TALK BUSINESS MARCH 2012
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don k businf the tal view o or pre vent fps e rt u 012 sta ness 2 i bus
Ex-chairman of Channel 4 television, entrepreneur and theatre lover
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inside March 2012 talk business
‘i enjoy helping to make companies succeed’ luke johnson
61 55 To staff, or not to staff …
Self employment as an option for growing the business
61 Can you kick it?
The benefits of promoting the brand 65 Show time
Business 2012 event preview 72 Under lock and key How secure is your business information?
16 cover story: luke johnson
26 Interview – A spoonful of sugar
Ed Molyneux discusses his and FreeAgent’s phenomenal success 31 Book review
Jim Steinel’s Grow, One Hard Question by Mark Artus, Taming Tigers from Jim Lawless and David Howell’s The Small Business Guide to Apps
75 Coke by any other name
Mark Hillsdon looks at the growing awareness of creating a brand strategy Focus on people 81 Death of the sick note?
Employment law reforms are on the way. Are you prepared? 84 Carrot and stick
Editor, Gill Anderson takes a look at what’s affecting the business community
Focus on money 34 Money matters
Edenred’s Andy Philpott discusses rewards and incentives designed for individuals
13 On the money
A refreshing, sometimes light-hearted look at all things fiscal
87 Top tips – Maintaining motivation
39 Home alone
How to keep staff engaged for the best results
News and updates from the business sector and a useful diary of events for the forthcoming month
MeetingZone’s Tim Duffy on growing your business using remote workers
Focus on technology 90 Gadgets to sigh for
Focus on success 16 Face on the cover – Switchen on thinker
42 Where’s the wonga?
Funding start ups
The high tech future for start up companies
Ex-Channel 4 Chairman, author and hugely successful entrepreneur, Luke Johnson steps under the sportlight
48 Banking on online
93 Decisions, decisions
Netop’s Kurt Bager discusses online banking service
What’s the best software for start ups?
22 Take one company – Big boots to fill
We look at online baby gift retailer, My1stYears.com
97 Down time blues Focus on strategy 52 Best practice – Back to school
Understanding the financial strategy
The importance of choosing the right Internet service provider for your business www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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comment talk business March 2012
Mixed news – or a rosy future?
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Jay Boisvert firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: Aston Greenlake Limited T: 0203 617 4680 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Aston Greenlake Limited. Floor 8, 6 Mitre Passage Peninsula Central Greenwich, London SE10 0ER T:0203 617 4680 ©Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. No part of Talk Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Talk Business will make every effort to return picture material, but it is sent at owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore Aston Greenlake Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.
Today’s news that the CBI predicts the UK will escape the horrors of a double-dip recession should have us all sighing into our lunchtime ouzo – if we can still afford one of course. After the recent scenes from across Europe, particularly in Greece, I guess we should be grateful for the smallest of small mercies. However, its message that we can expect growth of 0.9% this year isn’t exactly something to shout about. And when it comes hard on the heels of the CIPD announcement that it’s investigations show employers are more likely than last year to lay off staff, we should rightly remain concerned. Regardless of the recent carnage experienced by the big business sector, one figure that’s remaining determinedly high is the number of new start-ups, especially in the UK. Despite – or perhaps because of - the slump on the jobs front, more and more budding entrepreneurs are gathering their skills and getting out there to do it for themselves. While I have every respect for those stalwart entrepreneurs, I do worry for their funding future. The banks have failed miserably to achieve the lending targets set under Project Merlin. This contraction in lending will hit SME’s hardest. Already the most difficult area to source funding for, the average interest rate on a bank loan for a start up or SME is more than double that for an established company. It may be perfectly understandable that the banks are being over-cautious (I shall endeavour to refrain from comments about horses, stable doors and bolts at this point). However, I do think that ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall’ school of thought might take issue. It is being proved on a monthly, if not weekly basis that some of the outwardly most stable and solid companies have very dodgy foundations. As the banks are cherry picking who to lend to, it behoves new start ups to make sure that they have their house in perfect order before making any approach for funding. Every one of us must have sat through at least one toe-curlingly embarrassing episode of Dragon’s Den, where the poor entrepreneur-in-themaking was caught, rabbit-like in the headlamp glare of a Dragon’s stare, when asked for financials. There is finance available – business angels and crowd funding are the big alternative to the traditional banking sector at the moment – but do your homework first. If the idea and business plan is sound, and you put in the effort, there’s no reason you won’t succeed.. gill anderson editor www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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HMRC video urges tough stance Every year, HMRC receives employer returns, containing incorrect employee data, including names, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers. For example, a recent study of employer returns found that 128 staff were entered as Mr, Mrs or Ms ‘Dummy’, while 824 employees had the surname ‘Unknown’. Forty employees, according to the dates of birth provided, were over 200-years old. Many other employees had their forenames and surnames swapped around, or their first names replaced by initials, which can make it more difficult for HMRC to identify individuals. A short YouTube video has been launched which informs employers how inaccurate returns can affect employees, employers and HMRC, and offers basic advice on how they can help reduce errors.
director of cust C’s om R M er H ,
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Jim Ha rra
The video can be viewed at http://bit.ly/xVazur
‘It’s really important that employers get their employees’ information right, so that HMRC can match it to the right tax records.’
Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards The UK’s largest independent membership network for women in business, everywoman is inviting entries for the 2012 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards. Now in its fifth year, the awards recognise the achievements of women in the retail sector. By highlighting inspirational female role models who are excelling, the awards aim to demonstrate to other talented individuals the exceptional opportunities offered by a career in retail. Research released in January 2012 by the Professional Boards Forum found that the number of women directors in British boardrooms has reached its highest ever level (14.9%), which demonstrates the tide is turning for women at the highest levels. The retail sector in particular offers the
chance for swift career progression by demonstrating hard work and initiative. The Awards celebrate the success of the sector’s female leaders and seek to encourage a pipeline of future talent into the industry. Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman comments: ‘Retail is an attractive sector offering flexibility and the opportunity to learn transferable skills. Given that women are estimated to be responsible for around 70% of household purchasing decisions*, clearly it is essential that the management of retail companies reflects the demographic of their customer base. The economic climate means retailers need to think intelligently to remain competitive. Those companies that nurture and progress their female talent will be those most likely to reap success.’
Companies should instigate home-working plans now The Cabinet Office has warned that business can expect loss of Internet connections due to the massive surge in demand that will be caused by the London Olympics. ‘We have experienced a huge increase in requests from companies hoping to put home-working plans into force before the games,’ said Gary David Smith of Prism Total IT Solutions. ‘For many companies this will involve using cloud technology, but they have to consider the security and storage of data, back-ups and how the cloud will cope with Internet shut downs.’ In its publication, ‘Preparing your Business for the Games’, the Cabinet Office helpfully points out that besides potential breaks in service that we may expect, Internet providers: ‘may introduce data caps during peak times to try to spread the loading and give a more equal service to their entire customer base.’ The UK Government predicts that 800,000 spectators and 55,000 athletes, officials, organisers and press will be travelling between the various venues each day of the games.
* Women on Boards report, October 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
go online www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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Speculate to accumulate According to research from Epson Business Council, 51% of British small businesses say that IT is an integral part of their drive for business growth, increased innovation and productivity. However, Brits lag significantly behind our European counterparts covered by the study: in France and Germany, where 76% consider IT integral to growth, 73% in Spain and 68% in Italy.
DIARY DATES Growing Your Own Business 2012 16-17 March 2012 Olympia National Hall, London www.sme-events.com
Internet Retailing Expo 21-22 March 2012 NEC, Birmingham www.internetretailingexpo.com
The British & International Franchise Exhibition 2012 16-17 March 2012 Olympia National Hall, London www.franchiseinfo.co.uk
HR Software Show 2012 20-21 June 2012 Olympia Two, London www.cipd.co.uk
Business 2012 18-20 March 2012 O2 Arena, London www.business2012.com
Marketing Week Live 2012 27-28 June 2012 Olympia Grand Hall, London www.marketingweeklive.co.uk
Growing Your Own Business 2011
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March 16-17, 10:00 - 17:00 (16.00 Saturday), Olympia, London Growing Your Own Business showcase & conference will offer advice and networking for the small- and medium-sized enterprises. It offers an opportunity to speak with small business advisors, gain SME support, acquire business information, source new suppliers, learn from established business leaders, network with your peers and find out how best to grow or start your business.
Not –to-be-missed events: How to grow a successful web design business A presentation from the founder of Plug and Play - an established and experienced web design franchise. Hear about the franchise opportunity and gain an insight into the rapidly expanding and highly profitable world of web design. Peter Richman, managing director, Plug & Play. From rags to riches - the rules of business Risks of entrepreneurship Overcoming the obstacles to reach your goals How to remain productive when you feel like giving up What they don’t teach you about being an entrepreneur Gary Frank, founder & head boy, Fabulous Bakin’ Boys. How to market on the Internet for free Learn how to utilise the growth of the social networking websites as part of the Internet marketing strategy and how to successfully market on search engines for free. Steve Wood, franchise director, Explorer Travel
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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focus on success face on the cover
Luke Johnson, ex-chairman of Channel 4 Television and serial entrepreneur, discusses his many and varied successes, his attitude towards business, and more …
switched on thinker
hairman of Risk Capital Partners; partowner and Chairman of Superbrands, Giraffe Restaurants, Patisserie Valerie and Baker and Spice; co-owner and director of APT Controls; Chairman of Fast Track and non-executive director of Phaidon Press and Metro Bank; as well as owner of Feng Sushi and part owner of Bread, the company behind Gail’s Artisan Bakery. On top of that, Luke Johnson is a director of no less than two theatre production partnerships, director of entertainment marketing agency, AKA UK - plus he writes a weekly column for the FT on entrepreneurship and a monthly column for Management Today. Some CV, huh? Looking at the list of Johnson’s current workload, I’d say if nothing else, his time management is pretty impressive. At a time when most of us complain if we’re tasked with just one extra job, you can see straight away why Johnson is so successful. His focus must be amazing just to juggle so many and such varied roles.
Express growth What may appear to some to be a lucky break –although I have my doubts that luck had much to do with it – buying into the PizzaExpress chain when it was a much smaller, less popular destination eatery seems to have been the catalyst for Luke Johnson’s meteoric rise in the business world. He took the company from 12 to
more than 250 outlets just as the country was coming out of the economic wilderness and people could finally afford to eat out again, increasing the share price from 40p to more than 900p in his time as Chairman. Obviously bitten by the food bug, Johnson moved on to start Signature Restaurants, which owned The Ivy and Le Caprice, as well as the Belgo chain. One thing that quickly becomes clear is that Johnson seems to suffer from itchy business feet. He takes a company, builds it to incredible heights in the blink of an eye, and then moves on to the next project, the next challenge. He has, I’m sure had a few failures along the way, but the man seems to have a golden touch when it comes to buying or starting companies.
TB: Many of today’s successful businessmen come from backgrounds where entrepreneurial skills weren’t necessarily part of day-to-day life, making their success the more surprising. What did your parents do & what was your childhood like?
‘My father is an author and journalist and my mother a therapist. Neither was involved in business at all, although my dad has been successfully self-employed for decades. He has always been an
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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face on the cover focus on success
i have often dreamed about moving to the us, simply because it is such a vast market and so entrepreneurial, but have decided to stick to britain
www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on success face on the cover
I enjoy helping companies to succeed and see partners and teams develop independent spirit and ambitious: his ideas about the importance of free enterprise influenced me at a critical age. I am the third of four children, and I remember a noisy, fairly competitive household when I was growing up.’
TB: Where did you go to school/university? Happy memories or a time of torture?
TB: How did the purchase of PizzaExpress come about? Did you have any experience in running restaurants previously?
‘My first proper job was as a junior account executive at a fashionable advertising agency, called Boase Massimi Pollitt. I enjoyed it, but felt that I wanted more.’
‘I responded to a classified ad in the FT in 1990, which was asking for finance for a few franchised pizza restaurants. This was a franchise grouping of PizzaExpress branches. I learned then what an attractive formula it was, but wanted to own the intellectual property as well. That opportunity arose in 1992, when the entire company was put up for sale. My partner and I raised the cash, and despite our age and lack of direct experience or capital, managed to fend off the rival bidders and buy the business.’
the growth is fastest and the concept is still pretty new and very exciting. ‘Often highly successful entrepreneurs say the moments they most enjoyed were in the formative stages when their business was just getting going.’
‘I went to the local state primary and grammar school in Bucks, and then attended Oxford University – where I discovered business in my spare time.’
inevitable, and that I would never be satisfied until I had made a serious attempt at building and buying my own companies.’
TB: What was your first job?
TB: We know you studied medicine before becoming a media analyst. Why the complete change in direction? Have you ever practiced medicine?
‘I studied medicine as an undergraduate but never qualified as a doctor, although I did take a degree. I had decided by then I wanted to pursue a career in business. I took up the job as a media analyst because I wanted to understand the stock market and finance better.’
TB: How did you go about forming your own company and going it alone? What drove you to leave the security of paid employment?
‘Although I moonlighted with various part-time ventures while working as a stockbroker, I didn’t take the plunge and become fully self-employed until 1989, when I was 27. ‘I realised that I had been delaying the
TB:You achieved incredible success with PizzaExpress. Were you surprised by how fast and far you took the chain?
‘We were very fortunate in that we were part of an excellent team at the top of the business, and the brand had been underexploited. Moreover, the recession ended in 1993, so demand picked up, but sites for new openings were still plentiful. So we were able to roll out over 100 great new restaurants all across the country during the 1990s, and the shares did spectacularly well – rising from 40p to over 900p while I served as chairman.’
TB:You’ve been involved in so many well known and diverse companies – Whittard of Chelsea, The Ivy, Nightfreight, Mayfair Gaming to name a few. Where were you happiest?
0‘I am generally happiest in somewhat smaller firms in the earlier stages – when
TB: What drives you on?
‘I like to keep busy and learn. I enjoy helping to make companies succeed, and see partners and teams develop. Capitalism is a very stimulating activity – satisfying new wants, delivering innovative products – and I think being a business owner and builder can be an exceptionally creative livelihood.’
TB: Where do the ideas come from? For instance, starting Integrated Dental Holdings. It’s hardly something the average businessman wakes up and says ‘I think we need a chain of dental surgeries in the UK’, is it?
‘Ideas can emerge anywhere. Often they come from meeting people – other entrepreneurs or investors, suppliers, advisors, even customers. The Internet and printed media are important too. I came up with the idea of Integrated Dental Holdings from flicking through the Yellow
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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How is Structured Mentoring Achieving REAL Results for UK Businesses. Talk Business finds out! As one of the key exhibitors at the upcoming BUSINESS 2012 at the O2, Talk Business asked the Rockstar Mentoring Group’s Founder and MD, Jonathan Pfahl how his company’s mentors are helping businesses grow successfully in todays market.
So Jonathan, how would you define a “structured” mentoring process? Put simply, it is firstly getting the right mentor on board. To be a Rockstar mentor, you must have started, grown and sold on a company for at least £4m. On top of that, you need to prove previous success in mentoring other businesses. With such a high calibre of mentor, the right structure involves the mentor and mentee firstly agreeing to a goal that they aim to achieve in a 6 month period and define a clear path over that 6 months that the mentee can follow to achieve that goal.
That is quite a high bar to set for mentors! Why do your Mentors do it? A very good question and a fair one too. The Rockstar mentors do what they do for our clients because for the first time in a long time, they have…. Time! Successful entrepreneurs do like to become involved in businesses where they can leverage their experiences, contacts and expertise to other businesses they know they can help. Being part of a mentoring program allows them to do so. We receive, on average, 6 enquiries a week from people who wish to become mentors. Whilst we only take on 1 in 12 mentors (on average – based on them fitting our criteria), it shows that there are a number of entrepreneurs wanting to provide their expertise to business owners who value their input.
You have so far mentored over 400 different businesses so far, are you achieving results? th
Absolutely YES! Otherwise we wouldn’t be entering our 5 year in business. Success we deem by the mentor and mentee achieving the 6 month goal set out at the beginning of the program. We encourage that monetary goal, for example, “to generate a 30% increase in sales” to be worth more than double the investment in having that mentor on board. We have countless case studies and testimonials on the website and at Business 2012, you will be hearing from active mentees and mentors.
Finally, on that note, what can we expect to see from Rockstar at Business 2012? We will be running 8 workshops each day over the 3 days giving the clients an introduction to mentoring and showing them how they can grow their business successfully by adopting the model that we use. Backed up, as mentioned before, by real life case studies, clients will also have the opportunity to ask the mentors questions who will be at the show. Rockstar Mentoring Group will be a key exhibitor at the Business 2012. To register for their workshops or to book a FREE MENTORING CONSULTATION, please visit their website www.rockstargroup.co.uk or call them on 0845 652 2905
focus on success face on the cover
worthwhile bedtime reading
Luke Johnson’s book, Start It Up: Why Running Your Own Business is Easier Than You Think is published by Portfolio Penguin [www.penguin.com], and is priced at £12.99. Pages, and seeing how many dentists there were, how well so many do, and how very fragmented the profession is.’
TB: Do you still live in the UK? If so, have you never wanted to move somewhere most of us only dream about?
‘I have lived in London for 29 years and have no plans to move. My family, work, friends, home and life are here and I love it. I have often dreamed about moving to the US, simply because it is such a vast market and so entrepreneurial, but have decided to stick to Britain because of my emotional attachment to it.’
TB: What do you credit with your incredible success in business?
‘I think my success has been mixed, and much of it is down to luck and having the right partners. ‘
TB: If you lost everything (business only of course) tomorrow, what would be your first thought regarding rebuilding your empire?
are all very tolerant of my various flaws.’
TB:You’re Chairman of Stage One? How does it work to help support the theatre here?
Start It Up was reviewed in the December 2011 edition of Talk Business, and is available to read free of charge, by registering online at www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
‘Stage One is a small but influential charity, which helps train and backs fledgling theatre producers in both the West End and regions. ‘Many of our alumni go on to produce major shows in London and even Broadway.’
such a system is a sound idea – it helps renew the talent on boards, and stops the boardroom becoming stale.’
‘I enjoyed writing Start It Up, and indeed my weekly Wednesday column in the FT. I wrote a few books about business in the 1980s and early 1990s, including one just before the Crash of ’87 called How to Get a Highly Paid Job in the City! Not great timing!’
TB: Talk Business recently reviewed your book, Start it Up: Why Running Your Own Business is Easier Than You Think. Did you enjoy writing it, and have you written other self-help titles?
TB: What’s the one role you’ve not managed to land that you’d like?
TB: Have you ever regretted taking on a role?
‘I’ve regretted quite a few involvements – mainly with companies that went badly wrong! But one tries to learn from such cock-ups, and at least not make the same mistake twice.’
TB: We believe you have three children. What would you wish for their future (apart from the obvious health & happiness we all want for our loved ones)?
‘I hope my children work hard, and find an endeavour in life, which can become a passion – be it business or some other field. ‘I would not push them in a specific direction – but would hope they succeed on their own terms in whatever they do.’
‘I’d like to think I would have the stamina and resilience to start all over again – perhaps in the digital space this time.’
‘One day I’d like to serve as a non-executive on the board of a really major multinational company, just to see how such enormous corporates actually function from the inside.’
TB: What made you leave Channel 4 Television after such a positive six years in the hot seat?
‘I have a very supportive wife and a brilliant PA, and excellent business partners who
‘I loved serving as chairman at Channel 4 TV, but such jobs are fixed term, so one is obliged to retire after six years. In fact I think
‘As well as writing my weekly essay in the Financial Times, I play tennis and enjoy clay pigeon shooting and the theatre.’
TB: It must get terribly complicated spreading your time between so many ventures. Do you have help with the day-today running of your business life?
TB: Finally, assuming you do have some spare time, what do you like to do to unwind?
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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focus on success take one company
Big boots to fill
Launching a business within a niche market can be challenging, but founders of My1stYears.com, Daniel Price and Jonny Sitton have proved that, with determination and drive, you can turn an idea into a million pound empire
We’ve found there’s nothing better than listening to your audience and moulding your business around their requirements
ince launching in January 2010, My1stYears.com, an online store for personalised baby gifts, has achieved phenomenal success. Already gaining a celebrity following, and with expectations of hitting the £1m mark next year, it’s hard to believe that Price and Sitton were just 21 when they started their business venture. Although both had yet to experience parenthood, they spotted a gap in the market for personlised gifts for newborns while studying at Leeds
Business School. Though it may seem unusual for two young men to venture into what’s a female-dominated area, Price believes it has worked in their favour: ‘We used our story of two young 24-year-old men to our advantage, and made sure we received free publicity which was great. It’s quite unusual to have two young men operating in this sector, especially ones who aren’t parents. This has certainly helped us raise the profile of the business.’ Using their business knowledge, the
duo was able to develop their business plan, carefully outlining their objectives and how they would be achieved. Despite having an insight into business, Price recommends speaking with the local Business Link. He said: ‘They’re a Government-funded body designed to help small businesses set up. They will point you in the right direction. Before meeting with them, you can look at their website and it gives you all kinds of free information on business plans. You can then arrange a free consultation with a
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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FAST FACTS top tips for start-up 1) Have an idea. 2) Know exactly what you want the idea to become. 3) Be motivated and don’t think about quitting. 4) Seek advice, perform extensive research and look for finance. 5) Keep going at it until you succeed.
local consultant who will talk you through the relative pitfalls.’ The business was created from years of savings but like most first business start-ups, the team underestimated the hidden costs. Price said: ‘Initially marketing the business during launch proved very expensive. We didn’t foresee all of the costs and therefore had to look for investment sooner than we thought. It’s certainly worth having a contingency set aside for things like this – there will be instances when you need to lay your hands on additional capital.’ For those in the process of saving to start a business, Price gave words of encouragement: ‘If you are currently trying to save money for a business and are feeling despondent, just think of the end result. The thought of building a successful business is a strong motivator, and seeing the finance for your business build up is rewarding.’ Following, raising the capital, the next step was to perform market research. ‘Both primary and secondary research was undertaken in order to find out if the idea was viable and commercial. Having researched the market thoroughly, and talked to potential customers, we then pumped the start-up capital into the business and started building the website,’ said Price. ‘Doing the research is critical to ensure the idea is viable and that there is a market out there, which will be interested in the concept. We performed regular focus groups with our target audience and this contributed to our success because we used ideas that were given to us from those focus groups and research. We’ve found there’s nothing better than listening to your audience and moulding your business around their requirements.’ Within nine months of coming up with the idea, the business was launched. Originally it had a focus on footwear, but success and securing an investor in the
first year meant that they were quickly able to increase gifts to include blankets, clothing and teddy bears. Business Link as well as investor factory contacts allowed the team to extend their product sourcing from the UK to Turkey and China. While Price works as marketing director and Sitton as operations director, the pair share the same work ethic: ‘Sleep when we die – work all day and night.’ A tough motto but one that serves well. Since the launch of the website, My1stYears.com has secured contracts with retailers, Interflora and John Lewis. However, there are no plans to set up a commercial space just yet. ‘For us, the Internet was a cheaper way of starting up. Online sales are growing everyday whereas retail units are dropping in terms of sales,’ said Price. ‘The Internet gives people access to a marketplace without setting up a physical shop, which is certainly more cost effective for a start-up, especially if you get the marketing right. There is more access to business advice online. Google allows you to find out the answers to any questions you may have. Online is the way forward in our opinion and certainly seems to be working for us at present.’ An online portal can create the opportunity for smart marketing opportunities. Price added: ‘We used Google adwords to get out there initially as any business can go from zero to hero overnight. You suddenly have access to your customers overnight at a cost. We then made sure we had editorials and free articles written about us. Marketing is really important. You need your audience to know about you otherwise you’ll never sell anything.’ My1stYears.com gained its celebrity clientele by the use of effective PR. Sending gifts to new celebrity parents, such as Elton John, Danni Minogue and the Beckhams has ensured a
Date the company was founded? September 2009 founded, January 2010 site launched Start up capital? £34,000 Current turnover? £300,000 in 2011 Current Net Profit? £35,000 (We’re constantly pumping back in to the business and real profit should be in year three and four) Growth rate? 15 per cent month on month Number of employees when the company started? Just the two directors Current workforce number? 8 Biggest achievement? Securing deal with John Lewis to supply them with our baby gifts Toughest challenge? Being able to personalise the shoes the way we do Advice for start-ups today? If you have an idea and you’re an extremely motivated person then just go for it.
high-end status. Speaking of brand development and awareness, Price said: ‘The importance of creating a brand is if it works, you have built something which nobody can compete with – customer loyalty. Having repeat customers is something every retailer strives for, whether they’re online or on the high street. Having people shout about and praise your brand, recommend it to others - and of course buy from you time and time again is the icing in the cake.’ With plans to expand the business to Europe later this year and future prospects, including worldwide sales and childrenswear, both Price and Sitton are setting their sights high. With a love of business and drive for success there is no doubt that this brand will continue to grow. Despite their dedication to success, the team admits it’s a happy customer that keeps them motivated: ‘Getting the satisfaction of building something from scratch is what motivates us and inevitably drives the business forward. Hearing feedback from happy customers is the best thing and this is what motivates us!’
Contacts: My1stYears.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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Utilities expert, Maria O’Sullivan, of costgard, offers tips on creating an energy plan to reduce those bills and save money
is your business working energy efficiently?
ew figures from British Gas reveal that 46% of the electricity used by SMEs is wasted outside normal working hours. At a time when budgets are tight, it’s crazy to think that businesses are racking up energy bills long after their employees have gone home. A firm that’s wasting energy is simply wasting their profits, but it only takes small changes to bring SMEs big savings. Businesses should consider creating an energy action plan to drive down their overall consumption – bringing down costs and improving their reputation by reducing their carbon footprint. Put simply, it makes business sense to save energy.
Focusing on Energy With energy prices still fluctuating in an extremely volatile market, talking to an independent energy broker ensures a business gets the best deal on their utilities. By fixing their rates today, SMEs can protect themselves from future price hikes. Energy brokers like costgard work closely with clients to ensure they make the best recommendations for an individual business. With an overall picture of the energy market, an independent broker
can get its clients the best deal available and deliver significant savings on bills. However, the average business wastes 20% of the energy it uses. With this in mind, an energy action plan could help businesses potentially save themselves further thousands on their annual bill. Making Energy Efficiency Work An energy action plan is a statement of a business’s commitment to saving energy. With a clear plan in place, a business can ensure staff and management support the efforts and work together to create an energy efficient work culture. Think about appointing an energy champion who is in charge of monitoring waste and finding new ways to cut the amount of energy the business uses. They can also delegate different actions to members of staff, ensuring that everyone feels responsible and engaged in the process. Set realistic goals and consult with staff before making changes, as difficult or impractical actions could be ignored or resented by busy employees. This will undermine the whole process, making it difficult to engage staff in any future energy saving initiatives. With every member of staff doing their little bit to make changes, a business can create a positive commitment to energy saving. Perhaps some of the savings can be directed
to buy staff rewards, rather than adopting a nagging tone. Counting the Cost of Energy Before businesses can start saving, they need to assess how much energy they use. A good energy broker will provide a free energy audit to help firms identify opportunities to increase energy efficiency and reduce those bills. However, a company’s energy champion should conduct regular walk-rounds, using an energy checklist to look for waste and opportunities to save. This is a good time to remind staff of the energy action plan and the simple steps they can take, such as switching lights off in unoccupied areas, which could save 15% on the office bill. Ongoing monitoring is essential to help businesses identify changes in energy use and make improvements that will deliver the biggest savings. Organisations should be realistic about what they want to achieve and make sure they keep staff informed and engaged. Focusing on energy can bring SMEs big savings and protect profits, so be smart and start switching off.
Contact Maria O’Sullivan T: 01460 282 925 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.costgard.co.uk
Energy Checklist* Conduct the check at different times of day i.e. lunchtime, one in the evening and at the weekend Heating: l Are unused rooms and corridors being heated?
l Are staff complaining about being hot (time to turn the heating down) or cold (check the air-conditioning settings)? l Has the boiler been serviced in the last 12 months? l Are the timers working and on the correct settings? l Are there any draughty doors or windows?
Lighting l Are lights turned off in unused areas and on bright days? l Could you use individual lamps, instead of expensive overhead lighting? l Are eco-bulbs fitted where necessary? l Check outside – are exterior lights switched off outside work hours? l Are switches labelled to remind staff to turn them off?
Office: l Are computers left on at night and are monitors switched off when not in use? l Are printers and copiers energy efficient? l Check that vending machines and water coolers are turned off l Check that people are using the inbuilt energy saving features on their computers. *Based on the Carbon Trust Energy walk-round checklist
www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
Far too many startups in technology are offering vitamins, not painkillers!
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
interview focus on success
a spoonful of sugar ...
Ed Molyneux is the co-founder of FreeAgent, the innovative accounting software solution that took the SME world by storm. He’s positive, full of refreshingly good sense, and fairly prickles with intelligence. We get behind the smile to see what makes its co-founder and CEO tick.
t’s not every day you see people, particularly struggling entrepreneurs, actively looking forward to doing their accounts. In truth, most would far rather be making money – or at least dreaming up news ways to do so – than struggling with the complexities of accounting. Which is where Ed Molyneux and FreeAgent comes in. The company has achieved huge success since it launched FreeAgent in 2007, becoming the product of choice for Barclays as well as many thousands of SMEs and freelance workers.
TB: Tell us a little about your own background, and that of the company?
‘I have an academic computer science background, but when I left university I joined the RAF to be a pilot, which was an incredible experience. The RAF is full of extraordinarily committed people but ultimately not a conducive environment for creativity or strategic control unless you are at the top. It was also hard spending so much time away from my family, so I left the RAF in 2002, and with my background in IT, moved into consultancy work.
27 ‘This was a stepping-stone to where I am today; whilst freelancing I met fellow freelancers, Olly and Roan [Headey and Lavery] and we all agreed that whilst we enjoyed working for ourselves, the experience of sorting out accounts was painful. It was all the impetus I needed to write the first prototype of FreeAgent. ‘Together the three of us dived into six months of rapid development, prototyping the service and developing the business model in our spare time. It was extremely hard work but worth it when FreeAgent was launched in 2007. ‘We offer an online accounting service for freelancers and small businesses and we also partner with accountants who offer our software to their clients. FreeAgent lets you send invoices, track time and expenses, analyse bank statements and build real-time accounts all done simply with no confusing jargon. It even helps you calculate tax bills and makes sure you don’t miss HMRC’s deadlines. One of our customers told us that: ‘FreeAgent makes me feel smart – not stupid – about my company finances’. We take the hassle and pain out of doing your books.
TB: What was your business plan and objective when you launched the company? Has that changed now?
‘We set out to democratise accounting – to give our customers the best online accounting system and service on the market. I wanted FreeAgent to be the Google of accounting software and I still do.’
TB: Did you secure start-up funding? If so who did you approach and how did you go about doing it?
‘Initially we were self-funding, but since then we have secured over £3m in external funding. One of our first investors was Robin Klein, founder of The Accelerator Group, who was named No 2 in Business XL magazine’s ‘Power Top 50 2011’ and No 22 in the Telegraph’s ‘100 Most Influential Tech Investors in Europe’ who saw the potential in FreeAgent. It was a great endorsement to have his backing. ‘
TB: How has the company grown?
‘Fast! The investment we secured means that we have been able to move ahead with www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
focus on success interview
our plans at a rapid pace – expanding our engineering team to accelerate product development to a high standard and growing our customer support team to allow us to maintain a high standard of customer service as user numbers dramatically increase. We’ve come a long way as we celebrate our fifth birthday and while we have ambitious plans, we’ll also work hard to ensure we don’t sacrifice the quality of service or dilute the amazing culture of the company.’
TB: How would you describe your style of management?
‘We’re very picky about hiring, and having a really grounded-but-talented team makes management a much simpler process. We can afford to outline our direction at a fairly high level and let the team work out the details.’
‘I have also learned that you can’t change the world every day, but you can do positive things every day and head in the right direction.
TB:What do you believe is the most important thing for start-ups to get right from the outset? ‘Being open-minded about your initial idea. There’s a fine line between persistence and bloody-mindedness, and knowing when to adjust direction based on what the market is telling you is important.’
TB: If you could put into place one law or policy to aid start up companies, what would it be? ‘I’d like to see more favourable tax treatment of share options granted to early employees, more in line with Entrepreneur’s relief.’
‘Our progress has been more like a rollercoaster - up and down but always with forward motion.
‘Our company is only the sum of the talents of our team. If we aren’t up to speed on every possible competitive advantage, we’ll not be around in the long term.’
TB: What’s your approach to business?
‘Unsurprisingly, it’s all about the customer. But in technology, businesses having a bold vision for the product means sometimes building things today’s customer doesn’t yet know they want.
TB: Have you had any major setbacks?
TB: What drives your success and motivates you personally?
‘Knowing that we’re on the right track drives me on. And we know we’re on the right track because of all our successes to date – we have won several awards and in a customer satisfaction survey, 99.5% of our users said they would recommend the service to others.’
TB: What’s the biggest or most important lesson you’ve learned to date? ‘As much as you might want to, you just can’t possibly do everything. You have to be able to trust other people to do it for you, so I’m getting better at delegating – but it is hard when I still feel FreeAgent is very much my baby.
TB: What red tape have you struggled against?
‘I actually think the UK is not a bad place to start a company. ‘Cutting red tape has far too often been used recently as a justification to further erode employees’ rights.’
TB: What is your policy on staff training?
TB: Do you feel you received enough support when starting FreeAgent? ‘I never believed that traditional sources of support (like Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise etc) could ever understand enough about new business models like ours to be other than a hindrance. It’s not their fault, but the time you spend explaining the business to them is probably better spent getting on with growing it yourself.’
TB: What areas would you have liked more help with?
Sources of funding in the early days was a real problem. My co-founders and I were lucky enough to have part-time contracts to keep us going while we got
profile Ed Molyneux
Date the company was founded? 19 February 2007 Start up capital? £3m raised to date Current turnover? Undisclosed Current Net Profit? Reinvesting all profit into further growth right now Growth rate? Quadrupled numbers of paying customers in the course of 2011 Number of employees when the company started? 3 co-founders, myself, Olly Headey and Roan Lavery Current workforce? 35 Biggest achievement? Going live was a big achievement for the company and securing our first round of funding was also a big moment – a real validation that we were on the right track. Toughest challenge? The early days – we were working hard to get a useful product out there, but with no certainty that enough people would want to pay for it to make the business sustainable. Advice for start-ups today? Find a real problem and solve it elegantly. Far too many startups in technology are offering vitamins, not painkillers!
things off the ground. I can’t imagine many will have that luxury.
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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book review focus on success
GROW: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s 50 Greatest Companies, by Jim Stengel Great businesses naturally have many things in common: superbly designed products and services, knockout customer experiences, sustained excellence at execution, outstanding talent and teamwork, and great leadership. But there’s also something else, an X-factor that keeps renewing and strengthening great businesses through good times and bad. Based on almost ten years of empirical research involving 50,000 companies, Jim Stengel shows how the world’s 50 best businesses as diverse as Apple, Red Bull, Pampers, Visa, Jack Daniels and Petrobras - have a cause-and-effect relationship between financial performance and their ability to connect with fundamental human emotions, hopes, values and greater purposes. Based on unparalleled
empirical research, Grow deftly blends timeless truths about human behaviour and values into an action framework. Stengel shows us how by embracing what he describes as ‘brand ideals’, the world’s best businesses can achieve incredible growth and drastically improve their performance. And so, Grow unlocks the code for twentyfirst century business success. About the author Jim Stengel was director of marketing at Procter & Gamble for twenty-five years, and is the founder of the Jim Stengel Company, a consulting firm. He is also a professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and served as Dean of the first Cannes Creative Academy for Young Marketers at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2011. For more information, visit
www.jimstengel.com Grow is published by Virgin Books, priced at £12.99 in paperback original What the experts think ‘When you start reading Grow, you may well feel a little sceptical about the ideal and its bottom-line value. But you’ll soon become intrigued - and then utterly convinced. Jim Stengel shares his beliefs and his experience with a generosity bordering on the reckless; and has the hard, clean numbers to bear his teachings out.’ Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP
‘By combining a scientist’s rigor with a storyteller’s gifts, Jim Stengel has produced a brilliant, must-read book supremely suited to our times.’ Arianna Huffington
‘Grow is a tool kit for turning the power of ideals...into
competitive advantage and sustainable growth.’ Robert A. McDonald, chairman, president, and CEO, Procter & Gamble
Jim Stengel shows quite conclusively the power of galvanizing your company around a noble cause. It’s a great way to think about your business.’ David C. Novak, Chairman and CEO, Yum! Brands, Inc.
‘In this fascinating book...I personally discovered ideas that are exactly what we need in today’s business environment.’ Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO, Publicis Group
ONE HARD QUESTION: Exploring some of the questions that define our history, as well as the global brands we see today, by Mark Artus
One Hard Question explores how brands have come into being; the cultural shifts which helped them get to
where they are today – in a fascinating journey through history, from the hard question Henry VIII faced, to the ad campaigns by the ‘Madmen of Maddison Avenue’ and the impact of the Internet. The book explains how great brands came into being and how companies and individuals can produce great brands today. The premise is that all these successes involved asking one hard question – and the
only way to find the right answer is to ask the right question in the first place. Mark Artus is CEO of leading entrepreneurial and creative branding agency, 1HQ (which stands for One Hard Question), and has more than 20 years experience working in both the UK and US. He was formerly chief development officer at Fitch Worldwide and was responsible for establishing and developing Fitch
America and Fitch Asia. As CEO of 1HQ he represents major brands, including Heinz, Unilever, Nokia and Nestle. An advodate of the design process and its potential to drive business success, Mark Artus has won many global design awards, including Design of the Decade for his work with Chrysler. One Hard Question is published by CreateSpace.
www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on success book review
Taming Tigers: Do Things You Never Thought You Could, by Jim Lawless (With a foreword by three-times champion jockey, polar explorer and author, Richard Dunwoody MBE)
Taming Tigers provides a practical and proven approach to turning doubt and fear into action and success by taming the tigers in your life. Everybody has a tiger. It is what growls at us every time we think about making a change in our lives; its roar stops us from taking risks, speaking honestly, working towards our dreams and reaching our full potential. In Taming Tigers, Jim Lawless shares his inspirational and globally successful training programme to help you do things you never thought you could by taming your tiger. Taming Tigers takes you through ten rules that will lead you to recognise and tame your tiger and help you change the story of your life. Jim Lawless proved the
theories by going from a non-riding, overweight, desk-bound thirty-six year old to racing jockey in 12-months in response to a client’s challenge. He has since used the ten rules to become the UK’s deepest free diver – the first Briton to pass 100m on a single breath–and living proof that Taming Tigers works! Now you can learn how to use these highly practical rules to do things you never thought you could – both in your professional and private life. Taming Tigers uses moving and inspiring case studies from people who have changed their lives by following the rules, as well as accounts from Jim’s racing and free diving adventures to demonstrate how the rules work.
The 10 rules Act boldly today – time is limited Re-write your rulebook – challenge it hourly Head in the direction of where you want to arrive, every day It’s all in the mind The tools for taming tigers are all around you There is no safety in numbers Do something scary every day Understand and control your time to create change Create disciplines – do the basics brilliantly Never, never give up!
What people say ‘The antidote to self-help.’ Richard Dunwoody, horse racing legend and polar explorer
‘A shrewd, inspiring and practical blueprint for anyone determined to find greater and deeper satisfactions in life.’ Alec Wilkinson of the New Yorker
About the author Lawless is an inspirational and highly sought-after business speaker. After starting his life as a city lawyer, he founded the cultural change consultancy firm, Optimise (now Taming Tigers Group) in the late nineties. His clients have included Apple, BT, Barclaycard and the NHS. Today, Lawless is the current UK No Limits free diving record holder and Britain’s deepest free diver. Published by Ebury Press, priced at £11.99
The Small Business Guide to Apps: How your
business can use apps to increase market share and retain more customers, by David Howell
If you thought that the app market was just about games and big brands, think again. Businesses of every size in every sector have built their own apps and are reaping real commercial rewards.
Because of the relatively low cost of entering the app market, smaller enterprises can level the playing field, often outstripping their larger competitors simply because they have developed and marketed an app that delivers a service that their consumers are looking for. This book isn’t about how apps can help small businesses run their business more efficiently, or an in-depth tutorial about how to create an app for their enterprise. Instead, it provides an introduction and
overview of the possibilities for any growing business. It’s a focused guide about the business of apps for those whose time is money. Connecting with customers over their mobile phones and tablets allows an intimate and ultimately more lucrative link between businesses and consumers to be established. With this latest book in the popular Business Bites series, small business owners can help their companies take the first steps into an exciting and growing marketplace.
About the author David Howell is a freelance writer, journalist and publisher, specialising in technology and business subjects. His work has appeared in the national press and leading technology and business magazines, including Talk Business. For more information, visit www.nexuspublishing.co.uk The Small Business Guide to Apps is published by Brightword Publishing ISBN: 9781908003102, ePub, RRP: £5.00
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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focus on money money matters
This month, guest columnist, Richard Leach (BSC, ARCS, ACA), director at Kuhrt Leach LLP gives some timely advice on reducing your tax bill
aving just got over the rush of the 31 January deadlines - albeit extended by a couple of days, courtesy of a Civil Service strike - we are now looking at what should be done for the fiscal year end. Depending on your circumstances, you may have to file an SA100 (personal return), an SA800 (partnership return) as well as various supplementary forms in order to keep your affairs up to date with HMRC. Obviously with less than a month to go, you need to consider the most cost effective ways of reducing your tax. This nearly always means spending more than the tax you will save, so you need to make some careful decisions, depending on who you are and your needs.
If you are someone who only needs to file an SA100 on the basis of having income worth more than £100,000 per annum, there are some simple choices to make: Have you used up your full pension contribution allowance of £50,000, or have you looked at your previous pension contributions, as you could, in theory contribute £150,000 on the basis of unused relief of up to £50,000 over the last two years. If you have made the most of the above, you could, with careful advice from your IFA, get a further £50,000 worth of allowable contribution by changing what’s known as your input period. In effect, this is changing the year-end of your pension scheme. Consider the amounts you may put into EIS and VCT investments, as they can be used to reduce your tax bill. Historically there were film schemes that were designed to act as both an
look at cash flow demands and talk to your tax advisor and IFA Before you make a decision. Do it quickly though, time is running out!
investment in the UK film industry, and also help with tax planning. However, on the whole these have become less popular over recent years, but there are similar schemes now based around the research and development of prescription medicines, which could be of interest. If you are only just over the £100,000 income level, you are subject to a reduction in your personal allowance. However a donation to a registered
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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have you used up your full pension contribution allowance of £50,000?
charity can be used to reduce your deemed taxable income to below the £100,000 level. This has a double advantage - not just to you but also to the charity involved. And please remember, charitable trusts can reclaim basic rate tax on the contribution, increasing its effectiveness still further. Finally, if you have investment assets, have a good look at the respective CGT positions and consider re-balancing your portfolios using up any losses, and your annual allowance. If your are self-employed, either as a
sole trader or in a partnership, you should also look at other business expenditure that you are thinking of making, and possibly bring it forward. The most effective of these is the capital allowance expenditure. You can get relief of up to £50,000 per partner on new capital expenditure. This can make a significant difference to your tax liability - and of course from 6 April, there’s another amount of £50,000 each to use. All of these suggestions can work for you if you are the shareholder and director of your own company. However, you can also plan your income to
minimise National Insurance contributions via taking profits as dividends. It is an established technique but still works effectively. My recommendation is to consider all of the above, depending on your circumstances, but look at your cash flow demands and talk to your tax adviser and IFA before you make a decision. Do it quickly though, time is running out!
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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MONEY MATTERS focus on money
Growing your business with remote workers is the way ahead for cash-strapped SMEs, suggests Tim Duffy, chairman of MeetingZoneÂ
HOME ALONE It is important to remember that most business meetings can be conducted using an integrated audio and web conferencing solution
A 39-40_Money Matters.ga.indd 39
re you a small business owner struggling with the conundrum that every entrepreneur faces? How to grow your business without increasing overheads and putting at risk all that you have already achieved? Has the time come when you need to increase your work force to extend your
geographic coverage? Or have you recognised that there is a real demand for the products or services you deliver in other countries? You also may be in the envious position of having clients ready to give you more business, but in order to fulfil these potential opportunities www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
you need to increase your workforce and local support. If the answer to any of the above is yes, then the most immediate challenge you are probably facing is balancing the cost of employing more staff with the need to drive new business.
More staff, less space Assuming you are a new business start up, it is likely that you operate from your home or from a small serviced office, so the first issue to overcome is taking on new staff without increasing your overheads by moving to larger and more expensive office space with inflexible long lease terms. Whether you are looking to employ full-time employees or to build a stable of good freelance contractors, the ever-increasing trend towards flexible working will mean that most will be happy to work from home. Allowing your new employees to work remotely, either all or part of the time, does immediately eliminate the need for larger office space. But, remote or mobile workers can add additional challenges for you. How can you be sure that they are able to work as productively and efficiently from home as if they were in the office and how will you manage them when you can’t see them? With some careful thought and planning these challenges are easily overcome.
Trusted staff will work well remotely Clearly the process starts with recruitment and careful reference checking to make sure that you are hiring staff who are committed hard workers, who will not abuse the freedom to work from home which you are offering them. Next, you have to make sure that your remote workers have secure access to your e-mail, company servers and folders as easily as if they were sitting at their desks in your main office. They must understand the security implications of accessing your company network, and it is important that they can reach your IT resource should problems arise. Then, you need to equip your remotely located workforce with the business communications tools, such as instant messenger and collaboration solutions, such as audio and web conferencing services, which allow them to meet and collaborate with who they want, when they want, without anyone leaving their office, wherever that office may be. Your remote workers must have the tools to allow them to be in constant touch with their colleagues and importantly, your customers and suppliers.
are performing as you want them to, removing any fears you may have around how to manage them. Instant messenger solutions have a key part to play in making sure that your team is well connected and always available. Conferencing and collaboration solutions have long been essential business communications tools for large businesses. Small business owners are often deterred from looking into the benefits their deployment can bring, because they associate conferencing and collaboration with often expensive and complex to deploy video conferencing. But, it is important to remember that most business meetings can be conducted using an integrated audio and web conferencing solution. All your remote workers need is access to a telephone (fixed or mobile) for the audio piece, and a PC or laptop with a broadband connection allowing them to join a web conferencing session. Your remote workers are then able to discuss and share information just as if they were all sitting around the same conference table. So, meet the first challenge in overcoming the conundrum of how to grow your business by employing remote workers. Embrace them and see how quickly they become valuable members of a successful team.
No need to gather for meetings Audio and web conferencing solutions enable you to hold regular calls with your remote workers to check they
Contact: MeetingZone www.meetingzone.com
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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focus on money funding start ups
Starting a business in an economic downturn might seem like madness, but if you have a detailed business plan, you can obtain the financial support you need. Dave Howell reports
tarting a new business is one of the most monumental decisions that anyone can make. In the current economic climate, you could be forgiven for thinking that approaching the major banks for financial support was a waste of time. Business and Enterprise Minister, Mark Prisk suggests: â€˜Businesses are sometimes put off from talking to the banks about their borrowing needs. If the vital flow of finance to small firms is to be improved, trust between banks
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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funding start ups focus on money and businesses must be restored. The Government wants to see an open dialogue between banks and British businesses, supporting entrepreneurs who want to invest and create new jobs. We support any initiative which could help make this happen and I hope businesses will make full use of this opportunity.’ This dialogue has resulted in a number of initiatives, such as Project Merlin, the British Finance Taskforce and Startup Britain, which are all designed to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit, but have been criticised for not backing up their claims with real world action to get the banks lending again. It’s certainly true that since the financial crisis of 2008, lending has declined (by about six per cent), but lending still stands at around £500bn with £8bn of new loans granted each month. A report last year from the British Bankers Association (BBA) - a key partner in the British Finance Taskforce - made for stark reading: the figures show that more than half (55 per cent) of businesses with up to nine employees had not applied for a loan in the last 12 months because they expected to be turned down. Overall, 52 per cent of small firms (those with up to 249 employees) said that applying for a loan caused too much hassle, was too costly, or that they were being asked for too much security. John Walker, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses said: ‘These figures tell us what we already knew: that the very smallest businesses are the ones bearing the brunt of a contraction in bank lending. Small firms have been telling us for the past few years that they are fearful of approaching the banks for new finance, or to extend an overdraft, because they know they are likely to be turned down, or be offered a deal on terms that just aren’t favourable for them.’ However, Sarah De’Lacy, incubation director, SETsquared, The Surrey Research Park, believes we need to bear
approaching the banks. The SME Finance Monitor confirms that the smaller a business is, the more difficulty it could have obtaining finance via a loan or overdraft facility. About 14 per cent of SMEs sought new or renewed finance in the past twelve months. Only around two per cent of all SMEs were turned down for an overdraft and even less [one per cent] for a loan. But it was clear that those businesses that found difficulties getting credit were newer, smaller businesses with higher external risk ‘We support any ratings, or no track record initiative, which of successful borrowing. could help make British Bankers’ this happen and I Association chief hope businesses in mind that the banks executive, Angela Knight will make full use of this have had it tough too: ‘I said: ‘Unsurprisingly, opportunity’ know it’s not fashionable although banks were able to to sympathise with the help most applicants, smaller, banks – but they have got a higher risk new businesses with tough balance to strike. On the one hand, no successful track record of borrowing they’re under pressure to lend more found it more difficult to raise cash. UK money to SMEs; on the other hand, they banks have been working to bring down have to lend responsibly. That means to the barriers to borrowing by helping businesses that can repay the loans. businesses develop the skills they need to While not opposites, these pressures can access the finance they want. We are conflict; especially when it comes to using the SME Finance Monitor data to start-ups. We’ve found the banks want to identify areas where we can better target lend – and the more the proposition can the free help we provide.’ be de-risked, the better they like it.’ As Paul Grant, partner, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre says there New start-ups are other ways to fund your startup, but With this landscape of uncertainty, can don’t completely discount the banks: new start-ups obtain the money they ‘Right now, though lending is slow, banks need? Antony Jenkins, chief executive, are still very important players in funding Barclays Retail and Business Banking the growth of small businesses. Business said: ‘Barclays is committed to helping angels are taking up the slack a little, revitalise the UK economy, which is even offering entrepreneurs convertible dependent on small businesses having loans that start out as a loan but can be the confidence to invest and grow. converted to shares in the business.’ Confidence will begin to be restored In the past it was also the case that when businesses are equipped with the micro enterprises were of no interest to belief to make informed decisions about the major banks, as they often needed their future. From the top to the bottom very small amounts of start-up capital – of the UK, our lending clinics will take typically below £10,000. The EFG the mystery out of borrowing for (Enterprise Finance Guarantee) went a thousands of businesses.’ long way to helping the banks loan these What is clear is that new businesses small amounts of money. Today the are handicapped to a degree when landscape is very different. Small loans to
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HOW TO GET A ‘YES’ The banks are focused on the following six key criteria:
focus on money funding start ups
If the vital flow of finance to small firms is to be improved, trust between banks and businesses must be restored micro businesses are attractive to the banks as they are low risk and could possibly be the beginning of a new Virgin.
The business plan is often held to be the most important document any new business must have in order to secure the funding it needs. This is true up to a point, but your business plan must also be written with your bank manager in mind. Banks are risk-averse at the moment. Your business plan and your explanation of it should show your commitment, what the money will be used for and how you intend to repay. Bank managers now need to take advice from third parties before granting loan applications. If you can arm them with all the information they need, it’s more likely they will make a positive case for your application. Victoria Pooley, joint founder and managing director at consumer data specialist The Data Partnership says: ‘Most people think banks will be more helpful than they actually are. Mostly because when you have a business idea, you have passion and drive to make it succeed. To take your gamble, you weigh up the pros and cons and then mostly focus on the pros. Otherwise why would you be doing it? The complete opposite can be said for the risk adverse bank manager. Unless you have plausibly answered all the ‘risks’ and ‘weaknesses’ element in your business plan, you’ll fall at the first hurdle.’ This is where your business plan not only allows you to set out what your business is and the financial support it needs, but you’ll find that your plan also crystallises your thinking and reveals elements of your business that could be more risky than you had thought. Answer these risks with contingency plans that your bank can appreciate.
De’Lacy agrees: ‘We’ve all seen Dragon’s Den where the dragon asks a question about the company’s financials, such as ‘What’s your profit margin’ and the entrepreneur glazes over. They’re dead in the water from that moment on. So if financials aren’t your strong point, bring along a team member who does understand them.’
Future funding The next year is going to be tough in the banking industry. New regulations come into force that will force them to hold more capital to secure themselves against another economic collapse. What this means for anyone looking for financial support from the banks is that they will need to make their case as compelling as possible. Peter Ewen, managing director of ABN Amro Commercial Finance suggests: ‘High street banks have been portrayed as unwilling to lend and, as a result, many businesses are reluctant to turn to them. However, to lay all the blame at their feet is over-simplifying things. Ongoing economic uncertainty has damaged business confidence, creating a siege mindset, discouraging many from considering new investments or seeking out finance.’ It is understood by the banks that they must continue to lend to the small business sector. Their desire is tempered to a degree by natural caution, but a well thought through business plan, a compelling argument for funding and a clear development path that would see the loan repaid will almost certainly result in a positive response from the banks. If you’re planning a business now, the advice is do your homework. Put yourself in your bank manager’s shoes and ask yourself what you’d need to see in order to grant your loan application.
The credibility of the founders of the business.
2 The predictability of the
cash coming in and out of the business during the term of the loan.
3 The amount of the loan and
potential exposure for the bank.
The specific purpose of the loan. For example, is it to buy equipment or hire a new employee?
5 The security and personal
guarantees attached to the loan.
6 The number of financial
products the business is likely to use as a customer of the bank, which means more profits for the bank and more tie-ins with customers.
*SOURCE: [Paul Grant, partner, British Library’s Business & IP Centre] Grant runs a series of workshops on the topic of raising capital for launching or growing a business. The next workshop, How to Fund a Start-Up, will be held at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.
Contacts: British Bankers Association www.bba.org.uk Federation of Small Businesses www.fsb.org.uk The Surrey Research Park www.srpnet.co.uk British Library’s Business & IP Centre www.bl.uk/bipc/workevents/ fundstartup The Data Partnership www.thedatapartnership.com
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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focus on money e-commerce
Online customer service: the challenge of change by Kurt Bager, CEO,Netop
he ecommerce market has dramatically increased in popularity over the past ten years, and shows no signs of slowing in 2012. With annual revenues exceeding £68bn last year, start up businesses must ensure that their services are adapted to the online consumer market or risk losing out. To take full advantage, businesses need to branch out and expand existing platforms to cater to those who prefer to spend money online. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Recent statistics though, prove this theory wrong. Without a doubt, the Internet has changed the way consumers make purchases and receive customer care. But with business revenue proving to be a struggle during the current economic climate, providing a good customer experience bolstered by good customer service is do-or-die. Therefore, now is the perfect time to solve those concerns by focusing your attention on your company’s most valued asset, the one
that keeps the cogs turning: the customer.
The changing nature of customer service Most industry figures estimate that e-commerce cart abandonment rates remain around the 60 per cent mark, a shockingly high level of attrition. Experts agree that customer confusion and lack of information is behind this continued trend, exacerbated by poor online customer service options. Once upon a time, great customer service was all about arming your customers with a free postal address, then came along the free phone number that they could call to speak to an agent at a call centre. This was followed by the customer service email address. It’s fair to say that consumers want answers fast, and the Internet only amplifies this impatience for real-time information and instant gratification. Solutions, such as email and telephone support often lead to lengthy wait times and frustrated customers, and disaffected customers nowadays take to the likes of social media as a means of expressing their displeasure. If a
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E-commerce focus on money consumer writes a complaint on their Twitter page regarding your product, that complaint can be seen and very easily manipulated by all of their friends. This greatly amplifies the effect of the initial problem. Judging by the staggering 79 per cent of consumers who shared their complaints about poor customer experience online and had their complaints ignored, businesses are still failing to take this problem seriously. If you’re not taking full advantage of all of the channels that your consumers are using, they will assume you’re ignoring them – which can result in big consequences to your business, no matter what the size of your company is.
The missing piece to the puzzle The truth is that, in spite of the benefits that the Internet brings to businesses, the online experience lacks the personal touch and that sense of customer service that makes the physical store so successful. Too many companies follow the rudimentary rules when putting a face to their brand online. You have to take pride in it and offer as many aspects to it as you would expect to find in your regular bricks-and-mortar store. After all it’s your store front in a virtual high street. Recent statistics revealed that 77 per cent of online shoppers would like to make contact with a real person before making a purchase. To overcome this issue in the virtual world, a growing number of retailers worldwide are turning to live chat software. Yes, your businesses will require robust procedures to be in place, and trained staff who can make decisions and resolve problems with live chat. However, by doing so, you can take some of the heat off the frontline team. Live chat provides a place to report issues, find service updates or get quick answers to common product enquiries. This true online customer engagement - using live audio and video, as well as text chat, will bring a new dimension to online customer service. This also helps increase sales for organisations that are
willing to listen to customer needs. With comparison tools now easily available online, personal online engagement will be the key differentiator between profitable companies and those just trying to keep up.
Putting a face to your online service Research shows more than 20 per cent of people who are solicited for chat go on to make a purchase. Add video and audio capabilities to the mix, and the opportunities for revenue generation increase even more as the personal interaction grows. As more computers come equipped with webcams and microphones, two-way audio and video communication will become the norm. Customers will begin to expect, and prefer, an interactive approach that goes beyond emails and telephones, to one that includes a rich multi-media customer experience.
Now is the perfect time to solve those concerns by focusing your attention on your company’s most valued asset, the one that keeps the cogs turning: the customer – Egg.com) or embrace the Internet to maintain profitability. Customers are no longer happy to walk into a branch and trust that their local bank manager will be able to provide them with the best deal available. Many instead are turning to online market comparison aggregators to secure the best deal. By implementing live chat, financial institutions can now bring premium services directly to the customers and online visitors, thus creating a stronger and more profitable engagement.
Taking the plunge Create happy customers across all sectors Think about the online customer trying to decide which hotel to stay in whilst booking a holiday. We all read hotel reviews online, but there are always questions you would like answers to, but in order to do so your only option is to call an 0800 number and wait on hold. However, by clicking on the ‘live chat’ button and asking the operator to see some photos and get a rundown of amenities, the customer gets instant answers and can make a decision right away. They are happy and you are one step closer to closing a transaction. If we take the banking sector as an example, it has had to deal with some dramatic changes over the past ten years. The commoditisation of financial products; the rise of the comparison website; the death of premium financial brands (Northern Rock); increased security costs and new legislations have led to a change in customer expectation. The result of all these changes is that many organisations have had to reinvent themselves (Yorkshire Building Society
The bottom line is, customers are becoming increasingly spoilt for choice, and consequently attracting users to your website is no longer enough. Businesses need to go that extra mile in order to keep consumers interested Word-of-mouth no longer stretches as far as your friendship circle, opinions spread much faster with the use of social media and it’s up to companies to start listening and actively find an alternative option for their customers. The coming year is all about getting more personal with your customers as e-commerce sales take a leap. Gradually, as more and more computers come equipped with webcams and microphones, two-way audio and video communication will become the norm. Customers will begin to expect, and prefer, an interactive approach that goes beyond emails and telephones, to one that includes a rich multi-media customer experience. So, why not stay one step ahead of the game?
Contact: www.netop.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on strategy best practice
to school 52
nt vestme in h g u o d Alth raining an in t ment at develonpbudgets arye he hed male, a time w stretct b y d a e r al un enae the e l t it l seem a circumstancave in this adage: â€˜you h to old end money to sp oneyâ€™ rings make m lly true especia
Financial understanding is an essential asset for any growing business, suggests Eddie Kilkelly, chief operating officer at ILX Group, and regardless of size, training every employee in financial strategy is one of the best ways to engage staff and give them a better understanding of the effects of their decision-making on the future of the company
he seemingly unending global recession has had a number of effects on the world economy, not least rising oil prices, soaring inflation, exorbitant property prices and rife unemployment. The recession hasnâ€™t left UK business unscathed either,
but many employees are unaware of the precarious financial state of the companies they work for. In these uncertain times, the key to survival in business is to have employees fully engaged with the financial strategy of the company, so the entire workforce is striving
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best practice focus on strategy
to attain the common goals of cost-savings, effective cash-flow management and increased profits. Businesses are being squeezed by suppliers and customers alike, capital is harder to access, asset values are declining and, worst of all, revenues are being eroded. Many businesses have recognised this trend in their own operations and have sought to remedy the problems solely through the finance department or their accountants. Tasking the finance department or the accountants with turning a business’ fortunes around is a common tactic. However, they often can be too focused on maximising profits in the short-term rather than building long-term
relationships with customers that will contribute to the survival of the business for years to come. Best practice when it comes to implementing new financial strategies is to secure buy-in from the entire organisation, regardless of size. Presenting forecasts and budgets to all employees is essential to this process, however many employees work in roles and departments like sales, marketing, IT and legal, where they have little or nothing to do with figures and spreadsheets, and therefore have a very limited understanding of them. To put it another way, low levels of financial literacy. In some cases, staff can find financial documents very intimidating – they can seem almost like a foreign language! To combat this lack of understanding and perceived fear, education and training are a must. Although investment in training and development at a time when budgets are already stretched may seem a little untenable, in this circumstance the old adage: ‘you have to spend money to make money’ rings especially true. One global company who invested in financial education for its workforce, to ensure that all employees understood how their decisions would impact on working capital, affected a 20 per cent improvement equating to approximately $2m. Worthy of note is that training need not be the massive expenditure it once was. Digital-learning courses have made it possible for employees to undertake learning programmes from the comfort of their own home or office, at a relatively low cost to the company. Furthermore, educating employees can boost morale and enhance loyalty among them. More often than not, this leads to an overall improvement in the workplace atmosphere, which can increase productivity and ultimately profits. As outlined, as part of any good financial training process it is critical for employees of all levels to comprehend financial process and procedures; however the importance of having a full understanding of the role of cash in a business cannot be emphasised enough. To quote another famous adage: ‘cash is king’ and in recessionary times there is extra pressure on cash and cash flow. Essentially, cash is the lifeblood of any
business, and as long as there is a constant supply of cash, a business will almost certainly survive. One critical error that non-finance employees often make is confusing cash and profit. Cash is of paramount importance as it is the most liquid asset in a business. It is used for short-term operations, like purchases and labour costs. Cash is actual money received, rather than what’s ‘promised’ and the timely conversion of accounts receivables into cash can be the difference between solvency and bankruptcy. Profit is what is left over after taking the costs away from any sales revenue. Once the financial training is complete, employees should have a full grasp on how cash moves around and how their individual decisions affect the overall running of the business. It is worth bearing in mind, for any business, that need for financial literacy within companies transcends business size, economic cycles and industry silos. Everyone in business needs to understand finance.
For over 20 years the ILX Group has been supporting organisations by raising the financial literacy and business acumen of its managers. It offers APM Group-accredited Finance for Non Financial Managers e-learning courses and qualifications, a full library of training courses, cash flow challenge business simulation and financial competency assessment tools. The finance training courses have a proven track record in the market and are relevant to all levels from graduate intake to executive.
Contact: For more information, visit www.ilxgroup.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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self employment focus on strategy
Self-employment has been on the rise over the past decade, prompting media speculation that it’s the easy option taken by employers trying to stave off the full effects of the recession. Sukhpal Matharoo, associate solicitor & notary public and Shaun Hogan, assistant solicitor for Blandy & Blandy Solicitors, provide their specialist knowledge and insight into the world of self-employment for individuals and SMEs
to staff, or not to staff.... 55
he Adam Smith Institute recently published a report recommending that in order to stimulate economic growth, SMEs should be permitted to treat workers as self-employed. Although the proposal may initially appear attractive, there are implications. The law currently distinguishes between three types of working status: employed, worker and self-employed. The rights relating to each category vary markedly, for example while only an employee may claim unfair dismissal, both employees and workers are entitled to the national minimum wage and potentially, individuals in all three categories may bring unlawful discrimination claims. The distinction between each category
can, in practice, be blurred and difficult to identify.
Employee status In order to fall within the category of ‘employee’, there must be ‘personal service’, ‘mutuality of obligation’ and ‘control’.‘Personal service’ means the individual must be obligated to perform work personally, whereas the genuinely self-employed are usually able to provide a substitute in their place or sub contract work to a third party. For there to be ‘mutuality of obligation’, the individual must be required to do the work asked of him and the organisation must be bound to provide work and pay the individual. In contrast, the self-employed is often
contracted to work on a specific project and there is no obligation on the organisation to provide further work. ‘Control’ includes whether the individual can choose what work to carry out, how to perform it and when to do so as well as whether the individual is subject to the same rules and procedures as the organisation’s employees. The self-employed are not usually managed to the same degree as employees, and are not normally subject to the same disciplinary procedures. Other aspects of the relationship are also relevant in assessing status. For example, an employer will usually provide and maintain the tools or equipment used by employees, and a contractor would usually submit www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on strategy self employment
invoices rather than be paid a salary. Another status indicator is who pays the tax. An employer pays its employees a salary net of income tax, whereas a contractor is responsible for his own income tax.
A rose by any other name
It has long been established that the label applied to the relationship by the parties will not be decisive. The recent Supreme Court case of Autoclenz versus Belcher confirmed that the courts will look past the written contract and instead at the reality of the relationship. In Autoclenz, the individuals had signed written agreements allowing them to appoint substitutes, and which expressly stated there was no mutuality of obligation. However, the court looked past the written terms of the contracts and decided that the individuals were employed. Emphasis was placed on the fact that, in practice, the individuals had to perform services personally and could not appoint substitutes. They had to perform the work within a reasonable time and in a good and workmanlike manner and were obliged to carry out the work offered to them.
The proposal under current law The proposal would not be possible under the current law, as in most cases existing employees and new staff will meet the definition of an employee, and any attempts to avoid this by labelling the arrangement as self-employment is likely to fail. Therefore, specific legislation exempting SMEs from being subject to the numerous rights and protections afforded to employees would be required. This could raise its own issues, for example on the wording used to define an ‘SME’. Some businesses which regard themselves as SMEs, may find themselves outside the scope of the definition and therefore unable to benefit from the change. It is also unlikely that Parliament would leave individuals at SMEs with no protection if the changes were implemented.
Effect of the change on employment rights
The selfemployed are not usually managed to the same degree as employees, and are not normally subject to the same disciplinary procedures
There are many more legal constraints with regards to employees. For example, employees benefit from unfair dismissal protection, which can make it more difficult to dismiss them. Being able to treat staff as self-employed would increase flexibility, as businesses could restructure more easily and accommodate periods of shortfall in work. However, this would not necessarily help avoid discrimination claims, as the Equality Act 2010 covers those who ‘perform work personally’ and therefore can include the self-employed, depending on the facts. In order to avoid this, SMEs would have to truly allow their staff to send substitutes to work, which may not be desirable given the resources expended in recruiting a particular individual. As the selfemployed do not benefit from unfair dismissal protection, there is a risk they would instead bring spurious discrimination claims, which are usually more complex and costly to defend. The report also refers to employers having to pay sick, maternity, paternity and holiday pay, which are not payable to the genuinely self-employed. The saving to SMEs may not be significant in most instances as Statutory Sick Pay is partly recoverable, where the total SSP paid in a tax month equates to more than 13 per cent of the gross Class 1 NICs liability for the month. It is possible to recover 103 per cent of Statutory Maternity Pay paid to employees if the business has an annual Class 1 NICs liability of less than £45,000. Full details, including appropriate calculators, can be found on the HMRC website. Perhaps inevitably, if individuals will not acquire or will lose these employee rights and protections, they may instead seek higher wages (as do current self-employed contractors). What SMEs would save on the one
hand, could potentially be extinguished in higher contractor fees on the other.
Practical concerns Moving to self-employment may not be advisable for SMEs where the business is based on sensitive, confidential information. This is because the restrictions which can be placed on employees during and after employment are more stringent than for selfemployed individuals, who are in business on their own account and therefore should be able to contract with any business. Having extensive restrictions could result in either the restrictions being unenforceable or the courts determining the individual to be an employee. If staff were self-employed, SMEs could save some money as the responsibility for paying tax and NICs would shift to the individual. While this would undoubtedly be desirable for SMEs, it is unlikely to find favour with HMRC. There would be an increased risk of HMRC not fully recovering tax and NICs from individuals and added expense for coordinating the recovery of tax. It is unlikely that HMRC would simply agree to swallow these losses, and could instead recover its share another way, perhaps through increased income and corporation tax.
Comment The main thrust of the proposal is that SMEs are reluctant to hire because of the costs and risks of employing staff. While reducing some of the burden of employment law is desirable and may help rejuvenate the economy, there are perhaps other ways to do so without disturbing the current law quite so much. SMEs could be given tax relief for Class 1 NICs or a reduction in corporation tax and it could be made more difficult to bring spurious employment claims.
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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If you’re looking to setup an EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) system for your retail shop or trade counter on a budget, all you need is a copy of Easify small business software, a Windows PC and some readily available EPOS peripherals.
how to build your own
EPOS system In this article Easify Ltd Director and Lead Developer Richard Moore tells you how you can ‘Do It Yourself’ when it comes to building an EPOS system for your small business...
Why build your own EPOS system? Building your own EPOS system can be a rewarding exercise that can save money over having a system professionally installed. By building the system yourself you will be able to support it yourself eliminating support fees and reducing downtime. For start-up businesses a DIY EPOS system allows you to configure and learn the system in your own time fine tuning it as you go.
Basic Requirements One of the benefits of building your own EPOS system is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you like. At a minimum you will need a PC or laptop running Windows, a keyboard, mouse and monitor. This will allow you to record sales, implement stock control and use back office facilities such as quoting and invoicing.
First Steps The first thing to setup is the software, Easify is available as a fully functional 30 day trial from http://www.easify.co.uk and can be purchased for a one off fee of £99 + VAT. Easify is fairly straight forward to setup. Enter basic information about your suppliers and product manufacturers, and create a list of products and services you will be selling (descriptions, stock level and pricing). That’s all you need before you install EPOS hardware and begin selling, the whole process will take about an hour or two.
Printing Receipts If you’re selling products (or services) over the counter you will no doubt want to give your customers professionally printed till receipts for sales and deposits made against orders. You can use pretty much any receipt printer with Easify, it can be USB or Parallel and ideally be a dedicated thermal receipt printer that supports the industry standard ESC/POS command set. We recommend using an 80mm wide printer for the best results. You can print receipts to a laser or inkjet but the results won’t be as good.
Connecting a Cash Drawer Once you have a receipt printer up and running you can add an electronic cash drawer to your EPOS system. The reason that you need the receipt printer setup first is that electronic cash drawers connect via your receipt printer and receive their ‘kick’ command from the printer to make them open when the sale is totalled. When buying a cash drawer make sure it is compatible with your receipt printer.
Barcode scanning Easify supports a wide range of barcode scanners including the older keyboard wedge interface as well as the more modern USB interface. Whether you choose a hand held scanner or a counter top mounted omnidirectional scanner will depend on your style of business, but whichever you opt for it is worth spending as much as you can. Cheaper models often have trouble scanning barcodes, and will only scan at
a distance of a few centimetres. A good quality laser scanner will nearly always read a barcode quickly and first time, and will be able to scan at longer range.
Print your own price labels To give your business a really professional image, with the addition of a thermal label printer you can print branded price labels for your products complete with your company name, product description, price and barcode. It is worth spending as much as you can on a label printer for three reasons fast print speed, high reliability and lower cost of labels. You should aim at a price of around 0.4p per label or less. Label printers offer the choice of direct thermal or thermal transfer printing. Typically you would opt for direct thermal printing with thermal labels. Thermal transfer printing requires the use of ribbons which provide a more fade resistant printed label but they are more expensive to run.
Help – if you need it Easify software is easy to setup and well documented so the chances are you won’t need much help to get up and running, but if you need a hand we provide free support via email, live chat and our forums at http://www.easify.co.uk/forums
Contact Richard Moore e: firstname.lastname@example.org t: @EasifyUK w: easify.co.uk
www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
branding focus on strategy
It didn’t matter that the car wash guy was paying a fraction of the investment bank. As we’d been employed for our design skills, it was our job to do the best we could for them both
Savvy SME’s are realising the need to embrace the promotion of their brand as an investment, utilising creative design both on- and off-line, in order to maximise their exposure. In this design-conscious environment, we’ve got to keep it creative, says Rich With, in the first of a series of articles on branding
n my youth, I spent some time working at a creative agency in the Caribbean. It was here that I met Terry. He was the best designer I’ve ever worked with. Apart from his incredible drawing skills and an unflappable nature, he had a deadpan Canadian sense of humour, and was also the
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inventor of the Beergarita (a Margarita with beer in it. It’s pretty awesome!). Obviously I liked him immensely. We worked together until our visa’s expired, and in that relatively short time we tackled many projects: from working out the way-finding techniques for a major investment bank to business cards for a one-man-band mobile car wash. To Terry, it didn’t matter that the car wash
guy was paying a fraction of the investment bank. As we’d been employed for our design skills, it was our job to do the best we could for them both. To come up with a cool angle or a different approach, to differentiate them from their rivals and competitors, to make them stand out in their market, and to give them our creative best. There were four words -
www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
focus on strategy branding
his mantra if you will - that he constantly barked through our working relationship: ‘Keep. It. Creative. Kiddo.’ Sensible companies have always employed someone to produce designs for them. The days where a son, daughter or ‘mate down the pub’ knocked up a logo, because ‘they’re good on computers’ are thankfully, fading. Where, five years ago as designers we were asked to produce logos, it’s now becoming increasingly common for businesses to demand a wholly integral identity, a complete visual solution that gives them a very powerful brand. In my youth, I spent some time working at a creative agency in the Caribbean. It was here that I met Terry. He was the best designer I’ve ever worked with. Apart from his incredible drawing skills and an unflappable nature, he had a deadpan Canadian sense of humour, and was also the inventor of the Beergarita (a Margarita with beer in it. It’s pretty awesome!). Obviously I liked him immensely. We worked together until our visa’s expired, and in that relatively short time we tackled many projects: from working out the way-finding techniques for a major investment bank to business cards for a one-man-band mobile car wash. To Terry, it didn’t matter that the car wash guy was paying a fraction of the investment bank. As we’d been employed for our design skills, it was our job to do the best we could for them both. To come up with a cool angle or a different approach, to differentiate them from their rivals and competitors, to make them stand out in their market, and to give them our creative best. There were four words - his mantra if you will - that he constantly barked through our working relationship: ‘Keep. It. Creative. Kiddo.’ Sensible companies have always employed someone to produce designs for them. The days where a son, daughter or ‘mate down the pub’ knocked up a logo, because ‘they’re good on computers’ are thankfully, fading.
SME’s need to embrace their creative side, quickly coming up with intriguing ideas to promote their brand. Having a website is one thing - making sure it gets people returning to it again and again is something else
Where, five years ago as designers we were asked to produce logos, it’s now becoming increasingly common for businesses to demand a wholly integral identity, a complete visual solution that gives them a very powerful brand.
The power of the brand These companies are striving to create powerful brands that dare to be different and make great use of creativity. The likes of Innocent, Cath Kidston and John Lewis all create huge engagement with their customers by utilising inspiring creative techniques. From websites to brochures, e-mail marketing, TV adverts and even packaging, their creativity provides a journey that customers will happily go along with because the great use of design engages them to do so. People don’t buy oven gloves from Cath Kidston because she’s the only one selling them. They buy the gloves because they love the design and adore the brand. The smart companies are employing creatives who can think differently, come up with strange and wonderful tweaks to really enhance the visual look of the company, and create something that will get them noticed way ahead of their rivals. And this is not something that only large companies can afford to do. SME’s need to embrace their creative side, quickly coming up with intriguing ideas to
promote their brand. Having a website is one thing - making sure it gets people returning to it again and again is something else.
Make it sing All businesses can benefit from really boosting their creativity and design. If you operate an independent retail outlet then you should start by looking at your shop front, creating enticing window displays and creating a brand - not just settling for what the sign-maker happened to cut the vinyl in. Service businesses are often competing within a very crowded marketplace so their marketing material has to offer something special. Insist your designer comes up with some creative concepts rather than just fall back on overused and tired stock photography. If you operate in the manufacturing industry, then you really need to enhance the quality of your marketing. Invest in producing beautiful packaging and create a brand experience so that customers will repeatedly come back to you. Outside of the actual skills and ideas that are needed to entice people, the media that is used to convey the message also needs to be thought through in a creative way. Online, you could look to enhance your social media streams with branded skins for YouTube and Twitter, and mini websites within Facebook. Think also about designing different landing pages for
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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different offers, smartphone apps and mobile websites to maximise your brand. Offline, take advantage of digital printing techniques that make short-run targeted marketing relatively affordable. Also look to printing techniques of the past, such as Letterpress printing, which is currently enjoying an incredible revival. This artisan technique that uses the best in paper and ink regularly produces beautiful work that not only looks fabulous, but has a tactile quality that doesn’t come with regular litho or digital print.
Keep it clear No matter how creative the ideas to promote your brand are, you still need to bear in mind the clarity of the promotion. You should always start any marketing campaign by identifying the market you intend to exploit. Depending on the demographics, age, sex, size, interests etc., will then indicate the message you should use. A campaign targeting women between the ages of 18-25 will often need a different message than one for women in their forties. Consequently, the media you use to push your message - whether it is print or online - should ultimately be decided by the market and message. While it may seem like a good deal to have 2,000 flyers printed for £30, if those flyers completely by-pass the market you’re aiming for, then it’s obviously a waste of money.
Keep it consistent If you’re thinking of producing a professionally shot video for your business, then it’s totally unacceptable to be handing out flimsy, badly laid out business cards you got printed free. Furthermore, being creative with your brand isn’t just a one-time exercise. Each method of communication needs to inspire your customers to keep them buying from you.
Keep it crafty As mentioned above, digital printing can be reasonably inexpensive for small runs. By utilising skills and techniques prevalent within the crafting or
scrap-booking community, ordinary printed material can be transformed into something exclusive. I recently saw a corporate invitation that was totally elevated by the use of small gemstones. The gems cost pennies and yet the overall impact was subtle and inspiring. Consequently, the response rate far exceeded previous events.
Keep it creative kiddo Recently we’ve been working on a brand for a new food enterprise. We could have just put together a logo, menu and t-shirt for the staff to wear, but we knew that this just wouldn’t be enough. While we’ve created a fantastic logo, we’ve also thought through its application to all aspects of the brand. From a simple smartphone app that orders the food, to renovating old taxis in their corporate colours, we’re constantly trying to think of creative ways to make this brand stand apart, generate fantastic word-ofmouth praise, and basically make people take notice. The creativity doesn’t just stop at the design. Often by thinking differently and exploring alternatives, costs can be kept down - whether it be utilising different paper for menus or buying a second-hand black cab rather than a new van. When you create beautiful designs the influence on how people perceive your business is dramatic. Coming up with creative ideas will make your brand aspirational and attractive to the sort of clients you want. Clients who believe in what you do and are prepared to spend the money you’re asking for, as well as advocate your brand to anyone who will listen, spreading the word and encouraging other people to give you their business too. So this is a call to arms for all smart-minded businesses. Say no to boring design, and stop trying to emulate other firms. Stand on your own, trust your designer and create something marvelous, that will really win you business.
Five ways to get creative on the cheap 1. Use your phone If your business is based around a product, then a great app is Instagram. It’s free, works by utilising the camera in your smart phone and provides filters to make even the most ugly of pictures interesting. It’s integratable with all the major social media streams, so you can update your clients in real time. 2. Stick with it Packaging costs can be expensive, so invest in stickers, which can be applied to boxes and bags, getting your brand into the marketplace.
3. Google Places Ensure you’re on Google Places and enhance the page with photos and images. 4. Blog A blog is a well-worn tool to boost your brand. By utilising the RSS feed, followers are automatically updated on the latest news about your brand. 5. Employ a professional You wouldn’t represent yourself in court or build a house, you’d employ a professional to do it for you. If you’re running your own business, don’t try to design a website - pay a professional. They’ll do a better job than you will, and your time is better spent trying to get more customers than fretting over typeface intricacies.
www.gohoot.co.uk 01702 300491 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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is your website working hard enough? Your website is vital to the marketing and sales effort of your business, but how can you make it work harder and improve your return on investment? The first question you should ask yourself is, what do I want to achieve from my website? It may sound obvious, but until you have clarified what the purpose of your website is, it is difficult to measure its success. Every business has different aims and objectives but generally speaking, your website goals will likely fit into one or more of the following categories:
n to generate enquiries n to drive online sales n to support your offline marketing/sales efforts
In the web industry these goals are known as conversions and the beauty is that they can be perfectly tracked and measured through analytic tools. So, to generate more business from your website you need to increase the number of conversions. Sounds simple enough in theory but how do you achieve this in practice? There are two main areas you should be looking at.
Increasing Traffic Traffic is essentially your website footfall, or visitors to your site. At its simplest level, the more people that visit your website, the higher the chance of someone becoming your customer. Therefore by increasing your website traffic you will see more conversions. One of the best ways to drive quality traffic to your website is by increasing your website visibility on search engines, such as Google, Yahoo or Bing. Thousands of people are searching for information, products and services related to your business on these search engines every day. The more visible your website is to these people, the more likely they are to visit. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which makes your site more visible within
the natural search listings, and Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC), which increases your websites visibility within the sponsored listings (the listings at the top and down the right of a search page), are the best ways to achieve site visibility.
Conversion Optimisation What happens once someone lands on your website? The ideal scenario is that they go on to make an enquiry or purchase something, but often this is not the case. Imagine 5% of visitors to your website currently convert, but what would happen if you increased that success rate to 10% and beyond? Conversion optimisation is about understanding why visitors aren’t converting and then using that information to make improvements to your website. The first step is to understand your site audience. Who are your current online customers and why are they happy to do business with
you, and conversely, what deterred those who didn’t transact? Next, you need to understand how user friendly your website is. Analytics tools can be extremely helpful in ascertaining areas that can be improved to better the user’s experience. Finally, use this information to trial variations of your website and measure the results. Energy House Digital (eHd) is a full service web design agency passionate about delivering web solutions that work hard for your business. Our experienced team can help with all aspects of your digital marketing, from web design and development through to search marketing and conversion optimisation.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help make your website work harder, speak to a member of our team on 0207 566 6312 or visit www.energyhousedigital.com/talk
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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business preview 2012 focus on strategy
For the first time, Business 2012 lands at the O2, with a host of exciting prospects aimed to help you take your business forward
aking place from 18 – 20 March, Business 2012 is free to attend, with over 600 workshops, seminars and exhibitors available to learn from and speak to - and for those who are serious about setting up or developing their business, it’s a must-attend event. Organised by Blak Pearl, the event itself is proof of what can be achieved by an aspiring entrepreneur. The organiser is none other than 24-yearold entrepreneur, Vishal Misal. Arriving from India to study at the University of Nottingham on a scholarship, Misal graduated with a distinction for his Masters in International Business. He immediately set up events company, Blak Pearl from a small office on the University of Nottingham Innovation Park. Working tirelessly for 18 months, Misal launched his breakthrough event - ILSG 2012 - featuring US sales guru, Brian Tracey and UK entrepreneur, Karren Brady, which successfully placed him firmly on the promotional map.
Now Misal is thinking big with the ambitious Business 2012, hiring the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Lord Alan Sugar. Misal said: ‘Business 2012 is the first event of this size that my team has organised and we are thinking big – this will be the largest event of its kind the UK has ever seen. We have enlisted companies such as Google, Blackberry, O2, Regus and Natwest to help every aspect of your business. From trading on the stock market to networking, customer relations to social media, our seminars and workshops have something for every business no matter what sector you are in. ‘The aim of Business 2012 has always been to make world-class business ideas accessible to all organisations. Alongside Sir Richard Branson, Cherie Blair and Lord Sugar, we have invited over 50 international speakers to give you practical and inspirational advice whether you are a start-up, SME or a mid-market organisation. Our www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on strategy business preview 2012 attendees will have the opportunity to network with thousands of like-minded business people, where they can offer encouragement to each other and share best practice.’ The event boasts an impressive line up of keynote speakers, including some of the world’s biggest business names. Over three days, 50 speakers will give their insight into their business experiences and the pitfalls they’ve experienced as well as providing expert advice to guide you to the next stage of your business. Speaking of the event, Branson said: ‘I will be at Business 2012, being interviewed live on stage and answering your questions and tweets. No one has a monopoly on good ideas and I hope events like this will open the door to greater
connections and business opportunities; something we all need during these challenging times.’ For Misal, hiring Branson has been a milestone in his career. He said: ‘I am incredibly proud to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Sir Richard Branson. He has inspired me, and so many entrepreneurs across the world to get started in business and to aim high. After our first event was such a success, we immediately began planning for a much bigger event – and he was the one person I knew we had to get on board. ‘So many people out there want to unlock the huge potential within themselves and their businesses; we hope that Business 2012 will provide the opportunity to do just that. With Sir Richard, Cherie Blair and Lord
Sugar confirmed as keynote speakers, I am 100 per cent confident the event will be a huge success.’ Confirming that he too will be a keynote speaker at Business 2012, Lord Sugar said: ‘I’ve always encouraged entrepreneurs and hopefully this event will really help people to grow bigger and better businesses. This event is for serious business people and will help small businesses at the time they need it.’ For ease, and to ensure visitors make the most of their time at Business 2012, the show will have three areas for registration: start-up, SME and mid-market as well as offering opportunities for those in the early stage of business. Business 2012 will provide a platform of knowledge and expertise on strategy. Offering more than a seminar or
2012 is ‘Businessevent of t the firs e that my this siz has team nd we a organised ing big k in h t e r a l be the – this wilevent of t s e larg the UK its kind r een’ has eve s
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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business preview 2012 focus on strategy conference, the workshop experience allows an interactive and personalised involvement. Almost every business area will be covered, including mentoring, print infrastructure, propertyn investment, branding, cash flow and online building. Workshops will be operated by some of the greatest businesses in the country. The show has established itself as a leading player within the business event calendar for 2012, with top publications joining as media partners. The Telegraph Business Club has been confirmed as the official media partner. Misal explained why it is the perfect choice for the event: ‘We are obviously delighted to have
such a prestigious brand associated with the event, and feel that we are perfectly aligned with the Telegraph Business Club in terms of our goals, so this is a fantastic opportunity for both parties. ‘Telegraph Business Club Members are serious business people who are like-minded and determined to put the UK economy back on a positive path. All 50,000 members of the Club are most welcome at Business 2012 and will be able to network with other similarly focussed, driven and inspired entrepreneurs and business owners from across the country and indeed the world.’ Talk Business, has of course, also been confirmed as a media partner of
Business 2012. Taking an open and honest look at what it takes to succeed in business, and offering the latest news, tips and advice, Talk Business has quickly become a leading title within the business market. Take the time to visit us at Stand A14. We’d love to hear how you’re getting on with your company. Just a couple of weeks away, Business 2012 is a must for all aspiring entrepreneurs and business growers. Free to attend, make the most of the three-day business extravaganza at London’s O2. The exhibition will be open to visitors as of Sunday March 18 at 8am.
Contacts: For more information, visit www.business2012.com
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focus on strategy document storage
UNDER LOCK AND KEY In these days of stringent data protection laws, where potential fines can put a small company out of business for what may seem a minor infraction of the rules, David Woolley, development director of Wincanton Records Management asks, how secure is your business information?
ocument storage can be a minefield for any companies, but especially when you’re just starting out in business and have a million other priorities. A lack of space, time and money can leave start-ups facing a headache about how and where to store important contracts, personnel files and business information. You may have considered outsourcing HR, finance, marketing and IT support, but have you considered outsourcing your records management? Ensuring your data is backed up, securely stored and protected is an essential consideration for every business, no matter which sector they operate in or how long they have been trading. Many companies outsource the storage and management of this important information to ensure safe, efficient and reliable access can be maintained at all times. Records management companies provide this solution, offering a safe house for original information, which can be stored in secure vaults as well as providing media tape storage for electronic backups of data. Outsourcing your records management requirements means vital information is safeguarded, overall efficiency and productivity improves and the creation, volume, redundancy and growth of records can be more effectively controlled.
The cost of non-compliance Furthermore, it is important to consider the compliance issue regarding records management and data storage. The Information Commissioner’s Office now has the ability to impose fines of up to £500,000 for businesses, which contravene Data Protection legislation. Under the 1988 Act, businesses are required to keep data secure ‘with appropriate technical and organisational measures taken to protect the information’. In practice, this means important data must be passwordprotected, as well as taking physical precautions to keep it safe, which includes document storage habits. Last year, the highest penalty ever to be levied on a single firm for data security failings was issued to Zurich and amounted to a £2.3m fine imposed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Similarly, in 2007, Norwich Union Life was fined £1.26m by the FSA for failing to manage customer data adequately, resulting in financial crimes, such as identity theft being committed against its customers. It is this legislation and risk that highlights to businesses across all sectors that document storage must be managed correctly. David Woolley, development director of Wincanton Records Management comments: ‘We work with professionals across a diverse range of business sectors, and with companies of all shapes and sizes. It is essential that
HOW TO CHOOSE Rainham-based Wincanton Records Management (WRM) ensures reliable access to original documents is preserved at all times. WRM’s vaults benefit from advanced fire prevention technology, gas suppression and twenty-four hour round-the-clock monitoring to ensure the safety of data. The company also offers its clients the ability to access information quickly if necessary. Documents can be delivered twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, within as little as two hours if need dictates.
directors understand the significant risks that they are taking by storing sensitive information within their offices without sufficient backup. Outsourcing this to a records management company provides peace of mind that all legislation is adequately complied with.’
Contact: For more information, please visit www.wincantonrm.co.uk or call 0870 90 88 000
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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R&H Design FP Advert.indd 1
brand advertising focus on strategy
‘Persistence is the single most important factor when it comes to making your PR campaign a success’
coke by any
other name... Mark Hillsdon looks at the growing awareness for creating a brand strategy – or to put it in its simplest terms, to decide how you’re going to market your new start up.
espite the tough economic conditions, last year British entrepreneurs registered a staggering 450,000 new businesses, an increase of some 70,000 on 2010. Yet with around a third of these destined to fail within the first three years, businesses need to think and act quickly to ensure they are one of those that survive. Creating brand awareness is a key part of this battle but when faced with a limited marketing budget, which way should they turn? ‘As a new business, attracting customers who will buy your product or service is paramount,’ says Katie Olver, an account director at Momentous PR. ‘There are many different ways that you can go about this, but if you have the time to invest in applying your own publicity-getting skills, PR will return some excellent results for your business – at very little cost.’ www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on strategy brand advertising Getting the word out
Public relations is about the relationship your business has with its public, a relationship which will have a profound effect on your future success. PR is also about publicising and building enthusiasm, and ultimately creating widespread awareness that drives sales. As Nic Ricketts from strategic marketing consultancy i1st Objective explains: ‘Once you and your staff understand what you are offering and why it is different or superior to that of others in the same bracket, you have to start communicating it to prospective customers.’ ‘Successful PR is all about reaching the right audience with a message that is appropriate and meaningful to them,’ explains Olver. ‘If you fail to know your target audience and the publications that they read, implementing the rest of your PR actions will be virtually useless. ‘Make sure the message is clear, concise and brief. If your message can’t be summed up in a few sentences, it’s too complicated and editors won’t read it.’ Take time to establish a relationship with the local press too, she advises, as this could lead to the opportunity to write an article for the publication on a subject that relates to your business. But, she warns: ‘Persistence is the single most important factor when it comes to making your PR campaign a success. If you have a good plan, and devote enough time and energy to carrying out that plan, you will obtain a great deal of positive publicity for your business.’
Glen Goldsmith, director of the 2thefore agency, agrees: ‘You don’t need to spend lots of money on your PR and marketing; you simply need to be clever about how you devise a strategy that works for your business and marketplace. You also need to be willing to stick your neck out and be available to journalists.’ However, suggests Ricketts, don’t necessarily dismiss advertising out of hand. ‘It can seem prohibitive to advertise in a start-up situation, but… it can be really effective if you target the correct media. However, advertising dies in isolation and must be backed up by at least a strong and understandable brand and a website. Getting to the audience using e-marketing with the same messaging will reinforce advertising. ‘If advertising is a step too far at this stage,’ he continues, ‘one method you can use is to create ads but just don’t run them. Print them up on newspaperlike sheets and mail them out as a courtesy. It works wonders internally and is intriguing for your audience.’
Proceed with caution Of course, in today’s digital age, there are a plethora of ways to create brand awareness online - but most also come with a few words of warning. ‘A key foundation to building a brand is communication,’ explains Khalid Al-Khames, managing director of marketing consultancy, Ethan Hardy. ‘Regardless of your offer you need to be able to effectively communicate with your target audience in multiple ways. Don’t think that by simply having a
2012 will see a real coming of age for digital marketing and social media and their integration into the business operations of companies both large and small March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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brand advertising focus on strategy Twitter account, you’ll automatically get customers. No, you need Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other relevant account to ensure you are available across every popular platform… but they do require effort and continual updating,’ he warns. ‘2012 will see a real coming of age for digital marketing and social media and their integration into the business operations of companies both large and small,’ says Justin Cooke, CEO of full service digital agency, Fortune Cookie. ‘Digital is like a blanket that touches and amplifies all aspects of our traditional physical interactions, social and commercial. When launching a new company or product, building an e-commerce capability or developing a new marketing campaign, it’s crucial to integrate a social dimension into your thinking and activity.’ Cooke also believes that the mobile phone is the perfect vehicle to ‘get right under the noses’ of potential customers. ‘Mobile is still a hugely under-utilised channel, and one that is ripe for smaller businesses to take advantage of. According to the Office of National Statistics, almost half of Internet users are going online via mobile phone. Added to that, more than any other item we own, we have a relationship with our mobile device.’
surrounding us all, there’s an important role for live, face-to-face, interactive awareness-raising,’ says Ricketts. ‘These are modern terms for what was once the market stall. Just look at Marks & Spencer. ‘Taking your products or services out on to the street – or shopping centre, or exhibition hall – allows people an up-close experience of them. Do something different and you’ll create a level of excitement that people will naturally talk to their friends and family about.’ This is an area in which Simon Tracey, group account director at the agency Ignite, also believes news businesses often overlook. ‘At the start of any new business venture, you should think about how to get your product into peoples’ hands. Holding a launch can sound obvious, but if you do it right and create a strong experience around your brand, you can instigate a lasting, emotional bond with consumers. ‘These people are likely to be your brand advocates and amongst your first loyal customers. You only need to engage with a few hundred people through a brand experience to then be able to amplify this into the thousands through buzz, tweets, Facebook content and the all-important word of mouth.’
Contacts: Momentous PR www.momentousuk.com
The future’s here ‘Major technology developments like Near Field Communications (NFC), the ‘power of the tablet’ and 4G will soon mean firms will be able to target audiences more dynamically, quickly and efficiently than ever before,’ he adds. But while the proliferation of potential new marketing channels may be appealing, other more traditional methods still have an important role to play. ‘It’s also worth remembering that with so much media and messaging
i1st Objective www.1stobjective.co.uk 2thefore agency www.2thefore.com/for_smes Ethan Hardy www.ethanhardy.co.uk Fortune Cookie www.fortunecookie.co.uk Ignite www.ignite-london.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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love to create GLOBALFIRE PRODUCTIONS advertisement feature
Why video is important for your company 78
There are a whole host of reasons we could tell you why your company needs to be using video on a regular basis, but there are 3 main things that stand out in the times we are in Revolution
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The first one would be obvious. It has to do with the technological revolution and the advancement of social media. You don’t need to be a genius to see that the way we communicate has changed radically in the last few years and this has had an effect on the way we do business. Smart phones are so commonplace now that YouTube has become the second largest search engine (Google’s first). When we want to search for a new product or find out about a brand, many of us will head straight to a video to find out what it looks like and what others are saying about it. Video is everywhere and accessible to the masses no matter where they may be. Video on the web is growing exponentially and with the advent of new mobile devices there has never been a better way to get your message directly to your audience.
These days we are encouraged and sometimes even forced to change our travel behaviour. This could slow your business down. However, today’s technology enables high quality visual communication that can make us more productive and more effective in how we do business. Efficient visual communication means less costly and timeconsuming travel and will reduce your carbon footprint. For example, a client of ours was to host an event with their international team. They wanted to fly in a team of 20 from various places around the world for a two day ‘all hands’ conference. The costs were in the tens of thousands. We suggested doing a video webcast for the main points, giving execs the chance to share with the opportunity for live feedback. We followed this with a series of videos explaining the vision for the year ahead and looking back to previous achievements. Feedback from this was fantastic and savings were substantial – which meant one happy customer.
Video connects with people on an emotional level The most important thing for any company is your brand. It has to be something people are talking about. If done well video has the power to move an audience, to excite and inspire them to buy a product or get behind your vision. Effective communication is power. You want to connect to your customers, whether internal or external, on a deeper level. We are often swamped with emails, memos and endless power point presentations: video enables you to communicate more efficiently, on a more personal level.
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March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
Talk Business full page ads_Layout 1 13/02/2012 15:53 Page 2
LEADER OF THE PACK OR RUNT OF THE LITTER? Effective marketing communication are at the heart of every sucessful business, but do yours differentiate and communicate in a clear and concise style to deliver tangible results?
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First HR deliver uncomplicated, business focused, HR advice. We provide you with a virtual HR Department – at a fraction of the cost of employed resources. Avoiding a Tribunal Claim
The Unfair Dismissal Qualifying Period is changing! So what does that mean for you? Currently employees with less than one year’s service can make a claim for unfair dismissal. But, on 6th April 2012 this qualifying period is extended to two years. A change which in fact reverts this aspect of employment law to pre 1999! This alteration will apply to any new recruits from 6th April 2012. The qualifying period remains the same for existing employees who are employed with you before the implementation date of the 6th April. Employees with under a year’s service on the 6th April 2012 will be entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal once they have been with you for 12 months. Employees with under two years service on the 6th April 2012 will not lose their right to bring a claim. Therefore, if you are looking at recruitment in the very near future, you might want to consider delaying start dates until after the Easter weekend to avoid being caught by the current regulations.
Regardless of length of service and the inability of new employees to bring a claim until they have been with you for more than two years, dismissals will remain fraught with the potential for a Tribunal claim unless the process is managed correctly. Employees will still be able to claim automatic unfair dismissal from day one of their employment. So what can constitute a dismissal (or selection for redundancy) being automatically unfair? The following provide an overview of the reasons: •T rade Union membership or activity including taking action during an industrial dispute •R elating to maternity, paternity, parental, adoption or dependents leave •R equesting of a flexible working arrangement •E xercising a statutory right •T aking or proposing to take action on health and safety grounds •B efore, during or after a business transfer (TUPE) •R elating to working time (including the refusal to work on a Sunday by a betting shop or shop worker, the National •M inimum Wage, part time or fixed term working •R elating to activities as an occupational pension scheme trustee •R elating to activities as an employee representative •R elating to the enforcement or securing of working tax credits • For reasons relating to jury service •A lways ensure you follow a correct procedure when terminating the
employment of someone regardless of their length of service. For those with service less than the qualifying period, the minimum procedure is advised as being: •n otification of the intent to terminate giving reasons why •a meeting at which they can be accompanied by a TU official or a colleague – with at least 48 hours notice to attend • and the right to appeal. Even if your contracts provide for a probationary period, you should follow a minimal process as outlined above. Regardless of the qualifying period in terms of service, employees are still able to bring a claim under other regulations in addition to the reasons constituting automatic unfair dismissal including unlawful discrimination. You must also remember that regardless of length of service, all employees are entitled to notice pay, other than if dismissed for gross misconduct, and also holiday pay. Notice pay will be as detailed in their Contract of Employment or provided for by statute – whichever is the greater. It is recommended that before you undertake any dismissal, you seek professional guidance. FirstHR Ltd will advise on the legality of the proposed dismissal, support you through the entire process and provide all necessary correspondence.
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employment law focus on people
of the sick note? Business Secretary, Vince Cable has confirmed that radical employment law reforms are on the horizon. At the same time, a report proposing ways to deal with absence through sickness has been published: ‘Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence.’ Andrew Peters, an employment law solicitor at Barlow Robbins, discusses what might lie ahead for employers as a result
Any method of attempting to resolve a dispute at an early stage must surely be welcomed, particularly by those employers who are afraid of saying the wrong thing for fear of being sued
s m I
wo of Vince Cable’s more eye-catching proposals are the increase to the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims and a requirement for all claims to first be submitted to ACAS for concilliation before being allowed to proceed to an employment tribunal. The period for which a member of staff must be employed before they can pursue a claim for unfair dismissal will increase from one year to two years from 6 April 2012, although the precise details have yet to be confirmed. Employers are often wary of dismissing an underperforming or unsuitable employee for fear of facing a claim for unfair dismissal. This reform will allow an employer a far greater period of time to assess an employee’s suitability for ongoing employment, and to dismiss an employee within the first two years of employment without the prospect of facing an unfair dismissal claim. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on people employment law
However, employers must be careful not to take the view that they can simply dismiss with absolute impunity in the first two years of employment. Employers should still carefully consider all the issues relating to the dismissal in an effort to minimise the risk of a discrimination claim, which has no qualifying period and can be brought from day one. Discrimination claims are often costlier to defend and therefore, any decision to dismiss (whether in the first two years of employment or otherwise) should not be taken in haste, if the risk of a discrimination claim is to be minimised. Where a claim is brought by an employee, requiring that claim to be first submitted to ACAS for conciliation before being allowed to proceed to an employment tribunal should, in theory allow a number of disputes to be resolved at an early stage. Employment tribunal claims can be costly and timeconsuming affairs, sometimes consuming the resources of small and medium size businesses, which often do not have dedicated HR departments to deal with such claims. Any process that allows a dispute to be settled quickly and cost-effectively will surely be welcomed by such businesses. The coalition must ensure that ACAS, if it is going to properly conciliate on such claims, is able to deal with the extra burden that will be placed on it. Increased funding must be put in place. This could be diverted from the employment tribunal system itself, which should be dealing with fewer claims after compulsory conciliation is introduced. In the absence of proper funding, the conciliation process will be ineffective and is likely to actually increase the time and cost of resolving any dispute. In addition, both the employer and employee will need to actively participate in any such conciliation to ensure that the process does not simply turn into a box-ticking exercise.
In certain sectors, the sick-note culture is rife, which can be both disruptive and costly for an employer Away from the coalition’s proposals, the recently published report: ‘Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence,’ makes a number of recommendations to reduce workplace sickness absence and the cost of ill health on employers. The coalition is in the process of considering the report and will respond next year. Should the recommendations be adopted, they will certainly assist employers in tackling this problem area. One significant recommendation is the setting up of an Independent Assessment Service (IAS), which would allow an employer to challenge a sick note with the aim of getting the absent employee back to work. In particular, it is proposed that after an employee has been absent for four weeks, they would be referred to IAS for expert advice. IAS would then undertake an in-depth assessment of the employee and provide advice on how the employee could be supported on a return to work. In certain sectors the sick-note culture is rife, which can be both disruptive and costly for an employer. The introduction of IAS should be positively welcomed by employers as a tool for ensuring that employees are able to return to work, in some shape or form, sooner rather than later. There will however be occasions where the employee simply cannot return to work. In such circumstances, it is arguably within both the employer’s and the employee’s interests for the employment relationship to end. However, employers are often wary of trying to dismiss an absent employee. Recognising this, the report recommended the need for a more efficient route for terminating
employment. The use of a no-fault agreement with pre-determined financial payments has been suggested. Any such agreement would certainly produce an efficient and swift resolution. It would greatly assist any employer who was attempting to navigate the difficult area of long-term sickness absence and negotiate a termination payment with an absent employee. However, it will likely still require the employee’s agreement, which may not always be forthcoming. In a similar vein to such agreements, the report supports the use of a ‘protected conversation,’ which the coalition has already discussed. The idea being that such protected conversations will allow employers to have an open and honest discussion with an employee, which could not later be used as evidence in the employment tribunal. Any method of attempting to resolve a dispute at an early stage without external mediation or litigation must surely be welcomed, particularly by those employers who are afraid of saying the wrong thing for fear of being sued. The anticipated reforms, together with the sickness absence recommendations, will undoubtedly be welcomed by employers overall. They will surely feel that it is a move towards a more balanced system of employment law. Anything that allows small and medium sizes business, which often have limited resources and support to call upon, the opportunity to more easily manage its workforce must be a positive step for them in these difficult and uncertain economic times. However, the proposals are not without their potential pitfalls and their success will only be judged in time.
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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Focus on people: staff rewards
carrot and stick
Andy Philpott, sales and marketing director at Edenred explains why reward and incentive programmes can make a difference to even the smallest businesses by helping to improve staff engagement, and creating a positive and productive atmosphere
esearch commissioned by Edenred, which provides reward and recognition schemes, shows that employee engagement levels in UK business as a whole are worryingly low. This is backed up by YouGov research that shows that one in three (almost 35 per cent) of UK employees are de-motivated at work. However, there are ways in which these issues can be addressed. Motivation schemes that offer staff incentives have proved highly successful in addressing the issue of turnover and staff engagement. They can provide a focus for activity, either short or long term, and generate a positive, productive atmosphere. Here are some tips for businesses looking to plan and implement a motivation programme:
Planning Businesses should consider what objectives need to be achieved by a reward programme, and regularly monitor the process to ensure these goals are being achieved and return on investment delivered.
Timing The run up to Christmas is an important time to reward staff - organisations are working hard to extract every last bit of hard work and effort to maximise the results and performance. Christmas rewards act as a timely reminder to staff of how valued their contribution has been and will motivate them to perform for throughout the festive period and into the New Year. A motivation scheme should be maintained through to the New Year in order to focus staff on the targets for the year ahead and beat the ‘January blues’. Consider actions that can engage and motivate people
quickly at the start of the year. This can be achieved using the reward process with part before and part after Christmas. Employee savings are an effective way to reward staff at the start of the year, particularly as it is a time when household budgets are tight.
awareness and appreciation of what’s on offer. Two-way communication between employer and employee is particularly important and is best achieved across a range of channels, such as face-to-face briefings, printed and online materials, and interactive videos, in order to help employers
With Edenred’s Employee Savings platform, organisations can offer their staff the chance to save up to £700 per year through over 1000 cash back offers and a range of discount vouchers and re-loadable cards, covering more than 50 major retailers.
communicate the scheme effectively to the widest cross section of staff. When planning the communication method, it is important to take into consideration the structure of a company and existing communication channels that can be utilised to get the message across.
Personalisation There is no one-size-fits-all approach to rewarding people as part of a motivation scheme. A gift that will be attractive to a single graduate worker may not appeal to a working parent, and if the gift is inappropriate, the impact will be lost and resources wasted When planning a motivation scheme, businesses must take into account the different requirements, considering lifestyle, status and family situation. Increasingly, employees are demanding personalisation and choice, and platforms that offer a vast range of incentive and reward solutions, such as Compliments Select, are particularly effective. Compliments Select offers recipients the ultimate choice of single-store vouchers and gift cards, multi-store vouchers and cards offering a choice from more than 160 retailers, an experience card offering 1,000 experiences or a travel voucher.
Communication Communication is key and probably the deciding factor between the success and failure of a motivation strategy. In order to achieve return on investment, it is vital to encourage a high level of take up and create
Peer-to-peer recognition Peer-to-peer recognition schemes allow staff to nominate fellow employees for an award when they feel they have gone the extra mile - for example, by achieving targets, generating a positive working atmosphere, being a good team player, and so on. From these nominations, the management will then usually decide which are the most deserving and reward them accordingly. Edenred’s experience of working with major businesses to deliver motivation programmes has shown that recognition has more resonance when it comes from colleagues, and is therefore more motivating and helps to deliver real results for businesses. The use of an incentive or reward programme to engage with key people over the coming weeks, though the Christmas and New Year period can have an immediate positive impact on a business and make a significant difference to its performance in the year to come.
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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top tips focus on strategy
When it comes to maintaining employees’ motivation, financial rewards are not always possible, especially in the struggling world of the start-up SME. Engagement has a clear and proven impact on work ethic, so now more than ever is the time to recognise your employee’s achievements. Ty Kiisel, manager of social outreach at AtTask, suggests three alternative ways to keep both motivation and productivity high For most people, financial compensation is a pretty powerful motivator of performance. Fortunately for business leaders, it’s not the only one. To make financial compensation less of a factor, creating a working environment which scores highly in job satisfaction levels is critical— otherwise employees are left with nothing else to measure their value with than the size of their pay check or bonus. As the news warns, the UK may have already slipped back into a recession, if they haven’t already done so, employers need to consider alternative approaches to keep their staff motivated. These warnings to employers are mirrored by
industry forecasters. Charles Cotton, public policy adviser – reward, at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recently predicted that troubled employers would impose pay freezes in order to save jobs in the next 12 months. Cotton’s predictions are supported by findings from the CIPD’s Labour market outlook, published November 2011, which revealed that 19 per cent of employers in the voluntary sector, eight per cent in the private sector and 43 per cent in the public sector were planning a pay freeze. What’s more, out of 1,021 HR professionals surveyed, 23 per cent intended to postpone their pay review. Consequently, employers implementing pay freezes now have to think of alternative ways to keep their staff engaged, motivated and loyal to the organisation. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on strategy top tips
tip 1 verbal recognition
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but one of the simplest ways to motivate employees is with verbal recognition. Keeping employees satisfied is easily achievable, if they are provided with challenges that allow them to have a sense of ownership and accomplishment—and are recognised for their contributions. Most people take pride in what they do, and care about what their managers and peers think of them and their achievements. Organisations that recognise the contributions of individuals and teams create a more engaging environment where team members are more inclined to push themselves to increase productivity.
tip 2 employee engagement
Employee engagement is crucial. It’s impossible to create this kind of environment if project leaders only engage with their teams when there is a problem, or a deadline is missed. Facilitating an environment where everyone has visibility into everyone’s contributions within their projects means management (and their peers) can easily see and recognise exceptional performance, keeping everyone focused on the key priorities. The Government recognised this in May 2011, when it proactively supported David McLeod’s Employee Engagement taskforce, which encouraged independent reviewers to examine whether a wider take up of engagement approaches, could impact positively on performance. The report argued that greater employee engagement would have a positive impact on the UK’s competitiveness and performance during the economic downturn. The online call for evidence in the campaign revealed some interesting insights:‘Engagement matters because people matter – they are your only competitive edge. It is people, not machines that will make the difference and drive the business.’ ‘Employee engagement is when the business values the employee and the employee values the business.’ ‘There is a lack of understanding that trust works two ways, and that not trusting your employees has a negative impact.’
tip 3 removing hierarchies
The ownership model as adopted by John Lewis is a prime example of how employee engagement can be transformational. The reasoning behind the ownership model demonstrates to employees that it’s in their best interest to work hard in order to reap rewards. The results of these findings, based on a survey of senior executives from both private and employee-owned businesses, stated: ‘employees who have a stake in the company they work for are more committed to delivering quality, and more flexible in the face of the needs of business.’ Although this is primarily interpreted as financial stakes, I’ve observed that stimulating employees by offering them more responsibility and accountability for tasks can have a similar effect. I’ll admit, this seems easy in theory, but a key obstacle is the way many organisations are structured. In order to successfully distribute responsibility more evenly, organisations need to turn top-down management on its head and remove existing hierarchies. In larger organisations, the existence of hierarchies can mean there is a lack of structured and meaningful flow of information between the different levels within the organisation. The executive team tends to define the business goals and strategies, while lower levels are expected to deliver the results. Consequently removing hierarchies effectively gives each team, both executive and frontline, visibility of the other’s activities and priorities, and empowers them to keep things on course. Creating a more democratic workplace provides individuals with the opportunity to manage their own work. This means workers are in a better position to assess priorities and adjust their deadlines. Being able to track the progress of a project creates a sense of ownership and accountability, which in turn empowers the employee closest to the task to have a voice in establishing benchmarks and timelines. It’s human nature to respond well to a little freedom, which means, when given the opportunity, most people will step up and volunteer for work where they think they can add value. This results in individuals playing to their core strengths as opposed to confining them to prescribed roles or stretching themselves too thinly, which might hinder development.
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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Bringing Positive Change Cetas Kinetic, provide training to meet your companyâ€™s objectives and to ensure you are success enabled. We enable organisations to accept new systems, values and beliefs to bring positive change. We achieve this by investigating the current organisational environment, developing innovative learning solutions and motivating the organisation and its culture to ensure their workforce is success enabled. Leadership skills Business mentoring Personal coaching Stress management Managing change Sales training Leadership skills Presentation skills Communication skills Team leader skills Customer service training Employee engagement Live training and learning events
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focus on technology gadgets guide
Gadgets to sigh for
This month’s guide features a plethora of gadgetry for the fad-conscious, whether you’re into the latest printer or to-die-for phone
Samsung Tocco Lite 2
Samsung Electronics has announced the launch date of the successor to the 30-million selling Samsung Tocco Lite mobile phone. The Samsung Tocco Lite 2 will be available in the UK in early March, and is one to look out for. The Tocco Lite 2 features enhanced social networking services and robust multimedia capabilities, making it the ideal model for start-ups who want to market their company using social media. Within a stylish and sleek exterior beats a heart of power, making it the perfect choice for anyone that likes to be connected at all times and needs a device to play, store and share the latest multimedia content, such as product images, videos and customer information. Complete with Samsung’s communication service ChatON, owners of the device can catch up with business contacts as well as friends and family anytime and anywhere. Whether through personalised multimedia messages, group chat, Facebook, Twitter or using Instant Messaging services, such as MSN, Google Talk and Yahoo! Users will enjoy the benefits of a quality and immersive experience when browsing the web too, thanks to a 3” QVGA screen. Simon Stanford, UK & IRE telecommunications & networks division commented: ‘We’re excited to be offering our customers improved social networking and enhanced multimedia capabilities with the Tocco Lite 2. Our aim with this new handset is to build on the features we know our customers find useful by providing greater synergy between their mobile handset and their social networks.’
Give win to yourgs techn fantasyo ...
Officejet 8600 Plus e-all in one The HP Officejet 8600 Plus e-All-in-one is a new printer that ‘s specifically designed for small businesses or a home office. This web-connected model features HP’s AirPrint technology, which allows you to print your e-mails, photos, web pages and more direct from your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It also includes HP’s ePrint feature, a cool technology that allocates a bespoke email address to every printer, allowing you to print from anywhere with email access, making it great for those on-the-go. As well as great web-connected features, the HP Officejet 8600 Plus comes with easy-to-use features, a colour touchscreen and sleek black finish.
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
gadgets guide focus on technology
MiniStation Extreme The MiniStation Extreme is a portable hard drive equipped with shock protection that’s designed to absorb and transfer shock away from the hard disk due to accidental bumps and drops from up to two metres. The convenient integrated wrap-around cable hugs the body of the drive to ensure you’re always ready to connect while on the go. Simply plug it into any available USB port on your computer and instantly add capacity, back up for safety or store files to take on the road. The unit is compatible with most PC and Mac software, and comes complete with AES hardware encryption so you can rest assured your data is safe, wherever you go. Store, back up and transport your content safely and securely …
Freecom SilverStore 2-Drive NAS
Philips PicoPix projector Aimed at notebook, netbook and laptop users, Philips’ PicoPix PPX2055 projector offers a colourful and bright image with up to 55 lumens (854x480 resolution, 1000:1 contrast) and is ideally suited for professional use. It’s perfect to project presentations at business meetings where sharing video, multimedia and website content is required. The PPX2055’s simple set-up makes it ideal to use on the move. With pocket-sized dimensions, it’s ideal for slipping into your pocket or notebook case. There is a small focus wheel on the top of the projector and getting started is quick and easy - connection and power is supplied to the projector via the USB on your laptop. The brushed metal and chrome detail give it an elegant, high quality precision look. It’s this attention to style detail that saw the PPX2055 win the iF Product Design Award, which recognises innovative product designs.
Freecom has launched the SilverStore 2-Drive NAS, a tricky-to-say but simple-to-use network storage centre, featuring two separate, removable hard drives in a sleek silver finish case. The multi-configuration dual-drive design reliably stores up to 6TB of data in one central location and features the latest Gigabit and USB 3.0 host interface standard. The NAS drive makes it easy for multiple users to download large files, store and access documents, and share everything from videos and product photos to presentations. Many people rely on hard drives to store all kinds of information, but if their drives crash, the important files can be lost forever. With the SilverStore, users can protect data by programming the device so that one drive automatically makes an exact copy of the other, giving them the peace of mind that comes with knowing everything is safely backed up. The SilverStore 2-Drive NAS can also be configured so that the two drives can be used as one single volume to maximise the amount of storage space on the network. Alternatively, the drives can be used for separate purposes - for example, they could be assigned to different projects so that data is kept segregated, or they could simply be used to store different types of files. Users can also control access to the data by assigning individual usernames and passwords to ensure that their content remains secure at all times.
www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
The South London IT firm that isn’t afraid to think around corners! Is your business making the most of modern technology? Using the latest technologies in your business can give you that competitive edge: allowing you to outperform your rivals, reach more customers and stay relevant in today’s ever-changing world. The good news for you is that these hardware and software innovations don’t have to cost the earth. By using open-source software along with hardware that best fits the business environment, we can offer huge savings over traditional IT companies that often just try to sell you a pre-packaged solution.
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We do things differently: our unique way of thinking allows us to solve problems more efficiently than our competitors. We’re not blinded by brand power, instead we evaluate each possible solution in objective, easily measured terms to ensure that you get the best value for money. We’re based in Croydon and offer our services to companies throughout South London and Surrey. If you want to push your business forward using the latest and greatest technology, without breaking the bank, get in touch. Contact us for a quote, to arrange a free consultation, or simply to ask some questions.
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Software focus on technology
With so many software choices available, it can be confusing when deciding which is best for your new business. Dale Cook, product marketing manager at Serif, addresses the question of desktop publisher versus word processor
Marketing is hugely important to any business, and when done properly, it positively affects sales and profitability. At its heart is a focus on customers, but most of us know marketing for one aspect – advertising. For small businesses wanting to create publications, such as flyers, posters, newsletters and brochures, there are two main types of software that can be used: desktop publishing (DTP) and word processors. So which should you choose?
Laying out your documents DTP software gives you complete control over layout – something that can’t be said for word processors. Text, graphics and even music or video (great for enhancing online documents), can be positioned anywhere within the document, allowing for more elaborate layouts, which are essential for visual publications like flyers and advertising. In one document, you can arrange as many design elements as you require. Those elements can flow around irregular shapes too, something that’s a lot more difficult with word processors. It is true, however, that more and more word processors are integrating DTP features, but they just don’t offer the same sort of flexibility or compatibility.
Controlling text Typing text is what word processors were made for. Simply open the programme and start typing. But when it comes to how your text is laid out, the choice between a word processor and a DTP programme becomes a bit tougher. Both offer spelling and grammar checking, but in design terms, the
ability to adjust space between characters and lines, such as leading, kerning, and tracking, in greater depth might influence your choice. For example, you’ve written the perfect headline and you want to fit it on a single line in your advert – you might need to change the point size or letter spacing very slightly. There is greater scope for fine alterations like this in desktop publishing packages. So, perhaps you could type and hone text in a word processor then import or copy it into a DTP package where you could add it into your publication. An area where a word processor does excel is in proofing. If copy has been written, it can be sent to another person for correcting, altering and even adding comments, all within the word processor, provided both people have the programme installed. This makes proof reading much faster.
Master pages In longer documents, such as books and magazines, consistency is vital, and the
designing of such documents is more convenient in desktop packages. Master pages dictate features and styles that appear on every page and are easier to set up in DTP software, as opposed to word processors. Plus, they make it quick and easy to add anything from logos and contact details to colour schemes, throughout. This saves you the time and hassle of adding elements to each individual page and worrying about whether they’re consistently positioned.
Compatibility Being able to quickly and easily share publications with colleagues and clients is very important, and word processor documents make this process very easy. Such files can also be opened in desktop publishing software (although they can’t be saved in a word processor format). Where DTP packages excel though, is in being able to open, edit and save PDFs –
Contact: www.serif.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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Workstation Health Checks Proactive, preventative health checks each and every day. Boost productivity and security. Less than 70p per workstation per day.
Tech IT Solutions Workstation Monitoring means that you can rest assured that your PC’s and laptops are in business-ready condition. Our proactive, preventative health checks test key components of the system each morning. We’ll be able to spot problems – almost always before they cause user downtime – and can fix them fast so your employees can make the most of every day.
What are Workstation Health Checks? Because your working day is dependent upon your PC, it’s essential that equipment is ready-to-use at any time. Tech IT Solutions Workstation Health Check Service conducts start-of-day checks to ensure your systems are in peak condition. Proactive Workstation Health Checks perform the following: • Checks that your antivirus is right up-to-date and keeping you safe. • Check that your Windows® Services (the bedrock of your computer’s operating system) are operating properly. • Looks for unauthorized log in attempts and determines whether someone has been trying to hack into your systems. • Checks to ensure you have adequate disk space remaining. Running out of disk space can cause your computer to crash and involves lengthy delays to repair the device. • Check that your disks are healthy and there are no integrity issues. • Reviews Critical Event log entries and spots other issues.
Rapid Response When There’s a Problem If there’s a problem, we’ll receive an Instant Alert showing the cause of the problem, and we’ll see it on our Dashboard almost instantly. Our mobile technicians in the field
will receive SMS alerts on their mobile phones and can log into their MiniDash™ to see the exact cause of the problem. The net result: rapid, accurate response and dramatically reduced downtime.
Key Benefits • Rest easy in the knowledge that your AV is always up-to-date, your disks are in good health and Event logs are checked daily. • Instant, accurate alerts mean we can resolve problems fast. Avoid wasting hours waiting for engineers to diagnose and repair problems. • A small effort applied each and every day means your systems are in peak health.
• Cut downtime. Increase productivity in the office. Workstation monitoring – a constant level of proactive upkeep for just a few pennies per user per day.
How do I get going? It takes just 10 minutes to put in place. There’s no need for a technician to visit or for machines to reboot. Contact us to find out more. email@example.com www.techitsolutions.co.uk Tel: 0845 680 4017
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
At Smart IT we provide a comprehensive range of IT services and software solutions for businesses of all sizes. Our aim is to ensure that your investment in IT delivers real tangible business benefit. Services range from IT support to applications such as CRM and ERP together with web and e commerce solutions. We also provide market leading data management and backup services.
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internet providers focus on technology
got the down-time blues ‘Put simply, if you ignore your Internet connection, you could be setting yourself up for a costly fall’
Andy Horn, managing director of Easynet Connect advises on the importance of choosing the right Internet provider
hoosing the right Internet provider is especially crucial to start-ups and small businesses because not only does the network allow a business to communicate with its customers, but the service can be adapted to suit the company’s needs as it grows. Many businesses take the Internet for granted, and its importance is only brought to the attention of the company when things go wrong. However, with an infinite number of Internet providers all promising the best, most secure and reliable network, how do you distinguish between them all and find the service that best suits your growing business? Many small businesses are turning to cloud computing, where applications are
delivered and hosted online, to solve the age-old problem of IT maintenance and help employees become more flexible and collaborative. High-bandwidth applications such as video place ever-greater demands on company bandwidth. Put simply, if you ignore your Internet connection, you could be setting yourself up for a costly fall. Here are some simple guidelines to help small business owners choose the right Internet provider:
Back to basics – one size does not fit all Getting the right connection certainly requires having knowledge of the reliance you have on the Internet as a business. Too many businesses invest in www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
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focus on technology internet providers
broadband without ensuring that it fully fits their needs, or blindly sign up to packages that vastly outstrip their real-life requirements. It sounds simple, but listing out all of the applications that depend on your IP connection, and those you can’t function fully without will give you a quick set of requirements your connection needs to meet. If any of these services are being frequently lost, then it could well be time to review your Internet connection. The next step is to examine how your main applications use data - do they rely on downloading or uploading, do they use a constant amount of bandwidth, or create peaks and troughs throughout the day? Consider these alongside the other uses of your connection, when they are most called upon, and how important they are. For example, ambient web browsing doesn’t require much bandwidth, but sending and receiving large files, running an online backup system and accessing online video will require a high quality connection for them to work well. Many businesses find themselves with packages, which don’t grow and expand at the same rate as their business is. For instance, if you are planning on recruiting significantly in the near future, investing in more SaaS services, or will be taking on projects which require you to send and receive large files, then make sure your ISP understands these requirements and your package is arranged so that getting access to greater bandwidth doesn’t punish you financially.
Check customer testimonials The network is at the heart of what all small businesses can achieve from their IT. Working with an untried or untested Internet provider could undermine the rest of the good work your business is doing for its clients. Technologies such as cloud computing require flawless connections in order to succeed, making the quality of the
The network is at the heart of what all small businesses can achieve from their IT. Working with an untried or untested Internet provider could undermine the rest of the good work your business is doing for its clients network all the more important. Before selecting an Internet provider, be sure to assess its track record, customer testimonials and, most crucially, the strength of its SLAs.
Make continuity a priority The growth of cloud applications (for example, Salesforce, which is now a fixture in a large proportion of the UK’s small businesses) mean that the potential cost of a day of downtime is now greater than ever. With businesses reliant on their network for their telephony and core applications, as well as simple Internet access, failure is not an option. Businesses must make continuity a priority and ensure that risk mitigation is front-of-mind when they spec out which service to choose.
Look beyond speed Whilst it may sound predictable, the old adage that you get what you pay for is certainly true when it comes to network access. While some providers (such as those now espousing the credentials of their fibre offerings) may advertise impressive speeds at knockdown prices, these do not take into account other factors, such as system delays or whether or not the information you are sending will reach its destination.
connection quality, which make up the overall picture of how good your broadband connection really is. Understanding the Internet’s technical jargon could help you avoid paying for the wrong type of product, which could be costly in the long run. Research the differences between DSL, ADSL, SDSL, leased line and fibre connections - and make sure you are investing in a service that truly meets your needs.
Expect more SMEs should expect more from their ISP, not just for a reliable technology, but also from value-added services and on-going support and consultancy. If your connection is lost, the ISP should do more than just provide a back-up line, but it should let you know when connections are dropped in good time and have polite and informed support staff, ensuring your calls and queries are resolved quickly.
Contact: For more information, visit www.easynetconnect.net
Up-skill Internet connection packages can be seemingly complex but finding the right one will pay dividends. Too many start up businesses select their ISP on the basis of connection speeds and bandwidth but fail to pay attention to issues such as contention ratios and
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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With a customer focused approach to web design and experienced personnel, the company is able to offer a range of quality services to businesses looking to grow their client base or even establish an online presence for the first time. W: www.SpicerDesigns.com E: info@SpicerDesigns.com T:0845 475 1991
Stewart Nash Consultancy Coaching & Mentoring for Business Growth
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At ABN AMRO Commercial Finance, we know that life can be full of frustrations. But we can allow ourselves to smile at these once the big issues are dealt with – like funding your business’s growth.
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www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk March 2012
feature daily grind
the daily grind A regular series in which TB asks a well-known entrepreneur twenty questions about their life, work, inspiration, and a few other things of no particular importance. This month, we invite Claire Young to take the hot seat Where in the world are you right now? In London, opposite Kings Cross station, crashed in a hotel after a busy day of meetings and just finished at a speaking event at LSE University.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? My body clock is annoyingly set to 5:30am. I’m a natural early riser. It’s how I survived The Apprentice! Plus I have a very loud, demanding cat and am currently experiencing terrible pregnancy insomnia.
What do cereal (sic) entrepreneurs have for breakfast? Fresh fruit and a wholemeal bagel while reading the news and emails on my iPad.
Who or what inspires you the most? I like the challenge of the unknown. I’m a nosey parker and like finding out new things. My brain is constantly thinking and ticking!
Where and when were you happiest? Summer of 1993 - aged 14. I spent a wonderful summer with my horses in the sunshine. All day, everyday – bliss!
What single piece of technology could you not live without? GHD hair straighteners! I look horrendous with my natural hair. If I ever leave it to dry, people ask me what on earth I have done, with a distressed look.
Gordon Gekko famously said: ‘lunch is for wimps’. Do you do lunch? Yes of course. I only get ratty when I’m hungry. You need to eat well to keep the machine going.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received - and from whom? From my mum: ‘Just be yourself and you’ll be OK’.
. . . and the worst? Listening to a useless careers teacher at school!
Before age 10, I went to a convent school and always wanted to be a nun! In the early years of secondary school, I didn’t even think about my career, I took life how it was and enjoyed myself.
What is your favourite smell (apart from crisp £20 notes)? Horses, old churches with frankincense, and Hermes Terres fragrance.
If you could have your time again, what would you do differently?
Choose three dinner guests (alive or dead).
Nothing - apart from kissing a few frogs. I’ve enjoyed it all, learnt from my mistakes – and now avoid anything which is green and slimy!
Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe and my grandfather, who sadly I never had the chance to meet.
Can ‘anyone’ be a successful entrepreneur?
Yes and no. Anyone can have the ideas and dreams, yet, few have the drive and tenacity to turn it into reality and be successful.
What has been your most effective business tactic?
How many entrepreneurs does it take to change a light bulb?
Who would you choose to play you in the movie of your life?
I have two: being a natural networker and maintaining relationships. Also I’ve always been honest and go with my gut instinct.
So, you’re an entrepreneur? Why don’t you go out and get a ‘proper job’? Been there, done that and it’s boring. Not for me. I like to be in control and have full autonomy.
Aged 11, what did you want to be when you grew up?
None, they’d delegate someone else to do it.
What would you say is your most important skill? My ability to talk. I can get along with anyone, anywhere. Ironically I didn’t talk until I was four, and since then it hasn’t stopped.
Do you have anything to declare? Too many things! However, life’s a mystery and it’s best kept that way.
March 2012 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk
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