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Nine telecoms mistakes to avoid when starting a business

June 26, 2014 by Guest contributor

Nine telecoms mistakes to avoid when starting a business{{}}Telecoms are an essential part of any new business – so you need to get them right from day one. Here are nine of the most common (but easily avoidable) mistakes new business owners make with their telecoms…

1 Only having a mobile number

Research shows more than 30% of people do not trust and therefore will not contact mobile numbers. Plus, you’ll only have a single voicemail for personal and business calls. 

2 Using your home number

How will you know if it’s a friend or customer calling? Also, you can’t turn off your business in the evening and at weekends, while there is limited functionality for handling a second call and personalising voicemails.

3 Long-term contracts

It’s tempting to accept offers of free installation if you sign a long-term contract, but if you expand and/or move you could face penalties for cancelling the contract. Plus, you are locking yourself into prices in an environment where prices are generally going down.

4 084 numbers

Using inbound numbers such as 0800, 0844 or 0845 creates two problems. Firstly, using 0845 for post-sales service is now illegal. Secondly, if most of your customers call you from their mobile, they’ll get a warning telling them it will cost a lot of money, at which point 40% hang up.  

5 Not reading the small print

Check contract lengths, notice periods and penalty clauses, and make sure your supplier is signed up to the Telecoms Ombudsman (here’s a list of participating companies).

6 Planning for the future

Are the telecoms flexible and scalable should you expand? If you are working from home, is the number portable should you move into premises?

7 Using numbers provided by your serviced office

This can be very expensive compared to organising your own telecoms and they may not release the number should you move out. Some business centres offer to forward calls but this can be costly. Always ask if you can bring your own and if not are the numbers portable if you leave.

8 Skype

Not everyone in business uses Skype, particularly larger businesses. Also, Skype phone numbers are not portable, so when you have outgrown Skype you’ll lose the use of that number.

9 Call Answering Services

What do you want them to do? If it is just to take a message you need to ask yourself what value is that adding. However, if they can handle certain queries, that can enhance your offering.

So what are the options? For micro businesses, a simple inbound geographic number can be set up for about £7 a month. For a little extra it can have a voicemail and a whisper facility to tell you that it is a business call.

For larger start-ups, the choice is VOIP or traditional telecoms solutions. The more sites and the greater the likelihood of growth, the more likely it is that VOIP is the best solution. If you’re looking for more sophisticated features then a PBX may be better.  This guide and this one will tell you more.

In conclusion, think about your business, not just now, but in the future. Ask the relevant questions of your potential providers and ensure your telecoms align with your plans for the business. If in doubt, an independent telecoms broker can help.

  • Blog supplied by Dave Millett, who has more than 35 years’ telecoms industry experience and now runs independent brokerage and consultancy firm Equinox Communications.

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Five things to consider before moving office

March 20, 2014 by Guest contributor

Five things to consider before moving office/Businesswoman unpacking cartons in office{{}}Are you currently considering whether to move into a new office or are you constantly weighing up the pros and cons of your current location? Before making a move, here are five things to think about.

1 Space

Sitting on your colleagues’ laps may be fun for the first 30 minutes, however, after a while the lack of personal space becomes tedious and it can cramp creativity. Lack of space is often the primary motive for many companies that decide to move. However, choosing the right space is crucial for your future success. Only increase a little and you risk having to go through the whole rigmarole of moving again very shortly, but increase too much and you could land yourself with a monthly bill you’re unable to pay.

2 Resources

Is your internet slower than an asthmatic snail with a bad back? If so, moving to another office with a high-speed connection may provide just the boost you need. For the vast majority of companies, strong, reliable internet is essential, and for many, a poor connection is more than just annoying, it can also cost you money. However, a good internet connection is not the only resource businesses require and many move because of better meeting room facilities, access to parking or even a nicer kitchen.

3 Location, location, location

As TV’s Kirstie and Phil constantly remind us, the key to any successful move is location, location, location. Currently, you may be in what you believe to be the perfect office, however, if it’s in the middle of nowhere and makes your staff’s daily commute impossibly long, it may be time for a change. A business can be made or broken purely on the choice of its location, so choosing the right spot is essential.

4 Great minds think alike

It’s a well-known fact that businesses in a similar sector often converge in similar locations. Moving to an area where you can meet, interact and network with like-minded businesses could prove a fantastic opportunity for you and could potentially open up many new avenues for your business.

5 Is there an alternative?

Technology is changing the way we do business, as is the way we think about office space. Flexible office space has become increasingly popular over the past decade, bringing quality space and high-end tech together in a simple monthly package. Ranging from hot desks to business centres, these hubs now attract start-ups and more established businesses. With many businesses still feeling the pinch, this cost-effective alternative could also prove a useful stepping stone to bigger things. So ask yourself if you really need to take a traditional approach or could your team take advantage of the flexible business hubs that continue to spring up in cities across the UK?

Blog supplied by LondonOffices.com.

Further reading

Posted in Business premises | Tagged Premises | 0 comments

Why it pays to pick the right business phone number

January 20, 2014 by Guest contributor

Why it pays to pick the right business phone number /retro red telephone{{}}Choosing the right telephone number for your business is vital because it says a great deal about you. But if you don’t know your 01s, 02s, and 03s from your 0800s and 084s or the potential costs to you and your callers, it can be a minefield. Here’s a guide that should help you choose correctly.

Telephone numbers are more than just a means of customers and prospects getting in touch with you, key as that is to a thriving enterprise. They also reveal something about your business.

If you provide only a mobile (07) number, people may think your business is small. Choose a geographical number (beginning with 01 or 02) and you appear to be tied to a specific area, which, of course, is fine if you wish to operate on a local or regional basis, but not ideal if you have ambitions to trade nationally.

Provide a number that begins with 084 or 087 and callers may fear the call will cost them too much following the recent bad press about them being used for helplines at premium rates.

Opt for an 09 number and people will know you are looking to make serious money from the call, perhaps, quite rightly, for a cause or a competition – or maybe they’ll just think you’re greedy!

First impressions count. The customer or prospect may not make the call – and perhaps you just lost a new client or maybe an existing customer went elsewhere.

Yes, playing the numbers game when it comes to choosing a phone prefix for your business or organisation can be daunting, but for smaller businesses, 03 could be your lucky number.

So why is 03 so good? While it may not suit every business, 03 has the following advantages:

  • It will be free to use for the majority of callers because, by law, it has to be included in free minutes and free call deals.
  • Even if paid for, a call to 03 will be at no more than the basic rate.
  • You may attract more enquiries from outside your area. With an 03 number, you won't be judged on your location.
  • A non-geographic number such as 03 may also give the impression your business is bigger than it really is in the start-up and development phases.
  • It is a less costly alternative to 0800 ‘freephone’ numbers, for which the business has to bear all the costs of incoming calls.

Public awareness of 03 numbers is limited. There’s no doubt the government needs to do more to promote the benefits of an 03 number for callers and business owners, especially in the wake of recent legislation banning the use of 084 and 087 numbers for consumer helplines. 

Blog supplied by Lindzey Evans, Client Support Manager for Penelope, the virtual phone system for start ups and emerging businesses.

Further reading

How to make your office more creative

August 12, 2013 by John Jackson

How to make your office more creative/lamp head businessman{{}}Creativity is the backbone of most successful marketing campaigns. When you have it, dynamic and exciting ideas are produced. Without it, you end up copying the competition and so always stay that little bit behind.

There are pieces out there that offer advice when it comes to encouraging creative thinking, yet they all aim to change company culture, which takes time and a lot of work. Why not aim to sort out the simple things first rather than worry about the company culture? Here are a few practical tips when it comes to increasing creativity in your business.

The Office – Make it interesting

Let’s be honest, a boring, drab, dark office has never inspired anyone to do anything. Yet it’s not difficult to make real changes. It’s well known that colour has an effect on mood, but have you ever thought about how that mood can affect creativity in the office? Bold, bright colours will help your people to stay positive, while introducing things that are a little “outside the box” will help to get the creative juices flowing.  The best way to think differently is to be different.

The Work – Collaborate and learn

Difference is important to creativity, so embrace different views! Look around your office; there are people with different roles, different backgrounds and different life experiences. They may be the key to your coming up with something that makes you different. Try to encourage discussion within the office; have regular informal meetings about anything creative and encourage people to read.

Knowledge development is important to a lot of major companies, so set aside time for you and your team to read up on your industry. Don’t just stop there though: look at other things that relate to you and your company. Remember to talk to each other and work together.

Networking – Get out there!          

Want to improve your knowledge? Get out there and talk to people. This should not just be a job for senior people in the office – get everyone involved. Find out about local business meetings, media socials and start-up events. Go and talk to people, you’ll get free alternative insights into your business and you may even pick up a new team member, customer or supplier.

The Team – Take time to relax and play

Ok, you don’t have to go for the full “Margarita Friday”, but it’s important to set aside time for you and your team to relax together. Think of it less of a team-building exercise, more of a case of relaxing with your mates. As a business you all have to work for each other, so the more relaxed you feel with each other the easier it will be for people to speak up and come up with more interesting ideas. You never know your “Margarita Friday” may produce the idea that makes your Monday morning.

John Jackson is a Marketing Executive for inbound marketing specialists Silverbean.

Further reading

Five smart ways to start a business on a budget

August 06, 2013 by Guest contributor

Five smart ways to start a business on a budget/bankruptcy {{}}When setting up a business it pays to limit your start-up costs. It’s reassuring to know there are affordable options for start-ups. Here are five ways you might be able to minimise your start-up costs, while still hitting the ground running…

1 Home from home

If your business is new, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to splash out on premium office space. Setting up a business from home has been made easier thanks to smart technology, super-fast broadband and the flexibility to work when you want. But when your four-year-old picks up the phone to your new client, it can end up costing you.

Entrepreneurs are now combining the flexibility of home working with the use of a local, managed workspace. This way they can benefit from a fully equipped office and meeting space as and when they need it.

2 Coffee shop temptation

When you first start out, you’re keen to follow any lead, and research we carried out suggests entrepreneurs would meet almost anywhere to secure a deal. When asked where the strangest places they’ve ever held a business meeting some of the weird and wonderful answers included the back of an ambulance, a navy warship and a cave! Coffee shops are a tempting meeting place, but negotiating while surrounded by talkative shoppers could prove tricky. Our research suggests 64% of business people would choose business centres over coffee shops when they need to be professional and productive.

3 First impressions last

When a prospective client contacts you, you must seize the opportunity. But important calls can come through to you when you’re queuing at the bank or boarding a plane. A ‘virtual’ receptionist is an independent contractor and more affordable than a member of staff. The receptionist, who’s often multilingual, will answer with your business name and can extend hours of availability so you never miss a business call again.

4 Be sociable

“Social media is to marketing as eye contact is to a handshake,” says social media guru Meg Fowler Tripp. Around 1.1bn people use Facebook every day and 200m go on Twitter, according to BuzzFeed. No new business owner would turn their nose up at free marketing, that’s why so many businesses now use social media channels to promote their products or services. But don’t ignore channels such Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, particularly if your business has a visual aspect.

5 Secure your place in the den

Even some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs, such James Caan (formerly of Dragons’ Den), didn’t start out in their own office space. He, like many other new business owners, opted for a virtual office, complete with a virtual address.

This affordable solution is increasingly popular among start-ups, home-based businesses and companies expanding into new regions. It eliminates the expense of renting while offering a business presence. Providing you with a local business address and phone number, it’s a convenient stepping-stone to a physical office.

By Anna Smith of serviced office provider Regus

More reading

Really strange places to hold business meetings

August 06, 2013 by Guest contributor

“Global flexible workplace provider” Regus asked 26,000 people from 90 countries about their attitudes to meetings places. Some gave some pretty bizarre answers when asked for the strangest places they’d ever met a client…

Infographic{{}}

Posted in Business premises | Tagged Premises | 0 comments

Why the boring business essentials could make the difference between sinking or swimming

March 07, 2013 by Bobby Dewhurst

So you’ve had an incredible new idea and you simply can’t wait to get to work on contacting potential customers, setting up meetings and making your dreams become a reality. But have you made sure you have the right insurance and have a first aid box on site?

It might sound ridiculous, but it’s very often the boring things businesses ignore that kill them in the all-important first year. So here’s a look at three things you might think are dull – but could end up being what breaks you if you choose to ignore them.

Business insurance

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong, right? But did you know that there are certain types of business insurance that are compulsory to anyone who chooses to get a business off the ground? Luckily there are handy online guides that will tell you more, so read up and make sure you’re covered.

A workplace risk assessment

No matter how big or small your premises might be, from a spare bedroom to a whole factory floor, a risk assessment could save your skin. It can help you to better protect visitors, clients and staff from accidents. If you don’t carry out a risk assessment, you could find yourself at the centre of a claim that digs so deep into your pocket that there is nothing left to keep your business afloat.

Buy a first aid kit

Sure, your risk assessment will help protect you, but it won’t stop accidents from happening. Trips, falls, bumps and much more can unexpectedly crop up anywhere so you’ll need to have either an industrial or office first aid kit available when they do. It may just be a few plasters, bandages and pain killers, but it could make all the difference if it stops someone trying to make a claim against you.

Bobby Dewhurst is a blogger writing on behalf of Pure Safety

Sharing an office - a great workspace solution?

January 10, 2013 by Peter Ames

Sharing an office - a great workspace solution?/office work space{{}}If you are a home-based start up looking to move into your first commercial property, renting a desk in a shared office can be a great workspace solution.

The amount of spare desks available for rental has been steadily growing over recent years and they are an increasingly popular office option. These are just some of the ways that life in a shared office could bring the best out of your enterprise.

More flexible contract

Shared office space is often available immediately and there is little of the potentially complicated legal process inherent when taking out a traditional office lease. This means you can get in straight away and start enjoying life in a buzzing office environment.

Furthermore, contracts are often rolling month-to-month affairs and this is where a shared office could really help you bring the most out of your business’ potential. If you feel the need to move or expand to meet the requirements of a fast-moving market, you are not tied to a location long-term. This could allow you to move wherever the market takes you.

Enjoy the buzz of office life

Another good reason to consider life in a shared office is you can make brilliant business contacts and fantastic friends. You may also find that being in an energising workplace can motivate you to work better. You might even have the skills your hosts require and working for them could provide a welcome additional revenue stream.

Increase your focus

If you find that the buzz of an office is a little too “buzzy”, the great advantage of flexible contracts is you can find yourself another, quieter workplace where you can better concentrate on driving your business forwards.

This is an important factor in your office search, because one of the great benefits of escaping the many potential distractions of the home-working environment by renting a desk is that it could do wonders for your focus. You can enjoy the many potential advantages of having a clear definition between work and home and even your commute could become a valuable time when you can get in the right mindset for work.

Additionally, in a shared office the services you access, such as broadband and security, are often included in one monthly fee. You can enjoy the many benefits of office life without having to spend valuable time managing the things that are often necessary when renting workspace in the traditional way.

This makes shared offices a great option at a time when you need to focus all your energy on your new business and really work towards bringing the most out of its potential.

Hang on a second

Shared offices are often great workplace solutions, but of course there are downsides. You will probably have very little control, both over your office environment and your workmates. So, if you like to use specific services, particularly for things like security, then a shared office may not be for you. However the beauty of such flexible contracts is that they still could be worth trying out.

Peter Ames writes on behalf of Office Genie, marketplace for office and desk space.

Could a virtual office be the answer for your new business?

January 07, 2013 by Lewis Edward

Could a virtual office be the answer for your new business?/empty office{{}}Start-ups have it tough these days – there are so many companies in every single industry that it takes an incredible effort to find an edge that would allow a start-up to thrive or even operate in these conditions. However, there are some unique solutions to some of the obstacles that start-ups usually meet when they start out.

Office space

The truth of the matter is that almost every single business needs an office space to run properly. The thing is, it is hard to find a good balance between the costs and the actual benefits of a prestigious location. You will either have a great place in the city centre and run out of money, or you will find an abandoned building far away and nobody is ever going to notice that you even exist. How can one deal with that dilemma? One though-provoking idea has recently found a footing on the market – the idea of virtual offices.

Virtual offices

The idea is stupidly simple – you can rent an ‘operating’ space somewhere away from the centre for a low price. From that place, you will simply run your small business without any distractions that the city centre often brings. And, additionally, you will rent a virtual office in a prestigious spot. There won't be any physical space for you, but your business will get plenty of prestige from being located on a good address.

That alone would hardly be worth it, but think about the fact that you can use that address for all kinds of things – correspondence, order taking, advertisements, etc - the possibilities are unlimited.

Sometimes, your provider might actually own some physical space in the given location and will often be able to provide you access to that in case you would like to set-up a business meeting without having to force your customers out of the city. Intriguing ideas all around – and perhaps you will be able to think about some more as well!

Lewis Edward is a co-founder of The Office Providers, a company that deals with all kinds of office space.

Six basic premises security measures for small businesses

December 03, 2012 by Charlie Curtis-Jones

Six basic premises security measures for small businesses/robber opens a window{{}}All businesses, whether small or large, need to implement safety measures and provide a safe working environment for those who work for it. What level these security measures take will depend on the size of the business and of course the budget available. No matter what size your business, there are some important and basic and common sense security measures that can be easy and cost-effective to execute to safeguard staff, equipment and other valuables.

1 Risk assessment

As soon as you possibly can, assess which areas of your premises could be vulnerable to crime or disaster. If you operate from a property on a busy high street, shutters for the windows may be a good idea, while if you are in a remote location, CCTV may be the best way forward. Do your research and identify the places that could be vulnerable to crime and come up with a solution quickly. It may just be that a window or door requires an extra lock, but even that could make a big difference.

2 Safety training

Staff members should have adequate training on safety procedures in case of an emergency. Safety drills need to be practiced regularly and a fire extinguisher readily available and tested to ensure it is in working condition. Fire exit doors should be clearly visible and not obstructed and facilities for any employee who has a disability should be in place for evacuation. A two-way radio device can be of use in coordinating and communicating in such an event. It is important to have a list of emergency numbers for the police, ambulance services and the fire brigade to hand and a safety manual or a safety notice pinned up to advise staff of what to do in an emergency.

3 High-value goods

If you keep stock, money or high-value goods such as laptops or televisions onsite, it is vital you secure them – in a small business, having high-value items stolen can be disastrous. If money is kept onsite, invest in a good quality safe and make sure you bolt it to the floor. If high volumes of stock are left overnight, make sure they are stored out of sight and towards the back of your premises, ideally in a room with few or no windows. Heavy-duty locks or bolts will do the job on any entrance.

4 Lighting

Lighting is an effective and cheap way to secure premises. Motion-sensitive lighting will ensure that any dark corners that could provide cover for criminals are illuminated. They will also help enhance surveillance.

5 Alarm

According to the Office for National Statistics, thefts from homes and other businesses went up by five per cent between 2010 and 2011, making it more vital than ever to make sure you are properly protected. They can be somewhat pricey, but having a good alarm that will automatically inform the police of a criminal act while it’s happening could one day more than pay for itself. If you already have one, make sure it’s working properly.

6 Asset tags

Security tags enable you to monitor any valuables on your premises, so that if they’re stolen, they are much easier to locate and eventually get back. Label all your goods and log all the details. If something goes missing, you can report it as lost or stolen. Some labels come with built-in trackers, so you can actually see where your goods are and get them back.

Guest post by Charlie Curtis-Jones who writes for Brentwood Radios, leading supplier of two-way radio communication equipment for business safety needs.

How to reduce your energy bills

September 07, 2012 by James Newhouse

How to reduce your energy bills/Power supply meter{{}}If you’ve started a small business recently, you’ll know how hard you have to work to succeed, especially in these times. Luckily, there are ways to save money on running your business, money that can either be reinvested or spent in your local community to help grow the economy. Saving money on your business energy bills is a great way to start.

So, perhaps you’ve just moved into new premises and inherited out-of-contract rates or ‘deemed rates’ from the previous contracted tenants. Getting your quotes in quick and signing for a proper tariff could see you save as more than 65% on your bills instantly. Setting up a direct debit to pay your supplier straight away can also bring a saving of about 3% on average, but you need to make sure you have the money in the account on the DD day.

Once you’ve got your new contract in place, check the expiry date and make a note of it in your diary… Now flick back a few pages so you’re at about eight weeks before the expiration date... Now flick back a few more pages and write in big letters “NOTIFY ENERGY SUPPLIER IN WRITING OF TERMINATION OF CONTRACT”.

On this day, you need to write a letter informing your supplier that you are terminating the contract. Why? Because contracts have an automatic renewal clause, and once this kicks in, you’ll find that you’re the victim of price increase – sometimes up to 40%!

Yes – FORTY PERCENT!

A letter of termination is straightforward to write. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a simple letter stating from the expiry date you will not be renewing your current contract. Pop this in the post and use the ‘signed-for’ service, so you have a record of when it’s received. Once you know your contract is no longer going to be renewed, you can gather quotes, but remember that business energy quotes are only legitimate for the day upon which it’s been quoted, after that, they cease to be valid.

You should find that your supplier and other suppliers will be just itching to give you the lowest rates they can for the next contract period. Coincide this with seasons of low energy usage (eg the summer months) and you can secure a nice low rate for the next 12 months.

Forget mainstream price comparison sites and consider chatting to a UIA energy broker. They’re specialists in business energy suppliers and how to get the best deals. Many offer free advice and consultation, so you’ve got nothing to lose by giving them a call. Energy brokers will actively negotiate with suppliers to lower your energy rates, so you’re not being quoted from an automated system.

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