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Here we go again… Yep, I hear you! As with all things new in social, it’s worth investigating and making an informed decision as to whether it’s right for you. I’ve been on Clubhouse observing for a month and these are my findings so far… (scroll down for Pro Tips and the ultimate set-up guide)

Clubhouse is a social audio app which launched in the US in April 2020 and garnered 2.5million followers after just 9 months. You need an invite to access the app and it’s currently only available for iOS users, although the Android version will be released soon.

You can navigate across different rooms where people talk about topics they care about, and you’re free to join these rooms if you want to take part or just listen in. ‘Mods’ or moderators can organise and host rooms with people they know, professionals they want to share insights with, or even celebrities.

Vanilla Ice (who happens to be a successful real estate developer), Tyrese Gibson from The Fast & The Furious film franchise (who was looking for a CEO for one of his companies) and Lindsey Lohan were in rooms and chatting openly when I visited. There’s also a few not-so-humble types describing themselves as “from homeless to billionaire”, but that’s not really the point.

 

Continue reading the article from Blue Mind Social, here.

At a time when Cash is King, a cash injection of this magnitude can be a matter of survival for a business.  A frequently misunderstood government funding mechanism is available for businesses that have been innovative, potentially in any industry. One sector that often falls short of maximised claim benefit is the Digital sector.  Rob Sowden, innovation tax incentives specialist at Business Cash Enabler reports a case study where a business benefited greatly:

“Just two years after I met the managing director of this business for the first time, they have benefited from £260k cashback under the HMRC Research & Development (R&D) tax credits scheme.  This was an incredible cash boost for the business that develops secure web-based apps running on mobile devices.  Many businesses and their advisors haven’t associated the R&D tax credits scheme with software development, however, innovation including writing APIs, algorithms, coding, Big Data analytics and app development, can all potentially meet the scheme criteria.  Apart from costs incurred via payroll, this business also incurs costs from offshore developers.  They still qualified for a rebate of a proportion of these costs because the costs were incurred by the UK registered entity.  On the cautionary side, there is a risk that if a business tries to self-claim or via their accountant, without a specialist advisor, they may claim for work that is ineligible, such as out-of-the-box solutions or well known development techniques.  There is the potential that HMRC could subsequently claw back any benefit paid.

“A trading company that carries out any form of unique innovation may qualify for a year-on-year cashback from HMRC under this very generous scheme.  A company can claim back two accounting periods, or must have at least their first set of trading accounts, if it is an eligible startup.  A business does not have to be profitable to get this tax credit or cashback, in fact a loss-making company may obtain an enhanced cashback, up to 33% of qualifying costs incurred can be rebated. Some businesses have claimed and received small amounts, maybe £10k or £15k, which may be much less than they are entitled to. What catches many businesses out is that they believe this claim opportunity is an accountancy work-stream, whereas it is really about technology.  The claims management service I introduced this business to required a specialist software analyst to identify all of the qualifying activities permitted within the government’s scheme rules.

HMRC have remained operational throughout the pandemic to process claims, usually paid out around 45 days from a claim being filed.”

Business Cash Enabler provides a free service to businesses to check eligibility for innovation tax incentives.  All stages of a claim can be managed remotely by phone, videoconference and email.

For more information visit www.businesscashenabler.co.uk

To arrange a free eligibility check email [email protected] or call 07732 627085

Transport Scotland has selected Unicard’s central back-office solution to manage both commercial journeys and the Scottish National Concessionary Travel Scheme.

 

Unicard, a provider of smart ticketing and payment solutions to the public transport sector, said its Host Operator or Processing System (HOPS) transport data management system securely processes all smart transactions and supports all ITSO accredited smart ticketing schemes.

A Transport Scotland spokesman told Transport Network that it is a four-year contract valued at £1.7m, with the option of a further two years at a total cost of £2.3m.

Scotland’s concessionary travel scheme entitles 1.4 million older and disabled people to free bus transport and provides discounted travel for young people (Young Scot Cardholders), throughout Scotland.

”Local

Unicard CEO Sean Dickinson

Unicard said its HOPS can be configured to support the Scottish Government’s plans to extend free bus travel to around 777,000 under 19s, as well as companions of disabled children under five.

Continue reading the full article here – Click here

You’ve written your latest webpage, sales email or perhaps a report. Your coworkers are impressed. Your boss loves it. But it flops. Your reader feels confused by all the jargon, and perhaps a little alienated.

So what went wrong? How do you figure out what words to use? Where’s the line between technical or professional language and jargon?

What is jargon?

Ask Google to define jargon and you’ll get this answer:

“Special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.”

We’d go one step further and change the first bit to “secret code”. Jargon words and phrases baffle anyone outside the sector or community. In the workplace, jargon might help to create a sense of belonging, but when it comes to openness and inclusivity, it can become a real problem.Jargon is a bit more complicated than just inside language though. It serves so many purposes and comes in so many forms, that you probably won’t even realise you’re using it.

 

Continue reading the full article here from A Thousand Monkeys

Is success all it’s cracked up to be for business owners?

 

The holy grail of an agency is to grow, right? Isn’t that what we mean by success?

If you think about people who command our respect and attention – like David Ogilvy, Martha Lane Fox, Elon Musk etc. – they all grew big businesses, which all feeds into that narrative that bigger is best.

 

This makes it really strange to keep coming across loads of immensely clever, successful, happy people who run pretty small agencies and have no interest in growing. In fact, some of them are shrinking them even.

It’s a topic which came to the fore in a recent discussion group – hosted by Media Lounge’s co-founder Adam King. He brought along special guest Jason Swenk (jasonswenk.com), the U.S. agency owner, podcaster and mentor who challenged the group to think about what was right – for them at least. How do you know or decide what’s best?

Unsurprisingly, having a plan is important. As Mike Tyson famously said: ‘everyone has a plan until they’re hit in the face’, and it’s easy to lose sight of the plan when you’re trading successfully. If business is going well, there’s seldom time to keep on top of things and it’s easy to let events dictate you, not the other way around. But if you’re not on top of running your business who is?

Having a clear vision of where you want to be in 5 years’ time is invaluable. Not just for the company but for you too. The business needs to reflect what you want to get from it. Staying small, being a ‘lifestyle’ business is totally fine – if that’s what you want from it. Maybe you want to work a 4-day week, maybe you need to finish at 3pm for your children. The important thing is to be clear what the parameters are, and decide how big you want to scale from there.

 

Just as important, though, is to make sure everyone you work with knows what the plan is. It’s no good to say we want to climb high, you have to tell everyone which mountain you’re climbing. It’s odd, but people can get really ‘British’ about this sometimes – what people are prepared to share with their team and what they think should be kept secret. The more you share, the more people can get behind your goals.

If you don’t think you can trust people with the right information, they may not be the right people to work for you. Having a strong team is something the leaders keep coming back to. Jason’s aim is to employ a team of people cleverer than him. Then you can empower them to develop the business you way you want it, to the scale you’re happy with, and achieve the life you want to live, for yourself.

So what might that life look like? Why don’t more people strive to be bigger? Jamie Sergeant from Crowd suggests that the optimum size for any agency is 15 people. It’s the perfect ratio of skills, communication and manageability, any more, and the logistics become much more complex. Rather than grow beyond 15, Crowd’s philosophy is to open a new office and employ 15 more people somewhere else. So far they have 10 offices in seven countries.

Leaders like Martin Walker, in the Walker Agency, are focusing on what works best for them and has scaled back to make sure this happens. If you really want to design, or code or write, running a larger agency just takes you away from the thing you love. Far better to keep operations manageable and achieve more job satisfaction. If you want to grow further – there’s always the option of hiring a Managing Director to run the business, while you head up a department – and take the role of Chair or CEO.

 

Another consideration is about keeping your sanity. One MD, who employed 52 people, said that for 51 weeks of the year everyone was happy but, invariably, every staff member had at least one bad week. That means despite a generally happy office, someone is moaning at you every day of the year. If you only employ 26 people, that’s half a year of whinge-free bliss!

If you still find your business is too busy to keep the plan in place, there could be a simple answer – charge more! Higher revenues don’t necessarily result in higher profits. If you charge a bit more, lose a client or two, and perhaps shed one or two employees, you’ll usually find that profits are higher, even with a lower income. Make sure you are concentrating on the right number – profit invariably trumps revenue!

 

In our minds, we might strive to become the next Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey – but, goodness, it’s hard work. Do we really have the determination? If 20% of large company CEOs are psychopathic, and you believe you’re a nice person – that’s slimmed down the odds of big company success already. Perhaps it’s best to be honest about who you really and what you really want, then you can control the narrative and define success in your own terms.

It’s been a year hasn’t it?

Just before we all dash off to enjoy a slightly different Christmas, please join us in a virtual ‘round of applause‘ to many of the Silicon South Network Supporters who have achieved something great this year, despite everything 2020 has thrown at them.

Below, we provide a glimpse of some of the fabulous people the Network is so lucky to have. It’s been amazing how everyone has come together in one way or another, to help each other get through a challenging year. At the same time, there has been plenty of individual achievements too.

So to get the seasonal cheer flowing, and positive momentum started, let’s take a moment to celebrate…

  • Scholar Web Services was awarded the hosting for the new Tank Museum Website. This came as a result of a referral from Jamie Derrick (JD) as they now operate as the ‘go to’ managed cloud infrastructure partner – Liz Bately, Client Services Director

 

  • BBD Boom became a HubSpot Diamond Solutions Partner after just 3 years of trading, putting them in the top 20 HubSpot partners in the UK – Emma Lynch, Founder & Managing Director of BBD Boom LTD

 

  • The creators of DiaryZapp, the award winning children’s journaling app, won an Innovate UK grant to build children’s well-being app for schools – DiaryZapp

 

  • As a NXD, Adrian Dwyer led a successful £1m Innovate UK grant for AEH Hydrogel, a spin-out from the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, part of the project will develop digital control systems – Adrian Dwyer

 

 

  • Technology innovators Dorset Creative were crowned with national recognition for “creating technology that has made a real impact to people’s lives” during the National Technology Awards 2020, where they triumphantly won ‘Healthcare Tech of the Year’ for their surgical training simulator – Rowena Revill, Director & Co-Founder

 

  • South Coast Social and Podcast Labs joined forces to create “The Ultimate Podcast & Social Media Package”, giving businesses the opportunity to benefit from a combination of marketing services – Rich Lown, Marketing Manager at South Coast Social Ltd

 

  • Media Lounge migrated global digital video game giant CDKeys online store over to Magento 2 – John Wood, Business Development Manager at Media Lounge

 

 

  • Light FX UK were delighted to offer their services to Dorset County Hospital and Yeovil Hospital to thank them for their incredible work – Gavin Borthwick, Projection Mapping Specialist at LightFX UK

 

  • Hatty Fawcett at Focused For Business launched a Funding Accelerator in July and the founders from the first two cohorts have already raised over £200K. Hatty was also named as one of the UK’s Top 50 Business Advisers by Enterprise Nation in the Finance and Funding category – Hatty Fawcett from Focused for Business

 

  • Westrow (Content Strategy) created the web content and launch comms for data42, a big data project by Novartis healthcare, and Westrow himself considerably improved his guitar-picking, finger-style blues in E during lockdown – Westrow Cooper, Content Marketing Strategy

 

  • During the first lockdown, Cress Rolfe at Seajar Digital in Christchurch created websites for two emerging charitable initiatives 1. Locally for the planned pop-up seasonal event ‘Christchurch Living Advent Calendar’ (sadly postponed this year but seeking venues & sponsors for next year) – christchurchlivingadventcalendar.org.uk 2. Cowrie Scholarship Foundation – formed in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, a national charity which aims to fund 100 disadvantaged Black British students through UK universities: cowriescholarshipfoundation.org.ukCress Role, Owner of Seajar Digital

 

  • Passenger launched a new UK-wide bus app – With bus operators needing ways to communicate vehicle occupancy levels and information with users, Passenger developed and launched myTrip in September of 2020. Designed especially for smaller bus companies it has become the first step on a digital journey for many UK operators, with more joining every week – Bethan Hopkins, Marketing Manager at Passenger

 

 

  • Richard Perry, 1. Built a national listing and sourcing SaaS service for UK food & drink sector, UKFoodWeb.info 2. Completed the build of a mobile-first marketplace for local retail and restaurants, LoveLocal.eu 3. Completed build and integration of their last-mile delivery service platform, Zip-B.co.uk – Richard Perry, The Great British Larder

 

  • During this challenging year, the team at Adido have been working relentlessly to help their Ecommerce clients hit record breaking revenues in 2020. They are so proud of the work the team have achieved for their clients including Manutan, Ordnance Survey, Godminster who have all hit their best sales performance in 2020 whether it’s been a day, a week, month or quarter – Claire Ralston, Marketing & Events Manager at Adido

 

  • PatientSource’s electronic patient record solution launched within the U.K.’s newest and largest rehabilitation hospital in Birmingham. – Lee Francis

 

  • Chittak Limited is a Web Application and API Integration company. They have been appointed by Connections, a company that specialises in the targeted distribution customer offers into consumer homes using eCommerce retailer packages. Read the full press release here Trevor Clarke BSc (hons), Director of Chittak Ltd

 

It’s a wonderful illustration to show that, despite all the bad news this year has thrown at us, there has been so many fantastic achievements and accomplishments from people and businesses within our local community.

Want to be included in the list? Send your story to Mitch at [email protected]

Or perhaps you’re looking to join a new community in the New Year? All that information can be found here

 

All that leaves us to say is, Merry Christmas, have a peaceful and well-earned break and here’s to looking forward to 2021!

The relationship between agencies and clients (especially large ones) can feel like tiptoeing through a game of cat and mouse, wearing an eye patch, with no shoes on, over a scorpions’ nest. You have to choose your steps carefully.

So, it was refreshing to glimpse behind the curtain and find out what clients’ really think – well one in particular – when Vicky Brentnall, Director of Advisor Services at Vitality, graciously joined December’s Directors Discussion Group for mid-size agency founders.

Despite the chaos of 2020, many agencies have still been picking up new work and performing pretty well. One reason is that corporate companies have been releasing staff to reduce fixed costs. It means that previously well-staffed departments have become under resourced. There’s no escaping that this is pretty wretched for the people involved, but these companies still need a range of services supported.

They have been turning to agencies to fill the newly created gaps and deliver the work needed. These requirements are not evenly distributed, though. The majority of staff have been laid off from roles that are seen as non-critical – for instance, creative, UX or design, etc. Tech roles, which manage the software ‘engines’ of business, are much more likely to have been kept in place. For the record this is not the case in Vitality where nearly all staff have been kept on or are now back from furlough.

It does suggest there are more opportunities for agencies working at the more creative ends of the sector. Which is good to know, right? But how do you do something about it?! Cold calling is one approach, but it can become a fast track to frustration and sheer despondency. The group suggested outsourcing it to professionals. Find a telesales specialist who you think can complement your brand and culture – the general feeling is they’re not all hard-nosed ambulance chasers, the good ones can be much more sympathetic and empathetic. Sure, there’s a cost involved but, when it works, it should pay for itself. You might even be able to cut a deal – to pay a lower up-front fee and pay a higher commissions on success, until you feel fully comfortable with the process.

What really cut through the discussion, though, was the importance of building relationships. Many large companies will run tenders, but more often than not they’re not open – and only a few agencies are directly invited to pitch – you know, the standard three quotes. When clients need something done, the best chance to win the work is for someone in the office to know you. No one wants to wade through dozens of pitch decks and everyone wants to work with someone they can trust.

Over and over, the group confessed that some of their biggest wins came because they knew someone in the company. Being friends with the Big Cheese doesn’t hurt (just ask Matt Hancock and the PPE contractors!) but you don’t have to know the MD or CEO. Getting your name in front of the decision maker is important but, even at director level, Vicky admitted she happy to ask around the office – either for direct suggestions, or opinions on a company she’d discovered but never met. With 160 people in her department, that suddenly opens up much more potential if you know one of them.

The important thing is to be in someone’s mind when the call goes out. This isn’t just about sales, at least not the typical way we’re told sales should be. It’s about connecting with people – treasuring relationships. Don’t simply sell yourself, put the focus on others – ask people about themselves. Find out how things are? What’s going on at their work? Show some interest and, of course, stay in touch. It also means you get to know when something is on the cards which is relevant for you.

Don’t forget, corporate clients need agencies; right now, some of them need agencies more than ever. But clients are people, and they want to work with people they can trust (oh – and whose business is financially stable – that’s really important too!) So be nice, be gregarious, be a little bit bold and stay connected. You’ll probably play both cat and mouse at different times but, if you work with people who know, like and trust you, at least you can pull on a pair of boots before you walk over the scorpions’ nest.

You’ve finished writing your web page, your email, your petition to save the Great Crested Newt. It’s persuasive. It’s informative. It matches your tone of voice perfectly. But is it clear what you want your readers to do next? Are you confident they’ll take action, not just hop over to your competitor’s site, delete the email or ignore your plea? It’s time to revise on writing a persuasive call to action.

Donating, booking, buying – there are endless actions you might want your reader to take. But too many ‘asks’ can be confusing. Vague directions or halfhearted instructions will lose your reader. So, before you do anything, make sure you know exactly what the one thing you want them to do is.

Once you’ve cleared that up, it’s time to take a closer look at your call to action. You’ve only got a few words to make an impact, so you need to make them count. “Find out more” isn’t always going to be enough to encourage readers to take the next step.

To find out the top tips to writing a persuasive call to action, follow the click ‘A Thousand Monkeys‘.

Silicon South Supporter Mitch Clay shares his experiences and what Humancrafted is setting out to achieve.

 

Silicon South:

So the best place to start is to learn about yourself, your experiences and how it’s got you to where you are today.

Mitch:

Hi, I’m Mitch Clay, Founder and Technical Lead at Humancrafted.

I’ve spent my whole career in software and tech, most recently in FinTech and IoT projects. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some big brands in the past, including Visa and Telegraph Media Group, where I worked on everything from payment processing platforms to new product development.

I founded Humancrafted nearly two years ago, and it has been a great adventure. The business has grown really quickly and we’ve landed some incredible projects. I’ve learned that there’s a big appetite out there for development partners who can listen carefully to a complex brief and execute high-quality work, which is ultimately what we’re all about.

When I’m not overseeing work for clients or helping business define technical roadmaps, you’ll usually find me with my head in the code. I’m a Javascript fanatic (Typescript mainly), I love working in React, React Native and Node, too.

 

Silicon South:

I suppose then for someone who’s part of the Silicon South network, what services can you provide?

Mitch:

At Humancrafted, we describe ourselves as “the digital product consultancy trusted by engineers”. We speak the language of CTOs and the business, and our mission is to deliver technically excellent products that users love.

Very often our clients have a lot of business & product knowledge themselves already. They know what they want to achieve, and they want to know that the technical delivery will be executed flawlessly. We’re the perfect development partner for clients like this who either don’t have the time to get stuck into product management, or don’t have the precise specialist knowledge they need to bring their ideas to life.

We support clients throughout the full project lifecycle, so everything from Wireframes to Design to Web & Mobile Development, Backend & Cloud Development, right the way through to Performance Testing & Auditing. We don’t focus on one specific app type or industry, but we tend to get a lot of complex and bespoke projects.

The best digital solutions come from great people (…which is why the business is called Humancrafted!) We work with a deep pool of trusted engineers who are all experts in their field. When a new project starts, we provision a specialist team whose talents are aligned with the needs of the project, then we get to work. I often act as Tech Lead and project manager on behalf of the client.

 

Silicon South:

So what kind of projects have you been working on recently?

Mitch:

We’ve been working on two exciting projects with our partners recently:

  • We’ve worked on a brand new investment app on IOS and Android, allowing users to buy and sell tokenised assets on the blockchain. Our role in this project was to successfully deliver the app into a beta phase (with real users trading assets). We’re just wrapping this one up and we’re really excited about it.
  • The second was for a leading provider of transportation management solutions where we were given the scope to help define their brand-new micro-mobility tracking product (think Beryl bikes and electric scooters). This has been really exciting as we’ve acted as the tech partner on this product all the way from inception through to delivery.

 

Silicon South:

What does a typical project with Humancrafted look like?

Mitch:

We start with a few discovery sessions, where we sit down with the client to define and flesh out the product proposition from both the user’s perspective and the technology side. This first stage includes wireframes, technology reviews and a detailed delivery plan. The discovery stage can take a morning or a couple of weeks — it all depends on the project.

The next step is to build a roadmap for the project, agree milestones, and set out our talent provision plan. We prefer to offer a fixed price to deliver each project, so costs are usually set in stone at this stage.

As soon as we know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, we put our heads down and get building. The amount of client input at this stage varies. Some clients want Daily Stand-Ups and Weekly Progress Demos throughout the build, whereas others just want to see a finished article and give final notes. We are happy to work to any methodology — what matters to us is that the end result is as good as it can possibly be.

 

Silicon South:

Moving forward, what do you have planned for the new year?

Mitch:

We’re wrapping up a few 2020 projects over the coming weeks, then we have a few projects lined up for the spring that clients had to postpone due to Covid uncertainty. We’ve won a few new contracts through word-of-mouth, too, so over the next few weeks we’ve got to work out project start dates that suit everyone’s diary.

On the business development side, we have a lot of Zoom calls already booked. We have a lot of discovery sessions in the diary for Q1 2021 already, which is great. Medium-term, we’re offering a free morning discovery session for clients with new project ideas as well as audits of clients’ current technology stacks.

 

Silicon South

Perfect. Great. So then finally then you’ve joined the Silicon South Supporters Network. Why have you done so?

Mitch:

I love the idea of proving you don’t have to be in London to build great products. I think for me it’s also about building a local community of like-minded business owners, and all the great events and work you guys put in to support us. Just the advice you were able to share on grants alone this year has been incredibly helpful.

Silicon South

Great. And I think that quite nicely wraps it up. Thanks for chatting with me today Mitch.

 

You can read more about Humancrafted on their website https://humancrafted.tech or reach Mitch on [email protected]. You can also read client reviews at https://clutch.co/profile/humancrafted

The creators of DiaryZapp the award winning children’s journaling app win Innovate UK grant to build children’s well-being app for schools.

Originally focused on helping children with learning loss during summer holidays, the team behind DiaryZapp – the children’s digital journal, realized that children are now facing different challenges and wanted to help. We recognise that children are struggling with isolation and lack of routine in uncertain times. We felt that we had a role to play in helping children develop positive well-being habits which will help them through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

We are not alone in recognizing this need, recent research carried out by Oxford University with parents and carers of children aged 4-10, confirmed increased emotional difficulties, such as feeling unhappy, worried, being clingy and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry, in children as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

​​​​​Tom Madders, Campaigns Director at YoungMinds, said, ‘This research suggests that many younger children have found it increasingly hard to cope as the lockdown period has gone on, which may be because of loneliness, fears about the coronavirus or a loss of the routines and support that come with school.

Professor Cathy Creswell, Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology, University of Oxford, and co-leading the study, said, ‘Prioritising the mental health of children and young people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond is critical.’

 

Read the full article here and learn more about DiaryZapp.