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QUEEN OF THE KITCHEN Linda Barker talks Changing Rooms, interior design and following her dreams
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A WORD FROM THE EDITOR
e enter a time of uncertainty for businesses in the UK. Article 50 has now been invoked by the British government and no one is sure what will happen to the laws in the land without EU inﬂuence. Business is worryingly waiting for direction from the government and hope it will lean in their favour when negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU. With all this hanging in the balance it is easy to forget that the world keeps turning and business still needs to be made. In this special ‘mini’ edition of the Talk Business magazine we chose three of our best online articles. To kick things off we speak to Linda Barker, best known as a TV presenter and interior designer, Linda is lesser known for her entrepreneurial ventures in starting her own interior design business creating masterpieces from tight budgets and starting a catalogue turned online business with her husband. Find out how she went from air hostess to TV star then entrepreneur on page 4. Our other two articles help you take your business in new and interesting directions. First on page 8 ﬁnd out how you can make the most out of social media with our social media checklist. Then turn to page 13 and discover some amazing business strategies that might help you think outside the box and push your business to the next level. So head over to www.talk-business.co.uk to get the best advice and information from business experts or get in contact today to share your success story with Talk Business!
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Linda Barker, the UK’s favourite interior designer, talks to Angela Sara West about why you’ll now ﬁnd her mostly in the kitchen and her latest home improvement series, The Home Game.
QUEEN OF THE KITCHEN Y
orkshire-born Linda’s working life actually started up in the air. “I was cabin crew for Britannia Airways for four years, which was great fun!” she explains. But having studied Fine Arts at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, a career in creativity beckoned. Her pivotal moment was quitting her airline job and allowing herself some freedom. “For around six months, I wasn’t earning much, but it enabled me to work out what I wanted to do. I wrote interior features for a few house titles as homes was my passion, but I wasn’t sure which path to take in design until I got my first flat and started decorating. Interior design really resonated with me.” Linda’s flat became the subject of a House Beautiful spread and with her eye for colour and her impeccable taste, along with her ability to create amazing interior spaces on tight budgets, the commissions came rolling in. She started designing retail outlets and celebrities’ houses and in the 90s, her work took her into television, with small stints on programmes including Good Morning with Anne and Nick. Then, along came the landmark BBC show, Changing Rooms, which changed everything. Linda was chosen to co-present alongside fellow designers including Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and boom… Britain was bitten by the home improvement bug! “Changing Rooms kicked off a lot of interior design programmes and it was fantastic to be able to work on a lot of them! I love working in television now, but I clearly remember my first Changing Rooms… I was literally sick the morning before; it was mindbogglingly terrifying! www.talk-business.co.uk
The leading TV presenter still enjoys the odd appearance on This Morning and, always up for a challenge, she has also taken part in a number of reality TV shows, including I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, Celebrity Masterchef and Come Dine With Me and has even taken the plunge alongside Tom Daley in Splash!
I wasn’t a natural in front of the camera in those early days because it was all so new. I’d always been happy in the background. But I learned to love it, it was exciting and I loved the challenges.” Linda and her co-stars became international sensations practically overnight and she went on to star in a string of BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 TV shows, including House Invaders and 60 Minute Makeover. “What put me there was the hard work I put in. I loved being busy and wanted to be successful at things that made me happy, which was being creative and creating a beautiful home. That’s what drove me and it was just phenomenal that I ended up working on a programme that turned me into a household name, but it was not on my agenda at all.” 6
REALLY LINDA BARKER Linda also consults on interior brands and private property developments and, 15 years ago, she and her husband, Chris Short, a former TV exec who now runs Alfresco Floors, selling tiles and decking to interior designers and architects, entered a very different kind of business arena, setting up their online retail business, the Really Linda Barker homeware store. “After ten years on air, I had a sense that Changing Rooms was coming to a conclusion and I was hungry to do something I was really happy doing. We jumped on the idea of a mail order catalogue, committed to the stock in the warehouse and established it. It evolved into an online platform as technology caught up with it and as people became more familiar and comfortable with paying online. It meant I could visit trade shows wearing a different kind of business hat, looking at accessories etc. to source for it.” The couple set about learning an enormous amount, really fast.. and pulled it off. “Along with finding clients and sourcing a warehouse, we had to work out other aspects such as the courier system and marketing. It was still in the early days of online but we had the website ready, although 99% of our business was coming through the catalogue, so we had to build that side simultaneously, too.” The pair witnessed the migration of that business away from print to online, and so began another learning curve. “We had to work out how all the photography was done… layouts, copyright etc. Aspects we had no experience of. In those days, you couldn’t just dip your toes in like with eBay, you had to fill a warehouse with stock and let things grow organically.”
I’ve always followed my heart and done what I’ve really wanted to do. I’ve had the right opportunities and been able to realise my dreams Linda says the business awarded her an amazing mix of challenges and benefits. “When we looked at the first online catalogue as it came literally off-the-press, our pride was tangible, it was incredibly rewarding. We mailed out 100,000 catalogues. It was scary but it’s fabulous to think we set that all up. We were quite entrepreneurial with it, doing something very new.” Although Linda and Chris have put a temporary pause on trading, they hope to revive the business in the future: “There are lots of similar companies now that are successful, which is why we whittled it down and have put it to sleep for a while, to take stock. It’s a very different marketplace now. Whether we find an investor or do something different with it and develop it to take to next level, we need to put ourselves on a different platform to resurrect it.” The interiors expert says her strong work ethic has always driven her to achieve. “I’ve always had a solid business undercurrent. I love working and have never been one to stand still, which has stood me in good stead. It’s also about good timing; being in the right place at right time. I have the ability to work across lots of different disciplines; I love writing articles and books, I have a strong creative ability and can make things... I absolutely love being challenged and taken out of my comfort zone.” “I’ve always loved the idea of business, doing things and making money, since childhood. I’d decorate, my mum taught me to sew and I would
make clothes and soft toys to sell at school. I never thought it was unusual to do that. I’ve earned my own money from a very early age, around 14, and loved being completely independent.” The secrets to her success? “I’ve always followed my heart and done what I’ve really wanted to do. I’ve had the right opportunities and been able to realise my dreams. That’s partly down to luck, but also through finding people who are good at what they do. I like surrounding myself with people who really know their business, letting them grow and not imposing myself on them, letting them find their own niche.” FROM TV QUEEN TO KITCHEN GODDESS A familiar face on commercials for DFS and Currys, Linda also advises on interior brands and now spends much of her time in the kitchen as a consultant for Wren Kitchens, where she is heavily involved with training. “Wren is expanding massively and recruiting at the moment, so I talk to their new staff about design and how they approach building people’s kitchens. I really love teaching people about designing. It’s great! Linda has always been “hands-on” with her businesses. “That’s part of how I learn, what I love to do and what gives me the most satisfaction at the end of the day.” Her business tips? “It’s about which dream you follow, really. I’ve realised there’s no point in doing something I’m not passionate about. When your head’s in a great space, you can do anything!” “I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to put my dreams into practice… I have so many ideas buzzing around in my brain and I think that’s my entrepreneurial spirit. It’s exciting to be able to realise those concepts.” Although Linda embraces it when it comes her way, she’s doing less TV these days. “Ten years ago, every day I’d get up and work on a TV programme. Whenever it’s offered to you, you do it and welcome it with open arms. I’m very grateful for it; it’s such a privilege to do. I’ve loved every minute but never believed it would be forever. After 20 years in the business, I’m eternally grateful.” © Angela Sara West 2017 www.angelasarawest.com www.talk-business.co.uk
CHECKLIST: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR STARTUPS With any new business, getting your name out there is crucial. We live in a digital age and social media is the key to remember when setting up any type of business, advises Yasmin Hogg, social media manager at Luminous PR.
o, follow this simple check list from our social media experts and become a social media boss!
AUDIT YOURSELF What we mean by an audit is have a rain check: don’t rush in. Take some time and decide what you want to achieve from social media. Managing social media takes time, so you have to have goals in mind to make it worthwhile. DEFINE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE Understand who you want to be reaching on your social media platforms, this will help you create the right type of content. Your target audience should be the decision makers that will be paying for your product or services. CHOOSE YOUR PLATFORMS Each platform can help your business in a different way. Twitter is something every business should have and the first you should get. It’s interactive and current. Post on Twitter as often as you like and keep it quick, snappy and current. Facebook is basically your website equivalent for the millennial, it’s the first place they will check you out. Keep it current but not too much content. Facebook should be a place to share upcoming events and pictures, and to use for advertisement. 8
Instagram is great as long as you have something to post. If your business isn’t visual then don’t create one right away, the worst thing to do is create a platform and leave it empty! Other social media platforms such as SnapChat and Pinterest are great for when you have a little more of a following, and for creating interaction between your brand and your followers. Of course, this won’t be appropriate for all businesses! CREATE AN ACCOUNT The first step to making it all official. Having your social media accounts active before your business launch is a great way to create a buzz and excitement about your brand. Make sure to keep your usernames as simple as possible, so people searching you will know that’s the right account. Don’t forget to make note of your password! CREATE A KILLER BIO This content is key: it’s the first thing people will look at when they search your social media platforms. Your bio is the tiny bit of information you can put at the top of Twitter and Instagram or the side of your Facebook page. Keep it short and snappy, but direct with what you offer. Make sure you link back to your website so your followers can find out more info about your business. FOLLOW THE RIGHT PEOPLE Now that your account is active you’re going to need to start following people. This will help you build
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up a bigger target audience of your own. Make sure the people you follow are relevant to your business - people in the same field and people who are in the limelight of your industry, it will help you keep abreast of current industry trends. KEEP ACTIVE If you want to grow your business you need to be committed to your social media platforms. A social media platform without activity is worse than no social media at all. Make sure you’re posting daily. Yep that’s right every day! Keep people engaged with your ideas and upcoming news - if you think you don’t have anything new, share relevant news stories relating to your industry. BE PERSONAL Your social media platforms are going to be a place where you can interact with your customers and following, give yourself an edge, and demonstrate your personality. Don’t be afraid of showing off your brand and letting people in. BE RELEVANT AND HELPFUL A cheeky two in one, if you keep your content relevant to your business then it’s going to be helpful to your customers. BE INTERESTING Remember, even if something you’re posting is relevant it may not always be fun. Make sure to post
content that people will enjoy reading and will keep your audience engaged. SHARE VISUAL CONTENT Sharing pictures and bight colourful content on your social media platforms will keep people’s attention, get people looking and enjoying your page. If people like what they see, they stick around and come back for more. USE HASHTAGS # Hashtags help your social media platforms into the right places, join in with what’s current (trending) and help your content to visible. Using them shows you’re relevant and trending! KEEP CONSISTENT Keeping your theme and brand consistent is super important, making sure all of your content links to a common theme. You should not only be maintaining consistency across your social media channels, but also your website and any PR activity you put out. SHARE YOUR PR COVERAGE Make sure you share all of your latest PR coverage to promote your name. If people see your business in the public eye, they’re more likely to remember you favourably. Next time a customer is looking to change supplier or brands, it could help them choose you. HAVE FUN! Last but not least, have fun with it! Enjoy getting creative and being interactive with your audience. It may seem like a lot to do, but just take your time and check through this list one by one. You will be sure to have a tip top social media presence before you know it!
If people like what they see, they stick around and come back for more 10
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Alan S Adams, award winning business coach and bestselling author, looks at business strategies
here are thousands of books out there – and even more websites – claiming to teach you how to run your business. Everyone who’s anyone has offered up their advice at one point and, as such, it can be confusing to know who to turn to, which tips to take on board, and which aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. But, there are some excellent business strategies out there and it’s worth looking at what the big, successful companies did to rise to the top – and more importantly, how you can replicate that within your own company. I’ve put together some examples of excellent strategies where the business has clearly thought outside the box and flourished as a result:
MAKE THE CUSTOMER WORK FOR IT In a fast-paced world where everything can be ordered at the click of a button and anything can be done in a tenth of the time it used to take, it might seem as though we’ve become complacent and reliant on others – or technology – to get the job done. But, it turns out we’re actually big fans of putting in a little hard work ourselves. Ikea has well and truly tapped into this psyche, and look how popular they are as result. Of course, this doesn’t work for all business sectors – if you were paying for dinner in a fancy restaurant you wouldn’t expect the chef to usher you into the kitchen and get you to finish off preparing your meal, but give us a box of wood and some screws and we’re itching to get home and start constructing! We’ve all experienced that feeling of pride at standing back and admiring that beautiful flat-pack bit of furniture and, as a result, Ikea’s popularity has grown phenomenally, with 884 million store visits across the world in 2015. Another good example of this theory is Build-a-Bear, where you put the work in to
choosing a teddy, its outfit and its name rather than picking a ready-made one off the shelf. Those little personal touches make the experience so desirable – and as they made $377million worth of sales last year, it seems a lot of people agree! So, have a think how you can make this work for your business – how can you involve the customer in making the end product what it is? AN EMPTY CHAIR Amazon’s customer focus is one of the most wellknown and brilliant business strategies, but just because it’s so widely known it doesn’t mean you should discount it when you’re considering what
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
you should do in your own company. CEO Jeff Bezos leaves an empty chair at every meeting, with the idea being that it represents the customer – ‘the most important person in the room’, in Mr Bezos’ words. Of course, you don’t have to go as far as physically having an empty chair at your meetings (although why not?), but you should be considering your customers when you make every decision, no matter how big or small. It’s worth thinking about how you can engage more with your customers, make them feel a part of your company and, more importantly, get them coming back time after time because they know you care. In my ‘what I wish I’d known when I started’ guide I mentioned checking your clients were happy, and this really links into the empty chair strategy. By getting to know them and putting them first in everything you do, you’re ensuring they’re happy. And happy customers will stay with you, year after year, as your business grows and develops. YOUR EMPLOYEES MATTER A successful company relies on its employees to keep it running smoothly and if your team isn’t happy, it’s simply not going to perform as well. It may seem counterproductive to be giving away a whole host of benefits to the people on your payroll – after all a business is about maximising profits, right? But the more you reward your staff, the more likely they are to stay with you and to promote the business in the best light possible even when they’re not at work. High-street cobbler Timpson is an excellent example of this and regularly features in the top 100 of The Sunday Times’ Best Companies to Work For as a result. The organisation’s extensive employee benefit scheme includes sponsorship for community activities, a hardship fund, a day’s paid leave on their birthday, Mothercare vouchers for new parents, £100 and an extra week’s paid holiday for a honeymoon when staff get married. Phew! 14
THERE’S NO ‘I’ IN TEAM Not only do your individual team members matter, but how they relate to each other is important too. A happy office is a productive one and if you can ensure all issues are nipped in the bud before they start affecting the way your company runs, then things are bound to be a lot easier. Bosses at Las Vegas-based online store Zappos had a fantastic idea to enhance team spirit – by introducing a Who’s Who? Quiz on every computer. When staff members log onto the system and enter their password, a picture of one of their colleagues comes up on the screen and they have to guess that person’s name. If they guess wrongly, they’re taken to the person’s biography so they can find out all about them. It may be a little off the wall (and perhaps more suited to large corporations with hundreds of staff), but it’s certainly made its mark at Zappos where there’s still a family-like atmosphere despite it rapidly expanding since its launch in 1999. There are lots of other ways to encourage team spirit so if you can set aside some time to making sure that colleagues get to know each other – and that you know them too – then you’ll really reap the rewards in the long term.
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Talk Business is bursting with inspiration, tips and advice to assist those entrepreneurs battling through the day-to-day struggles of the c...
Published on Apr 3, 2017
Talk Business is bursting with inspiration, tips and advice to assist those entrepreneurs battling through the day-to-day struggles of the c...