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Most employers now know what their budgets look like for the coming year and are getting a better perspective of the expectations of their team.


This means it’s the perfect time to start paying attention to the monthly ONS jobs report during your workforce planning.

And for good reason: Any signs that might indicate changes in business or economic conditions can help them decide how their workforce should be structured, whether it needs to expand, contract or even change at all.

Assessing your company’s workforce plan for the coming year begins by answering one question: do you have an adequate number of employees currently in place to achieve your objectives, at least over the near term?

This is much more than a simple yes-or-no question. Here are two scenarios you might possibly be facing:


Scenario #1: You are fully staffed

Even if you feel you already have enough employees to meet your business goals for the coming year, and your workforce plan is complete, you still have a few more things to consider. And not accounting for them could spell disaster.

More than anything, you need to ask yourself these follow-up questions to ensure your employee resources plan will help move your business forward in the months ahead:


  • How quickly can you adjust to unforeseen hiring challenges? Even though you may have enough people on hand to support the plans you’re making for next year, what would happen if business conditions or priorities change in 2018? What if a critical team member — or worse, multiple key players — decided to leave the organisation? There are many factors behind why employees leave, and in today’s employment market, that’s well within the realm of possibility.
  • Do you have the right skills in the right places? Just because you have the right number of people doesn’t mean you have them focused on the right projects. What are your business goals for 2018, and what portion of your team is working to achieve each one? Roughly speaking, the more important the goal, the more people you should have dedicated to meeting it. Prepare yourself now for the possibility that you may need to reallocate members of your team — or bring in new workers if your staff lack key skills to support changed business priorities. By performing this assessment, you may also be able to find ways to move you along their desired career paths.


Given these realities, setting aside a portion of the 2018 budget is worth considering for unplanned hiring needs. Establishing a relationship with a reputable specialist recruitment consultant in your area who can help you locate skilled interim professionals should you require project-based consulting or support.


Scenario #2: You plan to hire in the year ahead

If, on the other hand, you don’t have enough people or the right skill sets in-house to achieve your business objectives in the New Year, you’ve got a little more work to do in formulating a workforce plan. In particular, you need to consider several key questions, including:


  • How quickly do you need to hire? Skilled candidates are in high demand, and it can take several weeks to find the right hire. If you’re in a geographic location where competition for talent is fierce, it might take even longer. So, you might need to start your candidate search right away, especially if you need to have these additional team members in place by early 2018.
  • How quickly can you hire? A key step in setting your workforce plan is making sure all stakeholders understand the hiring priorities and have agreed on key details, such as the number of people you plan to hire, salary expectations, start dates and the like. Start preparing now. Getting these particulars ironed out early on will make the hiring process go more smoothly and increase your chances of success.
  • What factors could make it difficult for you to hire? Be aware of anything that could make hiring even more challenging — or near impossible. Start with the employment market in your area. How deep is the pool of candidates you seek? What is the demand for these professionals? How much employee training will they need? Also, think about your job offers. Your company must be prepared to offer remuneration that is at least on par with what competitors and peers are providing to top candidates.
  • Should you adjust your priorities? Consider postponing any initiatives that aren’t imperative, at least until you’re confident that your business is truly prepared, from a recruitment perspective, to take them on.


It takes a great deal of thought and effort to pull together a workforce plan, even if you think you don’t need one. It’s worth the work. Really understanding where your business is at today in terms of its employee strength provides a foundation for determining where it needs to be in the near future — and allows for you to withstand the unexpected.

About the author

Phil Sheridan is Senior Managing Director at Robert Half UK. Robert Half is a specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 325 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, creative and administrative professionals. and

No one can completely predict how their career progression will evolve.


People learn, they make mistakes, they take inspired risks, they benefit from luck, they fail to capitalise on chances.

However, there are some actions that are almost universally likely to boost your rate of success and failure moving forward.

These are some of the key dos and don’ts when it comes to career progression:


Do: Take calculated risks

Sometimes you may need to look for a new job to boost your career progression opportunities, even if you’re perfectly comfortable where you are. That comfortable feeling can lapse into mediocrity and a lack of motivation in your work, and you have no idea why you’re sitting in the same seat 20 years later.


Don’t: Resist change

Companies change for reasons that are positive or negative, but rarely for reasons that are unnecessary. Sitting moaning about an operational change is one thing, but refusing to embrace it or even taking on what new learning needs to be tackled is another. Note that you may struggle at first and that’s acceptable as long as you show willingness; showing that you don’t want to participate is a one-way ticket to stagnation in your career.


Do: Improve yourself – socially as well as professionally

You’ll probably already be looking for opportunities to learn which don’t need to be on the job – networking opportunities, reading industry publications and making the most of your commute – but what about as a person? Participate in non-work related conversation and network at social events and activities, as this will allow you to build a relationship with other members of your company, that you might not be able on a day-to-day basis.


Don’t: Hide in your office/department and fail to learn

Viewing failures as an opportunity to learn is an invaluable skill for success. Asking for constructive feedback from your colleagues, or leaders of different business functions would really help your career progression. These individuals are often willing to give their advice.


Do: More than the bare minimum

If a project is just passable, then it isn’t good enough. You’re aiming to impress and excel in equal measure, and ward off any suggestions of complacency or a lack of positivity. Employers today want to work with individuals who add value to their organisation.


Don’t: Fail to apply for additional projects, promotions, and internal moves

When a company expands or your immediate manager leaves you may be one of those people who say: “Right, I’m applying for that tonight” – and then it never happens. Putting your hand up to lead on new projects, or take on more responsibilities signals to your manager that you are willing to progress in your career. As PT Barnum said: “Without promotion something terrible happens… nothing”.


About the author

Phil Sheridan is Senior Managing Director at Robert Half UK. Robert Half is a specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 325 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, creative and administrative professionals. and


Social media and marketing expert Luan Wise shares her marketing checklist and why it’s futile to focus on future trends.


Every year I check out the industry press round-ups of trend predictions.

Most mention new technology, ‘technology that will ‘come of age’, how we should focus on the customer, how to make better use of data and how the role of the marketer will change.

Predictable predictions!

As marketers, we are often looking for something ‘new and shiny’. But I strongly believe that trying to predict what the next 12 months will deliver is a distraction.

Regardless of technological changes and new gimmicks, we need to remember the fundamentals of marketing, the importance of getting to know our customers and creating solutions that satisfy their needs and wants.

How are you going to go about this in 2018?

Here are some thoughts on how to refocus and refine your marketing activity for the coming year and get the basics right.


1. Get organised and be prepared

By planning ahead, you can nail your day-to-day use of social media into under 15 minutes. Taking a strategic approach will enable you to meet your business objectives and stay focused.


2. Be realistic

You can’t control everything and change is inevitable, but consult credible sources for information and consider what they mean for your business before you dive in.


3. Plan for change

Are your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental) analyses up to date? Don’t forget to regularly review the impacts that the wider environment may have on your business, and refine your marketing plans if necessary. After all, who predicted a vote for Brexit, or a Trump victory in 2017?!


4. Always focus on best practice

GDPR will be with us in 2018. It’s the most important change in data privacy regulation for 20 years and we have a deadline – 25 May 2018. Get ready by following the GDPR checklist from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and use their advice service for small organisations. Data is the lifeblood of business and hiding your head in the sand on this matter could have a hugely detrimental effect.


5. You have the answers in your own data

When is the best time to post on Twitter? What social media platform is the most effective for engaging your customers? Figure out what is working and how your audience is responding to your marketing activity by using tools such as Google Analytics and social media native analytics.


6. Focus on your reputation

Always think before you post; so much business is generated by referrals, your personal brand is important. Have a personal social media policy and understand the guidelines of your employer. For example, what will others think if you argue with a competitor, or tell someone that their LinkedIn post is more suitable for Facebook? This often reflects more negatively on the commentator than the person who originally posted. Keep negativity out of the public sphere as quickly as possible.


7. Put people first

We have the technology, but social media should not ever replace face-to-face conversation. You can read more in one of my top performing LinkedIn Pulse posts.


8. Automate to free up time

It’s OK to schedule core posts and free up time to focus on other tasks and engagement. Many useful tools, such as Hootsuite or Facebook’s built-in scheduler are free or low-cost. Google has some great chrome extensions that can be life-changing for a social media manager. Feedly for curating content is a must.


9. Where is your audience?

If I asked a client if they wanted to advertise on every commercial radio station, they wouldn’t do it. Not just because of the cost, but because it wouldn’t effectively reach their target audience. Social media is no different, it’s a marketing channel and if your audience are not there, then don’t do it! My course on Social Media Marketing Return on Investment (ROI) goes into this in more detail.


10. There are no quick wins

Focus on strategy, aim for sustainable growth, play the long game and don’t waste your time seeking silver bullet solutions.


About the author

Luan is an award-winning author, trainer, event speaker, and course instructor for, LinkedIn’s online learning company. A chartered marketer with more than 15 years’ experience of working with clients including Hilton, Royal Mail, Panasonic, and the University of Cambridge, she was recognised as one of the top five female marketers in the UK for the #LinkedInBestConnected social campaign in 2015.

Luan is vice-chair and board trustee for the Communication, Advertising and Marketing (CAM) Education Foundation, an active ambassador for The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) and is a member of the GFirstLEP Business and Professional Services Sector Group. She served as Chair for Gloucestershire and vice-chair of the South West Regional Board for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (2012-2017) and the West & Wales regional council of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) for five years.


SOURCE: ResponseSource



So, you have an international communication strategy and sourced a fast, reliable, cost effective translation provider to spread your message across language barriers.


You’re sorted, right? Well, almost.


The reason why I say ‘almost’ is that you need to work with your translation providers to make sure that they have the right tools do the job well.


The personal touch

A human translator has a great advantage over translation software. They actually understand what you want to say and have the flexibility to write in the language to convey the same meaning, rather than simply translating words.

However, translators don’t always have the same amount of background information and context than the original author of a text and its intended recipients.

A specific case in point would be internal communications that need to be translated for employees and offices across the world.

Many large organisations develop internal jargon – company specific terms or specific meanings for common words. They also often refer to events, initiatives, or divisions by nicknames or acronyms. The people inside large organisations are often unaware that the terms they use are not clear outside the organisation itself. If a translator, however, is not informed of what these terms refer to, this can lead to misunderstandings.

It’s important to help the translators fully understand the context of your communications. You can do this by helping to build a multilingual glossary that translators can use; by explaining the meaning of certain terms within your organisation; by supplying translators with existing material in various languages from which the key terms can be extracted; or even by being available to answer translators’ questions.

Remember, translators who seek clarification on some terms, even those that you think they should already know, are not incompetent. They are being conscientious. Helping them will ensure that the results of their work will be better received by your audience.


About the author

Giovanni Giusti is a graduate in linguistics of the Universities of Pisa (Italy) and Dublin. He started his professional career in publishing, then moved to new media and telecoms. After the dotcom crash of 2001 he founded 101translations, a totally internet-based translation agency, in order to combine his passions for communication, languages and technology.

Attitude is either a settled way of thinking or feeling about something, or truculent or uncooperative behaviour.


It’s your choice how you view the world. Some people wake up angry with everything, and carry that stress on through the day. Others are calmer, and generally have a better time of it.

It really pays to decide what your particular attitude is. It can transform your life.

A negative attitude gets you nowhere.

A positive attitude can get you anywhere.

Experiences help. So does listening to those of others. You can then apply the wisdom to your own circumstances.

Here are ten suggestions to help you decide your perspective:


1. Disenthrall yourself

On December 1st 1862, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his annual message to Congress. The country was in the middle of a civil war. He concluded:


“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”


Disenthrall. It’s an interesting word. To enthrall means to capture someone’s attention. This could be good or bad, depending on what exactly is attracting your undivided attention. To disenthrall means to discharge, free, emancipate, liberate, loosen, release, unbind, uncage, unchain, or unfetter.

So, if you are obsessed with perpetually doing or seeing things in a certain way, you may first need to disenthrall yourself to stand any chance of changing your attitude. Only then will you have a chance of seeing other possibilities.


2. You are what you do

There is no point in claiming to have a certain attitude, when your actions either fail to prove it, or worse, contradict it.


As Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do.”


Thinking is one thing. Doing is quite another.

Gina Miller, the businesswoman who initiated a court case against the British government challenging its authority to implement Brexit, said:


“What’s the point in having a conscience if you never use it?”


The popular blogger and author Mark Manson points this out in his unsubtly named book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck:


 “Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”


You can rarely think your way into a new way of acting. You need to act your way into a new way of thinking. In other words, the action proves the thought. Without action, it merely remains a concept, and as such doesn’t technically exist.


3. Cultivate a feisty spirit

Resilience in the face of adversity is a vital trait.

Life is not a smooth road. In fact, if it were, most of us would be bored. As noted by Max McKeown in his book #Now, those confronted by extremely tricky obstacles (such as cancer) are said to have a feisty spirit of survivorship.

It’s a laughing-is-winning approach, and is something that can be adopted by anyone, including those facing life-threatening circumstances. This transformative ability to make good things happen through a positive attitude is a quality you can discover in yourself.

As the famous mountaineer Edmund Hillary pointed out:


“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”


It’s all about taking control of your attitude to life: one person’s adversity is another’s inspiration.


4. Fear = Wisdom in the face of danger


 “Fear is wisdom in the face of danger. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”


So said Sherlock Holmes in The Abominable Bride.


It’s okay to be afraid. In fact, it’s often beneficial. Animals have a clearly demarcated sense of flight or fight. And it’s driven by fright. Which is a sudden intense feeling of fear.

So, being scared can be extremely beneficial for survival or progress. Not so that you are petrified into non-action. But so that you fully appreciate the possibilities that may follow from your actions.

Harness the fear to anticipate what to do next. Flight could allow you to fight another day. A fight should only be considered if you are convinced you can win.

Confront the initial fear and turn it into a wise attitude.


5. Climb, Confess, Comply

Student pilots are taught early in their training what to do if they get into trouble:

  1. Climb: get yourself out of danger immediately by increasing altitude.
  2. Confess: talk to the control tower and explain what the problem is.
  3. Comply: do exactly what you are told by the air traffic controller.


Climb, confess, comply is a useful attitude when dealing with awkward circumstances.

So, next time you are out of your depth, admit it immediately, ask for help quickly, and then do exactly what it takes to resolve the situation. Don’t dig a deeper hole or paint yourself into a corner. Climb, confess, comply.


6. No one else is interested

In his memoirs, Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock-star Fantasist, British poet Simon Armitage recalls returning to his hometown. There, in the bargain bin of a second-hand bookshop, he found a copy of one of his own books. It was inscribed in the front, in his own handwriting, ‘To Mum and Dad’. Despite their son pouring his best efforts into having a book published, his parents obviously didn’t consider it worth keeping.

Which just goes to show that however much you care about something, other people probably don’t. In fact, they might not even be interested.

One person’s passion may be another’s ambivalence. It’s up to you to decide what you feel strongly about. But don’t expect anyone else to care. Do your parents really understand what you do for a living?


7. Performance = Ability minus interference

According to Tim Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis, performance is ability minus interference.

Ability means you can get the job done skillfully. But we all know that even the best have bad days. Being worried or distracted debilitates your ability to concentrate and do things well.

So, on a personal level, if you want to do something well, remove all the distractions you can so you can get on and do your best. Bosses and whole companies can learn from this too.

If an individual, or even an entire department, are to do something well, then they need to be allowed to get on with it. Don’t interfere. It reduces effective performance.


 8. Be a possibilist

Pessimists look smart because they see problems everywhere. They even like it when things go wrong because it proves they were right to be pessimistic.

Optimists look stupid because they think everything can be done. It is easy for cynics to laugh at their apparently blind enthusiasm.

Possibilists can strike a balance between the two. What’s the best possible thing we could do here?

In geography circles, possibilism proposes that culture and human agency determine human behaviour, rather than the environment (as environmental determinists would have us believe).

Possibilists believe they can find an intelligent way through – staying positive whilst remaining pragmatic. Most things work out fine, so let’s start by assuming that they will.



9. Be an essentialist

In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown espouses the disciplined pursuit of less.

The non-essentialist is all things to all people, pursues everything in an undisciplined way, and lives a life that does not satisfy. He or she thinks that almost everything is essential.

The essentialist does less but better, creating a life that really matters. He or she thinks that almost everything is non-essential. If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.

Instead of doing many things half-heartedly, do one or two things properly. It takes the same amount of energy, but is much more fulfilling. Concentrate only on what is essential.


10. Sit and be

 Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, said:


“All of man’s misery comes from his incapacity to sit alone in an empty quiet room.”


We are useless at doing nothing, but when we rush into things, we usually cause trouble for ourselves, and for others.

In his book An Optimist’s Tour of the Future, Mark Stevenson relates a story told by Tim Langley, director of charcoal manufacturer Carbonscape.


An elderly German businessman and his wife hired his boat to go looking for dolphins. There were none to be found, but he kept pushing Tim to keep looking.

Eventually after two hours, Tim asked:

“Do you want to continue looking, or do you just want to sit and be?”

Such an idea had never occurred to the German.

In order to determine a decent attitude, we need to pause and think properly.

Sometimes we just need to sit and be.


Advice taken from The Excellence Book: 50 ways to be your best by Kevin Duncan

Kevin Duncan is a business adviser, marketing expert, motivational speaker and author.

In the midst of Brexit Britain, Attest has carried out research to find out about consumer perception of British brands and products.

Does a ‘Made in Britain’ label make a difference to consumer brand perception?

The study by the brand intelligence and consumer insights platform surveyed 2,000 Brits and 2,000 Americans.

Of those, three in four said they were more likely to buy a product with a ‘Made in Britain’ label.

‘Quality’ was the most associated term with ‘Made in Britain’, followed by ‘stylish’, though 46% expect British-made products to be expensive and one in three Americans admitted they don’t know any British brands.

However nearly 40% of Americans find ‘Made in Britain’ products ‘desirable’ and 39% of Brits feel more positively towards British brands and products post-Brexit.

All about the branding

When asked to list their favourite British brands, Cadbury and M&S had the best brand perception for British participants, while Burberry came out on top as the favourite in the US.

“Britain’s reputation for style and quality, both within the UK and overseas, is evident in our findings”, says Mark Walker, Marketing Director at Attest.

John Noble, Director of the British Brands Group says: “British brands are a strong source of pride, but also of our international competitiveness, and it is encouraging to see this reflected in this research. British brands help shape perceptions of the UK around the world, with the Nation Brand Index rating the country third out of 50 for the strength of its image and reputation. Strong brands will play a key role in our future success.”



SOURCE: ResponseSource


We talk a lot about career values.

We talk a lot about career drivers.

An area less written about – but arguably far more important – is career beliefs.

Beliefs are the stories we tell ourselves to explain our (view of the) world. They’re feelings of certainty, at any given moment, about the meaning of something.

And when we’re looking at our career, whether under the heading of performance improvement, career acceleration, career shift or something else, it can be hugely useful to reflect on what we’re choosing to believe about career.

And it’s specifically what we choose to believe about our career, because it’s a choice. It’s within our power to change. Unlike our values, our beliefs we get to choose. To (re-)write the story.


Our driving force

Beliefs are fundamental. Because it’s those beliefs / stories / feelings of certainty that we have emotional reactions to. (Not the thing itself.)

And it’s those beliefs / stories / feelings of certainty – and the accompanying emotional reactions – that drive my behaviours. I act in accordance with my beliefs.

Here’s what I (choose to) believe about career …

  • My career is my agenda. Not someone else’s.
  • My career should excite and fulfil me. And it’s mine to design, accordingly.
  • My career should facilitate my life design. And it’s mine to design, accordingly.
  • My career is 100% my responsibility. And I love that!


Personal truths

And these beliefs I don’t hold just for myself. I believe these truths (let that word go – I’ll come to “truth” in a moment!) for you, us and everyone. Which, rather unsurprisingly, is a big part of why I do what I do.

Now, these statements may or may not be the “truth” (whatever that is!). But they’re truths for me. And that’s enough. Because I’m not going to go around preaching these as truths for us all. But I am going to make use of them privately to fuel my career.

I know these beliefs have had, and continue to have, a very positive effect on my various careers, to date. Just as I know (believe?) that believing something else would have had a quite different effect!

Different choices. Different decisions. Different actions. Different results. Different everything.

  • If we were working on a new business: we’d start with what we believe.
  • If we were working on a new movement: we’d start with what we believe.
  • If we’re working on your career: let’s start with what you believe.


Choosing to Believe

So, what are you choosing to believe about “career”?

Make a list now. Take a piece of paper and write at the top: “Regarding “career”, I believe … ”

And with your list, notice:

  • Which of my beliefs are limiting my career potential?
  • Which of my beliefs are keeping me stuck?
  • Which of my beliefs are not supporting my career goals?
  • Which of my beliefs do I need to rewrite to drive my career?

(Having trouble distinguishing thoughts as fact or belief? Try this: give your belief to someone else. A friend. A colleague. Whomever. Imagine them saying it. And in that context: what would you call it? Fact? Or opinion? The latter is a belief.)

Take the time now to reflect on what you’re choosing to believe about your career. And to consider your highest possible career potential, if you were to wholeheartedly upgrade those beliefs.


SOURCE: Dan Beverly

Dan BeverlyDan Beverly is a leadership and performance coach, helping high-achieving professional women embrace the pivotal career moments.

Work. It’s a subject that unites us all.

But have you ever wondered where the standard 9-5 that governs our every day came from? Or where it’s headed?

A new report created by futurist James Wallman and Yell reveals a positive view on how working lives will look by the year 2050. This is thanks to a wave of new technologies including artificial intelligence, augmented reality and the internet of things.

The results are intriguing, with the most prominent being the ‘Four Hour Working Day’.


All in a day’s work

The current work day was set up to squeeze as much as possible out of workers when they performed routine tasks in factories and offices.

But Emerging research suggests that 8-hour days are a suboptimal way to work – the optimum is far closer to 4 hours per day.

As robots and ‘cobots’ perform more of the routine tasks, humans will become more creative. And the best way to be creative is to work around four hours per day. This radical change will also have huge benefits on our health and wellbeing, as well as balancing family life.

Optimum creativity

A prediction sure to excite workers around the world, Yell took the notion of a four-hour working day and asked three entrepreneurs for their thoughts on how this might impact them and their working lives.

Tim Antos, Founder of sleep aiding headphones, Kokoon Technology sees this a positive prediction, especially with the ethos behind his product.

“This heavily ties in with a personal passion of mine, and a big reason for Kokoon: the need for everyone to get enough sleep. This is so essential, and shorter working hours will allow that to happen, and that will have a huge knock-on effect with productivity,” he said.

Sarah Slade, working mum and co-owner of mood-boosting candle brand, SevenSeventeen, thinks it’s a game changer.

“With the help of cobots, getting the most out of our time should become easier. As business owners, there will undoubtedly always be the unavoidable call at 9pm or having to pop in to the office at the weekend – but ultimately, it’s flexibility we see as being the most important game changer in the future of business,” she explained.

Future work trends

The report focuses on a further six key trends predicted by James, including the ‘Cobot Revolution’: a world where humans work collaboratively with robots in all industries, a key aspect of making a four hour work day possible.

Mark Clisby, Product and Marketing Director at Yell said: “We’re living in a time of incredible change. The next 30 years are set to be very exciting for us all. We look forward to continuing to help business owners and consumers to adapt to changing technologies, both now and in the future.”


SOURCE: ResponseSource


Whatever your business is, someone else is doing it too.


Some sectors are more crowded than others, but there are always competitors, and the success of your business depends on how well you stand out in your particular crowd.

And that means pinpointing and developing your unique selling proposition. Your USP is what makes you the go-to supplier in your product or service area. If you’re not the go-to people, your USP needs a bit of work.

For many business leaders, just identifying their USP can be hard enough, never mind working out if it needs to be tweaked and how to go about achieving improvements. However, there are three tests that can help with the process.


Test One: Does your consumer want your product/service?

Before you eye-roll and exclaim “Duh!”, let me remind you about Microsoft Zune (people in the market for an iPod, bought an iPod), Cosmopolitan Yogurt (readers stuck to reading), and Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water (turns out beer drinkers were quite happy with their beer – who’d have thunk it?).

You may well be the world’s premier hedgehog masseuse, or offer a 24-hour remote control finding service, but if people don’t want your product/service or aren’t willing to pay for it, find something else to build a business around.

However, there can be another reason consumers aren’t coming to you for a product or service. They think you do something else.


Imagine two companies:

Gerry’s Green Fingers Ltd is a garden services provider, offering garden maintenance, tree surgery, turf laying, and landscape design.

Garry’s Green Visions Ltd provides landscape design.

Consumers in the market for landscape design may not realise Gerry provides the service they’re looking for because they think of him as a gardener. But even if a potential customer is aware that Gerry’s services include landscape design, that customer may choose Garry because they feel he is a specialist. As far as attracting landscape design business, Garry has the advantage because he makes it very clear what his company is about; he has a strong, well-defined USP.


Test Two: Does your competitor do it better?

If your customers’ needs are being served better by someone else, you have a problem. But the good news is that you know your successful rival has a USP that works. Study it.

Why are you being beaten? Look at price structure, but remember that price isn’t always the main reason people buy, and look at product characteristics, at placement strategy (ie location and distribution), and at promotional strategy. What does your competitor offer that you don’t that appeals to customers? Is it as simple as price? Or is it convenience, customer service, reliability, or something else?

When you understand their USP, both its strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to choose a different USP that trumps theirs, or you can set about working hard at claiming their USP for your own.


Test Three: Are your competitors doing it just as well as you are?

You may find that you and your main competitor are performing equally well. This isn’t a bad position to be in, but it’s not especially safe. This position is unreliable, leaving you exposed to potential drops in sales.

If you find yourself in this situation, you need to find out what the differences are between you and your rival, and this involves researching why customers are making their purchasing choices. If it turns out that there is nothing that you can change and/or improve – such as convenience, customer service, price or reliability—to separate you and your competition, then you might want to tweak your USP to give customers an emotional reason to choose you over your rival(s).

Study your rivals’ advertising and marketing, taking note of what they say about themselves and their products/services. Also research your customers; by getting to know them, and by taking into account your competition’s messaging, you’ll be able to pinpoint what might sway purchasing choices. This may involve a comprehensive image change, or be as simple as supporting a charity (perhaps one that offers retraining to out of work hedgehog masseuses).


Staying on top

Does your USP pass these three tests? Or is a USP upgrade called for? If after applying these tests, you’re doing what you do better than your rivals, congratulations, your USP is sound.

But don’t rest on your laurels. A competitor may be reading this and setting their sights on your USP. Slip on your customers’ shoes, think about what motivates their buying behaviour and decisions, and with that in mind, look at your business and your rivals with the same critical eye. Why are you beating the competition? What do you do offer that your competitors don’t? Know your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, keep a close eye on your competition, and be ready to see off any challenges to your go-to status.



About the author:

Shweta JhajhariaShweta Jhajharia is Principal Coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, an ActionCOACH company. Shweta is a multi-award-winning business coach, and a popular keynote speaker. She has been recognised both by external bodies and the industry awards panels as the top coach in the UK, and the Number 1 ActionCOACH from over 1200 worldwide. She has also been invited to speak at large business events such as the bi-annual Business Show.








Do you feel exhausted most of the time?

Are you losing your passion for work and life? Are you finding yourself overwhelmed by even the simplest of tasks?

Do you struggle to pull yourself together when you wake in the morning? Do you often feel tearful and unable to cope?

Yes? Then you may be on the verge of burnout, or sadly, even there.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion which leaves you feeling at rock bottom, alone and unable to cope. It’s utterly miserable and not something you can put right with a couple of early nights. You feel hopeless, empty and isolated and you seriously struggle to function.


Why Does Burnout Happen?

Why does it happen? Typically, it happens to the people who throw everything they have at life and career and are driven to succeed. It can also happen when you’re experiencing on-going, relentless pressure which leaves you feeling as if you have little control. In both cases it’s about being stuck in ‘always on’ – a state where you don’t take the time for recovery and rebalance.

The good news is that with a few changes to the way you eat, drink and think you can prevent burnout. It means you taking action though; sadly there’s no magic pill! Here are some of my top tips but there’s lots more in my new best-selling book, ‘How to Prevent Burnout’.


1. Be mindful of your physical, mental and emotional being

Listen to what your body is telling you. Stress has a big impact on your mind and body so if you’re experiencing any health issues, that’s the sign you need to take action. Taking regular health checks is a good preventative measure.


2. Identify your stress triggers

Reflect on the challenges you may be experiencing. Why are they a challenge, how are you reacting, what effect is this having on you, and how can you change the situation?


3. Eat well and regularly

Eat foods that build your strength and resilience such as good quality protein, wholegrains and vegetables, and keep well hydrated with water.


4. Exercise regularly

It rebalances the effects of high levels of stress hormones and makes you feel happier and more positive. A word of warning though. If you feel that you’re sliding into burnout then avoid exercise that may stress you further. This would include endurance training and highly competitive team sport.


5. Take regular breaks from intense work

We can only sustain intense work for so long so to remain productive take a ten-minute break every hour and do something completely different. Use this time to have a chat with someone, flick through some emails or walk around the office. It will recharge you.


6. Manage digital technology

Don’t allow it to control you. Social media, emails, computers, phones all sap your time, are addictive and over stimulate the mind which makes it harder to switch off.


7. Do everything you can to get a good night’s sleep

This is the time you process emotions from the day and clean and refresh brain tissue. Just one broken night triggers the stress response. Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark and switch off digital technology at least ninety minutes before bedtime.


8. Learn to say no

You don’t have to say yes to anything you do not have the capacity to fulfil. Prioritise your activities. What is important now and what can you put aside for another time?


9. Have fun and laugh

It’s the best medicine. This means spending time with family and friends. If you find you’re starting to refuse social invitations, then this may be an indication that you’re becoming stuck in ‘always on’ and in a dangerous place.


10.If you need it, get help

Things can’t always be solved alone. It is nothing to be ashamed of. You are in this situation because of how hard you work. There’s lots out there to support you. Your company may subscribe to a confidential counselling helpline (EAP service) or your GP could recommend services to support you.


About the author

Susan Scott is a business psychologist, nutritional therapist, trainer, consultant and coach, as well as a public speaker and an author.

Her book, How To Have An Outstanding Career, redefines what a career is for today’s Young Professionals and provides a unique new perspective to encourage the reader to consider their own career as a climbing frame rather than the traditional ladder.