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GO WITH THE FLOW We discuss the rise of alternative finance options with industry insider, John Davies of Just Cash Flow

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inside 7 8 11

STRATEGY Rich With

46 ‘Tis the season to be selling How to maximise your retail sales this Christmas

49 Train to gain

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ISSUE

45 Tesla, taxis and barbies

Editor’s letter Contributors News & events

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What should you look for in a training course

50 Why you should engage with universities 53 Finding a place to grow

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TECHNOLOGY 93 Flexy business Piers Linney on shaking up the Government via SME innovation

95 Tech review The Gadget Show’s Ortis Deley gives his views on the latest tech

99 Prep your IT department for disaster 102 A brave new digital frontier How going digital can rapidly boost your growth

105 The robotic revolution MARKETING

How AI will shape your future

107 I’ve got an app for that

59 What really bugs me SUCCESS 14 Go with the flow We discuss the rise of alternative finance options industry insider John Davies, Just Cash Flow PLC

20 Around the world in 50 tips To celebrate our 50th issue, we look back on some of the best advice

Kimberly Davis - why you should ignore the Black Friday trend

61 3 tips for reviving a brand 64 Don’t you forget about me Staying on your clients’ radar

67 How to handle PR disasters 68 Easy as A.B,E How to creat a winning e-campaign

29 Up and coming Alex Kontos, Storm

FRANCHISE 109 Franchise news 110 Avoid footfall pitfalls How to analyse your franchise’s potential market

114 Franchise spotlight Paul Stafford of the bfa talks to Anytime Fitness

PEOPLE

30 Lessons learned Mike Edwards, Snugglebundl

33 Book reviews

Leadership expert Deborah Benson

73 Secret diary of an entrepreneur FINANCE 35 Preparing for a rainy day Talk Money’s Adam Aiken talks about being extra careful when seeking funding

36 Look before you leap Planning your new business

39 More than a token gesture How tokenisation could help you succeed

42 Money matters Exploring the financial options available to SMEs

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ADVICE

71 Alone at the top

Chris Vincent, V4 Woodflooring

76 Why your networking isn’t working 79 On a different level Why a no can be as good as a yes

81 Don’t be a zero Zero-hours contracts - avoid falling foul of the law

83 Alternate reality Lee McQueen - The Apprentice winner looks back at his time on the show

117 Sales Doctor Your questions answered

118 Taking the risk out of foreign exchange 122 7 steps to successful overseas expansion 125 Legally speaking Wright Hassell look at breach of contract recompense

127 Getting down to business The 34th Business Show

130 Time to launch Tips on how to start your business

132 Directory

OPINION

LIFESTYLE 85 We love... top tech 86 Hotspots: Aberdeen Locations for business stays, meets, and eats

88 Rainy day rescue Jackets and raincoats

90 On the road: Porsche Panamera Dsel Oliver Hammond’s car review

134 A matter of opinion Readers lock horns on a controversial topic: The National Living Wage

137 Question of the month: We ask: “Are the ‘Black Friday’ sales bad for UK businesses”

138 Trash talk Readers discuss the business phrases that annoy them most

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EDITOR TA L

ADDITIONAL CONTENT

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Luke Garner luke.garner@talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk Dominic Lill dominic.lill@symbianprint.co.uk

STUART McCREERY

DESIGN

ISSUE

Louise Salisbury artwork@talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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WEB DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Prashanth Muthulingam Prashanth.Muthulingam@symbianprint.co.uk

SALES EXECUTIVE Sid White sid.white@talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk Joe Christmas joe.christmas@talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

MANAGING DIRECTOR Stuart McCreery

Circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: Aston Greenlake Publishing Ltd T: 0203 617 4681 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Aston Greenlake Publishing Limited William Robinson Buildings, 3 Woodfield Terrace, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, CM24 8AJ © Copyright 2015. 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 Publishing Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation. The opinions expressed by guests in this magazine are not necessarily the views held by Talk Business magazine, its publishers, and its owners.

I

t is always a pleasure to hit a milestone and to be publishing the 50th issue of Talk Business is no different. The magazine launched during a turbulent business period and has delivered fantastic tips and advice to our readers ever since. We are thankful to all our contributors over the years and to our advertising partners, many of whom have featured editorially in addition to presenting their products and services to our audience. In the marketplace today we are seeing an increasing consumption of content in the digital space so it is fantastic news to hear that our social media activities have delivered around 7,000 followers on Twitter. Use of other platforms including Linked In and Facebook are also growing. We are participating more in the content marketing arena with many useful sponsored editorial articles now being published on our website each month. Our newsletter continues to go out on a regular basis and reminds readers when the magazine is available as a digital edition and providing messages from our commercial partners. Gone are the days of a single channel production! Thanks again to our advertisers and readers for continuing to support Talk Business, please enjoy this milestone edition. Good fortunes to all Stuart McCreery Managing Director

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The experts

ORTIS DELEY

PAUL STAFFORD

ADAM AIKEN

Ortis has been one the hosts of Channel 5’s The Gadget Show since 2009. He has co-hosted the live version of the show at Birmingham’s NEC during this time, and performed to 90,000 guests during the five-day event. Ortis has appeared as a guest technology reporter on BBC One’s The One Show, BBC Breakfast News, and Watchdog, plus The Alan Titchmarsh Show, and Daybreak for ITV1. Ortis’s affinity for science and technology began when he was a child who was very much into sci-fi and comic books. His comic collection is fast approaching 8,000 units! He is a bonafide geek. He has an Honours degree in pharmacy, and is also a qualified personal trainer. He supports a handful of charities, and is a patron of First Touch.

Paul is the bfa’s PR manager, a role which gives him ample opportunity to indulge in his passions for writing and business. A diverse background in SMEs led him to focus on communications roles, and has proved to be ideal experience for writing features, articles, and social media updates on the varied franchise sector. When he’s not scribbling in a notepad, he can usually be found reading, or procrastinating about finishing his first attempt at a novel.

Adam is an experienced financial journalist who spent his early career at the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) before going freelance. After cutting his teeth as a news reporter, and then subeditor, he was personal finance editor and deputy business editor at the EDP. Based in Norwich, he is currently helping to launch Talk Money - an online personal finance sister title to Talk Business - and he also writes for publications such as Moneywise. Adam is a Sussex County Cricket Club member, and loves music. A regular concert-goer, he reviews live gigs for Classic Rock magazine and its stablemates.

ORTIS REVIEWS DENON’S GOBE CRUISER HEADPHONES ON PAGE

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8 November 2015

READ PAUL’S FRANCHISE SPOTLIGHT ON PAGE

114

ADAM LOOKS AT THE DANGERS OF PERSONAL LIABLITY ON PAGE

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Living Wage could be a living nightmare for SMEs

news

Small firms expect to slow hiring and increase prices in response to National Living Wage

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ollowing the announcement of a new National Living Wage for the over 25s, a survey of employers has found significant numbers of small firms concerned about the impact the new wage rate will have on their businesses. Many are planning to slow job creation, raise prices, or postpone or cancel planned investments to compensate for the higher statutory rate. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) research found well over a third (38%) of small employers expect the new National Living Wage of £7.20 an hour to negatively impact their business when it comes into force in April 2016. When asked to consider g the projected rise in the National Living Wage to at least £9 an hour by 2020, over half (54%) said it will have a negative impact; just 6% of businesses thought the policy would have a positive impact on their business. Businesses in the wholesale and retail sector, and those working in

accommodation and food services, are most likely to say the National Living Wage will have a negative impact. In addition, businesses in Yorkshire, the West Midlands, Wales and the South West are among the most likely to cite a negative impact. John Allan, FSB national chairman, says: “With the economy recovering, it is right that employees should be rewarded with a pay rise - but we cannot allow wages to become a political football. “It’s important that the independent Low Pay Commission continues

Things looking bright for

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ew research from the Association of Accounting Technicians reveals Brighton as the best location in the UK to start a small business. The city was ranked the best for the high number of small businesses starting up there, and its high density of small- and mediumsized businesses. Brighton also ranked

well for digital connectivity, coming second only to Luton for its superfast broadband penetration rate. In second place, technology hub, Cambridge got good marks for its low number of SME closures, and the relatively large number of high-growth SMEs in the city. Other cities in the top twenty include Coventry, Bristol,

to play a central role in setting the minimum wage – and that includes deviating from the Government’s plan to raise the National Living Wage to over £9 an hour by 2020, if it becomes apparent that the economy cannot afford it.” Contact: www.fsb.org.uk

Aberdeen, and Blackburn. London made it to number nine on the list, ranking first for the number of SME start-ups. However, the capital’s high number of SME closures, middling broadband speeds, and astronomic property prices knocked it down the list. AAT chief executive, Mark Farrar said: “The success of London as a global centre for business has been one of the UK’s biggest success stories of the past 20 years. However, the tables could now be turning. The opportunities available in the UK’s provincial cities make them an extremely attractive place to invest in, and it’s encouraging to see the high number of new businesses opening and thriving across the country.” Contact: www.one4allrewards.co.uk

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news

World record attempt at UK business show The Business Show aims to wrestle back speed networking title from Belgium

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he Business Show has plans to smash the world record for speed networking, and bring the crown back to the UK. The world’s largest ever speed networking event is set to take place at The Business Show on 4 December. The record, set in Belgium last year, currently stands at 1,068, but with 25,000 business owners, plus the 350 exhibitors and 250 speakers in attendance,

organisers at The Business Show are confident they can set a world record that will stand for many years to come. The rules are simple - one hour of speed networking in a single venue, where each participant has to meet 20 different people for three minutes each, exchanging details with all of them. To add extra spice to proceedings, the attempt will also include some

of the exhibition’s top speakers, such as West Ham owner, David Gold, and Dragons’ Den star, Touker Suleyman. This means participants will get a once-in-alifetime opportunity to spend three minutes with some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs. The Business Show takes place on 3-4 December 2015. To take part in this incredible opportunity, visit www.thebusinessshow.co.uk

DATES FOR THE DIARY Business Junction Networking Events 4 Nov - Lunch in Lancaster Gate 7 Nov - Champagne breakfast in Liverpool Street 19 Nov - Lunch in Bishopsgate 26 Nov - Lunch in Baker Street www.businessjunction.co.uk

Management in Practice 10 November Olympia Conference Centre, London www.managementinpracticeevents.co.uk

Sterling Integrity

Farm Business Innovation 11-12 November NEC, Birmingham www.farmbusinessshow.co.uk

5 Nov - Cheltenham Cheltenham Racecourse 3 Dec - Midlands Cranmore Park www.sterlingintegrity.co.uk

New Start Scotland 12-13 November SECC, Glasgow www.newstartscotland.com

12 November 2015

BBC Good Food Show London 13 November - Olympia Grand, London www.bbcgoodfoodshowlondon.com The Digital Marketing Show 18-19 November - ExCel, London www.digitalmarketingshow.co.uk Lone Worker Safety Expo 2015 24 November Olympia Conference Centre www.loneworkersafetyexpo.com The Great British Business Show 3-4 December - Olympia, London www.greatbritishbusinessshow.co.uk


Funding for growth

could be closer than you think

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There is absolutely no magic spell for success. There’s no recipe, there’s nothing you can bottle

GO WITH THE FLOW

14 November 2015


Since the economic crisis of 2008, many have turned to alternative sources of finance as a method for obtaining the funds they need to grow their business. We catch up with the director of one such alternative lending company, John Davies of Just Cash Flow PLC, to discover how he sees the sector developing, and his tips on creating a successful company in a busy marketplace

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ash is king. Open any business book or listen to any business guru and this is something you will hear espoused time and time again. Without funds, businesses simply cannot grow. For most SMEs the traditional route to finance and a healthy cash flow are the high street banks. However, since the 2008 recession bit hard, getting funding from one of the traditional lenders has been like trying to pull teeth from a crocodile – nigh on impossible. The somewhat cumbersome and bureaucratic nature of the big banks has meant that they’ve been unable to respond promptly and flexibly to the demands of small businesses in need of quick access to funds.

Much like a pride of lions, when the leader seems weak, there will be a number of challengers to the throne. Younger, sleeker, and stronger, they make their move to upset the status quo and take over the pride. This is essentially what has happened across the world during the downturn – simply swap the African plains for the lending market, and you’ve almost got the full picture (the young upstarts aren’t quite on top yet, but if the old leaders don’t adapt, it may not be too long). This is no different in the UK funding sphere, and as the pride’s leaders have begun to falter, up have sprung a whole host of new competitors – affectionately dubbed ‘alternative’ lenders. From credit lenders to crowdfunding to P2P borrowers, there is a smorgasbord of new options for the cash starved SME.

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SUCCESS

One such upstart now gaining a firm hold on the growing market (an estimated £4.4 billion will be lent by alternative lenders by the end of 2015) is Just Cashflow. Dubbed ‘an alternative to a bank overdraft or business loan’ Just Cashflow offers flexible funding solutions from £10,000 to £500,000 to businesses, helping them manage their cash flow. So, given the competitive nature of the market, how has Just Cashflow managed to carve itself a niche and rise above a sea of competitors to emerge as one of the market leaders? As director, John Davies explains, having competition can actually sometimes help to push your brand forward. “Competition is always good as it raises your game,” explained John. “Firstly you have to look and see who your competition is. For us it’ll be the main banks, who have always been the authority in the market. It’s difficult for them to respond right now to the needs of SMEs who are looking for a quicker decision than they can give, especially with quick online decisions these days. This is where we come in. Two of the big reasons SMEs turn to lenders like ourselves are service and quicker decision making. One of our customers summed it up neatly, saying; ‘You’re like business banking used to be.’” The Just Loans Group, the parent group of Just Cashflow, has achieved targeted growth, and as of 2 January 2015, the Group had a market capitalisation of £10 million. To get to this point though, there were obviously many lessons and struggles along the journey, from which the company had to learn in order to prosper. It hasn’t been an easy trail either, and John believes it takes a lot more than just hard effort. Anyone looking to replicate its success – whatever their sector – will need to follow some of his wisdom in order to achieve their goals. Initially young companies between 18-24

16 November 2015

months old were targeted, that were virtually invisible to traditional finance sources. However, within two months a review was held that showed these businesses generally lacked assets and coherent business plans. A new strategy of targeting slightly older businesses looking for a finance partner was rapidly and successfully implemented. Innovation has come in the shape of becoming Europe’s first alternative lender to provide card access for business finance at the point of sale. The BusinessPlus MasterCard from Just Cashflow has just been launched and John explains: “Today, it’s not enough to simply provide SMEs with funds, they also need quick and effective access to help them manage their day-to-day transactions and cash flow.” He is also quick to point out that there is no magic spell for success: “There’s no recipe, there’s

nothing you can bottle. Everyone who has had success has had to put in the hard work,” says John, “but just working hard doesn’t necessarily guarantee you success. You have to want to learn the key fundamentals of business, such as your marketing, your selling, and particularly your numbers, as you have to understand how each part of the business actually relates to a number; what’s the number of your sales? what’s your cost? What’s the delivery cost? All of these are critical in getting the basics of your business right.” He continued: “However, that’s not to say you need to know everything. Another important thing to remember is that you simply can’t be a master of everything.

Competition is always good as it raises your game


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SUCCESS

Being in business is lonely, painful, and the chances are stacked against you, so consider exactly what you’re doing before you jump into a business You need people who can provide the appropriate help when it’s needed. For example, we have someone who is head of social engagement, which covers our Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels. I’m 55 years old; I’ve tried to learn these things, but it’s better to have someone who understands these properly to do the job.” It is common knowledge that many people don’t start a business because they don’t have access to the funding they need to succeed. However, as with many things that are ‘common knowledge’, the perception is often based on hearsay and rhetoric, and doesn’t actually reflect the truth. This is what John believes, as he explains that there is access to funding to get your business off the ground, as long as you know where to look. “That there is no access to funds is a misnomer, a myth. What we tend to find is that people don’t start a new business because they’re not confident in what they’re going to do. There’s plenty of options available to anyone looking for start-up loans and the like, such as the Government Start-Up scheme, which allows them up to £25,000 to fund their business at very attractive rates. As long as they have a viable business plan, they will get access to these funds. Where it gets more difficult is when they’ve started trading, and things haven’t gone quite to plan,” he explained. With applications in their hundreds on a daily basis, John has seen almost everything when it comes to business owners’ funding proposals. Unsurprisingly, those who don’t manage to gain approval often make the same tired mistakes over and over again. Whether it be not knowing what you really want to do with the money, or not having the numbers to hand, there are certain things that will guarantee an application gets thrown in the trash quicker than a Jedward album in the office ‘Secret

18 November 2015

Santa’. For SMEs looking to secure much needed cash, John has a wealth of top tips to make sure you avoid those same mistakes in future. “One of our concerns as a responsible lender is that when people come to us they just don’t know enough about their business. For example, we ask for a simple business plan. We’re not looking for 50 pages, just a simple onepager explaining what the business does and how it goes about doing it will suffice, but sometimes they struggle to articulate that,” smiled the director. “The amount of people who say ‘oh you’ll have to ask our accountant about that’ is incredible. You need to know these things as a business owner, especially if you’re applying for funding.” Given the experience John has had with Just Cashflow, what advice would he give to anyone reading this that is looking to start their own venture? The answer may surprise you: “Don’t. At least don’t do it immediately,” states John. “Before you decide to go ahead with anything, stand back for a second and ask why you’re doing it. Being in business is lonely, painful, and the chances are stacked against you, so consider exactly what you’re doing before you jump into a business. Then, once you think you’re ready and have a plan, go and ask someone else – preferably someone else in business or

industry, not family or friends as they tend to agree as a courtesy – and find out what they think of your idea. Get proper feedback, and tailor your idea accordingly.” As for the future of the growing market, John thinks things will continue to improve as banks and alternative lenders further define their roles and understand their customers’ needs and wants. “I think as we go five or 10 years into the future, we’ll see more of the changes we’re already seeing continue to play out. Banks will focus on big infrastructure, allowing challenger lenders like ourselves to focus on SMEs. We feel there is a gap to provide a proper business backing service to SMEs, for businesses like ours to give the customer what they want – speed, agility, and information.” Whatever the future holds for the industry as a whole, you can guarantee that John and his team will be at the forefront of the revolution, helping SMEs to start up and grow for many years to come. And that’s something you can bank on. Contact: www.just-cashflow.com


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SUCCESS

Around the world in 50 tips

Since 2011, we’ve been providing hints, tips, and advice to help you grow your business. But we couldn’t have done it without your help. So, to celebrate our 50th issue, we’ve collated your top tips from previous issues of the magazine, from various sections, to help you continue to grow your business into the future

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finance GET THE BASICS RIGHT Review the costs of your business against what is needed to deliver your plan. Identify and remove any non-value adding costs, and re-negotiate supplier costs where possible. Ishreen Bradley, MD, Bizas (Achieving profitable growth: issue 12, September 2012) 1

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS The one thing an entrepreneur can’t lose sight of is the numbers. Prepare cashflow projections for next year, next quarter and – if you’re on shaky ground – next week. An accurate cashflow projection means that you can make decisions well before trouble strikes. Michelle Wright, CEO, Cause4 (Does cashflow make or break a business?: issue 32, May 2014) 2

BE SELECTIVE ABOUT CUSTOMERS Carry out detailed analysis of the organisations that you do business with, and the markets they operate in. Create guidelines that enable you to decide between the benefits of a commercial relationship and the risks involved. Sebastien Clouet, MD, Tinubu Square (Risky business: issue 45, June 2015) 3

TAKE A DEPOSIT Why not take a deposit when starting work for a new client? There’s nothing worse than doing a lot of work for someone and them not paying you. Darren Fell, MD, Crunch (Take one company: issue 4, January 2012) 4

MONITOR THE CUSTOMER A company’s financial status can change rapidly. Monitor a customer’s credit rating on an ongoing basis, and take a proactive approach to potential problems. Don’t be afraid to change payment terms if there’s a risk they won’t pay you. Max Firth, MD, Experian Business Information Services (Dealing with late payments: issue 46: July 2015) 5

AVOID CREDIT CARD FRAUD Invest in geolocation technology. This will provide you with the user’s exact location by IP address as well as real-time e-commerce transactions, which can help to identify geographical locations where the probability of fraud is highest. Daniel Foster, director, 34SP.com (Combat credit card fraud: issue 25, October 2013) 6

INJECT SOME 7 PERSONALITY Securing bank finance is tricky. As well as a strong business plan and solid cash flow, I always encourage business owners to reveal something of themselves. A business leader who demonstrates passion and commitment to their business is far more convincing than numbers alone. Steve Pateman, executive director, Santander (To loan or not to loan?: issue 7, April 2012)

CREDIT CARDS CAN BE A USEFUL TOOL Used wisely, credit cards can save you money. Some cards give reward points or cashback – sometimes worth up to 3%. In effect this means you are getting a discount of up to 3% on all transactions. Adam Aiken, Talk Money (Give me some credit: issue 35, August 2014) 8

DON’T ASSUME THE BANK IS YOUR ONLY OPTION FOR FX SERVICES Your bank’s online platform is convenient, but it’s not transparent, and unlikely to be the cheapest option. A small investment of time in registering for a specialist global payments service will be quickly repaid through cost savings. Hamish Anderson, CEO, Money Mover (5 international payment tips: issue 48, September 2015) 9

DON’T BE AFRAID TO BOOTSTRAP YOUR BUSINESS When cash is tight, you’re forced to start small, test your assumptions carefully, and then scale up. Along the way you learn about your customers far more intimately. Bootstrapping makes you far more sensitive to what you’re spending money on. Guy Mucklow, co-founder, Postcode Anywhere (Bootstrapping success: issue 23, August 2013) 10

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marketing DON’T FORGET INTERNATIONAL MEANINGS Many words or phrases that sound pleasing to English ears could rub someone else the wrong way. Check whether the name you’ve chosen has any negative connotations in other cultures. Paul Tuvey, European sales director, Shutterstock (Naming your start-up: issue 49, October 2015) 11

IMAGE IS EVERYTHING For the journalist looking for content to fill their pages, a picture or graphic is frequently the difference between getting printed or not, so add a good, relevant graphic to your press release. Gemma Guise, founder, journolink.com (Attention seekers: issue 37, October 2014) 12

SHOUT ABOUT YOUR ACTIVITY AHEAD OF TIME Letting current and potential customers know that you’re attending a show via communications such as an e-newsletter, social media, and on your website, will ensure you have some business lined up before you even arrive. Kim Reason, sales and marketing manager, Anno Distillers (Top tips for tradeshows: issue 35, August 2014) 13

22 November 2015

TURN OFF YOUR EMAILS What’s the first thing you do each morning? Is it check your emails, messages, and Facebook? Well don’t. Spend an hour or so marketing your brand instead. Rich With, founder, Grow Co (Boost your brand for free: issue 11, August 2012) 14

DON’T TALK SMACK It’s a proven fact that when you speak badly about someone else, your audience places all of those characteristics you’re describing back on you. So those smear campaigns don’t help, they hurt. Kimberly Davis, founder, Sarsaparilla Marketing (Vote of confidence: issue 43, April 2015) 15

QUALITY NOT QUANTITY It’s not about how many followers you have (on Twitter), it’s about who’s following you, and it’s not about how much you tweet, it’s about what you tweet. Joel Windels, VP, Brandwatch (Ten steps of Twitter: issue 26, November 2013) 16

DON’T HAVE SOCIAL MEDIA JUST FOR THE SAKE OF IT The biggest mistake brands can make is to have a social media presence, yet fail to use it. If you are not going to do it properly, don’t do it at all. Louise McGrath, Big Dot Media (Best practise: social networking: issue 1, October 2011) 17

UTILISE VOUCHER CODES Voucher codes can increase loyalty and engagement, and let customers know you exist. According to a ComScore report, 35% of customers said they discovered a product by first finding a voucher code. Mark Pearson, founder, MyVoucherCodes (Don’t discount vouchers: issue 45, June 2015) 18

USE YOUR PACKAGING AS PART OF YOUR MARKETING While making your packaging eye-catching, memorable, and informative, you also want it to be identifiably yours, to reflect your other marketing streams. Dave Smith, lead blogger, Davpack (Pack to the future: issue 46, July 2015) 19

DON’T FEAR DEBATE Everybody has heard about Twitter backlashes, but these are avoidable and the benefits of open discussion usually outweigh the risks. If the criticism needs to be addressed by one of your team, take the conversation away from the eyes of the public via direct message. Javier Buron, CEO, SocialBro (Why managers should be social savvy: issue 31, April 2014) 20


SUCCESS

people

OFFER VERBAL RECOGNITION This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but one of the simplest ways to motivate employees is with verbal recognition, as most people take pride in what they do, and care about what their managers and peers think of them. Ty Kiisel, manager, AtTask (Maintaining motivation: issue 6, March 2012) 22

OPEN YOUR EARS Don’t be scared of including your staff in decision making. They’ve a right to a voice and they’ll feel valued. Just because you’re discussing things with them doesn’t mean you’re giving up control either. Lee McQueen, founder, The Raw Talent Academy (Listen and learn: issue 38, November 2014) 23

ENCOURAGE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION Employees who feel they understand where the business is going, and the part they play in its success, can make a fundamental difference to business performance, so speak with them at every opportunity. Lianne Lambert, founder, Lighter Business Solutions (Building a HR foundation: issue 13, October 2012) 26

AVOID FAVOURITISM Isolated, unfavoured employees often resent favoured employees and their manager, leading to a reduction in efforts. Avoid this by ensuring decisions affecting employees are based on merit. Also distribute new projects fairly and manage poor performance from the outset. Richard Cummings, MD, HR Insight (Teacher’s pet: issue 48, September 2015) 27

OUTSOURCING CAN BE OUTSTANDING There is a common misconception that the outsourcing of administrative tasks will result in shortcomings within the organisation. Arguably, and even counter-intuitively, it can actually increase specialist knowledge and skills within organisations. Stuart Hearn, director. plusHR (Helpful HR: issue 8, May 2012) 28

CAREER PROGRESSION NEEDN’T BREAK THE BANK Providing training for your employees doesn’t have to be time consuming and expensive. Think about what training opportunities exist internally, such as spending time with other staff to gain experience and new skills. Jonathan Richards, CEO, breatheHR (If you’re happy and you know it: issue 22, July 2013) 29

ENSURE EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS ARE SIGNED AND UP-TO-DATE Make sure all employment contracts have a disciplinary and grievance procedure in place. Without this, there’s a lack of clarity in the employment relationship and, if somebody steps out of line, it can get quite messy. Margery McBain, founder, Gravitate HR (You’re fired: issue 9, June 2012) 30

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CONSIDER YOGA In Great Britain, 22.7 million working days were lost due to ill health during 2012/13. Studies show yoga helps to moderate reactions to, and perceptions of, stress. Check out your local yoga class and see if they can accommodate a session for your staff. David Elliot, MD, The-Mad-Group (Sickness bene-fit: issue 34, July 2014) 24

DON’T SURROUND YOURSELF WITH ‘YES-MEN’ Leadership is not about being the best at everything – it’s about being the best at leading. Only the weak have to surround themselves with ‘yesmen’. It’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, employ smart, motivated people and lead them with quiet authority. Deborah Benson, development consultant, Leaders For Leadership (Smarter than the average bear: issue 41, February 2015) 25

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CONSIDER JOB ROTATION Job rotation is the principle of moving employees around a company, allowing them to gain knowledge and experience. Over time it can help develop multi-skilled employees who are highly motivated and engaged. Heather Matheson, former MD, HR Insight (Increase productivity: issue 28, January 2014) 21

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technology HAVE AN IT RECOVERY PLAN Plan for all potential emergency situations, and consider different options for backing up your data. Many choose to back up data online, as well as using back up tapes, which enables critical information to be accessed quickly from any location. Daniel Mitchell, founder, Lifeline IT (Think big: issue 10, July 2012)

THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT MOBILE Mobile compatibility is key, and website owners need to think about how they’ll serve the growing mobile segment. Mobile users are more impatient, with every one second delay in load time resulting in a 7% loss in conversion. Simon Yeoman, Fasthosts Internet (Shop ‘til they drop: issue 42, March 2015)

KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET When choosing a domain name, shorter is better, especially in a world driven by social media. Every character counts, and longer domain names will eat into character allowances. Nick Leech, digital marketing director, 123-reg.co.uk (Domains, domains everywhere: issue 40, January 2015)

BEWARE PUBLIC WI-FI Public Wi-Fi spots are some of the least secure places you can get online, mainly because you have no idea who you’re sharing the network with. Simply don’t access your vital accounts from public Wi-Fi. Emmanuel Schalit, CEO, Dashlane (Become a hackers worst nightmare: issue 14, November 2012)

CONSIDER USING OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE Unlike proprietary software, where you must pay for user licenses, OSS allows multi-user access without any cost. This allows you to upscale and downscale according to your needs. It’s also flexible, as it allows users to make changes to the code. Neil Poulton, MD, Conceptia (Money for nothing: issue 5, February 2012)

EMBRACE VIDEO You don’t have to be a YouTube wizard to use it to your advantage. Show potential customers how to use your product or service. Your own video FAQ segment, packed full of keywords, can get your products to the top of Google. Briarley Van Zyl, video production specialist, Render Positive (Lights, camera, action: issue 27, December 2013)

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DON’T FLOG A DEAD HORSE Knowing when to cut your losses in terms of projects, products, and sometimes even customers, at the correct time is key. Holding on to dead weight can lead you and your business into a downward spiral. Piers Linney, CEO, Outsourcery (There is no easy way: issue 44, May 2015) 37

DON’T IGNORE UX Getting the user experience (or ‘UX’) of a website right is crucial, and is proven to increase revenue. Think about whether users can find what they’re looking for easily, and if the site performs as it is supposed to. Rob Manning, MD, Jacob Bailey (Importance of user experience: issue 31, April 2014) 38

GET A PROPER EMAIL ADDRESS A personal email, such as webdesigngoddess1979@yahoo.co.uk isn’t likely to win you any fans or inspire confidence in your business – plus it’s more likely to end up in the spam folder. You can set up a simple and professional company email address for just a few pounds a year. Peter Boucher, director of enterprise marketing, Vodafone UK (At the sharp end: issue 1, October 2011) 39

BYOD IS HERE TO STAY The flexibility BYOD delivers by empowering staff to become more mobile is transformative in creating a more satisfied, loyal, and engaged workforce. But ensure you have a structured policy regarding compatibility and data security. Ash Patel, director of business transformation, Cobweb Solutions (Think smart to save on tech: issue 49, October 2015) 40


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franchise ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD If a franchise offering seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Franchising is about growing a sustainable business, not buying into a ‘get rich scheme’. Martyn Ward, franchise manager, Alex Clark Lettings (Wise up: issue 15, December 2012)

SWITCH IT OFF Equipment left on standby costs the average SME up to £6,000 annually. Lower this by 12% simply by ensuring that non-essential equipment is turned off at the end of the day. Stephen Beard, SME sales manager, Gazprom Energy (Freeze your spending, not your staff: issue 39, December 2015)

DON’T TRUST YOUR GUT When it comes to finding a location for a franchise, it’s surprising how many people rely on paper maps, vague statistical data, and gut feeling. There are a wide range of digital territory mapping tools available to ensure a more scientific approach. Nicky Tatley, head of content, Dynamis (Location, location, location: issue 47, September 2015)

LOOK FOR POSITIVITY The most important characteristic to look for when meeting job candidates is a genuine, positive attitude. This is something that cannot be taught, and is quite rare to find. Skills can be taught. Tony Morris, founder, Sales Doctor (The Sales Doctor: issue 29, February 2014)

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MAKE SURE FRANCHISEES ARE SINGING FROM THE SAME HYMN SHEET Clear central support structures enable franchisees to get the information they may need, questions answered, and to ask for help when they need it. Regular newsletters also provide vital updates. Brian Whitford, Bartercard (Staying in tune: issue 41, February 2015) 43

DO YOUR RESEARCH Make sure that you research the franchise that you’re buying into. Talk to other franchisees, as they were all in your position at some point. Look at the history of the business, find out where the money is being invested, and whether the returns are satisfying. Melanie Luff, online journalist, Dynamis (Look before you leap: issue 48, September 2015) 44

KNOW YOUR ROLES AND BOUNDARIES A good franchisor and franchisee won’t agree on everything – they won’t and shouldn’t – but what neither party should do is try to run the other’s business. Nigel Toplis, MD, The Bardon Group (Franchising - an ideal marriage or bitter divorce?: issue 36, September 2014) 45

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DISTINGUISH BETWEEN ‘WANT’ AND ‘NEED’ When looking for the perfect office, you need to distinguish between what you want and what you need. Remember that the most expensive space is dead space - so do you really need that big coffee table to impress clients? Chris Meredith, head of UK sales, officebroker.com (Pack your bags: issue 7, April 2012) 48

LEAD FROM THE FRONT Culture doesn’t just happen. It’s a leader’s responsibility to identify a cultural vision for the company, to live it and breathe it, and then help steer the rest of the company in the right direction. Rene Carayol, chairman, Inspired Thinking Group (It’s a culture thing: issue 16, January 2013) 49

KEEP IT SIMPLE Simple innovations can be beautifully elegant. In South Korea, S-Oil put balloons in car parking spaces so when you drive into it, the balloon disappears under it, and when you leave it rises up again, letting others know the space is free. Is this concept any less innovative because the technology is not complicated? Mat Shore, innovations consultant, Outside In (Beware the 7 deadly sins of innovation: issue 34, July 2014) 50

What’s your best piece of advice to business owners and entrepreneurs? Let us know on Twitter @Talkbusinessmagazine or on Facebook.

26 November 2015

*Please note: Job titles and companies were correct at the time of each issue’s original print date. These may have since changed.


SUCCESS

The most important thing is to trust your instinct and not sell out your personal or professional beliefs

Taking on the big boys We talk to young entrepreneur, Alex Kontos, creator of Waterfox and Storm, on how he achieved his success

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ot many corporations would go against the likes of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, but in 2011 Alex Kontos created the superfast browser, Waterfox in his bedroom. Now Alex and his business partner, Andrew Crossland have developed Storm, the ethical search engine that donates money to charity.

WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION TO GET STARTED IN BUSINESS? In early 2011, I was frustrated by the slow speed of existing web browsers. So from my bedroom, I decided to build a superfast browser, which I released as Waterfox later that year. Very quickly, Waterfox was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, so I knew I was on to something. I then met fellow entrepreneur, Andrew Crossland at ‘Pitch at the Palace’ along with Kevin Taylor, who were both working on Storm, an ethical search engine. It works in a very similar way to many wellknown search engines, but a ‘Give’ icon is displayed alongside listings for participating retailers on the search results page. When a consumer makes a purchase from one of these

retailers, Storm earns a commission, which it shares with the consumer’s chosen charity. The amount the consumer pays for goods online remains exactly the same. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM? Continuing to develop Waterfox while still at school and university was quite a challenge. It takes a great deal of time to keep updating a browser. Large technology companies have big teams, which are constantly developing their products, so it can be a challenge to keep pace on your own. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WANTING TO START HIS OR HER OWN BUSINESS? I think the most important thing is to trust your instinct and not sell out your personal or professional beliefs. Once up and running, my advice for entrepreneurs looking to expand their business and bring in investors is to take your time seeking out the right match. The right partner should also be capable of bringing a senior management team to the table that can support you.

HOW DID YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY REACT TO YOU STARTING A BUSINESS AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE? I didn’t tell anyone about Waterfox until I had 250,000 downloads. I then realised this really could be something special, so I told my parents. My dad was very proud of my achievements, as he’s a tech developer too. HOW DO YOU EXPECT YOUR BUSINESS TO DEVELOP IN THE FUTURE? We have some really big goals. We aim to have ten million regular users of Storm within two years. Up to £25 could be generated from each active user per year for charitable causes, meaning we would generate £200 million in new income for charities annually. We already have thousands of retailers on board, but our goal is tens of thousands within the first year. Our first charity partner is WellChild, the national charity for sick children. Plus a significant number of major charities and other well known organisations, including Premier League football clubs, are soon to be announced as partners. These partners will have the option to ‘white label’ a version of the Waterfox browser, featuring their own organisation’s branding, and Storm as the default search engine. Contact: www.storm.it

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 29


SUCCESS

I had to study tax law and defend the business myself, but it paid off as we were repaid all of our VAT (around £35,000), and made case history. Here are the seven lessons I’ve learned with the benefit of hindsight:

Lessons learned Mike Edwards, founder and owner of Snugglebundl Ltd. looks at the seven things he has learned since starting his business, with the benefit of hindsight

We give up to 30 units away free every month to bloggers, celebrities, and anyone else who could help spread the word

30 November 2015

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nugglebundl make a baby garment, which is similar to a hammock with handles, and is designed to help lift a baby when they are asleep and save a parent’s back. The business started back in 2011 with a new invention, which solved the age old problem of moving a sleeping baby without waking them. They entered a Barclays Business Innovation competition and won £50,000 to help fund the start up. Since starting the business it has appeared on Dragons’ Den, the Simon Mayo innovations slot, Loose Women, The One Show, and even Business Live radio. I’ve had to overcome many obstacles, but the biggest was taking the tax man to court over VAT payments, without a lawyer.

PRESENTATION AND PACKAGING CAN’T BE OVERLOOKED We couldn’t afford decent packaging at first, so went with the normal packaging used by many other baby products (e.g. a plastic wallet with card). We now realise that it may have cost us as much in sales as it saved in packaging materials and design. We’ve learned since that people will automatically look for confirmation of their first impressions. If a package is busy and cheap-looking, they’ll simply assume the product reflects this, and will look for confirmation of this belief. However, if something is presented well, they’ll most likely look for why they believe it’s so good. In short, go the extra mile to ensure presentation is best as it can be during the early stages.  DON’T ASSUME THE CUSTOMER EVER UNDERSTANDS YOUR PRODUCT LIKE YOU DO Every person has different experiences and views, and will judge your product or business accordingly. We thought we knew our product well, and presented it according to its benefits as we saw them. It turned out that how it worked in the car seat was of much more interest to our customers than we thought. You have to follow your customer perceptions. Those who give you feedback, however negative, are your best customers. With their input you can develop a better product and stronger business.


SUCCESS

Research suggests that 80% of customers prefer free postage, but in reality people are willing to pay for postage as long as it isn’t extortionate

CUSTOMERS WHO ARE ALREADY CONVINCED BY YOUR PRODUCT ARE NOT THE ONES TO AIM AT Look for the negative perceptions and attitudes towards your product or business. Your marketing has to be designed to convince those who may be harder to persuade. For us, people like Peter Jones from Dragons Den chastised, “It’s a baby in a bag.” The result was that all of our marketing was changed to remove side shots, which looked like a bag and introduce lots of happy mums and babies using the product. We now get fewer comments like this at baby shows. SURVEYS ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT Do ask customers their opinions, but you must follow your instincts and various other research also. Knowing the difference between ‘preference’ and customer realities when it comes to purchasing, is important. For example, customers will often say they’d pay very little for a product or service but, in reality, they will pay the amount they are willing to according to how much they want it. When deciding whether or not to charge postage, we looked at research suggesting that said 80% of customers prefer free postage. Don’t be scared into making rash decisions based on such information because, in actual reality, the majority of people are willing to pay for postage as long as it isn’t extortionate. It really depends on the amount of competition in your business arena. For us, being only one of a kind, we don’t need to worry about losing out on postage until we hit competition. 

IT TAKES A LOT OF EFFORT TO SEPARATE PERSONAL PREFERENCE FROM CUSTOMER PREFERENCE One of our directors really didn’t like the colour cream, so it felt uncomfortable for him to bring out a cream version of the Snugglebundl, even though it was a common colour choice for the market. Whatever ess you’re in, there may be business times when you have to let go of wn preferences and follow your own ality’ of customer trends. the ‘reality’ usiness is not about you, so The business portant to stand back and it’s important really look at what’s wanted or going on. Treat your business/ markett as a separate entity to you. If the market has generic preferences, o with it rather than hold the then go ess back because of your own business views and preferences.

FREEBIES AREN’T YOUR ENEMY One of the biggest things I’ve learned is budgeting to give stuff away for free. We give up to 30 units away free every month - to bloggers, celebrities, and anyone else who could help spread the word. Especially with a new invention, we should have started this straight away so more people got to know about us earlier. Whatever the business, I now realise that even just having a free pen when ordering is useful. People remember you if you give something away free. Contact: www.snugglebundl.co.uk

YOUR WEBSITE IS EVERYTHING We’ve changed our website three times now. My advice is for any new business to e investment in their see the te as the most website tant thing they’ll important do. It’ss your shop w, and without window, oper direction any proper ds it in search towards es, you may engines, as welll be a small w in a city window h rise blocks. of high

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SPONSORED ARTICLE

Why car leasing is the right fit for you and your business

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o matter what size your company might be, in the current business climate, some rules are just as true for the micro-startup as they are for the biggest of blue-chips. Companies everywhere are looking to maximise value, simplify administration, and improve cash flow – all without compromising agility. As it is at work, so it is at home: the economy may be recovering but many family budgets remain squeezed and yet despite this, none of us want to cut back on our standard of living if we can avoid it. What you may not know is that whether you’re a running a multinational company or a middle-income household, car leasing can enable you to get more for your money and for a whole lot less hassle. Here’s how…

IT DOESN’T GET SIMPLER THAN THIS If there’s one thing that both fleet managers and school-run mums can understand, it’s that car ownership inevitably brings with it a certain quantity of hassle and headache. Whether it’s dealing with your vehicle’s road tax or keeping tabs on when its MOT is due, running a car turns us all into the administrators of our own transport department. And all of that is before you have to go through the process of selling the thing when that time comes. Car leasing on the other hand makes most of those problems disappear. The vast majority of car leasing deals, whether personal or business, include VED (aka ‘road tax’) as part of the monthly price. Add to that the fact that most leasing deals are on brand new cars and if you’re on a contract that runs for less than three years then you can forget all about facing the dreaded MOT. You can even roll a comprehensive service agreement

into the cost allowing you to avoid any nasty surprises as the service intervals arrive. And at the end of the contract, when you’re ready for something new, simply send it back: no need to consider a disappointing part-exchange deal or a derisory offer from a car-buying service. So with everything covered in a single monthly payment, you’ll be able to spend less time worrying about whether you’re still road legal and more time enjoying that new car smell. Unless of course you relish that kind of automotive admin…?

YOU CAN HAVE ANY COLOUR AS LONG AS IT’S TURQUOISE METALLIC We all like to have choices but whether you’re spreading the payments or laying down hard cash, when you buy a car the deal always boils down to the same thing: you hand over a big lump of money and the vehicle is yours to keep. These days you can pick the colour, you can pick the wheels, you can pick the trim level but if you absolutely, positively have to own the thing then the range of options open to you hasn’t changed all that much since Mr Ford rolled the first Model T off the production line. Leasing changes all of that. All of those specification options that you’ve grown to expect are still available but the level of flexibility that you have when configuring your car doesn’t stop when you’ve decided whether you want the metallic paint or the panoramic roof: it carries right through to the payments. Want the best possible rate? Go for a 36 or 48 month agreement to bring the monthly cost down. Want the option to upgrade in a year or two? Take a shorter deal and keep your neighbours guessing about how you always seem to be driving around in a brand new car. If you know you’re mainly going to be running

to the shops then shrink your mileage allowance for big savings. If your business takes you around the country then boost your mileage allowance for peace of mind. Whatever your circumstances, there’s a leasing deal out there that’s tailor-made for your requirements and with deposits that can be significantly lower than those of other finance options you can be driving a lot more car for your money. Unless of course you’d prefer to hand over your life’s savings (or a big chunk of your company’s capital) to own a rapidly depreciating asset forever…?

THE BOTTOM LINE For businesses of all sizes, the low costs, reduced administration overheads and increased flexibility of leasing can lift the image of your company’s fleet without landing a crater in the balance sheet. What may come as a surprise to some people is that it’s not just business users that can benefit: even if you’re just in the market for a family runabout personal users can access a huge selection of deals to fit all tastes and budgets. So if you’re not already thinking about leasing your next car, you really need to ask yourself - why not? Interested? Contact www. contracthireandleasing.com


LATEST releases

SUCCESS

BOOK reviews Connect How Companies Succeed By Engaging Radically With Society

We’ve got one of each book to give away FREE. Be the first to follow and tweet us, quoting the book name @TalkBusinessMag and we’ll send you a free copy!

About the authors: John Browne was CEO of BP from 1995-2007, transforming it into one of the world’s largest companies. He was knighted in 1998, and made a life peer in 2001. He is chairman of L1 Energy, Huaweil UK, The Tate Galleries, and Donmar Warehouse. He has advised five Prime Ministers, built a reputation as a visionary leader, and authored the memoir Beyond Business.

from inside todays boardrooms with absorbing history and original research. Drawing on the experience of the author, the book articulates and explores the recurring rift between big business and society, offering a practical manifesto for reconciliation. The ability to connect with society is the new frontier of competitive advantage for those who are enlightened enough to go beyond philanthropy. Breaking the centuries-old cycle of anti-business sentiment is possible, but it requires a new way of thinking about commerce. Connect identifies four tenets of ‘connected leadership’ which shows how companies can thrive by close engagement with society, and features interviews with the likes of Tony Blair, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Tim Berners-Lee.

We say: Connect fundamentally redefines the role of business, combining captivating stories

Connect is published by WH Allen, priced at £20, and is available as a hardback.

How To Stand Out Proven Tactics For Getting Noticed

it’s about showcasing these skills so that colleagues, customers, friends, and the rest of the world can recognise what you do. Drawing on extensive research and inspiring real life examples, psychologist, and bestselling author Dr Rob Yeung guides you through proven techniques that will get you noticed for all the right reasons. How to Stand Out shows you how to utilise winning body language techniques, incorporate the words that get people nodding in agreement, supercharge your persuasive skills to sell products, pitch ideas, network, and socialise with friends, and improve your confidence to get the results you desire.

by John Browne Our verdict:

by Dr Rob Yeung Our verdict: About the author: Leading psychologist, Dr Rob Yeung runs leadership development programmes and training workshops at Talentspace, covering topics such as confidence, presentation skills, and teamwork. He is the author of more than 20 books, and speaks on topics such as psychology of leadership. We say: You probably already have the skills to be more fulfilled and successful, but sometimes

How to Stand Out is published by Portfolio Penguin, priced at £14.99, and is available as a hardback, paperback and eBook.

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FINANCE

Preparing for a rainy day Securing funding is a crucial part of starting a business, but make sure you know your liabilities, says Talk Money’s Adam Aiken

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oping for the best but making provision for the worst is always a good mantra when you start a business. Nobody sets out with failure as a target, and focusing on the potential pitfalls can seem negative, but it’s important to have a contingency plan in place in case the worst happens, and that includes making sure the financial implications of failure don’t ruin you.

If you’re not prepared to take some risk, your investors might wonder why they should risk their capital

guarantee makes you personally liable for repaying the money and, if your business fails, you’ll still be responsible for settling the loan. If you can’t meet the bank’s demands, your home and other assets will be at risk. Meanwhile, you need to think hard before taking on personal debt in order to fund your business. There’s nothing wrong, in principle, with putting your own money into your venture - indeed, if you’re not prepared to take some risk, your SOLE TRADER OR LIMITED investors and lenders might wonder COMPANY? why they should risk their capital. If you’re a sole trader, you run the risk But maxing things out – perhaps of your creditors chasing you personally by remortgaging your home – can for any business debts, should things come back to haunt you. However go awry. Although a sole-trader set-up supportive your family might be is the simplest and cheapest way to towards your business, do you get going, don’t forget the implications really want to risk having your if your venture fails - your home and home repossessed if you can’t meet other private assets might be at risk. the repayments? Instead, you could consider setting up a limited company. This PLAN AHEAD limits your liabilities if things go It’s anyone’s guess when interest rates wrong, and it gives you greater will start to rise, but one thing’s for sure financial protection. - they aren’t going to get any lower. There is a potential problem here, So, if you decide to access the though. If you’ve limited liabilities, equity in your property to help fund a lender might be less willing to your business, take into account the advance you funds in the first higher repayments that could be place. So it’s down to risk - are you around the corner. If you are going prepared to open yourself up for to take out a mortgage or a personal greater risk in return for possibly loan in order to raise funds, make sure getting greater access to the banks? you have some headroom in case of a rate rise. Even if your business is PERSONAL GUARANTEES AND on track to do well, the last thing you SELF-FINANCE want is to find your personal finances The landscape hasn’t been helped wrecked because you had borrowed by the attitude of the banks when it against your home to the hilt. comes to SME lending. As a result, personal guarantees and greater collateral are often needed in order to secure an advance. As its name suggests, a personal www.talk-money.co.uk

MONEY

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 35


FINANCE

S

tarting your own business is a big step, and one that needs big consideration - it’s not for everyone. You’ve really got to consider every single possibility and effect that starting your own business could have on your life, and the lives of those important to you. Your partner, children, and closest friends need to be aware that you will no doubt be busy a lot of the time, and your finances will certainly take a hit. Having said that, it can also be the best and most rewarding thing that you will ever do; I know I would do it over again in a heartbeat if the opportunity arises. If you do decide to take the plunge and start your own business, it’s important to have your finances in check, and to be astute when making decisions from the outset. Whether you are self-funded or trying to secure a loan to start your own business, you have to be stringent with your money. To help you, here are my top tips for budgeting when starting your own business: PLAN AHEAD When budgeting for your new business, it’s incredibly important to plan ahead, and know what you want - and need. You really do need to sit down and work out where your finances stand, what you want to achieve, and how much that will cost. Planning for any eventualities thoroughly will enable you to avoid any shock costs or unexpected circumstances, allowing you and your staff to avoid any serious problems that could prove detrimental to your business growth. MAKE DECISIONS Starting your own business means that you are the boss and therefore

36 November 2015

need to make some important and tough decisions. Some of these won’t be easy, and will certainly hurt, but need to be made. You have to make decisions on what is necessary, and what is a luxury. Do you really need some fancy lights, a mini-fridge, and an expensive coffee machine in your first office? Probably not. Stick to the basics, and make the important decisions that will protect your budget and the business. BE REALISTIC Again, you need to be realistic and look at what you really need when starting your own business. Do you

Starting a business is exciting, but you should make sure you have a firm plan in place before you start. Nick Swan, CEO of money-saving website, vouchercodespro.co.uk, shares his top tips for budgeting when starting your business need a ridiculously expensive office in the centre of town or are there less expensive spaces to rent further out of town, at a more reasonable rate? Be realistic in what you need starting off and try to keep things as simple as possible. The luxury items and offices will come later on, but initially, you need to be realistic and keep things as cost effective as possible. CALL IN THE FAVOURS You really do have to be resourceful when starting your own business, and the best way to do this is to do as much as you can by yourself.

If you can do as many jobs as possible, then this is the best way to keep costs down when budgeting. It’s also important to take a look at your friendship group, and see where their skills can come in useful for you. Don’t be afraid to call in some favours. If you’ve got a friend who runs a printers, see if they can do you some cheap (or better yet, free) business cards. The more favours you can call in, the better you’ll be able to budget. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPENDING It’s imperative to keep track of your spending at all times, to ensure that you don’t get yourself in financial trouble. Whether this is something as simple as keeping an eye on your online banking app, or something more intricate, such as a detailed spreadsheet of all incomings and outgoings, it’s important to know where your spending and finances lie. You should also be wary of the initial salary you pay yourself. Yes, it may be tempting to pay yourself more than you’ve ever had working for other people, but when it comes to starting a business, stay modest, and reap the rewards of your hard work later down the line. CUT COSTS WHERE POSSIBLE As a business owner, you have to be able to cut costs when possible. Any business owner must be able to identify when an outgoing cost is not needed, or is not cost effective. The best way to budget when starting out, is to be able to cut costs where possible, as this enables you to avoid spiralling, unnecessary costs. Contact: www.vouchercodespro.co.uk


FINANCE

Do you really need fancy lights, DPLQLIULGJHDQGDQH[SHQVLYHFRĆŤHH PDFKLQHLQ\RXUĆŹUVWRĆŽFH" Probably not

Take a look at your friendship group, and see where their skills can be useful. Don’t be afraid to call in some favours

Look before you leap talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 37


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A PLATFORM FO R FREELANCERS BUILT BY FREELANCERS

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hris Williams is the founder and Managing Director of Network Freelance, a platform for freelancers made by freelancers. Chris has a wide range of experience, from working as a Police Officer, through to working as a licensee. Throughout his early career, Chris got very involved in photography as a freelancer but found he wasn’t earning enough money. While working as a fulltime systems analyst, he came up with an idea that will transform the freelancing industry. Welcome, Network Freelance. We spoke with Chris to find out more about Network Freelance and why it’s better than any other platform. What inspired you to start the Network Freelance platform? As a freelance photographer, I looked into adding myself to a freelance platform. I went as far as creating the profile and uploading my portfolio and then I read a very well hidden ‘Terms and Conditions’ note. The note that told me I wouldn’t be able to withdraw any earnings until I had earned a specific amount. This shocked me to be quite frank. Why would this platform keep hold of my pay when they have already taken a cut from the project? That got me thinking and I started to research the services that were available for freelancers. I wanted a platform that worked for me as a freelancer. I couldn’t find one so I created one. So, how much does it cost for freelancers to be signed up with Network Freelance? You can be on here for free. This gives you the ability to apply for four projects. Once you have used all your free applications, there are membership levels that give you essentially a pay as you use option. There is a ‘Professional’ Package which for £40 allows limitless applications. Who will benefit from using the Network Freelance platform? Anyone. Everyone. Not only can you find some fantastically skilled freelancers and some great projects, but we have also teamed up with certain companies that offer solutions and benefits to freelancers. That’s our affiliate partnership scheme. These guys offer some great offers to freelancers and clients alike.

What is the main differentiation between Network Freelance and one of your major competitors? That’s easy; there are many however the biggest difference is we don’t drive down the cost of the project. Clients need to understand that if you are hiring a freelancer, you are already saving money. No PAYE, no NI. Just a set or agreed rate for the project. Other platforms actively encourage you to underbid your competition. As a freelancer, often this means you have to sell yourself short. It’s a real problem within the current global freelance market. There is an active campaign to drive the ‘bottom’ mentality surrounding these platforms. That isn’t healthy. Another fundamental difference is that we only offer an ESCROW payment as our payment solution. As we are UK based and want our ESCROW service to be the same. We also wanted that provider to be regulated and approved. To qualify for FCA regulation and approval, the ESCROW provider must not in any way be associated with the company that is providing the payments. I don’t know of any other platform that offers this security, approval and regulatory coverage. Why have you decided against the “bidding” system? Because a freelancer should be paid their worth and not feel compelled to lower their rate in order compete. Why would you encourage clients to post their project on Network Freelance, compared to other sites? Well, firstly we offer you the option to do this for free to try it. Once you have logged your first project, we then give you the option to take membership. We opted to do this rather than charge a higher percentage per project. Secondly, once you have your project logged you have the ability to communicate with freelancers before committing to accepting their proposals, get to know them a little more. How much does it cost to log projects? The first one is free. If you log four per month it costs £3.75 per project. If you log 10 a month, then it costs £2.50 per project. The more you log the cheaper the cost.

What types of freelancers are registered with Network Freelance? Currently, we have blog writers to designers, Search Engine Optimisation specialists to artists. We don’t restrict you in what your skills are, if we don’t have your skill in our Database, let us know and we will add it. Finally, where do you see the freelancer sector in 5 years time? Certainly the trend in the last 13 years has seen a steady increase in workers deciding to go self-employed. I don’t see this trend changing. There are many studies and reports detailing that by 2020, 1 in every 2 workers in the UK will work in a self-employed way to some degree. These are phonominal numbers and I’m not 100% sure it will be as drastic as that given the fact there are less then 5 years till 2020. However I do believe that the reasons for people to choose a freelance lifestyle will be different. Historically freelancers became freelance due to necessity. Recessions, lack of full time jobs to name a couple. Nowadays people choose freelance because they want that lifestyle. They want flexibility. They want to choose their working hours and ultimately they want to control their own future. One thing I do predict is that we will see more and more highly professional personnel such as Doctors, Professors, Specialist Engineers etc choosing to go freelance. The way we work is changing and for the better in my eyes. Job Board Network Freelance is currently working on creating a Job Board for contracts. This will be launched before Christmas and be a key part in creating the community feel to the platform. A one stop shop for all your freelance and contracting needs.

www.network-freelance.co.uk support@network-freelance.co.uk Call: 020 3829 6851


FINANCE

More than a token gesture Marc Pettican, managing director of The Logic Group, examines how tokenisation can be the key to unlocking the customer journey

T

he traditional merchant and customer relationship has undergone a considerable shift over time. Shopping used to be done in store according to the hours that businesses happened to keep; shopping was very much done in the retailer’s domain. Developments in technology and customer attitudes – as well as competition from players big and small – has led to a change in that dynamic. Customers can shop anywhere they like, whenever they like. Online shopping, mobile apps, and services like clickand-collect have created a more customer-centric environment, and now businesses need to present customers with genuine choices or risk being left behind. This has culminated in the omnichannel approach, where brands and businesses need to be able to support any channel that suits their customers’ needs – whether that’s online, via a mobile device, or instore – in a joined up and consistent way.

Unfortunately, some retailers are struggling with the challenges of an omni-channel world This means consistency in marketing, payment, and overall experience. Doing this is the key to delivering a true omni-channel seamless experience. As we move ever closer to Christmas, it’s the businesses that are able to do this that will see real success in the most important sales period of the year. WHAT IS OMNI-CHANNEL? The concept of omni-channel shopping has been gaining traction in the industry for some time because retailers are more than ever having to react to the evolving shopping habits of the modern customer. Customers today not only have the high street to shop; far from it. They can hit the phone, go online, or shop on mobile. This kind of shopper is looking for the next best bargain, the lowest cost, and the best service,

and is testing a retailers’ adaptability. According to recent research, a large proportion of customers used multiple channels, for example, to buy their Christmas gifts in 2014. In fact, it was estimated that as many as 43 million Britons were using a combination of instore, online, and click-and-collect to purchase products. That figure is only going to climb this year, as retailers strive to create the best possible customer experience that meets customers’ demands for quick, simple, and convenient fulfilment of their shopping desires. Unfortunately, some retailers are struggling with

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 39


FINANCE

As the concept of omni-channel becomes a norm, WKHQH[WGLƫHUHQWLDWRUIRU retailers may be the insight gained from their customer payment experience the challenges of an omni-channel world, especially when it comes to creating a consistent and seamless customer payment experience across offline and online channels, in a secure and compliant way. SECURITY IS A TOP PRIORITY Every retailer must keep their data and payments infrastructure secure. By complying with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) rules around customer payment data, they are showing their intent to keep customer data safe. Yet even those with the best intentions can be victims of security breaches, which can incur regulatory fines – but even worse dent customer confidence. According to research from Censuswide focusing on retailers in 2015, almost 70% of UK retailers have lost important data, with 22% having been hacked – a worrying statistic when personal and payment data is often the end goal of a cyber attack. TOKENISATION HOLDS THE KEY Fortunately, there is a technology out there to help retailers, big and small, meet the challenges of an omnichannel environment. Tokenisation is a payment security technology that helps to secure customer data. Not only does it encrypt customer data at the point of sale, it also offers the potential for merchants 40 November 2015

to understand payment patterns without requiring any personal data. It does so by assigning an alphanumeric code, or ‘token’, to the payment data when a transaction is being processed. Therefore, information about a customer’s card and personal details are reduced to a string of numbers and letters, indecipherable to any fraudsters who could have gained the data via a data breach. As the token is associated to the customer’s payment card, tokenisation enables merchants to gain insight into customer behaviour and spending patterns, and how individual customers are using different channels for shopping – all the while keeping transaction data safe. Once in place, the benefits of such a solution will be felt by retailers as well as customers. For example, when a customer makes their first purchases instore, their details are kept securely while a token is attributed to the payment card. As the customer continues to shop, online or offline, merchants can build a better profile of the customer purchasing patterns.

As the concept of omnichannel prospers and becomes a norm, the next differentiator for retailers may prove to be the insight they can gain from their customer payment experience. As expectations grow on the customer’s side for speedier deliveries, smarter location-based offers, and even anticipation of desires, retailers need to find ways of tracking these new omnichannel customer journeys, which will help them to understand their customers better and be among the seasonal winners. Technologies such as tokenisation offer a unique opportunity to both safeguard customer data while providing a snapshot of behaviour, so providing the insight necessary to enable brands to engage proactively and efficiently with their customers – this Christmas, and beyond. Contact: www.the-logic-group.com


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FINANCE

Money matters

Finding the initial funds to get your business off the ground can be a confusing mineďŹ eld of differing options. So Keith Morgan, CEO of British Business Bank, explores some of the ďŹ nancial help available to SMEs

42 November 2015


FINANCE

People who want to be their own boss FDQERUURZXSWRe

S

maller businesses are critical to the UK economy but for many years they have had to rely on often inefficient finance markets. That is the reason why the UK Government asked us to set up the British Business Bank - to make finance markets work better for smaller businesses so they can prosper, grow and help build the UK economy. British Business Bank programmes now support around £2.4 billion of finance to 40,000 of the UK’s smaller businesses, and we participate in supporting a further £3.2 billion to small, mid-cap businesses. While we do work with the big four banks, which still account for 80% of all SME lending, more than 70% of our finance and investment support is delivered through smaller or alternative finance providers. For smaller businesses, access to the right type of finance at the right time is crucial, whatever stage their business is at. FINANCE TO START UP For a business starting up, the most important thing is capital. Through the Start Up Loans programme, funded by the British Business Bank, people who want to be their own boss can borrow up to £25,000 on a fixed interest rate on a one-to-five year loan term. It also comes with the added benefit of the offer of a business mentor, who is on hand to provide guidance and support to help the business prosper. To date, Start Up Loans have benefited more than 30,000 businesses across the UK.

FINANCE TO SCALE UP Once a business is up and running, it may then look to significantly scale up operations for growth. The British Business Bank works with the Angel Co-Fund to match equity investment in small businesses from business angels. Food firm Gousto received a combined £500,000 from the Angel Co-Fund and an angel syndicate, enabling it to secure a further £1 million in institutional funding. Gousto is now one of the UK’s fastest growing businesses, delivering 10,000 meals a month.

For businesses to realise their potential, they need to understand WKHĆŹQDQFHDYDLODEOH to them at their SDUWLFXODUVWDJHRI GHYHORSPHQW Through our Enterprise Capital Fund and VC Catalyst Fund programmes, a fast-growth business may turn to one of our venture capital fund partners to secure an equity investment. Venture capital is an important source of early stage finance for high growth potential companies, and the British Business Bank now enables around ÂŁ500 million of funding through its partners. FINANCE TO STAY AHEAD For established businesses, access to finance can mean the difference

between staying ahead – either through expansion or getting day -to-day working capital – and falling behind. The British Business Bank is increasing choice of both product and provider for smaller businesses through investing alongside or providing guarantees to our finance partners. These include asset finance providers, debt funds, peer-to-peer lenders, invoice finance providers, banks, and other platforms. Men’s grooming products manufacturer, Scaramouche & Fandango had significant growth ambitions but was finding cash flow a big challenge, due to supplying many large outlets that operated on 60 to 90-day payment terms. An invoice finance facility from British Business Bank partner, MarketInvoice, has enabled them to liquidate cash from longer-term payers and re-invest the capital to help grow their business. These examples are just a small snapshot of finance options available to smaller businesses. The British Business Bank jointly launched the Business Finance Guide with the ICAEW last year, to provide an overview of the different types of finance available to businesses whether they are looking to start up, scale up, or stay ahead. For businesses to realise their potential, they need to understand the finance available to them at their particular stage of development. My advice to them: investigate the options thoroughly. Contact: www.british-business-bank.co.uk

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 43


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STRATEGY

We’re going through a purple patch of brands changing the world, but is everything rosy, asks Rich With?

Who doesn’t want to pay a few grand if it means you’ll never have to pay the leccy bill again?

I

n a recent episode of South Park, a group of taxi drivers are sitting around bemoaning the destruction of their business at the hand of a thinly veiled reference to Uber. In amongst all their disgruntled shouting, a voice says, “Why don’t you guys just make your cars cleaner and nicer, and try to be better with your customers so you can compete with their popularity in the marketplace?” There’s a long pause, then the guy sitting next to him pipes up with “Just ignore my friend”, and they go back to moaning. It’s clear that Uber has fundamentally disrupted the market. It has done something cool with a great brand identity, a flawless app that’s easy to use, and a decent service. At the opposite end of the scale, Mattel has just released a new ad for its Barbie doll. Vets, sports coaches, and science lecturers are replaced by sixyear-old girls who proceed to lecture, examine pets, and run

Tesla, taxis, and Barbie a training session to a bemused audience. It’s cute, funny, and has a great message that resonates with today’s concerns that we pigeonhole, or even sexualise, children from a young age. Tesla has recently previewed its ‘Power Pack’ - large batteries that will solar power your home. It’s cleaner energy that will lead to cleaner air - an invention that could make a difference to billions of people. All of these brands are making changes that are long overdue and, on the face of it, they are all doing something very cool. Who doesn’t want to pay a few grand if it means you’ll never have to pay the leccy bill again? However, these companies aren’t without critics. Uber has seen numerous allegations of drivers being employed with serious criminal records, and just because Mattel makes one cute advert, it doesn’t undo all the body-shaming imagery they’ve been accused of over the years. The issue is that these brands

have a huge opportunity to not only revolutionise an entire industry, but to fundamentally change the way we treat the environment, treat women, and even each other. Tesla could genuinely change the world, but ethically do they have the responsibility to ensure everyone from all economic brackets can get the benefit of its products? Doesn’t Uber have a duty to protect its clients from potential violence when they are making 20% from every taxi ride? We as consumers have a responsibility to keep them on their toes. We need to ensure they do what they should, to make sure they look after their staff and customers. We also have to accept there will be changes that may be difficult at first, but be willing to adapt and change. So yes, if you’re moaning at paying 5p for a bag, I’m looking at you! Contact: www.justgrow.co

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STRATEGY

’Tis the season to be selling Alastair Petrie, general manager at BMc Azurri, explains how you can maximise retail sales during the Christmas period

C

hristmas sales are crucial to any retailer, increasingly so with the advent of new end-of-year sales paradigms, such as Black Friday, the most excitingly disruptive social import in some time. Opportunity is necessarily accompanied by certain risk; the greater the opportunity, the greater the risk. This is the case no matter how cautious and conservative one’s business model; every day retailers run the risk of all of the POS in one of their stores becoming inoperable for a short period of time, for example. The immediate financial losses are likely to be highly manageable in terms of the retailer’s annual profits, but what if the same problem occurs in a retailer’s flagship (or only) store? Or what if it happens on Black Friday? The main problem with the new shape of end-of-year sales for many retailers is simply the difference between levels of consumer demand during the discount sales period, and levels of demand throughout the rest of the year. Seen from a purely internal perspective, it would appear that small- and medium-

46 November 2015

sized businesses simply cannot meet the demands of the new Christmas sales period without substantial, and often inefficient, investment in hardware, software, and the training of maintenance staff to face the short-term challenges presented. In a world of hardware, software, and maintenance as a service however, retailers can respond to the fulfilment challenge represented by the Black Friday period in a way that coheres with the scale of their business. Expert service providers can assess store locations, recommending fixes and upgrades based on their extensive experience with hundreds of devices, and their application utility in a variety of contexts. Given the higher stakes of the end-of-year retail period, it is vital that retailers are fully prepared. Keeping the POS fully operational and running smoothly in all locations will be critical, as even very short periods of down time can result in substantial immediate losses, and often a long-term loss of custom as disgruntled customers subsequently resolve to steer clear of a store they perceive

as problematic. Having an IT supplier, which functions not as a B2B vendor but as a service provider, capable of maintaining and repairing hardware across all store locations, enables a business to rely on the hardware, which is so indispensable for their success, especially during this period of greatly elevated demands, which is now definitive of retail sales in the approach to the New Year. Retailers are advised to assess their hardware provisions (or, ideally, have their provisions assessed) well in advance of the Christmas period, not just to ensure full functionality, but as part of an evaluation of their overall hardware capabilities, with a view to upgrading wherever potential benefit is identified. When supplied as a service, the management of EPOS devices and other software is removed from the responsibilities of the retailer, allowing them to fully focus on sales during this period. Service providers have access to comprehensive logistics networks, expert engineers, and all of the build and storage space necessary for rolling out upgrades and refits of any scale. Human error being one of the main causes of hardware problems in almost all contexts, ensuring that staff are fully familiarised with all aspects of the POS technology used should be a priority for any retailer; enhanced training courses in specific aspects of EPOS


STRATEGY

No matter what steps retailers choose to take in preparation for the Christmas period, all would be well advised to ask questions of their providers usage can ensure that all staff are confident and competent throughout the period. Often, seeking third-party advice can be a strong move for a retailer, even if they don’t feel uncertain as to the details of their planned preparation for Christmas selling. A fresh voice can make all the difference to a hardware set up, partly because different engineers and technicians typically have different interests within their field, and can often suggest devices, and even platforms, of which existing IT staffs

were unaware due to their own specialisations. No matter what steps retailers choose to take in preparation for the Christmas retail period, all would be well advised to ask questions of their providers. Make sure that your suppliers are, at the very least, as prepared as you are for the demands of the Christmas period; check that they have spares in stock, that they can reach your locations when necessary, and that they are fully equipped to deal with the elevated levels of demand on their own business during this period. Working with

a support network capable of delivering comprehensive support, from break-fix maintenance through to new store openings and nation-wide hardware rollout programmes, can guarantee that upgrades go smoothly, and insure against any breakdowns. To quote an ancient piece of wisdom - the best way to maximise sales over the Christmas period is to always be prepared. Contact: www.bmcazurri.com

Given the higher stakes of the end-of-year retail period, it is vital that retailers are fully prepared

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 47


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STRATEGY

Sometimes the best advice comes from word of mouth

Train to gain

W

ith thousands of training courses available both online and in person, making the right choice can often feel like a gamble. Expectations don’t always meet the reality, and many leave you feeling like it wasn’t worth the investment. This is not to say that all training courses are grim. A couple of tips can help you find the perfect training course to meet your exact needs: DO YOUR RESEARCH You shouldn’t ever pick the first option that comes up on Google. Finding the right training course requires research. It is well worth seeing what options are available and comparing costs, because the likelihood is that there’s the same, or similar, training course available with an offer on another website. Competition for training courses is strong, so there are often promotions and deals that can save you money and get you the results you want.

Improving the skills of your workforce – or even your own – is vital to the growth of any business. But with so many courses available, how do you know which to choose? Powwownow’s Jacqui Keep unravels the mystery

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR Before you start, it’s beneficial to have a list of what you want to achieve, or get out of a training course. That way, when you do your research and see the options available, you can determine whether a course suits your needs. It’s great to find a course that sounds like you will benefit your personal growth, but if it doesn’t tick any of the boxes that you would think will benefit your skill set for your job, maybe you need to keep looking at what else is out there.

CHECK FOR CREDIBILITY Training courses often include information about the people who are running them, ratings, and reviews - this is not to be overlooked. If a person is affluent in writing, they can convince most people into just about anything, but if they don’t have the credentials or credibility to support it, your money will probably be best spent elsewhere.

word of mouth. A suggestion might come up for one you didn’t find or hear about - until you asked people from your professional network. Agencies and colleagues can often recommend the best training courses because they’ve probably already taken a training course related to what you’re looking for, and can tell you what is worth the investment, and what isn’t. So before you get convinced into signing up for any training course (or the first one that comes up on your Google search), it’s best to take the appropriate steps to ensure that you don’t end up with the short end of the stick, with no additional skills gained at the end of your course. Finding the right training course takes time, patience, and research to find the perfect course to meet your needs.

ASK AROUND Sometimes the best advice comes from

Contact: www.powwownow.co.uk

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 49


STRATEGY

5

reasons why you should be engaging with your local university Alison Smith, head of executive education and corporate relations at Nottingham Business School, explains why every SME should pick up the phone to their local university

W

hen you’re focusing on the important day-to-day job of keeping a business running, it can be hard to find the time and money to concentrate on growth, or to solve the nagging issues, which are holding you back. But you needn’t do it alone. Across the UK there are vast resources full of expertise waiting to help you, and often they’re on your doorstep. A recent push in national policy, which encourages closer relationships between business and education, means that universities and business schools are increasingly opening their doors to businesses, making it easier to access a whole range of funding schemes, and projects to support growth.

University support doesn’t begin and end with attending courses, workshops, and conferences; there are a number of ways you and your business can benefit. 1 EXPERTISE Although they can seem like daunting institutions to navigate, universities and business schools contain a wealth of expertise, and most will have a dedicated team to help you access this. Many academics have industry experience, and collaborating with them on practical, real-world research can be mutually beneficial; professional researchers can help to influence the direction of your company, develop new or existing products, target potential clients, and shape policies. 2 FUNDING Working with a university does not necessarily mean cost. Funding schemes – both from the UK Government and from

50 November 2015

the EU – aimed specifically at SME growth mean that support is often heavily subsidised, or even free. If funding isn’t available directly from the university, specialist teams can provide expert advice and support to help link your ideas to a funding opportunity, assist with proposals, and overcome the red tape when applying to various bodies. 3 NEW TALENT Universities are a huge source of new talent, in the shape of students and recent graduates. Hosting a student placement allows companies to grow a pool of talent, while developing an individual’s skills and accessing their skills at an earlier stage than usual.


STRATEGY

Some universities will also help you to recruit high calibre graduates that fit with your company needs. 4 RESOURCES Universities don’t just offer intellectual resource, they have specialist technical facilities, which can help to put your business ahead of the game. From labs to workshops, specialist centres used by research groups and for teaching often come with industry-standard equipment, which you can access without high cost. 5 NETWORKING There are lots of opportunities to get involved with the life of the university. The majority of courses at universities have links to professional practice,

and academic staff are often interested in inviting business people on to course advisory teams, giving guest lectures and setting interesting projects. Similarly, through university web pages and e-zines, you should be able to find regular events, lectures, and workshops that are open to people from outside the university, which provide other excellent opportunities to be involved, network with other businesses, learn from leading-edge thinking and get to know people within your local university.

Nottingham Business School is inviting SMEs to submit their business challenges to its Thinkubator Challenge 2015 – where they will be solved by business and management researchers, postgraduates, and ďŹ nal year students. For further information visit www.thinkubatorchallenge.com, email: ThinkNBS@ntu.ac.uk or call +44 (0)115 848 8139

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 51


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STRATEGY

People who care about the environment want to VHHWKDWUHƭHFWHGLQWKH behaviour of the business they work for

Finding a place to grow

T

he quality of workplaces now plays a pivotal role for businesses in attracting and retaining the best personnel. It’s no surprise – good workplaces attract good people. When National Grid transformed its headquarters in Warwick with a more ‘worker-friendly’ environment, it reported an 8% improvement in staff performance which equated to an estimated £20million of increased productivity per year. Technology means we can now carry the workplace with us wherever we go. As a consequence, our homes are now often an extension of the

Andrew Bull, European director of LaSalle Investment Management, looks at why you should find a location and a landlord that will nurture your business workplace. The quid pro quo of this is that when we are actually ‘at work’ it has to be as positive and accommodating environment. This presents quite a challenge for businesses: how to reconcile the need for cost control with providing their workers with the best and most conducive environment to work in. The bottom line is that all businesses – and especially start-ups

which are looking to attract staff – need to find locations which are the most nurturing to their enterprise. They need to look for the new breed of landlords who offer environments that support businesses by providing more than just four walls and a roof. This isn’t altruism; it’s good business sense. As a landlord, we know that if we help our occupiers grow and are a positive influence on their business then they are more likely to take more space from us and stay in our buildings longer. That equates to a bigger turnover for the occupier and more rental income for us. The recession may have compelled many landlords to be more engaged but the more enlightened have always seen how the relationship with tenants can best work. If you’re a start-up business you should look for a landlord who has a long-term view and a location which may offer more than just bricks and mortar. You should be looking at what the landlord will provide over and above the competition.

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STRATEGY

As a property provider we’ve had to respond to this new workplace landscape. A good example of that response is BEST Network, our portfolio of six science parks which provide first-class space but also aim to foster excellence in biomedical, pharmaceutical, science, technology and agriculture related sectors by providing infrastructure and the exchange of knowledge and expertise. The network spans the length of the UK and contains both geographical and network-wide clusters in some of the UK’s highest-growth sectors. It includes both well-established science and technology parks and those undergoing investment to attract hightechnology activities. It’s the largest privately-owned portfolio of science and technology parks in the UK, and has provided us with a huge amount of insight as to how businesses best flourish. A large part of that is understanding the ‘worker experience’ and what that equates to in terms of the workplace. Businesses need property providers who reflect their own values and standards. This relationship, by extension, is influenced by a business’s personnel. For example, sustainability is a shared concern for both businesses and individuals. People who care about the environment want to see that reflected in the behaviour of the business that they work for. That has major implications for the configuration and management

54 November 2015

When National Grid transformed its headquarters in Warwick with a more ‘worker-friendly’ environment, it reported an LPSURYHPHQWLQVWDĆŤ performance of a workplace. It has to be more than lip service and a recycling bin. Our science parks are certified to Environmental Management certification ISO 14001:2004 while green travel plans provide employees with a multitude of responsible ways to get to work, be it extending public transport routes or providing cycle sheds and shower facilities. So when you look for a new workplace make sure you focus on the whole package and what the ‘worker experience’ will be. A few years ago, I had responsibility for finding us new offices. It was absolutely fascinating for the first time to be a tenant looking for space. I was amazed at how few providers actually asked me what I wanted other than how many square feet of space. It was a learning experience for me and I think the message for all businesses – whether they be

established or start-ups – is that when they’re searching for somewhere to locate they should look beyond what the rent is and question what else they’ll be getting that makes the workplace a more attractive environment for staff. Contact: www.lasalle.com


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STRATEGY

Shai Patel, Business Doctor for Sutton Coldfield, answers some of your business questions from the frontline

The Doctor will see you now

Our business has been doing well for some time but suffered some knock-backs lately. We have survived, but now our once vibrant team seems a bit lacklustre. Do you have any ideas how we might brighten the work mood?

Y

ou say your team ‘seems’ lacklustre. When did you last actually talk to them about the way they feel the business is going or their role in the business? When many businesses start out, the relationship between the business owners and their team is much closer. People who have just been appointed have a clear and fresh view of their role in the business. Each team member understands their role and feels somewhat involved in the business as a whole. That makes them happy and productive. But, as time moves on, the business environment changes and businesses change shape. Suddenly there is less clarity. As roles and responsibilities become blurred, team members start to lose clear understanding, not only about their own roles, but also the roles of those around them. And when times get tough, fear can set in. Whispers and conspiracies start and factions can emerge in even the smallest workforces. The team spirit is lost and productivity suffers, which ends up having a cyclical effect. So, how do you stop the rot? In a word - engagement. Learning to re-engage with staff can highlight where problems lie and also show up solutions to the same problems that can actually be incredibly simple. If your business has suffered some knocks, you need to take a fresh approach. Perhaps re-think your strategy, but most importantly you need to re-engage with your staff. Get them involved in and on board with the new strategy. That way, not only will the overall mood improve, you’ll also see significant business benefits too.

Contact: www.businessdoctors.co.uk

People are always telling me that I should grow my business. But how can I grow my business when I already have so much to do?

I

t’s a common problem, highlighted by a number of the businesses we talk to and work with. People get so bogged down with the everyday running of a business that they feel like there is no time left in the day. It can us circle and one that you need to get out of. be a vicious y, there is a solution. The key for all business Thankfully, owners is to take a step back and ask the question - am n’ my business or ‘for’ my business? If the I working ‘on’ e latter, it’s time to take stock of your role in answer is the the business.. Remove yourself from the day-to-day tasks our business and take a look at the big picture. of running your any methods for doing this that are tried There are many and tested. A classic is delegation. Some business m convinced that the only person owners seem oing a job properly is themselves. capable of doing They either try to do everything themselves nage every detail. Neither is or micro-manage an effective use of your time as a business arn to let go. Learn to trust owner, so learn er your staff and suppliers to and empower y do best and you will be do what they paid back in spades with the oncentrate freedom to concentrate on what you need te on. to concentrate Learning to let go sessed is a skill possessed by all great rs. entrepreneurs.

If you’ve got a question you think the Business Doctors could help with, email askthebusinessdoctors@businessdoctors.co.uk

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MARKETING

What really bugs me

T

he Black Friday bug has bitten Britain hard. On 27 November, businesses will offer rock bottom prices for a day, and consumers will literally go mad fighting and clawing over one another to get a good deal. But how did Black Friday start, and is it really sustainable? I don’t think it is. Black Friday originated in America, and has made its way to Britain recently thanks to clever marketing and ad men. However, in the States, there is a logical reason for its existence. You see, vacation days are rare in America. They don’t have bank holidays, and therefore rarely get a long weekend off. The only time of year where this is guaranteed to happen is Thanksgiving, which takes place on the third Thursday of November. Almost everyone is given this Thursday and the Friday off, and it’s considered the official launch of the Christmas season. So, for many, this will be the only weekend they have free for Christmas shopping. Therefore, everyone is out shopping regardless of sales. The people actually came first, and the sales came second. These circumstances do not exist in the UK. It’s completely fabricated, and actually takes place on a day where most people are working. Therefore, the existence of such an event doesn’t make sense. So, if you’re a small business owner thinking of jumping on the bandwagon, here are my top three reasons why you should ignore this silly trend:

1

IT CHEAPENS YOU Discounting your products only sends one message to your audience - it’s not worth what we said it’s worth. Once you discount, you will struggle to ever get anyone to pay full price again. By all means, create special offers, but there is no need to slash your prices so low that you’re just giving it away.

Kimberly Davis, founder of Sarsaparilla Marketing, provides a cure for the ‘Black Friday’ bug

2

YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT Loss leaders - the tactic of giving something away at a loss in order to draw people into the store with the hope that they will buy other products - is a game for Fortune 500 companies with money to burn, not small businesses which rely on every penny. This method is a gamble, and SMEs can’t afford to give away their profits on a risky bet that is unlikely to pay off.

3

IT’S BAD BUSINESS I was recently watching an episode of Mad Men, where the agency hires two actresses to fight over a ham in a store to get PR coverage. The stunt works, but the two women hurt one another and end up suing each other. The big boss and client is furious, and the plan causes nothing but problems. There is a difference between increasing demand, and cheap guerilla marketing tactics that can backfire easily. It’s important you understand the difference. Respect yourself, your business, and your clients, and stay away from the allure of Black Friday.

Download your free marketing eBook “7 Deadly Marketing Mistakes Destroying Your Business Right Now (and you don’t even know it)” at www.sarsaparillamarketing.com

Once you discount, you will struggle to ever get anyone to pay full price again

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MARKETING

It’s alive! Sammy Blindell, brand psychologist and co-founder of ‘How to Build a Brand’, provides three top tips for reviving a stale brand

Branding isn’t just for big companies with large marketing budgets, it’s for every business that wants to stand out

W

oolworths, Blockbuster Video, HMV; all highly respected UK brands that failed because they didn’t evolve their businesses to give their customers what they wanted and needed, in the way they wanted and needed it. They let their brands go stale, didn’t listen to their customers, failed to keep up with competitors who had already moved on, and even when advised to evolve, they didn’t listen. The price of ignoring great advice cost them, and others, dearly. During the years that my business partner, Miles Fryer, and I have been creating and building brands for businesses of all shapes and sizes around the world, we’ve seen and heard it all. We’ve been told the brand colour must be red, because it’s the colour of their

favourite football club, we’ve seen business owners hold on to their existing logo for dear life, because they themselves love it – “who cares what the customer thinks anyway?” You get the picture. If your brand looks cheap or inconsistent, people will believe that what you deliver is cheap or inconsistent. Whatever it costs for you to create a solid brand strategy for growth, and continually build and evolve your brand, make it your mission to find the investment to do it. It’s costing you a lot more in lost earnings, and it’s costing you ideal customers for every day that you aren’t helping them, because they don’t know you, like you, or trust you yet. Branding isn’t just for big companies with large marketing budgets, it’s for every business that wants to stand out as unique, memorable, valuable,

and professional. It’s for every business owner who wants to increase their prices and be highly valued for being the best in their industry. You need to create and build your brand to attract your ideal customers, at the right time, in the right way, with the right messages, in all the right places. If you aren’t quite hitting the mark yet, and you’re unsure where to start, here are three critical things you can do to get started on the right track:

1

STEP INTO THE FUTURE Step five years into the future and envisage what your business looks like, sounds like, and feels like. This is one of the activities we do in full with our customers on the B.R.A.N.D. Building Bootcamp. What kind of customers will you be working with then? What kind of lifestyle do you want to be

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MARKETING

living? How much money do you want to be taking home every month? Be realistic about whether your current brand can represent a business like that, or does it need to change? There’s no point wasting energy in pushing an outdated brand uphill, waiting for business to come your way. By branding it correctly now, you could receive an avalanche of business far sooner.

2

CREATE YOUR ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE WITHOUT YOU IN IT Even if there is only you, this is a critical activity if you want to build a business and brand that could, one day, operate successfully without you. There’s a limit to how much time you have every day, which means there’s a limit on your earnings if you continue to do everything yourself. Simply get an A4 sheet of paper and write your name in the top left corner. Then put little boxes

on the page with each job role written in the different boxes that will be needed as you grow, to make your company run smoothly and efficiently. This will help you to start putting a branding brief together that clearly articulates what kind of brand your business will need to build, in order to move you from where you are now to where you want to be. By the way, at this stage you still aren’t ready to talk to a brand designer yet.

3

ASK YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANT This activity is simple because people love to give advice. They feel honoured when you tell them how much you respect and value their opinion. So go ahead and make a list of your top ten customers (or people you already know who could be your ideal customers) and invite them for coffee. If you’re talking to an existing customer, ask them what they loved

most about your product or service, and find out what else you could help them with that they, or you, might not have thought of yet. If you’re talking to people you haven’t worked with before, tell them what you do (or plan to do), and then ask them who they think your biggest competitors are for that? Also ask them what those competitors are doing to capture their attention, and find out what you could improve on to make it a no-brainer to work with you. You can then sell the final solution (that you’ve come up with together) back to them, and/or ask them to tell other people about it. There’s no doubt that doing these three simple things will help you to start reviving and building a potentially tired brand. In fact, doing them (especially step three) will help you to raise your income, so you can invest in your next stage of growth. Contact: www.howtobuildabrand.org

To further your business model, transform your income, and build your brand, claim your free brand audit now by emailing ‘free brand audit’ to sammy@howtobuildabrand.org

62 November 2015

There’s a limit to how much time you have every day, meaning there’s a limit on your earnings if you continue to do everything yourself


MARKETING

Marketing expert, Richard Chapman, founder of Richard Chapman Studio, looks at various tips and tricks to ensure your client base keeps you on speed-dial

C

ountless studies, old and new, prove a simple point most small business owners know to be true – retaining an existing client is a great deal easier than competing for a new one. It may not have the thrill of winning a competitive pitch, but the old ‘bread and butter’ of a regular drip feed of work or orders keeps most companies ticking over. The trouble is, bread and butter is easy to take for granted, and this is where it’s possible to run into problems, because no client enjoys that, especially your customers, who feel they should be cherished, not treated like a doormat in the race for bigger profits. There are many guides around offering advice on how to keep your client base happy, but few that explain how to nurture a relationship, and even add value. Doing research for this article, I came across a story about Rackspace, the managed hosting and cloud computing company. During a lengthy technical help session, the tech staff overheard someone in the background say they were hungry, so they put them on hold and ordered a pizza delivery to the client’s office. Needless to say this went down pretty well. While I’ve never actually ordered a client an unsolicited pizza (though I’ve found buying dinner always goes down well!), on the occasions that it’s been possible to do something extraordinary – not merely something free, but to go the extra mile – I’ve been rewarded tenfold. So, with that in mind, here are some tips to keep your clients coming back for more: BEND WITH THE WIND You have billing structures, costs, and budgets – and so do your clients. Ensuring you always invoice what you set out in the first place is fair game for both sides. However, if time overruns and eats into your profit margin, I always think it’s reasonable to at least raise this, as chances are your client already knows.

64 November 2015

Still, from case to case this can, for whatever reason, be problematic client-side. I’ve known times when a generous client can’t, on that occasion, accommodate extra budget. So we do them a favour, figuring the pendulum will swing back next time. The client doesn’t exactly owe you money, but a favour is in the bag – and that could be a great new project.

OUT OF THE BLUE This is more of a hunch than a proposal you can hang your hat on, but it can be worth actually completing (or at least starting) a project a client has yet to commit to. Or one that you think they need, but just haven’t asked for yet. This follows what I call ‘supermarket shopping logic’ – it takes the risk out of

SHOW YOU’RE INNOVATING There can be rather a lengthy gap between a regular client ordering one piece of work and the next, in which time you could easily have taken on a talented new team member, purchased a snazzy new piece of equipment, or sent staff on a productive training course. New strings to your bow need shouting from the rafters, and hugely add value to your offering. The challenge is how to communicate it – ideally with a face-to-face demo. TALK ABOUT MONEY You talk about money, your customer talks about money, but the topic between client and supplier is so often, exhaustingly, a pas-dedeux, where it’s assumed someone is going to get cheated. My approach is to politely ask if a client has a budget, while I provide a standard list of services. For a long-standing client this will be a relief, as they can then cut their cloth to their requirements, while it means you get properly paid. It also saves you losing on a competitive pitch the one time you added extra margin.

New strings to your bow need shouting from the rafters, and hugely add YDOXHWR\RXURƫHULQJ


MARKETING

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u o y t ’ n o t e D rg fo t me u o ab a piece of work, and means the client can say ‘yes, I want that’ when they see it. Inherent in this approach is an element of risk, but this is low if you rein in your exposure in terms of time and materials. Even if things don’t work out, the client knows you care, and registers that you consider yourself their partner. To date, this sort of approach hasn’t failed me, but it often plays out in ways I never expected – usually by us being commissioned to work on a related project even if our ‘genius punt’ doesn’t hit the bullseye.

when inconvenience has been caused. My experience is that this can save the job and the relationship. COMMUNICATION AND RESPONSIBILITY GO HAND IN HAND One of the most exciting professional experiences I have is when I see a new staff member really blossom. Usually that’s because they’ve explored some new talent and found it rewarding, or grown into a new level of responsibility. What has this got to do with customer retention? Well, it’s usually a given that regular customers like working with the same people when they come back time and again. Chances are, if you’re running a business, that can’t always be you. So assigning a junior staff member with shared client communications, builds the relationship wider and means your client has one more reason to stick around. Plus, you can’t know everything – honing the talents of personnel means you have a specialist that you and your client can call upon.

IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, SHOW UP We all know the scenario: work has been done and, for whatever reason, a mistake has happened. You can play the blame game internally if that proves necessary, but usually your client doesn’t really care how things came to go wrong, they’re only bothered that you’re going to fix it. Along with the fix, I tend to find that showing up at their office (ideally with an appointment made in advance) is a smart move. It demonstrates honesty, Contact: and a willingness to put yourself out www.richardpchapman.com

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MARKETING

Where the sun doesn’t shine

T

he difference between a public relations disaster that destroys a business, and a survivable crisis comes down to one thing – planning. Entrepreneurs who wing it, turn bad moments into career-enders. SME leaders who proactively plan for ugly moments, dramatically reduce their chances of ending up as a Sun newspaper headline. Your crisis management plan should codify exactly how your team should respond when reporters email, or a hail of nasty Facebook posts strike. Make it one page, based on these five keys: AUDIENCE AND MESSAGING ADVANCE There’s a reason why political campaigns have advance staff – to make sure everything is in order before the big show. A PR crisis is the big show for businesses, and mapping out all of your audiences in advance allows you to quickly run through a checklist of everyone who needs to be communicated with, as well as the best channels and key audience differences to incorporate into your message. You should be able to brainstorm a pretty comprehensive list of things that could go wrong, and create plans for those specific instances. What will actually spark the crisis will likely not be perfectly represented in the list, but you will

They say any publicity is good publicity, but sometimes you can’t avoid the worst of the media spotlight. So Gerd Mittmann, vice-president, international at Shutterstock, explains how to handle PR disasters

SME leaders who proactively plan for ugly moments dramatically reduce their chances of ending up as a The Sun newspaper headline be able to take from the advance work to craft a stronger response. DON’T ACT UNTIL YOU HAVE ALL THE FACTS Create a clear reporting structure, with you as the hub. Managers and employees must know who to contact in an emergency, and who speaks for the business publicly. If a reporter calls, don’t say “No comment”, simply ask what they want. Then calmly explain that you want to give them accurate answers, so you’ll gather the facts and call them back. YOU SCREWED UP? TAKE RESPONSIBILITY If your company has made a grievous error, the best PR strategy mirrors what you’d teach a six-year-old – own it. Everyone makes mistakes, but few of us accept responsibility for our errors. The cover up, as the cliché goes, is always worse than the crime.

APOLOGISE - AND MEAN IT Reporters and social media catcallers shouldn’t be avoided. Write out your apology without a hint of corporate speak. Then say, ‘We’re sorry’ to the aggrieved party, the media, and your digital connections, as you would to a loved one – sincerely and from the heart. DON’T DO IT AGAIN PR crises don’t end when the media leaves. Ensuring your business survives means making the necessary logistics changes to avoid being the toast of Fleet Street yet again. Once you become an interesting story, reporters will be keen to follow any leads to find the next story because, if you thought the first PR crisis was a disaster, well, wait until you make the same mistake twice. Contact: www.shutterstock.com

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MARKETING

Easy as A, B, E Hannah Stringer, head of marketing at Moneypenny, shares her top tips on how to create a winning e-campaign

I

was recently sent an email by a well-known whole foods company. I’m not really into health foods, but their email was so compelling, I read it from start to finish. It was bright and engaging, and taught me a thing or two about what I probably should be eating – guilt-free I might add – so much so that I looked out for their products in the shops. Probably about one in every 50 marketing emails I get will motivate me to open and read them. It should really be a lot higher, given the volume of companies executing email campaigns. An e-campaign is only as successful as the planning and thought behind it. Businesses might think they’re putting a lot of effort into their email campaigns, but are they getting the returns they hope for? It’s not an exact science, but getting the formula right can make for an e-breakthrough. Here are my four steps for going from spam to success: 1 GOOD DATA Boring, but it all starts here. In reality, an e-campaign is only as good as the data you use. You could be producing entertaining and insightful content, only to have it fall on deaf ears with your dud data. Whether red hot, lukewarm, or stone cold, the

68 November 2015

principles are the same: make sure it’s accurate, targeted, and up-to-date. The misspelt, uninterested, and deceased won’t care for your campaign, so remove any dud contacts from your list as soon as you’re aware of them. 2 CONTENT Put effort into your subject line, as it’s the first thing people see. Size matters; too long, too short, and the length of words used – the success all hinges on the subject title. Does it arouse curiosity? Make sure the topics are of interest to your target readers and not over-long. People have become saturated with marketing emails, so being human and injecting personality into your content pays off. At Moneypenny, we have played around with the number of articles we include over the years – we’ve gone from nine to five, and now to three. It’s cliché, but the trick really is quality over quantity. If you find yourself putting filler content in to plug the gaps – stop. Just say less. 3 FREQUENCY How much is too much? Only you and your metrics know the answer to that, so lean on them. Some brands get away with multiple sends a week, others become a nuisance. You’ll receive marketing emails too, so ask yourself which you’re bothered by and which you aren’t. If you’re sending more frequently than once a month, make sure you have plenty of interesting things to say. It’s not easy putting together interesting content – those magic fairies get tired – so if you’re struggling, think about working to a monthly or bi-monthly rota. We often re-send any emails to contacts showing as unopened, but

we always take care not to barrage people with emails. 4 TESTING Keep an eye on areas for constant improvement, because they are always there. E-campaign success comes from reviewing and adapting throughout its lifetime. Bouncebacks, open rates, and click-throughs should be monitored frequently. If something isn’t working as well as previous months, it won’t take too much hard thought to understand what the cause is. A/B testing is an effective way of trialling a subject line. Also – and it’s a simple one – making sure the email loads correctly on all possible platforms will increase click-through rates dramatically.

You’ll receive marketing emails too, so ask yourself which you’re bothered by and which you aren’t Many platforms allow you to preview the design as it is built, but always test in browsers, or use a preview service such as Litmus to make sure your design isn’t compromised. Contact: www.moneypenny.com/uk


MARKETING

About one in 50 marketing emails will motivate me to open and read them. It should really be a lot higher

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PEOPLE

L

eadership is a tough job. We face daily challenges; new technologies threaten our products, suppliers are late with deliveries, customers go under, our bank manager doesn’t love us enough – and that is all just on Monday. However, a leader need not bear all this alone, in sad, stressful isolation. Yes, the buck stops at the top, but you don’t have to be alone, and you don’t have to be the only source of ideas. It does not have to be lonely at the top. Employees gift us huge trust – their very livelihoods depend on our leadership success – so the wise leader recognises that trust should be a two-way street, and stops hiding in that big office. It’s never easy to admit that you’re not invincible, but strangely, far from making you feel weaker as a leader, soliciting the contributions of suitably qualified staff can be empowering for everyone concerned. Consulting staff helps them to grow in ability and confidence. Think of it as part of your staff’s on-going development programme. Furthermore, it’s actually mathematically proven that many heads are always better than one, so the outputs are bound to be more robust than your own, isolated thoughts.

The important thing is to develop a culture where people feel safe to make suggestions, and it is essential to welcome contributions and never ‘shoot the messenger’ who brings bad news, nor be patronising or dismissive if you don’t agree. Consultation, and sharing ideas should be a critical part of the daily business process, not the last resort in a crisis. Gradually, you’ll begin to learn who has good judgement, and who to trust as an ally in tougher times. Also remember, good ideas can come from people at any level of the business, especially those in customer-facing roles. And if you run an SME that is more ‘S’ than ‘M’, it doesn’t hurt to develop a small group of respected and trusted external peers – people who have complementary but different skills to yourself, who will enjoy the occasional interchange of ideas, and be there to help when needed, as you can do for them and their business when the time comes. Yes, you have to respect company confidentiality and be suitably discrete, but as trust grows, external peers can be a huge source of support.

I have heard it said that leadership must be lonely because, as an old Chinese proverb says, ‘there can only be one tiger on the mountain’, but as I always point out, that tiger can’t be a leader, specifically because he is alone; no followers means no leader. So, don’t be a lonely leader. Some judicial consultation can reap huge rewards and break down feelings of leader isolation. Business is about relationships, so don’t forget to build good, trusting, consultative relationships with your own team and get them fighting by your side, supporting you as you support them. Contact: www.leadersforleadership.co.uk

Alone at the top Don’t be alone - consult, and share the load, says leadership development trainer and founder of Leaders for Leadership, Deborah Benson

Develop a culture where people feel safe to make suggestions, and don’t be patronising or dismissive if you don’t agree talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 71


PEOPLE

Secret diary of an entrepreneur

F

rom flooring it on the track to, well, flooring everything everywhere else, Chris has overcome many challenges in his life to emerge as managing director of a successful £15 million company. Chris, who is dyslexic, left secondary school with no qualifications and an ambition to become a F1 racing driver. Although he successfully competed in F Vauxhall and F Renault competitions, including racing for the Martin Donnelly race team, he took the difficult decision to walk away from the profession after deciding that he couldn’t make a career out of the sport. Instead, aged just 23, he turned his attention to enterprise, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who ran their own flooring business, to set up V4 Woodflooring, with his older brother, Nathan Vincent, 13 years ago. Here he shares a week in his life with Talk Business: DAY ONE PUMP IT UP Virtually every day starts with an hour in the gym. As an incredibly busy person, I find that I feel much better mentally, sharper, and far less stressed,

Former racing driver turned entrepreneur, Chris Vincent, provides an insight into what a typical week looks like commanding a flooring empire

The new wooden wall panels we exhibited were made from recycled wine barrels, and you can actually smell the wine in the wood if I exercise first thing. Then it’s a drive to the office in Woking, where I meet up with the team and we go through sales figures and stock levels, and discuss any issues that might arise through the week. The new Woods’ Good bespoke range of cleaning products is attracting a lot of interest, and it’s important that, as our range of products grows, we keep a tight rein on our admin. My next meeting is with the company handling traffic reports for a planning application for a currently top secret, very exciting new project V4 has in the pipeline. It’s all looking very positive and will really take the business to the next level, so fingers crossed all goes smoothly. Finally, I check in with our

other office in Sunningdale before heading home. My wife sometimes says I’m more married to the company than her, so I make the most of family time when I can. DAY TWO LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS After a training session, I head over to Sunningdale to catch up with the team there, and take the opportunity to reply to the many emails in my inbox. I’m always looking for an opportunity to get involved with a different type of business and, in January, along with a business partner, I will be launching a completely different enterprise. Today I meet up with the shopfitters who

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 73


PEOPLE

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will be starting work very shortly on a new premises, which is in Camberley. They’ve got some great ideas and we talk through the requirements. DAY THREE A WINE-ING FORMULA After an early (7am) gym session, I drive up to Birmingham to the NEC, where we are exhibiting both our wood flooring and Concreate at the Surface Design Show. Our sales team are all there, and I take the opportunity to check out the competition, get a feel for the market and how other companies are faring and, most importantly, meet existing and prospective customers. We are regulars at the various shows, and they are really full on, but very useful for making contacts and showcasing our products. Thanks goodness for mobile phones so I can keep up to date with calls and emails while I’m away from the office. It’s a night in an hotel, so in the evening I go out for dinner with the sales team, and we discuss the new ranges planned for next year and how we are going to present them to our customers. They feed back to me that the new wooden wall panels have been really well received. The ones we exhibited were made from recycled wine barrels, and you can actually smell the wine in the wood. DAY FOUR 15 MILLION REASONS TO BE HAPPY I leave the hotel early and am in the gym by 9am. I need the session today because the next few hours are spent with the accountants. It’s nearing the

74 November 2015

end of our financial year, so there’s a lot to go through, including all the new projects being planned. I am delighted with the progress of V4, turnover is increasing year-on-year, and we’re beating all of our targets - turnover is set to hit more than £15 million this year, which is brilliant. It’s a very satisfying meeting. Then I meet with my partner for the new January venture, and we complete some legal paperwork. As an entrepreneur, I think the skills I have learned at V4 are eminently transferrable to different sectors and business models, and I’m always on the lookout for the next opportunity. For once, it’s an earlier finish as I’m on Dad duty and have to pick up the kids from school. DAY FIVE FAMILY MATTERS Unsurprisingly, yes, it’s training first. Then I’m off to Woking, via

Sunningdale, for an end-of-week debrief with everyone. Having a good team working for you is vitally important, and I’m lucky to have good people working for me. The final meeting of the week relates to the (top secret) project in Woking. I meet our local ward councillor to brief him on the plans, and he’s really onside about the opportunities it will create. The meeting at the beginning of the week regarding the possible impact on traffic has paid dividends, and it’s looking very positive. It’s been a full-on week, but the selfemployed don’t have set hours and I often work late. Sometimes though, or perhaps occasionally my wife would argue, I’m free to do the school run, so that’s where I head, before a much deserved family weekend. Contact: www.v4woodooring.co.uk


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PEOPLE

Why your networking isn’t working Charlie Lawson, PremierLine, looks at the ďŹ ve most common networking mistakes that business people make

76 November 2015


PEOPLE

N

etworking is, and always has been, vital for creating new leads, forging relationships, and helping to grow your business. So, given its importance, it may seem surprising that so many people still fail to get the basics right. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are the top reasons people get it wrong, and how to avoid them:

error. Always bring along a pen (this is to make notes about people you meet or follow up actions). It is also definitely worth asking for a delegate list before the event, because this means you can prepare in advance who you’d like to meet – either a specific person, or a profession. Worst case scenario, ask for the person’s email address and send them an email there and then from your phone.

1

3

GETTING CARRIED AWAY TALKING TO JUST ONE PERSON AND FORGETTING TO WORK THE ROOM Try to remember to network and ‘work the room’. If you realise you have spent too much time with one person, try to end the conversation and shake their hand. Don’t fear having to break off a conversation with someone – this is perfectly polite. The fact is we’re all at an event like this to meet new people, so if you have to break away from someone, just be up front, and go for it.

2

FORGETTING TO BRING YOUR BUSINESS CARDS You should always prepare beforehand and bring business cards with you, but if you do forget, there are other factors to networking to redeem your

ATTENDING IN THE WRONG DRESS CODE, SUCH AS A SUIT WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS IN JEANS The correct attire differs for every business, but you should attend wearing what is appropriate for your profession. If you work in an office environment, then a suit would be appropriate, but on the other hand, if a painter and decorator turned up wearing a suit, that probably wouldn’t be appropriate either. It is much better to wear a smart, companybranded polo shirt and jeans, because that’s what reflects their company best. It is also worth noting that tradespeople should definitely avoid wearing their paint splatted overalls and site boots, as this doesn’t project a professional image, and suggests they’re untidy and unclean – not

a good impression to make when trying to attract new business.

4

GETTING NOTICEABLY DRUNK AT A NETWORKING EVENT I would always stick with the mantra that a networking event is for business, and mostly this should mean that alcohol is taken strictly in moderation. If you meet people when you’re noticeably the worse for wear, that’s what they’re going to remember of you – hardly the best way to build relationships to develop business.

5

FORGETTING SOMEONE’S NAME The easiest and best tip on remembering names is to wear a name badge – most networking events will provide them, and you can easily take your own. It then becomes much easier to deliver a confident ‘Hello Amanda, I’m Charlie’, knowing that you’re getting their name right. Another good tip is to use someone’s name regularly in a conversation. Keep these tips in mind at your next event, and you’ll find networking success (and hopefully some promising new business) coming your way in no time. Contact: www.premierline.co.uk

Don’t fear having to break RƫDFRQYHUVDWLRQZLWKVRPHRQH WKLVLVSHUIHFWO\SROLWH talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 77


BUSINESS JUNCTION, LONDON’S PREMIER BUSINESS NETWORK, INVITES YOU TO A FREE NETWORKING EVENT Business Junction is offering all Talk Business readers a complimentary invitation to one of our November networking events in London which are all listed below (and on our website). 4th Nov 2015 12.30-2.30pm

Networking lunch in Lancaster Gate London Elizabeth Hotel, Lancaster Terrace, London, W2 3PF Nearest tube: Lancaster Gate More information and booking: http://www.businessjunction.co.uk/events/networking-lunch-in-lancaster-gate-1

11th Nov 2015 8.00-10.00am

Champagne networking breakfast in Liverpool Street Furniture Makers’ Hall, 12 Austin Friars, London, EC2N 2HE Nearest tube: Liverpool Street More information and booking: http://www.businessjunction.co.uk/events/networking-breakfast-in-liverpool-street

19th Nov 2015 12.30-2.30pm

Networking lunch in Bishopsgate Dirty Dicks, 202 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4NR Nearest tube: Liverpool Street More information and booking: http://www.businessjunction.co.uk/events/networking-lunch-in-bishopsgate-1

26th Nov 2016 12.30-2.30pm

Networking lunch in Baker Street Grosvenor Casino, Barracuda, 1 Baker Street, London, W1U 8ED Nearest tube: Marble Arch More information and booking: http://www.businessjunction.co.uk/events/networking-lunch-in-baker-street-1

Please email Fiona@businessjunction.co.uk with the event you would like to attend and quoting the reference: Talkbusiness11/15 Now in its 15th year and with over 550 member companies, Business Junction is London’s leading independent business network. We run 80+ pan-London networking events each year including a weekly lunch, a monthly Philippe Brugnon Champagne breakfast and 6 evening events, all at different high quality central London venues.

www.businessjunction.co.uk

NEXT SHOW:

5

020 3667 6776

LOCATIONS OF UPCOMING SHOWS 2015/16 Cheltenham Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham GL50 4SH Midlands Cranmore Park, Solihull B90 4LF Taunton Somerset County Cricket Club, Taunton TA1 1JT

NOV. 2015 CHELTENHAM

At Sterling Business Shows we love helping businesses grow and this is what you tell us...

NEXT SHOW:

“Exhibiting at any Sterling Business Shows event is not only a pleasure, but gives a great ROI. Sterling have the knack of attracting the right attendees in the right numbers at the right time and we will continue to exploit these opportunities.” Duncan Laker. Welcome Telecom.

3 DEC. 2015 MIDLANDS

NEXT SHOW:

17 MAR. 2016 TAUNTON

“Worcester was my 5th show with Sterling Business Shows, and as always I had a brilliant day. I came away from the show with 4 genuine leads and countless interesting conversations and new business connections. I decided to exhibit with Sterling in order to expand my business into new areas. I have found the shows to be a great return on investment, which is why after the initial 3 show bookings I continue to exhibit with Sterling Business Shows.” Graham Abbey. Factotum Ltd – Exhibitor, Coventry, Birmingham, Solihull, Oxford & Worcester.

Please contact Neil on 01452 222676 or go to www.sterlingintegrity.co.uk


PEOPLE

On a different level HR Insight’s Rich Cummings explains why a no can be just as good as a yes

Just because your employees are doing some reining in doesn’t make them bad employees

H

aving a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean that your idea is any good. But as business leaders, we have to come up with at least one every now and then or we never really move the business forward. However, there comes a point when employees may begin to doubt you, and voice their concerns.

witnessed a number of MD’s who should have probably admitted defeat, and quit a long time before they did. It wasn’t that they came up with terrible ideas; it was that those around them didn’t buy into them. And worse, some employees sat back waiting for this newest idea to fail. What no one realised is, those employees probably contributed to the failure.

THE ‘YES’ MAN I’ve known a fair number of MD’s who only really want to be surrounded by those who agree with everything they say, and if you’re the best, then this will probably suit you. The majority of us however, do need to be challenged and, if you’re like me, pulled back a few steps to think about the detail. Just because your employees are doing some reining in doesn’t make them bad employees.

USE YOUR TEAM A new team is never going to be able to assess the success of your idea until it has been tested. Therefore, sell the vision with confidence and passion. This passion should motivate the staff, and this goes some way to ensuring a certain amount of success. Your team can help measure this success, and continual measurement demonstrates accomplishments.

TOWING THE LINE I’ve always floated ideas with my most trusted members of the team. I trust them because they’re honest and will challenge me within that environment, but support me publicly, even when they have some doubts. Have I ever made an error? Of course I have, but sometimes, you have to try these things and, if they fail, at least you know it didn’t work. When something hasn’t worked, the first place I go is back to my trusted team, not for an “I told you so”, but to float the next idea. GETTING THEM ON BOARD Fortunately, I’ve had more successes than failures, so the trust in my ability to innovate hasn’t been brought into question too much. I have however,

U-TURN OR TWEAKING There is little point in putting your efforts into something that is clearly failing. Depending on the issue, a full U-turn could be best. However, often the idea is plausible, just the application needs to be addressed, so tweak some elements of your idea. LOSE THE NEGATIVITY Sometimes an achievement will never occur until there has been a failure. No matter how passionate you are, how much success you have, some employees will never advocate any new ideas or buy into a vision - these employees should probably work elsewhere. Contact: www.hrinsight.co.uk

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 79


Stampof Authority For nine years, the Online Retail Awards have consistently honoured retailers (and their agencies and e-commerce providers) who have exceeded customer expectations and provided great web and mobile sites. Winning an Online Retail Award adds a stamp of authority to >˜œ˜ˆ˜iÀiÌ>ˆiÀ½Ãˆ`i˜ÌˆÌÞ° ˆ˜iÞi>ÀÃœv…ˆÃ̜ÀÞ}ˆÛi̅i",ƂÃ>՘ˆµÕi perspective on online retailing and the changes that have come about.

The Call for Entries opens on January 1 and closes on March 31. Judging takes place during April and May, with the list of Finalists published in early June. A celebration of the ORA Winners takes place in London in mid September, each year. Visit the website onlineretailawards.com œÀëiVˆwVµÕiÃ̈œ˜Ã>LœÕÌi˜ÌiÀˆ˜}]œÀ>LœÕÌ̅i event, please contact helen.burgin@orevents.com /œw˜`œÕÌ>LœÕÌ뜘ÜÀň«œ««œÀÌ՘ˆÌˆiψ˜Ži` to the ORAs, contact andy.rogers@orevents.com Media Associate


PEOPLE

Don’t be a zero Michael Sissons, employment consultant at Cubism Law, examines what you need to know about zero-hours contracts to avoid falling foul of the law

T

he Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported a sharp increase in the number of people on zero-hours contracts. In the period April to June 2015, there were 744,000 people, whose main job was zero-hour, which is 2.4% of all people in employment. This is up from 624,000 in the same period last year, representing an increase of nearly 20%. While some have seized on the figures as evidence of increasing job insecurity, this analysis may need to be viewed with a degree of caution. Zero-hours contracts proved a hot topic in the run up to the General Election, and the ONS acknowledges that the increase may simply be explained by greater public awareness. There is now a statutory definition of a zero-hours contract, a crucial element of which is that there must be no certainty of work. Despite this uncertainty, workers on zero-hours contracts have the same employment rights as regular workers. They are protected by antidiscrimination laws, entitled to paid annual leave, and must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for the work they do. In particular, they enjoy the protection of the ‘Part Time Workers Regulations’, meaning that, unless there is a good reason, they cannot be treated

less favourably than a full-time colleague doing similar work. The flexibility of a zero-hours contract suits many, but the concept is open to abuse. Some employers may not guarantee people work, at the same time insisting they cannot work for anyone else. Recognising this as a problem, the coalition Government legislated to ban exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts.

7KHĆ­H[LELOLW\ of a zero-hours FRQWUDFWVXLWVPDQ\ EXWWKHFRQFHSWLV RSHQWRDEXVH Unfortunately, the ban is, as it stands, somewhat toothless. If an employer guarantees even one hour of work a week, there is ‘certainty of work’, and the ban can be sidestepped. Furthermore, the law only prevents employers from enforcing exclusivity clauses. This means that if a person works for another business, there’s

nothing to stop his original employer from reducing his hours, or even giving him no work at all. In response to these concerns, the Government issued draft antiavoidance regulations, which would: • Widen the ban to cover all low paid workers, not just those who work under a zero-hours contract. • Allow workers to sue their employer if they suffer a ‘detriment’ as a result of working for someone else; for example where a worker is given less work because they have worked for another business. The anti-avoidance regulations were not passed before the dissolution of Parliament, and there is currently no date set for their implementation. Nevertheless, it seems only a matter of time until they come into force, so employers will be well advised to keep records of the work that they offer to zero-hours workers, together with reasons why the amount of work offered may have fluctuated. If a worker claims they have been given less work because they worked for another business, those records may prove vital in defending a ‘detriment’ claim at an employment tribunal. Contact: www.cubismlaw.com

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 81


CONFIDENCE COMES FROM WITHIN. THE ALL-NEW volvo XC90. Leading a business takes confidence. And that, in turn, requires a little room to reflect. That’s why the all-new Volvo XC90 is designed to provide the perfect environment for contemplation. Its intuitive communications technology keeps you connected to your professional world, while its effortless drive connects you to the road ahead; an intelligent blend of human and machine combines to deliver you to your destination assured, composed and inspired. SE ARCH ALL-NEW XC90 OR CALL THE VOLVO CAR BUSINESS CENTRE ON 0345 600 4027

Official fuel consumption for the all-new Volvo XC90 in MPG (l/100km) ranges from: Urban 28.8 (9.8) – 45.6 (6.2), Extra Urban 40.4 (7.9) – 52.3 (5.4), Combined 35.3 (8.0) – 134.5 (2.1). CO2 emissions 186 – 49g/km. MPG figures are obtained from laboratory testing intended for comparisons between vehicles and may not reflect real driving results.


PEOPLE

Alternate reality Lee McQueen, founder of the Raw Talent Academy, and season-four winner of BBC’s The Apprentice, looks back at his time on the show

T

he Apprentice is back on our screens again, with the successful reality show drawing in millions of viewers, as usual. As someone who has benefited from winning the show, it won’t surprise you to know I’m a great fan of what it stands for, and the impact it has made on our popular culture. Those people lucky enough to be on the programme are given a vehicle to help their dreams become a reality, but it’s not the case that getting on to the programme is all that’s required for success in business. Once you’re on the show, it’s about hard work. If you don’t put a shift in, you’re not going to win. Some contestants have gone on The Apprentice for the wrong reasons – simply to get on television and become famous. That’s always going to happen to some extent – after all, it’s from the same stable as other reality shows, such as The X-Factor. But in each series, there’s a crop of people who genuinely want to learn new business skills, and I think the new format helps. To do well now, your idea becomes more important. If you’re not

focused on your plan, there’s much less chance it will be selected to receive investment. I’ve been asked if The Apprentice runs the risk of making some viewers think that being successful in business is simply about becoming famous. I don’t think there’s any danger of that because it’s pretty clear that what you’re watching isn’t real-life business. It’s there for entertainment, and I don’t think people will confuse that side of things with real life. After all, there are plenty of household names who’ve got to the top without the help of being on TV. I learned many fantastic skills, and I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have an advantage from being a contestant, but it wasn’t a case of being spoon-fed, and I was taking a risk by going on The Apprentice. I quit a very well-paid job to go on the show because I wanted to challenge myself, and learn from one of the best in the country. If I’d failed, I would have lost a lot. I came out of it with the confidence and the skills to set up my own business, which I didn’t have before. I also learned about acquisitions

I quit a very wellpaid job to go on the show because I wanted to challenge myself. If I’d failed, I’d have lost a lot

and carrying out due-diligence, how to go about approaching third parties, and how to pitch my business to others and price it. Although only a few people benefit from the show directly, it’s great that a programme that’s all about business maintains such high ratings, because it means a wide audience is exposed to many of the fundamentals behind success – relationship building, being good with people, the importance of a good sales ethos and, of course, being prepared to take a risk. Contact: www.rawtalentacademy.com

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 83


25 YEARS

Recognising, celebrating and motivating people in business for 25 years

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LIFESTYLE

MANDO FOOTLOOSE IM The Mando Footloose IM is a new and exciting form of urban transport for commuters who are fed up travelling to work like squashed sardines, and for those who really can’t be doing the whole sweaty cycling thing (and really, who can blame them?). The Mando Footloose IM would be an ideal gift to help your loved one change the way they get around the city. The new Mando Footloose IM has been designed by Britain’s renowned designer, Mark Sanders, who has elegantly combined form and function. It offers a removable battery for easy charging, a streamlined design to provide a sleeker look, and a durable plasticcovered aluminium frame that, for the first time, comes in a wide choice of colours, including red, white, yellow/ green, dark blue, and dark grey. PRICE: £1,999 AVAILABLE FROM: www.mandofootloose.com/en

Each month we bring you a selection of gadgets, gizmos, and gifts that we’re going crazy about

WIN

Want to WIN a Sennheiser PRESENCE UC ML worth £90? Visit the ‘competitions’ section of our website to find out how.

WIN SENNHEISER PRESENCE UC ML The PRESENCE™ Mobile Series Bluetooth headset is the perfect solution for on-the-go business professionals, combining outstanding quality and performance with a sleek, slimline design. Equipped with Sennheiser HD voice clarity, and optimised for Unified Communications, PRESENCE™ is perfect for mobile workers, featuring an advanced microphone array to filter out background noise in any environment and optimise clarity for the listener. A 10-hour talk time, fast charge, and an increased range of up to 25 metres ensures flexible, long-lasting operation, and patented ActiveGard hearing protection safeguards users against acoustic shock. Weighing in at just 13g, the headset is ideal for business travellers and those who commute to various locations on a daily basis. PRICE: £94.79 AVAILABLE FROM: www.uk.insight.com

NOKIA TREASURE TAG MINI Stop losing your keys or leaving your wallet behind with the Nokia WS-10 Treasure Tag Mini Proximity Sensor with Bluetooth 4.0. This sensor is the perfect way to keep those important items close. Simply attach the sensor to your belongings, and you’ll be able to quickly see where your items are using the app. Plus, if you walk out of reach of the sensor, you’ll instantly get a notification on your phone letting you know you’ve left your belongings behind. The tag works with iOS, Android, and Nokia Lumia devices, and is simple and easy to attach. Now you’ll never leave important items behind again. PRICE: £13.99 AVAILABLE FROM: www.amazon.co.uk

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 85


LIFESTYLE

Hotspots This month we’re heading north of the border to discover some of the best places to eat, greet and lay your head while on business in Aberdeen AWAY ON BUSINESS MERCURE ABERDEEN ARDOE HOUSE HOTEL & SPA WHERE? Blairs, Aberdeen WHY? This delightful 19th Century mansion is perfect for a luxury getaway any time of year, but it’s imposing Victorian features are particularly striking during the winter months. The four-star Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel & Spa was built in the 1800s and features original staircases, fireplaces, and wooden panelling. Nestled away in 30 acres of beautiful Scottish countryside, the hotel is just five miles from Aberdeen, should you wish to conduct business in the city. Alternatively, you can make use of its fantastic conferencing centre, which can accommodate anywhere between 12 and 600 delegates, depending on the type of event required. If your goal is to unwind, there is a tennis court, beauty salon, and treatment rooms, along with a pool where you will find a hot tub, sauna, and steam room to soothe and calm your entire body. Alternatively, those looking to work up a sweat can make use of the excellent gym facilities (and then perhaps unwind in the spa). Rooms start from just £79 per night and, if you’re looking for a nibble or two during your stay, there are a whole host of options, including the superb Blair’s restaurant, in which to dine. Blair’s serves fine cuisine made with fresh, local produce. Food and drink is also available in the bars, and the cosy drawing room, with its grand fireplace. CONTACT: www.mercure.com/gb

86 November 2015


LIFESTYLE

MEET AND EAT BIGOS WHERE? Union Terrace, Aberdeen WHY? It might seem strange to travel all the way to Scotland for non-Scottish cuisine, but Bigos is worth the journey. Serving up traditional Polish cuisine, with everything from beer roasted pork knuckle to homemade dumplings, there is a smorgasbord of strong, succulent flavours to delight even the heartiest of palettes. Rated as the number one restaurant in Aberdeen on Trip Advisor, Bigos features a great combination of flavours and fantastic presentation, achieved with fresh ingredients. For those of you in a rush, or who just simply don’t fancy braving the cold winter air, Bigos also has an extensive delivery menu should you wish to enjoy its fine food from the comfort of your own home. CONTACT: www.bigosrestaurants.com

EVENTS, GATHERINGS & HUBS ABERDEEN EXHIBITION AND CONFERENCE CENTRE WHERE? Bridge of Don, Aberdeen WHY? If you’re looking to host or attend an event in Aberdeen, why would you look any further than the AECC? As the north of Scotland’s largest conference centre, it hosts more than 600 events, and welcomes around 300,000 visitors annually. With space in abundance, and a variety of rooms ranging from 18 to 7,320 square metres, there’s a space to suit any business need. And that’s not all – there is also help every step of the way to ensure you have the perfect event with specialist in-house teams that can look after your AV and IT needs, design and build your exhibition stand (or whole exhibition), organise your conference, and deliver high quality delicious catering for your guests. Why not get involved in an event too? Each year it hosts great exhibitions, such as the Your Wedding Exhibition, giving you the perfect opportunity to showcase your products and services on a large stage and to a wide audience. CONTACT: www.aecc.co.uk

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LIFESTYLE

MENS WWW.SAUCONY.CO.UK Perfect for those who like to run or cycle to the office, this stylish slim-fit, water-resistant jacket provides 360-degrees of high reflectivity when the lights are shining on you, but looks completely stealth in daylight – ideal for those dark evenings. Also available in white.

SAUCONY SONIC REFLEX JACKET £100

Rainy day rescue The traditional British winter is well and truly here and with that comes the downpours. Avoid soggy days with these fantastic raincoats and jackets

WOMENS WWW.SHOP.HELLYHANSEN.COM/GB A clean outdoor design with a twist, Helly Hansen’s Nine K rain jacket for women has full weather protection and essential features for outdoor adventures. It features eye-catching graphic patterns and fabric structures to ensure you stand out from the crowd. Waterproof, breathable, and windproof, with fully sealed seams and Helly Tech Protection, it is available in a variety of colours and styles to suit all tastes.

HELLY HANSEN W NINE K £100

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LIFESTYLE

WWW.KARRIMOR.COM Available in mens or womens style, leave no angle uncovered with the Karrimor 3in1 Jacket. With both the fleece and fully waterproof and breathable jacket, you can stand up to those biting winds, rain, and cold temperatures - and when it gets too warm, simply remove the jacket to leave behind a comfortable fleece. The inner of the jacket features discreet topographical style on lining and mesh in-between for improved air flow. Available in blue, black, navy, green, and charcoal. Excellent for those who love to explore the countryside.

WWW.SUPERDRY.COM Stand out and stay dry in this superb Windtrekker Jacket from Superdry. Inspired by technical hiking wear, the hooded soft-shell jacket features a twoway zip fastening and three zipped front pockets. The hood and hem have bungee-cord drawstrings to help keep the weather out, and inside, the Windtrekker is lined in a contrast colour fleece and features headphone loops and a part mesh lining.

SUPERDRY WINDTREKKER JACKET £79.99

KARRIMOR 3IN1 JACKET £27.99

WWW.SEASALTCORNWALL.CO.UK Seasalt Cornwall’s bestselling Seafolly Jacket is inspired by a traditional fisherman’s mac, but they’ve given the design a feminine twist and made it with their famous Tin Cloth® material. Waterproof, windproof, and breathable raincoat, with toggle and rope fastening, deep pockets, generous hood, and the softest cotton jersey body and hood lining, it provides cute, classic, nautical styling for those endless rainy days.

SEASALT SEAFOLLY JACKET £89.95

WWW.DEBENHAMS.CO.UK The women’s Brodiaea jacket is a waterproof, mid-length mac. It’s got all the technical stuff you need to see you through the colder months; a Hydrafort outer, taped seams, and a supersoft sherpa fleece lining, but it’s casually styled with an everyday fit and a timeless design, so you can be confident in your style on city errands and country strolls.

REGATTA BRODIAEA WATERPROOF JACKET £40

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LIFESTYLE

On the road IN THE SPOTLIGHT: PORSCHE PANAMERA DIESEL PRICE: FROM ÂŁ65,289 WWW.PORSCHE.COM/UK

Photography: Isabel Carter

Absolutely no corners have been cut, even well-hidden areas are executed thoughtfully, right down to the brushed boot catch recess

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LIFESTYLE

I

f you watched ‘The Great British Bake Off’, you too may have experienced disbelieving perplexity turning into pleasant surprise, then experiential desire. Taste combinations, like apple and tarragon or pecan salted caramel and rosemary often don’t sound like they would work. This is precisely how many felt - and indeed still feel - about Porsche turning to diesel power, especially in (perish the thought) a saloon. In fact, Porsche’s tagline for the Panamera is ‘thrilling contradictions’. The Panamera has long proved aesthetically divisive, but ever since I first clapped eyes on one, I was besotted. The rear of the second generation Cayenne initially struck me as carrying an air of the Far East about it, whereas the Panamera is, in my book, unswervingly a Porsche from every angle. Over five metres long and almost two metres wide, the Panamera possesses immense road presence. With black callipers, alluring headlights and air vents, plus high-gloss 20” black alloys, the oil-burning Panamera looks every bit the part, particularly with telltale ‘diesel’ badges omitted. Inside, the Panamera is an impeccably constructed, rolling work of art. Minimalist design is fine, but not if you can’t find the function you’re looking for, which is why the Porsche’s button-intensive centre console makes sense. The bank vault aura is complemented by sumptuous leather, a sophisticated four-seat layout in the back, and a genuine feeling of sportiness, with a button-free steering wheel, piano black and chrome trim, Sport Chrono stopwatch, rock solid switchgear, and crystal clear instrumentation. Absolutely no corners have been cut, even wellhidden areas are executed thoughtfully, right down to the brushed boot catch

recess. Aside from the rear seats proving a little firm, our Panamera lacking keyless entry and lumbar adjustment, and the keys jangling annoyingly against my knee at times, it was faultless. Horsepower and torque have been upped with the new 3-litre diesel engine, which idles remarkably mutedly. Frankly, 300bhp, 650Nm torque, a 0-62mph time of six seconds and a top speed of 161mph suit the UK’s roads more than adequately. It’s just a shame there’s no exhaust theatrics to reinforce the diesel Panamera’s genuinely punchy performance. The 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission generally acquits itself well, and the selfadjusting steering always feels perfectly weighted for the situation. The standout for me was the chassis, Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM) and Torque Vectoring Plus (with rear limited slip differential) performing remarkably, the diesel Panamera gliding around sharp, undulating bends at considerable speed with no detrimental effect on composure. Were it not for basic human needs, monetary and temporal constraints, I would happily drive one for tens of hours on the trot - it’s simply that good. Economy from the 100-litre tank was pretty noble, averaging 37mpg (versus the 44.1mpg officially claimed by Porsche) after 500 miles, and CO2 emissions are 169g/km. Priced from £65,289 and costing £74,947 as tested, many rivals are cheaper, less divisive, and greener than the Panamera diesel. Just like Ian’s cheesecakes though, Stuttgart’s convention-breaking recipe makes sense, and being the custodian of a car bearing the Porsche badge feels undeniably special.

Each month motoring expert, Oliver Hammond checks out the latest in executive travel, helping you to decipher the market for business drivers

Contact: oliver@petroleumvitae.com

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TECHNOLOGY

Flexy business

O

ver time, many government departments and agencies have outsourced their ICT services to large System Integrators (SI). Made with good intentions, these measures aimed to aggregate contracts to benefit from economies of scale, to reduce the burden on public sector IT departments, and bring in a high level of technical expertise. However, this approach has its problems, including contract lock-ins, high costs, profit margins reliant on change control, business continuity risk in moving away from the chosen supplier, capital investment in outdated infrastructures, and an inability to take advantage of new technologies. Crucially, as well as outmoded approaches to procurement, this approach has also locked out SMEs from being involved, stifling creativity, innovation, and competition – often to the detriment of the taxpayer. Fortunately, the Government has recently taken steps to readdress the balance of IT suppliers to the public sector, effectively disaggregating the estate. A disaggregated IT systems solution, using a mix of suppliers, is a step forward for Government departments, and enables them to take advantage of the flexible, agile approach that SMEs can offer. Public sector organisations stand to gain a great deal from adopting this way forward. Embracing a disaggregated approach enables them to focus on agility and value for money.

SME innovation and flexibility can shake up government IT, says Piers Linney, Co-CEO of Outsourcery and former Dragons’ Den star

SMEs stand to gain from tapping into the potentially lucrative public sector market. Flexibility and scalability are often a part of their make-up, meaning they are in a great position to add value, and secure successful contracts. A move towards disaggregation means SMEs can be valued in the public sector for their particular area of expertise, which keeps standards of delivery and competition high, and minimises risk for both SMEs and the Government organisations they are working with. In many cases, SMEs will need to work with SI partners to deliver solutions that embrace the strengths of both large and small organisations. In this arena, the UK Government G-Cloud – a service designed to make procurement of IT services easier for Government bodies – has led the way. It has lowered the barriers of entry for SMEs to enter the public sector market, bringing a wealth of innovation to an area where it could truly make a difference. Indeed, since it began in March 2012, G-Cloud sales have passed the £750 million mark, with £36 million spent in August 2015 alone. It is clear that procuring services in this way is becoming an ever more popular option. If SMEs look to this area to extend their business, the rewards could be significant.

A move towards disaggregation means SMEs can be valued in the public sector for their particular area of expertise

However, there is still a long way to go to align procurement processes with the needs of Government and taxpayers. Disaggregation of IT services provides SMEs with a lucrative route into the public sector. Using the innovative approaches that SMEs can offer, businesses can make a considerable impact by enabling Government bodies to regain control of their business requirements, reduce risk and costs, and bring a fresh outlook to IT, which they might never have had before. Contact: www.outsourcery.co.uk

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TECHNOLOGY

ORTIS DELEY

Tech Review

Each month we give Ortis Deley, from Channel 5’s The Gadget Show, a gorgeous piece of tech to test drive. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, he’ll give you the lowdown on the best gadgets money can buy DENON GOBE CRUISER AH-GC20 HEADPHONES PRICE: £249.99 AVAILABLE FROM: www.denon.co.uk

They fold beautifully into their case, and the whole ensemble is light enough to carry in a briefcase, backpack, or small suitcase

O

f course, I’m listening to this month’s product while writing this review. I’ve purchased Denon tech before and have always been very happy with it. They have a solid reputation in hi-fi equipment, and for good reason. The Denon AH-GC20 headphones are aimed squarely at the business traveller and that’s evident from their design and form factor. Personally, I think they’re gorgeous! Elegantly designed, with black and chrome detailing that is not too ‘in your face’,

they aren’t garish at all, and have no bright colours desperately trying to grab your attention. There’s just enough going on to make them worthy of a second glance. They fold beautifully into their case, and the whole ensemble is light enough to carry in a briefcase, backpack, or small suitcase. They don’t feel the most robust due to all the articulation points, but that’s not something I’m able to put to the test, and to tell the truth, if you spend this kind of money on a pair of cans, you treat them well. At £250, they do cost a pretty penny and have a similar price point to the more ubiquitous and youthful Beats by Dre. These are wireless headphones, which are pretty popular now and so very preferable to the cabled alternative. However, a wire is included if needed and will work when the device has no charge left. Bluetooth connection is thankfully not fiddly at all (you’d be surprised how many minutes I’ve lost trying to tether devices using Bluetooth to no avail).

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TECHNOLOGY

Since they’re designed to be worn ‘over ear’, they already do a great job of mechanically blocking out unwanted external sound (passive noise reduction). I found, on experimentation, that engaging the noise reduction function lead to the higher end of the noise spectrum coming through, which spoilt the music listening experience for me. While not perfect on the Underground, on a plane this works well to cut through the bassy hum of the aircraft engines. Otherwise, I experienced nice, warm vocal tones while listening to a podcast, and clear voices when taking phone calls – although it did feel weird holding a conversation and not having to wave a wired mic under my mouth to convince others I wasn’t having some odd monologue with myself. Whispers were not picked up by the headphone’s microphones, so one does have to talk at normal level, which increases the quizzical looks in your direction! I found that the factory music balance sounded better with my iPad than it did with my Galaxy S6, and the low end, mid, and tweeter all sounded quite distinct on the latter, despite using my mobile’s equaliser settings. I couldn’t make them merge in the way I prefer. There was one other thing: the headphones are supposed to come into their own when used in conjunction with the ‘Exclusive Denon Travel Smartphone App’. I found the app unattractive and not the most intuitive, although I did enjoy having fuller control over the equaliser settings (this compensated for the lesser sound experience on the smartphone). The app can play music you have stored on your device, although it wouldn’t allow access to my Google Play library. This was a deal breaker for me as streaming (and the phone storage options provided by this service) is how I listen to music via my phone nowadays. TuneIn Radio comes built in to the app, but I was unable, on five occasions, to select the stations I wanted to listen to. It’s fair to say the app needs work and would benefit from some cross-app compatibility. However, if you keep your music ‘physically’ on your device, then the app has some merit.

96 November 2015

Elegantly designed, with black and chrome detailing that is not too ‘in your face’, they aren’t garish at all VERDICT:

RATING:

Denon have continued in their well-trodden path to create attractive tech that works well, but they’re not setting trends or the world alight with new innovation. These are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever used; they connect effortlessly with both Android and iOS devices, and are well designed. Great for the business traveller.

Headphones

App


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TECHNOLOGY

Does not compute How can you prepare your IT department for a disaster? Brandon Tanner, senior manager at IT Specialists (ITS), divulges his top advice for SMEs

W What IT may consider critical is not always a top priority for other departments

ith the increase in regulatory requirements and rise of cloud-based strategies for disaster recovery (DR), more IT departments (5% more than in 2014, to be exact) are recognising the importance of DR. But only 5% of respondents say they’re totally confident that their DR plan is adequate. Today’s customers expect always-on service, so how can an IT department do its part to avoid downtime when disaster strikes? Each business has different requirements depending on the company’s industry and size, but following these guidelines can help businesses prepare their IT infrastructure for a disaster, whether a small, localised one like server failure, or a region-wide flood. PRIORITISE CRITICAL SYSTEMS A key component of disaster preparedness is identifying and classifying important systems, processes, and interdependencies. A financial organisation, for example, probably needs to restore customers’ online account access before restoring access to internal files. If the servers powering the customer portal depend on other systems or a specific power

supply, the business must ensure redundancy of the core servers and power supplies. When prioritising systems and processes, IT should have input from other key departments, because what IT may consider critical is not always a top priority for other departments. This is why the DR plan should be created in conjunction with a business continuity plan, which is based on the results of business impact and risk analyses that have identified the business’s core objectives and priorities. IDENTIFY A BACK UP AND RECOVERY SOLUTION It’s important for a business to make sure its current back up and recovery solution is adequate for the organisation’s needs. For example, Lyco, a specialist lighting e-commerce company based in Milton Keynes, had backed up to disk on-site. But as the organisation’s business grew, management realised the risk of housing back ups on site was too great. They wanted to move back ups off site, while reducing recovery time objectives (RTOs). The back-up software they were using, however, was not designed to write to a disk at a third-party site, so they switched to the disaster

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TECHNOLOGY

IT might balk at the cost of testing, but not testing enough could leave a business vulnerable recovery as a service (DRaaS) solution, BlackVault Managed Recovery Platform, which uses an on-site appliance in conjunction with a private cloud, BlackCloud. Now, the organisation is able to manage back ups on site, while efficiently sending them off site to ensure data redundancy. During a disaster, employees can access the environment via the internet or another connectivity option. DECIDE HOW AND WHERE EMPLOYEES WILL RESUME OPERATIONS Companies need to have an alternate work environment available at the time of an emergency, whether it’s employees’ homes or rented office space. If renting space, the facility should be pre-contracted to help ensure it will be available when needed. Additionally, staff members need a way to access their work environment, including documents, business applications, and communications platforms such as email and instant messaging. As a managed service provider, we have found that companies are increasingly using DRaaS solutions, which allows employees to access the environment through a VPN or online. Having a back up internet provider can help ensure a reliable connection will be available. HAVE A PLAN FOR RECEIVING BUSINESS PHONE CALLS Communication is key in any DR scenario, so businesses need to consider how they will continue to receive calls. If using landlines, the business should consult its telecomm carrier or managed service provider to review options for re-routing numbers. Businesses with a cloud-based or voice over IP (VoIP) telephony solution can manage

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communication options remotely, deploying pre-recorded greetings and redirecting phones to staff mobile phones or an alternate office location. However, businesses redirecting calls to mobile phones should note that during a large-scale crisis, calls will not be possible if emergency services invoke the Government’s Mobile Telecommunication Privileged Access Scheme (MTPAS) procedure. The London bombings of 7/7 were a prime example: for four hours, the network within a mile of Aldgate tube station was disabled. In these situations, redirecting calls to a landline can provide a more reliable connection. DOCUMENT AND REGULARLY TEST THE DR PLAN It’s important to document the DR plan, because during a high-pressure situation, it’s easy to neglect key parts of the plan. To work out any kinks before a crisis, the plan should be tested at least annually. IT might balk at the cost of testing because of resources consumed (e.g. bandwidth) and the disruption to daily operations, but not testing enough could leave a business vulnerable after a disaster. To make testing more manageable, some businesses test specific systems or processes before conducting a full-scale test involving end users. Additionally, organisations using DRaaS solutions can spin up a sandbox environment, so they can test recovery capabilities without affecting production systems. By taking the right steps ahead of time, a business can be confident that its DR plan will be adequate for avoiding downtime when disaster strikes. Contact: www.itspecialists.uk.com


SPONSORED ARTICLE

Voices in the garden

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rosts Garden Centre in Millets Farm, Oxfordshire is a popular place. From keen amateurs to professional landscapers, the 30,000 sq/m site has everything from tulips to several tons of paving slabs. The 8 strong team of experts at the centre work hard and need to be in constant communication with each other, as well as deal with incoming calls to the site. For many years the centre has used outdoor DECT based phone handsets and cells, however the system had several places where coverage was poor, and as an aging platform suffered from expensive-to-replace handsets which were not best-suited to rough, outdoor use. Ahead of the busy summer season, Frosts turned to VTSL, their trusted telephony provider for advice on an upgrade. As Daniel Wilson, CTO for VTSL explains, “Frosts needed more reliability and telephone coverage across the site. We were able to provide this by

S650H (comfort)

upgrading Frosts to a new phone system that could support more cells, covering the centre, retail area and a good portion of the car park.” The old system was limited to just 6 cells which is what prompted Wilson to look for an alternative. “We use Gigaset for all our clients in need of portable devices. We find the Gigaset products to be reliable and user-friendly. With the launch of the new N720 model which supports up to 30 cells, Gigaset often proved a perfect solution for Frosts.” But the switch had some additional benefits. As Rob Walton, CEO of VTSL, explains, “The new handsets have much better audio quality, especially when hands-free, which means Frosts’ staff can just clip them on a belt and speak while carrying on with whatever they were doing. The handsets are also really rugged which is important for companies like Frosts where they can get a few knocks from time to time.” For the handsets that really

SL750H (micro)

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take a pounding, replacement Gigaset handsets cost less than a quarter of the price of the old legacy system handsets while offering all the features the gardening experts need. With the installation project completed in just a week and the new Gigaset system hooked quickly into the VTSL cloud based telephony service, the switch for Frosts has been a painless one. “By using DECT technology instead of mobile phones, Frosts saves money and is able to use a durable handset with all day battery life and access to all the usual telephony features,” continues Walton. VTSL is now looking at providing the Gigaset solution for similar customers. As Wilson says, “The beauty of the Gigaset technology is that you can keep adding cells in order to cover larger areas. Combined with the audio quality and tough handsets, it is simply an excellent solution.” Interested? Contact www.gigasetpro.co.uk


TECHNOLOGY

Jesper Frederiksen, vice-president and general manager EMEA- at DocuSign, looks at how going digital can spawn a tiny giant

A brave new digital frontier

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TECHNOLOGY

S

MEs are the driving force behind the British economy. They number in excess of five million businesses, and have been instrumental in propelling the UK beyond the financial crisis. But what are the reasons behind this strength, and how can this vast band of businesses accelerate growth even further? Taking the workplace digital, and being brave in the technology used, has been pivotal to much of this success. Continuing to build on this holds the key to the UK’s SMEs fulfilling their potential as tiny giants. FASTEST FINGERS FIRST The first advantages that will spring to mind of being a smaller business are those of agility and speed. Smaller organisations are much more suited to changing strategy quickly, and adapting to the changing needs of customers. But SMEs must be careful not to be lulled into a false sense of security; a business doesn’t become agile and responsive just because of its size. It needs to be using its size and compact nature to take innovative steps. Taking a business digital is one such step. Employees of an SME may well have the desire to serve customers quickly, but they can still be held back if the correct processes are not in place. Let’s take the signing of a contract as an example; numerous signatures are often required from a group of people who will not be working from the same location, so contracts end up being sent in the post or left on the back burner until the signee makes it into the office. Unfortunately, even a great work ethic from your staff won’t speed up the mail. Businesses that take these processes digital can save days, a speed that will take them ahead of their competition in the pecking order. In short, SMEs need to give their employees the chance to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

KEEPING CUSTOMERS ONSIDE Beyond the initial financial advantages of going digital, there are many longterm benefits to be reaped. The balance sheet is only going to look healthier when customers are so happy with the speed and ease of going through a digital transaction, that they not only come back and give you more of their custom, but they tell their colleagues and friends. The convenience and responsiveness that digital can bring can turn customers into advocates, not just loyal customers. Let’s say your business requires employees to conduct off-site visits to commercial or residential premises. Giving employees digital access to the company database can cut the customer service process in half. For example, employees could run up invoices for work completed off-site, on the spot, avoiding data being lost between jobs or payments not being made. The benefits for the customer are clear to see, but they are not the only ones who can benefit from a digital shift. HELPING EMPLOYEES EXCEL Taking your business digital will prove hugely beneficial for your employees as well as the customers they serve. By providing them with the latest technology, you are giving them the best chance to excel in their own roles. Simultaneously, as an SME adopting digital methods, you give yourself the best chance of grabbing the top talent from under the noses of larger organisations. If a prospective employee can see a business setting its employees up with the latest tech, that shows a clear ambition to grow and cannot be underestimated. SECURITY OPENING, NOT CLOSING DOORS For many SMEs, insufficient security practices can prevent them from working with larger enterprise businesses. As a consequence, focusing

The convenience that digital can bring can turn customers into advocates, not just loyal customers

on digital security is critical. This can range from using multi-factor authentication for electronic signatures, to ensuring corporate data is securely backed up. Such solutions are affordable for SMEs and, most importantly of all, being able to demonstrate the security of your corporate data will open the door to lucrative partnerships with large organisations. COMPLIANCE LIGHT Similarly to the security issue, compliance is critical for businesses of all sizes. However, it can prove an onerous task that sucks a lot of valuable time out of a smaller workforce. Taking compliance digital can give a lot of time back to a business that it can invest in growth. What is critical for businesses to understand is that, just by taking elements of their work digital, there are no guarantees for success. Any changes must be properly rolled out across a business, with staff given full visibility and training on how to adapt to new processes. If this is not taken into account, the value that digital technology can bring to a company will be wasted, as will the initial financial layout. Digital is not a one-off purchase; it should be embedded in the culture of a company. Contact: www.docusign.co.uk

Taking compliance digital can give a lot of time back to a business that it can invest in growth

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TECHNOLOGY

The robotic revolution Calum Chace, author of Surviving AI: The Promise and the Peril of Artificial Intelligence, looks at how AI could shape the future for SMEs

T

he business plans of the next 10,000 start-ups are easy to forecast: take industry ‘X’ and add artificial intelligence.” This remark, by Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, is from a seminal article, which asks why artificial intelligence (AI) is suddenly everywhere - in the media, in the movies, and in business magazines. The short answer is that it now works. For many people, the tasks that we perform each day require four fundamental skills: looking, reading, writing, and integrating knowledge. In many contexts, AIs have reached or are reaching - parity with humans in these skills. Google’s AI worked out, with no coaching, and simply by looking at a lot of internet pictures, that there is such a category of being as cats. Its cars have also now driven well over a million miles without causing a single accident. Real-time machine translation is just about ready for everyday use. AIs are performing superhuman feats in more and more areas, and they are really only just getting started. The exponential improvement generated by Moore’s Law, which says (to simplify) that the power of £1,000 worth of computing doubles every 18 months, has at least a decade more to run - maybe more. Geoff Hinton, one of the pioneers of AI research, says that within a decade, computers will possess common sense. All very interesting, but so what? What can an SME owner do with this information?

The first thing is to watch out. One of those 10,000 start-ups may be coming for your industry, and your business. Smartphone cameras killed the oncemighty Kodak, and peer-to-peer startups like Uber and AirBnB are making taxi drivers and hoteliers very nervous. Smartphones and peer-to-peer business models are fuelled by AI. New technologies and new business models, often with AI at their heart, are disrupting every industry. Secondly, educate yourself about AI. It is our most powerful technology, and over the coming decades it is going to change everything about business, social life, and perhaps about what it means to be human. I wouldn’t recommend that you try to hire an expert in AI - as Google, Facebook, Apple, and the other tech giants have bid the salaries of machine learning experts into the stratosphere - but get together with people in your firm or your industry and talk about how it could be disrupted by AI-generated automation, by peer-topeer business models, and the rest. Work out whether you can be the disrupter rather than the disrupted. Thirdly, get ready to use AI. IBM is making its famous Watson system available to businesses online, starting with the healthcare sector. It is early days, and it might be too soon for your business to take advantage of its capabilities, but that won’t be true for long, especially when the other tech giants follow suit. AI is the future. Be part of it.

New business models, often with AI at their heart, are disrupting every industry

Contact: www.pandoras-brain.com

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TECHNOLOGY

I’ve got an app for that Each month we bring you a selection of our favourite apps - for business or pleasure. This month we look at one of each: CM Security for business, and PewPew for pleasure

CM SECURITY

PEWPEW

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PRICE: Free COMPATABILITY: Android, iOS THE GIST: The time of twiddling your thumbs waiting for that next meeting has passed; with the smartphone, the world is now at our fingertips. Even with amazing access to a world of information, we can sometimes be let down. Not by the lack of interesting content, but the lack of connection that blights us on a daily basis. The boredom slowly starts to creep in and a thought grows in your mind of ‘what did I used to do before smartphones?’ This is the time where you need a quality offline game to fill the gaps, and PewPew fills that hole perfectly. PewPew is a retro-style video game with easy to pick up controls. It has a version of the old school asteroids game among the five game modes, four of which are about destroying whatever is flying at you, and the fifth is avoiding what is flying at you. Simple. Each game lasts a few minutes (unless you quickly become expert) so the time will fly by, and if you find yourself unable to put it down. DOWNLOADABLE FROM: www.itunes.apple.com/gb/app/pewpew

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 107


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FRANCHISE

franchise

news

Signs Express franchisee, Lee Eaton takes top accolade at awards event

Tree planting and orang-utans for Bardon Group MD £40,000 raised in aid of charity, WellChild

B

attling illness and 90-degree heat in the Sumatran jungle has been the toughest, but most rewarding challenge yet for Bardon Group managing director, Nigel Toplis. Every two years, Nigel and his colleague Russell Golding, owner of Recognition Express Kettering, undertake an extreme endurance feat in aid of the charity, WellChild. So far, they have raised more than £40,000, and hope the latest trek will boost that total by a further £10,000.

2015 bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year winners revealed

L

ee Eaton, owner of Signs Express in Manchester, was named the bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year, after growing his business 25% yearon-year, and playing a key part in local community projects. His dedication to creating a close-knit team that shares

his ethos of exceptional service has led to high-profile clients, such as Team Sky and Great British Cycling, becoming repeat customers. Lee, who also won the B2B award on the night, said: “This is a wonderful tribute to the efforts of my team. Together, we’ve worked tirelessly to deliver the best service we can to every single one of our clients, and to be recognised for that is a great feeling.” The other winners on the night included: Young Franchisee of the Year: Richard Swayne, Snap-on, Dartford Female Franchisee of the Year: Carolyn Sharpe, Puddle Ducks, Newcastle B2B Franchisee of the Year: Lee Eaton, Signs Express, Manchester

Previous challenges have included cycling in Cuba, climbing Kilimanjaro, and trekking across the Sahara. The only way out of the jungle was on foot or be carried, so when Nigel and some of his colleagues fell ill, there was no option but to go back to base camp, rest, recuperate, and then re-join the rest of the group later. But despite his illness, Nigel says he found the trip exhilarating, and enjoyed seeing the jungle wildlife. He said: “It was amazing to be just feet away from orang-utans, and being able to watch them in their natural habitat. We’ve all

seen them in zoos and on television documentaries, but it’s completely different seeing them so close. It was such a privilege.” WellChild helps sick children and their families throughout the UK as they deal with the consequences of serious illness and complex conditions. The organisation’s mission is to reach as many children and young people as possible through focusing on care, support, and research.

Olderpreneur Franchisee of the Year: Mike Guerin, McDonald’s, Bristol & Wiltshire

Contact: www.thebardongroup.co.uk

Contact: www.thebfa.org

Microbusiness Franchisee of the Year: Paul Stokes, Little Kickers, Hitchin & Bedford Customer Service Franchisee of the Year: Noel Gallacher, Dyno, Scotland

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 109


FRANCHISE

Avoid footfall pitfalls Online research is free and readily available, but make sure that it is up to date and from a credible source

Dynamis’ M e market be lani fo e re 110 November 2015

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FRANCHISE

M

arket analysis is one of the most important parts of any start-up. When investing in a franchise, the franchisor may help you to choose a location, but it can be difficult to make certain that there will be a demand for your product or service. Before buying a franchise, it’s highly important to research the market. This can be a laborious process, but it’s a worthwhile endeavour. Market analysis provides a snapshot view of your customers: who they are, their numbers, and the potential for growth. It also enables you to ensure there isn’t an excess of competition and, if relevant, whether you will get sufficient footfall. Good market research is a sure fire way to grow a successful franchise. TARGET MARKET It’s extremely important to gain a clear understanding of who your target market is. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to target everyone, ignoring the fact that their business won’t appeal to all. By narrowing down your criteria, you can hone in on your target demographic, avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach. MARKET SEGMENTATION Once you have established your potential customer base, you will need to define them to get the best picture. Divide your market into different segments by looking at them in geographic, demographic, and psychographic terms. Reaching your potential customers with a targeted message at the right time is a key part of gaining, and maintaining, your sales. Take into account where they live, their age, income, race, gender, marital status, household income, level of education, lifestyle, beliefs, and any behaviours that could affect their purchasing patterns. Segmentation allows you to target your audiences with personalised and specific responses, catering to more individualised consumer needs. It also allows you to tailor your marketing efforts and set price patterns within each of the different market segments,

and subsequently, establish your customers’ interests and buying habits. This will put you in a position to explain to them why your business meets their needs better than your competitors. DETERMINE SIZE AND GROWTH POTENTIAL Being able to quantify your market and create a market forecast is key. These forecasts start with the number of potential purchasers in each segment, and making a projection for the change over the next three to five years. You will also need to consider your potential for market growth; are the number of people in this segment on the rise? Think about things like: • How many people are retiring or leaving work? • Has their purchasing behaviour changed in any way? (i.e. are people still eating out, or spending money on leisure?) • How much are people spending per annum? Through making projections, you can present your potential pricing structure and gross margin, establishing the difference between your cost and the sales price. At this point, it’s important to be realistic, yet optimistic. Optimistic projections serve not only as a guide, they can also be motivational. Also remember to keep in mind that the demand may change over time. Keep updating, and consider what protective measures you could implement to stop your franchise from being affected by external factors. EXAMINE YOUR COMPETITORS In an ideal world, you would be trying to access a market with no competitors, where their needs aren’t already being met, but often this isn’t a realistic vision. Getting to know your competitors will give you an advantage; it’s always great to know what you’re up against. So who are they? How will they impact you? And what can you offer that they can’t? Consider the size of their market, how similar their product or service is to yours, their growth rate, and their strengths and weaknesses.

Understand your competitors and what they’re selling. The best way to do this is to try out their products or services

Their weaknesses can be your strengths - use their pitfalls to excel. However, it’s also important to establish your barriers, and anticipate what your potential problems could be. Examine your own weak spots as well as your competitors’, and make sure you’re honest with yourself. Understand your competitors and what they are selling. The best way to do this is to try out their products or services. Becoming a part of their market and customer base is the easiest way to find out first-hand what you are up against. GET INFORMED There are plenty of resources to help business owners conduct market analysis, such as: • Trade associations - trade associations often hold data collected from their members. This information could help you to gain a good insight into your particular market. • Official figures - the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is a Government-run database and a good place to start as it provides free data. • Online research - online research is free and readily available, but make sure that it is up to date, and from a credible source. Trade publications often have free and unrestricted access. • Paid-for research - there are websites that you can pay for data and industry statistics. IT DOESN’T END THERE Once you’ve done all your initial research and bought your franchise, continue to research your market. This will enable you to keep targeting your existing customers, and secure your place ahead of the competition. Contact: www.dynamis.co.uk

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ADVERTISING FEATURE

Dynamic and recession-proof high-street franchise The ZipYard is the fastest growing garment alteration franchise in the UK. With distinctive branding and a well-planned shopfit to minimise square footage for maximum profit, the opportunity provides owners with a business that is welcome in any high street

O

fficially launched in Britain by The Bardon Group in 2011 growth has been very strong and the company is well on the way to achieving its first target of opening 50 centres in the UK. The business provides a much-needed service and has a real role to play in the rejuvenation of the UK’s high streets. New openings are well supported by local dignitaries including mayors and MPs notably the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne who officially opened the Wilmslow ZipYard in 2013. The Bardon Group runs three other wellknown franchise brands – Recognition Express (est. 1979), ComputerXplorers (since 2005) and Kall Kwik (first franchised in 1979) and has a management team that is long established in the franchise industry. Specifically designed to project a stylish, high quality image, the ZipYard offers a wide range of alteration and tailoring services, all done on site by trained professionals in purpose-built, beautifully shopfitted centres, branded in the ZipYard’s signature eyecatching yellow and black colours. From dress re-styling and taking in or letting out to bridal-wear fitting or formal wear alterations, the ZipYard provides convenient, speedy and cost effective clothing alterations and repairs. The ZipYard franchise package is a total turnkey operation, comprising a complete shop fit, state of the art machinery, computer systems and a comprehensive marketing package which includes regional PR activity. The package includes industrial sewing machines, specialist alteration and repair machinery, a computer, software, EPOS

28 elitefranchise Winter 2015

system, signage, fixtures and fittings, various consumables, starting stock, plus training and ongoing support from the franchisor, and a marketing and PR campaign to launch each centre.

Why choose The ZipYard? Former driving instructor Richard McConnell, 34, opened England’s first ZipYard franchise in Altrincham in 2011, which was followed by a second centre in Wilmslow in 2013. “We did lots of research in the franchise press and online, and looked into a wide variety of franchises,” said McConnell. “The Altrincham ZipYard has exceeded

all of our expectations, and the model is so well thought out that it was easy to replicate in Wilmslow. Our reputation went before us and the customer base in the new ZipYard is building very nicely. “Initially it was my wife who noticed the ZipYard advert and she thought it was a fantastic idea. We did some research and quickly realised that there was no real competition in our area. Most of the time clothing repairs are done as a bolt-on service at dry cleaners. The turn-around time isn’t very good and they don’t offer a very wide range of services. “We went to meet Nigel Toplis, the franchisor, and we visited a centre in Wales.


ADVERTISING FEATURE

“Being your own boss is hard work but very gratifying. Having the opportunity to make your own decisions is very satisfying but knowing you can rely on the franchise group gives you the confidence to approach situations with ease and a shared experience” Kevin Old, The ZipYard in Bournemouth

limb. It’s been teamwork from day one.” “I would definitely recommend the ZipYard to other potential franchisees. I’m learning all the time and it’s such a sociable business. I really enjoy talking to the customers and I get such a feeling of satisfaction from seeing how happy they are when their clothes fit properly,” she added.

Marketing Head office provides a wide range of marketing support to the network including email marketing, a comprehensive range of promotional collateral and window posters that are supplied free of charge throughout the year to each centre. All franchisees also have access to a retained PR agency that carries out regular regional seasonal activity on behalf of the ZipYard to raise awareness and generate footfall to the centres.

We were impressed by the professionalism of the franchise. The brand is very strong and the shop fit is amazing, from the fitting rooms to the equipment and layout. They really know what they are doing and can cater for every kind of alteration and repair on site.”

Training & Support All franchise owners have a two-week comprehensive induction programme that covers business practices, computer systems, running a centre, marketing and promotions, and recruitment. Part of the training takes place in an existing centre that is up and running to provide a proper hands-on

experience. Every aspect of the set-up from finding premises to launching and promoting the centre is fully supported by the franchisor. Once up and running the support continues with additional training, business and product development work, on-going business advice and planning, marketing and PR. Jill Phillips, 46, set up the ZipYard in Basingstoke in May 2012 after being made redundant 8 months previously. “The whole team has been fantastic,” said Phillips. “From the training, which was very hands-on, to the huge level of support I’ve had, it’s all been great. Although it’s my business and the buck stops with me, I’ve never felt alone or out on a

Contact: Emma Downes t: 01530 513307 e: edownes@thezipyard.co.uk Total Cost: £38,500 + VAT plus shop fit

Winter 2015 elitefranchise 29


FRANCHISE

Franchise spotlight FA C T F I L E

Each month, Paul Stafford, public relations manager at the British Franchise Association, shines the spotlight on one franchise, and delves into what makes it a success FRANCHISE: ANYTIME FITNESS ESTABLISHED: 2010 (UK); FOUNDED 2002, IN MINNESOTA, USA NUMBER OF UK FRANCHISES: 51 TYPICAL START-UP COST: £110,000 WEBSITE: www.anytimefitness.co.uk/franchise-opportunities INTERVIEWEE: BRETT EDWARDS, GENERAL MANAGER

WHAT’S THE STORY OF ANYTIME FITNESS? The founders, Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen, first met while working for a fitness club in the US in the early 1990s. They went nytime Fitness on to purchase and run their own is a franchise club in 1995, before deciding to business providing launch Anytime Fitness. convenient, Anytime Fitness has more than affordable health and fitness clubs, open 24-hours a day, 3,000 clubs in 22 countries. The first club opened in the UK in 365-days a year. 2010, and there are now more than WHY IS IT A GOOD TIME FOR 50 in operation, with a further 170 sites in the pipeline. SOMEONE TO RUN THEIR OWN HEALTH CLUB? WHAT IS THE MARKET SIZE, AND WHAT WHAT’S THE SECRET BEHIND SUCH RAPID GROWTH? ARE THE LATEST TRENDS? According to Mintel, the UK fitness The US business model works globally: learning from the industry is expected to grow by 6% experiences in other countries in the next five years, reaching a means we were able to hit the ground value of £2.8 billion. Some 46% of the UK population is now considered running, and implement a business a potential target audience for gyms, plan fully supported by proven technology and marketing strategies. up from 40% 12 months ago. Many new gyms, and health and The attraction for many franchisees is fitness clubs have entered the UK that Anytime Fitness presents such a healthy investment opportunity. market in recent years, such as Anytime Fitness, and Pure Gym, WHAT’S YOUR UK CAPACITY which are aiming to capitalise on AND FUTURE PLANS? this growth. Anytime Fitness has a mid-market proposition, centred By current forecasts, Anytime Fitness expects to have more than on convenient locations and a 300 clubs open by early 2018, and great club atmosphere.

A

114 November 2015

hopes to reach the milestone of 500 by 2019. This prediction is based on the growth rate seen in more mature markets, such as Australia, where Anytime Fitness launched in 2007 and, after eight years of trading, recently opened its 400th club. IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A ‘TYPICAL’ BACKGROUND IN YOUR FRANCHISEES? IF NOT, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOUR TRAINING IS SUITABLE FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE? No, 95% of our franchise owners are not from the fitness industry, and come from a range of backgrounds. What is most important is that franchisees have the required level of support from the outset, including a suitable location for a new club. All aspects of the club build, fit-out, and management are supported by our in-house team and a collection of partners. Training is available to


FRANCHISE

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all franchisees, which is especially important to our young franchisees that have enthusiasm, but may be lacking some business experience. WHAT KIND OF ATTRIBUTES MAKE A GOOD ANYTIME FITNESS FRANCHISEE? Our selection process is rigorous. The majority of our franchisees don’t have experience in the health and fitness industry. Most important to us is the personality of the individual: do they fit with the friendly, community culture of Anytime Fitness, and do they have the passion, drive, and determination to make a club successful?

Training is available to all franchisees, which is especially important to young franchisees that have enthusiasm but may be lacking some business experience

Contact: www.thebfa.org

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 115


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ADVICE

The Sales DOCTOR This month Sales Doctor, Tony Morris gives his expert advice on battling against companies who undercut your prices

Dear Sales Doctor, A regular client has left us to go to a competitor who offers a cheaper price. How do I get them back without matching the competitor’s price?

U

nfortunately, if your product or service is a commodity (or viewed as one), then loyalty is difficult, and your clients will always be looking for the cheapest price. Therefore it’s imperative that you always build the value, so you become indispensable and are seen as a ‘partner’, not a ‘supplier’. My suggestion is to go back to this client and ask them the following question: “If our prices had been the same, who would you have chosen?” Now if they say the other company that they have now gone to, then you know price was not the reason they left in the first place. You then need to question to understand what the real reason was for it, and learn from it. If however, they say you, which I think they will, you must say “I’m really pleased to hear that. Just so I am clear,

why would you have chosen us?” They are now selling all the benefits of your company, the ones that are important to them, back to you. You end by saying “Isn’t that worth paying that little bit more for?” Now, if they still can’t justify paying that little more, you can negotiate one of two ways; by taking things away, or by adding things on. You could start by saying “If you only want to pay ‘x’ pounds, what would you like me to take out of our offering?” They won’t expect this, and it will highlight the fact that there is a value attached to everything you offer. If they don’t want anything removed, which is normally the case, then agree things you will add to your offering to help them justify paying that little bit more. You have to decide what variables you are willing to offer, such as longer paying times, a shorter contract, etc.

It’s imperative that you are seen as a ‘partner’, not a ‘supplier’

Tony Morris, MD of Sales Doctors, is about to release his fourth book on sales, entitled ‘The Perfect Sales Meeting’. The first 100 Talk Business readers to purchase his new book will receive his three other titles absolutely free of charge. Email info@salesdoctors.co.uk with the subject line ‘book offer’.

NEED A DIAGNOSIS? Send your sales problems to the editor, marked ’FAO the sales doctor’: editor@talk businessmagazine.co.uk

Contact: www.salesdoctors.co.uk

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ADVICE

Foreign exchange doesn’t have to be a risky business

Laura Parsons, currency analyst for money transfer specialist, TorFX, explains how your business can safeguard its international payments from currency risk

118 November 2015


ADVICE

A

ny business with foreign exchange requirements has to consider the impact exposure to the volatile currency market can have on their profitability. With exchange rates fluctuating by as much as 5% in a matter of days, the timing of your currency transfer can have a considerable impact on how much money you receive and make budgeting for both one-off and recurrent transactions more difficult. SO WHAT IS CURRENCY RISK? Simply put, currency risk occurs as a result of exchange rate variations, or changes in the value of one currency relative to another. Exchange rates can move in response to a wide range of economic, social, political and even environmental factors and when a rate shifts the amount your funds are worth shifts with it. If an exchange rate strengthens, you’ll get more of the currency you’re looking to purchase, but if an exchange rate weakens you run the risk of getting less than you would have done before the movement took place. 2015 has been a particularly explosive year for the foreign currency market, with several dramatic events demonstrating just how unpredictable exchange rate movements can be. In January the Swiss National Bank (SNB) removed its peg with the Euro and the Swiss Franc surged by as much as 25% against some of its rivals in the immediate aftermath. This historic shift was soon followed by a sharp decline in the value of the Euro, with the GBP/EUR exchange rate achieving a succession of over 7-year highs after the European Central Bank (ECB) rolled out its long-anticipated quantitative easing programme. Later in the year the Chinese stock market crash, dubbed ‘Black Monday’, sent commodity-driven currencies like the Australian Dollar reeling, with the GBP/AUD exchange rate jumping from 2.1132 to 2.2046 within the space of a week. To put this in real terms, if your business needed to exchange £20,000 to Australian Dollars in order to meet import costs, your funds would have been worth A$1,828 more at the stronger rate.

CAN YOU PRE-EMPT CURRENCY RISK? The events highlighted above were almost wholly unexpected, with the resultant market movement being all but impossible to pre-empt. However, there are steps your business can take to help limit your exposure and make budgeting for future foreign currency transfers more straightforward. STAY ON TOP OF MARKET MOVEMENTS While some market shifts can come out of nowhere, other fluctuations are gradual and keeping track of the latest currency trends can help you plan your transfers more effectively. As previously stated, a huge number of stimuli have an impact on exchange

While some market shifts can come out of nowhere, other ƭXFWXDWLRQVDUH gradual and keeping track of the latest currency trends rates and monitoring the latest economic data releases, political developments and social changes is a time consuming undertaking few business have the resources to cope with effectively. If you want to simplify how you stay informed you could sign up to a foreign currency transfer service which offers free market updates. With in-depth exchange rate analysis from industry experts to hand, your business will be better equipped to decide when and how to manage its foreign currency transfers. SEEK SOME EXPERT GUIDANCE Even with market updates keeping you in the loop, you might feel more insulated from currency risk if you talk through your transfer requirements with a professional. Reputable currency brokers employ currency and risk

management specialists who can help your business identify its exposure and decide how best to combat it. Some institutions will also assign you an Account Manager to oversee all of your business transfers and keep you abreast of any pertinent developments. CONSIDER THE TRANSFER OPTIONS You may find that the best way to limit your company’s exposure to currency risk is to adapt the mode in which you move funds abroad. If you typically use a spot contract, where currencies are exchanged ‘on the spot’, the exchange rate you’re able to secure will depend on the market conditions of the day - not ideal for forward planning. Implementing a forward contract, on the other hand, would allow you to fix a rate up to two years before you need to send or receive the currency. By fixing a rate in this way you know exactly how much your transfer will be worth no matter how much the market moves in the meantime, helping your business enjoy greater flexibility and security. Your business may also want to consider taking advantage of the benefits of either a Limit Order or Stop-Loss Order. With a Limit Order you can leave an instruction with your foreign currency provider to target a specific exchange rate. As soon as the target rate becomes available your trade will be executed automatically. A Stop Loss Order lets you control the level of risk your transfer is exposed to as you can set a minimum rate at which to make the exchange, with the transfer being conducted if the exchange rate deteriorates to the level specified. The main advantage of a Stop Loss Order is that you can lock in a worst-case rate while waiting for conditions to improve. The currency market is certainly unpredictable, but business international money transfers don’t need to be risky to manage. You can limit your company’s exposure to risk by taking a proactive approach to your currency exchange requirements and considering all the options available. Contact: www.torfx.com

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 119


ADVICE

7 steps to successful overseas expansion Aaron Rosland, senior economic officer/ counsellor at the High Commission of Canada, describes seven steps that are essential for facilitating success when taking your business abroad

D

eciding to take your business abroad is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. In this article I describe seven essential steps for companies considering overseas expansion. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should provide some helpful insight in order to start planning your move into a new and exciting marketplace.

UNDERSTAND THE MARKETPLACE When considering your options for expansion, it is paramount that you conduct thorough research into your desired market. You can enhance your chance of success by discovering whether your new market has an educated workforce with the right skills for your business. Additionally, it is well worth taking the time to fully comprehend the incentives and programmes that are

122 November 2015

on offer to help get your business off the ground. If it is important that your desired market has an environment of innovation, consider whether it has a proven record in this area. In many jurisdictions, the government provides resources that are a great place to get started, such as Ontario’s ‘Innovation Ecosystem’. DON’T DELAY Once you’ve initially considered taking your business abroad, it can be tempting to put your foot on the brake. Being proactive about your business ambitions does not mean rushing ahead, it means realising the

need for a plan, and starting to think about all possible angles. ACT LIKE A START UP When you expand into a different market, the new arm of your business is a start-up, and should be treated like one (likewise, it should act like one). This new entity of your business that exists abroad needs time, attention, and resources in order for it to flourish. BUILD A SUPPORT NETWORK As you develop and expand your business in a new market, you will face a series of new challenges. Finding a mentor in an established company will be a source of invaluable insights. You should start to develop a network of business contacts from day one. A strong support network will allow you to share challenges, issues, and solutions in a way that is mutually beneficial.


ADVICE

VISIT YOUR MARKET OFTEN By regularly visiting your new market you will be able to build credibility, and establish strong business relationships. You can increase your involvement in local industry, and help your representatives abroad to engage with other businesses in the market. As you develop the trust of your brand in a new market, the tangible benefits and positive impact on your business should be felt

quickly. Additionally, travelling to your new market does not have to all be about work. For example, Ontario is one of the top ranked places in the world for quality of life. Not only will your business benefit from quality of life, you will also find diverse, safe, affordable, and welcoming communities, and a wealth of cultural and recreational activities. COLLABORATE Aside from developing a working relationship with a mentor, and building a support network, another way to collaborate is by

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joining, or creating, a consortium of complementary companies from your region or country. By exploring a new market together, not only do you minimise your risk by supporting each other, you can approach new clients and customers together, offering a complete solution rather than just part of it. This enables you to leverage each other’s networks and resources, often being able to split some of the costs of taking your product to a new market. FOLLOW UP The key to successful exporting is running a responsible business. It may seem simple, but by following up after all meetings and events, you immediately set yourself apart from the crowd. It will help you to nurture business relationships in your new market, greatly helping to develop your support network. Contact: www.investinontario.com

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talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 123


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ADVICE

Legally speaking Each month, the experts at Wright Hassall answer one of your dilemmas from a legal perspective. Here, commercial litigation solicitor, Nathan Talbott looks at breach of contract recompense

Q A

I want to take a company to court for breach of contract that has left me out of pocket. However, I can’t afford costly legal fees - what options do I have? It’s not easy for companies with limited resources to go to court, even when following the legal principle that the loser pays the winner’s costs. In March 2015, the Government introduced new reforms, which fundamentally changed the cost of beginning court proceedings. The court fee alone for any claim valued at £200,000 or more, is now £10,000, whereas previously it was £1,920. The court fee for lesser value claims has also risen.

appears your opponent cannot pay its debt, you could seek to wind the company up. This is not a decision to be taken lightly given the ramifications. If the winding-up petition is defended, you’ll need to judge if it is worth the cost of pursuing it.

DIFFERENT TRACKS AVAILABLE DEPENDING ON CLAIM VALUE The court will allocate the claim to one of three tracks: small claims, fast, or multi. The small DEALING WITH A LOW claims track is used for claims of VALUE CLAIM £10,000 and under; the fast-track I’m going to assume that your for claims between £10,000 and claim is for under £10,000. You £25,000; and the multi-track for can represent yourself in the claims above £25,000. Small Claims court, but you must You cannot recover solicitors’ follow the correct procedures and fees in the Small Claims complete the correct forms (all of court (except in very limited which can be found online). For circumstances) as it’s designed around £300, you can instruct a to be used by ‘litigants in person’, debt recovery specialist to send i.e. companies or individuals a letter of claim to the defendant representing themselves. clearly setting out your position. A claim worth between £10,000 This will form the basis of and £25,000 will probably be your particulars of claim (the allocated to the fast-track. If document explaining the basis of successful, you can recover your dispute and why you should your solicitor’s fees, but trial be entitled to payment). costs are stringently capped, If your claim is for more than and the court is keen to ensure £750, a clear indefensible breach the dispute has been managed of contract has occurred, and it proportionately (e.g. the court

In March 2015, the Government introduced new reforms, which fundamentally changed the cost of beginning court proceedings will not force the defendant to pay the claimant’s costs if they are £100,000, when the dispute itself is only worth £20,000). For a large or complex claim, you’ll be allocated to the multi-track. Here you can recover your solicitors’ fees (again, subject to proportionality). In short, there’s no easy, quick, cheap way of recovering money if the person who owes it refuses to play ball. If you decide to pursue a defended claim, it should be for commercial reasons i.e. that it will be financially worthwhile. Contact: www.wrighthassall.co.uk Got a question you want answered by the legal team? Email editor@ talkbusinessmagazine. co.uk with the subject line “Legally speaking”

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ADVICE

TH

The event’s exclusive seminar schedule of 250plus sessions provides a rich stream of education and insight into a variety of industries

Ahead of the 34th Business Show, we take a look at why you should attend, and what you can learn from the event to help you grow your business

SEMINARS The event’s exclusive seminar schedule of 250-plus sessions provides a rich stream of education and insight into a variety of industries. Each session is delivered by an expert speaker with a distinguished background in their field, providing the latest technology, information, and solutions, which can assist on a multitude of levels. The scale of topics their schedule covers is fantastic; every facet of each industry is analysed, and brings with it a mass of detail, from the marketing and funding of different ventures to the changing role of technology in business.

34

TH

BUSINESS SHOW2015

MASTERCLASSES Businesses will benefit from the very best advice available. There will be more than 140 of these small group sessions, each one presented by an expert, delivering an abundance of advice that will assist businesses to achieve a greater level of success. The schedule provides something for everyone, bringing with it a profusion of information that crosses a number of issues and challenges faced by the contemporary business owner, from perfecting their digital marketing and building their brand, to starting, scaling, and exiting a business.

THE

S

ince its inception in 2000, The Business Show has grown exponentially to become Europe’s biggest business conference and exhibition, delivering the optimum level of education, expert opinion, and expansive insight into the business world. The event’s 34th edition, coming this December, will continue this proud tradition. Over the course of two days, thousands of visitors will experience the most enthralling and vibrant business event around; here is a place where they can find a plethora of suppliers they may not be able to find otherwise. Between four walls are hundreds of expert suppliers showcasing their business to a diversity of sectors. The make up of The Business Show consists of seminars, masterclasses, exhibitors, and world-class speakers. The level of education, information, and inspiration provided through these features is absolutely unprecedented, and remains invaluable in its assistance to entrepreneurs and business owners - no matter what part of their journey they are on.

THE

Getting BUSINESS 34 SHOW2015 down to business

TECHPRENEUR 2015

Once again, The Business Show will run side by side with Business Startup, the event for SMEs taking their first steps in business. The two-day event also includes Going Global; specifically designed for companies looking towards overseas expansion, and for the first time, Techpreneur - the UK’s most exciting exhibition and conference for early stage and start-up technology businesses.

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ADVICE

EXPERT SPEAKERS As ever, The Business Show comes with some of the most influential figures the business world has to offer, bringing their knowledge and experience to inspire and guide business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs on their business adventure. This December’s show delivers an exciting mix of business experts, leaders, and innovators, such as Touker Suleyman, the fashion retail entrepreneur, and Dragons’ Den star; David Gold, owner of Ann Summers and one of the UK’s most recognisable businessmen; and Nidhima Kohli, founder of My Beauty Matches and The Guardian’s ‘Top Woman Business Leader’. TOUKER SULEYMAN

In 2000, Touker Suleyman bought the luxury menswear brand, Hawes & Curtis for £1. Today, the brand is debt free, boasts a £21 million turnover, and has stores all over Britain. A business career not without its challenges, Touker’s portfolio also includes the fashion brands Ghost and Low Profile. At the show, Touker will provide his audience with the opportunity to hear his story, how he has arrived at where he is today, the challenges he faced along the way, and he how hurdled them.

TH

David Gold is undoubtedly one of the UK’s most prominent entrepreneurs. A rags to riches tale in the truest sense of the phrase, David’s journey went from a childhood in which he lived in abject poverty to being the owner of Gold Group International, Ann Summers, and West Ham United Football Club. David will be interviewed on stage about his inspirational story of escaping from an East London council estate to become one of the country’s foremost business figures, providing fascinating insights into the twists and turns of his celebrated business career.

BUSINESS SHOW2015

THE

34

DAVID GOLD

NIDHIMA KOHLI

Nidhima Kohli is the brains behind My Beauty Matches, Europe’s largest online marketplace for beauty products. Building her business without funding to having a community of over 100,000 people, multi award-winner Nidhima is truly an inspirational figure in the business world, and the story of her meteoric rise will entertain and amaze. Nidhima will guide her audience on how they can build a business without any prior experience or outside investment. She’ll explain how My Beauty Matches reached its community and the widespread recognition it’s received along the way.

The Business Show and all of its sister events take place on the 3-4 December 2015, at Olympia London. Tickets are completely free and allow visitors to gain access to each of the aforementioned shows. To find out more detail on Europe’s premier business event, and to register for free tickers, visit www.greatbritishbusinessshow.co.uk or call 08000 686970.

128 November 2015

David’s went from a childhood in which he lived in abject poverty to being the owner of West Ham United Football Club

GOING GLOBAL – Europe’s leading event for taking your business overseas. For free tickets, visit www.goinggloballive.co.uk.

TECHPRENEUR 2015 TECHPRENEUR – The go-to event for start-up and early stage tech companies. For free tickets, visit www.techpreneurexpo.co.uk


! y a d o t r e t En

A

WINNING

BUSINESS is an

ONLINE BUSINESS The Online Business Awards 2016 are open for entries from leading UK online SME businesses

Visit the website onlinebusinessawards.co.uk Take a look at the category list online and decide which category you would like to enter. Read through the helpful advice on the website to learn how to present your entry. Prepare your submission paper following the outline template supplied. Complete your entry form online uploading your submission paper as a PDF when asked to do so. Pay the entry fee of ÂŁ165+VAT. Make sure your entry is in by January 31, 2016 Media Associate


ADVICE

Time to launch The best time to start your business was yesterday, says Niall O’Loughlin, marketing manager at 99designs

S

o you’re ready to take the leap and start your own business in 2016? First of all, congratulations! In today’s economic environment, the opportunities for small businesses are abundant, but so are the risks. Here are my five top tips to maximise your chance of success in 2016:

1

DEVELOP A KILLER BUSINESS PLAN Just like building a home, building a business begins with a solid business plan. This will act as your blueprint, and will guide you to creating a firm foundation and solid support structure for the first months and years of your business. It will not only help you identify capital expenditures and daily operating costs, but will also help you develop a price structure for the goods or services you intend to provide. If you plan to rely on partners, investors, or a bank for your start-up costs, a business plan will help them see where their money is going, and how their investment in your business will benefit them. Most importantly, a business plan will help you test the feasibility of your idea, helping you make adjustments now, without having to learn from costly mistakes later. There are a forecasted 500,000 businesses set to launch in the

130 November 2015

UK next year. A solid business plan could make all the difference between you and the competition, so it’s best to get it right from the outset.

2

SECURE THE FINANCING Most small businesses need some financial help to get started, whether from family, investors, banks, or some other source. Be sure your funding is secured early, and leave time for the necessary paperwork and processing. If you have built a solid business plan, you’ll have something to show to loan officers and potential investors, who’ll want to see a return on their money. Another more innovative method of funding that has emerged in the internet age is crowdfunding. Platforms

even if short of your goal. Whatever the method of raising cash to support your business, it’s best to finalise investments long before the launch of your company, so that the cash flow is there to boost your business from day one.

3

BUILD YOUR CUSTOMER BASE BEFORE YOU LAUNCH The time to build your client base is before you open your doors. Be sure you have the tools you’ll need - like an effective logo, an easily navigable website, and business cards so you’ll be able to promote your business, both in person and online. If you plan to use social media to connect with new clients, broaden your reach and build relationships, be sure you have

Just like building a home, building a business begins with a solid business plan like Kickstarter and Indiegogo let burgeoning entrepreneurs raise funds online to meet their start-up goals. Be sure you understand the rules of the organisation you use. Kickstarter, for example, requires that you meet your funding goal in full before you receive any money from your campaign. Indiegogo lets you keep whatever funds you raise,

accounts set up on the most popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Responding promptly and effectively to queries now can mean repeat business later on. You may also want to apply for membership of business associations that share your interests. The connections you make today can help you avoid pitfalls tomorrow.


ADVICE

Study industry websites and publications to know what market trends and regulations PD\DƫHFW\RXUEXVLQHVV

4

KNOW YOUR MARKET INSIDE OUT This may sound obvious, but it is essential to know the fundamentals of your market before you take the field. That means understanding your potential customers and your potential competitors. Look for a niche that nobody else can - or will - fill. Find ways to distinguish yourself from your closest competitors. Also, study industry websites and publications to know what market trends and regulations may affect your business. Perhaps most importantly, identify and target the customers you want, and determine how you’re going to cultivate those relationships.

5

BRANDING IS EVERYTHING Your brand is the overall experience your target

customers have with your company. It encompasses everything from your logo design and web design to customer support, loyalty programmes and more. A strong brand communicates what your company does, how it does it, and at the same time, establishes trust and credibility. This trust and credibility is, at the end of the day, going to make or break the decision your target customer has on whether to return and re-purchase. No matter how big or small your company is - or will be your brand needs your absolute full attention from day one if you wish to succeed. The foundations of any compelling brand story lay firmly in your company’s mission, vision, and values.

What are the core competencies of your product or service, and how are they going to change your target market’s daily lives? Define your story and keep it relevant. Whether it is your logo design, web design, business cards, or brochures, you must communicate your brand consistently with your target audience at all times.

99 Designs is the world’s largest marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design and, to date, has helped 350,000 businesses secure quality design at an affordable price. To launch your next design project, or simply pick up great tips on how you can build your perfect branding for 2016, check out www.99designs.co.uk

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 131


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M2 Computing provide reliable, flexible managed IT support and consultancy across London and the South East.

Direct Numbers are specialists in providing quality numbers and virtual call handling services to businesses of all sizes in the UK. Our numbers and services are all hosted in the cloud so this means no expensive in-house kit is needed. You can access all our cloud services by using our online management tool to give you full access to your numbers, services and call stats.

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Clothes2order.com is a leading online supplier of printed and embroidered clothing offering quality, flexibility and speed since 2002

Building Fabulous Business Relationships. Learn techniques to develop meaningful partnerships with your clients. Book now at www.businesshelpforyou.co.uk/ fabulouslifeladder.php T: 020 7863 7977 E: support@businesshelpforyou.co.uk W: www.businesshelpforyou.co.uk

132 November 2015

FranchiseSales.com is a directory of over 1,000 franchises, containing everything need to get into business through investing in a franchise. W: www.franchisesales.com

Enghouse Interactive develops and supplies the widest range of customer contact solutions on the market. Through our extensive network of reseller partners, we are helping thousands of organisations of all sizes, industries and complexity across the world to improve their service, productivity and operational efficiency. T: 0118 943 9200 W: www.enghouseinteractive.co.uk

A leader in innovation, esl works with many of the best known UK companies, providing more than just a payroll service. Our expertise is in understanding our clients’ objectives and providing sustainable processes through our Payroll and HR solutions. T: 01628 526304 E: marketing@employerservices.co.uk W: www.employerservices.co.uk


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purewhite offer the full spectrum of creative services from design and artwork, web design and build through to reproduction and photography to get your campaign live. Whether it’s a standalone project – initial concept through to finished media, overflow of current work or part of a bigger campaign, we are happy to jump in anywhere in the process to help you get the most of your spend, on time and within budget.

Are you tired of working for someone else? If so, then why not consider running your own accountancy practice with our Award Winning franchise, which will give you brand credibility from day one, mixed with professional training and full support. We are looking for individuals who can develop and grow their business and become part of our successful network.

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Steak ’n Shake - a classic American brand serving steakburgers, hand-cut fries & hand-dipped milkshakes are actively looking for franchise partners to be part of our successful UK expansion programme. A minimum of circa £240K (liquid capital) is required to own and operate your first Steak ’n Shake outlet in the UK and Eire, with a view to opening more. We offer: • Brand strength and longevity • Superb systems and support • Striking, yet flexible, new outlet designs...and more

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Become a part of a company that has helped over 171,200 people succeed – while you earn profits for yourself and your children. We worked tirelessly to figure out a way to give business owners who were interested in making a difference in the lives of children and their families a means to do just that, without actually being a tutor themselves. Find out more: W: www.tutordoctoropportunity.com/UK T: 0208 144 5678

i2 Office provide serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms and business lounges with the latest technology and the highest quality fit-out in Grade A buildings across the UK. T: 0203 440 5000 W: www.i2office.co.uk

With some 50 Centre Owners Kall Kwik is the UK’s leading business print and design franchise and has been delivering business services on the high street since 1979. Now through the introduction of a new high street concept with multiple income streams we are looking to double the estate over the next few years. T: 01530 513300 E: edownes@kallkwik.co.uk W: www.kallkwik.co.uk

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ComputerXplorers is the leading provider of quality technology education for children from the ages of 3 to 13.The clubs and classes we deliver are engaging, educational and fun, and are run in a variety of settings, such as after school clubs, pre-school and nurseries, summer camps and in-curriculum time classes. T: 01530 513300 E: edownes@recognition-express.com W: www. computerxplorers.co.uk

The ZipYard is the UK’s most successful and fastest growing garment alteration franchise in the UK. Established in Ireland since 2005 ZipYard Centres are now springing up on High Streets across the UK. T: 01530 513300 E: edownes@recognition-express.com W: www.thezipyard.com

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OPINION

A matter of opinion THE DEBATE: “The introduction of the National Living Wage will have a detrimental

effect on UK SMEs and their employees.” I AGREE:

Matt Fox-Rees operations manager, Connections Recruitment www.connections-recruitment.co.uk

T

he National Living Wage (NLW) is a political master stroke from George Osborne, but to businesses across the UK, and potentially a significant number of the lower paid workforce, disaster looms. To many of our clients, the impact of the NLW will cause the traditionally lower paying roles, particularly the likes of retail, care, warehousing and hospitality, to highlight just a few, to make difficult choices. For workers over 25 years old at the lower end of the pay scale, Mr Osborne’s budgetary revelation will equate to a significant hike in pay. There is a real danger that employers faced with a choice between an apprentice on a lower rate, or the £9 per hour NLW for over 25s by 2020, will take the cheaper option as it is a simple case of good economics. Accounting for a reduction in corporation tax (by 20% to 18% by 2020), and a reduced amount of National Insurance contributions they pay for their employees (decreasing by 50% up to £3,000 per employee), the numbers for many simply don’t stack up. The only real benefit of the pending legislation would be a boost for those entering the jobs market, who may find increased opportunity. Is it good for business and the right choice? Probably not. Every business, large or small, wants to remunerate its staff as best they can. It’s good for morale and attracts the best calibre of talent. In reality, the impact of the increase will, in many cases, result in a review of the existing workforce, and

134 November 2015

Negative impact on business is expected by 38% of small employers in some cases, lead to cost cutting where absorbing the increased cost isn’t viable. A great business embraces both those with experience and skill, while also offering opportunity to people with the desire to learn who are starting out on their career paths. The danger that supporters of the legislation don’t take into account is the reality of an employer weighing up the cost of hiring any given individual, offset against the value they add in pounds and pence. Negative impact on business is expected by 38% of small employers, according to survey data released by the Federation of Small Businesses. The only sensible way to deliver real long term wage growth is to improve productivity. Take this away and there is a real risk that higher enforced statutory wages will lead to fewer jobs being created, fewer hours for existing staff and, unfortunately in some cases, job losses.


OPINION

Each month we serve up a topic to two business people with differing opinions, and watch them go head-to-head in a battle of wits. This month, we look at the National Living Wage proposals

WANT TO JOIN THE DEBATE? TELL US YOUR SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT ON TWITTER @TALKBUSINESSMAG OR JOIN IN THE DEBATE ON FACEBOOK

I DISAGREE:

Nikhil Nath founder, Knowcross www.knowcross.com

E

veryone deserves a better standard of living, and happier employees tend to be more productive and produce work of a higher quality. That said, there is no denying that the new National Living Wage will have an effect on both small and large companies, particularly those in the hospitality, retail, and fast food industries. Much of their workforce consists of staff who are on hourly wages, i.e. cleaners, bar and waiting staff, sales assistants, and receptionists. However, the rise in the NLW should not be viewed as a threat to the UK’s SMEs. Instead, businesses should view it as an opportunity to make their systems and processes more efficient with the use of technology. In the hospitality business, one way to overcome the effects of rising wages is to implement technology that automates or streamlines existing processes. For example, one of my company’s products, KNOW Housekeeping, is a software tool that saves housekeeping managers and supervisors hundreds of hours every month by automating a number of their manual tasks. Global corporations and major retailers, including McDonald’s, Shell, and Argos in the UK, are already using technology to increase the quality and efficiency of their customer service.

Businesses should view it as an opportunity to make their systems and processes more HƮFLHQWZLWKWKHXVH of technology Queuing up for minutes on end at the checkout is becoming a thing of the past as traditional cash registers are increasingly replaced with software and mobile apps, which allow customers to make a payment with the touch of a button, meaning less staff are needed. Small businesses may be concerned about the installation costs, but investing in technology will save money in the long run, and enable them to keep their profit margins in check once the mandatory National Living Wage is in place. Employees will welcome the increase in their pay, and businesses will flourish with a happier, more productive and efficient workforce.

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 135


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OPINION

Hot topics

? Q

Is the ‘Black Friday’ sales extravaganza bad for the UK and its businesses?

Each month, we ask a selection of business leaders for their views on an aspect of business. This month, we want to know your thoughts on the Black Friday sales

GIDEON LASK FOUNDER AND CEO, BUYAPOWA Occasional sales used to be healthy for businesses as they shifted old stock, generated cash flow, freed up storage space, and attracted new, profitable customers. But Black Friday, Cyber Monday, January sales, and the like have merged into never-ending sales, putting constant pressure on retail margins. The problem is that we’ve educated a generation of consumers to just expect discounts - and then armed them with price comparison apps. What sane retailer slashes prices by 70%, and burns through its marketing budget, only to attract bargain hunters who surgically strip out the deep discounted loss leaders, and then disappear without even buying a Mars Bar at the check-out? But sales don’t need to be bad for business if retailers are smart, and get their bargain hunters to bring them something in return - by asking them to refer friends as a condition of claiming their amazing bargains, for example. MATT ROBERTSON COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, NETDESPATCH The Black Friday phenomenon does bring with it many positive connotations. Last year, we experienced an extreme peak in the UK in online orders, which were up 44% on a normal day. However, when looking at the negative implications surrounding Black Friday, it is important to iterate that this is not merely restricted to the high street retailer, whose Christmas trade could be severely hampered. Even online retailers who see an increase in orders will experience a distorted effect on sales, as these increase orders will have a lower average order value. Overall, any benefit felt is merely short-term with sales evening out over the period. So potentially, the larger retailers make less money, and the damage to the high street may be irreparable.

THE NUMBERS GAME HERE’S WHAT THE REST OF YOU THOUGHT:

YES

86%

NO

14%

WARREN JOHNSON FOUNDER AND CEO OF W COMMUNICATIONS Black Friday is an entirely artificial construct that has no natural place in UK consumer habits. The event is nothing more than a marketer’s construct, relating to a specific calendar date in the US - Thanksgiving - that has zero cultural relevance this side of the Atlantic. It has an air of desperation from retailers keen to promote heavy discounts at a time when sales should be at their strongest. The ambition should be for consumers to pay full price on Christmas presents; slashing prices by 70% is risky and can devalue both the brand and its offering.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ON TWITTER @TALKBUSINESSMAG *Talk Business magazine does not necessarily condone or agree with any opinions expressed in this article. Opinions are solely those of the named individuals.

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 137


OPINION

Trash talk Each month, we ask a different business man or woman for the everyday phrases that drive them up the wall in the business world, and why

I can’t help but think of farmyard ducks in a ‘Babe’-style musical, singing whenever someone uses this phrase MY MOST HATED BUSINESS JARGON

Kathy McArdle The Creative Quarter

Job title: Chief executive The business: The Creative Quarter, Nottingham, is the city’s unique district for creative entrepreneurs and innovative businesses.

Contact: www.creativequarter.com

WANT THE CHANCE TO GET YOUR FRUSTRATIONS OUT?

Tell us the insane phrases that wind you up, and you could feature here – simply email editor@ talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk with the subject line ‘Trash Talk’.

138 November 2015

GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW: As I come from a rural background, I find this metaphor hilarious. Who or what are the ducks? What do they represent? And who is actually shepherding them into a linear formation? I agree completely with the principle of ensuring all of the small details or elements are accounted for, and in their proper positions before embarking on a new project, however I can’t help but think of farmyard ducks in a ‘Babe’-style musical, singing whenever someone uses this phrase in a business meeting. LET’S TAKE THIS OFFLINE: Often a tactic used to actually avoid discussing the issue at hand that usually needs resolving. It also irritates me that it’s usually used in a context, which is not necessarily ‘online’ in the first place. I’d rather tackle the problem at hand than use a silly phrase to avoid the issue. MOMTREPRENEURS: I work a lot with entrepreneurs in the Creative Quarter in Nottingham, and they are extraordinary people with great tenacity, imagination, vision and, in many cases, business acumen. I rarely think of them in terms of gender and, as a result, the term ‘momtrepreneurs’ is, to my mind, slightly demeaning. I know it’s intended to reflect all those women who are superheroes in many ways, and who juggle the demands of running a home and looking after children as well as running their own business, but let’s treat them just as we do their male counterparts and their other female counterparts, and simply call them entrepreneurs. SOLUTION-ISE : The other day I heard someone saying to a colleague: ‘You are solutionising here’. I couldn’t believe that ‘solution-ise’ was now an accepted verb. The English language is wonderful - you can create a verb out of almost anything - but this one, used to define a design process where people are coming up with a solution for a problem that hasn’t been defined (and might or might not even exist), originates with the world of materials. It’s a great illustration of how language crosses sectors, but it’s not a particularly useful one!


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Profile for Talk Business

Talk Business Magazine November 2015  

Talk Business is bursting with inspiration, tips and advice to assist those entrepreneurs battling through the day-to-day struggles of the c...

Talk Business Magazine November 2015  

Talk Business is bursting with inspiration, tips and advice to assist those entrepreneurs battling through the day-to-day struggles of the c...

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