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75 62

18 11 Introduction

Editor, Gill Anderson takes a look at what’s affecting the business community

15 On the money


48 Social retinal burn – worth the agony? egular columnist, Rich With lifts R

News and updates from the business sector and a useful diary of events for the forthcoming months

52 Ahead of the game


55 The in crowd

18 Face on the cover – Keep on dancing Spearmint Rhino’s John Specht steps under the spotlight

24 Take one company – Laying down the law

 look at a new legal concept, We Keystone Law, and talk to its dynamic founder, James Knight

28 Interview – Bright ideas  Borro’s founder, Paul Aitken has created a multi-million pound success with his latest project

34 Book review Roger Jones’ Storytelling Pocketbook, The Small Business Guide to China by David Howell, Avoid Legal Pitfalls For Small Businesses; Teach Yourself, by Bevans Solicitors and Elton Boocock’s Internet Marketing

38 Money matters  refreshing look at all things fiscal A from Deepaman Prabhakar

43 To loan, or not to loan

egular columnist, Kathy Carter’s R tips on successful promotion

I mproving business processes with crowd sourcing

inancial opportunities for business F growth really do exist

46 P aying the price

Late payment penalties will soon become the norm in the UK, so how do you get a grip of AP now?


83 Top tips First Internet’s Graham Robinson discusses websites to engage

58 Pack your bags

89 ‘Appy in business Using smartphones to enable business

62 Are you sitting comfortably? Stefan Boyle wants to tell you a story

93 Power up Allied Telesis’ Melvyn Wray discusses PoE technology for SMEs

Time to move out of the home office?

64 Planning in uncertain times Five strategic steps to successful business 66 Is it time? Outsourcing HR – a good delegation? FOCUS ON PEOPLE

69 Hire in haste... Hiring good staff is a vital component of growing businesses 72 A different business choice Diane Morris discusses interim management as a business



the lid on Pinterest

75 And the winner is… Created for women starting out in business, The NatWest everywoman Awards

97 The silver lining elaton’s Andrew Anderson discusses cloud options for SMEs 98 Gadgets to sigh for he high tech future for start T up companies 101 Flex for success nified communications for U successful flexible working FOCUS ON FRANCHISES

103 Franchising news 105 Sound advice Richard Holden of Lloyds TSB on funding

80 Harnessing diversity Even a small workforce may hold the key to diversifying into different regions

107 Share the load? The latest survey from Franchise Sales.com brings some interesting facts to light

122 The daily grind This month, Hugo Taylor takes to the hot seat

110 Best practice Practical and sensible advice for potential franchisees www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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75 62

18 11 Introduction

Editor, Gill Anderson takes a look at what’s affecting the business community

15 On the money


48 Social retinal burn – worth the agony? egular columnist, Rich With lifts R

News and updates from the business sector and a useful diary of events for the forthcoming months

52 Ahead of the game


55 The in crowd

18 Face on the cover – Keep on dancing Spearmint Rhino’s John Specht steps under the spotlight

24 Take one company – Laying down the law

 look at a new legal concept, We Keystone Law, and talk to its dynamic founder, James Knight

28 Interview – Bright ideas  Borro’s founder, Paul Aitken has created a multi-million pound success with his latest project

34 Book review Roger Jones’ Storytelling Pocketbook, The Small Business Guide to China by David Howell, Avoid Legal Pitfalls For Small Businesses; Teach Yourself, by Bevans Solicitors and Elton Boocock’s Internet Marketing

38 Money matters  refreshing look at all things fiscal A from Deepaman Prabhakar

43 To loan, or not to loan

egular columnist, Kathy Carter’s R tips on successful promotion

I mproving business processes with crowd sourcing

inancial opportunities for business F growth really do exist

46 P aying the price

Late payment penalties will soon become the norm in the UK, so how do you get a grip of AP now?


83 Top tips First Internet’s Graham Robinson discusses websites to engage

58 Pack your bags

89 ‘Appy in business Using smartphones to enable business

62 Are you sitting comfortably? Stefan Boyle wants to tell you a story

93 Power up Allied Telesis’ Melvyn Wray discusses PoE technology for SMEs

Time to move out of the home office?

64 Planning in uncertain times Five strategic steps to successful business 66 Is it time? Outsourcing HR – a good delegation? FOCUS ON PEOPLE

69 Hire in haste... Hiring good staff is a vital component of growing businesses 72 A different business choice Diane Morris discusses interim management as a business



the lid on Pinterest

75 And the winner is… Created for women starting out in business, The NatWest everywoman Awards

97 The silver lining elaton’s Andrew Anderson discusses cloud options for SMEs 98 Gadgets to sigh for he high tech future for start T up companies 101 Flex for success nified communications for U successful flexible working FOCUS ON FRANCHISES

103 Franchising news 105 Sound advice Richard Holden of Lloyds TSB on funding

80 Harnessing diversity Even a small workforce may hold the key to diversifying into different regions

107 Share the load? The latest survey from Franchise Sales.com brings some interesting facts to light

122 The daily grind This month, Hugo Taylor takes to the hot seat

110 Best practice Practical and sensible advice for potential franchisees www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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Budgeting for better?

Scan this QR code to register for your free copy of Talk Business EDITOR

Gill Anderson gill.anderson@astongreenlake.com

It was heralded as the budget to build business. The Government’s chance to stabilise a sliding economy and work with SMEs and start-ups, which it readily acknowledges are the lifeblood of the country right now. However, with less than 48 hours to go before the big announcements, senior coalition ministers still couldn’t agree the content. Now there’s a worry for us all. Unemployment is at its highest level for almost 20 years, yet Cameron was fiddling, Nero-like, on Air Force One.


Heather Rugeley heather.rugeley@astongreenlake.com Stephanie Allingham stephanie.allingham@astongreenlake.com Ross Trigg ross.trigg@astongreenlake.com PRODUCTION COORDINATOR

An Truong artwork@astongreenlake.com WEB DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

Mitchell Finlay mitchell.finlay@astongreenlake.com ACCOUNT MANAGERS

Scott Hartley scott.hartley@astongreenlake.com FINANCE DIRECTOR

Stephen Jones stephen@astongreenlake.com COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR

Scott English scott.english@astongreenlake.com MANAGING DIRECTOR

Jay Boisvert jay@astongreenlake.com Circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: Aston Greenlake Limited T: 0203 617 4680 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Aston Greenlake Limited. Floor 8, 6 Mitre Passage Peninsula Central Greenwich, London SE10 0ER T:0203 617 4680 ©Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. No part of Talk Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Talk Business will make every effort to return picture material, but it is sent at owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore Aston Greenlake Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.

What the experts are saying London Mayor, Boris Johnson called on the Chancellor to offer National Insurance breaks to companies in order to help create jobs. Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, he said: ‘I would much rather we stop focusing so much on bashing people and start looking at what we can do to help people into work. That’s what I mean about National Insurance, supporting infrastructure – those are the things that are going to drive jobs and growth over the next 10 years.’ Interestingly, Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls was reported to say that the budget must be fair, and must include measures for jobs and growth. When asked for his views on the potential axing of the £0.50p tax rate, he’s reported as saying that no tax was set in stone, so perhaps he knows something the rest of us don’t? So what can we expect? Whatever tricks the Chancellor pulls out of his red box later this week, I don’t anticipate the living becoming noticeably easier. A case of ‘don’t hold your breath’ if ever there was one. It would however, behove Government to consider start-ups and SMEs – the backbone and lifeblood of this ailing economy. Individuals who struggle, often against the odds, to maintain and grow their business, taking risks with their own money when the great British banks and financial institutions are too scared to come to their aid, and keeping the workers of the country in employment. I’d better stop – I feel a verse of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ coming on… On a personal note, I’d like to welcome our new editor, Helen Coffey on board. Helen will be taking over the reins from April, so please feel free to get in touch at helen.coffey@astongreenlake.com. It’s been an experience!

GILL ANDERSON EDITOR www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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We’re delighted to introduce Talk Business’ growing team of contributors to you. Ladies and gents, please step forward … DONNA MARSH is a consultant at Farnham Castle International Briefing & Conference Centre with over 30 years’ international business experience. She has held various sales and new business development roles in banking and information technology, working throughout the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Far East, Australia, South Africa, Europe and the US, and is the author of The Middle East Unveiled. Marsh’s latest book, Doing Business in the New Iraq, is scheduled for publication in 2012.

PETER BOUCHER is enterprise marketing director at Vodafone UK, where he works closely with businesses of all sizes and from all sectors to help them to find new and better ways of working. He originally joined Vodafone in 2002, and has since served in global brand marketing, as head of marketing for Vodafone live! and as marketing director and chief commercial officer at Vodafone Hungary. Prior to this, he worked in the food production and pharmaceuticals sectors, for companies including Unilever, Kraft Foods and GSK.

RICH WITH has worked in design since college. After spending time in editorial, print and web design, he freelanced at agencies in London and the Caribbean. He set up Hoot Creative last year in Essex. He works with established and start-up SMEs who have a problem getting noticed in an overcrowded market. Structuring marketing campaigns using savvy thinking, creativity and a lot of front, his team has created some memorable work.He likes Massive Attack, Jeff Buckley, smoothies, photography and winegums. He is not fond of sprouts.

KATHY CARTER is a PR and marketing consultant, who is based in Kent. She has an unusual skillset, gained from working for over 20 years in the fields of journalism, publishing, public relations, marketing, social media and broadcast, allowing her to coordinate hard-working PR and marketing campaigns that provide resultsdriven ROI for clients. The company, Sirenia Press Solutions, specialises in helping clients in the country lifestyle sector raise awareness of their brand, product or service.

FREYA ZAIWALLA trained at London construction firm, Shadbolt LLP, before joining Zaiwalla & Co, a law firm specialising in international commercial arbitration and litigation. She obtained a degree in Spanish and Portuguese Studies from Manchester University, where she spent the third year of the course on an exchange programme in Brazil and Cuba. She went on to study law at BPP Law School in London before training in the corporate law department of Ako Law Chambers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

ANNIE HOLDER is a freelance copywriter who’s based in Kent; her murky past was in design and print, where she developed a healthy addiction to stationery. As a copywriter, she believes it is important for companies to ascertain what sets them apart from their competitors. Furthermore, she maintains that effective communication helps a company engage with existing clients and attract new ones. Annie works throughout Kent, Sussex, Surrey and London for a wide variety of clients.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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10th Innovact Campus Awards finalists announced

borro sees average loan value rise against gold The UK-based personal asset lender, borro has seen a dramatic increase in borrowing against gold. The average loan value for Asian gold rose from £1,350 in 2010 to £6,000 in January 2012. borro has also seen a rise in entrepreneurs from the Asian community utilising its services to grow their businesses by borrowing against gold. More than 60% of borro’s customers are small business owners who need quick access to finance with many needing to seize an opportunity or facilitate a transaction, in order to help grow their business. Paul Aitken, CEO of borro says: ‘We have seen a big increase in the average loan value of Asian gold in the last two years, with one in ten customers using our service to borrow against this type of gold. We’ve found that this demographic is very entrepreneurial and sees enormous value in using our service to access the finance needed to help them grow their business.


Lifesaver for budding entrepreneurs and start-ups As small businesses and start-ups face one of the toughest economic climates in years, Be Inspired, a free one-day business mentoring, inspirational learning and networking event on 19 April in Basingstoke, is being heralded as a potential lifesaver for anyone starting or growing a business in the region this year. ‘With 15,000 new businesses starting up in the UK every month, and 95% failing within the first five years,

it’s vital for new business owners to get the very best help and advice from the beginning,’ explains Felicity Edwards, MD of Destination Basingstoke, a not-for-profit organisation which is organising the event. ‘Be Inspired is a free all-day business event packed with seminars, mentoring and practical sessions which is designed to arm new entrepreneurs with everything they need to know to succeed in a challenging business environment and build sales on solid foundations.’

Now in its 10th year, the Innovact Campus Awards – the business competition for European student-led start-ups – has announced 42 finalists selected from a total of 160 entries from 28 European countries. As we go to press, the students behind the pre-selected start-ups will be invited to attend the European Forum for Innovative Start-ups, to be held in Reims, France.  At the event – organised by the Reims-Epernay Chamber of Commerce and backed by the European Commission – the students have the opportunity to present their projects to potential investors, their peers, industry professionals, the general public and the jury.   The final three winners will be chosen by a jury during the event, and will receive prize money of up to €5,000, plus expert advice and visibility for their project throughout Europe.  The pre-selected projects are related to a diverse range of sectors, including cosmetics, agriculture, automation and robotics, social finance, biotechnology, marketing and renewable energy.


www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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DIARY DATES £1m funding for Gradwell expansion


Gradwell has announced a significant expansion plan to quadruple its size in four years – supported by a £1.15m investment from regional equity fund, Altitude Partners. Gradwell was founded as a means of offering small businesses its proprietary Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system. The company has a turnover of £5m, a team of 60 and serves 12,000 UK small businesses. The investment will enable Gradwell to significantly scale its technology and expand its customer base. Commenting on the announcement, founder Peter Gradwell said: ‘There is a huge opportunity to encourage businesses to follow the consumer lead in adopting VoIP instead of more traditional phone systems.  VoIP makes a company’s phone system cheaper and more useful for a business.’

BANK WARNING The UK banks’ Personal and business customers could defect in droves to new rivals, such as Google and Apple, according to a study from brand consultancy, Clear. Clear CEO, James Osmond, said: ‘Banks that fail to lead the agenda will struggle to survive. Having a mobile app and a digital guru isn’t enough.  The choice is simple: change now, or get left behind.’ In a clear wake up call to the industry, just 13% of customers said they’d choose to use the UK’s big four high street banks in future.  There is a raft of credible competition with the financial muscle and, crucially, more desirable brands, which are well positioned to take advantage of the changing nature of money.  Apple, ranked second, Google, fifth, and Amazon, ranked eighth each have the financial muscle to threaten the big banks’ monopoly.

Business start-up for creative 2-5 April 2012 Central St Martins College, London www.creative-capital.org.uk

HR Software Show 2012 20-21 June 2012 Olympia Two, London www.cipd.co.uk

HBV Start-it 3 April 2012 HBV Enterprise Centre, London www.hbv.org.uk

Marketing Week Live 2012 27-28 June 2012 Olympia Grand Hall, London www.marketingweeklive.co.uk

Business start-up 4 1 May 2012 Liskerrett Community Centre, Cornwall www.outsetcornwall.co.uk

EUROPEAN ENTERPRISE PROMOTION AWARDS The 2012 edition of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards has been launched to reward the success of public bodies and public-private partnerships in promoting enterprise and entrepreneurship. One of the subjects for the 2012 edition will be SME funding for those entrepreneurs that want to extend their business and enter new markets. In the current economic context, SMEs are acknowledged to contribute to growth and their job creation potential is impressive: 85% of all new jobs in the EU are provided by SMEs. Public authorities support SMEs with a large number of initiatives. The most impactful measure will be chosen by an expert jury and receive its award during the 2012 SME Assembly in November in Cyprus. European Commission VP, Antonio Tajani, who is responsible for industry and entrepreneurship said: ‘Every year the European Enterprise Awards bring to the fore successful initiatives from all over Europe, that have created win-win situations for business and communities. ‘We need to multiply these concrete success stories and make Europe more business-oriented and business-friendly. This is essential for job creation and recovery of European economy.’ There are five different award categories: Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit; Investing in skills; Improving the business environment; Supporting the internationalisation of businesses; Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship. The competition comprises two stages; applicants first have to compete at national level. Each country can then select two entries to be nominated to the European competition by July 16, 2012.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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face on the cover focus on success

Keep on dancing

From the United States Air Force to vice president of leading gentlemen’s club, Spearmint Rhino, John Specht tells Talk Business why he is putting the UK venues through a military-style operation

that would be my career, but due to a few accidents, This is what I want, and if you can’t give it to I unfortunately ended up breaking my back in five places. me, then GOODBYE!’ Perhaps considered harsh I had to have screws fitted in my knee and could not by some, but for John Specht it was necessary. subsequently continue with the job. I was therefore forced to In 2009, Specht took over all UK operations of Spearmint cross train into a field that was not that exciting, which led Rhino. At the time, the UK arm was reporting losses of me to leaving the military after nearly 10 years. £1.6m; enter Specht for a significant turnaround. ‘After my military career, and the job I ended up taking Having visited Britain for a short time in 2003, and with after my accidents, I became the chief purchasing supply the reported losses, Specht knew a challenge lay ahead but officer for F-15s, F-16s, B1 bombers and aerospace ground he was determined to be the business-minded man who equipment. Being in charge of this section was like owning made change happen: ‘I think it was a long time coming as my own business in a sense, as I was directly responsible for I had worked my butt off for so long and had achieved every costs and budgets and leading a team of military and civilian goal that was set for me. I would say moving to the UK has workers to get the job done.’ been my biggest challenge to date.’ Specht learned his no-nonsense business Specht knew serious changes had to be made in approach from his military training as well as order for the company to compete within the from the hard-working ethic of his parents. market: ‘Taking control of all UK operations ‘To establish Born in New York to ‘hardcore New Yorkers,’ meant I had to start from scratch and a brand, Specht praises his parents for his business rebuild, re-educate and re-organise from you have to management skills. ‘I think having a set of the ground up. I focused on all areas, from let people strong parents that kept me in line, gave me the cost of napkins to the rates – and know you the start I needed. And what with spending everything in between,’ he explained. are there’ so much time in the military, you have no ‘I met with all my suppliers and rechoice but to shape up or ship out!’ negotiated everything. If anyone no longer Having witnessed business first hand from his wanted to work with me, I cancelled their father, who owned multiple gas and service stations, services and found new ones who would work within Specht realised from a young age what it takes to be in my plan.’ business: ‘Working at my father’s business gave me The tactic worked and the following year, losses were first-hand experience and allowed me to see everything he reduced to £190,000. ‘I chose to come here for the went through, and what it took to run a business,’ he challenges that lay ahead of me, as I have always conquered explained. everything that I have set out to achieve.’ ‘Growing up, I always worked at the shop (and wasn’t With a strategic business plan in place, figures have paid!). My father ended up selling the stations in my teens continued to grow through 2011, much to Specht’s delight: and I then worked at a bus company doing oil changes and ‘Overall, I’m very happy with the outcome and am definitely cleaning the city buses. heading in the right direction.’ Specht’s parents sold up and moved to LA when he was Given his success, being a businessman in the hospitality 10 years old, a move that would later play a part in his sector had never been Specht’s intended career: ‘I Joined success. In 1999, he began working for Spearmint Rhino. the United States Air force and had always thought


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Starting in security, Specht quickly showed his potential and just three months later, was promoted to general manager and given the chance to run his own club in North Hollywood. ‘I had seen the potential in the company and knew that I had what it took to be successful within the Spearmint Rhino brand,’ he said. After a year, he was promoted to regional manager, a role he occupied until 2009, when he was promoted to vice president. ‘Along the way I took the time to learn and worked in every position in the clubs, from bartender, DJ, and security to serving drinks, cleaning the restrooms, cooking and promotions. I figured I couldn’t tell my employees what to do and teach them, if I didn’t know how to perform the job. ‘My job varies each and every day. As you can imagine what with the hours of the business and the nature of it, every day is different. I am constantly in one of our clubs overseeing the running of the business first-hand. I really don’t like sitting in an office, so I try not to do that too often.’ Having experienced Spearmint Rhino clubs on both sides of the pond, Specht has discovered that business is not the same in every location: ‘The UK is doing quite well, better than expected in the short time I have been here. The world economy is struggling so we have ups and downs as well, just like in the US. ‘The entire gentlemen’s club scene is much different in the States – we are a bit louder and crazier in the clubs, whereas in the UK, people are a bit more reserved. Not that one is better than the other – just different – and that is ok.’ It’s not just differences in custom that Specht has encountered: ‘The UK is very pro employee and not employer, so it’s a challenge to get the UK team going in the outside bars fighting and young girls passed out from alcohol same fashion as we do in the States. And coming in as an in the streets – that’s what I consider sleazy!’ American meant that I was met with resistance at the It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Specht though. In early beginning. But after much team building, we have all found a 2011 he controversially suggested that students could pay common ground. They, as well as me, have all learned quite fees by working at the clubs, much to the dismay of feminist a bit and now we have a great team in place. campaigners. ‘I did an interview where I was asked ‘The strategy is always the same – give the if we had students that were dancers. And yes, absolute best experience and product each and we do. Students dance in strip clubs all over every time and the rest will fall into place.’ SPECHT SAYS: WHO DO YOU the world. We also employ teachers, mums, Gentlemen’s clubs can be a tough RESPECT IN BUSINESS? sisters, the lady from the bank and many business, and it’s not just the workload and ‘PEOPLE LIKE SIR others. Another reporter took what I said demanding hours causing the strain, but RICHARD BRANSON from that interview and wrote his own the prejudgment of others. StraightAND THE VIRGIN story with his own title (never actually talking Specht firmly puts rumours of the BRAND - CONSTANTLY speaking to me) and there you go, this sleazy reputation to bed: ‘The only stigma LOOKING FOR NEW storm broke out.’ comes from people who do not understand OPPORTUNITIES AND But like any good businessman, Specht the industry. We are seeing a growing trend DEVELOPING AND took it in his stride: ‘I don’t let it bother me. of successful, motivated adults who are IMPROVING’ People who give us bad press have never even becoming tired of being told what they can or been to one of our clubs. I did this interview once cannot do just because it might not be seen as and the journalist was arguing with me. I asked her, politically correct by a small section of society. “Have you ever even been to a strip club before?”. And she said ‘I would challenge the label “sleazy”. Our clubs offer “No.” I get a kick out of those people.’ luxury, value-for-money in comfortable surroundings and Like the saying goes, ‘all press is good press’. Taking into are chosen by successful business people, celebrities, and consideration the importance of publicity to a business, he said: sports personalities. I have seen drunken young people April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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to take risks.’ Describing his business style as, ‘do as I do, not as I say,’ Specht understands the importance of a happy workforce. ‘I am not one that just directs people. I actually do the job and continue to do it each and every day. There’s no better way than leading by example. ‘I believe that if they see me working alongside them, that motivates them to work equally as ‘YOU DON’T hard as I am. A happy staff is a productive staff. NECESSARILY NEED If people enjoy coming to work it shows in the A BRAND TO BE effort they put forth which in turn means a SUCCESSFUL IN ANY better experience within our clubs.’ BUSINESS, THERE With almost 250 employees and 2,000 ARE PLENTY OF entertainers in the UK alone that depend on ONE-OFF BUSINESSES THAT Specht running a successful business, he ARE FANTASTIC’ understands the need for top-notch staff. ‘Every three months we do refresher courses in all aspects of our business. As time goes on people become complacent, you need to stay up with the ever-changing times and change with them. Keeping tabs on your competition and adjusting is key; don’t become stale!’ Specht has come a long way from his security days and is living proof that with an optimistic outlook, you can achieve your dream career. He believes that the key for surviving in business is simple: ‘commitment, team work and a positive attitude.’ ‘Know all aspects of your business. I started in security and worked my way up. Knowing not only your role, but others too, is a huge advantage. Give 100% and never give up. I’d have pride and passion for what I do regardless if it was cleaning the toilet or running a multi-million pound company.’


‘It’s essential. Take opportunities when they arise, even if you may get some negativity. The exposure is worth it. To establish a brand, you have to let people know you are there. We have used many mediums, including press and billboards, but we now look at the Internet and social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook. We have to make sure we’re current.’ However, Specht is sceptical about the term, branding: ‘I am 50:50 on this. You don’t necessarily need a brand to be successful in any business, there are plenty of one-off businesses that are fantastic, as the owners have concentrated on that one operation and made it the very best they can. But spearheading such a world-recognised brand as Spearmint Rhino means that it is sometimes very difficult to maintain the high level of standard that we have at each and every club around the world. But we do achieve it.’ Proving he has the recipe for success, Specht offered key advice for driving a business forward: ‘To survive in the current business climate, you have no choice but to be proactive. The recession has exposed poor operators and opportunists, if you stand still in this climate, you will not survive. We constantly review our pricing policy, and run a lot of special offers to stay competitive.’ And for those looking to expand, he suggests measuring expectations: ‘In other words, be realistic. It is not the time www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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Keystone Law is both a legal firm and entrepreneurial business with a difference. James Knight, founder and managing partner, discusses his steps to success

stablished in 2002, Keystone Law offers experienced lawyers an alternative career path to working in a traditional law firm. The company makes use of sophisticated technology that its team of more than 100 senior lawyers can operate on a dispersed basis from their own offices. The business model allows for a personal and client focused service, where companies and individuals benefit from expert legal advice and significant savings. Originally launched in 2002 as Lawyers Direct, the team consisted of six feeearning lawyers and founders, James Knight and Charles Stinger who injected seed capital of £140,000 into getting the business off the ground. Knight qualified as a solicitor in 1992, and spent seven years as a commercial solicitor in Hong Kong before returning to the UK in 1999. He set up a law consultancy service, helping small- and medium-sized companies benefit from a legal service that was more commercially-focused,

personalised and affordable than was generally available. In 2002, he founded Lawyers Direct to manage client demand and recruited additional, suitably qualified solicitors. Speaking of the business model, Knight said: ‘With a very new business model, limited marketing spend and no existing client base, it was not easy to gain any market share. In the first year the firm turned over just £95,000, which was encouraging, but a long way short of a sustainable business. By year three, the turnover was £1.5m and we started to gain traction. Turnover has increased strongly at about 35% per annum, since that time. ‘By 2008, the name Lawyers Direct no longer reflected the type of work and the type of clients we were representing. The firm was rebranded to Keystone Law, which has been highly beneficial. Keystone now has 105 lawyers and 15 support staff.’ Knight is proof that sometimes the most obvious ideas are the best: ‘The initial business idea seemed obvious. Use technology to do away with expensive and unnecessary overheads normally associated with a conventional law firm. Give companies direct access to senior lawyers who

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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are properly motivated and really care about their clients. ‘Our remuneration structure is almost entirely performance-based, which keeps everyone focused and eliminates waste.’ Comprising a central office with meeting rooms, Keystone is far from the ‘virtual’ law firm label it is given. ‘The firm has a very human feel about it and excellent interaction with clients,’ explained Knight. Knight has used his entrepreneurial flair to fill a gap in the market. Prior to Keystone, he spent five years providing legal consultancy services to companies owned by friends, acting as an outsourced, in-house lawyer. He also maintained various business interests, including a flower shop and group buying Internet business. Speaking of his decision to launch Keystone, he said: ‘It was the advent of broadband and the inevitable effect it would have on business culture, the acceptance of dispersed business models, and a demand for more flexible working solutions.’ Knight began by outlining his key objective in a detailed business plan: ‘The fundamental business plan is largely unchanged, however the level of support available to Keystone solicitors has developed greatly.’ Knight has tips for business planning: ‘Make sure the basic plan is sound, then get started. If you have enough passion and enough common sense then your business will develop in the right direction. Keep overheads as low as possible for as long as possible.’ Funding can often be the most challenging part of launching a business. Keystone was launched on personal saving and loan stock, but Knight offered words of encouragement: ‘In a bull market, people stick with the old established players. In hard times, they are prepared to do things differently, to cut corners and cut costs. These are times when entrepreneurs can flourish. With interest rates at an all time low and excellent tax incentives in force, there is currently no shortage of angel

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investors. A good business concept with a strong management team should be able to attract investment without too much difficulty.’ Extensive research is vital when starting a business, it can make you feel secure and open the door to further possibilities as Knight discovered: ‘Media research was helpful. According to the legal press, 40% of solicitors were unhappy with their current working environment and 60% of companies felt that their legal providers did not provide value for money. Meeting and discussing with contacts was indispensable. At the end of the day, you are still left trusting your own judgment. ‘If it is an entrepreneurial business in the true sense, in other words a business that does something differently to the norm, then generally the media will be interested in providing coverage, which is always of great help. If a business has really got legs, then it should succeed on word-of-mouth alone, but good marketing will speed the process enormously.’ Describing the business as ‘a glimpse into the future of law firms,’ it is Knight’s straight-talking approach to business that gives him the edge. ‘I believe in enough support and direct incentives. If that doesn’t work, then it’s never going to,’ he explained. ‘Set up every aspect properly and get involved in even the smallest and most boring part of that set up process. And then leave it almost entirely to others to run and hopefully develop further! A start-up should try to engender a good reputation and then maybe 10 years later a brand will start to materialise. Unless you are Facebook or Google, it is very difficult for a start-up to create anything approaching a brand.’ With the intention of recruiting at least 25 lawyers during 2012, and increasing marketing spending to speed the process, Keystone Law looks set to achieve its goal of nationwide coverage. And as Knight concluded: ‘If you keep at it, it really can happen.’

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS: Date the company was founded? 2002 Start up capital? £140,000 Current turnover? £12.5 m Current net profit? £1.1 m Growth rate? 35% year-on-year Number of employees when the company started? Eight Current workforce? 116 Biggest achievement? Winner of Entrepreneurial Law Firm of the Year 2010 Toughest challenge? Winning over those who said the rules didn’t allow it Advice for start-ups today? When people say: ‘I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before,’ you know you are on the right track.


CONTACT: www.keystonelaw.co.uk

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Contact Katharine Price Marketing & Communications Manager Email: cfelmarketing@jbs.camac.uk


from the experienced entrepreneurs contributing to the programme in different ways.



he end of March saw the start of the eighth series of the BBC’s Apprentice show, headed up by British business magnate Lord Alan Sugar, where a group of aspiring young businessmen and women now compete for a prize of £250,000 investment in a business of the candidate’s creation, with Lord Sugar as a 50% owner. This puts the focus much more on Entrepreneurship rather than ‘the job interview from hell’ as the programme was billed previously. Is it really reflective of the entrepreneurial journey and does this result in meaningful entrepreneurship with benefits for society as a whole? Of course the programme is styled for the greatest television impact so we shouldn’t hold it up for too close scrutiny. Real world experiences are very different. However, the entrepreneurial journey is a roller coaster ride that can end in great success or failure depending on the resilience and resources of the individuals involved. In the current economic climate, it is both brave and necessary to start businesses and create new ventures. We need more entrepreneurs, more people who are self-employed and, more importantly, more people who are creating businesses that will employ others - eventually. The harsh reality is, however, that too many fledgling businesses fall by the wayside because the founders don’t have the necessary skills, knowledge and networks to see them though the tough times. It is an enormous challenge getting a new venture under way from finding those first customers, developing and

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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articulating the value proposition of the business, understanding financials, pitching to investors, right through to building the right sort of teams that enable scale up and growth. Entrepreneurs don’t wait for economic upturns or downturns. Finding the money for a venture is always hard work no matter what the economic outlook. The key is more about finding the quality proposition and knowing how to make it happen. In Cambridge we are fortunate to have a wide and established network of successful entrepreneurs and experts rich in high calibre individuals who have been through the entrepreneurial highs and lows. It is this rich network that the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, based at Cambridge Judge Business School, calls upon for our entrepreneurship programmes. The newly launched Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship, which runs part-time across 12 months, fits with the lifestyle of the entrepreneur enabling individuals to study while pursuing their business venture whether this is a technology based, social or creative enterprise. The tuition is largely online via a Virtual Learning Environment making it accessible to anyone across the world with a couple of residential sessions based in Cambridge that take advantage of the ecosystem here. The practical aspects are mixed with academic sessions and assignments that cover key areas of business modelling, finance and marketing, and so on. However, the deal-making, how to raise money, how to build those teams, etc – all that is learned

The BBC’s Apprentice involves young, 20-somethings in sharp suits but entrepreneurs can come in different shapes, sizes and age groups. The current students of the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship programme are a case in point with ages ranging from 22 to 62. The youngest has just completed a PhD from the University of Cambridge and is developing a mathematical algorithm to aid logistics in transport and the oldest is an entrepreneurial eye surgeon with an existing business in the US, who is expanding into new premises and has been inspired by the programme to make his new building environmentally sound. The other students range from the midtwenties to mid-forties, some working within big corporates on internal projects, while others are making the first steps into self-employment starting ventures in sectors as diverse as education and renewable energy. They are all making a very personal entrepreneurial journey and developing the skills needed to see them through the tough times. The aim is to arm them with the right set of tools that will enable and increase their chances of success. There are plenty of examples of alumni of CfEL’s various programmes who have made that transition to being entrepreneurs with great success, such as Dr Shamus Husheer, Co-founder of Cambridge Temperature Concepts; Dr Andrew Lynn, Founder and President of OrthoMimetics; Dr Lewis Liu, Founder and President of CamGaN; Dr Nick Haan, Founder of BlueGnome – to name but a few. Recently, we’ve seen successful ventures from alumni of Cambridge Judge Business School’s MBA and EMBA programmes such as Cambridge Executive MBA graduate Eben Upton and his educational computer, Raspberry Pi; and MBA graduates Lars Malmqvist and Denis Kaminsky of Arcus Global cloud computing solutions – winners of the 2012 Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year. Moreover, these are meaningful enterprises which are already having an impact in terms of both the economy and value to society.

Further information about the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship can be found at http://www.cfel. jbs.cam.ac.uk/programmes/diploma/index.html Further information about the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning is at www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk

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April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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nless you’ve been living on a small, remote desert island, the chances are you’ve seen, heard or read about borro over the past months. Ad campaigns have been hitting our TV screens on a regular basis, the company has been making waves in the financial press in the UK, and has now headed off across the pond to take on the US. Aitken founded borro in 2008 and it’s already the leading personal asset lender in the UK. The company has created a new lending category and in 2011, won UK Alternative Lender of the Year as well as an international business award. borro offers loans from £1,000 - £1,000,000 secured against personal assets, including jewellery, luxury watches, gold, fine art, antiques, sculpture, prestige cars, yachts, and other high value assets. The company has a team of highly qualified valuation experts, who come from some of the UK’s leading auction houses, including Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Bonham’s. Talk Business caught up with Aitken to find out what makes the man – and the company – tick: ‘I had a fairly normal childhood, hanging out with friends and playing sport. I went to Abingdon School, then on to Nottingham University, and completed an MBA from IMD, Lausanne in Switzerland – and I’m a Liverpool fan! ‘My father invented a synthesized guitar in the late 1970s called SynthAxe, which a number of famous musicians used. My first job was buying PC components for RM PLC. This ‘I WORK FOR involved lots of travel to the Far East, MY INVESTORS which I thoroughly enjoyed. SO THIS IS ‘Prior to founding borro, I was the EXACTLY WHAT founder and managing director of Movota, I DO, AND I LOVE a provider of interactive mobile solutions WHAT I DO’ to Europe’s TV and radio broadcasters. The idea stemmed from text-to-TV - using the red button on a remote. It was financed by private investors, and was sold to Bertelsmann in 2005. ‘One of the challenges was convincing broadcasters and TV programmers to use the platform. To overcome this, my business partner and I had to continually come up with creative ideas how to implement the technology into existing TV shows. We overcame it by creating demos using ideas of our own on TV formats.

Paul Aitken, founder and chief executive of borro talks candidly about his business model, the future and his life experiences


www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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ABOUT BORRO: What date was borro founded? August 2008 Where did the idea come from? From my dreams. I thought it was illogical that people did not use their personal assets as security for a loan, when selling a personal asset if you need liquidity is a well-used option. Is it more difficult to launch a financial institution than any other sort of company? Surely the rules and regulations in force make it an extremely difficult thing to achieve, so does your background prepare you for that? I think having no background in financial services actually helped bring a fresh perspective on the industry. Apart from that, the rules and regulations are in place to protect the customer. How long after launching did you begin to see payback? Two days after launching, we had our first loan and therefore revenue!



Working with new people, building teams and doing something I’ve never done before made it an extremely enjoyable time. ‘When I’m asked about my approach to business, I always tell people: Don’t ever over analyse, just get out and do it. I try to be supportive but I am demanding. I expect people to come up with ideas and try stuff out. My motto is: Ask for forgiveness, not permission! ‘I’ve been asked what would be the best and worst aspects of working for someone else, 9 to 5 and collecting a salary cheque at the end of the month. I work for my investors so this is exactly what I do, and I love what I do. I did work for a big corporate, but I ended up becoming bored. So I left that company to start my own. ‘I am pretty active, and cycling, skiing and scuba diving fill the majority of my spare time. I also like to travel, socialise, and attend sports and music events.’

CONTACTS: www.borro.com

Is borro the only lender of its type in the UK? Yes. We are the only company, which provides loans of £1,000 to £1,000,000 secured by the range of assets we lend against. The ultra-rich have always been able to trade on their personal wealth, but for the average person, the only alternative to the bank used to be handing over their possessions to a pawnshop or selling them wherever they could. Does borro sit between the two? If not, how do you describe its position? Certainly. For years many of the private banks have provided finance over £1 million against fine art. We sit between the private bank and a very, very upmarket pawnbroker. Who is your average customer? Over 60% of our customers are small business owners or self-employed. Was borro founded as a direct result of the global financial meltdown, or do you believe there was always a place for mainstream personal asset lending? I think there always has and always will be a place for mainstream lending. Customers are looking for the convenience we offer. Our speed

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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and flexibility of service is unrivalled. The biggest proxy is people selling things, which they do when times are good or bad. What’s the largest loan you’ve ever agreed? Against what? Last year we issued our first £1 million loan against a fine art collection. Have your team ever got a valuation completely wrong or been duped by a fake? No. Our valuation experts have over 100 years of combined experience and a strong understanding of the constantly developing market. The team have excellent auction house connections and an acute awareness of current trends in the picture, fine art, gold, diamonds and luxury car market.



What happens to the assets you take as security on the loan if it defaults? If you are left with a million pound boat on your hands, surely it can be risky trying to sell it in these volatile times? Are you convinced that there’s always going to be a market for the assets? We value the importance of being flexible and do all we can to accommodate any change in circumstance should the customer be unable to pay off the loan, and after thorough consultation with the customer we would sell the asset. If at the end of the loan term a customer cannot pay back, it would be our responsibility, working with the customer to dispose of the asset. They then get back any excess on the sale. And before the economic downturn, people had been buying assets for around 20 years. Many had done so for investment purposes. So yes, I believe there will always be a market for assets.


Date the company was founded? August 2008 Start-up capital? This was supplied by investors. Last year we received over £5m. Current turnover? £5.5m Growth rate? We tripled our loan book last year, and expect to do the same this year Number of employees when the company started? 3 Current workforce number? 50 Biggest achievement? Winning Alternative Lender at the Credit Today awards in 2011, just two years after we started the business. Toughest challenge? Creating a new category of lending and changing the perceptions of this type of lending. Also, building trust with the customer that we are going to look after their assets. Advice for start-ups today? If you believe in something, get out there and do it.

The US launch is now well underway. How has the company been received in the States? We are seeing more enquiries and loans against fine art and prestige cars. Also, the average loan in the UK is £4,000 however; we have already lent $100,000 in the first 10 days of our US soft launch, with an average loan amount of $10,000 and expect this trend to continue. By the end of this year we expect to be lending the same amount month-onmonth in the US as we are lending the UK right now. Where do you anticipate borro being in five years? In five years, we will be the global leading personal asset lender with operations in 10 or more countries.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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How small enterprises can sell their goods or services to markets in China, by David Howell


Since China opened its doors to the world in 1978, its growth has been nothing short of meteoric. The 2007-09 credit crunch had little or no impact on the Chinese economy that continues to grow by almost 10% a year. China itself is now the fourth largest economy behind the US, Germany and Japan, and if its current growth can be sustained, analysts expect China to become the world’s largest economy by 2025. China is not, though, simply the factory of the world. As the economy has developed, so has its population, with an estimated 8.5 million Chinese citizens migrating to urban areas each year in

search of work and a better standard of living. As a result, the market for your business’ goods and services is inexorably growing. But can small businesses really compete in this vast market? It’s a question that many small business owners are asking themselves. The Small Business Guide to China looks at not only how the Chinese economy works and what its citizens want to buy, but also how business is transacted in a market that will become the largest single consumer base on the planet over the next decade. Full of practical support, the book addresses topics from intellectual property rights to correct etiquette during a business meeting.

No matter what a business sells, investigating the markets in China is definitely an area to look into, and this easy-to-read informative bite-size guide shows small business owners how! The Small Business Guide to China is the fifth of ten titles in the Business Bites series. The series is packed with useful information, and each eBook covers a specific topic, so whether you want help with social media or how to balance your books, you can find the solution! About the author Dave Howell is Nexus Publishing. He has been working as a freelance writer, journalist and publisher for the last 20 years, specialising in technology and business

subjects. His work has appeared in the national press and many of the leading technology and business magazines, including Talk Business. The Small Business Guide to China is published by Brightword Publishing ISBN: 9781908003119, ePub, RRP: £10.00 Available in all good online bookshops

AVOID LEGAL PITFALLS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES; TEACH YOURSELF, by Bevans Solicitors The idea behind this guide is to allow the small business owner to effectively litigation-proof his business. Legal complications can be costly, and for small businesses – potentially fatal, but Bevans Solicitors believes it has produced the ultimate handbook to help small business owners to avoid them. Employment, premises, intellectual property, even setting up the business – all these vital aspects can carry heavy legal costs if mishandled or overlooked, and for a new start up, can

be the difference between success and failure. The team at prestigious law firm, Bevans Solicitors take the small business owner through all these hazards in its indispensable guide to legal pitfalls the reader may face – as well as providing solutions in the event of them being unlucky enough to fall foul of one of these hazards. Whether the loss to the business is financial or equally valuable time, litigation is a costly affair for any business, no matter how big or small. Nearly two decades of legal

experience ensures any small business owner can benefit from Bevans Solicitors’ advice, no matter how new their venture. Avoid Legal Pitfalls for Small Businesses: Teach Yourself is published by Hodder Education. ISBN- 9781444137415 Price £9.99

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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STORYTELLING POCKETBOOK: A pocketful of tips, techniques and tools on how to use stories to inspire and persuade people, by Roger E Jones


Hans Christian Andersen knew how to tell a good story. His tales have gripped generations, and are almost as popular now as they were when he penned them 150 years ago. Roger Jones may not create fairy tale characters, but he too knows the benefit of good storytelling, and he shares his knowledge in this book. The format is as unusual as the subject matter: it’s genuinely pocket-sized, but in this instance, size isn’t everything as Jones has packed every inch of the page with easy to understand, memorable tips and tricks to allow the

reader to improve their own storytelling technique. Jones takes the reader on a simple-to-follow journey, from the reasons stories matter to business, through where to find good stories and how to tell them, to when and where to use them to best effect. Each chapter ends with a simple exercise to practise your own storytelling ability. According to Jones: ‘There’s proven evidence that storytelling is being successfully used in organisations all around the world to achieve concrete results. Whether to inspire employees, make change happen or persuade stakeholders – the ability of

storytelling far surpasses anything a bunch of static slides and numbers can do’. The premise is simple: people buy from people, and when you’re trying to get funding for a struggling small business, a good story to take to the bank manager will help him engage with the company, and with you as an individual. The same is true of your customers and suppliers. Praise for Storytelling Pocketbook, includes an endorsement from Saatchi & Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts, who said: ‘We live in the participation economy. A time when stories and conversations are what

count; marketing has changed forever, moving from creating awareness and demand to inviting the audience to join a movement. And all movements are based on a great story. This book will help you become the best storyteller you can be. And it’s fun too!’ The Storytelling Pocketbook is published by Management Pocketbooks, priced £7.99. ISBN-13: 978-190661040, and is available from Amazon.co.uk


The Full Story, by Elton Boocock

Have you ever wondered why your website doesn’t generate the profits that you believed were possible? Are you starting to think that Internet marketing is just smoke and mirrors? Do you want to be in the 10% of website owners that DO actually make money from their business website and

online marketing activities? According to Elton Boocock, it is possible, and this book will show you step-by-step exactly how to use Internet marketing to do it. Armed with his insider secrets, Boocock has been at the forefront of Internet marketing since 1997. As a public speaker, columnist, award-winning entrepreneur and mentor, his take on online marketing is both amusing and enlightening. He is passionate about both saving and making you money through Internet marketing. His approach is very firmly centred on profit and return on investment. If you are looking for a ‘pretty

website’, you will hate this book! But if you need to make sure you get a return on the investment you are about to pay out on Internet marketing, you need this book. It is about to save you the cover price time and time again. Return on investment starts here! Boocock has his own stories of Internet marketing success – as well as monstrous failure. It is this story that drives him to help business owners to avoid the pitfalls of Internet marketing, bypass the digital marketing hype and go straight to online marketing success. This book will lead you through building a solid

business strategy. It will look at e-commerce in a new light and advise you in terms of e-commerce platforms and Internet marketing strategies to use. The book covers search engine marketing, including SEO and pay-per-click options, as well as using social media for your business success. Internet Marketing: The Full Story is available in hardback and kindle versions, from Amazon.co.uk, priced £11.99

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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reviewing the business budget, organisations need to take a long, hard look at their utilities suppliers or get a free audit from an independent broker to keep those bills in check. There’s no getting away from the fact that many businesses are feeling the squeeze from the economic downturn. Even organisations that are growing need to ensure they continue to develop and this means it’s more important than ever to take control of business spending. Spring cleaning your business can be a complex and time-consuming task and many won’t even know where to start when it comes to reviewing their energy and telecoms suppliers. Multiple sites, different providers and a maze of rates, each with their own string of bills, make managing your energy and telecoms expenditure a headache for most business owners, but the savings can reap major financial rewards for your firm.

SPRING CLEAN YOUR BUSINESS BUDGET Maria O’Sullivan, utilities expert, costgard, urges businesses to count the cost of their energy bills and offers tips on ways to save


he first of the spring flowers are blooming, whilst the economy still struggles, but this is the ideal time for businesses to take stock and take steps to trim any unnecessary costs. When times are tough, businesses may turn to cutting supply costs or reining in spending on staff travel and marketing, but rising energy and telecoms bills often slip under the radar. When it comes to

Costgard offers five steps to spring clean your business spending.

Step 1: Conduct an Audit One of the first steps to gaining control of your spending is to look at how you use energy today. A good energy broker will provide a free audit of your business. This allows you to gain an overview of how energy is used, identifying where savings can be made and offering an opportunity to implement changes. Are lights being left on and empty rooms being heated? Check for equipment being left on over night and at weekends. And are you paying more than you should? So it could be time to change supplier to meet your needs.

Step 2: Use Broker Expertise Managing energy and telecoms supplies and accounts can be a headache, especially for smaller firms that don’t have the resources to stay on top of things. Use outside expertise and let an energy broker manage the whole process for you. They will know when your contract is due for renewal and monitor the market for the best deals, as well as managing transfers and ensuring you get charged the right amount, saving your business money and time.

telecoms requirements can vary widely from one business to another, so ask your broker to conduct a free audit to identify your needs and ways to save. With over 50 different broadband providers in the UK, a good independent broker will be able to look at the whole market and find the best deal for your business phone and broadband needs. This can secure low cost call rates and flexible tariffs designed to deliver real savings.

Step 4: Save with New Suppliers Talk to your energy broker to review your utilities suppliers. In an uncertain economy, it pays to secure a good contract deal now to protect your business from future price increases. And once you have the right contract for your business, the best brokers will conduct ongoing monitoring to identify and resolve billing errors.

Step 5: Energy Saving Equipment Take stock of your equipment – is it coming to the end of its life or are you planning to move premises? This could be a prime time to replace machinery and office equipment with energy saving alternatives. Make sure you invest in A rated machinery and apply this to the manufacturing side of the business, not just the office. Don’t just look at the price tag, also consider the running costs. And don’t forget to invest in low energy lighting, such as LED to help bring costs down. A good energy broker can also offer expert advice on increasing savings. Energy prices remain a key concern for businesses, but they may forget the ongoing cost of their telecoms. Look for a broker who can offer an insight into market predictions and secure the best rates on energy suppliers, as well as phone and broadband deals. Take time now to review your spending and reap the benefits for the year ahead.

Contact Maria O’Sullivan, independent business utilities expert, costgard. Contact on 01460 282 925 www.costgard.co.uk

Step 3: Focus on Telecoms With energy prices hitting the headlines, it’s easy to overlook telecoms, but it really pays to consider the cost of phone bills and broadband. Business www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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MANAGING SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH A new name for Talk Business, Deepaman Prabhakar ACMA, discusses ways to keep control over growth



anaging and sustaining growth can be loaded with pitfalls. Preserving cash, keeping people motivated, and upgrading office space are just a few of the issues that you will encounter. Planning well in advance is the key to minimising negative effects on the business. To follow are tips on how to reduce the impact: Expanding your workforce

It is very easy to underestimate the time and cost involved in hiring new people— and, more importantly, the right people. Developing job descriptions, conducting and arranging interviews, and checking references all involve a large investment of time. However, it is important to conduct a careful recruiting process. If you end up with someone who can’t perform the job properly, your business’ performance could suffer. Having to then fire them can engender bad morale and run legal risks, and you will have to go through the entire time-consuming recruitment process again. Moreover advertising positions can be expensive. Firms can often find themselves advertising over an extended period of time in order to attract qualified candidates—especially for more demanding positions. You need to be prepared for this. Investment in people

The importance of having highly competent people in a fast-growth

business can’t be overestimated. Workloads may be unpredictable, and problems could require innovative solutions to be implemented quickly. People who can think on their feet and put in the extra hours to help grow the business are not easy to find, but make all the difference to long-term success. The influx of new staff can leave current employees feeling undermined or neglected. To avoid this, post all job openings internally before advertising externally, and give existing staff ample opportunity to interview. Cash-flow management

A quickly growing business can burn money. Despite good profits, there could be a cash flow crisis as expenditures occur before sales are realised. An improperly planned cash flow is one of the most common reasons why small businesses fail. Adaptable planning

The faster a business is growing, the more difficult it can be to plan future expenditure and income, but this is vital. Careful planning and constant updating is of paramount importance. While most undertake a major review of projections and business plan once a year, a fast growing business has to consider overhauling its plans and cash flow projections several times to take into account deviations. All-important profit margins

In a rapidly growing business, it is easy to become excited about rapidly rising sales and lose track of profits. If

companies become top-heavy as they grow, transitional phase overhead expenses can bring down profit margins, which are essential for growth. Even if you are trying to finance growth internally, good profit margins still leave more room for error. If profit margins are reduced, even a small increase in expenses can push the firm into the red. Taxes

Don’t assume taxes will rise parallel to sales. As a business becomes more profitable, the tax bill will likely rise faster than anticipated, because you or it will move into a higher bracket. Space requirements

A growing business means increasing space for staff or equipment/stock, but moving can be disruptive to operations. A good compromise is to try to attach an option to a lease allowing you to continue renting for renewable twelve-month periods of time after an initial two- to three-year firm commitment. If space becomes tight, consider renting a separate, nearby space for one department. Growth can prove to be a great motivating force and project a very positive image to customers. Trumpet your successes continually to both employees and customers to derive the maximum benefit from your growth!

CONTACTS: Contact: http://www.taxclaim.com

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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“Acting as the ATI Trust’s accountants and professional trustee, Kuhrt Leach provides a sound and extremely responsive service in advising the Trust on financial planning and regulatory matters. Each of the firm’s partners takes a proactive view of the financial services they provide and we find this handson approach of immense value in all matters undertaken on our behalf by. . . Roger Ward, ATI Trustee ATI Trust

Kuhrt Leach LLP is a firm of Chartered Accountants that specialise in all aspects of owner managed businesses

We have helped a number of businesses over the last three years in various sectors These include: Direct Sales / Property Investment / Property Development / Pharmacy / IT Hardware Recycling / Safety Equipment / Debt Financing / IFAs and Fund Management

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BRINGING ACCOUNTANCY INTO THE 21ST CENTURY At a Real Accountant we are taking a new approach to the way qualified Accountants should work. We are more interested in helping to add value to your business, than just producing a set of Accounts and Tax Return. These have no real use to anyone else other than HMRC, which in turn does not help build your business. We provide all the normal services you would expect from a traditional ACCA firm of Accountants, ( Bookkeeping, VAT Returns, Payroll, CIS, Tax Returns, Accounts and Corporation Tax advice). However we only operate on a fixed fee billing policy, simply click on the services and it will tell you how we can help your business.

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here can be no doubting the importance of small businesses to the UK economy, and in the stormy economic climate of late, much focus has been put on the role smaller businesses will play in driving the return to economic growth. Successive governments have made it a top priority to improve the environment for small businesses, with particular emphasis on making the UK an attractive and simple place to start a business. And the UK is a relatively easy place to start a business. Even during the economic turmoil of recent years, business start-ups have remained strong and Government and the private sector have worked to ensure there is support for people wanting to establish enterprises. In the UK, we have a high concentration of small business, but what we lack are the support structures to help and encourage those small enterprises to take the leap to become medium-sized or big business. This is where we believe banks can help: where we can step in to help encourage those businesses, which have the potential to take the plunge to reach a new stage of growth. Now is the right time for banks to be embarking on this journey. Last year was particularly torrid for households and businesses, as austerity measures and cutbacks took hold. But even in the current climate, there are many companies that strive for and achieve sustainable success. I never fail to be impressed by the diversity and resilience of British businesses, and it

TO LOAN, OR NOT TO LOAN It’s tough out there for businesses looking to expand. Luckily, help is at hand, as Steve Pateman, executive director at Santander evaluates the opportunities for future growth

strikes me that across all sectors a new approach is emerging. An approach, which puts high quality products and services first, and is based on a deep and thorough understanding of the customer. It is this approach, which will be the engine of the economic recovery, and it is important that banks are there to support these companies taking a long-term perspective and provide growth capital solutions rather than formulaic lending. It is the leaders of these businesses who are showing that getting it right in a downturn creates an impressively robust business model. If people are the lifeblood of a business, then it is the leader that is the heart. Encouraging these leaders is key to the UK’s future economic health, yet it is these same leaders who often struggle to get the support they need to grow their business. We want to help redress that balance, not just through funding, but also by providing experiences to help inspire business leaders. People often ask what businesses can do to increase the chances of securing bank finance. As well as the usual guidance – a strong business plan, solid cash flow forecasts and demonstrating an ability to service and repay debt – I always encourage business owners to reveal something of themselves. A business leader who demonstrates their passion and commitment for their business is far more convincing than numbers on paper alone. But there are times when traditional debt finance is not right for a business, particularly for investing in the business. There are a number of


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alternative sources of finance available, and it’s important business owners explore their options and find the right type of finance for their needs. At Santander, we have made £200m in growth capital available to fast growing companies that want to invest in their business through the Breakthrough programme. This growth capital is an alternative to equity investment, and helps address a gap in the market for companies with a turnover of £500,000 to £10m. But funding is only one half of the story. Business owners who’ve experienced a period of expansion will tell you that ramping up capacity, building market share or breaking into new markets also requires knowledge and skills that haven’t always been readily available within their organisation. A number of years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a programme in the US, where I visited companies such as Apple, Ritz Carlton and South West Airlines. From spending time with these firms, I realised how much you could learn from the way businesses in different sectors have managed to deliver world class performance and how you can take this back to your own business. It was from this that I became keen to develop a programme to give SMEs the chance to learn from some of the most iconic businesses around. To help encourage business leaders, we established a series of ‘safari’ tours to businesses that have themselves experienced strong growth, such as LoveFilm and Google, to enable owners to hear their stories; to see how they organise their businesses and incentivise their staff. Internationalisation is another area


often highlighted as a driver of growth. Exporting can be a great way for small- and medium-sized businesses to expand their customer base and rapidly grow sales. Even during the depths of the recession, the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil continued to grow rapidly, providing opportunities for British businesses that trade there. But moving into new international markets can be daunting. So the Breakthrough scheme wants to offer businesses international trade missions, which are a chance to both learn about the market and win new business contacts that can deliver transformational growth. Not every business will look to grow to such an extent. But whatever the ambition, there is a range of resources out there to take advantage of. Many business organisations offer support services, or the chance to meet like-minded individuals, and the Better Business Finance Taskforce, comprising high street banks and the British Bankers Association, has details of local mentoring services. Given the recent economic climate,

it is no surprise that business confidence is at a low. But there have been a number of positive economic signs since the start of the year. The upward march of inflation is reversing, manufacturing output is expanding and the service sector is experiencing an unexpected uplift – all providing a boost to economic activity. Additionally, consumer confidence, whilst still weak, improved in January and retail sales rose above expectations. If this positive improvement continues, we may see companies re-visiting their plans for investment and expansion. It is the responsibility of the banks to step up and respond to this need, not just in terms of traditional loan finance, but also by helping businesses to develop sustainable funding structures, based on a mix of debt and equity, to replace the reliance on cheap short-term finance, and secure the path for future growth.

CONTACT: www.santanderbreakthrough.co.uk

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Whether late payments happen by accident or design, they may soon be attracting penalties for businesses. So how should organisations get control of their accounts payable, and build better relationships with suppliers? Lucy Beck, UK sales director for Palette explains


o matter what payment terms are agreed between businesses, it’s increasingly common for the actual payment to be late. This point was underlined by a recent UK survey by Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services (BACS). It found that the average UK small company is now owed £39,000 at any one time, and that businesses are owed on average 10% more than this time last year. Critically, those hit by late payments are waiting on

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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average 28 days above their payment terms to have invoices settled. This is more than just an issue for smaller businesses; it has a knock-on effect that resonates through the entire UK economy. If that sounds outlandish, consider this; SMEs with less than 50 employees represent 99.2% of all UK businesses. With so many experiencing consistent late payments, their cashflow is being squeezed, reducing their willingness to invest in their own business, let alone in others. It could be argued that the continued late payment culture in the UK is prolonging the current downturn. So it’s no surprise that so many businesses have asked the Government to help address this issue.

A persistent problem? Some believe that larger firms are using their power in a business relationship to impose long payment terms on their suppliers, taking advantage of suppliers’ goodwill. Or that firms are delaying payment as long as possible in order to retain cash. However, the situation may not be as clear-cut as this. The BACS survey found that the most frequent excuse businesses hear about delayed payment is a hold-up in internal systems – 55% of respondents said they were told their invoice was waiting for authorisation or was being processed by accounts. And of course, most businesses regard being told this as an excuse, to hide a deliberate squeezing of suppliers. But what if it’s actually true? That payment is being delayed because of inefficient accounting practice?

Late payment payback Whatever the cause, if a business is consistently missing its payment terms, it needs to rethink its processes because of upcoming legislation. Thanks to intensive lobbying from influential UK industry bodies representing small businesses, the EU Late Payment directive is to be introduced in the UK in 2012 now. The directive aims to reduce the burden of overdue payments on businesses by

making 30-day payment terms checking and consolidating can cause mandatory (if no other terms are agreed), delays that could mean payment and enables suppliers to levy penalties deadlines are missed. and interest on overdue payments. So automation is critical, as is the This may well be the catalyst for ability for AP staff to access their invoice change in payment practice – with workflow wherever they are. A cloudcompanies needing better visibility and based solution is ideal for these control over their payment processes in circumstances, enabling invoices to be order to avoid such penalties, and to be processed on hand-held devices, laptops, perceived as a ‘good business partner’. or when working from home. Integration But how should they ensure their with other business systems is also systems and processes are capable of critical, so that any exceptions, such as tracking and hitting settlement invoices without orders or incorrect deadlines? The secret is gaining control coding can be highlighted, and escalated of purchase-to-pay processes, where needed. which gives an This significantly reduces ‘WHATEVER THE organisation’s financial leakage errors (duplicate CAUSE, IF A controller choices of payments, overpayments) BUSINESS IS how and when to pay, and also means that CONSISTENTLY in order to best suit targets, such as MISSING ITS their agreements with settlement deadlines can PAYMENT TERMS, IT NEEDS TO suppliers and their be built into the workflow, RETHINK ITS working capital so they can be hit every PROCESSES’ strategies. time and ensure that penalties – as well as friction Matchmaking matters with suppliers – are avoided. Having an automated invoice processing Taking control solution is a key first step, to ensure that So whether late payments happen simply invoices are received electronically, or because of inefficiency or as a result of data is taken off paper documents deliberate action, companies will have to through scan and OCR, thus enabling take more control of their accounts electronic processing. Such automation payable systems in order to avoid need not be expensive, nor demand a exposure to the risk of penalties. This significant upfront investment. Both control also gives insights into the real cloud-based solutions and outsourced financial flow through an organisation, services are available to deliver this which is a key instrument that a savvy capability on a pay-per-invoice or financial controller can use to maximise monthly fee basis, making them return on business capital. accessible even to start-up firms. The fundamental point is to ensure The most important stage with these that systems are integrated, so that staff solutions is the matching of the invoice to can track the status of invoices its corresponding PO, contract and other throughout the payment cycle and be supporting documents, so that all aware of those that are close to deadline. evidence for prompt approval and But for companies that have that level of payment is available to AP and other staff integration and control over their in the approval process. It’s usually these payments cycle, AP automation offers a areas that are responsible for delays in real payback. manual AP systems. The second issue is ensuring that the staff who approve invoices, can do so CONTACT: quickly and easily. Manual tasks, like www.palette-group.com finding supporting documentation,


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SOCIAL RETINAL BURN:WORTH THE AGONY? Regular advice from Rich With, owner of creative agency Hoot and TB’s branding guru


The Internet has gone a little nuts over Pinterest over the past few months. Pinterest is the latest must-have social media account, where members create boards, to which they can pin various pictures, as they surf the web. Much like Twitter, you follow, and are followed by others, and over time amass visual stimuli that you can segregate into different sections, such as places, sport, gardening or films. I’m pretty sceptical, particularly so when it comes to the latest social media stream, but for all my initial reluctance I’m hooked. If you look at social media from a business perspective, not every stream is right for you. Some people love LinkedIn, others favour Facebook or Twitter. The trick is to find a stream you can work with, and exploit for your brand. Pinterest lets me create mood-boards and send clients a link so they can see my ideas for their brand. It’s proving useful for filling in the blanks, sparking light-bulb moments and generally inspiring me and my clients on their branding journey. But what’s interesting is that Pinterest has boosted the numbers of visitors to my website. It’s early days to say whether there’s a decent ROI, but the signs are positive. I’ve also been using Instagram for the last few months. It’s a photo-based app that edits photos with a range of filters, frames and blurring options to turn the most humdrum of snaps into something punchy. At first glance it’s easy to dismiss it as inconsequential fluff, but smart companies are using it for ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses, ‘just-in’ lines, and even showcasing customers in action with their products. It also allows followers to post comments, and it can update Facebook, Twitter and Flickr streams as well as post to your blog simultaneously – an incredibly powerful medium for promoting your product or brand. Burberry has used it to keep followers in the loop from Milanese runways, Starbucks is celebrating a whole community of fans posting imagery, and Topshop created an in-store digital

experience with on-the-fly fashion shoots. Even GE Electric – not normally associated with trendy products – has created an innovative competition, clearly aimed at improving its corporate profile with a hip, influential crowd, destined to be their next generation of consumers. Instagram is great for spreading awareness and harnessing long relationships with fans, but because the medium is photography, it allows brands to break down cultural and language barriers, and the imagery can easily become viral too. Every day I advocate companies being more creative with their brand. All firms have so much competition that they need to find innovative and inspiring ways to get their messages across. There is a danger that brands can get a social retinal burn from agonising over sourcing interesting images to ‘pin’ or shoot, and devoting perfectly good work hours to a process that could ultimately be a waste of time is something that companies need to figure out for themselves. If you work in finance, then it’s going to be tricky finding an angle to exploit visually. On the flip side, if you sell a tangible product, then you’d better get snapping! Contact: www.gohoot.co.uk

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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WHY VIDEO IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR COMPANY There are a whole host of reasons we could tell you why your company needs to be using video on a regular basis, but there are 3 main things that stand out in the times we are in. Revolution

Global and green

The first one would be obvious. It has to do with the technological revolution and the advancement of social media. You don’t need to be a genius to see that the way we communicate has changed radically in the last few years and this has had an effect on the way we do business. Smart phones are so commonplace now that YouTube has become the second largest search engine (Google’s first). When we want to search for a new product or find out about a brand, many of us will head straight to a video to find out what it looks like and what others are saying about it. Video is everywhere and accessible to the masses no matter where they may be. Video on the web is growing exponentially and with the advent of new mobile devices there has never been a better way to get your message directly to your audience.

These days we are encouraged and sometimes even forced to change our travel behaviour. This could slow your business down. However, today’s technology enables high quality visual communication that can make us more productive and more effective in how we do business. Efficient visual communication means less costly and timeconsuming travel and will reduce your carbon footprint. For example, a client of ours was to host an event with their international team. They wanted to fly in a team of 20 from various places around the world for a two day ‘all hands’ conference. The costs were in the tens of thousands. We suggested doing a video webcast for the main points, giving execs the chance to share with the opportunity for live feedback. We followed this with a series of videos explaining the vision for the year ahead and looking back to previous achievements. Feedback from this was fantastic and savings were substantial – which meant one happy customer.

Video connects with people on an emotional level The most important thing for any company is your brand. It has to be something people are talking about. If done well video has the power to move an audience, to excite and inspire them to buy a product or get behind your vision. Effective communication is power. You want to connect to your customers, whether internal or external, on a deeper level. We are often swamped with emails, memos and endless power point presentations: video

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Contact us to find out more. T: 0203 551 7878 T: 02392 299 069 : contact@gfproductions.info

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AHEAD OF THE GAME Common-sense advice for start-ups, from resident columnist, marketing and PR consultant, Kathy Carter


Public relations is the relationship between your brand, and your audience. It is the relationship that you build taking your product or service to market. There are some marketing gurus who maintain that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’, but that doesn’t apply to start-ups, a brand identity that matches your ethos and perceived status in the market is everything. The early stages in business are like wooing a new suitor. You don’t want to pretend that you’re something you are not (if you can’t sustain the facade), or slip up in front of newfound admirers. What you need are mutually appreciative relationships, reliable business contacts - and a genuinely good business proposition for your audience. Here are some common mistakes that start ups make where promotion is concerned: Not allowing any budget for promotion: Promotional costs should form part of your business plan. Yes, you may get by initially – you will probably receive positive interest from your audience and perhaps from your target media too, because your new business is interesting. But six months down the line, will anyone be talking about you? It’s true that promotion doesn’t need to cost actual cash – but if you’re not spending money, you will need to spend time. So, whether it is an advertising campaign, PR opportunities, or simply ensuring a staff member regularly dedicates time to social media promotional tasks, the costs must be factored.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Blanket promotion: You’ve written a news release about your company and sent it to all the relevant media. The law of averages says some outlets will pick it up. But promoting yourself to the wrong market is a waste of time. It may be great that a local newspaper has picked up your story – but if your ideal customers are in the Far East, will it garner you new clients? You would be better off focusing on influencing people who are interested in your product or service, and try to develop relationships with them. Check out trade magazines for details of journalists that may be interested in your offer – but do your research first. A health journalist that writes for a cancer title may not want news of a mental health charity. Thinking your news is really news Once you’ve launched, and have your ‘PR’ head on, you will be rightfully proud of your product, premises, website, new colourway, etc, and may write news releases for your target media. But is it really news? Does it benefit a magazine journalist or title in any way – is it an exclusive, or ‘scoop’? If not, it isn’t really news, and is something you really should be paying for, by way of an advertorial or advert. Don’t waste contacts by sending nonPR CONSULTANT, newsworthy press KATHY CARTER OF WWW.SIRENIA. releases; you will CO.UK IS A MEMBER only annoy them.


THE RIGHT KIND OF PR 1. Identify your USPs and include them in all literature. Stick to the old adage of selling ‘sizzle not steak’. 2. Set up your social media channels and include their details on your literature, email signature and website. Dedicate time weekly to enhance your profile and populating your channels. 3. PR is about relationships dedicate time to developing relationships with influencers on LinkedIn, by joining relevant groups that are populated by potential clients and contacts. 4. Shout about customer successes – build a database of testimonials, with photos if possible, of customers who advocate you. If they’re too busy to write a testimonial, do it for them, but gain approval! 5. Identify key media outlets, buy magazines, and submit article ideas. Get to know key journalists – Tweet them useful info, and re-Tweet relevant posts of theirs. 6. Be honest. If an order is not fulfilled, a client lost, or there’s a negative occurrence, tell it like it is.

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Your 3-Month Journey to a Socially Successful Business The F7 Social Media Accelerator is a 7-step “doing” programme and support network for business owners, marketers and brand managers. Each 1-day module is presented by the UK’s leading specialist in their field, who have each helped some of the country’s top brands to turn their social media efforts into measurable, effective and profitable results … which is exactly what we deliver to you, over the course of the 3-month schedule. Workbooks and notes accompany each session, with actions and instructions along the way. We don’t believe in running seminars that build the hype, before leaving you alone to slip into old, or no habits at all … once you sign up, you’ll gain entry into our Private Facebook and Linkedin groups, as well as our regular Support Webinars, Twitter chats and Google Hangouts – The F7 community of attendees provide vast amounts of support and collaboration to each other, long after the live event schedule has completed. Whatever industry you’re in; whether B2B or B2C, retail or service-based, we’ll show you how to do it, market it more-efficiently, for more people than ever before.

Registrations now open for our next Programme, starting May 14th. Here’s what previous delegates have to say… “Having started the F7SM programme in March 2012, I am already seeing results. The team has compiled a clever, innovative programme with an engaging approach. I am supported between training days by excellent teleconferences, vlogs, tweet-ups and personal messages of support. Loving the decision to give the time to this.” Dinah Liversidge, Business Mentor “I’m currently on Matt Hodkinson’s F7 Social Media Programme and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to up their game in the social media world. He’s not only very likeable and approachable, but he has a talent for delivering his informative material” Nigel Camp, Video Production Specialist

Call us today to speak to an F7 Mentor about what the programme could do for your business! 01932 500 501 | f7social.com | @f7social | facebook.com/f7social | youtube.com/f7social

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SILK PURSE OR SOW’S EAR That’s the difference between good design and bad design. How can you tell when design is good or bad? EASY. Good design will differentiate, influence and deliver tangible results. Your brand identity represents one of the most effective ways of influencing the marketing perceptions of your organisation.

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03/04/2012 16:01


THE IN CROWD Inform director, Karsten Horn discusses why crowd sourcing will shake up business processes in 2012, and why the supply chain must be prepared to become more social with its operations, in order to drive competitive advantage and thrive in the long-term.


Crowding round a business Innovation and managing talent are clear strategic focal points for business today. One way that companies are unlocking innovation through knowledge and creativity is an approach known as crowd sourcing. This method enables a company to broadcast an issue to a wide-ranging and diverse audience — using a variety of social media and collaborative software solutions, enabling interaction and ultimately a resolution to the problem. I strongly believe crowd sourcing is set to shake up business processes this year, and more companies will adopt it as a strategy. Organisations that have already employed this have experienced solutions to internal problems and innovation needs. 2012 presents a strategic opportunity for business leaders to champion a collaborative digital approach that will allow an organisation to reap the benefits of today’s community-centric culture and instant communications. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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Planning for today and tomorrow


One area where crowd sourcing can have a huge impact on your business operations is within the supply chain. In the past, businesses had to invest heavily in technology to improve process efficiency. These investments included traditional ERP platforms that allow quick end-to-end visibility of the supply chain. These systems do not, however, offer much support evaluating the impact of risk on the supply chain. This can leave you making decisions looking back at problems that have occurred, rather than planning ahead and anticipating or managing them in real time. A lack of adequate risk evaluation leaves you exposed to higher costs, can have a negative impact on service levels, and can leave your business open to significant fire fighting. Additionally, the savings made in improved efficiency at the operational level are often negated by the cost of a solution, such as urgent transport in an emergency.

Instant feedback Crowd sourcing is a solution, which offers a proactive real-time approach to supply chain management. It enables even a new business to react instantly to demand changes or problems, and subsequently minimise risk and consequent impact, and potentially generate advantage from unforeseen events. Crowd sourcing presents a potential treasure trove of influence and insight to a company’s changing environment – which can have immediate impact on core operations, such as supply chain management. For example, there are an increasing number of social media tools, mobile and location services that make it simple for people to broadcast data about where they are and what they are doing. This means a plethora of real-time information is constantly available, on everything from pinpointing roads in need of repairs

decisions within the supply to which stores are out chain. You must filter of stock on a ‘I STRONGLY these messages and particular product. BELIEVE CROWD identify those with the For your business, SOURCING IS SET TO greatest relevance to this real-time data SHAKE UP BUSINESS your operation. For could prove an PROCESSES THIS example, picking up invaluable aid, YEAR, AND MORE on extreme weather alongside planning COMPANIES WILL ADOPT IT AS A alerts can help you to and forecasting STRATEGY’ react instantly and technologies to help source alternative deal with unexpected transport routes. logistical issues such as Crowd sourcing is an motorway closures, air freight enlightening tool to possess, but it’s delays, natural disasters and equally as essential that companies are extreme weather. Access to this data able to make informed long-term can enable you to react instantly by business decisions to support their putting into place strategies to deal longevity. To do this, you need with the problem. forecasting systems, which provide As we approach the 2012 Olympics, organisations across the country will be accurate statistical information based on historical sales and dynamic thinking strategically about how to take parameters that continue to learn. full advantage. However, they will also Additional information can then be be thinking practically about the impact layered on top of this base information the Games will have across operations, to provide a clearer as well as on the supply chain. picture of likely demand. I believe that data assimilated through crowd sourcing can be used to support and verify the The event is likely to cause a host of suggestions given by forecasting disruptions, particularly around travel. systems. For example, combining Taking advantage of the insight that logistics-related information, such as crowd sourcing offers – by keeping road closures with demand forecastabreast of communications on social related information, such as products networks, for example – will allow that are trending and popular locations, businesses to increase the flexibility which may cause spikes in product and dynamism of their supply chains demand. and enable quicker reactions to Having access to this over-arching changing circumstances. information will allow you to update current and future planning New Year, new crowd parameters and improve the In my opinion, 2012 will see crowd flexibility of your supply chain. sourcing become a key enabler for I predict that 2012 will be the agile response and process handling, year businesses become more social and businesses that begin to integrate with their operations, in order to it into their day-to-day operations will drive competitive advantage. Those see the most benefit. that effectively layer crowd sourcing This means establishing ‘listening over existing forecasting and posts’ on various communication planning solutions will drive channels, such as the various social real-time guidance and networks, in order to capture critical recommendations and achieve conversations that can drive process better business outcomes.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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08/03/2012 16:32





You’re expanding, space is becoming an issue, but how do you ensure a smooth move from spare bedroom to office? Chris Meredith, head of UK sales at officebroker.com, provides an insight into when and how you should go about moving into your first office

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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ost small businesses start out in a back bedroom or study, in a bid to keep costs down while things are getting off the ground. However, there comes a point in every firm’s life when the time comes to spread its wings and move to its first dedicated office. This is a big step for any young business, and with so many options out there, the choices can be baffling. So how do you know when it’s time to make the move?

The dom-work divide Working from home can provide a step on the ladder for fledgling businesses – but the scope and level of professionalism can easily be compromised when the boundaries between domestic and work life begin to come crashing down. For example, it can often be difficult to concentrate on putting an eye-catching proposal together if your children are running in and out of the room or your next-door neighbour decides they want to play their music at full blast. Acknowledging this is often the first sign that you are ready to leave the spare bedroom and begin the process of securing your first office. By opting to create a dedicated, external workspace, you ensure that your time is fully committed to the task at hand – safeguarding the current and future success of your business. Another telltale sign you are ready to make the move, is when the credibility of your residential address starts to impact on the business you are able to secure.

The truth is that many clients and potential customers will judge you, your ability and your suitability on the image you project – so you may find opportunities restricted if you present the image of a small cottage industry operation. Small can mean bespoke or boutique, but many people in business see size as a measure of success and ultimately trustworthiness. So whether it is the distractions of home life or the residential address that stands out like a sore thumb on your business card – splitting your working life into a separate location can aid focus, productivity and status.

concerns, ensuring you maintain the right environment for growth and productivity should take the lead in your decision-making process. This is one of the principle advantages associated with serviced offices – with flexible licences and fixed monthly costs providing a low-risk platform, from which businesses can dip their toe into the world of dedicated commercial property. It might seem better for the business to resist a move and keep things simple but by doing so you may be limiting your long-term growth options and ultimately restrict your firm’s potential.


Face the facts The repeated round of coffee-shop get-togethers and hired meeting rooms which have served you well for a few months, are ultimately no long term substitute for a professional address with professional facilities. Making the move to a serviced office provides a solid business address, support services and access to the kind of facilities that will add a professional edge to your face-to-face activities. Your office doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it needs to serve your business needs and pretty much any professional space will do so better than your local Starbucks!

Growing pains All too often new businesses will resist the need to move – holding off and stretching their resources thinner and thinner in the process, which clearly cannot go on forever. While the prospect of moving to their first commercial location can raise

Storage king – or queen Many people hoard, but the prospect of piles of paper, box files, receipts and even stock slowly filling your home, garage and garden is enough to turn many people onto minimalism. A cluttered home means a cluttered mind and this is never great for maximising productivity or growing your business. Not only does moving to a dedicated office allow you to mentally separate home and work life – but it also allows you to separate them physically. Achieving this segmentation of your two worlds ensures that home remains just that – a place in which you can enjoy downtime and ultimately relax – without the nagging knowledge that the world of work is looming just down the hallway.

Owner to employer Another common realisation, which brings with it the need to take office space, is that you are no longer an www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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60 individual – but that you have transformed into an employer of others. Do you want your employees in your private space every day? Do your employees feel comfortable in this environment and does it create the kind of environment that produces maximum productivity? If not, it could again be time to search, select and secure a dedicated office space for you and your employees to work from.

Want versus need

Refine and define

Sometimes in life, it’s hard to distinguish between what you want and what you need, and this can often be the case when looking for the perfect office. Be prepared to learn during your search – the majority of decision-makers quickly realise that there is a gap between what they think they want and what they actually need. Remember that the most expensive space is dead space – so do you really need that big coffee table to impress clients?

As already mentioned, the most expensive space is dead space – but this does not just apply to the number of desks being used on a daily basis. Looking beyond the four walls, it is also worth noting that additional services, such as meeting rooms and photocopying, are often available ad-hoc in serviced offices – a bonus if you only require occasional access to such services, particularly when you consider the cost of supporting them on a permanent basis.

Location – does it matter?

Culture conscious

Specific industries need to locate themselves in certain geographic areas – but this is not the case for everyone. Consider covering the market by exploring a wider area and considering how this may impact elements such as the daily commute of your employees. A prime spot in the city centre might seem like a step forward for your business, but it might not to your employees after they arrive drained from their extra 30-minute commute.

A final word of caution; you know how sometimes a person tries to join a group of existing friends but doesn’t quite fit in? Well, this can be the case for businesses when moving into a shared space too. Make sure your company culture matches that of other firms in the building you’re considering.

Don’t lead with cost This might come as a shock to some, but money – or at least cost – isn’t everything. When you look for office space, there are a dozen things you will need to take into account – but price will only ever be one of them. Instead of starting with price, first select the features you need from your office space. By fulfilling the majority of your requirements, you will gain true value from the office you ultimately select.



April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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23/03/2012 13:40



comfortably Stefan Boyle discusses how storytelling can educate, build trust and help convert prospects into loyal customers


Stories are told everywhere – in movies, songs, books – the list is almost endless. Stories stir our emotions, make us happy, angry, joyous or sad. They can lead us toward achieving greatness and to share the story with others. So why not build your story into your brand and your marketing? Why do so many owners of small- to mediumsized businesses put together the content for their marketing and suddenly forget about any form of history – of ups and downs, success and failure – and write sterile, uninspiring twaddle that is instantly forgettable? I am not sure if there is some kind of ‘corporate BS’ copywriting school that people attend in order to learn how to explain how many years they have been in business, their good customer service, their qualifications and accreditations. Who cares? OK, I’m being facetious, as in some cases and in certain markets having accreditations is important, but they are certainly not going to get your prospects diving for the phone to spend all of their money with you. Personally, I love to know a little more about a company, and if you are using a set of core stories in your marketing, it helps people understand why you and your company are different. Engaging with the customer This is not so much about what you do, but about your values and what you care about – and the fact that you care so much is what is engaging to others and helps people connect. The stories must resonate through every touch-point of your business and you and any staff must be part of that. We all know the cliché that people buy people but it is true. When you build your

story into your marketing and you show what you are about, you can connect with like-minded people. However, here’s the downside. When you show your true self and give honest opinions and views, you are not going to get everyone to agree with you. We can’t agree with everyone but it’s so important in business to have the confidence to put yourself out there and be bold. Some people were never going to buy from you anyway, and others may want to shop around for the best price and not for the real value you add. Education is key to your story How you engage with people is often about showing your credentials, your experience and knowledge, and proving that you are the ‘go-to guys’ in your market. If you educate and help your potential prospects and existing customers, you build trust and you can have the biggest influence on your target market. By educating your market, you start to build a loyal following or, as legendary marketer, Seth Godin describes this group – a tribe. Godin has spoken in great detail about the concept of ‘permission marketing’, where you gain the privilege, not the right, to communicate personal and relevant information to people who actually want to receive it. This relates back to adding value to your STEFAN BOYLE market, which is often in the form of educational IS THE FOUNDER information. Before you sell a thing, if you build OF PRINTREPUBLIC up a list of subscribers who have opted to AND A SMALL receive highly relevant and useful information BUSINESS MARKETING from you for free, you will position yourself EXPERT. VISIT WWW.PRINTREPUBIC.CO.UK and your business as one of trust.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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08/03/2012 16:16


PLANNING IN UNC£RTAIN TIMES Five strategic steps to success, from author and software implementation expert, Rob Prinzo



he start of the new financial year marks the beginning of planning and budgeting season. One small problem: the economic sluggishness that was supposed to be behind us has reared its ugly head once again. With wild swings in the market, who can’t help but feel a bit skittish? Nevertheless, you want to move your initiatives forward and you’ll undoubtedly be asked for your plan regardless of funding limitations. But how do you prioritise your projects and develop a strategy to move forward in this economic environment? Developing a strategy does not have to be a major event requiring an off-site retreat, consultants, breakout sessions and flip charts. The following is a simple five-step process that can be conducted in one to two hour-long sessions. The result will be an effective, prioritised plan for your business. You may even surprise yourself and find that there are a number of initiatives that you can move forward without additional resources. Rob Prinzo is founder and CEO of The Prinzo Group, an innovative knowledge firm that provides performance management expertise through project assurance solutions for enterprise transformation and technology projects. It also provides performance measurement research, publications, workshops and training. He holds a Master’s Degree in industrial management and a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing, both from Clemson University



STEP 1 Make a list of all your projects, big and small. By developing a comprehensive list, you’ll feel more organised (if perhaps temporarily overwhelmed). STEP 2 Categorise the projects in a spreadsheet using the following criteria: Size (big or small) Function (business process or technology) Type (new project or part of existing operations) Funding required (yes or no) Level of effort (high, medium or low) Resources (requires additional resources or can be absorbed by existing staff) Organisational impact (high, medium or low) STEP 3 Determine what projects are dependent on the following factors: Other projects Funding Resources Business decisions Highlight projects without dependencies and rate your team’s ability to influence the dependencies. STEP 4 Based on the categories and dependencies, prioritise the projects according to the following: Low hanging fruit – small projects with few or no dependencies that have an immediate impact, and can be achieved with no additional resources. Examples include implementing existing systems functionality requested by end users, cleaning up customer lists or developing new ways to analyse data to make better decisions. Intermediate projects – smallto medium-sized projects that make a measurable impact with dependencies that can be influenced by you or your team. Consider breaking up long-term initiatives into

smaller projects or break out the upfront requirements definition into separate projects. Examples include rolling out additional system functionality, gathering business requirements, documenting processes or evaluating vendors in preparation of a larger project that is inevitable but unlikely to happen this budget cycle due to the economy. Long-term initiatives – medium- to large-sized projects that have a significant impact on your business, but have significant dependencies outside the influence of the team. Examples include business process transformation projects, new system implementations or new strategic initiatives. STEP 5 Putting it all together. Based on your list, start by developing a plan to knock out the low hanging fruit. Hopefully, this will clear your plate of some nagging initiatives and make room for larger projects when funding is available. If you are unable to secure funding for inevitable long-term initiatives this year, try to get a head start by working on the intermediate projects that are needed for long-term initiatives. This strategy will prepare for the larger projects, reduce the overall project timeframe for the bulk of the work and spread the cost over a longer time period. If you are ready to move forward on long-term initiatives, make sure that your requirements analysis is complete. Most projects failures are attributed to poor upfront requirements analysis. In reality, you can’t escape the inevitable, nor can you ignore the economic environment. However, having a realistic strategy developed through methodical planning will help keep your business moving forward towards its long-term goals.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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09/03/2012 15:05


Sue Tumelty, founder and managing director of HR Dept, shares advice on why it makes sense to outsource HR and how to find the right support for your new business



o, Government wants small businesses to help rebuild the economy and create jobs. But when running a business is a new experience, how do you deal with the challenges of managing employees? Most employers recognise that they need specialist support to ensure legal compliance, remain competitive and avoid or deal with potential problems. Professional support probably won’t be necessary all the time and certainly not at the start-up stage, but it is sensible to ensure you know where to access sound HR advice. There will likely come a point in your business growth when outsourcing HR becomes the best option. Few would employ an in-house accountant from day one, but when systems for VAT and tax returns are needed, advice and support is often needed. Likewise HR.

Choosing the right time Organising holiday and recording sickness absence can usually be easily managed as part of the administration process. Businesses can also write their own policies and produce forms, for example, on expenses claims. But once policies become influenced by employment legislation it’s usually best to get help. Start-ups often find they first need HR support for drawing up contracts of

employment, which have to be issued within eight weeks of someone starting work. For inexperienced entrepreneurs this can be a daunting time. Recruitment is key to building a successful team, but early appointments can be difficult. By drawing up a comprehensive job description, the skills an applicant will need become clear, saving you the screening of hundreds of CVs. Good HR support at this stage also means foundations for a future appraisal system are being laid. As your business grows, you may want to consider in-house HR. If you have a good deal of recruitment and HR administration, then an employed advisor is probably a sound decision. Outsource companies can then add strategic level support. Outsourced HR support can be there to help with everything from a phone call to attending a board strategy meeting. Larger companies, where the MD’s secretary or office manager has traditionally overseen HR, often approach outsourcing from a different stance. Growth may catapult the business from being a small family firm with few issues to needing its whole structure revisiting. Here external support can bring an objective professional overview, developing policies and procedures for a more effective operation, without losing the family feel. Through access

to cost-effective advice, decisions affecting profitability can be made speedily and legally. Outsourcing means having highly qualified professionals as part of your team, bringing honest external opinion and a wealth of expertise – and you only pay for the services you use. Be prepared however that some HR administration will still be needed in-house, and MDs may take time to adjust to being given more forthright opinion of their actions than they may be used to and having less control of the HR function.

Finding your perfect partner Crucially, every business needs an HR company that they feel comfortable with. Options range from national organisations to individual consultants running their own small businesses, accountancy and law firms with specialist departments to small local HR business specialists. It is important that your HR support provider offers a complete range of HR and employment law advice and support – you can never predict what issues your business may face. Make sure the HR provider understands your business. A track record in dealing with corporate clients is fine and dandy, but do they understand the realities and pressures micro- and SME business owners face daily? Large organisations are more likely to suggest

March2012 April 2012www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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‘best practice’ solutions – fine for Marks and Spencer, but not always practical for smaller firms.

What’s in it for me? Once you have shortlisted potential partners, look at the small print. Do they offer everything you need – and more? Do you get access to an advice line? Do they back their service with legal expenses insurance to protect against tribunal costs? And do the policies cover award costs as well as legal expenses? Establish how quickly any enquiry will be responded to, if you can have on-site help with meetings and whether there is a clear pricing structure – with no hidden extras.

Check the length of the proposed contract term; small businesses don’t need long commitments. Also, the risk for a small firm of two employees is so slight that good advice ‘as needed’ should be sufficient and MDs should resist any hard sales approaches.

The longer term As you start-out, HR advice and support should be there when you need it. As you grow your business, in-house and outsourced HR can work co-operatively together. If you want your business to flourish, is now the time to call in the HR professionals so you can concentrate your time and energy on making sales and growing your business instead?

HR Dept supports microand SME businesses and organisations through a nationwide network of offices and offers practical and pragmatic advice on employment issues and people management dilemmas. Sign up for a regular People Matters newsletter by calling 0800 6101166 or visit: www.hrdept.co.uk for more information

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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08/02/2012 11:02




Hiring and firing can be tricky for new businesses – but it doesn’t have to be, says Adam Shaw, managing director of Assured Recruitment

here’s nothing more rewarding than finding a perfect hire – that special applicant. Of course it may take time, extensive searching and assessment, but you can’t deny how rewarding it is. In terms of the financial benefits, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) claims that the average cost of replacing a member of staff is £6,125; rising to £9,000 for senior managers. This gives employers an incentive to tread carefully through the recruitment process. But understanding the culture of your business is imperative if you’re looking to create a successful, long-term appointment, as it will help you to hire someone based on their compatibility with you and your company, as well as their skills and qualifications. Considering cultural compatibility will give you a good idea of how the appointment is likely to affect the company and its employees, providing you with a clearer picture of how the appointment will work out on the whole.


CORPORATE CULTURE – WHAT IS IT? Corporate culture is best described as a company’s make-up – how that company behaves, interacts and exists. Although difficult to explain, the vibe that culture creates becomes instantly apparent when you walk into a company. This can be seen in decision-making, the work environment, hours, and hierarchy. However, these are only the surface layer of culture and the www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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FOCUS ON PEOPLE RECRUITING FOR START UPS attributes that are visible. The more powerful aspects of corporate culture require greater observation, and are formed by the beliefs, standards, perspectives, attitudes, as well as the internal and private conversations of the company’s employees. These attributes become the foundation for all actions and decisions within a team, department, and the company itself. Despite not always being an intentional creation, every company has a culture, which evolves from the core values of the business. That’s why it’s not enough to just adopt someone else’s culture – others can inspire you, but ultimately you must make your culture your own.


THE DETERMINING FACTOR Qualifications and experience may appear impressive on paper, but don’t let them deceive you. Just because your applicant has the correct skills for the role, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the right person for the job. You need to look beyond and assess them as a person. Ambition, attitude, values, motivation – these are the true determining factors for finding your perfect applicant, and making them your perfect hire. Although it’s not an approach adopted by all employers, assessing cultural suitability is becoming a more widespread practice in the selection process. With the increasing number of unemployed applying for jobs in record numbers, employers are faced with the task of sifting through more applications and CVs, which lengthens the process even more, and attracts people that are in no way suitable for the role on offer. So how does this cultural compatibility really help to separate the wheat from the chaff? From my point of view, if an applicant has the required skills and experience for a role, as well as a make up that is similar to the pace and atmosphere within the workplace, then the likelihood of them being culturally compatible is high. But it takes much


more than that – you need to look at the applicant’s goals and aspirations, and ask yourself: does this individual’s ambitions align with those of the company? Once you have decided which applicants have the skills and qualifications needed for the role, it’s then time to turn your attention to their cultural assessment. You may have 20 applicants who are capable of executing the duties of the job, but who will bring the most to the company? I’m not saying your employees should be like clones of one another, but the way in which they interact with each other and assist each other can push the company to another level. There are means and ways of doing this, which include taking the time to interview applicants for the business; not just the role, but comparing their character to the culture within the workplace, and many other methods that, if you are willing to take the time, will allow you to decide whether that applicant is worth pursuing. EXTEND AND IMPROVE Becoming a successful recruiter requires a great range of skills, even more so when recruiting for seniorlevel roles. It becomes more than simply finding the best person on the market, you need to find the best person in the market, regardless of their job-seeking status. In order to achieve this, you must focus on companies with a similar culture to yours, develop an extensive network of contacts and sought-after

candidates, be aware of who’s looking to move up, and who’s looking to move on (before they announce it), and ultimately demonstrate to these professionals the fact that you can offer them something more suitable and enticing than they already have. For more general roles, it may be worth looking at your recruitment process and identifying areas for improvement, which will make it easier for you further down the line. This may mean updating your application form to enquire more about the individual’s background, finding out why they have done what they have done, inviting prospective employees to spend a day with the company, allowing you to see them in action, and undertaking a cultural assessment interview in the early stages of the process, as opposed to the final stages. There are many different ways for employers to improve their recruitment process, and the choices often depend on their industry and the size of their business. The aim of the game is to find the best employees for your business, so putting in the work in the early stages will make it much easier and cost effective for you later on. AFTERCARE When you have hired your applicant, it’s important to have measures in place to ensure their transition goes smoothly, making it easier for them with minimal disruption to any other employees.

CONTACT: www.assuredrecruit.com

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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It’s a growing sector in the UK, but Diane Morris asks why interim management is male dominated, when it’s actually a perfect small business choice for women too



According to Russam GMS, only around 20% of the people on its database of 12,000 interim managers are women, and this broadly reflects the picture in the industry as a whole. It recently surveyed 1,600 women to find out why they became interims. The research highlighted that the top drivers for women were the desire to work for different clients in diverse industry sectors, the attraction of working for themselves and the wish to have greater career flexibility in their working lives. Another major attraction was that it offered a way for them to gain new skills and experience from every new assignment. And, in spite of commanding an average of £604 per day, money was not a major motivator. However, the research exposed some of the challenges interims faced when starting out. Top of the list was securing their first assignment; second was networking and marketing to win business; and third was defining their professional product to clients. Half of all women found the transition from permanent to interim work difficult and said that it took several months or more to find work, with some taking up to a year. The women surveyed gave some straight talking advice and practical tips to ‘would be’ interims, which I want to share with you. These tips were truly inspirational and motivating, but also practical and realistic – providing a true

‘warts and all’ insight. Here are a few of my favourites: •T  ake time to make a decision and consider the options. Prepare a financial cushion of at least a year’s outgoings before taking the plunge •T  alk with other interim managers to get a feel for what the role is like •P  repare a business plan •B  e flexible and ready to learn •A  pply for lots of credit before starting because it will take two years to build up the credit rating again. Register for VAT before making any purchases •M  ake sure you can deal with the uncertainty of the work and cash flow •P  resent yourself as a complete professional. Meet and register with interim management agencies and have a clearly defined service offer •D  o your homework to make sure it is the right career choice for you, such as what benefits will you bring to a client? What are your strengths? What are your needs? Is there a market for what you have to offer? •Y  ou need to be self-motivated and get on with the job of generating business – even though you may not always feel like it. Ensure you have a good network of contacts – join LinkedIn •O  nce you are sure this is what you want to do, stick at it and don’t give up There is evidently a pool of seasoned and experienced executives out there, who can provide businesses with specialist skills and fill in senior level gaps, undertake strategic business projects, or help them solve their toughest business challenges.

ABOUT INTERIM WOMEN Interim Women was set up in 2007 as the first and only business network for women working as interim managers. The aims of the network are to promote interim management as an attractive business for women, to help equip and support women moving into interim, to promote women who are working as interim managers and connect them with one another to share advice, learning, friendship and best practice. www.interimwomen.com

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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AND THE WINNER IS… There is nothing more inspiring than an unconventional success story for a budding entrepreneur, which is why the UK’s most successful businesswomen are applauding the NatWest everywoman Awards ounded by Karen Gill and Maxine Benson in September 1999, everywoman is the UK’s largest independent network for women in business, with over 40,000 members. ‘Everywoman was launched to provide a source for women looking for information in order to start their own business. Its focus is to challenge and change the mind-sets of women in business, to increase the numbers, and raise the status of women in the economic community,’ says Karen Gill, co-founder of everywoman. In 2003 the everywoman Awards were launched to celebrate inspirational businesswomen who have achieved


significant success, particularly those who have had to overcome adversity, such as financial constraints, social disadvantages and skill gaps. ‘The Awards play an invaluable role in both recognising success and inspiring other women to venture into the field of business,’ added Gill. ‘We met a number of exceptional businesswomen, whose stories we felt would encourage others to achieve their dreams, and as a result decided to launch these awards.’ NatWest was chosen as a partner as it shares a positive outlook on encouraging women into business. In existence for almost 10 years, the awards continue to support and highlight the success of the UK’s businesswomen. The NatWest everywoman Awards are launched annually in early April, with an entry deadline at the end of July. The awards ceremony takes place on 5 December at The Dorchester, London. If you think you are an inspiring entrepreneur – or you know someone who is – you can apply free online to one of the following categories: the Artemis www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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Award, which is given to the most inspirational woman running a business who is aged 25 or under; the Demeter Award for the age group 26 to 35; the Athena Award for 36 to 49-year-olds; and the Hera Award for those aged 50 and above. Entrants can also choose to be put forward for the Iris Award. This special award is given to a successful female entrepreneur whose business growth and success has been greatly improved, specifically through implementation and use of IT and communications. Two other special awards are the Hestia Award; given to the most inspirational and successful female entrepreneur who runs a business in a remote rural location and makes a contribution to the local community, and the Gaia Award; given to the most inspirational and successful female entrepreneur who runs a business with a clearly defined social and/or ethical purpose at its heart. In addition, the judges will also choose the overall NatWest everywoman Award winners; recognising the most passionate and dedicated woman business owner who the judges feel has overcome significant challenges to achieve outstanding business success, the Spirit of everywoman Award; recognising the significant contribution of a woman whose determination, commitment and dedication has changed the landscape for women in business in the UK, and the everywoman Ambassador Award; awarded to a successful woman whose achievements and high profile are inspiring more young women to excel. ‘Applicants are judged, not just on their business success, but their personal successes and achievements and how they individually inspire others. While solid financial planning and business success must be demonstrated, the focus of these awards is on raising the profile of female entrepreneurs as role models to others, so the entrant’s journey is as important as their accomplishments,’ explains Gill. Boasting an impressive number of high profile female ambassadors, such

as Dame Mary Perkins, the awards offer entrants the chance to win a bespoke trophy, but more significantly the award is an acknowledgement from leading figures in the industry, which brings with it attention and support from the business community, Government, industry and press. Gill discusses why business can be a

EVERYWOMAN WAS LAUNCHED TO PROVIDE A SOURCE FOR WOMEN LOOKING FOR INFORMATION IN ORDER TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS tough place for women: ‘Research shows that women directors in British boardrooms are at their highest ever level of 14.9%*. Despite this, women are still often underrepresented in senior management. Industries such as technology and transport and logistics are still often seen as an exclusively male domain. ‘What is important for all to understand is that the gender gap is a complex issue. It isn’t solely down to women not being given opportunities. It is more about the different levels of confidence and ambition between

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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men and women. For entrepreneurs, the challenge around confidence and self esteem is the same as for women within corporates, but there is also the issue of starting the business in the first place, gaining funding, putting themselves out there to win business. With research identifying that women are often more risk adverse, this can hold them back. However, equally they can build more secure, stable organisations. ‘There is a very real need to establish a model of empowerment, leadership and confidence amongst girls and young women at an early age. Creating a pipeline of talent is vital in order to ensure this model is maintained. Raising the profile of women, especially within industries that tend to be more male dominated, is vital, which is why our Awards programme plays such an important role in highlighting the successful women within these industries, and as entrepreneurs – and they in turn inspire more women to forge successful careers in these sectors.’ Last year’s winner of the Athena category, Archie Archer, never believed she could be a winner, but today is relishing in

the recognition she deserves: ‘I never dreamed I would win as there was such strong competition. It’s been incredible to be called a winner and judged by such successful women who believed I was worthy of the award, I’m beyond thrilled.’ Archer won for her entertainment company, Contraband International, which represents over 1,500 artists with a turnover in excess of £1.7m. With an emphasis on overcoming difficulties in business, Archer chose to apply as she felt the award was relatable and believes her far-from-easy start in the business may have swayed the judges. ‘I would say my story has been quite unconventional. I’ve no business background, I’ve never worked for anyone else, I don’t know how other companies work – I’ve simply learnt everything from scratch. I guess not many people can say they have ever sold everything they owned in the world to set up a business,’ she says. With only the profits from selling everything she owned, Archer flew to India to start a business. She started by

running a market stall that evolved into importing and exporting from a factory in India, manufacturing for high street department stores. From there she began exhibition trading, then entered into online mail order, which grew into the entertainment agency she runs today. Archer added: ‘The journey has certainly been a colourful one. I didn’t set up a business when I owned a house or after having had a successful career, I started right at the bottom of the pile, sofa surfing for a couple of years and very much living hand-to-mouth, but I’ve worked up to where I am now, with no financial assistance, through a difficult divorce and through being a single mum.’ Archer’s story is certainly inspiring, which goes hand-in-hand with what the NatWest everywoman Awards aim to achieve. ‘It can be daunting to take that first step and take the plunge to set up and run your own business, but every winner and finalist has a story to tell, and reading about how other women have made a success can only help but inspire – if that woman did it, then so can I! ‘I can’t recommend enough having goals rather than simply setting up a business with the sole purpose of making money. Set up a business with honesty, passion and integrity, and money will be a byproduct of that. Always ask yourself, why are you doing this? What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to be? Having something clear and defined as to what you want, no matter how impossible or far away it sounds, is crucial,’ advises Archer. For winner of the Artemis Award, Samantha Coe, the award was a delightful end to an exceptionally bad year. ‘We had a tough year between 2010 and 2011. My business was broken into and vandalized, and I lost all that I had built up over my first year of trading. To be hit with that devastating blow was incredibly tough, and I have to admit the option of closing was considered. But I took a different route, and threw myself into taking this negative situation and turning it into a positive one.’


CONTACT: www.everywoman.com/ewawards/how www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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Everything You Need to Start or Grow Your Business It’s no doubt that useful business advice can be hard to come by, even in an age when entrepreneurialism is on the up and information on how to run a business is everywhere. It’s brilliant to have all of that information at your fingertips, but it can be stifling and even counter productive. It can mean you spend hours reading up on subjects that aren’t even relevant to your business. To battle the overload of stats, advice and tips, you must learn to be selective on the information you absorb, and selective on where you seek it out. The Business Show strives to deliver what the UK’s entrepreneurial community craves – valuable information from the experts and encouragement, tips and advice from real business people who’ve been there and done it. It will see business leaders come from the world over to deliver key advice on starting and growing a business in any sector – whether you are looking to grow your business through franchising or preparing to start your very first enterprise, The Business Show will arm you with all the information you need to succeed. The Business Startup Show has been running for over 12 years, with May’s show at ExCel to become the 27th of its kind. In those 12 years the show has built a reputation as the country’s leading business show, bringing together a heady mix of big name entrepreneurs, interactive features and essential business information. The show has grown to become the UK’s biggest, now encompassing The Great British Business Show – an event aimed at business looking to grow – with both shows forming The Business Show.

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What makes this show different? This May, the show organisers, Prysm Group have vowed to bring visitors only the most relevant, constructive information for starting or growing a business. The show will pool helpful resources such as workshops from the best in industry, interactive one-to-one sessions with business leaders, and seminars on subjects from cloud computing to branding. The show will be the biggest to date; yet it is geared to be the most pertinent, eager to provide bespoke advice, insight and inspiration to tens of thousands of aspiring businesses and their owners. Tom Borthen, Marketing Director at The Business Show said, “We are focusing on giving business owners the tools and information that will enable them to go back to their offices and make an immediate impact on their businesses. The seminars, hands-on workshops and expert speakers are designed to give business owners advice on everything from marketing to buying rival firms, yet at the same time inspire the visitor to look at their business in a new light, and ultimately improve their bottom line”

Why Visit? Put simply, there is no show quite like it. If you have aspirations of becoming the next David Gold, go and see him speak. If you have designs on learning the fundamentals of internet marketing, go to a workshop delivered by the experts. If you want to find out about the latest technologies and business tools available, talk to a specialist exhibitor. If you’re starting or growing a business, The Business Show is the mustattend event.

The show remains completely free to attend, and booking your tickets couldn’t be easier – simply visit www.businessexpo.biz or call 08000 686970

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he economic challenges continue to be some of the toughest the UK has seen for years. Small businesses must strive for efficiency, streamline processes, work smarter and be more aggressive with their marketing just to survive, let alone thrive. Yet many small firms are overlooking a key asset: their diversity of staff. Gender, age, nationality all make up very different perspectives and ways of dealing with issues. Some environments have been multi-cultural for a long time. For example, in Singapore, it’s one reason why organisations doing business there are usually successful. Differences in points of view on how to approach markets are embraced, and individuals conduct business by adapting to cultural characteristics. It is hard to determine the true significance of how important these cultural values are when doing business. For example, I quickly learned that my American way of getting down to business with a minimum of small talk simply doesn’t travel. The British way of discussing the weather, being complimentary about the country I was visiting and sharing a cup of tea at the start of a meeting went much further to building long-term business relationships. APPROACHING DIFFERENCES The fact is diversity is the norm in UK

business, and it makes for very different perspectives and ways of dealing with issues. In the UK, we are an inclusive culture, and tend largely to ignore, or politely overlook differences, which can preclude us from recognising and harnessing the talents of a diverse group of people. Small business has the advantage of being proactive in deciding to use the untapped potential of a diverse group of staff. If we give staff permission to contribute safely, surprising insights on tackling common business problems can be gained. TAKE ADVANTAGE Firstly, improve awareness of different cultural perspectives. Talk. Be interested in your colleagues’ backgrounds and values. Learn about the different ways they view the world, relationships and everyday life. Secondly, from the different backgrounds you encounter within your organisation; understand what skills might be available to you. These may be languages or a deep knowledge of a particular culture, region or market. Diverse skills may be a great help in negotiation situations. For customer and supplier relationships, cultural empathy can be helpful – most obviously when moving into new markets. With the UK economy continuing to struggle, many small firms are looking to export further afield

About Farnham castle A world leader in inter-cultural business skills training and global mobility programmes, Farnham Castle provides detailed briefings on individual cultures, with a comprehensive range of face-to-face, live web-based and podcast-format programmes, designed to provide the cross-cultural skills and understanding required to be more effective in the global business environment. For further information, visit www.farnhamcastle.com

and an employee with a different cultural background can provide invaluable insight into how to approach people in that region. Language skills may be applicable, or access to knowledge that will enable avoiding making major faux pas. Managing diversity requires sensitive handling. However, making a conscious effort to see how diverse skill sets can be utilised for the good of the business as a whole, might just give small firms the competitive edge they are looking for in today’s challenging marketplace.



Donna Marsh, consultant at inter-cultural training organisation, Farnham Castle, talks about how diversity within the workforce can lead to innovative ideas that move businesses forward April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

AN EXHIBITION FOR ESTABLISHED SME’S VISIT THE BUSINESS SHOW AT EXCEL LONDON 17th & 18th MAY 2012 With an anticipated attendance of 30,000 businesses, The Business Show is set to break all of the records.


250 seminars learn from the experts who can help your business raise additional finance, increase sales, reduce operation costs, boost your online presence, boost your profile, trade in new markets and much more.

FOR**F*R TICKETEE VISIT S www .gbbs OR CAL.Lco.uk 08000 68 69 70



Hear from leading business pioneers including David Gold, James Caan, Rachel Elnaugh, Penny power as well as industry experts like Amazon, Google, Saatchi & Saatchi and The London Stock Exchange



15 Interactive Business workshops presented by experts in a hands on environment, including finance, social media, business planning, exporting, raising finance, branding and much more.

Visit The Business Connections wall, Speed Networking and the Boardroom to meet other businesses and find the partnerships, suppliers and customers that can propel your business forward in 2012.



Make contact with businesses who can offer expert knowledge on the latest products and services for your industry.


Ever wondered how much your business is worth? Or thought about expanding your portfolio by acquisition? Come and learn everything you need to know about trading a business.



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A company’s website is its virtual shop window; potential customers will form an opinion of a company after just a few seconds on its site, so it’s essential to target the right people with the right messages. Graham Robinson from First Internet shares key ways of ensuring that your company website engages the right people www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY WEBSITES contact forms throughout your site – especially on the homepage – will ensure that visitors will not only be able to contact the company, but will also have more faith in it, too.

• Let somebody else tell them how good you are Give your visitor confidence in your business and the work that you do through the use of testimonials, case studies and reviews. Not only will they add credibility to your site, but they will also give the customer confidence in your product or service.

• Engage any visitors Actively engage your customers with social media, such as blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Add options to ‘like’, ‘share’ and email content from your site and get your customers involved.

• Help your customers



any of our clients come to us when they realise that their company website is not producing the results hoped for and ask us to do something about it. Contrary to popular belief, a full website redesign is not necessarily the answer – a few choice tweaks or functionality upgrades will often do the trick. Following these simple tips and advice will help to make your website more engaging for your customers:

• Conduct some research with the end-user A crucial step that many don’t take, speak to your current customers about your site – ask them what they like, what they don’t, what’s missing and how they use the site in general. If you’re building a site from scratch, speak to your customers about what

they would like to see on it and what they would find useful. These will be the people using the site, so their opinions count for everything.

Visitors will return to your website time and time again if they find it helpful. Website tools, such as calculators, product comparisons and information downloads are great examples of functionality aimed at the needs of customers. By having everything they need in one place, they need not leave your webpage.

• Usability • Content is king Visitors will leave your site immediately if the content doesn’t appeal or engage them. Make sure your content is relevant, regularly updated, concise and well organised.

• A picture speaks a thousand words Invest in striking photography to help make your site visually impactful. No matter what the product or service your company sells, never underestimate the power of good photography to make your site look professional and engaging.

If a site is confusing or complicated, then visitors will not stick around to figure out how to work it, prefering instead to visit that of a competitor. Make sure navigation is intuitive and that all of your services, products and contact page are particularly easy to find.

• Tailor your site as necessary Monitor your website statistics regularly (Google Analytics is free and offers really detailed information) and change the structure, design and content of your site based on your findings.

• Calls to action Having obvious and frequent calls to action, such as phone numbers and



April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Forget Angry Birds! Your smartphone really can help you do business more efficiently. Russell Berry from AppCreatives.co.uk explains why SMEs should have mobility firmly on their technology agenda




s the smartphone revolution expands into the workplace, growing demand for mobile apps that allow employees to work faster, smarter and from anywhere has created a new market for business-friendly apps. It’s a shift driven largely by SMEs looking for new ways to differentiate their business by mobilising deskbased operations. SMEs are recognising the need to be able to service their customers and win prospective business, regardless of where they are. Customised business applications with capabilities for

BUSINESS tracking leads, operational activities, marketing campaigns, and productivity management empower SMEs to keep watch on critical business information without spending huge amounts on pricey enterprise software.

The shift towards business-centred mobile apps will bring solutions to many of these problems, such as the emergence of better security, including the improved ability to be able to conduct remote wipes and locks if devices are lost or stolen.

THE CHALLENGES Adopting a mobile enterprise strategy comes with challenges. With employees extensively using their iPhone and Android devices in their personal lives, asking them to carry around another device for business is often impractical. Also, businesses face on-going security concerns with company data being stored on personal mobile devices.

THE CHOICE Now to the best part, here are ten great mobile apps that can definitely be of benefit to your mobile workforce: 1. Mozy www.mozy.co.uk Mozy is an online backup service that continuously backs up the files on your computer or server. It gives small www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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businesses the space to back up their entire computer and server files for a very reasonable price, so owners of SMEs know their files are retrievable, even during a data loss crisis.

sizes to design and send email campaigns. Measuring the success of your email campaigns is really easy, as the software integrates with Google Analytics for tracking purposes.

2. Skype, Viber, Fring Skype and Viber provide VOIP audio and video calls using 3G/WiFi connections. Viber can make phone calls to any smartphone that runs viber, using the phone number at zero cost. Fring is widely used to make group video calls using VOIP. SMEs can use these apps to keep in touch with everyone they work with. Colleagues and clients can meet without leaving their respective cities, saving businesses precious time and money.

7.Quickbooks www.quickbooks.intuit. co.uk/online-accounting/onlinebookkeeping-software.jsp Quickbooks has an online accounting service. It can help with all your accounting needs, including monitoring cash flow, creating VAT returns, setting budgets and creating business reports. It is as useful to SMEs as the desktop programme that came first, but is accessible from anywhere in the world.

3. Box.net www.box.com Box.net is like a file folder that all your gadgets and devices can access. You simply drag a file into Box, and you can instantly access it from anywhere. If you’ve ever cursed yourself for leaving that important file on your office computer or ever needed to send a client a file immediately, Box can keep it from happening again. 4. Bento www.bentotrial.co.uk/trial/ default.aspx Bento is an excellent database app for small business owners. It can help you organise contacts and clients, track products and projects, manage orders and inventory, print QR code labels and more. 5. Toggl www.toggl.com Toggl is a time-tracking app, which allows you to create tasks and projects and assign a certain amount of time to each. It also logs how long tasks take to complete and how much time you have left to spend on a project, making billing incredibly easy and accurate. 6. MailChimp www.mailchimp.com MailChimp is an email-publishing platform that allows businesses of all

8. Evernote www.evernote.com Evernote makes organising notes simple. You can use your mobile device to create notes, take pictures and the best feature is the audio notes. It can even recognise writing in images, so if you take a picture of a whiteboard full of notes, you can find that image by searching for one of the phrases in it. 9. Google Apps www.google.com/apps/ intl/en-GB/business/docs.html Google Apps pretty much eliminates the need for many computer programmes. You can create and save text documents, spreadsheets, slide shows and more on Google Docs, and several people can work on one file simultaneously. Google Calendar makes creating and sharing calendars easy, and event reminders can be emailed to invitees. Gmail for Business gives companies personalised email accounts that are easy to set up and amend and that have the flexibility and storage space of Gmail. 10. Hootsuite www.hootsuite.com If you really want to be engaged with your online community while on the move, this is the app for you. The web version is great, however when not in the office, if you need to access all your social networks, Hootsuite helps you get this done.

THE FUTURE There are many more mobile applications for business users available on a number of different platforms, such as BlackBerry, iPhone and Android etc. By recognising which apps can help you deliver a strategic competitive advantage, mobile technology can transform the way your company does business. But if you can’t find an app for a specific task, why not consider building your own? Many SMEs are turning to app developers to help put together bespoke apps for their employees to get ahead of the mobile working revolution.



April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Modern businesses rely heavily on the processing power and communications functions of computers, so it’s critically important to keep your IT systems operating reliable and efficiently at all times. Based in Glasgow, DSIS is a computing and IT company specialising in ensuring the smooth and effective operation of all your computer equipment, programs and networks. We have decades of knowledge, from hardware replacement and data recovery through to hosting websites and dealing with email viruses. As a result, you can simply focus on your day-today business, leaving us to handle computing matters without stress or interruption.

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Power over Ethernet is more than just remote powering, suggests Melvyn Wray, senior vice president of product marketing EMEA at Allied Telesis. Here, he discusses how it can work effectively as an alternative power supply for SMEs TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE BENEFITS AND EMBRACING THE POTENTIAL OF POE FOR ANY BUSINESS WILL IMPROVE EFFICIENCY AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT, AND ULTIMATELY BOTTOM LINE PROFIT





he IT network has been around for almost 40 years, acting as the trusty system behind our connected PCs, printers, and servers. Over the past decade, the network has had to evolve in order to be able to deliver so much more – from video conferencing equipment to IP phones and security cameras. The network is busier than ever, with today’s SMEs placing greater demand on their networks, and savvy users wanting to maximise all of the available bandwidth. The importance of a strong, resilient network that sits at the heart of any the business has never been more critical. Which begs the question, why are so

many SMEs still powering highdemand devices through traditional means, failing to realise that they can maximise their existing network to run the equipment for them? With the capabilities of today’s networks and the use of Power over Ethernet (PoE) it is possible to harness the network to deliver power to these networkbased devices.

lower costs, less downtime, easier maintenance, and greater installation flexibility than with traditional wiring. In actual fact, PoE is capable of doing more than just feeding power down a LAN cable, and offers a number of particular advantages to SMEs, including energy efficiency, cost savings, business continuity, ease of use and increased control.

What is PoE?

Cost savings

In its simplest terms, PoE is a technology for wired Ethernet LANs (local area networks) that allows the electrical current necessary for the operation of each device to be carried by the data cables, rather than by traditional power cords. The result is

One of the main benefits of PoE is cost saving; PoE-powered devices require less cabling than the conventional way of using alternating current (AC) to deliver electric power to your business, making it easier and cheaper to install and replace. With a PoE adaptor, there

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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THIS IS OF PARTICULAR IMPORTANCE IN INDUSTRIES WHERE TELECOMMS SYSTEMS ARE MISSION CRITICAL – WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOUR PHONES WENT DOWN? is no need for an AC power outlet at the location of the endpoint, which in turn provides further savings as it eliminates the need for an electrician to install an AC power outlet. This also means that the cost of maintaining the device remains lower, with no additional charges for service and installation.

Energy efficiency


One of the main existing challenges small businesses face in trying to adopt green initiatives and reduce power consumption, is the practical aspects involved around the number of changes that will need to be implemented – not just from the business itself but also from its employees. Despite the good intentions of business users, the reality is that many businesses will leave IT equipment running all night, consuming power. How many people leave phone chargers or laptop power adaptors plugged in all the time, even when the device is not using the power source? PoE-powered devices, such as IP phones or surveillance cameras, can simply be turned on and off remotely, giving business owners far greater control but without compromising on security levels. Power is not wasted on equipment that can be powered down outside of business hours; this ensures you only pay for power that you’re actually using. Take for example, a company that adopts VoIP phone systems across the business, with each phone handset consuming between 2W and 7W of power each day when not in use – PoE could be used to power down the equipment using software controls overnight, during weekends and also

public holidays, while keeping just a small network of phones online for emergency use.

Disaster recovery Traditional power is still – and always will be – intrinsic to the running of a business, particularly where IT is concerned. There are of course start-ups and a few SMEs who don’t have a back-up alternative should there be a power cut, which leaves them open to losing all their data when the lights go out. But most SMEs don’t take this risk and have deployed an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), which can maintain operations through a power shortage or even complete power cut. With PoE, SMEs can do so much more with their UPS than simply ensuring continued power to their server. Take for example an IP phone system. In the event of a power cut, all IP phones plugged into a wall outlet will lose power, leaving the business owner with a major headache. If the power endpoints are powered through a PoE switch plugged into a UPS, this allows for centralised uninterruptible power and ensures power is maintained, protecting the entire system in the case of such an event. This is of particular importance in industries where telecommunications systems are mission critical – ask yourself what would happen to your business if your phones went down?

Ease of use and control Devices powered by PoE require less cabling, making it easier to install and replace as well as being more convenient to use for a growing setup. What’s more, fewer cables give a

cleaner look and take up less space. PoE also eliminates the need for high voltage cabling, saving on energy and cost. PoE enables better control over the network. Switches can be configured so that business owners have the option to make power-rationing decisions for all devices within their company from a remote location if necessary. PoE allows faster and more flexible deployment and enables small businesses to have greater control over power usage and power costs. For a business owner who has to be away from the office, it’s possible to control access to buildings by managing the power supply to a door controller, which can shut and open up to three separate doors. This increased security can provide that added reassurance to business owners when they leave for the day, that premises are safe.


There is no doubt that using PoE can be massively beneficial to SMEs in a number of ways. The high level of centralised control that it provides, enables them to power up and power down to more effectively manage their power consumption, as well as pushing for greater power standards and ratings. Taking advantage of the benefits and embracing the potential of PoE for any business will improve efficiency and energy management, and ultimately bottom line profit.



April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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remember back in the ‘90s there was a huge wave of Application Service Providers (ASPs) that offered businesses of all sizes applications on demand and a way out of vendor software lock-in. At that time businesses were tied in to using a piece of software and then forced to upgrade when a new version became available, while having to foot the bill for expensive support and integration. I might be showing my age, but the ASP initiative crashed due to poor infrastructure and the fact that incumbent technology vendors didn’t do enough to keep customers happy, so the trend became another page in the litany of IT overpromising and under delivering. In 2012, we find ourselves in the midst of the cloud computing phenomenon. Aside from the questions of what defines a cloud-based solution, and what is hosted or private cloud, IDC predicts that by 2015, the market as a whole will be worth over £4bn in the UK alone. The IT industry, having endured a bust cycle some 10 years ago, is a little older and wiser in terms of what it promises. For our customers, the buying conversation is more about the business benefits we offer – automation of business process and streamlining of workflows – rather than the technology nuances of cloud compared to an on-premise solution. In fact, in my view, the biggest impact that cloud-based business solutions have had, is that IT decision-making has shifted from the IT department to the heads of the business. In a small company this was probably always the case, but in larger companies the ubiquity of technology – just think about the fact that virtually all senior managers have iPads or smart phones – means that the role of the IT department has changed from sourcing a technology provider to managing it. When looking at business process automation, technology will always be


Much has been claimed about the business value of cloud computing, but along with the headlines, businesses need to make sense of what is really on offer. Is this a new way of computing or just another chapter in the broken promises of what IT and infrastructure can deliver? Andrew Anderson, CEO of Celaton, looks at how the cloud can help with automating business processes and how to measure value from cloud-based automation the enabler, so a company has to start by asking the simple question – why do we do things in this way and what could we do to make them better? Cloud computing has in many instances seen the shifting of an on premise software application onto a

hosted server, so at a base level the business benefit is that a piece of software that used to come in a box or CD Rom is downloaded/accessed via a browser. This might free up space in the storage cupboard while increasing the risk to a business if there is a break in Internet connection, but cloud-based solutions that alter the way business is done depend as much on thinking about how you operate as a business as switching to a new service provider. The phrase ‘the devil is in the detail’ is as appropriate for evaluating cloud-based solutions as ever. While in many instances, business will look at the cloud as a great way of reducing or managing the costs for IT, they need to be mindful of exactly what is being delivered and how much work will be needed to integrate a cloud-based solution into any existing IT infrastructure. The key here is for a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to be really clear so a business knows exactly what is on offer and what isn’t, and what the costs are. In business, cash is king and the beauty of cloud computing is it should offer companies a really clear view of costs and what is on offer. With all of the above in mind, what does a business do next; move everything to cloud and reap the cost benefits? I fear that this view is as unrealistic as the promises some cloud vendors are guilty of making. Rather start with the question of what can we do better that improves the way we do business? Then move to looking at what applications and solutions are out there that are offered in the cloud and then work through the business benefits and costs. Lastly the debate moves to the technical side of how to make the business value a technical reality. In this way we avoid the fog of IT and find the cloud’s silver lining.


CONTACT: www.celaton.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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The AbsolutePower dual USB wall charger provides convenient, dual high-power charging for a wide range of USB-powered consumer electronics devices, such as tablets, smartphones, cameras, eReaders and MP3 players. The dual model provides simultaneous output of up to 2.1 Amps for two USB slots and is a convenient alternative to mobile workers needing separate power supplies for individual devices. The charger extends Kensington’s AbsolutePower range, which also includes the three-way laptop, phone and tablet charger, one of Kensington’s CES 2012 Innovations Honoree Award Winners. This is the smallest, lightest and most powerful charger in its class, providing 100W simultaneous triple charging for notebooks plus two additional USB devices. Also compatible with all USB-powered devices, it comes with power tips that are suitable for use with major notebook brands. Models across the range offer high power-efficiency and are suitable for almost all mobile devices, with switchable power output between 16V and 19V. Units are scratch-resistant, heatproof and compact enough to fit into a briefcase.


Security Guardian is a USB memory key that allows you to completely delete your data remotely. The product is fitted with a battery, GPS and GSM – features that crucially allow the user to locate and control the memory stick through the cloud-based management console, even when it’s not connected to any device or the Internet. Security Guardian is compatible with all main AES 256 encryption products, and can have additional security features built in.  

However on the basis that encryption alone does not ensure the security of data, the device has been designed so that the memory can be turned on or off – irrevocably if required – by coded command from either the management console or by text message from an authorised mobile number. The product can produce a verifiable audit trail, which is important for businesses looking to stay compliant with data handling regulations as it allows companies to prove that they remain fully in control of their data, even when it is not in their immediate proximity. Similarly the ability to turn data on and off is vital for individuals travelling to areas where encrypted data is illegal – Security Guardian avoids this problem by turning off the data until required.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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The M600 features a touch surface that allows the user to navigate intuitively with fingertip precision. As people grow accustomed to using fingertip gestures to navigate on smartphones and tablets, Logitech has used these experiences for the Touch Mouse M600, reflecting the evolution in how we interact with the digital world. Users can scroll, swipe and surf wherever their fingertips rest on the mouse. With its modern design, smooth edges and designed-for-comfort curves, the mouse feels comfortable in the hand and looks good. Logitech Flow Scroll software makes scrolling fluid, much like scrolling through a smartphone screen. Slide your finger along the surface to experience immediate, continuous and free-flowing web page scrolling. The mouse shape is designed for comfort when pointing, clicking and scrolling. And it’s a perfect choice for right- and left-handers alike, with click areas that can easily be reassigned. The M600 includes a tiny receiver, which can connect up to six compatible mice and keyboards through one USB port. Add a keyboard, switch between mice, mix-and-match to fit the business’ requirements, all without having to change receivers or sacrifice another USB port. With smooth feet, advanced optical tracking and supreme ease of use, this sleek mouse is everything we’d expect, so it comes as no surprise that it’s been named an International CES Innovations 2012 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree in the Computer Peripherals product category.



The WorkForce Pro range has been expanded to include the WP-4095 DN and WP-4595 DNF models, specifically designed to offer cost and energy efficiency, high quality output and durability to enterprise workgroups as well as small- and medium-sized businesses. Together with performance, reliability and up to 50% lower cost per page than competitive lasers, the models offer a genuine alternative to laser products and provide further cost savings due to a super-fast automatic double-sided printing function, reducing paper usage. Benefit from lower ink costs with a choice of high-yield cartridges providing up to 3,400 pages, with a print resolution of 4800x1200dpi. Both devices are network-ready for easy sharing and offer PDL support. They also come with Epson Connect to meet mobile printing needs, enabling them to print on the move from smartphones and tablets.


Canon has launched two premium, all-in-one models ideal for small office environments. The PIXMA MX715 and 895 come with enhanced functionality and connectivity features to make printing from smartphones and tablets easy. The new models feature fast colour document print speeds. A range of business-orientated features deliver improved productivity, including high-speed fax capabilities, a 35-page duplex auto document feeder and auto duplex printing. The new models boast fast print speeds for quickly creating documents and graphics. ISO speeds of 12.5ipm for black and white documents and 9.3ipm for colour prints are balanced with Canon FINE print head technology, to ensure photolab quality; a 1pl ink droplet size and 9600dpi print resolution produces documents and images with smooth gradations and fine detail. For quick and easy scanning, copying and faxing of multiple page documents, both models feature a flatbed scanner, boasting 2400dpi high-resolution scanning and a 35-page Duplex Auto Document Feeder. The models also offer versatile media handling with two-way paper feeding and a self-opening paper tray.

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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FLEX FOR SUCCESS Peter Boucher, enterprise marketing director at Vodafone UK, has come up with five simple steps to enable flexible working for your staff by adopting unified communications


lexible working has long been lauded as a good thing for businesses of all kinds. But all too often, discussions of its benefits have tended to centre on the technology itself and its practical implementation, rather than core business rationale – a sort of ‘build it and they will come’ approach. While there are some immediate gains to be made from implementing mobile and remote working technology, businesses need to ensure that changing the way they work delivers real benefits and meets real needs throughout the organisation. This means getting the buy-in and participation of everyone from the chief executive outwards to get people, property, technology and processes working in harmony. We’ve seen time and time again how taking this approach will help businesses of all sizes find better ways of working to the benefit of the whole organisation and the bottom line.


Why flexible working? Businesses need to work smarter to be successful, especially in the current economic climate. Finding better ways of working can make a big contribution by freeing people from their desks so they can work effectively whenever and wherever they need to, while ensuring that they are empowered, fulfilled and productive. Increasingly, where people work isn’t nearly as important as how well, how cost-effectively, how easily and how quickly they do it. The ability to collaborate with anyone, at any time, in any location, on any device, is the key idea behind flexible working. The potential benefits include: a more efficient and productive organisation; a more empowered and motivated workforce; better customer service and increased customer loyalty; reduced overheads; increased staff retention and attractiveness to potential employees; reduced levels of sickness absence; and working hours that best suit your employees and customers. A recent research report published by Vodafone UK, ‘Exploring the shift in employee www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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expectations’, found that UK managers were quite clear about the positive impact of flexible ways of working on organisational performance and the bottom line. The top benefits cited in the study – which was based on interviews with 1,366 senior managers and employees across UK organisations of all sizes – were creating a more productive organisation (nearly 60% of managers cite this as a top five benefit), enabling a more flexible workforce (50%) and saving costs by reducing office space requirements (54%). When asked to rank the perceived benefits of flexible working to employees, managers put improved employee satisfaction and retention at the top of the list. The study showed that employees are equally positive about the benefits of flexible working. Among employees who are able to work remotely with full access to systems and colleagues, more than three-quarters say it boosts their job satisfaction, and a similar proportion say that it improves their work-life balance. Half of all managers surveyed felt that offering flexible working options makes them a more attractive prospect as a potential employer. 85% of managers believe that employees now expect greater flexibility from the companies they work for. Finding ways to effectively harness technology to meet the developing demands and expectations of employees and customers should be high on the list of priorities for every UK employer. The technology is ready to deliver the tools needed for flexible working. The real challenge, however, is to get people to embrace new mind-sets about new ways of working.

Find out for yourself Readers can find further information from Vodafone about implementing a flexible working programme at: vodafone.co.uk/betterbusiness and more about the recent research at: vodafone.co.uk/perspectiveresearch

FIVE PRACTICAL STEPS To ensure that flexible working lives up to its full potential and becomes truly embedded as a way of working, organisations should undertake a five-step process for defining, planning and implementing better ways of working. STEP 1 – STEP BACK The first requirement is to take a step back and decide what the business wants to achieve, what the priorities are, and how everyone in the business is performing. Getting to grips with the dynamics of the workplace means asking questions like: What’s the make-up of employees? Do they have the freedom and trust to work remotely? Are they accountable for specific results? Are there clear targets for measuring productivity? Is employee acquisition and retention important? Is employee engagement being addressed? Is the organisation competitive when it comes to good customer service? Through a number of simple studies, employee and leadership interviews and observation studies, organisations can quickly get a clear picture of how the workplace is functioning, and where any blockages might exist. STEP 2 – ASSEMBLE, INFORM AND INSPIRE

Getting alignment and buy-in throughout the organisation is vital. To help achieve this, step 2 involves identifying and bringing together key people to form a change leadership team. Depending on the size of the organisation, it may be helpful to identify key personnel to form an early adoption team as well. The goal is to agree on, and sign up to, a common vision of a better business. Insight gathered from the earlier workplace studies can be used to set, prioritise and agree goals for workplace productivity, use of space, communications and general employee satisfaction. STEP 3 – PROFILE YOUR EMPLOYEES

This step involves finding out where and how people work: what they like and what they dislike. Organisations can build a clear view of how their workplace supports the four main types of employee: fixed, mobile,

fixed-mobile and home workers. This helps build the business case for change by shifting the traditional fixed profile of a worker into a much more flexible and mobilised workforce. STEP 4 – PLAN FOR CHANGE

Once the goals are established, step 4 involves defining the extent of change needed across the organisation to achieve them. This involves answering questions such as: Do we need office space, every day, for every employee? Could we move to smaller offices and work even more effectively? Do we have the technology to enable employees to work flexibly? Do they use personal devices for work? The resulting plan will define how changes in space design, technology use, employee behaviours and process simplification will deliver the vision for a better business, based on increased flexibility. It will contain a mixture of relatively simple changes that can be made straight away for immediate impact, as well as longer-term, more complex changes. STEP 5 – MAKE THE TRANSITION

The final step involves bringing everything to life through the organisation. Short-, medium- and long-term changes will be physical and emotional; but experiencing both instant and emerging benefits will help employees adapt to the changes in company culture, the use of space and new technology. The transition will be gradual, and will only be successful if people are kept engaged and supported throughout the process. Following this five-step plan has been proved to help organisations of all sizes find better ways of working, with a more efficient business, more empowered people and more satisfied customers.

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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AND THE WINNER IS … tul Pathak, MD of Appt Corporation and franchisee of 20 McDonald’s outlets, was presented with ‘Franchisee of the Year’ award at the inaugural English Asian Business Awards. The awards honour the determination, hard work and personal achievement of English Asian businessmen and women at the forefront of their industries. The Franchisee of the Year award recognises an individual who has successfully expanded a franchise. Pathak became a McDonald’s franchisee in 2003 and established his first restaurant in Southall. Today, he runs a twenty-strong restaurant group across north and northwest London. Despite a challenging economic climate, Pathak has boosted his workforce from 1,300 to over 1,500 employees in the past 16 months. He has invested £300,000 in a state-of-the-art training facility for his staff, enabling them to boost their workplace skills and obtain nationally recognised qualifications. He believes that running a business and being socially responsible are inextricably linked and, as such, dedicates a significant amount of his personal time to community and charity groups, which in turn support the education and development of young and vulnerable people, foster community cohesion and enhance the local environment.

E-LITES LAUNCHES LOCAL SALES NETWORK Online sales growth has prompted electronic cigarette brand, E-Lites, to expand availability across the UK by offering license opportunities to business people wishing to open local retail outlets. The company has reported a four-fold sales increase over the past year, primarily driven by web sales, as a growing proportion of the UK’s 10 million smokers switch to the modern alternative that it markets as being safer, healthier and cleaner than tobacco-based cigarettes, as well as being significantly cheaper and legally unrestricted for use in public places.

CARTRIDGE WORLD POSITIVE Following a successful year’s trading, Cartridge World is set to significantly increase its high street presence with the announcement of six new store openings over the coming weeks, and a further 12 planned throughout 2012. Despite an increasingly tough economic climate, Cartridge World continues to develop its network, with its UK business franchises totaling more than 200, and 1,600 worldwide. Stores across the network have been performing well, the Aylesbury outlet in particular. At the start of the year, it posted its highest-ever monthly sales figures of

£50,000 – up 25% compared to the same period 12 months ago. John Richardson, UK chairman, said that at a time when many other retailers are reversing expansion plans, Cartridge World is continuing to invest in the growth and development of its portfolio. ‘This year promises many opportunities, and we’re constantly looking at ways to evolve our franchise network by developing our relationship with businesses and opening new stores in regions where we have little presence, to extend our customer reach.’


CARD CONNECTION RECRUITS Card Connection has announced opportunities to own and run its franchise operation in SE England. The company is looking to recruit franchisees to deliver and merchandise Card Connection’s range to retailers in several territories across the South. ‘We have 70 franchisees in the UK and, as an established franchise organisation, no new territories are available. However, occasionally a franchise area comes up for sale,’ explained Andrew Cutler, sales and franchise director,

Card Connection. ‘These opportunities offer the chance to take over established businesses, earning income from day one.’ Using a proven system, franchisees place greeting card ranges in retail outlets on a consignment basis. This means the stock and display equipment is installed on free loan to the retailer. This is one step beyond ‘sale or return’ as Card Connection customers don’t have to buy the stock in the first place, only paying for what they sell.

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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Preparing a successful business plan, by Richard Holden, head of franchising for Lloyds TSB Commercial

F 104

ranchising is playing an increasingly important role in supporting enterprising individuals who are setting up their own business, as it provides them with the reassurance of a proven model. The franchise market in Great Britain continues to display strong growth, despite the current economic conditions. British Franchise Association member brands that have a successful track record over several years, and have prospered through the ups and downs of the economic environment, are well placed to offer you the opportunity to build a successful business of your own. One of the cornerstones of launching a franchise is ensuring you have access to the necessary funding, which is where a strong relationship with your bank can be vital. And beyond funding, banks with specialist franchise departments such as Lloyds TSB Commercial will be able to give guidance to support your franchising research.

Get the facts right Before approaching a bank for finance, you need to prepare a business plan. The importance of a good business plan cannot be overstated. People who have a strong plan and sound capital base are well placed to take advantage of available finance. The franchisor may provide some assistance with the plan and most banks can provide a template to guide you. A business plan should cover the following areas: • Executive summary • Personal details (name, contact details, age, martial status, dependants)

• Franchisee’s experience, skills and attributes (include your CV) • Objectives / mission statement • Overview of the franchise • Local market (research, location, customers, competitors) • Business operation (premises, IT, vehicles, equipment) • Key personnel / management team • Marketing strategy • Borrowing requirements • Capital stake and security • Personal assets, liabilities, income and expenditure statement • Financial projections (cashflow and profit & loss forecasts) • Financial assumptions • Three years financial accounts (existing businesses only) • SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) • Exit strategy The initial objective of the document is to help you raise finance, but it will also help you understand what you wish to achieve from the business and to review the performance against your projections, alerting you to anything that is not going according to plan.

Confidence counts The presentation of the plan is also important to create maximum positive impact. You should practice delivery of your plan before speaking to a bank manager so that you can communicate your enthusiasm and passion in a professional manner. Expect to be challenged by the bank manager, who will ask you questions and expect you to be able to answer them confidently. It is worth remembering that well established franchises generally have

much higher success rates than standalone independent start-ups, therefore some banks may be willing to lend a higher proportion of the total set up costs. Generally, up to 70% of the total investment is available from the bank for well-established franchise opportunities, subject to status. Lloyds TSB Commercial remains at the forefront of the expansion of the franchise market through its provision of banking services and finance to encourage new franchise ownership. We have 50 trained franchise managers located across Britain, ensuring a true ‘on the ground’ presence. Wherever you are in the country, there will be a franchise manager available to guide you.

FREE-TO-ATTEND EDUCATIONAL SEMINAR DATES: Lloyds TSB Commercial sponsors a series of free evening educational seminars about the benefits and pitfalls of franchising, which are mustattend events for people starting on their franchising journey. For further details and booking information, visit www.franchise-seminars.biz 29 March – Birmingham 19 April – London 26 April – Manchester 10 May – London 17 May – Leeds 31 May – London 14 June - Birmingham 28 June – London 12 July – Manchester 26 July – London

For more information on how Lloyds TSB Commercial can help your franchise, please call us on 0800 681 6078 or visit www.lloydstsb.com/franchising

March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Lloyds TSB can help you with your franchise plans. Whether you’re buying into a franchise or franchising your own business, it’s important to have the right kind of support and guidance before you take the next step. That’s why we have a team of specially trained franchise managers who have a wealth of knowledge, and can offer you practical support and guidance. To find out more call:

0800 681 6078 lloydstsb.com/franchising

Calls may be monitored or recorded. Lloyds TSB Commercial is a trading name of Lloyds TSB Bank plc and Lloyds TSB Scotland plc and serves customers with an annual turnover of up to £15m. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority under numbers 119278 and 191240 respectively.

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The latest survey from FranchiseSales.com makes interesting reading if you’re in the market for a new business opportunity, as Adam Bannister of Dynamis discovers


lower risk of failure is overwhelmingly the most popular reason for buying a franchise, according to the latest survey by FranchiseSales.com. The fourth-quarter 2011 survey, which canvassed the views of hundreds of franchise seekers and franchisors, also suggests that a recognised brand name and being recession-proof are important considerations when aspiring franchisees are choosing business opportunities. The perception that franchises are more likely to succeed than regular startups was cited as a major attraction by 64% of would-be franchisees. Asked to select a maximum of three reasons for deciding not to go it alone in business,

36% indicated that they wanted to ‘concentrate on what I do best and leave marketing etc, to the franchisor’, 35% said they ‘prefer to follow a proven system and avoid making tough decisions’, 30% believed it would be easier to raise finance, while 29% intimated that avoiding the stress and long hours associated with starting a business was prominent among their motivations. David Beattie, group brand and marketing director at the énergie group, a leading operator in the fitness sector, comments on the findings. ‘Industry-wide statistics show that starting a business as franchisee of a reputable franchise like énergie, gives you a far greater chance of success than going it alone – but this should not

be seen as a guarantee of success,’ he cautions. ‘Franchising offers many advantages, not least more favourable bank funding, but also a tried-and-tested brand and business model, as well as support – in the form of advertising, training, property support, business advice and procurement – that in our experience can provide significant savings over going into business alone.’ The most popular sectors among would-be franchisees, who hail predominantly from the UK, US, Australia, Canada and South Africa, are fast food (37%), followed by food generally (34%), distribution (34%) and retail (28%). In spite of inexorable growth in demand for online goods and services, only 14% of those polled were considering buying an Internet franchise. WORKING FROM HOME More than a quarter of aspiring franchisees, the survey also revealed, are interested in working from home. This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider two things. First, the abundance of www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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FOCUS ON FRANCHISES BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES opportunities available; of 258 business opportunities on FranchiseSales.co.uk, 78 are home-based. Moreover, premises are not required and so start-up costs and overheads are much lower with homebased opportunities, which also often appeal to parents who need to juggle childcare with business ownership. Work-from-home opportunities appeal to one in three female respondents. Asked what they want from a franchise opportunity (being permitted to choose a maximum of three reasons), prospective franchisees were most concerned about the recognition factor. ‘The brand name must be well-known’ was cited by 61% of those polled, while 50% agreed that ‘the sector must be at least fairy recessionproof’, 47% agreed that ‘it must have the potential to make me very wealthy’, and 33% wanted control over their working hours.


TWO-WAY DECISION Beattie suggests that aspiring franchisees: ‘research sectors tipped for growth, such as budget fitness, the market our own Fit4less brand operates in. Do your research; is the franchisor a member of the BFA? Above all, don’t be pressurised into signing an agreement before you are ready. Getting involved in a franchise is a big decision and any good franchisor will tell you it’s a two-way decision. Are you the right franchisee and are you convinced this in the right franchise for you?’ On the whole, franchisees were impressed with opportunities they had researched. The overwhelming majority of aspiring franchisees – 85% – are male. Women, it seems, are as underrepresented in franchising as they are in Britain’s boardrooms, and indeed among business buyers (82% of who were male, according to the equivalent BusinessesForSale.com survey). There is great scope for drawing more women to franchising, given the proliferation of part-time, flexible opportunities – usually Internet-based – that suit parents with young children. Most heavily represented among survey respondents was India (26% of

those polled), followed by the UK (20%), Canada (10%), US and South Africa (9% each), and Australia (7%). All of those surveyed, of course, used the Internet in their research, while 38% also visit exhibitions. The proportion is notably higher, at 52%, if you filter the results to UK-based franchise seekers. FRANCHISORS The most common reason for choosing franchising as a model for growth, according to results from the franchisor section of the survey, was the perception that it was conducive to rapid growth. Asked to pick no more than three reasons from five suggested, around two thirds cited ‘low capital expenditure, so easier to grow rapidly’, with greater efficiency and customer satisfaction chosen by two in five. A belief that franchisees are more motivated than managers was the joint-third most compelling reason to franchise a business, along with the perception that it is ‘less catastrophic for a unit to fail than a company-owned store to fail’, both chosen by 23% of franchisors. David Beattie of the énergie group thinks the decentralising nature of the

franchising model – how it harnesses local knowledge – is equally pivotal. ‘Franchising does allow you to roll out a successful business model more rapidly, at a lower central cost, than through direct ownership alone,’ he says. ‘But this is only part of the story. I have worked for large multinationals and seen the mistakes that happen through not having first-hand knowledge of a local town. A local franchisee knows their local town and market. They understand traffic flow and which parts of the town are suitable for a business in a way that a demographic survey alone can never achieve.’ Asked to pick a maximum of three qualities they looked for in candidates, just under half of franchisors said enthusiasm and a positive attitude were paramount. 38% cited experience in running businesses – a large proportion, arguably, given the training and support on offer. The third most important attribute a franchisee should have, according to franchisors, was sales skills, followed by experience in the sector.



April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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small investment



Retailing a fantastic range of high quality canvas pictures InsideOut operates in shopping centres, high streets and at exhibitions selling an eyecatching display of canvas images at up to 75% less than other high street retailers. Already proven successful with over 30 outlets already operating, InsideOut is looking to expand by offering a business opportunity to selected individuals. It’s a cash business, simple to run with a low investment, and high returns.

> no franchise fee > start-up from £5,000 > 30 outlets already operating > established 2003

InsideOut retail canvas pictures in four ways > pop-up shops > promotional spaces > shows > or you can operate with flexibility of all three To learn more and receive a brochure, contact David Hoskins, Mobile: 07802 777224 · Office: 01572 768064 or email david@hoskinsltd.com InsideOut · North Witham Road · South Witham · Grantham · NG33 5QQ

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BEST PRACTICE: Franchising can be a daunting and challenging business, but do it right and you will soon be reaping the rewards. If you need a little help, Andrew Pena, founding partner of Cubism Law, provides advice and practical aspects for potential franchisees

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ranchising provides a welltrodden path for individuals to set up and grow a business. In essence, it is a relationship between two contracting parties; the franchisor, who has developed a proven business format operated under an established brand, and the franchisee who is trained and licensed to use the brand to run their own business under the terms of a franchise agreement. The 2011 Natwest/BFA Franchise Survey reported that the industry is now worth some £12.4bn, with the vast majority of franchisees (90%) reporting their business as profitable. While this suggests that franchising can provide a sound investment opportunity, there is no getting away from the fact that every business venture has risk. The key for a prospective franchise partner is to fully explore a number of opportunities, so that they can match their financial resources, skills and personality with the right venture.

ARE YOU RIGHT FOR A PARTNER? Franchising should be simple – work hard operating a proven business model and you should make returns in line with established formulas. However, operating a business, even one with a proven record of success, exposes personal frailties and uncertainties. This is especially apparent when we look at the relationships that underpin the world of franchising. On one side, we have the independent franchisee who, having paid for an affiliation to a brand, is seeking to implement a tried and tested system to grow their own business and reap the rewards. On the other, the more entrepreneurial franchisor, who upon receiving the franchisee’s investment, seeks to develop the system and drive the wider brand in a certain direction through management and leadership. These tensions can be positive if you choose a partner and opportunity that fits your profile and mindset. UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS A franchisor will have a well-prepared patter on the benefits of the franchise. A potential franchisee will need to drill into this patter to understand precisely what the business and opportunity will entail. There are a number of key questions you should ask about the opportunity:


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FRANCHISING It is important to understand the financial position of the franchisor, and the experience and background of the people behind the business. Are these people you want to do business with? You should obtain full details of the franchise business model and systems. Are you buying an exclusive license or will you be competing with others? Does the business have a long-term future? How is it likely to have been affected by a recession? Will you be operating from home, or will you need to invest office or retail space and employees? What is the potential for growth, and to what extent do franchisees achieve it? You need to understand your role within the network and what you would be doing. Can you be involved in other businesses or is this a full-time commitment?




UNDERSTAND THE NUMBERS Most franchisors will provide details of the level of investment required as well as projections on the likely return for the business. You need to know the complete cost of set up and running the business, including working capital requirements. Always query assumptions and basis for returns both in terms of profitability and cash flow. The BFA’s Code of Ethics requires an affiliated franchisor to show the basis for projections, and to state whether they are actual or average figures. The Code also requires an affiliated franchisor to provide full details of all their franchisees. You should approach as many as possible in order to get a rounded view of the business, relationships and profitability. GET THE AGREEMENT CHECKED The agreement will govern your relationship with the franchisor, so it must properly protect you. Most are drafted in favour of the franchisor, but you need to make sure the clauses give you sufficient protection to ensure that the franchisor will meet their obligations. Always get your franchise agreement reviewed by an affiliated BFA lawyer.

GET YOUR BUSINESS PLAN CHECKED Before committing, you should get an independent view of the business opportunity. Is your business plan achievable and what will be your realistic net income? One of the key reasons that franchised businesses fail is lack of working capital to meet expenses. HOW WILL YOU FINANCE THE BUSINESS? There are a number of options for obtaining finance, and some banks have dedicated franchise funding opportunities. In some cases, the investment can be partly funded directly by the franchisor or through Government-sponsored schemes. GETTING READY TO SIGN Once you’ve made the decision, there are a number of factors you need to check before signing up. You must ensure funding is in place, before committing to the franchise. Then you should consider whether you want to operate the business as a sole trader, as a partnership or through a company or LLP. There are benefits to operating through a corporate structure, which can provide tax advantages as well as limiting your liability if the business does not succeed. Your franchisor will need to agree to you operating through a company or LLP and it is likely that they will want you to personally guarantee the liabilities of the company. It may be possible to negotiate a cap on that personal guarantee. You may also need to register with HMRC so that you can, for example, recover any VAT paid on the initial fee or other set up costs.


THINK CLEARLY, NOT EMOTIONALLY Buying a franchise will always be a step into the unknown. The key to success is not to get caught up in the emotion and excitement of the purchase. Don’t get pressured into making a decision until you are ready. In particular, take the step consciously – having fully and accurately investigated, analysed and tested, firstly the quality of the opportunity presented, and secondly your financial ability and personal capability to run the type of business you’re considering. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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Looking for something new and a little bit different? Then why not consider owning a Back in Motion franchise? We are a vibrant company linking healthcare and leisure, a new concept in the UK franchise marketplace and a profitable and rewarding business if you are passionate about helping people. We combine Physiotherapy, Pilates and other evidence-based therapies to deliver real lifestyle improvements to our clients. Operating a chain of branches in East Anglia, we have real experience of the potential in Physiotherapy services, both in the increasing private marketplace and in the changing NHS. As a franchise owner, we’ll help you all the way - our support includes a tailored training programme, helpline, customisable website, marketing strategies and our industry insight. You don’t have to be a Physiotherapist to build a successful Back in Motion business, but you do need to be enthusiastic and hard-working with a drive to succeed. Contact Clare and Elaine to talk about how our franchise could help you achieve your aspirations.

0845 474 1193

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FRANCHISING at YOUR OWN PACE The Business Growth Show is a nationwide exhibition and networking event which has been piloted across the country since 2005 and has built a successful brand throughout the UK. Join an industry that is fast-growing, relevant and that will always be relevant... Companies always want to grow! Take control What are you looking for in a franchise? Do you want to maximise your productivity and maximise your income? Or, work less hours and have fewer hassles? It’s up to you whether you take on 2….4….or 6 shows! Established Shows With over 15 piloted shows up for Franchise, a nationwide reputation and an experienced event management team; you can easily slot right in to an already established show. Working with a partner Fancy working with your partner in crime? The Business Growth Show Franchise has been constructed so that working as a duo can now be your way of life.

Introductory Offer Run 2 shows per year in your area - £12,995 + VAT Run 4 shows per year in your area - £19,995 + VAT

It doesn’t end there… The Business Growth Show Franchise: • Is a home-office solution • Has re-sale opportunities • Creates little outgoings so you can maximise your profits • Allows you to be your own boss If you think you could be the next Franchisee for The Business Growth Show, please email franchise@thebusinessgrowthshow.co.uk or call us now on 0121 632 2300 to request an application form! BGS HP Apr2012.indd 1

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rowing a business has never been so difficult. We’re going through the longest economic downturn since the Great Depression, new competition is everywhere and, as the costs of communications come down, cutting through the noise of always-on connectivity to make yourself heard above the rest just gets harder and harder. CoBooCo was founded as a software company specifically to help others in cutting through the noise generated by corporate communications in today ‘s wired - and wireless - world. CoBooCo delivers a software as a service platform that cuts through Internet noise. “Internet noise” impacts businesses by increasing the volume of communications without any application of a “relevant-tome” filter. I am not talking about traditional spam here. I’m actually talking about “round robin cc syndrome” which is a significant affliction and distraction for many businesses. This syndrome sees everybody internally copying everyone else

on every single email without any real thought given to the true relevance of the communication to all the recipients. This syndrome has a real impact in terms of costs to a business. It makes itself felt in the form of reduced staff productivity, increased data storage, and enlarged IT overheads. Internet noise also makes it difficult to maintain the attention of your buyers and suppliers. There are so many competing communications tools from Outlook/ Exchange through Google Apps to document management applications that sometimes it becomes almost impossible to get your voice heard in a coherent manner. Simple, accessible, dedicated communications between your team of employees, partners and customers is the key to ensuring revenue growth and business success.

customer in making the cost savings and efficiency improvements that are right for you. We simply provide you with the expertise and the technology to make it all happen. For an initial, free consultation that will identify a path to your organisation quickly cutting through the noise and improving its performance as a business, just drop me a line or give me a call and I’ll get one of my team to be in touch. receiving the digitally-enhanced post simply scan the mail with their 3G phone to start an online journey.

Smeeta Patel Managing Director smeeta.patel@cobooco.com +442033901208 www.cobooco.com

At CoBooCo we have developed a unique track record in engaging with organisations to help them identify the teams that are critical to their business success, the costs that can be removed in getting these teams to properly communicate and the efficiencies that can be achieved by integrating the software tools they use into a single, accessible system. We provide this capability as a consulting process that involves you as the

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Online Ordering Printwell helps customers save time and retain brand consistency by offering an online ordering service, available 24 hours. Online ordering means that customers spend less time completing the print order, which frees up time for main business priorities and reduces costs through increased efficiency.

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Saving costs and providing competitive prices is Printwell’s aim. Cost Saving is often the most quoted reason for customers’ loyalty to the company. However, keeping print cheap is not the only route explored when finding a solution for our customers. Printwell want to provide an innovative solution that can save customers time, money and enhance their internal processes.



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Real Accountant take a new approach to the way qualified Accountants should work. We are more interested in helping to add value to your business, than just producing a set of Accounts and Tax Return. T: 01895540974 W: www.arealaccountant.co.uk

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Company Name Here Tario in con re restem cuptat enlhimus aboris illat. Arum quae estrum destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis Quickfund provide working capital to grow destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis your business with minimal qualifications. estem auria eperferum ent moditesed quias £3500 £100k ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. T: 01279 759470 T: 00000 000000 www.thecfgroup.eu E:W: xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk E: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk krw@thecfgroup.co.uk W:

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We provide affordable, high-quality IT support, training and consultancy services to businesses throughout South London, and are not afraid to ‘think around corners’ to develop innovative solutions based around your business needs. T: 020 8401 1492 W: www.hamaliel.co.uk E: enquiries@hamaliel.co.uk

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April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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KashFlow Software Limited is a privately owned company based in London, England. We provide online accounting software for small businesses owners - the emphasis always being on ease of use, automation and integration. We’re widely regarded as a pioneer of the SaaS business model and as the leader in web-based accounting. T: 0800 848 8301 W: www.kashflow.com E: sales@kashflow.com

MONBRO specialise in assisting SME’s with all manner of creative New Media solutions from company websites, e-commerce, intranets and all types of online solutions to increase business efficiency and communication. T: 0207 735 4892 W: www.monbro.com E: info@monbro.com

We help owners of small and medium sized businesses like yours make improvements and changes so they and their business perform and continually grow to a much higher level, whatever the business climate. We help identify areas for improvement using enquiry questions to clarify your most effective way forward in an action orientated collaborative partnership. T: 07976 414020 E: ian@mybusinessadvice.co.uk W: www.mybusinessadvice.co.uk

finance At PS Finance we specialise in finding a tailored working capital solution for your business via access to the leading lenders; taking time to understand your business as well as the lenders so that we are constantly aware of their appetite and are best placed to find you the right partner. Direct access to decision makers means we get you a reliable, prompt response. T: 0161 247 8520 E: enquiries@psfinance.co.uk W: www.psfinance.co.uk

Our HR, payroll, expenses and absence management software is available from £50 a month. Delivered as Software as a Service there is no capital outlay and upgrades are free. T: 01392 367367 W: www.ochre.co.uk E: info@ochre.co.uk

PitchPartners: Professional IT Management & Support. We are your IT department. From ad-hoc Pay As You Go services to Fully Managed Contracts. Visit our website, email us or simply call for some free advice! London & SE. T: 0203 397 1515 E: Info@pitchpartners.com W: www.pitchpartners.com

Scanbar offers a wide choice of CDD, Laser and long range barcode scanners as well as wireless bluetooth readers. As Wasp Barcode experts we also includes barcode printers, barcode label design software as well as complete inventory control and asset management solutions. T: 0845 500 9022 W: www.scanbar.co.uk E: mf@scanbar.co.uk

At Smart IT we provide a comprehensive range of IT services and software solutions for businesses of all sizes. Our aim is to ensure that your investment in IT delivers real tangible business benefit. Services range from IT support to applications such as CRM and ERP together with web and e commerce solutions. T: 0844 8118270 W: www.smart-ltd.co.uk W: www.smartonlinebackup.co.uk E: info@smart-ltd.co.uk

With a customer focused approach to web design and experienced personnel, the company is able to offer a range of quality services to businesses looking to grow their client base or even establish an online presence for the first time. W: www.SpicerDesigns.com E: info@SpicerDesigns.com T:0845 475 1991

Urban Media employ a considered and individual blend of Website Production (including Website Design and Website Development), Online Marketing and Bespoke Application building to deliver the results each Client requires. T: 01494 538441 W: www.urbanmedia.co.uk E: angela@urbanmedia.co.uk

Achieve Balance help you achieve balance in your personal and work life, grow your business and create more time by increasing clarity, focus, efficiency, productivity and enjoyment using practical strategies and techniques. T: 07764 235394 W: www.achievebalance.co.uk E: anna@achievebalance.co.uk


Stewart Nash Consultancy Coaching & Mentoring for Business Growth

Mentoring for Business Growth. Support, Advice and Health-Check to owners of micro, small & medium sized businesses. Specialists at helping businesses to grow profitably since 1989. T: 01884 861363 W: www.stewartnash.co.uk E: info@stewartnash.co.uk

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk April 2012

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World Addresses is a hosted web service that delivers international address lookup data to any website or in-house system from the input of a Postcode, partial address or ZIP code. T: 01508 494488 W: www.worldaddresses.com E: enquiries@worldaddresses.com


Innovative and flexible IT Development Company Name Here Web Tarioand in con re restem for SME’s in Buckinghamshire and surrounding cuptat enlhimus aboris illat. Arum quae estrum counties. We provide you with ‘one stop’ destiam illitiure coreped itatina corum id magnis solution all your technical destiam for illitiure coreped itatinrequirements, corum id magnis whether Webeperferum Design, Hosting, IT support or estem auria ent moditesed quias solutions. ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. T: 01628 429 00000 478 000000 W: www.arisia.biz E: xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk E: W:info@arisia.biz www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk

DSIS is a computing and IT company specialising in ensuring the smooth and effective operation of all your computer equipment, programs and networks. We have decades of knowledge, from hardware replacement and data recovery through to hosting websites and dealing with email viruses. T: 0141 4382030 W: www.dsis.co.uk

Tech IT Solutions is your single point of contact for all IT related services, in Devon and Cornwall. We have experience working for the private and public sector, manufacturing, media, finance and travel industry in the UK. With over 20 years experience in the corporate sector, we are well placed to look after your business. We offer a range of solutions from technical support to management outsourcing and now cloud service provisioning. T: 0845 6804023 W: www.techitsolutions.co.uk E: karl@techitsolutions.co.uk

Our custom logo design packages are completely bespoke to your needs. With your initial spec, we start with a blank canvas and produce a number of custom logo design concepts. The logo design concepts are created by up to 5 different professional logo designers, all with huge experience in a wide variety of industry sectors. T: 01256 845815 W: www.britishlogodesign.co.uk E: studio@britishlogodesign.co.uk

O.B.C.I.A Ltd provide a truly tailored SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Service, designed to take your business to the next level. Our trained, experienced and trusted experts are focused on delivering the highest results and rankings for each of our customers and have one of the most successful records in the industry. T: 020 30062315 W: www.obcia.co.uk E: info@obcia.co.uk

iTek Computer Solutions was formed to offer the highest quality Outsourced IT Support and solutions service for small and medium sized businesses in the Cumbria and North Lancashire area. T: 01539 898125 W: www.itekcomputersolutions.co.uk E: info@itekcomputersolutions.co.uk

RONIN is a creative communications agency. We do inspirational work to help our clients solve problems, create personality and find new opportunities. We provide website design, graphic design, branding, PR and marketing consultancy. T: 020 3326 5040 W: www.roninmarketing.co.uk E: info@roninmarketing.co.uk

Avis long term car hire is a flexible alternative to car leasing or car pooling. Enjoy fixed daily price and your only commitment will be to hire a car for 28 days. T: 0844 544 7733 W: www.avis.co.uk E: avisflex@avis.co.uk

Cartridge World is the UK’s largest specialist provider of high quality printer cartridges. Cartridge World offer massive savings on inkjet and laser toner cartridges without compromising on quality. W: www.britishlogodesign.co.uk

Our online payroll system is a simple way to operate PAYE, even if you have just one employee. A free trial is available online. T: 0845 652 6602 W: www.thepayrollsite.co.uk E: info@thepayrollsite.co.uk

We at Soft-Teck cater to every needs of a Clients Requirement. • Branding • Web Design • IT Services • Telecom Solutions • Graphics Design • Security Solutions • Company Formation T: 0203 488 4884 W: www.soft-teck.com E: sales@soft-teck.com

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We are a firm of Chartered Certified Accountants established in North West London. We have a broad base of clients throughout the country, includingthe Construction Industry, IT Consultants, Nursing Homes, Charities, Property Investment Companies, Franchisees and Restaurants. We also work with professionals such as Doctors, Pharmacists, General Practitioners and Dentist. T: 020 8903 7372 W: www.kpand.co.uk E: info@kpand.co.uk

UK Power Ltd is an independent and impartial private limited company created to make it easy for people to compare gas, electricity and dual fuel prices between energy suppliers, and to make this information freely available to you, the consumer and our valued customer. T: 0800 970 5494. W: www.ukpower.co.uk E: info@ukpower.co.uk

Whether you are looking to build a new web site from scratch or improve or re-design an existing site, we want to help your company put its best foot forward and create a great online experience for your clients. T: 020 7127 5121 W: www.decho.co.uk E: contact@decho.co.uk

DynaCom IT Support was established in 2003 to give a personal service to a high business standard, serving Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and surrounding areas. We use a combination of remote and onsite support where appropriate – our aim is to resolve your issue in the shortest time with the least inconvenience to you. Remote and telephone support is great for monitoring and simple fixes, but we believe you can’t beat an engineer on your doorstep! T: 01376 342787

Holly Small Design, based in Buckingham near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, provides graphic design and web design and development to companies and small business. We have helped clients across a broad range of industries and sectors throughout the Thames Valley achieve their individual goals - from creating a bespoke corporate identity and logo, through to designing, building and optimising their website. T: 01296 733905 W: www.hollysmalldesign.co.uk E: holly@hollysmalldesign.co.uk

BCPA offers a comprehensive payroll service to meet the needs of voluntary/community groups and other organisations. The service provides practical support, information and advice on any aspect of PAYE and other payroll related issues, taking on the administrative burden and freeing you to deliver your voluntary and community services.. T: 01274 787800 W: www.bradfordcpa.co.uk E: payroll@bradfordcpa.co.uk

SupportPlan specialises in Apple Mac Support for creative business users. Providing both Fixed price as well as Pay-as-You-go Support. Also: Consultancy & Networking, Disaster Recovery, Remote back up & Cloud Services. T: 020 7582 9999 W: www.supportplan.com E: info@supportplan.com

Seismic Six – Print and Interactive Design: Seismic Six is an enthusiastic and friendly multi-disciplined graphic design agency located in the heart of Essex. We create tailor-made designs for your print, web and branding needs. T: 01376 53 77 75 E: info@seismicsix.com W: www.seismicsix.com

Orchard Hosting: Seriously robust business hosting from £7.50 a month. 24 Hour Support, UK Data Centres, multi-tiered backups. T: 0161 850 0563 E: help@orchardhosting.com W: www.orchardhosting.com



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THE DAILY GRIND Where in the world are you right now? Sitting in my office in Chelsea, looking at a beautiful spring day happen outside. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Coffee and my alarm clock. What do cereal (sic) entrepreneurs have for breakfast? Weetabix, poached eggs on toast and a smoothie...plus some very strong coffee.


TB asks a well-known entrepreneur twenty questions about their life, work, inspiration, and a few other things of no particular importance. This month, we invite PR man Hugo Taylor to take the hot seat

Who or what inspires you the most? I am inspired by positivity and talent. I love to see people succeed when they deserve it. In terms of people who inspire me I would say Keith Richards (what a songwriter) and Daniel Day Lewis (by far the most hard working and gifted actor of my generation). Where and when were you happiest? I am happiest when out on the water in the summer in Sardinia. Fresh sea air and a glass of rose! You cannot ask for more, and if you do, you should be smacked.


What single piece of technology could you not live without? I could not live without my Play Station 3...I love Pro Evolution soccer so much. I am secretly a real nerd.

models), Keith Richards (because he is the original rock star) and my dear friend Hugo Hunt (as he is hilarious).

Gordon Gekko famously said: ‘lunch is for wimps’. Do you do lunch? Gordon Gekko went to prison, having lost his family and penniless. Perhaps a chilled lunch at Petit Maison would have done him well.

Who would you choose to play you in the movie of your life? I would have to play myself...only I could do myself justice.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received - and from whom? Best piece of advice was from my mother. She told me to have love and passion for what I do and success will come. Choose three dinner guests (alive or dead) Leo Di Caprio (so I could ask him how he continually seems to date Victoria’s Secret

What has been your most effective business tactic? Only do business with people you truly believe have something to offer. There are too many stupid people out there who can derail your ideas. Aged 11, what did you want to be when you grew up? An actor. What is your favourite smell? Aqua Di parma. If you could have your time again, what would you do differently?

I am only 25 so if anything I would go back to age 18 so I could re-live the past seven years, as they have been so much fun. Can ‘anyone’ be a successful entrepreneur? I don’t think so. You have to really want it and have an active imagination to conceptualise how you are going to achieve it. Many people are more content to be told what to do. What would you say is your most important skill? Inspiring others to achieve all they can. I am better at seeing talent in others than in myself.

Do you have anything to declare?
Yes! I demand the Rolling Stones get back together and play a concert in Hyde Park...

April 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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The perfect property for your business

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Profile for Talk Business

Talk Business April 2012  

Aprils issue of Talk Busines Magazine

Talk Business April 2012  

Aprils issue of Talk Busines Magazine