Connect rather than network

One of our earlier blogs gave some top tips for networking. This blog takes the concept a little further with the idea of connecting rather than networking.

Networking can often be about collecting a load of business cards or getting high numbers of followers on twitter, essentially it is about numbers rather than depth. A connector is someone who not only knows a lot of people but knows their stories, names and current challenges or potentials.

They connect people and introduce them to one another rather than collect them and stash then in a box. A connector is someone who is instantly recognisable as a person who seems to make friends and acquaintances with people easily. When you talk to them in a room full of people they seem interested in you and you start telling them things which normally you would keep to yourself. After a few minutes chatting with a connector you are like old friends.

Many connectors are incredibly helpful and reach out and connect with another person in a way which is not about what they are after from a relationship but what they can give. This is a total change from networking with an eye on business because it is also about free and willing help and information. You share. It doesnt mean you dont hold things back but it does mean that where you can help you do and you dont automatically think about a return.

Of course there is competition out there but sometimes it needs to be combined with cooperation and collaboration to be really successful. If we constantly see the people we meet as competition then we are really missing a trick because often we are more powerful together and if we help them they may in return help us right back.

People are often worried about going up to total strangers and saying hello but try it and see if it works. Try to examine what works for you and what doesn’t and above all be interested in the other person. We can all tell the difference between someone who is simply interested in what they can get out of us and someone who is genuinely interested in us as a person. The latter person is a connector.

Connectors are people who stray outside their comfort zones and have a variety of interests, they are collectors and are curious about the world. A connector will be willing to take chances and may have had a varied career path, they will have a lot to offer as well as a willingness to give. They also make links and so will see that someone should meet with someone else simply because they may get on or have something in common not just because it holds a monetary value. A connector can span many areas, niches and cultures as Malcolm Gladwell points out in the Tipping Point.

So next time you go to a meeting with new people, networking event or even a new club or membership group become a connector. Invoke your genuine interest in the people around you, be curious, engage and listen to their story, consider who else they might be interested in and introduce them and see value in the relationship itself rather than what you can get out of it.

Become a Connection Agent.

CBPartners offer several free ways to practice your skills at our HR Forums and our Employers Forums. PLease ring Amin Vepari on 01254 505050 for more information and to book a place on our forums in February.

Marketing for small business – part two

In the last blog we wrote on marketing we talked in a very strategic way about how to get it to fit with your business plans and  what marketing really was.

In this blog we are going to focus on helpful tools which may not cost as much as you think and which after all should be measured in terms of Return on Investment or ROI. At the last Employers Forum Jean Atkinson talked about marketing which inspired these two blogs and her slide on tools is reproduced here as a pretty comprehensive list of the things which can be used to market your business.

Direct Mail
Social Media ??
Referrals / testimonials / networking
Affiliate marketing
Case studies
Web casts / webinars / podcasts
Viral marketing
Mobile devices / apps
Trade fairs / exhibitions / events
TV / radio
Public relations
Digital brochures
Special offers / promotions

So which ones are best and which should be used? I will talk about only a few.

We have already blogged on Social media for small businesses and whilst many businesses think they have to have twitter or facebook they need to consider the time involved and ask what will be different shoudl they use these medium. The positives of using social media are that it increases your reach, gives you an easy way to listen to customers and can lead to more specific targeting and market research.

Websites are very important but for businesses struggling to find funding a facebook site can be tailored to your own company using logos and banners and Linkedin is even better for a company site. Some businesses even use blogging sites such as wordpress instead of paying for a web designer and someone to maintain and manage it. Having a web site which just sits there doing nothing is a waste of money.

Word of mouth is extremely important and therefore knowing how your customers feel about you is increasingly part of using testimonials and referrals. Once again Linkedin can come up trumps on this one by asking customers to write a recommendation and this can then be used in other ways as well.

Email marketing can be cost effective but can also pose potential problems if people have not opted in and you can easily fall foul of the data protection act so it is best to ensure you know what you are doing and use a reputable firm. It is simple to use but once again you need to ensure your email is catchy and not just seen as spam. Give potential customers some information which is important to them.

There is still a place for leaflets and posters of course you can also hold open house events and invite people to come and spend time at your business or have a tour of your facility. You can run contests but make them imaginative and make sure you have prizes which dont take a million years to reach the person who wins.

Becoming a sponsor or donor is also marketing and ensures you are known for philanthropic reasons as well as business. It can help your triple bottom line as well. Other things which may cost little are things such as declaring your own special day so for example saying Tuesdays are Sugarfree for a dental surgery and then letting the local press know what you are doing.

Use your imagination with your marketing and be creative. Dont just go for tried and tested tools and techniques but think of what will make you stand out and be different. Always measure the results because if there is no return on your investment (even if that is only your time) it should be scrapped.

Lastly good relationship building takes time and so patience is needed. Our strongest relationships are those which are built over time and are consistent, trusting and flexible and the same is true for business relationships.

Many thanks to Jean Atkinson from Eden Marketing for the use of her slides from our Employers Forum. The next Forum will be on the 28th February and is free thanks to our sponsor Blackburn College. The Forum will focus on Accelerating Business Growth, Funding sources and Finance. For more details please ring Amin Vepari on 01254 505050

Marketing for small businesses – Part one

When you are starting up in business and worrying about how to make the payments for your overheads marketing can seem a world away from reality but it is something we all do every day in business.

Selling yourself and your products or services to customers is marketing; networking is marketing; chatting on the phone about your business to friends is marketing and lastly and most importantly listening to your customers is marketing. Unless you know what your customers think about you it is impossible to improve your product or service in a constructive way.

Good customer service and great impressions of your products and services are at the centre of good marketing.

So how do you start out?

1. Think about how you currently market your business. You need to know what you already do which is marketing and also consider your financial health, current clients, potential clients, competition, referral sources, staff and time. When you know all these things you can think about what you are doing well and what needs to change in order to make things better. A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is very helpful here.

2. Consider your long term goals – what do you really want from your business? How much money do you want to make, how many hours a week do you want to work, what types of clients do you want and how large do you want your business to be? You may also consider whether or not you want more staff or if you want a national or a local reach.

3. Create a plan for each of your goals and more importantly a call to action. What are you actually going to do to achieve the business you envisage?

4. Consider your marketing tools – what do you do already to market yourself and what could you do? Can you conduct a survey of customers for example using something like Survey Monkey which is free and easy to use? Should you concentrate on emails, social media, leaflets or face to face networking? Can you utilise your local press or write articles for the paper or a magazine? There are a myriad of things you can do to increase both customer satisfaction and to extend your customer base which are neither costly nor involve outside help.

5. Dont forget that marketing is the means to building the business you want but not the end. Ultimately you want to build a sustainable business or grow a business to sell on. Do not spend time, money  and energy on something if it does not progress you towards your goals and dont be sucked into doing the same thing everyone else is. Dont be afraid to be unique and to be yourself after all your business is about you.

So before you consider which tools you are going to use and how to get ahead with your business do some of the hard thinking yourself and answer some of the questions here.

From 0 to +1, working with others

Having run a business on my own and with others, with a few Directors and a few employees the difference that employees can make is both exciting and alarming.

When you have no one else to answer to but yourself, your time, workspace, whereabouts and general attitude are completely in your own hands. Suddenly when you have an employee you have to start thinking about other things and how you look to them is one of these.

I once worked as one of two directors in a company where we employed one person to begin with in the office. She seemed great until we realised that when we were not around she was doing work for other companies and we had to fire her. We had not considered what putting someone in an office alone for most of the time when we were out delivering the work might be like. When we had other staff it was fine leaving them some of the time but we were usually  using temporary staff for short periods and we had to be there to support them. We solved  the issue by having a virtual office and PA in order to continue getting the support but not having to employ a permanent member of the team.

Of course there are legal things to consider such as contracts, health and safety and payroll but there are also other considerations which are about business practices to think about, so here is a list of 5 things to consider before employing people.

1. Where will the person work? – This may sound silly but there is a big difference between a virtual team and one which shares business space whether it is an office or a factory. If the person is working from home you need to consider equipment, security, hours and how you will monitor their efforts. In an office space there are still considerations about space and equipment to be had. I have worked in a few organisations where I had to find my own desk and chair and search for equipment and others where I hot desked (sharing desks).

2. What hours are usual in a day? – Another question which seems to go without saying but every place I have ever worked in has had its own unspoken rules. Even when hours are flexible there may be core times to be in and available. Some companies are very much run during business hours only but in others out of hours phone calls and work may be the norm. Some people who run businesses do far more than an 8 hour day and may need to consider what they think is reasonable for someone who is a paid employee to do. If the culture of a company is long hours it should be made clear rather than raising eyebrows when someone carries out their allotted time and goes home.

3. Is there a dress code? – If you work in an industry which traditionally wears suits is that what you want from an employee? As the boss you might think that a dress code is obvious but unless it is actually spelled out it may well not be. Jewellery and piercings may need to be considered and things such as appropriate hair, make up and length of skirt. You may decide to do dress down Fridays or if you are techy company jeans, flip flops and flowing shirts may well be the uniform. Again it pays to think this through and consider your customers and the impression you want to give.

4. How do you want customers to be addressed? Customer service is key to any good business whether it is in a service industry or a creative one. The way staff answer the phone, address people who come into the office and generally behave towards customers is important. If I visit a company who make me wait, dont give me a drink and chat about the office or mention their work or clients whilst I listen in I make certain assumptions, first impressions count.

5. How will you get employees to be as passionate about the business as you are? I do know some small business owners who complain that their staff do not put as much into the business as they do. Frankly I am not surprised and know that as a business owner I have a different take on the business to employees. Large organisations sometimes get buy in by giving share options to employees and that is one of the keys to getting passion even for a small company. If employees share a sense of ambition for the business, are totally impressed by the product and understand where you are headed you will get passion in spades. That is something that every boss should strive to engender and should seek out at interview.

HR Forum   – Wed 7th March 2012 Clayton conference Centre Junction 7 Business Park (M65).

Corporate Social Responsibility

Something that many companies actually do but dont always put a name to is to work with their local charities or make sure they are giving back to their local community in some way, in other words, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). To many struggling in the current economic climate giving back can also seem low on the list or priorities when keeping the company going is the main priority.

Corporate Social Responsibility is not just about giving back though, it is self regulation which is integrated into the business model, ensuring that a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the law, ethical standards and international norms. Its goal is to encourage the business to have a positive impact on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and members of the public.

For many larger businesses the focus is on shareholders and CSR is a way of giving back and focussing on a larger community of stakeholders. Many have called it the Triple Bottom Line and companies are increasingly being asked for evidence as to how they meet this.

For some companies simply using fair trade products is enough but for others the commitment to community and environment goes far deeper. Since 2001 the John Lewis Partnership has produced a report on CSR looking at how they are managing their environmental impact, working with suppliers and local communities and how their employees or Partners share and contribute to their commercial success and its rewards. The report includes things such as a clear commitment to CSR for staff, the environment and customers, products and suppliers and of course local communities. The aim is to do things like deliver a 15% absolute reduction in Carbon Dioxide emissions by 2020 and by December 2015 make sure that 100% of the soya in own brand products comes from Responsible sources. The company contributes 1% of pre tax profits to charitable and community initiatives and provides support to overseas disasters through the Red Cross. They participate in volunteer schemes and are partners in community sports schemes.

This all sounds great for large organisations and multi nationals but how can a smaller business make a difference? Business is not an isolated thing, CSR is about understanding your impact on the wider community and considering the impact of your business in an ethical way. It means going beyond the minimum legal requirements with employees and with your efforts towards environmental support, dealing responsibly with customers and measuring the effectiveness of these efforts.

This can have business benefits in building a solid reputation as a responsible business, good to work for and affecting the wider community in a positive way. It goes much further towards building your brand than straight forward marketing efforts because you are giving back. You can also bring cash benefits to the business by cutting waste and utility bills. Saving money by recycling and reusing waste products as well as by cutting down on waste is part of CSR.

Recruitment and retention of employees can also be helped by ensuring that people are treated well and motivation of employees can also be enhanced. Working with the local community will not only give positive press but will also help to ensure you have good relationships with your local council.

If you want to know more about giving back via SAMS, as a volunteer, mentor or via one of our charities please follow the links.

Help! I dont have the time.

As a business owner or even just a busy person with a myriad of competing priorities how we make use of our time is crucial in order to remain both sane and productive.

A great deal of people talk about time management but to me that is a bit of a mistake. The first mistake is that there are a few myths around in this field.

1. Making time, finding time etc. –  No that is not possible. We all have the same time 24 hours within which we need to do certain things, you cannot make more it is what we have.

2. Working harder makes you more productive. – No it doesn’t. Longer hours are not more productive and wear you out. Even 9-5 for some people is unproductive. Even if you manage to work long hours is it your best work? To get the best from yourself you also need rest and time to think. A job which is rushed and unplanned will not be a good job well done. If something is worth it time shoudl be spent doing it well.

So consider how much time in a day you waste – and by waste I dont mean relaxing or making coffee. Take the time to write a diary for one week detailing everything that you do from the moment you wake up until you go to bed and dont cheat. Every time I do this exercise it is impossible to miss some of the ways in which time is wasted and again that is not the same as time spent chilling out and relaxing.

Consider how much time you spend in meetings. Firstly are they a good use of time? Secondly are meetings really productive? For each meeting you go to or attend give it a mark out of ten for productivity. Certainly in the public sector meetings are a time drain second to none and I have even attended project meetings talking about whether or not to have a meeting. Think about whether or not the right people were there and how each meeting could be improved. Perhaps consider the novel idea of talking to people in other ways, conference calls, Skype or possibly no meetings at all.

Do you have a lot of corridor conversations? Are they useful? I have worked in organisations where business was conducted in the corridor but also in organisations where we just chatted and swapped gossip.

Offices are places where business is interrupted all day long. There is no flow and no real working environment whatever it might look like. The phone goes, people stop to talk to each other, a meeting is held and lunch is taken, people make coffee and then oh look its time for home and nothing has been accomplished. I suspect we have all had days like these and then told everyone how busy we were.

Working from home is not only cheaper and more convenient but it means we can get on with the things we need to do. Interruptions are far less frequent and once we get our head down we get on with something and really finish things.

Flow is important in making time work for you and actually finishing things off. It is surprising to many when they first work from home how much they achieve in far shorter time. Free from interruptions concentration is easier and you can suit yourself about how you manage each task.

So if you really dont have enough time start by writing down what it is you are actually doing and keep a time diary. I will be amazed if anyone is really filling every waking moment. Dont forget that relaxing, exercising, thinking and reading actually make you more not less productive. You dont get great ideas in an office but usually driving, on the bus, walking, in the bath, in the bar or in bed!

You’ll never work alone

For many small business owners starting out is a lonely and intense process. The burden of responsibility is on your shoulders alone and for those who are used to a corporate environment it can be quite depressing to suddenly spend time in an office of one. Most of us are team players and so running a business when it is just you is quite isolating and scary.

Here are our top tips to ensure you feel supported and can manage to work well on your own.

1. Set yourself some goals, targets call them anything but know what it is you want to achieve. Our blog on goals last week may help. If you have something to work towards and know what it is you will succeed. It can be tempting to drift aimlessly or to simply be so busy that you do not plan or take time to do a goal setting exercise. Successful businesses have goals.

2. Know where it is you want to be in a year, six months or even five years. Set yourself a vision alongside your goals. Your goals are the call to action your vision should be centred around where you are going and where you want to end up. Our blog on setting a vision may help.

3. Make sure you take breaks. This may sound silly but just as in any office setting you have set breaks make sure your day is ordered and you take some time for relaxing. Making yourself ill by over work are never going to get you where you want to be. When you take a break get out of the house/office and get some fresh air or do something completely different such as reading a good book. Make sure you keep yourself well hydrated during the day as well.

4. Get out there and network. There are free networks you can join and we run several in our area. There is also help and support available online. Twitter may sound as though it is just for celebrities but it can be a good place to network as well and linkedin is great for business to business working. When you go to an event make sure you are meeting new people and chatting, join in conversations and feel part of something.

5. Break up your day with real conversations by phone, skype or face to face. Making sure you talk to someone during the day may sound weird but actually it is important particularly for those of us who work alone and are extraverts. It is nice to make some human contact in the course of a day.

6. Look at your support network and increase it. If you know people in similar positions to you meet up once in a while and take time to find out how the other person is. Not only will this make you feel part of a larger business community but one to one chats can be a great way to catch up on other people’s business success and support them in turn.

7. Keep things professional in your house, if it is your office. If you work in your pyjamas fair enough but if someone popped in to see you would it be ok? I know people who get dressed for the office at home and have their desk as it would be in a professional setting. Sometimes it helps to actually behave as though you still have a boss. Of course there are those of us who like to relax too so you need to find a way of getting your office space as you want it.

8. Make sure that your family or housemates respect what you do and know when you are working. Some people like to keep office hours when working for themselves others are more flexible. A mum I know who works from home makes sure she is available when the kids get home from school but then gets back to work, her hours are flexible but the family know this means she may work when they are around.

Do you have any top tips on things which have helped you to run your business and start out on your own? How well does your support network work? Let us know.

If you would like any further information on our support networks please phone the office on 01254 505050

Why Vision matters in 2012

Vision is an important component of any business from start up to large successful organisations but it can be a missing piece of the puzzle when you are starting out or running a small business. You dont have to have some written statement of being the biggest or the best but you do need to have an idea of where you are going and what you are aiming for.

If there is only you surely you know what it is you do and where you are going in business?

It is surprising how many people do not really have an idea of where they want to be, how big they want to grow or even how much money they want to make.

If you dont know these things dont despair here are a few tips to creating a vision for your company.

1. The first thing to think about is when will you know you have achieved your vision. Consider what it will look like, what you will hear about your company and what you will see. What inspires you and what makes you get out of bed in the morning? Why do you take risks and run your own company and what is it about being your own boss which motivates you?

2. Keep things simple. This is not about grand statements like ending world poverty. Of course it is something we all want to see happen but your part to play in that might be a little smaller. It may be that you need to think big and then start to get a little realistic. What can you achieve in the long term and what do you want to happen? Create a vision board. A lot of fun can be had doing this so tear out pictures of what you want or if you are good at drawing go for it and draw it out. Before you stick things down move your pictures about and make them make sense to you. See your journey ahead with clarity and make the pictures reflect it, write some words alongside if that helps and think about what people will say about your company too.

3. Share your vision. I once worked with a wonderful woman who had a way with words and said “if you have a vision which isn’t shared it is a hallucination”. Having a vision board makes it easy to tell the story of where you want to be and you can keep it in your office for inspiration. If you dont want to go down that road make a clear commitment to telling people or your staff exactly where it is you are all going. Get everyone on board and if you do work with other people let them help create the vision in the first place. Sell your vision to potential clients and new staff. Everyone shoudl know what it is you aim to do and where you are going.

4. Reinforce behaviour which moves you towards your vision. Celebrate each success along the way and make sure people who work with or for you know when they are moving in the right direction. Ensure everyone knows from the cleaner to the client what it is you want to achieve as a company.

5. Show others what it is you want by actually doing it yourself. Walk the talk. Some bosses want more from their staff than they are prepared to do themselves. If your vision includes being organised and running an office which looks professional dont be the one who has an untidy desk. If your vision includes always answering a customer query within 24 hours dont leave yourself open to criticism by not following through or answering emails for weeks.

So go out there and get your vision for 2012 sorted  and start to make your business even more successful.

Resolutions – goals, goals, goals!

It is still early in the New Year and technically the 6th January heralds the end of the festive season so its not too late to make a couple of resolutions.

Like any goal setting exercise we often get New Years resolutions wrong making far too many, forgetting that it requires effort and self discipline to make a goal happen and looking too far into the future so that the goal is unmanageable.

Creating goals which can be achieved is a skill which requires a little thought and just saying I will be thin, fit, rich or a non smoker are not going to work. We often make too many goals at New Year as well and therefore the whole thing becomes unattainable.

Firstly all goals need to follow a few rules when they are made. There is nothing wrong with having big dreams or wanting things to change but making it happen can be problematic. So let’s start with the time honoured SMART approach to goal setting.

As an example let’s say we want to double our income.

The first step is to be specific. If your goal is to double your income put some figures down and make them stick. You need to ask yourself some questions about this because there are differences between net and gross income and you dont want your doubled income to float away into taxes or overheads so this specific goal should be related to how much money goes into your pocket or that of your co workers. So a specific goal might be “go from my income last year of 30,000 take home pay to 60,000″ or to “make my company more profitable by taking our income from 60,000 to 120,000 by year end”.

The second step is to be measurable. Make sure that the criteria for success is concrete and that you can stay on track by splitting the year into quarters for example and that reaching your goal is measured along the way as well as at the end. Think about how you will recognise that the goal has been achieved, what you will see as a result and what you will hear. So a measurable goal might be “make 60,000 by year end and ensure that 20,000 comes in each quarter,” or “my company will be able to meet all financial constraints at year end such as corporation tax and VAT and I will have 60,000 left over.”

The third step is to make the goal achievable. Start to think about what you need in order to get there. To increase your income do you need new clients, better processes, skills, new products etc? Consider the part you play in making things happen and also that of others who may help along the way.

The fourth step is to make the goal realistic and this means thinking about whether or not you can achieve it. If you set your goal as going from a loss to a profit of over a million in one year when you have no new clients and the economy is in a downturn you may not succeed.

Lastly make your goals timely. Ensure that they have a time scale and that it is set so that each step takes you towards that accomplishment. Year end is a good one for business and dividing the year into financial quarters is also helpful. Unless there is a timescale you can put things off.

So the first few steps are to write things down and set your goals. Then consider what you will do today to achieve your goal, make a start immediately.

That was last year – a look ahead

Amongst all the news about the continuing crisis in the Euro Zone and the issues of economic slow down, recession or crisis there are some commentators recommending we look forward and put 2011 to bed.

So what does this year hold for social enterprise, charities and businesses?

1. There is a real expectation that consumer spending and confidence may rise a little this year, particularly after the summer (around the time of the Olympics). There will be a big difference between the first half of the year and the second in that case. This presents a challenge for business to start to exploit that good feeling in the second half of the year and make sure that the ground work is completed in the first half of the year.

2. The latest global economic survey from Ipsos Mori says we are one of the gloomiest economic nations on earth going into 2012. Yes this could be a very slow recovery but the thing for business is to ensure that the building blocks for success are in place and for those of us who support business to continue to make sure we deliver the right support for success.

3. The internet and online business market will continue to flourish because it makes economic sense and can cross geographical boundaries. The role of social media in crossing those boundaries and in ensuring business success will increasingly make the difference between success and failure. Business will need to be flexible and connected.

4.The role of the social enterprise will continue to step into gaps left by the decline of the public sector and to really make a mark in forging a different type of business and enterprise possible in the UK. Collaboration in economic crisis is paramount to success and that the key to that success lies in smaller scale, local solutions.

5. Charities and social enterprises will need to continue their creative drive in order to remain profitable and to find new sources of funding. There will be a need for greater support and networking between them all in order to share best practice and support new ways of solving gaps in funding. One of the crucial issues will be getting business to work alongside social enterprise in order to fully realise value on both sides and in order to close the gap and align social enterprise with commercial purposes.

6.  Aligning social benefit with and value with business will become an increasing issue in 2012. A new white paper looking at commissioning in the public sector is focussing on just this and will push for commissioning with social value.

7. Networking is key to both business and social enterprise and charity success this year. It will be increasingly important to reach out and create a social fellowship where good ideas and support can be shared.

8. With a shrinking public sector there are opportunities for the private sector, social enterprises and charities to step into the void and provide local, competent and innovative solutions. With GP commissioning becoming a real issue social enterprises can provide flexible solutions to issues such as long term and chronic illness.

9. Business and the third sector will need to pay greater attention to data and make sure it delivers not just financials but also information and insight into customers, business opportunities and cost savings. There is a plethora of free tools out there and this is one market I see continuing to grow.

10. There will be more mobile working in 2012 with an increase in the use of home working and the benefits that brings for both companies and employees. This will also mean ensuring that information and data is protected as much on mobile tools as it is in the office. Hopefully it will mean a reduction in face to face meetings which are unproductive and time wasting.

So these are my top ten reasons for thinking that 2012 will be a better year for business and social enterprise than 2011. What do you think the year holds for us all?

We welcome comments and interaction. CBPartners is running a series of free networking events to help you and your business starting in January.

Business development Drop in days
Monday 9th January
Monday 6th February
Tuesday 6th March

Our next Employers Forum is on the 24th January and will feature talks on managing marketing priorities from Jean Atkinson of Eden Marketing Ltd and a discussion on online security from Lee Hezzlewood. There is a free buffet lunch and the opportunity to network with other businesses.

Please ring us on 01254 505050 to book a place and discuss your business needs.