Many SMEs are currently looking to upgrade their point of sale (PoS) systems. They were probably obsolete three or more years ago, but in the downturn, many had no choice but to keep them working, regardless of the high cost of maintenance and support. Now, it is clear that old PoS systems can no longer operate in a multi-channel world.
They can't identify the customer (other than through an old-style loyalty card), take delayed orders, process click-and-collect orders, book online orders, give access to online catalogues or process returns for goods bought online.
The replacement options are often very expensive if the business is looking to replace like with like – big hardware and proprietary software with more of the same. A cheaper and just as effective option, particularly for smaller business, is to use a mobile device such as an iPad and power it using relatively inexpensive applications that only charge for what is actually used.
Already in the US, major retailers say they will never build another fixed-till point, choosing to go mobile on a network in every store.
The joy of a mobile solution is that because all the apps and data are in the cloud, the business owner can access them through their smart phone and effectively run all sorts of regular tasks without ever having to be on site.
These mobile solutions also enable the retailer to connect directly to their customers through their own smart devices, to share data, orders, messages, voucher redemption, video – a host of content that both parties need to share.
Blog supplied by Oscar Heron, digital manager at apphardware.com, a one-stop webstore for business apps and hardware specifically aimed at SMEs.
(Updated on Budget Day, 19 March)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced the 2014 Budget on 19 March 2014.
Throughout the day, Start Up Donut covered the key points from Budget 2014 affecting small businesses:
Let us know your thoughts about the UK Budget 2014.
Budget 2014 announcements and response
What you told us you wanted from the budget
Happy employees are usually productive employees. If they believe they’re valued and an integral part of your business, employees will be more inclined to work harder because they will feel they have a personal investment in their role. Inspired by The Happiness Project by author Gretchen Rubin, here are five ways to try to ensure your people remain happy and well motivated…
Rubin says happiness is affected by a sense of control, so where practical try to give your employees a choice over what they do and when. Some businesses have flexible project management roles that are adopted by different employees or teams on a project-by-project basis. On a simpler level, giving your employees control over what they wear and how they decorate their workspace can also inspire happiness. Employees who feel their individuality is crushed by their job may soon leave.
Tight deadlines cause stress, yet they’re necessary for successful businesses. What is unnecessary, however, are long meetings where nothing gets decided. Cut meeting times in half by having specific topics decided beforehand, a time limit that is rigidly stuck to, and clear and concise actions so that everyone leaves knowing exactly what they have to do and for when. Keep all employees in the loop about important matters so that every team member knows exactly what stage of the project they are on. Set realistic targets and stick to them.
Take some chocolates into an arduous meeting; remember employee’s birthdays; organise office trips or team building activities. Even little rewards can achieve big results. Such small gestures contribute to an overall sense of value. Hosting a surprise office party in the middle of the day can be a great way to break up the working routine and re-energise your employees. Don’t see such activities as a waste of time, they’re important for employee happiness and productivity.
Make your business more than just a place to work. By inspiring a feeling of community, your employees are more likely to work together, help each other and look forward to coming to work. This can also spread to your local community – get involved in charity fundraisers, sponsor events and take part in team races and other activities. This will not only get you noticed, but also make your employees feel proud of where they work.
Invest in decent chairs and educate your employees about exercises and stretches to relieve tension and retain energy. Make use of the other businesses nearby; perhaps speak to a local gym or exercise class to get discounted deals for your employees. Educate them on the importance of healthy living (but practise what you preach).
If your employees are miserable, they’re likely to convey this to others and it will also be reflected in their attitude, which will affect their performance. If you employ people, place their satisfaction at the top of your priorities. Make them feel valued and that they have a stake in the future of your business. Then you can work together to make your business a success.
Blog supplied by Sophie Turton of Crunch Accounting.
As a teacher, enterprise policymaker or head of a government department, how do you get young people to consider starting a business as a possible career path? How do you explain the highs and lows, challenges and opportunities and realities of running a business?
The approach taken in Wales is to bring local entrepreneurs and young people together, from primary school right through to university, to raise awareness of entrepreneurship, encourage students to take part in enterprise challenges and competitions and provide them with the tools to start a business. It may not sound groundbreaking, but the Welsh Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy is seen as a success across Europe, and evidence suggests that the impact of the strategy is three-fold.
Young people who have taken part in enterprise challenges and events report that their aspirations have risen as a result. Research suggests that more than half of young people in Wales aged 16 to 24 now aspire to work for themselves – a significant increase from ten years ago. Interviews carried out by the Carnegie UK Trust with those involved in delivering enterprise education in Wales suggest that this stems from an increase in students’ confidence, and in some cases, their leadership skills.
Learning about enterprise from a young age and having the opportunity to take part in challenges that mimic starting a business equips young people with entrepreneurial skills. The Trust’s survey of student attitudes to enterprise found that 52% of Welsh respondents had sold goods online, while 64% had experience of selling face to face. Many students are using these skills to set up their own businesses. After the Welsh Assembly Entrepreneurship Action Plan was introduced in 2002, early-stage entrepreneurial activity among young people increased from 3.5% to 10% in 2011.
The final and ultimate support for budding businesspeople in Wales is the help made available through the Youth Entrepreneurship Hubs to develop mature cashflow and business plans before asking for financial support. This bridging stage between education and work helps young people to discuss their plans with business advisers on a practical, day-to-day basis. And in return for supporting enterprise from an early age, the Welsh Government is being rewarded with more graduate start-ups compared to other parts of the UK and Ireland.
Those involved in delivering the enterprise agenda in Wales are well placed to share their success with governments in other parts of the UK and Ireland. Sharing what has proven to work well across national boundaries might just be the starting point for UK start-ups of the future.
According to the AAT (“the UK’s leading qualification and membership body for accounting and finance staff”), your business could be missing out if it doesn’t currently employ an apprentice.
The organisation reckons that every time a business takes on an apprentice, “its bottom line gets a boost of more than £2,000”, while lack of awareness of available government support is a key reason why more small and medium-sized businesses aren’t employing apprentices, who, it estimates, “delivered £1.8bn of net economic benefits to UK organisations in 2012/13”.
The claims are based on a research report called The Value of Apprentices, compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr). It found that apprentices offer UK firms “a significant return on their investment”, with economic output usually far exceeding associated wage and training costs. Even after wages and training is accounted for, every time a business takes on an apprentice, on average, they gain by £2,000, according to the AAT.
But the research also found that awareness among businesses (particularly small firms) of government support for those who take on apprentices was poor. About 60% of small businesses surveyed by The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in August 2013 lacked basic knowledge of the “government’s programme of support for businesses that take on apprentices”. For example, businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees that haven’t hired an apprentice in the past 12 months and take on one apprentice (aged 16 to 24) could receive a grant of £1,500 per apprentice from the National Apprenticeship Service.
Jane Scott Paul, AAT Chief Executive, comments: “Take-up of apprenticeship schemes has grown sharply over the past five years, as more and more organisations enjoy the benefits that apprentices can bring to the workplace. This is benefitting their businesses and bolstering economic recovery and growth.
“We now need to do more to engage with smaller businesses – to break down the misconceptions and make it easier for smaller enterprises to unlock the full potential of training apprentices and to gain specific skills relevant to their business.
“Our research clearly reveals that apprentices, far from being a cost to business, are often a tangible benefit and, what’s more, they’re flourishing in non-traditional sectors such as business, administration and law. By quantifying the value of apprenticeships in this way we hope to encourage all sectors of business to open up their recruitment policies and address the skill shortage.”
With it being National Apprenticeship Week this week, maybe it’s time you found out more about the business benefits of taking on an apprentice?
When running a business there are two key things you must always try to do. Firstly, you always need to be improving. Secondly, you should always be trying to test yourself.
We knew our business, TreatmentSaver, was going well, because our customer base was growing in line with our revenue. It took us a number of attempts to find the best business model, but we knew right away that online appointment booking was a winner for both clinics and our site visitors. Clinics benefited from acquiring new customers and our visitors got to save money on treatments such as laser eye surgery and Botox. From this point onwards, it has always just been a case of trying to scale up the business.
We figured we needed both investment and exposure, so going on Dragons’ Den was potentially an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. As well as this, we saw it as a great way to test ourselves and take us out of our comfort zone.
Initially we applied to appear on Dragons’ Den more than a year ago and having gone through a number of online and phone interviews we had to do an audition. This basically involved going to the BBC studios in Manchester and doing a mock pitch and interview in front of a BBC producer.
Everything went well and we were consequently chosen to appear on the actual show. After a few months of due diligence by the BBC (basically to check we were who we said we were), we were invited to film for real.
The whole day was surreal – it was certainly the first time I’d ever worn makeup. Once we were ready, having met the producer, etc, we spent about five hours in the green room, basically biting our fingernails until we were summoned in front of the Dragons.
When our time came to meet them, the adrenaline was definitely pumping. By far the worst bit is when the lift doors open for the first time and you see all five of them in front of you. It was a relief to get the pitch done, because for me this was the most nerve-wracking part. From then on it just became a Q&A with the Dragons, with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure.
After a fairly heated battle, unfortunately we did not manage to secure investment, but we gave it our best shot. After the initial disappointment had died down, we started to reflect on what a great experience it had been and how we could bounce back.
Ironically, being turned down was a shot in the arm for our business. It gave us the motivation and determination to prove the Dragons were wrong not to invest in us. Since the show was recorded we’ve doubled the traffic on our site and increased the number of clinics and offers on the site, while saving our customers more than a million pounds when booking online through our website.
But for me it’s some of the less tangible benefits that the whole experience has brought us that are more valuable. It has helped to reinvigorate our business, given us the extra drive to succeed and the confidence to seek out investment elsewhere. We will prove the Dragons wrong!