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Posts for September 2013

Cloud computing - the panacea for start-ups?

September 30, 2013 by Adrian Case

Cloud computing - the panacea for start-ups?/cloud computing{{}}Go back a few years and the choice of computer systems for start-ups were pretty limited. Typically, a website would be created, some email addresses set up and routed by POP3, while a small server would be used for file and print. It could be a glorified workstation or if the budgets permitted, a small business server, which gave the added benefit of Microsoft Exchange, etc. Enterprise-level IT solutions were beyond the realms of most start-ups. IT systems were expensive and inflexible, so compromises had to be made.

Cloud computing – the panacea for start-ups?

In today’s cloud-dominated IT environment, it is cost-effective and straightforward for start-ups to establish a fully featured computer system. Gone are the days of buying expensive servers, worrying about back-ups and having to accept second-rate solutions. We now work in a largely online but totally connected world. Sage advice for start-ups on choosing a location from which to operate would be to ensure that their internet connectivity is fast and robust. Location is important, not least in terms of the broadband choices available.

Example solution

So, to begin with, let’s take an example start-up with three staff.  Previously, a workstation would have been used for file sharing and POP3 email accounts would have likely been used. 

The obvious downsides to this are myriad – it is not a particularly scalable solution and if business growth was planned, a server would be required. File sharing outside of the office would have been challenging (and certainly less secure), with it being likely that files would be saved outside of the workstation and on other machines, potentially risking files not being backed up properly (and possibly not giving an offsite back-up data set). 

POP3 email is a cheap option, however, over time a lot of spam and viruses would be received, some of which could get through a standard PC antivirus solution. Moreover, POP3 traditionally is less reliable and with no email filtering, any email outages can lead to lost emails in the event of an ISP failure.

Nowadays, a cloud solution could be utilised from day one, resulting in enterprise-level solutions for a cost-effective monthly fee. This would comprise of a hosted server, with a full VPN to ensure that staff can work seamlessly on the move. Data would all centrally stored and trouble-free, being securely backed-up offsite. Email would be filtered and cleaned, before being delivered to the devices of your choice through Microsoft Exchange. As well as syncing emails between multiple devices (smartphones, laptops, etc), exchange also allows full collaboration, shared calendars, etc.

Whilst a cloud solution might not be right for every start-up, the benefits certainly make it ideally for the majority of new enterprises. Some of the key reasons why are listed below:

  • Saving money: instead of outlaying valuable capital on server and networking, cloud computing offers a cost-effective alternative.
  • Mobility and flexibility: employees can work securely from anywhere and information is available while on the move.
  • Scalability: instead of computer systems restricting the growth in users or data, or certainly incurring significant upgrade costs, cloud solutions can be scaled up or down as required with minimum inconvenience or cost.
  • Reliable: most cloud computing providers guarantee uptime, which ensures your systems will always be working.
  • Increased security: as well as hosted services being more secure, they also offer an inherent disaster-recovery solution to ensure that your business can continue to operate in the event of a power cut, fire, etc.

Blog supplied by Adrian Case of Akita.

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

Why it pays to think BIG

September 26, 2013 by Guest contributor

Why it pays to think BIG/time to think big{{}}While you’re outlining the vision for your life, formulate some clear goals and write them down. Not having objectives is like taking a journey but not being sure of the route or the destination. Write down exactly how much you want to earn, how many holidays you want a year and anything else that is important on your wish list.

Make your personal and business goals bigger than you can possibly imagine. This shifts your thinking and helps to shake you out of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t hit your goal, you might get 75% of the way there, which is still a bigger leap than you might have made with smaller, more conservative goals.

You don’t need a step-by-step plan but knowing where you want to end up can be enough to get you started.

While I would always advocate starting out with a clear idea, and major goals, that doesn’t mean your business actually needs to start off big from an operational and financial perspective. I believe my success has been down to structured and planned growth, investing small amounts and proving the business model works before moving to the next level.

I had an inkling that Tots To Travel would take off, but it has far exceeded anything I could have imagined. But had I overstretched from the start, it may never have had the opportunity to grow.

And you don’t need to come up with a BIG idea, in fact it’s probably better if you don’t. Costa Coffee didn’t think up the café, they just reinvented what was already out there. We didn’t dream up the holiday lettings business, we just took a different approach from the companies that were already out there.

Extract taken from The Mother of Invention, written by businesswoman, author, mentor for women in business and mother of three Wendy Shand, owner of multi-award winning business Tots To Travel. The book is available to download for free.

Further reading

What's hot in the world of start-ups? Infographic

September 23, 2013 by Guest contributor

What’s hot in the world of start-ups? Business MBA have produced this infographic summarising the most popular start-ups in the year so far.

Click on the infographic to enlarge.

What's hot in the world of start-ups? Infographic{{}}

Buying a business: key questions answered

September 23, 2013 by David Anderson

Buying a business: key questions answered/finance numerals and charts{{}}I want to buy a business and I’m thinking about what tactics to adopt…

The first thing to appreciate is that it is easier to fall out with sellers than to keep them onside. You will get a better buy if you can keep the seller onside at least for as long as possible. Once you fall out, mending fences is impossible.

So what do you suggest?

Sellers usually have a sale figure in mind. Agreeing a sale price at the outset slightly above this figure gives the seller a feel-good sensation and makes him/her think that he/she has a margin to play with. It also means he/she is unlikely to start talks with other buyers.

But I don’t want to pay an inflated price...

You won’t. Once the nitty gritty negotiations start, you will ask for guarantees as to the business’ turnover and profitability for say the next 12 months and ask for money to be retained. If the business turns out to be a star buy and performs above your expectations, the full stated price is probably acceptable. If it does not, you will have held money back, which the business sale agreement will enable you to deduct from the purchase price.

How much should I hold back?

As much money as possible – for as long as possible. The agreement can provide for money to be released in slices. Your seller is unlikely to agree to more than 50%.

Who should hold the money?

Ideally you, although the seller might want money held by a solicitor in an escrow account.

What happens if after agreeing a price when I put this to the seller he/she threatens to sell to someone else?

See if he/she does. If he/she comes back to you it means he/she has not been able to. You can then push him further. Remember, they will be thinking about your headline figure, which they probably cannot get elsewhere. You can also tell the seller that if the business does better than they anticipate, you will pay more based on performance. This way you can tell them that they have an upside, as well as a downside, and an interest in making the transfer work.

If I keep pushing the seller, how do I know when I am going too far and will lose the deal?

When the seller goes very quiet and stops coming back to you. It is better for you if they respond angrily at this stage, because it’s a sign that they still might eventually sell to you. If they do not respond, they have either written you off or they are talking to another buyer. Most deals reach an “angry phase”, after which the deal happens or does not. The skill is to manage how and when the seller gets to the angry moment and how this moment is managed, so you stay in control.

What else?

The seller and any business transfer agent will be keen to get “Heads of Agreement”, which outline the deal. This will be what the lawyers drawing up the sale agreement will work from. Tactically, if you want to keep matters as fluid as possible, you should either delay agreeing the Heads of Agreement or ensure that they are drafted in a form that is flexible. This way, it will be impossible for the seller to refer to these as “agreed” when the goalposts start to move.

What about due diligence on the seller?

Don’t be shy – it’s your money you are spending. Get as much information from the seller as you can. Don’t rely on solicitors or accountants to do this. They can help, but ultimately it’s your call. If there are things that are unsatisfactory, you will want money held back or deducted from the price.

What about business transfer agents?

They will be thinking about their commission and will therefore be keen for the deal to happen. If you knock some money off, it won’t have a big impact on what they get, so they will be on your side. If the business doesn’t sell, they will get nothing.

What about solicitors?

Most are useless at negotiations. You are best not involving them at this stage. By definition, if they were good at negotiating they would be successful businessmen making much more money than solicitors.

What about tax?

It’s a crucial consideration. Sadly, there is always a third party trying to get money – namely HMRC, which people often forget about. At the outset, Get to grips with tax both from your perspective and your seller’s. It could make a big difference to you. Your seller may have tax angles and you need to factor this in. If you can do something that helps them save tax, use this as a negotiating lever. Do not lose the deal because you are insensitive to the seller’s tax position. Finding a way to pay HMRC the least tax is good news for you both.

Blog provided by David Anderson (solicitor advocate and chartered tax adviser) and Alan Massenhove (commercial solicitor) at Sykes Anderson LLP. Please note that commercial and tax law are complex subjects and you should not rely on this article without professional advice on the facts of your case.

Further reading

Online business basics for mumpreneurs

September 18, 2013 by Chris Barling

Online business basics for mumpreneurs /mum and baby with laptop{{}}One of the things I dislike about popular culture is how complex and nuanced debates are distilled down to black and white. Nowhere is this characterised more effectively than in the debate around working mums. “Can mums have it all?” the media frequently asks – often citing [highly successful investment fund manager and mother of six] Nicola Horlick as the standard by which all should be measured.

The problem is that comparing your average mum (or dad for that matter) with Nicola Horlick is akin to measuring the performance of Physics A-Level students against the standards set by Albert Einstein. Unlike many of the celebs we see being idolised in the press, Nicola has actually earned her status. She is famous for being exceptional.

The good news is that in order to succeed in business today you don’t have to be well connected or exceptional (though it helps). The advent of the internet means that issues that once might have stopped entrepreneurs in their tracks, such as finance, business rates and rents and technical know-how are far less of a problem.

Business basics

It’s not just the technology that has revolutionised the way business works, it’s the way it is supplied. The world is gradually moving to a pay-as-you-go model, which is great news for start-ups. Every pound spent on business basics is money that can be used to generate and fulfil sales and today pretty much all of them are available online at minimal cost. For instance, you can:

Technical services

The same is true of technical services. As well as financing your computer hardware, you can buy the essential software you need on a pay-as-you-go basis. For well under £50 a month you can pay for a company to host your website and email address and even your online store.

You don’t even have to be technical. Many services are designed for novice users, so some basic writing and image-editing skills can get you a long way, especially if you start by trading on eBay and Amazon, or build your own online store using a product such as our own SellerDeck Catalog.

You make the difference

So, if setting up a business is that easy, why doesn’t everyone do it and why isn’t everyone successful? Well, not everyone has the imagination and ability to create a successful business. Although my own company is an ecommerce supplier, we have always been aware that it’s not our software and services that create success, we simply enable it.

Successful entrepreneurs tend to combine expertise in the fields they operate in with commercial acumen. They seem to know where to spend their money and how to spend their time. Time and money are interchangeable commodities, the key is to spend your time where you can make the most impact, and spend your money where others can make the most impact.

First break all the rules

It’s great to have a good reputation, connections and lot of start-up capital, but even if you don’t, the internet age means that it’s definitely not a show stopper. There are plenty of low-cost alternative ways to get your business off the ground. If you love what you do and spend your money wisely you can start a business on a shoestring budget and perhaps one day live out your dreams.

Blog provided by Chris Barling, chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck (formerly Actinic Software).

Further reading

The rise of flexible work in the UK

September 17, 2013 by Amy Harris

Flexible working has come a long way since the turn of the century, thanks to new technology that allows people to work when and where they choose.

This infographic from Expert Market offers an insight into the facts and figures surrounding flexible working, and how employers can use it to increase productivity, whilst gaining a loyal and happy workforce who enjoy a true work/life balance.

Now viewed as a serious option by forward-thinking firms looking to harness the power of the internet and streamline their operations, flexible working offers many benefits to both employers and staff.

Click on infographic to enlarge.

The Rise of Flexible Work in the UK/Infographic{{}}

Posted in Employees | 0 comments

Managing absence: tackling the top five problems

September 16, 2013 by Guest contributor

Managing absence: tackling the top five problems /sick woman with flu{{}}Most owners will tell you that their business is only as strong as its people, so it’s important that your employees are fit and able to work.

So what are some of the costs of a sick workforce to a small business? And what can they do to stay lean, fit and ready to make money?

Sick days are more than a slight inconvenience for managers. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) suggests that they cost the UK economy nearly £29 bn a year in lost revenue. For a small business, even a slight loss in productivity can make a big impact on bottom line, of course.

Businesses have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their staff. But it's also in their economic interest to do more than the bare minimum. Healthy, happy workers make productive workers. And as the population ages, managing absence will be increasingly seen as ‘mission critical’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.

Managing absence: top five problems

As a small business that is just starting up, you’re likely to be both time and cash poor, but it’s important to be aware of some of the more common reasons for sick days…and what you can do to prevent them.

Problem 1:

According to the Employee Benefits Healthcare research 2013 study, minor ailments such as colds are the biggest cause of absence in the workplace.

Prevention

Invest in antibacterial hand gel and place a few bottles around the office to stop germs from spreading. And could you look at being more flexible where and when your staff work? Cloud computing makes working from home far easier. Staff can access and share important files and keep on top of emails, as well as check in at regular intervals if they can manage it without infecting the whole office. You don’t have to splash out on an expensive cloud computing package, Google Docs is great for a cash-strapped business.

Problem 2:

The second most common reason for an absence is musculoskeletal ailments, which affect the joints, tendons and muscles in the body. Most work-related musculoskeletal issues are developed over a period of time because the right health and safety measures haven’t been put in place. The result? Long-term absence or a series of sick days.

Prevention

Remind your people to bend properly when lifting heavy boxes or invest in a trolley if they/you move a lot of stock regularly. Check that everyone is sitting at their desk at the right angle – adjust the height of their chair, change the position of the mouse or buy a stand for laptops if need be. And if you invest in a good employee health insurance scheme, they’ll be able to access physiotherapy or massage therapy to help get them back to work.

Problem 3:

The third biggest cause of sick leave is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress. The economic downturn has made many workers feel unsure about the security of their jobs and they may be putting in longer hours than usual to impress. But, eventually, prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can manifest itself in more serious mental health issues, which force people to take long-term leave or phone in sick.

Prevention

This is a more difficult problem to address, because there are no quick fixes. It’s about looking at your business culture from the start. Could you take some of the pressure off by letting staff work flexibly so they spend less time commuting and have a better work-life balance? If everyone is working regular overtime, might it be time to hire new staff, even if it’s just part-time help?

Problem 4:

Perfectly healthy staff phoning in sick when they simply want a day off. Did you know that one in three ‘sick’ days are not caused by an actual illness?

Prevention

The heatwave this summer saw many office workers phone in sick to enjoy the sun. If this is a problem, remind staff to book holidays in advance and try to be flexible about your summertime working hours – it could really boost morale.

Staff are also less likely to ‘pull a sickie’ if the team is a close one and they genuinely care about not making colleagues pick up the slack. Try to encourage regular staff events, so team members get to know each other as people as well as colleagues.

Have stringent HR processes and include a clause about absence in your contracts. If someone has to phone in sick, make sure they have to explain their absence to you or one of your managers. If it’s a recurring problem, have firm but fair disciplinary procedures in place and try to establish if there’s another factor at play, such as stress.

Problem 5:

Productivity slumps. According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics, productivity in the UK has been falling since the economic downturn began in 2008.

Prevention

Is there a health and safety issue at work here? Studies have shown that people work more efficiently in optimum temperatures, so insulate your premises and turn the heating up in winter, while investing in fans or air conditioning in the summer.

Blog supplied by Jamie Monteath, online representative of Bupa.

Posted in Employees | Tagged Managing staff | 1 comment

How to be a socially responsible start-up

September 11, 2013 by Guest contributor

How to be a socially responsible start-up/Tree with CSR{{}}Corporate social responsibility (CSR) may sound like a concept that is out of reach for many start-ups, but with the right know-how and focus, building responsibility and sustainability into your business from the beginning will help your small business go beyond mere compliance with ethical standards and laws to creating additional value for your business, employees, community and the environment. But where do you start?

Firstly, don’t overstretch yourself

You want to care for the environment and support your local community, and corporate social responsibility is a great way to do this – and yes, even businesses that only have a couple of staff can donate their time and efforts – but do not overstretch your resources.

Put guidelines in place

Consider putting guidelines in place to ensure any voluntary or community work you and your team partake in will not have a negative effect on your business. This will provide focus and a streamlined approach to future initiatives, also giving you a proactive stance to potential opportunities.

Communication

Speaking to your staff and understanding what motivates them will help you to support them as they engage with the CSR approach of the business. This communication can stretch well beyond the immediate network of people in your small business, however, as you can also involve clients and suppliers to understand what they are doing in terms of CSR, share ideas and even partner with them in CSR initiatives.

Commitment

Commitment to the community and specific charities or causes can build long-lasting relationships that reap rewards in the future. These will also build greater meaning for your business’ future CSR engagements.

Use your resources

Your small business may still be a start-up, but it got where it is for a reason. Use the resources and skills at your disposal (equipment, space, expertise, etc) but, once again, make sure you do not overstretch yourself.

Business ethics

A simple way to uphold the meaning of corporate social responsibility is by making sure that your business commits to an ethical supply chain, which includes the use of local suppliers and buying fairtrade products where possible.

Let people know

There is nothing wrong with showing people that your business is doing some good for the local community. Let people know about the causes you champion and be proud of the good your business is doing.

Monitor progress

Corporate social responsibility can easily run out of steam if you do not maintain records of CSR activity. Monitoring progress will also give you the chance to identify where changes or opportunities are possible.

Blog provided by EDP, which “provides businesses with consultancy services to help them create a sustainable workforce”.

Posted in Start up business ideas | Tagged CSR | 0 comments

How to balance a new business and your family - without losing your sanity

September 09, 2013 by Guest contributor

How to balance a new business and your family - without losing your sanity/cutout paper chain family on hands{{}}I’ve been involved in three start-ups, the most notable being SellerDeck (then called Actinic Software). When I joined, I remember my wife and I being delighted at the best benefit of my new role – it was local and therefore seemed to offer more opportunities for spending time with my family.

Well, that was the theory, anyway. Of course, as anyone who has been involved in a start-up will tell you, the reason why it’s good to keep your work premises local is because if you don’t, you won’t have any life outside work at all. Start-ups consume everything – your time, money, enthusiasm and, if you aren’t careful, your family’s hopes and dreams as well.

Thankfully, we all survived to tell the tale, so here (along with a big helping of humility) are my five top tips for creating a business and growing a family at the same time.

1 Decide what you want

It is widely acknowledged that the enemy of marital and family harmony is stress, especially on the money front. Unfortunately, pressure (and financial pressure in particular) is one of the guaranteed by-products of commercial activity. It’s vital to face up to this before things kick off and to identify what is really important.

I wanted the thrill and challenge of growing a business, but not at the cost of losing my family. I was fortunate to work with, and for, people who shared that value, and as a mum- (or dad-) preneur I’d recommend you do the same once you take on staff.

2 Do something you enjoy

When you are thinking of building a business, do something you enjoy. Be careful, though, nothing undermines commercial judgment quite like a sense of destiny. Just because you have invested emotionally in some product or activity, it’s not a given that others will want to buy it.

3 Organise yourself

Family life and business life both generate endless task lists. It doesn’t matter if you are a single- or two-parent family, with, or without kids, you will need to be well organised. In business there are some things you have to do on time or you can end up with penalty or even a criminal record (such as messing up your VAT returns and forgetting to file solvency statements) and there are family duties (such as attending a child’s birthday party or visiting a sick relative) that left unattended, you could end up regretting when it’s too late.

4 Share your worries

A stiff upper lip isn’t great for relationships. Perhaps at times it’s right to shield employees and loved ones from issues they don’t really need to be concerned about, however, poor communications lie at the heart of many relationship breakdowns. That’s why it’s wise to share your concerns. Even if your family can’t help, they can at least understand what’s happening. Look for a business mentor to help you stay on track and advise if things get tough.

5 Don’t worry, be happy

Try to retain an optimistic outlook. Although you will face numerous challenges to both business and family, Google offers plenty of examples of people who have trodden this path before. Our British culture tells us that failure is a bad thing, but it’s a lie. As long as you learn lessons, you’ll emerge stronger. My advice is to enjoy the good times while they last and remember that when things look bleak – they won’t stay that way.

Blog by Phil Rothwell of ecommerce software specialist SellerDeck.

Further reading

How to make the bank say 'yes'

September 05, 2013 by Federation of Small Businesses

How to make the bank say 'yes'{{}}The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) have collaborated during Small Business Advice Week (2–8 September) to give clear advice to small firms on what they need to do to get a loan.

With independent research showing that around three in 10 small firms are refused finance each quarter, the two organisations have joined forces for the first time to give top tips on what businesses need to do to give them a better chance of the bank saying yes to their application.

“The bank will base their decision on the information supplied to them, so making sure that it is robust is vital. Small firms need to give themselves the best possible chance to get finance so they can grow and help sustain the economic recovery”, says John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Here are John's top five tips:

Develop a robust business plan

A clear business plan is key, not just to get finance but for growing the business too. The plan should be a living document that evolves as the business grows and takes into account changes in the market as well as the financial situation of the business. A well thought-out, comprehensive plan will give the lender confidence in the projections made.

Build financial understanding

To have a successful credit application the business must be able to show they understand key numbers such as turnover, profits and existing debts as well as being able to show how the debt will be repaid.

Check your track record

When making a lending decision, the banks will look at how previous lending has been managed in the past — so knowing the credit ratings of the business owner as well as the business itself is vital as is having an understanding of what affects it.

Be honest

Be upfront about how much money the business needs as well as what it is needed for. Underestimating how much is needed may affect the lender's confidence in the owner’s ability to manage company finances, and overestimating profits and revenue could affect the ability to repay.

Keep talking

Communication with the lender and getting feedback is important, as a 'no' now might not mean 'no' in the future. The lender should be able to advise how to change the business model to secure funding and what elements of the business plan could be more robust.

For those businesses still refused there is an independent appeals process which has been agreed by the main UK high street banks.

As John says, “Businesses that are refused finance can appeal the decision. The latest figures show that many firms that do appeal have the decision overturned which is great news. We would encourage more firms to look at the process.”

Irene Graham from the British Bankers’ Association supports John's advice. “If you run a business with a good business plan and want funding, our message is go and talk to your bank. There should be no doubt that now is a good time for businesses to go and see their bank if they want to borrow.

“The UK’s banks are currently offering some of the lowest interest rates in history. We hope these top tips will help businesses to be successful when they apply for finance.

“The independent appeals process is helping the banks to improve the service they give to customers and is also helping to educate businesses about the different finance options available and what they need to do to improve their chances of successfully applying for borrowing."

What to do before you seek finance

September 04, 2013 by Guest contributor

What to do before you seek finance/accounting{{}}What key points should business owners think about when prepping their accounts?

Accounts should be both a factual document – prepared in accordance with the relevant legislation (eg if a company, then the relevant Companies Acts) – and a sales document. If the accounts show a poor result due to the loss of a key customer, say so, but explain how this is being overcome.

What do finance providers look for when deciding whether to provide funding?

Finance providers need to understand firstly why you need the money, how it is going to be spent, what contribution you and the company are making and most importantly how they will be paid back and over what period.

What do you think is the best form of finance and why?

This really depends what you need the money for:

  • If it is to buy a piece of equipment that is going to be used in the business then consider a medium term loan/hire purchase.
  • If it is to fund a growing business, to buy stock, fund trade creditors, etc, an overdraft or even invoice discounting or factoring might be the most suitable option.
  • If it is to develop a building project, then project finance that can be drawn down at key stages of the project should be considered.
  • If you are undercapitalised, maybe a medium-term investor.

What should your business plan include when seeking finance?

Your business plan should set out the following:

  • What the company does.
  • Who owns the company and what are their expectations.
  • Who runs the company and what is their experience and loyalty.
  • Who are the company’s main competitors – why are you better/how will you become better/get a larger share of the market.
  • What are the historical financial results of the company.
  • What are the projected financial results of the company.
  • How are you going to get there (ie if by more sales -  how are you going to get these extra sales?).
  • What could go wrong and what would be the effect if it did and how are you planning to minimise this risk?

You must do this yourself – it is a hard soul-searching exercise but by the end of it you will know your business in more detail and, in particular, you’ll understand its strengths, weaknesses and their trigger points.

Blog supplied by Carol Cheesman, Principal of London-based Cheesmans Accountants.

Posted in Financing a business | Tagged Finance | 0 comments

How to stay strong and positive when running your own business

September 03, 2013 by Guest contributor

How to stay strong and positive when running your own business/business woman with baby{{}}The biggest challenge for me has been to stay emotionally strong and positive regardless of how you are feeling inside. The economic downturn, for example, could have given me ‘permission’ to get down in the dumps but I have had to stay buoyed up and positive

 throughout. And, in fact, we invested in the business and enjoyed huge growth throughout that time.

In terms of advice for women starting out in business, the work-life balance is tricky to achieve but the sun still comes up the next day even if you did not manage to clear your inbox! It is important to work ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ it and it is all too easy to get sucked into the day-to-day stuff and to lose the overall vision.

My six key tips are:

1. Plan your time

Decide when you work and when you are with the family or doing something else. Whichever you are doing, commit to concentrating 100% on that one thing not taking a business call, while making tea or changing a nappy!

2. Sort out your childcare

You must have reliable childcare in place. Regard this as a start-up cost and a necessary part of getting going. Without time to concentrate you’ll spend a lot more time achieving a lot less. In the end you’ll work twice as hard, for more hours and be miles off achieving a great work-life balance.

3. Keep healthy

Mums are such an important cog in the family wheel that if we are unwell I find that everything else falls to pieces and we get behind. As I mentioned before, the answer is to keep well in the first place. Prioritise your own health, eat well, sleep lots and ensure that you stay fit. I regard my wellness as being a vital component of my success.

4. Plan treats

I firmly believe that there is room to treat yourself, so reward your efforts with a massage, a manicure or just an hour in the bath with a good book.

5. Be nice to yourself

I think we are our own harshest judges, so be nice to yourself and take some time to look back and reflect on how far you’ve come and the successes you’ve had. Celebrate your achievements and allow yourself to accept praise from others. That way you’ll feel better about everything you do.

6. Invest in yourself

By investing in yourself you will become better at what you do, more effective and more focused. This means that the time you spend working will be far more productive. Do you need training in particular areas? Local business networks can be great for the key skills you need to get going and for niche sectors there may be workshops and online courses.

Extract taken from The Mother of Invention, written by businesswoman, author, mentor for women in business and mother of three Wendy Shand, owner of multi-award winning business Tots To Travel. The book is available to download for free.

Further reading

Why it pays to surround yourself with positive people

September 02, 2013 by Guest contributor

Why it pays to surround yourself with positive people/young woman with smile emoticon{{}}If you've ever mentioned that you want to set up your own business you'll find there will be plenty of people who will give you 100 reasons for not doing so.

My advice is to surround yourself by people who are super-positive and not by the detractors in your life who will pull you down.

Within my business I have people who are all convinced about what can be achieved and we create plenty of opportunities for input, including a forum to share ideas, energy and positivity.

Rob, my husband, has always been exceptionally supportive, but beyond that I think people were watching with amusement. Seven years ago the mumpreneur trend was not well established and it was unusual for a woman to set up on her own. Even my mum admits that she had no idea what it was I was trying to achieve and did not really believe that it would work.

In the last few years a great support network for mothers who run their own businesses has developed. My ‘mumpreneur’ world is supportive and not at all corporate. We are growing and nurturing businesses in much the same way as we are growing and nurturing our children. In actual fact the business is almost as much a part of me as the children. They are both stimulating, exciting and endlessly fascinating.

Of course being supportive cuts both ways. The whole concept of our business is about the importance of family life and safe family holidays and the majority of our staff are mums themselves. We understand the issues that they face and do our best to work around their needs.

The most successful people approach their day by asking themselves: “What’s the biggest single thing that I could do today to take me closer to my goals.” If you don’t take action then nothing new will happen. So you need to commit to taking action, BIG action.

If you let your idea drift, and don’t work hard to get it off the ground, it will go nowhere and you’ll soon find yourself with children at school and no career. My advice is to lay the groundwork while your children are young. Most businesses take a while to grow so what better time to launch one than when you have plenty of other things to be getting on with while demand for your business builds.

Extract taken from The Mother of Invention, written by businesswoman, author, mentor for women in business and mother of three Wendy Shand, owner of multi-award winning business Tots To Travel. The book is available to download for free.

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