Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Stress Kills

High and sustained levels of stress are damaging.. to our health, it hinders our ability to be creative, it can prevent us thinking clearly and affect our ability to maintain important and trusted business relationships, equally low stress levels and short lengths of exposure to stress can be just as detrimental.

Stress affects us all, if you do not suffer from stress it is likely that at one of your friends or colleagues will. There are even reports of teenagers feeling "stressed" as a result of trying to pass numerous secondary school exams.

Now in in its 6th year of continuous business, Net Visuals is growing, and during the early period of establishment and growth incredibly long hours were needed to build the business, this led to some very stressful periods and in reflection only now can I fully understand just how much stress can damage creativity and the ability to deliver high quality goods, despite this I have consistently delivered high quality work, but with hindsight this could have been a lot easier.

Despite all the aforementioned, stress is often an important contributing factor in achievement, drive, ambition, learning and success. Managing stress and applying it in a timely and productive manner can be incredibly advantageous and help us work that little bit harder, and achieve more than competitors while still appearing as if work is somewhat easier, and that more is achieved on a daily basis.

At the time of writing, Net Visuals, is one multi-skilled individual offering professional web site solutions including hosting, design and media creation. Net Visuals has many equally important customers to collaborate with and work for and there are times when co-ordinating and supply demands can increase pressure and subsequent stress levels significantly.

For the benefit of maintaining a high level of personal health and in the interests of serving customers over the long term, managing stress and pressure is an invaluable skill to have and something which I apply in a proactive way, rather than a reactive way. This is why Net Visuals is able to juggle numerous tasks and skills successfully such as programming, support, consultancy and design, and continues to deliver professional and world class web solutions in shorter timescales made to order on a per customer basis.

Let's take for example Google. Google is regarded, particularly in the U.S based offices as having probably the best working environment of any modern business to reduce stress and pressure, with incredible exercise and leisure facilities helping employees to relax and keep fit and healthy. This kind of environment is fast catching on even in the UK, with some business even diversifying with leisure and having staff managed gardens. Employees are encouraged to become "green fingered", the benefits of fresh air, exercise, pressure free thinking and with "home grown" produce to eat as the end result(the down side of that however, is that employees only have the lunch hour to do it in, so unless you can use a shovel and eat a yogurt at the same time, there is likely to be a tough juggling act!)

With approximately 90% or more of Net Visuals business time spent at a desk, programming, communicating, planning, designing, accounting, completing VAT returns and numerous other business tasks this can have a particularly detrimental effect on creativity and concentration.. so how is Net Visuals able to continue to develop error-free high quality web solutions and provide such quality services for so many customers?

The main answer is that Net Visuals is a flexible business, changing working hours and goals proactively from week to week on an ongoing basis to meet the needs of customers. For instance, a customer may need to meet during the evening one week because it fits in with their work schedule, or some urgent work may need to be carried out for a customers computer during the weekend, this type of situation is becoming increasingly frequent. This level of flexibility is to be embraced and is all part of operating a customer focused business, particularly in the current economic climate. We are all going to have to do more during the recession and work longer hours, even though in a majority of cases we will be earning less despite the increase in hours and business commitment.. that's how it is and how it is going to be for some time. The overriding point to this is I do what I do because I love it, I enjoy it, it gives me a sense of satisfaction.. and above all I'm bloody good at it, I'm driven, passionate, and want the best I can give for my customers. Whether I was earning £10,000 p.a or £1,000,000 p.a. I would still be providing the same friendly customer focused, flexible high quality product and service. This is my niche.

So what's it all got to do with stress? The very fact that I have created this new blog, and that I have time for it is due to managing customer demand, stress and time and something that I would never have managed a number of years ago. I have many competing demands such as designing web sites for customers, creating customer tools, photography, email newsletters, creating new tourist web sites but the work is getting done. In fact just being aware of time and its constraints can help prevent stress. In the last two days alone I have designed three fantastic bespoke branded web site layouts for customers, this demonstrates to me that I am not stressed, and that creativity has been free flowing despite like every other business needing to meet quite pressured targets such as statutory VAT returns and annual accounting.

Part of this success is that I have split up my working time during the day and taken time to workout allowing myself a switch off period letting the brain "breathe", using a home gym and also cycling for 15km! Only two days ago it was 10km.. taking care of health, takes care of stress, takes care of productivity and creativity. And if you feel as though you do not have time for a walk, for exercise or for a coffee and some light reading then you most likely are stressed and should do exactly that!

Achieving more can happen, even if we think that its not possible by proactively managing stresses and anxieties caused by work and desire for achievement. Remember stress has an optimum operating level, and once you go beyond this peak you are running risks to your health and creativity.

A final note.. Net Visuals is creative, achieving, growing, succeeding and delivering flexible customer focused solutions day in day out meeting targets and removing excess stress all at the same time... healthy... professional... and looking after the future interests of our customers as they would expect.

If your web developer has not got time for you, not updating your web site efficiently and promptly, or your not getting the flexibility you desire from your supplier - hosting, domain name registration, design, photography - or any other service then Net Visuals should be your next telephone call, you can remove unnecessary stress too!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Web 2.0 & Social Networking Technologies

I had made a conscious decision not to be a part of the social networking phenomenon, principally knowing that the oblivious supply of information on public social networking platforms on a personal level can provide businesses and other users with "power information" which, when delivered with a certain naievity could be detrimental in many ways.

For instance, as if to demonstrate my point, as I type this first blog post, on another browser tab, the Facebook profile management sidebar to the right displays a colourful and eye-catching advertisement for a t-shirt displaying my birth date which has been recently entered upon creating a Facebook account. If I was perhaps a little younger, had more disposable income, there would have been a sale right then, because actually it was something that I didnt own, and I would not see in a retail outlet within 50 miles.

The results of harnessing and processing even the smallest piece of information are apparent immediately and constitutes just one of the many ways in which embracing Web 2.0 and social networking can benefit business.

Realising then that Web 2.0 and Social Networking Technologies are incredibly important, particularly to small and particularly unrecognised businesses, Net Visuals is adopting a forward thinking strategy and hopes to be able to provide web customers with a consultation and advisory service to enable new and existing customers to adopt and embrace Web 2.0 and Social Networking Technologies and as part of a powerful set of business and information tools.

There are distinct differences in using Social Networking Technologies for personal and for business use, and the major difference should be quite obvious. Social Networking for business is really a duplication of what already exists but made available through various portals that allow your business to connect with new and exciting customers, suppliers and "fans". Most of the information that you may deliver through this avenue may be available in a brochure on your business premises, or on your own web site already. Social Networking for personal use is all about personal beliefs, interests, habits and lifestyle which would normally be available through conventional methods of communication to friends and family, and of course this information is likely to be selective in normal circumstances depending on who "needs to know".

It is important to recognise that Web 2.0 and Social Networking Technologies are not a replacement for other avenues of marketing and promotion either online or offline, and certainly will not necessarily reach all demographic customer groups to which your business or product is aimed.

For an exhaustive list of Social Networking Sites throughout the world you should visit Wikipedia and search for Social Networking or alternatively click this link to visit. The two most popular Social Networking Sites are Myspace with over 250 million users, and Facebook with over 200 million users but there are a myriad of other sites which may prove useful and appropriate for your business.

For a full definition of Web 2.0 you should also visit Wikipedia and search for Web 2.0 or alternatively
click this link to visit the Web 2.0 page.