Category Archives: Uncategorised

New beginnings

The closing of a chapter

I started this blog almost 4 years ago because I felt I needed an outlet for the thoughts I had on the topics I’m passionate about; marketing, management and the things that motivate me. It’s helped me grow as a marketer and as a person, given me a means of shaping my online presence and taught me a thing or two about how to blog successfully.

This blog was birthed at  a pivotal point in my career when I had just begun my first senior management role as UK Head of Marketing for one of the biggest web hosting companies in the world. I’m closing it as I embark on the next phase in my career – business ownership!

The beginning of a new season

One of the reasons I’ve been able to enjoy my corporate career so much is because it’s never been my life, I’ve always viewed it as a strategic step on my journey to a bigger and more significant vision; training ground that would equip me to do what was really in my heart to do. While I was preparing to make my vision a reality, I was helping others fulfil theirs and I’ve had a blast doing so.

I’ve always known that business ownership was the end goal, one of the first things I did when I left university was write a business plan for the business that I would one day have – that one day has arrived!

New website, new business

Find my new business here  http://katrinadouglas.marketing

You can also connect with me on Twitter LinkedIn and Facebook.

Speak soon!
Katrina

 

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What is a balanced life really?

life balance

We hear  a lot about work life balance and there is much talk in the media about the importance of it and how to achieve it. Having been a mother and wife for my entire working life, balancing career and family has always been an important topic for me. I’ve always felt strongly about not confining myself to one particular role i.e. I am not just a mother, I am not just a wife, I am not just a business women I am all of these things and more, and it’s always been important to me to grow in all these areas simultaneously. It occured to me recently that my notion of a balanced life has changed. I used to think of balance in terms of putting equal effort in to all the respective areas of my life. After all, a common definition of balance is:

“An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady”

But in actual fact I’ve found that maintaining balance in my own life very rarely means that. Life is not neat and tidy, at every stage in life there will be one or two areas that require more of your time, effort and focus than others. Therefore in life, balance never means equal.  I’m reminded of Ecclessiastes 3:1

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

Sometimes the  season and where the focus is needed is obvious, and it will be dictated by circumstances e.g. if your family is having a hard time financially it will be obvious that you need to focus on increasing your income and earning potential. Or if your child is having a hard time at school then the focus will be more on family.

However, often the change in season is not that obvious, in fact we would do well not to wait until circumstances dictate a change in focus. Quite often there are signs way before we reach this point which indicate that we need to adjust our priorities. Therefore maintaining balance for me,  means that I am aware enough and mindful enough to gauge where I need to apply the most focus in my life at any given time.

Right now in my own life I sense a change in season. From the outside looking in,  it all looks good and to be honest it is. I’m at a very good place in life and yet change is on the horizon because in my heart I know it’s time. No one can detect the times and seasons in your life better than you, you can read all you want to on maintaining a healthy work life balance, but none of it will tell you what is right for you.

So I leave you with a question, what season are you in and as we enter a New Year where do  you need to apply the most focus?

Blessings,
Katrina

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Assess Opportunities Wisely

assess opportunities wisely

As we begin a new year many of us will be looking for and assessing new opportunities,  I know from experience that when a new opportunity crops up, excitement kicks in and sound judgement and wisdom can sometimes fly out the window.  There are a few things I’ve learnt on the matter along the way (sometimes the hard way) that I thought I’d share with you.

When I was just starting out in my career I used to grasp at every opportunity that came my way with zeal, I was beginning at ground zero and felt that I needed to take and make the best of every opportunity that came my way. A few years later, I’m equally as grateful for the opportunities I’m given, just a lot more cautious about those I pursue. As the saying goes I’ve gotten a little older and wiser, and I’ve come to realise the following:

1.  Not every opportunity is a legitimate opportunity

There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death
- Proverbs 14:12 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Some opportunities sound great on the surface but if you dig a little deeper you’ll soon fnd out that they’re not quite the opportunities they’re made out to be. Here are a few examples that come to mind;

  • Ponzi schemes that are often presented as a great way to get rich quick
  • 100% mortgages that were all the rage in the early 2000′s
  • That job that looked so great on paper but turned out to be a living nightmare

2.  A good opportunity may not be good for you

Sometimes good opportunities may come your way that sound great and really are great, but they’re just not right for you. Perhaps the timing is wrong e.g. maybe you get a great job offer just as you decide to start a family. Or a great investment comes your way, but as good as it is, raisng the capital would put your family under a great deal of pressure.

3.  Not every opportunity will come to fruition

People will offer you opportunities sometimes with the best of intentions but for one reason or another they just dont happen. Perhaps people pull  out, circumstances change or the opportunity just disappears, so best not to count those chickens before they hatch.

Like I said in a previous post, I think 2015 will be a year of amazing opportunities that will be worth pursuing, but I also believe wisdom and prudence are always necessary. So here are some tips I’ve found useful when it comes to assessing opportunities wisely:

1.  Assess the opportunity objectively

Make sure you know all the facts and  that you have a complete picture of the opportunity at hand. Ask as many questions as possible, some that come to mind include:

  • Who are the people / who is the organisation behind the opportunity? Are they credible?
  • What is required of you – e.g. time, money?
  • What are they offerring you (in detail)?
  • How will it impact your image, reputation and credibility?

Always be sure to request information in writing so that there is a paper trail of some kind.

2.  Consider how it fit’s into your own vision

Too often we let opportunities dictate the vision and we go wherever the wind blows. In fact you should already have a vision for your life and sense of the direction you want your life to take. That vision should be the benchmark upon which you assess the opportunities that come your way.  This is linked to my third point above.

3.  Seek advice and counsel

Where no wise guidance is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
- Proverbs 11:14 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Before making an important decision it’s always wise to seek advice from those you trust and or have more experience than you do. They often have a more objective perspective and often have experience to pull from that you may not.

As a Christian, for me assessing opportunities wisely also means prayer and delving into the Bible, as it is most definitely my guide book for life.

I hope you find these tips useful and here’s to pursuing some great opportunities this year, with wisdom and sound judgement.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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know thyself

know thyself

Know thyself

I recently had to attend a speed awareness course. Reason being I was in in such a rush to get to work one morning that I ‘crept’ over the speed limit ‘marginally’. Now I’d like to say unequivocally that I didn’t realise, however my moral convictions compel me to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth :),  so the truth is that I may have been acutely aware that I had crossed the speed limit but at that moment getting to work a few minutes faster was more of a priority for me than whether or not I inched over the speed limit by a few miles an hour (eek! – don’t judge me).

Although I was initially pained to pay for and attend the course it was an unexpectedly valuable experience, because it caused me to reflect on myself and my actions in a way that I previously hadn’t. It got me thinking about how we can be so focused on getting to our ‘goals’ and destinations that we fail to take stock of our behaviour along the way, and how it impacts others.

This type of goal orientated tunnel visioned behaviour is typical of type ‘A’ personalities.  In a nutshell, type A personalities tend to be hard driving and competitive and type B personalities more easy going and laid back. It’s not that one type is necessarily more goal orientated than the other, but more that they go about achieving their goals in very different ways. I’m naturally type A and although there are some positive aspects it can be a problem; type A’s can be prone to causing collateral damage, in the sense that they are so focused on the end goal that they can loose sight of the importance of those around them. I’ve had to learn to check myself on this to make sure my ‘behaviour’ doesn’t get out of wack in the name of ‘achieving a goal’.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

One of the most important qualities I look for when evaluating whether or not to promote the individuals I manage is self-awareness. Their ability to take an accurate inventory of their strengths and weaknesses and modify their behaviour accordingly.

In fact I feel so strongly about this that  the one and only occasion I’ve felt the need to relinquish someone of their job was because of a detrimental lack of self-awareness. I dismissed this person not  because they made mistakes but because their perception of their ability was so inflated that they were unable to see their mistakes, receive correction and therefore improve their performance. Essentially their confidence exceeded their capability and this is always a slippery slope.

It occurred to me that in our digitally driven age where knowledge is created, shared and consumed at a rate more rapid than at any other point in history, it seems we know a lot more about ‘stuff’ and a lot less about ‘ourselves’.

Has social media hindered our ability to see ourselves clearly?

I’m a big fan of social media but one of the downsides is that it can feed narcissism, in that it thrives on ‘grandiose exhibitionism, inflated self-views, superficial personalities and shameless self-promotion‘.  

We all have a tendency to display are best bits on social media and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that per se,  but we can be deceived into thinking that those 100 likes on that flawless photo render us faultless. it’s very easy to ‘believe the hype’ and forfeit humility for pride (the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance) so that we no longer see our weaknesses, only our strengths.

It would seem that this Old Testament Bible verse could have been written for us today:

Obadiah 1:3

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?

I believe social media is a positive addition to society but balance is key in everything and I believe it’s important to remain grounded.

So here’s 4 practices that I think keep us grounded

I’m listening to Dan Pinks audio book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us at the moment, in it there is a section entitled ‘Move 5 Steps Closer to Mastery’ (Mastery is the urge to get better and better at something that matters) ironically I also think they’re beneficial for keeping us grounded:

1. Practice: To improve performance practice is essential. Both Dan Pink and Malcolm Gladwell (in Outliers: The Story of Success) mention that it takes about 10 years of consistent effort and hard work to master your craft. In fact mastery is impossible to realise fully as there is always more to learn and always room to get better. This in itself is humbling.

2. Repeat: In the words of Robert Collier: success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. Monotony is also humbling, I’m reminded of the ‘wax on, wax off’ scene in Karate kid:

3. Seek feedback: To seek feedback means we acknowledge that we don’t know everything and we can learn from others.

4. Focus on where you need help: This requires us to acknowledge our flaws in the first place.

I say all that to say this, it’s great to know stuff but even more important to ‘know thyself’.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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5 ways to monetise your big idea

monetise ideas

Most of us have had a great idea hit us at one time or another. That light bulb moment where you’re filled with adrenaline and excitement about the possibilities. Sometimes the way to make money from that idea is obvious, but often it’s not and you experience that sudden jolt back to reality, as you’re hit with the realisation that you need to pay bills and provide your family with food and sustenance. That idea soon falls by the way side as quickly as it came. What a travesty! If you can relate then this post is for you.

Firstly I’d like to say I do believe that ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ and if you think long and hard enough I’m sure you’ll find a ways to make money from your idea, persistence pays. However, if you’re experiencing a ‘brain block’ (as we all do at some point) that last statement really isn’t any help to you. So I thought I’d be a little more helpful and provide you with 5 concrete ways you can monetise your ideas.

1. Attach a paid service 

If your idea is to provide a free service e.g. a membership offering, the provision of information or perhaps an online tool, then there is the option to add paid services that are related to your free service  to your portfolio. Often times people think why not just charge for the main service, however charging can be a bad idea. For example your business may be dependent on attracting a high number of users (e.g. a social platform of some sort) charging for your service would hinder your ability to attract the volume you need. Another reason may be that competitors don’t charge for the service, so if you did, you would immediately put you business at a huge disadvantage.

This is why the freemium business model has become so popular. This is when a business provides a version of their offering  for free and then charges for a more complete version with premium features. Here are 7 types of freemium strategies.

2. White label and license

A white-label product or service is a product or service produced by one company (the producer) that other companies (the marketers) rebrand to make it appear as if they made it.

White labelling is done a lot in the food industry with famous brands such as Heinz, creating ‘own brand’ versions of their products for supermarkets. It also occurs often  in the  finance industry where department stores for example, offer store cards that are provided by banks as a white labelled services and then the stores brand and market it as there own. If you have an idea for a product that you think you’d have a hard time selling, but more established businesses could sell it with ease, then you could offer it to these businesses as a white-labelled product for them to sell.

3. Set-up an affiliate program

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

Essentially you pay other businesses and/or individuals a commission for selling your product. They simply place banners for your product or service on their website and you then pay the affiliates a commission from every sale they make. Companies like Affilinet and Comission Junction make it very easy to start an affiliate marketing program, here’s a guide to creating an affiliate marketing strategy for your business.

4. Attract a sponsor

Perhaps your idea is to set-up an event or an information based website for example, one way to finance this and generate revenue is to  attract a key sponsor.

A sponsor will provide money to a business  (typically in sports, arts, entertainment or causes) in return for access to a specific target audience and access to the commercial opportunities that association with a business provides. This may involve the sponsor having their logo on your website right through to speaking at your events and marketing to your customers or members. Here’s some sound advice on how to attract a corporate sponsor

5. Sell advertising

One of the most popular ideas for monetising an idea is to sell advertising a lot of bloggers do this and it simply involves allowing businesses that offer services that are relevant to your customers/members/users to advertise on your website for a fee.

If you’ve been struggling to come up with ways to commercialise your idea then I hope I’ve given you some food for thought.

If you’ve thought of other creative ideas to monetise your ideas I’d love to hear about them so please feel free to comment below,

Speak soon,
Katrina

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A Tribute to Art and Friendship

Simone Brewster Jewellery

I’m a marketer and I love marketing but more often than not it’s not marketing per se that inspires and stirs creativity in me, it’s those things outside my industry. One of those being art, in all its guises and another – friendship.

I’d never thought to put the two together before, until I begun thinking about a friend of mine who also happens to be a brilliant designer and entrant in the recent ‘Women in Making 2014’ competition. So I of course popped over to vote for her and begun to think about her work, in doing so it occurred to me that her work is in many ways a metaphor for our friendship.There are character traits that she has that shine through in both her work and friendship.

But  before I go any further – in the name of honesty I think it’s best to declare that my number one goal for this post is that by the time you reach the end of it, you know who Simone Brewster is. You might even see fit to pop over to Facebook and like her page or perhaps frequent her website :) . But I didn’t just want to tell you about her work, I wanted to convey something about the artist she is, and I realised I could do that by telling you about the friend she is:

Honesty

I recently read an article ‘The 8 types of girlfriends that every women needs’ and Simone Brewster is most definitely the honest friend. As the article states:

This is the friend that will tell you like it is, even when you don’t want to hear the truth. But she’ll tell you in a loving, sisterly kinda way (and sometimes, she’ll just give it to you raw ’cause the situation called for it). This is the one that when everyone else is telling you, your new haircut looks amazing on you (not to hurt your feelings), your girlfriend will take you to her stylist to get it hooked up the right way. – Simone Brewster is that friend, and boy do we all need a friend like this!

Her work has the same honesty, whether you feel ready to hear it or not it has something to say and it’s said simply and clearly so there’s absolutely no confusion.

Simone Brewster Supermodel 101

Supermodel 01
Material: Aluminium and Copper

Confidence

She has the type of confidence that will either intimidate you or rub off on you. I’ve known Simone Brewster for 20 years and she’s always known and been crystal clear about who she is and what she represents. Her work has this same quality; it’s BOLD and STRONG and has undeniable presence. You can’t walk into a room and fail to notice Simone Brewster is there, she has presence even when silent. Her work is the same.

Simone Brewster Negress & Mammy

Negress and Mammy
Material: Solid stained Tulip Wood

Integrity

One definition of integrity is ‘the state of being whole and undivided’. Simone Brewster does not do mixed messages, neither does she waiver or stray from her convictions. She is one of the most consistent individuals I know and once she sets a path she sticks to it. Her work has this same integrity. There is no compromising and her collections exhibit continuity; each one telling a story that has a clear thread running all the way through it.

In the wise words of Samual Johnson;
There can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity”.

The Tea Jewels

So today I want to leave you with three key takeaways:

1. Honour friendship :
Proverbs 27:5-6 states; Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

2. Seek inspiration outside your industry:
This will spur creativity and creativity has value in any field

3. Go visit www.SimoneBrewster.co.uk


Here’s to art and friendship, have a blessed week,
Katrina

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Street Smarts for Small Businesses

steps to success

The smart person learns from his or her mistakes, a wise person learns from other peoples mistakes

I believe the best way to learn how to be great at something is to seek the advice from those that have successfully gone before you, not to imitate them, but to follow the principles that have made them successful. This is why mentors and also books can provide invaluable help and resources on our journey to achieving our vision and goals. One such book I recently came across is Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham.

The reason I found the book so useful was because it is based on practice not theory. Brodsky himself is a veteran entrepreneur, has been a mentor to a number of successful entrepreneurs, and in addition to co-authoring Street Smarts is a columnist and senior contributing editor for Inc.com.

There are so many gems in this book it was difficult to select just a few so the best advice I can give you is to get the book! But until then here are three things that really resonated with me:

My three favourite principles

1.       Spend your time going after high margin customers let the low margin customers come to you and then negotiate the price up.

This typically means focusing on customers that spend more, but probably buy less. i.e. the customer that buys from you whether your product is on sale or not. These customers are probably more valuable to your business than the serial bargain hunter who only buys during the sale. It is better to spend your time building relationships with the former and letting the latter come to you.

Why? Well, as Brodsky and Burlingham explain, gross profit (the net sales minus the cost of goods and services sold) is the most important figure for a small business; all expenses are paid out of gross profit. To illustrate, if your product costs you £20 to make and you sell it for £35 you are obviously making a decent profit margin, if you sell the same product at £21 even if you sell more, the picture isn’t so rosie. The lower price will undoubtedly attract more customers but this may not actually be of benefit to your business, because not only are you making significantly less profit on each sale (which may not be enough to cover expenses), but you are also having to service significantly more customers which may erode the minimal profit you received from the sale. Yet many small businesses make the mistake of going after lots of low margin sales, these sales look good initially but could actually be costing your business. Better to have few high margin customers than many low margin customers. This is why I’m not a fan of competing on price, as it erodes value for your business and your market. I personally will always compete on value.

2.       There is ONE opportunity you should be thinking about at the beginning of any business

Emotion causes you to want to jump on every new opportunity that arises, but as Brodsky and Burlingham state “the numbers (as discussed above) will help you balance your emotion”.

Most entrepreneurs are ideas people so they tend to struggle with focusing on one idea at a time, perhaps you can relate :) however, When you have limited time and limited money as is the case for most small businesses, focus is a must.

Focus and discipline are more important than chasing opportunities when building a business– a plan helps you do this. As Brodsky and Burlingham state; “eventually your business will grow so strong that it won’t need you, and then you can chase opportunities to your hearts content”.

3.       First mover advantage is overrated

You often hear that to be successful you need a unique product or service or you should choose a business with as little competition as possible. Brodsky advices the opposite, because there is nothing more expensive than educating a market. This one’s definitely food for thought :)

These three principles barely scrape the surface of what the book has to offer, so if you’ve recently started a business or are planning to do so in the near future then I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

If you do decide to read it, please come back and let me know what you think and what your favourite principles are.

Speak soon,
Katrina

PS:here’s Norm Brodsky’s Twitter handle @NormBrodsky if you wish to follow him.

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What are you asking me?

This is the question I find myself often asking my team members. The funny thing is I tend to ask this upon receiving an email they’ve sent me that often contains the answer. So I realise that at this point you might be thinking “why ask the question when the email has the answer, you just need to read it?” Well my answer is threefold:

1.   I’m asking for brevity and clarity

Firstly, I want to get the heart of the matter as quickly as possible and often a two paragraph email can be explained verbally in a few words, within a few seconds. The question ‘What are you asking me?’ is direct and to the point and it often elicits an answer that is direct and to the point, so it just saves time.

Also, it’s worth noting that I sit with my team so rather than reading an email I prefer to hear the request from them directly. The reason is that we receive a lot more communication signals from face-to-face verbal communication than can be conveyed in an email, so I often receive cues that I may have otherwise missed.

2.   I’m also asking if they really need to ask 

I find that when someone is asked to get to the point of what their asking they can sometimes realise that there actually isn’t much point to the question and/or they can easily answer it themselves. Sometimes this can happen when we briefly scan an email and forward the request on to someone more senior automatically without actually thinking about whether or not we can resolve the issue ourselves. The question ‘what are you asking me?’ tends to expose when this is the case quite quickly.

3.   I want to know if they’re asking me for what they really want

Sometimes questions can be about something quite different to what the question suggests. Easy questions are often asked as a precursor to more difficult questions. For example, someone may ask me if I’ve received feedback on this years’ budget,  but what they really want to know is if they’ll be able to do a training course that they  have in mind. My asking ‘what are you asking me?’ is essentially saying just ask me for what you want because the chances are, if I can deliver it I will.

One of my life principles is to live life learning and the truth of the matter is the quality of our learning is determined by the quality of our questions, so I believe it’s in all our interests to learn to ask better questions.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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Endurance and longevity

endurance and longevity in business

The word endurance has been on my heart and mind quite a lot recently, perhaps it’s because I’ve been training for this bike ride and realised very quickly that short bursts of speed and high energy were not going to get me very far,  pace and endurance when the going gets tough is what’s required to go the distance.

One definition of endurance is the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina. I believe every manager and leader needs to develop endurance in order to have longevity.

It was in my current job that I realised that my boss didn’t want a ‘superstar’ just a consistent high performer, someone that he could rely on whatever the climate to do the job and get results.

So in thinking about this topic my mind ran over one of the best business books ever written in my opinion The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by the late great Stephen R. Covey. I decided to revisit it and came across these two points, which I’ve found to be invaluable pieces of advice in my pursuit of endurance and longevity.

  1. We must not just be educated but continually re-educate and reinvent ourselves so that are skills remain relevant

  2. In business survival is always at stake but we can’t get so bogged down today that we lose sight of tomorrow. We must  always have the future in mind and make time to prepare for it.

Stephen R. Covey puts it this way; ‘the need to produce today is today’s reality and represents the demand of capital but the real mantra of success is sustainability and growth.

Speak soon :)

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Women V Cancer Ride the Night

 

I am so excited about 2014, I’m determined that it’s going to be my best year yet!

And for me that means stepping out of my comfort zone, taking on new challenges and investing my time in meaningful projects that matter.

A couple of days ago I told you about some of the plans I have to take this blog to the next level which I’m really excited about, you can find out more in the post entitled ‘New Year New Goals’.

Today I want to talk to you about another challenge I’m taking on and that’s the Women V Cancer Ride the Night event where I’ll be joining 2000 women to ride 62 miles from Windsor Race cause to central London and back on May 31st 2014.

The bike ride is in support of 3 great charities Breast Cancer Care, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Ovarian Cancer Action all of which provide invaluable support to countless women each year during the most difficult periods of their lives.

In the coming weeks I’ll posting numerous uodates about the work these charities do, in the ‘motivation’ section of this blog.

I’m super excited to be part of this event and have begun training in earnest, joining a Gym for the first time in my life! and I even went out this weekend and bought myself a brand new bike to prepare for the challenge!

By the end of this challenge I hope to have achieved the following goals:

  1. Raised at least £500 for the 3 women’s charities I’ve mentioned
  2. Adopted a much healthier lifestyle including regular exercise
  3. Successfully completed a challenge that stretches me beyond my current comfort zone

In truth we only grow through challenging ourselves, and my goal this year is to grow in more ways than one.

But I need your help to complete this goal, I’m asking that you would consider sponsoring me to complete this challenge by making a donation via my Just Giving page, any amount no matter how small will be greatly appreciated. I have to raise at least £199 by 25th April 2014 and I hope to raise at least £500 by May 31st.

Thank you so much for your support and I look forward to keeping you posted on my progress in the coming weeks and months

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