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Wedding Bells.

My oldest sister is getting married tomorrow. I apologise to everyone who is already sick of my constant bleating, but I feel it’s worthy of a mention here, both because it’s part of the reason why I haven’t been writing much and because it’s quite a big event in our lives!

After a year of preparation, it suddenly seems only a week ago that I was just about to put down my awesome poker hand and was interrupted by Brooke’s phone call.

One big lesson I’ve learned from wedding planning is that you CANNOT forget your initial aim:

To have a fantastic time with the people you love.

In the leadup to this particular wedding, as with all others, I’m sure, there have been highs and lows. The reasons for these are plenty, differing expectations, a different level of importance placed on the event by different people, stress at work, little time to get the details perfect, mis communications and, I imagine, a little bit of nerves as the bride and groom realise that this is it.

Now it’s at the stage that if anything goes wrong we can’t actually DO anything about it.

All our friends and family are arriving from around the country and world, we have dinners planned, BBQ’s and of course, the big day.

And next week, I’ll need to sleep for a week. :)

Work hours are work hours

I am bogged down at work.

I also have a wedding in the family in two weeks.

One thing that has become increasingly obvious is my inability to sit down for a full work day and get stuff done without 1-2 hours taken up with people popping in, asking quick favours etc etc for non work-related tasks.

So last week I had to start being tough with myself, no more quickly ringing around 10 people, or researching something or setting something up or even answering questions. Work hours are for work only.

I have quickly come to realise how bad I am at this because I notice just how much stuff I do that doesn’t lead to work getting done.

So:

1. If I seem somewhat more rude and less able to do stuff for you in the near future, it’s not for any reason other than I’m too busy
2. I have to get better at saying ‘no’!

Hanging out with Lionel Richie

So I’m in the Hawkes Bay again (should I just move here?) This time for Cornevil and LIONEL!!!!!

Unfortunately, after an unbroken 16 years of no rain on Mission Concert day, this year it’s currently bucketing down. Apparently my luck has worn off.

I’ve been bugging Amy to let me go to Cornevil ever since I found out about it – An amazing maze made out of maize, in the middle of the night, with actors leaping out at you from the shadows with chainsaws. She finally relented and we went last night.

It was terrifying. Well done, lots of blood and guts and people with knives who literally chase you through the maze (and the maize when you get off course). Great fun. You also get 3d glasses and a bit of an obstacle course. We were unfortunate enough to go through with a lovely woman who knew half the actors so I suspect we were attacked more than the common maze-goer (I don’t care how blunt it is, having someone tap your legs with a massive knife in a dark, converted coolshed, with body bags hanging from a roof is enough to make anyone scream.)

Let’s hope Lionel pulls his weight, otherwise the colds we are all going to get from being in the rain that long will be so not worth it.

UPDATED

Having fun…
Mission

Snug as bugs in rugs (totally 100% dry and cosy)
Mission 1

Post cancellation tears…
Failed mission

Getting help from NZTE

I just applied for funding from NZTE for the first time ever.

We are trying to get financial assistance for our upcoming work with Alan to get our strategies straight and documented (and making sense!) for the next few years of growth.

So, one day when I had a spare minute, I started trawling the NZTE site and came across funding applications for the exact stuff we are working on.

I have always sort of thought that we were too small for NZTE to pay attention to, or that the amount of money they gave out was too much (I know that sounds weird) for what we needed. However, they have a bunch of funds available from $3,000 -$6,000 for business development and capability building. The EXACT size of funding a business like ours has the time to apply for and the requirement to use.

After several quick runs across to visit Ruth Mc Davitt at Grow Wellington and ensure I had it all right, I submitted my application. Julie at NZTE looked at it immediately (Literally, we heard from her about 2 hours after she must have received it).

We now have a short wait for the funding process to happen, but it just struck me that a lot of small businesses probably don’t know that sort of support is out there. And this is the kind of stuff that gives us the breathing space to take that time out of the business and work on it. Super cool.

The only thing better than Xero and iPayroll…

Is getting them for FREE!

I signed up to Bizchat (New Zealand’s latest and greatest business community) last week after realising Ruth Mc Davitt and Ben Kepes are behind it.

I am now the (super excited) first winner of the cool business software package prize they have put together for users of the site:

Since I already use and rave about Xero and iPayroll, I suspect the other two will be equally useful.

Woohoo! What a way to start a monday :)

People matter now more than ever.

The other day, I heard about a guy who works for a company who yell at him for caring too much about customers. Apparently it detracts too much from the bottom line and he is actively DISCOURAGED from providing exceptional service.

These days, we all hear about companies cutting costs through mass redundancies. I’ve heard of several people who have spent weeks or even months waiting anxiously to find out whether their job will still exist tomorrow. Others arrive at a meeting one day to find it’s simply gone.

It occured to me that these are not the type of stories we should be hearing at the moment.

I’m not sure what kind of bubble people have been living in. It was less than 30 years ago that NZ faced these sort of woes and yet, in the past few years people have been acting like the economy is infallible. Now the money is drying up, they are making dumb, short term decisions in a desperate attempt to save money.

Yes there is a recession on and yes, we’ve all been stupid with our money in the past few years. But people who panic now are forgetting that all a business is at the end of the day is the people who work in it and the people who buy from it.

If you don’t have customers, you don’t have revenue. It’s as simple as that. Far from trying to stop your employees make your customers super happy, you should be encouraging it!

At the same time, if you don’t treat your staff like they are valued members of the company, and involve them in the cost cutting techniques (i.e reducing hours and therefore redundancies), then you can’t expect them to go the extra mile for you while things are tough.

I may be proven wrong, but I still believe that the companies who are struggling the most at the moment, are those who have lost touch with their markets and employees, and the good times enabled them to cover it up. Yes it’s time for cost cutting, but you should be addressing the fundamentals of your business rather than freaking out.

Breaking the 40 minute barrier

So I did Round the Bays on Sunday in a NEW PERSONAL ROUND THE BAYS BEST TIME of 39.57 minutes.

Over the years ‘Team Ferguson and Tag Alongs’ has grown and morphed and be believe that this year was our best yet. The 7km run was completed without any walking by all of us (except Ingo, who apparently needed a toilet break half way – but still managed to beat the rest of our times)

The organisers are claiming the recession is the cause of a fall in numbers (only 9,000 this year), but the weather put on a great show, as per usual. And as per usual (post Jerry’s participation) we all looked longingly at the hamburgers coming out of the Telecom tent and were amazed and shocked NOT to see ourselves on the leaderboards.

Unlike normal, dad and Francie both played a starring role on the crowd photo on the homepage of the Dom Post. You could also see my shoulder if you look hard enough.

So now we’re in training for the 10km ‘race’ that Claire gave me a training schedule for on my birthday (WORST PRESENT EVER), in the hope that this great quarter century year wont leads to a great increase in waistlines :)

Does Search Engine Optimisation just Equal Good Marketing?

Quite often customers ask me to make sure their site ranks at number one on Google.

After Ronan heard my reply one too many times, he sent me an article that rips apart the notion of SEO. I agree with basically every part.

Unless SEO experts partake in some of the more ‘dodgy’ SEO activities, what they generally do is good web marketing.

As I tell my customers, good SEO is not necessarily the best and/or only strategy. Many websites sell products and services that people probably don’t even search for, rather they find referrals from trusted sources – i.e other complimentary websites.

If you take a 3 pronged, manual approach that relies on your genuine interest and knowledge in your chosen topic, then you can boost traffic from not only search engines, but from others sites that your audience go to:

  1. Frequent content updates on your website – This could be to a news section or blog, but any updates help Google see that the site is active help. This is also good website practice to encourage return visitors and avoid a website that is static and uninspiring.
  2. Research and use Targeted keywords – This requires determining the terms that are most frequently searched for to find products like yours and using them throughout the website AND on any links you make back to the website.
  3. Links to your website from other relevant websites – Quite often these can be added by searching for websites that talk about complimentary services. If these are blogs, you can add insightful, relevant comments to articles and link back to your website. This is a good way of getting traffic both from the website and boosting your search engine visibility

There are still a lot of misconceptions about SEO, and I think one of the big ones is that Google is your only option for driving traffic to your site. You do not have to be listed at the top of Google to get good quality leads to your website… The ‘invention’ of blogging has long since proven that. If you treat the web as an overall marketing tool, Google will appreciate your efforts, but you will also get traffic from potentially better sources.

A Little Bit of National Pride

I spent Waitangi day and Saturday at the Wellington Rugby Sevens.

For all those not in the know, the Wellington Sevens event is one big 40,000 person strong dress up party that goes on around some rugby games that no one really pays attention to.

To an outsider, the concept seems a little unusual, and let’s be honest, only in New Zealand would you find a nation of men who have the motivation to spend months preparing their dresses and high heels (Or Pamela Anderson outfits)…

Sevens 80-’s wedding party

The costumes have become so outrageous that you can’t actually tell the real police from the fake ones, and the S.W.A.T teams running around could be anyone and as the booze levels rise and the costumes get a little scraggly towards the end of sat, it’s not a rare occurrence to see a cave man getting friendly with a fairy.

So we lost the final game, our spirits dwindled a little until we realised we didn’t care and then everyone trawled on mass through town to party the night away.

If you ever want to witness a little NZ national pride, head along next year and listen to 40,000 people warble along to great kiwi classics and witness our combined decision to boo the Aussies and cheer the Kenyans. :)

Censorship in the age of the blog.

Following the Mumbai attacks late last year, there was apparently scathing criticism of the news reporting.

One blogger has been sued for claiming a TV station used ‘shoddy journalism’ and has unpublished his post and issues a retraction statement.

The result?

Fairly obvious really. The entire blogosphere erupts, people re-publish the post on their websites and the overall publicity for the news station is hugely negative.

What can they do now? Sue thousands of bloggers?

One thing I love about blogging is the mass movement for freedom of speech and opinion. I agree that slanderous comments and those based on nothing but a desire to cause harm should carry repercussions, but the right to express a well-reasoned opinion is something we’ve all finally stood up to defend.

And there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. Natural justice will ensure that the unfounded rumors eventually die an undignified death, but that bullying can no longer be used as a tactic to ensure only the good stuff gets published.

At the risk of also being sued, I would have to say that was a stupid move from the TV station :)

(Thanks Jack for the link)