Do something for yourself!

Okay, ask anyone, I am the last person they would expect to see up and running, and before you laugh and give me some excuse why you can't go running, just read on, you may be surprised.

In my line of work I speak to many small business owners. A lot of them are struggling at the moment in one way or another. Many are working all hours, have little family time and even less me time. Obviously my first suggestion is that they employ my services :-) but my next suggestion is totally unrelated to business - why not take up running?

As you can imagine I hear all sorts of excuses, it doesn't matter how little time you have, how overweight you are or how unfit you are. Look at me, for the last sixteen years I was a happy sofa surfer, the nearest I got to exercise was using a remote control and ringing the takeaway! Did I feel good? No, I was overweight, I was tired and I was often ill with chest infections.

Okay I struggled through the Race for Life 5k most years but had discovered I fared better when I did the whole thing at a fast walk rather than trying to kill myself running.

So what changed? Don't laugh - "Run Fat Boy Run", one of my favourite films of all time. It is so funny, you really should watch it. Did that inspire me? Nope. I watch it on my marathon ironing tasks and laugh my socks off, it's that type of film. inspired my little brother. He watched it and said "Why don't we do the Cancer Research 10k in October?". This was May. This is me having only done walking training for the upcoming Race for Life as I had the excuse of walking it with a five year old (any excuse not to run!). I looked at the Cancer Research website and they said that even if you couldn't run, you could still do this as there was plenty of time to train. I looked at the training plan they offered and it seemed to me to be a lot of walking to start with, and even I could do that!!

I agreed. Added the date to my Google countdown, happy in the knowledge that it was months away, and started getting up at 6am for my pre-work walks as it was the only time I could really fit it in. For everyone who tells me they cant find time I can really recommend getting up an hour earlier. Dont ask me how it works or why but the mornings I do this, go out and kill myself (ony joking!) running I always feel better for the rest of the day, better than if I had spent that hour sleeping. Don't believe me? Give it a go one day - it works.

The key to this is keeping it simple, you don't need lots of expensive kit just a decent pair of trainers ( I recommend going to a proper running shop, letting them video you run on a treadmill and get proper shoes for your style - yep there are different types of shoes for different types of runners). The other good thing about running is its free!!

Follow a training plan, if it says walk then walk. Don't be tempted to go faster or miss a couple of stages out, it just leads to injury (speaking from experience here) and dont go out more often than it says either. It is very tempting to think you know better in those early days but trust me, it's very unlikely that you do. (email me if you want a copy of the 10k beginners plan by the way.)

I went on holiday to Salou and carried on my run/walk routine while everyone was still in bed on a morning, can I just say what a beautiful beach front that was to run down each day. When I got home I used google maps to work out a route round the village.

Slowly, steadily I built up my running time and reduced my walking time till one morning I ran the whole thing. I can't tell you what the high was like the first time I managed a whole five miles without walking - I was on cloud nine all day!!

It is hard to run on your own. you have to talk yourself into it, into going that little bit further. If you have a friend you can run with then even better. It's a lot harder to back out when someone is relying on you.

Because my running time is 6am on a morning I felt that a running club wasn't the route for me. They work great for lots of people but it wasn't what I needed. Don't think because you aren't in a club you can't enter races you can!

I entered a "proper runners" 5k in the August and managed to come home last but one, in what for me was a PB (personal best time). I was so proud. Since then I have completed races at 7.5 miles and 10 miles as well. I find that entering a race is the motivation I need to get out there at 6am on a morning, I am sure you will find whatever works for you.

I also came across an online running forum, Fetch Everyone, they have a running club you can join if you want but they would rather you joined a proper running club as they call it.

There are some fantastic people on here, they have got me through the dark days of not running due to illness or injury, they have helped me get my mile time down from just under 13 mins to 9.17! and we have met on several occasions at races, even if it was a case of me just being there to cheer them on. There are all sorts of tools on there for logging your training, setting yourself targets and just talking about anything (trust me on that one!).

I guess what I am trying to say (in my rather rambling way) is that if I can take up running then anyone can. I have met some amazing people through running, one has just taken part in the Marathon Des Sables, 150 miles across the Sahara in 6 days, another is about to cycle Lands End to John O Groats on her own!

Running is a great way of clearing your head, you can take your ipod and have an hour of thinking about nothing, just enjoying the scenery, the peace and quiet and the music, or you can leave the ipod at home and just think about things. It is amazing how useful this time is.

If you are stressing out, be it home pressures, work pressures, you are worried about your weight, anything, then do give it a go.

I have signed up for the Great North Run this year, that will be the only race I do for charity, I am doing it on behalf of the Guide Dogs, all the other races are for me. I can't say I always enjoy my running but I sure do enjoy finishing!! Even if the finish line is only my front door.

My six year old has now started to show an interest in running with me which is great. That is the sort of example I want to set for her. A hard worker, running her own business, who eats sensibly and exercises, not the person that I was at the beginning of last year.

Whatever your reasons, do give it a go, you might surprise yourself and actually enjoy it!!

Oh and if you would like to sponsor me for the Great North Run my page can be found here:

Do what you do best - let someone else do the rest!!

Unless you have had your head buried in the ground these past few months you can't have failed to read all the doom and gloom and misery in the news. Personally I switch it off, it serves no purpose apart from making people miserable.

You have worked hard to get your business where it is, you deserve to make a success of your business, but why should you try and do it all on your own?

Whatever your skill or trade, as a small business owner, you may find yourself wearing too many hats, trying to be the Managing Director, Finance Director, Sales and Marketing Director and Operations Director. It is hard enough carrying out one role, let alone several.

The key is to concentrate on doing what you do best, and to let someone else to do the rest.

You may well be capable of earning upwards of £40.00 an hour in your main role. Does it really make sense for you to be doing the admin tasks as well? Is that really the best use of your time? What I am suggesting is that you look at the roles that you either dislike carrying out, struggle to find time for or are just not skilled at and outsource them. It will save you both time and money, and in the long term it will also save you stress.

So what type of tasks can you outsource? You can outsource your bookkeeping, invoicing, producing and mailing quotes, chasing payment for invoices, diary management, email management, website updating, mailshots, telemarketing, call answering, internet research, pretty much any task you can think of. Personally I won't do your ironing for you but I will find you a lady who could!!

Virtual Assistants are one solution to the above. They are experienced, efficient and extremely cost effective. You don't use them unless you have work for them, and you only pay for the time you use them. No more paying for staff who are on holiday, off sick, sat drinking coffee or chatting about last nights TV. You don't have to worry about adequate office space and resources such as computers, desks, software etc. They have their own.

Do you need a Virtual Assistant? It may already be extremely obvious to you that yes you do, or you may need to think about it, in which case grab a piece of paper, and every time you carry out a task you dislike, dont have time for or are not skilled in, then just make a note of it. Do this for a couple of weeks and see what you end up with. Where is your time being wasted? What is spoiling your enjoyment of your business?

Working with a Virtual Assistant is better than working with temporary staff, as over time we learn your business, your likes and dislikes, your Client base, your work ethos. We care for your Business as if it were our own, and from experience can often suggest actions or systems that you may have overlooked. Sometimes you can just be too close to a problem to see the solution clearly.

Ask around for recommendations, the majority of my Clients are all referrals. Ask to see testimonials. Remember, there is no commitment with a Virtual Assistant, other than the initial contracted period. So what have you got to lose? Give it a go today, and you may well find it is the best business decision you will ever make.

For any Self Employed people with lower profits this year than last year.....

I spend a fair amount of time out of working hours checking out various online forums and networking sites.

There was a really useful tip on there the other day that I wanted to share with you.

Go and speak to your accountant and get your books and self assessment sorted early. Particularly if you are an end of the year type person.

If you are self employed then the tax you paid in January included a payment on account for the 2008-9 tax year, based on the profits for last year. The second payment on account is due 31-7-09.

Now, if your profits are lower 2008-9 than 2007-8 then you're payments on account are probably overestimated.

So, go get your accounts sorted early. Get your tax return in early. Leave the overpayment of your January payment on account, don't ask for a refund. And pay a reduced payment on account in July.

If you are in this situation, there is absolutely no benefit in waiting till the end of the year to sort your accounts and tax returns.

Same thing applies to anyone who although their trading profits may be steady, who has invested in capital expenditure that qualifies for the Annual Investment Allowance.

Also, your accountant will love you!!

As I said earlier, credit for this idea goes to a colleague on one of the networking forums.