Business, butternut squash and water cooler economics

Business has parallels with many things. Good analogies are a story easily told. So I’m going to tell you how web design, butternut squash and water coolers all have something in common…

As I walked into the office, a Steve was in mid discussion with Claire about the cost of the bottled water she buys and brings into the office. While the water seemed cheap enough, Steve was busy working away on some numbers on a piece of paper. He had other ideas.

Claire wasn’t sure of the idea of renting a water cooler, citing the monthly costs as the principle reason. Steve was sat there, running the numbers. In the end, the apparent cost of the water cooler worked out much cheaper over twelve months than buying bottled water.

So now you’re wondering how a water cooler connects with business, apart from the cost savings. Well, it’s all a question of economics — what appears expensive in the short-term, can often have long-term cost benefits.

As an example, you might want to be able to edit the web pages on your website, but to do that, it’s more than likely that you’d need what’s called a Content Management System to do that.

Now, there’s two ways of managing your website:

  1. I edit the web pages as and when you request changes, or;
  2. You edit those web pages yourself, via a CMS, in your own time.

The first option appears to be the simplest option, but when you consider the cost of me making those edits, and that those edits might not happen straight away, due to work schedules, the costs can rise.

The second option can seem very expensive, because I’m tasked with developing a CMS for you, which might cost many hundreds of pounds. But you’re in complete control of your website, and over time, you’ll save money and be able to make edits at a time of your own choosing.

So the convenience of having your own serviced water cooler is to a CMS what me editing your website is to bottled water, bought from the supermarket.

While at the supermarket buying lunch, I looked to my side and saw a box full of butternut squash. I’m sure I’d seen them before, but I had no idea what to do with them. Do I cut them up like a melon? Do I mash them like potatoes?

So I asked the assistant, serving me with my lunch. She instantly referred to a colleague of hers. They didn’t know either.

This to me is a missed opportunity; butternut squash could be heaven for all I know! If only I knew what to do with it. So I suggested that recipes ought to be put next to the butternut squash, so people had some idea of what to do with them, and what else to eat them with — maybe something else in the store. The two women instantly agreed that would be a great idea.

So now you’re wondering how butternut squash connects with business. Well, I could ramble on about buzzwords, like PHP, MySQL, XML, HTML, ActionScript, JavaScript .. and on, and on. The problem is, buzzwords are no better than butternut squash, if you don’t know what they are, or what to do with them.

So I don’t sell buzzwords, I talk about the things those buzzwords can be made into, such as a web application for managing company assets, for bookkeeping, tracking stock inventory or for selling products via the web.

As you can see, business is very much like life. And what we learn from our everyday lives is often easily transferrable into our business lives, too…

Octane, 1999-2009: the first 10 years

Octane Interactive Limited was incorporated on the 14th of June, 1999. And a decade later, Octane is still here, better than ever, providing new media solutions to business problems.

There have been trials. There have been tribulations. I’ve survived everything from the bursting of the Dot Com bubble to the current global economic downturn.

For any business to last ten years is a major milestone. But for a web design agency, I breath very rarefied air, shared by few others.

So how did I manage this feat? Simple, really. I provide a professional, honest, frank, qualitative web design and development service. No gimmicks. No discounts. No small print. No hidden extras.

I go that extra mile and give you more than you’d have hoped for. I don’t just do, I think first. I’ll ask awkward and probing questions. I’ll make you think about your business in ways you’d not considered. I’ll work with you to understand what it is that you need, not what you want — you might want a bar of chocolate, but you need to breath.

Together, we’ll uncover your “Organic Knowledge“, and I might even exercise my right to say “no” once in a while. In the end, you’ll end up with a company website or a web application that exceeds your expectations.

But if someone is looking for bargain basement prices, there’s always the Yellow Pages, because I never have and never will compete on price. If they want a discount, they need to tell me what is that’s the least important about their project and we’ll cut it loose, because that’s the only way I come down on price.

When businesses come to me, we establish relationships and everything is built outwards from that. Some of my clients have been with me nearly the whole ten years I’ve been in business. When they call, they call me directly. Sometimes, I might even talk my way out of some work, because I know that what they’re asking for isn’t the right thing, or at the right time.

Right now, Octane is working hard on several web application projects for a number of clients. Against the backdrop of this economic downturn, businesses are turning to me because they know that when times are hard, quality, honesty and professionalism are worth paying for.

So here’s to another ten years of web design success!

High Speed Connections

Social media is changing the way we create, publicize and report on events. In light of Facebook, it’s now possible to raise awareness about a particular event through social networking tools, take bookings and raise awareness via Twitter and other such social media.

Essentially, this is still an elective process, but with social media exploding in popularity, it has become a route few can afford to ignore.

All of a Twitter over social media

Does social media represent a genuine opportunity for small businesses — or are we in danger of falling victim to yet more hype?

Wayne Smallman, FSB member, founder of web design and development consultancy Octane Interactive and author of The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, says:

Be careful about being too candid, entering into heated and bad-tempered debates and arguments, or making disparaging, negative and very public comments about clients, as well as other people. Unless you’re absolutely certain of the people in your social network, apply the ‘mother rule’ – would my mother be offended if she read this?

Captive Audience

Recent research has consistently concluded that building an effective relationship with your customers is the foundation on which every other component of your business is built.

Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are now very sophisticated. However, businesses often make the mistake of using these applications to replace their existing customer service function, instead of using these systems to supplement and improve them.

“It’s not so much the technology that’s helping per se, it’s the willingness of sales and marketing staff to populate and use their CRM software that helps most, not the technology itself.” says Wayne Smallman, director of internet marketing company Octane Interactive. “CRM is just a crutch for our sieve-like memories, really. In a similar fashion, the best tools in the world are nothing without the knowledge to use them correctly.”

“If possible, get to know your customer on a personal level,” says Wayne Smallman. “That’s key. People buy into people long before they buy anything from them. Essentially, what we’re talking about here is trust. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t fail to do it, or do it late. Do it when and how you said you were going to. Of course, you can’t always stick rigidly to a plan, but demonstrate that you are at least working towards accomplishing that. Be transparent about your services, what you do and how you do it. The very moment a client has any serious doubts, there’s probably no doubt at all in their mind that they ought to be looking somewhere else.”