So, the second televised Scottish independence debate has aired and many commentators awarded a clear points victory to Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond over ‘Better Together’ figurehead Alistair Darling. According to the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson: “From the start it was clear that Darling, who won the first debate, was edgy and nervy, while Salmond was better prepared and more confident.”
But, with the referendum soon due to take place on 18 September, where do Scotland’s business groups stand when it comes to independence: Och aye the noo or Och no?
In March the CBI criticised the Scottish Government's economic plan for independence, saying it “didn’t add up”. The organisation failed to see “how an independent Scotland would be better off economically from putting up barriers with its biggest export market – the UK.” The CBI believes the “best way to deliver jobs and prosperity to the people of Scotland is to remain part of the UK”.
John Cridland, CBI director general, commented: "The minute you draw a line between Gretna and Berwick, Scotland starts to drift apart from its biggest market and loses a significant amount of economic clout. Independence would force Scotland’s major industries to grapple with two lots of red tape and lead to Scots facing higher borrowing costs. Keeping the pound is the best option for Scotland, but that is only on offer through maintaining the union. An independent Scotland would also have to negotiate hard to get back into the EU, temporarily losing access to the world’s biggest trade area. Scotland’s economy has the independence and flexibility of devolution alongside the support of the union. Business is clear - we are stronger together.” Several Scottish organisations (including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen universities) quit CBI Scotland as a result of its registration as a “No” campaigner.
Business for Scotland is a “co-operatively owned business network for pro-independence business people and professionals”. It says: “An independent Scotland can support Scottish business in tax, regulation, the labour market, innovation and global exports. An independent Scotland will prioritise the interests of business in Scotland following decades of Westminster prioritising London and the South East. This includes the opportunity to create a simpler tax system that supports Scottish business; reforming the labour market to improve employer/employee relations; encouraging migration to Scotland to balance Scotland’s unique demographic needs; and supporting Scottish exports globally through a Scottish diplomatic and trade service.”
Furthermore, it argues: “There is overwhelming evidence that Scotland will be economically better off as an independent country. Even opponents of independence have conceded that Scotland can be a successful independent country. Their own negative economic forecast estimated that Scots would be just £1 worse off a year.”
In July the FSB in Scotland published Scotland's Independence Referendum: Your business, your vote to “help Scottish business owners make their minds up”. The guide was written in partnership with the University of Edinburgh Business School and covered “practical issues business people say are not being adequately addressed in the [referendum] debate”.
Previous FSB research suggested that most business owners in Scotland “have sought information on the referendum, but [most] were disappointed by the material produced by both sides”. Andy Willox, FSB Scottish policy convenor, says: "Two in five Scottish small businesses say that better referendum information could sway their vote, but the information provided by the campaigns doesn't answer questions that matter to them.” The FSB describes the guide as a “non-partisan document”, reflecting its claim that “The FSB and the University of Edinburgh are strictly neutral bodies and profess no position for or against Scottish independence.”
The SCC has also remained impartial. Writing in Business Scotland Magazine, Garry Clark, head of policy and public affairs at SCC, commented: “Scottish Chambers of Commerce have adopted an impartial approach, seeking to inform members of the issues and communicate members’ views to politicians.”
A recent SCC member survey found that more than half of respondents believed independence would bring opportunities, but “three quarters identified risks”. If Scotland ultimately remains within the union, 68% of responding firms wanted more power devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Clark added: “There would appear to be a clear mood among businesses for more decision making in Scotland, whatever the outcome”. According to Clark, most respondents also gave a “clear message” that Scotland having to leave the EU, either as an independent country or as part of a want-away UK, would have a negative impact on their fortunes.
In July, BBC economics editor Robert Peston wrote a piece trailing a BBC2 programme he’d just made called Scotland: for Richer or Poorer. He concluded: “If I had a vote, I would not be casting it purely on the basis of the economics - because it does not seem to me that the income and wealth at stake are life-changingly huge.
“Scotland, certainly in the longer term, is likely to be a relatively rich and successful economy. What matters far more, arguably, is how Scots [currently] see themselves in a much broader sense, either as a confident nation that is proud of being part of a bigger country, the United Kingdom, or as a people stifled and limited by the historic union.”
For many sole traders, their biggest initial outlay is a company van. This infographic from Premierline Direct Insurance looks at the true cost of owning a van over four years.
Click on infographic to enlarge.
Infographic © 2014 Premierline Direct business insurance
They say that it takes a village to raise a child. For those in business, it takes a company to raise a workforce. Here are some guiding principles that help me keep our annual staff retention rate at 94% – something we’re particularly proud of!
The first step is to match new staff to the corporate culture and the recruitment process is critical. It's important that a number of different people within the business interview the candidate, allowing a multi-dimensional view of their ability to fit in and transferable skills to do the job advertised.
It is up to the business to invest in its staff and give them the tools to grow. Still, this cannot be a walk in the park and, at alldayPA 75% of staff don’t complete the three-month training period. For those that succeed, the return is a team that will invest themselves in the business, propelling the company forward. A structured training programme that maps to a clear set of roles and responsibilities is an inspiration to the workforce.
Office life has changed thanks to the arrival of new technology and consumer expectations of an “always on, always available” point of contact. People want to talk to a person regardless of the time of day rather than leave a voicemail – 80% will not to leave a message. The standard nine-to-five working day is long gone. As long as the right number of people is working at the right time, it doesn’t matter if they swap shifts around between themselves. If you can allow a margin of flexibility, where they can swap shifts to cover child care or different religious holidays then you, as a business, will be a much-loved employer by demonstrating trust.
Does anyone else feel like the Jeremy Kyle of the business world? By building an atmosphere of trust, this can open the door to being an agony aunt. While this is good because the team feels they can talk to someone, it is very important to remove the emotion from the situation. As the employer, there are certain practical things that the business can help with for example a short-term interest free loan to bridge a difficult time or move team members around if there is a problem.
By establishing a climate of trust and team spirit it allows the team to form tight bonds like a family. Be realistic, you are looking for a ‘real’ family atmosphere and not a polished Hollywood version. Things can get heated because people care about each other and the business, however, this brings people closer to support each other and bring a top class attitude to the office.
Copyright © Gareth Jeffrey 2014. Gareth is operations manager at professional telephone answering service alldayPA.
The excuses for not buying now are many: too small, too big, too soon, too fast, too slow, too expensive, too complicated. But sometimes hesitancy to buy is not about the seller and the seller’s service, but the buyer’s internal thought processes.
More specifically, I am curious about why people don’t buy into a process that they know, in their heart of hearts, is one that they not only want, but also need for the development and growth of their business.
The need for what is called ‘strategic planning’ is recognised as being a cornerstone of developing, running and growing an organisation. There are plenty of trite quotes, such as, “failing to plan is planning to fail” and so on. However, at the core it is pretty much universally recognised that it is better to have a plan than no plan. And it is better to have considered the various options while being aware of the changing pressures in the business environment. I call it making your mistakes on paper.
Despite strategic business planning being almost like “motherhood and apple pie” (in other words, a good thing, something that is required), I’m still astounded at how so many people manage to delay or put off the process. This is madness, because a little bit of thinking and reflecting can help to direct and focus one’s actions on what is important and understand one’s priorities.
Copyright © Robert Craven 2014. Robert Craven is a keynote speaker and author of business bestseller Kick-Start Your Business. His latest book is Grow Your Service Firm.
He also runs The Directors’ Centre, helping growing businesses to grow.
When trading internationally, translation is an essential tool. Materials translated accurately by humans have the potential to greatly improve conversions when compared to computer-generated translations. There are numerous factors that underpin high-quality translation, so here is our advice if your business needs translation services…
Mother-tongue translators offer skill and knowledge that can’t be matched. They have an unrivalled familiarity with their own language, and can pick up on nuances that someone who’s only been speaking the language for a few years might miss. Mother-tongue translators can ensure proper localisation. Countries that use the same language still have localised differences, of course. Mother-tongue translators will also be more culturally aware and able to spot whether words or phrasing will offend. They will also have a better knowledge of structure, because some dialects use shorter sentences, while the opposite is true for others.
Although using proofreaders has become less common as a result of the ‘digital revolution’, they’re essential when translating important business materials. One mistake in a technical document, for example, could have disastrous consequences. Professional proofreaders ensure that the translation is accurate and of the highest quality. They should prevent unprofessional-looking spelling mistakes from creeping in, while awkward phrasing or poorly written sentences can be misleading.
Your translators should have a relevant qualification or specialist certification. If someone’s made the effort to obtain a post-graduate diploma or a degree in a foreign language, they’re obviously committed to their craft and are likely to have a professional attitude to their work. Where possible, ensure that they belong to a recognised translation body (eg The Institute of Translation & Interpreting).
Work only with translators with at least five years’ experience, which is normally enough time for them to develop their skills (though more experience is better). Try to ensure that the translator has in-depth experience of translating for your sector. If they don’t, they’ll struggle with technical terms and industry-specific references.
Translation is essentially a simple process, however, it can very quickly become complicated if too many people get involved. For each piece of work, have a project manager tasked with ensuring that everything is completed on time. Also, use one experienced proofreader and give them the maximum amount of time to complete each piece of work.
Corrections are often stylistic and therefore subjective, so it’s important to ensure that there is a specified style guide for your translation work. Your editorial style preferences should be clearly explained in advance so there can be no dispute later on. These can range from whether bullet points should use complete sentences and job titles capitalised) to font use. Even basic documents require style guidance, so confirm your preferences in advance if you want to avoid wasting time, effort and money.
Copyright © 2014 The Language Factory, which specialises in translating materials across a range of industries.
Whether you’re a sole trader or manage many employees, you must ensure that important work gets done to a high standard and on time. So how do you prevent important tasks from being neglected?
Share the load with people who are stronger in areas where you are weaker. The work will get done; you’ll feel less stressed; and your business will benefit.
The tasks to delegate are the ones that are least enjoyable and require less-skill. Why? Because they are: easier to train others to do; cheapest to hire for; and often create the most distractions.
Before you hire, define the role along with responsibilities and desired output. Then match that against a few key considerations:
Introducing a system is critical if you want to ensure tasks don’t fall through the cracks. It will also you help you manage your team.
Create concise but comprehensive documentation and it will feed back into your business by making the training of new hires a breeze, ensuring your business runs without interruption. Remember to keep it concise and simple:
At the London Coaching Group, we have an efficient team that works very closely. And we exchange barely any emails.
What you need:
You then create column headings for:
So how do we use this?
Whenever a task comes to mind, I, as the team leader, add it to the spreadsheet straight away. My team then fills in the fields accordingly. Once a task has a "Date complete" I double-check the task. Once I've double-checked and it's done, I delete it from this list. Only I can delete.
My team and I keep this document open during our working day. It acts as our communal 'to-do' list. Everyone is aware of the status of all other projects, which makes meetings a breeze and ensures nothing falls through the cracks.
By using the tips and tools above you can run your business and your projects smoothly and efficiently. You will be 100% in control of each project, which reduces stress and that feeling of a ‘heavy load’. So you’ll have more time to work on your business and its future.
Copyright © Shweta Jhajharia 2014. Shweta is an award-winning business coach and founder of The London Coaching Group.