it corporate or domestic, I can offer them a FREE large size, panoramic canvas print of one of the photographs of their choice.

Contact me, Scott Collier, at: http://www.certainshops.com/service-provider.php?sp=125.

Special offers from our Client Members

FREE LAPTOP with ‘s best value Broadband Service from the Utility Warehouse
This amazing package offers all the benefits of BroadCall, and a free high-spec Fujitsu Siemens laptop. It is available to all existing and new customers who have at least one energy service with us. The laptop even comes with a free lifetime extended warranty (for as long as you remain connected to BroadCall Laptop tariff).
Contact Client Member Cath Godsen, via http://www.paperpig.co.uk

Free Coaching with NLP Session!

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a proven and highly effective method
of enabling people to achieve what they really want in their work and
private lives. Combined with coaching, the results can be astonishing.

Heather Barrie (a client) said, “Thanks for yesterday’s session – am feeling
more focussed than I’ve been in years – feels gooood!!” The first 30 people
to respond will receive a free taster session worth £75.
Be quick! Offers
like this don’t come along often.

For further details, please contact Simon Donnelly on 01403 738967 or at
simon@life-celebration-coaching.co.uk


Business Moneyfacts is offering our registered users a special discounted rate for subscribing to their highly respected publication.

BMF Advert

SERVICE PROFESSIONALS:

If you have a strong professional track record and would like to join our waiting list to be part of our consortium of high calibre professionals selected on merit contact us: join-us @ certainshops. com

We will promote you through:

Pay per click, Link Campaign and SEO

Press releases and Radio interviews

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The monthly Site Newsletter free to all Registered Users and Service Providers

Business networking events and trade shows

Corporate Packages

Apply online here…..

CLIENT MEMBERSHIP:

To view the many benefits of our Client Membership package, includingfree Situations Vacant – please click here…

SEND TO A FRIEND:

Help each other out and let your friends and colleagues have access to our consortium of high calibre professionals selected on merit – why not forward this newsletter to them now?

SUGGESTIONS & FEEDBACK:

Let us know what you want us to put in the newsletter or your ideas on how to improve the content or layout by contacting us at:feedback @ certainshops. com

The small print

If you do not want to receive another one of our newsletters, you can unsubscribe at any time through your user preferences on the website, or by contacting CertainShops.

To FIND OUT MORE ABOUT US at www.certainshops.com and how to Register for FREE click here:http://www.certainshops.com/register.php

We help make those important choices simple leaving you secure in the knowledge that your needs are fully understood and served by our carefully selected professionals online

© CertainShops Ltd 2006 All Rights Reserved

All text is copyright © of the author and CertainShops Ltd. Logos are copyright © their respective owners.

The information and opinions in contributions to this newsletter and printed on the CertainShops web site in no way reflects the opinions of CertainShops Ltd.

CertainShops Ltd., 72 Medway Drive, Forest Row, E Sussex, RH18 5NX | 02088167281 | textphone 18001 02088167281 | www.certainshops.com | e: suzy @ certainshops. com

Registered in England & Wales | Company no. 5685386 | Registered office North Park Lodge South Street East Hoathly Lewes E Sussex BN8 6DS | VAT no. 880175810

Switching Banks?

Financial, Property No Comments »

Lee Tillcock – Editor of Business Moneyfacts

Two years on from their previous look at the business bank account switching process, Business Moneyfacts Editor Lee Tillcock takes a look at the current state of play, identifying just how keen banks seem to be in securing new small business customers from their competitors.

Tuned in but switched off

Shoppers’ Choice: Website – Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank

Shoppers’ Choice: Phone call – HSBC

The small business sector accounts for over 97% of UK businesses and generates over half of the UK’s GDP. The 2004 University of Warwick UK Survey of SME finances found that 97 per cent of SMEs use a current account. Little surprise then that the issue of businesses switching remains high on the agenda. Various surveys and reports over the last year have provided details on the number of small businesses switching or at least considering switching their business current account to a new provider. Figures differ but tend to indicate that, of the businesses interviewed during the last year, some 3%-5% have switched, with a further 10%-15% at least looking into the process. Considering the size of the market, this is a not inconsiderable amount.

So, who stands out from, and who becomes lost in the crowd? In our latest ‘Mystery Shopper’ survey, we approached the banks as a micro business looking to switch a business current account from one provider to another. We mystery shopped Abbey, Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank (A&LCB), Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland.

We must note at this stage that any survey of this nature is somewhat subjective; however we do also stress that banks only get one chance to impress, so we may have been a new customer won or lost – first impressions do count. The results make interesting reading. There are clearly some providers more switched on than others in the competitive environment of today’s small business market.

We visited each of the banks’ websites, spending no more than 30 minutes on each site, assessing the site’s usability, content, both product based and general business information, and also whether the site provided any additional facilities.

We found a range of standards which would affect the ability of a new business looking to make a switching decision. A&LCB and HSBC were both slightly ahead of the field, with the former edging ahead overall. Its excellent Business Advice section helped to make the additional facilities offered provide the slight difference. Encouragement is taken by the number of banks offering commendable sites and features, with Abbey, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and RBS all providing clear and informative content.

We then telephoned a specialist ‘switching account’ centralised number where one could be found on the bank’s website. We assessed the quality of the initial telephone response, general manner and helpfulness, ability to deal with the enquiry, level of information provided as well as the follow up by means of promised literature sent.

It was A&LCB, HSBC and Bank of Scotland that led the way, with HSBC narrowly taking the plaudits. The flow and professional approach of HSBC, providing information and advice in a concise manner fostered a rapport and ‘relationship’ unmatched, even by A&LCB or Bank of Scotland.

Other providers faring well this time include Abbey, Barclays, Co-operative, Lloyds TSB and NatWest. For so many banks to offer an acceptable first contact to a prospective new client is indeed encouraging.

Business banks have always insisted that the Competition Commission et al have got it wrong; that service is the issue – not pricing. Fair point, as far as it goes. What seems to be highlighted by our survey is that the issue of service is indeed important, but not perhaps in the same way as the banks believe. The level of service perceived or not is decided before a banking relationship begins: get the first contact right and the level of switching could climb. The providers that took the time to show a genuine interest in our business, HSBC, A&LCB and Bank of Scotland would have led us to switch.

Another reason for the SMEs’ apparent lack of willingness or desire to switch is the fact that there are so few introductory offers available to switchers. There is a case that an established business will offer more additional sales possibilities for the new provider, and that more introductory offers would see a rise in the numbers of businesses switching their accounts.

It seems that an SME not only needs to weigh the price on offer against the level of service, but also more surprisingly to identify a bank that wants their account. The intangible but important benefits that arise from building relationships begin with the first contact. From our mystery shopping experience, it would seem that banks need to change their approach to switching and to offer a more knowledgeable and proactive ‘first contact’ to potential new customers.

The banks’ apparent unwillingness to secure a new client is perhaps the main reason for the perceived low take-up of switching opportunities, as the anticipated efficiency of the switching process will be judged on the first contact with a potential new provider. It seems that the phrase “know your customer” still has a particular resonance in the modern banking world. For most suppliers of goods and services, the commercial benefits of knowing their customers make it a golden rule of business. Business banks are no different.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has recently published its tenth biennial report, investigating the service banks provide for private businesses. Around 3,700 firms participated in the survey, ‘Private Businesses & their Banks’. The past three surveys have indicated that the percentage of those businesses not considering changing bank has fallen, from 63.8% in 2002 to 58.3% in 2006. This shows that firms are becoming inclined to shop around for the best deal. Banks should take note; it’s time to tune in as the switch is on.

For full and regularly updated information on business bank accounts visit www.moneyfactsonline.co.uk/mfBAF/root.asp

Click here to view the survey results in full (PDF)

© Certain Shops Ltd 2006 All Rights Reserved

All text is copyright © of the author and Certain Shops Ltd. Logos are copyright © their respective owners.

The information and opinions in contributions to this newsletter and printed on the Certain Shops web site in no way reflects the opinions of Certain Shops Ltd.

Certain Shops Ltd. 72 Medway Drive Forest Row E Sussex RH18 5NX Tel: 01342 824871 textphone 18001 01342 824871 www.certainshops.com e:join-us@certainshops.com Registered in England & Wales Company no. 5685386 VAT no. 880175810 Registered office North Park Lodge South St East Hoathly Lewes E Sussex BN8

Alicia Keys vs Mr E

SuzySays No Comments »

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Sitting in the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, surrounded by students, children and us older ones, Mr E and The Chet made up the whole Eels band. But despite the limited number of musicians on stage – 2 is about as small as a ‘band’ can get – we were not short-changed. After the Dome experience of Alicia Keys a few weeks earlier, this was a very different experience, but somehow a better `performance’ even without the sliding piano and back projection of Key’s Millennium Dome concert.

Miss Keys had given a great performance, but the cheesyness of the `presentation’ had stuck in my throat. But here in a venue a fraction of the size with only basic lighting and no special effects, the audience were delighted with the site of Mr E wandering away from his piano during a long instrumental break, and taking over the drumsticks of The Chet without missing a beat. Whereupon the usurped drummer made his way across the stage to take over at the piano.

I found myself enjoying the shared experience of being in this audience so much more than at the Dome. The authenticity of this performance, in stark contrast to the Gospel film projected at the Dome to provide a background to Alicia’s musical calling, was unmissable. The reading of extracts from Mr E’s recent book by The Chet provided some humour at the blatant plugging of the book, but it also shed some light on what lay behind some of his songs (the suicide of his sister was followed by `Last Stop: This Town’).

The genuine interaction with the audience without a marketing team to subvert the experience, was as great a contrast as an 80′s timeshare salesman trying to get a signature on the dotted line, compared to a friend mentioning he got himself a place in the sun and inviting you to come visit some time soon.

The biggest difference for me was what happened – or more to the point, didn’t happen – following an excellent duet between Keys and the male singer who supported her throughout the performance. At the end of the duet, there was no acknowledgement, thanks or allowing the audience to know his name (until right at the end of the concert out of formality).

As if by allowing some of the applause to go his way, it would dilute her own acclaim. Even though Eels does not exist without Mr E, and The Chet had not been seen before by the Eels fans I was with, the duo came across as a real team, a collaboration, and that in itself pulled the audience in.

In a world where most businesses recognise that team work, and sharing success is integral to working effectively and creating an ethos that will attract strong business partnerships and clients, the Keys concert felt old fashioned and absurd in its contrived attempts to make `a connection’ with the audience. I don’t go to a concert to be `sold’ the performer. I go for the shared experience. Something that Mr E seems to understand well, as The Chet retrieved his drumsticks and sent him back to the piano without a note out of place.


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The Death of Communities – or new ones Evolving?

Business, Social Networking No Comments »

 

 

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Last week, a friend told me she and her partner were splitting up and they were going to tell the two children that evening. She told me this through the window of my car as I was dropping my kids off at school. On the way home I popped into the local organic bakery. No hot cross buns ready that morning. They were a bit behind. Someone had broken in the night before and stolen the petty cash.

I live in a community. A village. A place where sad and bad things happen but people can share the news face to face. People talk about communities ‘breaking down’ and often site family break ups and robberies as part of that process. But I think that these are events that happen everywhere, and when they do, it is being part of a community that makes those that suffer feel supported and listened to.

Online social networking cannot mimic that face to face contact. Yet the the relative anonimity of places like Twitter can allow that same kind of sharing. Not just what someone ate for breakfast, but what they are feeling at that time. And with those tweets showing up on Facebook, Facebook friends browsing through can catch a glimpse of others’ lives and feel connected.

I am about to have two simultaneous phone contracts – an IPhone (tied to O2) which will allow me to online network when away from home, and a new Nokia through Vodafone, so I can keep my business number. Yet, my friends are complaining that I never answer the phone! They are coming to accept that the only way they can keep in contact is to pay a visit.

The trouble is, my networking community has irrevocably changed over the last 7 months and since most of my friends are only occasional users of Facebook, and nervous and confused by Twitter and the multitude of .ning sites I keep encouraging them to join, we just don’t get to talk to each other much any more.

People use the excuse for not networking online of ‘I don’t have time’. Well, I don’t have time to sit still and talk on the phone, since talking and doing five other things at once is not one of my gifts. Which is why I make most of my calls when in the bath (hence the echoey backdrop to my voice and the need for a ‘spare’ phone).

But I can send out messages via blogs and networking sites in between finding the kids’ school uniforms, eating breakfast and trying to find my car keys (oh, I found them last night – in the fridge). I admire people who don’t have mobile phones and create a calmer way of life. I just don’t get to spend any time with them – just a passing hello on the school run – as our different orbits fail once again to connect. But when business colleagues have the same mentality – relying on overcrowded email inboxes and missed calls to keep in contact, that is a lifestyle choice that may cost them dear.

The Times Online posted The 50 Best Business Blogs last June. But blogs are not just a way of sharing information – they are a way of sharing views and comments as well. The business community needs to start understanding that getting involved with other people’s online conversations is a very powerful way of keeping a community in contact with your own values and, by default, that of your business.

There is a bypass threatening to carve up our village. With that would come larger stores, perhaps the death of the small local shops, and something precious will be lost. Will online communities soon be the only ones left where people can share the pain and pleasures of their real lives?


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What IS Marketing??

SuzySays 2 Comments »

 

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Just re-reading blog on Chris Heuer’s Inystes – Personal and Professional Thoughts on Life and Marketing and enjoying David Weinberger‘s quote : ’somewhere along the way marketing became what we did TO people’. Apart from making me laugh (Weinberger is SO right) I began to think about how my recent project to create a sustainable ethical policy for my business is effectively an integral part of my marketing strategy.

This is because marketing should be a collaborative process. Like education. My kids discover things for themselves at school, they don’t just absorb information they are provided with. But first, you have to connect, get their interest, or they just won’t LISTEN.

I discovered recently that marketing begins with your own personal values and your vision of why you run your business in the first place. It is those messages that you ‘brand’ – or in other words, communicate to your clients, users and partnerships.

This is why CSR/ethical/sustainable policies are integral to marketing, not as a ‘green wash’, but because they communicate your values and intentions (which must be measurable and accountable to be authentic). People don’t just buy from ‘people’ – they buy and get involved in companies whose values they share.

I have teamed up with Sam Wilson of EcoEvents. Sam is helping me to create a transparent sustainability statement for my businesses (along with Lorraine Bell of Simply CSR), but I want this ‘policy’ to act as a kind of template for other small businesses (especially those I promote). Sam and I both believe that just because a small business may not apply for a ‘community mark’ to give official validation (unless you wanna pay a few hundred quid to go down that road), and just because no other businesses are legally obliged to care about your ethical policies, that is just not the point.

It is a great way of genuinely sharing your values with those who come to check out your business. I tend to listen and take notice more of people whose values I share. That is part of what marketing is about for me – giving others a reason to listen to what you have to say.


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Lost Communities – get involved or get ignored

SuzySays No Comments »

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I am about to have two simultaneous phone contracts – an IPhone (tied to O2) which will allow me to online network when away from home, and a new Nokia through Vodafone, so I can keep my business number. Yet, my friends are complaining that I never answer the phone! They are coming to accept that the only way they can keep in contact is to pay a visit.

The trouble is, my networking community has irrevocably changed over the last 7 months and since most of my friends are only occasional users of Facebook, and nervous and confused by Twitter and the multitude of .ning sites I keep encouraging them to join, we just don’t get to talk to each other much any more.

People use the excuse for not networking online of ‘I don’t have time’. Well, I don’t have time to sit still and talk on the phone, since talking and doing five other things at once is not one of my gifts. Which is why I make most of my calls when in the bath (hence the echoey backdrop to my voice and the need for a ‘spare’ phone).

But I can send out messages via blogs and networking sites in between finding the kids’ school uniforms, eating breakfast and trying to find my car keys (oh, I found them last night – in the fridge). I admire people who don’t have mobile phones and create a calmer way of life. I just don’t get to spend any time with them – just a passing hello on the school run – as our different orbits fail once again to connect. But when business colleagues have the same mentality – relying on overcrowded email inboxes and missed calls to keep in contact, that is a lifestyle choice that may cost them dear.

The Times Online posted The 50 Best Business Blogs last June. But blogs are not just a way of sharing information – they are a way of sharing views and comments as well. The business community needs to start understanding that getting involved with other people’s online conversations is a very powerful way of keeping a community in contact with your own values and, by default, that of your business.


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Simply CSR

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Apart from the fact that I have trouble remembering what the letters stand for, customer service relations (is that right?) sounds like a piece of software, or something that only corporates do.

Since the ‘Community Mark’ became an expensive gamble (you pay up whether you get accredited it or not) it certainly is no longer attractive to smaller businesses, especially since other businesses are not obliged to consider our ethics or sustainable policies when looking for providers.

So taking the trouble to create a CSR policy for my website is primarily for personal reasons.  But also it does make business sense, since I certainly connect better with other small business professionals whose world outlook is congruent with mine, so it certainly isn’t going to hurt my business to publicly state my values.

One part of the CSR process that I am particularly interested in, is the measurement of client and customer satisfaction as an integral part of the administration of the business. For example, measuring the loyalty of clients (how many resubscribe, for example) can be stated as a percentage of all your clients and there can be a stated commitment to increase client loyalty, with measures put in place to achieve that (discounted re-subscription, for example).

What I hadn’t considered before, was that a potential new client checking out the company by reading my (forthcoming) CSR policy, is not just thinking of resubscription as a sign of professionals getting work through the site (though that will be a primary one, of course), but they may also get a sense of this being a community which professionals WANT to be part of, especially if the ethical values of the business are in sync with their own.  So client loyalty is about more than satisfaction with the service, it is about a choice to stay connected to that business because of shared values.

Creating your own CSR plan is not a five minute job, and it must reflect authentic values and be totally transparent, as fakes tend to be spotted a mile off.  Like if Nestle tried to pretend they really cared about third world babies, for example; having spent years selling milk powder to communities who can’t read the safety instructions (clean water required!) assuming the instructions were in their own language in the first place.  (sorry, rant over)

So authenticity is the key, but also by being transparent about your values and intentions, that encourages a community of like-minded clients, and partnerships, to connect with your business and with you.  That makes sense on any level.

Thank you to Lorraine Bell of Simply CSR for all your help and advice.


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Jobs for the Girls

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The room was buzzing with conversations at our monthly Women’s Networking Company meet up and the conversation turned to sex. I joined in on a debate about positive discrimination in Norway, where companies are legally forced to have a minimum number of women in senior positions. An analogy was made with positive discrimination in the British Police Force and how that has allowed our law enforcement service to be not entirely dominated by white males.

But I couldn’t help point out (being someone who likes to put their oar in during any lively discussion) that the British Police Force did something far more practical in order to increase, for example, the number of recruits from Asian families into the force. They published recruitment material in the languages of the Asian parents, many of whom spoke little English but who exerted a powerful influence over what careers their boys and girls were going to pursue after leaving school.

The police force also did something that massively effected the number of new Asian recruits that did not involve any sexual discrimination in favour of sex or ethnicity – they lowered the minimum height for applicants. This meant that suddenly, a whole generation of Asian youth were no longer ‘too short’ to join the police force.

By coincidence, I had heard that morning an interview with writer Susan Pinker talking about her book The Sexual Paradox: Troubled Boys, Gifted Girls, and the Real Difference Between the Sexes. The author was troubled by the UK’s political moves to emulate Norway by enforcing targeted ‘positive’ discrimination instead of allowing women in the workplace to be hired on merit alone. Her point was simple – women have been discriminated against for so long, so why should other groups, like men, have to suffer the same fate?  I thought she had a good point there.

Our networking discussion then began to highlight the plight of employers afraid that women will bleed them dry with maternity leave and I couldn’t help feel that there was an alternative to forcing employers to take on women employees by considering one simple, salient fact. Some of the women in that very room (including myself) were or still are, single mothers with young children, and yet we have started our own businesses. Clearly, women have a desire to keep working post children. I suggested that if employers were ‘forced’ to provide help with childcare, and allow more flexible working, that they would still get many years of productive service out of all their employees who chose to become parents.

I would hate to take on a job where the male workforce perceived me as being part of a positive discrimination policy rather than hired on merit. What a terrible thing to do to any women, or non-caucasian, or any human being, as part of the political drive to find quick solutions without bothering to look at the simple realities of those people’s lives. With the increasing number of women starting businesses, the fact that they can have some say over their work scheduling is a clear sign that this is the issue, not some misogynist streak in employers.

If the real underlying issues are not addressed, then ‘positive disrimination’ for women will result in plenty of childless women working in senior positions.



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About Us – who are we?

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If you only want to pay professionals who other people rave about, then you’re in the right place.

 

 

Are you fed up with being poorly served and over charged by lawyers, accountants and other professionals?

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Well, everyone likes to do something useful, don’t they?”

 

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I talk to their previous clients & ask for your feedback.

 

Only then are the applauded professionals given a

CertainShops seal of approval & allowed on.

 

www.certainshops.com

Register at no charge here…..

 

 

British Women Backward in Online Networking

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Ok I’m going to have a grumble here, but it’s a perfectly reasonable grumble.

From the forward thinking USA I get WEmagazine with links to business women like Intuitive Business Coach who talks about using Social Networking to Grow Your Business. But when I go to a Sussex women’s networking meeting a few weeks ago, and suggest that they create a free .ning site so that us women can, well, NETWORK – oh, the reaction! The fear and trembling!

In fairness, some of the women’s groups I have spoken to are ‘looking into it’ and yes, they have a responsibility to ensure that their members feel secure and safe if they are to be advocating an online medium for intercommunication.

But I was gobsmacked when the administrator of one particular, mainly London based women’s networking group, told me catagorically that some of her members ‘would walk’ if they started an online social networking site as an added benefit to the membership.

I would lay money on the fact that those ‘members’ already have profiles on LinkedIn, which has much more personal information on it than most social networking sites. So the fear of being able to carry on conversations before and after a networking event, especially for women like myself who have children and are often confined to barracks unable to do physical networking, seems utterly irrational to me.

In the ‘Invasion of the Blogger Mums‘ article a wrote a few months back, I discovered in writing it that in the US, women have taken readily to blogging and online networking, and even in the UK women are using forums and social networks to connect on parenting sites. I seem to be getting invited to an increasing number of online networking sites exclusively for women which are created by UK based professionals, and when speaking direct to even female lawyers and financial advisers I have found the general reaction to online networking one of caution, but not hostility.

Is it really the ‘fear’ of perceived security issues that keeps women’s networking groups shy of creating an online platform for sharing views, ideas and contacts? Or is it really, just that the people who manage these physical networks (from which they earn a living) fear losing control by handing over the networking to the members?

I suspect the latter.

Perhaps it’s time for a revolution.



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