TALK BUSINESS FEBRUARY 2013 ISSUE 17
the big debate
King of Shaves founder Will King
Will you pay for Google Shopping?
To tweet or not to tweet
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7 Editor’s letter 9 Letters 11 News & Events 14 The big debate The pros and cons of Google Shopping
17 The Google rule change Our ecommerce action plan
Focus on success
19 The life shaver King of Shaves founder, Will King 25 Take one company Rachel Lowe, MBE on her new venture, She Who Dares 29 Introducing… TB grills an up-and-comer 30 12 steps to success Carly Ward shows us step 8 33 Book reviews 34 Sites for sore eyes Top websites for entrepreneurs 122 He said/she said What are our entrepreneurs saying this month?
Focus on money 37 Making allowances Making the most of capital allowances
41 Sell your sole Sole trader vs limited company 42 No such thing as a quick fix… Don’t cut your costs – manage them 44 The equity argument Using private equity for growth 47 Before you sign on the dotted line… Legal agreements
Focus on strategy 49 The branding column Rich With 51 Making new friends Getting to grips with social media 54 License to thrill Getting new income through IP 56 The eco-office Creating the ultimate eco-office 59 Carbon credentials How green is your business?
Focus on marketing
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61 The marketing column Kimberly Davis
62 The science of selling Selling online 65 Click crazy Online ad campaigns 68 It pays to be good looking Branding and design 71 The sales doctor Solving your sales problems
Focus on people 73 The people column Lee McQueen 75 Britain’s got talent Attracting top talent 77 Team entrepreneur From employees to entrepreneurs 80 The customer is sometimes wrong… Customer expectations 82 The freelance phenomenon Getting the best out of outsourcing 86 Secret diary of an entrepreneur Texane MD’s US trip
Focus on technology 89 Our man in the valley David Richards’ tech column 90 Trend spotter Ecommerce trends in 2013 94 The back up plan Keep your online business up and running 97 Apps: The next generation Apps to change how we work and play 101 I’ve got an app for that… Our fave business apps 102 Dell vs Apple This month’s best desktops
Focus on franchise 105 Franchise news 109 Spotlight Bluebird Care 111 Take one franchisee Razzamataz’s Helen Green 112 Here’s one we made earlier… The Franchise Show 116 Making an exhibition The National Franchise Exhibition talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 05
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R.I.P. HMV Are you selling your product or service online? If not, you probably should be, as evidenced by the latest casualty of the consumer shift to Internet shopping: R.I.P. HMV. Last month the chain joined the ranks of JJB, Comet and Clinton Cards as yet another former high street giant toppled by the phenomenal ascension of ecommerce. The demise of the high street garners different reactions – some adopt an attitude of ‘I told you so’, claiming that retailers should have seen the writing on the wall ten years ago. I personally find it a real shame; as someone who loves the experience of wandering aimlessly around a real shop, picking up the physical merchandise and feeling the weight of it in my hands, I will mourn the loss of bricks and mortar shopping establishments. These huge, robust businesses have been brought low in an incredibly short amount of time, discovering too late that the business model which had always served them well has suddenly become obsolete. Yet, while I may feel the quiet tragedy of these losses, I can still appreciate the myriad benefits for SMEs – when these monsters fall, they create room to manoeuvre for thousands of small businesses across the UK. And it reminds us of the incredible advantages that small businesses have over the big boys: small, nimble, agile and adaptable, your business can react to market shifts in a way that huge, lumbering corporations can only dream of. The smaller you are, the quicker you can change direction. You are not pulled down the same course by the immovable sense of inertia that can render many a larger business ‘out of touch’. Which is why this month we give you our Ecommerce Issue, to provide all the advice you need to succeed in the online marketplace. Check out page 18 to read our big debate; find out the pros and cons of Google’s move to paid click-throughs on Google Shopping. Turn to page 68 to discover the secrets of online success, and find out the ecommerce trends for 2013 on page 98. Enjoy,
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February’s faces Valerie Kendall is a partner at WestBridge Capital, a private
equity house with £30m to invest in established, profitable and ambitious SMEs. Valerie joined WestBridge from 3i, having spent 11 years in its UK private equity business. She has completed more than 30 transactions, including MBOs, growth capital and infrastructure deals, and has also worked at every stage in the transaction process, from negotiating new transactions to delivering successful exits. Valerie is a chartered banker, and holds an honours degree in business studies. Read her arguments for using private equity to grow your business on page 50
Jan Post is the managing director and owner of RIFT. She
established the company in 1999 to assist construction workers to claim back their travel expenses from HMRC. Since then the business has grown steadily year on year to become the market leader; they have helped reclaim more than £30m for construction workers so far. Jan also holds a number of directorships and charity positions to help construction industry workers nationally, and which benefit the local community in and around Ashford, Kent. Read her advice on claiming capital allowances on page 41
Vault49 is the New York design business behind this month’s Talk Business cover. It is an artistic collaboration, a playground, and a creative incubator for innovative design projects. The work it delivers is characterised by a focus on craftsmanship, multi-media and an expressive use of colour. In a creative world that is increasingly digital and plagiarised, Vault49’s broad portfolio combines technology with all-important craft and natural ability, giving its work an authenticity that is impossible to replicate. Read why design should be a priority for every SME on page 76
Tony Morris is a sales trainer and co-founder of Sales Doctor.
He has over 14 years’ experience in sales, both B2B and B2C, and has trained over 1,500 sales professionals in a variety of industries. Alongside his business partner, Tony set up Sales Doctor in May 2006. He started by cold calling to generate appointments, and within the first year Sales Doctor had 56 clients; this has continued to grow year on year. Tony’s ethos: you can sell any product or service with the right attitude and a well-planned call structure. Read his new Agony Uncle sales column on page 79
08 February 2013
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Have your say on the SME scene: here are our top post picks from Talk Business readers
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: firstname.lastname@example.org snail mail: Aston Greenlake, 8th floor, 6 Mitre Passage, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 0ER
ALWAYS BE PREPARED Dear editor, Thanks for your RTI special last month (RTI: Are you ready?). I’ve been aware of the changes for a while but, rather like an ostrich, I’ve been burying my head in the sand! It hammered home the fact that the changes are happening, and we need to start preparing now. Regards,
BUCKING THE TREND
LETTER OF THE MONTH
Dear editor, News that the British Chamber of Commerce has predicted that the UK economy will experience “modest” recovery this year may come as welcome news to many businesses. However this will come as little surprise to many SME businesses – the vast pool of 4.8 million organisations that are fuelling the UK economy. SME members last year consistently bucked the trend among business owners and the views of politicians with a more positive feeling towards the economic situation in the UK, despite claims of recession. The true economic condition of UK SME businesses is a story not of crashes, depression and decline, but of dynamism, innovation and growth in a fast moving competitive world. SMEs do of course need to be aware of the economic climate. Certainly they should be prepared to react to economic changes. However, for SMEs the economy should be a peripheral matter and the primary goal should be doing a better job than their competitors. Yours faithfully,
Bob Bradley, chairman, MD2MD
FIGHTING A LOST CAUSE Dear Talk Business, Margaret Hodge MP has criticised the commercial approach adopted by the BBC in the pay off given to departing George Entwistle. Whilst conceding that the deal the BBC lawyers struck may have saved the public money, she believes that the BBC should have taken the more aggressive and expensive option of fighting through the legal process to reduce the payout. This comes one week after Ms Hodge suggested that HMRC should fight tax cases they will inevitably lose. In both cases, she stressed that this represents the widespread view of the general public. The alternative is to take what may be unpopular decisions, but decisions which ultimately enable the business of UK PLCs to run more efficiently in the long term. HMRC wisely chooses winnable tax cases, but the backlog is as long as your arm. Wasting money fighting lost causes will only reduce the resource available to collect the cash on the tax cases it is capable of winning.
the month… @foxlawyers Neena Patel’s article about employee performance published in @TalkBusinessMag #ukemplaw @BOTTLE_PR Interesting article from @philturtle in@TalkBusinessMag on pitching great features @TalkBusinessMag “@MaxBramwell: @TalkBusinessMag will give it a read now” we hope you enjoy the magazine! @brightstarpr Useful content for #entrepreneurs RT@talkbusinessmag: Our magazine is free to view online#business #magazine#sme @TeamCrunch Nice tips from our MD @darrenfell in this month’s @TalkBusinessMag @AlliesCom Business predictions for 2013 from@TalkBusinessMag - SMEs will continue to have it tough#smallbiz @NeoPRLtd Who’s enjoying the snow today? We are still here and still working, a little bit of snow can’t stop us! :) @BizCircuit National Campaign To Tackle Youth Unemployment by Creating New Entrepreneurs @MartinRSpiller#FF @TalkBusinessMag because it has great articles in it. Some by me but lots by others that are interesting AND useful for entrepreneurs.
Richard Jordan, partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, Chichester talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 09
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News & events
YOUTH LOVES INCREASES
A NEW GENDER diversity report has found that overall business effectiveness and profit is enhanced when women are included in every level of enterprise. The “Gender Balancing: It’s Good Business” report was commissioned by Reed Smith in partnership with networking and research firm, Winmark. It surveyed a range of FTSE100, FTSE250 and leading firms to determine UK businesses’ level of commitment to gender diversity and practical initiatives. The report’s findings revealed that, while women’s advancement has previously been seen as an issue of fairness and equality, it now strikes closer to the corporate heart: it is about company performance and, ultimately, fiscal accountability. The report examines how gender balance can be perceived as a means for businesses to become more productive and profitable, rather than simply as a tool to make work fairer to women. Discussing the report’s findings, Richard Swinburn, London office managing partner at Reed Smith, said: ‘Gender balancing is often seen as a women’s issue of fairness and equality. It’s not. It is part and parcel of talent development and the activity of companies to deploy diverse teams of talented people. ‘Diversity isn’t simply about levelling the playing field; it’s about company performance and ultimately, financial accountability – which comes down to plain good business sense.’ Reed Smith and Winmark officially launched the “Gender Balancing: It’s Good Business” report at a panel discussion attended by the firm’s senior partners, founders of the 30% Club and other executives held on 16 January. To read the report in full, go to: www.reedsmith.com/winrs
Dates for the diary Entrepreneur 2012 5 February South Coast Business Works Southampton businessworks2013.eventbrite.com FinovateEurope 12-13 February Old Billingsgate Market Hall, London www.finovate.com/europe2013 Tech Startups Job Fair 21 February Innovation Warehouse, London www.techmeetups.com The Franchise Show 2013 22-23 February Excel, London www.thefranchiseshow.co.uk
Unified Communications Expo 5-6 March Olympia, London www.ucexpo.co.uk Women Unlimited Conference 8 March BAFTA, London www.women-unlimited.co.uk Innovate UK 11-13 March Business Design Centre, London www.innovateuk2013.co.uk The British & International Franchise Exhibition 15-16 March Olympia, London www.franchiseinfo.co.uk
The National Franchise Exhibition 22-23 February NEC, Birmingham www.franchiseinfo.co.uk The Hotel & Catering Show (H&CS) 2013 5-6 March Bournemouth International Centre www.hotel-expo.co.uk
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News & events
EMPLOYERS GET APPRENTICESHIP BOOST SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED employers looking to offer apprenticeships in England have been given a boost, as the National Apprenticeship Service announces moves to help even more employers recruit an apprentice. The Government has confirmed an extension of the Apprenticeship Grant for employers of 1624 year-olds to March 2014. The £1,500 grant is available to help businesses with fewer than 1000 employees take on an apprentice. Initially only on offer during the 2012/13 financial year, the funding has been extended following a positive response from employers. It has also been increased, so eligible employers can claim the grant for up to 10 apprentices. Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said: ‘I know it can be a big decision for busy, small companies to take on an apprentice. ‘Employers may be concerned about the time recruitment and training will take, and anxious about how it will work. So the £1500 grant is a token to acknowledge this and thank employers.’ To find out more about apprenticeships, visit: apprenticeships.org.uk
Start Up Loans seen as route to UK growth A NATIONWIDE POLL reveals overwhelming support for the Government’s Start Up Loans initiative available throughout England. The poll, which asked: ‘Will the changes made to the Government’s Start Up Loan scheme create a more entrepreneurial culture in the UK?’, was met with 85% agreement that the changes would help businesses start and grow. The changes include an increase in the age of suitable candidates from 18-24 to 18-30, and an additional £30m funding means more people are eligible and more funds are available. James Caan, chairman of Start Up Loans, said: ‘While the news about HMV and the 4,500 jobs at risk is very sad, I delighted to learn the nation believes in this initiative. ‘Like the Prime Minister, I believe this is where the new growth will come from.’ Start Up Loans received a huge push at the start of January when the Prime Minister, while visiting Preston
with James Caan, announced the increase in age range and extra funding. The Prime Minister said: ‘It is by backing our entrepreneurs and championing small business that we can drive forward and grow the economy, and equip this country for the highly competitive era we are in.’
SOME 96% OF SMEs are unaware or lack understanding of ‘Real Time Information’ payroll changes, according to a new survey. The results, compiled by DTE Business Advisers, demonstrate that SMEs are still widely unaware of the largest change to payroll in 60 years. DTE Business Advisers surveyed 126 SME businesses at a recent RTI seminar it ran for SME clients and other accountancy firms; 96% said they or their clients were completely unaware of the changes, or have a lack of understanding of how to prepare for them. Real Time Information will require all employers to submit information, including details of earnings and the tax and NICs deducted, on or before payment day every time an employee is paid. Lynne Cramb, director of payroll, DTE Business Advisers, said: ‘The lack of understanding by businesses surveyed that should be already making preparations was quite staggering. This is the largest change to payroll in 60 years and it seems to be going largely unnoticed at present.’
12 February 2013
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Paying for Google
Andy Kinsey, Manchester-based SEO consultant: ‘Google Shopping is a great move for small business’ Like many an SEO consultant who works with small businesses in the UK, when I heard that Google Shopping was to become, in essence, paid advertising, my knee-jerk reaction was that of horror. I thought this would spell a death blow to any business without huge coffers to fall back on. But months on from the original announcement, I view this very differently, for several reasons. Today I see this move by Google as actually fairly good news from the viewpoint of small retail businesses across the UK. Here’s why: The big names step aside The big names aren’t backing the move by Google, and with the likes of Amazon saying they won’t pay Google for shopping
comparison search (The Independent, 2012), the picture looks a bit different today than in months previous. From this we can predict that other major players are likely to follow suit; eBay look set to say no unless customers pay more for the privilege of being in Google Shopping, and for other big high street names with thousands of products, the cost per click would be prohibitive to profits. Further to this, tiny pop-up shops (often selling fake gear) are also not likely to want to pay for inclusion as it would reduce any margin they may have. So, with big businesses more likely to shun Google Shopping, small businesses could really take the lead and make a much larger impact than ever before. Yes, there will be a cost attached, but if this means that you get a sale, it will increase turnover and, as it affects all businesses, prices will either rise in line with this or the cost will be absorbed by all. Either way, it levels the playing field; it gets rid of the big boys and ensures that pop-up stores can’t just spam listings. Quality listings In addition to this, merchants are likely to only list goods of a given proportion of their current listing due to the cost of advertising the product within
the feed. These new listings are going to be of a much higher standard, and the data will be much fresher thanks to this cost too. Finally, sales are likely to increase as competitors drop off, even if the cost of selling also increases. As long as the costs are in line, turnover will increase as will overall profit. It is a win for small business over big business.
“It is a win for small business over big business”
Final thought… Many small businesses will remain scared of spending on ads for every product, and so they should be if they are submitting a load of rubbish to the merchant centre. If, on the other hand, the business focuses on a set of products (based, for example, on seasonality trends) and spends a little to ensure the descriptions and data are amazing quality, they will actually come off better. Profit margins may be lower, but turnover will increase on the whole. This is a great move for small business, even if met with scepticism. Contact: www.seoandy.com
14 February 2013
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The UK ecommerce community holds its collective breath, as Google’s transition from free product listings to a new ‘paid inclusion’ model fast approaches. We hear the pros and cons of the change from the SEO experts
Barry Adams, digital services director of Pierce Communications: ‘Google Shopping is bad for sellers and consumers’ Google sure has changed over the years. Back in 1997 when Larry Page and Sergei Brin started their ‘Backrub’ project at Stanford University, their research paper lamented the state of Internet search engines of the time. They wrote: ‘...we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.’ Little did they know that their Backrub project would grow into Google, the world’s largest search engine, and that advertising would become the cornerstone of their business. One of Google’s favourite revenue-maximisation tactics is to turn free tools into paid platforms. The latest victim of
“The disadvantages for sellers are obvious: they have to pay for inclusion in an online catalogue that was once free”
this trend is Google Products, also known as Google Shopping. For years, Google offered this service to companies where they could upload a list of their products, and for relevant search queries Google would show a selection right in their search results as part of its “universal search” elements. Which sellers Google chose to show was primarily based on the amount and quality of reviews a seller had gathered. That allowed even small companies to compete with big retail chains, as long as their customer service was excellent. It presented a more or less level playing field, where price was not enough and big retailers needed to compete on the quality of their service. That allowed smaller businesses to capture a fair share of the massive volume of searches Google is serving. In 2004, when Google filed for its IPO and Google Products was still called by its earlier name, Froogle, it even emphasised the advantages of such an unpaid product catalogue in its IPO filing: ‘Because we do not charge merchants for inclusion in Froogle, our users can browse product categories or conduct product searches with confidence that the results we provide are relevant and unbiased.’ Fast-forward to 2012, and Google decided to turn this free, ‘relevant and unbiased’ system
into an extension of its AdWords advertising platform. Bad for sellers The disadvantages for sellers are obvious: they have to pay for inclusion in an online catalogue that was once free. This skews the playing field drastically in the favour of companies with big budgets – i.e. the large international retail chains that enjoy economies of scale, giving them the margins that allow for substantial advertising spend. As a result, smaller businesses with smaller margins and smaller advertising budgets will be unable to compete with the big retailers, and their traffic – and revenue – from Google Shopping will dry up. Bad for consumers The switch is also bad for consumers. The advertising cost will be passed onto consumers, and thus result in higher prices, as retailers try to maintain their profitability. Additionally, retailers no longer have to compete on service excellence, as the quality of customer reviews is no longer a factor in their visibility. And because smaller companies cannot afford to pay for inclusion in Google Shopping, consumers will have less choice.
Final th So for b consum service, The swit one winn
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ith the recent Administration of Jessops, HMV, and Blockbusters are you worried about your business’ ability to compete amidst a changing landscape? Consumer attitudes, distribution channels, and the way we communicate are changing rapidly with far reaching consequences for businesses of all shapes and sizes. The internet is at the heart of these changes, and it is how many people choose to communicate, find information and seek entertainment. More and more devices are becoming internet-enabled. As a result it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the use of internet services from conventional television, radio and voice communication services – they can all be provided by the same device. 1 If your business’ communication and distribution channel strategy is one dimensional it probably isn’t suited for future and long term growth. On average, each UK household owns 3 different types of internetenabled devices-2 and it is projected that 80% of new mobile phones sold in 2013 will be Smartphones. -3? With data usage on mobile devices
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TheGoogle rule change
Whether you’re a fan or a critic of Google’s change from free product listings to a paid-for service, it’s happening. Here’s your ecommerce action plan, courtesy of Jonathan Elder, SEO and PPC specialist at Splice Marketing
“You need to be aware of how these changes will affect your business”
At the end of 2005, Google announced an extension to its search tools. The Google Base was built to allow people to upload data that could be used in the search results, including information about products for sale. It was free to upload a file containing all the information on your products to Google, with a chance of them appearing both in natural searches and the more specialist, shopping search.
It’s all about to change
On 31 May 2012, Google announced that the Google Merchant was evolving into Google Shopping, and becoming a paid-only service in the USA. This was followed by it rolling out to the UK in November, with the final switchover happening in February 2013. From 13 February 2013, your free product listing will no longer be shown. Instead, there will be a larger panel showing content only from those that have a paid advertising campaign.
Will I be affected?
To determine if this is going to affect you, there are a couple
of places to look. First of all, log into Google Merchant and find the approximate number of views and clicks your products have had. If this is a low number, this change may actually be positive for you, as there is now an opportunity to get additional visibility and traffic. However, if Google Merchant has driven substantial traffic to your site, you risk seeing a drop in sales from 13 February. If you want to keep this traffic, you will need to set up one of the new Product Listing ads. The cost for these ads will depend on the competitiveness of the products, although you can set the maximum you will pay per click.
The full set up process is quite complex, although there is an official guide to help. In brief: • Set up an Adwords account if you do not already have one • Create a new campaign for Product Listing ads • Create a Google Merchant data feed, or check yours is up to date and has as much information on your products as possible. Good quality pictures are vital
• Link your Adwords account to the Google Merchant account • Create a product extension that will show your products • Create one or more ad groups and a product listing ad. You can add a small amount of promotional text, such as ‘Free shipping on all orders’. Google will show the ads when there is a search that matches a product you are advertising • Set budgets and bids, and remember to regularly monitor the results If you rely on Google for a large proportion of your visits and sales, which is the case for many ecommerce website owners, you need to be aware of how these changes will affect your business and what is happening. Even if you choose not to use Product Ads, your competitors may, and you need to plan for the likely impact in 2013.
Jonathan Elder is an Adwords professional who works for Splice Marketing Ltd, one of the UK’s top Internet marketing companies. Contact: www.splicemarketing.co.uk
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Focus on success
The life shaver Still going strong: after almost 20 years in the business, Will King is as passionate about creating the leading shaving business as ever. Helen Coffey discovers the strategy behind his ever-evolving brand, King of Shaves
ing of Shaves is entering adulthood this year: it reaches the grand old age of 20 in April. In the world of technology businesses, this would make it practically ancient. In the world of shaving products however, it is nothing more than a young upstart. The huge competitors that founder, Will King, has set his sights on – Gillette and Wilkinson Sword – have both been going for over 100 years. That’s 100 years of firmly establishing and entrenching themselves as the market leaders. That’s 100 years of ensuring they have a monopoly on selling razors worldwide. So what makes Will so confident he can take them on? ‘I give a lot of thought to what we’re going to be innovating with in 2013, and how I can bring to the sector a product which can perhaps do what
Apple and Samsung have done to Nokia and Motorola in mobile phones,’ he tells me. ‘That’s around Intellectual Property: it’s patents, it’s technology, it’s design, it’s innovation.’ By the sound of it, King of Shaves has something pretty revolutionary up its sleeve in 2013 – something that could disrupt the shaving market, just as Apple disrupted the consumer electronics space with the iPod. ‘We have the opportunity to go from £50m to £500m,’ says Will. ‘Whether we will or not, I don’t know.’ It is an exciting time in the company’s life cycle, and Will seems to genuinely believe that the new products launching later this year have the potential to push King of Shaves to a place where it can challenge Procter & Gamble
“I’m not an entrepreneurial guy”
(Gillette’s parent company). The business has always been at the forefront of connecting brand to consumer in various ways, including the innovative shaving bond scheme, which was used as a template for many other British businesses to raise finance. I’m certain I won’t be alone in my anticipation to see what this ever-evolving company will come up with next. Watch this space…
Did you become an entrepreneur because you had a great idea, or because you wanted to run your own business? “We have the opportunity to go from £50m to £500m”
I founded King of Shaves 20 years ago next April, which is kind of wild. It makes me feel a bit old! I founded it because I was made redundant; I wasn’t naturally an entrepreneurial type. I decided to be my own boss – if I got it wrong, it would
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be me getting it wrong on my watch, and if I got it right then that would be good. Secondly, I wanted to make and manufacture a physical product, because in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there wasn’t a lot actually being made in the UK. I made a few shaving oils, and I shaved my life and a few millions of others. Now we’re 20 years on and a challenger brand to Gillette and Wilkinson Sword. It’s been quite a journey.
Are King of Shaves’ products still made in Britain? I would say 98% of what we sell and what we export is made in the UK; we fill all of our products here, we design it all here, we have small factories that make the razor and the handles. We buy in a small amount of componentry from Europe and Japan, but that’s because the companies don’t physically exist here to make some of the tech that we need. But what we’re launching in 2013, most of it will be made, designed, sold and exported from the UK.
How important to you is it that everything is made here, in terms of the brand? I think it’s very important. I’m proud that we make most of our products here. I like #MIB (Made In Britain), I’m a big fan of stuff like Creation Nation. Over the last 10 years, it’s got more expensive to make products overseas: making it here makes a lot of sense. I think you’ll find as we go further into this decade, we’ll be getting more manufacturing back into the UK in fashion, luxury, style, technology…Yeah, it’s good. I’m a big fan of it.
Did you have the ambition to take on Gillette when you started out?
I didn’t think I was going to go up against Gillette from day dot. I had no idea how big Gillette was, and the Internet didn’t really exist in the early ‘90s when I founded the business.
Short of going down to a reference library or somebody at Gillette telling me how big they were, I had no idea. I think ignorance was bliss then; I just got into it and, to be honest with you, I don’t give a whole heap of thought to them. I give a lot of thought to what we’re going to be innovating with in 2013, and how I can bring to the sector a product which can perhaps do what Apple and Samsung have done to Nokia and Motorola in mobile phones. That’s around Intellectual Property: it’s patents, it’s technology, it’s design, it’s innovation. We’ve got a major patent granted which will allow us to launch an amazing product next year, and I’m very excited about that. I know how big they are now, and I know what we have to do to succeed.
“I’m healthily paranoid about what’s coming down the track”
Tell us about the shaving bond scheme…
How did you raise capital when you first started?
I didn’t have any money. I owned a flat, but that was in heavy negative equity, so there was no asset value in trying to remortgage it. So I raised £7,500 from two individuals – my best friend from university and a management consultant, and they seeded the business. I then borrowed money on credit cards and loans against my final wage cheque. And then my mum, who’s a teacher, lent me £2,500. We had about £30,000 year one, which covered my year one losses – because we only sold £300-worth of product. The product was obviously not a Dragons’ Den success story, but it’s all in the positioning – that got us into Harrods, then from Harrods to Boots, from Boots to Tesco. And then you scale up the number of retailers and the sales grow. It was friends and family, credit cards, loans; anything we could do to keep going.
Was there ever a point where you thought it wasn’t going to work?
I used it every day, and it absolutely solved the problem of
shaving with my sensitive skin. And 53% of guys, when you poll them, will say they have sensitive skin. This shaving product was almost the only one that explicitly solved this problem of scraping hard steel over sensitive skin and potentially giving you a rash. So because I used it every day and it solved my problem, I had to believe there would be ‘X’ number of men who would also suffer from that who would use it. There was never any doubt about it. The only thing was when it started to get bigger. When you get to half a million, then a million, the question is: well, how big can it go then? And what do you have to do, to do it? And then you realise that it’s going to be a long haul.
“When I founded King of Shaves, I don’t think many people even knew how to spell the word entrepreneur”
With King of Shaves, we try to keep the brand – it sounds a bit cheesy – cutting edge and relevant and ahead of the curve. That’s because I’m healthily paranoid about what’s coming down the track. I had a lot of people emailing me asking: ‘Are you on the stock market?’, ‘How do I buy shares?’ When we de-merged King of Shaves into its own company, we thought it would be a neat idea to see what the appetite would be from the general public in subscribing to a shaving bond. It was huge. It kicked off a lot of what I call SME retail bonds from companies like Hotel Chocolat. A lot of those are designed to bond the company, the brand, with the customer. It’s not just about raising the money; it’s about the physicality of a traction with your consumer.
Is enough being done in the UK to encourage entrepreneurs?
When I founded King of Shaves, I don’t think many people even knew how to spell the word entrepreneur, to be honest with you. You’d know who Richard Branson was and you’d
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Focus on success LEADING MAN
know who Bill Gates was – you wouldn’t necessarily know who Steve Jobs was, and you certainly wouldn’t know who Stelios was. What you have now, with the Internet, is a global infrastructure; if you’ve got an amazing idea, whatever it is, you can very quickly externalise it. So I think it’s never been easier, but it’s as hard as it ever was; you’ve got to have a great idea, and then you’ve got to realise that everybody knows what you know as well. With the Internet, whatever your amazing business idea is, some guy in India, Singapore, China or New Zealand can know it as well. That means whatever you do has got to be amazing.
What’s your best piece of advice for start-ups who are struggling?
To know what success looks like, you’ve got to know what struggle looks like and what failure looks like. Failure is just an integral part of success, and it’s hard. Now, if you’re struggling for five years and going nowhere, you’ve got to have a view that it probably ain’t for you. However, if you’re struggling to get a customer on the phone or you’re struggling to get a product listed or you’re struggling with an idea, that’s just the way it is. If it was easy, we’d all be entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, earning millions on a Caribbean island. It’s only when you glide like a swan but kick and struggle under the water to get there that you build a momentum.
Do you like being an entrepreneur?
Right from the start, I would call myself a momentumcreating individual – I’m not an entrepreneurial guy, I’ve not gone out and serially created ventures entrepreneurially. I lost my job that I was very good at, because of other factors not to do with me, and I decided to take control of my destiny and get on and make something
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happen. I’ve made it happen, and a lot of people have taken inspiration from that. I’ve shaved a lot of people’s lives; I take great delight that it’s not just me shaving each day now. Hopefully, if I stay really good at my job, the business will go on forever, and there’s the satisfaction in that. It’s more about being happy in charge of what I do, and having the freedom to do what I want to do – that’s the coolest thing.
What’s your vision for the future of the brand?
My life I’m watching: I enjoyed watching I’m a Celebrity…but that’s finished now. Guilty pleasure
With King of Shaves, it’s an unusual space we’re in – we have one competitor, called Gillette, and that was bought for nearly $60bn six years ago. They have a competitor called Wilkinson Sword, which is owned by another American company, which has a value of about $4bn. And then you have King of Shaves; I’ll give us an enterprise value of £50m. You’ve got $50bn, $4bn, and £50m – and you go, ‘That’s impossible. You’re never going to be able to compete.’ But if you come up with an amazing product and you use the Internet very cleverly, and you go up against a business which is quite monolithic and quite unchanging, you have the potential to completely disrupt that space. What we’re aiming to launch this year is a bit of a quantum leap in shaving performance. I’m very excited about that. We have the opportunity to go from £50m to £500m. Whether we will or not, I don’t know, because you need strategic partnerships with big companies worldwide, you need people to believe in the business, you need to have the right framework. But I like to think the guy that founded Gillette is dead and I’m still alive – the King is dead. Long live the King!
I’m reading: Robert Peston’s How Do We Fix This Mess?, about what’s gone wrong with the world – he’s one of my followers on Twitter I’m listening to: Alt-J I’m surfing: I’m more interested in apps, so there’s quite a neat news summary app called Summly, backed by Stephen Fry and Yoko Ono
22 February 2013
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DOING BUSINESS ON YOUR TERMS -A WISE CHOICE?
This month Watertight Legal talks about some common problems with terms and conditions and what you can do to avoid landing your business in hot water
ll too often businesses will only review their terms and conditions when a dispute arises, by which time the business may find that it has not protected itself legally and will end up paying the price for its mistake. So if you don’t want to find yourself in a dispute where the odds are against you, what can you do to make sure your terms protect you?
AVOIDING THE PROBLEMS
Based on our experience reading and reviewing our clients terms of business every day, the most common mistakes in contracts can often be avoided by following 3 simple rules: ü Make them clear ü Time them right ü Keep them fair The contract a business has with its customer is essential to ensure that both the customer and your business are fairly protected from unnecessary liability.
MAKE YOUR TERMS CLEAR FROM THE START
A low cost airline and an airport operator entered into an agreement which set out the terms on which the airline would operate from the airport for a period of 15 years. One of the terms in the agreement stated that “The airline and airport will co-operate together to use their best endeavours to promote the airline’s low cost
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services” and the airport would use “all reasonable endeavours to provide a cost base that will facilitate the airlines low cost pricing.” 4 years into the contract, the airport decided it would no longer allow the airline to operate outside of normal hours because they were suffering a financial loss. Sure enough, a dispute arose and the airline successfully argued that the obligation to use “best endeavours” to promote the airlines business obliged the airport to do all it reasonably could to allow the airline’s business to succeed. The court decided that the airport was obliged to remain open outside the normal operating hours despite suffering financially. This example illustrates that not choosing your words wisely can leave you exposed to serious financial implications later. It also highlights how important it is to make it clear what is expected from both parties at the outset.
TIME THEM RIGHT AND COMMUNICATE THEM PROPERLY
contract legally, you must ensure that you take ‘reasonable steps’ to bring the terms to your customer’s attention first before you supply them with the goods or services. As long as you can demonstrate this, it will be irrelevant whether the customer has read them or not.
KEEP THEM FAIR
A common misconception is that so long as a contract is signed, a business can rely on the terms regardless of how unfair they are. Thankfully this is not the case and we certainly recommend keeping a level playing field as it will not only serve you well legally, but it will provide better peace of mind to your customers. If you’d like to get your terms and conditions reviewed by a professional and would prefer to pay a fixed-fee that’s not going to cost a fortune – then feel free to get in touch for a free, no obligation chat on 02380 011767 or visit www.watertightlegal.co.uk.
Even well-drafted terms and conditions can be completely pointless if they are used at the wrong time. Too often, businesses seek to impose their terms and conditions by printing them on the back of their invoices which are usually despatched after a contract is made. In order to incorporate your terms into the
Focus on success TAKE ONE COMPANY
The daredevil With her first business venture, Rachel Lowe went from being a taxi driver to the entrepreneur behind Hamleys’ best-selling board game, to losing the company. Having dusted herself off, she’s now back on the scene with a new luxury gift brand, She Who Dares
alk about a rollercoaster ride. You couldn’t get a story with much higher highs – or lower lows – than that of Rachel Lowe, entrepreneur and creator of the iconic Destination board game series. You may have heard her tale already, much covered by the tabloids as it was. First, taxi driver turned entrepreneur goes into the Den and gets fiercely reprimanded by the Dragons, who reduce her to tears. Next, Dragon reject has last laugh, signing a deal with Hamleys, becoming its number one selling game that Christmas, and signing a major deal with Warner Bros. Then, of course, comes the obstacle in Act Two: successful entrepreneur’s business goes bust and she loses her house. And all due to forces outside of her control. Rachel is only now starting to feel like her old self again,
thanks in large part to her new business, She Who Dares, which is backed by online “Dragon” Simon Dolan. ‘Simon is the sole investor, and I can say, hand on heart, that the way I work with him is a dream,’ she says. ‘I do all the work and he funds everything, working to the mantra: “as little as possible, as much as is needed”.’ This solid partnership, and the confidence that Simon has put in her abilities, has helped Rachel recover from what was a very dark time in her life. ‘I don’t think Simon will ever understand how much he changed my life. He saw what happened at R.T.L. Games, and still believed in me. ‘He’s allowed me that space to recover.’ This new chapter in the story proves that Rachel is no onehit wonder, but rather a true
“Life is full of challenges, but it’s how you deal with them that counts”
“What was an exciting prospect all went wrong very quickly, and I lost my home”
entrepreneur at heart. She has always used her experiences to form her business ideas; the idea for the Destination games, which guide you around a city (or Hogwarts with the Harry Potter version), came to her while working as a taxi driver in Portsmouth, and getting to know the streets and attractions intimately. She started to visualise the way a board game could play out as she drove: ‘On one shift I was thinking of my taxi as a game piece on a board.’ She Who Dares is no different, as the chief inspiration behind it has been Rachel’s own life. Awarded an MBE in 2009, she came up with the idea for a luxury gift brand to celebrate remarkable women for their achievements. Rachel says: ‘It is a real honour to be acknowledged for something you’ve done. When I finally got the MBE, it really
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Focus on success TAKE ONE COMPANY
gave me a feeling of self-worth; it’s a really wonderful feeling when you’re acknowledged. ‘A lot of it is very personal to me, based on my own experience.’ The range includes a pendant, crystal-encrusted clutch bags, and a fragrance, all adorned with a rose that is the emblem of the brand. ‘The rose emblem is the signal of recognition. My dream is that, when you see someone wearing it, you’ll say: ‘What did she do to be given that? What was her achievement?’ This is the brand’s point of difference in what is already a hugely overcrowded marketplace, and Rachel is hoping that this, combined with the fact that the manufacturing and packaging is all done in Britain, will help She Who Dares stand out. And she isn’t intimidated by the scale of challenge either. ‘I love going up against the most competitive market in fragrance, with people telling us we’ll never make it,’ she says. ‘Everything is made locally in Britain, in Hampshire, in Essex, in Basingstoke. All of our money goes into the British economy, it’s a truly British product.’ At a time when there is nothing more trendy than saying your product is made in Britain, this could well be a shrewd move. For Rachel, things have now come full circle – she has been able to buy back the Destination mother company and incorporate it into She Who Dares, and last year saw her launch two major board games: Destination Hogwarts and Destination London 2012. This phoenix-like rise from the ashes has helped show that Rachel wasn’t to blame for the company going into administration: she was also featured by Panorama, which investigated her story and concluded that she should have been given a bridging loan by the bank. ‘I did a licensing deal with Warner Bros for a Harry Potterthemed game. When you launch a licensed product, it comes out
alongside the film release; but the Harry Potter release date got moved to July, so we lost our listings, so I couldn’t pay back the banks. ‘What was an exciting prospect all went wrong very quickly, and I lost my home, my car; everything I’d ever worked for.’ This dramatic turn happened just when the brand was in the strongest position it had ever been in, with exciting licensing deals and partnerships on the cards: ‘It’s quite scary in business how quickly everything can go downhill,’ Rachel says. It was only with the BBC documentary and Simon Dolan’s backing that she learned not to feel responsible. She says: ‘When we bought back Destination and our games went back into WHSmith, I was able to hold my head up high. ‘There was never anything wrong with the brand, there was never anything wrong with the game.’ This comeback to end all comebacks has shaped the ethos and the culture of She Who Dares; its motto, ‘Nothing is impossible’, epitomises Rachel’s attitude to business and life, having overcome huge obstacles to get where she is today. ‘When I was on my knees at my darkest point, I would never have believed it. But now I do: you really can achieve anything. ‘Life is full of challenges, but it’s how you deal with them that counts.’ It’s safe to say that Rachel Lowe has had more than her fair share of challenges, but she has risen to meet them head on – and they certainly haven’t dampened her ambition. The future for She Who Dares? That’s simple. ‘My dream is for the fragrance lines to be on the shelf in Debenhams and John Lewis alongside Chanel, Dior and Prada, and to be respected as a British fragrance house. ‘Nothing is impossible.’ Contact: www.swdfashion.com
26 February 2013
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Focus on success UP-AND-COMING
Introducing… Fiona Timba
British snacks sent to your door when you’re studying abroad? Yes please! We meet Shell LiveWIRE winner Fiona Timba, founder of the new subscription snack service, Packed Munches
The Packed Munches concept is simple, yet brilliant: a box of everyone’s favourite British products, sent to Brits living abroad once a month. Whether gap year students or full time ex-pats, it’s a way for Brits abroad to treat themselves to a taste of home. People can subscribe to the service to get a monthly box, or receive them as gifts. What a tasty idea…
Where did the idea come from?
plan to expand Packed Munches to all ex-pats and to offer more than just food.
life for myself and my siblings, and I want to return the favour.
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be doing today?
To the extent that money guarantees stability it is obviously important in life. However, I am more motivated by being independent, my own boss, running a successful business and seeing where this can lead.
Practising law. I studied law at university and went to law school in Birmingham. I even studied law in Maastricht! It’s something I have always been quite passionate about. But who says you can’t do both?
I have spent the last two years living outside the UK, first as a teaching assistant in France and then as a Masters student in the Netherlands. You don’t realise, until you’re outside the country, how many of our favourite foods are British brands only sold in the UK: I used to crave Cadbury’s Milk Buttons!
What’s been your worst ever job?
What’s your advice to young entrepreneurs trying to get an idea off the ground?
What’s top of your bucket list?
The most important thing to do is research. This can sound daunting, but it really is important to make sure there is a space in the market for your idea before you’ve invested a lot of time (and money) into something that won’t work.
What’s your vision for the future of Packed Munches?
In our first stage, we’re targeting students studying abroad. We’ve both recently been students so still know this market inside out. We
I worked in a data centre in Birmingham. You know the scratch-cards you can sometimes get in magazines that you always win, but you have to fill in your details and send it to claim your prize? Yeah, I worked in the centre that received those cards… I’m terrified of heights but have always wanted to do a skydive!
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a young entrepreneur?
Convincing others that you’re serious and dedicated to making your business work. It’s easy as a young entrepreneur to be dismissed.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I want to do better. My parents worked so hard to create a better
How much does money motivate you?
What’s been your proudest moment?
I have two. One was being called to the Bar and qualifying as a barrister. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice. The other was winning the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award for Packed Munches. It was amazing validation and gave us a boost to continue.
Contact: www.packedmunches.co.uk Twitter @packed_munches
My life I’m watching: Dragons’ Den and Geordie Shore (my guilty pleasure) I’m reading: A Book About Innocent (full of interesting business advice) I’m listening to: Bonobo, perfect music to pause to I’m surfing: Shell LiveWIRE. It’s almost become an addiction but it’s so helpful!
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Focus on success 12 STEPS
The steps to success: Step 8 Developing your business idea is the next step in starting or building on a successful enterprise. Founder of the YES Network, Carly Ward, tells us why developing a quality database should be your top priority
There is no “point having
a fantastic product or service if nobody knows about it
Once you have your business idea, you obviously need to start developing it. There are many things you need to do in order to develop and get going on the idea. Entrepreneurs, when they start out, have to be a jack of all trades. If, like most entrepreneurs, you do not already have a big team around you when you start out, you will need to have knowledge of finance, marketing, PR, how to write a business plan, how to build your database, getting customers…the list is endless. Writing a business plan is so important. Even if you think you already know what you want to do and how to get there, putting it into a document really helps. No investor or bank will talk to you, let alone lend you money, unless you have a detailed
business plan. That is just the way it is. I appreciate that not everyone reading this will be a start-up, but developing your business is not just about the early stages of getting going. What about when you are two, three, four years in or more? There are always ways in which we can strategise to get more customers; even if you run a social enterprise or a charity, you should still ultimately be operating like a business. We all have to keep on our toes and get out there so we can become more successful and achieve our goals. An example of how we develop our business, YES Education, is by cold calling and mail shots. Some people hate cold calling (I don’t particularly love it!) but we have to let people know we exist. There is no point having a fantastic product or service if nobody knows about it. We called every college in the country and got the name and email address of the person we need to speak to. We put all their emails on our database: we can then email
and let them know exactly who is joining us and what they are missing out on. We can also keep those who have bought from us informed of what we are up to. For a mail out to a large number of contacts, the response rate is usually on average 3%, and sometimes a 1% conversion. The most important thing in your business is not the current customers, it is not your staff, and it is certainly not you! You probably think I am mad by now, but the most important thing in your business is…your DATABASE. I am lucky enough to have the most amazing mentor, Nigel Botterill, who has built up eight separate million pound businesses and is one of the most experienced marketers in the country. One of the most important things he has taught me about business is to build and nurture your database. Without a quality list of people’s details, you don’t really have a business. If your office burnt down and everything was lost tomorrow, with a database you can always start again. So get networking and build up your database! Contact: www.yesnetwork.co.uk Twitter @carlyyes @yesteam
30 February 2013
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Focus on success BOOK REVIEWS
GET OFF YOUR ARSE TOO by Brad Burton
Brad Burton is back, sharing his unique and raw look at life, business and how everything happens for a reason, even the bad stuff. You only realise how significant your decisions are when they are in your rear view mirror. GOYA2 is billed as a self-help/business book for people who don’t like self-help/ business books. It’s a whole lot of honesty about some of the strokes you need to pull to get through those first few years of business…and then what the hell to do when you get there. He says: OK, let’s get going. Honest is what I’d like you
to be right now. What’s good in your life? What’s bad in your life? How happy are you with your lot? Your life? Your relationships? Your job? Your business? Think again. I want you to be really honest. We’re going to look at life, relationships, business, sales and motivation… without the polish on. There are new takes on some of the old themes, but we’ll be looking at them from different perspectives. Fundamentally, the business lessons within this book work in day-to-day life and day-to-day life lessons cross over into business.
We say: Enlivened by Brad’s trademark no-nonsense style, GOYA and GOYA2 are business books with a difference. Irreverent and refreshingly honest, like its predecessor, GOYA2 certainly doesn’t pull any punches – yet it manages to encourage without preaching. Its only drawback could be the structure, or lack thereof; if you’re looking for something with very clear chapters and learning points, you may not relish the meandering, conversational style. But if you’re keen to try something new to help inspire you this year, give it a go.
Get Off Your Arse Too is published by 4Publishing, priced at £12.99 in paperback, e-book and audiobook
ROADMAP TO REVENUE: How to sell the way your customers want to buy by Kristin Zhivago
Roadmap to Revenue is published by Bristol and Shipley, priced at £15.60 in hardback and e-book
In this one-of-a-kind revenuegrowth how-to book, revenue coach Kristin Zhivago reveals the method that she has used to help hundreds of business managers reverse engineer their successful sales so they can manufacture new sales in quantity. Using the Roadmap method, Zhivago claims that within a few weeks you can start selling the way your customers want to buy. You can support every step of their buying journey, with the answers they need to decide in your favour. You can make it easy to find you, understand why they’d want your product or service, and buy from you.
She says: At this moment, someone is on your website, reading copy that doesn’t help him, while looking for answers that he cannot find. Another prospective customer has decided she won’t buy from you because of something disconcerting that your salesperson said on the phone. In each case, these customers came to you fully intending to make a purchase – and would have been happy to buy from you – but something stopped them. Using the methods in this book, you will be able to determine exactly when the customer decides that he isn’t going to buy from you – and why. Once you know what is keeping your customers from buying, and what they need
to happily make a purchase, the solutions become obvious.
We say: This unique business book clearly demonstrates all the different ways in which you are actually making it difficult (or nigh on impossible) for the customer – who wants your product or service – to buy from you. Zhivago argues that if your sales aren’t increasing, the reason will inevitably boil down to the fact that your sales process is getting in the way. A comprehensive guide to how you can change this dynamic within your business, this whole new approach to sales and marketing is a must-read for any business at its wits end about how to grow revenue. talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 33
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Focus on success WEBSITE RESOURCES
Sites for sore eyes There are countless resources available for the budding entrepreneur – all you need is an Internet connection. From funding to forums, advice to inspiration, here are the top Talk Business-recommended websites
Virgin Media Pioneers
Go to: www.virginmediapioneers.com What’s the deal? It’s an incredible online community of enterprising people who use videos and blogging to share their ideas and experiences. They’re there for you to talk to, network with, collaborate with and get tips from – and all for free. Good if…You’re early on in the process and looking for ideas or advice.
Best for funding
Go to: www.crowdcube.com What’s the deal? Crowdcube is the next generation of business investment. It is a new way to fund start-ups and business expansion by crowdfunding for equity, giving entrepreneurs a platform to connect with ordinary people and raise venture capital. Good if…You’re looking for funding, either to get your business off the ground, or to help grow it to the next stage. A great alternative to traditional VCs.
Go to: www.shell-livewire.org What’s the deal? Shell LiveWIRE combines an online support service and awards programme for young entrepreneurs in the UK. With monthly awards of £1,000 on offer and an annual award of £10,000 as well as online support, it can be a great way to start your business. Good if…You’ve run a pilot and proven the viability of your business model, and are looking for a cash injection to take the next step.
Go to: www.smarta.com What’s the deal? Smarta is an advice and networking resource for anyone starting and running a small business. It provides independent, entrepreneur-led support and is backed by some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs. Good if…You’re looking for some recognition for your small business – the Smarta 100 Awards are a great way to gain credibility and PR.
Go to: sethgodin.typepad.com What’s the deal? Considered by some to be the number one marketing blog in the world, Seth Godin’s site offers creative ideas and new ways of looking at marketing and the world in general. Essential reading for the enlightened entrepreneur. Good if…You’re feeling bogged down and are looking for inspiration and a refreshing viewpoint on all things business.
Go to: www.findinvestgrow.com What’s the deal? FIG works with young entrepreneurs, typically undergraduates and graduates of the past five years, to see them crystallise their ideas, support them through the development of their business plans and introduce them to suitable investors. Good if…You are an undergraduate or recent graduate with a great business idea, in need of extra support, nurture and contacts.
Go to: www.startupbritain.com What’s the deal? StartUp Britain is a national campaign by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, harnessing the expertise and passion of Britain’s leading businesspeople to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK. Good if…You want to be a part of promoting entrepreneurialism in the UK; support the country’s entrepreneurs by putting on an event or becoming a StartUp Local Champion. Best for
techpreneurs Go to: www.entrepreneurfirst.org.uk What’s the deal? An accelerator programme for top graduates, Entrepreneur First provides everything you need to build a high growth tech startup from day one. Convinced success is a matter of execution, they don’t look for great ideas – they look for great people. Good if…You’re a top class graduate keen to dive headfirst into the fast-paced world of developing a tech start-up.
34 February 2013
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Focus on money
Making allowances Could your business be missing out on thousands of pounds in tax relief? Jan Post, managing director of RIFT Capital Allowances, talks us through making the most of capital allowances
or many business owners with commercial properties, tax is probably a bit like going to the dentist – unpleasant but necessary (and best left to the professionals). When considering tax, most business owners could be forgiven for handing the issue over to their accountant and doing their best to forget all about it. However, there is a significant area which most accountants miss – and with 1.4 million commercial properties in the UK, it is estimated that over 90% of their owners are missing out, with around £65-£70bn sitting with HMRC waiting to be claimed. The issue is an area of tax relief called capital allowances. These are a form of tax relief from HMRC, which apply when you buy or improve a commercial property. Businesses are allowed to offset some of that expenditure on plant and machinery for tax purposes, and what most businesses don’t realise is that these rules apply to anything from door handles to fittings designed to create an ambience in certain businesses. The fact that “plant and machinery” is a slightly off-putting and confusing term can mean that businesses don’t realise that plenty of the items in their commercial property fall into
this category, and are therefore eligible for a claim. Capital allowances apply to a wide range of commercial buildings of almost any age, including factories, shops, industrial units, leisure facilities, offices, warehouses, restaurants, hotels and nursing homes. Tax relief can be claimed for small businesses as well as huge developments – and anything in between. To qualify, you must be a UK tax payer (as an individual or a company) and either own or lease a commercial property. However, that property must not be held in a pension fund or owned by the Government or a charity, or treated as stock. These don’t qualify. The type of items that can be claimed for under capital allowances vary depending on your business type – a traditional office will have a very different type of claim from a restaurant, but both are certainly entitled to capital allowances on their relevant plant and machinery. In an office environment, for example, items might include fittings such as air conditioning, pipework, lighting and security systems. For businesses such as hotels and restaurants, the claim can get more interesting. Capital allowances can apply to businesses which install certain plant and machinery for ‘ambience’ – so this might apply
037_038 Capital allowances.ga.indd 41
Focus on money CAPITAL ALLOWANCES
to fittings which are deliberately designed to create the atmosphere that the business needs for the customers it wants to attract. However, this is a particularly delicate part of a claim to negotiate, making the need for expert advice even more crucial. A claim could cover refurbishments that happened many years ago, even if you only bought the property recently. As long as the previous owner did not get capital allowances for the work (and with only 5% of companies currently claiming correctly, this is likely), you can claim the tax relief. Buyers and sellers of commercial property also need to agree a price for plant and machinery as part of the purchase process, which is where surveyors can come in. There are several reasons why most businesses are not claiming their full capital allowances, but the one major pitfall that many companies fall into is to rely on their accountant to know everything about tax relief, and leave it to them. The truth is that they often don’t. Many accountants would be the first to admit this, and specialist companies working in the
arena of capital allowances will often work hand-in-hand with companies’ normal accountants to complete a claim. Accountants will typically claim for more obvious features falling under the remit of capital allowances, but for a full claim, business owners are advised to consult a specialist tax adviser, who will use a capital allowances expert surveyor to uncover eligible fixtures and fittings. Typically, using a specialist will result in reclaimed tax of between 15% and 45% of the commercial property price. With such large amounts of money lying unclaimed, it’s sometimes assumed that this must be a tax loophole or avoidance scheme of some kind. But in reality, capital allowances have been around since the 1800s after first being introduced as relief for wear and tear to a commercial building. When pursuing a capital allowances claim with a specialist, an expert surveyor conducts a detailed analysis and ascertains the correct value of the qualifying assets within the property. Often they will examine underneath the
“Tax is probably a bit like going to the dentist – unpleasant but necessary”
“These rules apply to anything from door handles to fittings designed to create an ambience”
flooring or right up into the ceiling to see what has been changed over the years. They will draw up a list of all the fittings in every room, then feed it into a computer model with thousands of matrices which can give a price for, say, a door handle that was fitted 15 years ago. They also check past records and make sure these assets haven’t been claimed before. Finally, a report is written calculating all the tax due to be refunded, which is sent to HMRC. Given all the work involved, it is no wonder businesses haven’t fully claimed all the capital allowances tax relief that is due. However, it is worth it. While it is a complex area, with frequent law changes, business owners should be aware that they are potentially passing up thousands of pounds in tax relief – which in these tough economic times is more valuable than ever.
38 February 2013
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Focus on money SOLE TRADERS
Sell your sole
Have you assessed why you’re operating as a sole trader? CheapAccounting.co.uk MD, Elaine Clarke, looks at the advantages of becoming a limited company when it comes to tax
Your personal circumstances should determine any decisions regarding becoming a sole trader or operating as a limited company. I believe there are two major issues to consider when deciding on your business structure: limited or unlimited liability, and tax.
“Your personal assets could be used to pay the debts – including your house!”
1. As a sole trader, there is no distinction between you and your business 2. You do not need to have a separate business bank account 3. All the debts of the business are your debts 4. If the assets of the business do not cover the debts, then your personal assets could be used to pay the debts – including your house! 5. The debts of a limited company belong to the company, which is a separate legal entity 6. Except in cases where personal guarantees have been given, your personal assets will not be used to pay the debts of the company For some, this is a more attractive proposition than a sole trader business structure.
TAx as a sole trader
As a sole trader, you would pay: • Income tax on profits over your personal allowance, assuming no other income • Class 2 National Insurance at £2.65 per week
• Class 4 National Insurance on profits over £7,605 at a rate of 9% up to £42,475 and 2% thereafter If your profits are below the personal allowance of £8,105, then in all likelihood it would be better to operate as a sole trader. You will pay no income tax and will only pay a very small amount of Class 4 NI if your profits are over £7,605. If you profits are below £5,595, you can also apply for an exemption to Class 2 National Insurance.
Tax as a Limited Company
A limited company pays corporation tax at 20% on its profits (up to £300,000 where the rate rises). Profits can be withdrawn from the company by way of a salary for the director(s) and dividends for shareholders. This assumes that the directors/shareholders have no other income.
So which is best?
This can be shown by an example. Say your business has profits of £15,000 (and you have no other income): Tax as a sole trader would be: Income tax (£15,000 - 8,105) at 20% = £1,379 Class 2 National Insurance (£2.65 x 52) = £138 (rounded) Class 4 National Insurance (£15,000 - 7,605) at 9% = £666 (rounded) Total tax = £2,183 So profits after tax = £12,817
Tax as a limited company would be: Pay a salary of £624 per month = £7,488 This is an allowable expense from the profit. So the profit becomes: £15,000 - 7,488 = £7,512 Corporation tax on the profit is 20% = £1,503 (rounded) The profit of £7,512 is distributed from the company as a dividend and no further income tax is due on the dividend, as the total income is below the higher rate threshold. The total available after tax is the available profits + salary corporation tax = £13,497 At profits of £15,000, you would be better off as a limited company to the tune of £680. As always, it is recommended that you get advice specific to your circumstances. The above are examples only and should not be relied on. Contact an accountant for a no-obligation chat.
Elaine’s associate, Ian Hall, of www.cheapaccounting.co.uk, is a member of Pure B2B – masterminding your business to the next level. Visit: www.pureb2b.co.uk
041 sole trader.ga.indd 45
Focus on money COST MANAGEMENT
If you really want to take control of your business finances, don’t just cut your costs – manage them. So says Phil Turtle, MD of business consultancy and technology PR agency, Turtle Consulting Group
No such thing as a
t is estimated that most companies are wasting about 30% of their expenditure on items that do not have any impact on their customers. But in good business, there’s no such thing as a quick save. Though knee-jerk cost cutting may make the figures look better in the short-term, it can have a desperately negative medium or long-term impact on a business. Phil Turtle, MD of business consultancy and technology PR agency, Turtle Consulting Group, outlines eight steps to effective and proactive cost management for your business.
1. Understand the cost-revenue structure
This is the most important item in effective cost management. Many companies simply do not hold accurate information on what their costs really are. In looking to manage its costs, a company must first identify its sources of revenue. How much is coming in from sales of which products and services? Which are the highest spending customers? Then the company needs to work
out which specific costs are implicated in producing its revenue stream. Finally, a company’s overheads and costs not directly linked to revenue generation must be identified.
2. Reduce interdepartmental conflicts
As a first step, draw up a basic chart of your company’s work flow. This will start to help you to understand how each department is affected by the others. For example, how does warehousing affect sales? In any organisation, the way one department operates is influenced by other parts of the company. So in order to reduce the complexity, a business owner must be constantly questioning why work is done, and how it can be done more efficiently. Once you have drawn up your flow chart, you will probably start to observe that there are a number of extra and unnecessary steps involved in your company’s operations.
3. Involve your employees
Educate your employees in decision-making, team-building and problem-solving so they are
“Your customers are the best people to tell you about which parts of your service are important to them”
better able to control their own costs. Most people want to do a good job and to help the company they work for to be successful. When a company invests in its people by training and skilling them up, especially in a recession, it will reap the rewards of a workforce who work together for the good of the company. Similarly, if you actively involve your employees in the cost management process, you will get the best out of them. If you are actively on the look out for suggestions from your employees you will, without a doubt, find better and more cost effective ways to do things.
42 February 2013
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Focus on money COST MANAGEMENT
• Source cheaper suppliers who will still offer you the same level of service and products.
6. Benchmark yourself
As part of your cost management overhaul, benchmark yourself against similar companies. What is the industry average spend in different areas? And how do your costs compare? Periodically review what you are doing and how you are doing it.
7. Talk to your customers
Take time to talk to your customers, and ask them if they think you are providing anything they do not need. For example, maybe the expensive same-day delivery option you offer is not really required or perhaps your packaging is better than necessary. Your customers are the best people to tell you about which parts of your service are important to them, and which are surplus to their requirements.
8. Review your finances
4. Back to your business plan
Every company needs to have a long term business strategy. Cost management should be part of the strategy and be influenced by the strategy. Cost decisions should be measured against the company’s strategy, rather than a current shortterm situation. A company should not buy an excessive amount of inventory because the manufacturer has lowered the price to get rid of it. The company should be buying the amount it needs to satisfy its customers.
5. Easy Savings
I will reiterate that there really is no such thing as a quick
“A business owner must be constantly questioning why work is done, and how it can be done more efficiently”
save when looking to manage your costs; but there are some simple changes that you can make right away. Some small costs can be reduced with little risk of affecting the quality of your service: • Check supplier invoices carefully for overcharging e.g. missing discounts. • Get rid of obvious overcapacity e.g. paying rental on spare telephone lines, unnecessary subscriptions etc. • Put a stop to blatant waste e.g. heating your premises when they are unoccupied, lights on when not needed. • Only use first class post when it is really necessary and tell your staff to do the same.
Cut back on working capital through just-in-time purchasing, better credit control and agreeing longer payment terms with your suppliers. Consider low-interest loans rather than overdrafts – and knock any unnecessary loans or overdrafts on the head. Apply for any grants or subsidised loans that you may be entitled to: check out j4bgrants.co.uk, which details grant support for business. Get the most out of your premises by thinking about sub-letting any extra space. Check out www.uswitch.co.uk to see if you can reduce your utility costs, and also research alternative telecoms suppliers. Happy saving!
042_043 managing costs.ga.indd 49
Focus on money PRIVATE EQUITY
Valerie Kendall, a partner at WestBridge Capital, looks at why business owners should consider private equity as a route to growth There is a widely held view that management teams only involve a private equity house when they’re grooming a business for exit. This misconception discounts the advantages of private funding. The private equity option should be in the toolbox of any management team with an appetite for growth.
“Taking private equity partners into your boardroom should not be seen as a daunting experience”
Introducing private equity means you gain much more than capital – you get new colleagues and a bank of experience to draw on. The trick is to be selective in your choice of partners. Consider the candidates as if you were appointing board directors. Ask: • Can I work with these people? • Is there chemistry between us? • Do they have the experience we need? Taking private equity partners into your boardroom should not be seen as daunting. Just make sure you all share the same goals – I’ve heard of company directors hell bent on using their new capital to acquire new businesses, while their private equity partners are equally intent on consolidation and disposal. Being an owner or managing director can be lonely. Even with a great management team, you are expected to keep all the plates spinning. You may need to distance yourself, once in a while, to find time to think about broader issues like strategic growth.
Carefully chosen private equity advisers will help spread the load, perhaps by introducing new systems or ways of working. Unlike a bank, a private equity partner will offer advice, judgement and momentum, as opposed to mere liquidity. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to become more competitive, enter new markets, introduce new products or invest in new facilities, equipment or staff. Private equity teams bring a wealth of experience of the benefits and pitfalls of such changes. Maybe you need an introduction to secure a new contract; perhaps you’re thinking of buying-out a competitor. What’s uncharted territory to you is probably familiar ground for them.
I am an unabashed and vocal champion of private equity. It is a robust and sound alternative to other sources of finance. Whereas banks and financiers will remain passive, an angel investor may become
overbearing or even dictatorial. Private equity partners have a vested interest in helping your business grow and become more valuable and profitable. Banks, despite what their publicity may say, are still not lending. Even when they do, they are rarely ideal business bedfellows. Their teams are made up of managers, not entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Banks are interested in getting their money back, not the growth of your business. Since raising our £30m SME Fund, we’ve supported a number of successful, ambitious businesses. Among them is e2train, which provides employee performance management and e-learning systems to organisations, including the NHS, The Home Office and O2. WestBridge Capital is a private equity house with £30m to invest in established, profitable and ambitious SMEs. Contact: www.westbridgecapital.co.uk
44 February 2013
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Focus on money CAREFUL CONTRACTS
Before you sign on the dotted line… Careful contracts: NaviStar Legal founder, Jo Rogers, lists the things to look out for when signing a legal agreement with a marketing agency spacing. These are usually set out in the brand guidelines and referenced as a part of the agency agreement. You agree you will review and agree any changes in a particular time frame, but they agree that they will only publish with your explicit consent.
“If you don’t understand the clause, ask!”
4. Liability and local laws
Sales and marketing is certainly at the heart of any healthy business. To attract new prospective clients, you may engage an agency to produce your marketing campaign, a new brochure or a poster advertisement on your behalf. As with all agreements, you will read, understand and negotiate the agency’s agreement: but it is worth focusing on the following terms in particular:
If there is no agreement in writing, then you risk ownership of the copyright of the work being automatically owned by the agency: which may mean that new photos, wording, logos and other parts of the work designed by the agency are not owned by you or your company. Ensure that there is a written agreement that specifically lists which party owns (or needs to own) which part of the copyright or other intellectual property (IP)
in the work being created. This provides clarity and certainty, and will hopefully avoid any disputes arising over ownership. You may find some agencies only allow for transfer of any IP ownership when full payment of all invoices has been made, and will give themselves the right to use your advert in their own advertising. You will have to decide if this is acceptable to you.
As an agency, it is their responsibility to get consent from any other party to use other people’s material. You will want to ensure that this is specifically set out in the agreement and that – as a minimum – they will compensate you if they use other people’s material or work without permission or use that material improperly.
3. Brand guidelines and consent You will want to provide clear guidance about what your brand stands for, colours, fonts and
Limitation of liability clauses are in most contracts, and are a big topic on their own – certainly too big for this article. In short, be aware of any attempt by the agency to restrict the amount of damages that you can recover from them, especially for their failures or negligence. For example, they may try to limit their responsibility for not adhering to legal and regulatory requirements, or seek to put a financial cap on the total amount you can recover from them. Read these clauses and make sure that any limitations (including caps) are sensible, based on the likely losses you could suffer. If you don’t understand the clause, ask!
Before you provide any details about the company, i.e. marketing/expansion plans etc, protect yourself against any unauthorised disclosure of your company trade secrets with a non-disclosure agreement; even if there is already a confidentiality clause in the agency agreement. Contact: www.navistarlegal.com
047 careful contracts.ga.indd 59
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Once upon a time... Everyone loves a good story. Branding expert Rich With lays down the law on why storytelling is the best way for businesses to build their brand Gather round children. Once upon a time there was a brand that told a story…No scratch that. All brands should be telling a story. We’re repeatedly told to tell people about our benefits, not our features – the bang, not the firework. Our benefits are told through stories; there’s no better way of explaining our business. Building a brand through storytelling is a strategic cornerstone and a good foundation for your company. What most businesses need to accept is that their clients are now the storytellers, offering their tales of experience with a company (often through social media). What we as businesses say is clearly far less important than what we actually do. Do we live up to – or exceed – their expectation? We have to make sure our brand values connect emotionally with our niche clients’ internal values. Without this connection you’re just buying and selling – there’s no endorsement or long-term brand building. Driving your brand strategy forward through compelling stories will be initially driven by your company’s purpose. What does your brand story aim to achieve? Is it to enlighten your customers? To nurture or comfort them? If your firm seeks to tap into people’s sense of adventure, then your brand story needs to excite or inspire them. If your brand seeks to reassure, then tales of customer peace-of-mind will do the job nicely. Think about the level of engagement your brand wants
“Building a brand through storytelling isn’t just a gimmick”
with its audience. Is it a passive story designed to simply inform or make people identify with your company? Or is it a more interactive experience you’re putting forward – jolting your brand community interaction and getting a dialogue opened not just between you and your customers, but between the customers themselves? If engagement and long-term interaction is the goal, then the story needs to be expandable and adaptable. Look at what is happening in the world. Can you capitalise on current events or dates? At the extreme end, think about how Sky Sports builds a dramatic event for sports fans. They hype up the tension, portraying every football game as a grudge match, every F1 race as being a heroic journey for the drivers.
Brand storytelling can be used to build “cathedrals of the mind” – highly sought after results that are not easy to come by. Use stories to promote heroic feats, where your brand went overboard to provide a phenomenal service. When you offer this sort of service you can shift your brand into a premium position, charging higher fees and creating inbound marketing which brings work to you. As Dickens never once said in Oliver Twist: ‘The wise business owner who used her brand story not only to resonate, but stand firm, strong and different from her rivals, laughed a long and hearty laugh.’ The End. Contact: www.gohoot.co.uk
049 Rich column.ga.indd 57
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Focus on strategy SOCIAL MEDIA
Making friends new
Getting to grips with social media: Richard Jones, director of partner management at Groupon, offers his top tips for SMEs
any small to midsized businesses see social media as the playground of the big brands. However, social media is about conversation and engagement, so if anything, it’s actually more important for SMEs. Achieving social media success A common mistake made by businesses is selling rather than engaging – customers do not want to be served up purely sales-focused content through social media. If you build relationships with followers, it’ll be easier to engage them with your products and services when you do want to sell to them. The social landscape is a fastmoving, constantly changing network of user-generated
information, so it’s essential to measure and respond to changes and feedback by looking at the following process: • Learning insights: By simply searching for your business online you will uncover a whole array of thoughts and opinions, many of which you may want to respond to, or even use in your marketing.
product offerings, updates and company information for customers, stakeholders, detractors and advocates to interact with. • Providing support: Serving customers via social platforms is a great way to show that you value their feedback and are willing to resolve any enquiries.
• Implementing strategy: • Generating knowledge: Before you begin to push out Start using the feedback content and interact with you’ve accumulated online customers, you need to analyse to develop your offering. For the social media landscape and example, if a particular decide what you want to achieve. product received negative feedback, use this • Becoming engaging: information for research and The next step is to create a development to improve your content hub to post new product base.
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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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Focus on strategy SOCIAL MEDIA
The aim of listening is to get information on how, where and when to engage with your community. At first it can be intimidating to make sense of the data you’re finding, which is why it may be easier to segregate listening into the following areas: • Complaints • Positive mentions • Questions or feedback • Leads or prospects • Industry-based conversations Once listening has been established and you are able to make sense of the data, you will then be ready to move on from a passive approach to a proactive one.
Step 2: Engage
Engagement means taking measures to interact with current customer mentions. With your core strategy and social media aims firmly in mind, try some of the following: • Respond to customers, whether they like you or not • Ask questions of your community • Encourage your fans and followers to take action • Post brand specific messages that they will want to hear about
I believe there are three key steps to achieve social media success; SMEs have to listen, engage and measure results.
Step 1: Listen
Social listening is the practice of identifying engagement opportunities and homing in on the data, conversations and dialogue, which are relevant to your business. Key words for setting up listening can be based on: • Your company name • The name of your products or services • The names of stakeholders • Industry-relevant terms • Names of competitors
“A common mistake made by businesses is selling rather than engaging”
“SMEs have to listen, engage and measure results”
The ultimate aim here is to create an active dialogue with your customers. They should feel comfortable communicating with you and care about what you have to say.
Step 3: Measure
Once you’ve established a social media presence, you need to determine its success. Metrics can include the number of fans and followers, quantities of negative and positive feedback, and sales leads generated from social media. There are a number of free tools that will help you measure your impact: Facebook: page owners have the full ability to evaluate the traffic on their page, based on user type and demographics, allowing users to measure their
page’s engagement and traffic on a day-to-day basis. Twitter: there are many ways to evaluate the success of your engagement, influence and content with the use of sites, such as Klout, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and, of course, Twitter itself. Social mention: social mention is a great way to pick up the numbers and sentiment of your online mentions on all platforms, such as mainstream news, forums, blogs, Twitter and more. Google Alerts: use Google Alerts to send all brand-related mentions straight to your email inbox. Google Analytics: this is the place to find out the numerical success of your social media presence by showing the conversion rates and monetary value of conversions that occurred due to referrals from each social network. The most important thing is that you remember your ultimate business goals, whether that’s raising awareness or driving visits. Your measurement goals must be continually updated to match where your business currently is in its development, as well as your ongoing strategy. By listening, engaging and measuring you’ll be able to proactively manage your social media presence, so that you know what you need to achieve and how you are going to meet those goals. Contact: www.grouponworks.co.uk
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hen you hear the term “licensing”, what comes to mind? If you own a pub or nightclub, it’s likely that licensing means permission to operate. Perhaps you think of TV licensing? What most people don’t think about immediately is the licensing of intellectual property to generate new income, increase brand awareness and gain new customers. Closely aligned to marketing, licensing is now a business activity in its own right and, for many companies, it’s actually what their whole strategy is based on. You might be amazed to know that this form of licensing is now a massive global industry, valued at more than $180bn worldwide. And it represents a major and still untapped opportunity for small businesses. Examples of success in licensing abound. Traditionally, the most successful licensing programmes have been in entertainment, toys and sports. You might have heard that UK-based Entertainment One cartoon character, Peppa Pig, made £200m in 2011. A large proportion of that income came from licensing – on children’s clothes, toys and household items. But you don’t have to be a television company or
License to thrill
Kelvyn Gardner, MD of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association, explains why licensing isn’t just for pubs – it’s a great way to generate new income through intellectual property 54 February 2013
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Focus on strategy LICENSING
film studio to make money from licensing. Many small businesses do this all the time, whether it’s putting a lovely textile print on a range of household items, a logo on some china or a funny character on a greeting card or gift range. The opportunities are huge.
How does it work?
There are two sides to licensing, both of which are open to businesses of any size. Firstly, you can become a licensor. Basically that means that you lease your creation (often a logo, saying, illustration or character) to a partner company, usually a manufacturer, to use with their products, services or promotions. Your income is generated through royalties, normally calculated as a percentage of product sales. It’s also usual to expect a guarantee (or minimum), which your partner will pay to you as a clear commitment – you will often get a percentage of this up front as an advance. The most successful properties are those that have emotional resonance for consumers, such as a funny character, a popular saying or a sports logo. Are you an artist with a humorous illustration? What about a textile designer with an eye-catching print? Or a clothes designer with an individual logo? There are numerous advantages to becoming a licensor. Entering a totally new market can be a daunting prospect and cost a lot of money, but by teaming up with a manufacturer who already knows the territory, you are already giving yourself a better chance of success. As well as generating new income you can increase awareness of your brand and keep some control of how your creations are used. The second way into licensing is to become a licensee – in other words you act as the partner at the other end of the
“You might be amazed to know that this form of licensing is now a massive global industry, valued at over $180bn”
“Licensing is all about working in partnership, so the chemistry has to be right”
deal. In many cases, licensees are manufacturers or service providers already. There are numerous benefits to becoming a licensee. By buying into an already established brand, character or design, you are buying into the marketing power that comes with that brand. Rather than having to build awareness from scratch, you can benefit from all the image building that has gone before. Given the choice, consumers are much more likely to buy products that feature a specific character they like or a brand they recognise and trust than an unknown or generic product. Of course, the flip side is that you will be making a significant financial outlay as well as agreeing to certain commitments, including producing and marketing the products, adhering to certain standards, and keeping to the set approvals process. Most licensing contracts now include clauses that relate to social and ethical compliance, such as standards of employment and pay.
What’s the first step?
For both licensors and licensees, the starting point is to do your research – remember that any products will need to have retail and online appeal. Check what’s on retailers’ shelves already and search online to see how any new design or product would offer something different. If you have the funds, it’s worth purchasing some market research insights, particularly if you are dealing with a niche market, such as the children’s market. It’s a good idea to do some reading – there are numerous specialist trade magazines in this area. Many have e-news bulletins and are a good source of information on potential partners and ideas for products. The licensing industry thrives on personal contacts; join a networking group, take
advantage of online networking groups and trade associations and consider exhibiting your designs at a show such as BLE (Brand Licensing Europe), which is the largest annual licensing show in Europe. If you are considering becoming a licensor, it’s worth bringing in an expert to help you negotiate any deals – for instance a local IP lawyer, a licensing consultant, or you could even appoint a licensing agent. A consultant can advise you on the legal and financial aspects, and also help you develop a product range that fits your brand and has retailer and consumer appeal. A licensing agent will handle all commercial aspects from sales to collecting your royalties – they work with intellectual property in the way that an estate agent handles bricksand-mortar property. Remember, licensing is all about working in partnership, so the chemistry has to be right. Take your time and talk to a number of potential partners. As a licensee, you might decide to go with a lesser known brand, which has the potential to become much bigger, rather than taking on an established property. The risks are higher, but the upfront costs will be less. And from the licensor point of view, manufacturers will bring differing degrees of experience and ideas to the table. Ideally you need to find someone who understands your vision. A rock solid contract, with clearly explained terms of business, financial agreements and a strict approval process is essential. As with most business activities, licensing is a longterm investment, so it’s essential to keep assessing where you are going, learning from mistakes and taking inspiration from successes. Contact: www.licensing.org
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Focus on strategy ECO-FRIENDLY
The eco-friendly office is not just a good PR move – it can also save you hard cash. David Coyne, managing director of RES Inbuilt, shares his best tips for creating the ultimate eco-office
eco-office “There isn’t a cookie cutter, one-size-fitsall approach”
Research shows UK business wants to reduce their carbon footprint. Owners know that with rising energy costs and carbon taxation, it makes financial sense. Add to that the 55% of customers in the UK who said they would be more loyal to a “green” company, and it’s becoming increasingly important to be sustainable. The problem is not “why” a business should be green, but “how.” When it comes to making an office eco-friendly, there isn’t a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Requirements can change depending on who owns the building, the type, and energy used. However, a good starting point is to review the business inside out, starting with: • How you can reduce energy consumption by looking at your building fabric and systems in it • How you can meet the energy needs with building- integrated renewable and low carbon technologies • What offsite energy solutions suit your needs
First, introduce natural systems, such as lighting. Another measure is improving insulation so that energy demands fall, as well as upgrading lighting systems to energy efficient bulbs and changing controls on heating systems and night-time lighting.
Getting employees on-board is crucial. One way is to run a workshop before making changes, to get people actively involved. Asking staff to make recommendations about potential improvements will go a long way to get them engaged and believing in the changes.
Assess how an onsite renewable energy installation could further reduce the carbon footprint of the building. Before investing in renewable technologies, undertake a feasibility study to determine the most appropriate. Where site constraints don’t allow renewables, companies
can invest in green energy tariffs, or connect to a renewable energy source, such as a wind farm, for greater energy security.
Building from Scratch
If you are starting from scratch, ensure sustainability is at the heart of your building project. Consider adopting the “Soft Landings” approach during design. The benefits include setting operational performance targets, continually assessing risks throughout design and construction, and ensuring there is a mechanism to assess that the building is performing correctly in operation through a post occupancy evaluation exercise. Of course, when it comes to sustainability, there is no magic bullet. But starting the process to make your office eco-friendly is good for the environment, your bottom line and your staff.
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Trading online is one of the biggest things in business today? “Why?” We hear you say, “But how” we hear you cry? Check out these statistics to see why e-commerce is the biggest thing in business today and how we can help your business grow
10 Amazing Statistics About E-commerce
“The UK is globally No.1 for e-commerce.” — Wall Street Journal “The value of e-commerce in the UK is £485 billion with a 15% growth rate” — UK ONS “The average UK online shopper spends £3,370 per year” — WorldPay “85% of the European online population has purchased goods online” — Mashable “Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba made $3billion sales in one day” — China Daily “B2B sales account for 85% of total e-commerce spend” — The Drum “If you do e-commerce, then for every £1 you import, you export £2.80” — BBC “INDEZ clients export in volume to over 70 countries” — INDEZ “The average turnover of INDEZ clients grew 70% last year” — INDEZ E-commerce sales via INDEZ clients totaled eight figures in 2012:
Jenier Teas Just one B2B sale was worth £0.5m
Zero to eight figure turnover in 5 years
Have trebled sales in last nine months
Keep up-to-date with the latest e-commerce statistics & links with www.indez.com/e-commerce-statistics email@example.com
e-commerce feasibility testing | e-commerce web design | e-commerce development & build e-commerce support & marketing | e-commerce consultancy
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We check so you protect We are a specialist Umbrella Body registered with the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) for England and Wales, Access NI for those working in Northern Ireland, and Disclosure Scotland. Our role is to provide access to the Disclosure Service for any organisation that needs to use CRBs (Disclosures) as part of its recruitment or risk assessment procedures. First Standard is recognized by the responsible bodies in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as an organisation that can be trusted to handle the confidential information included on a Disclosure Certificate with integrity and in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. First Standard has successfully supported clients through the introduction of Criminal Records Checks for their staff since 1995. First Standard Limited 15 Hextol Terrace, Hexham, NE46 2DF
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TEL: 01434 600547 EMAIL: Checks@firststandardltd.co.uk WEB: www.firststandardltd.co.uk
Focus on strategy CARBON REPORTING
Carbon credentials How green is your business? Frances Darton, carbonReduction programme manager at Achilles, advises us on leading the way with your carbon and sustainability reporting
Government data indicates SMEs and stakeholder interest are can have a significant impact on drivers for organisations already carbon emissions. They account working on carbon – take this for 45% of UK business energy use, opportunity to get ahead and and could cut £400m annually from collate the information. energy bills through simple and low • Get started cost activities. This, coupled with Don’t wait until you think you the news that businesses listed on have perfect data. Begin by the LSE will have to report their collating what you have and carbon footprint from April, makes you will soon identify gaps sustainability and carbon reduction and data quality which can important for businesses of all be improved. Follow a sizes. structured approach which can be replicated across departments SMEs are already clearly as well as year-on-year, for demonstrating leadership in this area, championing the importance a comparative view of your footprint. of CSR and carbon reduction • Consider auditing as imperative topics to discuss. Think about getting your Carbon reporting is relevant to carbon footprint externally companies of all sizes and should reviewed and verified to a standard not be viewed as a burden, but – this will give you confidence as a commercial opportunity in the data collation and calculation to drive operational and energy and ensure claims can be efficiencies. made with credibility. So, for those looking to demonstrate leadership in carbon • Identify Find out the main areas of and sustainability reporting: emissions in your organisation • Be proactive – once you have a clearer view If your organisation has so far on where your emissions are managed to escape reporting coming from, you’ll be best on your carbon footprint, don’t placed to focus your reduction think this isn’t coming. Increasing efforts on key areas. legislation, customer requests,
“Carbon reporting should not be viewed as a burden, but as a commercial opportunity”
• Think long-term Long term thinking will stand you in good stead when it comes to carbon reporting. We recommend choosing a structured approach that will support all your current and any future reporting requirements. • Blow your own trumpet Shout about what you are doing and highlight your achievements. It’s vital that your stakeholders – both internal and external – know about your commitment to sustainability. Keeping staff updated on progress will encourage engagement. • Use it or lose it Use the data you’ve gathered to demonstrate to stakeholders and customers that the organisation is responding to the issues of sustainability and climate change.
Achilles is a global business leader in supply chain management employing more than 650 people in 26 countries.
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The Truly Flexible Option to Business Development & HR Azureus HR Ltd are a BD and HR Consultancy offering you and your business corporate BD and HR solutions and independent advice on your company’s policy and processes. The service we can provide you is based on the extensive experience we have of dealing with people management issues – we can work with private, public and not for profit organisations. I measure my success and the performance of my company against our desire to exceed your expectations, by working with you to understand your business and its requirements, to use that understanding to build a deep and enduring business partnership with you which will enable us to craft solutions tailored to your needs and the business environment within which you operate. My names is Gareth Williams – a commercial Business Development and HR professional who has worked within FTSE100 companies and SMEs – I am proud to lead this new business. I build my offerings to you around my personal Values
• Trust • Ingenuity • Motivation • Engagement
For more info visit www.azureus-ltd.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
WEBDESIGN BRANDING Web Design & Search Marketing Consultancy Berkshire We are offering all new clients a free 1 hour consultation reviewing their current digital marketing and giving ideas on how to improve it. Here are some of the ways we can help your business:
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2. Creating websites 3. Increasing conversion rates If you know what you want you can choose from our competitively priced ‘basic’ or ‘standard’ packages, or alternatively for small jobs we offer the flexibility of charging by the hour. Our marketing experience, flexibility and affordable solutions make our offer different and significantly more affordable compared to digital agencies.
For more information, call us on 01753 415 420 or email liam@QuickStartDigital.co.uk
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Focus on marketing
Wipe the slate clean However bad 2012 may have been for you and your business, it’s a new year with new opportunities. Our marketing columnist, Kimberly Davis, tells us how to make the most of a fresh start
“You’re sitting on something of value; find it and sell it!”
Was 2012 a bad year for you? Did it leave you feeling deflated? Are you confused about where your life and business is heading? If any of that sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’re not the only one. It seems like absolutely everyone I know in Britain and America had a rotten year in 2012. Whether it was the recession, natural disasters, broken hearts, illness – you name it, it really did feel like the Mayan prophecy was right and the world was coming to an end. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, I know times are tough. But
tough times also bring with them the greatest opportunities. From Branson to Trump, nearly every well-known entrepreneur made their fortunes during a recession. No one said it was going to be easy. But it IS possible. Here are a few tips (New York-style) to get you moving in the right direction: 1. Snap out of it At the end of the day, unless someone is physically holding you down and causing you pain, then the only person who is hurting you is you. You are in control of what you think and feel. Don’t let negativity consume you. Get focused, get SMART. 2. Switch off When we start overworking ourselves, we lose our ability to work effectively, which means all of that extreme effort ends up being for nothing. Make sure you find time every day to step away from your work and do something relaxing and fun. 3. You are not alone It doesn’t matter how extreme your situation is, you are not alone. There are always others going through the same thing. They have survived and so will you. Get up, dust yourself off, and move on. 4. Put marketing first Many people believe marketing is the last thing they should do and apply to their business. It’s just the opposite. Marketing is the first thing you should be doing to get your business moving. Get working on your
marketing plan and get noticed. 5. Pick low hanging fruit So many business owners are consumed with getting to the finish line that they miss the opportunities along the way. Chances are, there are quite a few people who would buy something from you right now. You’re sitting on something of value; find it and sell it! 6. Ask If you don’t know what to offer people, ask them what they want. Ask them why they haven’t bought from you so far. Ask them how you can improve. Open a dialogue and you will be surprised what comes back. 7. Live in the present Here’s something you probably don’t know about me. Every year, I like to come up with a New Year’s motto. This year, I’m making my motto: “2013, starting clean”. New diet. New business model. New home. Whatever it is that you want to change, the New Year is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean. Here’s to making 2013 the most successful year yet!
Kimberly Davis is the founder Sarsaparilla Marketing. To download more free marketing tips from Kimberly, visit her website. Contact: www.sarsaparillamarketing.com
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Focus on marketing SELLING ONLINE
Damon Segal, CEO of Intenix Design and Development, shares his wisdom on successful selling online – and it boils down to putting the customer first
Going online: The science of selling O
nline retail sales increased by 14% last year, to more than £50bn. This figure is only set to grow year-on-year. But many brands spend millions driving their online presence, with little guarantee their offering will result in an online sales boom. Selling online is a science and, with the cutthroat competition between online businesses to reel in customers and secure transactions, it is vital that a business that wants to enhance its online presence does so intelligently, by understanding the customer base. So, how does an online business turn interested clicks into completed transactions? 1. Price 2. Ease of purchase 3. Trust
The success of online selling, in essence, comes down to price or originality. With the rise in price comparison websites that offer highly competitive prices for a variety
of products, it is important online businesses differentiate in terms of what they offer the customer. The big trusted players, such as Amazon or eBay, offer a range of products at attractive prices, and customers are drawn to these sites based on this factor. For new online businesses, the aim should not be to out-price these online giants, but to steer away from selling branded or readily available products. New start-ups should also offer customers product groupings. For example, bundling a mobile phone with a phone charger and a phone holder means better management of your margin and proves popular with the customer. This gives the business a greater chance of completing the transaction and it is these strategies that can help an online business differentiate itself.
Ease of purchase
Ease of purchase is an essential component of a successful online business. The ‘one click
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Focus on marketing SELLING ONLINE
check out’ facet that companies such as Amazon use, relieves the customer of any difficulty in the transaction process. Customers have a good memory when it comes to buying online, so online businesses that have complex purchasing options will inadvertently divert customers away from their site. It should be one of the primary objectives for online businesses to make purchasing easy. Bombarding customers with additional offers and questionnaires that block the route to the checkout will only frustrate them.
The ultimate issue is trust. This is a long-term goal for online businesses, as the site’s reputation has to be built before customers entrust sensitive information such as credit card details, addresses and contact numbers.
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Visual impact and usability are key issues here, and to an extent they overlap with ease of purchase. Customers feel happy with sites they know they can use and that they have experienced few problems with. To gain the trust of the customer the website and the business needs to have a trustworthy face, and this requires precision in both the design and tools. A lot of the success online businesses achieve comes down to psychology. It will take a user just one twentieth of a second to decide whether they like the website or not, and this fraction of a second can be the difference between securing the sale or not. If the customer likes the look of the website but it is difficult to use, the customer is likely to be more forgiving and continue with the purchasing process. The visual impact of an online business is like the shop window
“The ultimate issue that online businesses should address is trust”
“The visual impact of an online business is like the shop window of a high street outlet”
of a high street outlet. If it looks attractive and welcoming, the customer will be drawn in by it. These three points are essential areas to work on for online businesses. The price will inevitably determine whether or not the customer follows through with the transaction, but ease of purchase and trustworthiness of an online business complete the experience. This will not only result in transforming clicks into transactions, it will also strongly persuade the customer to revisit and reuse the website in future.
Damon is CEO of Intenix Design and Development and the architect behind Telaeo CMS. He is also MD of Emotio Design Group. These businesses help clients get the most out of their online presence.
The Vanity of Search Y
ou hear it all the time. “I’m number one in Google for sausages! Isn’t that great!” Yeah. Great. Hugely, overwhelmingly exciting. But lets take a step back. There are two important questions to answer. Who are you number one for and, most importantly, what does it actually contribute to your business? Although site owners are becoming more educated and worldly wise, there is still a huge focus on ranking positions. Granted, without search engine exposure you will miss out on a valuable source of traffic, but the blinkered pursuit of rankings can detract from the overall goal. Firstly, you need to consider personalised search. Personalised search is when Google learns from your searching behaviour and tailor the results you see accordingly. When it was first released, one of the examples they gave was of an American football fan and a marine biologist getting entirely different results for the search term “dolphin”. Secondly, frankly, who cares what position you rank? This is vanity over sanity to a major degree. What you should do is group target phrases into themes and judge success on behavioural outcomes. For example, if you sell maths tuition books, you are likely to want a theme based around Algebra. There will be dozens of variations of keyphrases which include the word Algebra in them so rather than generate vast keyphrase reports, use Google Analytics (or which ever Analytics tool you are using) to report on outcomes of all phrases that include the word Algebra. And lastly, you have to bear in mind that there were 37 major changes in Google algorithms in 2012. The internet is rife with stories of woe and of traffic decimated by a simple algorithm change. So, if ranking positions are different for everyone, often take your eye off the
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real goal and are subject to massive changes at the whim of someone within Google, it cannot make sense to put all your traffic eggs in the search basket. You need to expand your reach, consider how people behave, evaluate and communicate in todays world and make sure you have a multitouch strategy that engages users at all stages of the decision making cycle. What, then, should you do? We don’t have time to write a full set of instructions here and now, but you could do a lot worse than investigate the following five steps:
1. Don’t discount search, but
be aware of its limitations and the dangers of relying on too narrow a set of keyphrase themes. Consider creating content for those who are not yet in buying mode. People search for solutions to problems, support or reviews to name a few. Don’t discount PPC. Many people say its too expensive, that you can’t make money on it. That’s fine. So long as you’ve trialled it, tracked it and checked it; so long as you’ve set it up properly in the first place – and believe me, most people don’t – and you still find its not profitable, then its not for you. The problem is, most people set it up poorly and then analyse the wrong things. Go local! Google have long been advocates of local equating to relevant. At the macro level, they believe that a UK site is more useful and relevant to a UK searcher than to a searcher in France. Ratchet it up a notch or two and its no great leap of faith to see how they see increased relevance of a search conducted in Liverpool to a searcher in Liverpool than to a searcher in London. Make use of this by ensuring you have Google+ Places listings
and location specific information on your site. Integrate Online & Offline. I still find it amazing how quickly we have culturally accepted and amalgamated a multiple-touchmulti-media-multi device way of life. QR codes in printed material merging seamlessly with video, linking to web pages and ending in a meaningful goal for both visitor and company. Tie all of your marketing together through QR Codes and memorable URL’s to create an integrated, rounded user experience that shares a theme across the board. Get social. It wasn’t all that long ago we used to call this “talking”. Yet, because it has become digital, people expect it to be done differently and expect different results. As with any conversation, you get out what you put in. Don’t stay in broadcast mode; listen and respond intelligently. Don’t always try and sell, people don’t like that, but keep you eyes open for the opportunity.
Peter Clapperton Director, Searchsmith 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 email@example.com 08458726573
Focus on marketing ONLINE ADVERTISING
“Consumers now visit sites relevant to their interests when searching for content on the web”
Spyro Korsanos, CEO of vertical advertising specialist, Mediasyndicator, reveals the key factors behind a successful online ad campaign – and how businesses can effectively target their end-users
here seems to be a renewed buzz around online display advertising, particularly as the industry is undergoing significant innovations and investment. With over one billion Internet users globally, it’s no wonder that there has been a continuously growing appetite from marketers and advertisers hoping to reach this online audience. In fact, of the myriad of options available, the display space is attracting substantial proportions of ad budgets – and is expected to account for 41% of all Internet advertising by 2014.
There is no doubt that online advertising plays a key role in building brands; so while it’s imperative for marketers to ensure they have an online ad presence, before rolling out a display strategy there are specific questions to address. Who is your target audience? How should they be engaged? What are the key metrics you will use to measure your brand impact? Answering these will enable you to better define the parameters of your campaign and its success. When delving a little deeper, any business hoping to reach
their target market online should think about the following points in order to build engaging online campaigns:
1) Know your audience
The web is an extremely fragmented landscape, so the most effective display campaigns are those which have been carefully targeted. Having a clear understanding of who you’re trying to reach, and some knowledge of their purchasing behaviour, is an initial step all brand managers need to consider. It will also go a long way in helping select
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Focus on marketing ONLINE ADVERTISING
the type of publisher sites (websites which sell inventory for advertising) you want your ads to be featured on. Selecting the right type of inventory is also important given that consumers often build a perception of your brand by looking at the other brands you’re associated with – so choosing where you definitely don’t want your ad to be placed is just as important as finding your desired sites.
2) Take a specialist approach
News that AOL’s advertising revenue has soared to $340m is a good example of how big portals are still considered as ‘premium’ inventory due to the online reach they have, and have therefore commanded the giant share of advertising spend online. While these results should be applauded, ad spend secured by the major portals such as AOL is still disproportionate to the time spent, usage or engagement of consumers when compared to sites which are specialised. For example, consumers’ usage of sites specific to sport (e.g. football fan site), is 10 times greater than that of AOL sport (Comscore 2012). In fact, research we recently conducted found that 92% of consumers now visit sites relevant to their interests when searching for content on the web – the main reasons being that they regard these as reliable, engaging and trusted sources of information. Not only that, due to the personal connection they feel with special interest sites, the results show that consumers have a more receptive mind set when visiting them and are consequently more likely to pay attention to relevant ads that are featured there. This is true for 39% of 18-24-year-olds. Therefore, when thinking about where to place your ads, ensure you are advertising on sites which are relevant to your core products or services. It’s vital to recognise consumer
search cycles across the entire web and focus less attention on the reach of portals and other big players – especially as the generic nature of big portal sites means they are no longer fully meeting consumer needs when online.
3) Work with agencies
Working with ad agencies that are familiar with the complexity of the display market and who have the experience of rolling out dynamic online campaigns is important. They may need your help to understand your market, but they are the experts in online marketing. Lean on them; it’s what they are there for. Agencies in particular will have insights into new creative formats available to you – moving away from a narrow view of display and what it can offer – understanding the exciting new innovations within the space. For example, display ads can now facilitate the use of rich media, such as video ads and interactive banners, feature a full catalogue of products, or even enable the collaboration of ads with social media channels. Rich media ads always tend to have higher consumer engagement rates, therefore thinking outside the box to create more exciting and creative campaigns will always have more impact – and the best digital agencies have access to these innovations. However, as with all working relationships, while knowledge is important, so is personality. If the agency match doesn’t feel right, then move on.
4) Make use of innovations
When thinking about successfully targeting consumers with online advertising, it’s important to make use of the technological innovations, which are playing a major role in making display campaigns more effective. Automated algorithmic and programmatic buying technologies – such as Real
Time Bidding (RTB) – now save marketers time and resources, as well as serving ads that are more rewarding for both marketer and consumer. RTB allows ads to be served to consumers on a real-time basis, automatically serving the most relevant marketing to the most relevant consumer based on their interests. For example, if a woman is looking at jeans on the Selfridges website, a Selfridges ad promoting a sale in women’s jeans could be shown on other fashion websites that the woman was browsing on. These automated technology platforms also allow advertisers to reach a more specific segment of a publishers’ audience – something difficult to replicate using the manual approach. However, while innovations such as RTB are making a welcome arrival, brand managers should be warned not to rely on automated technologies, which shift inventory without taking into account the appropriateness of each ad placement. Human judgement in the buying decision enables a more integrated approach to campaigns, which can have a more engaging effect on consumers. This is not something that can be achieved simply by the product of algorithms, but should be delivered through a considered approach.
“This is not something that can be achieved simply by the product of algorithms”
With more and more people visiting the thriving range of premium niche sites, known as mid-tail publishers, businesses should be giving them extra attention and investment. Getting creative about campaigns that are connecting with users in their most engaged state of mind will, ultimately, have the greatest impact for your brand.
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Increase sales with our FREE e-Commerce Report Analysis and data driven results Turn your weaknesses into key strengths Increase your customer retention Benefit from increased sales Why is it that some e-Commerce websites are more successful than others? With online shopping expected to grow by an average of 11% per year over the next four years, many e-tailors are constantly struggling to boost sales and increase conversions. With so many variables affecting conversion rates, it’s often difficult to pin down the things that really matter. Of course one of the main contributors is traffic. But traffic is dependent on many factors such as quality of the website, time of year, inventory, and level of competition amongst others - some of which are beyond your control. So by tackling areas that you can control, you’re more likely to increase conversions on the traffic you do get. Here are three tips that, if implemented, could significantly boost your online sales.
3. Go mobile with responsive design If your e-commerce website is not mobile or tablet friendly you’re already missing out on some huge opportunities. Stay ahead of your competitors by making use of mobile technology. Responsive design is a technique to do just that. Not only is it a good way to build fantastic looking e-Commerce sites that work on all platforms, it also saves you time and money by not having to develop multiple sites. Recommended by Google, responsive design works well for your visitors too they get a seamless experience irrespective of them using a PC, iPhone or a tablet device.
1. Improve your entire checkout process With so many different types of shopping cart software now available, customers struggle with the checkout procedure. If you don’t want them to be a victim of a bad checkout experience, you need to ensure that you provide a seamless process to follow. The more “clutter” you put in the way of your customer, the less they are likely to complete the purchase. Avoid pitfalls like hidden charges, excessive steps, missing contact details, payment security concerns, slow loading pages and forced user registrations. This will ensure your customers actually complete their purchase the first time they’re on your site resulting in increased conversions.
2. Send out post abandonment emails Did you know that over 87% of businesses don’t include cart abandonment emails as part of their marketing strategy? In fact, most of these businesses don’t even know how many customers they are losing at the checkout stage! With over 72% of carts abandoned at checkout, creating a compelling auto response email to potential customers who abandoned their cart will instantly boost the number of sales you make.
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Claim your FREE e-Commerce report today Our report will define what works and what doesn’t within your e-Commerce store so you can take the appropriate actions. Call us on 01923 204 421 and quote TALK BUSINESS WEB REVIEW We are a specialist e-Commerce consultancy benefiting our customers from increased conversions and revenue. creativebeans.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 01923 204 421
It paysto be
good looking As small businesses, we often consider our branding and design as an afterthought. Vault49, the illustration and design agency behind this month’s Talk Business cover, proves that it should be at the top of any ambitious entrepreneurs agenda
t is easy to overlook design when you’re an SME. After all, think of all the things that you need to put first: cashflow, sales, strategy, staff management…The work never stops, and you’re so busy trying to keep your head above water that you can’t possibly waste time on the “look” of your business.
But that’s just the point; what is it that differentiates those brands that soar from those that are constantly ‘just getting by’? Of course, that’s the fundamental question that we SMEs ask ourselves every day – and you may well say there is no easy answer. Indeed, there are a huge amount of contributing
factors. But think about the brands which have been most successful in the last ten years or so, the real game changers – Apple, Google, Facebook et al. Sure, one thing they have in common is that they have been doing innovative, disruptive things with technology, and working within completely new business models based on the
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Focus on marketing DESIGN
“It goes beyond an added extra, beyond liking things to look pretty”
“Nothing about the way these major players look feels accidental”
evolution of the online space. But another thing they share is good design. Nothing about the way these major players look feels accidental. Aesthetics have been at the very heart of what they do from day one. Do you get the impression that design was a secondary consideration for Apple? Of course not. Apple first put itself back on the consumer map with the iPod which, even ten years on, barely looks dated; enticingly curved, and steering clear of the pedestrian black of nearly all other MP3s on the market, design and functionality went hand in hand. If design didn’t have the edge when it comes to winning consumers’ hearts, Nokia would not be in the trouble it’s in. Microsoft wouldn’t have just spent a shedload designing the Surface, its colourful tablet aimed at taking the iPad’s crown, along with the aesthetic of its entire OS and parent brand. If you need evidence of Google being image-conscious, you only have to look at the way it illustrates and themes its logo to reflect what’s going on in the world. Why bother to do that with a service that we use every day? To keep us using it every day; to put some excitement back into something that would otherwise just become wallpaper.
Don’t judge a book…
We know we shouldn’t go for style over substance. We know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Unfortunately, we “know” this in the same way that we know we shouldn’t drink too much, smoke, eat Big Macs or look at an ex’s Facebook page. We know it, yet we do it anyway. The truth is, in today’s overcrowded marketplace where any Tom, Dick or Harry can set up a business from his living room as long as he has an Internet connection, it is
tough to compete. It’s a buyer’s market, and boy do those buyers have a lot of choice. If you’ve been thinking that design doesn’t really affect your bottom line, just do a little personal experiment. Think of a really bad website you’ve been on – the graphics were poor quality, it was clunky and oldfashioned, the logo looked like a hastily thrown-together clipart image with the company name. Got it in your mind? Good. Now, how professional did you think that company would be? How enticed were you to use their product or service? It goes beyond an added extra, beyond liking things to look “pretty”. It fundamentally affects our perception of not only whether or not a business is brilliant, but of whether or not a business is even credible, legitimate or trustworthy. As soon as we doubt who we are buying from, we are far less likely to buy. If anything goes wrong in the purchasing process, we are far less likely to be forgiving – it will confirm all our worst suspicions about the brand. We will give ourselves a mental ‘I told you so’ ticking off and move on, resolute in our decision never to use that business again.
We live in an increasingly social and design-savvy age – and it means we no longer accept a business that doesn’t cut it in the looks department. Which is where professional design agencies, artists and illustrators like Vault49 come in. Much of the time, businesses are let down by bad design because of a certain arrogance which leads them to believe, ‘We can do this ourselves. We don’t need to hire someone else’ (cue Bernard from accounts volunteering to design the company brochure in his lunch hour). Trouble is, as the
old adage goes: pay peanuts, get monkeys. Pay nothing, get an inferior piece of work – and an inferior visual representation of your business. Why did we ask Vault49 to design our cover this month? Because we knew we needed an expert. We knew it would pay to use a company that really knows its stuff. The results speak for themselves; it’s clear that, as SMEs, we need a little help sometimes. Call us shallow, but human beings like beautiful things; whether that be our film stars, our works of art, our products or our businesses. That’s not to say that good design is windowdressing. Good design will take what’s best about a company and reflect those brand values through carefully considered, appealing design solutions. There’s a lot more to good design than aesthetics – good design speaks to the core strengths of a business and appeals to the target audience, distinguishing your brand from your peers. Good design and advertising can elevate a product, and it can take something genuinely special and different and make sure the world notices. How many good ideas have been buried because a business was unable to connect with its consumers? That’s where it pays to bring on board an expert, and consider a design partner as an essential member of the team.
Vault49 is a New York-based creative agency, whose clients appreciate their focus on craftsmanship, their collaborative approach, and the results they deliver. They are proudly represented by Début Art.
Contact: debutart.com/illustration/vault49 talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 69
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Managing and Supporting your HR needs Contact Sean Molyneaux â€“ 01932 786066 email@example.com 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 whatâ€™s the solution?
Avoiding the Mines Engaging with experienced HR Managers to help you navigate minefields is a solution and weâ€™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.
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Focus on marketing ADVICE
The Sales Doctor Got a sales problem? Never fear, the sales doctor is here. Talk Business is pleased to welcome sales expert, Tony Morris, as our regular agony uncle, solving all your sales quandaries. The doctor will see you now…
Dear sales doctor, I have been doing sales for about six months, and every time I think I’m getting better, I get rejected and knocked back down again. I don’t think I can handle picking myself up again and again. Any suggestions?
A Need a diagnosis? Send your sales problems to the editor, marked ‘FAO the sales doctor’: helen.coffey@ astongreenlake.com
n inevitable part of sales that can never be avoided is rejection. However, it’s only rejection if you label it rejection. Many people say the person is not rejecting YOU, they are rejecting the idea, product or service that you are proposing. I completely disagree with this concept: they are 100% rejecting YOU. So you need to really review the call and think: did I sound boring? Did I sound disinterested? Did I have a good enough opening gambit that engaged the prospect and created some desire? Think about it; if the person wasn’t rejecting you, then why do some people take a sales call and some don’t? Is it purely on the product or service that’s being offered? Of course not! It’s imperative that you do not take it personally, otherwise sales is not right for you. If you get upset every time someone puts the phone
down on you or is rude to you, then you are definitely in the wrong profession. You require rhino skin, yet equally you don’t just carry on calling and getting rejected without question. You review, tweak and dust yourself off and try again. Remember: perfect practice makes perfect. It’s not what most people believe, that just practice makes perfect. If you saw me hit 100 golf balls badly in the range and then saw me mess up on a golf course, you’d understand that if I kept on practising my awful swing I would not get anywhere fast. However, if I was shown by a professional how to swing properly, then it’s worth practicing that. Make sense? It’s only rejection if you label it rejection. So if my objective of the call is to make an appointment and I walk away with the decision maker’s name and number, then that’s a result. Alternatively, I may make 50
calls, the recipients of which all decide they have no requirement for what I’m selling. Now, rather than walk away feeling rejected, I can look at it this way – I had to make those 50 calls at some point, and at least I’ve got them out of the way. ‘Failure’s not the falling down, it’s the staying down.’ Change ‘I failed’ to ‘I’ve learned what I shouldn’t do’. When you get rejected, go back to the prospect and say: ‘I appreciate we are not doing business at this juncture. However, I want to learn from this so that I and my company can improve and develop; what could I have done differently to be successful?’ Rather than investing your time and energy moaning about something, use your creativity to think up a solution.
TONY MORRIS, sales doctor
Contact: www.tony-morris.co.uk talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 71
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Focus on people
BACK TO WORK
Re-motivating and re-engaging with staff: columnist Lee McQueen give his top techniques on picking your staff up when they hit the February slump “It’s about making sure staff are really motivated by their own goals”
It’s February – it’s cold and there is not a lot to look forward to. Christmas has been and gone, your staff have settled back into routines…and they’re fed-up. It’s natural. Particularly in sales, people don’t want to start their sales process too early – they’re conscious that people won’t want to hear a sales pitch the first week back. You need to use that downtime to prepare for a successful year. There are some businesses we coach who see it as a positive time for the business; everyone’s got new targets, batteries are recharged. If they’ve had a tough year, they see it as a chance to wipe the slate clean and start on a positive footing.
Carrot or stick?
Those moments definitely do come, when you as the boss have a slump. The issue is this: how do you motivate the motivator? How do you coach the coach? I use some really simple techniques, similar to the ones I use with my staff. I write a to-do list and set goals for myself. I set small achievements that I need to get done during the day. Some people say achievement is £1m turnover, or winning a big bit of business. But I can’t achieve that during a day; what I can do is work towards those bigger goals in a small way. Even if it’s just ticking off everything on my to-do list: it’s still an achievement.
As the boss, sometimes it is your job to re-engage your employees. It sounds a bit wishywashy, but just being there goes a long way. Everyone goes through a slump in sales, and it’s how you come through those bad times that matters. For me, it’s about goal setting and targets – not KPIs and dictatorships. You ask what they think is achievable, and talk about how they can work on that with your support. It’s about making sure staff are really motivated by their own goals. There are a lot of businesses that have a kick-start meeting and get their staff involved, so that they see the bigger picture and feel a part of things; they realise they are contributing.
If someone is under-performing, it really does depend on the individual as to whether you take the carrot or the stick approach. As a manager, and as a sales director, you have to know your individual staff and how they tick. When I was managed by Lord Sugar, if someone were to beat me with a stick it would have an adverse effect – I like to be encouraged and treasured, not shouted at. It depends where they are in their career. There’s a lot to be said for giving people responsibility for their own workload instead of micromanaging them.
Motivating the motivator
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Focus on people ATTRACTING TALENT
Britain’s got Your people are your business; if you want to be the best, you have to have the best. Simon Clark, managing partner at Fidelity Growth Partners Europe, shares the secrets of attracting top talent to a high-growth business
“Startups can offer something much more important to talented executives: the chance to build something meaningful”
talent Young, fast-growing companies face some of the greatest challenges in business: how to build operations that can scale fast, manage uncertainty, and build defensible positions in a new market. These challenges call for experienced, thoughtful managers, who know how to handle these tasks; but young companies often find it hard to attract them, as they offer greater risks, and usually lower immediate rewards, than established businesses. In the early days of a new business, the company is still trying to discover its market opportunity. But the need for experienced management becomes urgent once the founding team figures out how to serve the market it has identified, and business starts to take off. The team has achieved its first objective, and it needs to change quickly from discovery to business building – it needs to attract the team that can build on the early success. This is really tricky, as the business is still small, and the benefits of the opportunity will not yet be clear. The founding team need to understand which skills are needed, in which order, which is not always an easy sequencing task. Great early stage companies cope by understanding the skills gaps they need to fill, and being unsentimental about bringing in talent from outside to supplement the experience in the team. Founding teams see it as a core skill to identify and attract the talent that the company needs, and shrewd teams understand that, although start-ups cannot match incumbent businesses in safety or salary, they
can offer something much more important to talented executives: the chance to build something meaningful. Paul English, founder of Kayak, is famous for his dedication to finding great talent. He asks everyone he meets: ‘Who is the smartest person around?’ He then makes it his goal to meet that person within ten days. Another great collector of talent is Mike Lynch, founder of Autonomy, who started interviewing great people when he started his company and never stopped, seeing that as crucial to his role. Founding teams need to understand what world class talent looks like in every business discipline. The difference between good and great is all the difference in the world for a start-up, and talking to other founders, investors and advisors can help a founding team understand how to find the latter. Great product managers, marketers and finance professionals are every bit as important to a company’s success as brilliant developers or star salespeople. Finally, founding teams need to convince the new stars to join. This is where the passion of the founders, and the potential for growth, can trump the safety of a job in a big business. Founders are always selling the dream, to investors, to customers, to partners; but the most important sale of all is to the team members who will turn the dream into reality. Contact: www.fgpe.com Twitter @SimonLondonVC
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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 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
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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 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
FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH 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 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.
“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
“We needed help with our HR and Pentagon was recommended to us. Anne now works with us on site 1 day a week and has made such a positive impact to the business in respect of our staff. With her HR and commercial business experience she knows exactly what we need and works with the senior management team and in fact with everyone in the business to make it happen. Pentagon’s recruitment team has started to work with us in advertising specific roles.” Karen Walton Chief Accountant Redtray Solutions
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
Focus on people STAFF DEVELOPMENT
Team entrepreneur Stephen Archer, director of Spring Partnerships, tells us why the best way to get ahead in an increasingly competitive market is by developing ‘entrepreneur’ employees An issue being widely debated in the media is how businesses can benefit from giving employees more of a stakehold in the business, whether through joint ownership schemes, such as the John Lewis Partnership, or by encouraging employees to act in a more entrepreneurial manner. Having entrepreneurs within a company is the dream for most business owners. These are people who will undertake something new without being asked to do so. They are full of initiative and ideas; they are the types that can transform an idea into a profitable venture for your business. They also strike the perfect balance – they act like entrepreneurs, but they work for you. Such individuals are a rarity as all business leaders will know. However, people like this can be developed. Every employee
can become more creative and entrepreneurial if their company adopts a different approach to their development, and cultivates a culture where innovation and creative thinking is encouraged and supported. One of the main problems facing many UK businesses is that they have lost sight of the importance of fostering creative thinking and innovation. In doing so, they are placing their business at risk and giving the competition a serious advantage. We can’t lose sight of the fact that the economic crisis has turned many offices into high pressured working environments, where employee engagement and confidence have been eroded. In such businesses, energy, creativity and innovative thinking have been lost. However, what has also emerged is a blame culture where business people
“Many business owners never even see themselves in a competitive situation. Absurd!”
are blaming their current poor performance solely on the recession and external factors. But this is a bit like complaining that you are wet because it’s raining. How about wearing a raincoat? Businesses have a duty to prepare for the future upturn and ramp up their competitiveness. The actual “raincoat” for business is not to react defensively: it is to attack. Sun Tzu in the Sixth Century said that you may survive through defence, but you can only win by attacking. One of the oddest paradoxes of the business world is how many business owners never even see themselves in a competitive situation. Absurd! Competition in so many forms is ever present and can never be ignored. So what can businesses do to be more competitive? It is in times of adversity that some
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Focus on people STAFF DEVELOPMENT
of the greatest innovations have appeared, and in today’s tough times there is a healthy pressure to differentiate, become more competitive and establish more intrinsic value in the organisation. Does this come about by exhortations by the CEO, or by establishing a culture of freedom to think and innovate? It may be the former but it must be the latter. It is down to business managers and the HR department to establish a culture where intellectual power within the company is harnessed to the betterment of innovation, and in so doing equals motivation, productivity and profits. An energised workforce is an effective and content one. Most people in an organsiation have enough sight of what is going on to be able to contribute to innovation. However, we are not just talking about suggestion boxes. I am referring to special projects and cross functional work groups to establish innovation in products, service and operations. Managers need to make it clear that this is not a one-off; to create sustained motivation, people must feel valued. Leadership has to be consistent and authentic in the way that it empowers teams to be creative. Here are just some of the ways businesses can encourage creativity and innovation:
Understand your competitors Equalling the value of competitive offerings is rarely going to suffice – always ensure you are moving to stay ahead. Look at every weakness in competitor offerings and operations and use advanced brainstorming tools, such as meta planning, to develop and refine winning concepts.
Never stand still
Make it clear that a business must always develop its products and services. Even those lucky enough to have
patent or intellectual property protection must seek to acquire more advantages. If in any doubt about this, compare the fortunes of General Motors to Honda in the past decade.
Consider the customer
The customer is always a good starting point for innovative thinking, and should be a central focus for the whole business. Do not rush to copy some competitors’ ways of caring for customers (e.g. automated telephone services). Develop new methods of engaging with customers in a way that customers want. This is how Virgin Atlantic took so much business away from the likes of British Airways.
Treat employees as friends
They stunt growth, innovation and sap energy. Assume that your business could be killed off by new entrants to the market or new innovations. Get people to think the unthinkable, and develop thinking around scenarios that may seem unrealistic. Remember, in 2007 the idea that high street banks would fail was unthinkable. In the end, innovation is an attitude. It can be developed and sustained through consistent behaviours in the business. The value is enormous and, in truth, no one has a choice in the matter. Everyone must adapt, change and innovate; we must all become entrepreneurs.
“Having entrepreneurs within a company is the dream”
The best innovation can come from cooperation between employees – this is an effective way of bringing out Intrapreneurs. Identify and appoint innovation “champions” around the business. These people will be the leaders on innovation development. They must drive the culture.
Innovate all areas
Any function has scope for innovation – always. HR, finance, customer service, manufacturing, legal; they all must innovate, and an innovation culture that embraces all the functions will be a better joined up organisation.
Copy best practice
Lead people to look externally for inspiration, and don’t be afraid to steal other people’s ideas. Sometimes copying is the best route. However, copy it, and then improve it. Look at how the Japanese destroyed the UK motorcycle industry; they copied the UK and made the products better.
Many businesses suffer from internalism and parochialism.
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At Plain Talking HR we pride ourselves on providing simple and straightforward HR advice and help to SMEs. We use our 50-years of combined HR and Employment business knowledge and experience to ease the burden of people management for smaller companies who cannot justify the cost of in-house expertise. We can come to you or if you prefer you can visit our offices. Our meetings are all about taking the pain out of making sure you are legally up to date and in control in case of unexpected employment issues.
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Focus on people CUSTOMER SERVICE
The customeris sometimes wrong… ‘T
he customer is king (or queen)’ is one of those mantras that get repeated over and over in business. On the surface, this makes sense. After all, the customer is the one who is paying for whatever it is we are selling them. If they want a car that is painted bright purple, then we sell them a car that is painted bright purple. But if we follow this logic for very long, we start running into trouble. I have seen small business owners work themselves to the bone trying to meet every eccentric demand that customers place on them. They work twice the hours and make half the money they should, in the belief that this is what they must do to please customers. But by continuing to try to please those customers, they are in danger of running their business into the ground. We can build better – and more profitable – relationships with customers by challenging this notion of the customer as king or queen. Firstly, the customer is not always right. Customers get the wrong impression about a lot of things. They come into shops expecting to find goods that the shop does not sell. They think goods and services are overpriced when in fact they are being sold on very low margins. A recent report suggested that a third of people will not buy meat from high-street butchers because they find them ‘intimidating’. In fact, most of those surveyed had never even been in a high-street butcher’s. Secondly, often customers themselves do not know what they want. When I take my car to the garage to be serviced, I do not know what needs doing, but I know the mechanic does. That
Business lecturer, author and journalist, Morgen Witzel, challenges conventional wisdom and tells us why the customer definitely isn’t always right
is because he is an expert in car maintenance and I am not. Some people, when they set out to make a purchase, have already evaluated all the options and know exactly what they want; but they are in a minority. Most of us are in a state of uncertainty, and often we rely on the vendor to provide expert advice to help us make up our minds. This is, of course, an area where business can add real value for customers. Some of the great iconic brands of the past were created because companies worked out what customers wanted
before the customers knew themselves. Before the advent of the Sony Walkman, there were no customers clamouring for a portable stereo device that could play music while they walked or jogged. But Akio Morita of Sony worked out that if such a product were available, people would buy it. He was right. On a smaller level, my local shop noticed builders at a new estate were driving past its door each morning. No builder called in asking for sandwiches, but when the shop started stocking them, word got around and every day they were sold out by
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Focus on people CUSTOMER SERVICE
“Really good customer relations are relationships of equals”
“The fact is that some customers are toxic”
lunchtime. The builders also bought crisps, papers, drinks, and sometimes stopped on their way home to buy food for dinner. The shopkeeper worked out what the customers might want, rather than waiting for them to state their demands. Nor did he try to cater to every taste. He brought in a good standard range of sandwiches. And his customers were happy. We have seen over and over again that businesses that survive and prosper, especially in an economic downturn, are those that build good customer relationships.
What kind of relationships should businesses have with customers? The ‘customer is always right’ approach suggests we should put customers on a pedestal and bow to their every whim. Actually, really good customer relations are relationships of equals. Rather than seeing customers and vendors as opposites, perhaps we should start thinking of them as two halves of the same whole. Customers want products and services; vendors have the means to supply those wants. The two parties come together through the
process of exchange. The key word is ‘together’. Exchange is something that we create between us, not separately; and of course, it is in the exchange that value and profits are created. Smart companies see themselves in a partnership with their customers. William Lever, founder of Unilever, started out as a grocer in Lancashire. Lever made it his business to get to know his customers, not just in terms of what they bought and when, but as people. He understood them so well that he could anticipate their needs and wants. Lever’s customers never told him what they wanted. They did not have to. Not all partnerships work: sometimes the partners are incompatible. This happens with customers too. The fact is that some customers are toxic. They make unreasonable demands and they cost the firm time and money. And even if not actively toxic, they can be a drain on the company. One professional services firm worked out that an inactive 20% of its customers were costing more to service than they were generating in income. Getting rid of this 20% gave the company an immediate boost. Having the right relationship with the right customers can be a foundation for lasting success. Strong customer relationships can pull a company through a downturn and give it a foundation for later growth. The best customer relationships come when companies see customers not as kings or demanding tyrants, but as partners and friends.
Contact: www.morgenwitzel.com talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 81
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Focus on people OUTSOURCING
phenomenon Outsourcing is now an essential tool for small businesses and start-ups. Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com, the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace, reveals how to get the best out of hiring freelancers
“Ensuring the relationship between your business and freelancer is as productive as possible is crucial”
recent National Opinion poll of 2000 UK small businesses found that 52% would be outsourcing more work to freelancers next year, while another 30% said they’d be hiring the same amount. Another recent poll of small businesses in a national newspaper found that 79% said using freelancers is key to their business strategy. Outsourcing through the Internet is now playing an important role in the growth of many small businesses today. Many say that without them they would not have been able to start up in the first place. Due to a rise in the number of skilled professionals freelancing around the world, virtually every part of a business can be outsourced. This is helping many small businesses hire skilled workers, which leads to higher growth, without the financial worry of taking on lots of staff for what are essentially short-term projects. Outsourcing allows you to focus on what you do best, helping to make your business more efficient. The benefits are clear: you only outsource
services as you require them, you can hire experts from anywhere in the world – for a much cheaper price – and it allows you to concentrate on the tasks essential to your business. Ensuring the relationship between your business and freelancer is as productive as possible is crucial. In fact, businesses outsourcing to a freelancer for the first time
through the Internet might be worried by the remote nature of the relationship. Yet online marketplaces give you better protection and communication tools than if you hired locally. There is a huge army of freelancers all competing for work on sites like Freelancer.co.uk, and you want to be able to get the most appropriate and best skilled freelancer to bid for the work.
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Focus on people OUTSOURCING
Think through as best you can the work you want to outsource, and write the clearest brief you can. What you want can, and probably will, change over the course of the project as you review it; but trying to be clear up front can save time later on. Before you post your job, consider your budget selection carefully. Too low a budget may eliminate some of the better candidates for your project. No matter what though, don’t set a budget higher than you’re willing to pay just to attract more experienced freelancers. Freelance professionals will usually bid according to strict criteria, and most won’t want to waste time with price haggling. Be straightforward about what you are willing to pay, and allow the providers to do the same with what they will accept. Once you’ve posted your project, freelancers will bid on it, sharing their portfolios, their past successes and their experience, as well as suggesting a fee. Freelancers are reviewed for all the work they have completed before, which provides an important quality indicator for businesses looking to hire. It is important
to read through their reviews and look through their portfolio carefully, rather than quickly opting for the cheapest price. Many small businesses in the UK are outsourcing to highly skilled freelancers, and you want to ensure you are also hiring the best for your business. Time spent assessing the quality upfront will ensure you’ll get the work you outsource completed on time and to a very high quality. Once you have hired your freelancer, you will be required to pay the agreed fee for the work into an escrow account. This is a holding account that protects both the business and the freelancer. On Freelancer. co.uk, businesses have the option to set work milestones, and release part payments of the overall fee held in escrow to the freelancer once they have reached these milestones. For instance, in the design and programming of an ecommerce site, you could set the home page design as the first milestone, only releasing the money once the page is designed to your satisfaction. You can set different amounts for each milestone payment,
linking the size of the payment to the importance of the milestone. As thousands of businesses across the UK can testify, working through an outsourcing site provides not only access to the freelancers you can’t hire locally, but also a system of safeguards and quality controls; all of which mean businesses are not only more likely to be satisfied with the work, but to return to outsource more work through them time and time again. Outsourcing is helping businesses to get jobs done they don’t have the time or skills to do themselves. Most importantly, it improves the bottom line, helping businesses to become more efficient and grow sustainably.
Matt Barrie is an Australian technology entrepreneur. He is the chief executive officer of Freelancer.com, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, where he teaches classes in computer and network security.
“Outsourcing allows you to focus on what you do best”
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Focus on people SECRET DIARY
“I also find a way to talk to my competitors (by copying Sherlock Holmes and not revealing who I really am).”
“I have decided to take the great American road trip...well, a rather short four-hour one”
Secret diaryof an entrepreneur
The American dream: Arnab Dutt, MD of Texane, shares what happened when he headed across the pond to find prospective customers and make new business contacts
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Focus on people SECRET DIARY
rnab Dutt is managing director of polyurethane wheel manufacturer and exporter, Texane. An SME with a worldwide reputation in its niche sector, Texane’s products include many of the wheels that keep the world’s metro escalators rolling. The Leicestershire company’s products are already in use on the New York Subway and Washington Metro; Arnab checks out a major trade fair in Atlantic City to try and grow the business even further.
Day 1: London-New York
Overseas market visits always excite me. Departing from Heathrow, I fly first to New York, then to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where I’m to attend the North American escalator and lift conference. The things we do to make a living! Following this I will return to New York where I have a meeting with NY Metro Transit Authority (MTA). The Virgin Atlantic flight takes off on time and lands on time – luck is on my side. It’s late afternoon when I disembark and head to the Hertz office to pick up my car. I have decided to take the great American road trip... well, a rather short four-hour one from JFK Airport to Atlantic City. How to get to Atlantic City? Googlemap in hand, I set off on the long journey to what is considered the gambling capital of the East Coast. An hour later and I’m back at the Hertz office asking for a car with a sat nav. I set off again. I quickly become aware that I know little or nothing about traffic law in the USA, and have become quite disgusted by everyone overtaking me on both sides. Am I the only one keeping to the speed limit? Through the wonders of GPS, I reach the Trump Hotel some four hours later. The hotel stands on the famous Atlantic City boardwalk overlooking the ocean; I am completely exhausted.
Day 2: Atlantic City
After breakfast and another early start, I set off armed with a notebook (an old fashioned one), a laptop, company literature and pockets stuffed with business cards to meet my fate at the conference venue. I
have already filled out the registration online so all I need to do is pick up my pass. This is the biggest event of its kind in North America, and it should give me an insight into the scope and size of the market, opportunities, hurdles, and, of course, the dreaded competition! Every major city metrorail in the USA is represented at the conference. The buyers are the kings, and they move among the shoals of suppliers who live in hope of landing a long-term contract. The trick here is to make all your appointments in the weeks and months before. I find that when people know the distance you are prepared to come to solicit their approval, they will often make time for you. It’s a fascinating day discovering the different channels to market for my products in the USA. I also find a way to talk to my competitors (by copying Sherlock Holmes and not revealing who I really am). I use my established American customers to set up introductions into their supply chains, which is a useful way to develop a footprint in the USA. They will always buy American first, but we Brits are well-liked and our products are admired, so we have a pretty good inherent advantage that I can leverage. I find myself being asked quite a few questions about Downton Abbey. I helpfully explain it is not a documentary about an English family but, in fact, a work of fiction.
Day 3: Atlantic City
I’m up and raring to go to the conference centre, although by lunchtime my high spirits start to dwindle as my arm hurts from the continuous handshakes and my cheeks hurt from grinning. Conferences and exhibitions are hard work – be prepared to explain who you are and what you do 30 to 40 times in a day. I wish I just had a tape recording on a loop. Luckily I have the opportunity to take the buyer of a large city metro to lunch at a restaurant, which also happens to be a microbrewery. Surprisingly for an American, he is a huge cricket fan so we have a lot in common. After a luscious lunch savouring some
wonderful real ales, I feel the need to lie down for the rest of the afternoon. What a great and productive meeting! The evening is spent appreciating the run-down charm of Atlantic City, which may have seen better days but still has great seafood. It’s also a good time to assess the last two days, note what I have learned and consider whether my expectations were met or not.
Day 4: Manhattan
I set off at 5am from Atlantic City for a 10am meeting in Manhattan with New York Metro. I will be hitting midtown during rush hour. I’ve given myself an hour and a half extra so I should be fine…or so I thought. I will never forget this experience; I phone my contact at New York Metro at 9.30am to inform him that I’m still stuck on the gridlocked expressway and I’m going to be late. Embarrassingly, I arrive at my meeting at 11am. Luckily everyone is very good-humoured about it – phew! The rest of the day is spent in meetings and at the New York Metro stores in Jamaica, a New York suburb. I travel to stations on the Metro where Texane’s British-manufactured wheels are ensuring the escalators are running smoothly. A whole escalator was opened up for me at Flushing station, enabling me to see the inner working of the machine. I’m assured plenty of future orders for our excellent products and feel very proud of the Texane team back in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. The USA is a tough market but the visit has confirmed that opportunities are available for the right products in the right niches. Differentiation, innovation and quality count out here. Friday evening, and it’s time to meet some old friends for dinner and celebrate a successful market visit. I must say New York is the perfect destination to work and play, which is a great incentive to grow Texane’s export business in the USA. I will definitely be returning very soon.
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OUR MAN IN THE VALLEY TB tech columnist, David Richards, tells us why big data is a big deal for forward-thinking businesses
“It’s a fool who underestimates the importance of this emerging space”
Software rules the world. No, this is not some proud Silicon Valley declaration, or an assertion that my sector is better than yours. It’s a simple statement of fact. Proof, you ask? Well, just look at the motor vehicle – perhaps the most poignant example of how important software has become over the last 30 years or so. The internal combustion engine is the defining invention of the modern age. It represents the pinnacle of what humanity can achieve by using the resources at its disposal – in this case, metal and fuel. This is not to deny the achievement – it’s a miraculous statement of intellect and a triumph of human technological endeavour. But there is still something beautifully simple about it. Though the basic principle may remain the same, there’s no hiding the fact that vehicles have come a long way since the humble beginnings of the Model T and the crank handle. Picture the scene: you are taking your car to the dealership for a regular check-up. Rather than lift the bonnet, the first thing the mechanic is likely to do is to plug it into a computer. Even the tractor – that most
seemingly simple of vehicles – has morphed into a complex web of software. No matter where you look, it’s plain to see that software is eating the world, to borrow Marc Andreessen’s famous phrase. Today, every company – from Cisco to John Deere – is, to a greater or lesser extent, a software company. Software’s rapid ascent to dominance has left in its wake another equally significant phenomenon. Today, data is everywhere. We generate more data every 20 minutes than is currently held by the Library of Congress. This has led to the emergence of what commentators have come to call “big data”: information sets that are so large or so complex that to understand them using traditional methods would be either impossible or pointlessly time-consuming. There are some people in business who argue that “big data” is at best an unhelpful distraction from more immediate priorities or opportunities, at worst a meaningless and ill-defined term bandied around recklessly by marketers. Let me tell you: it’s a fool who underestimates the importance
of this emerging space. For a start, it’s a market that’s slated to be worth something near $50bn by 2017. And the reason why? Because those who grapple effectively with vast swathes of corporate data are in a far better position to understand and deliver what their customers want. If that’s not business, what is? It’s for this reason that we recently acquired AltoStor, a software company, which has been front and centre in this space for quite some time now. As I write, we have just appointed our first director of big data distribution, Konstantin Boudnik. And we are soon to announce a new product range to accommodate the big data market. We at WANdisco understand the importance of big data. Mark my words – you should too.
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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Focus on technology ECOMMERCE FORECAST
012 was a tough year for the high street, with retailers around the world struggling to drive sales, and many high street stores shutting their doors. By contrast, the digital high street saw resilient growth. In fact, figures show a further 17.8% increase in sales over the Christmas period in comparison to December 2011, taking the predicted value of the UK online retail market to £77bn in 2012. Over the last 12 months, online retail propositions have grown in sophistication, moving away from price driven transactions towards richer branded shopping experiences. Most shoppers now carry a virtual shop in their pocket, in the form of a tablet or mobile device. With so much choice a few clicks away, encouraging customer loyalty and nurturing shopping experiences will be essential for retailers as we move into 2013. Rakuten, the world’s third largest ecommerce marketplace and owner of Rakuten’s Play.com, considers six big trends that will fuel ecommerce growth in 2013:
Trend spotter Online giant Rakuten gives us its predictions for the ecommerce trends which will shape the year ahead. Pay close attention…
1) The personal touch Some things in retail haven’t changed; the secret to success is still engaging customers to keep them coming back to your brand and recommending it to their friends. Social channels have made it possible for retailers to not only enter into a personal dialogue with fans, but reach friends of fans too. However, when it comes to driving ROI from loyalty in 2013, engagement will be the buzz word, rather than fan count. Ultimately it’s not the number of fans that makes a difference, but how vocal they are.
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Focus on technology ECOMMERCE FORECAST
2) Curated commerce Getting a second opinion before committing to a purchase is nothing new, but now, rather than taking a friend shopping, you can take your entire social network with you. Services such as Pinterest and The Fancy are quickly becoming popular social media tools, allowing users to organise their favourite items into themed collections that they can share with friends. Not only does this fuel personal expression in shopping, but other shoppers will use these collections to inform their own purchase decisions. Retailers must take note and we expect curated collections to be a key trend in 2013.
3) The way we pay The choice of payment methods that retailers can offer to consumers seems to be constantly evolving, and it’s often make or break in a purchasing decision. Alongside the growth of mobile transactions, NFC and contactless payment methods could dramatically change how people pay for products. Services like PayPal and Apple’s iTunes have already begun to centralise payments on mobile, but the next step will be services such as Square, that offer sellers the ability to receive card payments with their existing smartphone and a simple plug-in device. This freedom to accept payments either online or in store will be invaluable for merchants of all sizes in the coming years.
4) Go niche Whether it’s bricks and mortar or online, there has been a trend in recent years for consumers to move back to specialist retailers that can often offer a better informed, personal service. Moving away from mass-market retailers, consumers prefer specialists that cater to a specific range or area of products – be that fashion, jewellery, or photography equipment.
5) Multimedia magic One of the reasons video wasn’t incorporated as frequently into ecommerce websites in the past was that it would significantly slow down the site, and this is still a concern for many. However, as Internet speeds become faster across the world, retailers will cease to be restricted by broadband rates, and will have the freedom to use increasingly rich media content. We expect video reviews and the virtual un-boxing of products to become more prevalent across retail sites in 2013.
6) Increased mobile integration Whether it’s a mobile-optimised site or dedicated app, most retailers are coming to terms with the need for a smart phone or tablet solution. However, mobile can offer much more than this; in the next year we expect to see more integration in store, through the use of apps, QR codes and augmented reality experiences, as well as shifts in the payment tools available, from NFC to Apple’s Passbook. Commenting on the ecommerce industry in 2013, Adam Stewart, marketing director of Rakuten’s Play.com, said: ‘In any retail business, the customer is central to success, and mobile and social uptake provides retailers with the opportunity to engage with consumers on a more personal level. ‘In the year ahead, innovating the ways in which we build brand loyalty in an increasingly multi-channel retail environment will be key, as well as ensuring the platforms we offer are seamless. ‘As an industry, we need to refine the shopping experience online, and engage consumers with more tailored campaigns and offers. This will continue building consumer confidence in mobile as a device to make transactions, and also utilise social shopping platforms to give the next level of recommendations as social shopping becomes entertainment.’
“Encouraging customer loyalty and nurturing shopping experiences will be essential”
“Most shoppers now carry a virtual shop in their pocket”
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At LeadTec we believe the best approach to IT Excellency is to understand your business and customer requirements to ensure our support and services are tailored to your needs. If you are experience poor performing IT systems or lack of response and resolve from your current IT provider, then LeadTec can help get your business back on track.
LeadTec can help you:
• Reduce IT support costs • Protect business critical data • Improve reliability and performance • Ensure your IT systems enhance your business • Remove the hassle and stress of managing your IT estate
For more information, call us on 01733 600700, email us on email@example.com or visit our website www.leadtec.co.uk
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WITH SO MANY OFF THE SHELF ECOMMERCE PACKAGES OUT THERE, WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE?
imple. Go bespoke. A bespoke ecommerce solution will fit in with your business needs. If you are hoping to grow your business then a bespoke ecommerce site is the route to head down. All businesses are created equally and therefore have different ways of selling their services and products. A ‘one size fits all’ ethos fails to acknowledge this. If your business trades online, it is crucial that you have an ecommerce website. Online sales are growing faster than offline sales, proven by the recent news of big high street names going into administration. Squegg truly believe that a bespoke ecommerce website has more to offer and has benefits over an off the shelf package. For instance, how can an off the shelf package reflect your brand identity? Is it flexible to alter with the change in trends and the market? Will it grow with your business? And most importantly, does it differentiate you from your competitors?
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If you have several product ranges that are interchangeable and complex, then using a custom bespoke system would be more beneficial. Off the shelf systems force you to fit your business to the software. Why change your whole business structure to fit the software? Surely the software should adapt to suit the businesses needs rather than the other way round? Squegg build our ecommerce solutions on solid foundations. Our tried and tested ecommerce platform forms the base for a custom built system. Additional features, options and functionality can be built and implemented to suit your business requirements. Squegg’s platform can respond to the demand for mobile devices. A fundamental evolution in shopping behaviour is occurring, thanks to mobile devices. Currently, mcommerce is worth £1.35bn to the UK economy. Between now and 2016, online shoppers are predicted to spend £5.8 billion via their mobile devices.
To drive sales, online retailers should seriously optomise their sites for mobile devices. This will allow you to engage with your on-the-go shoppers with a seamless experience that will increase your revenue. SEO/SEM/PPC What do they all mean? With the rapid growth of online sales, there is more competition online. So to stay ahead of the competition, and to help potential clients find you, Squegg are able to provide Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing and Pay Per Click advertising campaigns. It is no longer sufficient to simply hope people find your website – take control and watch the sales increase. FREE REVIEW Squegg are a highly creative and innovative web design and branding agency based in the North East of England. For your free website review Call 01642 611976. View their work at www.squegg.co.uk.
Focus on technology TOP TIPS
Dirk Paessler, CEO and founder of network monitoring specialist, Paessler, gives us his top tips for keeping your online business up and running: even when things go wrong
The Internet is increasingly important to businesses, large and small. Any downtime can be damaging for a business, in both revenue and reputation. Here are my top five bits of advice to help keep your business online, even if a failure occurs:
1. Choose a reliable hosting provider Choose a hosting provider that is tried and tested. Do your research, analyse all your options and go with the most reliable and cost effective choice for your business. The most important things to measure when making your selection are guaranteed uptime (it should be as close to 100% as possible), response times of the servers, security, and the level of support and customer care provided.
2. Business, heal thyself!
If your business relies heavily on the availability of your website, then you need to make sure that it stays up even if some of the components fail. Have a ‘self-healing’ mechanism ready to kick in as soon as a failure occurs. Run a pair of servers for your website with a hardware load balancer, that distributes the requests to your website onto both servers. Then, if one server fails, the load balancer automatically moves all traffic to the other web server.
The back up plan 3. Purchase and run hardware twice
“You should have a Plan C up your sleeve”
We use ‘n+1’ technology, which basically means that we always purchase and run each piece of hardware at least twice. If we need two servers to do something, we will set up a third server right next to these two so we are able to switch at any time if we need to. This might sound expensive and unnecessary, but it means you don’t have to wait for spare parts to arrive or pay for a costly on-site service if something breaks down.
4. Set up remote desktops
Set up your employees to work on remote desktops, which are connected to one terminal server. This effectively means that they are not storing any data on their desktop, and that data is instead stored in the data centre. This saves time on
having to do backups of desktop computers, and means that if a computer isn’t working, the employee can move to another computer and open the previous remote desktop session without losing any data.
5. Have a Plan C
In the unlikely event that you lose your whole datacentre and can’t just switch to a different server, you should have a Plan C up your sleeve. We have a replica of our main datacentre on another datacentre in a different country. We constantly replicate the database, and it only takes us a couple of clicks to actually serve the website from the other datacentre.
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Why Â small Â businesses Â need Â an Â on Â line Â store Â more Â than Â ever The Â 4 Â key Â steps Â to Â get Â right
1. Â Purpose What Â is Â the Â purpose Â of Â the Â site? Â Do Â &"$ # * promote Â a Â service. Â What Â products Â or Â services Â do Â you Â want Â to? Â
The Â year Â is Â 2013 Â not Â 1913 Would Â anybody Â running Â a Â business Â today Â do Â so Â without Â a Â telephone? Â Absolutely Â not, Â imagine Â the Â amount Â of Â business Â youâ€™d Â be Â losing. Â Yet Â with Â 94% Â of Â UK Â consumers Â using Â the Â internet Â to Â carry Â our Â pre-Ââ€?purchase Â research Â itâ€™s Â the Â 21st Â century Â equivalent. Â With Â no Â website Â they Â donâ€™t Â even Â know Â you Â exist. "$ , your Â small Â business Â needed Â an Â advert Â in Â the Â Yellow Â Pages, Â it Â was Â - '
).% "$ *-$ & ).
2. Â Goals Â What Â do Â you Â hope Â to Â accomplish Â by Â " $) more Â common Â goals Â are Â either Â to Â make Â money, Â get Â people Â to Â contact Â &" + Â 3. Â Target Â Audience " that Â will Â help Â you Â reach Â your Â goals? Â " "- . person Â you Â want Â to Â visit Â your Â website. Â Consider Â their Â age, Â sex Â or Â interests Â â€“ Â this Â will Â later Â help Â determine Â the Â best Â design Â style Â for Â your Â site. Â 4. Â Content $ target Â audience Â be Â looking Â for Â on Â your Â site? Â Are Â they Â looking Â for Â * " product Â or Â service, Â online Â ordering Â or Â purchase Â of Â your Â products?
$"*- a Â presence Â does Â my Â small " ). just Â why Â do Â you Â need Â a Â website? Â " ) While Â not Â all Â businesses Â can Â sell Â their Â products Â on Â services Â on Â line Â a Â large Â number Â can. Â Could Â your Â "" # a Â professional Â website? Extra Â revenue Â could Â be just Â a Â mouse Â click away!
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Your Â on Â line Â shop Â should Â be Â your business Â ambassador Â working Â for Â you Â 24/7 Â -Ââ€? Â the Â sales Â rep Â that Â never Â sleeps! Your Â website Â should Â be Â an Â extension Â of Â your Â business. Â It Â should Â be Â
&" *& and Â passion.
Make Â sure Â that Â you Â apply Â the Â following Â four Â elements Â to Â your Â on Â line Â store: 1. Â People Â do Â business Â with Â people Â they Â like. Â By Â ensuring Â that Â you Â are Â perceived, Â through Â your Â website, Â in Â a Â likeable Â and Â professional Â way, Â you Â !
# business Â with Â by Â your Â target Â market. 2. Â A Â good Â website Â needs Â to Â have Â &" & great Â pre-Ââ€?sales Â content. 3. Â Your Â website Â must Â be Â persuasive, Â so Â you Â need Â to Â be Â clear Â as Â to Â what Â your Â website Â visitors Â need Â to Â be Â persuaded Â of. Â 4. Â Before Â they Â spend Â their Â money Â $&"*&" " $ #%" about Â your Â company, Â your Â products Â and Â your Â service: Â As Â specialists Â in Â helping Â small Â businesses Â get Â the Â best Â online Â start Â $" &$
+ For Â live Â demos Â check Â out Â our Â website Â here:
THERE ARE LOTS OF E-COMMERCE COMPANIES TO CHOOSE FROM. WHAT SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING FOR? WHAT MAKES SOME OF THEM STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD? Customer service. This should be top of your list of what to look for. You want an e-commerce partner that will bend over backwards to make sure that you’re happy with their service. Can you pick up a phone and speak to a professional, friendly person who knows what they’re talking about? If you send them an email, will they respond quickly during working hours? How they treat you as a potential customer should also set the bar for how they treat you as an existing one.
Choice of products.
Get in touch! www.lightcommerce.co.uk +44 115 714 9970
Do they have their own bespoke e-commerce software which is cheaper and quicker to modify? Do they also offer an open source solution which you can retain full ownership of and modify using third party extensions? Most importantly; will they fully support your website for the indefinite future with free bug fixes and support plans?
Clients. Who have they worked with and what feedback do they have? Real testimonies from real people can say a lot for a company. Can you see some of their existing work and browse the sites to get a real
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feel for how their software works? Is there a lot of variance in the designs or do they all look like they came from the same mould?
Cost. It may be surprising that this isn’t top of the list! Further down the line you’ll find it was more important to have a partner who keeps your satisfaction paramount and offers you a choice of quality solutions, rather than the cheapest one who gives you very little in return. You want a company that won’t just give you a quote and you never hear from them again, but will work with you and suggest ways that your budget can be met. At the end of the day you don’t just want an e-commerce company that can make you a nice website. You want an agency that will take your company further and act like your technology partner, only ever a phone call or email away. At Lightcommerce we strive to keep our customers satisfied. Give us a call today and quote “TALK1” to receive 5% off your first order!
Stephen Gray CEO, Lightcommerce
Focus on technology UPCOMING APPS
Apps: The next generation
We get the low-down on the disruptive apps that will change the face of how we work and play, courtesy of bss digital’s Kevin Galway
t is staggering to think that Apple’s App Store celebrated its fourth birthday last July – in some respects it does feel like it should be much older than that. This is probably because apps have come a long way in such a short time. Prior to the launch of the iOS App Store in July 2008, the word “app” was mainly used as a technical term. Today, the landscape is very different; the number of apps for various smart phones and tablet computers is said to be well over a million. And that number keeps growing by the day. Think of anything, and you are likely to find an app for it – from the straightforward, such as the ability to lock doors via your smart phone, to the downright bizarre (virtual bubblewrap popping anyone?). While most apps are free to download, industry analyst, Juniper Research, predicts that by 2016 mobile apps will generate revenues of $52bn. The exponential growth in smart phones and tablet computers means that more and more of us are using our handheld device instead of a PC or laptop. And we will be using even more apps in the future – for both personal use, and in the workplace. So, what’s in store for the next generation of apps?
Remote control your life
Already in early development, there are apps which can transform your smart phone into a remote control, emphasis on the “remote”. Wireless sensors placed within your home, car, bicycle and even shoes can communicate to your handheld device to pass on information. Needless to say, in the future, remote apps will be the norm and technology such as Near Field Communications (NFC) can bring a host of mundane equipment to life via your phone. Need to fill your bath, water the plants or turn
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Focus on technology UPCOMING APPS
on the heating in your car? Do all this within a matter of a few clicks – no matter where you are.
You can already watch television on your handheld device and get your smart phone to record programmes on your digital box at home – but we will soon have one app that looks after all your entertainment accounts (Sky/Cable/Netflix etc), allowing you to watch what you want, where you want, through your chosen device. The app could synchronise all of your devices so that if you only watch so many minutes of a particular programme, it will store this information in order for you to continue watching where you left off – on any device. Similarly, apps will also make gaming across devices possible. Started playing Angry Birds at home but need to leave for school? No problem, the app would take care of that, and allow you to play on your portable player during lunch break.
Over the next few years, businesses will move away from using PCs and laptops to providing staff with tablet computers. Within a matter of a few clicks, staff can access inventories, risk assessments, CRM data, competitor intelligence etc. Such mobile computing power could revolutionise the office and drive productivity.
As your handheld device is with you whenever you are out and about, it will gather data on your location and “compound apps” will personalise all of your devices. Information on your preferences, such as your train to work, the coffee chain you frequent or your favourite hotel will all be stored and linked. This vast bank of information, known as “big data”, will also link with people who have a similar interest to provide a more networked, effortless world where your device does
the thinking and looking. If we think how social media is linked across many networks now, just imagine the power of compound apps and how they could change our lives.
With apps, the possibilities are endless. One note of caution however – figures show that as the number of apps has increased, their lifespan has decreased. Research has found that only around 20% of users return to an app after the first day of downloading it, and the average app has a less than 5% chance of being used for longer than 30 days. Despite all of this, our insatiable appetite for apps continues to grow as developers keep innovating and pushing the boundaries. For an app to be effective, it must engage and provide the user with a service that truly enhances their life – this will ensure that they do indeed come back for more!
“Just imagine the power of compound apps and how they could change our lives”
“Augmented Reality will, quite literally, change the way you look at things”
Location is everything
Augmented Reality (AR) will, quite literally, change the way you look at things. Point your smart phone camera to a street, shop or even an exhibit in a museum, and your phone will automatically detect your location to provide on-screen details that include reviews, background information and money-off vouchers. In fact, Juniper Research predicts that over two billion AR apps will be downloaded by 2017. The future definitely looks different. So, if you are in a city you’ve not visited before, AR could help you find the places you need to visit, all based on your preferences or requirements at that time. Stuck at a train station you’ve never been to before? Your phone will automatically find a coffee shop on the concourse or give you the directions to a hotel in line with your past personal preferences.
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HR Initiatives Ltd provides a wide range of professional and cost effective Human Resources advice, practical support and guidance on all human resources matters. Are you spending too much time attending to administrative/ office or general secretarial tasks? Do you have difficulty in remembering deadline dates or the details of special events you are attending? Would it help to have assistance with the management of your personal life – buying flowers or other gifts, organising dinner parties, etc?
Based in Hertfordshire with easy access to London and the South East and we aim to provide the small to medium sized business with a complete Human Resource Solution. Our core services include a Manager’s Helpline, Management Administration Guide, Contracts of Employment and Staff Handbooks all essential for good employment practices, to keep you and your management team operating within the law.
These are just a few of the tasks with which Liberty-VAServices would be happy to assist, in order to make your busy life more bearable. All the services that you would expect to receive, in a professional manner, from a traditional Personal Assistant (PA) can be efficiently carried out at a distance (virtually) by Liberty-VAServices. You will be able to focus on your business, and concentrate on generating a revenue, rather than getting bogged down with time-consuming administration. Your trusted Virtual Assistant (VA) will become a reliable source, who knows your business, whenever you need assistance and support. Your location does not pose a problem.
Telephone: 07889 213207 Fax: 0871 528 9911 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please contact us via e-mail at email@example.com or call us on 01438 742056.
Here when you need us..... Here at SmartSize Solutions we know how to handle IT. With decades of experience running enterprise services, we bring solid engineering and design together and top it off with market leading support.
IT Support Need defintive answers to your support questions - on demand ? Our support products deliver just that, with 24/7 monitoring of critical events and unlimited support calls, keep your business running smoothly. Prices start at just £2.50 a month.
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SmartSize Solutions Ltd - Phone 01270 260777 St Augustines Drive, Weston, Cheshire, CW2 5FE
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MAKE THE MOST OF
The Ecommerce market is getting crowded, be proactive and develop your competitive advantage.
ven in these adverse economic times, Ecommerce growth rates are consistently on the up and this trend is set to continue with online spending expected to double in the next 5 years. This of course is great news for retailers making the most of online. The upshot of this means your business needs to stand out in an ever increasingly crowded market. Making your online store work for you is more important now than it ever has been.
Make it easy to buy
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for any online transaction is the checkout process – it seems like an obvious one, but many websites get it wrong. One page checkouts are all the rage. But consider that stuffing a checkout with every conceivable option, can be a potential information overload for even the savviest of customer. Forcing customers to register their details before checking out is also removing choice from the equation, and let’s face it, no-one likes being told what to do. Offering several payment options from trusted names such as PayPal, Google and SagePay will not only add choice for customers but also increase the credibility of your store.
Make it easy to find
“Never assume a great product alone equates to great sales”
Navigation best practise is often a bone of contention between the design and functionality of an online store. Top navigation is an obvious requirement but what of left or right menus? Often a design will flow better with full width content. However if your customer can’t easily
find and filter specific products then the design becomes redundant. Keep your customers happy by requiring fewer clicks where possible. This should include incorporating a powerful search function that autocompletes a query, or at the very least makes the search accurate and fast.
Reassurance is key
Reassuring your customers is particularly true of new Ecommerce websites but can have a significant effect on existing stores too. Do you offer customer services via the phone? Make sure you let the customer know. For example promoting the phone number in a prominent position can dramatically increase your credibility. If you offer any form of free shipping or returns policy, once again make it obvious and make it a selling point. A ‘promo bar’ typically sitting just under your top navigation, is a great way to grab the customer’s eye and instil confidence with just a few words. Your products are wonderful but sell your great service too. There are quite literally hundreds of factors to consider when selling online; making a success of your Ecommerce store can be harder than it might seem in the first instance. Your brand is your expertise, so it makes sense to enlist the services of an agency that can make the most of your brand online.
Contact: Tel: 01664 850 898 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: megamindmedia.co.uk
Mega Mind Media Ltd is a small yet perfectly formed full service design, development & marketing agency. MEGAMIND MEDIA Full Service Design Agenc y
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Focus on technology APPS
I’ve got an app for that… Fancy cutting out the admin hassle of mileage claims? Or perhaps you’d prefer a cloud-based solution which helps you address business problems before they escalate? No problem: we’ve got an app for that
WEBFLEET LOGBOOK APP
Price: £6.99 Compatible with: iPhone and Android The gist: TomTom has launched the ultimate app for drivers who need to keep an accurate log of their trips. The new WEBFLEET Logbook app helps drivers and businesses reduce mileage claim administration and creates reliable logs to help with tax compliance; and all using just a smartphone. A driver simply selects whether a journey is for business, private or commuting purposes, validating journey information on their mobile device. The app works in combination with the in-vehicle TomTom’s LINK tracking device, which reports the trip information. Company trip records are simultaneously updated in TomTom’s WEBFLEET fleet management system. It’s great news for employees and employers alike – drivers can reduce the laborious paperwork traditionally associated with mileage claims. Downloadable from: www.business.tomtom.com
Price: FREE for Liaison customers Compatible with: iPad and iPad mini The gist: One of the first cloud-based, end-to-end Business Activity Monitoring solutions, LENS offers customers complete visibility into B2B and application-to-application integration activities. With the LENS mobile app, businesses can now monitor and review performance against service level agreements, quickly address problem areas, and make critical decisions – all from their iPad. Accurate and detailed information is important to any business, especially for those who manage the critical messages and documents that make the supply chain work every day. LENS leverages Liaison’s service oriented architecture, cloud-based B2B platform and business integration solutions, to provide information about the status and results of an operation. The mobile app empowers companies with increased transparency across their trading community of external partners, suppliers, and customers. Downloadable from: iTunes app store
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Focus on technology GADGETS
Battle of the brands: Dell vs Apple
Weâ€™ve had enough of tech toys that keep getting smaller and smaller â€“ this month we welcome in the big boys. These expansive desktop screens may not fit in your pocket, but they sure do pack a punch
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[What they say]
Focus on technology GADGETS
Apple 27-inch iMac
27-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2560x1440 resolution with support for millions of colours
Dell XPS One 27
27-inch Quad Hi Definition screen and Touch screen. 2560x1440 (Quad HD) resolution
Height: 19.32in, Width: 26.14in, Stand: Articulating Stand (standard on Touch Screen) adjusts from 13.5in (min) up to 19.69in (max) with tilt up to 60 degrees, Weight: 35.16lbs
A beautiful, huge screen with no distractions from what you’re working on – this is enhanced by the iMac’s design which reduces on-screen reflection by 75%. Every designer’s dream
OK, OK – we admit it. The XPS One 27 doesn’t look as ‘cool’ as the iMac (let’s face it, very little does); but it arguably manages to blow the competition out of the water with its touch screen interface and super manoeuvrable stand
2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (turbo boost up to 3.6GHz) with 6MB L3 cache
Height: 20.3in, Width: 25.6in, Stand depth: 8in, Weight: 21lbs
“It’s amazing to look at. And even more amazing to use. A big, bold display. Third-generation Intel quad-core processors and the latest NVIDIA graphics. Cuttingedge storage options. And much more. No desktop has ever brought so much to the table”
[What they say]
3rd gen Intel® Core™ i5-3330s processor (2.70GHz, 6MB)
“Explore new dimensions with touch. See the beauty in every detail. Experience the power of simplicity. Now you can swipe and tap to interact with your favourite apps and games. The 27” (69 cm) multi-touch display is designed to maximise your Windows 8 Pro experience”
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Specialists in Growth Strategy
SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVE THE NUMBER OF BIDS YOU WIN EXPAND INTO NEW AND OVERSEAS MARKETS LAUNCH AN INNOVATIVE PRODUCT OR SERVICE
Winning Bids & Tenders: transferring our success in identifying opportunities, capturing
business, writing bids and presenting to the customer. We increase conversion rates and drive sustainable growth.
International Business Development: we compile effective market entry strategies to secure new customers, agents or distributors in home sectors and/or overseas markets, using our comprehensive international network.
Commercialising IP: we assist you in taking your innovation to the marketplace by identifying key customers, securing investment and determining essential market entry strategies.
Tel: 01822 615 191 Email: email@example.com Web: optimise4.co.uk Untitled-5 37
Focus on franchise
Franchise news sKids franchise comes to the UK
IFG supports budding franchisees
SAFE KIDS IN Daily Supervision (sKids), a New Zealand-developed after-school care service, is bound for Britain. John Geers, a London-based investor, has purchased the master franchise rights to take sKids to 17,000 primary schools in England. Due to recent legislative changes in England, all primary schools are required to have pre and afterschool care services for children of working parents – making sKids’ services more valuable than ever. ‘An after-school care company, which dedicates itself to improving the outcomes for teachers and supplements good parenting standards, will go very well in England,’ said Mr Geers. ‘There are some larger operations which serve regions of England, but none have the level of professionalism which sKids offers. This is a whole new level of service. It is very thorough.’ The sKids service will expand across England through the same franchise ownership system as in New Zealand.
THE INTERFACE FINANCIAL Group (IFG) is offering wouldbe entrepreneurs advice on how to successfully start up as franchisees in 2013. IFG has become a WorldClass Franchise® certified global company, which entered the UK market in 2010, and offers finance solutions to businesses with needs of all sizes. The firm operates on a franchise model and is encouraging more budding entrepreneurs to consider franchising as an alternative route to going it alone. David Banfield, president of IFG, says: ‘Many people would love to become their own boss, but simply don’t have enough information or support to make it a reality. ‘Setting up a franchise is a less risky way of advancing your career; you gain the freedom and flexibility that comes with building your own business without losing the sense of
support and security that exists in a large organisation.’ Franchisees have the benefit of managing their own workload and can often take on as much, or as little, as is comfortable. It is often a case of individual preference, so appeals to people in all stages of their career. IFG will soon be holding a webinar for those who would like to find out more about the benefits of franchising. For more information, go to: www.interfacefinancial.co.uk/ discoveryday.php
Landmark judgment for UK franchising BFA AFFILIATE LEGAL firm, Sherrards Solicitors, has obtained an important ruling for the UK franchise industry in a case concerning the enforcement of post-termination restrictive covenants in a franchise agreement. On 20 December 2012, the High Court handed down the judgment in a case brought by a franchisor against one of its franchisees, who had engaged in a competing business after their franchise agreement had expired. The case has important implications for the franchising industry. It marks a significant potential shift in the legal
position as to whether a clause in a franchise agreement, in which the franchisee promises his franchisor that he will not compete with his franchisor after the agreement has expired, can be enforced. Barney Laurence, associate at Sherrards Solicitors LLP and specialist in franchise dispute resolution, acted on behalf of the franchisor. Following the judgment, he said: ‘I am delighted for the client. ‘The outcome was the right one, both from a legal perspective and in terms of justice for the franchisor’.
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22-23 FEBRUARY 2013 ExCeL, LONDON £
LEARN FROM THOSE
ALREADY RUNNING A FRANCHISE
EVER DREAMT OF OWNING
YOUR OWN BUSINESS? Franchising is a tried and tested way of working for yourself, but not by yourself.
@ S RE
FRANCHISES TO SUIT ALL AMBITIONS AND LIFESTYLES
REGISTER FOR FREE AT www.thefranchiseshow.co.uk
Focus on franchise SPOTLIGHT
roles have involved managing small teams: the numbers may have been big in terms of investment banking and consulting, but we employ over 180 people now. Nothing I’ve done before has prepared me for employing so many people in terms of HR processes, from hiring to training, incentivising, disciplinaries where needed.
Under the spotlight… Bluebird Care
Matching their skillset, and with it set to flourish given demographic trends, the home-care sector was the perfect choice for Paul Barry and his wife. They give us the low-down on the Bluebird Care franchise
Why did you and your wife choose Bluebird Care?
My wife had an understanding of healthcare and I had an understanding of business development, so it was going to be somewhere in the healthcare sector – we quickly came across the growth in the home-care market. It worked as a concept in a number of ways: first, it was a growing market that appeared resilient in a tough economic environment, which has been proved right. Second, it looked like our skills could work in that sector, which was important to us. We wanted to minimise our risk. We got to know some of the franchise companies – we spoke to a lot – and quickly came to the view that we would minimise our risk enormously if we went down the franchising route. Then we came across the team from Bluebird Care and they seemed a very well organised, disciplined group with a great brand and a clear
What’s your daily routine like?
What are the biggest challenges you face? That’s very easy for me to answer, in that my previous
There’s always a natural tension between franchisees and franchisors because you have loads of ideas, and I’m a relatively creative business person. Sometimes you need to contain them because you’re working within a franchise model. However, I’ve found them very supportive and I’ve heard a lot of complaints about franchisors and business meetings. We both want Bluebird Care to be the most recognisable name in UK care homes, so we’re trying to put that in place.
What lessons have you learnt in franchising?
view of where Bluebird fitted in the home-care market. I tend to have a monthly and quarterly routine. So each month I do a business review, office by office, looking at what’s working best in terms of care workers and marketing to customers, where we need to improve what we’re doing in terms of IT systems, the financial impact, what needs to improve from a servicedelivery perspective. Then quarter by quarter, we’ll take a more strategic view, which results in a number of projects, maybe knitting together IT systems, or doing something different on the PR and marketing front. So my days vary enormously – and I absolutely love that.
What support is offered by the franchisor?
“It’s a great sector, but it’s tough in the first year”
The franchise buying process was more difficult than we expected – and I’ve advised a lot on mergers and acquisitions. If you acquire something and you want to take it in a different direction, that often needs a cultural change, which is very easy to put down on paper; it’s very difficult to make it happen in practice. It’s a great sector, but it’s tough in the first year. The hours are long, the commitment is massive and if you’re not prepared to put everything aside in your first year you will be ill-prepared.
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.
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Focus on franchise TAKE ONE FRANCHISEE
WHY RAZZAMATAZ? Razzamataz is a fantastic company to be part of; it is fresh and funky and provides the best training in performing arts. From day one as a teacher, I knew I loved the company and wanted to be part of the growing network.
“You can’t beat having a helping hand when you are starting a business”
TAKE ONE FRANCHISEE:
RAZZAMATAZ THEATRE SCHOOLS, SHEFFIELD
We catch up with Helen Green, the Sheffield franchisee for the Dragon-backed theatre school franchise, to find out what makes it so special When Denise Hutton-Gosney appeared on BBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2007 and multi-millionaire Duncan Bannatyne became a business partner, little could she know the way her business would expand and become a pivotal part in the lives of so many people from different walks of life. In the current climate, where success in new business is rare, Razzamataz is bucking the trend with a number of successful school launches reaching breakeven point within the first term – demonstrating what a solid business model Razzamataz is for people from a wide range of backgrounds.
WHAT’S YOUR BACKGROUND? My background is in both teaching and performing: I taught singing and drama for Razzamataz for four years before setting up my own school in September 2012, and before that I trained at CIA in Carlisle in musical theatre and drama. WHY FRANCHISING? I wanted to franchise because you have access to tried-and-tested methods and a great brand behind you from day one. There is a huge sense of family, and there is always someone who has had the same problems as you before.
WHAT SUPPORT/TRAINING WAS GIVEN? We had an intensive week’s training at head office in Carlisle, which covered everything from the day-to-day running of the business to the child protection and health and safety policies. It was followed by a full launch planner, and a launch manager came to visit me on-site and support me with finding a venue and teachers. My launch manager was also with me on my launch day, and couldn’t have been more supportive. This was all followed up by frequent support calls and phase two training on shows and summer schools. HOW IS THE BUSINESS GOING SO FAR? Great! I was delighted to have reached breakeven point from day one, and to have a full school by the end of my first term. I am now very excited to grow my business further! WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FRANCHISING TO PEOPLE CONSIDERING STARTING A BUSINESS FOR THE FIRST TIME? Most definitely: you can’t beat having a helping hand when you are starting a business, and the affiliations that Razzamataz has with Dragons’ Den and First Choice Holidays are really valuable. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD: WOULD YOU BUY MORE FRANCHISES? I would definitely consider buying another Razzamataz territory in the future, but at the moment there is so much potential for growth in the area that I have, I am going to focus on that for now. Contact: www.razzamataz.co.uk
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Focus on franchise THE FRANCHISE SHOW
we made earlierâ€Ś
Starting a business is no walk in the park: so why are so many people in the UK choosing to go it alone? Is having a boss starting to lose a little gloss? We find out why franchising could offer the best of both
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Focus on franchise THE FRANCHISE SHOW
ith redundancy figures increasing, many are choosing to start their own business. But with most of the moneyspinning ideas already taken, more and more budding business owners are taking an alternative route to self-employment – they’re buying franchises. Investing into a franchise model is the perfect fit for some: offering a ready-made business model with a loyal customer base, a tried and tested brand, relationships with suppliers, and a dominant online presence. It’s all there, boxed up and ready to go. If businesses came flat-packed, they’d probably look like franchises. Of course, a franchise isn’t for everyone, but here are a few reasons why a franchise might be a smart move:
The security is second to none. You’ll be running a business with a tried and tested framework, a brand that is trusted, and with ongoing support. The franchise industry has rarely been in a better, more profitable state than today.
The franchise industry isn’t monopolised by fast food joints and coffee shops; there’s a broad range of franchises covering almost every area of business. From property investment to photography, comedy clubs to chocolate shops, selecting the right brand could be your toughest decision in the whole process.
At every stage of the process, you’ll benefit from support of the franchisor and a network of franchisees. This will enable you to get on top of potential problems quickly, and bounce ideas off others who have been in the same position. The franchise industry has seen significant growth in recent times and it’s now more diverse than ever, with the UK proving a fertile breeding
ground for franchises of all shapes and sizes. The industry is ripe with opportunities for first-timers hoping to get a foot in the door, and even for hardened business owners looking to expand their portfolio.
The Franchise Show
Over the last four years, The Franchise Show has helped thousands of people to make their move into business, offering access to the latest information and opportunities within this fastmoving industry. The next show will take place at ExCeL, London on the 22-23 February 2013. Tickets are free: simply register at www.thefranchiseshow.co.uk. With much of the work already done for you – the brand building, the marketing strategy, the idea development – a huge part of getting started isn’t running the business itself, but researching and pinpointing a franchise model to suit your budget, character and ambition. The Show represents the industry’s diversity to its fullest, continually delivering an event that puts visitors at the heart of unmatched information, opportunities and contacts, and spanning every area of franchising conceivable. Whether you’re searching for the right franchise system, or you simply wish to find out more about the industry, The Franchise Show’s comprehensive conference schedule is a great place to start. You’ll discover seminars on everything from master franchise operations to retail franchises, and with the Focus On seminar schedule, finding the right information has never been easier. Focus On is a series of 30-minute seminars delivered by the most respected and experienced professionals in the industry, each focusing on a different franchise sector. Starting with a brief introduction to franchising, the seminars look at the characteristics of the market, investment levels, expected return, skills needed, the common pitfalls and the
“If businesses came flatpacked, they’d probably look like franchises”
“The industry is now ripe with opportunities for franchise first-timers”
day-to-day operations. These sessions cover the most up-todate practical, legal, strategic, and financial issues, allowing visitors to get straight to the heart of what they want to know. Last September saw the introduction of A Day In The Life Of, a round table discussion where visitors were given the chance to meet the franchisees who’d taken the plunge and bought into a franchise model. These franchisees uncovered the trials and tribulations associated with the process, and gave visitors a unique chance to get the advice so crucial in the early stages of business. A Day In The Life Of was a huge success and will return for February’s event, helping visitors get the inside track before committing. High investment, high return opportunities are also available at The Franchise Show, offering visitors the chance to meet people who have successfully established master franchises. Attend a series of seminars and workshops presented by leading experts in their field – and enjoy face-to-face meetings with organisations seeking to offer master franchise opportunities, many of whom will be promoting their concept for the first time in the UK. To complement the huge number of UK brands at the show, many international franchises will be present, all looking for willing franchisees to take the reins of concepts new to the UK. Visit in February and find out why The Franchise Show is regarded by many as the mustattend event for anyone looking to start a franchise business.
The Franchise Show will take place on 22-23 February, at ExCeL London. Tickets are completely free and available at www.thefranchiseshow.co.uk Contact: www.thefranchiseshow.co.uk
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The Dwyer Group: Leaders in Service Industry Franchising
ith more than 30 years of experience in franchising and seven service industry brands, it’s safe to say that The Dwyer Group, with well over 1600 franchisees worldwide, including Mr. Electric and Aire Serv their UK operations based in Worcestershire, knows service industry franchising inside and out. According to Vance Parsons, Franchise Developer with The Dwyer Group, “Most people that come to us are from within the industry and realize that they need some help. They come to us for differing reasons: some because their business has stalled and they need help breaking through to the next level. Others come seeking a way to compete on something other than price as they experience shrinking margins. Many have come to us looking for ways to diversify their businesses, and to create more stable revenue streams. And lastly, we have new franchisees come to us where they just got tired of working for someone else. Regardless of why they come to us, we take each of them through a decision process that’s designed to help both the candidate and The Dwyer Group make a quality business decision about working together.”
Mr. Electric has made its mark as a UK franchise organisation providing electrical installation and repair services for residential and commercial customers across the UK. Since 1997, the professional electricians at Mr. Electric have been committed to getting it right the first time, and delivering a comprehensive electrical service including installation, rewire, and repair solutions. “At Mr. Electric, we have found many small businesses suffer from not having qualified support and resources in areas such as
accounting, marketing and sales. Taking those areas into account, we have designed a proven system with a training program that provides each franchisee with qualified business consultants who coach and help improve every aspect of a franchisee’s business,” stated Jeff Meyers, President of Mr. Electric. As a Mr. Electric franchisee, you will be equipped with sales & marketing support, business leads and a dedicated franchise consultant to help you attain your goals. They also provide on-going training on the World Class Frontline Service System, designed to give your customers the best possible experience. Mr Electric can be run as a Management Franchise or be ‘Owner Operated’.
Aire Serv has been franchising in the UK since 1998. Our brand promise is to make the customer comfortable. This means more than just making them warm and cool; we also put their mind at ease, making them comfortable calling us into their home or workplace. Aire Serv franchisees are known for their professionalism and expertise, as well as being the employer of choice for technicians. Aire Serv supports its franchise network with specific business solutions in key areas: • Sales, marketing, national branding (finding and retaining the right customers) • Operations (everything that happens from the minute the phone rings to depositing the payment in the bank) • Management (where to find team members; how to recruit them; how to train them; how to compensate them and retain them) • Financial (pricing for a profit, managing the bottom line, budgeting for a financial roadmap) Aire Serv’s experienced staff
assists you in the learning and implementation of these business solutions with initial training and on-going coaching. The tools and benefits that come with an Aire Serv franchise can take your business to a new level of success.
A Bright Future
The Dwyer Group has a bright future as they continue to invest in tools and support to help their franchisees succeed. One area that stands out is technology. Both Mr Electric and Aire Serv offer integrated technology that provides automation in lead generation, customer scheduling, job planning, pricing, invoicing and customer feedback. “This automation along with dedicated Franchisee Support provides a significant competitive advantage for our franchisees, as well as cost efficiencies. The more successful our franchisees are, the more successful we are” says Jeff Meyers. “Our training programs are some of the best in the industry, so whether you’re new to the industry or an existing business owner, we can plug you into the appropriate level of training. And lastly, one of the things that I am most excited about is our Code of Values. The Code of Values is based on four core elements, which we call ‘Living RICH’. Those elements are Respect, Integrity, Customer Focus, and Having Fun in the Process. Through the Code of Values, we’ve created a tremendously positive culture throughout our organization.”
Learn more about The Dwyer Group
Mr Electric & Aire Serv, have areas available throughout the UK. You can learn more about The Dwyer Group, Mr. Electric & Aire Serv by visiting www.leadingtheserviceindustry.com or calling Dwyer Franchising (UK) Ltd on 01527 574343.
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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.
For more information, please contact us at:
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Focus on franchise FRANCHISE EXHIBITION
exhibition The National Franchise Exhibition offers career opportunities, advice and guidance: we take a sneak peek at what you can expect from one of the hottest tickets in franchising this year
Budding entrepreneurs will find the perfect opportunity to research and develop exciting new careers at The National Franchise Exhibition. Following its successful spring launch last year, the event will take place on 22-23 February 2013 at the NEC, Birmingham. With a vast choice of franchise opportunities, a comprehensive free conference and seminar programme, plus expert advice, the exhibition provides all the information that a prospective franchisee needs. The wide range of franchise businesses to consider covers sectors such as home improvement, computing, finance, retail, and food and drink. These include McDonald’s, Plug and Play Designs, Chemex International, Auditel, Kare Plus and Cash Generator, with many more major names to follow. Visitors can have full confidence in the franchise opportunities available as The National Franchise Exhibition is the only franchise exhibition in Birmingham supported by the British Franchise Association (bfa), meaning only franchise companies that have met the bfa’s code of ethics are allowed to exhibit. New for 2013 is the introduction of an appointment system, where visitors can
pre-book appointments with their chosen exhibitors through www.franchiseinfo.co.uk. This allows visitors to make the most of their experience at the event by planning the time to discuss opportunities and ask questions. Alongside the many varied exhibitors is a range of exciting free features providing insightful and valuable information and advice. These include the popular Real Franchise Stories where existing franchisees share their experiences, and the Finance Clinic, where experts provide guidance on financing a franchise and writing a business plan. At the High Investment VIP Lounge, potential franchisees with a greater amount of capital to invest can meet with relevant franchise businesses to network and explore interesting opportunities. Other features, such as the Careers Clinic and the Children’s Activity Centre will also prove valuable to visitors. A comprehensive conference, with seminars such as “An Introduction to Franchising”, features experts from the bfa, members from the legal and finance professions, and business advisers delivering valuable advice and guidance. The National Franchise Exhibition is open from 10am5pm on 22 Feb and 10am-4pm on 23 Feb 2013. For the latest news and updates about The National Franchise
Exhibition, follow the exhibition on Twitter @ukfranchising, join The Franchise Exhibition’s Group on LinkedIn, or become a fan of the FranchiseInfo group on Facebook.
To register for The National Franchise Exhibition, call 0844 257 8668 or visit www. franchiseinfo.co.uk. Admission on the door is £15, but visitors can gain free admission by using the promotional code DDB13 when pre-registering at www.franchiseinfo.co.uk.
“The exhibition provides all the information that a prospective franchisee needs”
Contact: www.franchiseinfo.co.uk Twitter @ukfranchising
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TEAROOMS â€˘ BOOKSHOP
Are you looking for
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â€˘No prior experience required â€˘ Full marketing, business & operational support â€˘ Total franchisee investment level ÂŁ40,000
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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.
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
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: email@example.com W: www.thezipyard.co.uk
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.konvertis.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: email@example.com W: www.hendrytraining.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com 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
And finally… HE SAID/SHE SAID
He said/she said Meetings with the “King” of Jamaica, compulsory bike rides and horse-related rants: our favourite entrepreneurs have certainly been busy this month. Opinions (and spelling mistakes) all their own
Richard Branson @richardbranson If you want swashbuckling action in your life, become an #entrepreneur and give it a go
Deborah Meaden @DeborahMeaden That I don’t want to eat Horse is not even the point. That I want to know what I am eating is! Later… @DeborahMeaden OK..I do not shop in Tesco...I was talking of the principle.
Lord Sugar @Lord_Sugar any idea how to get Lady Ann to ride a single bike tried every thing she is petrified can steer and balance Hmm, we’re struggling here Alan. Drug her, then scotch tape her to the handlebars? Perhaps not…
Claire Young @ClaireLYoung I am exhausted! 15 babies, 1 room, 2 brands, a very productive chatty focus group complete
Levi Roots @levirootsmusic Jamaica’s Governor General (bit like our king really) has called and wants to see me on Friday, lowdahmercy! Being Britain’s favourite Jamaican certainly has its perks. Long live the Levi!
Julie Meyer @JulieMarieMeyer I am so ecstatic! I have just found a new Monopoly player that I can beat – I mean play against! Shazam, shazam, shazam Playtime’s over Julie – get back to work. Those tech start-ups won’t invest in themselves you know.
122 February 2013
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February's issue of Talk Busines Magazine