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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
“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…
In an age when it’s never been more important to differentiate a business from its competitors, it can be all too easy for entrepreneurs and new and growing businesses to become fixated on acquiring the sole lease to a flashy office in the heart of the trendiest part of town.
Instead of splashing out on a lavish frontage and focusing on the kudos of owning a highly sought-after commercial property, the most successful start-up owners are often the ones who find a happy medium between image and practicality.
For new businesses in London, for example, it can be a genuine challenge just to get a foothold on the ladder within their respective sectors, simply due to expensive lease rates within the capital and the general demand for commercial property in London.
So what are the main factors growing businesses should consider when selecting office space to move into?
Before you sign on the dotted line for a commercial property lease it’s wise to research the community around your premises’ location. Note the success rate of businesses nearby and pick the brains of fellow business owners to get their thoughts on the area.
Admittedly this is less important for digital/online firms, but retail and service-orientated businesses may wish to conduct some competitor analysis. If there’s a chance to secure attractive office space that provides a competitive edge, this can be the tipping point in an almost-saturated market.
Be aware that you may not be able to use all of the floor space on offer to you. Most floor plans include toilet and kitchen space in the total space available. For instance, if an agent informs you of an office with 6,000 sq ft of floor space, you are unlikely to have the full amount to play with – something to bear in mind if you have a growing workforce.
Also consider the actual shape of the floor plate. This is integral because it influences the number of desks you can fit into each room or floor. An odd-shaped floor plan will almost certainly increase the overall cost per employee per square foot.
If you’re searching for your first office space, you may be unaware that you’ll have to pay business rates. These are usually separate to rent and are payable directly to the local council as contributions to local authority services. The fee is usually between £3 and £10 per sq ft each year.
With firms keen to keep their overheads low, energy efficiency has become a buzzword in many entrepreneurial quarters. Following the 2011 Energy Act, landlords increasingly have to adapt premises with energy-saving lighting, insulation, double-glazing and much more. These features are a great opportunity to implement sustainable operations, save money and reduce energy usage simultaneously.
Written by Philip Hodgkinson, manager of Club Workspace, a fast-growing network of creative co-working business clubs in London.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.