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Would your business employ any of the main political leaders?

May 06, 2015 by Mark Williams

Would your business employ any of the main political leaders?{{}}The UK's main political party leaders could be much less popular among the nation's small businesses than they'd like. According to a survey carried out by Crunch Accounting, based on responses from 500 freelancers and micro businesses, 27% "would not hire any of the political party leaders if they applied for a position".

More than a fifth (22%) would hire David Cameron, while only 13% would give a job to Ed Miliband. The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon came third (12%), ahead of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (11%).

Nigel Farage has said he'll stand down as UKIP leader if he loses the South Thanet election, but he's unlikely to try to find a job with a UK SME if he does. That's probably just as well, with only 9% of those polled saying they would give him a job. Far fewer (4%) would employ Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, fewer still (2%) Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

The party of small businesses?

The survey also asked respondents which party best understands the needs of small firms and the self-employed. Almost a third (32%) said the Conservatives, with Labour attracting a 25% share (Liberal Democrats 10%; UKIP 8%; Greens 4%; SNP 2%; Plaid Cymru 1%).

The UK's main political parties have been at pains to highlight their pro small-business credentials. The Daily Telegraph, of course, recently published a letter reported to be signed by 5,000 "business owners" warning that "a Labour government would be 'far too risky' for the economy". The stunt was organised by the Tories and their small business ambassador Karren Brady, and in truth many signatories were not business owners.

UKIP also claims to be the party of small businesses. In April, its deputy chairman Suzanne Evans commented: "The Conservatives are in the pockets of the multinational corporations and Labour has become the anti-business party. We have a fully funded £1.2bn plan to provide 20% rates relief on premises with a rateable value up to £50,000. That will potentially cover 90% of business premises."

Working for a small business?

Sadly, none of the UK's main political leaders has ever worked for a small business or been self-employed. After leaving Brasenose College, Oxford, Eton-educated David Cameron joined the Conservative Research Department and became a special adviser. After a seven-year stint as Carlton Communications director of corporate affairs, he became an MP in 2001.

Like Cameron, Ed Miliband studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford (Corpus Christi College). After graduating, he worked in TV as a political researcher before becoming a Labour Party researcher, soon rising to chair HM Treasury's Council of Economic Advisers. He became an MP in 2005. Nick Clegg studied social anthropology at Cambridge and before becoming an MP in 2005 he was a lobbyist, then FT journalist and then MEP. Nicola Sturgeon studied law at Glasgow University and worked as a solicitor at Drumchapel Law Centre. She was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Grammar schoolboy Nigel Farage didn’t go to university, but nonetheless enjoyed a successful career in the City as a commodities trader before becoming an MEP in 1999. Natalie Bennett was formerly editor of Guardian Weekly and wrote for The Independent and The Times, while Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood was a probation officer before becoming a political assistant and lecturer in social policy at Cardiff University.

If you still haven’t decided which party you’ll vote for tomorrow, Real Business Rescue (the "Company Recovery & Closure Experts") has created a clever online questionnaire, so you can find out which party best represents your opinions on key issues. Why not take the test?

Blog written by freelance editor, copywriter and Start Up Donut editor Mark Williams.

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Where do the political parties stand on key SME issues?

Where do the political parties stand on key SME issues?

May 06, 2015 by Guest contributor

Global office broker Instant Offices has created a graphic that gives a comparative summary of what the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens say they will do if elected on key issues that directly affect SMEs. These issues include corporation tax, business rates, minimum wage, zero hours contracts, energy bills and broadband and the information is taken from the parties’ manifestos.

Click on image for full graphic and click again to enlarge.


Investment advice for start-ups

April 29, 2015 by Guest contributor

Investment advice for start-ups{{}}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.

Alternative funding options

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.

Risk and reward

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.

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10 reasons why you're dreadful at public speaking

April 20, 2015 by Guest contributor

10 reasons why you’re dreadful at public speaking {{}}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?

  1. You become the invisible man or woman
  2. 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.

  3. The audience is bothering you
  4. 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.

  5. You like to fly by the seat of your pants
  6. 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.

  7. You want to share 100 fascinating facts
  8. 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.

  9. You love standing in front of an audience
  10. 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.

  11. Your utterances are mutterances
  12. 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.

  13. You shout at your audience
  14. 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.

  15. You’re talking to the wrong audience
  16. 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.

  17. You haven’t done your research
  18. 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.

  19. You forget you’re in front of an audience
  20. 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.

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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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