I’ve seen it time and time again, high-flying entrepreneurs at the helm of their empire, trying to do everything and getting little done.
Business owners are constantly trying to multi-task and although we all know that trying to do so makes us less focussed and less productive, it’s an inevitable outcome of the real world in which we do business. There will never be just one task. Here’s some simple advice on how to remain focused and in control.
This is the first thing I advise my mentees to use when deciding which tasks to embark on. Keep a task list of anything and everything that you need to do and keep updating it with new tasks.
Prioritise your tasks into “Must Do”, “Should Do”, “Could Do” and “Won’t Do” categories. Above all, keep in mind your strengths and delegate tasks that are not your strengths. Understand what you can realistically achieve in one day. A simple process like this, combined with some discipline, will make a big difference to your mindset and productivity.
There are tools that business owners can use to improve their overall focus. I use Asama to set my goals, targets and tasks and it enables me to share and delegate jobs to other members of my team. Mind mapping software is helpful in defining goals and targets that you can prioritise and focus on.
Of course, tools are only as effective as the person using them, so make sure you have adopted the right mindset and implemented the best processes before you resort to these.
Environment is a key factor in improving focus. The more comfortable your work environment is, the greater your ability to concentrate. I find that purposefully changing my location during a long day, for example, from my home office to the sunroom, helps introduce a new impetus to my work.
It sounds obvious, but removing and avoiding as many distractions as possible is one of the best ways to improve your focus. It’s astounding how personal issues can creep into your work zone. Adopt digital ‘Do Not Disturb’, by turning off your mobile phone, closing your emails and chat programs – deal with them later.
You know when you’re at your best, whether it is early morning or late at night when you have peace and quiet. Do your hardest tasks when you’re most alert and the less intensive tasks later on in the day when you have less drive.
Blog provided by Raj Dhonota, who first came to the public eye in 2005 during the first series of The Apprentice, since when he become a successful serial entrepreneur and investor in start-ups.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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!
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.
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
I once heard Sir Bob Geldof telling a conference that “you can’t do it all, but you can do your best’, and it inspired me to create my own corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy for my business.
There’s never enough time or money to do everything you want to do, but you should not use that as an excuse for not doing anything at all. If money is tight, businesses can donate their time and core services to their chosen charities.
Your expertise might lie in accounting, baking or magic tricks – it doesn’t matter. Someone somewhere will appreciate your skills and this will be the most effective contribution you can make.
We adopted Friends for Leisure as our corporate charity in 2008, it’s a voluntary organisation in Cheshire that helps children and young people with disabilities, and they do great work. We provide them with all of their outsourced IT solutions, as well as organising regular fundraising initiatives.
It’s not only your services that will benefit your charity. Inevitably, corporate sponsorship of non-profit organisations raises PR opportunities and the profile of the charity rises (as well as that of your business).
Although I identified the cause I wanted my business to support, there would be no way I could pursue anything without my team’s support. By getting ‘buy-in’ from my staff I not only ensured that we could achieve a meaningful charity programme, but also that we created greater team spirit and camaraderie within the business.
Most charity events have PR value for business that are involved with them and many find that their clients/customers love to get involved too. Choose events that not only benefit the cause, but also your clients/customers, staff and other people to whom you wish to connect.
Motivating staff can be difficult at the best of times, but those who get involved with giving will also be more willing to give more to their day job and you’ll find that they buy into the ethos and culture of the business.
Blog supplied by Gary David Smith, co-founder of Prism Total IT Solutions, provider of Cloud and managed IT services to UK SMEs (and the Friends For Leisure charity).
When starting a business we're faced with difficult questions and difficult decisions. The importance of asking the right questions cannot be overlooked.
You’re probably not familiar with the term “intuitive heuristics”. It means that when faced with a difficult question, we often ask ourselves an easier one instead and then satisfy ourselves that this is the answer we were looking for. Read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman if you want to find out more. He cites the example of a stockbroker investing millions in a car company. Instead of asking "Is the stock currently underpriced?" he asks "Do I like the cars?" It's the easier question – but the wrong question.
If the answer to a question requires a difficult, skilled, time-intensive or scientific solution, we often ask ourselves an easier question that avoids any of the above, without noticing. We do it every day.
If we've learned anything from Nobel Prize winner Kahneman, it's that intuition doesn't really exist. It comes with experience. The footballer who can read a game and make impressive decisions quickly does not have an innate gift. He didn't know where on the pitch to stand when he was eight years old and has countless examples of mistimed tackles throughout his career. His understanding of how to react or statistically predict what will happen in a match comes from years of practice, effort and coaching. Any gut feelings you have come from your industry and life experience. Consider it, but don't blindly follow it. Collaborate with other people and learn.
An instinctive reaction to anything is "do I like it?" We know what we like and make a snap judgement accordingly, from our brand name and logo to how our website looks and feels. But if you want to sell more, it doesn't matter what you like, it matters what your customers like.
Consider customer behaviour, industry best practice and using data available on your existing customers to understand what they like, so you can give them more. What would you prefer, a product you like or a product 100 of your customers like?
Don't stop at asking what you're customers like. Ask what your potential customers will like. If you sell pies, you're not just in the pie industry, you're part of the pastry industry, the catering industry, the lifestyle industry. In 1919 a man called Jack Cohen decided to sell more than just syrup and fish paste. He started selling tea and laid the foundations for what we now know as Tesco.
There's always a danger of trying to do too much too soon, but be aware that industries, technologies and customer trends are changing all the time. Don't get left behind.
Blog supplied by Jonny Cameron of merchant service provider Retail Merchant Services
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2005 I went on holiday to France with my family when a shocking experience redefined my life.
My son Barnaby was a lovely and lively two-year-old playing at the holiday villa we were renting - when he fell into an unenclosed swimming pool. We were extremely lucky that we were there watching and my father jumped in straight away and pulled him to safety.
We were horribly shocked - though like most toddlers he bounced back pretty quickly. The problem came when I began to think about a holiday the following year and could not find a family-friendly company that met the safety criteria I now considered essential.
It's funny how the best ideas can come to you by accident – literally, in my case. I felt there had to be a safer and more enjoyable way to holiday with small children. More to the point, I knew there must be plenty of parents just like me who were looking for the same thing. An idea began to form.
In April 2006 I started what was to become Tots To Travel from my kitchen table, with a grant of just £100. This bought a logo, which I used when approaching holiday home owners. I also chose a name, Tots to France, which quickly proved too limiting and had to be changed as we grew. I launched with nine properties on my books – and it wasn't long before I found our services were in demand.
Several years later and we now have more than 350 properties across France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK and Canary Islands. It’s been a huge learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed every minute, and even had another wonderful baby along the way.
Getting to where I am now, running a successful award-winning company, has been a rollercoaster ride and often a lonely one at that. While the highs are great, the lows are hard work. It can also be difficult to get away from the business, it is such an exciting journey that my brain rarely switches off, and at times it can feel relentless.
But, of course, there are plenty of good things about being your own boss. Not least that while on a day-to-day basis I work full time, I am able to organise my time around my children and I'm there to take them to school and look after them when they're sick.
I am the 'present' parent I want to be, while still having a creative outlet and sense of my own identity. I have achieved fulfillment on every level and am able to say, with confidence, that I am creating an exciting and secure future for my family.
Running my own business was the only way forward for me and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a career choice. I only wish I had done it sooner.
Every day, thousands of people set up their own businesses. Many will agree that starting your own business is a great, but challenging experience. You need to understand the ‘start-up’ process, because this makes a big difference to the success of your new business. Here are the necessary steps to consider when starting up your new business.
Coming up with a viable business idea can be challenging and initial brainstorming can help you to arrive at one. Think about issues that people are faced with every day and write them down. Helping to solve such problems could enable you to come up with some excellent ideas. You could even brainstorm ideas that improve existing products and services.
Tip: Think of products and services that will add value to people’s lives.
This is where you will validate your ideas. You need to determine and test whether your product or service is viable by researching your potential market.
Ask yourself, “Is my product or service niche? Is there space for it or is the market saturated?” Are you likely to make enough sales given the size and nature of your target market?
There are many ways in which you can conduct basic market research, including seeking the opinions of family and friends. Also be sure to speak to people you don’t know.
Tip: Don’t just rely on secondary research, web resources or surveying only the people you know. Poor research can steer your business in the wrong direction.
This seems like a very obvious step, because you would need a business plan to secure a business loan. However, this step involves strategic planning and requires your full involvement. It will involve identifying your funding, business risks, as well as your aims and objectives. Here you will also evaluate your competition and understand your business’s cashflow.
Tip: Focus on the vision and viability of your business, potential for profits and the resources required, as well as a strategy for your success.
The assitance of a reputable accountant can prove invaluable when starting your own business. They will be able to provide you with assistance, objectivity and expertise. Your accountant will also be able to help determine the best legal structure for your business and help you establish bookkeeping and other forms of record-keeping procedures. This will ensure you stay on track and up-to-date on all your paper work.
Naming a business is a key decision. The name of your business is the first thing that potential customers will notice, so think of it as the entry point for your business.
Think about your target market, product/service and image that you want to project to your market. Your name should work well wherever it is used, whether over the phone, on stationery, website, logo, etc.
Also, it’s important to check whether the name you want to use is available. You can do this by searching the National Business Register.
Remember: Whatever name you choose, it should make you stand out from your competitors.
No matter what structure you choose, you are likely to work with a number of different people to develop your business, such as suppliers, possibly distributors and maybe partners.
You may want to find a co-founder with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to assist where necessary. Whether you need materials to make your product or equipment to run your service, it’s possible that you will work very closely with your suppliers.
A good way to search for reputable suppliers is by asking other businesses in your field or by searching online. Make a list of those that you thought were good and arrange a meeting in order to talk about their prices, to develop a relationship and to get an idea of which suppliers are reliable and trustworthy.
Before you register and begin trading, you must choose which legal structure is suitable for your business. When deciding, it’s wise to understand what each structure involves. Most businesses in the UK are sole traders, limited companies or business partnerships. You also need to find a way to fund launching your new business. There are many other steps you have to consider when wanting to start your own business, but by following the above steps, you will be ahead of the game.
This blog was provided by 1st Contact Accounting.
As an author of start-up books, I get very jaundiced when I start reading others. It’s professional jealousy and it’s childish. Most of these books (if not all) are better then mine, which reinforces my jealousy. I was prepared to be unimpressed by Entrepreneur Revolution – How to Develop Your Entrepreneurial Mindset and Start a Business That Works by Daniel Priestly, but after reading it I wasn’t.
The book is superb. Straight talking. Nothing complex about technology, social media or strategy, but some very simple home truths that are very difficult to argue against.
The book’s starting point is that the industrial revolution is over; the information technology revolution is about to be over; and we are entering the entrepreneur revolution. We are moving from hands and heads to hearts. The future is customer intimacy, delivered by entrepreneurs who deliver amazing value, love what they are doing and get paid for it.
New technology allows everyone to follow their passion, heart and dreams. And following your passion makes you able to compete against the “big boys”. It also allows you to be in charge of your own destiny without being controlled by “The Man”.
The key question here is whether you are a clinger (ie wasting your life, holding on to the industrial revolution-type of living, living in the past, etc) or a surfer (ie someone who follows the joy, opportunity and empowerment).
Daniel’s book introduces the term “Global Small Business”, because technology now enables you to go global overnight. And then he explains how:
Once you have that set up, you have to lean in, go for it with all your being and start building your reputation. And because you are enjoying yourself, the spark, the energy, the curiosity and passion will bring the rewards, one way or the other.
The icing on the cake is how Daniel gives you a business model that works. It’s called the Ascending Transaction Model and consists of a gift, a “quick-win product”, a core product and a logical next step. Each step has increasing revenue potential, with all steps having great emphasis on excellence, customer delight, client success and sales.
To quote directly from the book:
“Secretly, many small-business owners have a negative association to selling and they wish they could simply do extra marketing, extra servicing or extra networking rather than having to have the sales conversation.”
“Unfortunately, this is fantasy. Omega, Ferrari, Google, HSBC and Apple all invest in sales training so their staff know how to have structured sales conversations with prospective buyers.
“If the world’s biggest brands, with the world’s hottest products, need to have sales conversations, then so does every small business.”
Daniel leaves the best for last, by providing a few home truths:
This book gave me a jolt. It forced me to look at our business model, reinforced my belief in entrepreneurship and taught me a few new things – all the things you want from a good book.
We’re often exposed to the idea that the UK job market is a bleak, uninspiring and uncertain landscape. With more than 900,000 young people out of work in the UK it’s hardly surprising that images of empty high streets, businesses closing and overcrowded job centres continue to dominate.
However, things may not be as grim as they appear, with recent statistics suggesting that the number of young self-employed people in the UK has risen by more than 70,000 since 2008.
Many young people in the UK are fighting back against the current economic climate by making the brave decision to start their own businesses. This kind of entrepreneurial spirit is admirable and with the right support, these young start-ups can achieve great success.
Self-employment can present many benefits and opportunities to young people who dislike the notion that the job market is limited, unpromising and highly competitive.
The option to choose your own hours shouldn’t be an excuse to sleep until noon, of course. However, a lot of young people enjoy the freedom of being able to choose working hours that better suit their work patterns and personal commitments.
Being your own boss allows the chance to try new things and offers the flexibility and creativity that isn’t often found while working for someone else. Even if the idea isn’t a success the first time, it becomes a valuable lesson that the budding entrepreneur can carry into new ideas.
Passion is often the driving force behind many successful entrepreneurs. Being able to do something that you’re passionate about is one of the best things about starting your own business. A lot of new business ideas are rooted in hobbies and when people are doing something they’re interested in, there can be an increase in productivity and a greater desire to succeed.
Everybody loves the feeling of a job well done. When you work for yourself, there is no one to take credit for your success other than you. Going it alone means you are in charge of setting goals and working out how you will accomplish them. While this is challenging, there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained when you achieve your goals.
Written by Lisa Gagliani, CEO of Bright Ideas Trust, the London-based charity that aims to help people aged 16-30 who aren't in employment, education or training to start their own businesses. It can provide funding, advice and support from dedicated business mentors and expert advisers.
So you’ve got your idea. You’ve found the problem you want to solve. The niche you want to fill.
Now you’re thinking about how you’re going to make it happen. Where your HQ is going to be. Who you are going to get onboard. What your branding is going to look like. Everything.
But before you start making rash decisions regarding your expenditure at the outset on things like hardware and premises, take stock a moment.
Is it all going to be really necessary?
More and more, start-ups and small firms are making use of remote working possibilities afforded by WiFi, the Cloud and telecommuting.
Apart from being a way to cut your overheads pretty drastically, releasing some pressure on your cashflow, it also enables your employees to manage the demands on their lives more effectively - meaning that they are better placed to channel their full energies into your business, where they are needed.
By operating flexibly and remotely, you make your working processes more agile and can free up the cash that would be spent on things like heating, business rates and rent. On top of this, your employees save commuting costs and are more equipped to avoid any associated stress.
IT and software providers are wise to this shift within the start-up landscape and have created product suites for agile start-ups to manage the transferral and storage of data and communications more effectively and securely.
As the business-scape shifts and new markets open up, being more flexibly set up will put you in a good position to trade more effectively across borders. It might well be that your key market is not in the territory you originally thought. Were you to work inflexibly at the outset, you may not even ever come to that realisation and that market would go untapped.
Similarly, if you are in full-time employment and, as recent research suggests, are in the good number of employees who are dissatisfied with their current role, you might wish to be more like the sudden bloom of entrepreneurs springing up around the UK and start up your own project while still gainfully employed.
Remote working and Cloud technologies offer up ample possibilities to allow you to do just that and there is a multiplicity of advantages involved, your personal exposure to risk is lowered and you can adopt a trial and error approach until you have a more rounded and attractive proposition to your target market.
So, if you think your current career is not progressing in the way that you wanted or that you think you are ready to make your first entrepreneurial step, there has arguably never been a richer time to take your future into your own hands.
Matthew Pink works in digital publishing and covers topics including entrepreneurship and start-ups.
Some of us have always dreamt of having our own business, but not all of us go through with it. For those who do, it can be a real labour of love.
Bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) have been around for many years and they’re a great alternative to hotels and hostels. Not only can they be cheaper, but they are designed to be homely for all who sleep there. Running one takes a lot of time and patience, and many things must be considered for the small business owner.
First off, you need to be aware of your target market, because this can greatly affect your success. You need to be able to stand out from the crowd and be able to offer facilities and services best suited to the type of clientele you wish to attract.
Next there is the building itself and there are a few options open to you. You can buy an existing business and put your personal stamp on it; renovate a building for use as a B&B; or build entirely new premises. There are pros and cons to each and it all depends on what you want and need from it. If you have a smaller budget you may want to consider purchasing a pre-existing business, so you don’t have to worry about any initial renovation or building costs. Also, you would be able to open up for business sooner.
To make sure that everything is above board it would be wise to seek the advice of the local planning authority. There are also certificates to sort out, including a certified kitchen, a check from a health and safety inspector and a visit from the environmental health agency. If your business does not comply with their standards for whatever reason, you will not be able to run the business until it is sorted and checked again.
Research. Need I say more? It never hurts to look around at other B&Bs nearby to see how they are run and whether they are popular. You might just learn something valuable from the competition. You also need to do your research on things like running costs, rules and regulations, the local demographic and much more.
As an optician I had a well-respected and secure job that paid the bills and gave me a very comfortable lifestyle, but it never quite gave me the fulfilment I was looking for.
I always wanted to run my own business and considered starting my own practice, but I didn’t think it was something I was passionate enough about to make a success of it. I had always been interested in technology and so it seemed fairly logical to do something online.
Both my business partner (a medical doctor) and I realised that there was a bit of an untapped market in the comparison website niche, because there was nothing offering anything related to health. This, in effect, was where the idea for TreatmentSaver.com was born, a website that allows people to book appointments online for laser eye surgery, cosmetic surgery and dental clinics.
Coming up with the idea for our online business was the easiest bit; taking the plunge to leave my job was always going to be trickier. I’m married and have a young daughter and trying to explain to my wife that I wanted to leave my perfectly good job was met with raised eyebrows, to say the least! My parents just couldn’t understand why I would spend all that time at university only to ‘throw my career away'. I explained to them that I would always have my career to fall back on should things not go as planned.
For me, the financial aspect was always the most difficult mountain to climb, because it’s hard to justify working long hours when you aren’t even getting paid for it. Initially, I worked two days per week as an optician, which gave me enough money to survive and this compromise worked well.
When we started our online business, my business partner and I each invested £25,000, which seemed like a heck of a lot of money at the time. As is probably true with many start-ups, a lot of the money ended up being wasted, as we figured out the best way to do things. We outsourced our web development and this was the single biggest drain on our finances. The first two companies promised the world, but were unable to deliver what we wanted, so we had to pull the plug on their work. This resulted in both a loss of time and money. It was at times like this that I felt like packing it in and returning back to my nine-five job, but with every failed website, we learnt a number of lessons about how better to assess potential web developers and understanding the mechanics of building a site.
It took about eight months to finally launch our website, which is a long time. Looking back, we realise we over-complicated things. We wanted an endless supply of cool features, but in reality we could have launched far sooner with a much simpler site.
The past 14 months has been about growing our traffic and signing up clinics, and we have now got to the point where we can pay ourselves a decent salary. The early days are definitely the toughest and having a strong family behind you is extremely important. I could not have done this without the support of my wife, so in that sense it was very much a joint decision. Hopefully, I can repay her support one day.
We all have exactly the same number of hours in a day, so why do some people seem to have enough time to do everything they want to do and others never seem to have enough?
If you want to be more successful, you need to use your time in a way that brings you the success you want. To do this you need to understand how you use your time and what it is worth.
A few years ago I sat down and worked out what my time was worth and how I wanted to spend it, and for the past two years my annual income has doubled. Here are my tips:
Start by looking at how you spend your time - the balance between business activities and the rest of your life. I suggest you go through your diary and colour-code the time as follows:
Notice how many weekends and evenings you are using for business meetings and events. Ask yourself if you are happy with this and if it’s bringing you the benefit you want. If so – great. If not – don’t do it anymore.
Next, understand how your daily activities contribute to your overall business (and life) goals. For example, if you want to double your turnover, you need to work out what your time is worth in financial terms. Here is how:
As soon as I doubled my income generation hours (green) and reduced the other hours, my turnover doubled. Last year it doubled again.
Here are some tips to help you focus:
Time and money are our two greatest assets. If we use them well we can create the life, business and lifestyle that we choose. It is our personal experience of time that matters. Are you happy with how you spend your time? If not then I suggest you review how you currently use your time. Work out what your time is worth – do the maths. Think about what is the best use of your time if you are to meet your goals.
In just 20 months, Vicki Wusche made the transition from single mother on limited income to being financially independent and having a property portfolio worth £2m. She runs a successful business that sources property for other investors, teaches people how to invest in property and has written many popular books on the subject.
I’ve always been business-minded, looking for solutions to problems, finding ways to improve things and thinking of ways people could do things better.
I have several family members with their own businesses and that probably influenced me growing up, because I’ve always wanted to run my own business, too. Working for other companies and helping them grow made me realise that this was something I could do for myself, so I set about trying to make that happen.
I was introduced to Nadine, who had 15 years of experience in the travel industry, and we launched eShores in 2007. Nadine and I worked from her spare room for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Within four months we had built the business up enough to move into a small serviced office and take on two staff. That’s when we knew eShores had really begun!
We saw a gap in the market for a travel company that provided the ease of booking online with the level of service and support offered by high street agencies. We knew that if we were to go down the luxury route and provide high quality service throughout the whole holiday experience, we could create a business that was unique in the market at that time.
Once we’d seen considerable success with eShores we decided to try branching out by launching another website that offered cheap holidays that could be booked online. Quickly we found that marketing the second website was very expensive and difficult, because it didn’t offer anything different from other cheap holiday sites.
Trying to expand the business was a costly endeavour, but it made us realise that it’s not always best to branch out into a different area. If you have something that works, it’s better to focus all your time and effort in to making it the best it can be.
We don’t regret trying out the second business. It had an effect on eShores and took our focus away from the main core of our business, but this simply taught us a valuable lesson in keeping 100% focused on the main product, because this is what works best for us.
My advice to anyone starting out in business would be: choose the market that you want to aim towards and build it around that; and make sure you offer something different – you must stand out if you are to succeed.
Business partners Gavin Lapidus and Nadine Brown run eShores, which is now in its sixth year of trading.
When two young mums with blossoming careers in law decided to take a furniture painting class, little did they know within a year their hobby would be a successful business called Lovely Things.
However, after friends and family expressed interest in their up-cycled pieces, Charlotte Dennison (pictured, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service) and Charlotte Smith (a legal assistant for Ryedale Council), both 32, decided to showcase their products at a local market, and the pieces were quickly snapped up by local stores. The Charlottes also now sell their goods on Ebay and Facebook.
Here the pair from North Yorkshire share their tips on how to run a sideline business.
Charlotte D: “When we started Lovely Things I was on maternity leave, looking after a three-year-old and a four-month-old. Charlotte Smith was back at uni as a mature student and looking after a 10-year-old.
“Luckily my husband is a policeman who works shifts and my in-laws live locally and Charlotte Smith’s parents help her out. There is no way we would be able to run our business without them, because we just couldn’t afford childcare.”
Charlotte D: “We split the big jobs in half. For example, if we’re decorating a table and chairs, Charlotte (S) will do the first bit and I will do the second bit. This way no job is too big, and we don’t get bored half way through!”
Charlotte S: “As we’re still in the very early days, we keep our own books and our overheads are low. We don’t have fixed prices for our items and encourage customers to make offers.
“We did consider getting our own website produced, but because we could use Facebook, Twitter and Ebay for free, it was hard to justify the additional cost.”
Charlotte S: “Being able to work in the evening and weekends allows us to fit Lovely Things around our family and work lives.”
Charlotte D: “If I could go back to last year, one thing I would change is I’d have more belief in our products earlier on. We were too nervous to go and rent a market stall to begin with because we were worried no one would be interested in our products.
“But it turned out to be the best thing we did, because it was at a market that we got talking to the owner of a local interior design business, who offered us space in her shop for our things. You just need to speak to everyone, because you never know who you are talking to and you really need to shout about your business. You have to believe in yourself, your business and its products.”
This guest post has been provided by Lima Curtis writing on behalf of ExpertMarket.
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