Small businesses are the very lifeblood of the equestrian and rural industry, and I’m delighted to use my blog as a way to help showcase these. This might be through ‘a few minutes with…’ or similar interviews where I interview people from small businesses I love, or even including small businesses as part of blogs I’m writing in the form of collaborations. I also use my blog to help educate small business owners, providing information and tips to help them really make progress in their businesses.

In addition to the articles you’ll find here, I do also put out a lot of content on my social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in particular, and also on my YouTube channel, to help inform and support small businesses on their journey.

And don’t forget about the Small & Supercharged Facebook group. This free group allows small businesses, particularly those connected to equestrian, canine and country industries, to chat, ask questions and network in a closed group. Search ‘Small & Supercharged’ on Facebook and answer the three questions to join in.

hihoandco group shot
Image by Matt Sweeting Photography

Unless you’ve been in a hole for the last few weeks (and that’s fine, we all need to go to ground occasionally!), you’ll know all about #hihoandco. This event was put on at Blackdown Shepherd Huts in Somerset, by Hiho, on Monday 11th Feb. As you’ll know if you know me at all, I work with Hiho (and have done for a while!), and I was also part of the organising team for the event. Hiho & Co was, quite simple, amazing, and I loved every moment. I lost my voice for three days afterwards but gained huge amounts of amazing memories and good vibes… so I’m fine with that!

I could write a very long blog about the Hiho & Co day, but I thought it would try and find the top five things about the day… it’s taken some thinking about, but here goes…

Five things I loved about #hihoandco

  1. The venue. Oh my. This was something else. I work with Blackdown Shepherd Huts and was absolutely blown away the first time I visited. The huts are like nothing I have ever seen before and are so beautifully designed. Not only was I amazed by the huts, but the workshop. I have this thing about workshops and warehouses – I kind of love them. I see them as the heart of the business and am always amazed by the degree of organisation in them. The Blackdown workshop was next level with specially designed bit for each thing – like the special sinking floor, for example. More than the beauty of the venue alone – the Blackdown team. Will, who owns Blackdown, along with the rest of the team, allowed us to completely take over their premises for two days… seriously- how many people would let you do that?! They also let us use another hut (the selfie hut) and take over their tearoom. I loved them all before but I love them even more now.
  2. Capture By Lucy. I’ve been a fan of Lucy and her amazing backdrops for quite some time. I think she’s incredibly talented and I love what she creates and the story behind her brand. But in person? She’s absolutely lovely! Not only did she handle the level of madness that follows me around, but she delivered the most amazing talk to the Hiho & Co guests. I’m going to treat myself to a backdrop too – I just need to decide which one!
  3. The brands. We were very, very lucky to have the most amazing support from some incredible brands in the equestrian and country industry, as well as those beyond. Mackenzie & George are heavily involved with Hiho & Co as Melanie (co-founder) is also part of the organising group. We had Fairfax & Favor, Albion Saddlemakers, Joules, Cupsmith, Hullabaloo Drinks involved with the goody bags. In addition we had additional props loaned from The Tartan Blanket Co and Albion Lifestyle. It was great having such an incredible range of products to use in our workshops and for dressing areas.
  4. The team. I have to talk about the team, don’t I? Whenever we embark on one of these events, I’m reminded how incredible the people I work with are. At the head of the Hiho & Co idea is Emma Warren – who’s also MD of Hiho Silver. This lady is so hardworking, kind and welcoming – words can’t express it. She’s also a sandwich short of a picnic. But no one who wasn’t would suggest these big things… and pull them off to such a degree, would they? Next up, Melanie Clarihew. Melanie, and her husband Chris, founded Mackenzie & George, and are some of the kindest, hardest working and most talented people I know. I’m regularly found laughing about something random with Melanie, but I am always in awe of what they create. The new luggage tags that they made and personalised for each goody bag were a great example of this. They’re amazing. Ruth Chappell- my little roomie and organisation whizz kid. Ruth is the lady behind Dressage Anywhere and I’m so impressed with how she runs, manages and promotes that. But at Hiho and Co, she keeps us organised. She sorts out so many behind the scenes things, and is a fixer. She makes me laugh a lot and has the kindest soul. I love Ruth a little bit. Then we have Rachel Bragg aka Sweet Images aka the flatlay queen. Rachel is also a very good friend and her gentle encouragement to everyone is incredible. She has no idea how good she when it comes to her teaching or photography, but she is next level. And shares this all so so willingly too. And last but not least is Sophie Callahan. The photography whizz kid. I have so much respect for Sophie – not just her skills but her whole demeanour. I adore Sophie and constantly learn from her attitude to life. She’s very laid back and takes the knocks in a way that she uses them to fuel her rather than lets them get her down. If you’ve read her baby blog you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. She’s stubborn as a mule too – and if I told her off once for trying to lift something heavy, I told her off 10 times… but I was the same when I was pregnant!
  5. The people. And this is a big one. The people who came to Hiho & Co were incredible. We had a lot of people come and see us for the second time (after coming to the first event held at The Fish in September) and it truly was like meeting up with a load of friends. How good is that? I feel that everyone who comes to one of these days is there for the right reasons. They get a huge amount of value from the workshops we run, but there’s also a lovely vibe, the chance to find new friends and so much more. Some of the people attending shared lifts – some even went out to dinner the night before – and this really did warm my heart…
hiho and co cupcakes

So there you have it – five things I loved about #hihoandco – but be in no doubt I could have written a book on the subject! If you want to see a little more of the magic, pop on over to Instagram and have a look at the #hihoandco hashtag. Equally, have a look at Hiho’s own blog and follow the links listed to the blogs created by some of our amazing guests.

Rhea Freeman Newsletter Link
batch working and batch content with rachel bragg of sweet images photography

What do you think about batch working? Do you know what batch content is, or do you think I’m talking a different language? Don’t worry – batch working will change your world, whatever you do. In this podcast, Rachel Bragg from Sweet Images Photography tells us how she makes it work for her.

Batch working and batch content with Rachel Bragg

In this episode we talk about the value of producing batch content, batch working, tips for both and a whole lot more. In this episode of the Small & Supercharged Podcast with Rachel Bragg from Sweet Images Photography, you will hear…

  • How time consuming it can be to NOT batch your work together (and why looking at it differently can save you a lot of time).
  • The many different ways that small business owners are pulled, meaning that the time we have is quite short, and how that means we have to make it count.
  • How the idea of batching (and the practical application) became apparent to Rachel when working for a commercial client.
  • The way that batch content can actually help you to create your best work as you can create all the content when the conditions are optimal.
  • How the act of just planning the time to create the content can make you more productive as you can start to create a props list on the lead up to the event too. Preparation is so important.
  • When you’re batch working, you also need to make sure you have everything where you need it to be. This helps you use your time as well as possible.
  • How to create more than one image out of each shot you’ve set up. We talk about batch working with flatlays, and how the angles and the position you take the images from can make even more content from each flatlay you’ve set up.
  • Why it’s important to make sure you plan what you want to shoot, what you want to achieve, and know why you’re doing it. When you’ve done this, work out what you could also shoot at the same time. This should give you additional content for the future.
  • How important it is to be ruthless with your time and literally book out the time to create your content.
  • How DSLRs are good BUT, for the vast majority of us, a phone camera is more than adequate. In fact, sometimes the really modern phone cameras are better in some situations that DSLRs, especially if there’s a light issue.
  • The importance of props and how these can help with the story.
  • We talk through a few scenarios and the props that you can find that are easily to hand and can be used (that won’t cost you a penny and can really add to your images).
  • How you don’t need to have lots of posh, expensive props to make a flatlay work. You just need to make sure it’s relevant.
  • The idea of taking lots of shots when you have a session set up. It’s something I do (as a non-photographer… and I always like to try and stack the odds of getting a good shot in my favour!), and Rachel also talks about whether or not it’s the right thing to do!
  • How to edit the images on your phone, and how you can actually batch work really effectively on your phone.
  • The value of images. Why images are such a key part of your content, and the every day consumption of images. Why batch working is so, so important, to ensure you get the number of images you need.

Where you can find Rachel…

A massive thank you to Rachel for chatting about batch content and batch working on this week’s episode. To find Rachel online, you can find her…

Sweet Images Facebook Page

Sweet Images Instagram

Sweet Images Website

…and if you want to see Rachel’s work in action, have a look at Hiho Silver, Mackenzie & George and Smart Grooming’s Instagram feeds.

Image by Sweet Images UK

Today’s blog focuses on one of my lovely clients, Hiho Silver. Well, after #hihoandco on Monday, it seemed as good a time as any to share this!

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Hiho Silver for quite a few years now and I’m so, so proud to work with them. Not only is the jewellery stunning (and can put up with the level of abuse that happens to it in my daily life!), but the people are lovely too.

As I get to hang out with Hiho Silver a lot, I thought it might be fun to share five things you might not know about Hiho Silver. I mean, you might do, but I thought it would be quite a fun way to lift the lid on this popular equestrian jewellery company. Are you ready? Let’s look at five things you might not know about Hiho Silver…

Hiho Silver is 25 years old this year!

Yep, Hiho is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. On the wedding anniversary chart this is… silver! To celebrate its 25th year, Hiho will be releasing a number of super special, limited edition pieces. I can’t tell you what they are or who Hiho is working with – because Emma and the team would actually shoot me – but trust me when I say you have some real treats in store!

Not all silver is the same

Ok, this is a fact about silver rather than Hiho Silver, but it’s an interesting one all the same. Not all silver is the same. Hiho use sterling silver, meaning it contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal. Pure silver is a really soft metal, meaning that if you were to make jewellery out of it, it wouldn’t stay in the shape it was meant to for long. By adding another metal and making sterling silver, Hiho’s pieces are a lot more durable, but the additional metal is chosen so it doesn’t detract from the silver’s beauty.

But before you think ‘this sounds odd’ – it isn’t. The hallmark 925 is used on a lot of silver, including Hiho’s, and the 925 refers to the percentage of pure silver in the jewellery. All Hiho is made with the highest quality 925 sterling silver, and pieces over the minimum legal weight threshold have a hallmark as a further guarantee of quality.

The Cherry Roller

Ah- the Cherry Roller. I LOVE this piece, but there’s a lot more to it than just a beautiful piece of jewellery. The Cherry Roller was designed by the Hiho team and is exclusive, trademarked and copyrighted. This piece took a long time to refine – and I know a lot of testing went on behind the scenes before it was sold. There are lots of clever elements in the design, not least the fact it can be customised with the beads a customer chooses. This, to me, makes it even more special.

Hiho Silver was in an old piggery for a number of years

Hiho may have started life at Forde Abbey, but a good fews years ago the team relocated to a piggery. Ok, that’s not quite true. Although the building used to be a piggery it had, obviously, been converted into a pretty impressive office space with everything you’d expect. They’ve now moved to the old granary.

It really is a team effort…

And this is one of the really lovely things about Hiho. The team. When a piece is designed, so many people chip in with their thoughts, ideas and so on, to help perfect each piece and make it as good as it can possibly be. Of course there’s usually a lead and someone brings the seed of the idea which is then developed, but everyone brings something to the party and I really think that is why Hiho’s jewellery is so special. This collaborative way of working doesn’t stop at design – on no. When we are planning a campaign or a sponsorship or anything else, everyone involved has a say on how we can make it better so we get the desired outcome. It’s a rather lovely way of working…

To find out more about Hiho, have a look at the Hiho Silver website, or go on over and follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

If you liked this, you might also like…

Why I love the CZ Roller Bead

Hiho & Co Instameet

5 ways to use testimonials

Do you ask your customers for testimonials? If you don’t, now’s the time to start! You might feel like you’re asking people to stroke your ego, but you’re actually providing a service to potential customers. How? Well, think about testimonials. Do they normally share the same kind of information that you share? Mine don’t – have a look at some of my testimonials here and you’ll see. Would I say any of these things about myself? No. I wouldn’t. But more than that, these words show what it’s like to work WITH you, which is something I can’t really do. So you might be wondering what you can do when you have these amazing testimonials. So I’m here to help with five ways to use testimonials…

  1. On your website. I have a testimonials section on my website and I also feature a section on the homepage with a testimonials in a slider. This means that if someone wants to come to my website and find out what it’s like to work with me. They can. The side benefit of this area is that people get to see who I have worked/do work with too.
  2. On your social media. Add your testimonial (or a bit of it!) to a nice graphic (something you can do on Canva) and use it on your social media. Again, don’t feel icky about this. You really are providing a service to your potential customers about what it’s like to work with you.
  3. On your email signature. Signatures can be dead space. I know mine has my contact details and a disclaimer, but I have seen some people add testimonials here and they can look really good, and also link to your website too.
  4. In a blog. Yes, you can use a testimonial as the foundation of a blog all about your amazing client who shared the testimonial with you. It’s a great way to talk about their business, what they do, how good they are and so on. Add your testimonial at the bottom and thank them too.
  5. On printed material. Yes. Business cards, flyers and brochures can benefit from well placed testimonials alongside specific services and products. You don’t want to overdo it, but it can work really well!

As a tip, always make sure you have proper permission to use testimonials from clients. An email saying you’re amazing isn’t permission. Be really clear how you are planning to use their words and make sure they’re happy you do this. Also, it goes without saying that fabricated endorsements are a big fat no too… they have zero value if they’re not real!

Rhea Freeman Newsletter
pile of business books

If you had a listen to my Small & Supercharged podcast about how to learn on a budget, you should have heard one of my book buying tips. I wasn’t planning to go into it again, but when someone posted on my Instagram feed stating that they had just saved £80 because of this tip, I had to share. It’s completely legit, I promise. But it could save you a lot of money on business books. Well, any books in fact… are you ready?

How to save money on business books

There’s no hiding that I am a big fan of business books. I read a lot and I listen a lot too. I love them. But a book habit can get a bit expensive, if you consume them at the rate that I do. Of course, good books are worth their weight in gold, and the value of the book vs the cost is a whole different blog, but I’m talking about the straight up cost. Now, a few years ago, I stumbled across a few options on Amazon that made buying books a whole lot cheaper. I have bought books for 1p (plus postage). And good books at that. It’s not a dark art, but it might be an area that you may not have explored before. And that’s what this blog is all about.

Let’s walk it through…

So, the best way to show you what I mean is a real life example. So let’s start with Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crushing It, shall we? If you have a look at the link, you’ll see the cost for a shiny new copy of Crushing It is £9.34 (Jan ’19) with free postage if your book order comes to over £10. So if I was being picky, I’d add the postage charge to make my hack seem even better value, but I’m not going to do that. So let’s say this new book costs £9.34. To be honest, for this book, that’s a real bargain.

But before you press Buy Now, take a stroll with me. Under the title of the book you’ll see other buying option. There’s a Kindle version, audiobook, hardcover and paperback. Now, under paperback, see the ‘Used’ option, and see it’s from £3.67 (Jan ’19)? Click on there. This will take you through to a list of used books and their various conditions. So if you spend an extra penny, you can get a ‘Like New’ book for the sum of £3.68. And the postage is £2.80, so we need to add that on. This comes to £6.48. Ok, it might only be a saving of £2.86, but it takes no more time, and could add up to quite a lot.

The thing is, many people aren’t happy to have pre-read business books. Me? I don’t really care! I tend to go for ‘Like New’ or ‘Very Good’ in the condition stakes, and on a number of occasions I did think they probably were new. And that means I can buy more books with that saving!

I do appreciate it’s only a few pounds saved, and if you want to buy new books all the time – DO IT – it’s fine! But if you’re on a budget or really like a bargain, this is quite fun.

Here are a few more business book bargains…

Just to prove the point a bit further, I’ve had a little look at some other book bargains in the business book category. These are all books I like and have read. And these are all correct as of Jan ’19… prices will and do change…

Gary Vaynerchuk – The Thank You Economy – new £14.54. Used (Very Good condition) inc postage £6.65.

Gary Vaynerchuk – #AskGaryVee – new £13.65. Used (Very Good condition) inc. postage £4.31.

Natasha Courtenay-Smith – The Million Dollar Blog – new £11.43. Used (Like New condition) inc. postage is £6.03.

Seth Godin – Purple Cow – new £8.69. Used (Very Good condition) inc. postage is £4.87.

Michelle Mone – My Fight To The Top – new £7.99. Used (Very Good condition) inc postage is £2.89.

Now, before you think all your business book costs have been slashed forever, this only applies to some books. I look at every one I buy and I have a good hit rate, but some cost the same if you buy this way. That said, it’s very easy to see if that’s the way it’s going as all prices are clearly displayed!

Have you bought books like this? I’d love to know – come and find me on Instagram and share!

Rhea Freeman Newsletter
goal setting for your small business

Today it’s all about goals – well, more precisely goal setting for your small business. It might be a few days since the bells welcomed the New Year, but the good thing is that goals are a bit different to resolutions. Resolutions generally kick in on 1st January and, for many, don’t last all that long. In more recent years, I’ve ditched resolutions. I tend to feel that resolutions are about taking something way. Maybe you want to eat less chocolate? Drink less alcohol? Do you see what I mean? The problem is that when you have a cube of Dairy Milk you can feel like a failure and that can knock you off course. Goals, well, to me, are different. Goals are what I like to focus on.

Goal setting for your small business

The good thing about goals is that they sit well in personal and professional life. It would feel a bit odd to have a resolution for your business, wouldn’t it? But a goal? That makes perfect sense.

The thing with goals is that there’s a bit of a knack to setting them. Well, maybe not a knack as such, but a way to increase your chances of success. Which is the whole reason we’re setting goals- to succeed in areas of our lives- isn’t t? So here are five tips on goal setting that I’ve gathered…

Goal setting for your small business…

Write it down. So flipping simple. But SO effective. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have this crazy idea that I can remember everything. And I really, really cant. I can remember an impressive amount of things – not where my car keys are, or to order birthday cards on time: I can’t remember everything. And goals are something that get forgotten. But it’s not just for those who have a lot on their plate, there’s been a lot of research done that supports the theory that writing a goal down makes there a much greater chance you’ll achieve it. Simple, hey.

Be specific. If you want to grow your Instagram following – what’s the number you’re aiming at? Want to grow sales? By how much? Want to stock new brands in your tack shop? Which ones? See what I mean? If you have a specific goal, you can measure your success against it. Don’t use it as a thing to beat yourself around the head with. If you say, for example ‘grow my Facebook page’ and you grow it by one, you’ve technically achieved your goal, haven’t you? But I would imagine that’s not quite what you were thinking… so how do you know you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve if you don’t know what it is?

Break it down. Have achievable steps. Set big, brave goals- by all means – but then break it down into small steps with mini goals, and create the plan around it. So if you want to make HUGE sales as part of a three year plan, break it down into yearly, monthly, weekly if you like, and they create a plan to get there.

Put a time limit in there. Connected to being specific, you want to also add a time in there. If you have a goal to do something by some undefined point in the future, you might find that your goal never really comes true.

Accept that you might not know how to get to your end goal. But you do know how to take the first step. I know this is hardly the SMART goal setting method, but this bit is really, really important. I do love a grand plan, but grand plans are kind of pointless if you don’t actually get on with them at some point. Even if you feel overwhelmed by the goal you’ve set, just start. Do something small. You know how to get this started. Want to improve your videos on social media? Watch a YouTube video about it. Want to grow your mailing list? Google it to get some top tips from the professionals. And that, my friend, that potentially small, simple action, will help propel you forward to achieving what you want to.

I really hope that’s inspired you to give goal setting for your small business a go – I promise you it’s not difficult and it can be really, really effective.

Rhea Freeman Newsletter Link
branding and new business from kirsty fleetwood from fleetwood and foxgrove.

Today we’re talking about one of my loves- branding. I love it. Who doesn’t?! So when I met Kirsty from Fleetwood & Foxgrove at TEDxTelford and we had a chat about her business and branding, I knew I had to get her on the podcast to talk about branding her new business! This is a really interesting podcast, talking about what branding really is, how it’s more than logo deep, picking colours and fonts, and a lot more.

Branding for small businesses with Kirsty Fleetwood

Have you ever wondered about branding? Feel a bit lost when it comes to your own brand identity? Or are you at the beginning of your journey and not sure where to go? Well today’s podcast is perfect. In this podcast all about branding for small businesses with Kirsty Fleetwood from Fleetwood & Foxgrove, we talk about it all. Here are the show notes for episode 17…

  • We find out about about Kirsty’s background, why she decided to develop a scarf brand, what she does for her ‘day job’.
  • How she developed the name for the brand and also how the colours, logo and branding developed.
  • We talk about Kirsty’s connection to branding and how her husband has a graphic design business, so that made the process easier.
  • How being British is a really important piece of the Fleetwood & Foxgrove brand.
  • The importance of finding likeminded brands that support your brand and ethos to work with.
  • How branding on paper and online translates over to show stands and customer experience.
  • Why it’s important to have brand guidelines, whether it’s a list of 10 points or a whole book, and how these should carry through into your stand, your packaging, and everything else.
  • The idea behind making the tradestand a reflection of the family home. With the name, colours, and even the designs, there’s a really strong connection to Kirsty’s family.
  • Why great packaging matters, and how each Fleetwood & Foxgrove parcel is wrapped like a present. We also talked about how you can reuse some elements of packaging too.
  • We talk about social media and the way branding and brand guidelines filter over into this, particularly Instagram.
  • We talk about being able to preview your Instagram content (using things like Later) to help make sure your grid shares the feel you want to it.
  • We talk about the Field and Silk range and the differences.
  • The designs of the silk scarves and the development process involved in this from Kirsty’s point of view.
  • How the design of the silks differs to the Field range, but how the smaller points are also consider, like how a leather tab works really well with the Field range, but wouldn’t work with a silk.
  • The minor details that can really elevate a brand, like talking in third or first person. This doesn’t matter, but making sure you’re consistent does.
  • Why repetition really matters to help emphasis the brand and ethos at each opportunity.
  • How a big brand document might work really well for a corporate business, but how, for a start up, it doesn’t have to be.
  • Why it’s important to do your best to get everything as you’d like, but sometimes you won’t be able to get the exact colour matching on something like this, and how this shouldn’t hold you up.
  • The importance of analytics and how to use these in a range of different ways.

A big thank you to Kirsty for chatting to me on today’s Small & Supercharged Podcast – here are all the links to find out more…

Fleetwood & Foxgrove website

Fleetwood & Foxgrove on Instagram

Fleetwood & Foxgrove on Facebook

Fairfax and favor oxblood reginasToday’s Monday Must is kit based, and it’s all about the Oxblood Reginas from Fairfax & Favor. I really do love them…

Before we go any further, these were gifted to me. I know the team at Fairfax & Favor very well, work with them on other projects (like competitions with other brands, etc), and they felt that these boots, in MY colour (other people are also allowed to use burgundy, but you know what I mean!), would become my new favourite, and they have. However, I’d like it noted that I wasn’t asked to write this, or photograph them, or talk about them on social media. They were sent to me as a thank you. And I just really, really want to share.

A bit about Fairfax & Favor

If you’ve followed me on social media at all, you’ll know how much I love this brand. I wear and use their products whenever I can and they always make me feel special. I know that Fairfax & Favor products aren’t cheap. I also know that when I took the plunge and bought my first item (my Windsor Bag), I had a flutter of ‘should I?!’. And I did. And I’ve been hooked ever since.

In addition, I also had the joy of interviewing Felix Favor Parker (one half of Fairfax & Favor) for a behind the brand interview. And I did a podcast with Lucy, who works on the marketing team, about the pink tassel Breast Cancer Care Campaign. With my Hiho hat on, we also worked with Fairfax & Favor on the Style, Skills & Silver event and Ben (aka Staggy Stag who is the tradestand manager) came in person too. I also tend to gravitate towards the stand at shows and events. I get to see all the lovely products, treat myself, have a drink… and I’m always assured of a warm welcome. But not just because they know me, everyone receives a warm welcome at Fairfax & Favor. That’s one of the great things about the brand.

But now, let’s talk about these boots…

The Oxblood Reginas from Fairfax & Favor

I have a pair of tan Reginas. I’ve had them for quite a few years now and I love them. I wear them whenever it’s appropriate to, so days out, at events, going to meet clients, etc. I love them. A lot. They actually live in my office rather than my house as if my children get within five metres of them I get a real sweat on and turn into a dragon.

So when Lucy told me that they were bringing out an Oxblood collection (including Oxblood Reginas) I was excited. I have a bit of a thing about burgundy. Not only do I use burgundy in my branding, but I’ve also realised that quite a lot of my clothes are this shade too. I’m wearing a burgundy gilet as I type this. So it kind of felt like I was going to have to own at least one item from the Oxblood Collection. It would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

When the Oxblood Reginas came out, they looked lovely on all the pictures I saw, but a bit brighter than I imagined they would be. Despite being a burgundy fan, I’m not that into red. I like the colour red but it’s not a colour I wear. But then they arrived. And they are beautiful.

The Oxblood is a deep, rich shade of burgundy and is very, very close to the burgundy I use whenever I can! The actual boot has changed a little since I got my tan version and they definitely feel a lot more luxurious now. I should say I still think the original are very, very special, but these have lots of extras. There are three areas that I think have been upgraded since my tan ones were made: the sole, the lining and the insole.

Which areas have been upgraded?

The outer sole now has rubber elements for improved grip, whereas the original was just leather. I’ve only ever had one issue with the leather only sole… but that was more to do with me looking in one direction and walking in another… while stepping on an escalator. I do think that the rubber makes a very welcome addition though!

The inner sole is a lot more cushioned than my tan ones. A bit of website reading revealed that these boots have a memory foam comfort insole. So that’s that mystery solved! I can wear my tan ones all day without any sore foot issues, so the insole hasn’t ever caused me an problem… but the extra cushioning in these ones is rather lovely!

And the lining. Again, this is something that makes the boots feel really luxurious, but I didn’t have any issues with the unlined ones! The lining does tend to give the boot more structure and I imagine it will help them keep them shape for longer.

Styling the Oxblood Reginas

I wore these for the first time at the Farm Business Innovation Show were I was giving a seminar and then chairing the PR and Marketing Live Panel. For some reason, it didn’t enter my head that wearing new shoes to run around the NEC and stand up most of the day could be a bad idea. It dawned on me when I stepped off the bus entering the NEC and thought ‘oh… what have you done?!’. I’m very pleased to report that they were incredibly comfortable and were much admired. More than this, I felt really smart wearing them.

As for what to wear them with, I went for more conservative tones. I felt that having knee high burgundy boots was making quite a statement and I didn’t need to wear anything else that competed with that. And I think that was a good call. I wore skinny jeans, a burgundy long sleeved top, and a grey knitted poncho over the top. Accessorised with Hiho Silver jewellery (who am I kidding, I’m ALWAYS wearing Hiho jewellery) and my Windsor Bag, I think everything worked really well together. I have a pretty busy month lined up so I know this outfit will be getting another outing very soon!

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how to sniff out time wastersI know that most people have to deal with time wasters in their business… and I guess it’s part of it all. To be honest, I can usually spot them a mile off, and I don’t always mind. I regularly take calls from people who just want to pick my brains. I get it. I have questions pop through on social media and I don’t mind answering them when I can. But proper time wasters are different.

Are we thinking that time is money?

I would like to note here that it’s not about money. It might be for you but, for me, it’s a bit different. I have a number of lovely PR  social media and coaching clients who pay me. They have paid for my time. And I am sure you’re the same – you have people who pay for the service you offer, or frequent your shop/store regularly and purchase from you. These people, our customers, allow our businesses to exist and allow us to do what we love. So we need to treasure these people. So why should some people have to pay and others not? Is that showing our customers a lack of respect? Is it a bit like being an insurance company and offering a HUGE discount for a new customer as you shaft your old ones and don’t offer them the same discounts and rewards?

On top of this, it’s our time that is being used. Time is one resource we can’t buy more of. If it’s my time, I could be working on my own business, I could be walking the dog, playing with the children, keeping the house in order, doing some ‘life admin’… but this doesn’t seem to figure on some people’s radars. I, like the vast majority of the population, am a very busy person. And I like to be busy. I go above and beyond for my clients and I enjoy doing this. I love my job and the work I do. And I don’t want you to think otherwise. But as with any resource, time needs to be protected and looked after…

It’s more about respect… and it’s rarely deliberate or malicious

I appreciate that the goal posts change and that life moves on. And the lack of respect for your time or knowledge from the time waster is rarely deliberate. If ever, actually. But I’m going to share five ways to spot time wasters so you can conserve your most valuable resource and spend it where you want…

How to sniff out a time waster…

  • They’d like to work with you but…  I work with some of the most incredible people in this equestrian and country industry and one of the things that comes through time and again is the importance of honesty. If you want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, that’s absolutely fine too… just be straight with people. It saves everyone a lot of time.
  • They forget your sessions/appointment… they book, it’s sorted… and then you call at the allocated time and they’re not there. A while later it becomes apparent that they have completely forgotten the session/appointment. I’m lucky that this doesn’t happen very often at all, and I also charge for missed sessions when less than 24 hours notice is given.
  • There’s always a crisis… and you feel you need to help. As a people pleaser when someone sends me a ‘help’ message, I tend to respond. Well, at least I did. For clients, I’m all over it and I will help them solve it if I possibly can, but for people that have never even bothered to comment on a social media post? Umm. They’ll happily use my time and then carry on with their lives. Umm.
  • They start off chats with ‘I don’t have any money, but…’. That’s completely fine… I get that 100%. But maybe have a Google? I also have a lot of free resources out there – blogs, podcasts, free groups – use them as much as you like. Please. That’s why they’re there.
  • They don’t do as they say. One of the things about coaching is that if you don’t put the effort in – if you don’t do the work- nothing will change. And that’s true of life. The sad thing about this is time wasters aren’t just wasting your time, they’re wasting theirs too. Making progress isn’t just in the theory – if only- it’s in the action. Also be aware that if someone hasn’t done the work before and they’re promising you the moon on a stick, but a bit wary.

See, time wasters don’t just eat into my time, or your time, they’re eating into theirs as well.

Why have I shared this blog? Is it a rant?

No, it isn’t. These are things I have observed over the years. Some have happened to me, some haven’t, but they have to friends. The thing is, if you sharpen your identification skills when it comes to time wasters, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and stress. Being aware of what’s happening is half the battle. And if you want your year to be the most amazing ever, and to achieve your biggest goals, you’re going to need every space second to make that happen.

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demystifying cybersecurity with brian chappellFor today’s ‘Monday must’, we’re venturing into to the world of cybersecurity – well demystifying cybersecurity to be precise. Don’t run for the hills – you need to read this!

The very term cybersecurity sends a shiver down my spine. I hear it and feel a mixture of inadequate, stupid and a tiny bit terrified… do you? But don’t worry – this blog won’t make you feel like this…

I was chatting to a friend of mine about cybersecurity a while ago (it’s not completely random, the friend is Ruth Chappell from Dressage Anywhere who is married to Brian who wrote this blog!) and this is what came out of it. Well, Brian very kindly agreed to write this for me. I found it really interesting. I hope you do too. Now over to Brian Chappell…

Demystifying Cybersecurity – Part 1: Websites

So, you have a website. The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Is it secure?”, rather than “Does it reflect my brand and message?” It’s a hard question to answer. It’s particularly hard to know what’s important, what’s not so important and what to look for when trying to ensure your or your customers’ data is safe.

We hear about websites being hacked all the time but are you likely to be a target? The sad fact is that it’s yes. It doesn’t matter if you are a one-person company with a Wix or WordPress website or the largest multi-national, the rather dramatic statement seen at every Cybersecurity event is true; “It’s not if, it’s when.”

What’s a drive-by?

The vast majority of attacks on systems are the result of a drive-by. What do we mean by that? The drive-by is an opportunist attack, the result of a hacker stumbling upon a fault (commonly referred to as a vulnerability) that exists in your website that they already know how to use to break in (commonly referred to as an exploit). To understand this further, we need to step back and look at how we can identify those vulnerabilities before the hackers do.

There are many tools out there, ranging from free to eye-wateringly expensive (for a small business at least), that can scan your website and look for vulnerabilities. You can find many free tools such as OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy – this sounds more dangerous than it is) but be prepared to do some research as these are designed for people who have some understanding of vulnerabilities, that said, they aren’t incomprehensible; just remember, it’s not scary and it’s not rocket science. It’s worth taking a look at some of these tools, even if it’s just to get a feel for what hackers are using. Rest assured, they are using the very same tools looking for the very same vulnerabilities as you’ll find. What’s particularly interesting is the tools that hackers can use from the Dark Web that include fully featured services where with a credit card and a few minutes you can set up and launch an attack across the internet. These services have progress tracking with beautiful graphs and customer service that puts many regular companies to shame. But at their hearts, most of these tools are using the same scanning technology that you will use.

Can hacking attacks be prevented?

There is a shocking statistic that I speak about at many conferences, it’s been produced by some seriously clever people and it’s this: Between 2011 and 2016, ‘around 95% of successful hacking attacks were the result of well-known and entirely preventable vulnerabilities’; this figure includes all kinds of attacks, not just websites (and we’ll talk about the others in future articles), but it’s a concern nevertheless. Rest assured it’s not changed much over that period and it isn’t changing quickly since either.

Unfortunately, all the website-based vulnerabilities tend to be well-known and are attacked regularly. It’s important to simply start at the top of the list, with the high severity vulnerabilities and work your way down (or ask you service provider or web developer to work their way down) fixing each in turn. Many of the discovered vulnerabilities will look complex but often it’s just changing a setting to resolve the issue. I’ll reiterate, there really is no rocket science here, it’s just about knowing where to look or knowing where to find where to look. The user guide is often your best friend.

It’s important to let your service provider, hosting company, or WordPress provider, know you are going to scan your site and how frequently you are going to do it, it’s not a one-time activity, it should be regular, i.e. weekly or monthly. They should have monitoring systems that will be triggered by a scan so warning them allows them to eliminate your activity from the alerts they get.

If your provider doesn’t support scanning, they should be doing it themselves so ask for a copy of the results or notification of any issues that may affect your site along with confirmation when those issues are dealt with. If you are using WordPress or similar, I’d recommend talking to your provider about how frequently they apply updates and how you can be notified. I’ve heard of some providers expecting the customer to pay for updates, I’d push hard back on that. You didn’t subscribe to WordPress v4.9.6 (or whatever make/version your platform operates on), you subscribed to a WordPress service. If they won’t budge, move providers. It may be a little more expensive monthly but the peace of mind will be worth it.

Don’t be scared about cybersecurity

A few pieces of advice that I’m going to parrot in every article; don’t be scared about Cybersecurity/Website security. There is no rocket science here and no-one is going to expect you to be an expert. Similarly, no-one is going to think less of your for asking what you may feel are stupid questions. There are no stupid questions. Don’t be afraid to look at getting a professional Cybersecurity specialist to help you get started, or even provide you a regular service. Shop around but I wouldn’t recommend necessarily taking the cheapest. Like all suppliers, find someone you think you can work with and trust.

A bit about Brian Chappell

Brian has more than 30 years of experience in senior IT roles across a broad spectrum of organisations including Amstrad plc, BBC Television and GlaxoSmithKline plc. Brian has held senior roles in most IT disciplines across the entire IT delivery chain.

More recently, Brian has spent the past 6.5 years working for a leading cybersecurity software vendor, BeyondTrust, as the technical lead across EMEA and APAC. In this role he has delivered world-class solutions for both vulnerability and privilege management within financial, manufacturing, healthcare, retail and government markets. He’s now a product manager for one of the leading cyber security platforms in the world. Brian is a regular contributor to the press as well as a speaker at industry conferences and events.

A HUGE thank you to Brian for his blog on demystifying cybersecurity… now, I’m off to find out more about all of the above!