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Posts for February 2013

Could vehicle leasing provide the best solution for your business?

February 28, 2013 by Guest contributor

Could vehicle leasing provide the best solution for your business?/businesswoman receiving car keys{{}}There is no shortage of start-up business advice out there that is anti-travel. We’re told to work online and use technology to bridge all kinds of gaps in our operation.

While this is sound advice for keeping costs down, there are still limits to what many businesses can achieve without travelling anywhere. If you cannot travel, you may be unable to deliver your product or meet your customers and suppliers, to build relationships and grow.

Transport is an inevitable expense for many businesses, but if you want or need to use a vehicle (or vehicles), you’re going to have to spend a lot of money up front, and factor in the depreciation of the asset into your ongoing operation.

This inevitably involves compromise: you’ll opt for the cheapest van you can run or scale back your aspirations elsewhere to afford a nicer car.

Lease is more

Getting a loan to pay for your vehicle is risky. You might stand to lose more than the car if you fail in your repayments. Unless your business has the cash in its account, you may be looking at dealer finance, and paying absurd total repayable amounts in the long term, with a large deposit and monthly payment in the short term. Thankfully, there is an alternative.

Vehicle leasing allows you to pay only for the years you use. Take out a two, three or four-year lease on a brand new vehicle and you’ll pay a low deposit with low monthly payments to follow. You might even get road tax and breakdown recovery as part of the package. Lower monthly costs will obviously appeal to start-ups, allowing them to afford to run new vehicles that take up less space on the balance sheet – vehicles that cost less in terms of liability and risk.

Leasing does mean that you won’t own the car or van that you drive, of course, but many businesses may find that this is a positive. Leasing companies are left to worry about the vehicle’s depreciation, so it never becomes a factor in the valuation of your business. You can even opt for plans that give you the option of purchasing the vehicle at the end of your lease period. Otherwise, as a more mature business you will be free to continue saving with leasing, or to purchase a new vehicle outright, if that fits your financial plan.

Stephanie Wood of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts

Five ways to make a great first impression when presenting

February 27, 2013 by Barry Holmes

Five ways to make a great first impression when presenting /number 5{{}}When presenting to an audience, first impressions count. If you lose their attention in the first five minutes, you’ll lose it forever.

It’s human nature for us to judge a person based on their behaviour. In fact, it’s impossible not to form an opinion. People make up their minds within five seconds of hearing or seeing someone – whether or not they care about what is being said.

You will often hear advice on how you should dress to impress and control your posture so you appear assertive and approachable. While these are true, what comes out of your mouth in the first five seconds of presenting is crucial if you are to make a good first impression. It largely determines whether you will achieve the outcome you want. For example, if your goal is to educate, sell, entertain or influence your audience, your opening line must not only grab their attention but also go hand-in-hand with what you want to convey overall.

When planning for a presentation, you should carefully consider your opening line. The purpose of the first five seconds is to captivate. This means anything your audience was thinking or feeling before you started – whether it was based on how you dressed or walked onto the stage – has now been forgotten and they want to hear and see more of you.

Here are five ways to captivate your audience in the first five seconds:

Shock opener

Shock your audience by making a very provocative statement. Everyone loves a bit of controversy, so what better way to see people’s reactions.

Example: “Your competitors care more about your customers than you do. They are watching your every move. If you don’t communicate with your customers enough, they will quickly lose interest and your competitor will snap them up.”

Show opening

Bring a fascinating or ambiguous object that links to your talk and show it without explaining what it is until the end.

Example: If you are giving a presentation on financial performance, show a picture of three different people, someone positively in the media, someone neutral and someone really being nailed by the press, continue to hold it through your speech. At the end, ask them to reveal the connection with the numbers – they will always remember it.

Story opener

Share a cliffhanger opening. The key is to set the scene for your audience, so that they can create their own picture in their heads.

Example: “Who the hell do you think you are to talk to me about developing my people?” Pause for five seconds. “These were the first words I heard when I met with…”

Compelling question

Solicit a compelling question. Everyone loves to talk about themselves at a networking event and the same is true during a presentation. Ask a question in the first five seconds and, if it’s a good one, they’ll continue to ponder a response beyond the end of your presentation.

Example: “So what if you fail? Who will care and what are the consequences anyway?”

Surprise opener

We often switch off when we see a presenter walk on the stage and head straight into “Hello, I’m Mark and today I’ll talk to you about goal-setting”. Instead, before you even introduce yourself, surprise your audience with something delightful that they wouldn’t expect.

Example: As you begin presenting, remove more items of clothing than is usual. Take off your jumper (to reveal a RELAX t-shirt) and slip off your shoes (and socks if you dare!). Now, as if it’s nothing, begin your talk.

Barry Holmes of Zoom Creates is a regular keynote speaker on the theory and application of accelerated learning as well as a personal business coach to directors, CEOs and business leaders. He has worked with large international organisations including 3, Starbucks, Marks & Spencer, BP, British Airways, Virgin Holidays and Sapient.

Read information on the Marketing Donut about making sales presentations

Have you become a master of technology but slave to your work?

February 25, 2013 by Tim Gibbon

Have you become a master of technology but slave to your work?/woman on the phone with laptop{{}}Small and medium-sized enterprise owners (SMEs) are proficient at using technology, but unable to switch off in their personal lives, according to research from business insurer Hiscox.

The research was conducted between 28 November and 6 December 2012 and surveyed 1,030 businesses. It suggests that 89% of SMEs have mastered the use of technology, but are slaves to smartphones. The research also suggests that 38% of SME owners have difficulty switching off and 37% find working off duty hours intrusive upon their personal lives.

The online survey by Opinium reviewed how businesses are using technology and how although they are using it better to manage their businesses; they are not able to control the impact that it has on their personal lives. 85% of respondents admitted to checking their work emails while on holiday. 

"Our research confirms what we already know from working closely with them; SMEs are constantly connected to their workplace, incredibly tech savvy and committed to their business," explains Alan Thomas, small business insurance expert at Hiscox.

Interestingly, 59% of survey respondents plan to either purchase new equipment or upgrade existing equipment as an investment in technology in the near future (61% keep up-to-update with technology). From these technology investors, 35% plan to do so in the next 12 months compared with 25 percent who plan to do so in the next two-three years. 10% of SMEs were found to relish new technology and generally upgrade equipment as soon as it becomes available.

"As SMEs seek to keep their business running at all times, the option to clock off at 5pm is fast diminishing and being 'switched on' is becoming a normal way of life. Thanks to the reliance on and access to technology, SMEs have become masters of technology but slaves to their work, and it's no surprise they are leading a lifestyle where they are 'always on'," added Thomas.

Given that SMEs are closer and influence the day-to-day management of their businesses on a more intimate level, it’s no surprise these factors have such an impact for them.  This can be compounded when SMEs are home workers when it is thought that temptation to be distracted often turns out to be the opposite.  

Tim Gibbon is a director at communications consultancy Elemental and tweets @elementalcomms and @timgibbon @smponline

Posted in Business IT | Tagged technology, IT | 0 comments

3 steps to prepare for RTI

February 20, 2013 by Guest contributor

3 steps to prepare for RTI {{}}

Infographic supplied by Sage

** After this infigraphic was published, HMRC announced a "relaxation of reporting arrangements for small businesses". According to HMRC: "Until 5 October 2013, employers with fewer than 50 employees, who find it difficult to report every payment to employees at the time of payment, may send information to HMRC by the date of their regular payroll run but no later than the end of the tax month (5th)."

The power of domain names

February 18, 2013 by Sally Tomkotowicz

The power of domain names/domain.com{{}}According to research carried out by names.co.uk, more than a quarter (28%) of new small-business owners wait months after they’ve registered their company name before they register their domain name, thereby risking losing out on their preferred website address.

In fact, our research suggests that about a fifth actually lose their preferred name and have to settle for a name that isn’t related to their company.

We surveyed 2,079 business owners and found that many were startlingly relaxed about owning their online brand – but come to regret this later on when they miss out on their preferred domain name.

Even many dot-com savvy firms established in the past three years have missed the boat. Most companies make the mistake of focusing exclusively on their company name, believing it to be central to the success of their business, without even thinking to check for their domain name first.

Your domain name is often more important these days than your mobile or telephone number, so it is a big oversight not to check whether it’s available before registering your company name. Customers will search for your .com or .co.uk address every day, so not owning the most logical domain can be a real issue.

However, not all businesses are as forgetful about registering their company name. More than a third (35%) admit to registering their domain name before they launched their business, with 25% building their website before launching their business. About half (49%) also admit to registering multiple domain names to protect their company name or expand their business. 

Other key findings from our research include:

  • 84% of respondents launched their website within months of registering their company, with 12% building their website in a day
  • 10% took more than a year to get a website online
  • 27% have registered Facebook and Twitter accounts, but 54% still have neither
  • 25% might consider changing their company name, given the chance
  • 10% admitted to not being sure if they even like their company name.

Names are important, of course, and every one with plans to start a new business really needs to think carefully about their domain name. We encourage small businesses to consider registering their domain name before they launch their company, so they can get the name that best serves their business’s interests. 

Sally Tomkotowicz is marketing manager at Namesco, which provides online services for businesses and individuals.

When was the last time you thanked your employees?

February 14, 2013 by Gregg Corbett

When was the last time you thanked your employees?/thank you note{{}}Research recently carried out by Avery Rewards suggests that millions of British workers haven’t had a thank you from their boss in over a year. More than half of the 2,000 workers we spoke to feel they don’t receive proper credit for their hard work. And, remarkably, one-in-four have NEVER had a thank you from their boss.

Our research suggests that just under half (47%) felt they were actually paid a fair wage for their efforts, but their superiors fail to manage them properly or show enough appreciation.

Most people put a lot of effort into the work they do each day and take a lot of pride in what they do, but it seems many don’t receive the thanks they’d like. There’s always a difference between what you’re expected to do and going the extra mile. And a simple thank you at the right moment can really have an impact on workplace morale.

In this tough economic climate, workers are being squeezed more than ever before to ensure they perform, so it’s important they feel that their efforts are appreciated.

The lack of a simple ‘thank-you’ means six-in-ten employees do not feel they are appreciated by their boss, with a third having stopped expecting any form of appreciation. Four-in-ten people say a thank you from the boss is usually rare, if it occurs at all, while a quarter of those who receive a show of gratitude aren’t always convinced it’s sincere.

When it comes to signs of appreciation, a bit more honesty, flexibility with working hours and the odd cup of tea are some of the biggest factors workers say can really make the difference. Simply having your birthday remembered, or the occasional team building exercise also build up to feeling appreciated.

Interestingly, more than half of workers in our study also felt their boss favoured certain employees.

Inevitably, when feeling underappreciated, employees’ first reaction was to start caring less about their work and put in a lot less effort. One-third will become disillusioned if they don’t receive the proper thanks, and a further fifth will start updating their CV.

But one-in-four hardy employees will put maximum effort into their work regardless of how happy they are and the credit they receive.

Overall, just a third of people find their job rewarding, and one-in-four people have to treat themselves at least once a week just to cheer themselves up from work.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel a little taken for granted and in those times it’s important to keep a level head and focus on rewarding ourselves when we deserve it and need to unwind outside of work.

Top 10 things that employees appreciate

1 Compliments about their work

2 A Christmas bonus

3 Greater working hours flexibility

4 More honesty from those they work for

5 Being made a cup of tea once in a while

6 More appreciation of how hard it is balancing work and family commitments

7 More understanding when they have appointments

8 Colleagues remembering birthdays

9 Teambuilding exercises

10 More work socials

Blog written by Gregg Corbett of Avery Awards

Posted in Employees | Tagged Employment, employees | 0 comments

Could bridging loans offer your business a funding solution?

February 11, 2013 by Jonathan Dempster

Could bridging loans offer your business a funding solution?/bridge{{}}As more bridging loan lenders enter the market, the cost of borrowing short-term capital has fallen dramatically. This has allowed firms to borrow to buy stock, ease cashflow, expand and a host of other things.

Put simply, a bridging loan is a way to give individuals access to credit easily and quickly, by using assets such as personal or commercial property to release equity.

Primarily used in the property market, bridging finance can prevent buyer chains collapsing when other financial arrangements were in place. In the literal sense, it allows you to bridge the gap between shortages in capital. The majority of bridging financiers function solely online, allowing clients based anywhere to find them easily, making the market open and competitive.

The speed at which cash can arrive in your account is the greatest advantage of bridging loans, often being a very personal service that takes a matter of days. They will also be sure that bridging finance is the best option for you, because lenders want to be sure they will get their money back!

You can expect to pay an arranging fee, which covers all of the checks the financer has to make, such as application, legal and valuation costs. Lenders will offer varying rates of interest dependant on your circumstances (usually between 1 and 2% per month). However, if you have a lot of value in your assets and are not classed as high risk, you could see interest rates as low as 0.5% a month.

A good bridging lender will find out exactly what you are spending the capital on. They will then assess the resource that you are borrowing against and send an independent surveyor to value the asset. This will make up the loan to value (LTV) ratio that you receive, which can be anywhere between 40 and 80%.

Bridging finance is for short periods of time and can become an expensive option if you do not replace the bridge with a long-term financial option. This could be selling other assets, streamlining your business or refinancing with another loan.

If your business needs to raise money quickly to buy stock to meet a surge in demand, a bridging loan may be a perfect way to quickly get the money you need. However, if you are experiencing cashflow problems due to a high wage bill, unless you put a restructure in place, allowing funds to be available within months, a bank overdraft or other financing means may be more beneficial for you.

Overall bridging loans may not be for every business need, especially if you do not know how you can pay back the loan. However, in times of cashflow crisis, where you have assets with equity, they can offer you the breathing space to put longer-term financial options in place. 

Written by Jonathan Dempster of bridging loan specialist Balmoral Bridging

Posted in Financing a business | Tagged Finance | 0 comments

Getting the 'right T-shirt' in 2013

February 07, 2013 by Jessica McGregor Johnson

Getting the 'right T-shirt' in 2013/man in t-shirt{{}}Have you been there, done that, got the T-Shirt – only to find it’s the wrong T-Shirt? Are you determined that 2013 will be different?

New Year’s resolutions are, in principle, a great idea. But if all you do is say you are going to do something and not have the whole process clear in your mind, it is very hard to follow through.

Not only do you need to know what you are going to do, but also how you are going to do it and how you are going to meet the challenges that automatically arise as you start creating change. 

If you really want to make 2013 your best year, you need to be thinking differently and doing something different, too.

One way of thinking differently is to question the limiting beliefs you have about what is and isn’t possible.  Change your thinking, question your beliefs and you are on the way to truly creating change.

In addition, your New Year’s resolution can only really work if you also change what you are doing. 

It is like saying that you want to increase your circle of friends, but then only ever going to the same old places with the same old people and wondering why you are not meeting anyone different. You need to change the pattern you have been following for years.

Write your own rules; look at your world in a different way; allow yourself to think differently to those around you. That’s how you begin to live the life you want.

So this January, I suggest you take the time to really uncover what it is you want 2013 to look like. 

Resolve to use this quiet darkness of winter to begin to grow the picture of what your “right T-Shirt” will look like. As the days begin to lengthen, build this picture of the life you want to be living, so that when spring comes you are ready to put it all into practice. 

In that way, you will be far more likely to make it happen, to stick with it, to change your thinking and doing and meet the challenges along the way until suddenly there you are – wearing your Right T-Shirt.

Jessica McGregor Johnson is the author of a new book The Right T-Shirt

Welcome to the self-start society

February 06, 2013 by Alastair Cameron

Welcome to the self-start society/concept of joint work{{}}The Startacus platform – the “self-start society” – was launched in August 2012. Recently, the collaboration element of the site was unveiled, which will allow members to add projects and connect and collaborate to help bring their ideas to life.

The primary objective of Startacus is to inspire, support and motivate people across the UK and Ireland to fully realise their self-start potential. The site aims to make a long-term social impact. Many people have great creative ideas, but are baffled by the bureaucracy, obstacles and even terminology that exists and acts like a barrier, preventing them from going any further with their ideas.

In a nutshell, the ethos behind Startacus and the self-start society is to remove those barriers and to provide a place where those creative ideas can take root and grow.

We are aiming to bring together all people with ideas - be they exploring their creative potential for the first time, or an experienced self-starter or entrepreneur. Fundamentally, Startacus is a place where self-starters and great minds can come together, to collaborate on their big ideas and make them more of a reality.

The Startacus collaboration platform provides a unique dedicated space where projects and ideas can be worked on; where connections between self-starters can be made and where all the tips, resources and tools needed are signposted. Users can create public and private workspaces, request to help others, and seek collaborators to help make their own ideas a reality. If help is only needed with certain aspects of a project or business, bespoke workspaces can be created which are specific to an individual’s own needs.

There is a train of thought that society is broken, that the economy will continue to drag its feet and that employment will be hard to find. However, with the launch of Startacus, self-starters everywhere can get that little bit closer to doing their own thing and making their ideas a reality.

Alastair Cameron is the founder of Startacus, which is aimed at self-starters in the UK and Ireland. The platform aims to be the online place for self-starters to connect, create and collaborate.

A beginner's guide to online marketing

February 04, 2013 by Rashed

A beginner’s guide to online marketing /online marketing on key{{}}The internet has made it easier than ever before to find information. Hours, if not days, of going through newspapers, books and asking experts has been whittled down to a quick search on your favourite search engine.

With this increased level of trust in the internet, people are now becoming more accustomed to purchasing products online although there is still a significant proportion who prefer human interaction, as 45% of calls convert into sales at some point.

If you’re thinking of selling or marketing your business online, you should know it’s very competitive. But if done properly, the rewards can be great as well. Here are four quick tips to get you started

Become an expert in your field

As a new business with an online presence, gaining trust and customer loyalty can be difficult. The vast number of fraudulent websites means that users prefer to purchase products from sites they know of and/or feel they can trust. One way to gain this trust is to become known as an expert in your industry sector by creating a blog on your site and updating it regularly. Let your professionalism shine through by replying to comments on your blog and guest posting on other blogs relevant to your niche. 

Use social media to promote your business

Social media promotion is easy and it’s free, which makes it a marketing portal that should not be overlooked. Sign up to a social media site that you think would best suit your interests and post information such as news about your business, developments within your industry, new products as well as any special promotions you’re offering.

Analyse your site’s performance

Use tools such as Google Analytics and visitor level call tracking software to determine which parts of your site are converting the best. Once a cookie has been placed on your site, Google Analytics can show you which pages were viewed by your customers. This information can be used to determine which pages on your site and which marketing activity is converting and which are not.

Create specific landing pages

Unlike your homepage, which is designed to be the central page allowing access to other areas of your site, a landing page is designed to achieve a certain goal. This could be signing up to a mailing list, purchasing a product or even downloading an information pack. Use a landing page to help you increase sales of your products or services. Linking marketing activity for a particular product, for example, to the product landing page has been shown to significantly increase sales or enquiries for that product.

Rashed Khan has written this article on behalf of call tracking experts ResponseTap

 

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