While you’re outlining the vision for your life, formulate some clear goals and write them down. Not having objectives is like taking a journey but not being sure of the route or the destination. Write down exactly how much you want to earn, how many holidays you want a year and anything else that is important on your wish list.
Make your personal and business goals bigger than you can possibly imagine. This shifts your thinking and helps to shake you out of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t hit your goal, you might get 75% of the way there, which is still a bigger leap than you might have made with smaller, more conservative goals.
You don’t need a step-by-step plan but knowing where you want to end up can be enough to get you started.
While I would always advocate starting out with a clear idea, and major goals, that doesn’t mean your business actually needs to start off big from an operational and financial perspective. I believe my success has been down to structured and planned growth, investing small amounts and proving the business model works before moving to the next level.
I had an inkling that Tots To Travel would take off, but it has far exceeded anything I could have imagined. But had I overstretched from the start, it may never have had the opportunity to grow.
And you don’t need to come up with a BIG idea, in fact it’s probably better if you don’t. Costa Coffee didn’t think up the café, they just reinvented what was already out there. We didn’t dream up the holiday lettings business, we just took a different approach from the companies that were already out there.
Extract taken from The Mother of Invention, written by businesswoman, author, mentor for women in business and mother of three Wendy Shand, owner of multi-award winning business Tots To Travel. The book is available to download for free.
The first thing to appreciate is that it is easier to fall out with sellers than to keep them onside. You will get a better buy if you can keep the seller onside at least for as long as possible. Once you fall out, mending fences is impossible.
Sellers usually have a sale figure in mind. Agreeing a sale price at the outset slightly above this figure gives the seller a feel-good sensation and makes him/her think that he/she has a margin to play with. It also means he/she is unlikely to start talks with other buyers.
You won’t. Once the nitty gritty negotiations start, you will ask for guarantees as to the business’ turnover and profitability for say the next 12 months and ask for money to be retained. If the business turns out to be a star buy and performs above your expectations, the full stated price is probably acceptable. If it does not, you will have held money back, which the business sale agreement will enable you to deduct from the purchase price.
As much money as possible – for as long as possible. The agreement can provide for money to be released in slices. Your seller is unlikely to agree to more than 50%.
Ideally you, although the seller might want money held by a solicitor in an escrow account.
See if he/she does. If he/she comes back to you it means he/she has not been able to. You can then push him further. Remember, they will be thinking about your headline figure, which they probably cannot get elsewhere. You can also tell the seller that if the business does better than they anticipate, you will pay more based on performance. This way you can tell them that they have an upside, as well as a downside, and an interest in making the transfer work.
When the seller goes very quiet and stops coming back to you. It is better for you if they respond angrily at this stage, because it’s a sign that they still might eventually sell to you. If they do not respond, they have either written you off or they are talking to another buyer. Most deals reach an “angry phase”, after which the deal happens or does not. The skill is to manage how and when the seller gets to the angry moment and how this moment is managed, so you stay in control.
The seller and any business transfer agent will be keen to get “Heads of Agreement”, which outline the deal. This will be what the lawyers drawing up the sale agreement will work from. Tactically, if you want to keep matters as fluid as possible, you should either delay agreeing the Heads of Agreement or ensure that they are drafted in a form that is flexible. This way, it will be impossible for the seller to refer to these as “agreed” when the goalposts start to move.
Don’t be shy – it’s your money you are spending. Get as much information from the seller as you can. Don’t rely on solicitors or accountants to do this. They can help, but ultimately it’s your call. If there are things that are unsatisfactory, you will want money held back or deducted from the price.
They will be thinking about their commission and will therefore be keen for the deal to happen. If you knock some money off, it won’t have a big impact on what they get, so they will be on your side. If the business doesn’t sell, they will get nothing.
Most are useless at negotiations. You are best not involving them at this stage. By definition, if they were good at negotiating they would be successful businessmen making much more money than solicitors.
It’s a crucial consideration. Sadly, there is always a third party trying to get money – namely HMRC, which people often forget about. At the outset, Get to grips with tax both from your perspective and your seller’s. It could make a big difference to you. Your seller may have tax angles and you need to factor this in. If you can do something that helps them save tax, use this as a negotiating lever. Do not lose the deal because you are insensitive to the seller’s tax position. Finding a way to pay HMRC the least tax is good news for you both.
Blog provided by David Anderson (solicitor advocate and chartered tax adviser) and Alan Massenhove (commercial solicitor) at Sykes Anderson LLP. Please note that commercial and tax law are complex subjects and you should not rely on this article without professional advice on the facts of your case.
One of the things I dislike about popular culture is how complex and nuanced debates are distilled down to black and white. Nowhere is this characterised more effectively than in the debate around working mums. “Can mums have it all?” the media frequently asks – often citing [highly successful investment fund manager and mother of six] Nicola Horlick as the standard by which all should be measured.
The problem is that comparing your average mum (or dad for that matter) with Nicola Horlick is akin to measuring the performance of Physics A-Level students against the standards set by Albert Einstein. Unlike many of the celebs we see being idolised in the press, Nicola has actually earned her status. She is famous for being exceptional.
The good news is that in order to succeed in business today you don’t have to be well connected or exceptional (though it helps). The advent of the internet means that issues that once might have stopped entrepreneurs in their tracks, such as finance, business rates and rents and technical know-how are far less of a problem.
It’s not just the technology that has revolutionised the way business works, it’s the way it is supplied. The world is gradually moving to a pay-as-you-go model, which is great news for start-ups. Every pound spent on business basics is money that can be used to generate and fulfil sales and today pretty much all of them are available online at minimal cost. For instance, you can:
The same is true of technical services. As well as financing your computer hardware, you can buy the essential software you need on a pay-as-you-go basis. For well under £50 a month you can pay for a company to host your website and email address and even your online store.
You don’t even have to be technical. Many services are designed for novice users, so some basic writing and image-editing skills can get you a long way, especially if you start by trading on eBay and Amazon, or build your own online store using a product such as our own SellerDeck Catalog.
So, if setting up a business is that easy, why doesn’t everyone do it and why isn’t everyone successful? Well, not everyone has the imagination and ability to create a successful business. Although my own company is an ecommerce supplier, we have always been aware that it’s not our software and services that create success, we simply enable it.
Successful entrepreneurs tend to combine expertise in the fields they operate in with commercial acumen. They seem to know where to spend their money and how to spend their time. Time and money are interchangeable commodities, the key is to spend your time where you can make the most impact, and spend your money where others can make the most impact.
It’s great to have a good reputation, connections and lot of start-up capital, but even if you don’t, the internet age means that it’s definitely not a show stopper. There are plenty of low-cost alternative ways to get your business off the ground. If you love what you do and spend your money wisely you can start a business on a shoestring budget and perhaps one day live out your dreams.
Blog provided by Chris Barling, chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck (formerly Actinic Software).
Flexible working has come a long way since the turn of the century, thanks to new technology that allows people to work when and where they choose.
This infographic from Expert Market offers an insight into the facts and figures surrounding flexible working, and how employers can use it to increase productivity, whilst gaining a loyal and happy workforce who enjoy a true work/life balance.
Now viewed as a serious option by forward-thinking firms looking to harness the power of the internet and streamline their operations, flexible working offers many benefits to both employers and staff.
Click on infographic to enlarge.
Most owners will tell you that their business is only as strong as its people, so it’s important that your employees are fit and able to work.
So what are some of the costs of a sick workforce to a small business? And what can they do to stay lean, fit and ready to make money?
Sick days are more than a slight inconvenience for managers. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) suggests that they cost the UK economy nearly £29 bn a year in lost revenue. For a small business, even a slight loss in productivity can make a big impact on bottom line, of course.
Businesses have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their staff. But it's also in their economic interest to do more than the bare minimum. Healthy, happy workers make productive workers. And as the population ages, managing absence will be increasingly seen as ‘mission critical’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.
As a small business that is just starting up, you’re likely to be both time and cash poor, but it’s important to be aware of some of the more common reasons for sick days…and what you can do to prevent them.
According to the Employee Benefits Healthcare research 2013 study, minor ailments such as colds are the biggest cause of absence in the workplace.
Invest in antibacterial hand gel and place a few bottles around the office to stop germs from spreading. And could you look at being more flexible where and when your staff work? Cloud computing makes working from home far easier. Staff can access and share important files and keep on top of emails, as well as check in at regular intervals if they can manage it without infecting the whole office. You don’t have to splash out on an expensive cloud computing package, Google Docs is great for a cash-strapped business.
The second most common reason for an absence is musculoskeletal ailments, which affect the joints, tendons and muscles in the body. Most work-related musculoskeletal issues are developed over a period of time because the right health and safety measures haven’t been put in place. The result? Long-term absence or a series of sick days.
Remind your people to bend properly when lifting heavy boxes or invest in a trolley if they/you move a lot of stock regularly. Check that everyone is sitting at their desk at the right angle – adjust the height of their chair, change the position of the mouse or buy a stand for laptops if need be. And if you invest in a good employee health insurance scheme, they’ll be able to access physiotherapy or massage therapy to help get them back to work.
The third biggest cause of sick leave is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress. The economic downturn has made many workers feel unsure about the security of their jobs and they may be putting in longer hours than usual to impress. But, eventually, prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can manifest itself in more serious mental health issues, which force people to take long-term leave or phone in sick.
This is a more difficult problem to address, because there are no quick fixes. It’s about looking at your business culture from the start. Could you take some of the pressure off by letting staff work flexibly so they spend less time commuting and have a better work-life balance? If everyone is working regular overtime, might it be time to hire new staff, even if it’s just part-time help?
Perfectly healthy staff phoning in sick when they simply want a day off. Did you know that one in three ‘sick’ days are not caused by an actual illness?
The heatwave this summer saw many office workers phone in sick to enjoy the sun. If this is a problem, remind staff to book holidays in advance and try to be flexible about your summertime working hours – it could really boost morale.
Staff are also less likely to ‘pull a sickie’ if the team is a close one and they genuinely care about not making colleagues pick up the slack. Try to encourage regular staff events, so team members get to know each other as people as well as colleagues.
Have stringent HR processes and include a clause about absence in your contracts. If someone has to phone in sick, make sure they have to explain their absence to you or one of your managers. If it’s a recurring problem, have firm but fair disciplinary procedures in place and try to establish if there’s another factor at play, such as stress.
Productivity slumps. According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics, productivity in the UK has been falling since the economic downturn began in 2008.
Is there a health and safety issue at work here? Studies have shown that people work more efficiently in optimum temperatures, so insulate your premises and turn the heating up in winter, while investing in fans or air conditioning in the summer.
Blog supplied by Jamie Monteath, online representative of Bupa.