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Posts for November 2013

What are your key options after you've spent your initial start-up budget?

November 28, 2013 by Guest contributor

What are your key options after you've spent your initial start-up budget?/person with an empty wallet{{}}One of the earliest challenges faced by all start-ups concerns finance. No matter how great an idea you’ve had and no matter how well thought-out your business plan is, you’ll need to have enough funding to get your fledgling venture off of the ground.

Maybe you’ve pursued crowdfunding, borrowed money from friends and relatives, perhaps even turned to a high street bank for a business loan, or approached alternative finance providers for help. Whatever route you’ve chosen, before long you and your business will have to face the same daunting question – what to do when this money has run out?

You’ll hopefully be self-sufficient

Start-up funding is intended to give businesses a chance to get off the ground, of course. In the very earliest stages of a business’s life it’s almost guaranteed to be operating at a loss, and those expenses will need to be covered somehow.

You might need to invest in premises, staff, equipment and more besides, so start-up finance is a necessary step in order to see your business through those hard, frightening and exciting early months.

If all goes to plan, start-up funding should act as a stepping stone to help your business to become self-sufficient before the cash runs out completely. Very few start-ups operate at a profit for the first few years, but if you’ve played your cards right, you’ll be breaking even before your start-up funds are all spent.

You can actively pursue growth

It’s possible to pursue growth during the period when many fledgling firms find it difficult to compete, even when a challenging economy makes business opportunities difficult to come by.

Building momentum can be difficult at this stage, but if you’ve got the right people around you and have built a team of committed, hardworking individuals, it’s eminently possible to get moving in the right direction once more. Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to pursue another form of business finance if you are to move from stagnation to expansion once more.

You may need more financial assistance

The business world is built on finance, and until a business has reached the stage where it is sufficiently profitable to sustain itself and grow, it must rely on the assistance of small-business finance facilities instead.

Invoice finance providers offer facilities that can fund growth, based on your business’s internal sales ledger. Alternative lending options such as invoice finance and discounting are more flexible and thus more suitable for growing companies than traditional bank loans, so if you’re looking to move your business forwards without incurring additional debts, you’re likely to benefit significantly.

You could also look at peer-to-peer lending (ie the lending of money to unrelated individuals without going through a traditional financial intermediary), crowdfunding (ie the collective cooperation, attention and funding by people who pool their money and resources together to support other businesses or organisations) or possibly an overdraft.

The period immediately following your business’ first few months can be intimidating and confusing, and it may seem as though the last thing you want to do after your small business funding has all been spent is pursue yet more finance. Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to take the bull by the horns and actively pursue growth in order to spare your business from years spent merely treading water and making ends meet.

Blog provided by David Richards of Gener8 Finance Ltd.

My advice to start-ups and small firms - Ed Reeves of Moneypenny

November 28, 2013 by Guest contributor

My advice to start-ups and small firms – Ed Reeves of Moneypenny {{}}My sister, Rachel Clacher, and I founded Moneypenny in January 2000. All we had was a business idea and £15,000. I’d run my own business previously and had needed someone to look after my telephone calls while I was out, but finding the right service was tough and when I did, it was full of flaws.

Recognising a gap in the market, we decided to create a personal, relationship-based service staffed by people who understood the business need and who would deliver an efficient and professional service every time. That’s when Moneypenny – and most recently, Penelope – was born.

We knew that with limited resources we had to shape our product if we were to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Having your calls answered by one person you know and trust is what has defined us as a provider.

Diversifying our product offering is an essential part of our success. Earlier this year we launched a new digital receptionist, Penelope, which offers a wealth of features designed to help micro-businesses handle their calls, including pioneering voice recognition capabilities.   

Our technology allows our receptionists to look after calls exactly to the client’s brief. This ensures a seamless service and our clients know that every call and opportunity coming into their business is captured, while leaving them free to manage their day as they need to.

We’re focused on providing unique solutions for small businesses, as well as growing our service offering for large corporates. Digital receptionists across all areas of business are a huge focus for us going forward, too.

What’s my advice to start-ups and micro-businesses that want to grow quickly? Create, create, create – and don’t take no for an answer. Never sit back and admire what you’ve achieved – look forward to what’s next. Have the courage of your convictions and think about what you need to do to reach new markets. Pre-empt and don’t be afraid to be different.

  • Ed Reeves is the co-founder of telephone answering service provider Moneypenny. He is also responsible for Penelope, a tailored telephone answering service for start-ups and micro-firms (registered Donut users can get a 30% discount).

Will the 'polarised economy' lead City workers to set up businesses in their lunch hour?

November 27, 2013 by Guest contributor

Will the 'polarised economy' lead City workers to set up a business in their lunch hour?/clock at Canary Wharf{{}}By December 31, half a million new businesses will have been started in the UK this year, with the number of VAT-registered companies already back to pre-2008 levels.

According to government statistics SMEs generate £1,600bn – slightly less than half of all private sector turnover. Research carried out by Enterprise Nation suggests almost 70% of these new businesses are started at home – often by people who are holding down a day job.

Meanwhile a new report from think tank Resolution Foundation points to our economy rapidly moving towards a two-tier labour market – those with top jobs and big salaries - and those with low-paid jobs. It reported a drop in the number of middle-income jobs and predicted further polarisation in the UK’s maturing economy.

It’s a fundamental change and one that the Foundation thinks the Bank of England should take into consideration when deciding when to increase interest rates – because it argues lower unemployment - the magic seven million mark – will not hold the same significance as it once might have done.

It led us at Enterprise Nation to ask this question - could the start-up momentum we are witnessing be, in part, fuelled by the increasing wage gap? We know “5 to 9ers” – people carefully test the water by starting a business in their spare time, working away in the evening and weekends – have been around for a while.

I wrote Working 5 to 9 in 2010, reflecting the then new trend, and at the time we calculated that five million people were making some form of income at home. It’s now time for us to revisit these statistics – because we’re pretty sure that figure will have been blown out of the water.

Is the 5 to 9 trend likely to experience an even bigger boost now people have realised they are unlikely to see the kind of income they might once have expected?

Sadly, no statistics that can clarify this at the moment, however, the idea is set to be tested this week when Enterprise Nation opens its doors to its pop-up enterprise hub, set in the heart of the City and offering a free lunchtime start-up service to people who already have jobs.

The pop-up will offer power hours, setting up a website in your lunchtime, expert help with blogging, social media, finance, planning and so on. We think we’re going to be busy - and the very fact that we think there’s a demand demonstrates there is at least an anecdotal appetite as well as a certain ‘normality’ about holding down a job and working on a business in your spare time, which is interesting. Let’s see if we’re right.

Emma Jones is founder of small business network Enterprise Nation, a co-founder of StartUp Britain and an adviser on the newly-formed think tank Centre for Entrepreneurs.

Further reading

Small Business Saturday UK - coming to a town near you

November 25, 2013 by Fiona Prior

Small Business Saturday UK logo{{}}Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy. Figures from the Federation of Small Businesses indicate that they account for 99% of private businesses in the UK and that they employ 14.4 million people.

Consumers in the UK are being urged to support small businessses with the UK's first ever Small Business Saturday

The event is being held on Saturday 7th December - traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year - in town centres across the UK. Small Business Saturday is an established event in the US. Last year, Small Business Saturday US led to $5.5 (£3.5) billion in sales to small businesses, and led to a increase in long-term trade.

Organisers are hoping that all kinds of small businesses in the UK - whether they be family run, small shop, online or small manufacturer - will get involved. The aim is to get consumers to support small businesses, shop locally and to boost trade.

Research from Groupon and retail analysts Kantar shows that 71% of shoppers would visit their High Streets more often if it contained more independant retailers. With the High Street in decline, the report hints at a possible solution that could reverse this decline. More small, independent traders on the High Street = a more vibrant and thriving High Street.

Small Business Saturday comes hot on the heels of Global Entrepreneurship Week and the announcement that small businesses are to get their own pressure group, The Entrepreneurs' Alliance.

With this wave of momentum, small businesses should take this opportunity to stand up and shout about what they can offer.

To get involved in Small Business Saturday, and to download a media pack, click here.

Thinking of starting your own business? What's stopping you?

November 21, 2013 by Guest contributor

Alex Head - Social Pantry{{}}

Many people will consider the option of starting a business of their own at some point during their life. Sometimes this is fuelled by a change of personal circumstances, sometimes it is as a result of a 'light bulb' moment where you think to yourself "I can do it better than that" and for others it is to fulfil a life-long ambition.

The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs. There are more than 2.1 million VAT registered businesses and the vast majority of those are small businesses. StartUp Britain suggests that entrepreneurs in Britain will start more than 500,000 new businesses in 2013 alone.

Andrew Devenport, chief executive of Youth Business International (hosts of Global Entrepreneurship Week) says "While more than half of the population would like to start their own business, less than 5% actually do. These entrepreneurial ambitions are even more acute among young people and women. Young people in the UK are three-times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and more than twice as many men start businesses as women.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is dedicated to giving individuals and start-ups practical support to help them get set up and grow. Andrew Devenport says, “Young or old, whether you’re in Barrow or Braintree, or Greenock or Greenwich, Global Entrepreneurship Week can help you take a step forward.”

Here, four entrepreneurs tell us why they decided to set up on their own and share their stories.

Alex Head - Social Pantry Ltd

Alex began her entrepreneurial journey when she started a small sandwich company at the age of 15 and since then it has steadily grown it to the company it is today.

After opening three restaurants for other people she decided it was time to take the plunge and founded Social Pantry Ltd, a café and catering company in Clapham. Social Pantry was created on the back of Alex’s love of food and a challenge. Despite starting up during the recession, she has expanded with an impressive client list including Jo Malone, Red Bull, Innocent Drinks and Laura Ashley.

However, it hasn't always been plain-sailing for Alex - learning quickly how easy it is to get it wrong after the closure of Melito in 2010, a company she had invested in and set up.

One piece of advice Alex would give to people looking to start a food business would be to run a pilot scheme or a trial run. "A good way of starting is to have a pop up as a tester and then you can get direct feedback straight away. Alternatively, if you’re delivering food, start with a small sample of addresses you deliver to, and then expand if successful."

Jacob Hill - The Lazy Camper{{}}Jacob Hill, age 20 – The Lazy Camper

Jacob is currently studying for a degree in Enterprise Development at the University of Huddersfield, but unlike his peers, he isn’t just learning about starting a business, he’s actually doing it. What started as an idea in a muddy campsite at the Leeds festival has now grown into having its own office and six members of staff. Jacob now supplies camping equipment to thousands of festival goers and campers across the UK through his company, The Lazy Camper.

The company, whose best selling product is the £69.99 all-in-one camping kit in bag, is now a proud sponsor of Virgin Media’s V Festival and offers one of the easiest camping options ever to the hundreds of thousands of people at events such as ‘V Festival’ each year.

However this young entrepreneur nearly didn’t make it through school when his teachers found out he was running a confectionary enterprise from his school lockers. When threatened with suspension at fourteen he worried about his future, but little did he or his teachers realise that by twenty-one he would be a successful businessman winning £270k worth of investment for his start-up enterprise. Jacob wants to inspire other youngsters to combat the lack of employment opportunities by thinking big and starting up their own business.

Offertune{{}}James and Charlie Gerard - Offertune

Offertune was born over a good steak in an empty restaurant on a Monday evening. Two brothers (James and Charlie) were dining with the owner of a small group of restaurants and discussing why the normally busy restaurant appeared empty in the early week.

They realised that large chain restaurants were able to communicate offers to their guests through organisations like Groupon that have large, ready-made databases.

The seed of Offertune was sewn and the brothers worked for eight months trialling and developing software that provides a free tool for restaurants to collect and grow databases and send out free vouchers to their members.

Through a number of trials, they proved that fans of the restaurants would pay up-front and then spend 150% on the night. Charlie and James are now ready to run their business after a turbulent year of setting up but state that the key to their success is their brotherly bond. Charlie describes their relationship as one of the many strengths of Offertune, having a shared background and a similar frame of mind they are able to bounce ideas off each other with no inhibitions for sharing ideas.

As a result of both their hard work and teamwork, they already have interest from household names such as Charles Wells Pubs, Yo Sushi and Loungers, so it’ll certainly be a busy Christmas for them!

Celebration tent{{}}Katie Ainsworth – The Celebration Tent   

Katie’s business idea grew while she was looking for something out of the ordinary for her son’s first birthday. She spotted this gap in the market and jumped at the chance to have a business that would fit around family life.

In 2011, Katie undertook voluntary redundancy from the NHS to coincide with her maternity leave. Katie dreamt of having a rewarding job that also let her work from home and have flexible hours to be a full-time mum. She realised the only way this would be possible was to become her own boss and she is now leading the way for stay-at-home parents seeking commercial success.

Katie started up The Celebration Tent, offering a decorated five metre bell tent for hire at private events, in April 2013, and has never looked back. Throughout this year, the company has gone from strength to strength as a result of beaming reviews from all of her clients and she has now expanded from one huge tent to four.

Katie describes her job as much more rewarding and challenging than her previous job at the NHS working with high level researchers. She would advise anyone thinking of changing their career and starting up their own business to take the plunge, as it was the best decision she ever made.

Keeping your SME rural

November 19, 2013 by Guest contributor

Keeping your SME rural/cottages in the Costwolds{{}}Many business owners dream of one day expanding their SME into a global organisation based in the buzzing business capital of the big cities. While the thriving metropolitan atmosphere may seem like the best place for any business, this isn’t always the case.

Thanks to developments in technology and communications, keeping your business rural has never been easier, and comes with some real benefits. From employee satisfaction to publicising the business, there are limitless positives that come with working in the countryside.

Flexible working

From an operational point of view, it’s certainly much more practical to keep an SME based in a rural location. A small, slightly cheaper office is often enough for an SME that can then hire employees based around the country.

This will allow employees to converse with customers countywide without the cost and effort required to travel in and out of the city on a regular basis. Allowing some employees to telecommute to work will also increase employee satisfaction, resulting in a happier workforce and a higher quality of work.

The evolution of technology

When once it would have been impossible for a modern business to work within a rural area, the advancement of technology means a fully functioning and practical business can be ran effectively from the middle of a field!

Telecommunication has never been easier, while satellite broadband is an effective and practical means of internet access for those who do not have access to fibre optic broadband.

The grass isn’t always greener

Working in a major city may offer a somewhat more cosmopolitan atmosphere, but the benefits of the city rarely outweigh the negatives. Due to the sheer size of most cities, it’s next to impossible for smaller businesses to make their name known against the ferocious competition.

Employees often report lower work satisfaction when commuting on a regular basis, and potential customers will often enjoy the personal, SME approach to business that can be taken when working in a rural environment.

Blog supplied by independent satellite broadband internet service provider Europasat.

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Posted in Business IT | Tagged IT | 0 comments

Why should small businesses care about Global Entrepreneurship Week?

November 18, 2013 by Guest contributor

Global Entrepreneurship Week logo{{}}This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week – a week that aims to grow enterprise ambition and motivate people to meet their new business potential.  Entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs from across the globe use the week to share ideas, connect with each other and receive valuable support and advice.  Sounds great, but what does this mean for the UK’s small businesses?  Why should they care about Global Entrepreneurship Week?

The organisation I represent – Youth Business International – runs the week in the UK and 10 other countries across the globe.  Our ultimate goal is to help people around the world to start and grow their own business.  Global Entrepreneurship Week gives us a platform from which to drive this goal forward, shining a spotlight on enterprise that enables us inspire and encourage new business ventures.  But, for me, Global Entrepreneurship Week is more than that.  Now in its tenth year, the week has become more of a movement than a PR push.

The campaign will see over 3,000 events across the country involving in excess of 300,000 people.  Very few of these events are organised directly by Youth Business International.  They’re organised by partners, from schools who want to inspire their young people to Barclays Bank who want to help businesses take their venture to the next stage.

So why should small businesses care?  For me, there are three reasons.  First of all, the week can be a catalyst for growth.  Our theme this year is ‘take a step forward’ and the activity taking place is focused on giving small firms the tools and encouragement to push themselves, even if they make just one change that will open up their potential.  Secondly, the week shines a light on the importance of enterprise – it’s a celebration of the UK’s start-ups and a time to be bold in communicating the value they bring to our economy.  And finally, through the week, small businesses have unprecedented access to a huge amount of practical advice and resources, from masterclasses in international client marketing to bookkeeping workshops. 

Global Entrepreneurship Week genuinely helps entrepreneurs to get the recognition they deserve and the support they need to grow.  That’s why I believe it’s a week that all small businesses should take note of. 

For more information about Global Entrepreneurship Week, to learn more about the events taking place across the world and how you can be involved, visit www.gew.org.uk or follow the hashtag, #GEWfwd on Twitter.

Andrew Devenport is the Chief Executive of Youth Business International

Get involved in Global Entrepreneurship Week 2013

November 14, 2013 by Mark Williams

Get involved in Global Entrepreneurship Week 2013 {{}}

From 18-24 November events to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) will be taking place throughout the UK and you or your business are welcome to get involved.

More than 350 events in the UK involving more than 76,000 people are planned, but there is still time to stage your own event – and there are many good reasons why you should (you can email the organisers for advice).

Business Secretary Vince Cable will launch GEW at an event at Westminster Kingsway College, which will be hosted by organizers Youth Business International and sponsors Barclays, where attendees will include former Pizza Express entrepreneur Luke Johnson, and Gandy’s Flip Flops founders Rob and Paul Forkan.

The theme for this year’s GEW is to encourage would-be entrepreneurs and business owners to “Take a Step Forward” towards starting a business. According to the organisers, highlights of the week include:

This year marks the tenth year of GEW, according to organisers, a week that is “dedicated to giving individuals and start-ups practical support to help them get set up and grow”. Last year, they say, 279,500 people in the UK attended more than 3,200 GEW events organised by more than 500 partner organisations.

“Young or old, whether you’re in Barrow or Braintree, or Greenock or Greenwich, Global Entrepreneurship Week can help you take a step forward,” comments Andrew Devenport, chief executive of Youth Business International (YBL – “a global network of independent non-profit initiatives” with HRH The Prince of Wales as its president). “We had a record year last year, but 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger and better.”

GEW certainly has high-level support. Prime Minister David Cameron says: “Global Entrepreneurship Week is about growing enterprise ambition and ensuring that those with ideas know where to get the support they need to make them a reality. It’s about creating jobs and opportunities.”

YBL says it believes that a large national campaign to promote entrepreneurship is “a vital part of making the UK more entrepreneurial, to encourage more people to start up their own business.

“The challenge we face is simple: while more than half of the population would like to start their own business, less than 5% actually do. These entrepreneurial ambitions are even more acute among young people and women. Young people in the UK are three-times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and more than twice as many men start businesses as women.”

Maybe this year’s GEW can help to address such problems by encouraging many more people to take control of the future by starting their own business.

Get your free tickets for the Business Startup show

November 13, 2013 by Guest contributor

Get your free tickets for the Business Startup show{{}}Billed by its organisers as “Europe's most important business event” and “the UK’s biggest exhibition for anyone starting or expanding a business”, Business Startup (which is being run alongside The Business Show 2013) will take place on 28 and 29 November in London at Olympia.

The good news is, if you live close to London or are able to travel there, free tickets are still available. Over the two days, when more than 25,000 people are expected to attend, there will be 10 workshops, more than 250 free seminars and 350-plus exhibitors gathered.

Speakers at the event include Sir Tom Shebbeare (chairman of Virgin StartUp), Doug Richard (ex-Dragon and founder of School for Startups) and David Gold (joint chairman of West Ham United and chair/owner of Gold Group, which owns Ann Summers and many other successful businesses), among many others.

According to the organisers: “Business experts will cover everything you need to know to get your business started and offer you their invaluable experiences, tips and secrets.”

As well as access to some excellent free information and advice, the event potentially also offers fantastic networking opportunities.

Order your free tickets while you can.

What key obligations do businesses have to their employees?

November 13, 2013 by Guest contributor

What key obligations do businesses have to their employees? /3D idea as environmental{{}}Taking on employee is a significant step for all businesses, but new businesses in particular can find it a daunting experience. Mistakes can lead to costly tribunal claims, of course. Part of the problem is that many business owners aren’t sure about their obligations as an employer nor do they have the luxury of their own HR staff.

Nobody wants to think that what you thought was the perfect hire could result in a costly tribunal case, but one in six disputes do – at an average cost of £9,000. Add to this solicitor’s fees and time taken out of running your business and you are looking at nearer £20,000 in costs, which could be crippling for many small businesses.

At very least, employers need to know what basic legal rights employees have in the workplace. Mainly, these cover: pay and hours; discrimination; and disciplinary and dismissal.

Pay and hours

Employees have the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage and the same pay as members of the opposite sex doing the same work of equal value for your business. Rest breaks and paid holiday must be in line with the Working Time Regulations. Employees also have rights to statutory sick pay and redundancy pay, while being protected from any unauthorised deductions in pay. Qualifying employees are also entitled maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay, as well as paid leave for antenatal care, unpaid dependants’ leave, unpaid parental leave (after one year) and the right to request flexible working. Employees are also entitled to time off for public duties such as jury service.

Discrimination

Employees must not be discriminated against unlawfully on the grounds of race, sex, marriage, pregnancy, disability, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief.
Protection against less favourable treatment also exists for part-time workers, as well as ‘whistle-blowers’ and trade union members.

Disciplinary and dismissal

All employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed, after a qualifying period of two years. Employees have the right to access fair grievance, disciplinary and disciplinary procedures, and the right to be accompanied at disciplinary and grievance procedure hearings.

All employees also have the right to receive a written statement of terms and conditions of employment (such as an employment contract) within two months of starting. This can avoid one the main causes of employment tribunal claims.

Tribunals and investigations may never happen to you, but by seeking advice from organisations such as the Forum, to ensure you are up to speed with your obligations as an employer, can help you avoid any nasty surprises later.

Blog supplied by Joanne Eccles, business advisor at the Forum of Private Business, which has produced a free-to-download guide called 5 Essential Things Every Employer Should Know, with further hints and tips on your obligations as an employer, health and safety legislation, tax and finance responsibilities and recruiting advice.

Further reading

Posted in Employees | Tagged employment law | 0 comments

Crowdfunding for business - a fad or the future?

November 11, 2013 by Guest contributor

Crowdfunding for business – a fad or the future?/Crowd, Funding road signs{{}}Financing a business has traditionally meant asking a few people for large sums of money. Crowdfunding – one of the most talked-about funding channels in recent years – turns this idea on its head by enabling businesses to use the Internet to ask a multitude of potential funders for defined, comparatively small amounts of money.

The question of how to fund and share profit more creatively was hotly debated at this year’s Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network 2013 event. Speaking at a pre-conference workshop on accessing capital, Springboard Enterprises president Amy Millman stressed the importance of getting the right source of credit, suggesting that crowdsourcing can provide an innovative means of becoming a more social, community brand in opening a company up to a broader and younger pool of shareholders.

And with funding options drastically reduced in the wake of the global banking crisis, small businesses are jumping at the chance to get their finance from ordinary people: the crowd. But with little regulation, is this young credit market really a safe and viable option for businesses looking to meet their growth ambitions?

Crowdfunding essentially means asking a crowd of people for a fixed amount of money for a business venture or specific project in exchange for a reward. As a relatively new market, the credibility and stability of crowdfunding needs strengthening – something increased regulation will help bring about.

Currently, just a limited number of platforms are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, meaning many crowdfunding companies are handling transactions without adequate protection – even if the UK Crowdfunding Association has a practice code in place to protect those involved. Few sites can ensure an investor won’t lose money in the event of the platform collapsing.

Ensuring potential investors have as much information as possible about a start-up is essential for informed decisions. That’s why any business looking for funding via these channels must be totally clear about why they need the investment, how it will be used, and how much they need to reach their growth and profit targets.

Unlike traditional pitching, potential investors are unlikely to have met the start-up, so must be made to feel part of the success story. A company needs to tie-in their crowdsourcing outreach with a social and media engagement strategy. Of course, the nature of both social media and crowdfunding means that entrepreneurs must be ready to receive feedback – both the good and bad – in a very public domain.  

Ultimately, any business looking to raise funding through crowdfunding must do their due diligence before diving into these still largely untested waters. Not all crowdfunding platforms will be appropriate for the business or project in hand, so research is essential.

And it’s not for the faint-of-heart. It can be a lot of work to kick-start and maintain the momentum that will see a project through to its desired end. But crowdfunding can also provide a start-up with unique exposure and feedback from those who matter most – your target audience of ‘ordinary’ people.

Blog supplied by Sarah Shields, executive director and GM, consumer, small and medium enterprise, Dell UK.

Further reading

How to save money and the environment by becoming a paperless business

November 06, 2013 by Guest contributor

How to save money and the environment by becoming a paperless business/paperless office sign{{}}Becoming a paperless (or near paperless) business isn’t something that can be achieved overnight. It takes time, effort and patience from every member of your team. It was reported by The Guardian that more that 80 million tonnes of paper is wasted every year.

Going paperless will certainly benefit the environment, but what are the business benefits? Not only can it clear away clutter and create more space, you can also expect increased levels of productivity and lower long-term costs. So how do you become a paperless business?

Technology

The road to becoming a paperless business isn’t an initially cheap one. If you want to see results in the future, you have to be willing to invest in new technology now. After all, if you’re intending on banishing printing forever, your staff are going to need paperless alternatives.

If you invest in second monitors for your employees, they will no longer require printed documents to refer to as they work. Productivity will also increase thanks to shorter queues around the printer and the ability to multi-task.

Tablet computers are fantastic for displaying presentations, taking notes in meetings and referring to documents side-by-side while you work at another computer.

Cloud storage

If your filing cabinets are full to the brim, it may be time to start storing your documents in the cloud. All your files can be stored online and accessed anywhere, from any device. Services like DropBox and Google Drive allow you to save files online, eliminating the need for paper copies. You can also apply specific restrictions to the files, so that only certain documents can be accessed by certain people.

Finding documents becomes a lot quicker and easier too, because your employees can use the system’s online search tools. Staff members are able to access the files they need without leaving their desks.

Changing your printing habits

It’s time to clamp down on all unnecessary printing. Make it clear to your people that documents should only be printed if absolutely necessary. This is a much trickier process if you haven’t put new technology and other alternatives in place.

Take the time to look at your printing habits to identify particular bad practices or repeat offenders. Remove a couple of printers from your office and insist that documents are printed in mono and double-sided at all times.

Print management software allows you to take control of your printing output quickly and easily. It usually allows you to set monthly ‘printing allowances’ for each employee to foster better habits.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it’s important to remember that this process takes time. Stay positive and you will begin to see progress every day.

Blog supplied by office supplier Viking.

Does your business have export potential?

November 04, 2013 by Rachel Miller

Does your business have export potential?/made in the UK STAMP{{}}Could your business successfully sell overseas? Taking this strategic step is certainly daunting. You’ll have to investigate new markets, meet the needs of fresh new customer bases and invest in the infrastructure to deliver overseas.

But, according to Experian, there are some 900,000 businesses in the UK that have real potential to start exporting and yet they are still only serving the UK market at the moment.

What does a potential export business look like?

To identify these businesses, Experian analysed over 40,000 UK companies that are currently exporting and it has built up a profile of these firms in order to better understand what an exporting business actually looks like.

The key characteristics identified by Experian include:

  • Businesses with more than 20 employees;
  • Firms with multiple locations and significant geographical coverage of the UK market;
  • A strong commercial credit rating;
  • Businesses that employ a large, sophisticated auditor/accountant.

Experian took this model and mapped it across the entire UK business population to uncover which companies have many of the identified characteristics — and, therefore, the potential to export — but are not reporting any export turnover.

Almost 900,000 businesses fitted this description. Your business could be one of them.

Could you double your turnover?

Max Firth, UK managing director for Experian’s Business Information Services division, said: “When you consider that of the known exporting population, the average amount of turnover attributed to exporting is approximately 50%, the companies identified could potentially double their income capacity by exporting.”

Regional and sector analysis

The Experian analysis revealed that six of the top ten locations with a large population of potential exporters are in Scotland. Three more are in London.

The location with the most potential is Aberdeen — this high-tech city has the highest proportion of businesses in the UK (26.7%) that could fit the profile of an exporter and yet don’t currently sell overseas.

Manufacturers and wholesalers were found to export more than others. However, Experian’s research found that many more firms in these sectors could successfully export. This includes firms that manufacture electrical equipment, manufacturers of household and office equipment and those in food and textiles.

One thing’s for sure, if you want to export you need robust business analysis and market data. This latest research could help many firms that are undecided about exporting to finally take the plunge.

Rachel Miller is the editor of Marketing Donut.

Exporting events and resources

Following the success of Export Week in May, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) will be running regional events from 11-15 November encouraging businesses to increase their export activity, with the ExploreExport road show visiting eight English regions.

In support of the week, we’ve gathered together free resources — including guides, articles, checklists, blogs, tools and case studies, all aimed at businesses that want to sell more to customers overseas.

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