The approved business directory
How to survive the financial storm
Get your website into shape
Selling your Property? Present your property well
feel like pulling your hair out! www.yourchoicedirect.co.uk
Welcome to Your Choice Welcome to Your Choice, the approved business directory. I would like to take this opportunity to give a huge thank you to our contributers; if this is the first time you have supported the Directory, we would particularly like to extend a warm welcome. Your Choice is produced quarterly by Head Office and its aim is to connect businesses with the community, making them aware of the significant role they play in sustaining them. Our vision is for an active and sustainable community in which everyone is valued and can play their part. We have an array of vital information to help keep your business up to date and moving forward. In this issue we explain the importance and benefits of a hard working website and also vital methods that you should take in order to weather this financial storm. If you would like to include any editorial in future editions then email your copy and images to: firstname.lastname@example.org We hope you find this of good use and please feel free to email us with your thoughts.
Contents features Welcome A warm welcome fromYour Choice Feeling the Pinch? How to survive the financial storm Selling your property? Present your property well Get your website into shape Updating,keywords and web strategy advice
places to visit Choosing places to visit This edition we visit Liverpool
Business Directory Approved 2009
more features Becoming a Healthier Eater How to improve cash flow Invoicing, chasing and debt collection How to recruit on a budget Methods on recruiting cheaply and effectively in these uncertain times Business continuity The crucial elements for small businesses Choosing a location for your business Deciding where to set up shop? How to trademark your business Small businesses - protect yourselves!
Want to advertise your business? Call us now on 0844 870 8018 or visit www.yourchoicedirect.co.uk www.yourchoicedirect.co.uk
FEELING THE PINCH?
How to survive the financial storm
Planning ahead and taking control of your finances are vital if you are to keep the cash flowing during the current turbulent times. The media is pretty frightening at the moment. Stories of what appeared to be some of the most successful and secure organisations in the country running into financial troubles, even going bankrupt, should remind the rest of us just how important it is to keep a close eye on cashflow in the current market.
the need for financial planning and financial control. Planning ahead A major customer - or for that matter a significant number of smaller ones - delaying payment or defaulting is a real risk in a tough trading climate, particularly when bank funding is tight. That may feel out of your control but there are a number of steps you can take to manage the risk and the impact on your business if this does happen. You should avoid, if you can, being overly exposed to one or two really big customers and, if you are, you need to watch them carefully for signs that they are in trouble. That may sound like paranoia, but business collapses are rarely sudden, and it’s your money that is at stake. Reliance on one key customer is quite common, so you’re not alone, but in the longer-term you should develop a strategy to create a more balanced customer portfolio.
Any business adviser would be able to tell you numerous stories of seemingly successful businesses going bust or running into serious financial trouble. The order book can be healthy and the forecast for profitability good, but in the short-term the company runs out of cash, finds it can’t pay the bills and that’s when the real trouble starts! In most respects the challenges of running a major bank and a small business are very different, but the common causes of financial problems are often the same: • A major customer delays a large payment or completely defaults, resulting in a potentially fatal bad debt. • Poor debtor control. • Allowing credit without checking for creditworthiness. • Poor or no financial control. • Being under-capitalised in the first place, increasing the risk of over-trading. • Accepting large sales orders without first forecasting the effects on working capital, again increasing the risk of over-trading. • Poor security policies and procedures. The above list is not exhaustive but there are two clear themes emerging that should be given careful attention:
Have a column on the forecast at the side of the budget for the actual cash in and out as of the last day of the month and compare the two. Do this as soon as you can after the month-end.
You should plan for an increase in ‘debtor days’ and bad debt anyway, which means that you will need to increase your working capital to cover it. Having a strategy which simply relies on you delaying payment to your own creditors is not sustainable and can mean that you cause the collapse of your own key suppliers.
Under the late payment legislation you have the right to charge interest and debt recovery costs and your customers cannot contract out of it. Before charging interest, you should issue a letter stating that the payment is late and interest will be charged if it is not paid within a stated period.
the forecast at “Have a column on et for the actual the side of the budg the last day of of as t cash in and ou are the two. the month and comp can after the u Do this as soon as yo month-end”
Of course, enforcing this can harm your relationship with your customers so you should use your discretion before you exercise these rights. Look at each debt on a case-by-case basis by considering your relationship with the customer. It’s a good idea to get the opinion of the staff who have to deal with them regularly as they are likely to have the best insight into the reason for the late payment and the impact of invoking your statutory rights. However, as a general rule, a customer who pays late without prior agreement is not one to be valued.
Creating a simple cash budget will allow you to forecast the effect on your bank balance if and when customers slow down payments.You should forecast for a percentage of your debtors to default. For example, you might allow for 5% of debtors as a “bad and doubtful” debt contingency, but study your customers and their past records of payment because you may need to make the contingency higher if you have a higher risk customer portfolio.
If you still do not receive payment you may want to use the services of a debt collection agency although this can be costly, with commission rates typically 8-10% of the debt. If you go down this route, check first that the agency you use is a member of the Credit Services Association.
Having a forecast will also allow you to predict the effects on your cash balance of taking on that large exciting sales order, which you will have to fund until the customer pays. Taking control Don’t bury your head in the sand; check your bank balance regularly. By this I mean several times a week, not just when your statement arrives at the end of the month. Update your cash forecast when you have new information, or at least once a week. Have a column on the forecast at the side of the budget for the actual cash in and out as of the last day of the month and compare the two. Do this as soon as you can after the month-end and adjust the forecast for the next few months based on your current performance and your view of the immediate future. Most importantly, take corrective action where necessary. Bank funding is very tight, but banks and other funding bodies are still open for business. If your forecast is telling you that your bank balance is at risk of dipping into the red or below the agreed overdraft limit, talk to your bank relationship manager as soon as possible. Bank lending is based on their assessment of risk so a business that shows it has a robust planning and financial control process is more likely to get support.You should also seek advice from your accountant and Business Link adviser. Yet even the most careful company that can boast effective cashflow systems and credit control will sometimes find that it has to deal with a late payer, and that can cause your business real problems.
Finally, as a last resort you may want to consider court action. Before commencing proceedings, consider whether making a claim is cost-effective. It might be cheaper to write off small sums. If court action still seems the best solution, make sure you’ve resolved any disputes over the goods or services you’ve provided. If you don’t do this, the debt will be difficult to recover.
PROPERTY WELL In todays property climate many people are struggling to sell their properties, and we have a way of helping clients present their homes in a way that sells faster and sometimes for above the asking price.
HOMESTAGING is becoming increasingly popular among sellers who want to stand out from the crowd. It’s a way of maximising the price you get. The art of Home Staging is to create a sought after home for as little as possible. At JC Homedesign we offer professional consultancy on where to spend the money effectively. Trained in property presentation by Ann Maurice, TV’s House Doctor we give advice from paint schemes, de-cluttering to furniture placement, these are just some of the ideas we have, to get you the best price and a fast sale.
‘First Impressions Count’. So it’s crucial to get it right first time. Once in your home you need to create the right atmosphere, a blank canvas a buyer can put their stamp on... Get the right balance, not to much personal decor, but enough accessories to create a lifestyle. Bringing in a Home Stager can improve buyer appeal and create the WOW factor that viewers are searching for. A consultant will not have the attachment to the house in question, whereas a home owner will assume others will be as happy in their home, as they have been. Buyers will look for faults in a property, to get a better deal on the price. Don’t give them the chance. Do repairs and maintenance, and present it in Tip Top condition.
JC Homedesign, offers the following tips: CLEANING -
Often under-estimated but most crucial, make your home feel as new as possible especially kitchens and bathrooms. Buyers like to think a home has been cared for. Do the windows sparkle, does the garden look good?
DE-CLUTTER - Many buyers can’t see past your clutter. Why not start early by packing away things you don’t use on a daily basis, give to charity the things you no longer want. This will also save time when you move. STORAGE -
We all have so much stuff! So storage is top of many ‘wish lists’ when you’ve cleaned out the clutter store your possessions neatly giving the impression of space.
Create a warm and welcoming home, a home buyer feels comfortable in what they come to view. Soft Lighting, welcoming sounds and smells. A buyer would not feel comfortable if they were met with pet smells or a barking dog!
Space is always a premium. Paler paint shades, fewer patterns, well positioned furniture, good lighting and mirrors all add to accentuate the sense of space you have in the room.
For more information on Home Staging Services/Property Styling Contact Julie at email@example.com - www.jchomedesign.co.uk - Tel: 01623 488 228
Get your website into shape Ensuring your website is updated regularly and contains keywords that will attract visitors should be key parts of your web strategy. Small companies should use the new year as an opportunity to revisit their website and ensure it is working as efficiently as possible. A recent report by the Federation of Small Businesses found that 28% of small firms did not even have a website while 37% said they did not have access to fast broadband. This was a particular problem for those in rural areas. Now, Toolkit Websites is urging companies to adopt some affordable tips that will give them the best chance of making their site stand out from the competition and winning new business. “With traditional businesses suffering the worst of the recession, this is a great time for agile online businesses, particularly those who can swiftly adapt and add value to their clients,” said Marcus Green, founder of Toolkit Websites. “Having a website is no longer just nice to have, it’s essential. But it needn’t break the bank.” With traditional businesses suffering the worst of the recession, this is a great time for agile online businesses, particularly those who can swiftly adapt and add value to their clients. He suggests the following areas where many small firms will be able to improve their current offerings: Make your site work hard In the competitive market that small businesses face today, your website is your shop window to the world.You can tap into a global market that uses search engines to find products and services like yours.Your customers are web savvy so you should be too.
Be easy to find If you have a website which you can update yourself, you can optimise the content to match the keywords that customers use to find products and services like yours. You need to make it easy for customers to find you on the internet high street. You’d advertise any business in real life and the way to do this on the web is through a combination of great keyword rich content and inbound links to your website. We’ve put together a free search engine guide packed with tips and tricks which you can download at: www.mysearchguide.co.uk Advertise your business With Google Adwords, you’ll appear in the sponsored results that are on the right hand side of Google Pages. You can target your adverts to the keywords that you know your customers are searching for. Find out more at http://adwords.google.co.uk Update your website You should update your site constantly. Frequently updated sites get visited more often by the search engines and customers alike. It’s a great way to keep your customers informed about your business. You can use your website to build up a relationship with your customers, perhaps by showing a behind the scenes view in a blog or by doing spotlights on customers and what they ordered. Make it simple Once people are on your patch of the web, you need to make it easy for them to browse and place an order. If it’s difficult to order they’ll take their business elsewhere. A great way to set up an online shop is by using Paypal. It’s really simple for you and your customers. Find out more at www.paypal.co.uk You also need to ensure that it’s easy for people to ask questions and find information on delivery charges and times. Why not use an online contact form to encourage your customers to get in touch? Displaying your telephone number prominently on your website is also a good idea. For some customers only a chat with a real person will do, and no one knows your products and services like you.
Our Choice Places to visit:
As we all know, the credit crunch hasn’t done much to help out our finances so breaks much closer to home are becoming increasingly popular. If you are looking for a short break to Liverpool for fun and excitement, you will want to stop at Knowsley Safari Park. There is over five miles of dirt road to travel and see so many animals in the wild.You will see rhinos, camels, giraffes, monkeys, elephants, tigers and lions. The elephant population has exploded and these big beasts are kept from other areas of the park by an electric fence so they do not eat everything in sight.You will have a great adventure on the safari tour. It is fun, exciting and sometimes a little scary. Next, you should experience a ride on the Yellow Duck Marine. This is a fun ride with spraying water and laughs for all to enjoy. This is a yellow bus that floats you around the water to see the sites of the city. The tour is on water and part of it is on land.Yes, the yellow bus is water and land worthy. The beauty of Liverpool is seen everywhere. The Merseyside Maritime Museum is on the list of things to see. A break in Liverpool would not be complete until you see the exhibits and understand everything about the area. Then you have the clubbing, comedy shows, restaurants, theatre and music to take in while you visit. You will enjoy the music, people and the atmosphere. Alma de Cuba is Liverpool’s most spectacular restaurant and bar venue; an island in the heart of the city, an independent spirit that leaves a lasting impression. Set inside the magnificent conversion of the former Catholic Church St Peter’s, Albert Dock Alma de Cuba is all about an eclectic mix of Cuban, Hispanic and Latin American influences that are enhanced with Liverpool’s great spirit. A holiday in Liverpool would not be complete without a tour of the Cains Brewery. The tour ends with a light buffet and some incredible samples of the best ale you have ever tasted. The tour is impressive, but the finished product is what you will enjoy. The ale is distributed throughout Liverpool and surrounding areas. The people will tell you that the best ale to taste and buy is Cains. They should know since they have so many places to go and get a cold pint of Cains ale that they always have enough on hand for fun and entertaining. You will find many things to do and see in Liverpool.You should take some time to relax and enjoy some of the fine cuisine offered at many of the restaurants in the area. The foods are pleasing and the hosts are very helpful and polite. They will help you with your selections and even the chef at some restaurants will come out, say hi to you, and see how you like your dinner. They do know how to treat visitors and make you feel at home.You will enjoy your trip to Liverpool anytime of the year.
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Becoming A Healthy Eater Being a healthy eater requires you to become both educated and smart about what healthy eating actually is. Being food smart isn’t about learning to calculate grams or fat, or is it about studying labels and counting calories. Healthy eating is all about balanced and moderate eating, consisting of healthy meals at least three times per day. Healthy eaters eat many different types of foods, not limiting themselves to one specific food type or food group. Eating healthy requires quite a bit of leeway. You might eat too much or not enough, consume foods that are sometimes more or less nutritious. However, you should always fuel your body and your brain regularly with enough food to keep both your mind and body strong and alert.
2. Relying on energy bars and drinks. Although they are fine every once in a while, they don’t deliver the antioxidants you need to prevent cancer. Fruits and vegetables are your best bets, as they are loaded in vitamins, minerals, fluid, and fiber.
A healthy eater is a good problem solver. Healthy eaters have learned to take care of themselves and their eating with sound judgement and making wise decisions. Healthy eaters are always aware of what they eat, and know the effect that it will have on their bodies. When someone is unable to take control of their eating, they are also likely to get out of control with other aspects of life as well. They could end up spending too much, talking too much, even going to bed later and later. You should always remember that restricting food in any way is always a bad thing. Healthy eating is a way of life, something that you can do to enhance your body or your lifestyle. If you’ve thought about making your life better, healthy eating is just the place to start. You’ll make life easier for yourself, those around you and even your family.
3. Skipping breakfast. Skipping breakfast is never a good idea, as breakfast starts the day. Your body needs fuel as soon as possible, and without it, you’ll be hungry throughout the day. 4. Low carb diets. Your body needs carbohydrates for your muscles and the storing of energy. 5. Eating what you want. Eating healthy and exercising doesn’t give you an all access pass to eat anything you want. Everyone needs the same nutrients whether they exercise or not, as well as fruits and vegetables. 6. Not enough calories
Changing How You Eat As you may know, not fueling up with the right nutrients can affect how well your body performs and your overall fitness benefits. Even though healthy eating is important, there are myths that hinder your performance if you listen to them. Below, you’ll find some myth busters on healthy eating. 1. Working out on an empty stomach. If you hear a rumbling noise in your stomach, the rumbling is trying to tell you something. Without listening to them, you are forcing your body to run without any fuel. Before you exercise or do any physical activity, always eat a light snack such as an apple.
Although losing weight involves calories, losing it too quickly is never safe. What you should do, is aim for 1 - 2 pounds a week. Always make sure that you are getting enough calories to keep your body operating smoothly. If you start dropping weight too fast, eat a bit more food. 7. Skip soda and alcohol Water, milk, and juice is the best to drink for active people. You should drink often, and not require on thirst to be an indicator. By the time you get thirsty, your body is already running a bit too low. Changing how you eat is always a great step towards healthy eating and it will affect how your body performs. The healthier you eat, you better you’ll feel. No matter how old you may be, healthy eating is something you should strive for. Once you give it a chance, you’ll see in no time at all just how much it can change your life - for the better.
How to improve Cash Flow For small businesses to survive the current economic downturn it is essential that they have a firm grip on their finances. Samantha Shottle highlights what small firms can do to ensure they aren’t caught out. Due to the current economic climate, it is more vital than ever that small businesses are on top of their finances and ensure that their cash flow does not dry out. There have been recent government proposals to assist small businesses both through encouraging banks to continue lending to small businesses and by promising to bring down the length of time it takes public bodies to pay invoices, but small companies must not solely rely on these measures. Cash flow difficulties cause all kinds of headaches for businesses, particularly in this economic climate. The third quarter of 2008 saw 4001 compulsory liquidations - up 10.5% on the previous three month period.
What can businesses do to help alleviate the situation? • Terms and conditions of business
Check your terms and conditions of business. Are they up to date? Do they adequately protect your business? Are terms and conditions in place for each and every customer of your business? In particular check the payment terms. Do these suit the financial situation of your company? Consider having a corporate health check to make sure all the basics are in place.
• Decide what credit you are going to give each customer
Consider carrying out credit checks on your potential customers, particularly those who will be placing large orders.
becomes overdue. More often than, not the reason for non-payment is an oversight - if there was a problem with the service or product rendered then in most instances a complaint would have been raised straight away. A company’s bad paying habits may need to be ironed out so credit control meetings may need to be set up, payment terms changed for future contracts or a change to the credit given.
• Debt collection
Most businesses do not have the time and resources to deal with debt collection when it becomes clear that the third party is not going to pay the invoice and the matter looks as if it will lead to litigation. Think about sub contracting the work out to a specialist debt collection service. Most of these services are competitively priced and are dealt with on a fixed fee basis so one knows exactly what the costs are going to be. In addition be aware that it may be possible to claim extra interest pursuant to a 1999 Act of Parliament.
In conclusion, take control of the situation, make sure that the correct contracts are in place and that debts are pursued in a timely manner.
Consider e-invoicing. It’s quicker and there is less likelihood of the invoices going astray. Make sure that invoices are correct before sending them out. Sounds basic but in recent research PWC found that 85% of the reasons given for non payment of an invoice related to its inaccuracy, for instance the invoice being sent to the wrong place or the invoice being for an incorrect amount. Also get to know your customer. Does your customer have a set day or days in the month when invoices are paid? Invoices should be sent shortly before the payment days to ensure that payment is made promptly and you are not left with a further month before payment is received.
• Chasing payment
Have strict procedures in place for chasing debts. The longer an invoice is unpaid the harder it becomes to collect. Therefore if payment is due after a month, ensure someone is chasing the bill the moment it
How to recruit on a budget Businesses on tight budgets are looking for cheaper ways to find staff, according to new research. But those looking to recruit need to act fast if they want to find the best talent
Businesses are increasingly turning to advertising jobs on their own websites and waiting for candidates to come to them, in a bid to beat the economic downturn.
“It is evident that recruiters are being more cautious with their money, but recruitment will continue to be an important cost unless the jobs market slows down,” said Joe Slavin, chief executive of fish4jobs.
According to research from fish4jobs, the number of companies using this approach rose from 8% to 65% in the first six months of 2008. Other common methods of recruitment include using recruitment consultancies (57%) and job-boards (54%).
“This is great news for job-seekers as there are still plenty of vacancies available, although everyone should exercise caution before leaving jobs hastily.”
Nearly two-thirds (64%) admitted that it was now much harder to recruit due to having less money available.
• Make sure you know exactly how many staff you need before you start any recruitment plan
It is evident that recruiters are being more cautious with their money, but recruitment will continue to be an important cost unless the jobs market slows down
“It is evident that recruiters are being more cautious with their money, but recruitment will continue to be an s important cost unless the job market slows down”
The company offers the following tips on how to find the right recruit:
• When deciding how to attract staff, think about where people will look for a similar job •
Sometimes it is necessary to advertise in more than one location, for example advertising in newspapers and job-boards works really well for generic recruitment, whereas a trade magazine is better for specialist jobs
• Remember to have a full job description and person specification so you can recruit wisely and filter out CVs quicker •
If you find the right person don’t let them go. Let them know you are keen and invite them for a second interview quickly. In this market people will snap up a good job if they find it.
Why small firms must take business continuity seriously SME’s that invest in business continuity are protecting their businesses Despite the warnings and headlines about the latest serious data loss, many small businesses have no disaster plan in place at all. A Symantec survey also revealed that half of all businesses with Disaster Recovery [DR] plans are not actually ready to implement them - and an astonishing 77% of CEOs are still taking no active role in DR planning.
wrong. People are frightened to imagine the most extreme event. But if you can’t imagine it then the certainty is that you can’t possibly be prepared for it.
In the current economic climate, where the margins between success and failure get tighter, SMEs in particular must realise that it is imperative to seek protection in the face of adversity. Yet research among 200 contact centres worldwide has shown just 36% of companies are confident they could survive a business disruption without their customers being affected. With so many companies opting to gamble with their very existence, it begs the question of why business continuity and disaster recovery are not a greater priority. InTechnology has a broad range of cost-effective services which can help to see businesses through difficult times. With the right preparation and investment, a business can in fact thrive on these challenges - rather than struggle to survive them. Turning disaster into triumph ‘Disaster’ can take many different forms but, for the purposes of business continuity and DR planning, it is essentially an event that impacts to such an extent on the ability of an organisation to go about its business that the viability of the business itself - and possibly its staff, customers and business partners - may be threatened. If your business doesn’t have plans in place to avoid such a common occurrence, or to rapidly recover from one, it’s living on borrowed time The first step, of course, is to avoid the disaster. But if you can’t then have your response prepared. Proper DR planning makes either scenario perfectly possible. It means having a realistic and well understood set of objectives based on your business needs, combined with the right preparation and investment. A prerequisite is to have your systems already set up for recovery, documenting and rehearsing every step of the way that allows you to do that - including regular review of the DR plan and process itself. The most common sort of potential disaster involving IT is a network or server failure. These things happen to a business somewhere every day. If your business doesn’t have plans in place to avoid such a common occurrence, or to rapidly recover from one, it’s probably living on borrowed time. Many businesses routinely underestimate the complexity of disaster and data recovery, or lack the courage or commitment to confront the real possibility of things going
A perfect replica of your data InTechnology’s Managed Replication Service (MRS) is a revolution in data recovery and business continuity. Using ‘traditional’ data backup techniques you can easily lose a whole day of business data, the value of which could be incalculable. The Managed Replication Service is based on continuous synchronisation and consequently enables the recovery of data to the precise point at which a failure occurred. Customers can replicate key data up to the minute, such as on mail and application servers, to InTechnology’s remote, geographically dispersed data centre for DR purposes and fast recovery. Peace of mind for London law firm A prime example of this in practice is law firm Denton Wilde Sapte - an international law firm, headquartered in the City of London, with over 600 lawyers and a network of offices spanning the UK, Europe, Middle East, CIS and Africa. The firm had twin requirements for its data - efficient backup of its increasing volumes and secure offsite data storage to assure business continuity. With its head office in the City of London and offices in other major UK business centres, business continuity was an important issue to be addressed. Data has to be available for rapid retrieval in case of disaster recovery and to assure business continuity at all times. “The need to get our data to an offsite, secure location was a key issue for us,” explains IT Director, Neil Pamment. The firm has achieved both these objectives with a combined set of Managed Services from InTechnology. The Managed Backup Service assures rapid and secure offsite data backup and restores for business continuity, while the Managed Archiving Service provides efficient offsite management of non-urgent data.
Choosing a Location for Your Business Deciding where to set up shop is a crucial business decision. If you are looking to rent office space, there are a couple of things that you may want to keep in mind before you start looking. Even though it sounds like it should be easy enough, it is actually sometimes very difficult to find office space that suits your budget and your business needs. The tips below will help you to keep everything in perspective when you are out searching for a new office.
For the same amount of money, you may be able to get a larger office area across town. Doing the appropriate amount of research can help to ensure that you rent office space at a fair price point. Be sure you have enough budgeted for your new space. Many times a space will be accquired and not put into the annual budget.
Finally, consider the location of the office space that you are looking to rent. Is it convenient for everybody in your company? Is the neighborhood safe? Does it have all of the convienences you need? Will it serve you in the long term? Is an internet connection available? Most companies these days need this.
First off, you want to consider the space factor. If you are going to rent office space, you need to make sure that you are going to have enough room to effectively operate your business. So if you have 60 employees, there is no way that you are going to get away with three offices.You are going to have to rent out an entire floor, and are probably going to be looking for a space that has many offices as well as a conference room. On the other hand, if you are only looking to rent office space for a handful of people, you can probably get away with one office. Your specific needs here will dictate what you need. You must simply do a little planning ahead. Next, be sure to take price into consideration. Obviously this is a given, but be sure to check out more than one office before you commit to anything.
The ability to rent space that suits all your needs takes some skills. But the more research you do, the more comfortable you will feel. It does not have to be difficult to rent space; however, if you do not perform the due diligence to find an appropriatesize office in a good neighborhood, you may end up frequently encountering problems that you donâ€™t need.
How to trademark your business It is vital that every small businesses protects themselves by registering their trademarks. We explain the importance of trademarks and how companies can register. Every business, no matter how big or small, should protect its brand. Its name, logo or other distinctive mark is the way it is able to distinguish its goods or services from those of its competitors. Following news that the EU have reduced the cost of registering a trademark by 40%, now is the perfect time to find out more and to make sure that your business is protected.
Many businesses put off registering their brand because they have to prioritise spending and simply never get around to it. This is a misguided approach, because in the meantime someone else may have registered “your” brand, which will actually stop your firm from using it. The result of this is a costly re-branding exercise, and potentially having to pay damages.
If your business is successful, competitors may well try to copy your brand. There are two ways by law that you can stop them from doing so. First under the law is passing off. For this, you need to show that you have acquired goodwill in your brand and another company has made a misrepresentation which has caused customers to be confused and you have suffered loss as a result. The other way is if your company have a registered a trade-mark and another business infringes your registered trade-mark right. This is the preferable route for businesses, because passing off often involves compiling and proving a lot of evidence of goodwill (hard for a new business to show), customers actually being confused (again difficult to do), the deliberate decision by the other person to make a misrepresentation, and actual loss. In short, passing off is costly and hard to prove in addition, registering a trade mark with a trade marks registry - which, contrary to popular belief, does not mean registering a company at Companies House - also gives your business exclusivity to that brand in respect of certain goods or services across the whole jurisdiction in which you have obtained registration (such as the UK).
Businesses applying to register a trade mark need to take several decisions, each of which affects the financial outlay. Trade mark protection is on a per territory basis - there is no such thing as a global registered trade mark. Another decision is whether to go for name alone, logo alone or a combination. The next decision will be which of the 45 classes of the register to apply in, as each class on the register represents different sorts of goods or services - for example class 36 on the register is financial services. In the 1990s, the European Union introduced a system where you can obtain registered trade mark protection across the entire EU through a single Community Trade Mark application. This costs more than a single application for UK protection, but much less than separate registrations in a few EU countries. The system has proved popular, particularly since the EU has expanded to 27 member countries. For those entrepreneurs considering registering a trade mark to protect their brand, there has just been some welcome news which will make it easier for you to apply for an EU-wide registration. The EU has announced that it intends to cut the official application and registration costs for an application in up to three classes from €1,600 to €1,000. The change is intended to take effect in 2009. In making the announcement, the European Commissioner responsible for the internal market, Charlie McCreevy, specifically targeted SMEs as being most likely to benefit by these 40% savings. If any business wanted an incentive to invest today to protect their brand, then the EU annoucment should have provided the push that was needed to ensure your business’ trademarks are legally protected.
32 THE APPROVED BUSINESS DIRECTORY