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W W W . T A L K B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E . C O . U K




April 2013 ÂŁ4.50


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Ann Summers chief executive, Jacqueline Gold, is the queen of reinvention

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16 Inside

09 Editor’s letter 11 Letters 13 News & events

Focus on success

16 The Golden girl Ann Summers chief executive, Jacqueline Gold 22 Take one company All Star Lanes: the bowling alley with a bar launches in Manchester 25 Introducing… TB grills an up-and-comer


26 12 steps to success Carly Ward shows us step 10 29 The psychology of success The successful mindset 33 The Tweetpreneurs Top entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter 34 Book reviews 37 Money for nothing Automating your business 130 He said/she said

Focus on money 39 April fools Last minute RTI payroll tips


73 Window dressing Prettify your website 77 Putting the PR in entrepreneur Securing brand exposure 78 Lucky number seven Seven tips to outsell the competition 81 The sales doctor Solving your sales problems

Focus on people 83 The people column Lee McQueen 85 The perfect match Picking a VA to fit your SME 86 Delegation’s what you need Get the best out of your VA 89 Mind your own business? Collaborative working benefits 92 Secret diary of an entrepreneur A busy week for Arty Globe

Focus on technology

40 The big debate: Outsourcing payroll Software vs outsourcing for RTI

95 Our man in the valley David Richards’ tech column

43 The FD is the key Prioritise hiring your FD

97 Call security… Beware fraudulent emails

46 A day in the life… Diary of a Start-Up Loan recipient

101 Mobile motivation Using tech to motivate staff

49 Before you sign on the dotted line… Legal agreements

102 Hidden depths: APM Application portfolio management

Focus on strategy 51 The branding column Rich With 53 Driving your business Global expansion 56 We have lift off? CRM project success 64 What are you really selling? Reconsider your offering 67 When is an office not an office? Virtual offices 68 Getting on trend 2013 Social media trends

Focus on marketing

71 The marketing column Kimberly Davis

105 I’ve got an app for that… Our fave business apps 106 HP vs Vodafone This month’s best affordable tablets

Focus on franchise 109 Franchise news 111 Spotlight Roomzzz Aparthotel 115 Take one franchise Just Shutters 116 Too good to be true? Questions to ask before you buy

Focus on advice 120 Business In You 123 FreeAgent talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 07

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Are you wasting too much time on your accounting admin? Don’t. ‘Since we started using KashFlow, the admin has shrunk dramatically. By ten or fifteen times!’ Marcus Potts Isocube

We can help you too! Get one month free by entering the promocode: TALKBIZ when registering. www.kashflow.com

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

Helen Coffey helen.coffey@astongreenlake.com DESIGN

Stephanie Allingham stephanie.allingham@astongreenlake.com Ross Trigg ross.trigg@astongreenlake.com PRODUCTION COORDINATOR

Natasha Singh artwork@astongreenlake.com WEB DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

Mitchell Finlay mitchell.finlay@astongreenlake.com ADVERTISING MANAGER

Scott Hartley scott.hartley@astongreenlake.com SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER

Damien Ward damien.ward@astongreenlake.com ACCOUNT MANAGER

Trystan Hurley trystan.hurley@astongreenlake.com MANAGING DIRECTOR

Jay Boisvert jay@astongreenlake.com Circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: Aston Greenlake Publishing Ltd T: 0203 617 4680 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Aston Greenlake Publishing Ltd. Floor 8, 6 Mitre Passage Peninsula Central Greenwich, London SE10 0ER T:02036174681 ©Copyright 2013. 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.

Success sells Success is a strange, elusive mistress. You can court it, take it out for expensive dinners, and beg it to be yours – to no avail. It’s like it can smell the desperation…and it’s not interested. But for some people, success just clicks. Those lucky entrepreneurs often have an aura about them, which could be summed up simply as “confidence”, but actually goes far deeper than that. I met several this month who, without looking at their annual gross profit and turnover, you could just tell had made it. The phenomenal Jacqueline Gold, poster girl for aspiring female entrepreneurs everywhere and this month’s cover star, definitely had “it” – the success-factor, shall we say. Next stop was the Hotel & Catering Show in Bournemouth, where I chaired a session on starting your own business in the hospitality sector. It was essentially a Q&A with Anthony Pender, one of the founders of the awardwinning and rapidly expanding Yummy Pub Company. As he spoke with considerable passion yet quiet authority on starting and growing his business on a shoestring budget, I realised he had “it” in spades too. So what do they have in common? Partly it is sheer positive thinking; it comes from never doubting their vision, nor their ability to carry it out. We aim to aid and inspire you to success in this jam-packed issue of Talk Business: read Jacqueline Gold’s story on page 16, and glean tips from the founder of All Star Lanes on page 22. Flip to page 29 to read the secrets behind the psychology of success. And make sure you check out our feature on driving your business into global markets on page 53 if you’re after advice on expansion. Whatever your goals and ambitions for your business this year, just remember: be confident, be assertive, and believe in yourself 100%. Enjoy,

Helen Coffey 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 Ltd cannot be held responsible for such variation.

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The IT crowd Alexandre Wentzo is the CEO of Casewise, a globally

recognised leader in the provision of software and consultancy solutions, which helps organisations utilise IT to maximise cost efficiency. While many of his competitors have either disappeared or lost their way, he has grown Casewise in the middle of the most challenging down-turn in recent memory. An accomplished linguist and an excellent communicator, Alexandre is not afraid to take tough decisions to keep his organisation in first place. Read his feature on how APM can transform your business on page 102

Fiona Harkin is senior vice president, content, at Stylus.com.

Fiona has over 14 years’ experience working as a journalist, consultant and editor. As a freelance consultant since 2007, she has worked on many high-profile projects while editing bespoke magazines and developing multi-media editorial concepts for leading design brands. Fiona has been a regular contributor to The Financial Times’ Style pages since 2002. Most recently, she was launch editor of Bauer Media’s ecommerce site, Cocosa.com. Fiona has lived and worked in Asia and the US. Read her social media trend predictions for the next year on page 68

Mike Foreman leads AVG Technologies’ small- and medium-

sized business group, a global organisation dedicated to uncomplicating the lives of SMBs and the channel partners that serve them. In his role, Mike is responsible for all aspects of the company’s goal in growing this segment. Prior to assuming leadership of the SMB group, Mike was senior vice president of global sales for AVG; during his tenure, Mike grew AVG Technologies into the UK’s number one player in the consumer anti-virus space. Read his warning on the top three email scams that SMEs could fall prey to on page 97

Rebecca Rockafellar is the general manager of the Getty

Images’-owned microstock pioneer, iStockphoto, and senior vice president of ecommerce for Getty Images overall. Rebecca oversees the global strategy and operational leadership of iStockphoto. She has prioritised the customer experience of iStock, and continues to hone the quality of iStock’s customer interactions. She brings more than 15 years’ experience in business and technology management, from small start-ups to large enterprises. She held senior positions at Avenue A and Loudeye prior to joining Getty Images in 2003. Read her tips on creating an attractive website without breaking the bank on page 73

10 April 2013

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MARCH MISTAKE While we like to think we’re pretty much perfect here at Talk Business, even we make mistakes sometimes. We’d like to acknowledge the following errors in March’s interview with Matt Barrie [Winner takes all, March]: “Stamford University” should, of course, have read “Stanford University”. “We bought the 50th biggest marketplace” should have read “the fifth biggest marketplace”. Finally, “vice president” should have read “VP growth”. We’re sorry for any confusion caused – call it March madness!


We check out what’s been on your minds this month: face to face meetings, the benefits of slow and steady growth, and getting the word out

KEEPING IT REAL Hi Talk Business, There’s a lot written these days about how technology can improve business, save you money, time, etc. I happen to agree that this can never really replace face to face, real contact with clients, colleagues and leads [The personal touch, March]. The meaningful relationships that you build up through these interactions are so much deeper and stronger than those you can make over email, phone or even Skype. A lot of it is not tangible – it is just that, without even realising it, you may mentally go to the top of someone’s list next time they are looking at new suppliers, and all because you built up a real rapport and connection.

Anthony Warrington


Dear Talk Business, It was nice to see the Start-Up Loans pushing the scheme [Start-Up Loans special, March]. Until now it’s been flying under the radar a bit I think – none of my friends or peers had really heard about it, or knew what it was before. Hopefully the word will start to spread more now, as it’s a great idea for young entrepreneurs. Thanks,

Will Bishop



Dear Editor, The BDO’s survey prediction that there will be slow business growth in Q1 of 2013 is a sound prediction as our own survey corroborates, but it gives the wrong impression that a return to the growth of yesteryear is either likely to happen, or indeed, desirable. Slow growth is the new norm that many SMEs have learned to change and adapt to over the past few recessional years. The current economic climate has unique benefits in that it is not a debt-fuelled boom, so the future outlook is a more positive one. In the current marketplace those buying products or services have choices and can reward businesses that offer great service and do a good job, thus penalising those who are complacent. Yours faithfully,

If you’d like to send us your thoughts about Talk Business, or anything else that’s happening on the SME scene, just get in touch: email: helen.coffey@astongreenlake.com snail mail: Aston Greenlake, 8th floor, 6 Mitre Passage, Greenwich Peninsula, London , SE10 0ER

Tweets of

the month… @ADBYcreative Great article in @Talkbusinessmag about licensing for business, pg55 - its not all just music, photography or pubs! @novoda Experimenting with old style printed advertising in @Talkbusinessmag @shelllivewireuk Meet the lovely Grand Ideas winner Fiona Timba @ packed_munches in February’s @ talkbusinessmag, p29 for her feature @Samrai_Ree Is Friday your favourite day for tough business decisions...? via @TalkBusinessMag @TalkBusinessMag Tuesday’s Riddle: I am weightless, but you can see me. Put me in a bucket, and I’ll make it lighter. What am I? @lightcommerce Our featured article in @TalkBusinessMag magazine! @FSBLondon Realtime scheme starts April 6 biggest PAYE change since 1944 means end of Payroll Year End as we know it -u prepared? @blackbullion everyone so glum on this train am considering a loud rendition of “if you’re happy and you know it....” (8.58 to Waterloo) @nigelbotterill The value you add to your customers comes through making things happen, not from doing all those things yourself. @RichardDenny #TFTD: If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. #quotes #thoughtfortheday #thoughts #saying

Bob Bradley, Chairman, MD2MD

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News & events


‘OUT OF TOUCH’ PERCEPTIONS THAT ENTREPRENEURS are ‘isolated, highly driven, risk taking mavericks’ are putting young people off starting up their own businesses, according to a report published by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA). Pointing to figures released by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the report Disrupt Inc found that while 9.5% of 18 to 24-year-olds say they intend to start a business, only 3.6% are actually doing so. The report, supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, concluded that, while ‘valiant steps’ have been taken to support young people via schemes such as StartUp Britain and Business in You, the language used by the enterprise support industry alienates some young people and puts them off starting a business. Support organisations should launch a joint marketing campaign in order to challenge some of the myths surrounding enterprise, and encourage more young people to come forward and access business support, the report said. Andrew Haigh, executive director of client propositions at Coutts, said: ‘As the economic environment changes around us, so too does the way in which young entrepreneurs seek to engage with enterprise – in the hands of entrepreneurs it is hardly surprising that the nature of entrepreneurship itself will evolve and re-invent itself.
 ‘There is much to learn from this report, both for us and the broader enterprise support community.’ RSA researchers identified that other countries have much higher start up rates among their young people than the UK does. In the United States, one in seven young people engages in early stage entrepreneurial activity, compared to one in 17 in the UK.

Dates for the diary YES Network April Meeting 11 April Mishcon de Reya, London www.eventelephant.com/ yesnetwork

The Mobile Enterprise 30 April Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel, London www.information-Age.com/events

London City Boost (Spring 2013) 12 April Tate Modern, London www.london-cityboost.eventbrite.com

The Rise of Young Entrepreneurs Networking Event 30 April Google Campus, London www.eventbrite.com

The Art of New Business 18 April Brick Lane, London www.theartofnewbusiness.com

Cloudforce London 2 May ICC ExCeL, London www.salesforce.com/uk

The UK’s Energy Innovation Awards 2013 25 April The Radisson Edwardian, Manchester www.energyinnovationcentre.com

The Business Growth Show, Greater London 10 May Westminster, London thebusinessgrowthshow.com

Master Investor 2013 27 April Business Design Centre, London www.masterinvestor.co.uk

North East London Business Expo 2013 14 May Leyton Orient Football Club, London www.nelexpo.co.uk

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News & events

SMES TURNED OFF BY CABLE’S BUSINESS BANK NEW RESEARCH RELEASED reveals that only 13% of small businesses believe Vince Cable’s proposed British Business Bank is a good idea for the UK’s small business sector. The survey, conducted by Crunch Accounting, also shows that over a quarter of SMEs think it would be a conflict of interest if both the Government and the private sector are involved in a state-backed bank, which is due to be in operation by 2014. A further 28% of respondents said that they are not fully aware of the proposal, claiming there has not been enough information available. Darren Fell, MD at Crunch Accounting, said: ‘The research shows that Cable’s idea is already failing its target market. With over 80% of SMEs either rejecting the idea or saying they are too ill-informed to have an opinion, it seems that Cable’s proposal is little more than lip service.’ Vince Cable’s Small Business Bank aims to provide an investment alternative for small- and medium-sized firms. It was announced at the Lib Dem Conference in September 2012, and will be funded by a mixture of £1bn from the Government and £1bn from a collection of private sector investors.

Scheme supports ‘tech for good’ start-ups BETHNAL GREEN VENTURES begins its UK-wide search for people who want to use technology to tackle stuff that matters, from health care and education to employment and an ageing population. Each year, Bethnal Green Ventures supports teams with new ideas to help build solutions to social problems. Giving advice to applicants, Paul Miller, who co-ordinates the Bethnal Green Ventures programme, said: ‘Your idea needs to have the potential to tackle our biggest social and environmental challenges. We’re looking for startups that could eventually improve the lives of millions of people.’ Ten successful applicants will receive £15,000 for their start-up, as well as taking part in a three-month support programme to help hone their idea, connect them to a large network of investors and customers, and provide them

with central London office space for three months. The deadline for the summer 2013 programme applications is 29 April. Appy online at: www.bethnalgreenventures. com/apply


AT RISK MORE THAN A third of chief executives are disengaged with their supply chain, according to a survey of senior supply chain managers, carried out by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS). The CIPS survey also found almost 50% of companies do not have a comprehensive supply chain risk mitigation strategy. Over 50% of supply chain professionals thought the horsemeat saga was a problem caused by the supermarkets squeezing suppliers. In addition, almost 90% of supply chain managers feel regulators do not sufficiently understand supply chains. After the horsemeat crisis, only 60% of supply chain managers are taking supply chain risk more seriously than they did previously. In response to the figures, David Noble, CIPS chief executive, said: ‘The horsemeat scandal highlighted the damage that can be caused when supply chains are not adequately managed. ‘These survey results are disappointing, but not surprising, given how few CEOs and boards take supply chain issues seriously.’

14 April 2013

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Focus on success FACE ON THE COVER


Golden girl

The key to retail success in a global recession? Reinvention, reinvention, reinvention. The Ann Summers entrepreneur, Jacqueline Gold, tells Helen Coffey why it’s survival of the quickest in today’s cut-throat market


acqueline Gold is like the Madonna of UK retail. I don’t mean that she is a yoga-obsessive with a ‘nothing over 30’ dating policy. No, simply that she is the queen of reinvention. From when she first started at Ann Summers on work experience over 30 years ago, to heading up the business as the present chief executive, she has kept the brand fresh and dynamic, with an emphasis on constant adaptation to meet the modern shopper’s needs. The biggest change came when a young Jacqueline created the concept of selling sex toys and lingerie at ‘Tupperware’ parties, put on by women for women, so that they could purchase these products without having to go into a sex shop. This was a revolution, shifting the market – at the time majorly male-dominated and perceived as somewhat seedy – towards catering for women in a fun, non-threatening environment.

A real game changer, yes, but if that were the end of the story, Britain’s foremost erotic chain may well have been relegated to the ‘fallen high street giants’ corner along with GAME, Woolworths and the rest. With the economic crash, only those prepared to evolve quickly and perpetually reinvent to stay relevant would come out unscathed. Not one to rest on her laurels, Jacqueline has never once stopped pushing the brand forward or looking for the next opportunity: ‘As retailers, we need to make sure we’re providing a really edgy, exciting environment,’ she tells me. ‘If you look at the retailers who have disappeared, a lot of those companies didn’t keep pace and reinvent themselves.’ Not a mistake that she has made and, with Fifty Shades of Grey and the like putting women’s erotica firmly back in the public eye, Ann Summers is primed and ready to make the most of our obsession with all things sexy…

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Focus on success

How did your idea for Ann Summers parties affect the business? It completely changed the business. I was invited to a Tupperware party, but one selling clothes. The women knew I was doing work experience at Ann Summers, and they said: ‘Why don’t you do the same for Ann Summers?’ At that time the whole thing was very male-orientated – you couldn’t buy sexy underwear on the high street like you can now. You had to rely on a man to buy it for you, so it was catered towards what men wanted rather than what women liked. I was trying to help people spice up their love lives, giving them access to this stuff without having to go into a sex shop. It got us a lot of attention at the time. There were a lot of challenges. But it’s great; if I were to talk to someone 18-24 now, they would be shocked by

“In this environment, the winners are the ones that reinvent themselves” the challenges. That shows how far we’ve come as a business, and how far society has come in terms of equality in the bedroom.

How hard was it changing people’s perceptions of the sex industry?

What was your first job?

Working for Royal Doulton. They asked me to stay on and train up for management, but I didn’t want to – it was too quiet there. Little did I know how far I’d end up going in business! Another job I did was waitressing when I was 16, at a place called The Spinning Wheel; I went back there for the first time recently. It was really bizarre going back – it had changed a lot.

Were you always entrepreneurial?

I was definitely always very hard working. One example is that when I was 13 I was designing crossword puzzles and charging 50p a time – this was before it was all computerised. I was always looking for ways to make money, and to become financially independent. I always wanted to go into business, but I never dreamt it was going to get quite as big as we are now. Sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself.

That was my biggest challenge. It was very difficult at the beginning. People had a lot of scepticism about it. I remember that one board member actually said: ‘This won’t work, women aren’t even interested in sex’. That was like a red rag to a bull! There were business difficulties too – we couldn’t advertise in certain places because we were a sex shop. I got a bullet in the post when we wanted to set up in Ireland. And the challenges haven’t stopped – we took the Government to court recently because they wouldn’t allow us to advertise in job centres. But that has been my colourful career, and looking back I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. If what we were doing wasn’t causing controversy and shaking things up, we wouldn’t have stood out. That has always been our USP.

What were the biggest struggles you faced as a young entrepreneur?

Honestly, it was difficult because it was such a man’s world. Men were driving all the decisions. I was quite shy at 21. I was a woman, I was

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Focus on success FACE ON THE COVER

it’s beautiful. All the brands have their flagship stores there, and it’s a great environment to shop in. It’s about creating a leisure experience; we need to make sure the environment is convenient, that there is parking, that it’s an enjoyable place to be. As retailers, we need to make sure we’re providing a really edgy, exciting environment. That’s what we do really well at Ann Summers; we keep it different and exciting. If you look at other businesses like The White Company, Ted Baker or John Lewis, they are changing with the times. Other middle-weight businesses are so desperate to stay afloat they’ll squeeze margins, do crazy sales where they barely make a profit, and get into serious trouble.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

It’s the whole thrill I suppose, of making a difference and coming up with ideas, of being forward thinking. I feel as passionate about the business as I did 20 years ago. And now I also get the opportunity to speak at events and give something back.

And the worst?

“I absolutely do think there’s a future for the high street” young, and I remember feeling I had to try and compensate for that. I used to wear a Dallas-style suit, until one day someone told me I looked like a politician! I decided to try and be myself. Compensating for being young made me really focused though, and that’s the best way to overcome that challenge – because in the end success speaks for itself.

Is there a future for the high street, or has the Internet destroyed traditional forms of retail? I absolutely do think there’s a future for the high street. We’re a nation of shoppers. There has been a decline, but I wouldn’t blame it all on the Internet; it’s more that we’re moving into a multi-platform world. Customers want the flexibility to choose to buy quickly and conveniently, from a variety of channels. We just have to adapt to fit that. On the high street, we have to focus on providing experiences – you go to Stratford Westfield, and

Making tough decisions – especially in a climate like this. Unfortunately the wage bill is always the highest bill, so it’s usually the one you look at first. The good thing about Ann Summers is that we’ve always run a tight ship, and if stores aren’t working well, we’ve been on it, looking at ways to turn it around. It’s meant that we were in quite a good position when the recession came. Whereas if you look at a business like New Look: they have 600 stores and now they have to try and consolidate and they’re in trouble. Fortunately I’ve always kept a very keen eye on the way the business is run.

What would your advice be to entrepreneurs in the current economic climate?

I would say this is the worst it’s going to get – it can only get better. And when you look at the winners and losers in this environment, the winners are the ones that reinvent themselves. So the key is to come up with something edgy, different and exciting. There are so many businesses out there that try and imitate: you should try and innovate. Also, customers are looking for value for money. They have money to spend, but they are cautious about spending it. This is the time for businesses to be bold and look where they can find the best deals and terms – we recently got together with all of our landlords, which probably is not the norm, but we want good relationships with them. It makes it much easier when it comes to re-negotiating terms. As long as you’ve done the work, you’re focused and you’ve done your homework, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be successful. And just remember: the one thing small businesses can offer that big businesses find hard is exceptional service, so make sure you focus on that.

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Focus on success FACE ON THE COVER

Is it hard to be the poster girl for successful businesswomen?

I used to think so – you obviously don’t put yourself on a pedestal, but other people do. But I also love inspiring other women – I do lots of mentoring sessions for women, and I run a competition on Twitter every Wednesday for women in business. I think there’s a lot of wasted talent out there when it comes to women in business. I hope people look at me and think, ‘If she’s achieved what she’s achieved after all of the hurdles she’s had to navigate, then I can do it too’. I don’t feel the pressure anymore, I just enjoy being able to inspire people.

As a mum, do you find it hard to balance your business with your personal life?

When I first had my daughter I found it really difficult – it takes time to get that balance right. I would feel guilty if I spent too much time at the office, and I would feel guilty if I spent too much time at home. I couldn’t win. I overcame that firstly because I had strong support around me. And I learnt to balance things better. When I am spending quality time with my daughter, I make sure it really is quality time; I make sure I’m doing loads of things with her and making it count. I’m lucky, because Scarlett loves school and she loves learning new things. For some women their job is a major part of their identity, and I think it’s wrong that people frown upon that and make them feel bad about it. It’s about finding the balance. My daughter is my number one, but I feel I’ve got that balance right now.

What does the future look like for Ann Summers?

The great thing about our business is that, although we’re not recession-proof and we’re working extra hard, we have so many opportunities to take us forward, rather than having to work desperately just to stand still. There are lots of opportunities abroad, but also here in the UK – since the Fifty Shades phenomenon, other businesses are looking at us differently. There are a few opportunities on the table that wouldn’t have been around ten years ago. It’s a very good place to be. We’re also working on making our multi-channel strategy as seamless as possible, because that is what the future of retail will look like – we’ve got four very strong routes to market, but we want to work so they are streamlined and as convenient as possible. It feels like a very exciting time for us.

Contact: www.annsummers.com

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My life I’m watching: I loved Homeland – I was addicted! But that’s stopped, so now I’m into The Following; it’s very intense and quite scary I’m reading: The last book I read was Terry Leahy’s Management in 10 Words I’m listening to: My favourite music at the moment is Rebecca Ferguson’s album, Heaven I’m surfing: Net-A-Porter for myself; but I do find myself on the Hobbycraft website a lot as well. I secretly enjoy it…

“I got a bullet in the post when we wanted to set up in Ireland”

26/03/2013 17:56

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LUCKY strike A far cry from the traditional bowling alley, All Star Lanes broke the mould when it launched the ‘boutique bowling’ concept seven years ago. Founder and CEO, Mark von Westenholz, talks to TB as he gears up for opening the first site outside of London


t seems nothing out of the ordinary to the erudite Londoner these days, the idea of a night out which consists of bowling, cocktails, great food and live music. But just seven years ago, this concept was not only revolutionary – it was completely unheard of.

“We simply did not know whether the public would go for it or not; we were very lucky” Enter Mark von Westenholz, founder of All Star Lanes: the first upmarket bowling alley where you’re just as likely to find a well-mixed Mojito as you are the ubiquitous two-toned shoes. ‘A friend and I had really liked bowling at university,’ says Mark. ‘It occurred to us that there were very few decent places to go ten pin bowling in London.’ As it was in 2005, bowling was synonymous with lukewarm beer, stale tortilla chips and a half-hour game played in a venue that closely resembled an aircraft hangar. All Star Lanes turned this on its head, asking the question: ‘Why can’t bowling be a great night out?’

Mark took inspiration from the other sectors where upmarket was fast replacing low-rent in consumers’ hearts: ‘It was in line with what was happening all over London – there was a whole wave of gastro pubs, there was Lucky Voice, boutique cinemas were popping up. ‘People were trying to differentiate themselves and create something a bit more, something a bit different.’ Naturally following through with something he was passionate about, Mark decided to apply this trend to bowling. ‘I thought, “Why isn’t there somewhere fun and luxurious and decent to go bowling?” It just steamrollered from there,’ he says. ‘There had to be a real emphasis on decent food and drink, and attractive surroundings – it was repositioning ten pin bowling for a more affluent market.’ Now it sounds like a corker of an idea, and one that was bound to hit the right note with young professional Londoners and corporate teams alike. But hindsight is a wonderful thing;

at the time, success never felt assured. This was an entirely new offering, and All Star Lanes was the guinea pig. ‘There’s an awful lot of luck involved, which determines whether you get investors to buy into you, and whether you get customers to buy into the idea. ‘For us, we simply did not know whether the public would go for it or not; we were very lucky that people bought into it very quickly.’ For all his talk of luck, Mark’s business model had all the ingredients for success from the outset. It was innovative, fresh and trend-led, and the investors clearly saw the potential too, enabling All Star Lanes to raise £1.5m in total. It was the visionaries who jumped onboard though: ‘I had private investors who could see it was an opportunity that could really fly. I did approach some more established people for investment, but they didn’t get it at all.’ And they weren’t the only ones. It seems a bizarre stumbling block, but the greatest obstacle that All Star Lanes faced was finding

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“It’s so rewarding watching something you’ve created grow”

premises – and convincing a landlord to buy into the idea. Mark recounts this challenge as a real low point for the business: ‘Getting landlords to take us seriously was really hard – it was a much more robust property market in 2005, and it was very competitive. ‘I had great difficulty, because landlords would go with a more established brand every time. I was going around London looking at loads of stuff, and they just didn’t get the concept.’ Did he ever worry that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off? ‘There were times when I really wondered if it would happen; the painful bit was finding the venue. ‘But once we located it and convinced the landlord, we had something tangible.’ Mark was not deterred – and he preaches what he practices, declaring that, as a struggling start-up, you need ‘to persevere, to remain focused, to not spread yourself too thin.’ Failure was never an option, and nor was any other life choice for Mark, it seems. He did an MBA 10 years ago, keen to pick up entrepreneurial skills, and never looked back.

‘I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,’ he says. ‘I tried a few things after university, but I really felt a strong urge to go it alone. It’s very difficult to know where I might have ended up otherwise…’ Thankfully he doesn’t have to, with a team of over 300 employees working for him, and a steady, healthy expansion over the past seven years. So what motivates him to get out of bed every morning? ‘The upside is the freedom: the ability to manage my own day and my own life. ‘There is a real sense of ownership of what you’ve done, and it’s so rewarding watching something you’ve created grow.’ One might imagine that, after such a successful few years, All Star Lanes would be off, all guns blazing, ready to take on the world (all while coolly sipping a Martini and tucking into a selection of Sicilian olives, of course). Mark’s strategy however is carefully thought out and risk-averse, lending weight to the building impression that the enterprise’s success has had little to do with luck, and everything to do with the keenly astute business brain behind

it. On the subject of whether the latest venue, based in Manchester, will be the first of many locations outside London, Mark is confident yet cautious. He says: ‘Manchester is an experiment for us, because what we’ve proved to date is that the business works in London. ‘It’s an awfully corporate model – Christmas parties, entertaining clients, team building. London’s got a big corporate presence. ‘Of course, if Manchester is successful, we’d love to go to other cities, like Leeds and Liverpool – the plan is to roll out the concept. But we’re holding fire a little until we see how Manchester goes.’ A fun, upmarket consumer experience combined with a grounded strategy and an unflappable entrepreneur – there’s only one word for that. Stttrrrikkke!

Contact: www.allstarlanes.co.uk

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Focus on success UP-AND-COMING



Bicycle wheels + tailored advertising = Old Bond, the innovative start-up from Shell LiveWIRE winners, Art and Kiryl. TB finds out more

The name “Old Bond” conjures up the image of an upmarket tailor – which is apt, considering the business provides tailored advertising solutions. It uses cutting-edge technology, new to the UK, to introduce a breakthrough in outdoor advertising: the projection of videos from bicycle wheels. Offering full package advertising campaigns with video-bikes, riders, artwork and promo-people, their campaigns consist of two parts: stationary advertising, where the video-bikes are lifted up on bike stands while a special device spins the wheels playing promotional content, and in-motion advertising, where video-bikes patrol selected areas, putting ads in front of pedestrians and car drivers.

Where did the idea come from?

think it’s over, give the idea another chance.

by gradually increasing the intensity of light.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be doing today?

How much does money motivate you?

Art: I would probably be a lawyer as I have two law degrees. Or I would travel around the world if that counts! Kiryl: I’d be an engineer. I am actually now about to complete my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford.

What’s been your worst ever job? When we were both 11 years old, we really wanted to earn some money ourselves. So we went to the local job centre in Belarus where we were commissioned to pick up stones from the potato field in some village outside the city. They paid something like $2 per tonne. We didn’t get rich that time.

What’s top of your bucket list?

Art: To do the round-the-worldtrip, and to visit countries to volunteer for children every year. Kiryl: To make some of Old Bond’s exciting projects become mainstream.

We wanted to somehow use the fact that there are around 400,000 trips a week made in London from work to home and back again. We kicked around a couple of ideas on this, and they led us to start the company we are running now.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as young entrepreneurs?

Our main advice is not to be scared of failures. Even if you

Kiryl: Suno – it’s a great new app which mimics the sunrise

Lack of initial funding and working capital; lack of expertise in the field.

What gets you out of bed What’s your advice to young in the morning? entrepreneurs trying to get an Art: The thought that this could idea off the ground? be the day that will change my life.

We want to earn as much money as possible so it allows us not to think about money at all. Then we will be able to concentrate on things like charity, travelling and teaching.

What’s been your proudest moment?

There are a few – the moment when we won scholarships for our PhDs or got the investment at Dragons’ Den.

What’s your vision for the future of Old Bond?

Like any other young company, we aim big. We want to improve the technology more and come up with some new, exciting products. We really want to see the technology on thousands of bikes in Europe.

Contact: www.oldbond.co.uk

My life I’m watching: Breaking Bad, Closer and The Artist (Art) The Apprentice, Dragons’ Den and The Gladiator (Kiryl) I’m reading: Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole (Art) Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (Kiryl) I’m listening to: TedTalk and Ricky Gervais (Art) Radiohead and classical music (Kiryl) I’m surfing: www.oldbond.co.uk

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Focus on success 12 STEPS


The steps

to success:


We’re kicking it up a gear and getting serious with step 10: Carly Ward, founder of the YES Network, shares her know-how on pitching your business to investors

“People really do buy people”

If you need money to start or grow your business – and most businesses do – then you need to get your pitch right. Try and put together an initial 60-second pitch; start off with a one line summary that is going to grab the attention of the person who is potentially giving you the money. You could be pitching to an investor or a bank, for a grant or even a loan, and you need to adapt your pitch to make it suitable for each of these. For example, if you’re pitching to an investor, how much equity are you willing to give away? How much money are you asking for, and when will the investor get their money back and make a profit on top? It is so important to explain what problem your business is solving, why people will buy it, what track record you have to prove it will sell, that you have done your research – but, most importantly, that you are going to make MONEY! Always remember that you must get on well with the people you are pitching to. People really do buy people. You

could have the best idea in the world, but if you just don’t click with your potential investor, it’s probably not going to be a partnership made it heaven. If you have a good idea and need money, don’t worry about how you will get it: just get out there networking and, if it’s meant to be, the money will find you. Work hard on your pitch and make sure you really know what you are talking about. A well known investor and one of the mentors in our education programme, Julie Meyer, gives some great advice: start small, think big, and move fast. 1. You don’t need much money to start small if you make sure you keep your costs low 2. Thinking big is really important; no one wants to invest in a company that isn’t going to make any money 3. Move fast – you don’t know who else is out there, working on exactly the same product or service. You need to move quickly, while making sure you take enough time to get your business into an investable position

Have a look at the following websites: www.ariadnecapital.com: this is Julie Meyer’s investment company. It specialises in raising large amounts of investment for technology companies. www.seedrs.com: you can raise start-up capital on this site or become an investor. www.crowdcube.com: you can crowdfund your business on this site, or invest in others. www.kickstarter.com: you can upload your video pitch on this site and, if people decide to invest in you, you just give them something i.e. your product instead of equity. You can essentially self-fund your business through pre-orders. Tweet me if you have any comments and want to get in touch – @carlyyes. Hope to see you at our next event on 11 April. Grab your ticket by heading to: www.eventelephant. com/yesnetwork Contact: www.yesnetwork.co.uk Twitter @carlyyes @yesteam

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Focus on success STARTING UP



Trader turned entrepreneur, Greg Secker, founded the UK’s leading trader coaching company, Knowledge to Action. Here he tells Talk Business about the mindset behind every successful entrepreneur


aving trained thousands of people to master the financial markets, I am left in no doubt that their emotions and subconscious play a massive part in the way they trade. It is the same in business. The psychology of every individual defines their attitude towards wealth, how prone they are to risk taking, and how far they are prepared to push themselves. “An entrepreneur’s hunger for success must outweigh his fear of failure”

“You can’t just think your business is going to be successful; you have to truly believe it”

Human belief

Robert Dilts, an American psychologist in the mid ’80s, believed that “human belief” systems defined the ultimate success or failure of an individual. I have frequently recognised this principle, both on the trading floor and in the running of a business. The original belief we have in something defines the action and the resources we end up using. This in turn decides the results we get. A business venture succeeds or fails because of the attitude of its founder. Our outlooks determine the real world feedback of our actions. You can’t just think your business is going to be successful; you have to truly believe it. This belief is what will enable you to invest the energy and resources needed to build a successful business.

Thinking vs feeling

People may think of wealth as something that would allow them to lead a luxurious lifestyle, and this conjures up images of a pleasurable and decadent existence. However, the way you feel about money comes from deeper within the subconscious. It is the things you were told about

money as a child that are more likely to define your actual response to wealth. Our interaction with the world is defined by where we place ourselves within it. Some people grow up believing that wealth and the activities associated with amassing it are not a part of who they are. In our society this has become a kind of mass hypnosis, which leads to people losing the belief that they can create their own fortunes. All too often people simply sit back and wait for life to happen to them. An entrepreneur is someone who has decided to take control of their own future. This requires a confidence in your ability to make your own fortune and requires a certain type of personality.

Calculating risks

Those starting up or running their own businesses have to be prepared to take risks. No one is going to be able to take responsibility for the company’s successes or failures apart from you. This has led to a general assumption that entrepreneurs are risk takers, or that they simply fail to see risks as other people do. Perhaps entrepreneurs are reluctant to see reasons why they might fail, seeing opportunities where others see danger. I would argue that, just as it can be dangerous for a trader to be over confident in their risk taking, the same is also true for an entrepreneur. There is a need to be confident in your decisions, but the most important thing is that these decisions are well informed and pertinent. In business, though there is no value in taking blind

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Focus on success STARTING UP

risks, there may sometimes be benefits in taking a calculated risk in order to achieve a long term goal. It remains undeniably important to ensure that your decisions are based on reality and that they have been meticulously planned. If you can achieve this then you are not being unreasonable in sticking to your plan, despite certain obstacles.

Knowledge is power

Entrepreneurs should have a thirst for knowledge and innovation. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is the resource that will enable you to plan ahead in a way that the uninformed businessman is unable to. This thirst for knowledge is essential no matter how successful you become. The kind of person who wants to become an entrepreneur is often the kind of person who is bored easily by the routine of a salaried job. Entrepreneurs should be constantly asking questions, rather than presuming that they already know best. This Socratic method will lead to a far more rounded understanding of any given situation. There is always something new to learn and it is the willingness to embrace this that will keep a company agile and place it ahead of its competitors.

Think positive

Research has shown that entrepreneurs are less worried about what others think of them than most people. I have found this very important while building Knowledge to Action. There will always be people who throw unwarranted negativity at your idea; an entrepreneur needs the determination not to be thrown off course. A business will be successful if it finds a new niche in the market, and this can only be achieved through pursuing new ideas. You can’t be afraid to shake up your industry. An entrepreneur’s hunger for success must outweigh his fear of failure.

An entrepreneur in the making

I have no doubt that there are certain personality traits that are needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. However, there is nothing to say that these traits cannot be learned and developed through practice. If you can understand the psychology of wealth and risk taking, then this will enable you to push yourself towards success and greater monetary gain. Setting out on an entrepreneurial venture takes a great deal of courage and an unwavering self-confidence. Setting out on a successful entrepreneurial venture takes a lot of hard work, a desire to innovate and an in depth understanding of your field.

Greg Secker founded the UK’s leading trader coaching company, Knowledge to Action, in 2004. Having retired at just 27 from his role of vice-president at Mellon Financial Corporation, Greg went on to set up his own trading floor from home to teach his family and friends the secrets of trading success. From this, the concept of Knowledge to Action was born. As of 2010, 140,000 people had attended Knowledge to Action’s trading courses, and Greg has built up an international reputation as a Forex trader.

Contact: knowledgetoaction.co.uk

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Focus on success TWEETERS

Tweetpreneurs So we’ve all been lectured on the importance of engaging with our followers on Twitter until we’re sick to death of hearing about it. But who should we be following? Here are our top business tweeters

TechHub London Twitter handle: @TechHub Who? “Global community, flexible workspace and events for tech entrepreneurs and startups. Also @TechHubRiga & @TechHubManc. CEO @evarley. Questions? hello@techhub.com” Why? TechHub is the physical hub for the silicon roundabout technology start-up community. In the Old Street area, it consists of desk spaces, coworking space, meeting rooms and an event space. London is the first space, but will be swiftly followed by others in the TechHub network around the world Followers: 9,755 Top tweet: ‘Imagine living with a wife you hate’ choose your investor carefully...

Richard Branson Twitter handle: @richardbranson Who? “Tie-loathing adventurer and thrill seeker, who believes in turning ideas into reality. Otherwise known as Dr Yes at @virgin!” Why? Our favourite bearded entrepreneur is worth a follow: in amongst the more worthy tweets supporting entrepreneurship there are some classics about everything from dolphins to hangovers Followers: 2,992,959 Top tweet: “If dinosaurs had spacecraft they could have saved themselves.” @ProfBrianCox quoting Carl Sagan

Founder Wisdom Twitter handle: @Founderwisdom Who? “FounderWisdom is a blog for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs – FounderWisdom.org” Why? The blog retweets advice, top tips, inspirational sound bites and news from other sources, providing a stream of support for entrepreneurs Followers: 12,602 Top tweet: N/A: Founder Wisdom retweets others, rather than tweeting itself

Emma Jones Twitter handle: @emmaljones Who? “Founder of small business support company, Enterprise Nation @e_nation and co-founder of StartUp Britain @startupbritain” Why? Author of no less than four books (mainly about start-ups), Emma launched her first business at 27. A prolific tweeter, she is a powerful voice for UK small business and great at interacting with followers Followers: 13,083 Top tweet: I find this amazing: ‘73% of Brits go online to send/receive emails, 67% shop online, only 6% have created own site/blog’ SO much potential!

Iain Dodsworth Twitter handle: @iaindodsworth Who? “@TweetDeck founder, partial to a bit of F1 and various other things” Why? The Tweetdeck founder and silicon roundabout entrepreneur is a prolific tweeter, ranging from technical twitter advice to F1 commentary. He has only deemed 35 people worthy of a follow – could you be the next one to make the cut? Followers: 18,485 Top tweet: Just used the phrase “hyper contextual” in a restaurant whilst sitting next to Joanna Lumley, not proud

Startups.co.uk Twitter handle: @startupsfeed Who? “The UK’s leading independent online resource for anyone starting and building a new business” Why? A constant stream of news and advice for start-ups and new businesses. And they tweeted a rap about the change for payroll to RTI…you can’t say fairer than that Followers: 14,027 Top tweet: Think big from day one of your start-up

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Focus on success BOOK REVIEWS

ENTREPRENEUR REVOLUTION: How to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and start a business that works, by Daniel Priestley


According to entrepreneur Daniel Priestley we are in the midst of societal change and entering an ‘entrepreneurial age’. This new ‘entrepreneur economy’ is made up of small, dynamic teams who have embraced the technological shift, which has allowed small businesses to compete with large corporations. With success in global markets, the ability to move products anywhere in the world and generate unprecedented levels of support, these small businesses are often more efficient, dynamic and fun as they are full of people who are passionate, know their customers and love what they do.

He says: The idea of the Entrepreneur Revolution is that the rules that created commercial success in the past have radically changed. Doing what worked yesterday may not bring you success tomorrow. For some people, this will be a time of great uncertainty and loss. For others it will be the greatest opportunity in history. An entrepreneur is simply someone who spots an opportunity and acts to make it into a commercial success. This book is written to help you to become better at spotting opportunities and making them into a commercial success.

We say: Entrepreneur Revolution charts the rise of the small business, and breaks down ways people can actively develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Priestley, unlike many an entrepreneur turned writer, actually can write; the style is natural and fluid. He has some controversial suggestions – no news for 90 days so you can focus on yourself might jar with some. But that’s what makes it such an interesting, rejuvenating read; rather than spouting the same old ideas, the proposed changes are revolutionary and disruptive. Just like the greatest entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur Revolution is published by Capstone, priced at £12.99 in paperback and e-book

COFFEE’S FOR CLOSERS: The best real life sales book you’ll ever read, by Tony Morris

Coffee’s For Closers is published by New Generation Publishing, priced at £12.99 in paperback and e-book

In the current marketplace it’s key to always be at the top of your game, on every sales opportunity. This book contains hundreds of practical ideas and real life techniques that can help you prospect more effectively with key decision makers, gain more referrals, build rapport and be adaptable, handle every objection and manage your time more effectively. This book is suited to sales professionals, sales directors and business owners that want to consistently stay one step ahead of the competition.

He says: After reading over 60 sales books and listening to about 45 audio CDs, it became frustratingly apparent that there were no answers to everyday sales challenges. There were some good techniques and interesting ideas; however I personally struggled to put them into practice in my everyday life as a salesman. This is where the motivation for my book was born. I wanted to write a book that not only shared lots of innovative and easy-to-understand techniques, however it was imperative that these could be implemented into a sales professional’s daily role.


We say: There is plenty of advice and guidance in Coffee’s For Closers. What makes it worth a read is the practical advice applicable to any salesman – rather than outlining abstract concepts or spouting nonsense platitudes about ‘believing in yourself’, it sticks to tried-andtested methods used personally by Tony, who has spent most of his adult life as a successful salesman. The best bits are where he outlines common objections and how you should get around each one to close a sale, from ‘Your product is too expensive’ to ‘Just send me some information’.

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Founder of freelancer.com, Matt Barrie, explains how you can literally make money for nothing by automating your business

“The holy grail is to build automated businesses that run completely in software”

Imagine a business that makes money on autopilot, requiring no oversight, no management, no intervention – no effort on your part. A dream business. Using a combination of software, freelancers and online platforms, we are on the verge of being able to create a new type of business which realises that dream, one that is fully automated. The holy grail is to build automated businesses that run completely in software, with no humans in the loop. Finding these opportunities isn’t easy, but more and more circumstances are arising as software becomes ubiquitous and online marketplaces grow.
If you can’t completely remove humans from the loop, you can at least substitute full-time employees with task-based work performed by online freelancers. Through a few mouse clicks we can access a global workforce of millions of these freelancers, who are skilled in just about any task you can possibly imagine. It’s possible now to automate the more conventional businesses, the sorts of ones that you or I might set up.
I set up a small automated business as an experiment a few

years ago. It is a website that sells arts and craft supplies online to retail customers. It’s basically a clone of the website a wholesaler has, with an identical set of products, a different skin, and a 2 x markup on prices. When an order comes in, the software automatically places the same order with the wholesaler, who drop ships the goods to the customer with my company’s branding on the box for a small fee per order. The payments are taken automatically using Paypal, which integrates into the shopping cart software. I hired a freelancer to manage customer service. Their job can be described by an algorithm: through several steps they manage all the business tasks that software can’t peform. Up front, I personally put in a little bit of work to set this up. I then hired an SEO expert to get me on the front page of Google for some high traffic keywords.
The shopping cart software is open source and free, the domain name costs me £5 a year, and the hosting about £7 a month. The drop shipping costs a few dollars extra per order than if I shipped the items myself. The freelancer is hired

full-time, and costs £200 a month. The site brings in about £90,000 a year. After all the costs it nets about £30,000 a year in earnings before tax. The great thing about this? I don’t do a thing. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

 The trick with automation is to reduce items of work to a series of steps, and then to figure out whether this algorithm can be implemented in software, or whether you can hire a freelancer to do it for you. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can scale it up. Imagine an operation ten times, one hundred times, or one thousand times bigger; this is increasingly easy to do. In the future, perhaps the entire ecommerce landscape might be dominated by bots operating on cutthroat margins, making it impossible for us humans to compete…

Matt Barrie is an Australian technology entrepreneur. He is the CEO of Freelancer.com, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney where he teaches classes in computer and network security. Contact: www.freelancer.co.uk

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Focus on


It’s here: the HMRC RTI deadline has finally hit. Helen Harvey, payroll director at Payrole, offers her top tips to ensure your business is prepared and RTI compliant

The old tax year is coming to a close, and with the new comes a piece of payroll legislation that has got a lot of small businesses worried. There’s no need to panic though, as our handy tips will guide you through to RTI compliance in just a few simple steps:

1. In-house software

If you run your payroll in house and want to carry on doing so, talk to your software provider. If you’ve just carried on doing payroll in the same way that you always have, the chances are you won’t be RTI compliant. However, if you’ve upgraded your payroll software within the last year, you might have been upgraded to an RTI-compliant version. Give your software provider a quick call – but remember to check if there will be any additional cost.

2. Consider outsourcing

“If you leave it until the deadline has passed, you will be rushing and may end up making mistakes”


If you run your payroll in house and are worried about the added workload, consider outsourcing. Many small business owners run their payroll themselves, and the stress of having to report to HMRC every pay day (once a week for some businesses) has been putting them off getting ready for the new system. If you are nervous about RTI and want to put your mind at ease, you could outsource it to your accountant or a specialist provider, like a payroll bureau. A payroll bureau could be cheaper than an accountant, especially if you have a complicated payroll.

3. Talk to your provider

Some payroll bureaus have been taking part in HMRC’s pilot scheme – my business, Payrole, is one of them. They should be able to give you a good idea

of how well they’ve been coping with the changeover, and if you’re not happy with the answers you get, it may be worth thinking about changing provider. Ask your provider how well prepared they are and how they think the change will affect their day-to-day business.

4. Up-to-date data

The second biggest change that’s happening because of RTI is that you will need to submit a lot more information about each of your employees. The key point here is that, even if one field in your submission to HMRC isn’t filled out properly, it will be rejected and you’ll have to start all over again. So make sure you get it right first time to save you hassle in the long run.

5. Don’t delay

This is by far the most important thing – make the changeover to RTI now. If you leave it until the deadline has passed, you will be rushing and may end up making mistakes or paying over the odds, and it will certainly cause you much more stress. Many small business owners have been put off making the changeover as it looks like it could be a lot of stress and a lot of work. Please believe us when we say that it will be more stress and more work the longer you leave it. Contact: www.pay-role.co.uk.

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27/03/2013 09:03

Focus on money THE DEBATE


BIG DEBATE: outsourcing payroll

As the change to RTI kicks in, we look at two very different ways of managing your payroll: it’s outsourcing versus using in-house software in April’s big debate

Pros Frances McCormick, product manager, ADP: ‘Businesses should consider outsourcing their HR and payroll functions’ With the implementation of Real Time Information (RTI) arriving this month, it is important that businesses consider the impact this will have on the way they collect, store and report data. When preparing for this overhaul, businesses should assess what steps they should take and whether it would be beneficial for them to outsource the key functions, rather than tackling them in house. There are six key reasons why businesses should consider outsourcing their HR and payroll functions: time saving, cost saving, knowledge and skills, mitigating risk, future proofing, and best practice and guidance. By appointing an outsourcing provider to manage the HR and payroll functions of the business, companies can save themselves a significant amount of time and administration. The account team appointed will have expert knowledge of legislation changes, which is particularly important when systems are changing as dramatically as they are with the introduction of RTI. Businesses will face penalties should they not report properly to HMRC, and having this legislation knowledge from a provider will save time as employers will not need to train internal teams. Furthermore, such changes in the way companies report to HMRC may require new infrastructure in order to deal with a systems overhaul. Outsourcing providers have had the time to prepare and put this infrastructure into place prior to the introduction of the new legislation: time that many businesses may not necessarily have. Alongside time saving, businesses will save costs by partnering with an outsourcing provider. All investment in infrastructure, software and staff training is made by the payroll outsourcer, and

“Outsourcing providers are experts in their field and give expert guidance”

businesses can benefit and tap into this resource instead of having to pay these costs themselves. Outsourcing providers are experts in their field and give expert guidance that a business purchasing software and running it themselves might not have. This constant access to knowledge and skills is an added incentive for companies to choose to outsource. What’s more, in house analysts at certain payroll companies have strong connections with HMRC, helping to prepare well in advance for further legislation changes. Appointing an outsourcing provider can also help to mitigate risk. Providers have dedicated quality assurance teams to test the payroll reports for any inaccuracies that may fail to meet HMRC requirements. They can highlight common anomalies and provide on-going advice and additional tools to ensure clients are adhering to legislation. RTI files will change from year to year, and some companies might struggle to future-proof their internal systems and software. Outsourcing providers expect changes to be made and will prepare to ensure clients remain compliant, while offering best practice support and advice. On balance, partnering with an outsourcing provider adds a safety net to the internal team, increasing the efficiency of the RTI reporting process and preparing for today, tomorrow and the next day – something that internal teams just do not have the manpower or the resources to do. RTI poses an immediate and significant challenge to any HR and payroll department and they should think now how this and future legislation might affect their business. Contact: www.adp.com

40 April 2013

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26/03/2013 18:16

Focus on money THE DEBATE

Cons Paul Byrne FCA, director, BrightPay: ‘What is the point of outsourcing your payroll at all?’ RTI brings with it a new landscape of instant reporting to HMRC. Gone are the days when you could tell your accountant (or payroll bureau provider) weeks after the event about a new employee starting or someone leaving, and just expect the accountant to sort it all out for you. From 6 April 2013, accountants and other payroll bureau providers will need this information as it happens. You will therefore need to ensure that your system, whatever it may be, is capable of delivering your payroll data in a fashion that is as accurate and as timely as possible. If the old flexibility is gone, what is the point of outsourcing your payroll at all? Why not just enter your payroll data directly into a software package and let it perform all the calculations, produce the payslips and simultaneously handle all the RTI reporting to HMRC? There are some excellent payroll packages out there that are both user friendly and fulfil all requirements and, if you run into problems, have great customer support. Another deciding factor will be cost. Let’s say you have 20 employees being paid weekly. The cost of outsourcing your payroll could exceed £2,000 per annum, while most payroll software packages come in at less than £100 per annum. RTI adds to the responsibility of the accountant (or payroll bureau provider). They must collect new data specific to RTI, such as contracted hours worked or irregular payment details, in a timely manner. They must also be careful to avoid duplication of key items, as this could result in

a lot more time communicating with HMRC. All of these extra requirements may result in the charge for the service increasing, and it is safe to predict that some outsourcing firms will simply discontinue providing the service. Too much stress and hassle. Another potential downside to outsourcing is the communications issue. The fewer the steps, the more likely it is that your payroll data will remain intact. Under RTI, you must provide accurate and timely information to your bureau payroll provider, who then takes this data and inputs it into a payroll software package. If you input the data yourself you eliminate one step and reduce the possibility of error. In the initial year of general RTI adoption, HMRC has indicated that it will be quite forgiving on penalties for incorrect or late RTI submissions. This leniency is unlikely to continue beyond the initial year. Therefore the mainstays of accuracy and timeliness of your payroll data will become more and more crucial. The one thing that cannot be argued against is the value of the expertise provided by the outsourcing firm; but it should be noted that many payroll software companies also provide this type of support – at no extra cost! In the final analysis, the choice between doing it yourself and outsourcing will inevitably come down to the relationship you have with your payroll bureau provider, and whether payroll is within your comfort zone. Contact: www.brightpay.co.uk

“Another potential downside to outsourcing is the communications issue”

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04/10/2012 14:16

Focus on money FINDING YOUR FD


The FD is the key TB regular Martin Spiller, a partner with Jenson Solutions, enlists the help of fellow partner, Allan Beattie, this month to tell us why hiring a finance director is fundamental for start-ups

his month my article has quite literally written itself. Allan Beattie, a fellow partner at Jenson Solutions, wrote the following piece which I think is thought-provoking and interesting in equal parts, and offers some practical arguments for entrepreneurs to consider. So, over to Allan… Let’s get the confessions out of the way. Firstly, I am an accountant. Therefore, for what I’m about to say you could reply: ‘Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?’ Secondly, I am Scottish (although I wouldn’t be seen dead in a kilt) – the relevance of this will become clear later. As I approached my 51st birthday, I was alarmed to realise that I have been involved in the private equity and venture capital sectors for nigh on 20 years. Some might say you get less than that for killing your wife. I haven’t killed mine, although she may have plans for me; that last haggis I ate did taste strange… In those 20 years, I have been involved in a great many investor presentations, investment committee meetings, portfolio company reviews and so on. In the past year I have attended a number of fundraising presentations where a full 100% of the presenting companies

had at least one slide on the excellent management team they had succeeded in assembling. The pride and enthusiasm with which they talked about their excellent CEO, amazing CTO, brilliant COO and astounding sales director was inspiring and heart-warming. And yet, I couldn’t help thinking to myself: ‘Err…what about your finance guy?’ I shudder to recall the silence in the room when I audaciously asked whether they had considered recruiting an experienced FD/CFO. In the early stage and start-up space, it seems anathema to even whisper the word “finance”. Call me naïve, but…why is this the case?

What does the FD do?

I should say, if you’ve got this far, you might also want to have a butchers at an excellent article written by my erudite colleague, Martin Spiller, about the art of financial forecasting (January TB). What Martin’s article ably demonstrates is the critical importance of a strong, analytical, financial expert casting an eye over a set of numbers. Even better if he/she actually prepares the numbers. This can help avoid embarrassing errors and oversights that can seriously undermine an otherwise excellent management team’s credibility with investors.

talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 43

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27/03/2013 09:29

Focus on money FINDING YOUR FD

I recently helped out a mate who was looking to raise ‘a hundred grand or so’ for a business idea. He had some numbers he had, literally, scribbled on the back of an envelope, and was about to go round some of his high net worth contacts to start garnering support. I spent two days constructing a fullydetailed financial forecast that used his own assumptions on costs, capex, sales volumes, product pricing, employee numbers, pay levels and so on. My financial model suggested that, by month four, he would be nearly £300k in the red. My friend is a smart, intelligent guy (he must be, he asked me to help him), so we managed to come up with a revised plan that now looks like it might get

“I have come up against huge resistance to recruiting an FD when speaking to companies”

the revised level of investment needed to fly. But accountants aren’t just one trick ponies. We can do all sorts of useful things, including generating accurate, timely and meaningful management information, analysing cost and revenue structures to identify efficiency savings, and a whole host of other valueadded activities. Not least of which can be helping to provide confidence to investors and help secure funding.

The resistance “Accountants aren’t just one trick ponies”

I have come up against huge resistance to recruiting an FD when speaking to companies that wanted us to invest in their business. The examples I could quote are innumerable, but include a variety of cases where senior people argued passionately against having an overhead that their company couldn’t afford. I’ve even come across one chap who seemed to have taken a general dislike to Scottish accountants in particular. It seems that some old “sweaty sock” had once tried to instill a small degree of financial discipline into the gentleman, who apparently continued to harbour a lingering resentment many years after the event. So, I was damned on both counts. In all cases where I’ve been involved with an investment, whether PE or start-up/early stage, it was on condition that our investee companies had in place a finance director and a full-time administrator, whose duties included keeping the books up to date. After my 20 years of watching companies go through various stages of development, it is quite clear that these investments fall broadly into two categories: • Those that freely accepted the need for strong financial controls and hired an

experienced FD. These ones generally managed to keep their shareholders and banks happy and, in the end, tended to be successful • Those that strongly resisted the idea of having a finance guy on board and only capitulated when they realised no one would invest at all if they didn’t recruit one. Tragically, many of these companies tended to isolate the guy we “foisted” on them and deliberately kept them out of the loop. These portfolio companies tended to fail consistently to hit sales and profit forecasts, lurched in and out of serious cashflow crises and, in many cases, ended up failing. I may be a simpleton but, to me, there’s a lesson there. No doubt there are many factors at work, but successful companies do generally agree that, as part of the overall mix of things that make them successful, their finance person is one of their key management team members.

What are you waiting for?

This isn’t a plea for poor, down-trodden, misunderstood number-crunching, beancounting pen-pushers. It’s a wake-up call to all of you out there who think you don’t need an expensive overhead. What you DO need is a competent, experienced finance professional who will add value to your business proposition while helping you to avoid expensive, and potentially disastrous, mistakes. Getting an FD in early can be one of the best hires you’ll ever make. Even if he or she does come from a foreign land where men wear skirts…


www.jensonsolutions.com Twitter @MartinRSpiller

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26/03/2013 18:18

Focus on money START-UP LOANS

Entrepreneur: Irina Alionte Business: Club Cardio Concept: A company that offers work out parties in nightclubs to help people overcome the intimidating setting of the gym Start-Up Loan: £2,500

Irina Alionte is the founder of Club Cardio. With her Start-Up Loan, Irina was able to turn her business vision into a reality and secured a pilot scheme to run Club Cardio every Monday evening in Oceana nightclub in Kingston throughout March.

Dear diary…

8am: I wake to the sound of my alarm. I always wake up really excited about the day to come and my business is always the first thing I think about. This morning I am particularly excited because it is the official launch of Club Cardio! 10-10.30am: I make myself presentable for a business meeting in London. Today, the meeting is with another Start-Up Loan recipient who is assisting me in marketing my launch scheme. 11am-12pm: The meeting goes really well! We brainstorm ideas to drum up as much publicity as possible immediately before the launch and attract attention for the event this evening. 12-2.30pm: I need to focus on the last minute preparations for my launch to ensure that tonight runs smoothly; this involves making phone calls to remind friends, mentors and journalists to come along. 2.30-3pm: I rush off to meet a small group of friends who have volunteered to hand out flyers and encourage people off the street to come and take part in Club Cardio tonight. 3-5pm: I am both excited and nervous so I don’t have much of an appetite, but force myself to eat to keep me going. My lunch is interrupted with a phone call from the head of sales at Luminar Group (the company that owns Oceana), interested to know how many people are expected at the launch. Then it’s time to leave! I make sure I have all of the essentials for the night: iPad, posters, headsets, microphones. 5-6pm: I make sure everything is set up at Oceana. Luckily everything is running smoothly



Here at TB, we know how much you appreciate a new regular feature. Hell, so do we! So every month we’ll be giving you a glimpse into a day in the life of an entrepreneur who has secured a Start-Up Loan to launch their business; don’t say we never give you anything… and we are ready to welcome our Cardio Clubbers to their first ever work out party on time. 6pm: The doors open at 6pm sharp. I excitedly welcome the first few people in and use the time before the class to my advantage, taking time to talk with people to learn as much as possible about the target customer. One of my mentors arrives in some hilarious gym attire, so I make sure I get some photos with him! 6.30-7.30pm: The first Club Cardio class begins. I loved seeing everyone enjoying themselves – especially when the soul train line broke out spontaneously… 7.30-10pm: I decide it is time to go for a well-deserved celebratory drink with my

friends and mentors, where we all reflect on how amazingly well the launch has gone. 10-11pm: I am still buzzing while looking through the photos that I took; I can’t wait to upload them onto my social media sites to keep the momentum going. Midnight: I am exhausted from the day so I make a quick “to do” list for the morning. It reminds me that I have a speech to write for an entrepreneurial event – life seems to be non-stop at the moment, but I am loving every second of it.

Contact: www.clubcardio.co.uk

46 April 2013

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26/03/2013 18:20

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26/03/2013 19:21

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26/03/2013 19:21


Before you sign ON THE dotted line…

Careful contracts: Alicia Sutton of NaviStar Legal shares her thoughts on why it’s important to manage your documents as a business owner, and how to go about keeping those all-important records up-to-date

“Clutter and disorganisation of all forms robs you of energy”


1. Risk management From a financial perspective, your accounts must be maintained for tax purposes. If you do this well, you can help reduce your accountant’s fees and avoid penalties. Financial document management is also imperative in securing investment or acquiring a loan, as it demonstrates your trading position and profitability. From a legal perspective, document management is required to evidence any and all agreements that you have in place, from service agreements through to employment contracts. If you are involved in legal proceedings or if your business is sold, costs can be saved by having all necessary documents and information to hand. Depending on the type of business you are in, there may be other legal requirements around document management, such as laws on data protection, which set out certain obligations if you handle personal information about individuals.

2. Time management The Wall Street Journal reported that the average US executive wastes six weeks per year searching for misplaced information. Clutter and disorganisation of all forms robs you of energy. If your documents are not collated and filed, you can waste valuable time that would be better spent growing your business. Although creating a system for organising your documents requires some initial thought and effort, it is well worth it.


1. Establish what records to keep You need to keep signed copies of all agreements. This includes any amendments or additions to the agreement. Paper copies can be scanned and saved electronically. Contract end dates should be diarised as well as any review or option dates specified in the agreement. Valuable data can be lost when employees leave a business, so important emails should also be filed in a central location.

2. Establish a process How you keep your documents will depend on the style and size of your business. Make sure the system you choose is geared to your business, and simple to use. Three main options are: - Internally hosted. The most expensive option with the greatest security and control, it’s suitable for larger businesses that deal with personal data. - Co-location. Your hardware is stored in a shared third party centre; this is the mid-range option with a moderate cost and increased security. - Public cloud storage (for example, Dropbox). A low cost solution with scalable storage so you can start small and increase as your business grows. This option carries the least control and security. 3. Maintain the process Inconsistency is the biggest mistake made by SMEs in document management. Keeping only some of your records is almost as bad as keeping none at all. The key is to establish a system and maintain it regularly. In the words of John C. Maxwell: ‘Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.’ Follow us on Twitter @NaviStar Legal, or for a complimentary review of your legal documents, email us at jo.rogers@navistarlegal.com

Contact: www.navistarlegal.com

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27/03/2013 09:17

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28/03/2013 09:09

Focus on



r u o y Get FONZ ON Grab your shades and your leather jacket: Rich With claims it’s time to embrace your brand’s inner cool…

“If you’re a book keeper, you’re not convincing anyone you’re the accountancy equivalent of Steve McQueen”

Too many SME brands are like a glass of water. They are functional, transparent and do little more than enable survival. However, if you take that glass of water and add a few ice cubes, something interesting starts to happen. The temperature drops to make it more palatable, light bounces off the cubes casting interesting patterns on the table: it becomes, well, cool. Don’t get me started on what happens if you add a slice of lemon. No matter what conventional media will have you believe, it’s not hard being cool. Look at Justin Bieber. There’s cheese at the back of my fridge that has more personality, and yet the future of this planet lies in the hands of people who think he’s God’s vicar on earth…it’s troubling. It’s easy for consumer brands to be cool. Take Old Spice. In a sea of über-cool fragrance brands fronted by the world’s most beautiful people, the favourite of ’70s footballers recarved it’s niche as irreverent, cheeky and straight out of left field – Google its head of marketing, “Mr Wolfdog”, to

get a feel for how they’re doing things now. It’s trickier for B2B brands to be cool; often we sell services or products that are, on the face of it, quite dull. If you’re a book keeper, you’re not convincing anyone you’re the accountancy equivalent of Steve McQueen in Bullitt. But that means it’s not actually difficult to be cooler than your rivals. Most brands choose not to do something out of the ordinary because they think it will be too much hassle, or not worth the effort. Well, I’m telling you now: it is worth the effort. I’ve won business before because my answerphone message starts with ‘Hello sausage’. Many of us are convinced we have to be a bit stuffy because we are so frightened of alienating potential clients. To my mind, if someone chooses not to use my services because of my voicemail, we were never destined to be a good fit anyway. If brands can learn anything from Bieber, it’s that being cool is relative to your niche market. So if you supply water coolers, it’s not about strutting

around industrial estates like Slough’s answer to The Fonz, but simply being different to your competitors. This is where your brand really comes into play. Think differently – go and do a video with the potential to be virally picked up by your clients and target markets. We need to figure out different ways of marketing: too many of us immediately dismiss a simple and cheap idea like postcards (which, if done correctly, can be incredibly effective) and yet waste hours of the day slaving over a Facebook page that has no connection with our markets. Have an edge, a spark, an element of your business that is in some way different to the rest of your industry. These are the things that major brands do every day and we love them for it. So stick a comb in the back pocket of your brand, slap a pair of Aviators on its face and chew a matchstick. Time to get your Fonz on.

Contact: www.gohoot.co.uk

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26/03/2013 19:23




Dean De Beer, group CEO of Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services, outlines the strategy that has allowed the business to successfully expand its operation worldwide

“We live or die by our customer service”


ristar has come a long way since it was founded 35 years ago to provide a complimentary limo service to business class passengers for airlines. Having branched out into corporate work, road shows and events, we now carry half a million passengers a year, with two offices in the UK, two in the US, one in Hong Kong, a franchise in Paris and a network spanning 80 countries. How did we do it you ask? Read on…


Successful partnerships are pivotal in any company’s development, and our relationship with Virgin Atlantic was key to our expansion into the corporate market in the late 1990s, giving us a recognised presence and credibility in the business world. Their focus on service has continually challenged us to improve and mould our offering to clients. We used the experience and knowledge gained from our service to Virgin’s airline clients as the platform for our own branded services. This included our unique “one minute pledge”, demonstrating our confidence in our systems, staff and service by guaranteeing that if we’re late picking you up, even by one minute, your journey will be free. The success of our UK business led us to turn our eyes overseas, beginning with the

development of a network of overseas affiliates. In 2006, we took a significant step in our overseas expansion when we launched our own operation in Boston. At that time we were already sending a significant amount of business to the US, and felt that a Tristar-branded presence would help us develop quicker, while having more control over the service and growth. This, in turn, led us to switch our business focus to events and institutional road shows. Our US expansion continued with the opening of a New York operation, and this year we acquired M7 Worldwide Transportation, based in Massachusetts, giving us a fleet of over 35 vehicles in the US. As well as North America, we recognised the importance and necessity of having a presence in the Far East, which led to this year’s opening of our operation in Hong Kong, the gateway and springboard to China: a country whose economy continued to grow at over 7% in 2012. Throughout our development, we have not rushed into expansion, but have used our knowledge of our market as the framework for both the countries we operate in, and the increasing range of services that we offer.

BRAND CONSISTENCY However, market knowledge alone is not enough. It may sound like a well-worn cliché,

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“We have not rushed into expansion, but have used our knowledge of our market as the framework”

but the success of our global growth is also the result of consistent delivery of a quality service and the trust our customers place in our brand. The focus on our customers’ needs drives everything, from our choice of cars and location of our operational hubs, to our environmental policies and service delivery. It is also a key factor in choosing partners and affiliates around the world to ensure that they match our aims, philosophy and ambitions. We regularly bring non-UK senior management and staff to London as part of our ongoing commitment to brand consistency in all areas of our operation.


Our business relies heavily on our chauffeurs; we live or die by our customer service. So our recruitment process ensures we recruit and attract those that can deliver the service our clients expect. Consequently, we don’t just look for people with in-depth knowledge of the roads, but, just as importantly, a strong customer service ethic. After initial assessment, they undertake a six-day induction training programme covering all aspects of the role: from customer service, Health & Safety and car maintenance to route familiarity. Only if these are successfully passed are they offered a position.


We use the same rigour when appointing international service partners, ensuring we visit the

city concerned, meet with the owners or managers to get a thorough understanding of how they operate, check insurance, review their customer base and conduct mystery shopper journeys. Once the partnership is in place, there are strict guidelines that we ask our partners to adhere to; the same is done in return as we ensure it is a reciprocal agreement. Another area we take great care about when expanding into new markets is a detailed understanding of local business etiquette, culture and language. It’s important to ensure that clients are communicated with in their native language in every country we operate in, and eight languages are spoken in our international division. Culturally we’ve noticed a significant variation in the reservation process in Asia, where bookers are very demanding about the response times for quotes, and often make numerous changes once they have made a booking. The trail of emails for one reservation can be phenomenal, so we factor in additional administration time. It is these small details that make all the difference when a company is operating globally.

clients to request information regarding what their suppliers are actively doing to reduce their carbon footprint, and we are no exception. We’ve invested in specialist consultants to ensure we make sustained reductions in emissions and cradle-tograve assessments of vehicles. Our policy not only involves constantly reviewing and testing vehicles, but also ensuring we drive them more efficiently. We’ve also introduced initiatives like putting nitrogen in the tyres, which improves fuel economy, and implemented sophisticated technology to reduce the amount of unnecessary ‘dead’ mileage.


Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services was recently awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

In recent years no company, whether in the UK or internationally, could ignore the need to look at their own and their clients’ environmental policies. It is not unusual for


What is the secret of successful business expansion, and how can other companies learn from our experiences? Simply put, I would suggest the key is to know your market, know your clients, and deliver a quality service, competitively priced by highly trained committed staff, in order to create a trusted, consistent brand. In times of economic restraint, don’t financially over commit. Follow these guidelines and look forward to driving your business forward with confidence.

Contact: www.tristarworldwide.com

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Focus on strategy CRM

Many CRM projects never really get off the ground. John Cheney, CEO of Workbooks.com, believes there are a number of key components that will ensure CRM projects really fly for SMEs

We have lift off? In 2009, Forrester Research claimed that 47% of all Customer Relationship Management implementations that year failed and, looking over an eight year period at data from six different research sources, showed an average of 46.3% of failures reported in CRM surveys. You won’t have to look far today to find the latest example of a project that’s gone wrong. Despite this negativity, if managed correctly, an effective CRM system can transform a small business, giving it the tools to compete with its larger counterparts.

The CRM landscape “An effective CRM system can transform a small business”

SMEs looking to invest in CRM are often bamboozled by a raft of companies claiming to provide a solution that will meet all of their needs and help them enhance customer relationships. Many companies are investing vast amounts of money into what they feel is merely a glorified contact system that they don’t understand or use, and the company is not getting real value out of. In our experience, the main cause of failure stems from a lack of clear goals about what the customer is looking to achieve. CRM is often seen as a must-have tool and many SMEs overlook the reasons why they need it, so there is no way of measuring or working towards success. That yardstick is a crucial step.

Success by numbers 1) Agree objectives: The first step in the process

needs to be for vendor and customer to work together to set clear goals and outcomes. CRM software should be an enabler, and SMEs should not just buy technology for technology’s sake.

for money in every aspect of their business. As the total solution for a web-based CRM system is “in the cloud”, there is no need for hardware or software licences, meaning massive savings on the cost of new equipment, installation, backups, redundancy, maintenance, upgrades and support. A web-based CRM system also means that wherever there is an Internet connection, you have access to all of your data in real time.

3) Secure management buy-in: The success of

any CRM project hinges on the commitment and support of employees and active sponsorship from the management team. As with any implementation that involves new processes and ways of working, there may be some resistance to change. Building benefit into the system design from the start for the actual users will motivate positive adoption and endorsement. Give users something that helps them achieve their goals and makes their job easier, and they will migrate towards it.

4) Appoint a project team: We would advocate

that you appoint a project team, including an executive sponsor, a project manager and some key users to ensure your user community is well represented. This doesn’t need to be onerous, complex or costly, but your project team will need to invest time in requirements definition and planning, as well as supporting the roll-out of the solution.

Contact: www.workbooks.com

2) Consider all the options: It is no surprise

that, in the current economic climate, SMEs need to rein in costs and get the best value

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SMALL BUSINESSES Now in its third successful year, the North East London Business Expo takes place on Tuesday 14 May 2013 at Leyton Orient Football Club.

“over 90

exhibitors and around 700 visitors at the 2012 event”

The Expo has been a hit with businesses in previous years with over 90 exhibitors and around 700 visitors at the 2012 event. The aim of the Expo is to offer a platform for SMEs, not only from the local area but also the surrounding boroughs and further afield, to showcase their products and services to a large audience of potential customers in just one day. Not to mention the online opportunities available through harnessing the power of social media in the event promotion. In addition to the main exhibition, there are networking events throughout the day, open to all visitors and exhibitors, plus several interactive seminars and workshops giving value to the business owner who wants to increase their knowledge with new skills that will help them grow their business. And all available free of charge.

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Back this year as a speaker after taking part in the 2011 Expo is Steve Clarke, “The Professor of BuyOligy”, sharing his low cost and no cost strategies that are guaranteed to increase sales. More speakers will be announced soon. Lesley Reeves, Director of SLR Investment Consultants Limited, commented, “We are delighted to exhibit at the Expo for the third year running as we have found the past events inspiring and fun filled. We have gained new clients and excellent contacts due to exhibiting at the previous two events and are hoping to raise the profile of SLR Investment Consultants in the area by booking a double stand this year. We are looking forward to another enlightening and productive day. It’s a great opportunity for us to grow our business.”

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Run by two local businesswomen, Karen Flint & Dawn Gomes, the Expo takes a significant amount of time and work, so why do they do it? Karen says, “Giving SME’s a platform to showcase their products and services at an affordable price offers them the opportunity to reach a wide audience in just one day. At the same time, these businesses are able to collaborate and network together. We feel passionate about supporting and helping SMEs, be it at start up stage or further along the line as the business grows.” Dawn adds that “We know that the 2013 Expo will be bigger and better than ever, and it‘s so rewarding to make a positive difference to local businesses.” Realising that the organisation of an Expo of the standard for which Karen and Dawn strive takes more than just a two woman team, this year the Expo team has expanded with support from two local university students assisting as interns, and also from small local business owners. For example, Anne Hogarth is a marketing professional with a wealth of knowledge gained from a career spanning The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Daily Telegraph and a range of consumer and specialist magazines, before setting up her own consultancy, Anne Hogarth & Associates. Anne offers advice and support on all marketing ideas and material for the Expo and has become an invaluable part of the team.

And while social media is of huge importance in getting the word out to as many people as possible, this year the team have enlisted the help of local experts, Loving Social Media, to help with their efforts in this respect. Dawn commented, “We know how important it is to be on social media but we also realised that we weren’t able to give this as much time as we wanted and needed some external help and expertise.” This is where Loving Social Media comes in, working in conjunction with the Expo team to spread the word as far and wide as possible. “The way in which we work with small local businesses is indicative of how we believe businesses should work alongside another: collaboration is the key”, commented Karen. The Expo is shaping up to be another success this year so don’t delay if you want part of this vibrant event!

Entrance is FREE to visitors who pre-register on the website, and exhibitor packages start at only £150. Visit the Expo website at www.nelexpo.co.uk for more information or call 0808 146 9189

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Focus on strategy BUSINESS OFFERING


really SELLING?

Setting the scene: sales and marketing author, coach and motivational speaker, Adam Caplan, asks us to reconsider our business’ offering

“We should take a moment and really consider what our sales message is”


n article one of this series, designed to help you create and implement a radical new sales and marketing plan and push your business forward, we looked at where your business is now; who are your customers, how does your business benefit your customers, how many new

customers do you want, and how are you currently contacting them? I call this “setting the stage”. The next stage I call: “setting the scene”. Before we can think about contacting our customers and clients, we should take a moment and really consider what our sales message is and what we are offering our customers.

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Focus on strategy BUSINESS OFFERING

In the first article I asked you to define how your business offering benefits your clients. Too many businesses don’t understand the real benefits of their product or service and why their customers buy from them. I’d like to look at this in more detail now, if you don’t mind. So, let’s start at the very beginning. If I’m teaching you to

do a number of things for your customer, irrespective of what it is you are actually selling. If you remember the alarm clock from the previous article, the customer isn’t buying it because it makes a loud noise at an allotted time: they buy it because it gives them the peace of mind that they

“We neither buy products nor pay with money really” suck eggs, apologies; however, I believe every business should really understand their fundamental raison d’etre.

Why do your customers buy from you?

Yes, why do your customers buy your product or service? A seller provides something for the buyer in return for a consideration, usually money. The “something” can be a product, service, idea or information. On the surface, it appears that selling is the provision of products, services, ideas or information in exchange for money. The customer gets the item, the sales person gets their money. Even the most experienced sales people will tell you that this is all there is to their customers’ buying process. However, the reality of what happens underneath is very, very different. We neither buy products nor pay with money really; these are just the mechanics that allow us to facilitate the true sales process. What then, is the true sales process? I’d like you to have an open mind here. First of all, we never buy products or services. We only buy what they do for us. We buy a product or service because of what it does for us, and not for what it is. Whatever you are offering to your customers can only really

will not oversleep (this also reduces worry and fear), the convenience of an easy to use, portable product that makes their life easier and can save them time. A product that gives peace of mind, reduces worry and fear, is convenient, saves time and makes life easier, must result in more happiness for the purchaser. So we buy products or services because they will improve our emotional wellbeing. This is true of everything we buy. It’s obvious for items we want to own – however, what about things we have to buy? If you take a product none of us really want to buy, such as petrol, you can see how filling up actually provides us with an emotional benefit. We buy petrol for the convenience of having a car, which saves us time and makes our life easier. It also helps remove any fear and worry we might have about running out of petrol. This reduction in worry gives us an emotional lift. This emotional lift makes us feel happier than we were before. We buy because of the actual and perceived benefits that we feel having the product or service will give us. So that’s what we buy. I mentioned earlier that we don’t really pay with money. If we don’t pay with money, what do we pay with?

The way we pay

We actually pay with a number of things before the money leaves our account. The very first thing we pay with is our time to look at what’s being offered. They say ‘time is money’ after all. The next thing we pay with is our attention to what’s being offered. With time and attention, it gives us a chance to understand how the product or service will benefit us. When we understand how it will do this, we start to accept, believe and trust that this is right for us. It is at this point we usually make the buying decision. So before we pay with money we pay with our time, attention, understanding, acceptance, belief, trust and decision-making. The money only comes after these have all been spent. I always ask my clients a simple question: ‘If all your existing and prospective clients truly understood how your product or service really benefited them, would more of them buy from you?’ The answer is always yes. So my questions for you are: a) Do you know how your product or service provides your customers with peace of mind, reduces worry, makes their lives easier, saves them time and makes them feel better? What is it that your product or service does to achieve this? b) How is this reflected in your sales and marketing messages? How well do you think your customers really understand the benefits of your service? c) What can you change to improve this understanding? In the next article we’ll be looking at how you contact your customers and how you monitor this. We’ll also look at KPIs and the math of sales. See you next month! Contact: www.cellularattitude.co.uk

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Focus on strategy VIRTUAL OFFICES

When is an office


“Hiring out a virtual office is a much cheaper way of establishing a presence in the business world”

Have you ever heard the term “virtual office” and wondered what it means? Well, you’re most certainly not alone. The word “virtual” conjures up images of something that is non-tangible, and is probably responsible for much of the confusion surrounding the term “virtual office”.

A virtual office is an excellent way to run your business if you are worried about budget but would like to convey a professional image to your clients or customers. Here are some facts you might not know about virtual offices…

crippling costs associated with starting a business. Hiring out a virtual office is a much cheaper way of establishing a presence in the business world, and means that you have the freedom to try out new things.

What is a virtual office?

Mix the real and the virtual

With a good virtual office provider, you will get the prestigious address and the kudos that comes from that. However, you’ll also get the chance to meet colleagues and clients in a meeting room on the premises, should you choose to hire it out. This helps maintain your credibility along with the flexibility of being able to work wherever you like. You also have the option to have your own receptionist, who will answer your calls as if you were physically based in your virtual office.

Some people hate the hustle and bustle of an office, while others hate the relative isolation of working from home. When you hire a virtual office, you can work wherever you like knowing that you have access to a physical address.

A virtual office is defined as a “business location that exists only in cyberspace” and allows “business owners and employees to work from any location”. As well as this, some virtual offices allow you to hire out meeting rooms and have your own personal receptionist. Enquiries to office space rental companies about virtual offices increased dramatically after the economic meltdown in 2008, as companies sought to save money and have flexibility with regards to their workspace, while being able to claim a prestigious address. Interest has also picked up in the US since last year.

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Fiona Harkin, Stylus’ senior vice president-content, gives us the significant trends for social media in 2013

T “Consumers have become increasingly wary of advertising that becomes too invasive ”

his is an important year for the direction of social media, the main theme being mobile. The Internet is now literally everywhere; social media habits are changing and accelerating, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and the introduction of 4G. Smart organisations are now implementing integrated content strategies that are inclusive of both social media and mobile. Yet throughout the previous year, consumers have become increasingly wary of advertising that becomes too invasive. Consumer tolerance of untargeted and unsolicited marketing is tiring, and one of the greatest challenges for brands in 2013 will be devising strategies that can reach these people without being too intrusive on their private social spaces. The backlash to Instagram’s changes to its terms of service and privacy settings is a great example of this, with

users baulking in particular at the proposed usage of their images in targeting advertising. Social media is now a starting point for brands looking to build meaningful reputations among their target consumer groups. This will see the rise of C2C marketing and consumer curation; brands are providing the content, but this is being activated through the consumers themselves, via recommendations, exchanges and sharing. Customers are now taking the role of the retailer, becoming integral to monetising content exchanges. Tools such as Kiosked, a content activation and distribution platform, are enabling these exchanges. Brands should encourage this among their audiences, opening conversations that allow for the flow of ideas and collaborations. An example of this is The Fancy, a social photo-sharing webstore and app that connects

like-minded users through shared tastes, allowing them to purchase the goods they like. Although sites such as Facebook and Twitter will continue to dominate social media, 2013 will be the year for niche social sites. Fed up with the constant stream of anonymous information from advertisers and acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter, consumers are increasingly turning to smaller and more specialist sites in a bid to create meaningful conversations with genuine friends. Brands should be looking to target community groups with niche interests relevant to their products, rather than using the blanket Facebook model. 2012 saw a mass uptake of Instagram; this year, we will see a whole host of new niche image-sharing sites following in the photo-sharing giant’s footsteps. Visual sharing will continue to flourish in the

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Focus on strategy SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS

year ahead and will influence both businesses and their consumers, allowing them to be more creative. Some brands are taking visual sharing to the ultimate level and launching their own sharing sites; Coca Cola last year launched its own image-sharing app, while Warner Bros launched photo-sharing platform, OutMyWindow, to turn social imagery into entertainment. Hand in hand with image sharing goes video sharing. Until recently, the sharing of videos has been somewhat limited due to file sizes and data speeds. However, the launch of 4G has inevitably led many consumers to discover that it is now easy to share videos online. New sites have launched that enable users to create and share videos with ease; with Lightt, for example, users capture video highlights, which connect together to form a moving stream or timeline. The simple-to-use Qwiki enables users to take videos on their smartphones, and then to caption and share them with other users, in a similar format to Instagram. Social media is becoming more about entertainment. The Hollywood Reporter recently released a poll on its readers’ social media habits, finding that 88% consider social media as an entertainment platform. More than 50% of Facebook’s usage is entertainmentbased. An excellent example of entertainment and social media working together is through GetGlue. The New York-based company produces a social media app that rewards users for “checking in” to live TV events by offering entry into sweepstakes. Another example is US TV channel NBC’s The Voice Live app, which allows viewers to create “fantasy” teams for the TV singing competition, earning points as their chosen competitors advance. Running parallel to the above points is a growing consumer

concern for privacy when using social media sites, and focus has been directed at giants such as Facebook. As a result, demand is strengthening for platforms where users can share content privately. In order to cater for this demand, existing social media sites are launching private areas; Pinterest has just introduced private boards, and there are several apps appearing that actually encourage disconnection from social media. However, this move towards ‘disconnection’ should not be interpreted as being antitechnology; there is a growing consensus that technology can actually help us to unwind and disconnect from reality. As Arianna Huffington, editor of the Huffington Post, said recently: ‘A year from now, I believe strongly that brands which embrace these mega-trends of Reconnect, Recharge, Resonate are going to be winners because they are going to tap into the zeitgeist, connecting but also disconnecting so that we are more compassionate, creative people.’

“2013 will be the year for niche social sites”

Stylus is one of the world’s fastest growing research and advisory firms for the creative consumer industries. Contact: www.stylus.com

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any, many years ago, an old boss of mine cut me short saying “Assume makes an ass out of U and me!” Clichéd, I know, but it has stuck with me over the years and it is certainly relevant to this article! When you talk to most site owners, you quickly realise that most don’t suffer from a lack of traffic, they suffer from a lack of conversion. So why is it that the vast majority of visitors don’t convert in the way you want them to? There are a lot of potential reasons, but here are a couple which you really need to consider: CONTENT IS EVERYTHING Content is a curious beast. There is no magic formula to get it spot on, but you know when you’ve got it wrong! Think about who buys from you and why. The chances are you’ll have more than one role who you interact with. And when you’re in front of them you’ll use different language and different arguments as to why they should buy from you. So if you do that in the flesh, why don’t you do it online? Getting people to identify themselves allows you to deliver the most pertinent and relevant messages. And the more relevant messages, the higher your closure rate is likely to be. EASY ON THE EYE It’s not just getting the right content in front of the right person at the right time – although that’s a major step in the right direction! You can have the best sales pitch in the world, but if you turn up in a chicken suit, there are very few circumstances in which you’ll be taken seriously. There are a myriad of books written on what makes a good page, but you could do worst than follow our top five rules. TOP FIVE RULES FOR MAXIMISING CONVERSION 1.“Learn to hate the question mark” This was coined by Steve Krug in his fantastic web usability book Don’t Make Me Think. As soon as a visitor begins to think “what do I do next?”, your chances of losing them shoot through the roof. We all assume it’s obvious, but you are

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an expert in your field & know your site intimately. Don’t assume the same of your visitors. Make every next step obvious and unambiguous. 2.“Where’s the banana?” This comes from The Big Red Fez by Seth Godin. In it, he argues that web users are goal orientated. He argues that you can get a monkey to do anything so long as he can see the banana and that the same applies to your visitors. On each page, ask yourself what the banana should be, is it obvious and is it visible. Be bold! 3.“Visit Nebraska” Jacob Nielsen, a States based usability guru, conducted a study that measured 5 key metrics on a page promoting Nebraska tourism. He found that the effectiveness of the page was increased 2 ½ times by following three simple guides; keep your language objective, keep it concise and make it easily scannable through the use of bold and bullets. 4.“Make First Impressions Count” User expectations are rising and you have to deliver and deliver quickly. A recent study showed that you have 7 seconds to communicate to your visitor: a. Where they are b. What they can achieve there c. Why they should achieve it with you & d. Why they should achieve it now That’s no mean feat and takes a good deal of thinking about! 5.“Trust Nobody!” I know that’s a bit rich coming from someone writing an article about Conversion, but it’s true. It takes us back to the beginning of this piece – never make assumptions. Never accept opinion on it’s own, never follow anyone’s advice without doing one simple thing; test it. Here are three simple solutions you could implement today and you will see the benefits:

but set the destination URL to the two variants. Change the Campaign settings so that the adverts are rotated evenly. You should now receive an equal split of identical traffic so the pages can be easily analysed for conversion. b. Analytics MVT Google have migrated the old Website Optimizer to within Google Analytics. It’s good and it’s free. Simplistically, it’s like running multiple A/B tests concurrently allowing you to spot opportunities and take advantage more quickly. c. Get Real There is, however, nothing that comes close to getting a real person and watching them to do something on your site. Every time we do it, we are surprised. Our preconceptions are always challenged. The more test subjects the better, but one is better than none! That’s what I’d like to leave you with; make no assumptions and test. If you don’t, you’re simply making assumptions – “Making an ass of U and me”. It doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t need to be costly unless, of course, you don’t do it.

Peter Clapperton Searchsmith Director Searchsmith is a team of digital marketing experts who work with clients across a range of sectors and sizes to expand their digital marketing horizons and increase their ROI


searchsmith.co.uk sales@searchsmith.co.uk 08458726573

a. Adwords A/B Create a variation of an existing page but keep it off menu. Setup an Adwords Adgroup with two identical Adverts

27/03/2013 11:15

Focus on



Linked Out Ever stopped to wonder whether networking is actually enhancing your business? Kimberly Davis thinks not, and she isn’t afraid to tell us why…

“Most of the time, poor networking results actually come down to you”

Business networking. Some people swear by it. Some people swear off it. So many business owners spend a small fortune joining networking groups and never see a return on investment. I have a long list of “deadly marketing mistakes” that businesses make on a regular basis – networking is definitely on that list. Don’t get me wrong. Networking is critical for any business. People buy people, as they say, and so you must constantly build and nurture strategic relationships. Unfortunately, most business owners’ efforts are a complete waste of time, money and energy. If you’re going to increase sales through networking, you must always make sure the following criteria are met:

Build your skills

I’m going to give you some tough love here. Most of the time, poor networking results actually come down to you. Just showing up to the event does not guarantee you business. And pimping your card out to everyone in the room does not guarantee you business.

The key to networking is getting people to know, like, and trust you. They must want to do business with you.

Elevator speech

If you’re going to go networking, you need an effective elevator speech. Imagine you are getting into an elevator (sorry, lift) with someone you want to meet. You now only have the time from the ground floor to, say, the fifth floor to introduce yourself and get that person to remember you and want to see you again. An effective elevator speech allows new introductions to walk away and remember you, what you do, and even sell you on to someone else.

Pay it forward

When you first meet someone, the key to building that relationship is giving first. There are lots of things you can give away, from taster products to something as basic as asking: ‘What do you need right now?’ When you give first, it makes people want to return the favour.

Finding the one

All networking groups are not created equal. Some have strict

attendance policies. Some won’t notice if you never attend. Some will only let one person from each industry in. Some will let anyone in. What you need to do is find a group that is right for you and your way of working. But most of all, you need to be able to have the flexibility to move around and meet new people on a regular basis.

Marketing to sales funnel It’s not enough to gather 100 business cards at the end of the night. You need to DO something with these new contacts. You need a system, like my Complete Marketing Magnetism System™, that leads prospects from ‘hello nice to meet you’, to ‘here’s my credit card’. You must have a process that weeds out the time wasters, nurtures the slow burners, and closes the hot leads.

Kimberly Davis is the founder of Sarsaparilla Marketing. You can get more great tips and access to Kimberly’s Complete Marketing Magnetism System™ by visiting www. sarsaparillamarketing.com Contact: www.sarsaparillamarketing.com

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26/03/2013 18:32

One size does not fit all Paying a little extra for bespoke web development could be the best business decision you make this year.

No two companies are the same, so why do we expect a website that works for one to work in the same way for another?

The benefits significantly outweigh the cost

While there is a common misunderstanding that bespoke development will cost a Template based, off-the-shelf websites can multiple of an off-the-shelf site, this is be a great stepping stone for companies who entirely unfounded. It’s certainly true that are just setting out, but as companies look initial costs can be slightly higher, but after to really establish themselves, or indeed, for factoring in customer bounce rates and companies whose primary marketing channel the additional staff time to work around is the internet, a bespoke website should problems, a bespoke site will always prove be at the very top of the priority list. more cost effective over time. Call us today (0115 824 2400) to find out how little Your imagination, not software, bespoke development could cost.

should be the only limitation

Too often, customers tell us that previous web development agencies claimed that limitations in software meant that certain features couldn’t be added to their sites. We’ve spent over 10 years developing our own content management system, to ensure that our software is flexible enough to meet any customer’s need. Even if we’ve built a feature previously for another customer, we can customise every aspect of it to fit each customer’s need individually.

Provide a frictionless experience for your customer The aim of any website must be to make it as simple as possible for any potential customer, enabling them to reach their goals in the easiest way possible, and with the least amount of friction. Whether it’s adding a personalised message for a greeting card or a custom distributor communication centre, bespoke web development can help you go further, faster.

diffuse is a Nottingham based web design agency, specialising in bespoke web development and hosted web application development.


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26/03/2013 19:31

Focus on marketing WEB DESIGN



The secret of looking good for less:

Rebecca Rockafellar, general manager of iStockphoto, tells all about cost-effective design for small businesses


uring the current economic climate, small businesses in the UK need to work effectively to gain the edge over their competitors. Businesses need to be able to communicate their brand values and USPs successfully, and an engaging and easy-to-use website is key to this. Rebecca Rockafellar, general manager of iStockphoto – the web’s original source for royalty-free stock images, media and design elements – gives her top tips on creating and maintaining a successful website at an affordable cost.


Make sure the website reflects the core values of the brand. As a business, you need to identify the company’s core brand values before attempting to design the website. It is vital that these values are reflected in your online presence, while at the same time ensuring the website meets the needs of your target audience. Everything you do or say sends a message: what you write and how you interact with clients influences the user, so you need to make sure your website mirrors your brand and its key messages.


Choose the right images that are simple and yet create maximum impact. At the same

time, you need to understand the importance of copyright and ensure that you are licensing images correctly. Selecting an image from a collection of millions is understandably difficult. When deciding which images to use there are five things to consider: Purpose: what is the image for? Tone: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it Audience relevance: does your audience relate to the image? Timeliness: how new is new? Uniqueness: is your image one of a kind? The issue of image rights is an important one here. One of the most common misconceptions about photography copyright is a tendency to believe that if a photo is published online, it is part of the public domain. However, no matter where they are posted, images remain bound by copyright. To use photos that can be found online, you need to have consent of either the author of the image, or – when the licence agreement of the social network allows it – the administrator of the website.


Make sure the website is easy to use and doesn’t look too cluttered. Images need to be kept simple but clear, highlighting what you want to

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26/03/2013 18:34

Focus on marketing WEB DESIGN

“Simply changing some of the featured images and graphics throughout your site can make it feel fresh and revived”

say. Packing out your website with visuals makes it harder for the user to read the important facts. As a result, they can obscure your message rather than supporting it. Images need to be there for at-a-glance comprehension. If the website is cluttered, it can reflect badly on the company, so you need to prioritise messages accordingly. The key points – whether in text, image, or video format – should be made prominent on the page, while at the same time you should look at creating room between elements and scatter images throughout. This may all seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many websites are hard to navigate because the owner has tried to put too much on one page.


Rebecca Rockafellar is the general manager of the Getty Images’owned microstock pioneer, iStockphoto, and senior vice president of ecommerce for Getty Images overall. Rebecca oversees the global strategy and operational leadership of iStockphoto. She has prioritised the customer experience of iStock, and continues to hone the quality of iStock’s customer interactions.

Update the site regularly to show that the brand is active, e.g. set up a blog or replace the cover photo monthly. In the online world, content is key. Creating quality content on a regular basis is the most effective way to attract and retain website traffic. If you provide new information on existing web pages, customers will be more willing to spend time reading your content. Furthermore, an active website boosts your search rankings. Search engines such as Google look much more favourably on websites with upto-date and relevant content, so this is imperative to get onto the all-important first page of the Google results. One of the best ways to bring more content to your site is to have a blog. Sharing your expert knowledge can be a great way to add content and provide additional value to your website. Other ways could be simply changing some of the featured images and graphics throughout your site to make it feel fresh and revived. Doing this every few weeks can pique interest and encourage returning visitors to explore other parts of your website they may not have explored. The above tips don’t have to be time consuming or expensive, but little touches like this can really impress prospective customers and set small businesses apart from their competitors. Contact: www.istockphoto.com

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How do you communicate? Social media forms an integral part of your marketing efforts. It offers a communication channel to your customers, your suppliers, the media and a whole host of effective, creative ideas for lead generation and conversion. Communicate with us today.

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If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of the above you are putting your business at risk and/or failing to maximise its potential. Let us help. One-off support or competitively priced retainer contracts available. We specialise in services for Companies with 1 to 500+ staff in NE England

Tel: 07796047223 margaret@davisprosolutions.co.uk www.davisprosolutions.co.uk

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26/03/2013 19:35

Focus on marketing PR

Putting the PR in entrepreneur Alastair Turner, global group director of Aspectus PR, explains how entrepreneurs can propel their brands into the limelight – and keep them there There’s a fresh swathe of entrepreneurs investing time and money in novel ideas, innovative products and new services. However, developing a new offering is not enough. Your target market needs to be aware of it, understand the benefits and be clear on how it can transform their lives or businesses for the better. No doubt about it: getting your brand and communications right is essential.

Brand building from the get-go

A brand should be more than an eye-catching logo and witty strap line. Every line written about your company, every communication with the market and every comment to a journalist should be inspired by your brand, your messaging and the values your company is founded on. Entrepreneurs will almost certainly have a great story that tells how they got to where they are today. It’s crucial to identify the elements of this story that hit home with your target audience. This is a once-in-alifetime opportunity to crystalise exactly what you are about and begin an engaging narrative that

David can slay Goliath

communicates why your target market should no longer want to live without you. Once this story is developed, the next step is finding a representative who can really bring it to life.

Stand out from the crowd

Whatever material you are generating, it needs to be inspiring and engaging. One crucial but often overlooked component in today’s communications armoury is SEO. Ensuring your content is optimised is a must for every business, but it is also a great way for entrepreneurs to gain ground on larger rivals. Google is currently the most important business publication and everything you publish online should be written with two thoughts in mind: what will my target market think, and how will Google react? Whether you’re a bright-eyed grad with a killer app or the CEO of an international conglomerate, if your business doesn’t have a great website, you will struggle to make your voice heard. It’s your shop window and should showcase exactly what you’re offering.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to crystalise exactly what you are about”

Entrepreneurs can be any age, but they will always bring the exuberance of youth to their work. They are full of ideas and keen to get them to market as soon as humanly possible. Larger companies have a tendency to pull good ideas apart as they attempt to ensure that everyone is happy and risk is minimised. Entrepreneurs can be bolder and more creative. However, if you are doing something original, it will spark discussion. People criticise new ideas, so ensuring your key arguments are carefully crafted and your spokespeople are equipped with the necessary facts will ensure you can stand up to opposing voices with confidence. Building a recognisable brand is an ongoing process, but there are steps that can be taken to firmly plant you and your ideas on the map. And as your brand recognition increases, so will your sales figures and business performance. Contact: www.aspectuspr.com

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26/03/2013 18:35

Focus on marketing OUT-SELL



In this article, sales expert Andy Preston shares seven simple ways to help you get well ahead of your competitors: out-perform, out-manoeuvre, out-sell

Whenever I’m talking to sales people or business owners, a question I’m often asked is: ‘Andy, how can I ensure I stay ahead of my competitors?’ So here they are: seven strategies you can implement to ensure that you stay ahead of your competition for 2013 and beyond.



Ring fence existing accounts If you want to get ahead and stay ahead of your competitors, the very first thing you need to do is ring fence all of your existing customers. More and more companies are looking to replace lost revenue and profitability through acquiring new business – and some of the new business your competitors are targeting will include your existing accounts. As a lot of sales people and a lot of companies have got complacent, they’ve tended to neglect existing accounts – this puts them at risk of being poached by competitors. What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? What about the ones you haven’t spoken to for a while? Would they tell you if a competitor had been in? And, if they did, would you retain the business without having to slash your prices?

Focus your prospecting The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are. As the individual sales person is asked to do more and more, it’s vital that the time you spend prospecting is time well spent. That means knowing who is a good prospect for you. Most people think that they know. They’ll say things like, ‘anyone who needs printing’, or, ‘anyone who wants a new mobile phone’, or, even worse, ‘any small business’. That’s a big sign that they haven’t really got a clue. There will be specific criteria that make certain prospects more suited to you than others. If you don’t know what they are, you need to find them out – fast! If you’re really not sure, take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them buy from you and your company, rather than going to someone else – like your biggest competitor? Then look for commonalities or patterns in why, and when they bought. That will start to give you some idea of what you need to look for in other prospects.

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26/03/2013 18:36

Focus on marketing OUT-SELL




6 7

Become a valued resource Some of the best sales people I know are a valued resource for their clients. They’re someone whose opinion their clients respect. They’re someone their clients turn to first to get information about purchasing decisions – either now or in the future. Not all sales people get to this hallowed position however! A lot complain that their clients ignore their advice, they don’t listen, they don’t take their calls or see them when they pop in. What bigger signs do you want that clients don’t see you as a valued resource? In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. You have to give value first. You have to get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your clients’ businesses. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold.

Have a plan of attack One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition is to get some of their customers off them! This is a great way of distracting them from their own new business efforts, plus it’s a great motivational factor for you and your team when you successfully win business at the expense of your competitors. In order to have the best chance of success, if you’re in field sales, why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory? Then create a call plan for getting in to see them, and focus on winning their business. If you’re in internal sales, make notes on the prospects that are currently using your competition, and then filter the data by competitors’ names. Then you can create a phone campaign designed specifically to convert their customers to your customers instead. Experience shows that dedicated and focused approaches like these have a far better chance of success – and also put a big dent in your competitors’ motivation at the same time.

Increase your activity Once you’ve targeted your prospecting, the next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. I’m a big fan of a high level of activity. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose. If you only have just enough in your pipeline to hit your targets, you’re always going to be struggling as you’ll be counting on every deal converting, and it’s devastating when any of them drop out. Purely by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success – and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn. Who wouldn’t want that?

Develop consistent motivation We all know that motivation is important for a sales person. But it’s the sales person’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest. In order to be motivated on a consistent basis, they need to have compelling reasons for doing what they do. In particular, the tougher parts of their role – cold calling, canvassing, or the things they like doing the least. Without a compelling reason, they’re less likely to get results.

Sharpen your sales skills Get up to date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources. If you get some internal training at your company, great. If your company invests in bringing an external trainer or motivator to help you improve, even better! However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated. There are plenty of things around to read online. Also, there are various audios around that are free or low-cost, and there are plenty of seminars you can attend without spending a fortune. Just make sure you put into practice what you learn – and look forward to a great year. Contact: www.andypreston.com

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26/03/2013 18:36

Imagine having a whole Human Resource department at your service for a fraction of the cost of employing one HR specialist People management must be a hands-on proactive process because simply reacting to situations can end in expensive legal problems for any company. At CHaRM we don’t give advice for the good of our health, but to ensure that your company reduces its risk of potentially difficult situations. We believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ....... and it costs less.

To assist you CHaRM offers a straightforward, practical analysis of your employee issues and the action you should take within the law. That means you can rest assured our advice is best practice and will be effective in providing a solution.

Call us now on 0115 984 3119 to find out how we can tailor HR management support or training to meet your particular business challenges.


Growing a business often means hiring. That’s why companies like Jeremy Hurst’s turn to Business In You for clear, simple advice on hiring. For first-time employers, you’ll find a helpful guide explaining everything from national minimum wage to setting up a payroll to health and safety.


Visit businessinyou.bis.gov.uk


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27/03/2013 10:08

Focus on marketing ADVICE

The Sales Doctor This month the sales doctor gives his diagnosis on discovering whether an objection is genuine or not. The prescription? Sales expert and agony uncle, Tony Morris, says it’s all about asking the right questions


Dear sales doctor, My team and I are very good at closing business, but we keep getting stuck on the same objection: I can’t advertise now because I’m working at full capacity and I can’t take on any more business’. I normally use the tactic of explaining that they can use our magazine to push a different product or the most profitable services they do, enabling them to cherry pick the work they’re taking on. Unfortunately that often doesn’t work; any advice?


This could be viewed as a condition, as opposed to an objection. This means if it’s genuine and the company have no intention of growing or taking on additional resources to support their growth, then there really is nothing you can do. I would accept this is a company you cannot work with for the next few months and keep in touch to see what changes. However, before giving up, there are some key questions I’d like to ask to see if they are using this objection as a way of getting rid of you, or if they are telling the truth. My questioning would be as follows: 1a. As you are at full capacity at present, what is your appetite Need a diagnosis?

Send your sales problems to the editor, marked ‘FAO the sales doctor’: helen.coffey@ astongreenlake.com

for growing the business to the next level? 1b. If they wish to grow: what plans do you have in place to generate new business? 2. If they are happy working at full capacity: approximately how many clients make up all your current business? 3. Out of all those clients, how many contribute to the larger percentage of your revenue? 4. What would you do if you lost those major clients? 5. What is your contingency plan if those major clients decided to leave you and work with your competition? By asking these questions, it should help you gain more information to confirm their

real situation and, depending on their responses, you can create an opportunity. Let me know how you get on by emailing: tony@wedosalestraining.com.

TONY MORRIS, sales doctor Tony Morris is the director of the Sales Doctor, a sales training company based in Covent Garden, London. He is the author of Coffee’s for Closers, a sales book based on real life situations from which you can learn techniques and put them straight into practice.

Contact: www.tony-morris.co.uk

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26/03/2013 18:37

FREE CONSULT ATI for all Ta ON Business lk r who call eaders or e us and qu mail ote ‘TB2013’



entagon HR has gone from strength to strength since we started trading during the spring of 2009. Focussing on the SME marketplace, we have built an exemplary reputation by ensuring that the service we provide to CEOs can’t be matched by others. We fully understand what a minefield employment law can be and we work closely with our clients to ensure that they are fully compliant with the appropriate requirements – we build trusting and long lasting relationships built upon mutual respect. But we won’t simply provide advice and guide you in creating procedures we become part of your team and can be seated with you when dealing with sensitive employee issues – during those difficult conversations with staff that could be scrutinised at a later date and when what is discussed and even the language used must be carefully considered. And because when issues arise, they are often not confined wholly to normal office hours, neither is the service that we provide to you - our phones aren’t switched off at 5pm and so delicate conversations that must be held in private, can be – away from other office staff, or simply at times that won’t intrude into busy schedules. That’s why our portfolio of clients has grown and grown – people like and appreciates the way that we work, but rest assured, our personal service hasn’t been compromised because of it. In fact, our clients are so happy with Pentagon that around 90% of our new clients have come through recommendations: from one business owner to another. With a wide understanding of business needs, we have developed a service to match, with everything from contracts to handbooks; from TUPE to redundancy; from working with start-up organisations to established companies, we offer professional, straight forward advice and assistance. Our flexibility is something that we are proud of too: we work on-site with some clients for a day a week; others once a month; others simply as and when required, with most advice being provided remotely - but all clients are reassured in the knowledge that we

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set up and successfully ran a central HR team for 1,400 employees in 25 UK locations. She furthered her career as a Chief People Officer with an online media organisation where she led the HR, Recruitment, Training and Payroll teams. Here’s a few comments from some of our clients (and we didn’t have to pay them either!) “Anne is one of the most down to earth, practical and pragmatic people I have ever met. Her knowledge of and advice on employment matters has been invaluable to many of our clients.” Jeremy Holt

FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH are always at the end of the phone. Once your business has grown we can work together on your strategic needs, in addition to operational HR - the best (and most appreciated) HR functions are driven from the needs of the employees and so, as examples, we can assist you in preparing and analysing employee surveys, 360 feedback projects and succession planning, ensuring the outcomes steer you towards becoming an employer of choice status. In fact we have built such a reputable and client focussed business, we recently launched two new services – Health & Safety and Recruitment - who could be better to understand your culture and values ensuring that you get the right staff for the right job; for H&S we help to build your business, assisting with accreditations such as ISO14001. Both have already made positive impacts for our clients. Can we help you? Our MD, Anne Egleton, is qualified with the CIPD Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Employment Law and is also a member of the CIPD. Anne’s working history includes a large PLC where she

Partner Clark Holt

“With Anne and her team by our side we know that we always get the best advice and solution that we need. Anne is a true professional with the management and HR skills required to be an asset to our business. Anne understands our business and that’s paramount when dealing with our employees” Dane Wilde Managing Director IDess Retail

“Pentagon HR has been an invaluable resource to my organisation. Anne’s knowledge of employment law and working practices helped quickly identify our areas of risk. Within a week we had employment contracts, an employee handbook and all the documents we required to ensure we were compliant. The team also assisted in ensuring that all other documents that every business should have was in place in relation to our staff. Anne’s great sense of humour and infectious personality really makes her a joy to partner with and we continue to work with her and the team” Mike Edwards Managing Director Komfort Services

Is it time that we met to see how we can help your business prosper?

Contact us: Tel:01784 247059 / 07976 809682 Email: Anne@pentagonhr.co.uk / Claudia@pentagonhr.co.uk Website: www.pentagonhr.co.uk

27/03/2013 10:23

Focus on



RECESSION? WHAT RECESSION? It’s time to step up and take responsibility for your business – and stop blaming the recession, according to our fearless entrepreneur-in-residence, Lee McQueen

There are questions about whether or not we’re going into a triple dip recession, and I have to say I’m not really feeling like we are. There seems to be this trend of people blaming the recession for bad performance. Of course it has had an impact – but honestly, I think at this stage you need to be looking at what’s really causing your

“At this stage you need to be looking at what’s really causing your business to fail” business to fail if you’re having problems, instead of saying: ‘Oh, it’s the recession’. That’s a different mentally; that’s the easy response. Businesses that want to succeed will actually be asking themselves, ‘What could we be doing in our business to attract new customers? And what are we doing to look after our current customers and ensure they don’t stray?’


There seems to have been a bit of a “batten down the hatches” mentality in the last few years: the overriding message was:

‘We’re going to ride out the storm’. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but by now the economy has recovered to the extent that there should be sufficient confidence in people purchasing to open up the hatches again. At least, it should be if we’re passionate about our business, if we know we’ve got something great to offer, and we know we can sell. Sure, there are changes to be made; before, we may have only needed to sell 50% of our time, and in tougher times it’s more like 80%. But if we believe in our businesses, we just have to take this on the chin and be positive.


We all know that cashflow is key, particularly in times of austerity. The first thing to help manage cashflow is negotiation of terms. If you have some really strong clients that partner with you, why not ask them about the payment terms and renegotiate with them? My tip is that you make sure you’re not taking on business where you’re waiting 45-plus days to be paid. As SMEs, we all know that can be crippling.

Secondly, the way you hire staff can have a massive impact on your cashflow; just because you need a bum on the seat, it does not mean you should hire quickly – hire in haste, regret at leisure. Don’t “take a punt” on someone: instead create a robust, stringent recruitment plan, so you get the right people into the business.


It’s easy to end up treading water rather than moving forward. But you need a plan, a strategy which is going to help you grow and develop rather than merely maintain your business. A good business plan should be a road map that allows us to get to where we want to go – there’s no point in having one if you’re just going to write it and then never look at it again. You need to keep looking at it, reviewing it, and changing it if necessary, so that it’s in line with where you want your business to get to.

Contact: www.rawtalentacademy.co.uk

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With 3 core service areas we aim to provide a one-stop-shop for your administration and business support needs. Personal Assistant A flexible, ad-hoc service here to support you and your business when you need us. Outsource your administration and business support to us and free up your own time to drive and grow your business. From an hour a day to an hour a month - we cater for all shapes and sizes. Call Answering

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Why us? Maybe you have concerns about changes in employment law? Or would like a trained eye to confirm your HR paperwork and procedures are compliant? With over 25 years of HR management experience, Totally HR will guide you through this complex field giving you peace of mind that you are on the right side of the law. Your employees will benefit from best HR practice which will help to keep you out of the tribunal system.

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perfect match

Tips on picking the best virtual assistant for your business, courtesy of Justine Curtis, founder of the UK Association of Virtual Assistants

Justine is the founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA), which offers free resources and information to its subscribers. She is also the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant, which passes on the benefit of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs.


“With VAs, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for”

The first step to selecting the ideal virtual assistant for your business is to work out exactly what tasks you want to be completed. It’s a good idea to spend a week monitoring all the tasks you complete, the amount of time they take, and whether or not you’d be happy to have a virtual assistant complete them on your behalf. This gives you two vital pieces of information: the skills you need to look for, and the amount of hours you will need a virtual assistant for. To find your ideal match, start with the online virtual assistant directories. Most have membership criteria or a code of conduct that members must adhere to, helping to identify the professionals. Have a look at the information provided by the virtual assistants on their own website; see if they have testimonials from happy clients. With VAs, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Those charging at the top end will generally have more skills and experience, whereas those that charge very low rates are often just starting out, or running their business as a side line. While bargain rates may be attractive, ask yourself if you want to go through this whole process again when the cheap VA goes out of business or gets a full-time job. When you have a shortlist of candidates, it’s a good idea to have a chat with each one on the phone. During the discussion make sure you cover the following: • Check they are au fait with the software programs you use

• Are their office hours similar to yours; will you be able to communicate effectively? • If your tasks are the same each week/month, these can be scheduled in, but check what happens if you have extra tasks • What are their rates and payment terms – do they ask for payment up front, do they charge by the hour, what happens to unused time? • Ask how long they have been in business • Do they have a confidentiality agreement or contract that you both sign? • Ask if they offer a trial and what the next steps are The next stage, after signing a contract, is to send over some trial tasks for the VA to complete. This is your opportunity to make sure they are capable of the work you need to be completed, and to see how efficient and effective they are at what they do. Allow some “teething time” for your new virtual assistant to get to grips with your tasks and to become familiar with your way of working. Once they are comfortable, you can ramp up the tasks you delegate. And finally, remember your initial reason for taking on a virtual assistant was probably to save you time. Try to avoid constantly checking up and learn to let go. Contact: www.ukava.co.uk www.vasuccessgroup.co.uk www.justinecurtis.com

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Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder and director of virtual assistant service, Time Etc, believes that getting the most out of your virtual assistant is all about delegating effectively and giving up control

“Only when they are drowning in a sea of paperwork do SME owners seek help”


mall business owners can be, not to put too fine a point on it…precious. Understandable when they have poured energy, time and money into making a success of their start-up. That is why delegating tasks to employees or service providers is a daunting, though necessary, stage in the lifecycle of a business. Only when they are drowning in a sea of paperwork do SME owners seek help. Mundane tasks, such as sensitively chasing payments from clients, processing expenses, researching and booking travel, and organising files, folders and diaries can eat into the working day, taking valuable time away from growing the business.

The idea for a virtual assistant service came from my own experience of growing a web hosting business singlehandedly. I started the company when I was 17 years old and ran it for seven years before selling to a UK plc. During this time I grew increasingly frustrated by dull, time-consuming administrative tasks that kept piling up. I wasn’t at the stage where taking on full or parttime employees was an option, nor would I have wanted that massive responsibility. Admin tasks added two hours onto the end of a 12-hour working day. That gave me the idea for my next enterprise, and I launched virtual assistant service, Time Etc, in 2007. The company provides

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remote help and assistance to busy business owners, entrepreneurs and high-flying professionals. The team will take on any task, ranging from the mundane – including credit control and virtual filing – to the outright bizarre. We’ve had to ship politically sensitive documents to Rwanda, jazz up a PowerPoint presentation for Madonna, and research rocket flights! So how do you get the best out of a virtual assistant? First, decide what role they need to play. Perhaps

“There’s no such thing as too much communication” you’re regularly travelling or attending meetings, and you keep missing calls from new business leads. In which case, make sure your VA is armed with enough information about your business, team and client base so he or she can answer basic questions, and forward messages or re-direct calls to the right person. Perhaps you work with overseas markets and you’d prefer a VA who could work early mornings or evenings. Make that clear from the start. The great thing about virtual assistants is that some choose to work remotely for the very reason that they don’t want to work the 9-5. Much the same as taking on a new employee, business owners simply have to devote a little extra time at the beginning. There’s no such thing as too much communication. Set up a conference call and talk them through how your business works, your target customer base and where you operate. Consider setting up Skype so

your VA can ask you questions quickly via instant messenger, without having to trouble you with a call or email. Don’t underestimate the value of feedback. If your VA has not completed a task in the way you expected, tell them. You might need to better communicate your expectations prior to delegating a task, and they can make a note and get it right next time. To callers, a VA may well be representing your company, and fronting your brand. If they are picking up phone calls for you and taking messages, they should know every member of your team, and they should be able to identify the important callers. Give them an employee list with direct lines and information about what each member of the team does. If you are a regular business traveller, your VA can book travel tickets for you, but it would be helpful to let them know your preferences in advance so they don’t have to bother you. Do you prefer an aisle or window seat? Do you fly economy or business class? Do you prefer to fly via Hong Kong or Singapore? We do find that some business owners are still sending and sharing documents by email, which means they can lose track of the most recently updated version. We usually convert them to new ways of working by implementing easy-to-use and free software, including Dropbox and Google Drive, so documents can be updated in real time, and files shared more quickly and stored more conveniently. Your VA will have worked with numerous small businesses, so be prepared to try new things on their suggestion.

Ask your VA for regular updates, which could be as simple as a bullet point email at the end of the day or week, summarising their activity and tasks completed. Your VA will be able to adjust your retainer if hours are not getting used up, or increase your retainer and hours if necessary. Lastly, get to know your VA. Just because they are working remotely, you should not expect an anonymous service. Have a video call with your assistant, and treat them as you would any employee, as they will become an integral part of your business operations. Many VAs will also attend meetings on request, so it’s likely you will meet them in person at some point as well. We now have more than 300 clients across the UK and US, and outsourcing is being increasingly embraced. More and more small businesses are using remote employees, and some even have remote workforces. Compared to recruiting, this is much lower risk, cheaper and more flexible. Our VAs really do make a huge impact to people’s working and personal lives, transforming business operations by taking on all those thankless but necessary administrative tasks – and even helping with tasks like house moves, or researching schools and catchment areas for clients’ children! The benefits can be huge, but only if you release the iron-clad grip on your business and become comfortable with delegating the tasks that are holding you back. Contact: www.timeetc.co.uk

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Managing and Supporting your HR needs Contact Sean Molyneaux – 01932 786066 sean@personnelmanagement.co.uk www.personnelmanagement.co.uk

The Employment Minefield With legislation covering every aspect of employment from recruitment to termination, how are you avoiding your minefield. Trusting in luck is one option but are you sufficiently informed about employment matters to be safely get to the other side? Managing employment issues is onerous, time consuming, complicated and keeping up to date a real challenge and the problem is even greater for smaller employers without the expertise, time or money to employ their own HR resources. So what’s the solution?

Avoiding the Mines Engaging with experienced HR Managers to help you navigate minefields is a solution and we’ve helped hundreds of employers both large and small deal with their complex employment contract, procedure, discipline, performance, redundancy and TUPE minefields. We take a pragmatic approach to HR, providing services tailored to your needs, often within fixed price service arrangements, ensuring that employment issues are managed effectively - helping you to steer through the minefield.



he Jimmy Saville case has emphasised the need for vigilance whenever people have access to children or the vulnerable in the course of their work.

Employers have much wider access to Criminal Records Checks [Disclosures or CRBs] now than previously. Such checks are a major tool in creating a safer society for our children and vulnerable groups. Employers also have a legal responsibility to report concerns over adverse behaviour to the Disclosure & Barring Service so that those who pose a risk of harm can be denied access to such groups in the workplace. 638 unsuitable people have been barred from working with vulnerable groups, including children, since 01 December 2012. First Standard Limited, established in 2005, is registered as an Umbrella Body to support employers throughout the United Kingdom who are entitled to use Disclosures within their recruitment and risk assessment processes.

First Standard offers a full Disclosure Management Service and processes your applications for disclosures quickly and efficiently. Where a Disclosure reveals a criminal record, we will work with you to determine how or if that person may be employed within your organisation. For more information, visit us at www.firststandardltd.co.uk To protect your organisation and your clients, please call us now on 01434 600547 or email us: checks@firststandardltd.co.uk and we will be pleased to answer your questions.

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Mindownyour business? Modern business is a team sport: it’s about connection and conversation, community and collaboration. Cheryl Rickman, author of The Digital Business Start-Up Workbook, gives her four ways to find your perfect business match

‘Success in the modern world depends on the real connections you have.’ Reid Hoffman, founder and CEO, LinkedIn Partnerships pave the way to success in today’s collaborative world, where connection has become the new currency. Collaborative, mutuallybeneficial partnerships enable and propel growth by leveraging each others’ customer bases, strengths and resources. Through positive collaborative partnerships we can share insight, audiences and revenues; we can pool resources, share risks and contribute strengths to fast-track success. So seek out companies which complement yours; focus on sourcing potential partners for you and your connections. Creating an influential coalition of strategic alliances and joining forces with like-minded small businesses is a great way for digital enterprises to gain the competitive edge over larger competitors. By sourcing synergies with other small businesses and creating an eco-system based on reciprocal win-win cooperation, you can share the upside of what you each bring to the table. Collaboration helps aligned companies to fill gaps and work

smarter to do things better and faster than the competition: to increase revenue, extend reach, open up new markets, and enhance credibility. By forging alliances you can maximise opportunities and do so while by spreading both risk and costs. One of the reasons I founded WiBBLE, a social business platform, online support network and toolkit provider for self-employed women (most of them running their own small businesses as sole traders from home) was to enable collaboration – to provide

a rich source of potential partners who share the same target audience yet are not competing. Businesses which have an existing customer base, filled with exactly the kind of customers that you want to attract to your own business, are worth their weight in gold, particularly when you are working from home. By establishing a revenue-share partnership or referral scheme between your businesses, so that you each promote and drive customers to each other, you create a win-win promotional strategy. And it’s working... 

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We’ve got cupcake makers collaborating with cake stand providers, mobile hairdressers collaborating with beauticians, newborn photographers collaborating with providers of baby clothes and party suppliers collaborating with toy and prop providers. The collaborative possibilities are endless. Fact: strategic alliances help businesses to grow, whether: 1. A partnership (an agreement with an organisation – often involving revenue-share or cross-promotional activity) 2. A joint venture (a business established by two or more organisations which work together, share cost and risk and pool skills and technologies in a bid to enter new markets) 3. A licensing relationship (whereby you give other organisations permission to distribute your material by granting them with a license for a fee) 4. A franchising establishment (whereby you give other individuals or organisations permission to use your successful business model by selling them a franchise of your operation for a fee) IN PRACTICE NakedWines.com built up brand awareness by partnering with brands which had an affinity with them, such as Amazon, JamieOliver.com and BBC Good Food, each of which have their own wine-loving communities. In fact, of external marketing sources, ‘partnerships dominate everything,’ says founder, Rowan Gormley. ‘Jamie Oliver kept drinking nice wines in foreign countries and then couldn’t buy them when he was back in the UK,’ explains Rowan. ‘A friend who worked there considered what could be done about this, and that’s how we ended up doing business. With most of our partners there’s a reciprocal element, so they’re acquiring customers and vice versa.’

Cheryl Rickman is founder of www.WiBBLE.us (Women in Business: Brilliant Local Enterprises) a social business platform, support network and toolkit provider for self-employed women. Cheryl is also author of The Digital Business Start-Up Workbook, which has a foreword by Martha Lane-Fox, and The Small Business Start-Up Workbook, which has a foreword by Dame Anita Roddick. She has also ghostwritten three books, including one for a BBC ‘Dragon’.

Sarah Beeny’s Tepilo.com has also partnered with a number of companies. ‘We didn’t want to expand to flatshares for example, so collaborated with the biggest flatsharing site, Spareroom.co.uk,’ explains Sarah. ‘Cross promotion to our audiences works very well and we have a good relationship.’ TIPS ON EFFECTIVE COLLABORATION 1. Seek out the rope-bridge Consider synergies between yourself, those you meet and those you already know. Track down companies which have large reach in the target market that you are seeking to leverage and can act as a bridge to the customers you most desire. Then identify individuals within prospective partner companies who might advocate the proposed relationship. Consider their objectives. What can you offer them in exchange for what they can offer you? How can you complement each other? Will your mutual customer bases be excited by the collaborative proposition?

Look for a mutual win-win and align your goals. 2. Invite customers to matchmake They should know you and your objectives well enough to be able to suggest and connect you with potential partners, and articulate the mutual gain potential for each party. 3. Think long-term ‘Coming up with a plan that works in the long-term and will be beneficial for both parties will stand the test of time,’ says Nick Jenkins, founder of Moonpig.com. So it’s vital to stay focused on developing relationships that create long-term value. 4. Manage expectations This is particularly important if entering into a joint venture, to ensure that all parties fairly contribute and mutually commit in terms of resources, assets, finances and skills.

“Look for a mutual winwin and align your goals”

“We’ve got cupcake makers collaborating with cake stand providers”

Contact: www.WiBBLE.us

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Managed payroll service operating in the North East and nationwide

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No two working days are ever the same for Arty Globe, the gallery-shop which boasts the Guggenheim as a client. Here the founders share their business diary over the course of a hectic week


“We rolled up our sleeves and started mixing inks in glass jars”

rty Globe is a collaboration and partnership between business brain, Isaac Lilos and artist, Hartwig Braun. The latter’s unique hand drawings form the basis for the business and the brand. Starting life as a humble stall at Greenwich Market in 2008, the business is now established as a gallery-shop offering unique, high quality gifts, collectibles and accessories featuring Hartwig’s designs. Corporate clients include the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao), The British Museum, The City of London and Hamleys.

Isaac shares a week in the life of the dynamic duo.

Day 1

Hartwig and I normally work at the gallery-shop at Greenwich over the weekend, so Mondays are really important for recovery and planning the week ahead. It’s also a good day to catch up on admin and financial paperwork. I don’t always enjoy doing the bookkeeping and paperwork, but equally I know how important it is to have everything in order: that way we know where we stand and can plan ahead and ensure that

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Focus on people SECRET DIARY

we are on track to achieve our goals for the year.

Day 2

Today we are filming a short promotional film about Hartwig, his work, and our brand for the website and the shop. After a small morning crisis choosing which clothes to wear for the video shoot, I find myself immensely enjoying the process of filming in the gallery-shop. My actor nephew volunteered to help us, and did a great job in front of the camera, demonstrating our products. I wanted to capture on film both the quality of our British-made products and Hartwig’s intricate designs. I was very pleased to see that we achieved both of these goals with the video. Later in the day a new customer walked in and was full of genuine praise for Hartwig’s work and our product range. She purchased

“I often jokingly moan about being kept underground most of the time” a print, which Hartwig signed for her, and she agreed for us to use the footage and her enthusiastic words in our video. That was awesome – I love life’s little random surprises!

Day 3

Leaving our short-lived acting careers behind us, we started the day with a visit to our local t-shirt printers. After endless discussions, a consensus was reached on the desired printing colour combinations. We were then told that some of the colours were not available for sampling, so we volunteered to help mix them ourselves. We rolled up our sleeves and started mixing inks in glass jars, which was a great insight into the process (and lots of fun). However, realising that

half of the ink ended up on our clothes was less fun… The day ended perfectly with the arrival of our new UK-made silk scarf samples. I am really delighted with the way Hartwig’s artwork printed on silk, and I cannot wait to get the first production run.

Day 4

It’s 5.30am and we are heading to Heathrow where today we will take part in a product roadshow event at the airport. This was organised by one of the big airlines who are now stocking our products. It is a great opportunity for us to engage with some of the airline’s cabin-crew, and tell them more about the business and its products. I show Hartwig the t-shirt I am wearing featuring his hand-drawn London design. He smiles and says, ‘Great, you really make my artwork look three-dimensional.’ Obviously suggesting that my love for food is too apparent. I am used to it, so I just ignore him and think about the day ahead. We arrive at Heathrow just in time to grab a quick breakfast and set up our table alongside the 20 other suppliers before the event starts. We spend the rest of the day engaging with the airline’s crew. The atmosphere is fantastic, but it’s very hard work nevertheless. Almost impossible to concentrate with all the noise and people around us, but both Hartwig and I really focus, as we know how important it is for the crew to know as much as possible about our products so they can pass on the knowledge to passengers on their flights. After talking to more than 600 people, we headed home to recover before the weekend ahead.

Day 5

With my mouth still aching from all the talking yesterday, this morning I am sitting in front of our new PR consultant, discussing plans for the year

ahead. I want to make more people aware of Hartwig’s unique style and our growing brand, so we talk in length about the different ways that this can be achieved. I enjoy our two-hour meeting so much that it creeps into its fourth hour before I realise I have to get going; I need to get to the shop, meet Hartwig and head into central London to meet a client regarding a bespoke artwork commission. I am really excited by this meeting. The well-known corporate client has found us through a recent blog feature, and Hartwig’s quirky and eyecatching style is exactly what they were looking for to promote an upcoming project. I am a bit nervous, but when we get there I relax and the meeting goes really smoothly. Hartwig and I leave the meeting feeling very positive, so we treat ourselves to a little coffee and cake on the way back home.

Day 6

After such a packed week it’s bliss to be back in the galleryshop for the weekend. Hartwig and I still insist on being at the shop on weekends as it’s our busiest two days of the week, and therefore it gives us a chance to meet and engage with lots of different local and visiting customers. As usual I am downstairs in the basement organising stock, printing and framing and sorting things out while Hartwig is sitting up on the shop floor talking to customers. I often jokingly moan about being kept underground most of the time, but honestly I really appreciate having my own quiet, peaceful space so I can think and plan for the week ahead.

Visit Hartwig and Isaac at 15 Greenwich Market, London, SE10 9HZ Contact: www.artyglobe.com

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Advantage Group Solutions

AGS provides a cost-effective, professional, end-to-end payroll service for all sizes of businesses. AGS only provides a payroll service so therefore our staff are experts in payroll. AGS uses commercially available software, ensuring our software is continuously fully HMRC compliant. Running payroll in-house can be fine but unless they are full-time payroll experts does your payroll clerk really understand all of the complications of payroll, including new RTI compliance, SMP, SSP, pensions etc? Outsourcing is much cheaper than you may think and gives you dedicated payroll expertise.

Contact AGS for more details. Email: info@AdvantageGroupSolutions.co.uk Web: www.AdvantageGroupSolutions.co.uk Tel: 01824 703 055

A J HR solutions Do you want HR solutions that work for your business needs? I am independent HR Consultant specialising in supporting new, small and medium sized businesses with their HR needs in the Berkshire and surrounding areas. I offer start up packages for new businesses, retention packages and ad hoc services, whatever suits your business requirement.

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26/03/2013 19:43

Focus on



Ourman in the valley

The business of baseball – it’s time to rethink the game, says our tech all-star, David Richards

“The most successful software companies will be those which drive down costs”

It’s never easy to challenge conventional wisdom. But that’s what winners do. They are unafraid to question existing practices and find superior ways to perform. And it’s not just in the world of business that this holds true. In fact, those looking for a dose of winning inspiration could do worse than to cast a glance at the world of baseball. I recently read the Michael Lewis bestseller, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game – which has since found its way to film with Brad Pitt starring as Billy Beane, the team’s general manager. In it, Lewis shows how one of baseball’s poorest teams (the Oakland A’s) defied the status quo to consistently win games and secure a position in the post-season playoffs. While other teams paid top dollar for top stars, Oakland learned how to identify undervalued talent and do more with less. The A’s applied new thinking to the game, enabling the organisation to capitalise on hidden inefficiencies. ‘At the bottom of the Oakland experiment,’ writes Lewis, ‘was a willingness to rethink baseball: how it is managed, how it is played, who is best suited to play it, and why.’

A few more software firms could do with following their lead. As a growing number of companies have discovered, there are a number of hidden inefficiencies in this field that are undermining productivity and performance. Most leading product companies – from Nike to Apple – design their products in relatively high cost regions and produce them in relatively low cost regions. After all, if you make a product, whether it’s a shoe or a smart phone, in a high-cost region like London, New York or Silicon Valley, you will rapidly kill your margins – and with it your business. But, for some reason, software companies have chosen a more costly route. Despite the heavy cost burdens they bear in software production, they are generally reluctant to move commoditised software development offshore. One reason companies don’t distribute their software development activities more globally is that they can’t collaborate effectively on a global basis. Technical barriers and development inefficiencies get in the way of doing what makes sense economically.

When they do go offshore, they can end up with error-ridden code due to failures in communication and collaboration; the consequences can be devastating. But though this would seem to justify standing still and keeping software development close to home, that high-cost strategy is just as risky as going abroad. Either way, you run the risk of driving yourself out of business. It’s time to rethink the game. How? Well, thanks to the emergence of solutions that enable worldwide collaboration on source code in near real-time, developers who previously would have been out of range due to the risk of delays or downtime, have now become feasible recruits for software projects. By rethinking the rules of the game, the most successful software companies will be those which drive down costs – without compromising on talent. Maybe it’s time we all watched a bit more baseball…

David is CEO and co-founder of WANdisco, a software company based in both Silicon Valley and Sheffield. Contact: www.wandisco.com

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No Matter how small your business, ignore the importance of H.R at your peril... Why are so many small and medium size business owners reluctant to recognise the importance of Human Resources?

Many owners believe that they know their staff too well to have any personnel problems or as many tell us they are too busy doing the work to put time into people issues. Take the owner of a small engineering company. If the press machine started playing up it would be checked and repaired as soon as possible. A machine not working is time wasted and products not produced, and that hits the bottom line. So it gets attention. What if an employee is disgruntled or is unhappy? It may be a problem at home or it may be something to do with work. If the matter isn’t addressed one thing is for sure, it will grow. The employee will not be giving full attention to the job; poor concentration could lead to an accident or perhaps a near miss. Most likely performance is affected and the quality of the product too. It will eventually impact the bottom line however it will take much longer to be noticed. Whether the business is small, one or two employees or much larger 30 or 40 if the business owners’ takes an interest in their employees he or she will get respect and loyalty in return. By taking an interest that doesn’t mean prying into people’s lives or getting the latest gossip. How does HR help the SME business owner? By providing specialist support to the business the HR consultant can take some of the worry and out of handling people issues. The small business owner knows

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their product inside out and their customers, they are usually specialist in their own field, but they are rarely people managers. As an example a dentist trains to provide (hopefully) painless dental treatment. He is not trained to handle absenteeism or poor performance from the receptionist. The HR consultant ensures that the business owner provides a safe and responsible working environment for their staff. One of the most fundamental actions to be taken is the issue of Contracts of Employment. Many employees have never been given a contract despite being employed for years. Perhaps that has never worried them, but when things go wrong as unfortunately they do, then that failure to provide a contract becomes a big problem. Especially as there is a statutory obligation to provide written particulars of the main terms and conditions of employment for anyone who is employed for longer than a month. Much of the employer/ employee relationship can be clarified in the contract. When an Employee Handbook is discussed many SME business owners say that they are too small to need one. When things go wrong, they often deal with the problem there and then. Each time the solution will be different and precedents will be established. Then employees begin to feel that they are being treated differently and unfairly, then unrest begins to affect the workplace. By establishing policies and procedures the business owners are able to set out standards for behaviour and conduct in their

workplace. Each party will know what is expected of them. It makes those difficult and/or sensitive people issues much easier to handle. Changes will happen in any business. It may be due to rapid expansion of the business. It may be that new equipment is purchased that will require new skills. Demand for the product has dropped or customer expectations are higher than before. All of these changes will affect the working lives of the employees. It is often difficult to handle the conversations that will be required. Things could be happening in an employee’s personal lives such as marriage, mortgages or a death in the family. The HR consultant can ensure that the personnel processes are planned and when put into action provide actual support and ensure outcomes are fair and legal. Many believe that as employment law information is available on the web then a quick visit to “google” is all they need to do if something tricky occurs in the workplace. That can be a quick fix solution but often the business owner will come unstuck with more complicated issues. One of the key advantages of using the services of an experienced HR consultant is that they will help the business owner or their manager to handle the actual situation in a practical and pragmatic manner appropriate for them, their staff and the business

Bronwen Philpott,

Partner at Plain Talking HR, a specialist consultancy for SMEs.

26/03/2013 19:44

Focus on technology FRAUDULENT EMAILS

Call security… The top three fraudulent emails: Mike Foreman, senior vice president of global sales at AVG Technologies, explains why SMBs should really care more about IT security


esearch shows that only 58% of SMBs are concerned about data theft, despite losses of £3.37m to cyber attacks in the past year, as well as the arguably even more harmful impact of reputation damage. Small- and medium-sized businesses have a tiny fraction of the IT security resources available to larger companies. Without dedicated IT departments, protection is often overlooked, while employees are alarmingly unaware of how to detect spam – one of the most popular methods cyber criminals are using to target SMBs. Concerning figures highlight the fact that 12.7% of small businesses have had personal and bank details or money stolen, and 8.5% have been hacked. In addition to the obvious impact direct theft of finances can have on a company’s bottom line, data theft causes massive loss of confidence among consumers and other businesses alike. While larger companies may be able to bounce back from hacking cases, without powerful marketing machines and big budgets behind them, SMBs are less resilient. An anti-virus solution combined with greater awareness of cyber criminals’ tactics should therefore be considered critical to operations. Fortunately, various costeffective and easy-to-implement

options exist on the market, while the following list will outline some of the most common messages used by cyber criminals to target SMBs.

The big three 1. Please reset your online

banking password/your account will be closed within 48 hours if you do not respond. The most common fraudulent emails cyber criminals use to target SMBs are designed to look as if they have come from financial institutions. The period January to April is particularly sensitive, seeing cyber criminals increase the volume of fraudulent emails they send in order to take advantage of the window of increased payments to tax and revenue agencies. Figures showed 56.9% of SMBs had received fraudulent emails asking for money, 36.8% had received fake tax rebate emails and 12.3% had been directed to a fake Government web page. However, without IT security measures, less than a third were confident they could spot a fake website, and only 57.7% reported being able to spot a fake tax email. Banks will never send emails requesting password resets. However, many SMB employees are unaware of this basic principle and fall victim to this simple scam, putting company finances and personal details at risk. Another common tactic 

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“Without IT security measures, less than a third were confident they could spot a fake website”

“Over half of SMBs regularly open emails from unknown sources”

cyber criminals use is to pose as HMRC since, once again, many employees are unaware HMRC never sends tax rebate notifications or personal information requests via email. 2. A secure message is waiting for you, click here to read. The second format cyber criminals commonly use relies on generic phrases, such as ‘dear customer’ to trick employees into opening unsafe emails and disclosing sensitive information. Once again, a basic tenet applies – not only should opening emails from unknown sources be avoided, but employees should be briefed that genuine sources will know their real names. Unfortunately, over half of SMBs regularly open emails from unknown sources and only 43% use spam filters, which would block the majority of these messages. 3. Click the link below to gain access to your account. Finally, a particularly popular method of stealing company information is through

‘clickjacking’. ‘Clickjacking’ involves tricking employees to click on links that redirect them to harmful sites, or direct employees to reveal personal or company data. Once again, a particularly popular website cyber criminals imitate is the HMRC site. Interestingly, SMBs within the legal sector are worst at this, with only 11% being cautious about clicking on links posing as HMRC. On average, only 30.5% of SMBs would think twice about clicking on a link directing them to the HMRC site, despite HMRC advice. Overall, it is vital that SMBs start to take IT security more seriously. While extra caution during the tax window is clearly extremely important, employees should remain vigilant throughout the year to keep financial and personal data out of the hands of cyber criminals. At present, only a third on average have IT security in place, with the worst sectors being sales, media and marketing, travel and transport, and arts

and culture – where only 12.5%, 22.7% and 21.6% of SMBs invest in IT security respectively. A small yet worrying 6.3% of all SMBs take no measures whatsoever to protect their business online, leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks on finances and reputation. An anti-virus solution is critical and should be installed on all PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones, providing Internet security for web browsing as well as firewalls and email and instant messenger defences. Additionally, businesses must educate their staff to avoid email fraud, as a combination of awareness and a robust antivirus solution is needed to keep SMBs safe. 
 Contact: www.avg.com

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27/03/2013 11:19

Focus on technology MOBILE TECHNOLOGY

Mobile Motivation John Sylvester, executive director of P&MM Motivation, discusses the opportunities and issues associated with using mobile technology to motivate your staff

“When work eats into relaxation time, what impact does this have on employee motivation levels”

Gone are the days when managers wanting to motivate their staff simply had to call a team meeting in the office anytime and everyone would be there. As a result of remote working and flexible hours, it is very rare for most of the team to be in one building at the same time, and certainly not without several days’ warning. So managers have had to harness instant communication technology, using email and websites to explain the benefits and maintain the momentum for their motivation scheme. Technology moves on and more and more of us are accessing the Internet and emails via mobile phones, rather than computers. Once again, managers must adapt to “mobile motivation”. Of course, mobile technology brings new forms of messaging into the equation. In addition to email, intranet, websites, and text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media provide a wealth of opportunities that you really should be considering. The advantage of mobile motivation is that managers can communicate with staff any time, anywhere. However, this can create its own issues. Rather than switching us on,

for some, being contactable at all times can have the opposite effect. They regard being within reach of an employer 24/7 as an additional contributor to stress. Clearly, a delicate balance needs to be struck.

Leading by example

Birmingham City Council, which is Europe’s largest council, is one organisation to have taken the plunge and started texting employees. Earlier this year, 5000 text messages were sent out by the Council to volunteers at the European Athletics Indoor Championships. Sent over three days, the messages were used as both a motivational and employee recognition tool. In America, Coca-Cola recently piloted Coke-Text, a programme for restaurant managers to send promotional messages easily to workforces and simultaneously involve them in award schemes. Coke-Text created a positive response, and demonstrated that text messages could boost efficiencies.

• Motivational communication directed to an entire team may mean that staff receive irrelevant messages, which can have an adverse effect. • The overuse of messages can also have the opposite of the desired effect. Employees may disregard the texts altogether and overlook key information. However, one particular advantage of incorporating mobile-led motivational messages within an employee engagement scheme, is that it is typically considered a personal form of communication. Therefore, it may be seen as more relaxed or liberated, and help the employer to connect with the employee. It’s clear that mobile technology will continue to increase in importance to employers; mobile motivation can play an important role in keeping engagement levels high. Contact: www.p-mm.co.uk

An app for that

Apps provide another opportunity to capitalise on the use of technology in employee motivation schemes. The American app, iRecognize, enables employers to send an automated message of praise to an employee through Facebook, Twitter, an e-card or a text message. While the computerised delivery of the message makes it less personalised, this app’s existence certainly highlights the integral part that mobile motivation is playing in companies’ employee engagement schemes.

Structured strategy

A word of warning – employers keen to send motivational messages via mobile should consider a couple of potential problems, which may alienate staff:

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26/03/2013 18:46

Focus on technology APM



Through the looking glass: Alexandre Wentzo, CEO of Casewise, outlines how application portfolio management can transform your business

The way in which IT departments operate has changed past all recognition over the last 20 years. Back in those less-enlightened times, the IT department was often a dusty room, kept out of the way of the rest of the staff; a black box into which money was poured. Times have changed. They’ve had to. Back then, the IT department wasn’t seen as having a key role in a business – nor was it perceived as adding value. The first signs of change came during the run up to the year 2000, and all the changes that entailed. It was around this time that chief information

officers (CIOs) discovered the complexities of their applications. All of a sudden, CEOs were switched onto the fact that investing in IT departments could lead to a healthier bottom line at the end of the financial year, and a revolution in enterprise architecture was unleashed. THE CHALLENGE AHEAD What drives change in this fast moving sector? According to leading IT professionals, the top priorities facing CIOs today include: • Improving collaboration • Prepping for the post-PC

era mobile computing environment • Improving business and IT alignment • Harnessing “big data” • Preparing for the cloud • Shifting away from maintaining IT into supporting growth initiatives This last point is vital during times of economic strife. Traditionally, the IT team does not have the command of every part of a business. It may want to help to fulfil a role, but that has, in the past, been the end of the story. In the days of IT outsourcing, an IT department, now more than ever, needs to justify its costs.

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Focus on technology APM

Following recent briefings with leading analyst, Gartner, many organisations today report that they are ill-equipped to successfully tackle these priorities. It is clear that many CIOs still have issues with: • Gaining the support they need from senior management • Providing transparency to the business, and demonstrating the business value of IT • Streamlining IT operations to do more with less • Having limited line-of-sight into their applications, as well as the rest of their IT and business ecosystem • To make consistent dozens of systems of records, which often means having no single source of truth All of this adds up to an unholy mess, which means a business lacks meaningful or accurate data, as well as the ability to collect this data in an efficient manner. Ultimately, this stops the organisation from being agile and cost-effective. ENTER APM... Application portfolio management (APM) is a solution which gives decisionmakers better control of their application portfolios, enables technology rationalisation, and aligns IT infrastructure with organisational needs. It is not uncommon to find businesses or organisations, which have more than one system to carry out the same function. In what amounts to a huge waste of time and money, each application is separately maintained and upgraded, increasing the likelihood of an ever more muddled system, which can hike cost. APM is nothing new; it was around in the 1990s, but the challenges faced by IT professionals in the run up to the Millennium advanced its usefulness beyond all recognition. CEOs and CIOs identified that it could add real value to their business by identifying how many

applications they were using, and how they could streamline them. During the early part of the 2000s, the financial services sector was under pressure to modernise and become more efficient. Quite naturally, it turned to APM. By doing this it stabilised the maintenance cost of its IT departments. What did these economic powerhouses recognise in APM to make the leap? They realised that APM could save them money by removing obsolete applications and technologies that simply weren’t needed. Transparency is key. The ability of all management to be able to access the current inventory of applications and resource consumption is of paramount importance, and is where APM excels. APM also improves the transparency of changes made to IT systems, aligning the rest of the business to the IT department, which is then included in supporting the business’ goals. Transparency also helps strategic planning efforts and negates any confusion or conflict that could arise when business rubs up against IT. It’s obvious to those now using APM, that when management can understand how applications aid the day-to-day running of their business, the agenda can move on from how to blame outdated IT functions, towards how best to sweat existing assets and channel precious funds. Finally, and just as crucially, APM helped these financial institutions understand where technology support was lacking across business functions and processes, while staying one step ahead of the game, by allowing them to solve business problems – even before the business realised the problem existed.

“Removing obsolete applications will ultimately save our customers money”

“An IT department, now more than ever, needs to justify its costs”

businesses and require reliable and accurate data in order to achieve this. An APM solution improves effective decisionmaking and leads to successful business planning, based on a better understanding of current circumstances. Removing obsolete applications and associated technologies will ultimately save our customers money. My advice to those looking to best utilise APM is not to rush through the process, or its initial conclusions. APM is a very powerful tool, and CEOs and CIOs alike should take their time looking at the potential – or lack thereof – of every single application within their business, thus creating the maximum value. In 2013, it goes without saying that winning IT organisations must find ways to address the leading challenges that their CIOs and CEOs care about: improving the bottom line. Specifically, they must remove obsolete technologies, leverage existing assets, remove IT bottlenecks and support improved decision-making. In doing so, they will be well positioned to be seen as a key partner to the business. Contact: www.casewise.com

Alexandre Wentzo is a CEO who has built a solid track record of delivering “stretch” targets in a difficult marketplace. Casewise’s APM solution combines world-class software and a proven methodology that enables organisations end-to-end visibility of their application portfolio in order to plan and utilise IT to maximise cost efficiency initiatives while also supporting a long-term business strategy.

THE WAY FORWARD Senior managers need to make quick decisions within their

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26/03/2013 18:47

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26/03/2013 19:47

Focus on technology APPS

I’ve got an app for that… An app which accurately translates your dictation into text? An office suite that allows you to open and edit documents anywhere? Yes, it’s all here in this month’s best business apps


Price: FREE-£8.99 Compatible with: iPhone, iPad and Android The gist: For getting office work done in a pinch from an iPhone, iPad or Android phone, Polaris Office is a real life saver. It includes tools for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation files, all in one great app that is cheap and easy to use. Anytime, anywhere, you can easily use your favourite programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe PDF. Polaris Office is a worthy alternative to Apple’s iWork suite for editing documents, creating new ones, and saving them either to the Polaris Office app or into popular cloud-based storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Downloadable from: The AppStore or the Android Market

Dragon Dictation

Price: FREE Compatible with: iPhone, iPad The gist: Typing can be such a bore sometimes, particularly if you’re pushed for time. Enter Dragon Dictation, the easy-to-use voice recognition app powered by Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. In fact, it’s up to five times faster than typing on the keyboard.
With Dragon Dictation you can also dictate status updates directly to your social networking applications (Facebook and Twitter) or send notes and reminders to yourself, all using your voice. When you’re on the go, stop typing and start speaking – from short text messages to longer email messages, and anything in between. Downloadable from: iTunes

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Focus on technology GADGETS

Battle of the brands: HP vs Vodafone

With the rise of the ultra-affordable tablet, there are some new names kicking about in this space these days: we check out HP and Vodafoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first attempts at creating an affordable yet practical device

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[What they say]

26/03/2013 18:49

Focus on technology GADGETS

HP Slate 7

Estimated £129

[VS] [Price]

7” multi-touch screen, 600 x 1024 pixels


197.1 x 116.1 x 10.7mm Weight, 372g


For a low-end tablet price-wise, we’re actually quite taken with the look of the Slate 7; perhaps we’re just shallow enough to be won over by the range of colours (black, silver and red)

3.15 megapixel, 2048 x 1536 pixels

microSD, up to 32GB

“Experience amazing. Carry your world in the palm of your hand. Think smaller with the HP Slate 7 featuring Android 4.1. Keep your photos, documents, music, games, and apps with you every step of the day. And access and manage it all on the go with a fully-featured, 7-inch diagonal tablet that brings everything down to size – including price”

www.hp.com/uk (expected release, April 2013)


[Camera] [Memory slot]

[What they say]

[Buy from]

Vodafone Smart Tab II £149 (or £20 a month for a 24-month contract)

7” multi-touch screen, 600 x 1024 pixels

192 x 122 x 12mm Weight, 420g

The Smart Tab II is all business. It’s a practical machine rather than a fancy gadget, and this is reflected in the somewhat pedestrian simple black design

2 megapixel with autofocus, LED flash; 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera


“Have it your way with the Vodafone Smart Tab II. Our Android tablet gives you access to thousands of apps from the Google Play store. And with the flexibility of Pay as you go you can have it your way. Watch movies, catch up on the celebrity gossip or message the office or friends on the move – the Vodafone Smart Tab II fits in with you”


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27/03/2013 13:58

Focus on franchise

Franchise news Franchisees recognised at Razzamataz AGM

UK’s leading franchise awards now open

RAZZAMATAZ HAS HOSTED its fifth annual general meeting at the Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC, hosted by founder and managing director, Denise Hutton-Gosney and franchise recruitment manager Suzie McCafferty. Among the guest speakers were experts in the fields of social media, employment law, press and PR, behaviour management, authentic street dance and a motivational speaker. The AGM highlighted just how far the Dragons’ Den-backed business has progressed since Duncan Bannatyne became an investor in 2007. With more and more franchisees joining up every year, the part-time theatre school franchise has become a powerful force in the children’s performing arts market. Duncan Bannatyne has been tweeting his congratulations for the successful AGM and showed his continued support for the business by providing Razzamataz franchisees with a copy of his latest book, 37 Questions Everyone In Business Should Ask.

THE BRITISH FRANCHISE Association (bfa) has announced that the 2013 bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards, supported by Express Newspapers, are open for entries. This year’s Awards will champion the UK’s most outstanding franchisors that have driven business success. Previous winners have included organisations that have implemented impressive strategies, best business practice or taken innovative approaches. There are three awards now open for entries: the bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Award, the HSBC Franchisee Support Award, and The Express Newspapers Brand Builder of the Year Award. This is the 24th year of the Awards, and the bfa is encouraging exceptional franchisors, of all sectors and sizes, to put themselves forward. The Awards highlight positive business stories, which have emerged, as well as presenting a chance to win a quality

industry-recognised accolade. Autosmart won the 2012 bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards. Sophie Atkinson, managing director at Autosmart International Ltd, said: ‘Winning the bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards was fantastic motivation for our staff and franchisees.’ The deadline for entries is 5 April, and winners will be announced at a gala dinner in July held at the Honourable Artillery Company, London. For more information, go to: www.thebfa.org

Starbucks opens first UK franchise store STARBUCKS HAS OPENED its first franchised store at Liphook, Hampshire. This is the first of an eight-store deal with 23.5 Degrees, a partnership of three local entrepreneurs. The new store at Liphook Services, on the A3 (northbound towards London), will be the blueprint for further stores, which are planned to open across the country as the coffee shop chain grows its franchising business. The partnership with 23.5 Degrees, made up of Anil Patil, Satwinder Sandhu, and Mark

Hepburn, will see Starbucks taken to new places where local Hampshire and Dorset customers want high quality, convenient coffee. Mark Hepburn, company director of 23.5 Degrees, said: ‘This partnership with Starbucks represents our company’s progression with a brand we feel mirrors our own values, sincerely caring about the people in our business, and committed to consistently delivering for the customer and the local community.’ talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 109

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in the

The Dwyer Group®, one of the world’s leading franchise organisations with over 1,600 franchisees, is expanding its Mr. Electric® and Aire Serv® brands in the UK. This could be your opportunity to explore business ownership in the demand-based services industry. Both Mr. Electric and Aire Serv have developed detailed systems in the areas of marketing, operations, human resources, finance and technology that not only start you off on the right foot, but will put you quickly on the path to success. Our programmes provide top-notch training and ongoing support, which is designed to help you reach your goals, whether you are new to the industry or an existing business owner.

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26/03/2013 19:48 1/30/13 12:33 PM

Focus on franchise SPOTLIGHT

driving the room sales and supporting profit maximisation • Competitive build and re-brand costs • A support team working alongside you from the first to last stage of development into opening and then operating • Maximisation of return on investment in a highly competitive environment

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT… Roomzzz Aparthotel What do you get when you cross an apartment with a hotel? Mark Walton, head of Roomzzz Aparthotel UK, gives us the low-down on this rapidly expanding franchise Not content with announcing two new sites in Liverpool and Chester at the beginning of 2013, Roomzzz Aparthotel, the franchise which provides the best of a boutique hotel combined with the benefits of a serviced apartment, recently stepped up its expansion plans to reveal two new sites in Scotland. The Roomzzz brand has been gathering prominence and status in the industry since 2006, with a tried and tested methodology for the successful operation of aparthotels. WHY THE FRANCHISE MODEL? Our unique franchise model has the support of our wellestablished management team, with many years of industry experience, as well as running franchises at a corporate and international level. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES OF FRANCHISING? The biggest challenge of franchising an aparthotel brand

HOW MUCH WILL IT SET ME BACK? Franchisees need to pay for the development cost, and thereafter our very competitive franchise royalty.

is finding the right site at the right price, in the right location. But the opportunities are the high return on investment due to low operating costs, and more open acceptance by the banks to lend against an aparthotel rather than a hotel. WHAT WILL FRANCHISEES GET FOR THEIR MONEY? Franchisees operate under the Roomzzz Aparthotel umbrella as a branded aparthotel, recognised for its quality and customer experience. Our brand is growing all the time, and its values are well established. In addition, Roomzzz is known for quality building and furnishings, efficient and courteous staff, and a can-do approach. Our franchise partners also enjoy being part of the Roomzzz brand – a brand which is synonymous with quality and customer care. Franchisees can expect: • An experienced central management team,

DO YOU OFFER TRAINING AND SUPPORT? Yes – all of our franchise partners receive comprehensive brand manuals covering the design aspects, operational procedures and sales and marketing guidelines. In-depth training is provided for everyone involved, including employees, and we share the advantages of a quality assurance programme and periodic revenue audits, to ensure brand integrity and profit maximisation.

“Our brand is growing all the time, and its values are well established”

WHAT’S YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE FRANCHISE? We believe the Roomzzz brand best suits primary and secondary city locations, nationwide. We are actively seeking partners in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Sheffield and key locations in Greater London. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST BUSINESS MOMENT? Bringing the Roomzzz brand into a prominent position within the industry, with consistently high occupancies in all of our locations. We are being recognised for our take on absolute, transparent rates with no add-ons. Contact: www.roomzzz.co.uk/franchising

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Sponsored Article


was really cross when I found out I’d been made redundant. I thought it was a job for life and I didn’t know what to do with myself.” Jill ”ran away” back to Germany for a couple of weeks, and spent time ”mulling things over” on her return. HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE ZIPYARD? One day Jill’s husband Gerald returned home clutching an advertisement he’d seen all about The ZipYard. He was very excited but Jill admits her initial reaction was ”But Gerald I don’t even sew!” HAD YOU CONSIDERED RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS BEFORE? “I wanted to be my own boss, manage my own time and benefit from my own efforts” Jill agreed to contact Nigel Toplis, franchisor of The ZipYard, to get more information but still felt she needed a bit more time to think it over. Nigel suggested she pay a visit to Richard McConnell, owner of the ZipYard in Altrincham. We visited Richard’s Centre and were very excited by what we saw and I felt I could manage this kind of business. WHEN DID YOU LAUNCH? “We opened on Monday 21 May 2012. I was nervous, but quietly confident. ”

FROM REDUNDANCY TO THE ZIPYARD Jill Phillips (46) admits to being ‘very cross’ when she was made redundant from her job in credit control for a major US corporation in September 2011. However, in under 12 months Jill became the proud owner of The ZipYard in Basingstoke and admits it was probably the best thing that ever happened to her.

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HOW IS IT GOING? “I’m really happy. Our sales figures are good and the feedback from local people is so encouraging. People say to me This is just what Basingstoke needs. Thanks for opening here.” HAS THE FRANCHISOR BEEN SUPPORTIVE? “Yes the whole team has been fantastic. From the training, to the huge level of support I’ve had, it’s all been great. Although it’s my business, I’ve never felt alone or out on a limb. It’s been teamwork from day one.”

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WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE BUSINESS? “Once this business has been up and running for a while I’d love to branch out with another one somewhere else. For now I’m happy focusing my efforts on Basingstoke and making a success of it. I’ve just taken on another seamstress so the business is growing already.” WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THE ZIPYARD TO OTHER POTENTIAL FRANCHISEES? “Most definitely, 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.” ANY ADVICE TO OFFER OTHER WOMEN THINKING OF SETTING UP A FRANCHISE? “As a woman I can recommend the business. All I’d say is you have to want to succeed and know what your own capabilities are.”

KEVIN OLD THE ZIPYARD BOURNEMOUTH HOW DID YOU COME TO INVESTIGATE FRANCHISING, AND WHY ZIPYARD? ”Having been involved successfully with franchising before I was aware of its many benefits with regards to recognition and support. The ZipYard appealed to me as it had very strong branding and as important the franchisor had a good reputation within the industry and were members of the BFA.” WHAT ASSISTANCE DID YOU RECEIVE? WHAT SUPPORT HAVE YOU RECEIVED, BEFORE AND SINCE OPENING THE STORE? ”The process was fairly simple and straightforward, assistance and advice was given with regards to the site and its location together with rental and lease negotiations etc. Prior

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to this I had spent a week at head office and in store training which was very comprehensive and thorough.” HOW IS IT WORKING OUT SO FAR? WHAT BENEFITS COME WITH RUNNING A RECOGNISED FRANCHISE AND PREMISES? ”The store is running very successfully and above target. The main benefits from running a franchised business are the almost immediate recognition from customers of your business together with the support and back up provided by the franchisor.” HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE FOR YOUR BUSINESS? ”I see a very bright future with the planned expansion to three to four more units within the next 24 months.” WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE CONSIDERING FRANCHISING WITH ZIPYARD - AND FRANCHISING IN GENERAL? ”The best advice to any potential franchisee of the ZipYard would be to talk to as many existing franchisees as possible. Be aware that this is a very simple business but customer service is of paramount importance. With regards to franchising in general be prepared to follow the franchisor guidelines, do not be tempted to deviate under any circumstances unless you discuss it with the franchisor first, be prepared for some serious hard work, and follow what I call the recipe book, if you do that you are more than likely going to bake a successful cake!”

WHAT’S THE TOTAL COST? Total Cost: Approx. £33,000 + VAT plus shop fit

THE SERIAL BUSINESSMAN Having been involved successfully with franchising before Kevin was aware of its many benefits with regard to recognition and support. The ZipYard appealed to Kevin as it has very strong branding, the franchisor has a good reputation within the industry and are members of the BFA. Contact: Janet Matthews T: 01530 513307 E: jmatthews@thezipyard.co.uk W: www.thezipyard.co.uk

26/03/2013 19:49



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26/03/2013 19:51 20/03/2013 17:55

Focus on franchise TAKE ONE FRANCHISE

Take one franchise:

Just Shutters

“We work very hard to target people where they need additional support”

Just Shutters is the premier plantation shutter company in Dorset and Hampshire. Set in the heart of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, it was founded in the Bournemouth area by Chris and Helen Rocker. A local family company, it is a specialist in the field, and now has a thriving business based on the franchising model.

Why Just Shutters?

It would offer somebody their own business, but with total support from us on how to do things successfully. Also, we offer a team – so people are not on their own, it’s a team that works together but doesn’t compete against each other.

What training and support do you offer?

We offer full training and support – which I guess is what everyone would say – but we do an initial training in head office with our team and our master fitters, where people can really

Chris Rocker, founder of Just Shutters, discusses his formula for continued success and tells us why a smile goes a long way in his franchise

learn about us and the ethos of what we do. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so we work very hard to target people where they need additional support and shore up the areas where they need more help. Sarah in Essex, for example, is very strong in marketing, but we give her more installation support. It’s not a case of: ‘14 or 21 days and you’re out on your own’. It’s ongoing, and when people build their teams and take on installers, we then train them in with the cost initially. So it’s very much a long-term commitment to keep them going.

Let’s talk wonga…

The franchise fee itself is £10,000, but I would always advise people to have funding to £20,000; that gives them their marketing launch, that pays for all their training, their tools, the deposit on the van and a little bit of working capital. So if they have £20,000 available they’ll

be properly funded to get the business up and running, and hopefully be successful.

What are you looking for in potential franchisees?

I think one of the initial things I think of when I look at someone is whether they have a warm, open, smiley face. And if they were to come to my home, how would I feel in that 10 seconds after you meet somebody: would I love having these people in my home? Do I take them seriously? Would I listen to them? That’s a really great start, I find.

You can view the video of this interview, which was filmed by FranchiseSales.co.uk at the National Franchise Exhibition in Birmingham, on the Talk Business website.


www.justshutters.co.uk http://youtu.be/e7gjVs7dsb4

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Focus on franchise BUYING A FRANCHISE

Too good


to be

Buying a franchise can be exciting, but don’t forget to do your research warns Louise Harris, franchise director of Wilkins Chimney Sweep

the bad, and the ugly franchise opportunities for what they are; so make that your first question.

Back to basics

Once you’ve identified a franchise you are interested in, you’ll probably want to start with some basic questions including: Who owns the business? How long has the model been operating? How many franchisees are there in place? How much does it cost? Will you need to buy anything else? Is there a management fee and, if so, is it a flat fee or a percentage? Do you have to commit to buying anything else from the franchisor? Will they be able to help you with funding?


ranchising is a growth industry; the 2011 BFA survey revealed that franchising contributed £13.4bn to the UK economy, with 29 new franchise operations and over 40,000 franchisees, so it’s not hard to understand why so many are drawn to buying a franchise business. However, as with any large purchase, caveat emptor (buyer beware): it is

Training regime imperative you do your research before you hand over your hardearned cash.

Is it BFA?

Firstly, is the franchise you are looking at bfa (British Franchise Association) affiliated? The bfa is a voluntary self-regulatory body for the UK franchise industry, and one of its main jobs is to help potential franchisees recognise the good,

Part of the appeal of buying a franchise business is that you can go from knowing nothing to being an expert in a very short space of time, drawing on the experience of your franchisor and the training provided – make sure that training and support are first class, or you may find your business fails. You might like to ask: ‘What training will I receive?’, ‘Who will train me?’, ‘When do you run training courses, or are

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26/03/2013 19:51

Focus on franchise BUYING A FRANCHISE

they individually tailored to me?’, ‘Where will they be held, or can you deliver the training in my territory?’, ‘What kind of on-going support is available to me once the training is completed?’ and, ‘Will I receive any qualifications?’

Let’s talk territories

Franchised businesses are usually sold by territory, so it’s important you research the area you’re being offered to make sure it is a good fit for you. Look at the competition; is there room for another cleaner/pizza restaurant/ chimney sweep? You’ll want to find out how large the territory is; is it exclusive to you or not, and has anyone ever owned/worked the territory before? Beware buying a franchise re-sale with a bad reputation. Building a new business is hard enough without having to overcome negative perceptions because of the previous owner’s poor workmanship or bad reputation.

Grill a franchisee

Presuming the franchise has been operating for a few years, there should be a handful of current franchisees you can talk to about the realities of owning and running the business. Ask for a list of all their current franchisees, and make sure you contact some that aren’t on their ‘he/she’s great to talk to’ list. Talking to an existing franchisee is one of the best ways to find out the truth behind the advertising claims and, if for any reason the franchisor is reticent to let you talk to all their franchisees, take this as a warning and look elsewhere.

Marketing support

Buying a franchise will come with support and training, but you’re still running your own business and, as such, you’ll have regular business admin

tasks that need to be done. Find out what marketing support you will receive. Is there a national marketing fund? What is the sales process? Do you have to knock on doors? How does payment for the service/product work? How much admin does the business require? Half a day or five days a month? If you’re

and purposes, look healthy enough, but make sure by asking to see the financials for both the franchise and the franchisees. Although franchises, like any other business, take time to grow, the indications should be that you are investing in a profitable business. The figures should reflect that.

“Buying a franchise is not a get rich quick scheme and neither is running one” buying a franchise to get away from sitting behind a desk, then find a business with a very simple admin system.

The good, the bad, and the failures An ethical franchisor will be happy to discuss all aspects of the franchise with you and shouldn’t mind you asking if anybody has failed as a franchisee, why they failed and if the franchisor changed the business model as a result of that failure. Ask them what they think their franchisees would complain about most if asked – hopefully after your research you’ll already know the answer to this question, and it will be interesting to see if the answers are the same. What is a typical day like? In January? In June? In December? Is the work seasonal? You may also like to ask what the franchisor’s plans for the future are. Overly aggressive expansion plans in the first few years of trading should start those alarm bells ringing; the best franchise operations are built over a number of years with steady, sustained growth. Buying a franchise is not a “get rich quick” scheme and neither is running one.

Full disclosure

Once you’ve been through this process, you’ve done your due diligence, you’ve spent time with existing franchisees, you’ve thoroughly researched any competition in the territory you’re considering buying, you’ve questioned, delved and generally investigated this business from top to toe, you may think about signing a contract. Before you do, ask the franchisor for a disclosure document. A disclosure document is a plain English version of the contract you’ll be expected to sign. It lays out what you can expect from the franchisor and, in turn, what they’ll expect from you. If you are happy with the contents of the disclosure document, then your next step is to get a franchise specialist lawyer to look over the official contract before signing it.

Take care

Buying a franchise is an exciting time, possibly a new start in life, a second career and for many an investment of their redundancy money. Be wise with it. Be cautious. Ask questions, seek specialist advice and remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Check those books

How is the franchise doing financially? It may, to all intents



118 April 2013

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Focus on advice BUSINESS IN YOU


THE KEY TO UNLOCKING YOUR BUSINESS Business In You, the partnership between private enterprise and Government, tells us why getting sound financial advice is crucial to achieving success


n tough economic times, business owners know that it’s more important than ever to keep their finances in order, and to understand the best way to go about securing funding to grow. Over two-thirds of small business owners agree that information, help or guidance with finance would be beneficial to their business. But nearly three-quarters of young business owners believe there

“The best way to ensure you get the right type of funding is to be fully informed” isn’t enough information available on the subject. The best way to ensure you get the right type of funding is to be fully informed as to the different types of finance available, and how they relate to your business, before making any major decisions. Business In You, a partnership between the Government and private sector and supporters of this year’s Local Business Accelerators campaign, is making it easier for businesses to access information on finance. Through its “Find Finance” section, Business In You can

help businesses to plan, prepare, and apply for the funding they need to grow. This includes an interactive Business Support and Finance Finder to help assess the best type of funding for each business’ needs. The range of options for business finance includes: • Start-Up Loans Which are now available for 18-30-year-olds and come with a package of business support • Enterprise Finance Guarantee Which provides additional lending to businesses that lack the security to secure a traditional loan • Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme Offering significant tax incentives to investors who fund qualifying small businesses. Four out of five SME owners have no formal training in financial matters, and only 20% seek advice before applying for a loan; but getting advice can dramatically increase their chances of securing funding. Seeking the support of a qualified professional business advisor, such as an accountant or bank manager could be invaluable to a small business before applying for finance. MentorsMe.co.uk can connect businesses with specialist

business finance mentors. More than 1,000 of its mentors are current or former high street bank staff who have volunteered to mentor businesses for free. Businesses can be confident the advice is impartial by working with a mentor who is independent of their own bank. The most important factor in a successful application is convincing the lender or investor that you will be able to pay them back. Most unsuccessful applications are due to an inability to demonstrate this or a bad track record of repaying debts. Currently, only one in three owners develops a business plan, but many bank managers cite a solid business plan as the key factor in a successful application for finance. A business that presents a clear plan with projected profits, cash flow management, market research and a marketing plan, in addition to showing how the funding will be used, demonstrates that they really know the product and the market, and gives lenders confidence of a return on their investment. Once a business plan is in place and the business begins to grow, cash management becomes crucial to success. Around 400,000 new businesses

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Focus on advice BUSINESS IN YOU

“Getting advice can dramatically increase their chances of securing funding”

start in the UK each year, but one third of start-ups cease trading within three years and, more often than not, poor cashflow management is to blame. Managing cash effectively and knowing where to turn for support and guidance are therefore vital for small business owners. Business In You, together with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and Ernst & Young, have produced two key resources for small businesses: A Guide to Financial Management for SMEs and the ICAEW Small Business Finance Best Practices Guide. Both are available to download free from the Business In You website. By using the tools available to them, small business owners and entrepreneurs can not only build a successful business, but provide a boost for the wider economy as they do so.

Contact: www.businessinyou.bis.gov.uk

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy. Here we find the people with unusual and inspiring ideas, people who have the drive to go for it and start a new business or grow their existing one. The ‘Business In You’ is a partnership between private enterprise and Government to highlight support for start-ups and growing businesses and encourage entrepreneurial spirit. Through real-life case studies, this campaign shines a light on companies that managed to get off the ground or grow in spite of the challenging economic times. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, but each has a real, inspiring story of how they turned their passion into their livelihood. The campaign wants to encourage you to take the leap to start up a business or grow your existing one – develop your ideas, write your business plan, employ more staff, start exporting. The campaign helps you make your business idea happen. Whether you’re looking to test your ideas, or develop your financial and planning skills, it gives you the support and inspiration you are looking for, using successful, real-life examples. It also provides links to key business support tools, highlighting top tools available from across Government and a whole range of partners. What’s the business in you?

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28/03/2013 10:00

Focus on advice FREEAGENT


Internet accountant Is online accounting a shrewd move for your business? Emily Coltman, chief accountant to FreeAgent, makes the case for doing it web-style

I “You could look at your accounts on your iPhone when you’re on the train”

f you run a small business, it’s likely that you keep a close eye on the purse strings – especially when it comes to managing your books. But, although you may think you can get by using a spreadsheet to stay on top of your finances, could this strategy actually be preventing you from getting the most from your business? And would a dedicated online system be a much more effective – and hassle-free – way to do your business bookkeeping? Emily Coltman ACA is chief accountant to FreeAgent, which provides an award-winning online accounting system for freelancers and small businesses. Here she explains why the “spreadsheet method” can be a major headache for your business – and why an online accounting package is often a much better investment.

Anytime, anywhere access

If you’re summarising your transactions on a spreadsheet, can you see whether you’re charging your customers enough or whether particular costs look too high? And can you check how much tax you can expect to pay? It would have to be an incredibly detailed spreadsheet to show you all that information – but with many online accounting systems, the info about your business’ profit and cash is all there at your fingertips to help you make timely decisions about your future. As the software is online, you can also view this information wherever you are, provided you have access to the Internet. For example, you could look at your accounts on your iPhone when you’re on the train on the way to meet a client, and make sure they’ve paid your last invoice!

Many online systems also integrate with apps that enable you to scan receipts on your phone and upload them directly to your accounts – saving you even more time.

Summing up

As cloud accounting products are web-based, any updates that are made by their development teams are automatically available – removing the need to manually update the software yourself or be looking out for changes at Budget time. Furthermore, if you’re using a spreadsheet, you may find that one mistake in a formula (such as a column SUM not picking up the bottom row) means that your figures will be incorrect. An online accounting software package, however, will automatically do some of these calculations for you. 

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Focus on advice FREEAGENT

This minimises the risk of inaccuracies appearing in your accounts as, provided you have entered the right information, the figures should be correct. Some online accounting packages also offer functionality to file tax documents online, such as VAT returns and RTI submissions, with HMRC.

Increase efficiency

How long do you take to write up your spreadsheets a week? A few hours? Or do you spend entire nights getting frustrated with your figures? What would you do if you could save some of that time? Make more sales and grow your business? Or use the time for non-business pursuits? And how much does your accountant charge you for the time it takes him/her to turn your spreadsheet into accounts at the end of the year? The great thing about an online accounting system is that it streamlines the whole process. It’s easier to input your financial information and forecast your tax than it is to use a spreadsheet: especially as some systems even enable you to automate your bank data and transactions directly to your accounts. And it’s also much easier for your accountant to review the information and check for errors. Instead of you having to email or send physical copies of your accounts to your accountant, you can simply provide them with login details for your online accounting system and let them check the figures remotely. This means it is quicker and easier for your accountant to review your books – which means they’ll spend less billable hours on basic admin.

Working in partnership

Online accounting software can also revolutionise the way you work with your accountant. Unlike with a traditional desktop-based package, an online system means you and your accountant can both see your records in real time, at the same time, by each logging in

from a computer, iPad, or other device. That means that your accountant can offer timely, proactive advice, rather than having to wait until the end of the year to correct any mistakes or suggest that you should put your prices up, or where you could cut costs. It also means that you no longer need to live near your accountant’s office. You could be hundreds of miles away from your accountant but, if you’re doing a VAT return, for example, they could log into your online accounting system and watch you input your data, and correct any mistakes you make, in real time. As your accountant is saving time when doing the basic number crunching, you’re freeing them up to provide wider, more useful financial information about your business, which could be invaluable for its future growth.

Looking professional

Many online accounting software systems offer templates that enable you to create professional-looking invoices to send to your customers. You may be able to

turn these into recurring invoices if, for example, you charge the same customer for the same amount every month or every week – and you could even be able to send automatic emails to chase late payments. An online system could also enable you to send estimates to your contacts and create reports of the time you’ve spent, all at the click of a mouse, rather than after hours of wrestling with Excel. Using online accounting software helps you keep accurate, up-to-date records that provide you with crucial financial information about your business, and work more effectively with your accountant and your clients. What’s not to like about that?

“The great thing about an online accounting system is that it streamlines the whole process”

Emily Coltman ACA is chief accountant to FreeAgent, which provides an award-winning online accounting system designed to meet the needs of small businesses and freelancers. Try it for free at www.freeagent.com Contact: www.freeagent.com

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26/02/2013 17:19

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Company Name Here Tario in con re restem cuptat enlhimus aboris illat. Arum quae estrum destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis Quickfund provide working capital to grow estem auria eperferum ent moditesed quias your business with minimal qualifications. ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. £3500 - £100k T:T:00000 01279000000 759470 E: W:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk www.thecfgroup.eu W: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk E: krw@thecfgroup.co.uk

Bespoke HR for your business. Professional, honest and easy to understand HR consultant support and advice that suits you. Regular and ad-hoc advice to HR audit Carruthers HR can help. T: 07930153940 E: sarah@carruthershr.co.uk W: www.carruthershr.co.uk

We craft compelling websites and persuasive media strategies. Through an in-depth and collaborative process, we will discover what is unique about you, then shout it from the virtual rooftops. T: +44 20 8399 4948 E: hello@joyandrevolution.co.uk W: www.joyandrevolution.co.uk

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Directory APRIL 2013

Affordable HR Solutions Stellarise help ambitious smaller companies become leaders in their field through the innovative use of IT. We are a leading provider of affordable IT support, effective project delivery and strategic advice. . T: 020 3137 3550 W: www.stellarise.com

Affordable HR Solutions can take care of your ad hoc people issues enabling you to focus on your core business. Visit our website to see our range of services. T: 01304 366340 W: www.affordable-hrsolutions.co.uk E: Info@affordable-hrsolutions.co.uk

Hampden provide a complete client focused IT solution tailored to your business. We provide a complete service that combines technical expertise with experience and knowledge for cost effective IT solutions. T: 01865 233000 W: www.hampdensolutions.co.uk E: sales@hsluk.com

Turner Business Consultants Ltd services are always flexible tailored to your specific needs. • Health and Safety Management • Fire Risk Assessment • CDM Coordination • Asbestos Management • Quality Management • Environmental Management • Information Technology Security • Business Continuity Plans • Business Strategy Development • Civil Engineering Consultancy services T: 01268 649006 E: info@turnerbusinessconsultants.co.uk W: www.turnerbusinessconsultants.co.uk

Hamilton’s Asset Management services enable customers to: • Optimise usage of IT assets by improved asset allocation • Manage and measure IT operations and initiatives • Identify and mitigate risk (e.g. under-licensing of software products) • Minimise procurement costs • Improve maintenance activity and costs • Maximise the value of surplus IT equipment utilising Hamilton’s expert remarketing team T: 0203 327 2390 W: www.hamilton-am.co.uk E: assetman@hamilton.co.uk

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

We create effective and meaningful Web, Design and Print for small to medium sized businesses creating big results. We enhance customer experiences and help businesses grow through effectively designed communications. Based in the South East, we work for clients both local and across the UK. T: 01438 369882 W: www.gtm-uk.co.uk E: sales@gtm-uk.co.uk

Complete Office Search is committed to providing clients a complete office space search solution from our first contact to occupation of your office. Unlike other office finder companies we do not refer you or your details to every single business centre and landlord under the sun. T: (0)208 868 1959. W: www.completeofficesearch.com E: info@completeofficesearch.com

At Infinite Brush everyone has a creative mind. We make sure every technical and creative decision we make can help you make a sale. T: 01753 251 241 W: www.infinitebrush.com E: studio@infinitebrush.com

Our business is focused on providing exceptional design, web, hosting and print • Online Marketing • Website Updating • Content Management • PPC • Ecommerce • Email • Business Cards • Flyers • Stationery • Leaflets • Promotional Items • Posters • Banners T: 01865 600 366 W: www.nervenet.co.uk E: info@nervenet.co.uk

We are passionate about making our customers’ working life easier, therefore we act as the platform through which they can access a full array of virtual services, such as: • Virtual PA and Admin Services • Graphic Design • Web Solutions • IT Support • Translation • Marketing and PR

• Finance and accounting. T: 0845 6805156

W: www.proficientva.co.uk E: contact@ proficientva.co.uk

Through working in partnership with you, and by understanding your business and providing bespoke support, we add value and provide commercial HR solutions that contribute to your bottom-line. T: 07973 958149 or 01604 688757 W: www.hrbespokesolutions.co.uk E: phil@hrbespokesolutions.co.uk

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Directory APRIL 2013

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

Netsense focus upon providing honest and trustworthy IT Support / Solutions allowing your employees to concentrate their key skills, making your business thrive, and our own to grow with you. T: 01444 848160 W: www.itsimplified.co.uk E: hello@netsense.co.uk

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

We are a technology services company whose aim is to “Make IT perform for small to medium size businesses”. We help our clients select, implement and support the best and most appropriate information technology for their needs, based on a close understanding of their business requirements, their ambitions and constraints T: (0)20 7787 1199 E: support@microsolv.co.uk W: www.microsolv.co.uk

At Forge Dynamic, we understand the challenges that small and medium sized businesses face. This is why we aim to provide the highest quality service we can offer, while keeping costs as low as possible. We endeavour to offer flexibility in our working practises and to work closely with your business to develop solutions that suit you best. In addition, our partner network means we are able to offer additional services, creating an all round IT Support to your company. E: info@forgedynamic.co.uk T: 0845 564 6883 W: www.forgedynamic.co.uk

We can help you: • Surface and resolve team working issues • Achieve Behaviour change • Get projects off to a flying start • Get teams to adopt new processes or procedures • Unite geographically remote team members We have a record of achieving significant results with teams large and small through specially designed events and development programmes to achieve outcomes agreed with you. T: (0)1869 347558 E: tony@hendrytraining.com W: www.hendrytraining.com

Providing insurance broking and risk management services since 1932, our priority is to offer peace of mind, value for money and to provide a personal service with a named contact and in the event of a claim, a hassle free, speedy service. T: 0844 346 0224 W: www.moffattsaunders.co.uk E: enquiries@moffattsaunders.co.uk

Do you want more sales, business or leads from your website? If so you need search engine marketing and / or social media optimisation. Remember, “When you work with Serendipity, there’s no long term contact, no hassle and no hype, just good business.” T: 0845 170 1800 W: www.serendipity-online-marketing.co.uk

Skipton Business Finance is a leading receivables financier with offices in Skipton, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham. The company’s award-winning service spans factoring and invoice discounting, boasts independent status and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Skipton Building Society, a mutual that has been serving its members for over 150 years. T: 0845 602 9354 W: www.skiptonbusinessfinance.co.uk E: info@skiptonbf.co.uk

It’s your brand. It’s your business. And with help from Avery, it’s your success. Avery have a product catalogue which includes laser and inkjet labels and cards, printer consumables, desktop accessories and filing products. T: 0800 80 50 20 W: www.avery.co.uk

At Flyerzone.co.uk you’ll find great designs ideas to easily customise online. Your business gets great design, printed and delivered from £7. Whatever your business, we’ve got a design for you. T: 0800 122 3003 E: hello@flyerzone.co.uk W: www.flyerzone.co.uk

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

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Directory APRIL 2013

I.T.S Telecom Ltd is part of the I.T.S Group of companies, comprising of I.T.S Support Ltd, I.T.S Internet Solutions Ltd & I.T.S Telecom Ltd. We provide a comprehensive range of IT and communications solutions to the Corporate & Education sectors. T: 0800 008 7009 W: www.its-telco.co.uk E: enquiries@its-telco.co.uk

We are a brand new mobile website development company specialising in the development of mobile phone compatible websites (they’re also known as .mobi sites too). It doesn’t matter if a customer is on their PC, laptop, Mac or any smartphone, the correctwebsite will always show up. T: 01642 946 649 or 07811 337 222 W: www.mrmicrosites.co.uk

KariaTec is a leading IT support companyhelping businesses focus on their‘business’ rather than worry about their ITsystems.With our innovative solutions, our clientshave been able to maintain maximum uptime. T: 0203 137 6669 W: www.kariatec.com E: info@kariatec.com

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

Juke Media is a full service marketing agency based in Lincolnshire, registered as a trading UK Limited company in May 2010. The owners of the company formed Juke Media after all having separate interests & experiences in the digital world, noticing a niche in the market where Juke Media could place itself effectively. T: 01476 468393 E: hello@jukemedia.co.uk W: www.jukemedia.co.uk

we are an integrated direct sales and digital marketing company. Essentially, this means that whatever your lead generation and sales needs are, we’ve got you covered. We have 7 years’ B2B sales experience, we are Nimble CRM and Eloqua Partners and we are also Google Adwords Qualified. T: 0808 189 0789 E: info@konvertis.co.uk W: www.konvertis.co.uk

With Barclays Business Abroad, you get a package of educational material, discounts and tools, including free Currency Current Accounts. In addition, you get a 25% discount on the cost of making and receiving international payments, reducing overheads and making it easier to trade internationally. It’s free until 31 December 2012 after which a fee of £5 + VAT per month applies. W: www.barclays.co.uk/businessabroad

Into Somerset is the inward investment organisation for Somerset. Its resourceful and independent team offers unbiased advice and support for businesses considering moving all or part of their business to somerset. T: 0845 1222066 W: www.intosomerset.co.uk E: enquiries@intosomerset.co.uk

Over 5 years ago, we set out to build an independent energy brokers that focused on delivering quick, free, impartial advice to both small and large businesses, on what is the best gas and electricity deals available. T: 0800 043 0423 W: www.utilityhelpline.co.uk E: mail@utilityhelpline.co.uk

With over 30 years experience supporting SME’s we are proud to be able to offer a wide range of outsourced IT services and support. Our services range from hardware and software provision, tailored business communication platforms to the latest cloud services and applications, all designed to increase your productivity for a fraction of the cost of in-house T: 0845 880 2634 E: info@orbitalnetworks.co.uk W: www.orbitalnetworks.co.uk

We supply computer network installation and support in the West London area. Our services cover all aspects of networking from consultancy through design, installation and integration to support. We specialise in the small business support market in the West London area, providing installation and maintenance of computer systems and networks T: 07885 595774 W: www.sevagram.co.uk E: Itony@sevagram.co.uk

Karbonite designs and develops professional and fun Bespoke Websites at great prices, ensuring you get great value for money. Karbonite is based in Chelmsford, Essex and specialises in E-commerce, CMS and SEO. Our services range from personal ventures to professional business Web Design. Bespoke static Web Design From £199 T: 01245 600 075 W: www.karbonite.co.uk E: info@karbonite.co.uk

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And finally… HE SAID/SHE SAID

He said/she said Shock, horror! The claws are out this month and no one is safe from our entrepreneurs’ wrath: not even Justin Bieber. Opinions (and spelling mistakes) all their own

Lord Sugar @Lord_Sugar Worried about Spurs v Arsenal game @piersmorgan promises not to moan for a month if they win. Too much motivation for Arsenal players Whoa Alan! And we thought women were supposed to be the catty ones! Martha Lane Fox @Marthalanefox baroness lane fox of SOHO. wonderful and a privilege... Later… @Marthalanefox whoops, first mistake of newly appt peer - shouldnt have announced title til formally in house #pleasedeletesohofromyourmemoryforbit Could have happened to anyone Martha. Must make mental note: when offered peerage, don’t tweet about it without checking first Duncan Bannatyne @DuncanBannatyne On the school run. Life doesnt get better. Hmm, we can’t quite work out if you’re being ironic or not Dunc…

Deborah Meaden @DeborahMeaden I’d be terrible rock star for many many reasons but add “I can’t stand being late” to the list and if I am I at least apologise #beiber Better watch it Debs, those Belieber Bieberettes can get pretty violent when roused…

Richard Branson @richardbranson Leopards are one of my #favouriteanimals in the world. What are yours? Blimey – we hope, for your sake Rich, you didn’t get a response from every one of your 2,979,616 followers

Karren Brady @karren_brady I am learning to. tweet @Lord_Sugar. Is teaching me Awww, nice to see entrepreneurs helping each other out. Maybe he could teach you to go a little easier on the random punctuation though Karren?

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Music creates a better working atmosphere 77% of businesses say playing music in the workplace increases staff morale and creates a better working environment.* If you play music in your business, it is a legal requirement to obtain the correct music licences. In most instances, a licence is required from both PPL and PRS for Music. PPL and PRS for Music are two separate companies. PPL collects and distributes money for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers. PRS for Music collects

and distributes money for the use of the musical composition and lyrics on behalf of authors, songwriters, composers and publishers. A PPL licence can cost your business as little as 19p per day. For more information on how to obtain your PPL licence visit ppluk.com or call 020 7534 1070.    

     can work for your business visit musicworksforyou.com. *MusicWorks survey of 1000 people, conducted May 2012.


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Profile for Talk Business

Talk Business April 2013  

aking an open and honest look at the fight that entrepreneurs face to reach success, Talk Business magazine is bursting with inspiration, ti...

Talk Business April 2013  

aking an open and honest look at the fight that entrepreneurs face to reach success, Talk Business magazine is bursting with inspiration, ti...