Jun 04

OpenCoffee Club Bristol

Uploaded by Lutz-R. Frank on
02 Aug 07.

The reason this post is a bit late is I spent most of yesterday evening setting up a Facebook group for OpenCoffee Club Bristol (and we already have 5 members, cheers), posting the next four dates (17 June, 1 & 15 & 29 July and 5 August), updating the upcoming group (17 Jun, 1, 15, 29 Jul, 5 Aug), and posting the OpenCoffee Bristol Twitter; still need to construct an OpenCoffee group in my Gmail (for those not on the aforementioned socnets) to send out reminders and updates.

Back to yesterday, Sam and I arrived just after 8am and set up shop downstairs while the Starbucks folks put up signs and balloons. First to arrive was James and we quickly had a couple tables pulled together with discussions bouncing around business, technology, social catching up and finding out what each other did.

Chris Garrett (via Twitter) and Craig Hellen came down from Gloucestershire with their new mobile, locative and video media ideas. After exploring their business model and target segments a few business cards swifted exchanged hands, which is what its all about.

About half-way through the morning a couple of fresh pots of coffee arrived and refueled everyone through to past 10.30am.

We closed with Martyn Shiner’s open source manufacturing systems development project at Severn Delta. They’ve built their own system and are looking for hot php/PostgreSQL/UI coders to help them turn an internal project into a set of repositories that they can open up properly to other companies as a series of modules (sorry if I got a few details wrong Martyn). Martyn’s still looking so if you’re in the Somerset area (or are happy to spend a bit of time there) drop him a note on twitter (if it’s up).

May 31

Gordon Bennett Gordon Morris!

I mentioned in an earlier post how a client was unsure of my experience and background, and that the jbsh website didn’t communicate effectively and I lost the job. Those of you on the RSS feed won’t have noticed but this site now has a static front page with mini-biographies of me and Sam, the blog is accessed from a link in the header bar.

We’ve also added a client page where short client / project descriptions will go. This post tells the story of the first of these, Gordon Morris.

Gordon and I spent some time yesterday catching up at his new premises  in Somerton. I first met Gordon back when I was working for UWE as a Business Sector Specialist, my job was basically to meet companies in the West of England area, conduct a business needs analysis and figure out how the Universities could help them.

Gordon had single-handedly built a successful business selling equipment to help organisations communicate with individuals that were hearing impaired. An electronics engineer by training, Gordon also designed his own bespoke solutions for situations where the existing products weren’t up to the job. His usp was that, being hearing impaired himself, he could assure the system’s quality and functioning personally.

However, the business was getting too big for Gordon to contain in his head, he recognised that he was beginning to be the limiting factor in future growth. He was also facing a premises move and these two triggers were the catalyst for a business transformation plan.

I worked with Gordon over a couple of months learning about his business, understanding the challenges and putting together a plan of action. I introduced Gordon to the Bristol Business School and together we wrote the funding application for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership that introduced an excellent young graduate to implement a financial and operations planning system. This system acted as the foundation for the following business cycles.

As the Disability Discrimination Act came into force, Gordon saw a major upswing in business, the plan we put together gave him the infrastructure to cope with that. After the upswing came the downturn, but Gordon took this as another opportunity to broaden the sales and marketing part of the business; I had joined Futurelab by this time but he came back for another KTP.

He’s still a live wire looking for new opportunities and ways to simulate the energy within his staff and company to continue growing. The discussion we had ranged across Skype and Qik for doing video conferencing and presentations in order to reduce his carbon footprint (and the expense of driving all over the country), he’s looking for product videos to be shot so that people can see these systems in use at their own convince, we also talked about the factory layout and how some of that was working really well (the open plan) and some of it less well (the separate customer demonstration suite).

Gordon’s working with another business consultant in his ongoing development but I’m going to be sending Gordon some links to other Bristol organisations that may be able to help in his new ideas for the future. What are your business headaches and how can I help?

May 16

Celebrating failure

Disclosure: As well as Managing Partner of jbsh LLP (the business behind this blog) I also work part time for the University of the West of England on the Knowledge West project managing their QuickMark® service.]

Pedestrian stop lights on Gibralter runwayToday was an important day for jbsh, I gave our first unsuccessful pitch. Obviously in writing research grant applications and funding proposals, I’ve had unsuccessful submissions and I’ve talked a couple of clients out of engaging me in favour of more appropriate (and cheaper or free) options.

What was different today was that I really felt that this was a great business that I could add value to.

With most funding applications you don’t get great feedback on why you’re unsuccessful. When the negative email came through there was an invitation to explore why we weren’t proceeding with the plan as discussed.

The discussion brought an important point home, you need to constantly evaluate every message across every medium to make sure it’s effective and conveying what you think it is. I’ve been working on building the QuickMark service, taking on new Researchers and more clients. I’m actively seeking ways to grow and build the service as a sustainable offering outside the funding that has provided stability so far. In doing this I’ve significantly refined the proposition, carefully positioning the service between the core activities that the Universities offer and those that are provided by commercial market research organisations.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t spent quite so much time on this blog evaluating what message I wanted it to convey. Originally it was a place to share thoughts, talk about events I’d attended and give jbsh LLP a presence on the web. This has all be augmented by LinkedIn, Facebook, MyBlogLog, Twitter, etc. Since that launch (almost exactly a year ago) the message that this blog is being used to convey has changed. Sam is using it to promote, explain and disseminate her research, and I was using it to build confidence with potential clients to trust their businesses to my advice and guidance. This last bit hasn’t worked, because I haven’t developed the blog, I’ve just used it to a different purpose (one it wasn’t designed for).

The other messages are still important, so we won’t undergo a complete redesign, but there will be some changes. Most critically I’ll be putting more references to existing jbsh clients and stories from businesses I’ve helped in the past.

It’s not survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the most adaptable and appropriate to the environment.

[Note on the photo: I grew up in Gibraltar and have fond memories of walking across the runway to catch planes to ‘exotic’ locations like Southend where my Grandad lived. My first thought was say something about stopping and re-evaluating, hence the flickr search for stop signs. Searches for failure weren’t as nice so I’m sticking with the image.]