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www.better-business.co.uk No. 194 – AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2013

Helping hands… and where to find them INSIDE: Surviving a crisis A personal account Business awards What’s the point? Staff tweeting Setting the rules You’re never too old Ideas for over-50s

PLUS: PROTECTING IDEAS | NOT-FOR-PROFITS | COUNCIL SUPPORT


CONTENTS

REGULAR FEATURES

SUBSCRIPTIONS

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A question of support Support from your local council.

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Compliance corner The ins and outs of the ‘Instagram Act’.

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Freelance tips Surviving a ‘hammer blow’.

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Making money from... Vinyl records, body parts modelling and cakes.

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News The latest news to help you make informed decisions about your business.

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You and your business Tools and resources to help you with your marketing.

Better Business is published six times a year. It is available by subscription only for £36 per year (printed copy) and £18 per year (digital edition). See www.better-business.co.uk for more information.

COMING SOON

Publisher Cobweb Information Ltd Unit 9 Bankside The Watermark Gateshead NE11 9SY

Cloud-based services The pros and cons of running your business in the ‘cloud’

Tel: 0191 461 8000 Fax: 0191 461 8001 E-mail info@better-business.co.uk

Opportunities in the music industry Business ideas for people with a musical talent

Managing Editor Marianne Whitfield Subscriptions Karen Larkum Printer Stephens and George Print Group Goat Mill Road, Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil CF48 3TD

Restarting after a break How some business owners have restarted their business after a long break

Image credits Pages 6 and 13: James Pike Page 11: Alicia Clarke

While every care is taken in compiling this publication, we cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publisher. The advice is general, so consult your own professional advisers when relevant. All rights reserved. Please get the permission of the publisher in writing before you reproduce any part of this magazine. © 2013 Cobweb Information Ltd. ISSN 1369 5053

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Better Business No 194


CONTENTS

IN THIS ISSUE Setting up a not-for-profit organisation The various business structures a not-for-profit can adopt.

AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2013

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There’s no such thing as a new idea How patents work and how one business took the initiative once a particular patent had expired.

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The key to running successful events Recommendations for running successful events.

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Trends and opportunities in mobile commerce The key trends in mobile commerce.

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Opportunities for ‘olderpreneurs’ Business opportunities for the growing generation of ‘olderpreneurs’.

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Finding an extra pair of hands… without the extra burden An investigation into the various options for bringing extra help into your business.

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What’s the point of business awards and competitions? Are awards and competitions really worth entering?

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I can’t believe they’ve just tweeted that! How you can protect yourself against the threat of misguided tweets.

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The pros and cons of contractual sick pay The legal implications of not offering staff contractual sick pay.

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Welcome I was recently invited to the Labour Party’s third Annual Business Reception, during which Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, delivered a speech that encouraged the 1,000-plus delegates in the room to ‘celebrate’ business more and develop a British version of ‘The American Dream’. The American Dream is one of a ‘land of opportunity’ and the idea that anyone can achieve success, fame and wealth through thrift and hard work. If you’re a follower of Dragons’ Den, The Apprentice or the growing band of celeb-preneurs on the speaking circuit, the ‘British Dream’ will involve making sure your personal brand affords you as much press and social media attention as possible. For the majority of us, in reality, the Dream simply involves having a decent work-life balance and enough money for a foreign holiday and the occasional meal out. This British Dream spans the generations and is increasingly being sought by the growing band of olderpreneurs who, after working all their lives, still find that they need an additional income post-retirement. Jerry Bennett’s feature on p16 of this issue looks at the opportunities for olderpreneurs, and the strengths they can look to exploit. This Dream is also the basic driver of most freelancers but, as Tracey Sinclair explains in her touching article on p26, can be especially hard to achieve during a personal crisis. But in order to achieve the Dream, you cannot neglect the fact that you need to promote your business, exploit new ideas and technologies, and stay ahead of the competition. If you want to run a promotional event for your business, Royce Angelo’s tips on p12 will help you with your planning. And if you have a new idea or invention, or want to use someone else’s idea, our article on p10 explains patents and how CaféPod has entered the competitive market of coffee pods since an existing patent expired. If you need a little extra help to fulfil this Dream, but don’t want to commit to employing a permanent member of staff, our feature on p18 investigates a number of options you can consider. Whether you’re a dreamer or a realist, I hope you are finding Britain a land of opportunity and that you continue to find Better Business a useful resource to support you build your business. To quote another political party line – we’re all in this together!

Please send your feedback and comments to: marianne@better-business.co.uk

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A QUESTION OF SUPPORT

Support from your local council Your local council isn’t just there to collect business rates. It also has a responsibility to support and promote business in its area. BETTER BUSINESS reviews some of the support that’s available from local authorities across Britain.

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urturing a growing number of successful businesses is an effective way to encourage economic development and regeneration – and is particularly important in the current economic climate. More businesses mean more business rates, and successful businesses also foster the economic and social well-being of a local area. So it’s in your council’s best interest to provide you with a good standard of business support.

Business advice Most local councils can provide general advice to start-up and growing businesses, either via an in-house team or a network of advisors. For example, Newcastle City Council has an Enterprise Team that provides support and advice to start-up and existing businesses, with the aim of encouraging people to start up in their area and helping existing businesses to grow. Councils can also provide advice on accessing funding opportunities and finding premises, as well as providing information about enterprise schemes that can benefit new and existing businesses. The best way to find out what kind of business advice your local council provides, and how to access it, is to check the council’s website, or telephone its business support team.

Encouraging trade Councils can also help businesses identify public and private sector tender opportunities. Many councils maintain trade directories, which can help businesses promote themselves and trade with others. An example is Blackpool Council’s Trading Post, which is provided as part of the Blackpool Unlimited scheme. Some councils operate ‘buy local’ schemes that allow businesses to meet local buyers and access contract opportunities in the public sector. For example, Buy Wiltshire is a scheme operated by Wiltshire Council to improve the businessto-business activities of local traders. Birmingham City Council operates the Find It In Birmingham web portal which acts as a network for local buyers and suppliers and provides access to opportunities with the council’s procurement department. Membership of a council-approved trader scheme provides a promotional opportunity for local firms. Businesses are vetted – usually by the council’s Trading Standards team – to ensure a high standard of trading. More than 50 councils across England, Scotland and Wales participate in the Buy with Confidence approved trader

Councils can also provide advice on accessing funding opportunities and finding premises, as well as providing information about enterprise schemes

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scheme which maintains a directory of businesses that have been vetted by trading standards. Registration with this type of scheme is voluntary, and is separate from statutory schemes such as the food hygiene Scores on the Doors scheme which is a national register of food hygiene ratings awarded by local councils.

Grants and loans The availability of grants and loans varies greatly according to factors such as business size, sector and location. Some types of funding may only be available to start ups, while others may only be available to businesses based in designated development areas. Your local council can provide specific access to funding available to your type of business in your area. With overall funding being reduced, access to available funding is increasingly competitive, so the support of a local council can be crucial. One council that helps businesses in this way is Salford City Council, which has a Business and Funding Team that can provide advice on currently available sources of funding. For example, the North West Fund is currently providing debt and equity funding to small and medium-sized enterprises based in or relocating to Salford. Salford City Council also provides access to funding from Business Finance Solutions, a governmentbacked community development lender that provides loan capital to businesses that are unable to access finance from banks.

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A QUESTION OF SUPPORT

Tourism is a sector that can benefit from grants, with councils keen improve their local tourism offerings. Stirling Council supports tourism businesses via their tourism development grants.

Premises and workspaces Finding suitable premises for a start-up or expanding business can be difficult, and the cost can be prohibitive. Local councils maintain lists of available commercial property, including shops, offices and industrial units, for businesses operating in their area. In addition, many councils operate specific start-up and business incubation premises, which are specifically designed for new and expanding businesses. These premises are typically offered at competitive rates on flexible easy in, easy out terms, and sometimes come with extra support such as administration or marketing packages. Leicester City Council provides premises and workspaces for various types of business.

Regulatory support

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Nottingham Council House, Old Market Square, Nottingham

Nottingham, along with many other councils, also directs businesses to the ERWIN website, which provides advice on licensing and registration, trading standards, and environmental health issues across England and Wales. For planning issues, councils such as Derby City Council provide preapplication advice, and many councils also direct businesses to the advice section of the Planning Portal website. Some councils provide training for businesses, particularly in regulatory areas. Leicester City Council provides a range of

While the support provided by your local council may be valuable, it is also likely to be limited

accredited courses covering areas such as alcohol licensing, health and safety, and food safety. A one-day Health and Safety in the Workplace course (Level 2) costs £55.

Support limitations While the support provided by your local council may be valuable, it is also likely to be limited. Budget limitations and other factors mean that certain types of support are restricted to particular business sizes, sectors or postcodes. Swingeing cuts to local authority budgets will only reduce the breadth of support that councils can offer. In addition, the quality and accessibility of support varies from one council to another. According to research from the Forum of Private Business, just 11% of businesses believe the support they receive from their local council is effective. Some councils are taking positive steps to improve the support they offer. Research conducted by Shared Intelligence on behalf of 33 London borough councils highlighted several ways in which the councils could make their business support t

Your local council is responsible for licensing and registering certain types of businesses, such as those that provide alcohol, or businesses involved in street trading. The council’s trading standards department enforces a range of consumer protection legislation covering areas such as product safety and trade descriptions. The environmental health department enforces health and safety and food safety law. The planning department regulates planning permission and changes of use. Any of the above may apply to your business, and if so relevant regulatory advice can be obtained from the local council. Birmingham City Council’s environmental health department provides support across issues including workplace health and safety, food standards, and pest control. Birmingham also has a dedicated commercial waste department for support on all aspects of business waste collection and recycling. Nottingham City Council’s trading standards department provides advice to local businesses on compliance with consumer protection legislation and issues such as weights and measures and underage sales. It also provides access to a range of relevant factsheets.

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A QUESTION OF SUPPORT

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offerings more user friendly. The recommendations included making information more readily accessible online, sharing contacts between council departments regarding business clients, and improving the knowledge of frontline staff. Finally, back to those business rates. If your business ever has trouble paying its bill, you should contact your local council. They may be able to reschedule payments in order to help. It’s another way in which your local council can support your business, and again it’s in the council’s best interests for your business to thrive. That’s why there’s such a broad variety of help available, and it’s worth taking advantage of this potentially valuable source of support. n

What business advice can you get from your local authority? Planning If you have plans for your business that involve building work or changing the use of an existing building, your local authority planning department can advise you about the planning process.

There are several types of business, such as taxi operators, street traders, pet shops, tattooists and beauty therapists, that may need to apply for a licence to trade. Your local authority will be able to advise you if your business needs to be licensed.

If you are starting up or taking over a food or catering business the environmental health department of your local council will advise you on all aspects of hygiene, regulations and getting your business registered.

Premises licensing Your local authority can provide advice about getting your premises licensed to sell alcohol or run gambling activities such as bingo halls, amusement arcades, bookmakers and casinos.

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Find your local council www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council Planning Portal www.planningportal.gov.uk ERWIN (Everything Regulation Whenever It’s Needed) www.everythingregulation.org.uk Buy with Confidence www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk Scores on the Doors www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk Land and Property Services Agency (Northern Ireland) www.dfpni.gov.uk/lps/

If your business employs a child under school leaving age, you may need to contact the education department of your local authority for advice about obtaining a permit, depending on local byelaws.

Licensing

Food hygiene and safety

Useful links

Employing children under school leaving age

Industrial pollution Local authority environmental health departments have some responsibility for regulating and providing advice on pollution prevention and control (PPC). Part A2 and Part B permits are issued by local authorities for certain types of business, including those that operate galvanisers or produce pottery, and for cement batching plants, animal feed manufacturers and vehicle refinishers.

Commercial waste While the responsibility for disposing of commercial waste lies with a business, not with the local authority, you should contact the environmental health department of your local authority for advice about the safe and proper disposal of commercial waste. For example, commercial waste cannot be disposed of at a public waste disposal site.

Trading standards Local authority trading standards departments can provide advice about fair trading, product safety, accurate trade descriptions, correct sale of age-restricted products, and accurate weights and measures.

Health and safety Local authorities share the responsibility for regulation of health and safety in the workplace with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and can provide advice about preparing for inspections in shops, offices, warehouses, hotels, restaurants, sports and leisure centres, and care homes.

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Business rates Business rates, or non-domestic rates, are charged on most commercial properties, including offices, shops, warehouses and factories, and contribute towards the funding of local authority services. Local authorities can advise you about the collection of business rates. Note that, in Northern Ireland, this is the responsibility of the Land and Property Services Agency.

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COMPLIANCE CORNER

The ins and outs of the ‘Instagram Act’

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opyright for creative work is automatically assigned to its owner or creator, without the need for the item to be registered for copyright. ‘Orphan works’ are works that are protected by copyright, but for which the owner of the copyright is unknown or cannot be found. Officially known as the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, the informally termed ‘Instagram Act’ has completed its passage into law in the House of Commons but is yet to be ratified. One part of the Act aims to update copyright law in the UK, in part to “promote innovation in the design industry, encouraging investment in new products while strengthening copyright protections”. As part of this, there is the introduction of a law to deal with orphan works. The exact shape the Act will take when it comes into force after its first reading on 18 October 2013 still remains to be seen, but it is proposed that, when it is not possible to find the owner of a work (including historical documents or photographs where the creator may have died), an application will have to be made to an approved agency for permission to use the work. Before this permission is granted, the agency must verify that sufficient searching has been carried out to find the owner and payment of an appropriate fee has been made. However, sublicensing of the item will not be allowed.

Contentious issues Much discussion has already taken place in the media about the effect this law will have on the copyright of photographs posted online, hence its nickname ‘The Instagram Act’. The fear is that any protection of the ownership of such work would be removed by this law. However, the Government is keen to stress that the law is being brought in as an amendment to the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 (and a repeal of section

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The ‘Instagram Act’ is set to change the way the ownership of copyright is dealt with for ‘orphan works’. 52), to protect the work belonging to an individual or a business, and to enable the licensing of the use of any ‘orphan works’. If an image has been stripped of its meta data, removing information about its creator, this does not automatically make it an orphan work. The intention is to allow the use of orphan work for commercial or noncommercial purposes, and to set up organisations to collect licence fees for the use of this work. These fees will apparently be at the ‘going rate’, so should not make it financially advantageous for anyone to use an orphan work instead of an image whose owner can be traced. If, during the search, an image is found to belong to someone, no licence will be issued and permission for use of the work must be sought directly from the owner. No announcements have yet been made about the organisations that will be set up to enforce the new law, who they will be operated by and how the process of application will be undertaken. Further information about this will be released later this year. It should be noted, however, that even if use of a photograph is granted by one of these organisations, if an image shows a person then ‘model release’ will still need to be sought for the image to be used or published. Model release involves getting signed permission to use the image from the person in the photograph. For more information on all aspects of copyright covered under this law, go to www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga and click on Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. n

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Copyright Law Copyright is a legal right that enables creators of certain original works to control how their work is used and obtain financial reward from others using their work. Without this legal right it would be easy for others to use original material without paying the creator. Copyright, like physical property, can be bought or sold, inherited or transferred to another person in another way, for example as a gift or under licence. The types of works that copyright protects include: l

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Original literary works, such as books, training materials and song lyrics. This can also include original computer programs. Original dramatic works, including ballets, operas and plays. Original musical works such as written scores. Original artistic works, for example paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, architectural designs, diagrams and maps. Original typographical arrangements (that is the style and layout) of publications. The recording of an original musical work, including sound recordings or original dramatic works, such as a film on video or DVD. The broadcast of an original work.

Copyright arises automatically whenever an original work is recorded, in written form or otherwise. Material published on the Internet or stored on web servers is protected in the same way as works stored on any other media. You need to get permission from the owner of the copyright to use their material or any part of it, unless it is subject to a copyright exception.

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SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Setting up a not-for-profit organisation More and more people are setting up in business with a view to investing any profits into a social or charitable project. If this is something you are hoping to do, there are a number of different business structures you can choose from.

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ou may have heard the term ‘social enterprise’. This describes a wide range of organisations that are run as businesses but are set up with social objectives, rather than simply to make money for their owner or shareholders. It is a common misunderstanding that not-for-profit organisations do not make a profit. While setting up a not-for-profit organisation (NFPO) is usually undertaken for charitable or social purposes, a NFPO can, and should, make a profit. The key difference between a NFPO and a commercial business is that, instead of any profit being distributed to the business owner or shareholders, it must be reinvested in the organisation to fund its activities. NFPOs can take many forms, including social firms, co-operatives, charities, development trusts and community businesses. Social enterprise does not fit neatly into any particular sector and can span the private, public and voluntary (‘third’) sectors. In other words, it is what a business does with its profits that determines whether it is a social enterprise, rather than its specific legal structure.

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A business with a double bottom line is one that pursues financial targets and social targets.

Community groups and voluntary organisations

A business with a triple bottom line pursues financial targets, social targets and environmental targets.

Community groups are small groups run by local people with the aim of providing and improving services in their area. Examples include groups running childcare schemes such as playgroups, groups managing village hall facilities for community use and groups running a local ‘neighbourhood watch’ scheme. Voluntary organisations are independent, self-governing organisations that act for the benefit of the community for no financial gain. They tend to be more formally structured than community groups. A voluntary organisation may be managed solely by volunteers or by paid employees.

‘Social’ audits can be carried out to evaluate performance in these areas. These audits can be used alongside financial audits to align the enterprise’s social performance with its financial performance.

Co-operatives A co-operative is a business that is owned and run by the people who benefit from its services, also known as ‘members’. Examples include credit unions, which involve members pooling together savings in order to provide fellow members with low-cost loans as well as facilities for saving, borrowing and other financial services. Co-operatives are usually driven by ethical values such as self-help, democracy and equality. They operate in many sectors such as childcare, agriculture, financial services, housing and transport.

Social firms Charities Social firms are businesses with one or more social aims, which may include job creation, training, or provision of particular services to meet social needs. A social enterprise generates revenue by selling goods and/or services like any other business. One key characteristic that differentiates social enterprise from mainstream business is the concept of the double or triple bottom line.

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Charities are organisations that operate for the public benefit. In order to register as a charity, organisations must demonstrate that they have charitable purposes that are aimed at public benefit. Definitions, charitable tests and requirements vary slightly according to where in the UK the charity is based.

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Legal structures for not-for-profit organisations Traditionally most not-for-profit organisations (NFPOs) were either incorporated as companies limited by guarantee or run as unincorporated organisations, such as partnerships or trusts. However, it is now also possible to incorporate a NFPO as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in the case of social enterprise, and, in the case of charities, as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

Incorporated organisations Incorporated organisations are legal entities in their own right. There are various different types, including:

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SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Limited companies There are three limited liability company legal structures that a not-for-profit organisation could choose: l

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A company limited by shares, which is owned by its members (shareholders) and whose liability is limited to the value of the shares, which cannot be traded on the open market. A company limited by guarantee, which is also owned by its members, who are known as guarantors. Their liability is limited to the value of the guarantee, which is usually £10. A Public Limited Company (Plc), which is limited by shares and controlled by its shareholders but it can trade its shares on the open market.

All companies have to comply with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006. It is possible for a company limited by guarantee to seek charitable status. In England and Wales the company needs to apply to the Charity Commission, in Scotland to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and in Northern Ireland to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. Community Interest Companies (CICs) The CIC is a legal structure designed for use by social enterprises. CIC status can take the form of a private company limited by shares, a private company limited by guarantee or a Plc. To qualify as a CIC, an organisation’s constitution must feature an ‘asset lock’, meaning that profits and assets must be employed in the community interest rather than distributed to company members. Its aims must also satisfy a ‘Community Interest Test’ from the CIC Regulator, which assesses whether the activities undertaken by the CIC will benefit the community. Additionally, it must deliver an annual report to Companies House with its accounts. In order to encourage investment, CICs limited by shares are entitled to pay a dividend to investors. Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIO) Organisations can choose a new form of incorporation intended specifically for charities that do not want or need the complication of becoming a company limited by guarantee.

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The CIO (or SCIO in Scotland) provides the advantages of incorporation (such as limited liability) with regulation by the Charity Commission, the OSCR and the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. Previously, incorporated organisations operating as charities in England, Wales and Scotland had to register with both Companies House and the Commission or OSCR. The change means that CIOs need to meet less onerous accounting, reporting, filing and governance requirements.

Trusts can be set up with money or shares. Trusts that have charitable objectives can be registered as charitable trusts, and will be regulated by the Charity Commission in England and Wales, the OSCR in Scotland and the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. The charitable objective must be set out in the trust deed, which describes the framework in which trustees operate.

Unincorporated organisations

All new businesses, including not-for-profit organisations, must register with HMRC. Charities have the right not to pay tax on any income, gains or profits from certain activities. Not-for-profit organisations can usually negotiate a tax exemption, but this is not automatic, and will depend largely on their sources of income. Tax will still be payable on unearned income. Go to www.hmrc.gov.uk/charities/tax/basics.htm for more information. All businesses (including charities) need to register for VAT if their turnover is going to (or is expected to) exceed the annual VAT registration threshold. Go to www.hmrc.gov.uk for annual thresholds. However, some charity fundraising events and sales of donated goods in charity shops are exempt from VAT. Many not-for-profit organisations are eligible for grant aid and other financial support to cover their costs or enable them to develop new activities. Grant aid can come from large businesses, grant-giving charitable foundations, or the Government through a range of initiatives. n

The owners of an unincorporated organisation have unlimited liability as the business is not legally registered as a company. Unincorporated associations Without a separate legal identity from its owners, an unincorporated association is normally a collection of individuals with a constitution that sets out its aims and objectives, and is run by a committee whose members are all personally liable for debts incurred. Such an organisation cannot start legal action, borrow money, enter into contracts in its own name or hold property without appointing trustees (usually committee members) to do so on its behalf. There are no formal registration requirements for setting up an unincorporated association. An unincorporated association in England and Wales can apply to the Charity Commission for charitable status. Unincorporated associations in Scotland can apply for charitable status through the OSCR.

Running a not-for-profit organisation

Useful contacts Trusts A trust is an unincorporated body managed by trustees who are personally liable for the liabilities of the trust. The social objectives of a trust are protected in a trust deed, which also establishes the trust’s rules of governance. Restrictions on trusts and trustees include: l

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Trustees cannot benefit from the trust but must act on behalf of the community.

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Trusts have no separate legal identity.

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Trustees can own assets and property on behalf of the trust. Trusts can include an asset lock in their rules to prevent their assets being distributed outside the community that the trust benefits.

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Social Enterprise Coalition www.socialenterprise.org.uk Co-operatives UK www.uk.coop Charity Commission (England and Wales) www.charitycommission.gov.uk Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator www.oscr.org.uk Charity Commission for Northern Ireland www.charitycommissionni.org.uk The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) www.ncvo-vol.org.uk

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INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

There’s no such thing as a new idea If someone has created a new invention, one of the first things they are advised to do is to apply for a patent to protect their intellectual property. But patents have a shelf life and, once they expire, they are unenforceable. BETTER BUSINESS looks at how patents work and how one business took the initiative once they found out a patent had expired.

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atents protect inventions by giving the owner the right to stop anyone from making or using the invention without the owner’s permission. This right, granted by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the UK, is enforceable in a court of law and can last for up to 20 years. Patent rights are specific to the country they are granted in and, if you come up with a new technical idea that could be commercially valuable, you should consider applying for a patent. A UK patent gives you exclusive rights only in the UK. It does not provide any protection in other European Union (EU) countries. A patent is a right to stop others from using an invention rather than a positive entitlement for you to use the invention. This is because some inventions are modifications or improvements of earlier patented inventions and can only be used with the permission of the owner of the earlier ‘master’ patent. Even if you have a patent on your invention, you should ensure that there are no other existing patents that would prevent you using that invention. Your invention is a form of intellectual property and, like any other type of property you own, you may sell it or rent it out. Conversely, you can buy or rent (licence) a patent owned by a third party. It’s also possible to obtain the use of patents that have expired. In order to remain in force, patents must be renewed

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on the fourth anniversary of their filing date and every year after that for up to 20 years. If a patent is not renewed, whether deliberately or accidentally, it will expire. Once a patent expires, anybody may use it. In some cases, expired patents can present an opportunity that can be exploited in order to enter a market.

Tracking patents The IPO publishes details of all UK patents that have been filed and are undergoing consideration. They also publish details of patents that are no longer in force (NIF), usually due to the fact that they have expired. This information is available from the online patents database at www.ipo.gov.uk/types/patent/p-os.htm. The journal can be searched by application number, date range or keyword. There is a specific section of the database for patents not in force. If you do find an expired patent that you’d like to use, you’ll need to act quickly. Owners of expired patents can apply to have them restored. Applications for restoration must be made within

19 months of the patent expiring. However, owners cannot restore an expired patent if it has subsequently been obtained by a third party.

Buying and licensing patents If you find a patent you’d like to use, and you haven’t the time or patience to wait up to 20 years for it to expire, you can consider buying or licensing an existing patent. In order to buy an existing patent, you’ll need to approach the current owner. Details of patent owners are recorded in the patent database. If you do buy a patent, you should inform the IPO so that they can record the change of ownership, or assignment, on the register. It’s also possible to licence some patents, in order to use, manufacture, sell or import a patented invention. Patents that are available for licence are labelled ‘licence of right’ (LOR) in the IPO database. Any third party can apply to the owner for a licence under an LOR patent. The terms of the licence need to be agreed between the licensee and the licensor, and there is no guarantee that the owner will

Your invention is a form of intellectual property and, like any other type of property you own, you may sell it or rent it out

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INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

grant the licence. However, if a licence is granted, it must be recorded by the IPO. Dealing with patents can be complex, therefore many businesses choose to engage the services of an expert to deal with the process on their behalf. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) directory lists the names and contact details of chartered patent attorneys in the UK and overseas. The directory can be accessed on their website (www.cipa.org.uk) or obtained by contacting CIPA directly. n

Patent rules Any invention can be patented as long as it meets four basic requirements: l

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It must be new – in other words, there must not have been any public disclosure, anywhere in the world, of the invention before the date of filing. It must be inventive – which means it must not be just an obvious modification to an existing process or piece of machinery. It must have an industrial application. Your invention must be capable of being made or used in some form of industry. This could be a new product, a new machine or a new manufacturing process.

SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY CaféPod is a relatively new business whose four co-directors got together through mutual friends and took the opportunity of a particular patent no longer being in place to set up their new venture. The CaféPod brand started in March 2011 and is already now stocked in leading supermarkets, including 250 Waitrose, 550 Sainsbury’s and 300 Morrisons stores. The co-founders were keen to set up in business together and their initial brainstorm identified a trend for consumers demanding better coffee at home. They did a lot of research and it seemed coffee ‘pods’ were the way forward. The global market for coffee pods is led by Nespresso; there are also large players such as Tassimo and Senseo and about 50 other smaller businesses in the market, of which CaféPod is now one. The whole reason the industry has opened up is because some of the patents for the coffee pods started expiring and smaller manufacturers such as CaféPod have been able to enter the market. According to Peter Grainger, Director of CaféPod, following behind someone else’s success can be a great way of exploiting opportunities, “Being the first guy on the block can give you some advantage, but Red Bull weren’t the first energy drink on the market and look at them now. There are plenty of brands that weren’t the first on the market – they just do their ‘stuff’ really, really well”.

It must not be one of the following:

So how do four individuals hope to take on the might of Nestle and their Nespresso brand? CaféPod’s marketing director, Kate Peers, explains:

– a scientific or mathematical theory or method; an animal or plant variety;

“The true test is ensuring that you’re able to differentiate yourself. You have to be different in some way, even though you might sell a similar product, perhaps in its use or the way the customer can get the product. With us, this was through the supermarkets rather than just online. Nespresso is quite exclusive, it’s an excellent brand and it certainly has its own place in the market and it does what it does well. But it is a very exclusive brand and it’s really pushing the luxury mark, which is demonstrated by its website and in the ‘boutiques’ it has. We wanted to be very inclusive and produce something that could be part of someone’s weekly shop and make our product quite accessible. We really did work hard to make sure that we were differentiated from Nespresso.

– certain computer programs; – a way of performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business; – a method of medical treatment or diagnosis; – a work of art, music or literature. You cannot get a patent for anything considered immoral; that is anything not in line with the conventionally accepted standards of conduct in society.

“Being a start up, our budgets are very tight so, while we would love to have the likes of George Clooney in our TV adverts, we’re actually going for much more of a grass-roots level of marketing. At this stage, we can’t compete with the marketing spend of Nespresso. “We’ve been focusing on using Facebook, Twitter and our website to run online competitions. We’ve also just finished an online coupon promotion. We’re very much building our fan base that way and trying to do so with a little bit of personality”. Photo, L to R: CaféPod directors, Peter Grainger, Philip Banfield, Brent Hadfield and Kate Peers

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MARKETING

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ven if your business is small, there’s no reason why you can’t host a highquality event. Events suit a variety of purposes, whether it’s the opening of your new shop, an intimate discount evening for valued, regular customers or a promotional event for a new product launch. You may want to set up a local networking group, organise some hospitality for a key customer or run a charitable event to raise funds for a good cause. With the rise of social media, events can reach a more extensive audience than ever before. Guests will promote your event beforehand by mentioning it in status updates and tweets, and on the day by sharing their exact location with Facebook’s ‘check in’ feature and by uploading photos. If you can impress guests at your event, you’ll significantly increase the likelihood of them remembering your business in the future and recommending you to their contacts. Royce Angelo has over ten years of experience in organising events to suit a range of budgets, from intimate luncheons to royal birthday parties (www.royceangelo.com) and he has given BETTER BUSINESS his top recommendations for running a business event.

The key to running successful events For business owners with no help and a shoestring budget, running events can be a daunting prospect. Better Business spoke to ROYCE ANGELO about his recommendations for running successful events. will get for that £20. Everything can be negotiated nowadays, from catering to entertainment. l

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Firstly consider your budget and your wish list. Once you’ve worked out your budget, plan how you are going to use it and stick to it. The more time you give yourself to plan, the more cost-effective your event will be. Planning puts you in a better position to negotiate, such as when booking a venue. If you have a few events coming up, try to make multiple bookings with a venue to get a good deal. Aim to be flexible with dates as venues are usually quieter and cheaper during January and August. The day of the week can also impact on the booking fee, so consider holding your event on a Monday if your budget is tight. Venues will give you the rack rate to get the maximum revenue out of every booking so be prepared to negotiate. For instance, if a venue says “we can do dinner for £20 per person”, look into that carefully and find out exactly what you

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Take advantage of your connections and try to get any musicians or florists who have recently started up on board as they’re more likely to charge you less. Finally, be digital. Use e-invitations available online from websites such as Evites.com or PaperlessPost.com rather than printing and posting, which often involves a lot of costs. Many of the e-invitation services are free and eliminate having to wait for RSVPs, as guests can simply click online to confirm their attendance.

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For a product launch, ensure that you and any staff or helpers have extensive knowledge of the product. Make sure that the finished product is ready before the launch so that you can turn your event into a business opportunity. Instruct your team to chat with guests and encourage them to sign up for your new product on the day.

Timing is also crucial. If you’re opening a small restaurant, for example, it’s wise to wait a couple of months after you’ve opened before holding a launch event. It’s important that customers and suppliers don’t witness any initial teething problems, so wait until you’re ready because first impressions really count.

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E-invitations are a great way to attract people to your event as you can reach a lot more people online. here are some occasions that will require elaborate invitations. If this is the case, try to avoid using a professional printer. Design the invitations yourself or ask an associate or friend with good skills to design them, then do the printing yourself. Facebook and Twitter are both cost-effective and an easy way to communicate with large numbers of people. You can set up an events page to make people aware of who is attending and what the event is all about.

DURING THE EVENT

Any business, even a sole trader, can create an A list event on a C list budget if you plan well in advance

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You don’t need a huge team; it can be as small as two people, as long as you plan in advance. If you have an effective, well-organised individual running an event and everyone is willing to listen to that person, you don’t need a big

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just to ask your venue staff to turn off the lights, for example. Stick to your production schedule throughout so that everything runs like clockwork. If there are slight changes during the event, remember to communicate and stick to your set timings regardless.

‘committee’. It’s important to have one project manager who can break down everything that needs to be done, divide up the tasks and give deadlines for when they need to be achieved.

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Type up a production schedule listing the running order of the event and distribute this to everyone involved prior to the event. You must organise a meeting with all of the individuals involved with the event, from caterers and venue staff to entertainers. If the event starts at 6pm, for example, arrange a meeting for 4pm. Bring a copy of the production schedule for everyone and go through the running order of the event once more, clarifying what will happen and exactly when it will happen. It’s very cheap to hire hand-held radios so consider getting one for everyone involved with running the event. They allow you to keep everyone in the loop so you don’t have to run here and there

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The best way to follow up an event is with a thank you note or an e-mail. This is effective as it shows your guests that you have valued their company. Consider sharing highlights from the event with guests by e-mailing photographs or uploading them on to your website and sharing them via social networks. It’s important to talk about the success of the event to remind the attendees to return to your next event and to encourage new guests in the future. 䡲

Licensing requirements When you’re planning your event, you must check that any necessary licences have been applied for and granted before it takes place. Temporary events notices (TENs) A temporary event notice (TEN) is needed for relatively small-scale events for no more than 499 people where licensable activities (such as the sale and supply of alcohol, late-night refreshment and regulated entertainment) take place. TENs are usually issued by local authorities, are granted for a period of four days and must be applied for at least five days in advance of the event. Go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/alcohol/alcohol-licences/temporaryevents for more information. Music and video licences In order to play copyrighted music in public, a PRS for Music licence is required. Licences are also required to play films and videos in public. PRS for Music provides guidance on all the various types of licences required for events organised by businesses. Go to www.prsformusic.com/users/businesses andliveevents/livevenuesevents/soundadvice/aguidetolicences/Pages/aguide tolicences.aspx for details. Publicly played pre-recorded music from radio, digital media players, CDs, tapes, etc, on stands or other areas, or through the public address system is licensed directly by Phonographic Performance Ltd (www.ppluk.com). Child performers Local authority licences are needed for any children (such as young members of a choir) booked to perform at an event in accordance with the Children and Young Persons Act and the Children (Performances) Regulations. Go to www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/safeguardingchildren/ a0068886/safeguarding-child-performers for information. Gaming activities Gaming activities licences cover activities such as raffles, lotteries, prize draws and some charity collections where profit is made. Guidance regarding the regulations and the issuing of licences can be obtained directly from the Gambling Commission (www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk).

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Event essentials There’s an array of useful online tools to help minimise the hassle and maximise the smoothrunning of your events: EVENTBRITE is an online tool that helps people find and create events. It enables you to promote your event and sell tickets if you are charging people to attend. Once you’ve started promoting your event, you can track any attendees who’ve registered or bought tickets and access and export detailed reports with information about your attendees and ticket sales on the event summary page. www.eventbrite.com EVITE is an online invitation and social planning resource that allows you to design and send invitations at no cost. The evites are easy to design and replies are tracked so that you can cater for the correct number of attendees. Evites are particularly suited to fun, casual events such as a shop’s birthday party or a new product launch. www.evite.com EVENT MANAGER BLOG is run by events industry speaker and author Julius Solaris, and features events management and social media know-how. The blog provides tips and inspiration for events, from weddings to business events, as well as trends and updates in event technology and software. The blog informs readers of any changes to the events features on social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. www.eventmanagerblog.com SUPER PLANNER is an event industry app, which provides a range of convenient tools and calculators. The room capacity calculator helps you determine the number and size of chairs and tables that are required. The catering calculator tells you how many appetisers and drinks you’ll need for different events. The app costs £6.99 on iTunes. www.howardgivner.com/ super-planner-iphone-app

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SALES

Trends and opportunities in mobile commerce

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obile commerce, or m-commerce, is the sale and purchase of goods and services via mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. If your business sells goods or services online, m-commerce is an increasingly important consideration. Consumers using mobile devices can make purchases via standard e-commerce websites, but usually prefer to use specific mobile-optimised websites and mobile apps. It’s a rapidly growing area of the retail sector with several emerging trends, and the opportunities presented by m-commerce shouldn’t be overlooked.

How many people are currently buying via mobile devices? According to Ofcom, 58% of the UK population now own smartphones, while 19% own tablets. Figures from Econsultancy show that 25% of all UK consumers made a purchase using a mobile device in 2012, up from 13% in 2011. As might be expected, younger people are more likely to use m-commerce, with 44% of people aged between 18 and 34 having made a purchase using a mobile device. Figures from IMRG show that mcommerce increased by 300% between 2011 and 2012. Mobile accounted for 20.2% of all online sales in the UK during the first quarter of 2013, up from 15.4%

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Over half of the UK population now own smartphones and many of them use mobile devices to make purchases. PAUL BROWN takes a look at the key trends in mobile commerce. in the fourth quarter of 2012. Overall, the UK has one of the most advanced mcommerce markets in the world. So it’s essential that you tailor your e-commerce offering to accommodate mobile users.

What are people buying via mobile devices? The most popular m-commerce purchases are music downloads. According to Mintel research, 20% of mobile users have downloaded music tracks via services such as iTunes or Google Play. The next most popular purchase is travel tickets – bought by 16% of users. 15% have purchased downloadable phone features such as apps, games and ringtones. But mobile users also purchase physical items – 13% have purchased clothes via their devices, while 12% have bought books and 12% have bought electrical goods. In general, anything that can be purchased via the Internet can be purchased via a mobile device. At the moment, the bulk of m-commerce is characterised by relatively small ticket purchases. 69% of mobile users have spent £10 or more on a single mobile purchase,

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while only 25% have spent £50 or more. However, it’s forecast that an increasing number of larger ticket purchases will be made via m-commerce in the near future.

How can you take advantage of mobile commerce opportunities? Businesses have, in general, been slow to adapt to the opportunities presented by mcommerce. According to figures published in January 2013 by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), only 57 of the UK’s top 100 brands have a mobile optimised website. EBay, Argos and Amazon were among the top 20 mobile search terms of 2012, according to Mobile Commerce. All three retailers specifically cater for mobile users with mobile optimised websites and mobile apps. At the Digital Dream mobile commerce industry event, held in London in March 2013, Amazon’s mobile website was singled out as a good example of an easy-to-use, fast-loading mobile version of the company’s main site. The fact that Amazon’s mobileoptimised website is quick to load on variable mobile connections is a key feature. The time a site takes to load – its response time – is critical in the fast-moving world of m-commerce.

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64% of smartphone and tablet users say a good mobile website must load quickly.

Do apps still have a role to play in m-commerce? One recent trend in m-commerce is a shift away from mobile apps towards mobile-optimised websites. There are several drivers behind this trend. From a consumer point of view, apps have reached a tipping point where there are so many available that users are becoming reluctant to download any more. A reputation for bugs and a perception that most apps will only ever be used once have also reduced consumer confidence. From a business point of view, apps require specific investment and time that could perhaps be better focused on mobile optimised websites. Technical advances such as HTML5 mean that optimised websites can now provide much the same experience as apps. However at the Digital Cream event, it was found that in-house mobile teams retain a high opinion of apps, and believe they can provide a richer and more focused user experience. Apps linked to loyalty schemes were cited as good examples, with the mobile app from Starbucks highlighted as a particular standout. The Starbucks app, available for Android and iPhone devices, combines a loyalty scheme feature with a pay-by-phone function – both of which use a smartphone’s ability to scan barcodes. It also provides a store finder service and information about the variety of drinks on offer in stores. The app is considered to be successful because it offers convenience, encourages interaction, and ultimately drives sales.

What other key trends and issues are there? The convenience and accessibility of mcommerce is changing the nature of the retail sector. Evidence suggests that the rise of m-commerce is driving an overall increase in sales. For example, Econsultancy say that m-commerce is enabling an increase in impulse buying, largely because the process is so simple and the m-commerce experience is preferable to shopping in physical stores. Another growing m-commerce trend is ‘showrooming’, which involves customers looking at products in a physical retail store, using their mobile to compare prices, and then buying the products elsewhere –

Better Business No 194

HINTS AND TIPS Keep apps and mobile websites simple by stripping out complex procedures and bulky content. Ensure mobile website pages load quickly – within four seconds at the most. Make apps that fulfil a specific and useful purpose rather than simply mirroring mobile sites. Put measures in place to assure potential customers that security should not be a barrier to using mobile commerce. Explore technologies such as NFC, GPS and barcodes to add extra benefits to mobile commerce offerings. Offer consumers appropriate payment methods relating to the type of goods or services they are buying. Be aware of the extra layer of legislation that applies to some mobile commerce activities. Expect consumers to have higher expectations of apps and mobile websites than of desktop sites, and make them faster, simpler and easier to use. often from an online retailer. According to Econsultancy, 43% of UK consumers have used their mobiles to compare prices while shopping in physical stores. So the growth of m-commerce is taking more business away from bricks and mortar stores that have already been negatively affected by the rise of e-commerce. Transaction and payment methods are a key issue. While many consumers are happy to pay using credit or debit cards, there is also demand to use payment services such as PayPal, or charge directly to the consumer’s mobile phone account. The payment method should be relevant to type of purchase. For example, card payments are more relevant to bigger ticket purchases such as clothing, while phone account payments are more relevant to smaller ticket purchases such as music downloads. An increasingly popular payment method involves the use of NFC (near field communication) technology, which allows simple transactions to be made wirelessly, for example by waving a mobile device over a payment terminal. Security is a key issue when it comes to payment methods. According to Mintel, of those consumers who have not yet made a purchase via a mobile device, 34% cite the reason as a concern about safety. In general, the security issues associated with mcommerce are similar to those associated with e-commerce, with the added concern that mobile devices are more prone to loss or theft. Finally, m-commerce involves an extra layer of legal issues on top of those connected with e-commerce. For example,

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providers of phone-paid services (where payment is taken by premium rate text or call) are regulated by PhonepayPlus. And m-commerce services that use GPS (global positioning system) location data, for example as part of a store finder feature or to push specific location-based offers to consumers, must observe the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. Location data is personal information that must be properly collected, used and stored in accordance with existing legislation. 䡲

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Mobile Commerce Daily www.mobilecommercedaily.com Mobile Commerce Press www.mobilecommercepress.com/ Retail Week mobile commerce news www.retail-week.com/multichannel/ mobile-commerce/ Econsultancy Digital Cream Mobile Briefing www.econsultancy.com/uk/reports/ mobile-experience-trends-briefingdigital-cream-london-2013 SAP Mobile Commerce Guide www54.sap.com/pc/tech/mobile/ featured/offers/mobile-commerceguide.html Information Commissioner’s Office www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations

INFOBANK

Paul Brown Freelance writer paul@stuffbypaulbrown.com www.stuffbypaulbrown.com

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BRIGHTER BUSINESS IDEAS

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hile 65 has long been regarded as a good retirement age, that perception is starting to change across society, albeit slowly. There is another perception that older employees are not as ‘dynamic’ or attractive to employers as younger ones, hence the legislation on ageism in the workplace. But anyone who saw the Rolling Stones performing at Glastonbury this year will understand that any idea that people should retire at 65 is unadulterated rubbish. If you’re fit and well enough, you’re certainly ‘young’ enough to run a business. Anyone thinking of starting a business as an ‘olderpreneur’ should remember Colonel Harland Sanders. He started his Kentucky Fried Chicken chain at the age of 65, and eventually retired at 80 through ill health. Even if you don’t much care for KFC, its founder is a pretty decent source of inspiration. This article will concentrate on the opportunities for anyone over the age of 50 who is starting a business for the first time – the Saga group. This is actually the largest segment of the UK population who are currently starting their own business, and the most successful. Over 70% of business owners over the age of 50 stay in business for more than five years, compared to 28% in all the other age groups.

Barriers to olderpreneurship So what sort of problems might olderpreneurs face?

Opportunities for ‘olderpreneurs’ Some say ‘You’re never too old’, but are you ever too old to start a business? JERRY BENNETT looks at the opportunities for the growing generation of ‘olderpreneurs’.

Adapting to latest developments Governments have an uncanny tendency to change the way they do things, and very often the one man band discovers this just a little bit too late. This is not purely an issue for olderpreneurs, but the impact of regular changes in Government policy, technology and legislation can hit this group much harder. You should never take anything for granted in business. When some longestablished practice is overturned by a new Government policy, it can cause confusion and considerable annoyance. It is the olderpreneur, who is maybe more used to the long-established practices, who finds it hardest to adapt.

Health and fitness This is probably the greatest barrier for any olderpreneur, although it is something that can be interpreted fairly liberally. The ageing process does have an effect, particularly with hard, physical work, and many older start ups do tend to concentrate on elements of their business that are less physically demanding. But that still leaves a huge range of opportunities. Take gardening as an example. The older start up might not be too keen on general maintenance or hard landscaping, but when it comes to growing plants or designing gardens, then that really opens up the opportunities. It also plays on one of the key strengths of olderpreneurs – their experience. Choose your ideas carefully, and even health and fitness becomes less of an issue. One client I work with is a specialist in growing cacti – he is over 50 and confined to a wheelchair for most of his time.

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Breaking away from an employed past This is something I have seen in older people who have been in employment for 30+ years and have become used to routine and procedures. The comparative anarchy of self employment – doing everything for yourself and with no such thing as an established procedure – is not something they adapt to easily. Perhaps this is just my experience, but I feel potential olderpreneurs adapt more easily if they look to start a new, unrelated business based on a hobby, rather than as an extension of their previous work. Many older people are now looking at self employment through economic necessity rather than any great desire to run a business, having been made redundant in their 50s with inadequate pension provision. I have sometimes had to try hard to persuade

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these older clients to reconnect with their imaginations.

Being part of the ‘sandwich generation’ The ‘sandwich generation’ are those people who find that they might be caring for elderly parents one day and grandchildren the next. Time is precious and any ‘employment’ needs to allow for very flexible working patterns. This may not actually be too much of a disadvantage, as it forces you to think more imaginatively about the sort of business you can operate in this situation. One lady who makes children’s toys gained the original inspiration for her idea from her grandchildren, imitating Ole Kirk Christiansen, the creator of Lego.

Olderpreneurship advantages With over 70% of businesses run by olderpreneurs surviving for five years or more, there are substantial advantages to starting up when you are over 50. These include:

Experience in business After over 30 years of work, you will have a pretty good idea of what works well, and – potentially more usefully – what doesn’t work, gets overlooked, forgotten about or ‘put on the back burner’ until it becomes a raging fire that needs attention. How many specialist consultants have started businesses providing advice or key services because they have seen something go wrong in their previous employment?

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BRIGHTER BUSINESS IDEAS

The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME) The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME) is a national organisation providing individuals over 50, who are unemployed or under threat of redundancy, with the support to achieve financial, social and personal fulfilment through sustainable self-employment. Since it was founded in 1999, PRIME has helped more than 25,000 over 50s who are unemployed or facing redundancy to explore the option of self employment. It offers support through: 1 2 3 4

Free training courses. Mentoring support that follows on from the training courses. Networking events to share and discuss ideas and market your business. Online resources via the PRIME Website.

The ‘online resources’ section includes information about getting started in business include finance, marketing and the legal aspects. To find out more, visit www.prime.org.uk

A quick trawl through my own records has identified numerous over-50 new-start clients providing bookkeeping or virtual secretarial services, specialist marketing services of all sorts (including Internet marketing that is often seen as a young person’s specialism), HR services, investigation services, and events or conference organisation.

Experience outside of business This is possibly the greatest source of opportunity for olderpreneurs. A lot of crafts businesses have been started by individuals who are over 50, using knowledge gained through an interest or hobby that has been part of their lives for years. I have worked with antique and furniture restorers, soft furnishers, craftspeople working in precious metals, glassware and stone, toymakers and woodworkers, artists and illustrators. The common factor to all of them was extensive, practical knowledge of their craft.

example. That social confidence can also be put to good use in private tutoring – music, languages, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) – or running seminars. One ex-colleague of mine spends all summer in the Aegean, lecturing on cruise ships on Greek history and mythology.

Food and catering I suppose this is part of the ‘experience’ category, but I have chosen to deal with it separately. This is another sector that demands years of experience. It touches the realm of social confidence too, as anyone running a tearoom or coffee shop, café or bistro will testify. I have known individuals start baking or cake-making businesses at younger ages, but almost every successful chocolatier, cake decorator or specialist sweet manufacturer that I know have been olderpreneurs. The same applies to a new delicatessen and specialist wine merchant business that is based on the proprietor’s many years’ experience of working across Europe.

Social face-to-face confidence Financial security By the age of 50 you will have spent many years in contact with a wide variety of people, both in and outside of work. You will have also built a fair amount of social confidence to complement your personal knowledge. I wonder if it is coincidence that so many of the complementary therapists that I have met have been over 50? While something like sports injury massage does demand a fair amount of physical fitness, the same is less true of yoga specialists, Reiki practitioners or nutritionists, for

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Older people sometimes have greater financial independence than their younger counterparts, maybe because they have cleared their mortgages, or they may be on either a state or private pension. In many ways they are the opposite to the unfortunate over-50 jobseeker who is desperate for any sort of income. They may be more inclined to commit to something that needs a fair amount of finance to start, such as the coffee shop or bistro

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mentioned earlier. They may also develop a business that actually earns them very little, but is invaluable within the community, and which might otherwise not exist. They run these businesses out of a mixture of love and altruism, rather than for profit. Just like one village bookshop that serves superb coffee and scones, and has a range of books that you would never find on Amazon.

Doing it for the love of it This may demand some financial independence to support a part-time business, but many older people often use retirement to do something they always wanted to do but never had the time. Often this is arts oriented – writing, composing music, painting, photography or videography. It may not develop into a business that generates a decent income – the banks and the Government disparagingly call these ‘lifestyle businesses’. But it can help to boost a pension a bit, and often contributes to the local community in a small sort of way. The business might not be vital or high growth, but it would be missed if it disappeared. In a way it is part of Mr Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, except I don’t think anyone (including Mr Cameron) understands what the Big Society really is.

Charities and volunteering One final suggestion is commitment to a genuine community project. Is this ‘olderpreneurship’? These projects often need quite a high degree of experienced business management if they are to succeed, and who better to provide this than an olderpreneur with a lifetime of relevant experience. A couple of years ago, Laurie South, the then Chief Executive of the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME), gave this quote to a national magazine: “I haven’t met anyone over 50 who hasn’t done something that makes people go ‘wow’.” It sums up olderpreneurs to perfection. If you’re fit and well enough, you’re young enough! 䡲

INFOBANK

Jerry Bennett is an independent business adviser and coach, based in Cumbria. Employment Alternatives 01539 733229 www.employmentalternatives.co.uk

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HIRED HELP

Finding an extra pair of hands… without the extra burden Many business owners require an extra pair of hands at times, but don’t want the costs of employing a permanent member of staff. BETTER BUSINESS looks into various options for bringing extra help into your business. and secretarial tasks such as filing and answering telephone calls. Increasingly, however, virtual assistants have a portfolio of specialist expertise including PR, web design and social media marketing alongside their traditional admin skills. “Virtual assistants are the perfect solution for a busy small business owner,” says Justine Curtis, Founder and Director of UK Association of Virtual Assistants (www.ukava.co.uk). “You get all the benefits of outsourcing – no employer liabilities, tax and benefits issues. As well as bringing to the table a wealth of previous secretarial or PA experience, VAs are small business owners themselves, so will treat your business with the

Using a virtual assistant A virtual assistant is a support professional that works remotely from your business, typically offering a range of practical business services. In the past, virtual assistants usually handled administrative

Better Business No 194

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, PeoplePerHour

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same respect and attention to detail as you would. They understand the importance of taking a vested interest in the success of your business, as your success is their success. After all, the busier you are, the more work you’ll delegate to them, and the happier you are with their work, the more likely you are to recommend their services to your business contacts.” The beauty of VAs for business owners is that they work from their own office, using their own equipment. VAs typically charge around £15 an hour and, although this is more than you’d pay a standard admin assistant, they can usually complete tasks at a much faster pace and you can use them on an as-needed basis. It’s sometimes worth paying a little more for a VA with a breadth of skills such as HR, accounting and event planning, as this can be more cost-effective than sourcing separate individuals in these fields. “Increasingly businesses want a more flexible workforce,” says Xenios Thrasyvoulou, Founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour (www.peopleperhour.com). “We’ve certainly seen this growth as the number of virtual assistants and administrators registered on the site has increased by 81% in the past year alone.” t

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hen running a small business, there’ll be times you are pushed for time and in need of additional help or services. You may be in need of short-term assistance due to personal circumstances or your business may be thriving, leaving you with less time to devote to business admin. While there are many occasions when small business owners need to source additional help, there are just as many reasons why this can’t be solved by hiring an employee. Especially in the early stages of your business, you might not be able to afford the expense of employing someone, even on a part-time basis. Or you may not be ready to make the commitment. In fact it might well be the case that you don’t actually need to bring any additional resource into your business – you just need to spend time with someone who can help you identify your key strengths and expertise, then you can use this process to improve the way that you manage your business. Either way, there are plenty of options to explore and organisations that can help you make the right decision for your business circumstances.

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BETTER BUSINESS INVESTIGATES

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“Business owners can benefit massively by outsourcing their admin function to a Virtual Assistant,” says Angela Dawson, VA and VA Trainer and Mentor at The Admin Doctor. “It means that they gain additional invaluable support when their business demands it, which adds value to the business owner by freeing up their time and enabling them to focus on the core aspects of their business that will make it more profitable. One size doesn’t fit all and time should be taken to attract the right VA into a business.”

Angela Dawson, VA Trainer

Internships Internships are temporary periods during which individuals, usually students or graduates, undertake work experience. The duration can vary from weeks to months, so they’re perfect for start ups with short-term requirements. Internships have become very competitive in recent years, allowing business owners to source some high calibre candidates. “We offer a number of internships to students and graduates ranging from three months to a year long,” says Leigh Stott, Director of HR at Hunter Adams Limited. “Our business is growing at pace so interns learning the ropes and helping us out is fantastic. It’s mutually beneficial too. We offer them great experience and support, giving them a head start in their career, and their positive experience means they become a Hunter Adams advocate, building our reputation. Those who have completed work experience with us have become business associates or advisors at the firm. It’s a cost effective way to build our team, nurture talent and ultimately we see a great return on investment. We see interns as long-term prospects and would encourage other small businesses to do the same.”

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University placements are an effective way for a small business owner to offer valuable work experience to undergraduate students and recent postgraduates You can advertise your intern vacancy on Facebook and Twitter, or you can use interning hiring platforms such as Inspiring Interns (www.inspiringinterns.com). “Internships work very well for small businesses,” says Tony Robinson Inspiring Interns’ Communications Director Andrew Scherer. “Often they’re not sure whether they’re going to have the capacity to take on someone new or if the intern is going to have enough of a positive impact to justify taking them on permanently. Frequently we ultimately find that the intern has done so well that they're kept on. “Around two thirds of our interns will stay on permanently. Working in a small business is also generally better from the intern’s point of view as they get so much hands-on experience.” Many firms have received negative press attention for exploiting interns. Whether you pay your intern national minimum wage depends on whether they’re classed as a worker or a volunteer. As a rule of thumb, if the tasks you set your intern are integral to the business and they hold similar responsibilities to employees, they should be paid. If they offer their free services in return for valuable work experience, it’s acceptable to cover their food and travel expenses. Students doing internships as part of their degree course are not entitled to the national minimum wage. Go to www.gov.uk/government/publications/unpaid-internships-and-interns-bisguidance for more guidance.

University placements University placements are an effective way for a small business owner to offer valuable work experience to undergraduate students and recent postgraduates. They are also a useful, cost-effective method of securing extra, short-term human resources. Most universities run some sort of work placement programme, but the requirements and duration of placements can vary depending on the institution. Students taking a four-year sandwich degree are required to undertake a twelve-

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month placement or internship in industry to get work experience. Placements are available across a wide range of disciplines, from fashion marketing and events management to geography, so you’re likely to be able to find a student or graduate with a relevant degree to meet your needs. Undergraduates and postgraduates from a range of disciplines are also available to work on short-term projects for your business. They can be completed on a group or individual basis and take place throughout the academic year over approximately six to fifteen weeks, depending on the size of the project. Students are able to work remotely from your business during short-term project work. Often projects are unpaid, but you should always cover expenses. Mark Ions, managing director at HR and recruitment firm Exclusive has placed a number of students in his business. “Students allow a business to tackle projects that they may not normally have the resources or time to look at. They bring a real passion and drive to undertake every single task to the best of their abilities. Their hunger to learn and to develop means they always come up with new ideas and look at new solutions to issues. We have a long established relationship with Newcastle University; they know we give students real business opportunities where they can have real impact, not putting them in the corner and asking them to make the tea like a lot of companies seem to do. The University gets a feel for the company and the role and then advertises the opportunity. They present you with CVs and join in the interview panel.” Some universities offer term-time programmes, during which students can collaborate with local small and medium sized businesses, receiving paid work while improving their CV. They must work around 100 hours over three to four months, fitting work around their university timetable. Alternatively, many universities arrange summer internships, supplying businesses with students or graduating students for around six to twelve weeks between May and September.

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HIRED HELP

Angela McLean, and student intern Natalie Diver

Angela McLean, managing director of Baggers Originals, was so impressed by Natalie Diver, the student she took on from Newcastle University, that she nominated her for an award from the National Association of Student Employment Services – an award that Natalie went on to win. “Natalie joined us for a 10-week summer placement. I simply called up the university careers service and provided them with a job description. They helped us with the interview process and paid a proportion of Natalie’s wages. I think a lot businesses don’t realise how valuable students can be. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for Natalie. Students have so much knowledge, especially when it comes to social media. University placements are also extremely beneficial for the student too; it’s a win-win situation.” If you’d like to find out more about university placements, you can contact your local university placement office or careers service. Provide them with a detailed job description or project

proposal, explaining the type of role your business has to offer students, the skills needed and the tasks they’ll be required to do. If the university accepts your proposal, they will support you by advertising the vacancy on their intranet, e-letters and perhaps their social networks.

Apprenticeships Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training that lead to nationally recognised qualifications for the trainee while meeting the needs of business owners. They’re a cost-effective way to train new individuals or give existing employees a new skill, and for this reason, one in five employers are currently hiring apprentices. There are hundreds of types of Apprenticeships, from business administration to textiles and they can last between one and four years. Apprentices must be paid the National Minimum Wage for Apprentices, which is currently £2.65 per hour, and are entitled

to at least 20 days’ paid holiday per year in addition to bank holidays and maternity leave. The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) funds apprenticeship course fees in full for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and in part for those who are older. There are also grants to help small business owners recruit apprentices aged between 16 and 24, such as the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers. The grant is available until the end of this year and provides eligible employers with qualifying apprentices a grant of £1,500, helping to cover the cost of taking on a new member of staff. Anne Batty, Managing Director of Paperclip Admin, took on an apprentice nine months ago: “Apprenticeships are a ‘win win.’ Our apprentice has enabled us to take our business to the next level by bringing fresh ideas and skills to the role. The placement has been a complete success, Emily will be employed and we are already looking for another apprentice to join us and share a great opportunity.” The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) provides free, impartial advice to employers as well as a free Apprenticeship vacancies system), which enables business owners to advertise their Apprenticeships online. You can discuss the type of apprentice you need by filling in an online form or calling the employer helpline 08000 150 600. You’ll be put in touch with a suitable training provider, your vacancy will be advertised online then you select your applicant. 䡲

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Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training that lead to nationally recognised qualifications for the trainee while meeting the needs of business owners

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Apprenticeships in Scotland www.apprenticeshipsinscotland.com Internwise www.internwise.co.uk National Apprenticeship Service www.apprenticeships.org.uk People Per Hour www.peopleperhour.com Rate My Placement www.ratemyplacement.co.uk The UK Association of Virtual Assistants www.ukava.co.uk

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STREETWISE ENTERPRISE

What’s the point of business awards and competitions?

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n the last decade there has been a huge increase in the number of business awards and competitions, with entry categories to suit everyone from mumpreneurs and youngpreneurs to social and green enterprises and family businesses. Although the significance of winning can seem a little diluted due to the sheer abundance of awards, many are well worth entering and could bring considerable benefits to your business.

Pros of entering awards Press – Getting shortlisted or winning awards and competitions is a cheap but effective way of gaining press attention. Often business awards have media partners who provide coverage of the finalists. You’re likely to receive free press coverage through mentions on the awards website and social networking pages of the award organisation and their sponsors, business blogs, local and national newspapers and magazines. If it’s a prestigious awards scheme or competition, you may also receive national press across major newspapers, TV and radio. Entering awards and competitions is particularly useful for start ups with tight marketing budgets, so even if you’re not too fussed about scooping an award, it can be beneficial for start ups to enter, even if it’s just to take advantage of the potential free publicity. Networking – Awards ceremonies are a great way to meet new contacts. Usually there’s a judging panel made up of industry professionals, who may be useful to liaise with. There’ll also be the opportunity to chat and share experiences and advice

With the growing number of business awards and competitions available, you could easily spend more time filling in award applications than running your business. BETTER BUSINESS investigates whether they’re really worth entering. with other nominated business owners and guests. Raising your profile by being shortlisted for an award or winning a competition is also a good way of increasing your online connections on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which will in turn help to draw traffic to your website. The winners of many business awards and competitions are often decided by online polls, so building up an online following is crucial and will help you secure votes for future awards. Reputation – Winning an award is a great way to boost your business’ reputation so celebrate your victory on your website and promotional material. Winning is likely to create a positive perception of your business and encourage potential customers to use your business. A win will also reassure existing clients of the strength of your business and encourage them to maintain their working relationship with you. Prizes – Many awards and competitions reward winners with a cash prize or support package to help develop their business further. Prize money is extremely useful for funding early, crucial stages of your business such as creating a prototype or getting your website up and running. Mentorship is another common prize. Lloyds TSB

Enterprise Awards, for instance, offers a two-year programme of mentoring support from senior Lloyds TSB employees. Confidence – Your morale can take a battering when running a business. Entering awards and competitions can be a great way to inject a little excitement back into your business and boost confidence. Even losing to competitors can have positive effects by encouraging you to focus on being more competitive in the future. Reflection – Most awards and competitions require you to fill out an application form. Usually you’re asked to answer questions about you and your business such as: What makes your business stand out from the rest? How has your business overcome any challenges? Why do you think your business deserves to win? Awards entry forms give you the opportunity to step back from your business and analyse it with a self-critical eye. Taking time to fill in an application forces you to reflect on your business achievements and mistakes to date as well as your aims for the future. Many awards also ask nominees to give a pitch to a panel of judges. This is good practice for pitching at important meetings, you’ll have to be reflective once again and confident, convincing the judges that your business should win.

Cons of entering awards

Entering awards and competitions can be a great way to inject a little excitement back into your business and boost confidence

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Time – As there are so many business awards and competitions, it can be difficult to decide which ones are the best fit for your business. Filling in application forms can also be very time consuming as you’re often required to write around 1,000 words.

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If your application is successful, you may have to make it through local heats before you reach the grand final. And if you do make the final, you may have to take time off to travel to another city for one last interview or pitch. Don’t forget you’ll also have to give up some time to attend the awards ceremony. Even after the awards are over, winners may be required to travel to give follow-up press interviews. The awards organisation will want you to promote them as well as your own business. Cost – Not all awards programmes will pay for their finalists’ costs to travel to the judging venues and awards ceremony, so bear in mind that you may have to cover the cost of your own travel. You are also likely to have to pay to stay in a hotel overnight during the judging process or after the awards ceremony if you live a long way from the venue. Some awards programmes also charge a fee to enter, for example, the cost to enter The National Business Awards ranges from £210 to £295 depending on when you submit your application. Negative associations – There may be some awards that you do not want to associate your business with for various reasons. For instance, there are specific awards for mothers in business, which is perfect for an owner of a baby clothing business, but perhaps this is something that some mothers may not wish to highlight to their customers, depending on the type of business they run. Emotional implications – Missing out on an award can be disheartening, especially when you’ve spent time, effort and perhaps money to make it through the first stages of judging. Awards and competitions can also cause unnecessary stress and added pressure to your business. If you’re too busy to be filling in applications or writing pitches, don’t do it and ignore your business priorities – wait for the right time to enter when your workloads are manageable. Entry criteria – Unfortunately for ‘olderpreneurs’, many business awards and competitions are aimed at young start ups. Frequently, the awards programmes with considerable funding target university graduates or have an age restriction, often excluding the over 30s. 䡲

Better Business No 194

BETTER BUSINESS caught up with a range of business owners to find out their views about the benefits of entering awards and competitions. JOANNA MONTGOMERY, Founder and Director of Little Riot: Joanna Montgomery has scooped several business awards. Her first product, Pillow Talk, which consists of a smartphone app and two wristbands allowing long-distance lovers to hear the heartbeat of one another while in bed, started out as a university project and is set to hit the shelves very soon. “Business awards can be time consuming and sometimes costly, but for start ups they’re definitely worth entering. I began entering awards after I finished university to get funding as I had no money. I entered a competition called Innovate, run by the Technology Strategy Board, and won £25,000 just two weeks after I started my business. When the money started to run out, I continued to enter more business awards.

For the first year and a half, I literally ran my business on prize money. “Press and networking are also great benefits of entering awards. After winning a Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award in 2011, Shell mentioned Little Riot on their intranet and in their magazine, and as a result I received lots of interest in Pillow Talk from people working off-shore in the oil industry. “Last year, I won ‘Best Start Up’ for the Scottish Region in Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards. There was a cash prize of £1,000, but I gained most value from their continuing support after the awards. A few months after winning, Lloyds TSB took all the winners to London for a day of workshops, covering intellectual property, recruiting staff and media training. Most recently, I won ‘Innovator of the Year’ at the 2013 FDM everywoman in Technology awards and I’ve received lots of free press off the back of it.”

MARK LAVERICK of law firm Beecham Peacock:

LAWRENCE JONES, CEO of awardwinning web hosting company UKFast:

“For a new or fledgling business we see industry awards as an opportunity for self reflection, as an aid to business planning, as way of raising a profile through media coverage, and as a recruitment tool for quality staff. However we also see a downside for the established business. By their nature awards are time consuming, which is all very well for a new business owner who, with justification, allocates a significant amount of time to building brand awareness, however in an established professional services firm the client very much expects your time to be spent on them without distraction. It might be a temptation to pass the brief on to a junior member of staff, but, despite best efforts, it might have the reverse effect and damage the reputation of the firm. Industry awards are without doubt viewed with some scepticism by established firms, are the applications adapted to the criteria for example? Do they move the focus away from client care, growth and expansion for the established firm and are they worth the time and effort – ultimately who is it for if not the client?”

“Winning awards is great for UKFast for several reasons. They boost morale because they are often testaments to the whole team for the hard work that they put in every day to ensure that we deliver the highest level of service and the most innovative and effective products to our customers. Awards also tend to attract a lot of press attention thus helping to cement our position as thought leaders and innovators within the technology industry. Clients do like to know that professional bodies and industry experts have endorsed us with these accolades so turnover is affected positively by award wins. We’re also on a recruitment drive at the moment and we’re searching for real superstars for the team. The highest calibre people want to work for the highest calibre companies and the awards that we win illustrate our strengths and help us to get the best people on board.”

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SOCIAL MEDIA

I can’t believe they’ve just tweeted that! With social media becoming a mainstream business tool, and more employees linking their personal profiles to their employers’ business, EDWARD JONES looks at how you can protect yourself against the threat of misguided tweets.

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or certain types of small business, social media can be a powerful tool in helping you to promote your products and grow your customer base in a cost effective and efficient way. As you expand and take on new employees or freelancers, though, you will need to consider how you ensure that their own social media activity works in the best interest of your business. You might think that it’s only larger employers who have an issue with employees tweeting about a bad day at work or a disagreement they’ve had with their boss. Unfortunately the immediate nature of social networking can result in someone posting something in the heat of the moment, only to regret it later. If an employee tweets something that either contradicts your point of view, or shows your business in a bad light, their connection with you could, at minimum, cause embarrassment but may also result in more serious repercussions for your business.

So how can you protect yourself? Social media policies Having an easy-to-understand social media policy will allow you to communicate to employees what is expected of their on-line behaviour and that it is a condition

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of their employment to represent your business favourably at all times. You may choose to include one or all of the following points in your policy:

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Employees must not: l

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Identify themselves as working for [insert your company name] or use the business’s logo, unless authorised to do so by [insert the name and job title of a senior member of staff ]; Express personal views about the business, its employees, its clients or any other individual or organisation that could be seen as offensive or defamatory; Comment on the business’s position on any issue (including but not limited to its strategies, policies, plans, processes, history, appointments, finances, acquisitions, recruitment, pay and benefits);

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Disclose confidential information. Employees are required to comply with the business’s Data Protection Policy in relation to confidential information, which may include but is not limited to personal information about individuals, client details, financial and commercially sensitive information about the company or its clients and future business plans. Confidential information can include photos and videos; Breach copyright, for example by using intellectual property (text or images) belonging to another person or organisation without their consent and/or without acknowledgement; Post any text or image in relation to any other individual that could be perceived as discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation. Employees are required to comply with the business’s Equal Opportunities Policy in relation to all postings on social media websites:

You might think that it’s only larger employers who have an issue with employees tweeting about a bad day at work or a disagreement they’ve had with their boss

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While stories of employees embarrassing their employers on social media are rare, it does happen and so a good social media policy will help protect you

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Take all necessary steps to avoid identity theft, for example by not revealing their address, bank details or passport number; Alert their line manager if they become aware of any breach of this policy.

You must also underline that your business reserves the right to monitor employees’ use of its systems to access social networking websites. Details of this should be set out in an IT, Communication and Monitoring Policy

which should be made available to all employees at all times. Employers should suggest that if an employee discloses their affiliation to the company in social media they should also add “the views on this profile do not represent the views of my employer” to their social media profiles, in an attempt to protect the company from any negative effect of the employee’s on-line behaviour. Finally, learn from the very public lessons of others. While stories of employees embarrassing their employers on social media are rare, it does happen and so a good social media policy will help protect you while they are employed by you. But, what happens if an employee leaves in negative circumstances? When HMV announced it was going into administration, news of redundancies became public very quickly after employees, who had access to HMV’s official Twitter accounts, posted tweets from the official account venting their frustrations about losing their jobs. This caused significant embarrassment and damage to HMV’s reputation. Therefore, you need to ensure that any disgruntled employees, particularly

those with access to your social media accounts, are reminded of their duties while still in employment, even if they are t o lose their job. You should also be aware of how to block their access to the company’s social media accounts if it becomes necessary to limit public embarrassment. As a micro-business, it will hopefully be very easy to sit down with your employees and introduce a social media policy that is easy to follow and works to protect the reputation of your business now and in the future. 䡲

Dos and Don’ts Dos l

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Include guidelines on acceptable use of social networking sites, both at work and at home, in your staff handbook. Educate staff about what could be considered to be defamatory or damaging messages and posts. Limit the number of people who have access to your business’ social media accounts.

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Ignore, or fail to deal with, any posts staff make that could be damaging to your business. Allow inexperienced staff to post messages on your behalf. Lose control of your social media accounts – make sure you are aware of everything that is being posted.

INFOBANK

Edward Jones is an employment lawyer with Riverview Solicitors www.riverviewlaw.com

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FREELANCE TIPS

Surviving a ‘hammer blow’

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ne of the best things about being a freelancer is the flexibility – you can generally work where you want, when you want, and you often have no one to rely on but yourself. The downside, of course, is the flip side of those things. You often have no safety net and having no one to rely on but yourself means that everything is up to you. You usually get no sick or holiday pay, and the downside of being able to work ‘anywhere at any time’ is that you’re often expected to do so, and to be ‘on call’ no matter what else is going on in your life. I recently learned the hard way just how much this can affect you when things go wrong, and hopefully my experience will help others know how to cope when life throws you a curve ball.

Hitting the wall This year has been particularly challenging to me from the off: after being in the same flat in London for over 10 years, I had to move out as my landlord had decided to sell the place (and anyone in the South East will be able to sympathise with the difficulties of renting in the current market, not least when you’re a freelancer with less than two years’ business accounts under your belt). On top of that, my mum became ill and was repeatedly hospitalised, necessitating several trips up north that ate into the time I should have been house hunting, not to mention racking up a fortune in train fares. Realising my lease was up and I still had nowhere to go, I put my stuff into storage and arranged to stay with friends while I began house hunting again – but two days after I moved out, my mum took a turn for the worse and died in hospital. Anyone who has lost a loved one will understand the hammer blow of such a loss, but I found myself in a particular predicament. As the only child of a single parent, the vast amount of responsibility to

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No one is ever prepared for a personal crisis but for a freelancer, nothing gets done if you’re not able to work. TRACEY SINCLAIR gives a very personal account of how you can pull yourself through.

deal with the practicalities of the death fell on me: arranging the funeral, sorting the vast amount of paperwork that death seems to generate, clearing my mum’s house (which, as it was a council house, had to be done very quickly). On top of this I was, in effect, homeless. I had to move to Newcastle for the month while I dealt with all of this, unable even to start looking for somewhere to live in London. But, of course, I still had to work. This is when being a freelancer hits you: a friend who lost his mum around the same time as I did took three weeks off work to grieve, giving him space and time to deal with the death. As someone who is struggling to get a fledgling business off the ground, I didn’t even take off a full 24 hours; the day of the funeral saw me spending the morning dealing with e-mails, the morning after I had a conference call with half a dozen lawyers. It wasn’t a case of bravely soldiering on, more that I simply had no choice.

Continuing, but making allowances Since so much of my work is deadline specific (working to print deadlines and the like) there’s a limit to how much I can push things back and still get them done. Plus, to be brutally honest, I really needed the money, as everything related to my mum’s death seemed to cost a fortune, and I still needed to pay for a house move. It did make me realise, however, that there are

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some things you can do to make the process a little easier. For a start, consider which of your clients you tell, and what you tell them. I have fairly strong relationships with some of my biggest clients so I was comfortable telling them I’d lost my mum, and asking for a little patience with non-urgent work. In most cases, they were happy to oblige. That said, I was wary about what I said about my living arrangements – unfair it may be, but there’s a stigma to admitting you’re homeless, as if it implies some sort of financial failing or fecklessness. I explained the fact that no one could contact me on my landline by saying I ‘was in the process of moving house’ (which is, I suppose, true, but it feels like a really long process!). Next, cut back where you can. Grief affects people in different and unpredictable ways, so you really do need to make allowances for it. I found myself (and, over a month later, still find myself ) regularly exhausted by routine tasks, so have had to scale back my workload to accommodate not only the load of other, time-sensitive administrative tasks to deal

It wasn’t a case of bravely soldiering on, more that I simply had no choice

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with relating to my mother’s death, but also the fact that those tasks took far more out of me than they should have. Likewise, when she was ill, I had to schedule my work realistically to allow for big chunks of downtime in the hospital and to allow myself time to recover from the emotional drain of that. Saying all that, don’t cut back too far. Again, circumstances will vary – if you have a nice nest egg or a supportive partner you can probably afford to take more of a break – but for most of us, that just isn’t possible. It’s all too easy to get caught up in today’s problem without realising you’re potentially setting up tomorrow’s; if you drop completely off the radar, your clients may go elsewhere, or you may find yourself in serious financial straits, which is the last thing you’ll need at an already stressful time.

Asking for help One of the most important things you can do is perhaps the most obvious, but often the most difficult – ask for help. In my experience, people (mostly) genuinely want to help, but aren’t sure how to. I was utterly drowning in practical tasks, so I just came out and asked friends outright to help me with the boring, practical minutiae, such as packing up my mum’s house, taking boxes to the charity shop, etc. These are small tasks but they quickly become overwhelming when you have to do them all yourself. I also allowed

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myself to accept small kindnesses – the friends who took me out for dinner, or brought me food, the neighbours who offered me bottles of wine. Freelancers tend, by their very nature, to be independent, so it’s easy to dismiss such offers with a brisk, ‘it’s fine, I’m coping’ but allowing yourself to accept help can make a huge amount of difference. Depending on your particular crisis, you may need a higher level of help: there’s no shame in seeking professional counselling or therapy if that’s what will get you through a crisis. Struggling on alone and hoping things will sort themselves out can just make you more and more miserable. Remember, you’re not at the top of your game, and make allowances without blaming yourself for it. I’m usually pretty efficient, but I found myself being scatter brained and disorganised, so started to make sure I was documenting everything I needed to do very carefully so that I didn’t drop the ball. It’s worth considering that, even if you think you’re coping OK, you may need to be more careful and double check things, or set up safeguard systems to get you through the worst of it, so mistakes made in a time of crisis don’t come back to haunt you later.

death, but saving more so that you have a decent financial buffer is enormously helpful (it may be worth investigating insurance policies, such as critical illness). Consider cultivating contacts to whom you can refer work if you’re unable to deal with it (perhaps even in a reciprocal arrangement) so that if you are completely overwhelmed, you don’t disappoint your clients or leave them in the lurch. Of course, you risk them defecting, but more likely they’ll be grateful you were so conscientious – and that’s far better for both your mental health and professional reputation than trying to do it all and ending up missing deadlines or doing substandard work. Ultimately, I still believe the benefits of freelancing far outweigh the negatives (in my own case, the freedom to work anywhere is allowing me to take advantage of my temporary homelessness by travelling around visiting friends, and doing a couple of enjoyable house-sitting stints. It also allowed me to spend more time with my mum when she was ill than even the most generous employer would be likely to tolerate). But at times of crisis, it can feel isolating and frightening. So seek out support – and accept it when it’s offered – and remember you’re not alone. 䡲

Constructing a safety net The other thing this has made me realise is that, going forward, I need to set up more of a safety net. Obviously you can’t protect yourself against things like illness and

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INFOBANK

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance writer, editor and consultant. www.traceysinclairconsulting.com traceysinclair23@gmail.com

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MONEY MAKING IDEAS

Making money from… vinyl records, body parts modelling, and cakes BETTER BUSINESS looks at everyday money-making ideas and achievable micro-business opportunities. Discogs is the online marketplace specifically for music. It doesn’t charge a fee for listing records and it’s great for sourcing and selling rare releases. Popsike.com is also useful; the database of auction results from eBay gives a rough indication of the market value of records. Bear in mind that certain records become highly collectible around deaths and anniversaries of popular artists so try to coincide any sales of these artists’ records with these events. Michael Jackson’s record sales, for example, increased eightyfold after the news of his sudden death in 2009.

Vinyl Records Despite the competition they face from digital downloads, vinyl records have made a fashionable comeback in recent years. While it’s hard to make a full-time living selling vinyl records, if you know your stuff this can be a great money-making opportunity. l

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Buy and sell: You may already have a large collection of records you are hoping to sell, but you should always be on the lookout for original pressings and rare picture sleeves at record fairs and car boots sales. Many record stores will buy your collection of vinyl records, but you’re more likely to be able to sell records for a higher price online. You can sell your records on sites such as HTFR.com by simply inputting your record titles to get an instant valuation then posting them in return for a cheque. Amazon and eBay are also prime sites for selling and buying, but

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Grading: To buy and sell effectively online, you’ll need to be familiar with the grading system. Most collectors use the Goldmine grading system, which classifies sound and visual quality, ranging from mint to poor condition. Obviously the better condition, the higher the price the record will sell for. Collectors want to know everything so

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provide as full a description as possible, including: the artist name, record title, tracklisting, record label, year of release and country of release. Listen to the record from start to finish so that you can warn potential buyers of any sound defects. Inspect the record in natural light to spot any spindle marks, sun damage, bent spines or tears in the sleeve. If possible, upload clear photographs of the front and back of the record and sleeve. l

Get creative: Vinyl records can be used to make a range of items due to their malleable nature when heated. You can make quirky accessories such as jewellery and homeware items from clocks, bowls and coasters to cake stands and book ends. Start by selling at local markets and gift stores and think about setting up your own website to t7rade online or approaching larger retailers to buy your stock. You can also create simple yet effective wall art using vinyl records. Full-time artist Paul Villinski, for example, creates butterflies with vinyl records for his art installations.

Better Business No 194


MONEY MAKING IDEAS

Body parts modelling You don’t necessarily have to be tall, handsome or beautiful to model, if you have standout features such as plump lips, striking eyes or attractive nails, you can earn a decent amount of cash by body parts modelling. Work can be inconsistent, but if you’re selected to model for leading brands, you can earn extremely high rates. l

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Demand for key features: There’s demand for all sorts of features from hands, feet, eyes and lips to bottoms, biceps and pregnancy bumps. Demand for hand models is particularly high because of the prevalence of advertisements for handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Food products and beauty products such as nail varnish, lipstick and mascara also rely heavily on body parts models for advertising. Modelling agencies will usually look for desirable, proportioned, unblemished body parts. However, some shoots may require a particular look such as a rough pair of hands for the part of a construction worker. Whatever your most attractive features may be, you’ll have to take good care of them. Professional hand models moisturise frequently, keep their nails clean and tidy, and wear gloves regularly to avoid scratches, paper cuts and burns. Eye models must avoid bags and bloodshot eyes, and maintain their eyelashes and eyebrows. How to get involved: The quickest way to get into body parts modelling is to send clear, natural photographs of your special features to a modelling agency. Some local modelling agencies specialise in body parts, but your chances of earning are significantly increased if you are signed up to a London agency. Depending on the client, hand models can earn anything from £100 an hour to £1,000+ a day. Although you may only want to model a particular feature, your entire image must be presentable at any interview to assure the agency that you will represent them well when visiting clients. It’s also vital to be punctual,

Better Business No 194

your method ask local delicatessens, bakeries and cafés whether they’d be interested in stocking your produce. Hold stalls at local markets and fairs to get your name out there. Keep an eye on trends, such as the recent demand for giant cupcakes and cake pops, and try to forecast future fashions so that you can offer the next ‘big thing’.

confident and easy to get along with at your interview. Once you’re signed up, you must maintain a professional attitude and try to build a rapport with clients on set to increase your chances of being booked for future jobs. l

Go the extra mile: Instead of relying on modelling work which can be erratic, why not think about setting up your own agency? You’ll stand a much greater chance of making a full-time career this way. You’ll need to have a good eye for scouting talent, organisation and excellent business skills. Take inspiration from Gemma Howarth, who started hand modelling at 17 and went on to set up Body London, one of the UK’s leading agencies specialising in body parts. Her hands have been used in over 250 adverts, resulting in her insuring them for a seven-figure sum. Or Ellen Sirot, whose successful hand modelling career led her to create her own hand care range Hand Perfection.

Cakes Cakes are usually a fun sideline, but with the right talent and determination they can become a steady source of income. Being a brilliant baker isn’t enough though – you’ll have to market yourself effectively to gain maximum earnings as you’ll face tough competition from chains such as The Hummingbird Bakery and Johnnie’s Cupcakes. l

Baking and selling: There’s always demand for cakes around occasions such as birthdays, christenings and Valentine’s day. Think about offering a wedding cake service – couples currently spend an average of £290 on a wedding cake. If you don’t feel comfortable making larger cakes, consider baking cupcakes; these are extremely popular at all sorts of events and make great gifts. Start experimenting at home and once you’ve perfected www.better-business.co.uk

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Decorating: If you’re less interested in baking but you’ve got creative flair, there’s still plenty of opportunity for you to make money by cake decorating. Supermarkets and retailers such as SweetSuccess.co.uk produce plain cakes ready for decoration. You could also hold decorating classes; this would be a fun idea for a birthday party or after-school activity. Offer to host decorating classes in local schools, children’s activity centres and perhaps residential care homes. Think about posting decorating tutorials on YouTube to encourage people to attend your classes. Food safety: Although a qualification in food hygiene is not essential, it would be useful to obtain a certificate in food hygiene, whether baking or decorating. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) accredits a range of food safety and hygiene courses (www.cieh.org/training/ food_ safety.html). The Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 also require you to register as a food business with your local authority 28 days before you begin trading. If you’re intending to bake from your own kitchen, check you’re allowed to do so with your mortgage company or landlord under the terms of your mortgage or tenancy agreement. It’s also best practice to get an environmental health officer to approve your kitchen, preparation and storage areas before you start trading. 䡲

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SICK PAY

The pros and cons of contractual sick pay

Q

We do not offer staff any contractual sick pay, and our policy allows individuals to use their annual holiday entitlement when they are off sick. I’m not sure that this is appropriate from a duty of care point of view and think it may not be good practice. Are there any legal implications I need to consider?

A

There is no obligation for businesses to offer any form of sick pay beyond the statutory scheme, so anything you offer in addition is a business decision. While you cannot require employees to use their annual leave to cover periods of sickness, some businesses are willing to consider any requests to do so. There are arguments both for and against letting employees use their annual leave entitlement to cover periods of sickness and there is no set best practice in this area. Duty of care requires you to do what is best for your employees and there is not one approach for that. Some businesses will not pay any contractual sick pay and also do not make any payments during the waiting days for statutory sick pay. The theory behind this approach is that it discourages employees from ‘pulling a sickie’ and makes them

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If you do not pay your staff contractual sick pay, you may inadvertently be encouraging them to use their holiday entitlement when they are genuinely sick. PETER DONE weighs up the impact this could have on your staff and your business. decide whether or not they really need to take the day off. Allowing employees to take this time as holiday instead extends the choice to employees in that they can take that day off and still get paid but lose a day out of their holiday entitlement to do so. There is an advantage to both employers and employees in allowing this. For employers it means that the overall number of days that the employee will be out of the business is reduced while the employee has the choice of whether or not to lose pay, which can be a source of stress and adversely affect recovery. Giving employees this choice means that those who feel that they cannot afford to lose the pay do not come into work when they are not well enough to do so. However, there are also disadvantages. Holidays are intended to be for rest and relaxation away from work, not recuperation. When an employee uses this leave to cover sickness they end up not taking the proper breaks, which could adversely affect their health resulting in more sickness absence and reduced productivity. For employers, allowing employees to take this time as holiday masks the amount of sickness absence that is happening. This makes it harder to identify whether there are any issues that need to be addressed. Businesses are using increasingly sophisticated systems for monitoring and assessing sickness absence and if sickness is hidden by holiday it can reduce the effectiveness of those systems. Additionally, if the business is running any payment or bonus scheme that rewards low levels of sickness absence, an employee would appear entitled to a

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reward when really they should not be. A number of periods of short-notice illness can be more disruptive to a business than a single longer absence. This disruption remains even if the employee takes the time as annual leave because there has still been no ability to plan and organise workloads as there would be for a holiday booked in the normal fashion. This needs to be taken into account when reviewing employee performance and attendance. As long as you are not forcing your employees to take their holidays when they are off sick it is open to the business to decide on what policy to apply. However, while staff can be allowed to request taking time off as holiday rather than sickness it should be understood that there is no guarantee that these requests will be granted, in the same way as normal holiday leave requests require approval. If you do decide to continue to allow this policy to operate it is important to set up proper monitoring systems. This will allow you to keep a more accurate record of sickness absence and the true impact it is having on your business. Watch for any abuse of the system. Look for any attempts by employees to extend their approved annual leave through sudden sickness absence that they convert or if they unexpectedly fall sick on a day for which they had previously been refused leave. 䡲 INFOBANK

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, a leading provider of employment law and health and safety services in the UK. For more information phone 07976 922314 www.peninsula-uk.com

Better Business No 194


ART’S SALES TIPS

Avoiding a call-killing opening mistake It may not sound like a good sales technique, but ART SOBCZAK wants you to start using ‘weasel’ words.

picked up the phone and the toococky-sounding sales rep mispronounced my name and immediately launched into a pitch:

I

For the purposes of this tip, I’ll focus on just one mistake: making assumptions and being too bold in an opening.

“I’m *** with *** Search and I’d like to talk to you about how we could get you a higher ranking in the search engines. I’d like to schedule a time for an online demo to show you how we would do this. Would one or four in the afternoon be better for you on Friday?”

Don’t make assumptions in the opening

I asked him what keywords he used and with which search engines in order to come to that conclusion.

My premise here is quite simple. If you call someone cold and they don’t know you or your company, and the first thing they hear is how you ‘would’ do something for them, the first natural reaction is fight or flight. It causes natural resistance to kick in. Stated simply, their reaction is:

Not only did he not know that, he didn’t know the address of my site, or what we do.

“This person don’t know me. How in the world could they say that? I’m going to argue with them and get rid of them.”

Obviously not a reader of my newsletter, or a practitioner of Smart Calling, the guy made at least three mistakes in the short time he had his mouth open.

Granted, maybe you can do something for them. What’s important to realise is that they have not yet bought into that idea.

This hapless caller: l

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didn’t take the time to run some searches to see if and how highly ranked we are for the keywords in our business. made a bold assumptive statement about what he felt he could do. Even if he could raise my ranking, by not going to my site first he lowered his credibility. By not knowing anything about me, he had no credibility at all. asked for a decision (the demo) without asking questions or giving me a reason why I should speak with him, let alone attend an online demo.

Here are words in an opening statement that trigger the resistance: “…want to show you how we would help you…” “…know we can save you time and money…” “…we can improve your…” “…we can eliminate your problems…” All of these statements make the assumption that something is wrong. Again, maybe something is, but if someone the prospect doesn’t know or respect tells them that they’re doing something wrong, what’s their response? Naturally they resent it. The same is true on the phone. Ok, so what should we say?

Better Business No 194

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‘Weasel words’ Use ‘weasel’ or contingency words. For example: “might,” “maybe,” “perhaps,” and, “depending on,” ...are all good choices. Oh, I can hear some people screaming now. “What? Those are not strong sales words. They are weak and iffy.” Precisely. We do not want to come across as a salesperson in the opening. We simply want to make the listener curious, avoid creating sales resistance, and get them talking. As in: “…the reason for the call is that I entered a few key words people might use to find you in the search engines and noticed where your listing is placed. Depending on your satisfaction with the visits you’re getting from the pay-per-click advertising you’re paying for, we might be able to help you cut down on the cost per visitor, raising the return on your investment…” And notice how this leads right into questioning: “... and if I’ve reached you at a good time, I’d like to ask a few questions about your search engine strategy ...” To be the best salesperson around, you simply should not sound like a salesperson. 䡲

INFOBANK

Art Sobczak Business By Phone Inc arts@businessbyphone.com www.smartcallingonline.com

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NEWS

In brief

‘Hyperspeed’ shoppers driving retail revolution

CONSULTATION on simpler NIC process for the self employed A consultation on plans to simplify the way self-employed people pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs) has been opened by HMRC. The consultation covers the option of collecting Class 2 NICs alongside Class 4 NICs and income tax through the selfassessment process in order to reduce the administrative burden on the self employed. The closing date for the consultation is 9th October 2013 and you can read more about the consultation at: http://bit.ly/17DkNMc

HMRC LAUNCHES tax return ‘catch up’ campaign Self-assessment taxpayers who have failed to file tax returns for any year up to 2011/12 are being granted an amnesty by HMRC under a new ‘My Tax Return Catch Up’ campaign. A brief ‘window of opportunity’ will be open between 9th July and 15th October 2013 to enable tax defaulters to regularise their tax affairs by filing outstanding tax returns and paying any tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) owed. However, anyone who fails to meet the deadline will be liable for penalties of up to 100% of the tax due, and could be subject to a criminal investigation. Read more about the campaign at: www.hmrc.gov.uk/campaigns/mtrc.htm

SCHEME LAUNCHED to help firms tackle energy costs A scheme to help small and mediumsized firms reduce energy costs has been launched. The Ready to Switch for Business scheme will give firms access to cheaper gas and electricity prices and free advice on how to avoid energy contract drawbacks. The scheme will initially target 60,000 firms across seven local authority areas: Peterborough, Blackpool, Luton Borough, South Holland, Hull City, Wiltshire and Northumberland, and is open to other councils wishing to become members. Leaders of the initiative Peterborough City Council, reported that four out of five businesses are not taking any action with regard to their energy bills, paying up to 35% more than they need to for their energy.

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S

hoppers in the UK are driven by an acute need for speed and will often choose technology over personal interaction, according to new research from WorldPay, the global leader in payments processing. The research examined the public’s attitudes to and usage of emerging payment technologies, with a particular focus on shopping habits and behaviours. Speed is the most important consideration for time-poor consumers, with one in three often irritated by how long it takes to pay in shops. 20% are concerned about the time it takes to print receipts and even taking cash out of a wallet is ‘too time consuming’ for one in five (23%). The need for hyperspeed is also dictating shopping choices, for example, 62% would buy more from retailers with a seamless and quick returns process. The report highlights how consumers are turning to technology transactions to cut out human interaction while shopping. One in five (23%) favour self-service scanners as they ‘don’t have to talk to people’, and 40% like shopping online for the same reason.

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However, the popularity of these types of technology, which bypass the traditional face-to-face customer experience, varies considerably with age. Shoppers under 45 years, for example, are more than twice as likely to welcome using self-service kiosks, than those over 45. Commenting on the findings, Ron Kalifa, Deputy Chairman at WorldPay, said: “The analysis of shopping attitudes and behaviours mirrors the broader changes happening in society today. Technology has transformed the way we communicate, but also generated expectations around the speed of interactions. Consumers are thinking in seconds rather than minutes. “Retailers should examine all aspects of their interaction with customers in light of these findings, from the speed of their payment processes through to their management of refunds. They can also reassess the role that customer service assistants play in the retail environment.” The full report titled, Optimising your Omni-Payments: consumers, payments and the future will be released soon on www.worldpay.com. 䡲

Better Business No 194


NEWS

Awards shortlist focuses In brief on education & employment

ADDITIONAL FUNDING for Enterprising Libraries

Ten libraries in England will be awarded up to £45,000 each under the second stage of the Enterprising Libraries programme. The successful libraries will tailor services to local needs, but are likely to include providing market research, information on patents and copyright, advice on funding and setting up a business, marketing support and mentoring. Six libraries in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield are already operational as business and intellectual property centres under the first stage of the programme.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE START UPS outstrip mainstream business

S

chemes to boost employability skills or access to education are the biggest trend in a 21-strong shortlist of businesses announced ahead of the 26th Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards in October. Reaching out to the marginalised in society, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes shortlisted include businesses sharing expertise with community groups, and giving their clients a helping hand into the workforce. Small and medium-sized enterprises are shortlisted alongside financial and law firms, restaurants and community organisations, tackling everything from youth unemployment, obesity and homelessness to ‘NEETS‘ (those not in education, employment or training). Lord Mayor of the City of London Roger Gifford says: “In an economic climate which has made it harder than ever before for young people to get into work or break cycles of unemployment, it is vital that businesses offer to grow the skills of their neighbours. Business thereby increases the already central role it has in driving economic growth for London as a whole. The Dragon Awards,

Better Business No 194

by highlighting this, are directly supporting London’s communities.” The Purdy Futures programme, shortlisted for the Economic Regeneration award, focuses on disadvantaged young people – helping them into sustainable careers in the building sector. The programme works with schools to raise awareness of careers in the industry, offering 20 work-experience placements and recruiting 8–10 apprentices per year. K&M McLoughlin Decorating Ltd, is shortlisted for the Heart of the City Dragon Award for its five-week pre-apprentice/ employability training course at a local college. Family-owned K&M McLoughlin Decorating Ltd has been running an apprenticeship programme for the last 16 years and keep on 90% of qualified apprentices. The Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, run by the City of London Corporation, were established by the then Lord Mayor Sir David Rowe-Ham in 1987 and are named after the guardians of the City of London, seen at the entrances to London’s Square Mile financial and business services district around St Paul’s. 䡲

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The rate of new social enterprise start ups is three times greater than in the mainstream small business sector, according to a report by Social Enterprise UK. The report also revealed a far greater proportion of female, ethnic minority and younger (aged between 25 and 44) chief executives in social enterprises than in mainstream smaller firms. In addition, 38% of social enterprises saw turnover increase in the past year and 63% expect turnover to increase over the next two to three years, compared to figures of 29% and 37% respectively for all small firms.

DISCOUNT RETAIL SECTOR set to grow by two thirds Discount retail is expected to be worth £12.4 billion by 2017, according to a report by Rowan and IGD. The report found that the ‘discount channel’, which is currently used by 46% of shoppers, is expected to expand significantly. The report revealed that 26% of shoppers plan to use food discounters more in the coming year, while 22% intend to use high-street discounters more. Rowan Commercial Director James Russell said: “The discount channel is booming and is increasingly significant. However, rather than being a short-term trend in the retail sector, it’s actually a long-term cultural shift.”

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USEFUL RESOURCES

You and your business GETTING BETTER AT BUSINESS isn’t easy, but there are plenty of online tools and resources available to help you with your marketing — at little or no cost. Online survey tool

Free image library

Google Consumer Surveys is a low-cost tool that enables you survey a random, unbiased sample of respondents. You can seek feedback and opinion on areas such as logo design, product features and pricing. The survey platform provides access to a full analysis of results – including data on age, gender and location of respondents – to help tailor your marketing activities accordingly.

Stock.XCHNG is a free online image library that provides access to over 350,000 highquality stock photos and illustrations from a wide range of categories. The images can be used to enhance your blog posts or e-newsletters, or provide an eye-catching addition to your marketing material.

www.google.com/insights/ consumersurveys/home

Mention is a free monitoring tool, which allows you to set up alerts for any mentions of competitors, industry updates and brand names, across the web. The information can provide invaluable insight into the public perception of your brand, identify any fresh marketing opportunities

Simple CRM software Really Simple Systems is a free customer relationship management (CRM) system, that helps you manage ongoing interaction with your current and prospective customers. The system enables you to manage contact details and marketing campaign activity, and has features that allow you to set up ‘call back’ reminders and create mailing lists. For extra security and peace of mind, your data is automatically backed up each day.

www.sxc.hu/index.html

Competitor monitoring tool

and alert you of any competitor activity. A built-in feature also enables you to instantly react to mentions if you need to.

https://en.mention.net

Free e-mail marketing software 1and1Mail is a free marketing platform that helps you streamline your e-mail marketing campaign process. Time-saving features enable you to personalise and schedule large batches of e-mails, manage contact lists and add your own design elements to e-mail newsletters. The software is also available to purchase as a business edition, which removes restrictions on the volume of contacts and the number of e-mails you can send.

www.yetesoft.com/pricing-editions

Keyword suggestion tool Ubersuggest is a free keyword generator tool and useful reference resource. By entering a single keyword, you are given quick and easy access to related terms from across the web. The tool can provide a helpful boost to SEO activities, by supplying inspiration for online articles and blog posts, and providing a starting point for pay-per-click (PPC) optimisation.

www.reallysimplesystems.com

Social media insights

http://ubersuggest.org

PeekAnalytics is a free social media monitoring tool that classifies your social audience by age, gender and location, and provides data detailing the education and interests of visitors sharing content on your website. You can use these ‘insights’ to create targeted content based on the results gathered.

Press release distribution Pressbox is a free public relations tool that enables you to submit an unlimited amount of press releases to its directory. The service is also an online resource for media professionals, who browse the directory and, in some cases, will make contact with businesses regarding press releases they are interested in publicising.

www.peekanalytics.com

www.pressbox.co.uk www.contactme.com

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Better Business No 194


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