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talk business january 2012

SIMON DOLAN DubbeD the ‘twitter Dragon’, Dolan talks eDucation, attituDe anD business strategy

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branDing your business

lenDing anD creDit

9 772048 474006

issue 04

take one company – crunch

ISSN 2048-4747


january 2012 £4.50

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05 introduction

23 twitter – for the birds?

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

Graham Robinson on social networking

07 on the money

Understanding your workforce

46 blockbuster branding

30 number crunching

Rich With of Hoot Creative shares tips on building a brand

Crowdfunding, a business award for OBIS, as well as a useful diary of events

Tim Ringo discusses unemployment figures

12 book review

33 from the grass roots

Richard Branson’s, Screw Business as Usual, and Calculating Success by Carl Hoffmann, Eric Lesser and Tim Ringo

14 money matters A refreshing look at all things fiscal

17 face on the cover: simon dolan

27 start up tips

Harvey Jacobson is in the hot seat

Rogers & Culpan are masters at bootstrapping start-ups

36 best practice

55 the future’s rosy

Do you have a human resources strategy?

’there needs to be a massive rethink on education’

The ‘Twitter Dragon’ talks to Tom Holmes

51 by the bootstraps

simon dolan

41 take one company Crunch founder, Darren Fell steps under the spotlight

44 make it count The benefits of a value proposition

Madbid.com founder, Juha Koski looks at the future for business

59 pinching the pennies Current lending & credit conditions

62 gadget guide, best of 2012 The high tech future www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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09/01/2012 15:41

Dont get caught in a financial storm... gener8 cash flow A fresh approach to invoice finance for UK businesses. For more information call Joe Waters on: T 0845 812 8808 E info@gener8finance.com w www.gener8finance.com

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

Gill Anderson gill.anderson@dreamcreative.co.uk feAtures editor

emma Morgan emma.morgan@dreamcreative.co.uk GrAphic desiGner

Gary hill gary.hill@dreamcreative.co.uk production coordinAtor

An truong artwork@dreamcreative.co.uk web developMent MAnAGer

Mitchell finlay mitchell.finlay@dreamcreative.co.uk circulAtion MAnAGer

Malcolm coleman malcolm.coleman@dreamcreative.co.uk Account MAnAGers

stuart hardy stuart.hardy@dreamcreative.co.uk Matthew cobham matthew.cobham@dreamcreative.co.uk James tombs james.tombs@dreamcreative.co.uk finAnce director

stephen Jones stephen.jones@dreamcreative.co.uk coMMerciAl director

scott english scott.english@dreamcreative.co.uk MAnAGinG director

Jay boisvert jay.boisvert@dreamcreative.co.uk

circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 circulation enquiries: Dream Creative Solutions Limited T: 0845 873 9100 F: 01245 280303 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Dream Creative Solutions Limited. Suite 2-4 , Goldlay House, 114 Parkway, Chelmsford, Essex. CM2 7PR T:0845 873 9100 F: 01245 280303 ©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 Dream Creative Solutions Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.

A new year brings a new set of challenges to every business, but to new start ups, it’s a difficult time to get started. The current financial climate has put many potential new business launches on hold, and we can all understand how the uncertainty of the past couple of years has made budding entrepreneurs nervous of quitting their jobs in favour of a leap into the unknown, but in reality, getting your dream off the ground now could be the best move you’ve ever made. The spotlight is very much on lending, and the days of banks sitting on funds are numbered. One thing their corporate ‘saving for a rainy day’ attitude has created is the rise of the business angel – of which there are now many. New business start ups really do have a lot of potential benefits available to them right now – it’s just a question of finding out what’s out there.


For instance, in East Anglia (currently the fastest growing area for new business start ups in the UK), Adastral Park, Ipswich is offering an incredible deal for new business start ups. The aptly-named new business incubator, a joint venture between Innovation Martlesham and New Venture Partners is providing new businesses that match its criteria with a minimum of six months’ rent free office space, including communications – and better still, it’s working with the new launches to ensure they remain on target to achieve success during the initial six-month period. Help is on hand in the shape of a group of business mentors who come from a range of disciplines to provide support on everything from business strategy and marketing to financial modelling. If you’re not lucky enough to live within commuting distance of the incubator, it’s worth contacting your local authority to see what local enterprises are available to start ups. You may be surprised. In this issue of Talk Business, we’ve taken a look at lending and credit, as well as bootstrapping – launching a new company without any financial back up by using coffee shops, free WiFi – anything that allows you to start trading at minimum outlay. So there’s no excuse not to make 2012 the year you become an entrepreneur.

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

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10/01/2012 16:23

AMS AMSAccountancy AccountancyLtd Ltd- Chartered - CharteredAccountants Accountants AMS Accountancy Ltd - Chartered Accountants We’re We’realways alwayshelping helpingsmall smallbusinesses businesses We’re always helping small businesses

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Peter Peter Bromiley Bromiley ACA, ACA, Peter Bromiley ACA, Technical Technical Director Director at AMS at AMS Accountancy Accountancy Ltd.Ltd.

Technical Director at AMS Accountancy Ltd. (Extracts (Extracts from from articles articles in Wilts. in Wilts. newspapers) newspapers) (Extracts from articles in Wilts. newspapers)

ad.amsaccount.indd 1

AMS AMS Accountancy Accountancy Ltd,Ltd, AMS Accountancy Ltd, Delta Delta 606, 606, Welton Welton Road, Road, Delta 606, Welton Swindon Swindon SN5 SN5 7XF7XF Road, Swindon SN5 7XF 01793 01793 818400 818400 01793 818400 www.ams-accountancy.co.uk www.ams-accountancy.co.uk www.ams-accountancy.co.uk 09/01/2012 10:22



tAlk business subsCription offer

Congratulations! ONE Business Insurance Solutions (OBIS) is celebrating after winning Business of the Year at the inaugural Brightsides awards. The award recognise excellence and the outstanding success of individuals and teams across the country. The judges cited a number of reasons for OBIS being named as business of the year, most notably: the substantial continued growth of the company and its strong reputation in the region for outstanding customer service. Darren Box, operations director at OBIS, says: ‘This award is a tremendous honour for the business, and great testament to the dedication and hard work of all our staff. ‘The recognition through this award cements our position as one of the region’s most successful businesses. We are deeply rooted in Southampton … and have plans to expand and create further opportunities.’

An alternative bank? Commenting on the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills’ announcement that it intends to examine how best to make the UK business funding market more competitive and dynamic, Anil Stocker, co-founder and director of MarketInvoice said: ‘We welcome the announcement by the DBIS to examine how best to make the UK business funding market more competitive and dynamic. We believe that alternative sources of business finance will flourish over the next five to ten years as the banking sector undergoes structural reform. ‘Moreover, the biggest barrier for faster adoption of emerging financing alternatives is simply awareness. New financing platforms lack the branch infrastructure to distribute their products and many owners

and managers of small & medium sized businesses have not even discovered that alternatives and complements to traditional bank funding do exist. ‘We hope the Government’s timely efforts to promote awareness in alternatives will help more business owners realise their corporate ambitions. ‘We are approached every day by fast-growing SMEs that are searching for a better financing solution than the traditional bank products. Often not able to secure a big enough overdraft, these companies do not wish to enter into long-term factoring contracts and are interested in how our online platform can offer a flexible on-demand invoice finance model, which they can use when they most need it.’ (www.marketinvoice.com)

Sign up to a year’s subscription of Talk Business magazine and you’ll not only save money, you’ll also receive a pair of USBCells* We’ve all been there, wanting to use an electrical device only to discover that the batteries have run out of power. Well, my friend, this is an inconvenience that can now be avoided by acquiring a revolutionary rechargeable battery - the USBCell. This NiMH AA cell can be used like a normal battery and can be recharged simply by plugging into a USB port. With over 15 billion Alkaline batteries made and thrown away each year - wasting resources, C02 and creating toxic landfill USBCell offers a eco-friendly alternative which can be re-used hundreds of times without an adaptor or cable, saving money, hassle and waste. For a limited time, subscribers to Talk Business magazine will receive a pack of two USBcells to power devices on the move.*


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www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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support for crowdfunding


Crowdcube, the company behind an innovative funding solution for start-ups and growing businesses, has used its own website to secure a £300,000 investment from 162 investors in order to fuel its next phase of growth. The investment was raised in only 10 days and finishes an impressive first year for the start-up that is bucking the economic trend and proving that crowdfunding is a viable alternative source of business finance for companies. Crowdcube enables members of the public to invest and receive shares in UK-based companies that register on the site to raise finance. Instead of competing for limited business

angel, venture capital funding, or hard to get and expensive bank finance, small businesses use Crowdcube as a platform to connect with a nation of ‘armchair Dragons’ – ordinary people who provide investment in exchange for equity. The success of crowdfunding has caught the eye of the Government with Business Secretary, Vince Cable last week announcing steps to create a new task force to boost the future of business finance for SMEs, including a focus on crowdfunding. In his speech Cable described: ‘exciting innovations that provide alternatives to bank lending... Businesses are selling bonds directly to their

customers, and peer-to-peer lending has opened up opportunities for savers to invest directly in the fortunes of UK businesses. I want to investigate and dismantle any barriers to these and future innovations.’ Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcube said: ’Business finance is at a critical turning point as the announcement by Vince Cable highlights. The future success of Britain’s economy is dependent on empowering small business Britain to succeed and grow, but access

to traditional methods of funding are often a barrier. The emergence of alternative sources of business finance, like crowdfunding, is already proving to be a very effective and popular solution for both entrepreneurs and investors.’

flexible friends MEET ThE TOTS

Britain’s youngest small businesses, which add more than £360m to the UK economy annually, have been identified by Henley Business School (HBS). The new breed, dubbed TOTs (twelve-months old, optimistic and technologically-minded) is being aided by a new plan from mobile phone provider, T-Mobile. According to HBS, the British economy is getting a shot in the arm from the nation’s youngest businesses. HBS’ small business research, commissioned by T-Mobile could add £360 million to the UK GDP and create over 70,000 new jobs over the next 12 months. TOTs describes firms that use social networking sites and smart phones to boost their business from the outset. The study was commissioned by the mobile communications company to investigate traits displayed by successful businesses that survive their first 12 months. The findings are being used by T-Mobile to help tailor its business offer to this specific sector. Predictably, tthe study found that mobile technology is at the heart of TOT firms. The vast majority of TOTs (98%) rely on smart phones for emails, organising their day and accessing business apps. They also use social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to promote products, network with potential customers and get real-time feedback on products and services. Benefits of this approach are underlined by Accenture which claims companies that invest early to harness the power of social media claim returns as high as 20 to 1, with greater gains predicted to be on the way.

Referring to news from independant forecasts that Britain’s economic growth will drop from 0.9% to 0.7% during 2012, Will Davies, co-founder of property company, aspect.co.uk, said: ‘Relatively small businesses can be flexible and take decisions on what they see ... but they have to be able to adapt to the market and make the most of the opportunities that are out there.’ Davis has recently announced plans to substantially expand his £10m London-based property business during the coming year.

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Brand NewYear Would you like to kick off 2012 with a clutch of fresh ideas about your brand identity and how you communicate? As a special New Year’s gift to you, William Joseph is offering an initial creative consultation absolutely free – no strings attached. The best value you’ll get in 2012: two hours of top-quality insights from one of the smartest small agencies in the UK. We only have 10 sessions to give away, so register your interest today at freethinking@williamjoseph.co.uk


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DIARY DATES Capital battle


A quarter of SMEs have been unable to grow their business, according to research from Borro. Apparently, one in ten considers closing their business as lack of accessible finance has meant they are unable to seize new opportunities, and 57% of SME owners turn to personal sources of finance to fund their business with bank confidence still at an all time low. Surprisingly, only two in five SME owners even attempted to secure bank finance during the past year. Following the credit easing initiatives announced in the Government’s Autumn Statement, Borro’s new research, reveals that small business owners have been locked in a capital battle which has resulted in lost opportunities to grow their business. Almost a quarter of SME owners (24%) say they have missed out on a growth opportunity due to a lack of accessible finance. With bank confidence still at an all-time low, small business owners have turned to personal funds to boost their businesses. Over half have used their own money and 17% have asked friends and family for additional funds. With more than 70% of borro’s customers being SMEs, 16% have used personal assets to secure finance over the past 12 months. The research has shown that two thirds (66%) lack confidence in their bank, and are unsure whether it will lend to them. As a result, only one in five (19%) of SMEs have attempted to secure bank finance for their business in the past year and only a third (31%) of this group have been successful in securing the finance in full. Over two thirds of SME owners believe that banks should relax lending criteria as those seeking finance are often denied due to not fitting the lenders profile. Paul Aitken, CEO of borro, comments: ‘A dramatic shift is needed for smaller business owners to feel they can gain access to much needed finance. While some of the initiatives introduced by the Government may ease the capital battle that has taken place over the past year; there is still a demand for small business owners to access finance quickly. This may be to ensure the business is able to take advantage of growth opportunities or address cash flow problems before they escalate. Our research demonstrates that this demand is not being met by banks and other traditional lenders.’

Cambridge Wireless siG – How to set up your business for growth from day one 12 Jan 2012 ideaSpace, Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge www.cambridgewireless.co.uk the franchise show 2012 24-25 Feb 2012 ExCeL, London www.thefranchiseshow.co.uk Growing Your own business 2012 16-17 March 2012 Olympia National Hall, London www.sme-events.com the british & international franchise exhibition 2012 16-17 March 2012 Olympia National Hall, London www.franchiseinfo.co.uk business 2012 18-20 March 2012 O2 Arena, London www.business2012.com

internet retailing expo 21-22 March 2012 NEC, Birmingham www.internetretailingexpo.com Hr software show 2012 20-21 June 2012 Olympia Two, London www.cipd.co.uk Marketing Week live 2012 27-28 June 2012 Olympia Grand Hall, London www.marketingweeklive.co.uk Hr software show 2012 20-21 June 2012 Olympia Two, London www.cipd.co.uk Marketing Week live 2012 27-28 June 2012 Olympia Grand Hall, London www.marketingweeklive.co.uk

MArkETINg WEEk LIvE 2012, 27-28 JuNE 2012, OLYMpIA grAND hALL, LONDON

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The event, which runs over two full days from 27-28 June 2012, brings together five shows: Data Marketing show; Insight Show; In-Store Show; Online Marketing Show and Marketing Week Live village. A must attend for forward-thinking marketers, the 2011 event welcomed almost 13,000 visitors – up 26% on the previous edition.

piggy bank madness Entrepreneur, former investment banker and founder of aspect.co.uk, Will Davies poured scorn on Sir Mervyn King’s recent instructions that banks should hoard cash to protect themselves against the fallout from a possible Euro crash. ‘Any increased hoarding of cash by our banks can only serve to restrict business growth in Britain,’ said Davies. ‘It’s all very well for the Bank of England to tell banks to limit bonuses and build up reserves so that they can survive a possible collapse in the euro zone, but their principle responsibility during the recession is to lend to the growing young businesses which will re-build our economy.’

Delivering his Financial Stability Report last week, the Governor of the Bank of England recommended that British banks should build up cash reserves rather than paying staff bonuses or dividends to shareholders. ‘The situation for SMEs looking for funding is desperate enough already. If the banks restrict lending even further, we will definitely slide back into recession,’ continued Davies, whose own company has announced extensive regional expansion for 2012. According to the BoE, British banks have £15bn invested in vulnerable EU economies, but a massive £160bn worth of loans to businesses in those same countries. These loans account for something approaching 80% of the reserves of Britain’s high street banks.

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Screw Business as Usual Richard Branson’s vision that turns capitalism on its head, and shifts values from a solely profit focus to focus on people communities and the planet


The book features inspiring people who are changing the way business is done. It is essential reading for anyone who understands that doing good really can be good for your business. Branson says: ‘Over the last few decades as I’ve started up one exciting business after another, I thought that life and work could not get any better. In writing this book, I’ve realised that we’ve really been on a practise run, getting ready for the greatest challenge and opportunity of our lifetime. We’ve got a shot at really pulling together to turn upside down the way we approach the challenges we are facing in the world and look at them in a brand new entrepreneurial way. ‘Never has there been a

more exciting time for all of us to explore this great next frontier where the boundaries between work and purpose are merging into one, where doing good, really is good for business.’ In this thought-provoking book, Branson introduces Capitalism 24902 – his philosophy that every single businessperson has the responsibility to take care of the people and planet that make up our global village, all 24,902 miles of it. Drawing on his own business experience as well as from pioneering entrepreneurs, Screw Business As Usual shows how easy it is to embark on a whole new way of doing things, solving major problems and turning our work into something we both love and are proud of. ‘I have written this book for

the new wave of emerging entrepreneurs as well as existing business people who are transforming their organisations,’ he explains. ‘For those who, at the same time as wanting to develop a business and make a living, are wanting to do more to help people and the planet. It’s a vibrant and definite sea change from the way business was always done, when financial profit was a driving force. Today, people aren’t afraid to say, Screw Business As Usual – and show they mean it.’ A clarion call to anyone in business, Screw Business As Usual demonstrates how doing good can enable businesses to prosper. About the author: Sir Richard Branson is a successful international entrepreneur,

adventurer and icon, and founder of the Virgin Group. His autobiography as well as his books on business, Screw It, Let’s Do It and Business Stripped Bare, and are all international bestsellers. About Virgin Unite: Virgin Unite is the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group that unites people to tackle tough social and environmental problems in an entrepreneurial way. Its aim is to help revolutionise the way businesses, government and the social sector work together – driving business as a force for good. Virgin Unite’s overheads are covered by the Virgin Group, meaning that 100 per cent of donations received go direct to the front line – where they are needed most.

Calculating success: How The New Workplace Analytics Will Revitalize Your Organization Carl Hoffmann, Eric Lesser and Tim Ringo have written a book packed with information on how to align the business’ strategy with its people

The use of analytics has been applied to businesses’ most immediate challenges – from finance to marketing. If the power of analytics is proven – why have organisations struggled to develop equivalent methods for making better decisions for their workforce? Calculating Success provides

a framework for workforce analytics to help organisations align their strategy with their most valuable asset: people. As the authors state, no matter how brilliant a company’s strategic vision, the strategy will fail unless it is clear how to organise and motivate the workforce to take action. Based on their own experiences, the authors show how their framework for using analytics can dramatically improve a company’s performance. They believe that workforce analytics involves

modelling the behaviour of the organisation and the workforce to understand what drives performance within the company’s particular needs and constraints. It then informs what tools and processes the company should put in place to achieve its highest potential. The book is planned around the four most crucial questions business owners should ask: How should work be structured to align with corporate strategy? How can the right inventory of human capital be built

and allocated across the company? How can individuals be focused and motivated to achieve the company’s goals? How can companies innovate how work gets done and obtain the capabilities needed for success? With detailed examples from Delta Airlines, IBM, Luxottica and Sprint, Calculating Success provides a new approach that enables owners to hone their approach to managing talent to create a stable and costeffective workforce.

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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inancing a business is one of the fundamentals that, if you get wrong could effectively stop your business from trading. Running a business is not just about profits, but managing your cash flow and the amount of initial or ongoing funding is critical to any successful business. Obtaining a loan or overdraft can be very difficult in todays financial climate as the majority of banks are requesting personal guarantees that are asset backed, which is fine if you have a house or other investment asset to provide as collateral - but if you do not, they will not be parting with their money. One method of providing ongoing working capital for the business is through invoice finance. This comes in a variety of forms from factoring to confidential invoice discounting. Invoice financing releases your working capital immediately by providing your business with a percentage of every invoice’s value. Unlike an overdraft, funding levels automatically grow alongside your business without the need for constant renegotiation. When you invoice your customers, the provider agrees to pay you a percentage of the invoice immediately, which means you do not have to wait for your customer to pay you in line with your credit terms. When your customer does pay you, the invoice finance company pays over the remaining percentage. It should be noted that invoice finance agreements will have a recourse period, which states that if an invoice reaches an pre-agreed age and remains unpaid, the debt will revert back to you and the invoice finance company will automatically take their money back. Invoice finance takes security from your invoices/sales ledger. This is an asset that

ON A POSITIVE NOTE, IT IS A VERY COMPETITIVE MARKET AND A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS WILL BE ABLE TO ACHIEVE A VERY COMPETITIVE RATE your business has that can be used as security. Invoice finance utilises that security, which effectively means the bank/ provider of the finance owns your invoices. They take a fee of typically between two and three per cent, depending on the nature of your business.

How does invoice discounting work? With invoice discounting, you raise an invoice to your customer on your own company stationery, send it to your customer and then present a copy of the invoice to your invoice finance provider for payment. Your own credit controller secures payment from your customer, which is then paid in to your client account by your provider. Once the funds have cleared, they send you the balance owed, less their own fee. Confidential invoice discounting is ideal if you have an annual turnover above ÂŁ500,000 and an established credit control function. It enables you to quickly inject capital into your business, without having to deal with banks or sacrifice equity. Furthermore, your customer will have no idea that you are funding your sales ledger.

How does factoring work? Factoring works in the same way as invoice discounting in respect of the funding of the invoices. However, all invoices will state that they are the property of your provider and they will take full

responsibility for securing the payment from your customers. Another advantage is that you save the cost of employing a credit controller. The factoring company will be experienced at collecting money, which should keep your debtors within the recourse period as mentioned earlier.

Things to look for when choosing a provider: While most providers can offer a solution to cater for any sector, there are providers that specialise in certain areas, such as recruitment and construction and therefore have more appropriate products. Look very closely at the fees that will be charged in addition to the main fees, such as the cost of sending letters or CHAPS fees. Ask if you can speak to any of their existing clients to see how they feel the service levels are. It should be noted that this is a great way to fund your business, especially one that is growing rapidly, as you will never run out of working capital given that the facility will grow in line with your invoices. The invoice finance provider does however, control your business and many agreements can have very restrictive covenants that will dictate things like dividends or the appointment of directors. On a positive note it is a very competitive market and a successful business will be able to achieve a very competitive rate for this service.

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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‘Twitter dragon’ Simon Dolan chats with Talk Business about education, attitude and start ups or a man that was asked to leave school at 16, Simon Dolan hasn’t done too badly for himself. At the age of 42 his personal wealth is estimated at £100m. He has a fleet of planes, owns several businesses and competes in the Le Mans 24-hour race in his Aston Martin. There is also a branch of his accountancy firm, SJD Accountancy, in every major UK town and city. That Dolan has been successful with little formal education should come as no surprise. His first entrepreneurial experience at the www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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Page 1

The Low Cost - Low Risk way to Expand Your Business

ProcessFlows Outsourcing Services The Team to have on your side ProcessFlows will help you to reach your strategic goals by providing a low-cost, low-risk outsourcing service. We will help transform your business in a seamless and cost-effective way by providing the resources you need, when you need them, without the commitment and risks associated with hiring new staff or expanding your existing facilities. Most organisations know how they’d like to drive their business forward, but don’t feel confident enough to make the necessary investment commitments. Now, more than ever, those decisions are often viewed as just too risky. Outsourcing via ProcessFlows mitigates this risk – You remain in control of the budgeted and quantifiable costs, enabling your business to accelerate in new directions – making the difference between you and your competitors. ProcessFlows’ Outsourcing Team becomes additional infrastructure for your business, without any capital investment. There is no direct overhead cost, office space, recruitment or compensation of personnel, etc – We handle all of those issues for you.





Page 2

Outsourcing will enable you to expand your business simply and reliably, in any area where you need additional resource:

Benefits Focus on core business activities rather than administrative processes and maximise your operational efficiency Enhance your services with round-the-clock, multi-lingual staff, providing your organisation with that all important competitive edge.

Sales & Marketing ■ Lead Generation ■ Account Development ■ Order Processing ■ Database Management

Not just a service – If desired you can retain direct management and control of your sourced activities Improve business controls with tighter fiscal resource management and the ability to target resources around seasonal or specific activity. With low cost and low risk, your business will be more agile and able to alter direction swiftly, to meet any changing business trends.

Finance ■ Credit Control

Our Operation

■ Accounts Payable

ProcessFlows’ 24x7 Outsourcing operation in Sofia offers significant advantages over traditional off-shoring; this is near-shoring. Bulgaria is a full member of the European Union and subject to the same regulatory safeguards as the UK, so this is just an extension of your existing operation.

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Administration ■ Data Processing ■ Manual Keying ■ Server & Network Monitoring ■ Managed Support/Helpdesk Services

Language skills – High availability of professional staff, with a wide variety of language skills such as English, French, Spanish, German, or even Arabic, Mandarin, and Russian Culture – No issues of ‘culture clash’ experienced in more ‘exotic’ locations Data protection – The same stringent Data Protection Laws applied in Bulgaria as in the UK Travel times – Just a three-hour flight from London

ProcessFlows Business Process Outsourcing services are a key enabler in helping your organisation achieve operational excellence and cost effectiveness.

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Time Zones – With only a two-hour time difference, working relationships are far simpler Education – Highly-educated and motivated workforce who undergo continual training, with skill sets comparable to UK-based employees

Why outsource with ProcessFlows? ■ Low Cost, Low Risk way to employ additional resource – without the normal employment constraints ■ Experiment with new ideas without the up-front investment ■ Switch-on, Switch-off – flexible resources when you need them ■ Manage your resource directly or pass over processes to us and just monitor results

To find out how we can help your business to grow, please visit www.outsourcing-processflows.co.uk for more information. Alternatively you can call us on 01962 835053 or email sales@processflows.co.uk





age of 13, was selling scratch the gift-of-the-gab, commitment to hard cards in the school playground. graft and strong arithmetic.’ This was followed by a paper It is hard to disagree with Dolan’s round, and then a spell on a market stall argument. By the time most of this year’s -experiences that have informed the university intake graduate, they’ll be £50,000 principles behind his business ethos. in debt with little or no working experience. In recent years he has perhaps been best While not dismissing the university process known for vehement support for Britain’s entirely, Dolan believes most current youth to shun a university education in favour undergraduates would be better served of getting a job and working experience. getting a job and earning than getting into ‘I got a job on a market and saw debt for a meaningless degree. people making money on a really ‘We need to get away from the basic premise. You don’t need a notion that a better education degree to do something like means a better job. ‘a recession that. You just need to make Successive Governments is an excuse sure you do it better than have been barking up the – it’s just the competition. wrong tree. While it’s procrastination ‘I was thrown out of admirable that they’re – and there will school at 16 with trying to create a better always be an virtually no qualifications, educated society, it doesn’t excuse. you just limited prospects and mean they’re any more have to start’ fewer ideas. Selling cheese equipped to create value. and eggs on a market stool ‘There needs to be a for a period of time taught me massive rethink on education,

teaching practical skills – developing a child’s confidence, social and psychological skill and base the curriculum around that.’ His words are backed by his own experiences. After leaving school he spent a period trying to break into the music business, before eventually joining a firm of accountants. After leaving this role, he spent several years trying out different jobs, until he found himself aged 23, unemployed and living off credit cards. ‘I did a few jobs – it was a means to an end, there was no focus’ Dolan says. ‘I started my business out of desperation – I needed the money.’ When the money and credit ran out, he was racking his brains for ways to make money and spent his last £10 placing an advert in the local newspaper offering to complete people’s end of year accounts. Three weeks passed before he received a call, and then SJD Accountancy was born. The decision was arguably the most important of his life – it is certainly one that is indicative of a man who’s tenacity and

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Dolan’s first company and the UK’s largest specialist provider of fixed fee, limited company accountancy services to contractors, freelancers and small to medium sized businesses has over 10,000 clients.

contrActor umbrellA

Employment services company established in 2002.

JotA AviAtion

Specialist airline based at London Southend Airport, operating throughout the UK and Europe for cargo and passengers. Initially established to meet the travel and cargo demands of the motorsport industry.

JotA Sport

Specialises in the preparation, management and running of professional motorsport teams in major championships and series’. As official Partner team to Aston Martin Racing, Jota Sport represents the famous marque at the very highest levels of international sports car racing.

self belief has helped to achieve his vast success.‘I didn’t have a mentor – there was no one person. I’ve picked most of it up as I’ve gone along. ‘My biggest challenge? It’s something I get asked a lot and I genuinely can’t remember a huge challenge – I’ve never really felt anything was insurmountable. Life has its ups and downs and small problems. Business is the same. If you’re starting a business, just get on with it. You have to accept there will be problems – and you will have to find solutions.’

Business advice Simon Dolan’s bullish nature, tenacity and drive also inform his advice to those in a new business, or those thinking of starting one. His can-do, get-on-with-it attitude is at the heart of all the knowledge he imparts, and like so many successful businessmen, he doesn’t view the recession a hindrance. ‘A recession is an excuse – it’s just procrastination – and there will always

be an excuse. You just have to start. You don’t need to do much prep – you’ll become paralysed by analysis. ‘Figure out how you’re going to get customers. You should spend 99 per cent of your time sorting this out. You have no business until you sell products. It doesn’t matter what you have, if you can’t sell, you won’t have a business.’ For many the advice will be a wake-up call or the jolt that spurs them to action. At a time when the economy desperately needs successful businesses and business leaders, the country’s SME fraternity would do well to heed Dolan’s advice. If nothing else, the adoption of his attitude alone would improve the chances of business success. ‘Resilience and self-belief are an entrepreneur’s most precious commodities. With conviction in your idea, intense engagement, passionate drive and by giving yourself time, you can start your own business and get rich without the regressive three-year stint at university.’


SIMON SAYS... DolAn on inveSting: ‘i look at the person i’m investing in. i’m more inclined to invest in a person if i like them. if they can’t sell themselves to you, how are they going to sell the product you’re investing in? you have to like the person.’

DolAn on plAnning:

‘most of it is fairly off the cuff. i’m a believer in getting on and doing it.’

DolAn on entrepreneurS:

‘We need to get away from the idea that entrepreneurs are different. they’re not, they’re just people who make money for themselves’

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IT FOR THE SMALL BUSINESS IN 2012 For existing and start up small businesses in 2012 keeping costs down will be key driver. Knowing where to start with IT can be quite a mine field. Do I start with a server? Do I outsource? Do I start in the ‘Cloud’? THIS ARTICLE IS AIMED AT PROVIDING IMPARTIAL ADVICE AND GUIDANCE FOR IT


If you are an existing or start up business having IT systems it is paramount that all the following are achievable, cost savings, security, resilience, flexibility and minimal management. The days of sitting in front of a computer to carry out day to day work are now far behind us. In today’s world, we can work from anywhere by means of a workstation, a Smartphone, net book, touchpad or various other devices. All these provide us with very flexible working and allow us to concentrate on increasing business revenue.

Do I start with a server? Investing in a server requires an additional outlay for hardware, software packages set up, maintenance and support. Many companies prefer to keep all their IT systems in-house providing them with full control over the systems. Security and control of the companies data is often the key driver for this solution. It requires knowledge to run the server and associated computers and often requires a dedicated IT support technician.

Do I outsource? Many companies have their own server and outsource the support and maintenance to a third party company. This choice is often more beneficial to the organisation as the cost for the support contract is much less than employing a dedicated IT resource. Third party companies have IT technicians with hardware and software accreditations and can manage your systems remotely without the need to visit your premises reducing the costs of maintenance contracts. Packages can be as simple as providing ‘peace of mind’ monitoring solutions to acting as your IT department and IT solutions advisor.

Do I start in the ‘Cloud’? We all keep hearing the words ‘Cloud Computing’. Cost saving benefits are the main selling points and these are well documented. Cloud computing is flexible meaning the needs of an organisation can be quickly changed with its evolving needs. Cloud solutions are scalable upwards as well as downwards the need for firms to invest in IT hardware and software and storage, is offset by providing the facilities remotely. Additional benefits include anytime and anywhere IT

availability, latest software solutions and access to a pool of IT specialists. Consider your options carefully to ensure that the IT platform chosen is best suited to the needs of your business. If you need some advice and which route to take or just want IT for your business clarifying contact us on 0845 680 4017 and we will be pleased to help clarify some of your questions. info@techitsolutions.co.uk www.techitsolutions.co.uk

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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As social media sites grow in number and thousands more members sign up daily, Graham Robinson, operations director at new media agency First Internet (www.firstinternet.co.uk) explains why the SME can no longer afford to ignore websites such as Facebook and Twitter.


ith notable exceptions – the likes of Coca Cola and McDonalds – a company will not gain 20,000 Facebook fans or Twitter followers in a week, but this doesn’t make this new medium of communication obsolete. Social media participation is an increasingly necessary form of marketing for SMEs. The perfect way for smaller companies to reach way beyond their physical and marketing budget restrictions, Facebook, Twitter et al, allow communication with entirely new customers and the building and maintenance of relationships with current clients. While traditional marketing methods do work, they can often be expensive and limited, whereas social media makes communication instant and accessible to all who are interested. Although social media platforms are constantly reinventing themselves, which makes it difficult to create concrete and well-tested business plans, the basic principles can still be followed and it is important to experiment with them, constantly learning from previous experiences. However, while social media strategies don’t require huge budgets – making them ideal for SMEs – they do need a lot of time invested in them. Companies must understand that they will not see results overnight and social media presence won’t always lead directly to sales – it will, however allow a company to engage with its customers and build up a long-term relationship with them. The benefits gained are worth the time invested. Using social media correctly can bring a company closer to its customers, which

in turn allows it to become more aware of how those customers think and their needs. Correct use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites works best if a business sits back and listens to what its customers are talking about; bombarding a social media account with corporate messages is a huge mistake to make, and will result in the loss of followers or fans, as will interrupting natural conversations with obvious marketing messages. During these tough economic times, it is more important than ever to deliver top notch customer service, and listening to your customers’ complaints and needs on social networks is one of the best ways to tailor your service and deliver first class customer service. Customers will generally be remarkably honest on Facebook and Twitter and often the majority of complaints will come through these channels rather than any other. In cases such as these, it is crucial that mentions of the brand or business are monitored, in order to pull together a general feeling of the attitude towards the company, and alter the social media strategy as appropriate. Respond to any negative comments as contemporaneously as possible, always presenting a good outcome – free returns, discount on a next purchase, etc. In return, customers will usually publically announce the great service they have received, alerting all of their followers to the company. On the other – more positive - hand, social media followers or fans can often become a company’s unpaid sales team as they will often announce how great a


business, its products or services are, should they like the care or item that they receive. To get the most out of social media, businesses must integrate on and offline marketing methods. Making current customers aware that a company they use can be found on social media sites, and encouraging them to join up helps to build a sense of community and enables them to be another online ambassador for the brand or business. Social media is an important aspect of online reputation, too – the majority of potential clients will conduct research before signing up for a service or buying a product. The sentiment that these people find online will have a huge impact on their opinion of a brand and on their decision to choose a certain business, meaning that sites such as Facebook and Twitter can no longer be ignored – using them allows a company to direct what is said about them, rather than leaving it to disgruntled customers who choose not to go directly to the company, but complain to their hundreds of followers, instead. Whilst many SMEs may not see the benefits of social media for their organisations and may not invest much – or any - time into it, a recent survey by Regus has discovered that those small and medium enterprises who have signed up, use social media more successfully than larger companies when it comes to acquiring new customers. The survey showed that 42 per cent of SMEs win business using social media, compared to 35 per cent of larger organisations (with 250 employees or more), and that SMEs devote at least 20 per cent of their marketing budget to using social media as a means to gaining new customers.



www.firstinternet.co.uk. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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terms such as SIP Trunks, IP Telephony and Internet Telephony all boil down to the same thing: using the internet to make and receive telephone calls instead of using a traditional fixed line. Whilst perceived by many to be a new technology, VoIP has in fact been around for many years and is a very mature technology. BT is in the process of migrating all of its core network to VoIP and it is the de facto standard for interconnection between many international telecom companies. With the advent of fast broadband in the last couple of years it has now become a viable technology for small businesses.

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

How does it work? In its simplest form, all that is required is a VoIP device that is connected to the internet which is registered with a VoIP Service Provider as shown below.

Business benefits of VoIP The main benefits of VoIP for businesses are cost savings, flexibility and scalability. 1. COST SAVINGS • Call charges – Very significant savings can be made on outgoing call charges particularly on international calls and calls to mobiles. As well as the basic pence per minute (ppm) charges usually being lower, VoIP providers usually charge to the second with no connection charges whereas traditional telecom companies very often charge a connection fee, have a minimum call charge and round the length of the call up to the next minute. This can inflate the cost of the call significantly. Furthermore, calls between VoIP lines on your account are usually free so if your business has multiple locations then VoIP eradicates these charges. • Fixed costs – When using fixed lines there needs to be a fixed line in place for every simultaneous call that needs to be made, e.g., five lines for five simultaneous calls. A typical broadband connection is capable of supporting many simultaneous calls (the actual number depends on your connection) so instead of paying expensive installation and rental charges for each line, VoIP lines can be added for a small monthly fee. With a typical fixed line costing around £15 per month with a £30 connection fee and a VoIP line £3 per month with no connection fees, the savings can be substantial. • Contract charges – most fixed line services will be offered with a minimum contract period of at least 12 months, whilst many VoIP offerings are offered contractfree allowing the addition and removal of services on an ad-hoc basis as when the business requires them.

Tel: 0800 852 7000

2. FleXibiliTy As a startup or small business, flexibility is hugely important. Many startup businesses are typically home-based to begin with before moving into permanent offices. VoIP is ideal for home-based businesses as it provides a telephone line which is separate from the home line. Making calls via your home line is fine until you start to receive return calls and another member of the family answers in an inappropriate manner! Your VoIP provider should be able to provide your business with Virtual Numbers, either geographic (01 or 02) or nongeographic (03 or 08) which can be pointed at your VoIP line, fixed line or mobile. This makes the transition from a home office to any other site or office easy as you keep the same number and have complete control of where that number is pointed to at any time. The advanced inbound call handling facilities of VoIP allows your business to project a professional image from day one. Virtual numbers can also be used for a variety of marketing purposes. One such application is Advertising Tracking Numbers. This is where a company purchases a range of virtual numbers and uses each number for a different advertising mechanism, e.g., website, newpapers, trade journals, trade shows, etc. The inbound call statistics will identify where your sales calls are being generated from and which outlets are most effective for your business. If you can measure it you can optimise it. 3. sCalabiliTy Capacity can be added or removed on an ad-hoc basis over multiple sites as your business changes. VoIP lines can be added to any location with an internet connection and aggregated into a virtual office system. This is often called Hosted PBX or Virtual PBX. All phones registered to the Virtual PBX can benefit from the advanced features that would normally only be available with an expensive office system, regardless of location at a fraction of the cost. Features include IVR, call queues, hunt and pickup groups, call transfer, voicemail, etc. Properly engineered, VoIP can also provide greater resilience for mission critical services than fixed line alternatives. By having multiple internet connections at a site, even using completely different Internet Service Providers if required, services can be secure even with the loss of a broadband connection. Services can be quickly and easily replicated to different locations making VoIP an ideal solution for disaster recovery purposes. www.invoco.net

WHAT IS REQUIRED? 1. VOIP DEVICE – VOIP DEVICES CAN COME in a number oF Forms: • software iP Phones or ‘softphones’ – This is an application that will run on your computer or smartphone device. Softphones are great to get you going as they’re cheap (many good softphones are available free) and you can set up your VoIP line in minutes. This is a great option if you want to try VoIP or a particular service provider without having to buy any additional hardware apart from a microphone headset. The downside to softphones is that the computer needs to be switched on in order to receive calls. • Hardware iP Phone – A dedicated hardware device is recommended for users who make more than the occasional call. This will look like a normal business telephone but plugs into your broadband router instead of your analogue phone line. A good quality IP phone will cost upwards of £40 and there are many manufacturers: Cisco, Polycom, Snom and Yealink to name a few. Most IP phones are relatively straight forward to set up but it’s advisable to talk to your VoIP service provider before you purchase a phone to ensure that the phone is compatible with their service. • analog Telephone adapters (aTa) – This device plugs into your broadband router in the same fashion as a hardware IP phone but has an analog port to allow the connection of a normal analog telephone. This allows the use of VoIP without having to purchase new phones. However, ATA’s are not dissimilar in price to a good IP phone and don’t offer the same level of functionality. • iP-enabled PbX – If you already have an office telephone system or PBX it is worth checking with your PBX vendor to see if it is IP enabled. This will allow the PBX to register with your VoIP service provider in order to benefit from cheaper calls.

2. VOIP SERVICE PROVIDER There are many VoIP service providers in the market and it can be quite difficult to choose the right provider for your business. Things to check: • Corporate – As with any critical supplier, you should do some basic checks to see how long they have been operating, they’ve got a good credit record, etc. • number Portability – If you already have a business number you will most likely want to keep it so check that number portability is offered. Equally importantly, if you’re not happy with the VoIP provider you might want to port to a different one. • Pricing – An obvious point, but check all aspects of a providers pricing before making a decision. The best value providers will have very clear and open pricing on their website. It can be tempting to go with a provider that offers low cost or even free VoIP lines but check the call charges carefully as you’ll most likely pay way over the odds. Free isn’t necessarily cheapest!

3. INTERNET CONNECTION You’ll need a good quality internet connection wherever you’re looking to use VoIP. If your business already has broadband and you don’t need more than half a dozen or so simultaneous calls then there’s probably no need to change. If you’re looking to get broadband then it’s worth doing some research on the various ISP review websites to get an idea of the best quality providers out there. When choosing a broadband provider for VoIP, a high notional download speed isn’t the most important criteria. A good quality, low contention connection with a good upload speed is recommended.

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012


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When it comes to understanding your workforce, effective communication is paramount. Shaun Thomson, CEO at Sandler Training UK looks at the three winning components of communicating with staff to support better ways of working. Business success is linked to the effectiveness of your senior team and by starting at the top; you too can become a better manager of change


he word communication is bandied around in everyday business life; we all like to think we’re good communicators. Effective communication is often wrapped up with our definition of success –just think of Richard Branson, Peter Jones or, dare I say it, David Cameron as a case in point. Communicating well is the crux of strong leadership; the ability to communicate effectively is an essential management tool. It ties into developing a better understanding of human behaviour and potential, working with your team to develop their confidence and self-esteem, as well as inspiring and bringing out the best in people. The threats of ineffective communication in a business are acute. Things get lost in translation in the midst of our busy lives and short-term pressures. This is when elements of your business can fall apart – a team member misunderstanding a client’s intentions, misinterpreting a brief, a sales message being bland or off track can all cause things to unravel. Successful, meaningful communication is a multi-step, closed loop process. Each step can influence the message being communicated in a way that will ultimately increase or decrease its ability to be readily understood – by team members of all levels.


Components of CommuniCation

In business, as in so many parts of our lives, it’s easy to get preoccupied with what we’re saying. We tend to lose sight of how to say it. But to get closer to people, connect with them and guide them, we need to look at and embrace the key components of communication. These are: body language; words; and tonality.


Many of the entrepreneurs we work with are surprised that of these three, the words have the least impact. The tonality, or the way we say things, is five times more important than the words we use. If you keep this in mind when engaging with people, you may find that more positive, mindful body language actually leverages greater results. When these three elements are congruent – open body language accompanying positive words and appropriate tonality of speech – a message www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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Recognising peRsonality types on this basis can infoRm all stages of employee Relationships – fRom hiRing, mentoRing, setting goals and appRaisals


is unified and strengthened. However, if one of these components becomes disjointed – encouraging words spoken with a flat tone and hostile body language - what you’re saying becomes weakened or blurred. This in turns gives rise to misunderstandings and misinterpretation. As you become more aware of how you apply each component, so you will enhance your personal communication style.


the medium is the message

As a leader, you need to tailor the message to your audience. Good leaders understand that messages need to be relevant and personal to individual colleagues. We, as individuals experience the world through our senses. However, we don’t always take the time to understand the role that sensory dominance has in driving our teams on a personal basis – what switches them on in terms of how you relate to them and will therefore inspire better results? people fall into three categories: *Visuals - These are ‘show me’ people; they process their environment through images, and tend to be fast thinkers, movers and speakers. You’ll recognise visual employees

through their animated gestures and use of visual terms in their conversation. Visuals do not like to be interrupted. *auditories - The ‘tell me’ team members think in words, sounds, dialogues and represent ideas in their minds as conversations. Auditories will speak in even tones and are more comfortable with colleagues that speak at the same rate. Equally, they are easily bored by monotonous speech. *Kinesthetics - Kinesthetics are influenced by how they feel about their reality; judgements are made on the basis of feelings of comfort or discomfort, and their external experiences. Kinesthetics prefer hands-on experiences, use tactile and feelings-related terms in conversation and tend to breathe and speak slowly. Recognising personality types on this basis can inform all stages of employee relationships – from hiring, mentoring, setting goals and appraisals. As you will deliver your message through the right channel, you immediately increase its impact and efficacy.


a two-way thing

In business, we can lose sight of the role listening has in how we understand our colleagues, teams, and clients. Active

listening is a great technique for providing feedback; it’s about demonstrating you’re involved in the conversation and are participating fully. There are a couple of tricks here that can help you get closer and connect with what your colleague is saying: *Restatement – this involves reflecting the message using the same language they use – capture their key words and phrases with a closedend question. *paraphrasing - when the essence of the message is reflected without necessarily using the exact same words or phrases. Again checking your understanding is correct allows your colleague to expand or build on their message. This feedback process will close the communication process loop, enabling you to ensure your message is understood, or indicate the need for further clarification. Understanding your workforce by committing to a more considered, personalised communication process can deliver change that achieves sustainable and lasting results. By taking a step back to understanding behaviours and responding with a relevant attitude, you can get one step closer to achieving your long-term organisational goals.



January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Tim Ringo, partner at Maxxim Consulting, discusses the daunting topic of unemployment numbers – is all what it seems?



ll too often in recent years we have seen headlines about top companies cutting thousands of staff, and recently, the youth unemployment rate has reached its highest level for 15 years. Remarkably, many companies today are sitting on a lot of cash and are actually reasonably profitable, due to the short to mid-term impact of large headcount reductions. Unfortunately, there is little to no room left to cut, as companies are operating at bare bones levels in terms of their workforce numbers. To get out of this downward spiral, the focus needs to shift to improvements in the top line – and to do this, companies require increased productivity, and in many cases, more people to drive greater sales and revenue. Regrettably, in today’s business climate, senior executives and managers tend to view employees as a cost base for easy cuts, and do not see the value and return on investment that employees produce. This thinking is not surprising, as most senior executives have little understanding or access to data and insights on exactly what is the right numbers of staff, the right mix of skills and what level of productivity should be achievable. Mercer recently did a study that showed chief financial officers reported their organisations spent 36 per cent of revenue on people costs but only 16 per cent said they had any detailed understanding of the ROI on those costs. As a result, what they don’t always recognise is that headcount also drives increases in revenue and profit. Hiring the right people and deploying them to the right areas of focus, is proven to increase

productivity but also leads to innovative products and services to grab greater market share. This begs the question then; how do we know what the right size and make up of our workforce should be, and have we cut too far? What we have seen across many companies in recent years is overly streamlined teams, who have a greater burden than they can bear which is reducing productivity and, we argue, leading to an artificially high unemployment rate. The good news is there is a little known solution to this problem. Workforce analytics - an important tool to help companies develop a clear understanding of the value of their people and the levers that can be pulled to increase revenue and profit. These levers are simple: accurate data about getting the right number of


people with the right skills, in the right place at the right time. We have found that workforce analytics has actually been proven to help senior executives understand the contribution of headcount and how an increase (and effective deployment) of the right kind of staff can be very profitable for an organisation. Indeed, workforce analytics turns the data about your people into insights into how many people an organisation needs, with the right skills deployed to the right activities to drive new revenue and profit. We found that companies that do this activity well, do fewer headcount reductions and more hiring during times of economic uncertainty, as they have the insights to take these key decisions. Most other organisations fly blind during economic turmoil. Organisations that use these insights thrive in uncertain times, and society gains, with more people productively on the payroll.



January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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HC WebDesign Pure Elegant Designs


HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET NEW BUSINESS IN 2012? First you must let people know you exist. Then make yourself look attractive. Let people know how to contact you. Then start selling to your prospect. In the High Street you might start by placing adverts in the local press or by TV and Radio or by putting out hand bills and so on. You present your shop front in a way that attracts your customers in. You have your staff on hand to help the client if they cannot find what they want for themselves. Now you can start to sell to them. How you do all this depends on what your business is. The Internet is no different. You still have to let your prospects know you exist. You still have to make your self look attractive by presenting a website that is pleasing to the eye. You have to let your prospect know how they can get more help from you if they need it. Then you can sell to them. The process is the same, you just have a different set of tools to achieve it.

Tools to show you exist. There are a variety of tools you can use. You can present yourself to the search engines, Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. You can present yourself to online directories. You can advertise online. You can sign up to Facebook, or Twitter or LinkedIn. You can self publicise in blogs or on forum sites. No one of these is either right or wrong. Facebook adverts allow you to address prospects with specific interests. Google Adwords are more generic. Not all online directories will be of interest in your market sector so don’t use those that are not relevant. Not everyone will spend time reading blogs and forum sites are not


relevant to every industry. Choose the media that are going to give you the best results and monitor how they work.

Tools to make you look attractive. This is where your web designer will help you out. Find sites that you like and those you dislike and tell your designer about them. Take ownership and don’t accept things about your website that you don’t like or that you think won’t work. If you had a brochure produced by your local printer you would expect to proof read it. You would say if you didn’t like something about it, the colour scheme or the words. It’s your brochure promoting your business. Your only interest is the finished item, not how it was produced. The same is true of your website. It is promoting your business. You don’t need to know how it is coded, what is required to change the colour, or what server it runs on but you do need to know that it presents your business in the best possible way.

Tools to help the prospect find what they want. When you visit your supermarket you can find most things you want on your own but what if you can’t find a particular item. There is normally someone you can ask. Visit your solicitor and there is a receptionist who you will ask to find what you need. On Amazon you can, like your supermarket, find what you need for yourself and complete your transaction on your own.

What about when you are looking for a new computer program when you might be presented with a staggering number of options? What then? What if you are seeking a specialist service. You need to make sure the prospect can contact you. Your phone number writ large on every page. Take every opportunity to present the prospect with a means of contacting you by data capture forms or email. Remember that this is to get the prospect to talk to you so you can start to sell to them.

Take control Optimising for Search Engines is only about getting traffic to your site and is about making your site attractive to machines. What is equally important is that your site is viewed by prospects who we hope are human beings and therefore your site has to be attractive to human prospect. There are a lot of people out there selling Search Engine Optimisation packages. These range in cost from £60 to £600 per month. Keeping costs under control will be ever important in 2012 so make sure you get value for money and don’t be suckered in to paying for a service that you don’t really understand. www.hcwebdesign.co.uk www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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Savvy speaker, expert flogger, and knowledgeable business man, Harvey Jacobson is an inspiring entrepreneur with business acumen pulsing though his veins

of a ctorssiness? a f y Ke sful bu ood s : ‘A g succebson saysoncept, Jacooduct or c isation, pr t organ k, greahard wor n, and tio mina uck.’ detertle bit of l a lit



he face and brains behind the Jacobson Group – home to more than 70 shoe and clothing brands – there’s no mistaking that Harvey Jacobson has a natural flair for business which he’s used to his advantage. Having been born into the footwear industry, his knowledge is instinctive and his ability to sell is intuitive – in fact, on his first visit to the family’s footwear store, aged six, Jacobson made his first sale. From there he went on to sell goods on a market stall which, in time, led to him www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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PROFILE Harvey Jacobson establishing a global brand which supplies to many a retailer. Today the Jacobson Group supplies merchandise worth in excess of £250m annually and employs more than 300 people across the UK. Although running a thriving company, in his free time the man dedicates his time to helping good causes and enjoys watching his beloved United on the pitch. We were able to steal a moment of his time to quiz him on his career and hear the advice he’d give to others starting out today.

How did you make the transition from running a market stall to a owning a global business?


It was really a gradual process, I had realistic goals to achieve and once I achieved them I set new targets and challenges. I think the key to this evolution was my appetite to achieve – I still have enormous hunger for it today.

How did your time working on the market stall influence your approach to business? It helped me understand how to deal with - and communicate with - people. I feel that I learnt how to schmooze and also how to be tough. It taught me both scripts – good cop and bad cop.

What do you look for in a potential investment? Money! Seriously though, I look for a product or concept that I feel will sell to the public. I always look at the skills of the management team; anyone who has a plan must also be able to implement it effectively.

Having successfully built up your company, what would you say is the single most important principle to consider when starting up? Doing your homework. Far too many people enter into businesses where they know little about the competition. It’s crazy really considering you can source so much information now on the Internet.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the years? I’ve had lots of challenges and wouldn’t

want to single any out. Aside from my wife, three situations that come straight to mind are firstly, having to pick myself up after having my van stolen, full of stock, when I was 18 – without insurance. The advice I received was: ‘you are an earner. Don’t worry about it. Earn it back!’ Another tough time was preparing for anticipated customer complaints after our novelty slippers featured on Watchdog. The BBC conveniently forgot to mention that we had withdrawn them from sale over two months earlier. Luckily, concerns were unfounded; all the calls we received were from customers and contacts offering support. Finally, dealing with the banks in the last quarter of 2008 was tough, the old saying comes to mind: ‘banks give you umbrellas until it rains’.

The retail market has taken a hit during the tough economic times. Has this had a knock-on effect on the Jacobson Group? As long as we have an existing relationship we can get through the door and then we are dependent on right product, right price, right time. So, our biggest asset is our top class product range. For us to continue to increase market share, we must continue to develop great commercial products. I also have retail interests and it is certainly very tough at the moment. I am a believer that the biggest challenge is to get the public over your doorstep. Once done, as long as you offer quality products at realistic prices then the public will spend. My biggest focus in retail is to increase store footfall.

You’ve been known to devote time to helping good causes. With so many around, how do you select which charities to help? Lack of time is my biggest enemy so I need to choose carefully. The first criteria is if the cause, in my opinion, is a worthy one. If the charity is well managed then I will limit my support to a donation; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. On occasion I come across a cause with volunteers who are passionate about providing for the needy, but their expertise is limited. If I can bring

Name: Harvey Jacobson Occupation: Executive chairman of Jacobson Group From: Salford Favourite part of business: Negotiating. I get great satisfaction over striking a good, profitable deal. Preferred attributes of an employee: Intelligence and experience, somebody who is hard working, conscientious, and a good communicator. Key factors of a successful business: A good product or concept, great organisation, hard work, determination, and a little bit of luck. Alternative career: Management of a potentially big rock band. I’ve got no experience, but I would love to help genuinely talented musicians make it big. Suggested ways to solve the youth unemployment problem: 1) Encourage employers to set up apprenticeships and young people to get involved. Whilst pay may be minimal, they should adopt a ‘learn as you earn’ attitude. 2) Persuade youth that we are not in a ‘no hope’ society and that there are lots of opportunities if they’re fully committed to making a success. 3) Get the Government to adopt a 20-year plan. Some youth can’t and will not make a successful career because they are negatively brainwashed from toddlers. This needs changing.

something to the party by making things happen, I will role my sleeves up …

Finally, do you think Manchester United will retain the Championship or will City snatch the crown? Tough call. I think United will be consistently good throughout the season. If Manchester City maintains their excellent start to the season, I am afraid United will come second. Hopefully City will lose their bottle like Newcastle did a few years ago, when they were 12 points ahead at Christmas and United went on to win the league.

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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There’s a lot more to human resources than application forms, staff manuals and P45s. If you’re just starting your business, or looking to grow, it’s worth putting a proper HR strategy in place. Read on for a simple guide to some of the points you need to consider


f you own an SME or are just starting out, the chances are you will need to employ staff at some point in the lifespan of your business. For many, of course, the HR strategy doesn’t come as naturally as say, a business plan or fiscal policy might, yet it is as important as any aspect of your business. It can save your organisation money, set the tone for your office and shape the company culture, which will motivate staff to succeed. So if you haven’t put your policy in place you really ought to think about doing so.

The basics Human resources can be overwhelming for start-ups and SMEs, as very few can afford to employ an HR advisor or manager. When you’re employing staff, there is an awful lot to consider, none of which can be left to chance. It’s therefore important that an HR strategy is put in place to deal with areas such as employment and training, payroll and health and safety. ‘Simply put, HR is made up of four pillars’, says HR consultant Matthew

Chester. ‘Recruitment, employee relations, training and development, and compensation and benefits. Of course there are many other important areas which contribute to HR and have their place in more sophisticated HR departments.’ Chester advises that one of the first things to put in place is a clearly defined strategy and vision representing the people agenda for the overall business strategy. Once this is in place, the focus should be on defining the company’s culture and values. ‘This will enable you to hire with confidence and be confident about the boundaries, which have been put in place for performance management, whether positive or negative.’

Recruitment, motivation and performance The largest part of your human resources strategy is recruitment. If you have a clear idea of your business goals it is easier to select the right staff to help you achieve success. This in turn means that

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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10/01/2012 15:49

LEgaL conSidErationS

you will have fewer staffing issues, such as according to Matthew Chester. He poor performance, negative impact and recommends empowering staff by wasted time. Taking the time to thoroughly giving them greater autonomy, and scope job requirements and then finding allowing them to work to their strengths the people to match them is one of the best and interests. investments of time you can make in your ‘The team needs to receive positive company. If you don’t have the resources or feedback when it is earned. Managers expertise to evaluate candidates, you can also need to take time when required to hire these services, though they listen and show empathy, making are likely to be costly. sure they stay close to the Assuming you’ve hired aspirations of their team.’ Managers the right staff with the right To ensure your need to take attitude, you will want to business grows, it is tiMe when keep them motivated. In essential to evaluate required to theory, if your staff staff performance. ‘You listen and show reflect the culture and need to have something eMpathy, Making values of the company to measure staff against’ sure they stay this shouldn’t be difficult, says Greg Guildford of close to the though it is important HR Solutions. ‘Setting key aspirations of nonetheless to make objectives and performance their teaM sure staff stay motivated targets will ensure you can with incentives. evaluate staff: it will also help Understanding what motivates your provide some direction for them.’ staff should inform what incentives you offer. Performance is naturally linked to ‘Some people are driven by targets, others by what targets will drive performance and money’, says Mark Pearce of A Life At Work. what can be measured. ‘A sales role ‘Most likely it will be a combination of these would be easier to measure than that things.’ Pearce also points out that to of a director’s PA,’ says Pearce, ‘however understand what motivates staff, managers using SMART targets, it is possible to set will need to spend time with them. This and review targets to most roles. safeguards against measures being put in ‘It is also good practise to allow place that de-motivate. the employee to evaluate their own One of the simplest means of performance which can be discussed motivating staff is leading by example, with their manager.’

Employment legislation is constantly changing, so be sure to have contracts of employment in place. You will also need to adhere to strict employment laws that cover disciplinary, grievance and redundancy procedures. A failure to follow statutory minimum requirements can result in costly employment claims. It’s also worth keeping abreast of Health & Safety policy, agency worker regulations and the Bribery Act. If you’re not sure where to start, contact ACAS who can help make sure your practises are legally compliant.


Management style and company ethos Significant consideration should be given to management style and naturally it should lead from the top of the organisation. For SMEs in particular, management style should be around allowing managers to be themselves without being restricted by policy and procedure. ‘Empowering managers to do what they have been hired to do leads to the development of teams based around the personality of the manager and focuses the workplace on the relationships within that team’ says Chester. ‘All of these points are invaluable when it comes to recruitment, productivity, creativity and motivation within an organisation. Getting the culture and style right has a major effect on performance and productivity and of course, job satisfaction.’ This approach allows the HR policy to be a reference tool rather than a means of interfering with the commercial end of the business. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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the first

Management style must an HR manager, involve thing to put in also reflect the culture of them with any personnel place is a clearly a company, and will issue you are unsure of defined strategy be different in every rather than leaving them and vision organisation. It is worth until things turn bad. representing the asking staff for their It is worth taking the people agenda thoughts on the time to put a proper HR for the overall management style, either strategy in place as it will business through surveys or 360 inform how your company strategy feedback tools, because quite performs. ‘Downloading a often it can have an effects on policy template from the staff that you hadn’t thought of. Internet or copying a policy from an Ultimately management style has to old employer are common mistakes’ says be about what actions are taken and how Greg Guildford. Policies should reflect things are, rather than what is said and your organisation and therefore need to written in policies. ‘Management behaviour be suited to your culture and practises. must reflect the HR policies’ says Pearce.

Common mistakes


‘The most common mistake in HR is a lack of strategic planning’ says Dominic Ceraldi of Pimlico Plumbers. ‘Ensure you know and understand your company HR policy’. Following this advice will give you confidence in your own ability to make judgements and decisions. If you have


Hr Solutions, www.hrsolutions-uk.com, 01536 484 552 Life at Work, www.lifeatwork.co.uk, 01223 429 926 Pimlico Plumbers, www.pimlicoplumbers.com, 020 7928 8888 Matthew chester, 07734 039 692

diSciPLinary Unless you are particularly fortunate, you will at some point have to discipline staff. The way you approach this will depend on the nature of the offence – in most cases this will be due to performance or conduct. Conduct issues should be dealt with depending on the seriousness of the case. For example, someone that is consistently late for work will be given a written warning, while someone that has stolen from the company, would be dismissed. If you don’t have a disciplinary policy in place, you should follow the ACAS Code of Practice – failure to do so could be costly.

Have you met all the legal requirements expected from you as an SME or new start-up business? Contact HR Solutions 01536 484 552



HR Solutions can assist you with making key business decisions and advise you to ensure compliance with legal matters. Our package includes: • start-up policies & procedures - e.g. Discipline & Grievance, IT, Email & Internet etc • contractual documents - written statement of terms and conditions, offer letter, asylum and immigration documents • new employee documents - starter form, induction checklists, reference request, medical questionnaire • 2 hours HR advice

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Taking an open and honest look at the fight that entrepreneurs face to reach their success, Talk Business is bursting with inspiration, tips and advice to assist those battling through the day-to-day struggles of the current climate.


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09/01/2012 11:44


IT’S CRUNCH TIME With a bug for start-ups, Darren Fell, managing director and founder of Crunch, knows a thing or two about making the most of a business. Here, the award-winning entrepreneur gives an insight into the challenges he’s faced


Launch date: 30 November 2006 Start up capital: £180,000 Current turnover: £1.5m Current net profit: Recently achieved the operational breakeven mark in September 2011 Growth rate: 10 per cent month-on-month, currently 12 – 24 per cent growth rate Number of employees at start up: three Current workforce: 40

aunched in 2006, Crunch has established itself as modern accountancy service. Operating using online cloudbased software; the service provides accounting via telephone or email and is aimed at small businesses and freelancers. The company has been a huge success, and now operates GoLimited, a service that enables start-ups to set up limited companies quickly and easily for a small fee. Like most business, the abundance of success comes following a roller coaster of challenges, emotions and careful decisions. Fell explained how his previous experience and knowledge contributed: ‘My background is telecommunications and data communications. I had a stint in a start-up, setting up the sales team for the third largest Internet provider in the UK at the time, based in Hatton Garden and that’s where I caught the bug for start-ups. I saw how not to build the business, the CEO was interested in buying kit rather than paying for collateral, with little allocated for marketing of the business.’ Fell’s main start-up experience was in 2000 with the launch of party portal, Partytastic.com; a service, which allowed users to organise a party including

41 invitations and RSVPs. Fell, said: ‘A year in, I realised it wasn’t going to be successful and it needed a lot of investment for marketing to reach the mass market as it was always going to be a free site. ‘I spoke to a lot of business people and realised the email and SMS element could be a brilliant direct marketing tool. Having closely watched what was going on in the States, it had to be anti-spam. We had a lot of spam protections systems put in place. The opt-out system worked instantly, meaning people only received information of interest to them.’ The idea was turned into Pure Promoter Ltd, later followed by Pure 360. After long hours and hard graft, success followed and the company flourished. Fell said: ‘I cold-called from 8am to 7pm every day in the early days. We won Levi’s first, then Faber and Faber, followed by Malmasion Hotels. Nine months in and we were in the black.’ Pure was named eleventh fastest growing new media company in the UK in investment bank, GP Bullhound’s Media Momentum Top 50 2007 league table, and Best Small Business at the Sussex Business Awards 2006/07. Fell added: ‘I then won Entrepreneur of the Year at the same ceremony in 2007/08. I built up Pure 360 before selling it to the NASD-listed US firm, MobiVentures for £5m in April 2008. I later used some of the funds from this sale to set up Crunch.co.uk with www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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Make sure the foundation is perfect. Get set up as a Limited Company. Make sure you have the basic processes in place, such as invoicing and bookkeeping, so that you can focus on the business at hand. Make sure there’s an even balance between selling and doing the actual work. Keep on selling, even if you’re involved in projects. Set aside time each day to touch base with customers. Record the selling in a system like High Rise or Sales Force, so you don’t need to keep it all in your memory. Then invoice straight away and don’t give credit if possible – it’s all about selling and cash flow. Why not take a deposit when you start working with a new client? There ‘s nothing worse than doing a lot of work for someone and them not paying you.


my two founding business partners.’ Crunch was founded by Drew Griffiths, Steve Crouch and Fell, each equally investing £60K. However, Fell soon found a tough economy was about to pose a problem.‘I didn’t take a salary for two years. We very quickly used up the £180k. By January 2009, my partners confirmed they couldn’t put in any more money. So I used money left over from the Pure 360 sale, originally planned for my house. I couldn’t give up on all of that work and effort, so I invested another £100k over several months, is already catching up fast and is not far with more top ups to keep it afloat. behind the 100th accountancy firm listed, ‘Later, we needed more investors to which recorded a £2.04m turnover for 2011. support the business’ growth, not for the Crunch currently turns over £1.5m. money, but for their knowledge and expertise. Fell believes it is his style of I was introduced to Bebo founder, Paul Birch, management that creates a successful and within 20 minutes he confirmed he was working team. He said: ‘There is no in. He had terrible experience of accountants, hierarchy and a flat structure. With no and wanted to help delivering accountancy management offices, we all sit together, services for small businesses. work hard together and drink beers at the ‘I was then introduced to Michael Van end of the week together. I like to ensure Swaaj and within five minutes of sending everyone coming on board has the right an email introduction, I had a reply with a energy levels, as well as the core skill-sets, Swiss number to call. Following a so is perfect for Crunch. I see all new 45-minute call, I realised it was the Michael recruits before the final decision, usually who had set up eBay in Europe - a somewhere neutral over a drink, often at board-level director at eBay Group. our local bar. Taking them to a non-interview ‘Michael and Paul came fully on board in environment helps clarify our decision and April 2010 after I launched in April 2009. I supports our target of creating a fun, yet wanted to prove a successful launch before professional atmosphere.’ taking any of their money. The business was As for his approach to business; ‘Look at valued at £2m, before it returned a penny back the way the world operates and do the in 2010, based on my track record and the opposite,’ he explained. ‘It’s not to disrupt for business plan. We received £400k investment disruption’s sake, but I’m always thinking from Paul, Michael and Colin Haylock. from the customer’s perspective and trying to ‘So far we have conducted two rounds create a better way of doing things. I’m not an of funding. The first valued Crunch at £2m, accountant; I refused to look at the the second doubled that valuation to £4m. accountancy books and jargon when we set For the latter, we drew down £250k last up, in order to always maintain the customer year and another £250k just recently perspective at Crunch.’ – we were doing well on the Despite his desire to create new revenue and didn’t need the entities and brilliant teams, Fell whole amount immediately. felt a major setback of This compares starkly with starting the business was ‘I lIke to other start-ups, which the impact on his emotions, ensure everyone more often burn large he said: ‘Personally taking comIng on board amounts of cash early on board the stress and has the rIght on. Operationally, we are strain of something that’s energy levels, as now breaking even.’ never been done before and well as the core Based on how never being sure it will truly skIll-sets’ accountancy firms are work, beyond a gut feeling ranked (by fee earnings in and strong sense that the Accountancy Age listing), Crunch market place will change; the

stress was pretty extreme in the early days with lots of sleepless nights. But now it feels worth it, especially as we are at break-even point. That feeling is fantastic.’ Though Crunch has achieved success, Fell feels that laws and policies are often the toughest challenge to overcome as a start-up. ‘I believe there’s a huge burden put on small businesses around business rates, and the cost to employ with substantial employer National Insurance. These two taxes prohibit the growth of many businesses. I’d like to see support around these costs for at least the first two years of a new business – at least a substantial discount to give new businesses a flying chance before the rates and NI kick in. ‘We’ve come across endless red tape and constant contradictory advice from HMRC. The amount of legislation we had to comply with was overwhelming at times, particularly as soon as we started taking on customers and acting as an accountancy firm. This included the need to set up money laundering checks. We now use systems and technology that is often more powerful than traditional accountants, correlating home addresses, and if needed driving numbers, mobile numbers and utility numbers to meet the numerous compliance regulations.’ With unlimited passion and drive and a solid team of support, Fell has unlocked the secret to success. He summed up just how he really feels about the business: ‘I really don’t care about the money. I think you can see businesses that approach it wrongly with an exit fee only in mind. I want to create something special. The side effect is a good exit.’


www.crunch.co.uk www.golimited.co

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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A promise to the customer on the value to be delivered and the belief from them on the service they’ll receive, a value proposition runs like fluid throughout every organisation. David Bowler and Julia Payne at Incisive Edge, explain more

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hatever business you are in, whatever you make or sell and whatever you are looking to achieve in terms of increased profitable turnover or market-share, the single most important factor in determining your success is the value proposition. We simply cannot over-emphasise how critical this is to the growth of your business and find it astonishing that something so fundamental is so often overlooked or poorly articulated by the clear majority of businesses. That said, this neglect provides opportunity and competitive advantage for those doing it right! A value proposition is a clear, specific and easily understood statement of the tangible benefits or results that your customers or clients will receive from purchasing your product or service relative to the price that they pay. It is not a long list of product and service features and capabilities, nor is it the business. Whilst it is of course central self-regarding propaganda regarding your to strategy across both sales and business or a favourable comparison against marketing, it also impacts on staff and your competitors. culture, partnerships, channels to market, It should be short and succinct. What it informs product development and stokes describes should be exclusive, special, the embers for a blazing brand. different and not easily attainable elsewhere. Defining your value proposition directly Vitally, the proposition should be easily feeds into your competitive advantage, communicated and understood. Every raises you above your rivals and securely person in your organisation should be positions you in the mind of your target able to express it naturally and market – standing for something unaided. Ultimately you want strong and valuable, taking your target market to be able true ownership of one ‘we’re to recognise it and identify specific desirable evangelical how it impacts them. solution. Your sales team about difference The reason that the will be confident and at incisive edge value proposition is at clear about who you are and the impact the heart of driving your and what you offer as it has on growth potential and so opposed to having to strategic intrinsic to success is compete on price or cede selling ...’ quite simply because of the to unrealistic customer impact and influence it has demands on product on so many different areas of specification or modification.

Partners will identify with you and see the benefit of association. They will be able to pre-sell your business and open up new channels to market. Effective marketing serves only one purpose – to inform your sales. The value proposition should provide the key messages at the centre of this activity. It helps you to define who wants to buy from you and why. It’s the core reason why you are actually in business at all and should blaze from every aspect of your brand, belonging at the centre of everything your business represents. We’re evangelical about difference at Incisive Edge and the impact it has on strategic selling. Getting it right will, quite simply, make you and your business more money, increase your market share and leave your competition trailing in your wake.


Incisive Edge: www.incisive-edge.com

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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BLOCKBUSTER BRANDING What do genetically mutated chimps, boy wizards, fighting robots and branding for SME’s have in common? Rich With, owner and director of Hoot Creative argues that even without a multi-million dollar budget, the average business can build a blockbuster brand



ny modern day tent pole release has a budget large enough to bankroll a small nation, with an equally gargantuan war chest allocated to the marketing and branding of it. Obscene amounts of money aside, the methods that marketing execs use aren’t laced in some weird alchemy. In fact more often than not, the average SME can quite easily mirror the techniques of major film studios and create awareness of their business on a blockbuster scale. By being creative, thinking differently and trying to stay one step ahead of your rivals, your brand - no matter how small - can whip up a whirlwind of awareness that you can throw hard towards making sales.

Always, always, always start with the story All good blockbusters start from the same point - the story, and SME owners looking to market their brand should start from a similar position. What makes these films adored by fans and critics alike, is that at their core there’s a cracking story. If your brand has a good story, origin, tale or raison d’etre, and sticks to its essentials, people won’t just come to you once, they’ll return again and again. Look behind any big company and you’ll find an inspirational origin. Richard Branson taking on the major record labels and airlines. Jamie Oliver from ‘Essex wide boy’ living in a pub, to being one of the worlds most recognised chefs, and Michelle Mone

from the East End of Glasgow to pushing up the UK’s collective breast often have a rags to riches story that compels the audience. It gives the brand an authenticity. It isn’t a company run by faceless suits there’s a real, human personality behind the company. These individuals have striven and took risks but it’s part of their story, and it makes their brand more interesting. Whatever your business origin may be - capital left to you by your parents, an invested redundancy payout or even a tale of daring do, your next client will want to be able to form an opinion of you and decide quickly whether they will give you their business. They’ll achieve this by remembering your story – not what your turnover was in the preceding tax year.

mentioned he was directing Prometheus. To become an expert is not just about trying to wing it. You need to know your area inside out, understand the material, interpret it and be able to give it your own spin, criticise, endorse and structurally pull apart the inner workings of your industry. You can’t just be a sycophant, regurgitating the views of someone you admire. Put your neck out on the line, make a stance and find your own voice and only then will you start to gain credibility. Get yourself in the press, offer sound views and advice on social media, and within reason be the best you can at what you do. By proving your expertise, your opinion will carry more influence. It gives you a gravitas that your nearest rival will struggle to achieve, and by demonstrating your expertise you can considerably up your fees.

‘Look behind any big company and you’LL find an inspirationaL origin’

Become an auteur Having a top director at the helm of your latest epic adds a sense of reassurance to potential audiences. Someone who has a creative vision that can shine through any interference and collective process. These auteurs - Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher and so on, are recognised by both fans and peers as the experts, at the top of their game and giving the movie another strand of credibility. The film world groaned when another Alien movie was announced, and then got all excited with itself the moment Ridley Scott

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Offer the experience

Get your stars to talk about it Film stars are generally obliged to take part in press junkets and offer interviews to all press and media. There’s a painfully simple reason behind this - PR. Public Relations is effective and basically free. Any movie will get acres of free press if the stars and directors give interviews to the press whitening on about how great their movie is. Any SME owner should be doing the same, regularly producing content across all its marketing channels a great way to make your brand seem even bigger. However, brands should be wary of simply sending out releases just stating how great their product or service is. They should look for a niche angle they can exploit - a view or contradiction of something that’s current or newsworthy. By showing the ability to backup or shoot down a widely known point of view adds greater weight to their role of expert in their chosen field.

Any self-aware firm knows the customer experience is paramount. A creative and interesting journey the customer takes from brand introduction to paying for the product or service is what will set you apart from your competition. To do this you need to brand yourself far apart from your rivals, and in doing so change the question from, ‘why should I buy from you?’ to ‘why wouldn’t I buy from you?’ In todays cross-platform, multiintegrated media campaign it’s simply not enough to have a trailer to inspire your customers. The campaign needs to be launched across all media, garnering as much attention as possible. With the new Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, the experience has begun eight months before the film is released. There’s a six-minute prologue shown at IMAX theatres, giving fans an introduction to the latest batvillain. On top of this there will be leaked imagery, set reports, viral websites, fan competitions and a dozen other marketing avenues - all building a gradual hype that reaches critical mass in the week before the film’s release. It makes sense to do this with your own brand, but to really stand out in your marketplace, you’re going to have to go the extra mile. You need to embrace your own creativity or pay someone for theirs. If you sell a product, then its packaging had better be box-fresh; you might want to think about some freebies and have constant offers, competitions and updates on your Facebook page and website. If you offer a service, then you need to be offering information, tips, tricks and make sure your clients stay ahead of their rivals. Build some anticipation, get people to believe the hype and make sure it’s justified. In conclusion, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole Hollywood marketing process is that the studios don’t look at promoting the brand as a cost – they see it as an investment. Spending $50m on marketing to ensure $500m in box office receipts, DVD and merchandise sales, theme park rides and so on is quite a return. Ask yourself if you think in the same way. By spending £100 on marketing your brand with a view to making £1,000 in sales, is it an investment worth taking? It’s time to market your own blockbuster brand.


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5 branding tips: 1. Create a pre-title sequence In every Bond film there’s a pre-title sequence that tells, within minutes, the concept of James Bond, that he’s ruthless, has a sense of humour, and loves the ladies. Within eight seconds any potential client visiting your website should be able to figure out what you do, the style in which you do it, and get a basic idea of your personality, ethos and quirks. Whether you do this by video, imagery, text - it doesn’t matter. Make sure visitors have a clear understanding of your business, very, very quickly. 2. Offer a range of tie-ins From Happy Meals to Omega Seamaster watches, blockbusters showcases the brand in a multitude of ways. Ideally you should have about 10 marketing streams across all media. From the trusty magazine advert to social media, all of your marketing should direct traffic to your website or phone line.


3. Find your audience Think about where to promote your brand. Is it the right geographical area, the right publication, or are you better off targeting a specific exhibition or event? Link your activity to your action, seek out your audience strands and lose the scattergun approach. 4. be active, not passive Getting people to act on your brand, and act immediately is a smart way of turning potential clients into raving fans. From QR codes that link to an exclusive web offer, to producing your own mobile app, bring your brand straight to the people 5. Your visuals No one sets out to create an awful looking film. Time and effort go into making it look visually stunning. The bottom line is your website has to be graphically appealing and content rich. Update it regularly, invest in decent photography, video and design and it’ll make a massive difference to your online brand reputation.

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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Matt Rogers and Andy Culpan are masters at bootstrapping start-ups. They bootstrapped their first company, Aroxo, and now they’re running a successful spin-off company called FeedSpark (a B2B data extraction business). Although they’re no longer a bootstrap company—you have to spend money sometime—they still maintain a bootstrap mentality. Journalist, Clint Witchalls, caught up with the pair at the Club Quarters in London

Andy Culpan

51 Matt Rogers

You bootstrapped your first company, Aroxo. Can you tell me how that worked?

Rogers: Bootstrapping means that, as a business, you do everything as low cost as possible in order to avoid having to raise money. There are a number of reasons to go down this route. Firstly, fundraising is incredibly time-consuming. It can easily take up six months full-time work, so bootstrapping enables you to focus on your business sooner. And if you need to raise money later on, which you invariably will do, you’re already several steps down the path, making you a more attractive investment prospect. In a bootstrapped organisation, the money comes from the founders, either through personal money, credit cards (for small businesses), or as a proportion of money earned. We bootstrapped our first business, Aroxo. Before launching, we were in active development for over two years, consuming nearly 15 man-years of software development effort. We wrote over 250,000 lines of code and conducted www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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hundreds of hours of system and usability testing, all on a shoestring.

How did you manage to bootstrap such a large development?


Rogers: We were very aggressive about managing our costs to keep them low. We off-shored our software development, which helped a lot, but we were careful not to outsource to another company as it would have reduced our flexibility. We also worked hard to avoid big company thinking. We made extensive use of free software and services where we could, and we still do. Whether this is using open-source technology to base our systems on, or simply using Google’s spreadsheets and word processor, it helps us save money. Also, we’re good at negotiating. We always negotiate on price. Ask for start-ups rates, discounts and always be a little bit cheeky.

Are you still taking the same bootstrapping approach with your new B2B business, FeedSpark?

Culpan: FeedSpark is the evolution of Aroxo and bootstrapping is just a way of business that works for us at the moment. For example, we don’t have a fixed office. That’s not to say that there aren’t benefits to having a fixed office, but at the moment, for us, I don’t think it’s necessary.

in the first place. If you go for angel investment, which is probably the next level up, you’ve got to know those people. If you don’t know them, it can be a long process. If you do know them, it’s still not that quick. And if you do go the angel investor route, they still want a large chunk of equity in the business because they’re gambling based on a future potential. For venture capitalists (VCs), you’ve now got to be properly scaled because they can pick and choose businesses that have already got revenue coming through, rather than funding complete new startups. I’d say the market at the moment, from what we know, from the entrepreneurs we talk to and people we’re in business with, is not easy. I think if you’ve got a good idea and you can get it in front of the right people, you’ll always get money. If you’ve got a bad idea in front of bad people, you could get money. But if you’re in that middle park with a potentially good idea, but just not got the traction yet, but you’re competing potentially with a lot of other people, it could be hard.

FeedSpark is growing rapidly. Does that mean you will need to borrow money yourselves?

Culpan: [We]Could well do. People who say that they’ve built businesses all by themselves by their own financing are exceptionally fortunate. They’ve hit a very I assume more startups want lucky streak or have got an amazing to go the bootstrapping route concept. I don’t think it’s true that if you’ve when raising finance is tough. got a great business plan and it’s generating What’s the state of borrowing in money, that’s all you need. If you borrowed the UK at the moment? more money, you could have an even better Culpan: It’s difficult. I don’t think it’s ever business, generating even more money. been easier to set up a business, I think sometimes you need more but I don’t think it’s ever been money in, even if you’re harder to raise money. If you profitable, to give it another ‘we wRote try to go to the bank with push so that competitors oveR 250,000 just an idea, they’re can’t catch you, can’t lines of Code And probably not going to give leapfrog your idea and ConduCted you tens of thousands of take it because they’ve hundReds of pounds without equity or got extra resources houRs of systeM any financial backing. If behind them. I think And usAbility you’ve got financial everybody should always testing’ backing or assets you be open to taking more should probably be leveraging money if the business is at them before you go to the bank the right stage. It just gives a

faster pace than if you simply milk your own revenue streams

Is bootstrapping easier for Internet companies because there are things like cloud computing and open source software where you can build a business on the cheap?

Culpan: For us it’s a mentality, it’s a way of doing business. Bootstrapping could be applicable anywhere. Rather than using technologies to build a business; using technology like Skype to converse with people, whether it’s in the UK or abroad, leveraging e-mails and social networks, it’s a way of doing business. People are using technology even if their business isn’t in technology. Whether you’ve just come out of fashion college and you’ve got a small fashion label, a lot of people are using the power of Facebook, Twitters and other social media to get their marketing message out very, very quickly; to get things going viral. That’s where traditionally you don’t have to use the big PR and advertising agencies. If you’re after a niche market, you can target people very precisely at very low prices because nobody else is necessarily looking for that marketplace. And that’s where I think technology is enabling people to build businesses in a bootstrapping way. Rogers: It is still possible—more possible than it ever has been—to build a business on a very lean budget by making use of a whole heap of services that you can get at online. That includes setting up your limited company, which you can do online, all the way through to sourcing developers from websites like Elance, or designing your logos and websites using 99 Designs. There are all these ways of saving money and I think smartphones are also making the whole thing completely different.

In what way? Rogers: You’ve got all the tools for the jobs that you need on your phone. And also they’re programmable platforms you can write software for with a fair degree of

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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ease. It’s generally considered the norm that a solid startup or website should have an iPhone or Android app as well. Culpan: It’s my portable office. You leave your house with your keys, your wallet and your phone. Sometimes I don’t even need to bring my laptop. I could actually give a Powerpoint presentation on this phone to you now and I could have it launched from a server I’ve got in my house, and it would send me the presentation. So it’s reducing the boundaries of being able to do business with people.

A way of keeping costs down also used to involve outsourcing bits of work to India and other developing countries. Is there still enough of a wage arbitrage argument to make it worthwhile?

Culpan: The differentiation’s a lot less than it used to be because obviously everybody thinks it’s a good idea, so wage inflation rises and the prices go up. But there’s lots of people in the UK you can use, and having the ability and the flexibility to meet somebody quickly and easily works for some people. At the same time there are lots of websites, as Matt mentioned earlier, where you can potentially request things, do things, where location doesn’t matter. And if somebody in the UK wants to do it for the same price as somebody in India, that’s fine.

Are there certain areas of bootstrapping, such as hiring a lawyer or an accountant, where you simply can’t do it on the cheap? Culpan: If you want to get a standard non-disclosure agreement (NDA), there’s no point going to a lawyer and spending £250. You can get a document online that will cover 99.9 per cent of the nuances to a deal. If you’re looking to do something that’s fairly bespoke or in an area that you’ve got no idea about, going to see a lawyer is a valuable thing. Spending a few hundred pounds can save you a lot of time, effort and issues further down the line. Contract law - it’s never an issue until something happens and then you’re looking back at every line, every way that a piece of

text could be interpreted. And if you’ve got it wrong or you’ve tried to manipulate something yourself, it can be dangerous. Having said that, there are some things you can change quite easily. Doing a letter of employment or doing an NDA or doing some basic contract terms, that’s fine. You either buy legal packs where you know you’ve got very good quality legal documents and it’s just slight amends that you’re actually doing. There are other companies where you can buy services that, because you’ve got 99 per cent of it there, they will configure the last one per cent for you at a very reasonable price. But I think there will always be times when you need a bespoke contract, a lawyer to go and sit down with, to talk through what you need to do. I’m an accountant by training, but I use an accountant. I could spend weeks trying to understand what the latest nuances are, whereas they’ve done it twenty times in the last week. It’s a false economy thinking that you can do everything for yourself. Rogers: There are legal groups where lawyers give some of their time to help startups. There’s a good one called BootLaw. You can attend a meet up and ask experienced lawyers’ questions. Of course, they’re doing it on the assumption that as you progress on your journey, you’ll eventually reach a point that you need to pay for some legal advice, and that’s great because getting your contracts nailed at the start is something that every startup needs to do, because you’re selling something. If you’re approaching consumers you need to make sure you’ve got the privacy policy, site terms and conditions and everything lined up that you need. If you’re approaching a business—you’re doing B2B—then you’re going to need contracts, project plans and other things in order to make and close a sale.

groups of other entrepreneurs going through similar things. Find them and go along to the meet-ups. Go and have a coffee with them, go and find out what they’re doing and what stage they’re at. Find out what contacts you might have that they might need, or what contacts they might have that you might need, because at the end of the day, you’re going to need this network to get you going. They’ll also have heaps of local bootstrapping tips. Culpan: Just a final word on professionalism. You’ve got to be professional whether you’re a bootstrapper or not. Your service has got to be delivering for the client what they actually want and exceeding it. If it’s just on par or below, it’s no good. Even if you’ve got the fanciest office in the world, if you’re not delivering a professional service, it’s not going to happen. You can see that in a lot of failed big start ups: they got massive funding and never went anywhere. They just got lost in their own scale and momentum. We’d probably try and reduce some of the momentum we’ve had in certain areas to make sure we can manage the existing clients we’ve got, so you can get great client references and recommendations. A lot of the work that we get is from either people moving between companies that we’ve worked with previously or talking to their friends and they come to us.


Any final tips for those looking to bootstrap a start up?

Rogers: Connecting with the [startup] community is essential. If you’re based in London, there are loads of things going on, but wherever you’re based, there will be www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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With a New Year comes new ideas and businesses, but what effect will the 2012 economic outlook have? Juha Koski, managing director and founder of successful e-commerce business, MadBid.com shares his experience of starting a business in the recession and offers advice to new start-ups looking to launch in the challenging year ahead 55


t’s not a pretty picture for any company looking to launch in the coming months. The Eurozone crisis is forecast to hit UK growth in 2012 and despite the Government’s target to increase UK banks’ lending to SMEs, the macro environment is still making it very challenging for start-ups to launch and operate. SME’s trading conditions will be affected by the weakening job market and consequently through the decrease in private spending. This will put even greater pressure on new start-ups that will have to compete with already established businesses. That said, entrepreneurs should not be put off by the current economic climate and gloomy outlook for 2012. Many companies that have launched during previous times of economic difficulty have gone on to become very successful. Kellogg’s launched its evergreen breakfast, Rice Crispies in the Great Depression of the 1930s, Chrysler launched the Plymouth car brand in 1929, and Apple launched the iPod in 2001 after the September 11 attacks – all of which have become renowned for their success

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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People are key Part of this success is due to effective budget management and the importance of the right team – those who excel in their field and are able to develop the company, drive expansion and tackle new challenges on a daily basis. Surround yourself with people you trust and who will help your idea grow. Do not be afraid to get help - if you and your team do not have the skills required, for example in finance or technology, find an expert in that field. Steve Jobs once said: ‘Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.’*


Keep finances low and flexibility high Despite the worst of the recession now being behind us, every start-up entrepreneur should treat a new business launch as if we were still in the lowest point of a recession. That is to say, adopt a business model that saves money and focus on keeping fixed costs as low as possible, stripping expenditure back to a minimum. A key strategy for any business start-up is flexibility – whether in terms of financing or the type of service offered – it’s important to be able to quickly adjust the business when there is a change in demand. Prior to launching, it is very important to evaluate consumer spending power in your sector.


successes to date and shows company growth projections. Have a clear grip on the financial side so you are prepared to answer any questions. Don’t forget to show by your Securing funding enthusiasm that your company is the next Make sure you make time for exploring break-through in the market. In addition to funding options and preparing for and sourcing external funding, consider ways of attending pitching meetings, otherwise if maximising your existing resources to free you start too late there may be less chance up some funds – review your current of securing the funding that you initially systems: are you as efficient as you could wanted. Bear in mind that a funding round be? Could money be saved elsewhere? with due diligence can easily take four to Additionally, it’s paramount to five months, depending on the size ensure you have a good of the operation. Entrepreneurs accountant and competent can increase the likelihood of finance team. Make certain ‘innovation has securing funding, whether that the systems in place to nothing to do it’s from the bank, an monitor cash flow are as with how many investor or business effective as they can be. r&d dollars you ‘angel’ by good planning. There are many avenues have. it’s not Make sure you have a to explore in today’s about money. it’s clear and detailed competitive market, so about the people business plan, which don’t be put off if you get you have.’ presents an attractive turned down. Good business model, details businesses will always get business performance and funding it’s just a matter of time.

Find your niche and execute Businesses that identify a gap in the market and offer original and innovative ideas are the ones that will make a significant impact. In addition to having the right niche and the right product/ market fit, execution should be done always with the customer in mind, as they will ultimately determine the success of your business.

Keep innovating It is important to never rest on your laurels and to keep developing new services and features to improve your offering at all times. Do not be put off by rejection - there will be a lot of no’s. Again, to quote Mr Jobs, one of this decade’s most influential entrepreneurs: ‘... half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.’ * Fortune Magazine, 9th November 1998



January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Maria O’Sullivan of utilities expert, costgard, looks at how start-ups can boost their bottom line by focusing on energy savings


ontinued economic uncertainty means businesses face growing financial pressures, making it a particularly tough time for start-ups. In 2011, energy and fuel costs hit the news headlines with forecasts of further increases in 2012. With budgets already stretched to the limit, savvy businesses are turning their attention to saving on energy and fuel bills. In the face of steadily rising prices, start-ups need to focus on their supplier and getting the best rates on energy, as well as making changes to reduce the amount of energy they use. State of the Market 2011 saw the nuclear disaster in Japan and the resulting knee-jerk reaction from Germany, as it shut down all its older nuclear reactors. In addition, the outbreak of civil war in Libya sent oil prices skyward again, further threatening an already fragile global economy. Towards the end of the year, we’re enjoying a mild winter. The UK’s stagnating economy, coupled with healthy fuel supplies have all sent UK gas prices tumbling recently, which is good news for businesses. In the short-term, both gas and electricity suppliers are offering lower-priced contracts, but firms need to act fast to benefit

from this lull in the market. As we move into the New Year, it has never been more important for firms to look at managing their energy costs and an energy broker can help a business find the best deals. Choosing a Broker Start-ups have a lot to organise in the early weeks of setting up their business. Meanwhile, business directories will sell their contact details many times over to brokers offering various services and the phone will be ringing off the hook, but not necessarily with customers. The key is to find an independent broker who works with all UK business utilities suppliers to ensure you get the best packages, prices and services. A good utility broker will also help firms avoid the impact of rising energy prices, by constantly monitoring the market and offering sound advice on the best deals for specific business requirements. An independent energy broker like costgard will offer a free energy audit for businesses to assess the best ways to reduce their energy consumption and offer guidance on the best energy provider and deals on the market. Because they aren’t tied to a specific supplier, independent brokers can scour the entire market to find the best price for their customers. Some brokers are tied to

certain energy providers and won’t be able to strike the best deal. Rising energy bills are a very real strain on new businesses, but an experienced, reputable, independent energy broker can potentially save their customers thousands per year. Small Steps for Big Savings Smaller firms need to stay in control of their spending and by looking at their energy bills, they can make a real difference to their bottom line. With just a few simple changes, such as switching off office equipment at night and turning off the lights, firms can make significant savings, leaving more to invest in the business. Turning off just one computer and monitor could save a business up to £35 per year. Energy prices look set to keep on rising, so start-ups need to act now to secure the best deals, through an independent energy broker and start saving to protect their bottom line and the future of their business. costgard’s simple tips offer businesses easy and low cost ways to start making savings and help improve their energy efficiency going into 2012.

ENERGY SAVING ADVICE Turn it off – Switch off printers, computers and other equipment when not in use – turn them off overnight, at weekends and during bank holidays. Let there be light – Cut lighting costs by up to 15% by turning off lights in empty rooms and replacing bulbs with energy saving ones. Some like it hot – Turning down the heating thermostat by one degree could cut your heating bill by 10%. Don’t be a drip – A dripping tap could cost your business around £400 per year. Fix any leaks and drips promptly. Going green – Invest in energy efficient equipment to make real savings. Get an Energy Audit – costgard offers a free energy audit, which can help you identify opportunities to increase energy efficiency and bring those bills down.


CONTACT Maria O’Sullivan of independent business utilities expert, costgard. T: 01460 282 925 E: maria@costgard.co.uk W: www.costgard.co.uk

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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To say that these are difficult financial times is nothing new, but just how can start-ups overcome the complications inflicted by the economical crisis? Anil Stocker, director and co-founder of MarketInvoice provided his expertise on lending and credit conditions for those new to the world of business ncreasing unemployment rates, soaring prices and below inflation wage growth are many of the factors influencing an austere British economy. As bank loans to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) continued to dry up throughout 2011, the fear of a double dip recession lingers. The National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NESTA) says the possibility of the UK falling back into recession stands at 50 per cent - rising to 70 per cent if European leaders continue to ‘muddle through.’ These fears are magnified by the constant news of loan requests being declined. In July 2011 the Bank of England stated that more loans were being repaid than being granted. This is a setback in the attempt to

improve the economy, as it is critical that SMEs have access to the capital they need in order to grow. SMEs’ contribution to the economy is significant as 4.8 million SMEs provide a massive 60 per cent of UK jobs and over half of the country’s GDP. It is therefore vital to provide urgent support to small firms in order to aid the economic recovery and avoid a double-dip recession. One major reason many businesses need financial help is because much of their working capital is tied up in late payments. A recent BACs Payment Scheme reported that half of British SMEs are victims of late payments and are together owed a staggering £33.6bn. Large companies emerged as the worst offenders www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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after figures revealed that they are behind 48 per cent of SME’s late payment debt. Working capital is essential for SMEs to cover their short-term liabilities, as late payments have a huge impact on important overheads, such as wages and rent. There The Bank of England is determinded to keep trying to hold a tight rein on business lending are many different ways in which businesses can gain support and raise capital, such as equity, short-term working capital and Throughout 2011, the UK financial beginning of a structural change in how SMEs longer term debt products. Traditionally, landscape has seen an emergence of new raise capital. businesses would turn to their local banker innovative funding platforms to support Importantly, the Coalition Government is who would generously hand out cheap SMEs. Innovation is occurring right across starting to take note. Conservative MP, Sam overdrafts. But since the credit crunch hit, the capital structure, from equity, to working Gyimah has spearheaded a collaboration banks have had less cash to spare, affecting capital through to longer-term debt and between NESTA, The Daily Telegraph, and their risk appetite and deterring lending to overdrafts. Given low interest rates and the London Stock Exchange titled Beyond SMEs, which banks deem as risky. turbulent equity markets, there has been a the Banks, which is looking at methods to Project Merlin was the UK Government’s growing interest from investors (both retail improve lending to small businesses first response to solve this issue. and institutional) to investigate channeling through credit easing. Their work will Unfortunately, recent figures prove that capital directly to SMEs, complementing directly feed into policy decisions by the Merlin has disappointed. In Q3 2011, only bank products, or in some cases bypassing Treasury and broadly aims to stimulate £18.8bn of the promised annual figure of the banks altogether. Online platforms such investor demand for small company debts. £190bn was provided. Importantly this figure as MarketInvoice, which can be compared to There have been several interesting case is 8.3 per cent less than the previous a working capital eBay, strive to improve the studies of mid-sized businesses, such as quarter. This figure underlines the now structure, cost, and flexibility of sourcing Will King’s King of Shaves who have been widely held consensus that relying on banks capital for high growth SMEs. MarketInvoice able to issue bonds direct to their own to sufficiently hit lending targets for SMEs is uses a network of global investors, such as customers, raising capital without the need not working. The Forum of Private Business asset managers, hedge funds and high net for any bank intervention. One main concern (FPB) chief executive, Phil Orford said: ‘We worth individuals in order to source flexible around this from the Federation of Small are prepared to wait until the end of the year and competitively priced invoice finance Businesses (FSB) is whether any formalised (2011) before making a final judgement, but directly to SMEs – making it cheap and easy bond market policy will benefit the smallest it is clear that the banks are trotting out the to use. Other areas of innovation involve of SMEs (companies turning over less than same old excuses when they are simply not crowd funding for equity (Crowdcube), as £5m), who are clearly suffering the most at delivering on the ground.’ well as longer-term debt products. Other present and need the most help. These One argument rightly presented by banks players in the market include Funding Circle companies will suffer even more when is that while they are being asked to lend, and ThinCats both crowd-source unsecured Basel III regulations come into effect by 2019 they are increasingly being expected to hold loans and overdrafts, however while ThinCats – which will have the effect of forcing banks on to more equity capital to help prevent sources capital from institutional investors, to scale back on their risky SME loans. against future bail-outs. However, many UK Funding Circle uses retail investors (similar This reinforces the importance of banks continue to post significant profits, to peer-to-peer platform Zopa). All these developing new private sector distribution such as Barclays who in late October stated new entrants have achieved great progress mechanisms for allocating capital for that it was making £750,000 an hour. In this year and are starting to get their small businesses. Gyimah correctly points addition, George Osborne’s comments messaging across to SMEs that they are out that the Government must support around credit easing at his Party open for business - and can be innovative financial platforms today Conference in October relied on. as in the long run this is the best way to highlights the Treasury’s loss These new alternative revolutionise SME funding, rather than ‘it is clear of faith with banks as sources of finance have relying on Government to subsidise loans that the banks efficient capital widened the range of through state-controlled banks. are trotting out distribution channels in options available to SMEs Necessity is the mother of invention, the same old these turbulent times. and increased their and there are encouraging signs that the excuses when What is clear is that likelihood of gaining capital financial landscape will fundamentally they are simply SMEs desperately need to cover costs and grow change with all the new innovation bubbling not delivering on during the recession. This alternatives, and what we under the surface. the ground’ have seen recently is the shift in the way capital is private sector responding distributed to small businesses CONTACT with innovation. has most probably triggered the www.marketinvoice.com January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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10/01/2012 14:08



Ever-improving tech is spawning more gadgets than you can shake a joystick at. We take a look at what’s hot, what’s not and what’s rumoured for 2012. Words Tom Holmes

WindoWs 8

The successor to Windows 7 was announced at the Consumer Electronics show in January 2011, and ever since Microsoft has drip-fed information on what we can expect. Among the features that have been confirmed are software to support touch screen functions, a start screen in place of the start menu and Windows Store, an online store for buying, selling and advertising applications. The operating system will also be able to run from a flash drive - Windows To Go – meaning flexibility for those that spend a lot of time on the road. Similarly, users’ accounts do not have to be local-only anymore as they can be linked to a Windows Live ID. This means users will not lose their settings and files as they move from their home computer to their work laptop or to any other computer also using Windows 8. Release date is mid to late 2012.


HTC VillE & HTC ZETa At a slender 8mm thick, the HTC Ville is HTC’s thinnest phone yet, though you shouldn’t let its skinny frame fool you. The Ville is a bit of an animal, packing a 1.5GHz Qualcomm S4 dual-core processor and operating on the Android 4 Ice

Cream Sandwich system. It will also sport a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display. Like Ville, Zeta will run on the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, though at a shade under 10mm thick and 110mm high it’s a little bigger. Inside

you’ll find a whopping 32GB storage space, an eight megapixel camera with dual-LED flash, and 1080p video recording. Both handsets are likely to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress.

January 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Galaxy s3

RuMouREd The technology rumour mill is always turning, though this year we do expect much of what is rumoured to reach the market at some stage in 2012. Why? Because so much of what we’re hearing is so plausible – all that’s missing is the confirmation from the manufacturers.

iPad Mini

It’s one of life’s great curiosities – build something, then make it smaller and smaller. If this rumour is to be believed, then what we will see is essentially an over-sized iPhone. The move though is hardly surprising. The 7-inch tablet market has taken off with the Samsung Galaxy, and Apple doesn’t want to miss out. Reports suggest that a 7.85 inch iPad mini will hit shelves towards the end of 2012.

iPHonE 5

iPhone fans were left a little disappointed when Apple announced the 4S in late 2011, as opposed to the 5, which had been anticipated. The disappointment will be short lived though, as the iPhone 5 is a certainty rather than a pipe-dream. Though Apple hasn’t confirmed release date or specifications it has consistently released sleeker and sharper versions, and 2012 will be no exception. Industry insiders are predicting a mid-2012 release,

possibly at the Apple Developers conference in June. Expect redesigned casing and a quad-core processor, a first for Apple handsets.


Technology has the ability, as no other industry, to spawn collective terms for the items it produces. The Ultrabook is an ultra-thin, ultra-light laptop in the MacBook Pro mould, and 2012 will a growth in both demand sales and production of them. Toshiba successfully launched a range in the latter half of 2011, and will be joined by Asus, Acer and HP in 2012 according to various technology blogs. Both Asus and Acer are expected to improve upon current offering with dramatically improved screen resolutions and enhanced performance.

Samsung is enjoying a purple patch at the moment, having usurped Apple as the leading supplier of smartphones. By the latter part of 2011 it had shipped six million more handsets than Apple, thanks in no small part to the popularity of Galaxy and Galaxy S2. It should come as no surprise then that the Galaxy S3 is among the most anticipated releases of 2012. The technology rumour mill has the device down for a February release at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Full spec and pricing are yet to be released, though ‘leaked information’ suggests that the S3 will resemble its predecessors in design. Unlike the previous two, the S3 is expected to use a 4.6inch screen similar to the Nexus, a pin-sharp 720x1,280-pixel affair with 16 million colours. With such devices of course, the devil is always in the detail, and in this instance it’s found under the bonnet. The S3 is almost certainly going to run on the Android 4.0 operating system, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, which comes with a raft of nifty features, including opening your phone with your face. Elsewhere in the engine room the S3 is likely to have a mighty 1.8Ghz processor, making it one of the fastest handsets on the market, and twice as fast as the iPhone 4s. It is likely to be the first smart phone to boast 2GB of RAM, and will come with a generous 32GB of storage.


www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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Simple Enviro Ltd: Office Furniture Recycling – We Tick the Box. Under this new initiative we collect redundant office furniture and recondition it to give it a new lease of life. T: 01482 598219 E: sales@simplenviro.com W: www.simplenviro.com

R+H Design: Cost-effective branding with identity. Based in Lancaster, with over 25 years experience, we can create, develop or implement your identity with design that works. We are a small firm with big ideas, producing effective design solutions for start-ups and global brands alike. T: 01524 36406 E: info@randh.net W: www.randh.net

British Logo Design: A professional design agency based in Hampshire. Through our main company, Snowflake Creative, we have worked with some major blue chip companies. British Logo Design was created to bring you local design agency quality at a fraction of the cost. T: 01256 845815 E: studio@britishlogos.co.uk W: www.britishlogodesign.co.uk

CFO4Growth: Is there a gap in your management team? Providing CFO support to CEOs and entrepreneurs in SME businesses at each stage of development • Growth • Funding • Acquisitions Contact: Maddy Kennedy FCCA T: 07887 610597 E: maddy.kennedy@cfo4growth.com W: www.cfo4growth.com

Smart Video: Dave Holland is CEO of www. smart-video.tv - a unique Online Video SEO tool for businesses of all sizes. Smart Video’s affordable SEO tool will instantly host your videos and get them indexed in Google searches with a thumbnail image in a matter of hours, with all the traffic coming directly to your website. W: www.smart-video.tv

Eclipse Design: Offers innovative design solutions for print and web. From initial design through to print and publication, we offer a full range of design services including: brochures, leaflets, newsletters, magazines, advertising; packaging; corporate identity, branding and logos; website and publication design. T: 01603 409060 W: www.eclipse-design.co.uk

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

HC Hosting: If you transfer your domain to our hosting servers we will transfer the domain for you for free and then offer you 3 months free hosting. T: 01268 548636 E: stephen@hillierconsultants.com W: www.hchosting.org.uk

Sterling Trade Finance Ltd: With our flexible combination of products we can finance the complete supply chain. this includes purchase of goods from overseas or domestic suppliers, payment of Vat, duty and shipping charges, and selective invoice discounting supported by a full credit management service. T: 020 7569 9609 E: sales@sterlingtradefinance.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

Avis: 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 E: avisflex@avis.co.uk W: www.avis.co.uk

Tech IT Solutions: Our aim is to provide small and medium businesses throughout Cornwall and Devon with a single point of contact for all IT related services. Tech IT Solutions offer a range of solutions from technical support to management outsourcing and now cloud service provisioning. T: 0845 680 4023 E: karl@techitsolutions.co.uk W: www.techitsolutions.co.uk


www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk January 2012

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It takes an airfare expert to save you money on travel

Managing your company’s airfare spend can be something of a minefield. Should I book in advance or last-minute? What class of fare should I book? Should I book a flexible or restricted fare? What’s the most time-efficient routing? Get any of these wrong and you can be seriously out of pocket. Not to mention the time it takes. Bring the Corporate Traveller team on board and you’ll have access to a team of airfare specialists who’ll work through this minefield for you. Not only that, you’ll have access to a global network giving you more fare options. Published fares. Net fares. Industry fares. Wholesale fares. You name it, we have it. And best of all, our expertise means that we can pick the fare that best suits you to make sure you get the very best rate every time.

Bring an expert on board and reap the rewards • Expertise, experience and energy • Dedicated personal and flexible service • Save money, save time, save stress • Access to the best priced & widest range

of product – air, hotels, car and more • Flexible payment options • No contracts and a competitive fee structure • 24 hour Emergency Assist

The benefits don’t stop there. Contact the Corporate Traveller team today to make sure you save on your next booking.

Call 0800 840 7862 www.corptraveller.co.uk 04187

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HAVE YOU GOT BIG DREAMS FOR YOUR BUSINESS? WE CAN HELP. Get expert advice on how best to plan, start, manage and grow your business with the ICAEW Business Advice Service. Book a free appointment with an ICAEW Chartered Accountant today.

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Profile for Talk Business

Talk Business January 2012  

January's issue of Talk Busines Magazine

Talk Business January 2012  

January's issue of Talk Busines Magazine