A fine romance

Taking a break from the usual murder mystery writing this month…and working on something for:

I was approached by Andy Evans earlier this year and asked to put together a short 10 minute play for Breakwater Theatre’s launch night.

It was lovely (and flattering I admit!) to be approached as a local “professional writer” to write one of the six plays to launch the company.

Needless to say it was finished on time, and has been cast, and is even now under rehearsal.

So… on the 11th of March at the Beach Restaurant, there’s a play by me, as well as a couple by other writers who write professionally for hull truck, and people like the BBC.

If you’re free that evening – I hope you’ll join me down at the beach.  Comments welcome!

What can I do to make this right?

Errors creep in from time to time with anything you do.  Whether you’re a supermarket, a major brand name, or an on-line murder mystery retail business, you WILL mess up from time to time with your customers.  It’s enevitable and sadly, unavoidable…

So what can you do to retain your customers?  Why not ask them?

This week we’ve had Clark and Hilary Bernhard from Surf-n-sea Wetsuits over for a visit.  (For those that know me, Hilary is my sister, for those that don’t – Clark and Hilary hosted “Sherlock” for a week in sunny Ocean Beach, California last year!)

I was chatting to Clark just this morning about an issue I’d experienced over the weekend.  I’d messed up an order, mainly due to experiencing a severe migraine at the time and being unable to concentrate properly on what I was up to.  I explained what we usually do when we mess up and Clark explained what he usually did – a simple phrase which makes all the difference to customers and might prevent a company giving away “too much” as compensation, as some customers are happy to settle with much less then you think.

The phrase is this… “What can I do to make this right?” 

Sounds simple doesn’t it.

And if you’re already prepared to refund and entire order, apologise and offer an exchange or “go the extra mile” anyway – the phrase won’t make you do more then you were already prepared to – but it will make your customers feel that they are being listened to – something which many companies fail to achieve.  And it may prevent you as a company from over-compesating for any mistake, which can cost your company both in time and money.

Well… I might not have been here in a while but…

Sorry for all who read my blog… things got more frenetic then usual this autumn/winter at Red Herring Games and I ended up working some very long, but rewarding hours, and January has just seen me complete a big custom written game, so finally, I’ve made it back into the land of blogging…

So… what’s been going on… well…

I’ve been featured on the mumpreneur blog (you can read all about how and why I set up the company on there and also where I see us in 10 years time… ha!  Let’s hope so!

I’ve also been sledging with the kids, updating technology, sourcing and buying in new products and working on a big global redesign and lots of “world domination” plans… cue *evil cackle of laughter* – OK,… not quite… but we’ve got some BIG ideas this year, and it’s a case of lining up all the ducks to make them come off.

But… here’s a tale for you to make you chuckle.

Driving down the road with my daugher in the car after the last big snow storm, I spot this “older lady” (I say older lady… as she looks older then I feel, probably only 10 years in it these days, but as I still feel 21 she’s “old looking” to me…) and this older lady is busy sweeping her drive clear of the slush now that the snow has passed.

“Good on her” I think to myself as I watch her bend down to pick up a lucozade bottle that some helpful school child has tossed onto the path beside the place where she’s sweeping.  “Lovely to see someone removing the litter”.  But no.., just as soon as she straightens up with the bottle in her hand, she lobs it down the road towards her neighbours drive for them to deal with!

“That,” I say to my daughter  “Is NOT how to deal with littering.”

And finally, a joke I heard the other day… (Well, I liked it)

It’s Christmas eve and there is snow on the ground. A couple are cuddled up on a rug in front of a log fire when there is a knock at the door.

The husband answers the door to find a snail, shivering on the doorstep.

The snail looks up and, with pleading eyes, says, “Please sir, it’s the coldest winter I’ve ever known. Please can I come in and warm myself by your fire?”

The man slowly bends down, gently picks the snail up….and throws him to the bottom of the garden.

One year later, Christmas Eve again, it’s colder than ever. The same couple are sat on the rug, in front of the same log fire, when there’s a knock at the door.

The Husband answers the door, to find the snail on the doorstep again. He looks up, with pleading eyes, and says…

…”What did you do that for?”

Getting the best out of networking – 5 top tips!

Well, another several months go by and my blog is beginning to look very sparse indeed.  Hey ho… the perils of being a successful mumpreneur…

I’ll post about the conference next… but I’m waiting for the official photos first, my own versions are a little washed out!!  (but to save your suspense…I came 2nd in the “Interactive Business” category – so I’m well chuffed!)

Anyway… with so many people to meet and greet it lends itself to another blog explaining how I get the best out of networking.

People pass business to people they know, like and trust… tyou can develop the know and like bits within the space of a few days, the trust will come when they start to use your services or you’ve helped them market theirs.

These top tips should be applied for everyone you meet.  After all, you might not ever be able to do business with a pyramid construction expert, but they might be best friends with someone who needs your services, and likewise, you MAY meet a slave at some point keen to work on pyramid building in the future, in which case you can connect them and helping people like that really helps your credibity (that’s the trust bit for those who are following…)

 

So… here are my top tips.

 

1) Make sure you are memorable!

You meet so many new people in a networking day that people can’t lremember who they spoke to unless you’ve got something that will make you stand out.

Me – I wear a knife through head head-band, and carry a fish.  It makes me look a little quirky, but EVERYONE remembers me.  Carrying a fish under your arm might not work for everyone obviously – but you can stand out in other ways.  Broaches, bright clothing, t-shirts with your logo, name badges, hairgrips themed to your business, flowers, quirky shoes, think of something that will make you look different to the other people they will meet and exploit it!  You want to be remembered.

 

2) Collect cards with a purpose.

We all collect cards and swap cards at networking… but why bother if you’ve got no further plans for them?

If you have a pen, make notes on the cards of people you meet so you can put them in touch with people you know that might be of use to them, or to help you remember something about them when you get back in touch with them if your memory is shocking!

And then once you’ve completed the steps below file them properly … that way when you’re looking for a gardener, you can turn up the “g” for gardening and find all the gardeners cards you’ve picked up over the years.

 

3) Follow up!

Bbusiness opportunities are missed every day by people not following up – so get home and draft an email immediately!

Say “nice to meet you” and begin a conversation with them that may, or may not lead to work – but WILL make you more memorable as you were polite and interested enough in them to get in touch.

 

4) Follow them up again!

OK… you’ve sent an email – but why not post them a physcial card too?  It shows you care, and everyone loves getting mail.

DON’T send bumpf unless it’s specifically requested.  Everyone hates business sharks and it wastes your marketing materials as well, as unless they want it, it’s dumped straight in the bin.

 

5) Find and connect with them on all the social media channels.

Twitter, Facebook and Linked In etc etc… whatever you’re using, find and connect with them (this might come before step 4 as postal addresses are sometimes not on business cards!).

 

How Exciting! I’ve been shortlisted for “Mumpreneur2012”!

Big news, once again, so I’m back on the blog!

I’ve made the shortlist for “Mumpreneur2012” in the Interactive company section of the mumpreneur 2012 awards.  Fiona (who works with me) was responsible for this, as she entered me one afternoon while on the PC.  We didn’t think I’d get through to the finals, but here I am!

bestinteractive_badge

It’s all very exciting… but I’ll have to wait until September 30th to find out if my nomination goes anywhere other then simply “finalist”… fingers crossed.

According to the Mumpreneur team – they’ve whittled down the original entries from 1200, so I feel very lucky to have reached the finals, and the Grimsby press are popping out again tomorrow for another picture with an article to follow in the Grimsby Telegraph.  Even the kids will get into this photo op – something they’re looking forward to, although Tristan says he can’t possibly tell them anything as he’s got tonsilitis and his throat is too sore to speak.  (Not too sore to fight and scream at his sister I notice…)

Anyway – if you want to find out any more about mumpreneur you’ll find the details at: www.mumpreneuruk.com

Other news… er… I’m working on a blackadder style murder mystery event for the Ashbourne Hotel on the 2nd November… just another 3 scripts to go and the instructions and that’s a wrap…

Which means I’ll then be starting on a multi-room christmas mystery, very midsomer styled as it’s first airing will be at the Grange Willows in Brigg.

Oh… and the other news of this week…. my other half thought giraffes had four ears.  At least, that’s what he told the kids!  Well, to say that tickled me is an understatement, and is almost as good as his refusal to believe that grapes and raisins were the same thing!  Fortunately he took my word for it that the other two “ears” were horns this time, and didn’t ring three different people to confirm that what I said was “correct”.

Oh, and I suppose it’s been a while since I’ve been on this blog… so here’s one of our dinner party nights in action – filmed by Workimage video and photograhy.  (I’m the one who does the talking for those who aren’t sure… and I have a feeling there are some horrid out-takes lurking around somewhere with me suffocating on a mushroom I inhaled by accident after some witty quip at the other end of the table…)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Spq1Eu2uVc]

When I grow up…

I know, I know, I’ve been shockingly tardy at posting blogs…but, in my defence it’s been a busy few weeks, and only today has the business calmed down sufficiently to allow personal blog posts (and I admit I’m shirking…from business tasks this morning as I’ve got something I don’t want to do…)

Also in my defence I have been keeping up to date with my alter ego – posting as Dr Whiting for the business’s mascot Sherlock on: Dr Whiting’s Blog

Of course, with so many weeks gone past, this does mean there’s been a saving up of anecdotes from the children…

Things like…

“Mummy, what does Daddy want to do when he grows up?”

and….

“Do you think I can go to a funeral one day – before you die?”  (admittedly although the request sounded odd, he did have his heart in the right place… he wanted to make sure he had been to a funeral of someone he didn’t care about first, so he knew what to expect… and yes… this IS from a 6 year old).

and…

I think it looks like a large gold cheese grater.” (Yes, you’ve guessed it – the olympic torch!)  Which passed the end of our road one early morning to much un-excitement.

What can I say?  Yes, it REALLY was just a piece of flame sitting on top of an oversized cheese grater, and really, quite frankly, not at all interesting.  We might as well have been watching killingholme oil refinery chimney stacks… which are a lot easier to see from a distace.  I suppose, had it been darker, the flame might have been more visible, which might have helped, but in bright sunshine (a rarity in itself these last few months) there was very little to see.

Added to that there was the dissappointment of realising that the olympic torch itself wasn’t being passed around the UK like a relay race, but rather each torch was simply lighting another one in a chain… perhaps I was naive to expect more, I don’t know, but it really was such a non-event that we all simply went home and ticked it off the “bucket list” wondering why it was even on the list in the first place!!

As to what I’ve been up to on the writing front, well, there’s going to be a screening on the Local Freeview for my first ever TV program script sometime in 2013.  Seems ages away I know, but filming starts this summer, and there will be a winter live show as well to get the footage.  All good fun and a great experience getting it looked over by a professional TV producer.

There’s also been a lot of progress on the business front, with licensee requests from abroad for the retail side (translations into dutch), and in the UK, Florida, Dubai and Ireland, for the event management side, so that’s been tying me up for a bit; added to that, there’s a series of new You Tube films on the cards (keep your eyes out for our “Come die with me” video, AND I’m presently in the middle of drafting a script for our first ever video based team building game which will hopefully be filmed in the autumn and available in the winter for companies who want a different team building experience.

And if that isn’t enough, we’ve been preparing for the arrival of Mycroft Herring.  (And yes, I make all the mascots).  So that’s kept me busy too!

Kids and the things they say…

wantedposterThis week has been another week where my youngest has had the experience of losing his dog (bed time toy).  Fortunately this time around he’s a little older, 5, and is prepared to adopt another toy to sleep with, but the fact poor dog went missing again was a disaster for him even at this age.

Given that his sister hid it last time around our first port of call was, as you’d expect, his sister.  Who said “Why do you always blame me?”  To which we replied, “Because last time YOU hid it”.  Obviously she rejected that as being totally unfair… strop strop strop. (she’s 7 going on 17…)

Anyway, after a day’s searching I turned to my son and said:

“I just can’t find him anywhere, Tristan, I’ve looked everywhere I can think of.”

To which he replied,

“Then mummy, you’ll just have to start looking in places you can’t think of.”

The logic of a child!!

And perhaps I should mention before closing… it DID turn up – on an incredibly high shelf behind a stack of books because his SISTER had thrown him up there…. vindicated!

It’s not what you do it’s the way that you DEAL with it!

iStock_000018389351XSmallEven with the best business, there will come a time when you make a mistake.  This might be a small one or a big one, but trust me, even with the best of intentions, a mistake will eventually happen.

You might break something, or lose something (as a certain delivery company did for one of my postal orders in the last week).  You might accidentally hit someone’s car when reversing, or you might misspack an order as we did the other week.

Mistakes happen.  After all, we’re only human and everyone knows that everyone makes mistakes; but I’m always surprised by companies who fail to hold their hand up to their mistakes and handle complaints well – after all, they should KNOW it’s going to happen eventually – so why don’t they train their staff to handle the issue when it arises?

How your company handles a mistake will mean more for your company then the actual complaint itself.  You deal with it correctly and customers will actually spread more good word about your business then they would do if the order had been correct in the first place.

I know that sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but it’s true.  You get good service from someone, you expect it, you get exceptional service from someone following a problem – you tell EVERYONE.

So when you set up in business, don’t forget to have a system in place for dealing with problems.  Decide in advance what it will be.

Good customer service is paramount for my company and we have a robust system in place to deal with any mistakes. I know this system works as we had this response posted on facebook from a customer recently following an incident:

I would like say a Big Thankyou to Red Herring Games..a mistake was made with our Murder mystery game which Red Herring games held thier hands up to and couldn’t have been nicer about how they dealt with it…A very good company indeed and I look forward to giving it another go 🙂

So hold your hand up to any mistakes you might make in business.  It’s not WHAT you’ve done – it’s HOW you deal with it that will be remembered by everyone concerned.

#SBS winners inaugural meeting

Yesterday saw Fiona, Sherlock, Dr Whiting and I driving down to Birmingham for Theo Paphitis’s inaugural #SBS meeting.  Sherlock has his own take on the day… but you can find that on his blog.

I think he has designs on Theo’s car… fortunately he didn’t set off the car alarm!  We might have had some explaining to do if so…

It was a great afternoon, and as it was totally sponsored by Ryman Stationery everything was free, including the bar!  (I hate to think what the bar bill was at the end of the afternoon!)

We even got a goodie bag to take home at the end which included all sorts of useful things including a business account with £50 pre-paid on the card!  Thanks Ryman!

There must have been over 400 people there, at least… and it was wonderful meeting all the tweeps I’ve been tweeting with face to face at last.  Sadly I couldn’t get around everyone, but thankfully my trademark “Knife through head” prop meant that even if I didn’t find the people I wanted to see – most of them found me!!  (Next time perhaps I’ll invest in one of those Think Bike signs with “Jo Smedley Red Herring Games” flashing above my head!)

This is Fiona, Sherlock and I with Jacqui Thompson who was the tweeter who told me all about how to enter #SBS and thanks to her RTs during the week to Theo probably gave me the leg up I needed to win!

The big announcement, and the most exciting part of the day was that Ryman Stationery and Theo Paphitis are launching a new #SBS winners website designed by @MetalFrogstudios one of the early #SBS winners – which will contain all the information the press need to know when they run articles on winners, and also the facility for the winners to upload all their information onto the website so that they are easily searched.

The site will provide back links to winners websites and also there is a separate members only section which provides useful business tips and also networks winners and their special offers.  We’re also all going to have access to new badges which will be great!

The #SBS website will be getting populated over the next few weeks as the #SBS winners are sent out their user log in details.  In the meantime you can find the website here:

http://www.theopaphitissbs.com/

It also has some tips on how to enter and what Theo is looking for.

Again the website is free to #SBS winners and we’re all really looking forward to using it!

Theo ran a question and answer session during the meeting.  There were a LOT of questions and I have to say, Theo came across as really sincere and “down to earth” with his answers.  How he can think on his feet that fast, I don’t know, as he fielded questions from things like “What is the future of the highstreet?” through to “Will you run for prime minister?”

Thanks to waving Sherlock around in the air we actually got to ask the one question I know everyone keeps asking me.  Namely:

 “How does Theo Paphitis pick his #SBS winners each week?”

The answer:  Well, it isn’t random chance (Which is really nice to know if you’ve been picked).  Instead he uses the following criteria:

1)      The tweet must catch his eye.

This means it could be cheeky, interesting, or it might just be related to something he’s been doing that week so it attracts his attention.

It has to be a good tweet.  And the avatar can’t be an EGG! Theo also checks out your bio on twitter when he does his research – so ensure the Bio is up to date and friendly.  Theo values the personal touch.

As there are so many tweets week to week Theo also has help from his wife and Tina at Ryman when it comes to selecting #SBS winners – as he has so many to look through of an evening he needs help to do a proper job.  So even if you miss Theo’s attention you might still be noticed by Tina or Mrs P and forwarded onto his shortlist.

2)      The tweet must have a website link – and the link you post with the tweet must work!

Once Theo has his shortlist (and he does create a shortlist) he then clicks through to the website link posted.  The website must be functioning, clear and appropriate.  It doesn’t need to be all singing all dancing – and can just be a “gallery website” for those who understand that term (one page website for those that don’t), but it does need to be working!

If he feels your business has the “basics” in place, that your website is effective and that you will make the most of the RT then he’ll RT you.

3)      Catching Theo’s eye might be something you do during the week.

Theo looks for tweeters he recognises in the #SBS line up.  He looks for regular tweeters, not people who ONLY post each Sunday or who have very little to do with twitter week to week.  If you are going to make the most of your #SBS win, then you need to be making the post of your marketing on Twitter already.

To catch his eye, might mean that you might have tweeted him during the week, or that you’ve been regularly tweeting with someone he follows on twitter so he’s seen your posts regularly throughout the week.

He doesn’t like people repeating tweets during #SBS – that is more likely to put him off RTing someone.

So are there any “hot tips”?

I think so… given that you need to be catching Theo’s eye to get that RT then I’d suggest the following techniques.

1)      Follow everyone Theo is following and speak to them on twitter.  Theo only follows a select group which means he does actually follow what they are saying.

2)      Reply to Theo’s tweets during the week.  There were a few winners he called “Stalkers” at the meeting in jest – but clearly stalking got them their RT.

3)      If you think you’re doing something interesting then include @Theopaphitis in your tweet during the week so he sees what you’re up to.

4)      Write a really “eye catching” tweet.  Say something unusual and something that will get you noticed.

5)      Have an eye catching avatar so it stands out amongst the rest – NO EGGS!  It doesn’t have to be pink, but it needs to be clear.

6)      Make sure your Bio on twitter is accurate and has a friendly, personal feel.

7)      Make sure your website is top-notch.  It WILL be looked at.

8)      Be persistent in your entries and adjust your tweets week to week.  If it didn’t catch his eye the first week, it probably won’t next time around either.

And that’s my hot tips.  Good luck with your own #SBS entries.  With the new website launching this week and all the benefits that’s going to bring – Theo is expecting increased traffic to #SBS and as a result there is talk of him changing the time he RT’s to Monday evening to give him a chance to look through the entries properly.  So get those entries in and then just wait and see!  Next week it could be you!

What next?

Well, Theo recognises that small businesses need leverage to obtain attention, so he kindly posed with all the #SBS winners for a formal photo at the end of the meeting in the hope that beeing seen with a TV personality will provide some leverage we can use to obtain further media attention.

We also have a nice certificate which we’ll be framing for the office…

Also – given that the #SBS winners website has a “county” winners area – we in Lincolnshire are hoping to arrange a regional lincolnshire #SBS  meet up of our own.  so watch this space!

The walking wounded.

It’s been a bit quiet on the blogging front these last few weeks as I’ve been busy launching Sherlock’s blog on wordpress.  For those who aren’t keeping up with all that is going on at Red Herring Games, Sherlock is the new mascot for the business.  What started out as a simple “bolt on extra” as a quiz to get people interested in watching our You Tube Videos, Sherlock has developed into an entity of his own, and so… with that in mind, he needed a blog, which, bizarrely enough is maintained by another fish… Dr. Whiting (and yes, they’re both me in disguise, which means I now have an excuse to talk to myself on twitter!)

You’ll find Sherlock’s Blog here on WordPress: http://sherlockherring.wordpress.com/

I post a new blog for Dr Whiting every saturday, which means I’ve fallen sadly behind with  my own blog since the business’s #SBS win.  (Whoops)

This morning I’ve been prompted go get back to my own blog as Glenda (my mother-in-law and a very lovely lady) wanted to see a photo of my “walking wounded” son when she visits her computer class today.  She’s heard all about his accident via family on Facebook and wanted to see how he was doing.  And so.. Just for you:

This is Tristan in his crepe bandage:

He cockled over on Wednesday night.  (For those who don’t know what “Cockled over” means… you need to obtain a British Language Dialect dictionary – which I don’t think exists… a new idea for Collins perhaps?)

I, with the help of a lovely passer by, piggy-backed him back home from the local park (who said chivalry was dead) and then, from there, sped off to casualty to get him checked out.  Fortunately no fracture, and although it looks like a pot on the photo – it IS only bandaging.

I took it off last night after he bravely limped around school all day (His idea to go, brave lad – but I think showing off was his intention, as he’s now rather centre of attention and his friends are very much in awe of him!)

Anyway, I digress.  This is last night’s bruise.

He’s back at school today, and as it’s sports relief day today he’s been excused from any sporting activities by a long note which also tells the teacher about his clinic appointment which is, much to my amusement, at 11.28.  (Not 11.30 or 11.25 you’ll note: 11.28!! That’s NHS precision for you! )

Anyway – that’s the update on the poorly son front.

As for the business – we’re off to Doncaster Racecourse today for “A Final Furlong” and we’re filming again tonight!  Where’s that hairbrush….