Three months free office space for start-ups

While business confidence is improving and the government have created some useful programmes to help SME businesses, we are still working in a difficult economic environment and we need not just a strong feed of new businesses but to look at how we ensure the success of these enterprises.

This is why the Colston Office Centre is extending its’ business support services to provide office space free for 3 months to all new businesses. If you have recently started, or are about to start, a business, you will enjoy 3 months in our co-working space with business address, IT support and hosted email, accountancy advice, business strategy consultation, Growth Accelerator assessment and a marketing review.

Whatever businesses entrepreneurs are developing in terms of sector, size or style, this represents an investment by us in the future success of Bristol. Whether working alone or in a small team, we promise to provide start-ups with an environment conducive to giving their business every help possible.

This offer is open-ended and will be available for the foreseeable future. There are no commitments required from the businesses, so once the period is up – they can carry on with some or all of the services at our normal rates or finish without further obligation. Anyone interested in taking advantage of this trial should get in touch with Barry Harvey on 0117 317 8090.

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Theo Paphitis Award-Winning Bristol Entrepreneur launches do it LIVE!

A Bristol young entrepreneur who caught the eye of a Dragon aims to give small business owners the tools to create and control their own marketing in one day.

New Picture Theo Paphitis Award Winning Bristol Entrepreneur launches do it LIVE!

Theo Paphitis presenting award to Danny Maddocks

Danny Maddocks believes that a great website is essential for every business to market themselves online, and he should know - Danny was given an award by Dragon’s Den business expert Theo Paphitis for his unique approach to online marketing.

Now Danny aims to give Bristol business owners the benefit of his expertise in a one day event called ‘do it LIVE!’. He guarantees he will take someone with no web experience, help them create a personalised website and give them the tools to use it to market their business forever. No jargon, just easy to follow techniques that have been tried and tested by Danny and his clients.

Danny says “I give busy business owners the power to take control of their marketing, by sharing the skills and knowledge that can create successful websites in one day.”

He added, “A small business needs full control over how a website looks and feels with without hiring developers or paying someone each time it is updated. There’s no magic to this, you just need to know how to get it right first time.”

Danny promises that everyone who attends ‘do it LIVE!’ will leave at the end of the day with a fully functional website created using WordPress, as well as being given a selection of premium tools included in the price. And if they are not happy, he refunds the cost of the course.

Danny is an experienced trainer who teaches business people the right skills fast, in a relaxed and friendly manner. He gives his clients the hands on experience and technical know-how to easily update a website, publish blog posts and upload photos and videos, as well as connecting them with the world of social media.

Danny is the founder of, a freelance web developer at and the creator and founder of

For further information about the do it LIVE! workshop please visit


do it LIVE!’ with Danny Maddocks is being held at the Colston Office Centre (bottom of Christmas Steps) on 20th June 2013, 9:30am – 17:30pm. Price from £195.

For more information and to book, please visit

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Setting up office

However and wherever you work, there are a few basics to cover that ensure you are working efficiently and comfortably.

Whether office based, home-worker or mobile-worker, there are common elements to the working environment, like location, furniture, comfort, IT set-up, etc. that we all need to think about.


If you need an office, should it be near clients, prospects, competition, transport hubs? Do you need city centre, or out of town?

Maybe you are mobile, so have you a few places set-up that you are know are easy and comfortable to work in? It might be your home office, perhaps, or a co-working space when you need, or a client site. Somewhere, at any rate, you can walk in instantly and work.

When you work at home, do you find this isolating at times, is it easy to get out and meet people. Is it somewhere you are happy to meet clients and prospects?


In an office environment, you basically need a phone and phone line, computer and broadband. Though you may only need broadband if you use a VOIP phone. But what happens when you are out of the office – at meetings and out of hours, for example? Can you still respond to email, phone calls, work on your data, access information?

If you are an agile worker or working from home you are perhaps more likely to be aware of these issues and have a more flexible, cloud set-up. Obviously if all your data is in the cloud, you can get to it anywhere you have a mobile device and a connection.

But with more than one person, how do you ensure communication to deliver a consistent business service and image, especially if all working from different locations?

At home, one issue might be broadband – domestic services are often not reliable or fast enough for work purposes.


Space – is there enough, can you spread out or are you stuck under the stairs like Harry Potter? Is there room for you and for storage without having to bend over backwards to retrieve files or step over/around things? Is there room to meet clients, prospects, suppliers?

Ambience – have you enough light, preferably natural, a window for a sense of space? Is it too noisy or even too quiet? Does it feel good to work here, are you happy and motivated? Is the décor up to scratch?

Furniture – think about ergonomics, a comfortable environment for your body and your mind. Is everything at a suitable height without strain to reach or get to?

Working practices

This is more relevant if there is more than one of you. How do you work – open plan, bull pen, offices, etc?

How do you communicate, control noise, make sensitive calls, have confidential meetings, collaborate with colleagues, integrate with mobile staff?

What hours does everyone work – set or flexible? How does this work with clients and operations?

Is your data all digital or physical? Do you need a printer/fax/scanner to work?

What is your reporting/process structure and how does this work in the environment you have choasen to work in?

This is fairly rudimentary summary, but it shows that wherever and whatever your place of work, there are a number of issues that will affect how you work.

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The Critic Stumbles

In response to a post by Seth Godin

Seth asks: ‘ Do mainstream critics exist to tell us what to like, to warn us off from the not-so-good, or are they there to punish those that would dare to make a piece of work that doesn’t match the critic’s view of the world?’

For me, the point at which the critic becomes more important (by his own reckoning) than the work he reviews, is the point at which he ceases to be relevant.

Someone knowledgeable, whom we trust, can be an important source of information – not to tell us how we feel, but to provide a point of view that may not have occurred to us previously.

This happens mostly with our peers. When information comes from people who are paid to critique, it becomes more and more isolated, the more they review.

Eventually, the expectation of knowledge and insight – which comes from themselves and their audience – means they are experiencing the topic from a highly specialised angle, looking ever deeper for meaning and justification that takes them beyond any contextual appreciation and dislocates them from the experience in the real world.

When we attend a show or event, we come home from work, get changed, go back out and arrive at our destination with the hope and expectation of being entertained. If we are, we appreciate it, because it is such a change from our working life and family commitments. If we are not, we can still enjoy the experience for the same reasons.

The critics view is slowly skewered and warped to fit the world view they have developed; to become so highly subjective that the art for review cannot stand as art against a backdrop of everyday human existence; it only exists in relation to other, similar, art. The result is their opinion means less and less to the rest of us.

I am sure that politicians suffer a similar fate. They start out as a representative of their constituency in the real world, but then get embroiled in a false, narrow environment that skewers their perception and disconnects them from the world they came from and the job they started out to do.

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Fed up with spam after networking events? Join the NHS!

I would like to start a campaign in support of NHS. Various agents have tried to change NHS policy, but I want to make it clear that there should be only one policy:

Networkers Hate Spam.

Am I the only person fed up with attending networking events and then being emailed later that day or the next with ‘Hi, it was great to meet you at the breakfast this morning…please buy from me’ when you never even spoke to them?

Do these folk think this is the way to behave; that networking is about pushing yourself at people, whether you have spoken to them or not, agreed to follow up or not, or even actually talked to them or not?

Lloyds TSB make it part of their policy to ask attendees not to spam. If you have made arrangements to follow up with specific people you met, that’s fine, but don’t then spam the whole delegate list.

And make no mistake, it is spam! If I send a speculative email to someone I haven’t met; it is spam. There are occasions when you have to do this as part of growing your database, but there are ways of doing it.

First, tell the truth; you didn’t meet or speak with me, but you would like to. Then tell me why. Offer me something, perhaps, for free, with no strings attached. And never, ever - at this early stage - ask for the sale; I don’t even know you!

And at least attempt to personalise it. Do it through Mail Chimp or similar so you can address it personally. Even better, send a personalised email to only those on the list who you genuinely have synergy with and could offer some kind of help or valuable content.

And if you think that’s everyone; think again.

To Business West:

A similar announcement to the Lloyds one at the beginning of the BW breakfasts would be most welcome.

To genuine networkers:

Apologies for teaching you to suck eggs; this post is not aimed at you.


 Let’s give NHS a voice! Networkers Hate Spam.

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Help! Where’s my IP address?

Many people, it seems, do not know how to set or change the IP address on their computer. This is something usually done by the IT guy and then forgotten about.

Indeed, had I not been forced to learn due to my job, I would still remain in blissful ignorance that such a thing even existed, let alone any idea of its’ function; even now I have only the most rudimentary grasp.

For those as ignorant as I, Wikipedia describes it thus: ‘a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication.’

Rather succinct, I thought. To me, it is how the net recognises the device and devices recognise each other.

Each of our clients has a set of IP addresses inside their own Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN – I really am getting technical now). This means they can network with each other, printers, servers, etc.

This has worked very well for us and our clients and everyone has been happy…until now.

This method was fine for desktop computers that are going to sit permanently in the office.

The bells are tolling for the Desktop

But what happens when we change the way we work?

Who, for example, is buying desktop computers, these days? I would venture, not many; and for good reason. With a plethora of mobile devices – laptops, notebooks, tablets, phones – who needs a hefty tower and monitor.

As the cost of these devices go down and their technical capabilities increase (memory, processing, battery life, etc), their key feature – mobility – is enhanced dramatically. In a brilliant convergence of social need and technological development, they fit right in to the lifestyle of the modern agile worker.

Most of our newest clients have come to work armed with laptops and I do not see this changing back.

So, what about my IP address?

Well, now it’s something of a pain. Because, if your laptop is set up to work with a cable at home, you will have to change the IP address for it to work in the office. And then change it back again when you get home. And change it yet again when you go back to the office. And then…well, you get the picture.

You could work wirelessly by connecting to one of the many wireless access points in the building, but this is much less secure as it bypasses your VLAN and leaves your device open to the internet. Additionally, you would not then be on the same VLAN as your wired printer or back-up drive, so you would not have access to these devices.

Given the aforementioned developments, this situation seems anachronistic, so we have created a simple way round it. I use the term ‘we’ in the royal sense, since it was our IT guy (Tim) who lead us into the light.

We simply put a wireless router – or I might mean a wireless access point (please ask Tim) - in for each client that does not already have their own. Now any of their mobile devices will find their private wireless network automatically and device settings do not need to be changed.

You could argue we should have seen this coming and you would be right. I am talking to Tim much more now about what might be around the corner. It just shows how the technological age won’t let you relax. And as service-driven businesses, we have to stay sharp or lose out to the competition.

For now, I am happy we found a solution. Our clients can rest safely in the knowledge that they don’t need to know anything about their IP address, ever again. Just ask Tim.


Tim Lester is director at IT-Synergy and looks after the Colston Office Centre as well as several of our clients. Check out his website for more info.

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Why don’t do we ask for help?

Do we recognise when we need help? Do we know when to ask, who to ask?

I don’t need help

How many times have I said this? The answer is, more times than I care to remember. And you know when you hear others say these words very often the exact opposite is true.

I think I am quite good at asking for help, but what that means is it is fine if I have instigated the request. If someone gets in before I am ready to ask and offers to help, I usually reject it: which means I have just lost an opportunity.

I have lost an opportunity to get the help I need, to move forward, to have the pleasure of working with someone, to give them the satisfaction of helping, to learn.

Intellectually I know that working with others creates better results; that the whole produced is often greater than the sum of the parts; that we are a social animal and thrive on that interaction. In fact, I love working with other people.

So, why does asking for help still feel too often like weakness?

What we are taught

Much of our literature and our social history are about self-reliance and strength of character. Stories of hero’s (from Bond to Baggins), the British stiff upper lip, colonialism, religious stories (Jesus in the Wilderness, the enlightenment of the Buddah) all show independence as positive and re-affirming.

As children, we are taught to be brave; not to cry; to not question authority; to be concerned about how others perceive us. All these influences enforce self-reliance.

I even wonder about the effect the service we sometimes receive as consumers might affect our behaviour.

How many times do you ring a number to ask for help – it might be HMRC, a utilities provider or a retail store – and you have to listen to some endless instructions from the automated phone system that starts with something like ‘all our information is on our website, please go to wwwdotwecan’tbebotheredtotalktoyoudotcom’.

It always makes me think that they want me to do the work so that they save money. But, does it also reprimand us slightly for asking for help? Does it reinforce the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness?

What happens in business?

And when it comes to the business arena the stakes can be at their highest. We cannot be wrong, weak or lacking knowledge amidst our peers for fear of not getting the promotion or not impressing our clients.

This means that business owners and business leaders have to be expert in everything, totally self-aware, utterly efficient, faultless and boundless. In other words: Gods. It is all too easy for a business owner to tie their identity and self-worth to the success of their business.

To combat this, lots of business people join network groups. They join to get more business, but find that they get a lot of support from the group that they may not have been expecting.

They learn about reciprocity. Business networking groups often talk about this: BNI, for example use the term ‘givers gain’. The idea being that if you help someone, they will help you.

But do we want to be beholden to people or them to us? Is it the same offering help if you are expecting help in return? Where is the altruism in that? (Assuming altruism actually exists, which I doubt, other than in very rare cases).

Of course many business leaders deliberately surround themselves with all the help they need, specifically to counter their weaknesses and create success.

These are the people who know when and how to ask for help. They know asking for help allows them and their community to grow, forges relationships and gives them the best chance of achieving their goals.

You see? I know it’s the right thing to do. I just don’t always do it.

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Office space is no longer required

Sitting at your desk all day, working 9 – 5 Monday to Friday, seeing the same people every day, commuting in and out during rush hour, missing important time with your family. Who needs that?

Well, it may surprise you that many do, but more of that later.


The office in your head

In the industrial age, the office or factory was sacrosanct. The work could not be done elsewhere, as even when there was no manual labour involved, there was nevertheless a great deal of activity using equipment that was far from mobile.

Think early typewriters, early telecoms and even early computers, not to mention the huge amounts of paper needing to be filed.

In this environment, the time you spent at work was how you were measured and how you were paid. Then came the division of labour and jobs were broken down into the most rudimentary segments and repeated endlessly.

These days, work is far more in our heads. Both because a great deal of work now is knowledge work, rather than any kind of production, and because technology (mobile and cloud) gives us easy access to all our work, and the whole world’s work, to tap into wherever we are, whenever we want.


A virtual office

We offer a virtual office service at the Centre; by which we mean a mailing address and/or a telephone answering service. There are other elements to it, but this is the main thrust. And that’s fine, but a virtual office now can be so much more.

Your data need not be on any machine or device that you control and have to worry about – it can be on somebody else’s machine, often for free, who promises to have all the information you have stored there available constantly, all the time and for all time.

You no longer need a direct, physical connection to communicate. With email, mobile phones, text, skype, twitter and hundreds more, you can communicate with millions, all over the planet.

You don’t even need a business card. Our online profiles can be so comprehensive now that many are beginning to think they don’t need anything physical to tell people who they are.


The redundant office

The office that people need now is a much more moveable feast. The key is flexibility. Whether you are a freelancer or work for a large corporate, you need to work, meet clients, collaborate, network and build relationships.

For larger businesses, office space can act as a hub of information and default centre for many activities, with those not permanently based there augmenting this with working from home, clients, cafes, etc.

For micro businesses, they may not even need the central office. It depends on size and personalities, but the whole business can be run on the hoof: home, café’s, meeting rooms, and more.


So, who does want to stay in the office?

As I mentioned earlier, while the commute, regularity and missing family moments may be problems, many people still would not work from home.

In a recent study, call-centre workers in China were offered the opportunity to work from home. Those who volunteered for the experiment were randomly split; some to work at home and a control group to stay in the office.

The experiment was successful (the full details are here), but what was interesting was that half the home-working group and over half of the control group changed their minds about wanting to work from home.

The experience of the first group led them to re-evaluate their suitability for home-working and the control group cited concerns about isolation among other issues even though they had not experienced the situation first hand..

Whatever we say about the traditional office environment, there is no doubt that it suits many to work that way. It also provides a communal base for knowledge share, idea generation, social interaction and relationship-building. However, that does not mean the office cannot be made a more exciting, vibrant and fluid place to work and to inspire and be inspired.

For others who are suited to agile working, especially younger generations who have grown up in a mobile, always-on-always-connected world, the office may seem anachronistic.

At this moment in time, I cannot envision the end of the office, but in 50 years time – or 500 – who knows? Perhaps the office will no longer be required. I am only glad I don’t have to worry about it just yet.

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Co-working and the space between us

I have been using the term co-working a lot recently: in relation to what I am doing at the Centre it is all about working with others, but I think it is also important to bear in mind that the term can be used to describe the process of working with others.

No, you’re not going mad and neither am I – there are two different meanings.

You can work at the same time as others, because you are sharing a space. There is merit here, because you do not feel isolated and you can chat and engage with your co-workers – even if you don’t know them.

However, we can also work with others collaboratively, working together on the same project or idea. This, for me, is one of the goals of co-working: building relationships, developing ideas, cross referring business, skills and talent.


To Jelly…

This is what came to me today as I was chatting with the guests at our Jelly. They were talking about their ideas and making suggestions, bouncing ideas around and it occurred to me that this is what co-working is all about.

It’s not just about ‘working with’ by taking a desk in a shared space. It is about seeing who is around you, what you have in common, where you connect, how you might be able to help or be helped, and when you might see them again.


…or not to Jelly

This is obvious, of course, and why I was interested in holding Jelly’s here in the first place. What is equally obvious to me is that Jelly’s are not the only way to work together; in the technological and connection age, we have many ways to work together virtually.

Through online video, social media, file sharing sites, email and text, we can interact 24/7, sharing information, knowledge, ideas, plans and even dreams.


Is this the end of face to face?

Watching young people going around with music being piped directly into their ears, thumbs dancing to some strange new choreography across a mobile phone and their verbal dexterity hidden behind bad grammar and textspeak and we can be forgiven for thinking that physical proximity is a thing of the past.

There is no doubt that an always-on, always-connected world reduces the need for physical interaction, but to replace it completely? I do not think this is the future.

Being with people is the ultimate human comfort. We are social animals and need physical contact to feel warmth and belonging, to read body language and to feel truly connected.

Technology enables to work around the need for proximity, when it is convenient and faster for us to do so, but it will not replace this basic human need.

So, our co-working space has its’ place and we hope to see more people her at future events, working with others, sharing their knowledge, building their knowledge and benefitting from the face to face.


Find out more about our next free Colston Jelly

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Bristol’s newest and oldest co-working hub

The Colston Office Centre has just launched its’ co-working space with the first Jelly of 2013.

With eight people from a host of different business attending on the 27th February, plus our experts at hand to provide advice and help on a wide range of issues, and some very positive feedback, I think it’s safe to say the day was a success.

In fact, we already have some repeat bookings for the next one, which is on Wednesday, 27th March.

So, why is it also the oldest co-working space?

Well, we have actually been doing this for several years, with some success - offering hot-desks, events and advisers – we have just never called it co-working before.

What is co-working?

It is an idea from the states that is similar to our incubation hubs, such as SETsquared at Bristol University.

The premise is that local entrepreneurs meet up, work and network in shared space: there may be open work desks, more enclosed booths for concentration or privacy, informal meeting areas for chat and brainstorming, formal meeting space and central resources like copiers and admin support.

In addition, sites may provide mentors, consultants, even an ‘executive board’ to review business plans, as well as trusted third party service providers, a variety of events and training along with the chance to meet potential funding/investment partners.

Does this exist in Bristol?

As mentioned, we have SETsquared, Science City, BRAVE, Wilder Studios, Mild Bunch, the Wool Hall and other community groups, which help to make Bristol a healthy and vibrant business community encouraging business start-up and growth.

The benefits to the businesses that use the spaces are obvious: sometimes free, but always economic space; opportunities for collaboration, learning and networking; and access to help and support.

While employment law and technology is increasingly making it easy to work from home, many solo and mobile workers find this an isolating experience and welcome the opportunity to work in a shared environment.

There is also a significant benefit to the community as new and small businesses are encouraged and nurtured to grow and make an important contribution to the local economy.

Do we need office space?

The current state of the commercial property sector is testament to the fact that demand for conventional, leased office space has reduced under the pressures of the economic climate. Technology is also a great enabler, allowing the modern workforce to work from anywhere, and this is being used to good effect by many companies, both large and small.

The serviced office sector has, however, remained buoyant and is even still growing. And business centres are the perfect environment to develop co-working spaces.

However, I believe that even business centres are going to have to think about the way people want to work, both now and in the future, and adapt their services to suit. While the idea of an office will not disappear any time soon, we all need to work hard to reflect the future of work and what that ‘office’ might look like.

So it looks like the newest (and oldest) co-working is here to stay and if you fancy giving it a go for free, then you can book a space at the next Colston Jelly here.

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