Posted by: DrAlanRae | July 19, 2016

Marketing for Entrepreneurs

New Entrepreneurial Marketing Workbook

The usual approach to marketing doesn’t really suit the way that small businesses operate.

That’s because it assumes resources and the ability to control the market that we simply don’t have and most text books are written and courses constructed  as if we did.

But entrepreneurs , like service companies and a lot of manufacturers,  operate differently.

They start with what they know, where they are and the resources to hand and interact with prospects to find out what kind of product or service someone will actually buy. They operate on the premise that the best market research data comes from sales that  you have actually made. If you would like a sales and marketing guide that helps you operate like this in the real world then pre register for the workbook here.  It will be available in the Autumn and we will contact you then.

How to build a business

Once a sale has been made you can do more of it, fine tune the offer and start to build the network around your own firm that will help you create the whole product that the customer actually wants.Profit Volume

A couple of examples. The first job I ever had was working in marketing for a heavy engineering company that made cranes for steelworks – the ones that lifted a 400 tonne bucket of molten steel and tipped it down the chute. Everyone was different because it depended on a whole range of factors including the size of the building.

So how was it designed. Well we didn’t use focus groups. The process was to lock our chief project engineer in a room with his opposite number from the customer,  give them a couple of assistants each and an infinite supply of coffee and whatever they came up with – that was the product.

How we came to grow organic veg in Sussex

More recently I should tell you the story of how we came to be organic veg growers.

When Plants4Presents burst out of our house, we needed to find somewhere to run it from. You can’t run a plants business from just anywhere, the plants needed light and water and the packaging needed to be stored. After exhaustive research it turned out that we needed a plant nursery – so we swopped the house we had for one (more or less). The thing was the one we bought came with 2 acres of glass that we didn’t want. And it was a desolation – full of dead Chrysanths .

So for four months we studiously went about with blinkers on and ignored it. But one day the dreadful question couldn’t be ducked any longer.

“What on earth are we going to do with this lot then.”

“What did we know about? What could we grow in a cold house?” (It was heating them that had done for the last lot)

“I know – we can grow vegetables – we can clear out a couple of allotments worth and see if anyone wants them – if not we’ll have to eat them and think of something else”.

Well as it turns out we found the first customer and after a couple of conversations, sold him some stuff and the business grew from there. Nowadays we turn over about £50k worth of organic veg.

These are real stories – not much like how the likes of Colgate Palmolive develop toothpaste is it?  Still this is the reality of how products are developed and businesses built.

Want to join us on the journey?

Our new workbook will help you work through all the things you need to do to do the same.

If you would like to pre-register to be offered the book in the Autumn please sign up at this link.


We are currently trialling a business support offer for people whose businesses have got stuck.

It’s called the Business Re-set programme and is being run in conjunction with Sussex Chamber of Commerce.

It’s in two parts – a briefing session “Pause for Thought” at which you will meet with our facilitator  and 3 other business owners. We’ll present and  discuss some common issues that cause businesses to get stuck.

It will cover the dynamics of market development and product life cycles, how digital technologies are accelerating this and how to identify common barriers and what to do about them.

The second phase – Business Re-boot – is a 75 minute intensive meeting with a seasoned business adviser to explore a particular issue of your choice in some depth.

You will go away with context, ideas and a workable plan to get to next base.

The price is £50 for Sussex Chamber of Commerce Members and £250 for non-members.  If you decided to join the chamber, Bronze membership is £199 but we can help you achieve a £50 discount on membership so the programme will cost you £199 together with the wide range of benefits the chamber offers.  You can book directly via the chamber here.

To discuss the membership discount or to find out more about how the programme will work for you telephone us first on 0845 047 0407

Maybe we need to revisit what story we’re telling our customers – and our staff come to that – after all leadership and marketing are two sides of the same coin.

Here’s part 1 of a video of a talk i gave a couple of years back at the University of Westminster. It’s called Stories and routes to market and it talks about how you can develop a compelling story to connect you with your customers and the kind of online/offline strategies you might adopt.

There are three other videos in this series and I’ll post them over the next couple of weeks. Hope you enjoy it.

While I appreciate the efforts that HMRC have made to ameliorate some of the worst effects of this legislation I would like to point out that

  • It is supposed to providing a level playing field but because the administrative burden of collecting the required two pieces of information is beyond the capacity of most small businesses to achieve reliably it has the effect of driving them to use the very intermediaries who have been avoiding tax by locating in low VAT jurisdictions.
  • This has the effect of drastically reducing profit margins below the level of viability on the one hand and leaves them at the mercy of the longwinded and often capricious decision making processes of these large, almost universally US based corporations who cannot be relied upon as sound business partners
  • In our own case I have shelved plans to ramp up my offerings of high quality business education products because the cost of compliance is simply unrealistic.

We enjoy a realistic VAT threshold in general in the UK. We need a similar threshold for all such products applied to intra EU trade across all EU jurisdictions. Nothing else is equitable, workable or realistic.

Thank you for your attention

Alan Rae

Please write your own letter to the relevant official in your own country detailing why this legislation needs revising and outlining the negative impacts it’s having on your own business

You can find the relevant contact for your country here.

EU VAT contact email addresses for each country:

  • Austria: Mr Ernst Radlwimmer,
  • Belgium: General administration of Taxes,
  • Bulgaria: National Revenue Agency,
  • Croatia: Ms Ines Tomic, Senior VAT advisor in the Tax Administration, Head Office,
  • Cyprus: Mrs Martha Argyrou, VAT Officer,
  • Czech Republic: No name given,
  • Denmark: Mr Bent Lauridsen,
  • Estonia: Ms Kaia Maltsaar, Chief Specialist of the Tax Department of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board,
  • Finland: M. Martin Klam, Chef du bureau D1 – TVA,
  • Germany: No name given, Contact form, https, //
  • Greece: Antonia Stathi, Head of Section E,
  • Hungary: No name given,
  • Ireland: Dermot Donegan,
  • Italy: No name given,
  • Latvia: No name given,
  • Lithuania: Ms Andra Cerneviciute,
  • tel: 00370 5 266 8228: Luxembourg,
  • Malta: No information received
  • The Netherlands: Mr A.J. Blank,
  • Poland: Mr Marcin Chrostowski,
  • Portugal: Ms Olivia Mauricio,
  • Romania: No information received
  • Slovakia: Mr Libor Puhalla,
  • Slovenia: Ms Mija Thaler,
  • Spain: Legal transposition, Begoña Hernando Polo,
  • Sweden: No name given,
  • United Kingdom: No name given,

We’re really excited about this: if we can get Ansip’s support and get everyone in the EU talking about this, Monday could be a real game-changer for the campaign! Let’s make it happen.

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Posted by: DrAlanRae | February 20, 2015

Business Basics – Free course on our You-tube Channel

Our You-Tube channel has been working away steadily for years so I thought you should know more about it.

It has a lot of videos in playlist that deal with issues like social media marketing,  online promotion and good stuff like that. However there is a selection of nearly 2 hours of material arranged in 7 videos that covers a lot about the basics of running a business – most of which I’ve found out the hard way.

So I thought you should have the benefit of it and here it is – enjoy.


Posted by: DrAlanRae | January 7, 2015

Be The Business Grants – second round

Just a quick reminder that if you live in West Sussex there is another round of the Be the Business Grant funding programme.

£180k is available to 50% match fund projects up to a value of £25k grant.

You have to be an SME based in West Sussex to apply and they Council who is running this are primarily interested in job creation.

You have until the 22nd January to apply.

If you are interested and eligible you can find out more here.

There are still a few slots left for one 2 one advice on how to apply. Details are on the site.

Posted by: DrAlanRae | December 12, 2014

#VATMOSS – what’s that when its at home?

One change for the New Year in the way we do business that has emerged in the last few weeks is the way that VAT is handled on inter EU sales of electronic products such as e-books.

In an attempt to do something about the likes of Amazon holing up in Luxembourg where the VAT rate is 3% the EU in its infinite wisdom has decreed that from the 1st of January instead of VAT being due in the Seller’s country it’s now due in the Purchasers. Anyone selling anything electronic after the 1st January will either have to register in all 29 jurisdictions, use the HMRC Mini One Stop Shop (hence #VATMOSS) put it through a player like Amazon or iTunes and pay the necessary fees to them or stop trading into Europe altogether.

This is particularly bad news for the substantial number of 1 man bands selling logos, e-books and knitting patterns particularly as in its original interpretation the sale of 1 e-book to Belgium would result in a 1 man band under the VAT threshold having to register for VAT for all UK sales as well. Many of them have been threatening to down tools and shut up shop rather than comply and a storm of protest under the hashtag #VATMOSS #VATMESS has been going on twitter and Facebook.

All this at the time when the EU Commissioner in charge of all things digital– a Mr Andrus Ansip – has just given a speech banging on about how he wants to remove all the barriers to digital trade within the EU. Shame he has such a great example of the law of unintended consequences on his hands.

But despite the rather dismissive attitude of the Business Secretary (which has done him no favours with the small business community) I have been rather pleasantly surprised by HMRC’s response. They have not only ruled that non VAT registered companies can stay non-registered for UK sales but have also come up with some very clear guidance as to what’s in and what’s not. The current regime is aimed at electronic sales and is outline here in this screen grab from the HMRC guidance.

VAT rules for digital sales

VAT rules for digital sales

It’s true that it’s absurd that an e-book attached to an email as a PDF doesn’t count but one accessed via a link in an email does but that’s not the fault of HMRC who have done their best with the limited wriggle room they enjoy.

Apparently HMRC raised the issues of sub vat threshold companies in 2008 when this was first enacted (you would think we would have heard more about such a radical change wouldn’t you?) but apparently no-one in Europe cared a fig.

This is of course a dry run for (probably) next January when this dismal process will be applied to ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING but at least by then there will be software plug-ins readily available and proven to collect the 2 separate pieces of evidence that are required to establish the jurisdiction of the purchaser.

Of course the guidance doesn’t yet cover the case of a Hungarian national who uses his I-pad to buy an e-book from you while he’s in Spain on a train that started its journey from Paris but that’s a problem for another day.

What to do?

I’m going to attach PDFs to emails for e-books and bundle some live webinar support into the online video courses I have. Then I’ll evaluate which solutions look effective over the next year and get back into the 21st century some time next year once a proven platform emerges.

How about you?

If you need any more info on this you can contact me, Alan Rae on 07958 200112

See on Scoop.itCommunication in Business

Google has pulled the SEO ranking of Interflora for its own brand name as well as generic related topics such as ‘flowers’, ‘flower…

AlanRae‘s insight:

Blimey – is nothing sacred. Google punish interflora for their core business activities

See on

See on Scoop.itHow to do Business

AlanRae‘s insight:

This man seems to have been around a lot and learned quite a bit. Highly recommended

See on

Posted by: DrAlanRae | January 24, 2013

Everything you need to know about Google + Communities

It really has been a long time coming for Google to launch their Google + “Communities”. It’s hard to believe that it took them more than a year to come u …

AlanRae‘s insight:

Interesting post on the basics of Google + communities from my friend Lilach Bullock

See on

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