here to stay
Don’t dump the business cards yet
SME exports hold the key to recovery
Bristol: home of standout start-ups
Soap Stars Mark and Mo Constantine, co-founders of Lush, have had their fair share of business ups and downs. But the childhood sweethearts have hit the big time with the cosmetics company, which turned over £326m last year
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CONTENTS VOLUME 02 ISSUE 09 / 2013 09 10 12 13 14 81 98
Editor’s letter Contributors News & events Talking point Book reviews Franchise news Start-up diaries
“I always maintain I lose more sleep with Mark than I ever did with the children” Mo Constantine – Lush co-founder
16 The Elite interview
Mo and Mark Constantine are bathing in success at Lush
23 One to watch
Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn is tickling consumer taste buds
27 Burgeoning Bristol
Enterprise is booming in the south-west city
16 36 Foreign riches
A move to exports looks more appealing than ever
40 Cost control
Effective budgeting makes all the difference
42 Confidence is king When optimism abounds, businesses boom
45 Contentious marketing
Content is perfect for attracting customers – but only if you get it right
50 Game of cards
The humble business card is rallying in the 21st Century
54 The open road
Brand transparency lays everything bare for consumers
57 A healthy solution
Help is always on hand when an employee is taken ill
61 Mindset matters
James Reed plumps for mindset over skills
67 Tech for start-ups
The latest must-have gadgets, hardware and apps for forwardthinking small businesses
71 All in one place
Customer relationship management comes in various technological guises
76 Vital statistics
There are a number of simple steps to securing your data, says David Hathiramani
85 Franchise in the spotlight
Recruitment firm Driver Hire goes the extra mile for its clients
91 Lost in regulation
Employment law reforms may not offer quite as good a deal as they appear
64 Bad education?
Qualifications are not the be-all and end-all when recruiting
EDITOR’S letter VOLUME 02 ISSUE 09 / 2013
Scan this QR Code to register for Elite Business Magazine SALES Harrison Bloor – Account Manager email@example.com Adam Reynolds – Account Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Shapla Begum – Account Manager email@example.com
No entrepreneur is an island
EDITORIAL Hannah Prevett – Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Josh Russell – Feature Writer email@example.com Adam Pescod – Feature Writer firstname.lastname@example.org Lindsey McWhinnie – Chief Sub-editor email@example.com DESIGN/PRODUCTION Leona Connor – Designer firstname.lastname@example.org Clare Bradbury – Designer email@example.com Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager firstname.lastname@example.org CIRCULATION Malcolm Coleman – Circulation Manager email@example.com ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Colin Munday - Management Accountant email@example.com ADMINISTRATION Charlotte James – Administrator firstname.lastname@example.org DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director email@example.com Circulation/subscription UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: CE Media Limited Call: 01206 266 842 Elite Business Magazine is published 12 times a year by CE Media Solutions Limited Weston Business Centre, Hawkins Road Colchester, Essex. CO2 8JX T: 01206 266 849 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved No part of Elite Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Elite Business magazine will make every effort to return picture material, but is at owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore CE Media Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.
“Even the brightest and most talented of individuals need others to interact with”
Here at Elite Business we’ve previously waxed lyrical about the value of networking and building business relationships. For our cover stars this month, Mo and Mark Constantine, the co-founders of high-street retailer Lush, p16, their solid business and personal relationship has been the one constant during times of despair and at the peak of their success. For the truth is no entrepreneur is an island. Even the brightest and most talented of individuals need others to interact with, and to share the highs and the lows. Our One to watch this month, Joe & Seph’s founder Joseph Sopher, p23, is lucky enough to tread the entrepreneurial path alongside his mum and sons. Such support is invaluable when the going gets tough. The value of building relationships with people outside of the business cannot be underestimated, either, as Nicola Barron points out in her column this month, p98. Whether it’s networking with people in the local area, as demonstrated by the West Country’s thriving startup community in this month’s Analysis, p27, or forging new friendships and potential partnerships with the aid of a snazzy business card, The Trump Card?, p50, it just goes to show that there’s no substitute for human interaction. We are frequently told how teleconferencing technology is taking over the world, or how jazzy new gadgets and gizmos are making lives easier for geographically dispersed teams. The latter may well be true, but the fact remains that human relationships are fundamental to building a successful business: whether they be with customers, employees or business partners.
HANNAH PREVETT EDITOR
Business is booming in the south west
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Leona Connor Connor’s managed to pull off something of a miraculous feat this month, putting together the beauteous publication before you in half the normal time, thanks to a two-week trek in the Andes on the Inca Trail. Her experiences swimming in caiman-infested waters made the months of preparation worthwhile; even if she’s had to work so hard since returning that her computer is steaming and making rather unsettling groaning noises. 10
Emilie Sandy We’d like to take the opportunity to issue a warm welcome back to our star photographer from maternity leave with her young son Freddie. He’s growing up fast, particularly now he’s feeding from a bottle, giving our superlative snapper a few days a week to focus on her other passion. Still, plenty of time to snare her excellent shots of the Lush factory and its founders Mo and Mark Constantine.
Adam Pescod Lindsey McWhinnie After a year of keeping her beady eye out for hanging participles and split infinitives in Elite Business, sub-editor McWhinnie is sadly moving on to new pastures. While she’ll be missed, her skills won’t be lost to the publishing world, as she’ll be knocking copy into shape on a variety of other magazines and trying to fit in as many trips as possible as a freelance travel writer. If she has any spare time after all that, you’ll find her Lycraclad form pounding south London streets as she perfects her Paula Radcliffe impression.
Fresh from getting engaged and buying his first house, feature writer Pescod has now managed to put his knee out of joint – hence the crutches. “How did he manage that?” we hear you ask. The answer to that is, of course, by partaking in a spot of badminton, as he had been doing – until recently – on a weekly basis. Needless to say, it hasn’t stopped him churning out his monthly dose of quality content. What a trouper.
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NEWS & EVENTS the country. Further accolades went to the Premier League for promoting enterprise, Hackney Council for promoting exports, and Aberdeen College for introducing enterprise to its core curriculum and instilling an entrepreneurial culture in its students.
An employer who fails to pay his or her staff the National Minimum Wage (NMW) deserves hefty punishment. Up until now, though, guilty parties could only be named if their indiscretion meets certain criteria. To its credit, the government has decided to put things straight. Employment relations minister Jo Swinson announced that, as of next month, employers will now be publicly named and shamed for any underpayment. Hopefully, it will serve as a strong enough deterrent to any Scrooges out there.
We’re raising a glass to Burnley this month after the Lancashire town was named the most enterprising place in Britain. The government recognised Burnley for its on-going commitment to support SMEs, namely through the Burnley Bondholders Scheme, which brings together over one hundred local firms that collaborate to promote the town as a place to do business. The scheme was one of four UK winners in this year’s Enterprising Britain Awards, a key part of the government’s drive to promote entrepreneurial activity across
UPCOMING EVENTS ad:tech September 11 - 12
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The Supper Club – Breakfast Social September 12 The Office Group, 15 Stratton Street, London W1J 8LQ
As SMEs attempt to recover from their recession blues, one could argue that there is nobody more important than their accountant. Well, in the trust stakes at least: accountants are now ranked higher than banks, the internet and family and friends for their advice. According to the latest Pulse survey from business software and services provider Sage, accountants are the most reliable port of call for 52% of businesses – up from 49% in 2011. However, it also reveals that nearly 40% of the 500 business owners surveyed admitted to underutilising their accountant, with 93% turning to them for ‘purely functional compliance tasks’ like managing and filing accounts (93%), and only a fifth (20%) for advice and business planning. Some of our brightest business sparks are being offered the chance of significant investment, thanks to the kind folks at private investor network The Ideas Factory (TIF). It is raising a £1m ‘incubator fund’ to help give 100 British entrepreneurs the kick-start they need to get their venture off the ground. Each will be handed up to £20,000 of cash, consultancy and training to get them to a stage where they could attract investors and turn their good idea into a viable business. Supported by personal development company RockStar Consulting, the fund will take equity stakes in each business once they are market-ready. Given the plethora of technology now available to the everyday citizen, it is understandable why one would fear for the future of our beloved currency – at least in its physical form. Well, such fears – or more accurately expectations – have been brought out by new research from mobile card-payment service
Business Junction – Networking Lunch September 12
Searcys St Pancras Grand & Champagne Bar, St Pancras International, London N1C 4QL
Business Scene – Reading Connections September 17 Regus, 200 Brook Drive, Green Park, Reading RG2 6UB
Prelude Group – Speaker Boutique September 19
The Zetter Hotel, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RJ
Wirral & Chester Business Fair September 25
New Brighton Floral Pavilion, Marine Promenade, Wirral CH45 2JS
provider WorldPay Zinc. Over threequarters (77%) of consumers surveyed by the firm predicted that certain coins will be discontinued within ten years, along with cheque books (76%). Moreover, nearly two-thirds of people (60%) believe they will regularly purchase goods via mobiles or other card-payment methods, with 48% saying they will use fingerprint recognition systems to pay for their weekly food shop. Finally, a further 39% predict the emergence of facial recognition or iris scanning technology, with 32% expecting to use their voice to pay for goods. Times are a-changin’. It is almost like rehashing old news when reporting a rise in business confidence nowadays. However, the latest SME Risk Index survey from global insurer Zurich shows how it has affected our SMEs’ perceptions of business risk. The index has fallen to 43.41 points from a high of 44.55 in Q1, and reveals that only 28% of SME decision-makers think their business faces more risk now than in Q1 – a drop of 7%. Nevertheless, anxiety remains over workforce challenges, such as the availability of talent, with the index rising from 37.89 to 41.86 points in this area. Those people calling for enterprise education to be taught in schools certainly seem to have a point. As an unashamed champion of small businesses, we welcome anything that suits our particular agenda. A new study by workplace consultancy Morgan Lovell certainly fits the bill, revealing that SMEs offer a better working atmosphere than their corporate counterparts. The Buzz Barometer – yes, that is its name – found that over three-quarters (78%) of employees felt they would be significantly more productive if their workplace had more ‘buzz’, defined as “the combination of a good atmosphere, energy and teamwork”. And here’s the clincher: 81% of respondents said SMEs bring more buzz to the table than larger firms, where bosses are rated as the top ‘buzz kills’. Fabulous.
National Entrepreneurs Convention September 27 - 28 The ICC, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EA
E-commerce expo October 2 - 3
Olympia, Hammersmith Road, London W14 8UX A full event listing is available on our website: elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk/ events
TALKING POINT A train to nowhere? Does the proposed construction of the HS2 rail link fly in the face of economic and business logic?
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
s government policies go, the planned HS2 highspeed rail network between London, Birmingham Leeds and Manchester has been particularly divisive. Originally touted under the previous Labour administration, the project has taken flight following a public consultation initiated by the coalition government. However, despite announcing its intention to plough ahead with construction of the new rail network, the government has faced a number of legal challenges to its plans, whether it be from disgruntled environmentalists, animal rights activists or just the everyday taxpayer – it does come at a staggering cost of £46.2bn after all, and that is a mere estimate. Parts of the business community have also voiced their opposition to HS2. Only last week the Institute of Directors (IOD) said it wasn’t convinced by the project, its members suggesting it offered little business sense and value for money. It also claimed the government’s projected expenditure paints only half the picture, and said a more realistic figure could be closer to £80bn. Nevertheless, other business leaders have offered a more pragmatic view, insisting that the rail network is necessary, but only at a cost deemed reasonable to all concerned. One only wonders what the everyday entrepreneur must think of it all. Is there really a strong enough business case for HS2?
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“A burden on the business hub of London” There are many opinions flying around about HS2, but little is being said about the projected effects on congestion levels in London as the hub of British business. Tim Stone Vice president of It is anticipated that HS2 will result in marketing (EMEA) a surge in the number of people working in at Polycom London. This will be a burden on London’s public transport system, while also worsening the congestion levels. It will lead to increased spending on transport infrastructure – everything that the government is trying to avoid by building the HS2 route. It may open some business doors, but taking some of the external factors into account doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Rather than letting London burst at the seams, we need to rethink our business culture. Many companies are now realising the benefits of remote and flexible working; like increased employee productivity, reduced costs from travel and office space and better work-life balance 13 for employees. Instead of spending £80bn on HS2 and risking a dissatisfying and damaging ROI, we should focus on improving commutes throughout the country. This would boost the economy, make UK businesses more competitive long-term, and benefit all of the country – not just the few cities served by HS2.
“Government hasn’t been forceful enough in making its case” I think that the anti-HS2 campaign has successfully overwhelmed everyone to date. The government and rail industry haven’t been forceful enough in making the case for Arnab Dutt HS2. If we don’t invest in HS2, our network Managing director of Texane grinds to a halt in 2050. There will simply not be enough capacity for the huge growth in passengers and rail freight. In my view, they are taking far too long to implement HS2. We should be connecting London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Scotland now, not over the next 30 years. I would also suggest that the Institute of Directors should not have come out in opposition to HS2 on the basis that a majority of members are against because of cost figures that opponents have released and that are unproven. Business organisations need to ensure their members have the full picture before they take a stand on the issues. Most people don’t yet understand the structural issues concerning rail, that new rail infrastructure is fundamental to make the UK competitive. It is not about shaving 20 minutes off a journey to Birmingham. It’s about creating the rail capacity that the country needs as the economy grows. But that message isn’t getting across.
The Launch Pad – Inside Y Combinator
eCommerce Masterplan 1.8 – Your 3 Steps to Successful Online Selling
t can hardly have escaped your attention that, in investment terms, tech is where it’s at. While the nation is currently eagerly watching London’s own cluster – Silicon Roundabout – the big daddy of tech investment clusters will always be California’s Silicon Valley. Committed to taking a real first-hand look at the investment scene that is the make or break of ideas with the potential to change the world, Randall Stross spent two years getting beneath the skin of one of the Valley’s most renowned seed funds: Y Combinator. The Launch Pad is the result of that experience. Jammed full of observations of pitches, case studies, the success stories and the concepts that come to naught, The Launch Pad presents the tech start-up scene in an intimate depth that is practically unparalleled. However, one of the most striking things about this book is how charming it is, not in the drab, neutered manner we tend to use the word, but how genuinely beguiling are the passion and spirit that drives Y Combinator. Appreciating its co-founder Paul Graham’s sincere enthusiasm for hackers and tech-heads strips away the image of cynicism sometimes attached to venture capital and seed funding – framing him in the light of grad-school tutor, the book presents an intoxicating yet endearing picture of those for whom tech is everything. JR
The Launch Pad – Inside Y Combinator, published by Portfolio Penguin, is out September 5 and retails at £9.99
Committed to taking a real first-hand look at the investment scene
here is a school of thought in the business world at the moment that says “If you’re not selling online, don’t bother selling at all.” Indeed, one cannot simply overlook the explosion in the number of eCommerce enterprises this millennium. More than this, many of our traditional high-street brands have had no option but to take themselves online, often as a mere means of survival. Of course, there are some retailers who continue to have success in the offline world, but the fact remains that a significant proportion of start-ups nowadays have the web firmly in their sights. And it is arguably this very point that makes Chloe Thomas’s book the timely publication it is. Drawing on her vast experience helping Masterplan establish eCommerce businesses, her pocket-size guide comes packed with 1.8 is worth its everything an entrepreneur needs to bear in weight in internet mind before – and after – embarking on an gold eCommerce adventure. From deciding whether to piggyback on Amazon and eBay or have your own dedicated website from the outset to identifying the factors that will mould your online offering’s USP, eCommerce Masterplan 1.8 is worth its weight in internet gold. AP
eCommerce Masterplan 1.8 – Your 3 Steps to Successful Online Selling, published by Kernu, is out now and retails at £9.99
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the elite INTERVIEW
A partnership that’s heaven scent
WORDS: HANNAH PREVETT
PHOTOGRAPHY: EMILIE SANDY
Mark and Mo Constantine possess all of the qualities of successful entrepreneurs: creativity, tenacity, passion and a belief in doing things ethically. But they also have something that’s unique: each other
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ush co-founder Mo Constantine isn’t good at taking time out. If she can’t be found in the lab, inventing new bath-tastic products, spending time with other company directors, or helping husband Mark with his hobby of collecting bird sounds, she’ll be spending time with her three grown-up children and five grandchildren. “Mo will moan we’re too busy and there’s too much stimulus and so on. But have a day without much stimulus and by the end of it she’s ready to strangle me with her bare hands,” laughs Mark. Mark may tease, but he finds it similarly difficult to reach for the ‘off ’ switch. His light-bulb moments often come in the twilight hours – much to the chagrin of his wife. “We try to have this rule that we don’t talk about the business without our underwear on. But then my friend here wakes up in the middle of the night, switches the light on and wants to talk,” Mo jokes. “I always maintain I lose more sleep with Mark than I ever did with the children.” This gentle chiding is part and parcel of a relationship that has survived the birth and death of one business, the raising of three children, and the building of a business empire: Lush turned over £326m last year, with a pre-tax profit of £26.1m. Its products are now sold in 50 countries, and the company employs more than 5,000 people worldwide. Mark and Mo are childhood sweethearts: they met at an all-night party when Mo was 16. “The truth of it is he used to chat my sister up,” she laughs. “Every day for a year or two stories would come home about this boy called ‘Connie’. ‘Connie’s nicked my stuff today,’ and so on. Then I saw him at this party and I thought, ‘He doesn’t look that bad to me. I think I can mould something out of that.’” They had shared a similar malaise for school. Unlike Mo, Mark had attended grammar school, but struggled to apply himself. He was distracted by his female peers, he says. “I spent most of the time in the corridor watching the girls go by and chatting them up. That was my favourite bit of school.” There was one fixture in his school schedule that he wouldn’t miss, however. “I was very
“I understand hair and I understand skin, which is a very good basis for the businesses we started later”
good at drama,” he says. “I especially enjoyed doing the make-up for productions. That meant that I could spend time with the girls,” he grins. After school, he went to work as an apprentice hairdresser. His real passion was for theatrical make-up, but a common route to enter the profession is via hair, he explains. “I was never that interested in hair, but it means I understand hair and I understand skin, which is a very good basis for the businesses we started later.” Meanwhile, Mo attended secretarial college. School had been a challenging experience for her. As is often the case with entrepreneurs, she had struggled with authority and the cookiecutter approach to education in the 1960s. “It was a choice between doing A-levels after GCSEs, or doing secretarial training. I knew if I became a secretary I’d always be able to get a job. Of course, my parents had completely different views on that.” Mark’s career as a trichologist was going great guns. He and friend Liz Weir, now retail director at Lush, set up a clinic called Constantine and Weir, with Mark providing the hair and scalp treatments and consultations, and Weir running the beauty side of the business. But in his spare time, Mark began creating hair products from scratch, using the vast amount of knowledge he’d accumulated during his training and years in practice. It was at the same time that a UK cosmetics business had launched to huge success: The Body Shop, founded by the late Anita Roddick. “I spoke to Anita on the phone, sent her some samples of what I’d made and then I went and saw her,” says Mark. “It was things like henna hair colours, henna cream shampoo and aromatherapy scalp oil.” The experience of meeting Roddick delighted the aspiring entrepreneur. “It was exceptionally exciting seeing her. She was vivacious, strong willed. I was thrilled.”
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the elite INTERVIEW
As the Constantines climbed into bed with the Roddicks, the public’s appetite for The Body Shop’s natural products reached fever pitch. “The most exciting thing was that it was so raw for them too, so we’d all unload the van and then have a cup of tea together,” recalls Mo. “We’re talking about entrepreneurial royalty,” Mark added. “They were exciting, vibrant, argumentative, outrageous.” Outrageous to the point of shock, says Mo. “Anita was the first person I’d been into a restaurant with who swore very loudly,” she smiles. It’s no secret that the love-in didn’t continue indefinitely. In the early nineties, the Constantines sold the IP for the products they supplied for The Body Shop to Anita and Gordon Roddick. “All of our products were in their top ten, and because of this, we thought they’d want to own it, for security’s sake. We were only a supplier, after all.” The Body Shop bought the Constantines out for a reported £6m. The products dreamed up by the Constantines – Mo was on board by this time too, flexing her creative muscles – had been a big hit for The Body Shop, but there were many others that weren’t making it to the shelves. “We were churning out incredibly innovative new ideas but they
“We were churning out incredibly innovative new ideas but they didn’t have space for that, they didn’t want it”
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didn’t have space for that, they didn’t want it,” says Mo. So, having sold the rights for the products the Roddicks did want, the Constantines decided to set up a mail-order catalogue, Cosmetics 2 Go, to sell the products The Body Shop hadn’t wanted – much to the Roddicks’ dismay. This caused a rift between the two couples, and after more than a decade of working together, their relationship ceased to exist. The company founded by the Constantines didn’t flourish in the way they’d envisaged. While they had the product down pat, perhaps the business nous was lacking and in two years, they’d burned through the £6m and the business hit the runners. Not to be defeated, they scaled back and started selling the leftover stock from a shop in Poole. This time, they got it right. Lush was born. In 2001, The Body Shop was put up for sale, and the Constantine’s bid for the company was rejected in favour of an offer by cosmetics giant L’Oréal. “The circumstances were not really known by anyone apart from the two of them,” says Mark. “If you consider that she was close to death, then Anita’s decision to sell to L’Oréal can be seen very in a very different light than it would if she was just in it for the money.” Mark bristles at the memory of complicated negotiations which resulted in Roddick ‘ridiculing’ his offer. “We went through a series of dance moves where I attempted to buy the company. Gordon had told me it was their business partner who was dying. I had no idea it was Anita. Had I realised Anita was dying, I probably would have been more helpful and less inquisitive because I would have been keen to help.” The Roddicks’ decision to sell to L’Oréal is one that the Constantines have had to come to terms with. But Mark says they keep the pressure on the titan to retain its ethical stance on things such as animal testing. When it’s suggested that perhaps the Constantines learned much regarding ethics from the Roddicks, eyebrows shoot upwards and telling glances are exchanged between the couple. “The truth of the ethics of where we are today
is it’s something we’ve always done by default – to use fresh ingredients, natural ingredients, we like not to have animal-tested things. Mark has been instrumental in addressing that for decades. When he and Anita began working together, he had the basis of it and she had the platform.” While The Body Shop got swallowed into the huge conglomerate, Lush has continued to grow and expand, all the time staying true to its staunch ethical approach to doing business. “Everyone lives in the real world and everyone makes their contribution accordingly,” explains Mark. “I’m not very keen on the term ‘ethical business’, but I do think we’re ethical buyers, I really think we get that right.” It has certainly become easier to put pressure on suppliers now Lush is a bigger business. “Most of the time it’s to do with dough, isn’t it? In the beginning, you can’t afford to do anything, and you have to take what you’re given, to a certain extent. Now I absolutely say, ‘I want the real thing, thank you,’” says Mark. “We had a huge problem with the adulteration of essential oils. I wrote everyone a letter saying if it says it on the invoice, it says it on the label, and I find out that doesn’t correlate with the contents, I will prosecute you.” The biggest challenge for the business is getting its people processes right, says Mark. “I make this joke that if we are in The Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For, then god help the rest of them,” he laughs. “The problem is that if someone has to leave, they might hold a grudge for five or six years. They’ll go on social media and talk about the company. The challenge is trying to make the process as ethical as possible.” When the personnel team at Lush can’t figure it out, they consult the services of alternative consumer organisation Ethical Consumer (think a lefterleaning Which?). “We’re trying to get them to do a survey of the staff to find out what they really think. We have the Best Companies accolade and that’s great but we want to work on a programme with the staff worldwide to give them something a little better.” After all, a huge proportion of the company’s employees are outside of the UK. But Mark was reticent about international expansion initially. “We
used to get a thousand enquiries a month [about opening Lush stores overseas] and we would end up saying no to everyone,” he explains. “By then we had five shops in the inner ring of the M25 and we just wanted to earn a living with those, no messing around. We’d had a business collapse – we didn’t want all that crap.” They finally relented when they were offered big bucks by a Croatian. “He said, ‘Come on, I’ll give you cash and come with my van,’” laughs Mark. “He was crazy. But we couldn’t say no to the cash.” However, Mark says the real breakthrough with the company’s international expansion came when Mark Wolverton wanted to open Lush in the US. The Constantines were reluctant. The secret to Lush’s success is that its products are made with natural ingredients; they have a 14-month shelf-life. If they were made in England and then shipped to the US, the time that shops would have to sell the product, and the time consumers have to use them, would significantly decrease. “He [Wolverton] said, ‘Teach us how to make it then’,” recalls Mark. That’s how the first overseas factory came about. Not that it was entirely smooth sailing. “Mark’s partner back then, Andre, was a bit cavalier,” says Mo. “We had given them a series of instructions about the factory, one of which was no animals were allowed. As soon as I left, Andre rode his horse through the factory smoking a cigar.” The company has since grown rapidly through partnering with global firms. Lush is sold in 50 countries, and has five factories outside of the UK including two in Canada, one in Japan and another in Australia. It’s all very impressive stuff. But the entrepreneurial couple remain incredibly modest about their achievements. In fact, when naming his biggest achievement, Lush doesn’t even get a namecheck. Mark has, after all, an unusual – and expensive – hobby: collecting birdsounds. “We now have the fourth largest birdsound archive in the world,” he beams, before rattling off the names of some birds his team has managed to tape. Meanwhile, Mo says she’s proudest of the Constantine clan. “I like spending time with my family and my grandchildren,” she says. However, Mark interjects. “I think I’m one of your achievements,” he says. “I wouldn’t have done what I’ve done without Mo, had she not sorted me out. I certainly wouldn’t have done all this.”
“I’m not very keen on the term ‘ethical business’, but I do think we’re ethical buyers, I really think we get that right”
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Ready to pop
With flavours ranging from gin & tonic to Madras curry, Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn is breaking new ground in a market that has exploded in recent years
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
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t was not so long ago that popcorn was the preserve of our local multiplex – a snack reserved for when settling down to a big screen blockbuster. However, it is fair to say there has been somewhat of a seismic shift in the popcorn world of late. Far from being a treat one can only look forward to on a trip to the flicks, consumers have had their taste buds opened to a plethora of fancifully flavoured popcorn options. Yet there is one company that appears to have separated itself from the burgeoning crowd of popcorn manufacturers. Founded in October 2010 by Joseph Sopher – previously the owner of an electrical wholesale business – Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn has taken the popcorn market by storm in the space of two years. A projected third-year turnover of £1.3m speaks for itself, and is made more impressive because Sopher had never had a professional interest in food. “Effectively, my only connection with the food industry was that I eat too much,” he jokes. While Joe & Seph’s may have only been born in 2010, the idea for it was planted in Sopher’s mind on one of his regular trips to the USA in the 1980s. “I was looking for something to bring back for people in the office and I was walking down a street in Chicago, came across a popcorn shop and thought, ‘That will do’, took it back and everyone fell in love with it,” he recalls. “People in the office kept asking, ‘Can you bring back more of that popcorn?’ I think
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at one stage, in the days before baggage allowances, I brought back a suitcase with 23 kilos of popcorn.” The whole experience got Sopher considering the merits of the popcorn business, but he was hesitant to take the leap. “I was busy enough doing what I was doing and I guess I spent the best part of 15 years wondering if popcorn is that popular, why has nobody ever done it over here?” he says. It was not until two years after his electrical firm slid into trouble that the opportunity arose for Sopher to act on his simmering curiosity. “I had been semi-retired for a couple of years and I felt I just needed something to kick me into gear, and the popcorn just fell into place,” he says. Nevertheless, it was through chance that the special something – which now sets Joe & Seph’s apart from the competition – came to fruition. “I was making some popcorn for a friend and I forgot to put an ingredient in,” says Sopher. “I thought, I haven’t got time to start this from scratch, so I just threw in the ingredient and recooked it. And it was at that stage I discovered something which I suppose is driving the whole brand – what we now call ‘flavour sequencing’. Broadly speaking, that means we can control how the flavours are released on a piece of popcorn so they will be tasted in a preordained sequence.” And herein lies the innovation in Sopher’s product – an innovation that ultimately turned a new pastime into a viable business opportunity
“In the days before baggage allowances, I brought back a suitcase with 23 kilos of popcorn”
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for the aspiring entrepreneur. “I started to wonder if there was a business there, because now it wasn’t just popcorn, it was something totally unique,” he says. Added to the fact that the popcorn kernels were ‘air-popped’ (blasted with hot air) instead of fried in oil – a process which drastically reduces the product’s final calorie count and fat content – it was clear that Sopher was on to something pretty special. Needless to say, from that point on, things moved fairly quickly, as Sopher’s sons Paul and Adam, along with wife Jackie, came on board to help prepare for the fast-approaching BBC Good Food Show, at which they would be exhibiting. “In the space of five weeks, we had to design the packaging, sort all the products and, four days before the show, I also found out we had to invent a brand name,” says Sopher. He explains that the original working name, Joe’s Popcorn, was dismissed after another fleeting visit to the very Chicago popcorn shop where his idea was first conceived. “I went there, bought it, and I thought, I don’t know what I ever saw that I liked in there,” says Sopher. “Joe’s Popcorn sounded too American and even more so when I got back,” he says. “I thought, this is a world away from American popcorn – I don’t want it to be associated as an import, and we are very proud to say on the front of every pack ‘handmade in England’.” However, chance would play its part again with the conception of the final brand name. “We had a clever team of designers and it was after I sent them an email where I’d mistyped my name – I put Joeseph instead of Joseph – that they said, ‘That’s it, you’ve just created the name’,” Sopher explains. “Behind the name is effectively me as the chef, but also me as the person who actually enjoys the popcorn and wants to make a popcorn I enjoy eating.” The only challenge remaining then was producing 200kg of popcorn in time for the Good Food Show, and selling it all. Sopher, though, still had reservations about his
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product being ripe for commercial success. “I was phoning local hospitals seeing if, in three days’ time, they wanted 200 kilos of popcorn,” he jokes. Sopher needn’t have worried though, as his popcorn went down a storm at the show. “Within two hours we knew we had something,” he says. “People were queuing ten deep to buy the popcorn and word was spreading around the whole show saying that, ‘You have got to go and try this popcorn’.” And the rest is history. Joe & Seph’s struck its first major retail deal with luxury department store chain Selfridges in March 2011 and the popcorn became, according to Sopher, “one of their fastest-selling grocery lines”. Harrod’s and Waitrose soon followed, along with Picturehouse Cinemas and high-end hospitality outlets including Claridge’s, where the popcorn is served as a drink-accompanying snack. Indeed, while one could argue that turning down an offer from Fortnum & Mason – as Sopher did – speaks volumes, he explains there was sound reasoning for the decision. “They wanted to go down an own brand route and we decided very early on that own brand was not a direction we wanted to go in,” he explains. “It was a hard decision, especially in the early days, and we were very flattered to be asked, but in the end decided to stay with the principles we set.” Keeping to those principles has certainly served Joe & Seph’s well. Deals with overseas
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“People were queuing ten deep to buy the popcorn and word was spreading around the whole show” retailers have been accompanied by a whole host of Great Taste Awards – unheard of for a popcorn company – and Sopher believes that the taste of his offering will continue to be the difference. “Because we are not masking the taste of oil or of something fried, you taste the genuine flavours that we wanted you to taste,” he says. “Most other popcorn companies fry the corn in oil and add the flavouring into the oil or just after it’s been fried, and the end result is you may have well just eaten a potato crisp.” Sopher even suggests that, in the savoury department, Joe & Seph’s real competitors are the higher-end crisp brands, but even they skimp on flavour in comparison. “If you buy our goat’s cheese popcorn, it will taste as it says on the bag,” he says. “But if you buy a goat’s cheese crisp, I would challenge you on a blind taste to tell it is goat’s cheese.” His product is also a healthier alternative, but Sopher is keen not to place too much weight on this, so to speak. “The calories are what the calories are at the end of the day,” he says. “What we are interested in is that when somebody bites into one of our products, we have given them the best experience they are ever going to get.” Now with a team of experienced pastry chefs at his disposal, one would be hard-pressed to envisage Joe & Seph’s not dominating the gourmet popcorn market for a while yet. And staying true to the company’s core values is indispensable in this regard. “The key thing for us is not to get confused by what other people are doing,” says Sopher. “We have got our own goal which is, we will make the best tasting product on the market and we will not sacrifice that as we grow.” You can’t say fairer than that.
Company CV Name: Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn Founded by: Joseph, Jackie & Paul Sopher Founded in: October 2010 Team: 20+
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Way out west Bristol quite deservedly has a reputation as being something of a radical spirit. And this has made the south-western city a natural home for enterprises looking to go against the grain
ulturally, Bristol has already stamped itself on the map. It has given us the music of Massive Attack and Portishead, television shows such as Casualty, Teachers, Sherlock and Being Human to name but a few, not to mention the epitome of counter-culture turned mainstream success, the celebrated graffiti artist Banksy. The city has always championed innovation and thinking a little outside the box. But this unique mindset isn’t restricted merely to the arts; when it comes to business, Bristol isn’t afraid of wearing its rebel heart on its sleeve.
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY ON PAGE 32: MARK SIMMONS – MARKSIMMONSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM
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“Bristol has a very strong, independent culture and, over the centuries, both professionally and politically, it’s been a hot bed of people with quite strong views,” explains James Durie, executive director of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, a part of the wider enterprise network Business West. This is no exaggeration; the design for the Clifton Suspension Bridge – arguably the most significant work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – was initially taken on by Thomas Telford after his committee judged all submitted designs to be unfit for purpose. Public objection was fierce enough that Telford’s committee was forced to reopen the competition, eventually giving Brunel a chance to create Bristol’s most iconic landmark. “The city as a whole has a unique independent spirit about it,” says Dan Martin, editor of business content channel businesszone.co.uk and founder of The Pitch, one of Britain’s largest annual competitions for small business. And this doesn’t just apply to creativity and the arts; its approach to business is heavily focused on championing independents and characterful businesses. Martin makes reference to Gloucester Road, which is recognised as being one of the most concentrated collection of independent stores in the UK. “Entrepreneurs and start-ups do quite well here because there is this atmosphere of independence.” It’s not hard to think of myriad examples of businesses that have cut their teeth in the area, across a whole range of sectors. Not only are
there obvious examples such as Rob Law’s ride-on luggage for children Trunki, but the city has also given us deals site vouchercloud. com, online movie database IMDB and business crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Evidently, a reputation for being able to stand apart has made Bristol an attractive option for many a business. Bristol has more to offer start-ups than just its maverick status though. “One of the big advantages of the city is it’s got two really good universities,” comments Richard Wilson, director of app developer Mobile Pie. The academic standard of the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England has long been recognised, not just drawing plenty of talent into the area but actively keeping it there. “I’ve always been told that it’s got one of the highest retention rates for students. Myself, my business partner and a lot of our friends who came to university here 13 years ago are still here.”
“Bristol has a very strong, independent culture and over the centuries, both professionally and politically, it’s been a hot bed of people with quite strong views” James Durie, executive director of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce
Taking flight Wingman
Wingman is a unique brand, serving timepoor men with their three-in-one shampoo, shower and shave gel. And, given it’s a product built around making life easier, it’s hardly surprising that life choices are recognised as going hand-in-hand with business plans. “My decision to relocate the business to Bristol was partly business, but partly personal,” comments founder Stu Jolley. “When you come to Bristol, first of all you find there’s a lot more space and that gives you more space to think. And it’s just a really vibrant community.” Accessing talent in the area hasn’t been a Sisyphean task for Wingman, which it attributes to the wealth of resources available in the area. Based in Temple Meads Studio, a part of a development around the mainline station, the brand has had first-hand access. “Temple Meads Studio is a creative hub, there
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will be opportunities to work with designers, people who have got industry knowledge,” says Jolley. “There are some really great start-up brands there, as well.” And Wingman is strongly committed to engaging with and giving something back to the region. Unsurprisingly, with its high-octane brand identity, the enterprise has been involved in their scheme the Wingman Academy Project, championing some of the high-adrenalin talent in the area by backing some of the extreme sports stars it is producing. “For us, it’s about supporting the scene,” says Jolley. “We love to represent youths from the local skate park; we send them out stickers and a welcome pack to say thanks for supporting us.”
“When you come to Bristol, there’s a lot more space to think” Stu Jolley, founder
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The life of pie Mobile Pie
The journey taken by award-winning app developers Mobile Pie could really have only begun in Bristol. “We’re very proud that we’re in Bristol; we love the city and we feel it’s a good fit,” says its founder and director Richard Wilson. Invaluable to the company’s success has been the renowned cultural centre The Watershed, as the outlet provided office space and the chance to meet and greet those in the know. “The Watershed has been vitally important,” Wilson adds. “In certain ways, it’s the heart of the cultural side of Bristol. If you just go into the cafe, you will see somebody you know in media.” In some ways, the smaller scale of “We’re very the city has proven to be one of its proud that strongest assets, making it easier to we’re in forge professional connections. One Bristol; we of Mobile Pie’s highest profile apps love the city was a Shaun the Sheep tie-in with local and we feel it’s animation studio Aardman. “People we know got jobs at Aardman and are a good fit” senior in the digital team. So we had their ear,” says Wilson. Their proximity Richard Wilson, founder and director to the studio also makes intimate
working relationships easier to form. “It’s a wonderful site, I can pop across to Aardman for a coffee and it takes me 15 minutes.” Having grown its profile significantly and netted work for highprofile outlets such as Orange, Channel 4 and the BBC, Mobile Pie is certainly making waves and has attracted its fair share of accolades, including a BAFTA Television Craft nomination in 2012, showing just how well-regarded Bristol’s businesses are. “One of the first awards we won was a south-west-only Media Innovation award, which really helped,” comments Wilson. “That was a stepping stone, and now we’re obviously looking at national and international awards.” Fingers crossed they will be garnering yet more well-deserved recognition for themselves and for the region.
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That’s not to say there haven’t been struggles along the way for some businesses looking to grow. “We do a barrier-to-growth survey for the Local Enterprise Partnership and access to finance continues to be one of the main considerations,” says Durie. Perhaps historically relying more on debt finance and the big banks, Bristol is facing the same challenge as many parts of the country, having to adjust its attitude to finance and seek new sources of growth capital. Fortunately, the local business community is responding to these needs. Paid for by the Regional Growth Fund, Business West has committed to helping local enterprise with its scheme Ready for Growth. “We’ve helped with the creation of 135 new businesses, plus 28 additional new jobs across Bristol and the south west,” explains Durie. “I think that demonstrates the kind of entrepreneurial spirit in the area.” And this isn’t the only source of support. Provider of business-management software for retailers Brightpearl is an active member of business community SETsquared, an incubator helping many a local start-up navigate the rocky route to market. The scheme not only helped Brightpearl gain access to mentorship, advice and guidance but also helped them and others obtain significant seed funding. “In the last six years, they’ve had 150 tech companies start there; 650 jobs have been created and £87m has been raised,” says Andrew Mulvenna, co-founder and general manager of the company’s operations stateside. “None of those companies have failed.” Rather impressive stuff. But Bristol also has bolder and braver initiatives to bolster the local economy, as evinced by one of the most striking examples of the city’s abject refusal to play by the rules. At a time when the health of the European single currency was dominating the headlines and Bitcoin, the global digital currency, was just beginning to garner media attention, Bristol made a conscious decision to swim against the current and, rather than thinking global, Bristolian citizens decided it was time to act local. They launched their own currency: the Bristol Pound. Confronted by ailing high streets across the UK, the city found a novel solution to championing and stimulating interest in local business. Introducing a local currency is the sort of idea that many policy-makers would balk at but Bristol wouldn’t be the city it is if it
“In the last six years, 150 tech companies have started in Bristol; 650 jobs have been created and £87m has been raised” Andrew Mulvenna,
general manager of Brightpearl US
were too worried about flouting convention. It would be easy to dismiss this as little more than a clever PR gimmick if it weren’t for the committed manner in which the city implemented the currency. Bristol’s first elected mayor is paid entirely in Bristol Pounds, showing that the city sees its moolah as being much more than just a faddy solution to a cause célèbre. “That’s quite reflective of Bristol; I don’t think that would work in all cities, to be honest,” explains Martin. “But I think already over £B100,000 has been spent.” Another signpost of Bristol’s innovative success is Martin’s own The Pitch, initially grown when parent company Sift Media sponsored the local Bristol Design Festival. “Sift is quite keen to support local things,” he comments. “The festival had a small entrepreneurial prize, a sort of ‘entrepreneur of the show’, but it wasn’t particularly engaging – it was your standard ‘here’s the winner; here’s a bit of plastic’ kind of award. So we wanted to do something a bit different.” With a tight deadline of six weeks, Martin’s team had to find a venue, come up with a name and entice entrants. Eventually attracting some 30 contestants through social media and local student talent, the first Pitch prize went to Nicki Stewart, founder of luxury gourmet-gift enterprise Diverse Hampers. “It seemed to work and I think one of the reasons it worked very well probably was because of Bristol; it
was in the middle of all of this crazy creative design that was going on,” comments Martin. Growing the show with the help of corporate sponsors Yell, Sift took its show on the road, helping to attract and champion businesses all over the UK. Martin says: “We’ve taken it all over Britain, taken it to the Edinburgh festival and been an official part of that; we’ve done it in the opera house in Belfast.” Since its inception, the festival has helped to celebrate innovators and pioneers, including Ross Dickinson with his pipe repair system Kibosh, and Naomi Kibble and Helen McAvoy, the founders of frozen cocktails Rocktails, who went on to secure funding from Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne on Dragons’ Den. But after years of roaming, Martin has decided it’s time for a change and the wheels are in motion to bring the celebration of entrepreneurial talent back to its rightful home at the close of September. “The event will showcase Bristol in all its glory,” he comments. “We’ve got a Bristol pop-up shop, with Bristol retailers. We’ve got speakers like Rob Law from Trunki.” Additionally, the £10 ticket price will be refunded to attendants in the form of £B10, further stimulating interest in Bristol’s thriving entrepreneurial scene. However, while festivals can travel and innovations can be translated, there is something about Bristol that cannot be replicated. And that is the lifestyle that comes as part and parcel of living in the unique city.
“With Bristol, you definitely get a feel that there is a buzz in the city and there’s an energy there” Stu Jolley
“Bristol is a great place to live; you’re a stone’s throw from the great outdoors, so, actually, with that you do find a different kind of person as well, who is more settled,” says Mulvenna. Wingman’s founder Stu Jolley agrees there’s something about the city that attracts young and dynamic entrepreneurs to the area. “With Bristol, you definitely get a feel that there is a buzz in the city and there’s an energy there,” he remarks. “In all aspects, from festivals, stuff going on at weekends, there’s plenty to do, and, for a young start-up business, it feels like a good place to be.” Looking at the nature and quality of the various enterprises operating out of the south west, it’s easy to see just how strong the business community in the region is and how much it has to offer start-ups. Jolley concludes: “It makes you realise you don’t have to be based in London all your life; go where makes you happy.”
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WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
With the government pinning a fair share of its economic hopes on an SME export boom, there’s more reason than ever for entrepreneurs to set their sights abroad
xports, exports, exports! This rallying cry certainly seems to be at the forefront of the government’s relentless drive towards economic redemption. Such is the desire to see more SMEs selling their wares overseas, the powers that be have set an ambitious target: 100,000 additional businesses exporting by 2020. An admirable aim indeed and with a projected £5.6bn to be added to the UK’s coffers as a result of reaching this lofty goal, there does appear sound economic reasoning behind it. More than this, however, it gives our nation’s small-business leaders the chance to shine on the international stage. Who can argue with that?
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co-founder and CEO of designer bag and tech accessory firm Knomo
Of course, expanding one’s enterprise to foreign climes would appear a no-brainer for many an entrepreneur, not least from a monetary perspective. “The fairly obvious financial benefit is that you are spreading financial risk in exactly the same way that a conglomerate spreads financial risk,” says James Hardy, EMEA director for global small-business e-commerce platform Alibaba.com. “Once you are operating in two or more markets, even if one market suddenly has some problems, then you can often get protection because the other market is doing well.” Hardy adds that exports can also bring welcome relief when the economic situation in an entrepreneur’s domestic market is far from rosy – compared to the markets it is looking to exploit. “If your economy is really struggling then generally the exchange rate will fall,” he explains. “That means that any revenues you are bringing in from abroad have effectively increased automatically.” He goes on to suggest that selling to countries with alternative economic arrangements can prove more fruitful than trading across the channel, for example. “If you pick England and France, you don’t get nearly as much of a hedging or risk-spreading effect as you do if you are selling to Malaysia, India or China,” he says. “If you have two very different types of markets, then you can often get very significant protection once you have made the initial time and effort and financial investment of being in that emerging market or other non-first world market.” Ultimately, there is always an element of risk involved when investing in markets that are unknown quantities. Nevertheless, Hardy believes that any SME with sizeable competition at home could find itself with much to gain from taking a plunge in more exotic climes. “It may be that in your home market, you are just another producer in that space,” Hardy continues. “But if you can find the right overseas market, you can suddenly put yourself in a better position where you can ask for higher margins, especially if your brand is perceived as being a higher value brand than it may be here.”
“If you can find the right overseas market, you can suddenly put yourself in a better position where you can ask for higher margins” James Hardy
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In this sense, it would appear that the real challenges of exporting revolve more around brand recognition abroad, and negotiating the predictable logistical obstacles. From a mere financial perspective, the initial ‘cost of exporting’ shouldn’t prove too taxing, so long as a company already has a solid-looking balance sheet. “There is a huge opportunity if you can deal with the immediate short-term cost, which is very often a time and resource cost, rather than a cash cost,” says Hardy. “The reason it is not so much of a cash cost is that global duties have been coming down for the last 20 years, and shipping costs have come down hugely.” And, while some foreign markets may come with an entry cost that puts off some SMEs, Hardy believes this can be used to one’s advantage. “If you are prepared to go somewhere that actually is a difficult market to enter, you will have given yourself a significant long-term advantage by getting into that market early, especially if it has good revenues, good returns and good margins,” he explains. Yet, despite the attractions of exporting, it is still imperative that an entrepreneur has everything shipshape before setting sail. To that end, effective budgeting can ensure that one
Anna D’Alessandro, business opportunities manager for UKTI
James Hardy, EMEA director for global small business e-commerce platform Alibaba.com
Simon Duffy, founder of men’s natural skincare company Bulldog
doesn’t sell oneself short in a bid for global success – and it almost goes without saying that such a process should take account of any unexpected financial challenges that may arise from an overseas adventure, in addition to the obvious ones. Hardy identifies currency fluctuations and varying payment terms as the two biggest threats, placing emphasis on the latter, primarily because it isn’t out of the owner’s hands. “Payment terms vary significantly by culture, and are dependent on the Simon Duffy arrangement you have,” he says. “So, if, for instance, you have a distributor, you want to be extremely aggressive in negotiating payment terms up front so as soon as the distributor receives money, you receive money from the distributor.” Howard Harrison, co-founder and CEO of designer bag and tech accessory firm Knomo, can certainly vouch for the complications alluded to by Hardy. “We have actually stopped doing business in Italy because I think during the crisis there has just been too much financial risk there, and we found recovering invoices very difficult,” says Harrison. “There is a little bit more payment integrity in the Scandinavian and German markets than what we have seen in the Mediterranean markets.” There has also been a significant cost involved on the logistics front for Harrison, but he is safe in the knowledge that it will pay dividends in the long term. “We have a warehouse in the UK and getting products into Asia was a challenge, so we have set up a third-party logistics centre in Hong Kong, which has taken a lot of investment and has proven a big distraction,” he says. “It has been quite a large cost to the business but it is absolutely the right thing to do for export. It just might not be the cheapest thing to do.” Moreover, as cost-efficient as going down the distributor route may be when it comes to exporting, an entrepreneur can often face having to share the rewards with its new partners – this is normally a price worth paying though. “The big decision companies make is whether they do international development direct or through collaboration,” explains Simon Duffy, founder of men’s natural skincare company Bulldog. “We work with distributors, which means they share a lot of the costs and the capital requirements to put you in a place where you can consider a foreign market are much less. But, obviously, you need to be prepared to share the upside of your success because you are working in a team with another company rather than claiming everything for yourself.” Clearly, then, a move to export is not without expenditure and it’s vital to be on a stable footing beforehand. However, such is the government’s emphasis on SME exports, support is available for the more well-intentioned and credible of smallbusiness owners. Government bodies UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and UK Export Finance (UKEF) are probably the most reliable first port of call in this regard. Grants of up to £3,000 are on offer to export-hungry
“The big decision companies make is whether they do international development direct or through collaboration”
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entrepreneurs, with additional help available through business community Open To Export, and the Passport To Export service, which assesses a business’s readiness for export and equips it with the necessary tools. And apparently even our financial institutions are on board with export, at least in the opinion of Harrison, who received the initial funding for his enterprise from one of the ‘big four’ banks. “HSBC has an annual competition and one of the main criteria is being an export-focused business,” he explains. “So I think the bank’s position is evidently that the most stable businesses are the ones that have a meaningful part of their revenue coming from export – and that is not just because it is what the government wants to hear.” You could almost say the gauntlet has been laid down. The time is very much ripe for exporting and it is hard to ignore the sounds coming from government on the subject. “SMEs should have a bolder approach and think that growth is not only possible, but achievable,” says Anna D’Alessandro, business opportunities manager for UKTI. “Exporting can be financially very rewarding and with emerging markets with a thirst for good quality UK products, we find that SMEs are well placed to fulfil their demand.” As incentives go, they don’t get much stronger than that.
Five-minute money masterclass
partner at accountancy and investment management firm Smith & Williamson
Sam Cropper, CEO of eco-friendly car service provider Climatecars
The secrets of better budgeting For a small-business owner, effective budgeting is indispensable. Overspending on something trivial can create a cash shortfall in those areas deemed essential for helping generate a sufficient level of growth. Nevertheless, nailing down a realistic budget for each area of a venture is easier said than done, and working out a feasible allocation of funds may not be possible until a business is well and truly off the ground. Either way, an entrepreneur who doesn’t have a decent handle on what they can or can’t afford is almost doomed to failure from the outset. Where, then, does one begin when it comes to identifying the places into which to plough the capital?
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
founder of financial consultancy Back Office Support Solutions (BOSS)
Raymond McLennan, regional
manager for angel investor network Angels Den in Scotland
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Understand your market It goes without saying that the nature of one’s enterprise will dictate where the majority of the dosh is spent. But a decent amount of market research should help a business owner nail down the specifics. “Given that a budget is an allocation of the limited resources you have available, you want to make sure you are applying them in the areas that are going to give you the best return in terms of what you’re doing,” advises Stephen Drew, partner at accountancy and investment management firm Smith & Williamson. “So, rather than just picking a number that you feel may be the sort of number you want to spend, you need to ask yourself if it is properly supportable in terms of what market pricing looks like for that particular activity.” Essentially, it is a case of investing in the areas that are proving must lucrative, suggests Sam Cropper, CEO of eco-friendly car service provider Climatecars. “You need to put your assets into what is going to make people come back and buy from you – or buy from you in the first place,” he says. “Everything else you can cover with sticky tape until you can afford to do it properly.”
Keep an eye on the figures Budgets are naturally subject to change, so a business owner must always have his or her finger on the pulse of the incomings and outgoings. “It’s rare that people get an accurate budget from day one – you can only ever make your best guess,” says Heather Darnell, founder of financial consultancy Back Office Support Solutions (BOSS). “But you really should be revising and reforecasting based on some real-life data after just a few months.” The use of an online bookkeeping system can aid this process, she adds. Budgets must take also take full account of the cashflow situation, suggests Drew. “Just because you have revenue in January of x, it doesn’t mean you receive your cash in January – you may not receive it until March and April,” he says. “Understanding that dynamic and what impact that has on cashflow is key, particularly if businesses are budgeting for growth on revenue, because often that will mean they need some sort of working capital to enable them to finance that growth.” Drew explains that a proper budget will encompass the profit & loss account, balance sheet and cashflow.
“I find that lots of people think they know what their costs of goods are but forget lots of the little bits” Heather Darnell
Account for unexpected costs Whilst most entrepreneurs will believe they have a decent grasp on what is leaving their business account each month, it is always worth setting aside a little extra capital for the more irregular expenses. “I find that lots of people think they know what their costs of goods are but forget lots of the little bits,” says Darnell. “For instance, you may be manufacturing something and you have worked out your cost for piece but you have forgotten to include the cost of the shipping or duty. The shipping cost can vary dramatically, whether you are shipping by air or by sea.”
Set realistic objectives The crux of effective budgeting is weighing up what you hope to achieve with what you can afford to achieve. Therefore, it pays to bring a healthy dose of realism to the table when it comes to setting your business objectives. “Initially, the key thing with any business – irrespective of what it does or where it is operating – is to put together the operational goals with the financial goals,” says Cropper. “You would be amazed at the numbers of start-ups that fail within weeks, let alone years, just at that hurdle of not matching the financial reality to the operational goals that they are setting themselves. You have got to make sure that what you are aiming for operationally is tied exactly to what it means financially.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help Business owners aren’t always the best mathematicians, so there is no harm in taking on somebody to remove some of the stress of budgeting. “I am a great fan of letting people who are good at things do the things that they are good at,” says Raymond McLennan, regional manager for angel investor network Angels Den in Scotland. “I wouldn’t get up in the morning with a great buzz for accounts, but I did have a guy who loved doing accounts, loved doing budgeting and checking the figures – so I would delegate that kind of thing to him.” And McLennan adds that such support is often available at relatively little expense to the entrepreneur. “You can get an accountant and pay them an agreed figure per month by direct debit, or something spread over the course of the year that fits in with your cashflow,” he explains.
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Positive signs Business confidence may be booming, but the government must keep working hard for Britain’s SMEs, says the ICAEW’s head of enterprise, Clive Lewis
We’re predicting that the UK Economy will grow by 1% in the next quarter
he latest ICAEW/Grant Thornton Business Confidence Monitor (BCM) report tells us that, at +24, confidence is at its highest since 2010. But what’s in the data? What does it mean? Perhaps everything. During the credit crunch, as a country, we printed billions of pounds, so there was even more money than before 2007. People in businesses of all kinds, most notably, but not exclusively, banks, chose to hold on to what they had. The flow of money dried up because people weren’t confident enough to invest or spend it. BCM has been shown to be a very accurate predictor of GDP. We’re predicting the UK economy will grow by 1% next quarter – again something not seen since 2010. In fact, 1%
growth is something we have only seen a few times since the middle of 2006. So, what’s in the data to point to a steady period of growth? For the third consecutive quarter, confidence is positive across all regions and sectors. Northern England and Scotland are the most optimistic regions. London continues to recover confidence following a period below the national average. Confidence in Wales now stands above the national average – the second largest increase in confidence behind Northern England. In SMEs, the trend matches that of larger businesses and the overall market, albeit that the confidence index is a fraction lower at +20. Previous data shows a steady increase of confidence from this sector – no knee-jerk reactions; just a measured, pragmatic response to the improving market. Key findings for Q3 2013 show:
• The BCM Confidence Index stands at +24, up from +16.7 in Q2 2013 and at the highest level since Q2 2010 • The economy is expected to grow by 1.0% in Q3 2013 – this would represent the fastest economic growth since Q2 2010 • Businesses expect improvements in their turnover and profits for the next year, forecasting growth of 4.9% and 4.6% respectively • Companies are looking ahead with plans to increase staff numbers by 1.6% in the next 12 months, while wages are expected to grow by 1.8% • Confidence in the construction sector has rebounded strongly – an encouraging sign that the worst may be over for a sector hard hit by the economic downturn • There are no signs, however, of an investment-led recovery, with capital investment growth low and limited increase in exports expected Export growth is up, standing at 3.4% and, encouragingly, businesses are expecting growth of 4.1% over the next year. But, while businesses are increasing their exports, we are not seeing the levels of growth needed to deliver a trade-led recovery. Decisions such as where to invest are still being made on a short-term basis, which explains the improvements in the housing sector and increased consumption by households. To get a stronger commitment from companies, and to ensure that a broad-based recovery has solid foundations, the government must continue to ensure the business environment remains conducive to growth. You can view the the full report at http://www.icaew.com/en/about-icaew/ what-we-do/business-confidence-monitor
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SALES & MARKETING
Lyrical content B
enjamin Franklin coined the phrase, “Content makes poor men rich”. While the American founding father’s grand statement referred to the loftier realms of happiness and satisfaction, he may have been shocked to know how eerily his comments have echoed in advertising trends well over 200 years later. Content marketing has helped build the profile of some of Britain’s strongest companies and, to some, seems like the philosophers’ stone that will turn the basest brand into gold. There’s no doubt using media and publishing content to draw in consumers has firmly bedded into the minds of marketeers and their clients, becoming one of the most significant strings to an ad exec’s bow. “Appetite for content marketing is growing very fast at the moment,” comments Clare Hill, managing directer of the Content Marketing Agency (CMA), the industry body representing the sector. “It’s been identified as one of the fastest-growing media channels, aside from internet display advertising.”
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
More and more enterprises are climbing on the content bandwagon. But without a sensible strategy, rather than being a siren’s call, your marketing can simply equate to a duff note
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SALES & MARKETING
Of course, this is evidence of something that needs little corroboration. Few people can have failed to notice how brand promotion has adopted an increasingly polychromatic palette in the last decade. “The traditional techniques worked fine in the offline environment – that is, in a non-interactive media environment,” explains Alan Boyce, managing director of content marketing business Axonn. But with the shift toward what was then clunkily dubbed Web 2.0, users began interacting with the web in a different way and the efficacy of static advertising began to come under question. He continues: “It became an interactive medium, where people expect to be treated as equal partners in dialogue rather than as a passive audience.” But despite the connotations that often come with the word ‘content’, this conversation isn’t only taking place online. “Content marketing is channel neutral,” remarks Hill. “More than half of our industry is still print focused.” While much of the adoption of the technique has been a response to changing habits online, it has been firmly bedded down in print for some time. Branded content plays a huge role in the UK’s print industry, attracting the most significant investment the sector sees. Hill continues: “The biggest distributed titles in the UK are Tesco Magazine and Asda Magazine; Waitrose Kitchen grew more last period than any other magazine.” So it’s hard to deny content is big business and it’s easy to see why any company would be quick to jump on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, marketing techniques are rarely that straightforward. As with search engine optimisation and social media management before it, content marketing has been used and abused by those looking to make a quick buck or put a plaster over the cracks in their brand. Those expecting to be able to just throw content at the consumer and see what sticks are likely to be severely disappointed.
“It became an interactive medium, where people expect to be treated as equal partners in dialogue rather than as a passive audience” Alan Boyce, managing director of content marketing business Axonn
Unlocking ops with the Mall-to-Mobile content keys News
Whether straight from a retailer, local to an area or information about a specific charity or organisation, this is any news relevant to an enterprise’s chosen demographic.
to your audience; an example Baldwin gives is the journey of the Olympic Torch in 2012, which helped Mall-to-Mobile plug into the local communities through which the torch passed.
Covering specific events and dates of relevance
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This is where the lighthearted stuff comes in.
Shareable content that makes people laugh or smile, that entertains people and makes them want to keep coming back. Often, inexplicably, it involves cats.
Not limited to your twofers and BOGOFs, offers include anything that is drawing something special
to the attention of the consumer, including new products or services.
Rather than just covering Twitter’s top hashtags, this is about talking up anything at the current moment that might be brand new, exciting or creating a bit of a buzz in the wider community.
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SALES & MARKETING
“The vast majority of people just pour stuff out at the top of the tree and expect some to filter down; that’s not how it should happen”
Case study Ikea Family Live
Intended to add a local dimension to Ikea’s global brand and form a close connection with its customers, Ikea Family Live magazine shares design ideas from its Ikea Family club members, making use of one of its best resources to bring a personal touch to its content. As the proud winners of Customer Magazine of the Year at last year’s PPA Awards and owners of a content site that has clocked up more than 270,000 unique visitors, it seems Ikea’s strategy has paid off. The 400% increase in traffic this has contributed to ikea.com is just the icing on the cake.
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“It’s something that’s continually posed to me: ‘Well, you’re just throwing stuff out there,’” remarks Simon Baldwin, retail expert and director of Mall-to-Mobile, a scheme from the marketing solution provider Destination CMS. “The vast majority of people just pour stuff out at the top of the tree and expect some to filter down; that’s not how it should happen.” One approach is to leave your content to the experts. Mall-to-Mobile evolved out of Destination CMS’s experiences setting up websites and handing over content management to retail outlets lock stock. All too quickly, approximately 90% of enterprises would grind to a halt. “It was for a whole raft of reasons,” Baldwin explains. “It was lack of skill base, lack of time, lack of resource, lack of everything.” Realising that many of the shopping centres they were working with didn’t have the resources to maintain a consistent content strategy, Destination CMS made the decision to invest in delivering the service itself. “We’ve put our staff on the ground – they visit the retailers, they capture the information, they share that with our PR team who then run everything for the client.” But for those who are wanting more of a handle on their content, there are some specific areas that are worth looking at. At the core of Mall-to-Mobile’s offering is what it terms its five ‘content keys’: news, events, fun, offers and trends. Baldwin says: “Around those content keys, we manage all of our clients’ digital and social media content seven days a week.” However, even the best laid plans can go astray. No marketing is going to run itself, no matter how much you may want it to. “It’s not a question of ‘build it and they will come’,” explains Boyce. “It’s about seeing where they’re going and building something on the way.” Obviously, this is where analytics separate the wheat from the chaff. Regardless of channel, it’s usually possible to track the returns your marketing is offering and assess what’s working and what isn’t. Given it has been using content marketing for the best part of two decades, The CMA’s Hill feels the grocery sector demonstrates just how measurable and trackable the medium can be. “With Nectar, Sainsbury’s can identify, as a result of their content-marketing strategy for the Little ones baby and toddler club, that the content strategy delivered 500,000 Little ones members,” she comments. In many ways, content marketing is no different from other disciplines. “One could assume that, because content marketing involves a matter of creativity that it defies rational analysis or planning; I don’t think that’s true,” says Boyce. In fact, rather than being a promotional panacea, content only works when backed by a clear strategy. Taking time to target content is thus the best way to engage and retain the consumer.
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SALES & MARKETING
There’s plenty of life left in the business card yet, as technology is simply giving brands the opportunity to get a bit more creative
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
Richard Moross moo.com
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ith technology taking over our has merely opened up myriad opportunities for lives to an unprecedented degree, companies looking to keep their business card one could be forgiven for in tune with reality. For instance, moo.com’s dismissing the humble business card as partnerships with Facebook and Flickr allow a relic of times gone by. However, it would users to personalise their cards like never appear that consigning the business card to before. Its ‘printfinity’ technology means they history is a dangerous game indeed as, in the can select a different social media image for eyes of many a business mogul, it is more each of the 20, 50 or 100 cards they order. relevant now than ever before. Intriguingly, if one breaks a business card It will probably come as little surprise to down to its most basic function, it continues learn that Richard Moross sits firmly in this to operate with minimal competition. “It camp. Of course, the unbridled success of his still exists in an era of all kinds of other enterprise moo.com would seem in itself to technological devices, and it exists because it suggest that the business card is here to stay. doesn’t need batteries, it doesn’t need a However, it also serves to Wi-Fi connection, it doesn’t need emphasise that its purpose has a software upgrade,” says Moross. evolved, and that the “It is very straightforward and contemporary small business very simple, and often the simplest owner must have his or her eyes ideas and simplest products are open to this evolution. “Like every the most enduring, the most technology, it has got to evolve, it powerful and the most useful.” has got to be related to the In a wider sense, though, a internet, it has got to be related to business card is a core marketing Richard Moross technology in some way, and there avenue for a person’s enterprise – are lots of ways in which it can do and the modern business-owner is that,” says Moross. thus missing a trick if they aren’t keeping their An example of this is provided by Bev James, brand in mind when designing their card. “I CEO of business training provider The think that for many small businesses, it is the Coaching Academy. “I have had three different shop window, it is the advertising, it might be cards in the last 18 months,” she explains. the only marketing that they do,” Moross “When the QR codes were popular, continues. “So, it might not even be an I put a QR code on my business card and that extension of their brand identity, it might be was quite novel, it was a talking point. They the core, the one place it is actually expressed. are not as trendy now so I have taken it off.” It therefore plays a very vital role in conveying In that sense then, far from attempting to what a brand stands for, what a company is compete with technology, the digital revolution about, and what its values are.”
“Like every technology, it has got to evolve”
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SALES & MARKETING
“More th an just the c ontact details a nd the person’s name, a busine ss card conveys what they are about”
On another level, a business card should also offer a fair reflection of the person handing it out, suggests Moross. “Business cards are a token, they have heft and weight, and are a physical and tactile thing, so they express, to some extent, the approach that the owner has taken when investing in this piece of design,” he explains. “They are also obviously visually designed, so more than just the contact details and the person’s name, a business card conveys what they are about, what their style is like, and how they convey themselves.” If we assume, then, that a business card is a key expression of one’s brand identity, the care and attention given to its design should naturally be mirrored in the way it is utilised. At least, that’s what James believes. “If you are going to give a card, then it needs to have a purpose,” she says. “Just saying ‘have my card’ means nothing. It is far better to say, ‘I’ll give you my card, can I take yours?’ and then agree what you are both going to do as a result of that. Otherwise I just think it is all a bit pointless.” Indeed, the exchange of business cards is a staple of many a conference or networking event. And for a small-business owner looking to go places, a memorable business card can help turn that initial contact with a potential client into something more substantial. “There is nothing else that you are going to get into the hands of your customers as often as a business card, so it is a critical piece of real estate in your communications base,” says Anthony Ganjou, founder and CEO of out-of-home media agency CURB Media. “It is something shared by the people who you have given it to, so when you are not there, it is the representative element of you, and the first impression of your business.” “If you are Needless to say, an entrepreneur must be going to give careful not to innovate for the sake of it. At the end of the day, a flashy business card a card, then it won’t save a struggling enterprise. “I think the needs to have business card is just a piece of media – it can only work as hard as the business it is trying to a purpose” sell,” says Moross. “But I think there are lots of Bev James amazingly exciting businesses out there that just need help telling their story.” One thing is for sure though: the story of the business card is far from over.
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A magic touchpoint Anthony Ganjou, founder and CEO of CURB Media, explains the idea behind his innovative business card: “At CURB, we exist to inspire and amaze our audience, so we invest heavily in creating a unique business card that is both memorable and, critically, a shareable point of conversation. So what do our cards do? Well, mine physically grow into mint, daisies and even carrots. All you need to do is soak them in water and plant in soil. Ultimately, in today’s digital world, details can be kept in seconds online or via mobile, leaving our cards to be the one thing our clients talk about after every meeting and thus providing a long-term engagement opportunity. It is about ways in which we can make every touchpoint between our brand and our consumers as magic, or as amazing, as possible.”
“Mine physically grow into mint, daisies and even carrots”
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SALES & MARKETING
Now you see me In an era of diminished trust in businesses and with the increased visibility the internet provides, transparency is rapidly becoming essential. But it’s worth knowing just what openness really means
WORDS: WORDS: JOSH JOSH RUSSELL RUSSELL
here is an environment of mistrust toward large organisations in the current climate. When big corporates are shown to be handing over wads of consumer data or failing to closely monitor their supply chain, the backlash is fierce and destructive. And while small- to medium-sized enterprises are less commonly the focus of such reprisals, hiding things from the consumer isn’t a great idea, no matter what the size of your company. As a result, the drive toward transparency has increased exponentially over the past few decades. In part, as with the majority of recent trends, the impetus behind this was sparked by the internet’s effect on consumer behaviours. With the invention of social networking and the more interactive Web 2.0, consumers were becoming increasingly empowered to voice their dissatisfaction. While managing their image had once been relatively straightforward, many companies were beginning to have to accept that their brands were no longer in their hands. “Previously, they had pretty much been able to control the message that they put out to customers and that customers consumed,” comments Danielle Sheerin, social business consultant at social business pioneers NixonMcInnes. “Suddenly, customers were having conversations about brands that quite often the brands weren’t even aware of.” Essentially, this has introduced an increased level of accountability that not long before wouldn’t have been imaginable. It became obvious that, rather than attempting to close
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SALES & MARKETING
“By being more transparent, being more open, you’re actually being more open yourselves, understanding customers and developing in line with their needs” ranks and hide away, enterprises needed to embrace their increased visibility. Understandably, this hasn’t been popular with everyone. Traditionally, letting something out into the public domain was ranked as practically one of the worst crimes an employee could commit; for some actively committing to do so goes against a lifetime of business instincts. “There’s a massive fear about being transparent because it goes against the grain,” says Sheerin. “It’s that mindset change: ‘If we tell people what we really are, then they’re not going to like it.’” One of the biggest fears Sheerin has come across is that creating social media accounts will just act as a lightning rod for negative comments and, as a result, tarnishing potential customers’ perceptions. But there is some evidence that these fears are unfounded. “There’s anecdotal evidence that because customers can see other customers’ reviews, even if they’re negative, they still see the company more positively because they can appreciate that not everyone’s perfect,” she says. “I think there’s even a trend around brands having flaws and being seen to be ‘flawsome’, that they’re actually better brands because they allow you to see them.” Another issue Sheerin has encountered is that enterprises simply do not understand what is required for real transparency and engagement. For example, a mistake that is often made is opening channels such as social networking with aims of connecting with the consumer but still operating under old models. Enterprises still attempt to set the pace of the conversation and push their brand message, rather than, as Sheerin suggests, “asking about the conversations that the customers want to have, being open about genuinely listening to needs and feeding them back into the business.” This comes close to the nub of the matter. Often, dialogues around transparency focus on informational openness. And this is important; NixonMcInnes, for example, has completely open books and regularly publishes its results. But there’s a lot more to it than that. “There’s an emotional transparency around being able to take on feedback, what people genuinely think and what can genuinely be
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improved,” comments Sheerin. “A lot of businesses think just by having that option in place, enabling customers to leave comments, they’re being transparent but it goes so much deeper than that.” Rather than simply being a one-way transfer of information, transparency is a commitment to hosting a genuine exchange. “If you’re being transparent, what you’re really doing is having a dialogue with your customer,” says Sheerin. “By being more transparent, being more open, you’re actually being more open yourselves, understanding customers and developing in line with their needs.” So when a customer sees a brand is actively committed to taking their feedback on board, this can have huge ramifications for how they feel about a company. And this is changing the way we view brands irrevocably. Rather than closing ranks behind the anonymity of their corporate identity, businesses are being coaxed further and further out of their shells. “It’s a mindset change that we don’t have to keep all of our cards to our chest and we don’t have to be very secretive,” Sheerin explains. “We can actually be open and with that comes lots of different benefits.” But it’s not just about being open with those on the outside. If you’re having conversations with your customers but there’s no dialogue within your organisation, then the amount that insight can achieve is rather limited. “It’s not just about that interface between the customer and the business but actually deep within the business, how transparent are the leadership with employees?” Sheerin says. “It isn’t until you can be more transparent internally that you can actually create those routes and paths for consumer messages to feed in and actually alter the business.” There’s no denying that transparency can be an incredibly powerful tool. It has now become essential for businesses to demonstrate to consumers that they have nothing to hide; as soon as a brand begins to act like it’s behind a smokescreen, it will set off alarms for its customers. But being prepared to show your company as it is, warts and all, will ultimately win a lot more loyalty than an airbrushed snapshot.
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The long game A ready-made remedy is not often available when an employee is hit with a chronic illness or injury, so a little bit of patience can go a long way
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
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or the small-business owner, catering effectively to the needs of his or her employees is one of the biggest challenges they face. Needless to say, the situation can be made more treacherous if a member of staff is suddenly struck down with a serious injury, or diagnosed with an illness, that will ultimately affect their ability to work at the level they had previously. Firstly, it throws up issues about the workload for the rest of the team, and the possibility of having to take on part-time workers to cover for any periods of absence. More pertinently though, it means the employer must be prepared to sit back and put everything in perspective, before concluding what the best way forward is for both the affected employee, and the company as a whole. However, an employer need not feel helpless in such circumstances, which tend to come loaded with medical complexities and, in a number of instances, emotional baggage to boot. Furthermore, even if the diagnosis appears obvious on the surface, it could be that the employer doesn’t need to take as drastic a course of action as first thought. “From my point of view, I believe the most important thing here is communication because you are not going to know anything until you actually speak with the member of staff,” says Sarah Morris, managing director of HR consultancy HR2You. “It is also important that you have a true understanding of what the background is for their absence and how best you can accommodate them. You have a duty of care as an employer to identify what those areas are.” Indeed, approaching your employee’s personal physician can go some way to helping untangle any past medical history, in case it has contributed to the most recent illness or injury. More than this however, it could help provide a clearer picture of how the employee feels about the situation and, ultimately, what course of action they would prefer to see pursued.
“It is important you have a true understanding of what the background is for their absence and how best you can accommodate them” Sarah Morris,
managing director of HR consultancy HR2You
“There aren’t many GPs who will write a report that contradicts what the patient wants,” explains Dr Charlie Vivian, medical director at occupational health provider Corporate Health. “I think we often talk about the GP becoming the patient’s advocate because of that. And interestingly, I think that is one of the reasons why GP reports can be incredibly helpful – because what they almost always will do is give you a very clear view of what the patient wants.” Essentially, though, an employer wants to know how an employee’s predicament affects their capacity to do the job they are paid to do. For this perspective, a discussion with occupational health can also prove fruitful. “You want to know what the impact of that condition is on their ability to work,” explains Vivian. “For example, two people can have multiple sclerosis – one can be working almost normally and one can be completely bed-bound, so the diagnosis alone is not necessarily helpful.” All things considered, taking on as much advice as possible will prove valuable in the long run. However, it is imperative that the final decision on the appropriate adjustment is made by the employer – and agreed by the employee. “Case law is absolutely clear about that,” says Vivian. “We advise what adjustments they need to think about, they
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decide if those adjustments are reasonable. Lots of managers don’t understand that. They assume that we are the ones who tell the manager what this person can or can’t do. The implication is that the manager has to implement our advice, regardless of whether it’s realistic.” It is here then that a manager’s people skills must come to the fore. And, evidently, if the only outcome seems to be relieving the employee of their duties, keeping them informed every step of the way should help take away some of the sting. “These situations are never going to be nice,” admits Morris. “You need to make sure that, throughout the entire process, you are happy that you have done everything within your rights to get this person back to work.” And such an approach extends to the period immediately following a dismissal, adds Morris. “It is about maintaining that relationship even after they’ve left,” she says. “Maybe they need some extra support with counselling, for example, to get them through “You want to know what the to another area of impact of that condition is employment that is not specifically within on their ability to work... your business, but could the diagnosis alone is not certainly help them. necessarily helpful” Because you want them to walk away from your Dr Charlie Vivian, medical director at business knowing you occupational health provider Corporate Health have done everything possible to keep them there.” Unquestionably, as with all things of this nature, any decision will impact not only on the parties directly involved, but equally the wider workforce. A balance must therefore be struck between the privacy of the employee, and the concerns of his or her colleagues. “The first thing is to maintain the confidentiality of the patient, because you don’t know what you can and can’t say until you have agreed with that particular person,” Morris explains. “For example, with a terminal illness, they may be dealing with it in a different way to another person.” In that sense, the imperative to do things in the right way is simply more pronounced. Vivian concludes: “It is about making sure that the impact of the medical condition has been considered in terms of that individual’s fitness to work, but also the impact on the rest of the team as well.”
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A question of mindset Put Your Mindset to Work has attracted accolades and fervent recommendations from all quarters. But how do its authors view the importance of mindset in light of a changing economic climate?
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
uch has been made in the press over the last year of the idea that the young people entering the jobs market are lacking in aptitudes essential for the world of work. “A lot of money has been invested in skills via policymakers and the whole focus has been pointing in that direction,” explains James Reed, chairman of international recruitment giant Reed. Yet reducing this to simply being a skills shortage is misguided, given that, as a whole, today’s younger generation almost certainly has spent more time in education than any preceding it. Clearly then, there is something else employers feel is lacking. Two years ago, Reed and Dr Paul Stoltz, chairman of global research and consulting firm PEAK Learning, released their book Put Your Mindset to Work: The One Asset You Really Need to Win and Keep the Job You Love. Reissued in August 2013, the text has helped shake up the way we view recruitment and challenged the old paradigm that – as far as hiring goes – skills pay the bills. One of the key insights that sparked Put Your Mindset to Work came from Reed’s attendance of a summit on ‘The Future of Skills’ in the early days of the credit crunch, when one of the lead speakers, Lucy Adams, remarked, “The trouble is, we don’t know which skills will be most in demand in ten years’ time.” This
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sparked a realisation for Reed: while the skillsets he required in candidates might change, the mindset he needed would invariably be consistent. As he explains in the book, “I might not know which skills will be most in demand in ten years, but I do know exactly what sort of people I will want to hire in ten years.” The authors entered into extensive research with thousands of large employers to investigate what they valued higher between mindset and skillsets, with astonishing results. If required to choose between a candidate with the right skillset but not the right mindset and one with the right mindset but lacking the skills, 96% said they’d plump for mindset. “Mindset trumps skillset,” says Reed. “It’s much more important to employers.” Looking into which qualities employers most valued also yielded interesting results. Reed
turn are really important. I’ve seen them used to great effect or people fall over because they haven’t got those qualities.” To help individuals get a better handle of their own mindsets, Reed and Stoltz have developed an assessment to show areas of strength as well as those that can be improved, giving a detailed breakdown of each G. And there is some significant evidence of the efficacy of this ‘3G Panorama’ in gauging an individual’s ability to progress professionally. “We test all our graduate trainees who join the business,” says Reed. “Looking back now, the ones that have done best, scored the highest in appraisals and scored the most pay increases correlate with the people who scored highest in the assessment. There’s some hard-nosed commercial evidence that this is a useful thing to know early on.” However, Reed is keen to stress that mindset
“I might not know which skills will be most in demand in ten years, but I do know exactly what sort of people I will want to hire in ten years” and Stoltz asked employers to rate various mindset qualities as ‘essential’, ‘desirable’ or ‘not important’. Far from the most essential qualities being populated by traditional ‘hard’ business skills, commitment, adaptability, accountability and flexibility rated as some of the most desirable. And, more strikingly, every single employer listed honesty and trustworthiness as being at the very least desirable qualities, with well over 90% feeling they were absolutely vital. “Not a single employer said that being honest and trustworthy were unimportant,” says Reed. “Not one.” Looking at the many qualities employers felt were most important, Reed and Stoltz noticed they could be placed in three main categories – global, good and grit. This helped form the core of their mindset manifesto: the ‘3G Mindset’. “I think that what’s good about the 3G Mindset approach is that people can remember and use it,” comments Reed. “Each of them in
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is not something that can be viewed as pass or fail. People will have different levels of modesty about certain areas in their lives and respond to questions in different ways; instead of being an absolute, their tools are aimed at helping individuals to improve and make the best use of their mindset. “Mindset is not fixed,” he continues. “You can come back to it again and reevaluate it. We’re all works in progress.” But then what about mindset’s value as a differentiator? Will it not become diluted if every individual learns to work on mindset as they have skillset? “I think we’re a long way from that,” laughs Reed. “But if we’re all developing our own mindsets and strengthening and improving them, then that has to be good really.” Ultimately, the benefits of mindset are not limited to recruitment; Reed would like to see these qualities truly enshrined in companies themselves and even the wider culture. “If you have a society that scores highly on those qualities, it’s going to be a better place to live.”
The 3G Mindset
James Reed, chairman of Reed
openess, flexibility, innovativeness In a world that’s both getting smaller and changing faster, the ‘global’ aspect – being curious, being open to new ideas, being connected with people – is hugely important. We call that the ‘vantage point’. It’s the entrepreneurial essence.
honesty, sincerity, loyalty ‘Good’ is not just about integrity, it’s about kindness as well. And people who show kindness to others actually progress and do well because they are liked. That’s very powerful. We call it the ‘cornerstone’ of the 3G Mindset.
commitment, energy, accountability Everyday adversity is becoming more commonplace and the difficulties of the current environment might be improving a bit but the world’s had five tough years. Having real ‘grit’ – the ‘fuel cell’ as we describe it – is vitally important.
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picture With a degree now a less affordable option for many, employers should look beyond academic qualifications when recruiting, suggests Martin Reed
Martin Reed Reed has been at the helm of psychometric testing company Thomas International since 2007, having been appointed chairman two years earlier. As well as penning this regular column for Elite Business, he is also a founding member of Buckingham Business First and a fellow of the Institute of Directors.
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e’ve come to the end of summer and the wait is over for the moment that students and parents look forward to and dread in equal measure – exam results. After the A-level results, in particular, there’s the annual celebration for those who have done well and got into the university of their choice, and the scramble for university places through clearing for those who haven’t achieved the grades they would have liked. However, with 49% of 17-30-year-olds in education progressing to further education, there has been debate over the value of a university education. Obviously, studying law or medicine is essential for those planning a career in the legal world or with ambitions to become a doctor. But with ever-increasing university fees, are the less ‘careerfocused’ courses worthwhile, and should employers be so focused on employing degree-educated staff? We live in a culture that encourages further education and there is no disputing that a degree is an achievement to be proud of. In terms of life experience, three years spent at university can broaden horizons, open minds and allow students to experience new things – as well as being an exciting life experience – but the nature of a degree over the past 30 years has changed. Whereas in the past, an employer could rely on the quality of students coming out of university, with nearly 50% of people now going into higher education, a university education no longer guarantees companies a high calibre of job applicant. Managers who depend solely on an individual’s qualifications as a reliable indicator of their skills, knowledge and aptitude need to understand that having a candidate with the right qualifications doesn’t always make them right for your business.
Young people without a degree have a huge amount to offer and employers need to keep an open mind about the qualifications required for a specific role. If they don’t, they run the risk of missing out on candidates with great promise who may thrive in their businesses despite not having a CV boasting an array of qualifications. A thorough recruitment process is essential to ensure you find the individual who can hit the ground running and have a positive impact on your business. It’s essential for employers to develop a record of skills and competencies specific to the role they are recruiting for and identify the most important elements of the job. Consider what kind of person performed well in the role previously, and what kind of person didn’t. What are the major challenges the team face and what kind of person will best help meet those challenges? A solid
“Having a candidate with the right qualifications doesn’t always make them right for your business” understanding of the kind of individual and skill set required for the position will allow you to see how a candidate’s experience, skills, attitude – and qualifications – could fit into the role. Interviews and CVs have always been essential to the recruitment process and will allow you to evaluate an individual’s background and attitude, but this process can leave gaps in how well you truly understand an applicant. To help fill these gaps, psychometric assessment can be invaluable and offer an important insight into the learning style and future potential of a candidate. How quickly a recruit learns procedures and reacts to change can mean the difference between success and failure in a new role. Assessments that measure a candidate’s ‘mental horsepower’, such as Thomas’ General Intelligence Assessment (GIA), are a good way to help employers assess an employee’s ability to learn, think on their feet and adapt to shifting business demands. This type of assessment can answer questions such as: • Can this person cope with the mental demands of the job? • Could this person be a high-flyer? • Is this person a problem-solver? • To what extent can we use training to develop this person?
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By understanding how quickly candidates can learn and retain new skills and procedures, you’ll have a reliable prediction of their potential to develop into a new role and how well they’ll respond to training as they progress in the position. While a good education is important, employers need to see the potential in applicants who perhaps don’t have the academic qualifications or the inclination to go onto further education, which, given the increase in fees, is entirely understandable. If you are recruiting for a specific role, whether it requires certain qualifications or whether you’ve got an open mind about the educational achievements of your employees, psychometric assessment can – when combined with a solid recruitment process – offer invaluable insight into the capabilities of potential employees.
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Google Nexus 7
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
Just when the ripples have finally begun to calm, the Google Nexus 7 is likely to make yet another splash with its latest regeneration. Lighter, sporting a rubberised back and slimmed down considerably, it also includes stereo speakers, something thus far only achieved competently by the Kindle. Where the new Nexus 7 really excels though is with its astonishing 323-pixel-per-inch display, knocking even the Retina iPad into a cocked hat and throwing down the gauntlet for Apple to really do something special with its tablets or face losing its lead.
It’s a month of both glad news and bad news here in the Elite Business tech department. On the rad side, we have the filing of patents by Samsung for a project known as ‘Galaxy Gear’ – essentially its own contender for a smartwatch – and some technical specs rather excitingly hinting at flexible displays. On the sad side, we’re still reeling from the news that the Ubuntu Edge, the dual-booting, high-powered, arse-kicking mobile/desktop hybrid is unlikely to see life, after the failure of its crowdfunding pitch at the close of August. Still, the world continues and there’s plenty of pretty products to ease our pain
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Ziiiro Gravity Here at Elite Business, we’re after innovation and individuality in our timepieces, and this means capturing a certain grace and simplicity often found wanting in fussier, complication-heavy watches. The Ziiiro Gravity looks sufficiently futuristic to satisfy our sci-fi yearnings, while the colourful rings that replace the crasser time-telling mechanisms of hands and numerals have a distinct flat-design panache. All in all, some very iconic wrist-wear.
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DropDMG There are plenty of reasons why developers might want to go the direct download route, rather than plumping for the App Store. In these circumstances, DMGs are the way to go to but, unfortunately, wrapping your app up with a little bow can be a stressful process. Well, think of DropDMG as a ‘developer’s little helper’. Creating simple disk images is as straightforward as a drag and drop; even creating beautiful, branded packages is comparatively hassle free, meaning you’ll be making direct sales with a touch of class.
Lima Lima may not look like much; however, packed into this tiny box and its accompanying software is a whole lot of magic. Plug in a USB hard-drive and an ethernet cable and you can access terabytes of data from every device you own, meaning even the humblest of smartphones can handle the total back catalogue of Dusty Springfield and Frank Zappa combined. Which is perhaps why Lima has smashed its crowdfunding target more than tenfold, achieving a whopping $1m with a clear two weeks left to spare of its funding period.
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“You need to be able to track your customers, and you need to understand your customers” Mark Panay, CEO of cloud-based CRM platform Contactzilla
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
Managing client relationships is nigh on indispensable for the modern small-business owner. Thankfully, there are various tools available to help you stay on top of things.
Keeping customers close
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or a fledgling start-up, a new customer is like gold dust, and every effort must be made to cater for their needs from the outset. Of course, a business of any size would be nothing without its customers, so it pays to look after them at all times. In that respect, a basic starting point would seem to be collating as much information on every new client, and potential client, before storing it in a safe, secure and accessible location. And in this day and age, such a location will be one’s PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. A leather-bound address book can ultimately only get you so far in the 21st century. Suffice to say, there is a plethora of technology options available to the entrepreneur in this regard, with the most popular proving to be some of the dedicated customer relationship management (CRM) solutions offered by third-party suppliers. “CRM means lots of different things to lots of different people but I think the simplest way to look at it is you need to be able to track your customers, and you need to understand your customers,” says Mark Panay, CEO of cloud-based CRM platform Contactzilla. “The biggest real benefit of any CRM system is to help you isolate your prospects and then follow them up.” Nevertheless, depending on the nature of an enterprise, holding key information may only be a tiny piece of the jigsaw when it comes to managing ongoing customer relationships. As a business grows its client base, and takes on new staff, it could become useful to keep tabs
Mark Panay, CEO of cloud-based CRM platform Contactzilla
Francesca Geens, founder of IT consultancy Digital Dragonfly
managing director of CRM software provider matrixCRM
Marc Crouch, chief technology officer for umi Digital
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on who is managing which customers, what stage in the sales process they are at, and how a certain product or service has worked for one client compared to another. He or she may also require a streamlined communications channel, and some sort of social-media integration to stay in sync with customers on all levels. All said and done, they want an overview of their enterprise at the touch of a button. Still, for a self-starter with no employees, a dedicated CRM system may not be necessary straightaway and much can be achieved with the technology already at one’s fingertips. “I often deal with very small, one-person businesses, a lot of whom seem to think that from day one, they need a dedicated CRM, and a lot of them don’t,” says Francesca Geens, founder of IT consultancy Digital Dragonfly. “I am a big fan of using software such as Outlook, which may sound really basic, but there are plenty of people out there who I think can get away with using it.” She also suggests this can make an eventual move to CRM less painful. “Once you have Outlook organised in a good way, it will then be a lot easier when you do need to Mark Baker graduate to CRM because you will have a better understanding of what data is important to you.” Naturally, though, Geens admits that such software can only get a business so far, and that even at the start-up stage a more bespoke CRM system offers myriad features to make life easier for an SME. She says: “If you are a high-transaction, high-volume, highrepeat business – or especially if you sell online – you do need to build up that data to understand who is buying, how they are buying, and how often they are buying.” The difficulty, therefore, lies in selecting the system that suits the needs of your enterprise. Part of this is whether one opts for a cloudbased or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution over an offline ‘on premise’ programme. While Geen believes the former option probably makes more sense for a start-up, she can still see the appeal of a more local CRM service, as provided by an offline solution. “Where
cloud and SaaS stand out is that you are always on the latest version – they are rolling out upgrades and changes all the time and it is just seamless,” she explains. “I haven’t dealt with any clients who are using an offline CRM, but there are still advantages of using those, the main one being that it is much easier to customise them to your own needs.” And although online options may appear to hold more attraction to a start-up from a cost perspective – free trials are a particular selling-point – the enhanced security and sense of ownership offered by an ‘on premise’ solution continues to hold some weight. “I really believe the most important business asset for a company is its client bank,” says Mark Baker, managing director of CRM software provider matrixCRM. “So, to know that you fully own that client bank, and only you and your staff have access to that, I think is really important.” Regardless, whatever path a small business owner decides to tread, there are a multitude of reasons to broaden one’s CRM horizons beyond the bare bones. “The obvious benefit is that it means the business can have all of its information in one place, and that information is easily accessible and presented in a logical and useful way to that business,” says Baker. “By having that information organised in a useful way, it means that the business can be more efficient and also present a much more professional image when they are speaking to their customers.” Certainly, there is at least one SME out there that couldn’t live without the technology. “It will give you a much better oversight of where you are going as a business, and give you much greater control from day one,” says Marc Crouch, chief technology officer for umi Digital. “As a web design agency, where there is a huge emphasis on upsell particularly, it has transformed our business.” Essentially then, it all comes down to having a good old shop around for the best solution, of which there is a rich abundance.
“I really believe the most important business asset for a company is its client bank”
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The inside threat
David Hathiramani He may be co-founder of trendy suit retailer A Suit That Fits, but Hathiramani is also something of a closet geek. And the Imperial College computing graduate is here to impart some of his wisdom about setting up an internet business.
Offering a good level of customer service and staff satisfaction is the first step to keeping your data safe and secure, says David Hathiramani
he other day, I was chatting to a fellow entrepreneur about his database. His business is a proactive sales-based enterprise, where the relationship between the company and the customer is largely a personal one between the employee and their client. An obvious question I asked was “how do you prevent your data from being taken and therefore the employees setting up on their own?” As this was a relatively small business, the systems weren’t sophisticated, and, in fact, most of the work was done on Excel spreadsheets. The answer to my question was that there wasn’t any technical protection, and any salesperson with the intent to steal the data could do. At A Suit That Fits, we’re in a slightly different situation. We started our tailoring business from a technological point of view. Our business changed from manual processes involving Excel to more slick processes and databases as soon as we showed signs of scaling seven years ago. We now feel that our back-end systems and processes are the most advanced in the tailoring industry. This all helps us deliver to our customers as seamlessly as possible.
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However, in order to look after our customers well, our staff need access to our customers’ data. Our team need to email our customers when their order is ready, or give them a call to find out how they are enjoying their garment. We have to allow our staff access to this data. In fact, as we can see from the Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden cases in the US, organisations both big and small have the same problem: how do you prevent employees stealing data? Only grant access that is needed
You don’t have to give full access to every aspect of your business to everyone. Instead, plan access around what individual staff members need. This is a little more hassle than just giving access to everybody, but you can always grant access when requested, and this is a preventative measure. When designing new systems, you should ensure that ‘access control’ is considered during the building of it. Restrict downloading
Many systems allow you to download reports and data. If at all possible, it is best to restrict this functionality to very trusted team members. Downloading a report to Excel and emailing it through a personal email address would be a tempting route to any would-be data thief. Logging views of customer data
Create dummy records
This is referred to as “seeding”. The idea is that your database has dummy records inserted with realistic looking records where the telephone number/email address is actually owned by the company. If they are ever used, then the business knows that it is a result of data theft. Remember to inform your staff about this, so it adds a layer of prevention. You never want to go down the route of enforcing a contract if you can avoid it, but having a strong contract clearly stating that data theft is a breach can be a preventative measure. A good employment solicitor can help with the phrasing of this, and it is a comfort to know that you have good legal protection if the worst was to happen.
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This is an obvious but often overlooked, avoidance method for data theft. Before we started A Suit That Fits, I worked as an IT Manager for a recruitment business. Recruitment consultants were taken on board who had previously worked for other agencies. Some of these recruitment consultants came with the promise of existing clients or candidates. Do your best to avoid these types. If they have stolen from a past business, then their moral bar is low enough to steal from you.
“When designing new systems, you should ensure that ‘access control’ is considered during the building of it”
With any customer data, it’s always good (for a number of reasons) to log when your staff have viewed them. When designing and building a system, bear this logging in mind. The business can retrospectively look at suspicious activity or alternatively be warned if suspicious activity is happening.
Have clear contracts
Build a great business
It sounds like a cliché but it helps to focus on creating a great business that utilises its data intelligently, rewards its staff for doing well, is ethical and ensures that customers are looked after well. This way, the probability of somebody having the will to steal your customer data should be far lower. After all, if they are rewarded for utilising the customer data well in your business, then why would they think about using it in another business? At A Suit That Fits, while we have systems for preventing this kind of activity, our main focus is always on rapidly and constantly improving our business to ensure that we are the best place for new and returning customers to buy from, as well as an enjoyable and rewarding place for our staff to work. If we continue this focus, we hope it will be our biggest protection.
Mike Anderson Escaped the corporate rat race and found a pension alternative It was a long overdue review of his pension plans that started Mike Anderson’s journey towards building a property portfolio. Following his departure from a high profile role in an American Automotive corporation, Mike took stock of his financial position as part of the process to determine the direction of his next career move. The results shocked him. When he analysed his pension statements, it transpired that after twenty years of contributions, it was worth exactly what he had paid into it. By contrast, Mike had his home valued for re-mortgage purposes around the same time and it became apparent that the amount it had appreciated over the last eight years was double the amount of his pension investments. “It made me realise that I had to do something different. And quickly,” says Mike.
Another driver for pursuing an opportunity in property and not going back into the corporate environment was a conversation with one of his children. When Mike explained to his eleven year old that he was looking for a new job, his son asked, “Dad, is this the job where you stay at home? I miss you.” Having spent the previous twenty years working eighty hour weeks and spending a considerable amount of time away from home, Mike realised that not only did his pension provisions have to change, but his whole lifestyle too. “I came to the conclusion that starting my own business would give me more freedom.
Given that I’d also realised property was a viable option, I decided to combine the two.”
Total Portfolio Value:
Mike started to research the opportunities available. Thinking that buying into a franchise
Annual Rental Income:
property sector. At this point, he discovered Platinum Property Partners.
would offer a readymade infrastructure he started to explore franchises operating in the
Within months of joining, Mike had completed his first property in Stockport, and a
Annual Operating Profit:
second seven months later. With two properties renovated and fully tenanted, Mike
bought his third in September 2011. Reflecting on the amount of equity he has acquired since becoming a Franchise Partner
I wanted to be able to do simple things, such as collect my children from school. I felt that if I didn’t get off the corporate merry-go-round and actively pursue a different route, then I would just be existing, rather than enjoying life.
with PPP, Mike says, “I would never have achieved this level of financial security if I had stayed within the corporate environment, paying each month into an under-performing pension. Now, not only do I have a healthy monthly income, I am also building significant capital by redeveloping properties.” He continues, “But the best thing is that I now have a lifestyle I could never have achieved previously. My wife and I now have the time to nip for a coffee whenever we want, and if the family want to go on holiday, these days it’s a question of how long would we like to be away for, rather than can I get the time off.”
BE MORE - DO MORE - HAVE MORE - GIVE MORE Head Office: 5 Lansdowne Place, 17 Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth, BH8 8EW T: 01202 652100 F: 01202 559419 E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.platinumpropertypartners.co.uk Untitled-8 1 Mike Anderson.indd 1
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6/7th September Stand RS10
Franchise news 81
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Consumers have certainly gone mad for Superdry in the past five years, with the trendy fashion brand doing its best to smash the competition in every possible market. Well, it seems that the Europe-Asia border is now firmly on its radar, as brand owner SuperGroup has announced a new five-year exclusive franchise agreement with Demsa Group, a major retailer of luxury and lifestyle fashion brands in Turkey. Demsa Group will open three stores – two in Istanbul and one in Ankara – by early 2014, with the first to be opened at Istanbul’s new Zorlu Shopping Mall in October this year. The Turkish firm is hoping to open a minimum of eight Superdry standalone stores during the course of the agreement, and will also carry Superdry within its Harvey Nichols department stores and luxury multi-brand concept stores, named Brand Room. “Turkey is a territory that has held our interest for some time and our partnership with Demsa Group offers the perfect opportunity to enter this diverse and growing market,” said Julian Dunkerton, CEO of SuperGroup. A super deal, if ever there was one.
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
WORDS: ADAM PESCOD
Turkish delight for Superdry
Eco-energy retailer eyes growth Renewable energy is all the rage nowadays, with businesses the country and world over looking to ‘go green’ wherever possible. In fact, the value of the renewable market in the UK is predicted to hit a mind-boggling £50bn by 2020. It will come as no surprise to learn, therefore, that “the UK’s first dedicated renewable energy store”, Green Square, has launched a franchise opportunity to those entrepreneurs looking to jump on the environmental bandwagon. Green Square sells renewable energy
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solutions such as solar panelling and biomass boilers to forward-thinking businesses, and its flagship store in Raynes Park, London, is expected to make a £70,000 profit in year one. In addition to the retail presence it has in 45 independent retailers across the country, it now wants to roll out its own stores by offering its first three UK franchises an investment of £35,000 – plus showroom and fit-out. And with Green Square claiming that each franchise has a sales potential of over £1m in three years, it definitely sounds worth a look.
Europe the ideal filling for Subway
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
It’s been a month of landmarks for Subway, the global sandwich giant. It racked up its 40,000th store worldwide – at a petrol station in Ipswich, Suffolk, no less – and its 4,000th in Europe at the only slightly more exotic Gara de Nord railway station in Bucharest, Romania. Of course, you’d be a fool to expect the company’s growth to slow anytime soon – it currently boasts more outlets than McDonald’s. Needless to say, up to 1,000 additional restaurants have been earmarked for Europe in 2014, with a further 1,000 penned the following year. And Old Blighty sits proudly at the top of the list for Subway’s European expansion, according to assistant regional director Mike Charest, who revealed the growth plans in an interview with Bloomberg. With 63 openings this year taking the number of stores on these fair shores to 1,544 – and competition still conspicuous by its absence – the Subway express continues to chug away at a reasonable rate.
Just another new face for falafel franchise Many a food craze has taken off in the UK since the turn of the millennium, and it’s safe to say that Just Falafel has tapped into one of these with relative success. The chain, which specialises in the popular Middle Eastern delicacy, is slowly but surely building its reputation across the country with its healthier alternative to more traditional fast food offerings. Now, as part of its ongoing strategy to roll out 200 stores in the UK over the next five years, it has appointed a franchise operations manager to help drive forward the expansion of the Just Falafel franchise network in Britain. The man tasked with that job is Leonardo Valetta, who joins other recent appointments David Taylor – the new franchise sales director – and operations manager Adrian Liddiment. “We are delighted to welcome Leonardo to the team, and believe he will be a great asset in driving forward our franchise operations,” said Michael Biggins, UK and Ireland CEO. “His hands-on franchise experience across the food and retail sectors will provide an invaluable insight into the market.” As quite a foodie bunch, the Elite Business team will be following Just Falafel’s progress with interest, that’s for sure.
Stage is set for UK’s best franchisees The British Franchise Association (bfa) has revealed the finalists for its annual Franchisee of the Year Awards, which this year boast a shiny new format. A total of 17 franchisees have been selected across five categories, with the overall winner standing to pocket a tasty £10,000 and, of course, the respect of their franchising peers. Meanwhile, each category winner will win £1,000 and a trophy, with the winners to be revealed at a predictably glitzy ceremony at the ICC in Birmingham on October 3. To find out more about the finalists, we’d recommend taking a trip to the bfa website, thebfa.org.
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Franchise in the spotlight:
Driver Hire Transport is the central nervous system that keeps the heart of UK plc beating. So you need a tip-top recruiter to keep your firm in good health
WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
ecruitment is a time-consuming and expensive process. When you introduce into the equation the need to find, vet and check the core competences of specialist staff, it’s not always easy for firms to manage those hires internally. Haulage and transport is definitely one of these fields, which is why it’s worth going to the experts. Driver Hire is far from a new entrant to the field and has an impressive three decades in the recruitment industry. And franchising has formed an essential part of its model for the last 25 years, allowing the recruitment firm to amass 100 offices across the country serving catchments from Inverness to Truro. Originally the brainchild of Mark Lawn and John Bussey, a former driver and a finance provider respectively, Driver Hire was bought out nine years ago and has come to serve an impressive variety of clients. “Any company that has a vehicle could be classed as a potential customer,” explains Graham Duckworth, franchise sales director at the firm. “Traditionally, it’s things such as parcel delivery, haulage companies as you’d imagine in transport. Then there are manufacturing companies, oil and gas companies, local councils; the list of what we cover is very long.” In addition, the firm also supplies blue-collar staff, warehouse operatives and general office staff, filling vacancies for 6,000 clients a year. Obviously, building up a roster of candidates for such diverse industries takes a good deal of leg work. Fortunately, franchisees and recruiters for the firm aren’t lacking in resources. “We have a Driver Hire website and every office has its own micro-site, which has a jobs board on,” explains Duckworth.
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The offices themselves control the jobs content, they can update it live themselves so it’s theirs to update frequently. “It’s free for the franchisee to use, so that’s an excellent source.” While other sources include their close ties to local Jobcentre Plus offices and online job sites, this isn’t Driver Hire’s most valuable resource. Instead, that rests on the candidates themselves. “Word of mouth is very important and a really good way for offices to source drivers,” says Duckworth. “Because, when drivers or candidates go to work for a company, you can be absolutely sure that they speak to drivers from other recruiters as well; things like how are they treated and what are they paid.” And the company recognises just how much value this adds to its business. “We try to treat people with respect, try to find them work that they’ll enjoy and pay them a decent rate,” Duckworth says. “Hopefully, that combination of things makes them want to stay with us and recommend us to other people.” Which is far more than wishful thinking; the company has had candidates who have been securing work through it for ten years, identifying more with Driver Hire than the organisations holding their contracts. “Even though they’re going to work for different companies, they consider Driver Hire to be their employers.” But it’s not just about sourcing candidates. As may be anticipated, a lot of work goes into ensuring potential employees are up to scratch. The firm is accredited to the standard ISO 9000, which governs a lot of the recruitment process. It runs through a detailed application and a licence check for its drivers, but the process is much more than just a box-checking exercise. “We sit down, figure out what sort of work they enjoy, whether there are any particular shift patterns they’d like to work or whether there’s anything in their personal lives that dictates how and when they work,” explains Duckworth. And this is something the firm prides itself on, making sure they match candidates to the right positions, rather than just trying to churn through applicants as a numbers game. It doesn’t end there, however. “Traditionally, recruitment companies are just seen as people who supply staff,” Duckworth says. “We’ve
“Even though they’re going to work for different companies, they consider Driver Hire to be their employers”
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diversified significantly over the last few years.” Since the introduction of the Drivers Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) – a mandatory qualification for all LGV drivers – Driver Hire has begun to offer training to prepare employees for the certification. They also provide extensive e-learning, including guides to aid drivers in increasing fuel efficiency and performing daily safety checks on their vehicles. “We’re looking at ways of not just simply being a supplier of temporary staff; we’re looking to provide other things for customers that are going to be beneficial.” As mentioned, franchising has been key in helping Driver Hire establish a comprehensive network across the nation. Franchises are sold and broken down by postcode and each is set at a specific size to ensure the ability to achieve peak profitability. Because of this, new regions are comparatively hard to come by, with only ten more locations identified that aren’t currently served. But resales of established franchises are still allowing committed recruiters to get their hands on a location. And many of these can be highly desirable, generating very healthy incomes. “During 2012-2013, 41% of our offices had a turnover of more than £750,000,” comments Duckworth. But the numbers aren’t the main focus. Instead, central to the Driver Hire ethos is securing the best hires for their customers and building up quality, long-term relationships. He continues: “It’s not just trying to put a bum on a seat, it’s thinking very carefully and – this is how we get customers coming back to us – finding the right person.”
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challenging, but also the most rewarding aspect of running his own business. He has also learned that good customer relations is one of the most important aspects of his industry as it is service-based, and word of mouth and recommendation is one of the best ways of acquiring new customers. Matthew has great plans for the future of his Lawnscience business, he says: “I have already expanded my franchise into a multi-van business and I aim to be the market leader in the lawn care industry, with a reputation for high quality, service and value for money.” So what would Matthew say to anyone thinking of buying a franchise? “Make sure you do your research thoroughly, it is a long-term commitment and in this business
Green room Previously employed in television, Matthew Allcott decided he wanted to be his own boss and explored franchising. He now enjoys working on his Lawnscience business Investment level under £16,000
hen Matthew Allcott made the leap from employment to selfemployment, he immediately saw that franchising was a far less risky way of getting into his own business than actually going it alone. Matthew says: “You always receive back up and help from the franchisor, and you are able to draw upon their experiences and expertise in the field which should help your business become more successful and unlikely to fail.” Raising the money to buy a franchise can be a problem, but Matthew was lucky in that most of his finance came from savings and he managed to secure a loan from a high street bank once he had produced a business plan,
Lawnscience Editorial & Advert September.indd 1
which is an essential part of anyone’s journey into franchising. What sets franchising apart is the training and support you receive from the franchisor, and Matthew states that his experience of this from Lawnscience has been very good. “We have regular meetings to discuss ways to improve revenue and to discuss any issues that have arisen over the season. Additionally, I also regularly receive visits from my franchisor and get given additional support over the phone,” comments Matthew. Matthew has found that getting to know how to market his lawn care business and learning all the different lawn treatments – areas he had no prior experience of – to be the most
“I have already expanded my franchise into a multi-van business” territory it is very important as this will govern your earnings potential. Don’t make your decision purely on the cost of the franchise.” The Lawnscience lawn-care franchise attracts people from all walks of life, not just those with previous gardening or grounds keeping experience. They are justifiably proud to be able to offer each successful applicant a franchise territory, which is tailored exclusively to them. The package also includes a comprehensive three-week training programme, support in their business and an individual marketing launch, valued at more than £8,000 and second year support of up to £5,000, all for under £20,000. If you yearn for a healthy working environment and the opportunity to grow your business the way you want to, love the outdoors and have the determination to succeed in your own business get in touch with Lawnscience today.
lawnscience Website: www.lawnsciencefranchise.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 01908 504 664
Lawnscience Editorial & Advert September.indd 2
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WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL
A false economy?
The government has stepped up its game in trying to tackle legislative burdens for enterprise. But, long term, could the recent employment law reforms cause more problems than they solve?
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he government has made no bones about its attitudes toward employment regulations. Laying out its position on the cabinet website Red Tape Challenge, the current administration adroitly described the ideology behind the last three years of tape trimming: “Over the years, regulations… have piled up and up. This has hurt business, doing real damage to our economy.” However, regulation isn’t only there to protect individuals and sometimes when legislators get a little snip-happy with the scissors, it can have unforeseen detrimental consequences. On paper, the decisions made in the latest raft of employment law provisions look set to benefit enterprises no end. “Obviously, the
government is looking to try and reduce the burden on employers,” comments David Evans, head of employment at law firm Cripps Harries Hall. “Previously, employers had been seen as being fair game for spurious claims.” Given the revisions are intended to sway things further back in the benefit of employers, on paper it seems hard to argue that the changes shouldn’t be celebrated by enterprise. “From an employer’s point of view I think they are to be welcomed because presumably only when people feel genuinely aggrieved will they be willing to put money behind those claims.” Which is perhaps the most appreciable change made to employment law: any claim brought will require the payment of an upfront fee. Claims around unpaid wages, payment in lieu of notice and redundancy payments will be met by an issue fee of £160 at the lodging of a claim and £230 hearing fee when said claim is brought to tribunal. For more complex claims, involving issues such as unfair dismissal, discrimination, equal pay and whistleblowing, these levies can jump to as high as £950. This change has two justifications. Firstly, one reason given is that the cost of the system should be borne by those who use it, with that cost being footed by employers in the cases
where they are shown to have acted in contravention of regulations. Secondly, it is intended to discourage frivolous claims. “If you look at the fee structure of an unfair dismissal, the combined fee is £1,200,” says Evans. “The median award for an unfair dismissal claim last year was about £4,500 so it is going to act as a fairly significant disincentive.” Another sizeable change is how much unfair dismissal claims stand to be awarded if the decision finds for the claimant. Rather than a fixed payment of £74,200, maximum payouts are now set at whichever is lowest between that figure or 52 weeks’ salary. “That in itself will encourage a lot of people to settle,” Evans comments. “It’ll also work against people having unrealistic expectations that they’re automatically going to get £70,000 if they’re putting in an unfair dismissal claim.” Lastly, under older employment laws, it was possible to discuss settlements with employees to allow employers to terminate contracts on a ‘without prejudice’ basis, meaning that the discussions couldn’t be raised in later tribunals. However, this was only possible if a formal dispute had been raised, with all of the commitments this entails, whereas the new legislation means these conversations can be engaged in at any time, without a need for a dispute to be raised. “Before, employers felt it was difficult to try and have those conversations because of fear that those conversations would be repeated back to them in a prejudicial way in a tribunal hearing,” comments Evans. But disregarding whether these changes are fair to employees, where’s the downside for employers? The negatives may be subtle but they are definitely there and the government’s failure to address these issues means they may be setting companies up for a fall. “While we can understand the purpose behind all this is to try and remove the burdens on business, there has to be a risk,” explains Evans.
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“If people are looking around for funding options, one of the more obvious places where they may go is a trade union” David Evans, head of employment at law firm Cripps Harries Hall
While a tribunal is the last thing any employer wants to be drawn into, they do serve a valuable purpose: bringing negative or damaging behaviours to light. Knowing it is unlikely a junior employee will pursue a claim may give the feeling within an organisation that there is little for individuals to fear by way of ramifications for their actions. Evans says: “Some people may feel they have the freedom to behave in a way that perhaps they wouldn’t do if they were scrutinised.” Obviously, if this develops into an endemic problem, it can ruin an enterprise. Another way in which these changes to employment law can be a false economy is that they may simply shift the focus of protecting employees away from central government and back to trade unions. “If people are looking around for funding options, one of the more obvious places where they may go is a trade union,” says Evans. Rather than focusing on responsibility within organisations to support and protect their employees, this may simply encourage a more aggressive landscape. “Actually, one of the impacts of this is that we may actually see an increased membership in unions and unions taking a more interventionist role.” Perhaps the most troubling element, however, is the shift of focus away from dispute management and toward making dismissal easier. “It goes against the grain of ACAS guidance, which is all about informal resolution first of all then following prescribed processes, with a view not to punish but to reform,” comments Evans. Given how expensive recruitment can be, the financial cost of letting someone go is often much higher than resolving conflicts; discouraging employers from using dispute proceedings may actually lead to increased costs, simply because termination seems an easier option than resolution. Ultimately, in the majority of cases, the employment reforms shouldn’t make too much of a difference to the majority of employers, as many will still insist on putting in effective practices to prevent legal conflicts arising in the first place. But in cases where enterprises perhaps lack insight into the state of their business, it’s still easy to imagine ways in which removing the impetus of firm regulations can simply help business owners hide away from the issues taking place within their own organisation.
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t: 0845 094 5363 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.lawnkeeperfranchise.co.uk
Discounted Private Health Insurance from General & Medical
Nothing is more important to you than your health and the health of your family. If you or your loved ones were to experience worrying symptoms, private health insurance from General & Medical can give you some control over the situation. With private medical insurance, diagnosis and treatment can be dealt with almost immediately so you can concentrate on getting well sooner. As well as Private Health Insurance, we also have a comprehensive range of Sports cover available.
With our help you can replicate our success in your own territory! Following our proven system is far more likely to generate you a successful business than if you try to go it alone. You’ll still be your own boss, and be able to benefit from all the financial rewards that being self-employed entails. You’ll have the freedom to work where you want, when you want, but we’ll be there to help you.
HR Elite aims to offer you and your business practical, cost effective Human Resource solutions to address your specific business and employee needs. Whatever your requirements, big or small, one off or ongoing, HR Elite will be able to provide you with a service to support you, your people and your business. TAKE OUR HR HEALTH CHECK ONLINE NOW
t: 01206 848 459 e: email@example.com w: www.hrelite.co.uk
Are you challenged by employment problems, failing to keep up to date with changing legislation, non-compliant, worried about risk or no time to manage people properly? OPS supports over 200 employers to manage staff effectively with a range of tailor made low/fixed cost solutions including employment contracts, policies, advice and practical support from recruitment to termination. To our clients, we are their HR Department.
t: 0207 788 7966 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.personnelmanagement.co.uk
classifieds Legal Advice
Been hacked? Having LINUX problems? Trust the LINUX experts since 1998!
• Open Source software development • Linux systems administration • Networking • Fault finding • Installations t: 0141 438 2030 w: www.dsis.co.uk
Delivery Centre • Software development • Testing • Application Maintenance • Multilingual support • Unified Communications • Mobile Cross-platform • Embedded Software • Enterprise Applications • Time & Material Teams • Outsourcing • Staffing & workforce management • Staff Augmentation As IT becomes more complex, we encourage the quest for simplicity and clarity. Contact us to find out how we can be a reliable extension to your organisation. RINF, where ICT works!
t: +44 7426 584 821 e: email@example.com w: wwww.rinf.ro Online Marketing
Timely, effective advice in a language that won’t confuse. With over 12 years experience advising owners, directors, and shareholders, Legal Services for Business offers companies a fresh approach to law. • There when you need me - communicative and responsive • Free one hour consultation • Fixed cost where possible, and transparency on fees • Value for money expertise
t: +44 (0) 1252 850058 m: 07789 773985 w: www.legalservicesforbusiness.co.uk e: firstname.lastname@example.org People
Lynbyrd Express Creating confidence in Business with Real Skills for Real People
Practical and flexible legal support for your business needs We can help you with setting up corporate arrangements and agreements; reviewing and drafting commercial contracts; providing assistance with employment and HR related matters. We offer: •Fixed fees (where possible) •10% off first instruction (new clients) •Free complimentary support for general legal queries by phone and email (following first instruction)
For over 6 years we've specialised in driving quality traffic to websites. Good quality traffic brings you leads and sales. Whether your aim is to drive sales to your eCommerce site, or drive leads for your B2B sales team, we will drive you traffic that works for you. Our key services include: Google Adwords, Product Listing Ads, Remarketing, & LinkedIn Advertising.
t: 020 7060 9913 e: email@example.com w: www.vialegal.co.uk
t: 01865 980 630 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: http://indiumonline.co.uk
t: 01622 607966 e: email@example.com w: www.askdms.com
t: 01255 671125 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.essexstationery.co.uk
t: 01727 373911 e: email@example.com w: www.zigzagvideomail.com
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• Coaching & Mentoring • Management training • Sales & telesales • Customer Service & Telemarketing
• NVQ & VRQ qualifications • Job hunting training • Pre-interview training • Funded courses
Join the XL Telecom Family XL Telecom provides a hosted solution that offers outstanding quality, enabling us to be the market leader in high quality telecoms. Our solutions are specifically built to work for each client, allowing your business to focus on what it does best. • Hosted VoIP with XLIP • Business Broadband • Business Telephone Lines • UK Telephone Numbers
• International Telephone Numbers • Telephone Systems • Inbound/Outbound Call Mgmt • Telecoms Consultancy
t: 08000 445 445 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.xltelecom.co.uk Virtual Administration
37 million UK customers viewed video online in March 2013* It’s simple: video is the most powerful way to boost traffic and conversion rates. Wagon Media creates original, targeted video for web and TV. Broadcast expertise for your online budget. commercials | corporate | explainer | training | exhibitions Contact Rebecca on
t: 07798 768 011 e: email@example.com w: wagonmedia.co.uk
Contact us for:
Essex Stationery is a respected Office Supplies company with over 18,000 Discounted Office Products available via our secure website. We supply Office Products from all the major brands as well as a range of money saving alternatives. Our Office Stationery Supplies and Office Equipment have incredibly competitive prices and we aim to give the highest levels of customer service at all times. Essex Stationery for the best prices on office supplies
Unleash the power of Video Email Marketing Personal, informative & Engaging, high click through/conversion rates increasing sales. Email unlimited pre-recorded or webcam videos directly to your database. Add logo and corporate colours, no 3rd party advertisemnets. Low Cost powerful weapon, Email or Share on Social Media or embed in video newsletters. To see one of our promotional videos go to http://zzag.eu/15foR52
Businesses looking to better staff skills and increase their sales conversions. Individuals to equip themselves for a new direction of employment or starting their own business.
t: 01329 848 682 / 0800 508 8338 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.lynbyrdexpress.co.uk
DMS Exhibition Specialists We ensure that the continuity of the customers corporate branding is followed through every stage of the print process, whether it is a business card or an exterior sign to an exhibition banner. Our services include stand build/graphics and systems, roller banners, pop ups, bespoke modular systems, shell scheme panels, posters and banners including all your printed literature requirements.
Lynbyrd Express offers results driven training and coaching solutions for:
*comScore, May 2013
We are a UK–based business who can provide your company with as much or as little office support as you need. ✓ Book-keeping and payroll ✓ Virtual PA ✓ Travel & accommodation arrangements ✓ Visa applications ✓ UK company registration ✓ Assistance with IOM & BVI registration
t: +44 (0)1322 305016 e: email@example.com w: www.ecbusiness.co.uk
classifieds Web Design
We are a web design agency who specialize in bespoke web design projects and start up packages for small businesses. Our web design, and on-line marketing services include E-commerce, Logo Design, Web Site Re-Design & Web Hosting. Specialists in CMS systems such as Joomla, Drupal and WordPress we can design, support, upgrade, and expand all these great open-source solutions.
t: 0845 094 9341 w: www.fallenleafwebdesign.co.uk
If you are reading this, you are seeing an example of how website design should work in harmony with easy-to-understand language, this is something Imran Shabir freelance web designer can do for you. Whether you are an existing company or a new start up, we will work with you to design a website that gets the core message of what you offer to your customers. If your strength is business and customer service, then why don’t you concentrate on that and let Imran Shabir Freelance Web Designer handle the technical IT aspects?
t: +44 800 689 0543 e: Imran@ImranShabir.co.uk w: www.ImranShabir.co.uk
Grow your business online We are a full service design agency, but our services don’t just stop at creative design. We deliver powerful Search Engine Marketing strategies to empower your business. Mega Mind are your essential companion for all things online
t: 01664 850 898 w: megaminddesign.co.uk
WebDevelopment Brand it, Build it, Find it Offering Fast, Friendly and affordable custom web design and development solutions. From simple static brochure style websites, to huge database driven e-commerce systems and everything in between.
Red 13 Website Design is a website design, development and creative agency based in Shoreditch, London.
Logo Design | Website Design | Search engine optimisation
We pride ourselves on delivering professional, stylish and fashionable websites with a focus on straightforward navigation and usability. We are a dedicated and hardworking team, with a friendly and personable approach naturally embedded into our business model.
t: 08000 588 199 w: www.offthepegdesign.com
t: 0208 185 7392 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: red13websitedesign.co.uk
Quality cost effective web design your business whether you are a start-up, an established small/medium sized business or a blue chip giant. Specialising in eCommerce Solutions, CMS Website Design, Online Fast Food Restaurants, Property Webdesign and Bespoke Website Development. UK Based Company with UK staff and a very friendly hands on approach. Prices from £245.
t: 01484 318361 e: email@example.com w: www.SpicerDesigns.com
Here at W3 Web Designs Ltd. we have established a dedicated team of technical web site developers creative web designers and Graphic Designers to handle all of your web design needs. We specialise in Affordable Web Design, Ecommerce Design, and Graphic Design Services, with packages starting from £199, give us a call to discuss your requirements today.
t: 01994241454 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.w3designs.co.uk
Not Just A Website…. A Solution At SP Web Development we aim to provide a professional and high quality product. With the internet becoming the go-to place for Information then having a professional website is more important then ever! We provide more then a website, We provide a solution. We Specialize in Website Design/Development, Graphics & Logo Design, Mobile Websites, Google Adwords, SEO and Web Based Software Solutions.
t: 07812 339 865 e: email@example.com w: www.spwebdevelopment.com
Professional mobile-friendly website – just £19.99 per month Free set-up (normally £400) to Elite Business readers – use code ELITE400 (Offer ends 31 Sept) No contract Great for SEO Responsive designs Online shop
Password-protected areas Easy to use CMS Unlimited pages Much more – call and ask
t: 020 8707 7486 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.webnation.co.uk Web Security
The Web Tailor Group are passionate about delivering bespoke websites and web applications for all types of businesses, large and small. Specialists in bespoke website projects we have worked on some exceptionally creative and specialised tasks over the last few years which has made our ability to provide the perfect solution for businesses, second to none. For a full list of our work please visit our website at www.webtailorgroup.com or call us now on 01454 809 808.
t: 01454 809 808 w: www.webtailorgroup.com
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Webwax provide a full ‘in-house’ service for web design, ecommerce, web hosting, search engine optimisation, ad-words, email campaigns, graphic design, virtual brochures, copy writing, social media and photography. With a wide range of clients both locally and globally, Webwax believe in providing a Return on Investment in the projects we involve ourselves in. Whether you are after a simple website with a few pages or a full blown e-commerce site, we can help.
t: 07782 357686 e: email@example.com w: www.webwax.co.uk
Global Brands Protection Limited is a worldwide solution provider offering corporations the most aggressive online protection software in the marketplace. GBP’s experience in evaluating and utilising software enables us to accurately pair your online protection needs with a solution specific to your challenges. Our mainstream solution ‘Yoshki’ is a world first in website validation, image protection, control and tracking.
t: 0843 289 6376 e: info@GlobalBrandsProtection.com w: www.globalbrandsprotection.com
the START-UP DIARies
It’s lonely at the top Collaborations can open up new avenues for your business and win you a friend or two along the way, says Nicola Barron Nicola Barron Founder of Homemade London
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the boss is to collaborate with other businesses – and, of course, it’s also an important route to commercial growth. At Homemade London, we’ve been collaborating and partnering with compatible companies since day one. Some of the relationships have been incredibly successful and others we’ve had to put down to experience. Each relationship has to be managed of course, but in my mind they fall into three distinct categories and need to be handled in different ways to get the best results. Collaborations that are mutually beneficial to both parties
These are particularly useful for helping you to build your brand and define your demographic. In the past, we’ve worked on events with female-centred businesses such as the website Domestic Sluttery and pre-loved designer fashion company Buy My Wardrobe. These events are mutually beneficial to both parties and although they don’t make us lots of money in themselves, they’re good for increasing awareness for everyone involved and, in our experience, we’ve gained new business referrals and contacts. Collaborations where you’re offering something to another party
As a lifestyle business with our own central London venue, we get a lot of requests from individuals or companies with limited budgets wanting to use our brand to help enhance their own. Many of these will be ridiculous. I remember once receiving an email from a crafts events company wanting to use Homemade London as a free photo-shoot location for their rival business. However, as long as you operate with a sense
of caution, these shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. A base for a book launch is fine and will introduce lots of journalists to your venue. Charity and community events are also good as long as they don’t take up vast amounts of time and money and jeopardise you from doing your real job. Collaborations where you’re essentially a client
This forms a significant amount of our business at Homemade London. As retailers are looking to enhance the experience for shoppers, we find that we’re increasingly approached by them to add a sense of retail theatre. Recently we’ve opened a craft pop-up in a shopping centre, which has proved incredibly popular with shoppers, and we have others in negotiation for the coming months. These kinds of collaborations can ultimately be the most profitable but can also carry the largest risk for your business, so the relationship needs to be managed carefully. In the early stages of your business’s life, it may be flattering to receive a partnership offer from another business, but be selective and make sure that there is a good brand fit and commercial rationale. If another company is using your brand name and values, you need to ensure that you’re comfortable with how this is being represented – you don’t want to devalue your brand or confuse customers and draw them away from your core business. Be clear about what both parties are aiming to get out of the partnership. Collaborations are therefore good for widening your business circle and getting yourself talked about. If you’re upfront, honest and respectful with your partners, then it will bring rewards and, importantly, friends.
ne of the things I miss most about my previous job is having friends at work; being able to share in-jokes with one another, the sense of camaraderie you get from working on projects together and, if you’re having a bad day, it’s nice to have someone who understands what you’re going through and can put your worries into perspective. I sometimes feel envious of my husband when I note how, upon exchanging work emails with his colleagues, he often laughs. Mine are usually accompanied by a deep inner sigh. When you’re the owner, your relationship with your employees is always going to be an unequal one. If you make a flippant or sarcastic comment, there’s always the possibility that they’ll take it at face value. Recently, I had a mini-outburst at work about the sense of negativity from my team – it was a momentary thing really, in response to a succession of complaints about tricky customers and reasons why projects were problematic – but I did feel a pang of guilt the next day when I received a carefully composed, very apologetic email from one of my team resolving to take a more positive approach to her work. My comment hadn’t even been directed towards her in the first place and I felt bad that she’d obviously been worrying about it when she got home that night. And don’t even think about trying to friend them on Facebook, unless they friend you first. We’ve got quite a large team at Homemade London and everyone’s connected on Facebook, except me, of course. I’ve decided not to take this personally – I’ve told them all the story of how I once sacked a nanny after looking up her Myspace page, so they’ve got good reason to keep their permissions settings private. One of the antidotes to the loneliness of being
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