Tony Radford 0:05
Welcome to the Small Business heroes podcast where small business owners tell their story so we can learn from their experience. My name is Tony Radford. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Hi, everybody. My guest today is john q masse from black velvet associates. JOHN, how you doing today?
Jan Kiersmasz 0:26
I'm good. Thanks, Tony. And you?
Tony Radford 0:28
Yes, I'm not bad at all. Thank you very much. Okay, john, I think I've known you for about two years, something like that.
Jan Kiersmasz 0:35
Something along those lines now, you know,
Tony Radford 0:37
something. I wonder if you could tell us about your business.
Jan Kiersmasz 0:42
Yeah, of course. I started as a limited company 17 years ago, originally called galaxy consulting limited. We changed our name back in November 2019 to something we think is more fitting to the business owners. Black Velvet associates, okay. So I can from an IT background in project management and analysis, both corporate retail and automotive parts manufacture moved into small business sector it was a it was a big step but the most logical one the was having a small child, I had to learn quite a lot of new skills. The primary one was how to design and build websites. But you can add into that accountancy marketing, sales, networking, and a whole bunch of other stuff that it takes when you are the boss. And I was lucky enough to have a bunch of transferable skills to such as presentation supervisory techniques and analysis. We moved into training around about five years ago, and we've added analysis to the portfolio as well as that. So we've got three distinct brands. JOHN jelly is our training ground. Blue giraffe. Is our web design and development brand. We added pink Gibbon to offer more consultancy and Analysis Services. What pushed us to start the business is the same really as what drives us today to help other business owners get transparent, honest and clear understanding of the technology world that seems quite often alien to them.
Jan Kiersmasz 2:24
Great. So you're offering quite quite a broad range of services. Do you deliver all those yourself? Or do you have other people working with you? The majority of them we do deliver ourselves, but we do have associates that work alongside us. So I do have other professionals that I can call on, if the circumstances dictate that,
Tony Radford 2:46
right? So if there's a small business, and I came to you and I said, I've got this website, I need more traffic. What were the first few things you would say? I think
Jan Kiersmasz 2:54
first of all, we'd be asking, did you have something that could monitor the traffic itself? So have you got Google it analytics installed on the website or a another analytics service. Because that gives us not just a reflection of how much traffic there is to a website, but also where that traffic is coming from. So with that enables us to see where it's coming from what it does when it gets there, and then on beyond that, to see whether they are liking that traffic is liking the message that's been delivered to them. Quite often websites fail because the message isn't quite right to the audience. Rather than design it can often be the message that's being put across. So I'd be wanting to know from you what your experience was. Have you got statistics for us to look at? Because at the end of the day, and I missed, is that is there a particular area you feel you could be better in? I'd be asking you as well. your target market was who was aimed up?
Tony Radford 3:54
Okay, yeah. And then obviously that would probably guide something like the content strategy and things like that, right?
Jan Kiersmasz 4:02
Yeah. Cuz it's not always about rebuilding it. Sometimes it's just about refocusing it to the right people talk to the right audience. Right. They need to know what that audience is.
Tony Radford 4:11
Yeah. Okay. What would you say was a good size company for you? What's your ideal customer?
Jan Kiersmasz 4:17
We deal with everyone from micro businesses, to businesses that have got quite a lot of employees to be fair. So it's not really, we tend to deal with those businesses who wasn't quite big enough to have their own departments. So it's you we're usually dealing with those where somebody has been allocated the task to look after the website, rather than it being a departmental issue that the department looks after
Tony Radford 4:42
it. Yeah, that that would be thousands and thousands of businesses are in that situation. Yeah. Yes. Excellent. Thank you. Can you tell us what your biggest challenge has been? To date?
Jan Kiersmasz 4:56
I think my biggest challenge in business was my own self doubt. Like many small business owners, I've fought my fair share of imposter syndrome. Working alongside some great supportive people has helped me minimize that. But sometimes you also get the odd wobble. I found that talking with other business owners who are often feeling exactly the same way. It's usually the best way to get over that.
Tony Radford 5:22
Okay, no, that's excellent. There's one thing you wish somebody had told you when he's first started out.
Jan Kiersmasz 5:32
Or before I started my own business, I didn't realize just how tough it would be to take on every single role that's necessary to run a business. So what would I tell myself from from experience? Don't be afraid to outsource. Right?
Tony Radford 5:46
Right. Yeah, actually, what you said there was very, very common amongst all the other people we spoken to. They were very surprised at how many hats they had to wear and that they wanted to set the actual time I spend doing the things I want to do is quite small proportion of the working week because I'm doing other things as well. Yeah can be like selling, for example,
Jan Kiersmasz 6:07
that marketing selling admin gab,
Tony Radford 6:11
all those sorts of things. You mentioned there outsourcing. How do people start outsourcing? What? How does that work?
Jan Kiersmasz 6:19
I think the first thing you need to do if you want to outsource is look at the tasks that you dislike doing because you're less inclined to do them. So find the things that you don't like doing that aren't dependent totally on you. So the first thing I outsource was my account. I wasn't going to do the accounts. So that's absolutely the first thing I outsource I've got a good accountant on board who takes care of all of that for me. And then it's it's quite often it's admin things that can be outsourced. You can't really outsource the work you you alone, not have the knowledge of all the other things that surround the business quite a few can to find what you don't like. Today, or what it would be more cost effective to get someone else to do if you're doing it, but it takes three times as long as it takes a professional. It's cheaper to pay a professional to do it.
Tony Radford 7:12
Can you recommend where somebody might go to find virtual assistant or something like that?
Jan Kiersmasz 7:16
Yeah, there are quite a lot of virtual assistants out there. And some of them specialize in different areas. I would always look for recommendations from other business owners, too, if they've used a VA or they know a VA from their networking, go by recommendation because not all the A's are created equal. They have their own specialisms. So whatever it is, you want to outsource, find somebody who enjoys doing that. Not someone who does it for the sake of it, because if they enjoy doing it, they will do much better job for you.
Tony Radford 7:47
Right, that's great advice. Yeah, thank you very much. What is the next step for your business?
Jan Kiersmasz 7:54
Well, we've been working hard to get business forward and work with bigger companies. We'd like to work with those who have recently moved out of that one man band scenario. The companies like that have often grown organically, but without any real plan. It's just happened for them. We've been there ourselves and we know if we can go in and do proper analysis, we can help them work more efficiently. We've been doing the business consultancy, to landscape businesses to look at themselves holistically, and put things in place that perhaps they haven't always thought of in the past,
Tony Radford 8:32
business consultancy, not just web consultancy, but actually about a business process. Yeah,
Jan Kiersmasz 8:37
we will bet we've got a business consultant and business analysts that we can bring in so we can look at the whole thing. So we'd go in and look at what they need and then bring in whoever it is appropriate to that.
Tony Radford 8:51
How do you actually find your clients?
Jan Kiersmasz 8:53
A lot of our clients still come from word of mouth. We are recommended. We've been working for 17 years. So we've got A lot of recommendations and referrals that come in to us. For the smaller businesses, we found that Facebook is quite a good source of leads. We've got quite a few go through to the website from our Facebook account. And it's where we can start a conversation. We get a small amount as well from LinkedIn, but not as many. But that tends to be the bigger companies that we deal with tend to come via LinkedIn, whereas the small businesses, the micro business as it's coming through social media, yeah, he didn't start a conversation with them on social media.
Tony Radford 9:32
And the Facebook is out through advertising or just the content you're putting
Jan Kiersmasz 9:35
out. That's through the content that we're putting out and starting those conversations and knowing really, where we need to go to and what message we need to get out which groups,
Tony Radford 9:46
right. If somebody gave you 500 pounds to spend on marketing, how would you spend it,
Jan Kiersmasz 9:53
we would make a corporate video. Video is such an important part today of the internet and internet marketing. Having a professionally short video can really improve how your potential customers feel about you and your business. Having armor to shop video for use on social is brilliant, what I feel when when someone comes to your website, you just need to have a little bit of an edge. So that's where we'd spend 500 pounds. That's a really great idea. Actually, no, I really like that one. And 500 pounds. I don't know the cost of having videos made with that. Is that within budget, or you probably be pushing it, but I'm the videographer that I work with that I know I can we can shoot something within that budget, you'd be looking at 450 to 500 pounds. Minimum spend up to 700 800 pounds for a day shoot. That depends on whether you did half a day's filming or a date filming really, whether that would be in budget, but I know there are companies out there who charge they wouldn't get out of bed for less than 800 pounds.
Tony Radford 10:56
Is that something you offer your clients or?
Jan Kiersmasz 10:59
Yeah, we can To mean, we're lucky enough to have a company that is an associate. So we do know that we can go out and get video shot for them that is high quality for them. But it's not just about having the high quality. We work together with a videographer to make sure they're delivering the right message out to the clients as well. Just as important as it looking professional.
Tony Radford 11:22
It's got to be right. So you would put together some sort of spec and then guide them. Yeah, we would. Yeah. Okay, got it. Do you have a business mentor or group that you go to?
Jan Kiersmasz 11:34
I've been working with a business consultants myself, so he's been working with me to boost the business. He's done a lot to help me think differently about me about my skills on the business as a whole. He's a really, really good sounding board for ideas. And he's made me accountable. I'm accountable to him. So when he tells me I've got to do something, I have to get it done or he will kick my bomb. I've got a great group of businesses that I network with as well. And they are, they're really, really supportive. So I've got those on a day to day basis as well as the more formal sessions with a business consultant. It's important, I think, to surround yourself with positive people, and people who are going to finish what when you have a little wobble, you know, even even if you haven't got a proper business consultant, have an accountability partner of someone, you can bounce things off.
Tony Radford 12:29
That's pretty good. If I say I've got a weekly accountability partner, and every week I sent her an email with the things I did the week just gone and the things I'm going to do the following week, she sends me the same and be doing that process with different people for about four years and it is absolutely vital for me, I'm absolutely alone out of multiplayer at all. And I would gladly just disappear off into the wilderness, saying I would like to get more, you know, more coaching. But this accountability, I think accountability is such a great thing. So, so important, because that that email I write helps me to plan the week. It helps me to plan and it keeps me on target. Like in proactive. I've got a note. You can write notes in practice, and I just go through the things every day just updating what I'm doing. Okay? Can you give us one actionable sales tip?
Jan Kiersmasz 13:22
Yeah, it be present, just pushing out marketing messages. You've got to be involved in a conversation and just doing your marketing when your sales are down. It's not the right way to approach it. You've got to be there and be consistent. You've got to keep going. You've got to show up in your marketing. Because what we see with small businesses as they decide they're quiet, they haven't got any business coming in, in the future. So they market themselves then they get busy so they don't market themselves. So they then they end up with new business coming in, and you get this sort of roller coaster. So Be there, be present, and keep going keep doing it. Even when you're really really busy, you need to find that time to do that little bit of marketing. And to keep that message going out and stay visible in the eyes of your clients and your potential clients.
Tony Radford 14:17
Would you say that people should do some marketing every day or, you know, pick three days a week or something.
Jan Kiersmasz 14:24
Some of it depends on the business, you should if you are using social media, then you need to be on those platforms every day, to pick up on any conversations that have been started with you. So you do need to have that interaction every day, at least at least Monday to Friday. People don't always expect you to respond to the weekend. But certainly if someone's commented on a post you put up on social media, they expect something within 24 hours of you to come back to them and you miss out if you don't do that, but pushing the marketing message out there where you could just do a bulk of that once a week and just check it all out. But you do need to make sure you do check in on the platforms as well.
Tony Radford 15:04
That's very, very practical advice, john, thank you. Thank you very much. And also thank you very much for being our guest today. It's been fun.
Jan Kiersmasz 15:13
Okay, many enjoyable.
Tony Radford 15:15
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