Monday, June 13, 2011

Helen's a winner at Gardening Scotland

In the summer of 2009 an administrative mix-up put Helen Knowles out of a job promoting wildlife in Cumbria.

Unable to find anything else, other than stacking shelves on the Tesco night shift, she decided to plough all her energies into turning her hobby into a source of income. She created Tinnisburn Plants.

Always a keen gardener with artistic flair, Helen loved discovering and nurturing plants which the mainstream garden centres shunned. In the 1990s, straight after university, she'd set up her own garden centre on a plot of land behind the village shop.

Unfortunately, on that occasion, location was her downfall. On a small country road in southern Scotland, miles from the nearest town and with very little passing trade, the venture foundered. Which was why Helen had sought more conventional employment. She continued growing plants as a hobby and covered some of the costs by selling them at local fairs and markets.

But now, in 2009, she determined to give it another go. But this time she would focus on raising plants on the family smallholding and increase her sales activity. Her calendar filled with producers' markets, craft shows, fetes and fairs.

She began to develop a reputation as someone who supplied garden plants that you couldn't find anywhere else, because they were that bit harder to propagate. While the big garden centres focus on easy to grow plants which offer more profit, enthusiast growers like Helen seek out and nurture varieties that have fallen from favour because they're not so easy to produce in large numbers.

Last year Helen received an invitation for Tinnisburn Plants to have a stand at Gardening Scotland 2011, the premier gardening event north of the border.  Working with a shoestring budget, she put together a stunning display which won her a Silver Medal - a huge achievement for someone so new to the business.

Tinnisburn Plants will carry on growing and selling plants in the Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway region. Helen's hobby is finally on the way to developing into a sustainable business and she's looking forward to more success in the future.

I must declare a personal interest in this story. Helen Knowles is my sister, and she's also one of those UK entrepreneurs who have taken on the challenge of creating their own business in the face of adversity. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Business 4 Business Show - The Video

Did you miss the Business 4 Business show, held in Weymouth last week?

This video gives some insights into how the day went. Enjoy!

If you attended or exhibited at Business 4 Business, please leave a comment to let others know how it went, or what you thought of it.

Do you know why you lost that sale?

Knowing why you lost one sale is probably more important that understanding why you won another.

It's great to know when your price, expertise, experience or aftersales service secures you a new deal. It says you're doing the right things and that, if repeated, they could win you more business.

But understanding why you were beaten by a rival could be even more insightful. Sometimes the reasons can be surprising. But many small firms fail to follow up deals they've failed to secure and as a result miss out on information that could help them do better in the future.

The easiest way to find out why you missed out on a piece of business is to ask the customer. Some won't tell you, but many will, and the reason is often more than just price. Customers are often willing to spend more if they're confident that they'll get what they pay for.

Here are some reasons why customers don't buy from you, even if you beat other suppliers on price:
  • They didn't like the sales person. Never forget that people buy from people.
  • You failed to return a call. You can't be sure when the customer is going to make a buying decision, which means you have to stay in touch.
  • Your business was the wrong size. The scale of a supplier's business is important to some customers.
  • Your approach did not meet their expectations. For example, they wanted more detailed pricing estimates than you were willing to give.
  • They didn't think your product did exactly what they wanted. How well did you understand and manage their needs?
This is not an exhaustive list, but it should be enough to give food for thought.

Having examined the reasons why you lost a sale, the next step is to take action, if appropriate. You may not want, or be able, to fix every potential issue with your sales technique or the product you sell.

But by gaining some understanding of why a customer chose to reject you for someone else, you've secured some vital information which could help you to turn the next potential loss into a win.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Independents' Day 2011

Make a special effort to buy at least one item from a local independent retailer on Monday 4th July.

That's one of the key messages behind the Independents' Day campaign, organised by Skillsmart Retail and the National Skills Academy for Retail.

They want people across Britain to celebrate the diversity on offer from their local shops and they're being supported by Mary Portas. A nationally recognised retailed guru, the government recently asked her to take on the challenge of bringing life back to the UK's High Streets.

The Independents' Day initiative wants to remind people that if we don't keep using our local shops, we'll lose them. Many of us have complained for years that huge supermarkets are killing town centre retailers and the recent recession has seen a string of shops, including a number of regional and national chains, go out of business.

If you run a local retail business, or simply want to support the Independents' Day campaign, you can download posters from their website. You could also get some free publicity by holding a special event and submitting a press release to your local newspaper.

If you're a Dorset business and you plan to celebrate Independents' Day in some way, please let us know here at Bizoh. We'd love to publish stories about local shops and if you can supply photographs, that's even better.