Paul – Severn Valley Business Group

Author: Paul


Paul Marshall has run his own Structural Engineering Business called Marshall Structures Ltd for 4 years now. Although, he has an impressive 25 years within the Industry. Paul Marshall is a qualified Chartered Engineer (CEng), along with being a Member of the Institution of Structural Engineers (MIStructE) and a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (MICE). He also practices Party Wall Surveying being a Member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors

A Pencil Related Blog!

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As an engineer I use pencils quite a lot and like a many engineers I get overly excited by them. I use a variety of thickness and grades depending on what I am doing.
Whilst there is something very tactile and appealing about a nice freshly sharpened traditional wooden pencil I prefer to use an automatic pencil where I can advance the lead for everyday use.
I use a 0.9mm HB Lead for making notes and generally writing things down, a 0.7 F lead for preparing calculations and a 0.5 2H lead for drawing.
The comparison of UK/US pencil grades is:

#0 – 2B
#1 – B
#2 – HB
#3 – H
#4 – 2H

All Wooden pencils with rubbers seem to be HB.


Influence and Inspiration Blog

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Engineering has many quite high profile figures in the past – many who are generally known to the society at large.
Most people know of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George and Robert Stephenson, Telford.

I thought I would raise a cheer for a few of the less well known engineers:

Sir Marc Isambard Brunel
Probably best known today as “Brunel’s’ Dad”. A very great engineer in his own right now largely known for the Rotherhithe Tunnel and invention of the Tunnelling Shield.

John Smeaton
Famous for lighthouses and harbours but also designed canals and viaducts, He is regarded as the first person to use the term ‘Civil engineer’.

Thomas Brassey
Regarded by many as the greatest of the railway Civil Engineering contractors responsible for the construction of a great many of the railways in Britain, France and Canada. The man responsible for making these designs a reality.



How To Stay Motivated!!!

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This was my topic for the week and although the discussion on Friday went slightly off piste. I feel that this is still relevant and useful information for any business owner or employee.

Personal motivation is key to maintaining almost all aspects of life. If we are not motivated, we are more likely to squander our time and neglect our personal and professional goals.  Even the most determined people can lose steam at times.

Motivated employers/employees are happier, more energetic, more productive, more driven and better performing. Motivation is contagious and has positive spill-over effects on the whole team/business.


  • Usually before devoting time to any specific endeavour we tend to make short and long term goals. Clarify in no uncertain terms your vision, mission and objectives and focus on them beginning always with the end in mind.   Keep checking to see how much closer you are to getting through the whole process. Focus on your goals and visualise yourself achieving them.


    1. Working haphazardly without having a clear vision, mission and set of objectives for your work is very demotivating.


Formulate a detailed strategy for achieving your goals and chart your progress on a regular and ongoing basis. If you see you are on track or even excelling you will be motivated and happy that you are getting there.  If you see you are lagging it may be the kick you need to help you get back on track.



Reward yourself when you reach your objective and/or milestone. This could be as simple as a bowl of ice cream after a long hard week of working or a trip to the Spa.  Plan ahead for this reward give yourself something to look forward to.



Always remind yourself of why you work. Besides money, it is often about realising your potential, feeling alive, feeling useful, feeling connected, making a difference in the world, expressing creativity, expanding your skills and abilities, helping others and contributing to the community.  List the reasons you entered the field you are in and when times are tough remind yourself of why you do the work you do.  Also remind yourself that work is work and that you have a life outside of work to look forward to, enjoy and make a difference in.



It is very easy to lose yourself at work and forget what awaits you outside of the work arena. Maintaining a healthy work life balance is essential to both your general motivation and your overall wellbeing.  Make sure you take time to do the things you love – be it connecting with friends and family, exercising, reading, taking courses, shopping or other hobbies etc.   having something to look forward to will see you through moments of drudgery and help you to be more motivated at work.


Negativity is a contagious affliction that drains you of your energy, slows you down, saps your enthusiasm and blinds you to the reasons you work. So concentrate on the positive. Find things to laugh at (as long as it’s not your peers) and count your blessings at every opportunity.  Focus on your achievements no matter how small, or a positive remark, over achieving on a small deliverable, working well with people, a looming vacation, etc.



  • Eliminate distractions – phones, computer apps i.e. social media, people, etc.
  • Move your body – go for a short walk, do jumping jacks, etc.   Even light physical exercise can affect our moods, thwart depression and low self-image.
  • Have personal idols. Your favourite Politician, athlete, or business man, be inspired by their stories.
  • Surprise yourself – try to put unpredictability into your day such as:
  • Spend lunch in a scenic place
  • Have an impromptu football game with colleagues
  • Bring home cooking in for co-workers
  • Take a friend or significant other out for a night on the town even if there’s no special occasion.


  • If you are severely unmotivated or have a hard time motivating yourself to accomplish even basic, necessary goals such as getting out of bed, working, or practicing personal hygiene, see a doctor or counsellor – this may be a sign of depression.

SVBG – Breakfast meeting – Promoting your Business – BLOG!!

This week was my turn to talk about “How to promote your Business”. The order of the points below depends on the nature of your business, some parts will be very relevant to you and some not so.

Firstly, and we thought appropriately, we talked about Networking. The reasons to do it are so that you meet like-minded people, going through the same issues as yourself.  Useful information and contacts can be imparted at well run groups.  It also stops you from going stir crazy alone in your office.  Important things to consider are:

  • What group to join? Large or small – General or Industry specific?
  • How much time to invest?
  • What do you want to get out of it?

Getting recommended or endorsed:

  • Ask people to do this for you. It may be useful putting a request on the bottom of an invoice or letter asking them to write a recommendation for your website/Linked- In/Facebook/Twitter accounts.
  • Will people be prepared to speak to prospective clients?
  • Consider asking for a video endorsement that you can then post on your accounts.

Set up Facebook/Twitter/Linked In

  • Keep them updated.
  • Spend time letting people know what you are doing,
  • Give them interesting facts about your business.
  • Use Buffer App/Hoot Suite to write posts in advance instead of having to think of something every day.

Write a Blog, it helps people to understand/appreciate that you are an expert in your field. Ask yourself:

  • Who will read it?
  • Is it interesting?
  • What do I want to say?

Work hard to build a solid and reliable reputation – Go the extra mile!!

E-mailing and posting leaflets/newsletters, think about who you are contacting i.e. Customers v Clients. Remember:

  • Make sure it counts and is relevant.
  • Don’t annoy potential customers with a constant bombardment of literature/e-mails – nothing gets them to press delete quicker!!!!

Phone Calls – either to new or existing customers/clients, again have respect for those you are phoning, they may be busy, stressed or just not interested. Though it can be beneficial to:

  • Let people know about the great offers you have coming up or the services you can provide.
  • Or just remind them you are still in business.
  • It can be useful to send them something first, this will give you something to talk about.
  • Face to Face visits can be very beneficial. Take a walk down the high street or round a business park giving out leaflets and let people know what you do.

Advertising in relevant publications. Think about:

  • How much you want to spend.
  • How much business you think it will generate.

Seminars/trade stands, this is a useful way to show potential customers/clients who you are and what you do.

Merchandising – Umbrellas, Bags, Mugs, Pens. Everyone loves a new mug or a useful pen!!

Giving away business for free, although this may feel counter intuitive, lots of companies do this to get you interested, consider:

  • Free gifts/work.
  • Sharing your expertise.
  • Competitions.
  • Special offers.

Corporate Image:

  • Stand out from the crowd.
  • Professional.

Consider sponsorship for local Schools/sports teams etc.

Getting involved with Community Work i.e. volunteer for careers work with a local school or become a School Governor.

Sales pitch.

  • Develop a sound ability to sell your product, face to face.
  • Don’t underestimate your personal presence/power.

Networking, A Duffer’s Guide

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This is my first ever blog, having learnt how to tweet, now it is time to discover how to blog!

This week it was my turn to give the presentation, the subject was:

 Networking, A Duffer’s Guide

We started with a discussion of the various types of networking our businesses are involved with.

It was decided that there were many types of “networking” that we are involved with, including:

  • Formal breakfast type meetings
  • Seminar and training meetings
  • Membership of trade organisations and professional bodies
  • Social and sports meetings
  • Circumstantial meetings (school playground meetings)
  • Online and social media
  • Volunteering
  • Going to the pub
  • Recommendations from past clients
  • Corporate events
  • Providing talks

It was felt that many people are put off the more formal types of networking by the fear of the hard sell that can be involved with some groups.  As a group we felt that real networking is about building networks with people rather than selling to people.  We concluded that the most important things are:

  • Trust
  • Communication
  • Bringing people together
  • Networking works better for small businesses
  • It must work both ways
  • Providing good advice

We then had a discussion on the best way to make introductions at large networking events and came to the conclusion that going to events with people you know, so you can make introductions.


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