Windows XP was released in 2001 … and it is still on over 30% of all PCs out there. It is a testament to how “loved” it has been. Support for Windows XP is ending on April 8, 2014. If you’re running this version after that, you won’t get security updates for Windows. Microsoft have been very fair in supporting XP for 13 years. Since XP we have had Vista [spit, spit], Windows 7 and now Windows 8. Windows 8 is getting mixed reviews and sales have not been high. It certainly is more secure, more stable and faster but many have found the user interface just too different. It looks like MS have a revision for Windows 8, codenamed “blue”, on the way later this year. Window 7 is also still available and has had very good press since its release. For advice on upgrading or replacing PCs that are currently running Windows XP do get in touch with us at Integrate Networks
Microsoft’s latest version of it’s ubiquitous “Office” product now presents us with a choice. We can either go for the yearly subscription model by choosing Office 365 (in one of its many variations) or we can instead pay once, up-front, for the full Office 2013.
Whether for home or business the correct choice is not straight forward. If you “Google” Office 2013 and follow nearly all the Microsoft links you will actually be sucked towards Office 365 … i.e. the subscription product. It can be quite hard to find the correct link for Office 2013. It does seem that MS wants us all to move to a yearly payment.
For advice regarding the correct choice for you, do contact us at Integrate Networks. David Plumley
10 point I.T. Health Check
Information Technology and computing in general … possibly the fastest moving aspect of the modern world. Much of the equipment we are using right now will be outdated and slow within 4 to 5 years simply because of changing demands and new approaches. Programmes and processes constantly evolve to increase efficiency and productivity. But older hardware struggles to keep up.
We need a simple strategy which will help us stay in control of our I.T. and computing requirements. Without a plan we can end up wasting endless man-hours trying to cope with systems that don’t quite deliver what our businesses need. This may be due to outdated hardware, incorrect software and poor implementation.
The B2B power group met this past Tuesday 28th August. The group is free to attend and has an organised yet relaxed approach.
In attendance were Jason Nortey, Graham Wright, Dawn Ribnell, Aidan Squire and David Plumley.
Apologies from Terry Maylin, Tina Walker, Claire Greenslade, Suzanne Riches, Neal Lewer and Richard Reed.
The main thrust of the meeting was to discuss the categories we should invite to the group. The aim being to increase the group’s size and effectiveness and to hopefully encourage attendees to consider becoming EBF members. If we can increase the group to at least 15 members we should have a reliable attendance of at least 10 for each meeting.
The following categories were thought to be the main ones to concentrate on:
- Car Servicing
- Car/Van Hire
- Events Organiser
We also want to encourage newer EBF members who fit the B2B category to come along each month.
We finished the meeting with each member describing their most recent work. This sparked quite a number of questions.
First some questions
- What are the purposes and goals of the power group?
- What is the function of the monthly meeting?
- Who is eligible to be a part of the group?
- What sort of commitments is required of a member?
Purposes and goals
There are two primary goals of the group. First, knowing that our business types have a natural empathy, we make an effort to bring referral-based business to each other. Second, we feel we can eventually market ourselves as a group … of “trusted traders” … a one stop shop for consumers. We aim to build better working relations among members. The size and diversity of the group will be crucial to its effectiveness and so a subsidiary goal is the need to increase the membership in order to fill the gaps in services we can offer as a group. We need to be able to offer complete solutions.
Why the monthly meeting?
To keep us on track and to maintain motivation and direction. We meet to generate, discuss and refine our goals and to then create action plans so that we really do accomplish something. Discussions will include how we can promote the groups as a whole as well as our individual businesses. Each meeting is part of our further business education and growth. We run through a structured agenda which ensures we grow increasingly knowledgeable about each other’s businesses and also learn how our own business is perceived by others. The monthly meeting is also the time to formalise referrals that we may have already given or are about to give. At each meeting we can also be reminded of the categories of business we need to invite as guests.
Who can be a member of this power group?
The core members of the Business-to-Consumer Power Group are drawn from Essex Business Forum. The power group is also happy to accept other local businesses which are not members of EBF conditional on there being a genuine level of commitment. Also, past members and outside professions can be invited if they are identified to be of benefit to the group. The members mostly run businesses which, in whole or part, trade and deal with the end consumers of goods and services.
All members of the group are expected to make reasonable effort to attend all meetings through the year. If a member cannot attend it is good form to let the Chairman know well in advance.
The commitment also involves being an active, contributing member, bringing guests when possible, striving to further the group as a whole and looking for qualified referrals for other members.
The EBF biz-2-Consumer power group met on Monday 20th and were joined by members from the property power group. In fact we are now an enlarged single group which brings the combined membership to nearly 20. Looks like we’ll stick with the B-2-C group name.
A full write up from Jason Nortey will come later but just to say that 9 were in attendance … Brian Painter, Graham Thurston, Mike Rogers , Nick Cooke, Richard Reed, Marcelle Saad, David Plumley, Jason Nortey, John Probert … and the following apologies … Kevin Brooks, Steve Carmichael-Brown, Aidan Squire, Suzanne Riches, Jamie Nye, Claire Greenslade.
We have decided that we will move back to monthly meetings, the next being 17th September and then sticking with the third Monday of each month [December excepted]. Time and location are 4.55 pm [5 mins to get drinks in for a prompt 5.00 pm kick-off] at the George and Dragon Mountnessing. We try to gather in the mezzanine area of the restaurant.
Windows 8 will be commercially and domestically available from Late October. It is a big move forward in speed, efficiency, and new possibilities. But it is VERY different!
Windows 8 [the full version] will probably have a very slow initial take-up within businesses. The interface is so very different that it will confuse users and slow them down. Enterprise will look at the support and training costs as quite a barrier. The change in interface is bigger than the entire accumulated transitions from Win95 through to Win7.
This does not mean Windows 8 is bad … but it might have to permeate the domestic market first. Enterprise [and even SME] may wait until users have been using Windows 8 for a while [maybe 2+ years?] on their home PCs and tablets. The less difference between home and work PCs the better.
By the end of the year new PCs for the home will increasingly ship with Windows 8. Also some will choose to upgrade an existing PC. Businesses will be wise to wait until a good percentage of users are familiar with the total change of interface.
Windows RT [the version running on ARM based tablets] will probably grab a quick slice of the tablet market … but it will not run line of business apps … except for the built-in version of MS Office.
I’d encourage domestic users to embrace Windows 8 early on. Early learners will be valuable at work. Also businesses may want to upgrade or introduce just a few Win 8 PCs 8 to get on the learning curve and to discover if their applications run.
I’m also wondering if third party apps will arise enabling a more traditional look … including the start button. Not sure if that is good or bad. Might be better to accept and learn the new interface from the start.
David Plumley, Integrate Networks
EBF Ed Slot May 3rd 2012
Presented by David Plumley
Preparing for our weekly 60 seconds and our occasional 10 min opportunities
[Part of the mini-series on communications]
Whether we are preparing for our 1 minute slot or the longer 10 min slot there are some common features:
Knowledge, confidence and delivery are the basic elements of our presentations … and these require some thought. The following points will build our confidence … and need to be in place before we speak.
• Plan and prepare in advance what you want to say and what approach you want to take. Don’t just wing it … this will be obvious to everyone!
• We need to now our subject … we can’t speak confidently if the information is vague to us!
• We should avoid waffle … and think before we speak.
• Also avoid jargon … instead use easy language and simple words … even if the subject itself is complicated.
• Get to your main points quickly. Then it’s easier for the listener to remember what we said.
• It is good to know something about our audience and also to look them in their eyes … we’ll then easily discover if we are being understood.
• Maybe we can try recording our own presentation at home … to see if we modulate our voice … rather than speaking in a flat tone.
• Stick to the time schedule … and avoid trying to say too much in the allotted time.
And with that last point still ringing … I will now sit down.
EBF Education Slot 23rd Feb 2012 – David Plumley
The fees we pay each month give us the coveted opportunity to tell others about ourselves, our business and the type of clients we are looking for.
Here are a few ways we can be specific in our 60 seconds.
- Identify examples of type of work that is perfect for you
- Also identify the types of work that are not suitable.
- Be specific about one or more of your skills or specialties
- Identify the type of individual or company you are looking for.
- Be specific about the location you prefer to work
- Identify a particular company you would like to make contact with
- Tell us of a particular person you’d like the opportunity to meet
If we are only giving woolly, repetitive and non-specific information every week two things may happen …
- Other members may struggle to know exactly what you do and what you want
- Your chums here may have just switch off each week and not give you the attention you need.
In conclusion, being specific when describing what we do and what we are looking for may well trigger thoughts in the minds of your sales team around this table.
Maybe the cup, next week, should go to the person who is the most specific?
BIZ – 2 – CONSUMER Power Group Meeting
16th January 2012
- Richard Reed – Prestige Holiday & Travel Ltd. email@example.com
- Brian Painter – Pilgrim Hypnotherapy firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dawn Ribnell – Metlock Printers Ltd. email@example.com
- Marcelle Saad – Marcelle Saad Diamonds firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hugh Nicholas – Qudos Photography email@example.com
- David Plumley – Integrate Networks Ltd. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sarada Chaudhuri – The Event Detective email@example.com
- John Probert – Utility Warehouse Discount Club firstname.lastname@example.org
- Geoff Todd – Terra Firma Landscape Services email@example.com
- Graham Thurston – Carpets Direct firstname.lastname@example.org
- John Tisshaw – Warlingham Wines email@example.com / Forever Living Products firstname.lastname@example.org
Round up of previous meeting
Richard did a quick recap as follows:
- The meetings will be bi-monthly at 5pm on the 3rd Monday (next meeting will be on 19th March)
- The venue will remain at The George & Dragon, Mountnessing for now, but members are welcome to look for alternatives that may be better
- Sarada is currently doing the minutes for this meeting, but ideally it would be good to rotate this, so Richard requested volunteers
- The purpose is to build better relationships within the Group, particularly between those with natural synergies between their businesses
- Richard also reminded the Group about the importance of networking, and being committed to it, with reference to a free guide that Sarada had circulated on networking. Geoff mentioned that networking had helped his business tremendously, particularly when he added gritting services to his gardening/landscaping services.
Potential new members
The Power Groups are open to both EBF and non-EBF members, and current Group members are encouraged to try to bring at least one new member along.
Potential new Power Group members have been identified:
- Limousine business, who is keen to attend, but currently his schedule conflicts with the Monday meetings
- Daniella Crick, florist at Flowerhouse is very interested, as her family commitments currently conflict with EBF membership and attendance
Marketing the Power Group
David had drafted a document about the purpose of Power Groups, which is to be used as a base for marketing this B2C Group. He provided each attendee with a copy, and talked through the different areas. Feedback and suggestions are invited from all the B2C members, and they are to email either Richard or Dawn.
Dawn mentioned that Scott runs social media strategy sessions, as part of his business, and it would be a good idea to invite him to run such a session for EBF/Power Group members.
Hugh talked about his access to marketing knowledge, via contacts and training with companies such as The Marketing Compass, and is happy to share this knowledge with EBF/Power Group members.
Hugh and Sarada talked about effective social media/online marketing methods. These could be translated into promoting the Power Group/EBF/members’ businesses such as including a short video/audio profile of our businesses, why people should join EBF etc. These could be uploaded onto a specific Power Group section of the EBF website, for example. Dawn mentioned that Scott originally had an idea to video members talking about their business e.g. during their 60-second slots etc. It was agreed that Sarada, Hugh, Scott and David would liaise on this area.
Richard reminded the Group about reviving regular 1-1s with each other. David agreed to compile a grid of Power Group members to cross-reference people who’ve had 1-1s, and requested that we keep David updated as we have them.
As agreed at the last meeting, each member gave us 3 minutes on their business, what they’re looking for etc.
Hugh (Qudos Photography)
Has 30yrs experience in the photography industry, is currently looking for 3-4 day work from commercial clients, and also teaching photography to individuals, schools, etc. Hugh is replacing his portraiture services with these particular areas.
David mentioned an EDAP programme at Ford Motor Co. i.e. a scheme for employees to learn a new skill from a selection of approved experts. This would be very useful for Hugh to get involved with.
Geoff (Terra Firma)
Deals with commercial clients and consumers, with a wide range of services, as well as doing the clearing up. Their policy is that a customer shouldn’t even have to pick up a broom afterwards!
Very wide range of services e.g. structural landscaping, garden maintenance, special installations, staging etc. from concept to completion. Some of their installations have been for special events such as weddings e.g. the section between the house and marquee etc.
Terra Firma is a family business – Geoff’s son even has a degree in the horticulture/landscaping field.
Dawn (Dawn & Associates)
Is a ‘traditional’ marketer, i.e. offline marketing such as print, press etc. but also strategic marketing, copywriting and copyediting. She complements Scott’s internet marketing expertise, and works with non-profits and commercial clients. Her work with both areas is similar i.e. for charities, it’s about increasing donations; with companies, it’s about increasing sales.
She also works with Hugh i.e. bringing in his photography skills for the client as necessary.
Brian (Pilgrim Hypnotherapy)
Although the majority of his practice is around hypnotherapy, he is also a Certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner. NLP explores the links between how we think, communicate and our behaviour/emotional patterns, and is used to address a range of emotional issues. He is also qualified in Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which involves tapping on various acupressure points on the body, to address various issues.
He also specializes in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which helps clients overcome various issues based on traumatic memories/experiences. It is based on the principle that the practitioner can observe the client’s eye movements, which will change depending on their recall of pictures, sounds, feelings etc. and can help them accordingly.
His main business comes from clients wanting to stop smoking, and even though he is predominantly B2C, he does have some commercial clients.
He always offers a free initial consultation, where he asks client if they think they can work with him, and then asks them to think about it before making a decision.
David (Integrate Networks)
The consumer side of his business involves PC upgrades, repairs or selling clients a new computer if that doesn’t work, and his prices are generally cheaper than the high street. He supplies Dell and Aspire products.
He offers free mini-audits for homes with multiple computers e.g. file-sharing, home networking, internet safety e.g. firewalls, DNS filters, parental controls etc.
Since many consumer clients do an element of work from home, David can advise and offer remote access, both free and paid-for solutions, back up processes (he does an unlimited package of £4.95/month for backups), synchronizing data, VPNs etc.
Ultimately, David’s aim is to help people become more efficient when working on their home computer.
John (Utility Warehouse)
John is a representative of UW, which is owned by Telecom Plus. They provide phone, broadband, gas and electricity for residential and commercial clients. Phone/broadband is proprietary i.e. Telecom Plus, but they will get you the best deal from other providers with your other utilities.
John meets with clients to find out how much they are currently paying for utilities – 99% of the time he can save them money, and maximum savings are made if you are a ‘multiple customer’ e.g. take out more than one service.
They have been a Which? recommended provider for energy and home phone/broadband for the past 3 years. They can also give savings on storage heaters – this is not available for commercial clients, as they can only fit standard meters.
They also have a Pay-As-You-Go card scheme, where you top it up with credit, and can use it to get up to 25% cashback at 40 high street retailers. They have a UK-based call centre, and you generally only wait 10-15s before you speak to someone.
Richard (Prestige Holiday & Travel)
Richard is an independent travel consultant, and is paid when he brings business from the consumer to the supplier.
He can generally get good savings on flights e.g. he has a Virgin flight supplier who gets the same rate regardless of availability – if you were to go direct to Virgin, you would be charged an increased rate as the availability reduces.
He always uses trusted suppliers, and hasn’t had anyone lose money because of a supplier going bankrupt. Richard has also helped customers to get money back from travel insurance claims.
He doesn’t just focus on big, long-haul holidays i.e. he will also cater to clients wanting short breaks, as it can lead to more. The majority of his clients come through repeat business.
Richard prefers to tailor-make the itineraries for his clients, and will never put together a package that he wouldn’t go on himself. His ideal client is someone who believes they deserve an exceptional holiday – the best times and best memories.
Marcelle (Marcelle Saad Diamonds)
Not shown by request.
Sarada (The Event Detective)
Aithough Sarada mainly focuses on business events that are used for training, marketing etc. she will also help clients who want to organize a special social event, such as a retirement party, wedding, birthday etc.
She has been in the event industry for around 10 years, and has worked on large- and small-scale projects. Although she has her own network of suppliers, she is always keen to meet new ones via Group members.
She offers 3 levels of service:
- A DIY package, where clients can download training materials to learn how to run the event themselves – she is currently working on one at the moment
- A Consultancy package, where clients have access to Sarada 1-1 for advice on problems they may run into with their event, or if they need help with theming, concepts etc.
- A ‘do-it-for-you’ package, where clients provide Sarada with a brief of what they want and when, and then hand over all the responsibility to her to make it happen.
The meeting ended a bit later than usual (!) but it was a great meeting with lots of interesting contributions.
The next date was set for 5pm, Monday 19th March at The George and Dragon, Mountnessing