Every business manager will know what a struggle money can be and one of the most difficult decisions can be how to get the funding needed to help your business grow. The banks aren't always an option and many people don't want to give up control of something they've worked hard for, but being the most obvious choices – what else is left?
When it came to starting Taxicode, co-founder Nigel and I decided the best option would be to fund it ourselves. This meant control of the business was not split between investors; big loans were not hanging over our heads; and while growth has been slower compared to our externally funded competitors, it has all felt much more ours and we've been able to act out our vision as we intended. This is not for everyone, of course, but as we had finances built up from previous business ventures, it worked for us. Several years on and we're generating decent turnover and achieved £2m in bookings last year.
Many of us will be familiar with the concept of crowdfunding by now. It allows members of the public to put money towards a project, usually receiving something back in return depending on the amount they've put forward. Technology, video games, community projects, events and films have all found funding this way. Crowdfunding also helps build audience engagement with your brand early on, something not necessarily true of other options.
Peer-to-peer and peer-to-business lending work in a similar way to crowdfunding, but for a loan rather than to raise equity. This means that larger sums of money can be raised in one go, instead of waiting for individuals to put the money forward.
Business managers can also make the most of the resources they already have. Invoice finance allows business to raise finance against any invoices they have waiting, drawing down the balance when customers pay, whilst pension-backed lending allows business owners to unlock the value of their own personal pension to finance the company.
These options can help to create a steadier cashflow for the business – while pension-backed lending is more suited to those that have already spent several years building up their finances, these options can be used throughout the business's life cycle to combat any financial struggles encountered.
Whatever route you chose, there will inevitably always be risk, but business managers should not feel deterred just because traditional options don't appeal. There's something out there to suit everyone's needs.
Copyright © 2015 Jonathan Kettle, co-founder and director of nationwide online taxi-booking service Taxicode.
Unfortunately, far too many people in business really don’t cut the mustard when it comes to public speaking. And yet, being able to present your business in a clear and engaging way is essential if you are to succeed. So, what should you do if you’re guilty of committing one of the common public speaking sins listed below?
If you stand in front of your audience reading the content of densely packed slides you will become invisible.
Solution: Use simple visual aids to support your points and make yourself visible.
I watched as a speaker walked to the stage, looked at his audience and let out a huge sigh. He made the audience members feel they had caused him a big problem by turning up.
Solution: Remind yourself why your audience needs to hear from you and stride up looking confident.
It’s a fact – powerful public speakers prepare and practise. Being adaptable is positive. However, lack of preparation means you’re most likely to ramble and confuse your listeners.
Solution: Take time to prepare and practise.
If you pack in too much your audience simply won’t be able to take it all in.
Solution: adopt a “less is more” approach. Focus on a few relevant facts and make them memorable.
Perhaps you love speaking in public too much. You may be extrovert and charming, but if you overrun your allotted speaking time no one will thank you.
Solution: Show your love by considering your audience’s needs and stick to time.
If you run your words together, trail off at the end of sentences, speak too quietly or are monotonous you’re one of the speakers audiences dread. It’s time to start articulating clearly, bringing energy into your voice and remember that everyone in the room needs to hear you.
Solution: Listen to recordings of your speeches, notice the patterns and take corrective action. If it’s really bad, consider voice coaching.
You can be too loud. In a small room this can make the audience feel as if they’re being shouted at or even pushed towards the back wall by the pressure of the sound. You can also come across as bullying or hectoring.
Solution: Adapt and vary your volume to fit the size of the space and for the sake of your audience’s ears.
You’ve forgotten to check who will be in the audience. You can talk about leadership to teens but should you use the examples and stories that you used at your local Rotary Club?
Solution: Do your homework and focus on your audience.
Do you know what the previous speaker’s subject is and what he/she has said? Words audiences fear include: “As Sara has already said...” “I was going to tell you about…. But, er… Um… You’ve heard it from John, so… I’ll just skip the next 10 slides.”
Solution: Co-ordinate with other speakers.
You talk to the slides forgetting the people behind you. You nervously claw at your neck, you absent-mindedly scratch (I’ll leave where to your imagination), you start to talk to someone in the front row and turn your presentation into a private conversation. You’ve forgotten that public speaking is a performance.
Solution: Watch yourself on video to see how you perform and try to avoid bad habits.
Public speaking is a key business skill, so take steps to overcome the reasons that get in the way of good public speaking – and you’ll quickly go from dreadful to distinguished.
Copyright © 2015 Dorothea Stuart, member of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of locations. There are nearly 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland, find your nearest here. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.