Three helpful ways your phone can reduce paperwork
Paperwork is the eternal enemy of the small business, stealing valuable desk, shelf and cupboard space throughout your office and offering little in return. For a business like ours, paperwork can quickly get out of hand, become disorganised and cause havoc when we need to find one particular document.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a company-wide restructuring effort to seriously reduce your paperwork. Taking simple steps can drastically reduce the amount of paperwork you generate. Since we all carry a smartphone around with us, I thought I’d look at three easy ways you can use your phone to reduce your paperwork.#1 Scan Receipts
Go back to the mid ‘90s and a lot of small businesses would have had a similar expense filing methodology: Take your receipts, shove them in a drawer and hope you never need to find any specific receipt again. If your expense were ever queried, it was a mad scramble through boxes, cupboards and old storerooms in search of an elusive slip of paper that, in all likelihood, had been eaten by a mouse.
Thankfully, things are a bit easier now.
Filing is super easy in the digital era. If you use any new accounting software, there’s probably an option to snap a picture of your receipt on your phone and upload it to the service’s records. Alternatively, if you don’t have a subscription, you can snap pictures anyway and upload them to a free cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox.
It doesn’t have to stop at digitising purchase records, either. Get snap happy with your phone and scan invoices, payslips, utility bills and everything else for easy reference and peace of mind.#2 Electronic signatures
If you’re dealing with someone over a long distance, signing a document can be an absolute nightmare. You print it, sign it and fax it over. They then sign it and re-fax it to you. Suddenly, there’s three pieces of paper in the world when you only needed one.
With electronic signatures, however, you can streamline the whole written agreement process, cutting down on both paperwork and wasted time. And with e-signatures set up on your phone, you can sign documents from anywhere in the world!#3 Ditch your paper black book
A lot of businesses and business owners still swear by their black books and I’m not going to try and dissuade you if you use one. However, huge paper diaries stuffed with extra notes, letters and messages are a thing of the past and will almost certainly disintegrate or surprisingly disappear if you give it enough time.
Digitising your black book and saving it to your phone provides substantially more flexibility and security, ensuring you have access to all of your contacts, notes and communication wherever in the world you are.About the Author - Gary Easton cut his teeth working at one of the Big Four auditors KPMG. However, a few years ago, Gary decided that SMEs deserves a better service and left to found Tax IQ, a specialist SME accountant based in Edinburgh.
How to Set Up Your Own Business
Wednesday, May 10 at 13:12
It’s the dream. Every aspiring entrepreneur wants to launch their own business
. It’s the reason why shows like Dragons Den still get such amazing viewing figures, despite being on something crazy like series seventy-three. Everyone dreams of running their own business, and if you believe all the literature out there, it’s as easy as one-two-three.
It’s not easy. It takes trial and error. Success can be fleeting or worse, limited. However, that all being said, it is straightforward. There’s a clear path laid out. Once you reject the commonly spouted ideas of the easily created successful business and the near-prophetic business hero, you can view it for what it is. A difficult path that relies heavily on luck and hard work, as well as insight and intelligence. You can always get by with ambition and hard work; it’s just a little harder.Coming Up With the Perfect Idea
Here’s a hint, it doesn’t exist. When it comes to thinking up your business idea, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Humans seem to live their lives waiting for the bolt of inspiration, the passion, the calling that’ll usher them into success. The great unspoken truth is that that just doesn’t happen. Success always looks easy and random to those on the outside. If you sit around waiting for success to find you, you will end up unremarkable and mediocre. No idea is perfect.
So how do you come up with a killer idea then? Here’s two clear ways. Brainstorming, and paying attention. You can brainstorm the industries and businesses you’ve got clear knowledge, experience or interest in, and keep having deeper and more focused brainstorms on elements of those businesses, till you find an existing part of those industries lacking an integral part. A part your business could provide. This could work within product or service based business models.
Paying attention is what it sounds like. It’s the reason people start businesses within industries that they already work. They’ve generated the idea through being intimately aware of the industry. In order to do this yourself you need time, and the ability to keep a sharp eye on opportunities and ideas.Market and Industry Research
Now you’ve got an idea, you need to do your research. Endless research. There should be nothing you don’t know – you need to know your industry inside and out. Limitations as well as potential successes. Go all scouting, and be prepared. Getting caught unaware by rival products, limitations in the industry and other problems that are well documented is well and truly rookie league nonsense. Cut it out at this stage.Facts, Figures and Projections
As a part of your market and industry research, you should be generating a powerful roster of facts and figures. Only through this kind of precise research can you hope to create a compelling case for investment later on. Projections allow you to both optimistically and realistically predict the future of the business’s earnings and growth and they can only be generated through facts and figures, as well as through the business plan and timeline.Business Model, Plan and Timeline
Once you’re secure in your idea and you know everything there is to know about the industries and markets involved, then you need to come up with a business model, plan and timeline. A business model basically outlines the potential structure of how your business is going to run, function and grow. The plan is what it sounds like. A plan of how you’re going to get what you need to get done, done.
A key part of the plan is the timeline. Knowing what needs to be done when and sticking to it is key for maintaining accurate projections for everything related to the business. Without this, you won’t know whether you’re on track or not. It all needs to be quantifiable and the only way to achieve that is through figure and fact based goals.Getting Investment
Provided you get all that lot done to a decent standard, there’s no real reason why you’ll struggle to get investment. Investment is absolutely crucial to a new start-up and without it you could find yourself struggling. However, just show off your explicit and thorough business plans, figures, stats and projections to a variety of banks and investment firms and you’ll be on your way in no time.About the author: Huw Moxon is a marketing manager at Informi. Informi is a free online resource for small businesses and sole-traders. Informi provides guidance and technical support on everything you need to know about starting a business - from finance and legal advice to profit-boosting tips on marketing and technology. Whatever stage you’re at, Informi will help your business grow and flourish.
Give Your Business a Boost with Improved Conversion Rates
Wednesday, April 26 at 10:13
Everyone knows the importance of SEO to their online business. But the real key is to convert those clicks into paying customers. Anyone with a passing interest in the world of search engine optimisation will be quick to assume that it is all about improving search engine rankings and directing more visitors to your small business website. While increased traffic is never a bad thing, it is of limited use if your visitors only stop for a few seconds before flying on elsewhere. Indeed, if more people are clicking “back” than are staying around, then something is evidently going wrong, and you need to know about it or it could do more harm to your business than good. Click through rates are in many ways the prime indicator of just how much your website is helping your business, and improving conversion rates is key
to increasing your business’s bottom line. If traffic constitutes the quantity of visitors, then conversion rates equate to the quality. Here, we take a look at some easy ways of improving click through rates for your small business site.Remember the Basics
It is easy to get caught up in the latest hot topics in SEO and digital marketing, whether it is PPC, video content or social media involvement. However, the biggest factor in getting regular, repeat visitors to your small business site is to have a website that they want to visit. That means fresh, engaging and relevant content, presented in an attractive way. Make sure your content is regularly updated and remains relevant to your visitors. There is no bigger turn-off than to visit a site and find it is discussing a product release or industry event that took place months ago - it is the equivalent of entering a shop in March and seeing mouldy Christmas decorations on the walls.Make it Snappy
Today, everyone seems to be in more of a hurry than ever, and that is certainly the case when it comes to our online activities. The truth is, with super-fast Internet connections, people no longer have the slightest tolerance for slow-loading pages. Even though your business is small, there’s no excuse for a slow website. If you want to compete with larger corporations then you need to ensure that your webpages are loaded within a matter of a couple of seconds, otherwise your visitors will have gone elsewhere. There are any number of free speed tests around, including Pingdom
, which allows you to sign up for free and then runs regular checks to make sure your pages are performing as they should.Build a Relationship
When it comes to running a small business website, the importance of building relationships with your customers, both current and potential is key. No matter how hard you try, you are never going to achieve 100% conversions. After all, we all like to shop around before we make a final decision. However, it is worth thinking about what you can do with those who choose not to click through so that they are not lost forever. Make it easy for visitors to get in touch by including telephone and email details in your headers. You could also consider the equivalent of a “maybe” button in your calls to action - where they can leave their contact details while they think about it and you can stay in touch.Check your Channels
Resources within Google Analytics
can give a wide variety of invaluable information as to just how well your site is performing for you. By looking under the “conversions” tab you can get detailed reports on conversions by search criteria that show you what is working and what isn’t. However, that is only half the story. There can be a tendency to assume that any drop in SERP results is due to a decline in organic search, when this is not necessarily the case. Google’s Channel Grouping report will segment your searches according to organic, paid, referrals and so on, to give you a clear insight as to where you need to focus more attention.Blog contributed by Jackie Fisher
Protecting Your Business Against Risk
Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to unexpected events and fast changing circumstances. The number of risks a small business is exposed to are many and it is often the unexpected that causes a thriving business to suddenly fail. With about half of small businesses failing within the first five years, it is worth doing as much as possible to mitigate the risk factors in your business.
1.Get up to speed with cyber risks
Even stiffly defended large businesses are vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals; small businesses are easy targets in comparison. Take steps to reduce your exposure to cyberattacks: use strong passwords for all systems, employ firewalls for your office network and website and always install software updates on all your equipment. It is also worth monitoring the latest security news and training your staff – the 2016 Government Security Breaches Survey suggests only 22% of small businesses have a staff member that attended cybersecurity training in the 12-month survey period.
2.Take out insurance, and review policies regularly
Many business risks are insurable. You may already have property and equipment insurance, but small businesses often skip on key man insurance for their most important employees, while public liability insurance will prevent an unlikely accident from developing into a costly lawsuit. Regularly review insurance cover – the circumstances of your business will change with time and you need to update your insurance cover to reflect this.
3.Survey the business environment
Changes in the business environment can lead to a successful business experiencing unexpected problems. By looking ahead you can identify future problems before they become a reality and planning for the possibility of adverse circumstances developing can mitigate these risks to your business. This includes potential competitors, changes in the regulatory environment and shifts in customer preferences.
4.Involve an advisor
It is difficult for a small team of employees to comprehensively survey business conditions and accurately identify risks, especially if it is a new business. To avoid any blind spots, think about getting professional risk management advice. A risk management advisor will discuss with you in detail the environment in which your business operates, and help you to identify all potential risks.
Concentrating the exposure your business has to any single supplier or any single customer increases the risk of your business suffering if a supplier goes out of business, or a customer decides to move on. This is also valid for the markets your business operates in on both a product, and geographic level. Operating in multiple regions and different product markets can make it easier to ride out a contraction in demand in any given area. Small businesses are vulnerable to risks It is often the vast sums of money involved in the risks large businesses face that make headlines, but large businesses are also more able to absorb losses in their balance sheets. A smaller enterprise can be fatally wounded by the realisation of a single risk, even if the sum of money involved is relatively small. For this reason managers and owners of small businesses should be at least as vigilant when it comes to risk management as those in charge of large companies.
Written By Michael Watson
Small Business Budgeting Tips
With the UK economy predicted to continue to grow over the medium term, it’s easy to reap the benefits from increased demand for your products without thinking too far ahead. But could the future be even better for your business? You can start to find out by developing some form of forecast for your sales and costs. Maintaining a forecast will also help you re-plan your business if economic or new tax pressures suddenly mean your profits start to decline.
However, it’s likely that for the majority of small businesses, no actual budget exists. Well, certainly not written down on paper that can be referred to—we’re always far too busy to be planning for the next few weeks, let alone the next 12 months! With that in mind, here are five suggestions to make your life a little easier and ensure that you can manage your costs, cash flow and profits. A proper business plan is ideal, but if you can’t stretch to that, put together a rough outline of your income and expenses together with when you expect to pay and receive monies. Check out some of the free templates online, such as those at the business planning site Teneric and business advice site SmallBusinessPro, to start the process. At a minimum, a one-page spreadsheet summarising sales volume with all your expenses month by month should suffice. Adding your thoughts to paper not only crystallises ideas and anticipated goals in your mind, but it also helps you understand if you’re going to hit any financial targets. A plan also assists with ensuring costs don’t go over budget. You can either adjust your financial projections or look at saving costs if you still want to achieve your objectives this year. 2) Define your marketing tactics It’s vital you have an idea of how you’re marketing to new and existing customers. Potential customers need to try your services at least once to become loyal users, whilst existing customers need to be brought back time and again. Making sure people are informed and have your brand front of mind (without overdoing it!) is essential. Although email marketing still works well, social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep the communications flowing should be part of your marketing arsenal. The cost is minimal to maintain a presence and keeps your customers in the loop with any new developments and news from your business. 3) Over-account for all your costs Do you ever get a bill in the post that’s higher than anticipated? We all do, and that’s why it’s important to over-forecast the cost side of your plan. If you want to accurately show costs as you believe they should be, then add a 10% compensation line just to play it safe. It’s far better to show (and easier to swallow) constant underspending each month than having large areas of red marked out because expenses appear to be uncontrollable. 4) Know every cost line by heart and reduce where you can When budgeting, it can be easy to miss out expense lines because they debit your bank account on an irregular basis such as one per year. To find all costs associated with your business go through your list of direct debits and standing orders whilst also browsing prior bank statements. You should find everything your business spends money on during this exercise. To keep costs as low as possible, it’s essential you shop around for new deals from other suppliers. This is quite straightforward when it comes to insurance and utility bills. For example, comparing your electricity prices, water rates and business insurance options each year could literally save you thousands of pounds. All of those savings go straight to your bottom line. 5) Revisit once per month Now your budget plan is ready, it’s best to review its performance once per month, or every three months as a minimum. By doing this, you can see what costs are higher or lower than expected and adjust future months accordingly. You can also perform the same analysis on your sales numbers if things change in your operating environment. After you have reforecast for the rest of the year, you’ll see if any changes to short or medium term tactics need changing to ensure you reach your original financial objectives. Setting and reviewing a budget for a business is a relatively easy but often time-consuming task, especially if you don’t have the experience or handle on the financial aspects of business. However, for a business to survive and prosper, it’s an essential tool that helps achieve your financial objectives, lessons any shocks at year-end and saves money in the long term.
By Jason Smith
Jason Smith is a blogger and energy expert who has helped businesses increase their energy efficiency for over 10 years. Jason’s valuable expertise has helped thousands of companies cut their costs each year. He manages the website Business Electricity Prices, which advises small- and medium-sized businesses on reducing their utility bills, and continues to share his knowledge with the corporate world.
Hiring tips for start-ups
Wednesday, March 01 at 15:24HR
A new business is nothing without a talented and skilled workforce that can shape its culture, achieve its short-term goals and build a foundation for future growth. Hiring the right candidates is a top priority for start-ups, but many struggle to source the right employees for respective roles as they lack experience and are constrained by budgetary requirements and other demands.
Data shows that 10 per cent of new hires do not work out. While large organisations can usually absorb the blow, micro and small businesses are often left reeling as just a single employee can represent a large percentage of the workforce. A strong hiring strategy will mitigate some of the risks associated with new hires and help you to bring in the talent you need to make your start-up a success.Be proactive
Starting from scratch for each new hire can really limit your ability to source suitable candidates quickly, so be on the lookout all year, even when you don’t have any open spots. According to Bas Kohnke, the co-founder of performance software enterprise Impraise, creating and saving a watch list for talent and keeping in touch with potential candidates can pay dividends. He adds: “Send them an email, invite them to a party. Just keep them in the loop.”Talent management
Hiring managers can now use platforms to streamline the applicant tracking and hiring process. Cloud software can be used to aggregate, update and maintain information about candidates and facilitate simple and intuitive communications with the candidate pool. Leveraging the wealth of new technology that is available in the digital age can really level the playing field for start-ups as they can access tools that were previously only available to the largest corporations. Bringing in a CRM Recruitment
specialist to oversee this area of hiring is recommended.Optimise the process
A Leadership IQ study found that a flawed interview procedure can have a detrimental impact on candidate selection, so it is important to optimise this so you can process prospective new hires efficiently. You could start with a survey and an automated email response to filter candidates, and then use video interviews as a second stage. While technical competence is important, try to ask questions that help determine a candidate’s drive, ambition, temperament, motivation, emotional intelligence and coachability, as these factors are often overlooked.Diversity and problem solvers
Hiring people who are experts in specific areas of business and complement other employees is the best way to build a start-up team. AOL co-founder Steve Case believes that new enterprises must “strike the right balance between having a team of people who work well together and having distinct and diverse perspectives.” You might also want to favour problem solvers during the formative stages of business as you will most likely need employees who can overcome adversity and get things done quickly.
The importance of building a strategy that will enable you to hire employees who are technically capable and an ideal fit for your company and culture cannot be overstated. Taking the time to define what you need and implementing a robust procedure can go a long way toward helping you source the right candidates at the right time.
How small businesses can build their online presence
Thursday, February 02 at 15:09
When you’re running a small business and trying to compete with much bigger players, one of the few arenas where you can really do so effectively, is online. Although human resources and marketing budgets still make a difference, smart thinking, innovation and style can make a bigger one. If you really understand your customers, building your online presence can give you the edge.Get a website that works for today
Most of today’s consumers access the web using mobile devices, especially when they’re not at work. This means that your website must look good on many different sized screens, so you need to invest in responsive design. You also need to understand the colour psychology that will work on your target customers, and present them with images that grab their attention. Alongside this, you should have fresh content on a frequent basis to keep them coming back.
Develop a content marketing strategy
Why do people visit websites? Sometimes it’s because they’re already looking for a particular product or service. More often, it’s because they want to be informed or entertained, or they’re looking for something immediately useful. An effective content marketing strategy, using professional internet copywriters
, can give them that immediate reward at the same time as making sure they notice who you are and what you do. It can make them keen to return for more, and it can prompt them to share links to your site so that they start doing your promotion for you and make your traffic grow.
Focus your social media strategy
Whether you have great content or just a good basic site, you’ll need to promote it. Social media makes that easy but it can get overwhelming. You’ll need to go into it with a clear awareness of what your resources are – in terms of time, money and energy – and develop a strategy that targets customers efficiently. It needs to be a strategy you can keep pace with over the long term, so don’t spread yourself too thin.Make use of video
Video can be a really effective way of grabbing people’s attention and communicating a lot in a very short time. It can work well on your landing page and it’s also something you can use for advertising or brand building on YouTube or Vimeo, which, if you fill out the meta data fields properly, are extremely good for generating hits. Recordings of your events and conference speeches can be repurposed to help build your online following.Get connected
Although link farms and the like long ago became a liability as search engines got smarter, it’s still well worth investing time and effort in generating good quality links, which direct both search engine and human attention to your website. Nothing beats getting stories in the local or trade press – as long as they have an online presence – and local or trade forums can also be very useful, so take the time to build up a presence there.
A strong online presence can help your business grow far beyond the potential it would once have had. Today, anybody can operate on a national or even international basis. Building up your online following is where it begins.
Leading business experts come together in one-off inspirational event
Friday, January 27 at 09:44
On 30th January 2017, a unique online event will begin, bringing together leading business experts from around the world.
The Business Growth Online Bootcamp (BGOB) is the first of its kind and features a series of interviews with over 35 business experts.
This is the only time these business leaders have come together in this way and offers small business owners and entrepreneurs free advice and inspiration from some of the most successful business minds of today.
Hosted by Adèle McLay
of Small Business Huge Success™, each interview delves into the experiences, learning and advice of the Bootcamp experts to inspire and guide the audience towards achieving greater sustainable growth and profitability in their businesses in 2017.
Running from 30th January to 5th February, the BGOB features experts including:
Michael E Gerber – Known as the world’s #1 small business guru and author of the ‘E-Myth’ books.
Royston Guest – Business Growth Adviser
Julie Hutchison – leadership consultant
Dr Nick Marsh – Business Strategist
Phil Lewis – Marketing Guru
Lorraine Carter – Branding Expert
Rob Warlow – Business Finance Expert
Rob Goddard – Business Sales Expert
Participants will receive a host of valuable information on such topics as strategy, branding, marketing, sales, finance, leadership and much more.
BGOB host Adèle McLay is an entrepreneur, business expert, public speaker and author who is passionate about guiding business owners to achieve success. She says, “The BGOB is everything that my brand, ‘Small Business Huge Success™’ looks to deliver. It is about bringing together a community of experts, to share their knowledge and expertise with the business world.
“It is rare to have such a large pool of experts coming together to offer their advice for free and I would encourage anyone who owns a business or is thinking about beginning an entrepreneurial journey to register and take part. You won’t be disappointed in the quality and value of the advice you will receive, which will help you achieve the business success you strive for, making 2017 your best year yet.”
To register and for full information on the event, including the list of speakers visit the Small Business Huge Success website
or click here
Five Tips to Effectively Market your Business
Has effective marketing ever been more important among all the noise of the digital world? With billions of websites at our fingertips it’s so easy to spend time scanning for the perfect solution, and those sites or services that aren’t up to scratch might be rejected for even the smallest reason – a stray tweet or a slightly slow website, for example. Here’s five ways to tighten up your product and promote yourself well in 2017. Create a modern website
Most companies seem to have got the message that running a site that looks like it was built in 1998 isn’t a great first impression to any visitors. Whether you’re a florist, a van leasing
company, a sports management firm or are offering a legal service, your site
should be a clean, uncluttered and easy-to-use interface. There should be a call to action that shows clearly how, where and why to get the best offers. Above all, it should be easy to find your products, fast to load, and very easy to get in touch – just in case someone actually wants to pick up the phone.Set up a content calendar
Have you ever thought to yourself “I wish I’d created a piece of content/organised this idea” to coincide with a big, relevant event? For example, it could be a blog or video to coincide with Halloween, or the final of GBBO, or Movember. Maybe you’ve done something, but if you’d thought about it earlier you might have done better…
If you’d created a content calendar several months earlier, planning your blogs and social media and videos to be completed and to land on your sites at exactly the correct time, you would have been primed to take advantage. Start doing this now and reap the benefits of great, timely content. Utilise social media
Why would you not utilise a completely free method of promoting yourself? It’s a great way of responding to any complaints; an easy, instant way of informing people of your new products and sales using pictures and videos; a method of showing knowledge in your business sector by publicising any blogs, appearances or media that is relevant; and a way of communicating with like-minded people and businesses.
If you’re just starting to use social media, you might be wondering which platform is best.
Launching a craft business? Pinterest and Instagram are sensible options. Launching a B2B start-up? LinkedIn in your best bet. Launching any business whatsoever? Facebook and Twitter, and possibly Snapchat. Revamp your shop front
If you’ve updated the landing page of your website, then why would you not do the same with your physical premises? After all, they’re really two sides of the same coin. A stark, dark frontage won’t really bring in potential custom, and neither will empty shelves, old signage and shabby looking stock. The actual tidying is not the hard part, it’s the preparation and organisation in your mind that’s the laborious task. If you don’t have physical premises, then consider revitalising your signage, print advertising (yes, people do still take notice of this) and Google Business listing.Create video
The statistics are clear: according to Forbes
, video used in conjunction with email boasts a 300% click-through rate. Thanks to mobile phones and free or cheap online editing, it’s possible to put together a professional looking promotional video, an FAQ, a slideshow or an interview in a very short period of time. It lends itself to social media, and might catch the eye of people who otherwise might not see your work.Blog contributed by Jessica Foreman. Jessica is a Durham University graduate specialising in business and lifestyle based writing. She has developed her skills on projects surrounding The British Broadcasting Company, and running a print and online based magazine whilst at university.
Nottingham's Lady Bay Vintage Midcentury Antiques Fair
Thursday, December 08 at 16:10
Calling Nottingham antique lovers! There are just a few days left until the doors open at the Lady Bay Vintage Midcentury Antiques Fair in West Bridgford.
Visitors will be able to see forty stands of vintage, MidCentury and retro antiques from dealers who have travelled from across the UK. Items on display will include furniture, artwork, textiles & fabric, French antiques, architectural salvage, homeware, lighting, clothing, jewelry and much more.
Co-Organizer Virender Rose said “we’re predicting record numbers of visitors attending on the day so we recommend arriving early to get the very best of what’s on offer”.
“We’re really pleased that the event’s birthday coincidentally also falls on the day of the fair – we’ll be a whole 2 years old! To mark the occasion, the pop up café will be serving an extended selection of really beautiful home-made cakes to refresh our visitors and sweeten their day”.
For further details about the event contact Paul at email@example.com or call 07702291334. Lady Bay Vintage are regularly posting on Facebook
on the lead up to the event. Join in the chat here
.The fair is on Saturday 10th December 2016, 11am – 4pm, at the Hospitality Marquee, Nottingham Rugby Club, 1 Holme Road, Lady Bay, West Bridgford, NG2 5AA. Entry £1.