Author Archives: First Directory

Creating a Positive Company Culture

Employees who work in a business that has a positive company culture are likely to be much more creative, productive and loyal, so it stands to reason that fostering positivity in your business is going to be beneficial all round.

Getting it wrong can mean your business gets a bad reputation; and in a world where we are being rated on job recruitment websites, and consumer review websites it’s better to be among the high achievers.

Let’s explore the key elements that play a vital role in nurturing a positive and welcoming company culture!

Start with your core values and beliefs

This comes from inside and you will feel intuitively what your own core values for your business should be.  Writing these values down and defining how you achieve them is a good exercise. 

For example you may run a call centre who need to give amazing customer service.  If they feel happy, trusted and appreciated your team will provide top value to your customers, so choose core values that will resonate with them, like integrity, clarity and collaboration.  If you run a construction company you may feel that empathy is important to you.  In an industry that isn’t famous for honesty, you could make a big impact by establishing a company policy to pass on savings to your customers.  So when a project costs less than originally quoted you can greatly enhance your reputation for fairness.  You will soon find that your staff is motivated to identify ways to generate savings and actively contribute to your company’s overall reputation. 

Other core values to consider could be things like authenticity, communication, creativity, determination, flexibility, honesty, optimism, reliability, teamwork, tenacity. 

You know your business inside out and will instinctively sense which core values motivate your people, so pick the ones that feel right and make them a part of your working days.

Communicate your core values

If you have regular meetings, keep these values at the fore by projecting them on a screen throughout the session or incorporating them into the meeting minutes. Another impactful idea is to have note pads printed for employees, featuring your core values on them, encouraging constant reinforcement.

When producing a company handbook, a great approach is to include your core values either as an introduction or place them on the cover. This sets the tone and emphasizes their significance right from the start.

However, the most powerful way to communicate and instil these values is through open discussions. Make them a natural part of your everyday language, and soon they will become the guiding mantra for everyone in the organization.

Recognise good work

Whatever core values you decide upon reward the employees who use them.  In fact reward employees whenever they do good work.  The road to success is solving problems and moving forward in a positive way.  Don’t be tempted to fall into a blame culture, this will catch fire and spread quickly.  Emphasise that mistakes will always happen, but they can’t be undone and the right thing to do is look for a way to learn from them and work towards success.

If you have a sales team, then rewarding them is easy and you probably have a scheme in place already, but think about rewarding all your staff.  Having a regular Christmas celebration is lovely, so have a summer one too.  Maybe a family barbecue or a day trip to a local landmark, or a shopping day with vouchers.  Some companies give an extra day off for birthday’s which is such a small concession, but is much appreciated.

If your employee achieves a personal milestone, such as passing a career-enhancing exam, it becomes a cause for celebration, and publicly acknowledging it will help foster positive feelings.

Encourage social activities

This can be a wonderful opportunity to foster strong team bonds. Friendships often naturally develop in the workplace, and providing chances to socialize without work-related pressures can significantly enhance team spirit. To make these gatherings more organized and enjoyable, consider appointing a social event manager who can arrange nice events, perhaps on a monthly basis. Options for activities can range from active outings like a trip to the local bowling alley or laser tag, to more relaxed experiences like dining at a nearby restaurant or attending a theatre performance. Remember, these events don’t necessarily have to be financed by the company; a token payment, like covering the drinks could be a nice gesture to show support and appreciation for employees.

Alternatively if your company supports a charity you could do some fundraising.  Most big charities nominate a special day or week of the year to concentrate on fundraising and organise special events, so make the most of these or organise your own. If you have employees that will make cakes have a cake sale.  If nobody likes baking then a jumble sale could work or have a mufti day (pay to come in jeans etc.).

Flexible working

We are moving into an age where remote working has become much more commonplace.  The pandemic helped us to realise that with a good internet connection, working at home is a perfectly viable option and it has been shown than hybrid working can contribute to employee mental well-being as well as promoting an increase in productivity.  The benefits here are obvious, so if you are not already embracing this system, consider how it could work for you and canvas your workforce to see if they would welcome a flexible system.

Similarly, you may find that you have staff who would welcome working part time.  People with families, might want school friendly shifts, or just slightly reduced hours to accommodate another commitment.  There are many reasons why people might want reduced hours or maybe they need extra hours and you can balance the workload between those who are willing to do more and those who prefer to be part time.

Consider being more flexible when you are recruiting.  A role that offers a choice of full time / part time and hybrid working options will attract more interest.

The more you can work to create a good work life balance for employees the more they will give back.  Being appreciated and listened to is fundamental to good mental health and creating a positive environment will pay you back in loyalty and employee retention.

Be Inclusive

Embracing the richness of diversity in people’s backgrounds and cultures can truly elevate your business to new heights! By supporting and valuing individuals from all walks of life, you create a warm atmosphere of tolerance and collaboration. Being open-minded, flexible, and free from biases allows everyone to contribute their unique perspectives, making your journey together even more enjoyable and successful!

For example Timpsons (a high street shoe repair outlet) make it their policy to hire ex-offenders.  By making use of this untapped resource and giving a second chance to people who would not be first choice for other employers, they have gone from strength to strength.  The vast majority of these employees are loyal, hard working, make a valuable contribution to the company, and do not re-offend.

Mark the milestones

Embrace and celebrate your business milestones with joy and enthusiasm! When that significant anniversary comes around, it’s time to let the world know and make it a memorable occasion. Don’t forget to involve your staff and create a fantastic party on the actual day! We’re talking about cakes for all, party hats, and loads of laughter. As a nice keepsake, how about gifting everyone t-shirts displaying the number of years your incredible business has been thriving?

Be approachable

Encouraging an open-door policy is a powerful way to make people feel included and foster loyalty. Letting your door remain open sends a message that you are approachable and available for discussions and support. Encourage other managers to adopt this practice as well, promoting a culture of accessibility throughout the organization.

Remember, transparency is key. Avoid alienating your team members by keeping secrets from them. Instead, strive to be open, honest, and approachable. When you show your genuine interest in their opinions and concerns, they will appreciate your authenticity and reciprocate with loyalty and dedication. By cultivating such an atmosphere, you’ll create a strong and cohesive team that works together towards shared success.

Create a fun environment

Spice up your team building activities with a touch of humour and excitement! Come up with creative and fun ideas that will leave everyone smiling and building stronger bonds.  Start with something as simple and heart-warming as a “Bring Your Dog to Work Day” – who can resist the charm of adorable canine co-workers? Not only will it add some laughter to the office, but it will also give you a chance to bond over your love for pets.

And why stop there? Take it up a notch with a fantastic themed party! Picture this:  “Superhero Day,” where you all dress up as your favourite heroes and heroines. Not only will you get a good laugh out of each other’s costumes, but it’ll also be a great opportunity to showcase your creativity and imagination.

Now, to sweeten the deal, you could organize a charity raffle with some quirky prizes. How about a chance to win delicious cream cakes or a massive bag of sweeties? Just imagine the excitement and friendly competition as you all try your luck for these delectable treats!

By infusing humour into your team-building activities, you can create an environment that fosters camaraderie, breaks down barriers, and leaves you with fond memories. So unleash your creativity and make your team stronger, one laugh at a time!

Reap your rewards

Embracing positivity will undoubtedly bring numerous benefits! There’s absolutely no downside to fostering a positive company culture. By doing so, you’ll experience a significant reduction in employee absences and a remarkable increase in productivity, collaboration, and commitment. Your team will become passionate advocates for your business, thereby enhancing your reputation. Imagine being that sought-after employer everyone dreams of working for… with a few positive changes, your company can become the desirable destination.

Deliver a Customer Service Experience That Really Puts Your Business on the Map

Customer service is like the secret sauce that makes any business awesome! When customers give favourable reviews, recommend you to their friends, and keep coming back for more, it’s like a high-five for your growth and success.

Maintaining good relationships that grow your business organically are far better than constantly searching for new customers.  So, let’s dive into some top-notch tips that’ll make you shine like a star and have customers lining up for days!

Have a plan

Create a strategy that all your staff can get to know inside out.  If you have staff members who handle telephone orders, you can establish some straightforward Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for them. For instance, they can aim to answer calls within three rings or implement a call back system to ensure that every inquiry is promptly addressed. It would be beneficial to set deadlines for resolving issues and empower your staff to take ownership of inquiries, fostering a sense of consistent support for customers. This approach aims to provide a single contact point for customers so they don’t feel like they’re being passed around.

Create the perfect plan for a wonderful customer experience and adapt it as you go along with feedback from customers. To do this, you can ask customers directly when they make a purchase, create online surveys, and carefully listen to feedback on social media and Google reviews.

Know your product

Giving your customer-facing employees good product training is essential. They should be product experts that understand everything about how the product works, how it is made and what its benefits are.  Belief in the product is important, too, so think about this at the interview stage.  You don’t necessarily need someone who uses the product themselves or has prior experience with it, but they need to see the value in it and be able to communicate its best features.  Guiding a customer into the right purchase is the best way to start a customer relationship, and providing product training will create a reassuring foundation.

Keep your word

If you make a promise, it makes good sense and is courteous to keep your word.  If you say you’ll do something, actually do it. If you don’t meet expectations or you miss a deadline, your customer will feel cheated. However, you can salvage such situations by offering a good solution and something extra. Provide a discount, a free gift, or even a refund, and you will gain a delighted, loyal follower.  You may lose money in the moment, but a grateful, satisfied customer will be worth their weight in gold and your reputation will be greatly enhanced.  The old adage ‘under promise and over perform’ is good to keep in mind.

Go the extra mile

Even when you have provided exactly what the customer expects, it will cement your relationship by going that little bit further.  If you sell big ticket items think about adding a free gift.  For example a bed that comes with free pillows, or a car that has free seat covers.  Items bought by weight or length could be added to, just an extra half metre of fabric at the haberdashery for example or a few ounces more of meat at the butchers. 

Alternatively, it could be something intangible like extra time.  If a customer is very chatty and wants to tell you about their day, or what they are going to do with the product they just bought from you, it’s worth indulging them.  They will be far more likely to come back for a return purchase and recommend your business if they like you.

Actively listen

Being focused on what your customer is telling you is key to good customer service.  While it may be tempting to adopt a selling-oriented approach and solely emphasize the features and benefits of your service, redirecting your attention towards what your customer needs is a much better start. 

Reflecting back your customers message is a good way to build rapport, so using phrases like “it sounds like you need this…” or “do you mean….” will show that you are actively listening and trying to understand them.  Making your customer feel that you are providing a personal service just for them will go a long way to building a good relationship and finding them the right product or service.

Maintain a positive attitude

It’s always good to spread a little sunshine, and it will serve you well in a work environment if you can make the conscious decision to be positive.  It’s an attitude that you can actively choose to make at the beginning of every working day, but if you are not a ‘morning person’, then acknowledge this to yourself and take steps to change your mindset.  It can be something small like playing your favourite music in the car on your journey to work, or going for a run before breakfast. 

Staying positive is key when dealing with problems and it’s easy to feel protective of your business when a customer comes to you with a complaint, but by staying positive and helpful, a tense situation can be turned around.  Offering helpful solutions rather than concentrating on blame will resolve a problem much quicker.  It sounds corny but if you smile while talking to a customer on the phone it will really come across in your voice, and a phone call is always better than an email if you are having a difficult exchange.  Emails and live chats don’t have any emotion so can easily be taken badly.  Human beings need multiple signals to interpret what is being said so body language and tone of voice play a big part in communicating positivity. 

Offer online help

Sometimes a small issue can be easily solved by having the solutions ready on your website.  Why not have a page of frequently asked questions that give problem solving tips and information for the buyer.  If there are common questions that you are growing tired of answering repeatedly this is a good indicator that you need this information in a handy to find place.  Customers don’t always want to speak on the phone so if you can answer their question quickly online they will feel you are a good communicator.  You can also have contact forms on your website and live chat.  For the small queries these systems are great and can quickly turn browsers into buyers.  Making your website easy and accessible will encourage customers to feel they know you, and that you are approachable. 

Your customers are the heart and soul of your business, and they deserve to be your top priority. By focusing on creating an outstanding customer care plan, you’ll see tremendous rewards in return.

What to look for in an PPC Agency

Pay Per Click or PPC advertising is one of the most popular forms of marketing. Whereas organic online growth can take time and effort, PPC allows companies to acquire leads and an overall boost to brand recognition in a short time frame. The main technique for this is by paying for ad space on Google’s search results, which boosts your placement in these results, leading to more clicks.

Obviously, the main difference between PPC and standard marketing is that PPC requires a lot more investment. Also, the process itself can be complex and often businesses will hire an agency or outsource this service to experts within the field. Unsurprisingly, to meet this demand there are a vast amount of PPC agencies and consultants out there. Choosing between vendors can be difficult so what should you look out for in order to get the best possible service?


Although PPC advertising may seem relatively simple at first, it actually incorporates a wide range of different techniques. Prior to choosing an ad agency to work with, companies should ascertain what exactly they are looking to achieve from such a relationship. There are many factors to consider, such as keywords, copy, competition, transparency, how long you plan to work with the agency, what kind of relationship you’re looking for etc.

Will you be looking for an agency that specialises in B2C or B2B? Are you looking for a big vendor with lots of positive feedback or a smaller agency that can offer a more personalised service?  Also, this is the time to decide whether the issue of a Google AdWords Certification is important as this tends to be a deal breaker for many companies. There is so much to consider before even testing the waters of PPC advertising and this is why a detailed plan of action is a necessary place to start.


The internet has created a worldwide market were customers aren’t restricted by geographical location anymore. However, when it comes to choosing a PPC Agency, location can actually be a worthwhile issue to consider. If your company is providing products and services to a local area then choosing a vendor with experience in that area could make all the difference. It may be tempting to choose the popular national agency with the great reviews but they may have a “one-size-fits-all” approach that wouldn’t benefit a localised business. Cities, towns and regions have their own unique qualities and choosing an agency that has specific knowledge or experience in that area could help to create a much more streamlined campaign.


One of the downsides to PPC advertising is that it requires investment and can often be more expensive than general content marketing. However, if done right- the cost of this service should be outweighed by the potential revenue from new leads. When choosing between vendors- the pricing structure should be considered. For example, some agencies will charge a flat monthly fee, whereas others will work on a performance basis. Although it may seem obvious to gravitate towards a quid pro quo relationship, this can sometimes lead to vendors focusing more on the quantity rather than quality of leads. Conversely, an agency who is receiving a flat fee no matter what, may not be as motivated as they could be. Some PPC agencies work with a hybrid pricing system- so there’s a flat fee but also the potential for bonuses if results are particularly good. As with many aspects of business, a multi-faceted holistic approach often works out best.


Setting up a PPC ad campaign is only the first half of the process, the only way to ensure overall success is to track results and adapt accordingly. If a PPC agency or specialist isn’t offering regular, comprehensive data on your ads- this should be a red flag for any company. When it comes to tracking, you can never have enough data to work with. Simple metrics such as clicks and conversions are useful but they will only tell you part of the story. There are so many other factors to consider, such as demographics, locations ad search terms, just to name a few.

Programs such as Google Analytics will offer a wealth of different metrics, all of which will provide a bigger picture on how the campaign is going, what’s working, what isn’t and how to improve. When you’re deciding between different PPC specialists, their approach to tracking and data should play a role in who you choose. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their methods of tracking progress.


When you’re just starting out with a new venture, it can easy to forget about long term goals but this is the best time to decide on an endgame. For example, how long do you plan on working with the PPC specialist and what type of contract will you be signing? A long-term contract may sound appealing but it could lock you into a relationship that is working well. Consider a short-term contract with the option to extend as this could offer a compromise for both parties.

Another aspect to consider is the idea of growth. Obviously, the main goal for the majority of businesses who are starting an ad campaign is growth and this is something that should be discussed with any prospective PPC agencies prior to signing a contract. What is the end-goal of this relationship and what happens when it’s met? Conversely, what happens if this goal isn’t met and how will the vendor go about remedying this.

Companies can gain success without utilising PPC advertising but it’s a powerful tool- especially for smaller businesses who need a boost. Finding the right ad agency may require a lot of research and planning but the potential benefits are well worth it.

Why am I not on the first page of Google?

Ranking high on Google’s search results has become a huge priority to the vast majority of companies, so much so that a whole industry has risen up around it. It’s no wonder that search results have become such a pivotal aspect of marketing in recent years. Research has shown that a massive 81% of customers will conduct research prior to making a purchase and 60% of those will head straight to a search engine before anything else.

The obsession that businesses have with that first page of results may sometimes verge on fanatical but it too is based in fact. Astonishingly, only around 10% of users will continue on to the second page of results and this percentage continues to decrease with each next page. This illustrates just how important search engine placement can be- especially for businesses.

The way in which Google decides the order of their search results can be quite complex. In a nutshell, they utilise automated crawlers to find and index websites and then the website are ordered. Google order the websites according to a number of features- such as content, popularity, images, keywords etc. Websites can even be penalised if they copy content or reuse images. Google are continually changing the algorithms for how they order, so businesses have to stay ahead of the game to keep up.

There are two main methods to improving your position on Google’s search results- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC). Both have their relative strengths and weaknesses and choosing which technique will depend on the individual business and what they’re looking for.

Pay Per Click Advertising

As with many aspects of online marketing- there is a shortcut to boosting your rankings in Google’s search results but it does cost. The way in which this process works is relatively simple, companies pay Google and then Google places their website higher up in the rankings in the form of advertisements. The main upsides to PPC is that it’s an easy and fast method for boosting your ranking and therefore leads- hopefully leading to sales.

Whilst PPC may be a simpler approach, it does have its downsides, mainly based around the overall reputation of online advertisements. Many online users mistrust ads, especially if they believe they were targeted using personal information. Therefore, PPC is better used a short-term boost and not the long-term solution for search result rankings. It’s also worth pointing out the obvious drawback to this method- it costs money. Considering the alternative is free, this is something to keep in mind when choosing. Especially for newer and smaller businesses who don’t have a large amount of money to invest.

Search Engine Optimisation

 SEO is basically the opposite technique to PPC- it’s free in theory but it takes much more effort and time, however the benefits can be long term. If PPC is a shortcut to boosting rankings, SEO is the organic approach- working with Google’s algorithms in order to achieve a higher placement on search results naturally.

SEO involves lots of different approaches but the main idea is to create a high-quality website that will organically rise to the top in results.

This includes original and engaging written content, original images and an overall user-friendly website. In terms of the structure of the website, there are many different things to take into account, such as search bars, landing pages, intuitive navigation as well as contact and about me pages. It’s also worth noting that a website that is optimised for mobile devices will always perform better in search results.

An important aspect of SEO is identifying a list of keywords which help potential customers to find your website on Google. You then utilise these keywords within your online content and Google will deliver your website when people search for these keywords. The more accurate and relevant the keywords are, the more likely that your website will appear higher in search results.

In theory SEO is free to do but it can include a lot of work and therefore many businesses outsource. You can also use online tools, some of which are free but others require payment as well. Therefore, the main benefit that SEO has over PPC may not be as straight cut as first thought. However, good SEO can deliver high quality, long-lasting results.

Although we have compared and contrasted these two methods, the truth is that most businesses take a more holistic approach and utilise both. You can adopt both paid advertisements and Search Engine Optimisation in order to get the best of both worlds.