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Why young people should play a key role in regenerating our town centres

April 13, 2015 by Lauren Pennycook

Highstreet{{}}Lord Sugar, Richard Branson and Bill Gates – three of the top responses we received when we asked further education students to visualise enterprise. In fact, 59% of respondents associated enterprise with how entrepreneurs are defined in the media – high-profile, innovative individuals of extreme wealth – and just 5% identified local and regional businesses, small shops and near-by start-ups as enterprising.

It’s true that the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker no longer define our high streets, and a return to the town centre of the past looks increasingly unlikely. With a net total of 987 shops disappearing from the high street in 2014, almost three times the total 2013 figure, our town centres have changed beyond recognition. But with challenge comes opportunity.

And it is an opportunity for young start-ups. Town centre managers and current business owners on the high street need young people to be engaged in the future of our town centres, and support them more than ever. Only they truly understand the products and facilities a town centre can offer which will appeal to the next generation of consumers, and secure their purchasing power.

For this reason, placing young people at the heart of town centre turnaround is a key part of our new Carnegie Position on Enterprise. We believe that local authorities, educators, entrepreneurs and policymakers should come together to help young people interested in entrepreneurship to see towns as innovative hubs and hosts of their future start-ups. And that their enterprising spirit should be at the centre of plans for town centre regeneration.

Because when young people are given this opportunity, the results speak for themselves. In 2013, TestTown, our town centre retail competition for young entrepreneurs, doubled the footfall on the traders’ streets and the teams took £10,000 in 20 hours of trading.

So as the UK Government asks us to celebrate the Great British High Street, we would add that we should celebrate the UK and Ireland’s young entrepreneurs, and that policymakers and existing start-ups alike should welcome them to our town centres.

Copyright © 2015 Lauren Pennycook, policy officer at the Carnegie UK Trust. The Trust’s new position on enterprise is available here.

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What employee benefits can start-ups offer?

April 08, 2015 by Guest contributor

What employee benefits can start-ups offer?{{}}The success of many businesses relies heavily on their employees and while a lot of this depends on the employees themselves, owners need to keep their staff happy and motivated if the business is to prosper.

Employee benefits – no matter how big or small – work as a motivator for potential members of staff as well as keeping your existing team committed. So, what employee benefits can start-ups use to keep employees happy and productive?

A little can go a long way

For many start-ups, offering more lucrative benefits packages to employees is too costly, at least until the business has been up and running for some time. But by providing a comfortable working environment, free tea and coffee and somewhere to relax at lunchtime, employees are likely to be happier in the workplace.

Benefits for employee loyalty

More than a third of employees are believed to remain with their employers because of the benefits they receive. Introducing benefits for loyal employees suggests job security and is a sure-fire way of maintaining good relationships. Allowing employees their birthday off after working for your business for a year, or an extra day’s holiday for every year at your business, shows gratitude for the work your employees are doing year-on-year.

Other employee benefits that won’t cost the world

Government schemes, such as the Cycle-to-Work scheme, act as an employment benefit, keeping employees happy, but at a relatively little cost to the business.

Other benefits you could consider include:

  • Occupational Sick Pay: cases in which employees are off work sick for a long period are very rare, so, offering sick pay for longer period than the Statutory Sick Pay requirements can increase the appeal of your business and help to ensure employee loyalty at little expense to your business.
  • Life cover: this is an assuring employee benefit and depending on the type of cover you provide, should only cost your business about 1% of your payroll.

It is important to avoid reducing benefits and one way to ensure that this is by adding to your benefits package as your business grows.

Consider your demographics

It is worthwhile looking at the age of your workforce and evaluating which benefits will be most appealing. Will staff members better appreciate team days out and extra days off or dental insurance and your paying opticians costs? Thinking about what will benefit your employees most and providing them with these benefits will be a good long-term investment for your start-up.

Copyright © 2015 Rachel Campbell, content writer for Portfolio CBR, providers of compensation, benefits and rewards jobs throughout the UK.

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Three lessons every British small business can learn from the US

March 30, 2015 by Guest contributor

Three lessons every British small business can learn from the US{{}}Launching our first American office earlier this year provided many learning opportunities for my business, Moneypenny. Here are three lessons that every British small firm can learn from their US counterparts…

1 Be more bullish (sometimes)

This isn’t always something that sits easy with us in the UK, but being direct is an essential skill that every entrepreneur needs to develop. US small businesses seem to be a lot more comfortable with this.

We’ve found, for instance, that our American clients are much more forward when it comes to requesting to chat with current clients about their Moneypenny experience. This rarely happens in the UK, where we’re generally more reserved. Make no apologies for wanting the best for your business. If you’re naturally reserved or quiet, this can be easier said than done, but practice and refine this skill over time – it’s well worth it.

2 The customer is king

If you’ve ever been to America, you’ll no doubt have noticed customer service is one arena in which businesses really do excel. That’s not to say we’re no good at it in the UK. On the whole, we are, but there’s always room for improvement.

As a small business, the ability to control the service you offer is one of the key advantages you have over larger competitors. Think of some ways you can improve your existing service. Perhaps it could be something small such as sending a personalised birthday card and voucher to your most loyal customers. Or maybe it’s the initial greeting and smile when customers walk into your shop or call your company.

It doesn’t have to mean saying ‘have a nice day’ at the end of every sentence, but think about what will make your customers feel special. Excellent customer service has always been at the heart of what we do, and is one of the biggest factors in our success. Never underestimate its power. 

3 Post-work socialising

Fancy a pint? For many Brits this immortal phrase is the one most associated with post-work socialising. In the US, however, it’s quite different. From coaching children’s little league baseball to volunteering in the community, many Americans take part in a huge variety of activities outside of the office.

This is something we’ve always promoted at Moneypenny. So many of our staff have established genuine friendships and socialising is a big part of our company culture. From half marathons to the Moneypenny choir, we’ve made it our mission to organise a diverse range of activities that encourage this. Not only do they boost staff morale, but they also help us create an extraordinary working environment.

Are there ways in which you could improve what you do? It doesn’t have to be expensive, just think creatively or open it up to your team. Our employees suggested some of the best events we’ve ever held.

Copyright © 2015 Ed Reeves, co-founder and director of telephone answering specialist Moneypenny (follow on Twitter).

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Why SME owners need to be more focused on management not leadership

March 23, 2015 by Guest contributor

Why SME owners need to be more focused on management not leadership {{}}Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. These are the people that many business owners aspire to, leaders with incredible vision who have built empires through their powerful leadership.

But while Steve Jobs was envisioning the iPhone, Steve Wozniak was building Apple. While Bill Gates imagined a PC on every desk, Paul Allen was building Microsoft. Next to these monolith leaders was an equally monolith manager – and that's really important.

Leadership and management are NOT in competition. One is not better or more important than the other. Each has its own required functions and activities and both are essential for success.

In fact, if you have leadership in an organisation with ineffective management, it could be much more disastrous than the other way round.

As the business owner, many of us must wear the hats of both the leader and the manager. Therefore, it is critical to make a distinction between your roles, and be aware of what you're doing and how you're doing it.

Here are three essentials in every business and how the roles of leader and manager differ for each:

  1. Deciding WHAT needs to be done.
  2. Creating NETWORKS OF PEOPLE who can accomplish this.
  3. Ensuring these people ACTUALLY DO their job.

In these three essentials, as a leader and manager, you will play very different – but equally critical – roles. Let's look at each in turn:

1 Deciding WHAT needs to be done

Leader – sets the direction of the business and develops the vision of the future.

Manager – sets targets, creates plans and allocates resources to achieve that future.

2 Creating NETWORKS OF PEOPLE who can accomplish this

Leader – aligns people and communicates the direction to the key personnel who create leverage and move the vision forward.

Manager – creates the organisational structure, including a set of roles that will be required to achieve the goals.

3 Ensuring people ACTUALLY DO their job

Leader – motivates and inspires people by tapping into emotions to get them moving in the right direction and get them excited about getting there.

Manager – controls problems and systemises the solutions, as well as monitoring the plan in detail and identifying, and correcting, any deviations.

Leadership is overrated in SMEs

In an SME, the management side of things is actually the more critical part of running the business. Most large corporates are over-managed and under-led. Managers will sit at various levels of the company, monitoring people. There is usually no one relaying the purpose, re-energizing the motivations and inspiring the employees to align with the company culture.

Most SMEs, however, are undermanaged and over-led. SME business owners are inspired, excited entrepreneurs who overflow with passion and charisma. The leadership comes naturally – people are automatically inspired. If you, as a leader, are undermanaging your employees, you could end up with a team who are really excited to be working with you, but who are simply unable to deliver. That's because they need systems to deliver. And the manager builds the systems: so you need to be the manager.

SME leaders need to become more focused on management, not leadership, if they want to start seeing the visions they have for their business become a reality.

Copyright © 2015 Shweta Jhajharia, principal coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, which you can follow on Twitter.

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Why online is the new landline

March 18, 2015 by Guest contributor

Why online is the new landline{{}}Consumer behaviour has changed. As a shopper, I literally cannot remember the last time I went into a supermarket superstore.

Virtually everything that I buy I purchase online. My behaviour is not exceptional and I don’t think that the evolution of my buying habits is especially unusual either.

Even if I am, arguably, more ecommerce-active than the average consumer, it seems to me that my online buying behavior will soon become the norm. The shift to e-commerce is utterly inevitable.

And yet, many businesses are stuck in the past.

UK government stats show that in some sectors as many as half UK businesses don’t yet have a website at all. And of those that do, almost half are non-transactional.

The research suggests that e-commerce penetration of the total UK business population is about one third. In other words, two out of every three businesses do not have a transactional website. These are incredibly alarming findings.

There are many reasons why business people choose not go online. Typical comments that I hear include:

  • “I have enough business already, I don’t want/need any more custom”;
  • “I don’t know how to do it”;
  • “Yes I use the internet but my customers don’t”.

And yet, not one of them would argue with the need for a telephone landline.

I know from firsthand experience, having run the business division of O2, that just three years ago the majority of UK business owners were adamant that having a landline phone number was essential to being in business.

Online is the new landline

Today, British businesses should consider having a presence online as even more important than having an office telephone number. In other words, online is the new landline.

A landline number used to be a mark of authenticity for businesses. The move to a digital economy has meant consumers are now more likely to trust a business with a website and they will consider a business more credible if they offer the ability to transact seamlessly online.

Irrespective of a business’s appetite to win more customers; regardless of the business owner’s desire and ambition to scale-up; in the digital economy I passionately believe that:

  • every business now has to have a website, whatever business they are in.
  • there are no exceptions. None.

Being online is not just about doing business, it is about being found. It is about saving time (for both you and your customers). And most importantly, it is about being trusted.

Copyright © 2015 Simon Devonshire. Simon is the Government’s entrepreneur in residence and director at Wayra Europe. You can find out more about online opportunities on the government website.

Why trustmarks matter for small online businesses

March 12, 2015 by Guest contributor

Trust{{}}Although consumers have been shopping online for many years now, they still want reassurance that they're safe to shop on a website they may not have visited previously.

What are trustmarks?

A web store with a trustmark such as Norton Secured, McAfee Secure or TRUSTe, makes shoppers feel safer. A site displaying such a seal means that the issuer:

  • has verified it as a legitimate legal business entity.
  • scans the website daily for thousands of known malware exploits, malicious links and phishing scams.

A trustmark is more than just a logo. You paste a block of code into your site that shows dynamic content from the issuer, including the date the site was last verified as secure. When a customer hovers over a trustmark or clicks on it, they see full details about the website, which can be independently verified on the issuer’s own site. When a website is compromised and this is detected in a scan, the seal disappears until the business rectifies the issue.

Trustmarks are far more important to small businesses than to well-known brands. Amazon, eBay and John Lewis, for instance, don't display a trustmark because people are already confident that they are serious about security with a proven track record. However, a small retailer with an unknown brand doesn't have the same luxury, so needs to do all it can to reassure shoppers that it is trustworthy.

“Concerned visitors don't become customers. 45% of people have abandoned online shopping carts due to security worries” – Mcafee Secure.

How do trustmarks help?

Shoppers are now much more familiar with a number of popular computer security companies as a result of their anti-virus software being installed on new computers as standard. A consumer who's already placed their trust in any of these companies will readily extend that trust to a website that's been accredited as secure by those same organisations.

An eConsultancy consumer survey in 2014 found the most widely recognised trustmarks are from companies who are also strong in the consumer security software business, with 35.6% of shoppers choosing Norton Secured and 22.9% choosing McAfee Secure as their preferred mark of safety.

Other measures

A trustmark is just one tool in a suite of measures online businesses should use to build customer confidence.

  • You also need to display your secure payment processor's logo (eg PayPal, Sage Pay or World Pay). This further builds the consumer’s confidence that their financial transaction will be handled by a well-known PCI DSS-compliant solution with robust protection against anti-fraud and identity theft.
  • It's equally important to have a well-designed website that's easy to navigate, with detailed product descriptions and quality imagery. Your business contact details should be clearly visible and all enquiries must be handled in a timely manner.

All of these aspects contribute to establishing your business as trustworthy and overcoming a customer's fear – which could otherwise lose you the sale.

Copyright © 2015 Simon Horton of hosted shopping cart and ecommerce plug-in provider ShopIntegrator.

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