Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Back to School!

Sorry to take so long in posting this.  The other director returned from Arizona so we have had a lot to sort out.
I am attending a business course; it is always good to keep moving forward and there are many people out there that have a lot to teach, especially for us SME owners that multi task.  I class myself as extremely lucky that the people running this course are from the Institute of Directors and the Glasgow School of Art.  We are being encouraged to be creative and, for want of a better expression, ‘think out of the box’.  It is fabulous to learn from bright and interesting people that have a wealth of knowledge and years of experience.  The down side being that we get set a lot of homework (I feel as though I'm back at school again – not that I worked as hard back then)!
I have always run my own businesses but I have not had a formal business education, so I am finding the formalities of marketing very interesting and helpful.  I have a lot of research to do, such as my competitors, existing and potential clients, etc. But I can do that in conjunction with completing things like the Marketing Canvas.  One of the most interesting things we did last week was a precedence grid, which is a great tool to use to make decisions.  I can see myself using this in my business and personal life.
We are most privileged to have 3 to 4 learned chaps with just four businesses attending; it’s a great ratio.  We get group and individual time and plenty of extra time to share our experiences.



        


One of the most exciting elements of building a business is the sales; you are on cloud nine when a sale comes in and hit rock bottom when you lose or don’t convert one.   We know our product is not for everyone but it still hurts.  The best time is when your client knows, in business terms, what their business wants and needs.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Many Hats

Running an SME means wearing many hats.  I managed, at last, to complete all the new baubles in Illustrator for the Advantages page of our web site.  I have sent them over to Stephen (our server side/web site guy who does so much more and who I couldn't do without) for him to arrange and upload.
I reposted a fantastic picture on twitter, Facebook and Google +.  It was a pic of a man in a tattoo shop, holding up an intricate picture of Pegasus.  The tattoo ‘artist’ was tattooing the picture onto his back but unfortunately the penmanship was more akin to a 3 year olds.  The caption read ‘There will always be someone who says that they can do it cheaper – but at what cost?’   I found this very interesting, as for instance, most people faced with a supermarket own brand product versus a premium brand product will choose the premium brand with no thought to anything but the look and wording on the packaging (making them believe they were paying for a better product even if that is not the case).  With that in mind I have had experience of the opposite with regard to Toddlenomics.  Having had potential customers go with a cheaper product just because it was cheaper and for no other reason.  I therefore pose the question is there a price cut off where by one would choose the cheaper over the more expensive?  This is very interesting to me, in terms of sales, and something that definitely needs further investigations.

I have just written a paper ‘How to Choose a Software Package for your Nursery’.  Having noticed that there is a glut of information out there offered to people that are thinking of setting up nurseries, but there is no information on software.  The nursery sector is an extremely complex business but many are being run using simplistic business models.  For years only a few software providers offered NMS (Nursery Management Systems) but in recent years many software providers have come into the market, some offering flexible, agile systems more suited to the complex business model.  Unfortunately this is an area still behind in this sector with only a few, forward thinking nurseries, realising the importance of a good business software package and understanding what business requirements they need from a package.  And finally weighing up the advantages  against the costs.

I hope to have this uploaded to our website next week so if you are interested in reading it please go to www.toddlenomics.co.uk or alternatively it will be on the Learning Alliance web site.

Have a great week.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Welcome Back

Believe it or not, last week was yet another busy one. This is both good and bad as the tidal wave of new client over old client, successful sales pitch over unsuccessful sales pitch takes the company self-esteem on a roller coaster. I can tell you, it is the most frustrating thing to make a sales call and end up speaking to somebody who sees the bottom line only. Of course cost is important, but there are so many other factors to weigh up, and at the end of the day, a cheap product is never going to live up to the standards of, ooh, let’s say Toddlenomics (brace yourselves, it’s another proud parent speech!). Perhaps I need to work on my communication a little; always turning negatives into positives or a new learning experience is tiring, but hopefully worth it in the end.

The other director, Darryl’s absence (and by absence, I mean enjoying the Arizona sun) is eventually becoming tiresome. Although we have daily contact by Skype, in which his worst habit is getting up to make a cup of tea and forgetting to return to his post, it has proven to me that I am much more capable than I give myself credit for, but at the same time reinforces the comfort that i am not doing this alone.  There is nothing like having someone to bounce ideas off, have heated arguments with and solve problems together, and like a dog, he is always loyal to me and the business (but don’t tell him I made that comparison).
Although I didn't achieve everything I hoped to last week, I'm proud to say that having the ability to keep on top of customer service is another box I can tick on the ever growing list of to-do’s this company needs.

Until next time… AdiĆ³s Amigo’s!

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Start of a New Week Already?!

Wow, the start of another week already. I can never decide if it's getting older that makes time go faster, or being busier!

I would be patting myself on the back now, for getting more than a fair bit of work done last week, but the avalanche of paperwork that is keeping me occupied just by insisting on toppling over every two minutes, is preventing me from doing so - no exaggerations! It's amazing how much paper I use working for a technology company (for somebody who previously counted herself as a technology newbie, I am irrationally excited for when all work can be done via the computer).

I probably need to let you know at this stage that Darryl, our other director, is in Arizona USA for a 3 month stint. Our son is training to be a professional basketball player, which involves a little more time sitting on planes than I was expecting (or hoping for), and Darryl is escorting him wherever he goes, partly as an excuse to check out the childcare market, but mostly because, even after sixteen years, we are still overprotective parents. The flexibility of using a cloud system (wherever we are in the world) is really beginning to shine through.

Other than the paperwork and the seven hour time difference between me and my partner, last week was a good one. We have some new nurseries starting with us, and some using the demo product. This is the part of my job that I enjoy the most; talking to clients. Not to curry favour, but the childcare market does seem to be ripe with genuinely lovely people, making my job a real pleasure, particularly if I'm having a bad day, where one phone call can lift my spirits almost instantly.

Next on the list for this self proclaimed workaholic: the website to update, some homework set by a business course to complete, new clients to find and guide, and a paper I wrote to send off to a magazine (hoping for a bit of editorial). Wish me luck and we'll see what comes next!


Tune in next week for the exciting remonstrations of an SME owner (Wait... Where did you all go?)!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

It's all New to Me!

Okay let's start with a hello to all those of you who are reading this blog.

I am new to this and hope to be interesting at least some of the time!

Toddlenomics was designed and built by oathouse.com and is its first in-house product. oathouse.com is an SME set up in 2008.  Toddlenomics was launched in April 2013 after 18 months of market testing. The name came from a blend of Toddler (as we were in the childcare industry) and economics (as the system has been so designed to maximise business profits and take the human error out of the finances.

oathouse.com was set up by my partner, Darryl, and I joined the company the same month Toddlenomics was launched, so it has been a steep learning curve for me.  I am the communications director, which has a wide brief, and I must therefore communicate using all avenues available.  I am of an age where social networking and blogging etc. does not come naturally but I have a great young team member who is trying very hard to drag me into the 21st century, I think he is doing pretty well but he cannot take responsibility for what I write here!

We are an ethical company and take our customers very seriously.  We don't want to make a quick sale but want to build relationships with two way communication. This will help us to understand our customers and continue to improve the product with their needs at the forefront.  We haven't just built a Nursery Management Product, we took time to work with many different nurseries to build a product the market wanted and needed.  We built a robust system using the latest technology because we believe everyone deserves the best.  We have priced Toddlenomics so the smallest of nurseries to the largest of chains can take advantage of it, and knowing the market we work with our customers to help them improve their business. We believe this is how corporations should be moving forward in today's market.

Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox now, but I am passionate about Toddlenomics and oathouse.com and want everyone to know!

I hope to give you a week by week blog into running an SME, highlights and pitfalls so check back regularly and let me know what you'd like to hear.

Have a great week
Bridget Oatridge

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