Small Business Saturday Blog

Small Business Spotlight - How Technology Can Help Small Businesses

Thursday, November 16 at 08:34

Advance business analytics were once only available to the business giants of the high street and remained something small businesses could only dream of, but new technology is changing all that, and now the ‘little guy’ is just as well equipped as the retail titans to analyse every aspect of their business and get the insight they need to make their businesses perform better than ever.

We’ve caught up with two small businesses who have used this technology to improve their sales and even their health.





Flower Girl London

Sam Jennings runs Flower Girl London from the corner of a busy South London train station.

Originally operating from 11am – 8pm, the long hours were doing little good for Sam. After making the switch from a cash-only business to one that operates with an EPOS, Sam could track her sales per hour and discovered that the morning rarely bought in many customers. Changing her hours to 3pm – 8pm, Sam now works less while making more money and has more time to rest and relax. It also means she has more energy for big weekend jobs like weddings and events.

This small change that has helped Sam take better care of her health and enjoy better sales would never have happened without technology lending a helping hand, as Sam herself says, “It’s great…how technology can help even the smallest of businesses to be more efficient.”





Wookey Hub

A good analytics system can help small businesses get a better understanding of their sales, but for those business owners who prefer to be far more precise, it can even help with interior design, as Andy, owner of Wookey Hub, discovered.

A café and grocery store set in Wookey, Somerset, Wookey Hub was subject to Andy’s crisp experimentation earlier this year. Having gained the technology he needed to track his sales on an item by item basis, Andy was able to pinpoint precisely which position in the store raised his crisp sales. Over the course of a month, Wooky Hub homed a very active crisp stand, which Andy moved to different positions seeking the spot that got the best customer sales.

It’s the sort of marketing precision that would have relied on guesswork without the right technology, and now Andy can enjoy an unrivalled insight to his sales trends and, of course, better crisp sales!


Find out more at squareup.com/gb 

Better people for Better business

Tuesday, November 14 at 08:07


Managing talent in small businesses can be a real challenge.

Just as you begin to congratulate yourself on identifying good people and getting them in the door, new challenges arise around developing them, managing career breaks (eg maternity/paternity) and demonstrating opportunities for career progression to keep them. 

The necessary administration can also be a headache, from payroll and taxes to employment law, performance and pay reviews. Even large and well-resourced business can occasionally fall foul of the law.

For most businesses, people are their greatest asset. But in a small business where everybody is a specialist in their field, how do new employees develop? Take the finance function – the accountant in a business of 15 employees may be the only finance professional. Who do they consult, learn from, observe? How do they cope when they face new situations, like growth, cash flow difficulty, sector diversification, or system failure?

On 14 November 2017 ACCA will publish results of research into managing talent in smaller businesses. It shows that the three main attractions for employees aged 35 or under of working in smaller accounting practices are: 

·      job security (86%)
·      work/life balance (83%)
·      flexible working arrangements (71%).

The research also reveals that it often pays to look outside of your business to help deliver your talent. If you have an existing relationship with a qualified accountant, could they mentor your new finance person? Is your employee taking advantage of local networking opportunities (ACCA’s 39 regional member networks cover most of the UK) or perhaps there is a local breakfast club for finance professionals? Sometimes an individual may wish to pursue more formal training or work towards their next level of professional exams. 

A little flexibility on the part of the employer can engender greater employee loyalty and professional skills development, which ultimately will benefit your business. When talented individuals move on after receiving an offer they can’t refuse, your business can bask in the glow of a reputation for developing talent and you can use this as a hook when recruiting a replacement. Incidentally, ACCA’s Jobs Board (60,000 vacancies at the time of writing) can help you find new talent.

Apprenticeships are also changing fast and have the power to radically change how you manage your talent. New apprenticeships standards are suitable for both new recruits and more experienced staff. You may be able to unlock funding to support employees studying for ACCA’s brand new ‘Trailblazer’ Level 4 Accounting Technician Apprenticeship

In the coming months ACCA will explore the issue of talent further, seeking practical guidance for our members and the businesses which employ them. It will see us explore the central tenet that better people make better businesses.


Nick Jeffrey – Regional head of policy (Europe and the Americas) ACCA

Taking Your Business Beyond the High Street

Friday, November 10 at 10:00


It’s the dream that has driven many an entrepreneur to start their small business; owning your own shop front. A place on the high street is a fantastic achievement, and something that any small business should take pride in – who doesn’t want a space to stamp their brand identity on? As powerful as a personal slot in the parade of high street shops may be, shopping habits have moved on from simply popping down the shops, now, people don’t even have to pop out of bed to make a purchase, a few taps on a smartphone or tablet, and voila.

For small businesses seeking success, it’s time to embrace the sales opportunities beyond the perfectly dressed window – an event five minutes from your shop door might be drawing customers away, so why not get in on the action too? Get online and get out there, here are our top tips for helping grow your brand’s presence and its customer following:

Enrol for Events

The event is a powerful thing, while your shop may boast a great shop front, amazing products and even a tempting sales event, a single shop can’t match the buzz and draw of an organised event like a market or fair. These events are committed to promotion of the businesses they showcase, but they also promise their visitors a fantastic experience overall. And experience is something people are willing to pay for. In fact, Eventbrite found that consumers aged between 18 – 34 collectively spent over £419 million a month on experiences over things and are readier than ever to discover the latest happenings, like Small Business Saturday.

Research events in your area, many town centres will boast their own markets on the weekend and for major cities local listings can help you keep up to date with all the events that occur week to week. Food traders should get in on the boom in food markets, joining the dozens of traders that showcase at almost any given event and feeding the hungry bellies they find there. Seasonal markets, especially in the run up to Christmas, really amp up the atmosphere, giving local businesses across food, drink, music and gifts the perfect platform for the most important shopping month of the year, stalls quickly get booked up, so prepare well in advance for this major date in your trading calendar.

Events like these also come with a sense of exclusivity, running for a limited time only, which has a positive effect when it comes to sales – almost half of all consumers say they have visited a pop-up in the last 12 months enticed in by their here-for-now nature. Every appearance is a chance to gather new customers, so even if your first off-site pop-up is a at the local school fair, you’re sure to make sales, hopefully gain a few return customers and, of course, gain valuable learning experience for your next outing. So, arm yourself with a portable payments system, a selection of your most eye-catching wares and instead of waiting for customers to come to you, go straight to them!

Get Online

Providing your brand with an online presence is vital in modern times, even if your business isn’t suited to an online store, you can still enjoy the benefits of being omnichannel by having social media channels that let you connect with and build your customer base.  An Instagram photo of your latest rainbow cake creation, for example, can quickly become reason for anyone who likes the snap online to pay your physical location a visit, just look at the rise of the Freakshake!

If your business is a business that sells goods rather than services, then an online store is a must-have, as is making it optimised for mobile visits. A recent survey found that most small businesses are set to miss out on the £27 billion Brits will spend on mobile shopping this year. A lack of mobile-compatible websites, only 18% of small businesses currently accommodate mobile visits to their sites, is the main obstacle between small businesses and their online sales enjoying a boost.

Making an online store is far simpler than you think, with many apps letting you get set up for both desktop and mobile visitors in a few clicks. Once you’re up and running, you’ll have something to point your online followers at. A Facebook post that they like can lead to the product page, can lead to a purchase. Another useful addition to your site is a blog. This is where you can offer great content to your customers like how-tos, previews of new products and behind-the-scenes glances of your business which can add a real sense of personality to your brand. These blog pages also help improve your site’s metrics i.e. can help people find your site in the first place, and more discovery means more potential sales!

Whether you're expanding online or into local events, having a system in place to track all of your sales together will mean you can spend more time selling and less time on admin. Find out more about Square here: squareup.com/gb 


Five reasons to be optimistic about access to finance in 2018

Thursday, November 09 at 12:23




SMEs continue to face major challenges when it comes to managing their cash flow and accessing new forms of finance. Indeed, for many, the range of finance products out there can seem bewilderingly complex – and just having a handle on the latest information can prevent some SMEs from taking advantage of these opportunities.  Added to this, an uncertain economic environment may make some small firms wary of exploring what’s available.

However, there are a number of recent developments to UK finance markets that should make it easier for SMEs to manage their money and identify new opportunities to help grow their business in 2018.

1)     Launch of the Small Business Commissioner ready for the start of 2018
A third of payments to small businesses are late, which can cause significant cash flow difficulties and even insolvency for some small firms. Therefore in October 2017 the Government announced the appointment of the UK’s first ever Small Business Commissioner, Paul Uppal, who will lead an independent office tasked with tackling some of these problems and supporting those SMEs facing disputes with larger firms over poor payment practices. The Commissioner’s office will be fully operational from the start of next year.   

2)     Business Finance Guide goes digital
Launched by the British Business Bank in 2014 and supported by ACCA, the Business Finance Guide provides free information about relevant finance options at every stage of an SME’s business journey. The resource also helps small firms understand about the range of alternative finance solutions available to small firms, depending on their size and circumstances. The free guide is available here: https://thebusinessfinanceguide.co.uk/  

3)     Open Banking revolution begins
In 2016 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), an independent regulator, concluded that a lack of competition was leading to SMEs paying too much for banking products and services as well as being prevented from taking advantage of new innovative technologies.

The CMA subsequently announced the launch of the Open Banking initiative, which should help SMEs to shop around for their banking more easily. This should help level the playing field between the UK’s ‘big six’ banks and the rest of the UK’s SME lenders, leading to a fairer, more competitive market for everyone. Further information is available here: https://www.openbanking.org.uk/. 

4)     Finance Referrals platforms give you another chance to borrow
Small businesses who have been unsuccessful in lending applications can now take advantage of a Government mandated referral scheme. SMEs now have the right to be referred to three designated online finance platforms where a large number of different finance options are made available. Launched earlier this year, these platforms will be further developed in 2018, and should help more SMEs to access the finance they need to grow.

5)     New funding available for SMEs in the Midlands and Northern England
This year’s launch of both the Midlands Engine and the Northern Powerhouse investment funds were major blueprints highlighted in the Government’s Industrial Strategy, which contained a central pledge to rebalance finance markets for small firms away from just London and the South East. Both funds will look to expand the finance available to local SMEs in 2018, and in particular, simplify the process for obtaining funding for new start-ups. More information is available here https://northernpowerhouse.gov.uk/ and https://www.midlandsengine.org/.

Ben Baruch

Head of SME Policy, ACCA


Small Business Saturday App!

Thursday, October 19 at 13:21


Small Business Saturday App! 

We have launched our new App and it is available to download now from the app stores at

Offering Small Businesses the chance to be seen by thousands nationwide, the Small Business Finder also ensures that customers can always find their local small biz at the click of a button. 

Current offers and discounts can be linked to businesses and events advertised too, all for free.







The Importance of Customer Service

Thursday, October 12 at 09:00




Over the last decade the great British high street has become a place of uncertainty for many small businesses. The effects of the recent recession and a move towards online shopping have meant even some high street giants such as Mothercare and Jaegar have struggled to stay afloat.

The rise in Internet shopping has most certainly resulted in the reduction of footfall on the high street as people increasingly look for speed and convenience in a retail experience. However, the ceremony surrounding a leisurely day out browsing the local shops is lost online, as is the ability to easily discuss a purchase with knowledgeable staff. The advantage small high street businesses have over their online counterparts lies in recognising the importance of excellent customer service and ensuring that they create an enjoyable shopping experience fuelled by more than purely a desire to sell.  

As a jewellery store, customers come to us looking for a variety of items or services, be it a special gift for a loved one, an engagement ring for a perfectly planned proposal or a simple watch repair. At the heart of our ethos is excellent customer service and we believe that this is one of the reasons our business has thrived for 70 years.

Good customer service expectations will vary depending on what you are purchasing, but there are some basic rules that can help to ensure when someone walks through your door they enjoy the best retail experience possible.

Adapt and react
Although on one hand ignoring visitors to your store is a big no, many shops can put off customers by being a little too pushy and enthusiastic with their communication. People often need time to soak in their environment and feeling like they are being watched or engaging in unwanted communication can result in a quick exit.

Remember that each customer is different and will therefore be after different things in their required service. Generally speaking if someone is standing in your shop looking a little lost, or has glanced your way a few times, it is a good idea to go over and ask them if you can help in any way. The best way to ensure you keep people coming back is to be alert, treat each customer as an individual and not adapt a one size fits all approach to customer care.

Be an expert in your field
One of the biggest benefits of shopping the high street is the ability to easily take advantage of the knowledge of the staff. From the one day a week Saturday temp to your store manager, educating your staff about your product, company ethos and customer service policy is vital. They are the face of your brand so it is important that they can confidently answer questions and deal with any queries quickly and efficiently.
Small businesses thrive on positive word on mouth. If what you are selling is quality, your customer service excellent and staff members knowledgeable, your reputation will grow and customers will start to seek you out.  


About the Author - Richard Warrender is a Director at independent jewellery business, Warrenders. Having celebrated their platinum anniversary this year, the family-run firm understands that quality jewellery and excellent customer service are amongst the reasons that it has remained a firm favourite on the high street for 70 years.



Sign up today for free business mentoring!

Wednesday, October 04 at 13:47



Sign up now for free business mentoring on the Small Business Saturday 
Bus Tour!

The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour has launched a new one-to-one mentorship programme this year and sessions are now open to sign up for free mentoring! 

Mentors will be from local communities so the mentee has a local helping hand to call on and each session will last for 1 hour on board the Small Business Saturday Tour Bus. 

Prior to your session, you will be sent a short questionnaire to complete so we can match you up to the right mentor. 
Sessions are free of charge but very limited so book now!

To register for mentoring for your business:

  • Sign in to your 'My Small Business' account. 
  • Click on the 'Bus Tour mentoring tab' in your profile. 
  • Select the available stop you wish to register for from the drop down box.
  • Click 'Save' and your session will be booked. 
  • Confirmation email will be sent. 

Mentoring is available at most stops but please check the list for specific availability. 

The bus will be visiting 29 different towns and cities from October 23rd to November 24th (see below) and will provide advice and information to all small businesses, as well as some hands-on activities for the public to promote local support for the campaign.  

Bus Tour 2017 list  

Please contact:
if you are interested in becoming a mentor.

We look forward to seeing you at one of the many stops throughout the UK! 

The Small Business Saturday Team 

5 Ideas to Improve your Time Management

Thursday, September 28 at 09:00





“The bad news is time flies.  The good news is you’re the pilot.” 

Always running out of time?  It’s a problem many of us have, and small businesses owners often lack staff to delegate to, so find themselves taking on every task single-handedly.  It’s a juggling act, but there are techniques you can use to manage your time more effectively, and while this won’t necessarily lighten the load, it will help you focus on the most important tasks to make the best use of the time you have each day. 

Here are a few tried and tested methods for time management: 


This method is designed to provide you with maximum focus and creative freshness, enabling you to get projects created faster, with less mental fatigue. 

You work for 25 minutes, then break for 5 minutes.   Each 25 minute period is called a “pomodoro” (Italian for ‘tomato’) because the inventor used his kitchen timer which was shaped like a tomato – but you could use your phone instead! 

After 4 pomodoros have passed (100 minutes of work with 15 minutes of break time), you then take a 15-20 minute break. 

The periods of focussed work with frequent short breaks helps avoid distractions such as Facebook, checking your email, making a cup of tea etc breaking into your flow of work…you save those for the 5 minute breaks! 


Time boxing is simply fixing a time period to work on a task or group of tasks. 
If you are procrastinating a task, don’t try to complete it, time box it – allow a set period to get some of it done, then if you’ve not completed it you can set another time box for the rest of the job.  If you have a series of little, annoying tasks, set a time slot to get a number done. 

Time boxing works if you are an expert in perfectionism.  If you consistently carry on with tasks, redoing over and over, and wonder where all your time goes, then time boxing is for you – you set the deadline. 

  1. Eat the frog! 

If you had to eat a live frog every day, you could be pretty sure that nothing you did for the rest of the day would be as bad. 

Do you find yourself putting off your least favourite task?  Make a to-do list each day, and circle the ‘frog’ – the job you’re most likely to procrastinate:  maybe it’s the most unpleasant, difficult or just very time consuming – then tackle that task first. 

It’s tempting to do the smaller or simpler activities first, but by doing this you risk running out of time for the larger more complex tasks, and they just get put off to the next day.  Start each day by eating a frog and you’ll find yourself energised by having accomplished a major task. 


  1. The Pareto Principle (80:20 rule) 
This states that 80% of results will come from 20% of your efforts – use this idea to identify which 20% of your workload is going to produce the most gain, and focus your time on that. 

  1. Outsource 

If you’ve employed all these techniques and are still struggling, consider outsourcing some tasks.  Entrepreneurs have to be ‘jacks of all trades’ to run their own businesses, but you may find that for certain tasks, a specialist can do the job in half the time.  When considering the cost, think about what your own time is worth and factor in the value of other things you could be doing in that time. 

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” 

Guest blog by: Michelle Collins. 

Michelle Collins owns Pink Spaghetti Chester and North Wales. Dedicated to going the extra mile for her clients Michelle quickly earned a great reputation and is now in her third year of trading and is growing her own team.
Proactive, flexible and a strong ability to problem solve Michelle undertakes a variety of work for a wide range of business sectors. Research, admin, invoicing, social media campaigns and decluttering are regular tasks on her to-do list which help her clients find time to further develop their business or spend more time pursuing a more leisurely lifestyle.  If your business or home “to do” list seems never ending, Michelle will be delighted to help you gain control.
Organised, friendly and discreet, Pink Spaghetti Chester and North Wales is the ideal company to provide you with PA services in Chester and North Wales or to get help from a virtual personal assistant.
·         Web:                http://www.pink-spaghetti.co.uk
·         LinkedIn:         in/michellecollinspspag/
·         Twitter:            https://twitter.com/Michelle_PSpag
·         YouTube:       channel/UCJMAN7JhMeIksaKux6AV9kw
·         Instagram:     michelle_pinkspaghetti/
·         Facebook:      PSChester/
·         Google+        109545179990303628618


The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour launches across the UK for its fifth year!

Monday, September 18 at 15:22

Small Business Saturday are pleased to announce the launch of the Bus Tour for 2017! 
The bus will be visiting 29 different towns and cities and launching the brand new Small Business Saturday mentoring programme, supporting small businesses one-to-one, with advice directly from their peers. Small Business Saturday is recruiting experienced business mentors in all locations and small businesses will be able to sign up on the campaign website from the beginning of October.
Also debuting this year is the “Small Business Saturday Blue Sofa” where interviews and exclusive Q&A sessions will be live streamed via Facebook Live.
Beginning at Dundee on October 23rd, the bus tour travels up and down the country with stops including Lisburn, Cardiff, Lowestoft and the Isle of Wight before finishing in Brighton on November 24th. The tour will provide advice and information to all small businesses as well as some hands-on activities for the public to promote local support for the campaign. Full list of stops is below:

Bus Tour 2017



Week 1
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 23rd Oct
Dundee
10:00
14:00
Tue 24th Oct
Edinburgh
10:00
14:00

Prestwick
16:00
16:30
Wed 25th Oct
Lisburn
10:00
14:00
Thu 26th Oct
Belfast
10:00
14:00
Fri 27th Oct
Dumfries
10:00
14:00
Week 2
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 30th Oct
Sunderland
10:00
14:00
Tue 31st Oct
Lancaster
10:00
14:00
Wed 1st Nov
York
10:00
14:00

Selby
15:00
16:00
Thu 2nd Nov
Brigg
10:00
14:00
Fri 3rd Nov
Rochdale
10:00
14:00
Week 3
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 6th Nov
Bangor
10:00
14:00
Tue 7th Nov
Stoke
10:00
14:00
Wed 8th Nov
Birmingham
10:00
14:00

Studley
15:00
16:00
Thu 9th Nov
Hereford
10:00
14:00
Fri 10th Nov
Barry Island
09:00
09:30

Cardiff
10:00
14:00
Week 4
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 13th Nov
Leicester
10:00
14:00
Tue 14th Nov
Stevenage
10:00
14:00
Wed 15th Nov
Lowestoft
10:00
14:00
Thu 16th Nov
Maldon
10:00
14:00
Fri 17th Nov
London
10:00
14:00
Week 5
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 20th Nov
Plymouth
10:00
14:00
Tue 21st Nov
Taunton
10:00
14:00
Wed 22nd Nov
Reading
10:00
14:00
Thu 23rd Nov
Ryde, Isle of Wight
10:00
14:00
Fri 24th Nov
Brighton
10:00
14:00



Logos and posters will be available to download from the website: www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com from end of September and can be displayed online or on premises. Posters can also be collected from your local bus stop on the tour. Businesses around the country can also upload information to the ‘My Small Business Finder’ on the website (www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.comon what special events or promotional offers they will be running for Small Business Saturday. 

More information on Small Business Saturday can also be found on the Small Business Saturday Facebook page: (www.facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturdayuk) and Twitter feed (@SmallBizSatUk).

5 minute interview with Nick Entwistle from One Minute Briefs

Thursday, September 14 at 06:50


We sat down with one of our Smalbiz100 this year, Nick Entwistle from One Minute Briefs  to learn about what makes the perfect pitch, how to get your story across when speaking and learn about his journey to becoming a successful business. 


What inspired you to start your business?  

The great thing about OMB is that it never started as a business. It turned into one. 
It began by generating and sharing quick thoughts and that has always remained true through all of the changes in the past few years. As the business has grown, it's the people and social community we have built that inspires me to keep growing it every day. 

What was your biggest challenge when starting your business?  

The biggest challenge is to commercialise something that didn't start that way without alienating your audience. 
That's why I always look to reward our following as much as possible for their continued involvement. That is absolutely key to maintaining the integrity of One Minute Briefs. 

What are your top tips on the perfect pitch? 

Standing out. Being different to the next person is extremely important. The work quality has to match but you need to have an edge over your competition. 

What advice would you give someone nervous about pitching?  

Make sure you are passionate about your ideas. Tell great stories associated with the content of your pitch and be yourself. 

Who would you most like pitch to?  

Dragon's Den. 

About One Minute Briefs:  
One Rule. One Minute. Create an ad. 
We promote brands and causes via social media by challenging our creative community on Twitter to respond to a brief in One Minute and reward the best ideas. When they publish their ideas, they are shared by ourselves and their followers which creates a snowball effect generating hundreds of thousands of impressions per day which is all positive advertising content for the client. This enables the brand to engage with a large audience very quickly and cost effectively. It is also a great tool for educational workshops, talks, events and is a popular social network for the creative industry. 

Say Hello to the 2017 Small Business Saturday Champions

Thursday, August 31 at 16:15Small Biz 100 | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday Uk Champion

Small Business Saturday is pleased to announce its champions for the 2017 campaign!

The Small Business Saturday Champions are previous members of the Small Biz 100 that help to promote the campaign in their local areas, broadening the reach of the campaign and strengthening their local small business community.

They are already hard at work planning B2B events, Christmas markets, live-streamed interviews and much more! Please contact comms@smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com if you would like to connect with a champion in your area.

Lee Parker, Parker Sourcing, Greater Manchester
Yvonne Gorman, Essential Print Services, Derbyshire
Alison Edgar, Sales Coaching Solutions, Wiltshire
Becky Sebright, Lady Bakewell Park, Essex
Alice Malcolm-Green, Wick & Tallow, Greater London
Adam Balfour, Buffoon Film & Media, Neath Port Talbot
Elaine Pritchard, Caittom Publishing, Staffordshire
Rich Brady, Recruit Packs, Denbighshire
Karina Pedomo, Quick Brown Fox, Greater London
Faye Dicker, Freelance Mum, Somerset
Russell Pullan and Albert Chau, Fifth Dimension Chocolates, Greater London
Sara Parker, Face for Business, Lancashire
Ruth Pringle, Pringle Accountants, Lancashire
Bala Croman, The Chocolate Cellar, Merseyside
Gail Bryden, JustBe Botanicals, City of Edinburgh
Alistair Bell, Muddy Farm Models, County Antrim
Rowena Howie, Revival Retro, Greater London
Precious Jason, Etieno Skincare, Greater London
Sanjay Aggarwal, Spice Kitchen, Birmingham
Jo Smedley, Red Herring Games, Lincolnshire
Claire Hearn, Rose & Olive, Kent
Hayley Williams, Keystone Marketing, Oxfordshire
Liz Wilson, Ma Baker, Greater London
Sam Hale, Advance Performance, Cambridgeshire
Colleen Wong, TechSixtyFour, Greater London
Martha Keith, Love Give Ink, Greater London
Carolyn Frank, Libby Butler Jewellers, Yorkshire
Rachel Gilbertson Roxiie's Treasures Liverpool






5 ways to save money on your business energy

Tuesday, August 29 at 16:16Small Biz 100 | Small Business Saturday

Reducing the cost of energy bills was big news during the recent General Election campaign with both the Conservatives and Labour setting out plans to cap prices in their manifestos. However, it may well be some time now before those changes filter through to benefit small businesses.

Whether you’re running a workshop, office or retail unit, utility costs can mount up for small business owners who are keen to make energy savings. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, SMEs already spend £15bn a year on energy.

The good news is that there are some straightforward ways to reduce your business energy costs. Here are some tips to get you started…

Chill out 

Check that your heating and air conditioning aren’t set to the same temperature and on at the same time. Heating and lighting swallow up energy! The settings on the two systems should be around four degrees apart. Thermostats should be set lower in corridors and store rooms than in offices. It’s also worth paying attention to the layout of your workspace to make sure radiators aren’t being blocked by furniture and to make the most of natural light. Moving the furniture around could make a big difference. Thermal tape can be used to draft proof single-glazed windows and door frames.

Conserve your energy 

Make staff aware that you’re keeping an eye on energy consumption and encourage them with a polite reminder to ‘turn of the lights’ when they leave in the evening. Simple steps like switching off lights in spaces when they’re not is use can save over £100 a year. You could use this saving to change your lights to energy efficient ones such as LED light bulbs rather than halogen or fluorescent light sources and save even more cash whilst helping the environment!

Energy proof your technology 

Energy saving measures can quickly become habit with some thought and discipline. Turning off unused mobile phone chargers and switching off your GPS and Bluetooth can make a difference. Did you know that 46 per cent of electricity used in offices is outside of standard operating hours? Make sure that monitors, copiers and vending machines are also all switched off when not in use.

Shop around 

Loyalty, ease and a lack of time can all be reasons why many of us avoid switching energy suppliers, however there are big savings to be made for small business owners who change their suppliers to access a better tariff. Whilst it might sound like a headache, it’s a quick and easy process if done through a broker and the average company could potentially save up to £1000 a year off their bill if they compare business energy. Comparison websites are a useful online tool for finding the deal that best suits your needs and can save you money.

Upgrade outdated equipment

Replace energy-guzzling equipment with star appliances. For example, heaters and air conditioners that are not working at maximum efficiency can draw unnecessary power and end up costing your business money.

About the author: Steph Salusbury is the Channel Manager for Insurance and Energy at Businesscomparison.com. Steph has vast experience within the energy industry, previously working at Moneysupermarket.com for 9 years on sales, operations & commercial. Businesscomparison.com is a free online comparison site for small and medium sized businesses to compare deals on energy, finance, business bank accounts and insurance.

Establishing a Small Business through Online Branding

Wednesday, August 16 at 15:06Branding | Getting Online | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

Beating out the competition in the small business world takes more than just telling others on the street about what you have to offer. You have to create maximum exposure by being accessible on online platforms. By doing so, you better establish your business identity and brand.

Building an online brand is important for a number of reasons. It creates awareness for what your small business stands for. If consumers want to learn about the product you offer, they should be able to access information about it from anywhere. You can also gather a larger following by reaching out to the online community. Lastly, the process of establishing an online presence enables you to gain credibility. If consumers see your business online, they can navigate your site and infer that yours is a legitimate company.

The first step in establishing an online brand for your company is picking a domain name. Many companies underestimate the power of choosing a URL that differentiates them from the competition. A brandable domain name might directly reference aspects of your business, but it doesn’t have to specify what it entails. In the long term, the domain name can build brand value. You will want to check that a name is not already registered before you choose one. Make sure the domain name is user-friendly and short in that it is easy to spell and say. You will also want to make it unique and credible in order to set yourself apart from your competitors.

When establishing your brand online, It is important to have a clear understanding of your target audience. Prior to coming up with content strategies, utilize research tools to identify your audience. Google Analytics will help you figure out the demographic most interested in what you have to offer. Google also offers an acquisition feature which points out how users found your site. You will be able to see if they typed the URL directly into their browser or if they were connected to you through social media or a search engine. Knowing this information will allow you to determine which online marketing channel is most effective.

After identifying your audience, you can work on making your business stand out by creating a brand that consumers will remember. Having an eye-catching logo that can be used on all online platforms and marketing materials will mean customers will attach your small business with a visual. It should give consumers an idea of the product you represent. Also create a business slogan and tagline that stands out. A tagline is a phrase that lets your visitors know who you are right when they click on your site. You will want it to be placed on all your marketing materials. This builds recognition which is key in gaining customers for your small business.

When you build your company website, be personable and accessible by having a home page with an introduction. You’ll want to establish your online brand from the get-go by telling visitors about what you offer and how it will benefit them. Make sure you have a subscriber button on the homepage so users can immediately opt to learn more about your small business.

To directly help sales and marketing efforts, dedicate part of your website to reviews since they can have a significant impact on sales.. Allow customers to share their experience with your product. This content can then be shared on social media where others can see that your small business delivers on what is promised. Enabling customer reviews also positively affects search rankings in search engines. Reviews increase the amount of unique content your site offers giving you a better chance at moving up in ranking.

Social media is an online marketing platform that is free and gives you instant access to consumers. Make sure that you have social icons on each page of your website. All of your social media pages should consistently feature your brand. This will make your business more memorable in potential buyers’ minds. Consumers also like to see and hear about businesses. Posting podcasts or having segments featured on a YouTube channel can build a personal relationship with your target audience. This fosters trust and increases your credibility.

Another online tool you can utilize when trying to spread the word about your small business is blogging. This heightens your visibility. Your search engine rank will improve as you expand to posting content on blogging sites. It also works to help establish a direct relationship with customers in order to gain valuable feedback. Don’t be afraid to share content from experts in your industry. Online consumers will find you more trustworthy if they see you are up to speed on all aspects of your product.

Lastly, stay engaged with your consumers. This is key in building a strong presence online. Use tools such as HootSuite which will notify you when someone mentions your brand. You should respond to comments made about what your small business has to offer. This will show customers you are concerned with their needs and will help spread the word about your business.

Guest blog contributed by Sarah Elizabeth Saker

Get by with a little help from a friend

Thursday, July 27 at 11:07

By Michelle Ovens MBE, Director, Small Business Saturday 


Much as I love running my small businesses, and of course working with small businesses, it cannot be denied – sometimes it is just BLOOMIN HARD WORK! Not to start out this article with a big old moan - do not get me wrong, the ups massively out-weigh the downs - but it is nice when we can make the downs a little less difficult to handle.

It is easy to have your head down in your business for all challenges to feel like they are the whole world, and forget that actually, probably, someone else has had your problems before you. And come out the other side relatively unscathed. What is it about small businesses that we forget to ask the more experienced among us for help? Are we just stubborn? Do we want to make life difficult for ourselves? Is there a British stiff upper lip that tells us we should soldier on and it’s just not cricket to reach out for support? Or a sense that surely someone else would not be interested in my problems….

Well I say cobblers to that. I see the small business community, all 5.5 million of them, as one big supportive collaborative community that can only be made stronger and more resilient by helping each other. And I know I am not alone here! We ran a round table with Indeed last December and all the (fantastic, successful, strong, capable) small businesses around the table said what they could really do with is a little help from a friend. There is a strong and un-met desire for mentoring in the small business community that we absolutely need to tackle to be the best we can be as an economy and as local and national communities.

This basic need for a helping hand cuts across all areas of being a business owner: how to grow, financing, staffing, leadership and possibly most importantly, mental health. When working in a big business environment, it is often obvious who you would turn to for advice – HR, finance, your boss – but less so if you are the ultimate boss yourself. So finding more experienced bosses to advise you becomes absolutely critical if you don’t want to flounder or fall.

A good mentor will recognise the spectrum of needs across the business (mostly because they have been there before). More than that – they will recognise the fear and stress you feel when facing these issues, and want to help you minimise these for yourself. They will know the pitfalls and help you avoid them, much like a parent that points to the crossing sign and says, go on green. Mental health in small businesses is getting more and more focus, with the sector recognising the strain that running a business can place on individuals. If we want a strong business community, we need to recognise where we have weaknesses – and bolster them from within.

We need better mentoring in the UK – and we need a LOT more of it. I have not met a single small business that would not offer advice to others if asked. I have not met one that wouldn’t accept it if they knew where to find it. So in response to this we are starting, in a small way, to address this challenge by offering free mentoring on the Small Business Saturday bus tour this year. At each of 25 stops across the UK, mentors will be available to sit down with small businesses and discuss their challenges – and help them find a way to solve them. It might not be solved right away and there and then, but it will be the start of a conversation and a mentoring relationship that will stimulate more conversations over the coming year.

This mentoring challenge needs to be taken up by everyone with a stake in the small business sector. And since there are 16.5 million people running or working in a small business in the UK, the chances are that you or someone you live with or are related to is part of this. So – that is all of us. Whether you are a local council, government, trade organisation, media, customer or friend, think about how you can play a role in sharing your knowledge, or helping others to share theirs.

Because whether we are talking economically or socially, we could all get by a bit better with a little help from a friend.





How Small Businesses Should Deal With Adversity

Monday, July 24 at 10:28Inspiration | Planning | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday

Credit: pexels

My typical approach when faced with adversity is to see every problem as having a solution. This healthy attitude helps me problem solve, and prevents me from wasting any time. These days, you are spoilt for choice with resources and advice that can help you navigate the testing first few years of your new business. This advice is useful regardless of what vertical you are in, so keep reading for some advice on how small businesses should act when faced with challenging situations. 

Don’t panic – find a solution 

As a small business owner, you are important as the leader of the team. A lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders. One of these responsibilities is the need to stay calm under pressure. Panicking will hinder you from staying level-headed and coming up with a problem to your solution, and it will make your employees stressed too.

Problem #1: Insufficient funds to make necessary investment 

Financial problems are common in businesses of all sizes. However, your finances may be a little more unstable if you are just starting up. It’s commonplace for businesses to make a loss until their third year. You need to pull up all of your data and analyse it thoroughly to determine where the leaks are in your ship.

Are any of your accounts or departments operating at a loss? Perhaps your clients aren’t paying you what you truly deserve for your services?

Here are some points for you to consider if you are running into financial hardship:

● If you feel you deserve more money for your products or services, consider showing your clients the great results you have delivered to them. Don’t be afraid to ask for more, within reason.

● Are there any projects or product ranges that just don’t yield enough of a profit margin? Take a look at this article for inspiration on ways you could cut costs, from shopping around for the best deals on your overhead costs, to embracing cloud technology.

● Have you thought about diversifying into different lines of business to supplement your existing revenue? Maybe selling your product offering online will help you generate the revenue that you need to grow? This is so easy to do – there are a lot of online store creators on the market for you to get set up in a matter of hours. Take a look at start up favourite Shopify, popular among SMEs thanks to its premium designs.

● Securing funding might be what you need to do when all else fails. This article has more information on these sources of funding, including loans and grants.

Problem #2: No time to make important changes to your business 

credit: Pexels
 
As a small business owner, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work and responsibility that comes your way. You need to be realistic about your workload and manage your time effectively. Here’s how:

● Delegate the tasks you feel can be handed on to your employees, once they have received proper training. This will allow you to focus on the big picture task of growing your business.

● Getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating well will help you stay focused and productive, reducing the time taken to complete important tasks

● Luckily, there are plenty of time-hacking apps available to help you with your time management. Toggl is great to keep track of how long tasks are taking you, and Rescuetime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive. Give these apps a try make your days go further.

The most important thing about the problems you face is to see every experience as a valuable lesson.

Make sure that you make a report for every problem you face and document exactly what your solution was. Offering your employees guidance on how to implement solutions is key here, too – communicating effectively with them will save you from encountering the problem again.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing consultant and freelance writer, working with large brands to help them blossom. She loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge with the world and encouraging entrepreneurial dialogue.

Three helpful ways your phone can reduce paperwork

Monday, June 12 at 10:56Digital | Plan | Planning | Small Business | Small Business Saturday


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

Tuesday, April 04 at 16:06Protect | Small Business

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.

5.Diversify

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

Monday, April 03 at 15:04Budgeting Tips For Small Business | Business | Economy | Plan

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.

1)      Make a plan

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.

Free trials, discounts or free upgrades are all tried and tested methods to get someone new to try your services. As it costs between four and 10 times more to acquire a new customer versus keeping an existing one, you also need to find ways to keep people that already know your about brand coming back.

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 to register.

Five Tips to Effectively Market your Business

Monday, January 09 at 10:50Digital | Marketing | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

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 ladybayvintage@gmail.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.

Spend with small busisness on Small Business Saturday up 15% year on year to £717 million

Thursday, December 08 at 10:40Small Business Saturday

Temperatures may have been in the low digits over the weekend but Saturday saw the UK’s small businesses community benefit from the warmth of the British public who were out in force to support Small Business Saturday (3rd December 2016).

According to an American Express commissioned survey* undertaken in the 36 hours following Small Business Saturday, an estimated £717 million was spent with small businesses across the UK.  This was up 15% on Small Business Saturday last year with over half (57%) of those aware of the day saying they spent more than usual.

Over 80% of all local authorities covering the country actively supported the campaign on the day in a variety of ways, from staging or supporting small business events to offering free parking.

Positive consumer sentiment and support to small businesses was echoed through social media.  Over 130,000 tweets were sent on the day itself reaching more than 120 million people, with Small Business Saturday UK trending at number one in the UK and at number 5 globally.

Michelle Ovens MBE, Campaign Director of Small Business Saturday said:

“In its fourth year, Small Business Saturday has once again delivered a sustained increase in spending with Britain’s small independent businesses. To see the spend on Small Business Saturday reach £249 million more this year than on the first Saturday in 2013, an increase of 53%, is fantastic and confirms the positive stories we are hearing from small businesses in
communities across the UK."

Alice Noone, Vice President Marketing at American Express said:

“Small Business Saturday celebrates the vital contribution independent businesses make to our communities and we’re delighted that shoppers rewarded them with such significant spend on the day.  We are immensely proud to be principal supporter of the campaign for the fourth year and hope it inspires people to shop small, not just on Small Business Saturday, but throughout the rest of the year”.

Rowena Howie, owner of Revival Retro, a small London retro fashion business said:

“Not only did we have more new shoppers and a higher footfall this year, we also saw a 35% increase in sales compared to the same Saturday last year.”

Carolyn Frank, owner of Libby Butler Jewellers in Helmsley, near York, said:

“For us in Helmsley the Small Business Saturday campaign has had a huge impact since its very beginning in 2013 but this year was absolutely the biggest and best yet. It’s become an established family tradition now for customers to start their Christmas by visiting small businesses on the day.  But it's not just the day, people are more aware of small businesses all year round because of it. I think it's because it's a grassroots initiative that it's gathered pace so quickly, and has reminded customers about the great variety and choice that small businesses can offer.”

How the UK showed its support on 3rd December 2016:

  • An estimated £717 million was spent with small businesses across the UK on the day. 
  • This was an increase of 15% on Small Business Saturday last year.
  • Over 130,000 tweets were sent on the day itself reaching more than 120 million people. 
  • Small Business Saturday UK trended at number one in the UK and at number 5 globally.
  • Politicians including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition; entrepreneurs including Karren Brady, Sarah Willingham, Jacqueline Gold, 2014 Apprentice winner Mark Wright and Levi Roots, and British talent including singer and TV presenter Louise Redknapp; TV Cook and Chef Lorraine Pascale and fashion commentator Gok Wan all publicly supported Small Business Saturday.  

Why you need to add exhibiting to your marketing mix

Tuesday, December 06 at 10:32Brand | Customer | Exhibiting | Marketing | Small Business Saturday

Exhibiting provides a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your business to the market. In a hall filled with customers and contacts, you have the chance to show people why investing in your company is essential. Customers will be attending with high expectations and with the hope to learn more about what businesses are out there, so it’s an incredible opportunity to become a part of.

If you haven’t yet decided to add exhibiting to your marketing mix then maybe it’s now time to reconsider. Here are 5 reasons why you need to be exhibiting right now.

1.    Increase your profit
Exhibiting has proven time and time again to have one of the highest return on investments as compared to many other marketing channels. Of course, there’s a lot of effort that has to go into exhibiting, such as an upfront investment to cover stall costs, but with that effort comes the benefit of a high potential reward.

With so many potential visitors under one roof who could be interested in your business, it’s a great opportunity to give out show only offers to increase the chance of a purchase on the day.

To increase your ROI further, make sure you choose displays that can be used again from reputable suppliers such as Marler Haley.

2.    Be seen in the right places
Being seen side-by-side to your competitors can do wonders for your business, particularly if you’re relatively new to market.

It’s one of the only places where visitors can physically see the differences between your businesses so it’s your opportunity to make sure your USPs are clear for visitors to see to make sure that they choose to buy from your stand and not your competitors.

3.    Your target audience under one roof
One of the main reasons to exhibit is to see people face-to-face. But not just any person, it has to be the right one. When choosing the right show for your business, it’s important to consider who will be attending and working out whether that fits your target audience. For online businesses this is particularly important as you won’t often get the opportunity!

4.    Increase brand awareness
Although you’ll want to gain as many leads and sales from the event as possible, exhibitions are also a great opportunity to raise brand awareness among your target audience.

Let’s be honest. Not everybody will want to purchase from you at the show even if they are in your target audience. But what you’ll want to do for these people is to make sure that they are aware of you when they decide that they need to purchase.

To do this, make sure that your displays have a clear logo in the upper third and that you add a simple strapline to tell people what you do and your USPs.

5.    Get feedback
Being face to face with your potential customers also has another perk – being able to get live feedback about your business. By asking about their needs, as related to your business, you can find out if you’re missing a trick by not fulfilling them. Positive feedback can also help you to identify your strong points to help guide marketing activity to push those elements that people have told you set you apart.


 Guest blog written by Mizzy Moore.









Seven ways you may be able to reduce your tax bill

Friday, December 02 at 13:38Accounting | Small Business | Top Tips

Sensible tax planning is an essential tool in making the most of your finances and helping your business’s profitability. Keeping your tax bill to a minimum is not a matter of aggressive or complex tax schemes, but rather of identifying which of the many tax reliefs and allowances specifically granted by law are available to you.

Jo Nockels, Senior Technical Communications Manager at small business specialists TaxAssist Accountants, shares some tips and advice about how to save on your tax bill. 

1. Review your business structure
How you structure your business can have a significant impact on your annual tax bills. During the early years of a business, it may be advisable to operate as a sole trader or partnership, as profits increase it may be more beneficial to form a limited company. An accountant can help you decide which entity suits your circumstances.

2. Buying equipment
Before buying business premises, machinery or equipment, make sure you seek advice. Up to 100% tax relief could be available but the type of asset, timing and value can affect how much tax relief you can obtain and when.

3. Choose a vehicle that matches your needs
Talk to an accountant before buying a new vehicle for your business. There are lots of considerations such as taxable benefits, VAT, capital allowances and how you claim tax relief for repair and fuel costs.

4. Don't forget to reclaim input VAT on petrol
Do you reimburse employees who use their own vehicles and pay for their own fuel at the HMRC approved mileage rates? If so, then don’t forget to reclaim the VAT applicable to the deemed fuel element of the mileage rate. You will need to ensure each employee submits a valid VAT receipt in support of the claim.

5. Make the most of losses
You may be able to turn your losses around by carrying them forward to set against future profits, or setting them against other income for immediate relief. Your accountant can review loss relief claims to ensure that the losses are used tax-efficiently and eases your cashflow ideally at a time that’s best for your circumstances.

6. Household bills
If you are running your business from home, you can offset some of your household bills such as heating, electricity, council tax and water rates. Even if your use is only minor for bookkeeping for example, HM Revenue & Customs will accept a reasonable estimate provided your claim is modest and reflects your circumstances.

7. Save on your rental income
If you rent out property, you can deduct a range of expenses from your rental income. These include Council Tax, utility costs, service charges and even replacing furnishings.

Choosing an accountant who specialises in small businesses could save you money and provide you and your business with expert advice on many financial issues. For more information about TaxAssist Accountants visit their website

Practical advice from Acas to help small businesses succeed

Wednesday, November 30 at 17:18Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Top Tips

Small Business Saturday on December 3 is a great day that marks the importance of small enterprises to our economy.

Small business owners are usually skilled at generating ideas for products and services due to  their entrepreneurial spirit.

While these qualities are important for business success it is worth remembering that building a strong team spirit by choosing the right people and treating them fairly can be just as important.

Employment relations is a phrase that can conjure a picture of regulations that many businesses think they haven’t got time for.

Yet somewhere along the way, all businesses come to realise that good employment relations are not optional. Better for the go-getting entrepreneur to make sure good employment relations happen early on or from the start, rather than risk expensive complications later on.

At Acas, we understand that small businesses are usually short of time and, also because they have fewer resources, can come up against obstacles which larger firms do not. So we have compiled advice especially for small firms.

It is currently a series of nine practical, concise and straight-forward guides called Help For Small Firms, which include:

•       how to recruit the best candidate for the job;
•       drawing up their contract;
•       settling them into the business;
•       effectively managing their behaviour and performance;
•       how to manage a complaint if they raise one;
•       how to manage sickness and other kinds of absence from work;
•       how to get the best out of staff, and;
•       handling pay and wages.

While we celebrate the dynamism and creativity of small enterprises this Small Business Saturday, we should also recognise that great team spirit also means a more productive business.

You can use the guides on the Acas website or print them off.

David Webb is an Acas writer working to help employers and employees understand, in plain language, employment law and workplace best practice. Previously, he was a manager in private industry for more than 20 years.

Automatic enrolment problems? The PLSA has a Pension Solution

Wednesday, November 30 at 16:53Small Business Saturday

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association tells us about the impact of automatic enrolment on small businesses, and their plans to support Small Business Saturday this year.

Last year I blogged about how we have to make automatic enrolment easy for small businesses, which is why we launched a specifically designed service called Pension Solution.

Since then, over 300,000 employers including thousands of small businesses have automatically enrolled 7 million workers into a workplace pension scheme. Eventually over 10 million extra people will be saving an additional £17 billion a year into workplace pensions by 2019/20, as recently reported by the Department for Work and Pensions.

These latest figures help highlight the importance of small businesses to the UK economy and the future of pensions and lifetime savings, and we are delighted to be supporting Small Business Saturday again this year.

We know that automatic enrolment can be complex so Pension Solution helps in three straightforward steps:

  • Step-by-step guide showing everything you need to know about getting your workplace pension set up for automatic enrolment.
  • Impartial guide to pension providers with comparison information and recently updated employer user ratings for nine pension providers.
  • Useful resources including handy downloadable communication templates and short films to help your workers understand automatic enrolment.

We also offer a half-day training course that helps provide you with all the basic information needed to implement automatic enrolment.

Find out more about Pension Solution at https://www.pensionsolution.co.uk

See how Pension Solution can help a small business like yours.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association will be supporting Small Business Saturday UK on 3rd December 2016 and throughout the rest of December by offering a 100% discount on the normal £49 subscription to join Pension Solution as a member. Use voucher code SBIZSAT when joining online. 

Follow us on Twitter: @SolutionPension

Ideas and Innovation Dens: help tease out those great ideas and turn them into reality faster.

Thursday, November 24 at 10:00

Several months ago I got invited to contribute business expertise to a local radio station, providing views from a small and micro business perspective on some shows. This was and continues to be a ‘calorie-burning’ experience, not least as we now do a 3 hour live show on the first Friday of every month and at some other times. I have now progressed, quite by accident, to seemingly becoming the stations ‘business guru’?!  Our small and micro business world is different isn’t it and listeners seem to appreciate hearing tips and ideas from real local people, that they can definitely relate to and share their progression. Fascinating real life tips and experiences are always shared.

Whilst there is an enormous amount of help around to develop products and companies, it soon became apparent that there are also a huge number of ‘ideas in peoples heads’ for new products, services or even new companies, that never get turned into reality. There could be many reasons why.

So our challenge with the Ideas and Innovation Dens is to tease these out by offering something different.  Perhaps the thought of a ‘dragons den’ or corporate pitch with a full business plan, to be dissected and analysed, is just too scary?  Perhaps an individual or a company, has some great ideas that they would be prepared to confidentially discuss with my carefully selected group of private industry business owners, who truly understand what it takes to operate small, medium or even large businesses, and introduce new products on a daily basis, because that’s what we do? Would it be a good idea to also get the input of other public partners to fast-track help and funding too?

I also believe that these ideas and stories about how we turn them into profitable reality, will make really interesting news and that’s why we are also hoping to turn the best ones into some more radio shows.

This is a snapshot of our current ‘Ideas and Innovation Dens’ package.

They will be available on-going for several months through an application form from dave.homer@blackcountryradio.co.uk or steve@steveparkericd.com, but a great way to experience it all is as part of a package of help and assistance for Small Business Saturday, or ‘Small Business week,’ as it will be in Dudley, West Midlands.

Our ‘Ideas and Innovation Dens’ or simply drop-in business advice clinics are scheduled for:

Halesowen Library -  Monday 28th November  10am-1pm
Dudley Library - Tuesday 29th November  10am - 1 pm
Netherton Savoy Centre - Wednesday 30th November 10am-1 pm
Brierley Hill Library - Thursday 1st December 10am - 1 pm
Stourbridge Library - Friday 2nd December 10am - 1 pm

With fantastic support from Steve Parker ICD, Dudley Metropolitan Council, Dudley Business First, ‘Business starts here’, Black Country Radio and other local business start-up providers, there is no better way to kick-start your idea.




Black & Gold: Supporting other local businesses through partnerships

Monday, November 07 at 12:30

The Elder family have farmed along the banks of the River Tyne in East Lothian for over 150 years. They launched Black & Gold Cold pressed rapeseed oil in the harvest of 2010 after Louise Elder became aware of the nutritional benefits of the oil.

The overall balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids in the oil means that rapeseed may be superior to other oils commonly used for cooking, such as sunflower and extra virgin olive oil. By cold pressing the oil, the levels of naturally occurring antioxidants, viscosity and nutty taste are beautifully preserved.

The name Black & Gold comes from the black seeds which are shed from pods on the rapeseed plant and when pressed, a golden oil is released.  Black & Gold is sold in fine food outlets and high-end restaurants such as Harvey Nichols.

Creating a Business Improvement District 

Black & Gold helped to set up a Business Improvement District (BID) in the East Lothian area of Scotland. This is a business led partnership to help bring together local businesses and the local council to improve local trading. BIDs provide a levy which can be used to help develop an area. Typically, BIDs are used to enhance town centres, tourism and business parks. In this case, Black & Gold believe that the East Lothian Food & Drink BID will help other small businesses to collaborate and to tackle common problems that they have in extending their business reach. This includes helping with sales and marketing, product development, identity and distribution.

Why have we got together?

Together we can collaborate and communicate to better promote the wealth of produce available from East Lothian, Scotland’s Food and Drink County.  Our vision is to be the number one destination for food and drink buyers and for our products to be the food and drink of choice by consumers.  They will expect high quality, premium products with great provenance. We can celebrate and shout about our bakers, millers, cidermakers, fishermen, chocolatiers, distillers, brewers, farmers and small businesses operating from home.  By collaborating we can help each other find our feet or find new markets. We can do that more efficiently through joint distribution and operational services.  Most importantly, we want to deliver a positive economic impact and effect economic return for all our members and partners.

What makes our BID different?

We are different because our membership is made up of food and drink businesses that produce, process, manufacture or add value to food and drink products in East Lothian. We are the first BID of its kind in the world. There are over 30 successful BIDS across Scotland which include Falkirk and Essential Edinburgh. The total investment that BIDS are now providing in urban centres is over £34 million.



Louise Elder started Black & Gold in the harvest of 2010 with the first product on sale at the Haddington Farmers’ Market.

Interview with Paul Gardner founder of the East End Trades Guild

Tuesday, November 01 at 10:00


Paul Gardner is the founder of the East End Trades Guild, he was our first member and part of the quorum of businesses who worked together to establish our unique organisation in 2012, to protect and promote the common interests of our diverse community of small enterprises.

In true East End fashion we wanted our Small Business Saturday to be a bit different. So Paul and the 130 other members have been busy with making preparations to launch our own, self styled East End Independents’ Day on the 3rd December.

Founded in 1870, Gardners’ Bags is Spitalfields oldest family business specialising in selling a range of paper and plastic bags. In his own words Paul Gardner has said; “It’s nice to have been put forward as one of the Small Business 100, I want to promote little businesses. It’s an honour to have achieved this, and for us to have been going as long as we have, and we want to promote the positive stories for all the Guild members.

We want to get people to shop locally, because the independents are the heart and soul of the area. Visitors come to the East End for the small businesses, for the individuality and customers know that people put themselves out when they have their own businesses.

I will be open for a change on the Saturday for East End Independents Day, I’ll be telling a few stories to people on the Alternative London walking tour of when I started 44 years ago and be giving out some goodie bags”.

Our members Splice Post have made a digital invitation to the Mayor of London to celebrate Small Business Saturday with us and to launch East End Independents Day over breakfast at world famous E. Pellicci! We have not had a response yet but we’re sure we’ll hear from him soon.

Our members Alternative London will be running 5 tours on Small Business Saturday. Their Hackney Food Tour will include The Broadway Bookshop where celebrated chef Oliver Rowe will be cooking up tasters outside the shop with mulled cider. 4COSE will be sampling the highest quality produce from 27 countries to mark European fellowship. The Five Points Brewing Company will talk about their indie brewery with slurpings of beer for thirsty walkers. Participants will stop at the historic F.Cooke for East End delicacy jellied eels! And get the insider's history of Pie & Mash from Bob Cooke himself. Lucky travelers will also dazzle their taste buds at The Deli Downstairs Christmas Food Fair!

Alternative London will also operate two tours that will cross from Shoreditch and Spitalfields featuring talks from Paul in his shop.

Participants will get to meet the inimitable Carol Burns from legendary C E Burns & Sons to discover the secret history of the East End. Lunch will be taken at Warren’s gaff - Cafe Caribbean in Spitalfields market, where the last few independents of the market are our members InSpitalfields, Source and A.Gold. They will experience a jaunt through ancient Artillery Passage taking in the heady scents of Angela Flanders Perfumery and on through to GH Cityprint to be serenaded by a London Symphony Orchestra Cellist, before our final destination at Leyden Gallery for their latest exhibition and some fine wines!

There will be gift bags for all tour participants!

More to be announced soon! Check our website and Facebook page for further details and read more about Paul's important business on Spitalfields Life.

Blog by EETG founding Organiser Krissie Nicolson.

Fully Funded Essential Management Skills Training

Monday, October 31 at 11:25

You may be thinking, ‘Why do I need management skills training?’ I’ll get straight to the point.
Here are 5 simple reasons:

1. An employee’s relationship with their manager is the most important single factor in employee engagement and business growth. High performing skilled managers make the difference! Engaged employees are happier and more productive. Disengaged employees are frustrated and more disruptive.

2. Because there’s no agreed skill set for management (good managers come in all shapes and sizes), there’s an assumption everyone knows how to do it. This is like someone who’s never driven a car before being given keys and told, “Drive!”

3. The basics of good management: communication, setting targets, managing people performance, giving honest feedback and, most importantly, managing your time effectively and efficiently and good delegation. These skills aren’t rocket science. In fact, they’re way easier than rocket science.  Which is why companies should get them right.

4. Respected, well-trained managers boost morale. Improved morale boosts business growth. We all know the expense of a slump in business and the damage this can do to team morale.

5. Bad PR! If it should happen, the buck stops with the incompetent managers.

A free course for small businesses in and around Greater Manchester

Total Excellence Centre are offering a fantastic opportunity to take part in a fully funded, highly participative, 2 day course for Essential Management Skills. This is valued at £1000.00.

This programme is for B2B, Retail and B2C businesses. The programme is designed to develop your management & leadership skills and capabilities, to support future business growth.
Using a blend of theory, interactive group exercises, reflective and collaborative learning and case studies, we will look at a combination of skills and behaviours designed to increase your confidence. This will help you to become a more effective manager and leader.

Do you meet the qualifying criteria? Please check the points below:

  • Business that are looking to increase their turnover and/or the number of employees 
  • Is based with Greater Manchester (and 10 surrounding boroughs)
  • Employ less than 250 staff but more than 3
  • Turnover is less than 50 million Euros
  • Not have exceeded 200,000 Euros in State Aid in a rolling 3-year period

Would you like to develop and grow your knowledge in the following topics?

  • The role a manager takes to ensure business growth and continued people development
  • What your natural leadership style/behaviour says about you?
  • Understanding personalities, behaviours within teams
  • What high performing teams look like?
  • Embedding and translating business growth ideas into an action plan
  • The skill of feedback to ensure continuity and consistency across teams
  • Identifying barriers that hinder communication
  • Developing plans to achieve your vision of growth

If yes, then get in touch as places are limited. The programme is delivered on the following dates:

17th and 18th October - 3 places remain
7th and 8th November -7 places remain
11th and 12th January – 9 places remain

Register your place
If you want to register please call Jude Honeyman on 07507 113567 or the Total Excellence Centre on 0844 815 4818. You can also register your interest for a call back via http://www.totalexcellencecentre.com/contactus/fully-funded-training-enquiry.php

Total Excellence have been providing highly engaging, innovative, learning & development programmes for over 20 years. Their courses are available to SME's and large multi-national organisations throughout the UK and Overseas.

What I learnt in my first year in business

Monday, October 24 at 11:15

I relocated to Leeds from India two years ago.  Previously, I would never have imagined that I would be the founder of a business and that I would be proud to call myself an entrepreneur.

This Pampered Life offers bespoke experience days in Yorkshire. Since launch, last year, the question I have been asked the most is ‘how did you manage to establish a business in a different country’? To be completely honest, I think it all boiled down to ‘passion and perseverance’. However, I also feel it is a combination of many different factors.

Here are a few things that have helped me in my short, yet eventful, journey as a start-up business.

Be A Doer
I believe that all of us have the potential to lead a successful business. We all have ideas about creating new products and services. It all boils down to what we do with the idea! That, in short, is the game-changer, ‘the doing bit’. As an Entrepreneur you start small. It is essential to accept that you will need to ‘do’ everything yourself in order to drive the business forward.

This holds true especially when you are a ‘one man army’. You have to handle all the marketing, selling, delivery and after-sale feedback. This has to fit in-between admin tasks such as finances, filing records and website maintenance.

Don’t Fear A “No”
This has been an important factor in helping me persevere. I remember last year in July, when the idea of This Pampered Life was taking shape. I wrote to the Head of Enterprise at a major university. This was to seek guidance on what it takes to start a business in the UK. The reply, via LinkedIn, was:
‘I would love to meet you to help. However, more importantly, I would like to meet you to congratulate you for your sheer courage in asking for help without any introduction’
It may sound cheeky, but in my head I thought ‘what could be the worst that could happen?’ I could be ignored. However, that would be better than not trying at all. The worst-case scenario will be a ‘No’. It is important to remember that a ’No’ is only a ‘No’ at that moment in time. Trying someone else or trying at a different time, might achieve a ‘Yes’.

Choose Support Wisely
Very early on in my business journey I realised that the UK is definitely one of the best countries for start-ups. This is in terms of the abundant free support we have access to. While this is a great opportunity for all of us, I was unsure what kind of resource was most suitable for me. That meant that I attended way too many free workshops for social media, marketing and networking. Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed and learnt a lot from each of these events.

However, at some point I needed to sit down and analyse what was most important for my business. Was it going out and investing many hours in connecting with more people or was it sitting down in my office writing to my existing connections? Be selective and conscious of time, was my learning outcome.

People Buy People
At times I would be lost for words when I was expected to talk about my business. There was a point when I thought to myself that there has to be another way. Of course there is. I stopped selling my business to everyone I met. I realised that people buy into you first and then your business. Be genuine.

Passion
I started this business because I saw an opportunity to offer something unique. We are fortunate when we have the opportunity to convert our dream into a reality.  While chasing our dreams, take the passion along and enjoy the journey.

Minoti Parikh is the founder of This Pampered Life. She has had a successful career as a Master of Ceremonies, TV Presenter and Corporate Trainer. Along with this, A Masters degree in Marketing and Industrial Psychology has helped her build the brand value of small & medium size businesses in her role as a Marketing and Events consultant.

4 Invoicing Mistakes you Should Avoid in your Small Business

Monday, October 17 at 11:20

There’s probably no small business that hasn’t prepared at least one invoice for their work. For businesses many times invoicing is considered the boring paperwork no one wants to deal with. So often times preparing invoices is based on copying already prepared and pre-populated invoice documents.

Proper invoicing is one of the ways for small business to ensure steady cash-flow and secure company growth. Below are listed 4 invoicing mistakes small businesses do and usable tips on how to avoid them when managing your invoices.

1. Vague services and products description
This part is the heart of the invoice, and you should always aim to make it as clear as possible. Many times clients can’t just predict what you’re charging for and this is especially true when you’re doing job for a bigger company where invoices are handled by their accounting department. With this in mind you should always state clearly what services you provided for them.

Sometime the services (or products) you sell can take more than one line to describe.This is often case when you’re doing large project in several stages, so don’t be afraid in being more detailed when describing the work you've done.

2. Complicated payment terms
This section of the invoice is probably the one that will make it or break it. So pay attention when stating you payment terms. Many times in invoices legal language and terminology is used but part of your clients maybe aren’t so business savvy and won’t understand them.

Make it no brainer for your clients, write them in clear and simple manner. One study shows that using “21 days to pay”, instead of “Net 21” resulted in more prompt payments. Including late payment interest also can play big role in motivating your client to pay the invoice. In the end make sure the terms are accompanied with polite and friendly tone.

3. Piling-up late invoices
In ideal situation your clients will pay the bills the day you send them, but the reality is different and many times your clients will be late with their payments. They’ll all have various reasons and excuses for this delay, from lack of funds, to forgetting and sometimes even ignoring your invoices. And if you tolerate this too often you can face a big pile of late invoices in short time. Not only this, but you’ll also run out of money pretty quickly.

This is out of your control but there’s a way to handle this in the most productive way. The simple rule for this is to follow-up with your clients. If you notice someone hasn’t paid the invoice remind them about the services you’ve provided and the invoice itself. Don’t wait too long to email or call them, the more time passes the likelihood of payment decreases. Invoices that are 6 months past due have 44% of successful collection, and for over a year due invoices the percentages drops to 25% for successful collection.

4. Improper design and style
Usually this part is many times overlooked when creating an invoice. If you think “it’s just an invoice, why bother with the design” you’ll end up making mediocre looking invoice, that can lead to invoice information scattered all around. This won’t help in collecting your payments, and can even hurt your reputation.

Your invoices shouldn’t be taken for granted, so be careful how you lay out the information about your company, client, terms and your services or products. As a rule always try to include your company logo and brand colours in the invoice. This will ensure you’re serious, dedicated and professional business person.

AuthorBio: Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus - a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.

Interview with Small Business Saturday Champion Elaine Pritchard from Caittom Publishing

Monday, October 10 at 13:04


What could possibly encourage four busy, small businesses to come together and organise a free-to-attend conference at their local football stadium? The answer would be Small Business Saturday UK.

I’ve been a fan of the campaign since it started and getting involved every year has boosted my profile locally and regionally and helped my business grow.

In 2015, three local businesses and I (we call ourselves the Burton Small Business group) organised a ‘flash’ conga of small businesses through Burton-on-Trent’s town centre. Mike Cherry, of the Federation of Small Businesses, met us at the end of our dance through the streets and our family and friends joined in to help us remind shoppers that by supporting small, independent businesses they are supporting local families, creating and securing jobs and putting money into the local economy.

This year we’ve decided to organise a conference giving businesses chance to benefit from lots of help, advice and motivational speakers and also get ideas for what they can do on the big day itself. We’ve called it Small Business Big Difference, borrowing from the theme of this year’s national campaign. We’re holding it at the Pirelli Stadium, home of Burton Albion football club, on Wednesday October 12. The rise of Burton Albion from small town club to the Championship has made a big difference to our town, so it seemed like the perfect venue for us.

Our local newspaper, the Burton Mail, has been very supportive. We’ve got 10 great speakers including one of this year’s #SmallBiz100, award-winning magician Jack Dent of JD Magic, who will be entertaining delegates as well as speaking about his own inspirational business journey.

When businesses apply for a free ticket we’re asking them to make a Small Business Saturday pledge. We’ll make a feature of these in the form of a video at the conference.  We’re all very excited about our conference and the rest of this year and if you want to follow more of our journey you can connect with us on Twitter @BurtonSmallBiz and on our new Facebook Page.
 

Elaine Pritchard, owner of 2015 #SmallBiz100 company Caittom Publishing and a Small Business Saturday champion, explains why she and three other small businesses have taken on the major task of organising a free conference this year.




Elaine Pritchard leads the Small Business Saturday ‘flash’ conga through Burton town centre in 2015. Picture by Joanne Cooper Photography.

A Guide to: Handling Small Business Disputes

Wednesday, September 14 at 16:08How To | Legal | Top Tips

Small businesses may face a variety of challenges over their lifetimes, but lengthy and increasingly expensive court cases do not need to be added to the list. The good news is that intellectual property and employment conflicts, or late payment issues can be managed without resorting to litigation.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the ideal solution to small business disputes.  An umbrella term for a whole range of processes and techniques that help parties resolve conflict without going to court, ADR usually involves the assistance of a neutral third party, and is often less formal, cheaper and quicker than litigation.

In addition to being highly time and cost efficient, ADR is also confidential and offers a discrete and neutral setting for businesses looking to protect their public image. Both arbitration and mediation are two examples of popular ADR processes.

With this in mind, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ Business Arbitration Scheme (BAS) is highly recommended to small businesses, as it delivers five tangible benefits which are worth considering before making a decision as to whether or not it is in your businesses’ best interests to resort to litigation.

1. Fixed fee: BAS is a fixed fee scheme, providing certainty as to costs from the outset.

2. Speed: BAS offers the certainty of a final and legally binding decision in less than 90 days from the appointment of the arbitrator.

3. Simplicity: The BAS rules were created with simplicity in mind, allowing ease of use and flexibility.  The scheme is simple enough for businesses to present their own case without legal representation if they so wish.  Formal procedural steps have deliberately been kept to a minimum.

4. Limited Costs: The costs recoverable have been limited to protect parties against liability for their opponents’ high legal bills.

5. Specialist panel: CIArb provides a specialist panel of arbitrators.

In addition, a recent survey conducted by the Institute indicated that:

94% found the Scheme to be an attractive proposition for small businesses involved in low to medium value disputes;

93% found the cost of the Scheme appealing;

98% found the short timetable of benefit; and

96% found the Scheme easy to understand.

Aimed at being accessible and straightforward, BAS was launched following the increase in court fees last year, which in some cases, saw a hike of up to 600%. CIArb decided it was time to take action as it became apparent that small businesses in particular were disproportionately affected, and that many felt priced out of accessing justice through the court system.

As the majority of small businesses usually initiate court proceedings to recover unpaid monies, it was important to ensure that there was a scheme in place, tailored to the needs of businesses who had legitimate debt claims but felt that it wasn’t worth it to pursue them through the courts.

Ultimately, businesses that wish to use BAS, should consider drafting an appropriate dispute resolution clause into their commercial contracts or into terms and conditions, before any dispute arises.  A free dispute resolution clause for BAS can be found here.

For businesses looking to manage their dispute(s) and prepare for conflicts long term- the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ Business Arbitration Scheme is worth investigating.

Post by Olivia Staines, PR and Communications Manager, CIArb & Keisha Williams, Head of DAS, CIArb. The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) is a leading professional membership organisation representing the interests of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practitioners worldwide. 

For more information on the Business Arbitration Scheme, please call +44 (0)20 7421 7444, email das@ciarb.org, or visit our website at www.ciarb.org/das. 


Communication is key

Wednesday, August 31 at 13:33

Point of Sale display manufacturer Wrights GPX offer some advice for retailers on maximising the Small Business Saturday effect!

As we enter September, Small Business Saturday looks a long way off. But retailers know how fast the selling year goes by and that planning is key to success. Now seems a good time to plan to turn the additional interest that Small Business Saturday will generate into more sales on the day and for the future.

If we had one piece of advice based on our almost 50 years in retail display, POS (point of sale) and POP (point of purchase) it is that clear communication is essential if you want to turn interest into sales, visitors into customers and first timers into loyal brand evangelists.

And with online research fuelling buying decisions, clear communication in-store has never been more important. Of course communication covers many sins. Perhaps the most important is how you and the team communicate with customers. This interaction will be the customer’s most important brand ‘touch point’.

Is your team ready for Small Business Saturday? Do they know what it is, why it came about and how it can benefit your customers? If you have any offers, deals or discounts related to the event, are the team clear about them and how best to introduce them? And how are the team’s non-verbal communications? Are they dressed appropriately? Are they exuding energy and enthusiasm? Are they smiling?

How are you communicating your involvement with Small Business Saturday? There are lots of ways to do it. Have you spoken to local press to brief them about your involvement? Have you tweeted and Posted? And for passing trade? Make the most of your window display, A-boards and external opportunities. Print is getting cheaper and cheaper so a leaflet drop in the area can be very cost-effective!

Why not create an offer for Small Business Saturday? Whatever the offer is it, it won’t be effective if you don’t shout about it. Again, social media has a role to play but in-store promotion is just as important. Use poster holders, sign holders, table talkers and shelf barkers to ensure all your printed communications stay smart and get noticed.

You should also use these everyday communications to build brand. Whether you trade on your style, humour, sense of community, commitment to the environment or having the lowest prices in town these values need to be reinforced at every opportunity. And you need a strategy to turn those first time visitors that Small Business Saturday bring into loyal returning customers.  Think loyalty cards or sign ups to social media or newsletters. These might need incentivising – put all those who sign up on Small Business Saturday into a prize draw, for example – and again they will certainly need to be communicated.

We wish everyone all the best for
Small Business Saturday!


How to get your small business found

Friday, August 12 at 09:30Digital | Marketing

Barney from Bluebell Digital shares some ideas on master Google to get your small business more visible

Getting to the top of Google search is a goal for many small businesses, but it can seem like an elusive target. What Google wants, and what savvy businesses can provide, is quality content that will rise up the search rankings on it's own merit.

Search engine optimization or SEO has often in the past been seen as shrouded in technical jargon! Marketing your content effectively is the core way to get more traffic from Google and this is where small businesses should focus. The overall goal is to communicate with existing customers and reach new ones. It should always be remembered that SEO is only one tactic in this mission, not an end in itself.

There are two sides to SEO - the technical aspect which concentrates on making titles, tags and meta descriptions optimised so your website content is as friendly as possible to Google’s Web ‘robots’. The more compelling aspect is creating the strategy and content that you will use as a destination for people who find your site via Google.

Here are a few simple to follow steps for the content generation and marketing side of the SEO equation. There are also plenty of good guides for basic technical SEO on the Web.

First take a step back from your commercial goals and think about how people are going to search for your product or service on Google. Don't just think in terms of company buzzwords, industry terms or product names. Think how real people actually search for your product. They don't always use the official name, they don't always know about your new product category and they will surprise you in how they go about finding things online.

Tools like the AdWords Keyword Tool or Google Analytics can help you see how people search before they arrive at your site. Combine this real-world research with key phrases you have come up with yourself and arrive at a keyword list that represents the core keywords that are crucial to your business. Think 'which words or phrases is it essential that my company shows up for on Google when people search?'

Once this list is compiled you need to find a baseline for where you are today. Plug the keyword list into one of the many SEO tracking tools available - SEMRush, Moz or Majestic SEO are a few paid tools you can use and there are some free options also. The tools will show you where you rank on Google now for the keywords in the list you have created. This is how you are going to track if your technical SEO and content marketing efforts are successful over the following weeks and months.

You can also track if your organic Google traffic increases using Google Analytics. It is important to remember that pages rank on Google, not whole Websites, so it isn't a case of get my Website to the top of Google, you are trying to get a particular page higher for a specific keyword search. Here comes the strategy and planning - you want your very best pages to surface at the top, which means you have to create meaningful content around the core keyword topics that you have chosen and then incorporate that content on to your Website.

Planning out a new set of pages, blog posts or even video content around your important content themes and keywords is the way to gain those higher positions on Google. Without a planned approach to generating this content plus a process to optimize it for SEO within your site, you will struggle to put the right content in front of your chosen audience and improve your visibility on Google. Your goal is always to make it as easy as possible for Google to see your best content and then show it to others for relevant keyword queries.

One part of compiling your keyword list is seeing whether you already have content around the keywords that you wish to rank on Google. Most often you will be able to identify areas where you want to appear for certain searches, but you don’t yet have any great content relevant to those keywords. This is an opportunity to start filling those gaps with new posts or pages. Always remember to try to be interesting or useful (or ideally both) to your prospective audience, so you can engage them and encourage them to share and interact with your content. Success on social media can help boost your SEO and will in itself bring more visitors back to your Website.

As a final thought, always focus on the customer: how can my content help them? What are they interested in? How can my company show thought-leadership or credibility? How can we talk about a relevant topic that really resonates with our target market? What do they need and what problems are they trying to solve? Keep it real and plan. Write clearly and simply. Think about your audience’s needs and interests. That way you will see your best work rise to the top.



Is cloud hosting for you?

Thursday, July 28 at 13:19

The team over a Cyber Host Pro talk us through cloud computing and if it could work for your small business....

A website is an integral part of any modern business, and the benefits of cloud hosting could be exactly what you need to see better results.


You’ve undoubtedly heard the word “cloud” being mentioned a lot in the last few years, and not just the kind that’s related to the weather. Rather, the “cloud” is one of a variety of different hosting options, each with their own benefits to suit specific needs.


A lot of people are on board with the benefits cloud hosting can bring to the table, and if you’re a business owner then it’s something you should be looking into as well.


Increased Security


A top priority and concern for any business is security, even more so in a digital era where people rely so heavily on technology. Businesses can suffer significant losses through cyber crime or through theft of computers and hardware.


This is why cloud hosting has proved to be very popular with businesses because of the security benefits it provides. By storing your sensitive data in the cloud, it means that as long as you have an internet connection, you have access to your data. If your computer or hard drives are stolen or damaged beyond repair, then you will still have full access to anything you’ve stored in the cloud.


Just make sure you do remember to do so. Otherwise that dreaded moment will come when you realised that important data file you forgot to store in the cloud is still in a folder on the laptop you lost.


It’s Flexible


As a business, it’s likely that at some point your hosting requirements will change, such as a need for more bandwidth when your site begins to get more traffic. Cloud hosting allows you to quickly scale up the capacity to accommodate your current needs, which will not only allow your site to function quicker and more efficiently, but also by doing so it gives you the competitive edge over competitors who don’t have access to such services.


You Can Work From Anywhere


Whether you work on a freelance basis, for an online based company, or if your employer is happy for you to telecommute, with cloud hosting the ability to work remotely has never been as easy as it is today. If you run your website or blog and have access to an internet connection, then you’re at work – whether it’s at home or your favourite coffee shop.


Remote access to all of your data and the internet, in general, has completely changed the way businesses operate, as well as giving small businesses a great way to advance their business.


No Need to Spend Money on Hardware


Hardware can be expensive, not only to purchase but also to run it and —  depending on size and space — to store it. The cloud takes away all of these problems; it’s not a physical piece of hardware that will cost you a hefty lump sum. It’s a service you pay for, which can be scaled correctly to fit your financial situation.


This is a more manageable method which can prove to make a big difference to profits, especially for small businesses with a tighter budget.


Automatic Updates


To elaborate on the previous point, cloud hosting will allow you to receive automatic software updates, rather than needing an expert to maintain your hardware for you. Taking the worry out of your hands will free up time you would’ve spent upgrading equipment. Moreover, receiving updates as and when they’re available will go a long way to making sure your site is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, a service that your competitors may not have access to.


There is so much data stored on so many clouds that physical hard drives may soon be considered “retro”. For businesses, especially smaller businesses or individuals who work on a small budget, cloud hosting is something of a godsend. Not only does it give you a flexible, remote way of doing things, but it also provides you with peace of mind, knowing that your data is backed up and secure.



Chris Danks is the owner and director of Cyber Host Pro. He has over 15 years of experience within the hosting industry. His company now supplies businesses all over the world with a number of high-quality hosting services.



Is cloud hosting for you?

Thursday, July 28 at 13:19

The team over a Cyber Host Pro talk us through cloud computing and if it could work for your small business....

A website is an integral part of any modern business, and the benefits of cloud hosting could be exactly what you need to see better results.


You’ve undoubtedly heard the word “cloud” being mentioned a lot in the last few years, and not just the kind that’s related to the weather. Rather, the “cloud” is one of a variety of different hosting options, each with their own benefits to suit specific needs.


A lot of people are on board with the benefits cloud hosting can bring to the table, and if you’re a business owner then it’s something you should be looking into as well.


Increased Security


A top priority and concern for any business is security, even more so in a digital era where people rely so heavily on technology. Businesses can suffer significant losses through cyber crime or through theft of computers and hardware.


This is why cloud hosting has proved to be very popular with businesses because of the security benefits it provides. By storing your sensitive data in the cloud, it means that as long as you have an internet connection, you have access to your data. If your computer or hard drives are stolen or damaged beyond repair, then you will still have full access to anything you’ve stored in the cloud.


Just make sure you do remember to do so. Otherwise that dreaded moment will come when you realised that important data file you forgot to store in the cloud is still in a folder on the laptop you lost.


It’s Flexible


As a business, it’s likely that at some point your hosting requirements will change, such as a need for more bandwidth when your site begins to get more traffic. Cloud hosting allows you to quickly scale up the capacity to accommodate your current needs, which will not only allow your site to function quicker and more efficiently, but also by doing so it gives you the competitive edge over competitors who don’t have access to such services.


You Can Work From Anywhere


Whether you work on a freelance basis, for an online based company, or if your employer is happy for you to telecommute, with cloud hosting the ability to work remotely has never been as easy as it is today. If you run your website or blog and have access to an internet connection, then you’re at work – whether it’s at home or your favourite coffee shop.


Remote access to all of your data and the internet, in general, has completely changed the way businesses operate, as well as giving small businesses a great way to advance their business.


No Need to Spend Money on Hardware


Hardware can be expensive, not only to purchase but also to run it and —  depending on size and space — to store it. The cloud takes away all of these problems; it’s not a physical piece of hardware that will cost you a hefty lump sum. It’s a service you pay for, which can be scaled correctly to fit your financial situation.


This is a more manageable method which can prove to make a big difference to profits, especially for small businesses with a tighter budget.


Automatic Updates


To elaborate on the previous point, cloud hosting will allow you to receive automatic software updates, rather than needing an expert to maintain your hardware for you. Taking the worry out of your hands will free up time you would’ve spent upgrading equipment. Moreover, receiving updates as and when they’re available will go a long way to making sure your site is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, a service that your competitors may not have access to.


There is so much data stored on so many clouds that physical hard drives may soon be considered “retro”. For businesses, especially smaller businesses or individuals who work on a small budget, cloud hosting is something of a godsend. Not only does it give you a flexible, remote way of doing things, but it also provides you with peace of mind, knowing that your data is backed up and secure.


Chris Danks is the owner and director of Cyber Host Pro. He has over 15 years of experience within the hosting industry. His company now supplies businesses all over the world with a number of high-quality hosting services.



How to: Get your product in a magazine

Tuesday, June 28 at 15:40



The London Fashion Agency give some tips for getting your small business' product featured in a magazine....


Misconceptions of Devil Wears Prada-esque editors with unreasonable demands and a penchant for making the intern cry makes getting featured in a magazine feel like a daunting task. But fret not – we’ve condensed all that we know about the big bad world of print into 5 easy steps so you know the whos, whats, wheres and hows of getting that all-important feature.

Step 1: Do your research

Doing a little research into lead times for each publication is really important – there’s no point in sending a collection of suncreams over to Elle if they’re already working on their Christmas issue. Generally speaking, monthly titles work approximately 6 months ahead, whereas weekly titles work on issues 2 or so months in advance.

Step 2: Resources at the ready

Having great resources at hand makes approaching publications that little bit easier for both parties. A beautiful lookbook, some high-resolution images and a sharp, concise press release will help the editor to envisage your brand on their pages.

Step 3: The all-important approach

It would be a crime to put so much time and effort into the perfect pitch to then send it to the wrong department – it’s really important to read into the best person to contact in order to get the best result. For example, if you want to get your knitwear featured in LOOK then you should get in touch with the fashion assistant or shopping editor, but if you’re a homeware brand then the lifestyle assistant may be your best point of contact.

Step 4: Call-ins

If an editor likes the look of your product then it’s possible that they’ll call it in for a shoot. This is a great sign, but unfortunately not all products that are called in end up getting featured. To maximise your chances, ensure that you have samples at the ready so that you can get your products over to the publication as soon as they’ve been requested.

Step 5: The waiting game

Now it’s time to wait, wait, and wait some more. Be patient – you don’t want to bombard the editor with numerous emails. If your product gets featured then be sure to share it on social media – this is a great achievement! Most importantly, always email a thank you note to the editor - maybe they’ll want to feature your product again in the future.



The London Fashion Agency is an award-winning PR and social media agency. They are the UK’s first and only affordable fashion PR and resource agency dedicated to independent brands and small business. They have broken down traditional retainers to allow businesses to do their own PR with LFA guidance. Agency director, Rosie, started LFA 3 years ago when she realised when it comes to PR, small business want to know two things; what am I getting and how much does it cost.

How to: Get your product in a magazine

Tuesday, June 28 at 15:40



The London Fashion Agency give some tips for getting your small business' product featured in a magazine....


Misconceptions of Devil Wears Prada-esque editors with unreasonable demands and a penchant for making the intern cry makes getting featured in a magazine feel like a daunting task. But fret not – we’ve condensed all that we know about the big bad world of print into 5 easy steps so you know the whos, whats, wheres and hows of getting that all-important feature.

Step 1: Do your research

Doing a little research into lead times for each publication is really important – there’s no point in sending a collection of suncreams over to Elle if they’re already working on their Christmas issue. Generally speaking, monthly titles work approximately 6 months ahead, whereas weekly titles work on issues 2 or so months in advance.

Step 2: Resources at the ready

Having great resources at hand makes approaching publications that little bit easier for both parties. A beautiful lookbook, some high-resolution images and a sharp, concise press release will help the editor to envisage your brand on their pages.

Step 3: The all-important approach

It would be a crime to put so much time and effort into the perfect pitch to then send it to the wrong department – it’s really important to read into the best person to contact in order to get the best result. For example, if you want to get your knitwear featured in LOOK then you should get in touch with the fashion assistant or shopping editor, but if you’re a homeware brand then the lifestyle assistant may be your best point of contact.

Step 4: Call-ins

If an editor likes the look of your product then it’s possible that they’ll call it in for a shoot. This is a great sign, but unfortunately not all products that are called in end up getting featured. To maximise your chances, ensure that you have samples at the ready so that you can get your products over to the publication as soon as they’ve been requested.

Step 5: The waiting game

Now it’s time to wait, wait, and wait some more. Be patient – you don’t want to bombard the editor with numerous emails. If your product gets featured then be sure to share it on social media – this is a great achievement! Most importantly, always email a thank you note to the editor - maybe they’ll want to feature your product again in the future.



The London Fashion Agency is an award-winning PR and social media agency. They are the UK’s first and only affordable fashion PR and resource agency dedicated to independent brands and small business. They have broken down traditional retainers to allow businesses to do their own PR with LFA guidance. Agency director, Rosie, started LFA 3 years ago when she realised when it comes to PR, small business want to know two things; what am I getting and how much does it cost.

Is Beer Brewing The Next Big Thing For The Hospitality Industry?

Thursday, June 16 at 16:32

Beer brewing is the perfect activity for corporate events and team building, for so many reasons. The most important of which, is that it’s unique. Not only is the activity itself different to the norm, beer brewing company, Brew Club, is also one of a kind. The classes, the brewing options, and the style that the company has, is what makes it standout.



When arranging entertainment for a corporate event, or a team building activity for your employees, it can be a struggle finding that perfect option. You want it to be fun and enjoyable, but you also want it to come with a challenge, so that those involved start to build bridges with each other. Sadly, there are only so many times when group games or abseiling are going to be effective.

When it comes to corporate entertainment, if you want to keep your audience entertained, you need to think outside of the box. This is, without a doubt, an overused phrase. However, when it comes to corporate entertainment, it is most certainly apt.

There is no tougher audience to please than attendees at a business conference or event, or your employees when it comes to team building. Veterans from years of conferences or team building events will know what was done last year, and the year before, and the year before that. If you want to please them and make an impact, you need to present them with something new. That is why something like beer brewing works so well - as an activity it’s innovative, quirky, and most importantly, engaging. It’s not another Jacob’s ladder challenge, it’s so much more than that.

There are very few people who don’t love a cool, refreshing beer. It’s this that makes beer brewing as a corporate activity such a fantastic idea, and of course, the fact that it’s an exceptional bonding exercise, also helps. Learning a new skill as part of a group, bonds you to the people you’re sharing the experience with. These are the people you’ll be swapping ideas with, giving tips to, and having a laugh with over the interesting smells your brewing beer creates.

The thing about food and drink is that it has a unique ability to help us strengthen our relationships with others. Whether we’re eating it or making it, we as humans have a habit of chattering away to whoever else we’re with. Food and drink relaxes us and gives us a sense of security - according to psychologists that is, leading to us lowering our guard when food or drink is our main focus. That’s why, the classes that Brew Club offer, are such a perfect activity for team building or corporate events. They get people talking, bringing the fences down and opening the channels for easy and comfortable communication.

Unlike some corporate hospitality activities, beer brewing is interesting. Like sports activities that are a common trend in team building and event activities, it offers a challenge. The difference being that something brand new is being taught, not something that most of the people taking part will already have done before. Because it’s an activity that’s new, it makes it more interesting and engaging, and allows people to relate more easily to one another as everyone is in the same boat having never tried brewing beer before.


Entice your corporate event guests or employees with a beer brewing class that gives them the chance to learn a new skill, work together, and have some fun. 


Brew Club, a different kind of brewery where people can brew their own beer, was founded in 2015 by Rob Berezowski and Jo Llewellyn-Jones, when they ran out of room to brew beer at Rob’s flat. 
@brewclubuk

5 tips to make starting your business easier

Thursday, June 09 at 13:56Start-Up Support | Top Tips

If you’re thinking of starting your own business, firstly congratulations! I know it can be scary. How do I know? I’m doing it, too.

When I wrote this, I was four weeks into working for myself, and I want to share what I’ve learned by that point. Hopefully, reading this will make the process a little less scary for you.

1. Help from family and friends
They may not know what you do on a daily basis, or may not understand why you want to work for yourself. BUT, they are a wonderful source of support. My husband has been with me every step of the way. He’s having to listen to me thinking out loud about what services I should offer, about what my branding should look like, really anything to do with my work.

The same goes for friends. I really feel supported by my friends, who also want me to succeed. Some are even looking for business for me!

So, don’t think that just because you’re going to work for yourself that you’re on your own. You’re not. Your family and friends are there for you, so make the most of the support they’re willing to give you.

2. Keep in touch with your business contacts
If, like me, you’re going to leave your job to start your business, look at the contacts you’ve already made to see if any of them can help you. You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to help out, especially if you already have a great relationship.

My last job at Constant Contact put me in touch with some great organisations that help small businesses. One of these is Small Business Saturday. Having heard that I’m starting my own business, they have been very supportive and offered advice and the opportunity to write for them. And here I am, writing for them! How great is that?

3. Rely on experts
Just because you’re only at the start of your business journey, don’t discount how experts can help you. Whether it’s a chartered accountant, an IT specialist or someone who has been running their business for years, the knowledge they have can really turbo boost your set up.

I have a friend who ran her own marketing consultancy and she helped me to figure out my offering. She’s literally taken weeks off my services development. I still have a lot of hard work to do to get set up, but she’s really helped accelerate that.

4. Don’t think, do
There’s a lot to be said about putting words into action. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what you should do. Start doing stuff. Even if it’s getting down on paper what you’ll offer, working out what should be on your website, or grabbing your business name on the social channels you want to use. Act on it today!

Actually seeing things happening will spur you on to get the next thing done, and you’ll see your business take shape in front of your eyes.

5. 80% is good enough
A manager of mine once told me about the 80/20 rule. It not only changed the way I looked at my work, but also gave me the freedom to just try things.

If you’ve not heard of it, then simply put, whatever you’re trying for your business, if it’s 80% there, then get it in front of the world. Beit your website, a brochure, your branding. It will all evolve as you & your business evolve and grow. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, 80% of the way there is OK.

6. Organise your time
Having an expanse of day in front of you can be daunting. So use whatever means suit you to make sure you get the most out of your day.

For me, this means using the same methods I used when I worked for someone else. I block out time in my Google Calendar for all my tasks. I did it for writing this blog post. Oh, and I stick to it. Of course, something may crop up that needs to be dealt with, and that’s OK. Just reschedule the task to another time.

Being organised will mean that you’ll get more done and get up and running faster.

Bonus tip
Get out and about. Working for yourself can mean spending A LOT of time on your own. Make sure you get out and about. I’m going to the gym more, I actually go to the supermarket rather than order in a shop, and planning on seeing more of family and friends.

I hope my experience so far will help you with your own start-up. If you want to share your experiences, I’d love to hear and learn from you. Find me at @Minal2804 or on my Facebook Page: Marketing by Minal.


Minal is a marketer with over 15 years’ experience of working for national and international companies, most latterly Constant Contact, a leading email marketing provider. Having worked with 1000s of SMEs whilst at Constant Contact, Minal decided to start Marketing by Minal, making her marketing expertise accessible to SMEs that want to give their marketing more focus.

Do not underestimate the power of the internet

Friday, May 27 at 17:33Digital

My girlfriend and I went to Paris for a city break in May 2016. Since I was in charge of organising the whole trip, and wanted an easy life, I booked my train tickets on the trainline.com website. As I didn’t want to stay in a hotel I booked our 3 night stay in a flat which I carefully selected from airbnb.com after carefully reading reviews other holiday makers had posted online. The easiest way for us to travel around Paris was by taxi. My Uber app came to the rescue and within minutes drivers were waiting outside to whisk us off to our next sights. We decided to stay local when dinning out. Not knowing the area at all I simply searched for “restaurants nearby” using google maps where I could find a list of the best eateries within a mile radius.

A new world
This is the world most of us now live in which would have been inconceivable 20 years ago.
The internet has shaped a new society with new behaviours and revolutionised the way we do business.  The speed at which these changes happened is unprecedented. While a lot of businesses have capitalised on the birth of the digital era most small businesses are lagging behind. But why?

Education, education, education
The key to success for you as a small, or local business owner, is through education. Understanding the true power of the internet as your most valuable marketing tool is paramount. To really realise how powerful it is however you must be familiar with, at least, basic concepts. Admittedly terms such as Keyword research, online reviews, Google My Business, Search engine optimisation and pay per click, only to mention a few, can be overwhelming at first for someone whose main activity is to sort out a leaking pipe within an hour or to blow dry their next customer’s mane.

You do not have to become an online expert but It should, however, be at the core of your strategy if you are  considering to start a  business, no matter how small.  Thankfully numbers are easy to understand and that should be enough to convince anybody that not only online marketing is unavoidable if you want to achieve success but most of all your best friend.

The proof is in the data
The biggest shift in the digital world in recent years occurred in early  2014.  For the first time ever, time spent on mobile devices overtook time spent on desktops.  33% percent of internet users now view their mobile phone as the most important device for accessing the internet (source: Ofcom Media Use and attitudes 2015).  This has drastically changed the way people search online and purchase products and services.  According to a study conducted by Google in May 2014 called “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior” 50% of consumers who do an online local search visit a store within 24 hrs and 1 in 3 searches on a mobile is done right before consumers visit a store.



This should speak volume to anyone trying to increase their customer base and spark a real interest in understanding how to make the most of the internet.  Searches have become very specific too and search engines like google have become very sophisticated at understanding user intent. Typing “pizza delivery” in the google search box will mainly return local businesses on the results page these days. A local  pizza delivery business not showing up on the first result page of google  will now miss out on a vital stream of customers and could potentially die of a short death.  But the rise of local searches is not exclusive to take aways . Looking at the “Near me” queries in google trend only highlights this further. It is interesting to notice these types of searches really started to take off in 2014, just when the use of mobile phones overtook desktop use.



With the ever increasing growth of  mobile phone use, searches have become more localized than ever before  and there is no sign of this trend slowing down any time soon. If not careful, any small business overlooking their local online marketing strategy is likely to become a digital casualty in the year if not months to come, and nobody wants that, right? So get learning.


Luc Durand is the founder of RankingAcademy.co.uk a company that provides  a range of free video tutorials to help small businesses who want to improve their online visibility in local search results. 

A Beginners Guide to Corporate Wiki

Friday, May 20 at 17:17Digital | Planning | Quick Guide | Top Tips

In the business world wikis have begun to boost performance and overall client satisfaction as they provide various functions and assist multiple goals. Maybe the Wiki concept you have in mind is associated with Wikipedia but it´s important to understand that it´s not the same thing starting from the fact that they pursue very different objectives.

In order to understand the concept, let's begin with a simple example which I´m sure is common to any type of organization: A project was recently started and team members began to search for past experiences and relevant information only to find that experiences had not been properly recorded and that information remained in the PCs and personal file servers of previous team members. Step by step set of instructions that explained: what to do, what you should have done and what needs to be avoided is not readily available for the team so they start from scratch and along the way they begin to encounter the very same roadblocks.

The above example is a common scenario for organizations that don't have a centralized place for information and experiences to be stored. What's worse is that resources are wasted as teams invest time doing things over and fail to reach consistency. Even client expectations are juggled as this sort of practice does not reinforce what your brand stands for. So what can be done about it? How can we avoid those angry reinventing the wheel moments and help teams incorporate best practices and important information?

Corporate wikis are a great place to start as they provide various functions in order for team members to store and co-create content together. In this sense it´s important to mention that the Wiki experience is different from having intranets as they are more dynamic and users are at the center of the strategy as they are responsible for curating and creating content across the company.

Wiki software also allows you to create FAQs, manuals and other form of vital information which can also prove to be extremely helpful in the service desk sector in order to assist client requirements. For example, ticket handling and calls can become stressful when customer agents have to attend the same requirements over and over again while clients are put on hold and have no early and proactive access to information. Wikis can centralize important product or service information so that clients can search for answers themselves which in turn helps create a better customer journey with little to none bottlenecks.

Wiki software comes in many forms and prices. Open source options are available but they have one basic problem: you need extra coding hours in order to customize it so that it suits your company´s identity and security patterns. You might also have existing software and programs, so having a Wiki that can integrate with them is a must in order to avoid multiple access points. Evaluating content reuse is also important so that you can have a clear idea of what information is valuable in terms of customer service and projects. This can also help you spot trends and insights regarding your customer´s behavior. So, being able to incorporate tools such as google analytics is great.

Existing SaaS companies like ProProfs, incorporate these functions and have the advantage of being cloud based which helps reduce costs associated to storage and maintenance.

From the above we can clearly perceive the benefits of having wikis as opposed to losing valuable information and not being able to reach out properly to customers.

These type of benefits are not just meant for big business, on the contrary if you start from day one when your company is small, meeting new challenges and growth won’t be a problem since everything will be properly centralized and structured. The challenge is bigger when companies start when they are already big as the amount of information and experiences to be handled will also be greater.

In this sense make the right decision and embed wikis in to your company´s culture from day one!


"David Miller is an educational researcher who has several years of experience in the field of teaching, online testing and training. He is associated with prestigious universities and many leading educational research organizations. Currently, he is pursuing research in online knowledge base software and is also a contributing author with ProProfs."

How to use social media to grow your small business

Friday, May 20 at 09:46Quick Guide | Social Media | Top Tips

Three quarters of SMEs are planning to implement a social media marketing plan by 2017.  But having the expertise to do this right can be challenging, especially if your time is limited.

Here at Digital Mums, where we train mums to be social media managers and help businesses with social media solutions, we’ve developed a straightforward approach that will simply define your approach to social media. And it works whatever your business type.  We call it the Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model.

How it works
The premise is simple - expand upon what works on social media and throw away everything else.  It focuses on constantly tweaking and improving on content, conversations and engagement.

Step 1:  Test
Think about your target customer and develop detailed user personas of who they are (to find out how to do this check out the first in our #SocialDoneRight blog series).  Then test out different approaches on social media to see what works best.  So for example;

  • push different content formats i.e. photos, videos and text
  • push different content subject matter
  • schedule posts at different times of the day and week

What you choose to test first doesn’t really matter - the important thing is to get started.

Step 2:  Measure
It’s best to wait about a week before you start analysing posts.  As nearly everything on social media can be measured (almost there Instagram!) you can establish the success of every single post.
Some of the analytics can seem complicated, but they’re worth persevering with as the data is incredible.

Step 3:  Reflect
Once you have your data, you’ll need to dedicate some time to really analysing  it.  Distilling key insights will really help you improve your activity, These are some of the key things to look out for:

  • Date / Time

Are there are certain times of the week or month you posts are more successful?  Perhaps the weekend is always quiet so you need to post more mid week, or vice-versa.

  • Audience/demographics

Depending on the platform you’ll get data on the people following you and even who has viewed your profile.  If you’re not quite reaching your target demographic, think again about the type of content you’re pushing out.

  • Impressions/reach

This is helpful for brand awareness as you can check how many people have seen your activity. Certain content or a big influencer sharing may mean a spoke in content.  If you see a dip you might need to post more often.

  • Engagement

The more likes, comments and shares you’re getting, then the more engaged your audience.   You should be able to see what content works best and when it’s best to post it.

  • Clicks

If you’re aiming to drive people to your website then look at the click throughs.  These analytics are also useful in establishing if brand awareness is translating into a deeper interest in your company.

  • New fans/followers

Spikes or drops could be related to the amount your posting and joining in with conversations.  You may see more followers when you use a popular hashtag or piggyback an event, in which case do it more.

Step 4:  Refine
Once you have these insights you can then refine your social media activity accordingly.  Do more of what is successful and get rid of anything that hasn’t worked.

Then once you’ve refined, you can begin testing again.  It’s a never-ending cycle to consistently improve your performance! It takes patience, but over time we guarantee you’ll build an engaged and strong community and truly see results from social media.


By Richard Miranda, Head of Growth at Digital Mums. For a step-by-step guide to social media for small businesses follow our #SocialDoneRight blog series over on blog.digitalmums.com.  Join us every Thursday 11am-12pm for our #SocialDoneRight tweet chats on @DigitalMumsBiz to get advice from social media experts.

Recruiting for your small business

Wednesday, May 18 at 12:18HR | Recruitment | Top Tips

In this day and age of evolving technology, it’s understandable that many small business owners may feel overwhelmed when they need to hire someone. There’s hundreds, maybe thousands of websites all seemingly offering a similar solution. Whether you’re a small deli looking for a barista to make a marvellous macchiato, or a growing marketing agency delving into digital, understanding how job seekers behave is the first step to success.

Tip 1 - Put yourself in the jobseekers shoes (and put your job ad in their sightline)
Whether it’s browsing shop windows or searching online, job seekers with different skills behave differently when they look for a job. Take a step back, think about where the person you want to hire would go to search for a job, and make sure your jobs are seen there.  

Tip 2 - The growth of “specialist search engines” 
Take a look at this graph below using Google data. You can see in red how searches for Cheap Flights has declined over time. More people now search for specialist travel search engines such as “Kayak", than search for “Cheap Flights” on Google.
Searches for cheap flights  Searches for Kayak

This trend is also happening in the search for jobs. People are now using specialist search engines for jobs, like Adzuna, to begin their search. Ensuring your jobs are on the most relevant platforms to job seekers is the best way to make sure your vacancies reach the right job seekers.

Tip 3 - Advertise for Free! 
The first advertising you should do for any job should be free. Whether it’s sticking an ad in the window or posting the job on your website, always look to free sources first. You can even advertise your job on sites like Adzuna for free.  There’s no commitment, no contract and no credit cards needed, just a great job description and a website or email address to receive your applications.

Tip 4 - Job search is everywhere - be there. 
The constant evolution of the internet and ability to take sophisticated technology on the move has changed the way people search for jobs. Job seekers no longer need to spend hours visiting recruitment agencies, or trawling through newspaper ads, they can search at any time, virtually anywhere, through their smartphone or tablet. Ensuring your jobs are visible on mobile is critical, especially when trying to find people who aren’t currently “desk based” workers.

Adzuna is a search engine for job ads used by over 9 million visitors per month that aims to list every job, everywhere. We search thousands of websites so our users don't have to, bringing together millions of ads in one place. By providing smarter search options and powerful data about the job market, we give jobseekers the information they need to take control of their careers.  

Click here to request your free job advertising account.

Adzuna’s mission is to be the best place to start looking for a job.  We love using the awesome power of technology to help match people to better, more fulfilling jobs and keep Britain working.

5 Customer Experience Tips for Small Businesses

Thursday, April 28 at 18:22

Oftentimes, small businesses stand out with their exceptional customer service. In the age of mobile, customer service matters even more - many experts call it a new marketing as the word of mouth can reach thousands of people at lightning speed.

Customer service plays a huge role in a customer’s loyalty and spending. Did you know that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they’re being treated?

If you’re a small business owner, here are some ways for you to enhance your customer experience:

1)      Be present. The business is your investment, your concept and your design. If you’re a restaurant, it’s your menu. If you’re a bookstore, you picked the books. Your business is your creation. So, be there as often as you can to represent it. Interact with customers, answer their questions, share your knowledge and experience and inspiration.

2)      Get technical. Think of marketing as an investment instead of a cost. It’s not money down the drain, it’s money dedicated to building your customer base. A lot of businesses are focusing their marketing on mobile these days:

·         Mobile apps - Mobile apps help provide a seamless customer experience, including browsing, communicating and paying for services through an app. This case study of fire alarm and safety company Critical Systems highlights how a mobile app helped this small business compete with big corporations.
·         Text marketing - SMS marketing campaigns have experienced some incredible success both for large corporations and small businesses. Texts have a nearly 100% open rate, making them the best way to reach your clients with information about sales, promotions and appointment reminders. The case study for ProspectExpert, an automotive repair company, shows how using SMS to send appointment reminders has increased their appointments by 60-80%.

3)      Get social (media). If you haven’t created a Facebook page, a Twitter account or an Instagram account for your business, it’s time to do it. Social media is where you can post photos and videos of your merchandise or events, promote sales and create events. Better yet, it’s an interactive platform for your customers, allowing them to post, comment and share, spreading the word about your business with organic reach.

4)      Get feedback. Did you know that on average, for every customer who complains, 26 other customers have remained silent? It’s really important that you give customers a chance to voice their feedback. Whether it’s a questionnaire you send via SMS or email or even on paper by the cash register, customers need to have a platform to tell you what they’re thinking. Most won’t take the time to come forward and tell you how you’re doing. You have to ask.

5)      Take care of problems quickly. There’s nothing worse for a customer than voicing a complaint and feeling like the retailer doesn’t care. Make sure your customers feel like they’re your priority by taking care of problems as quickly as possible. If someone had a bad meal at your restaurant, comp them for it that night. If someone was overcharged for an item at your store, give them back the difference immediately.

Don’t wait and don’t give them store credit. Going the extra mile to maintain a customer is worth the investment. If you doubt that, consider that it’s 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.


For small business owners customer service should be your number one priority. Use these tips to improve your customers’ experience.


Alexa Lemzy is a customer support person and blog editor at TextMagic.com. She writes mainly about small business, customer service best practices and mobile technology. You can contact her on Twitter @Alexa_Lemzy.

Effective interviewing techniques

Friday, April 01 at 11:26

This week, Lee Parker of Parker Sourcing gives his advice for the perfect interview when hiring for your small business


There are plenty of articles all over the internet offering tips on how to approach a job interview from a candidate’s perspective, which is great, but there seems to be a lack of help when it comes to advice for those on the other side of the table.

So, this week, we’ll look at how to get the most from your interviews, and the kind of questions you should be asking in order to make a much more reasoned and logical assessment of your candidates.
Of course, before doing any interviewing at all, you’ll need to attract the right people to your company!

Preparation is Key
Finding the right employees for your company is a tough task, but getting it right will ultimately lead to a highly productive office and a much more successful business. It makes sense then, to be as prepared as possible before sitting anyone down in the hot-seat.

A good starting point is to right down a short paragraph which sums up the role you’re looking to fill. Not only does this make you think more about the skills that will be required to carry out the job, but it acts as a constant reminder as to the position you’re hiring for, should conversation wander in a different direction at any point during the interview.

You should also jot down any essential competences and experience that are essential for role, as well as reading thoroughly through the candidate’s application and CV, making note of any sections you would like to discuss further during the interview.

Finally, be sure to compile a complete list of all the questions you would like to ask. It may also be a good idea to write all CV-related questions down on a separate piece of paper before meeting your candidate – you could put yourself across as unprepared if you have to keep scanning the interviewee’s CV during the interview.  Bear in mind that your possible suitors are also interviewing you as a company, so it’s important for you yourself to give a great impression.

Asking the Right Questions
Trying to determine whether a candidate could be a good fit for your company can be quite tricky. Many job hunters will be pretty clued up when it comes to interview techniques, and will be well aware of most of the questions they will be asked beforehand. This, in my eyes, makes for a false impression, because lines are rehearsed and it all becomes a bit predictable. What you really want to do is get beyond those walls and find out what kind of person you’re interviewing. To do this, you’ll have to throw in a few questions which will make the candidate stop and think for a minute, such as:

What do you think working here will be like?
What has working in this field taught you most about the industry?

Remember, the idea here is not to fish for a right or wrong answer, but to go beyond those rehearsed standard answers to get a truer impression of the candidate, and to let their personality come through a little more.

By all means, ask a few generic questions to tackle their professional experience or personal attributes, but be sure to throw in a couple of unexpected ones too.

Final Thoughts
There really isn’t a set way to interview potential employees – each case is completely different. What’s important is that you break down barriers between yourself and the candidate to form a much more accurate judgement on their potential to enhance your team.



How Your Small Business Should Go Digital

Tuesday, March 29 at 18:30Digital | Getting Online | Top Tips

Business in the UK is growing rapidly – with small businesses in the lead. In 2015, there were 5.4 million businesses recorded in the UK, according to a report by The House of Commons. The report also states that over 99% are SMEs that employ a range of 0-249 people. A large percentage (95%) were also micro-businesses, small enterprises that employ 0-9 employees totalled 5.1 million. While businesses in the UK continue to boom, it is increasingly important to have a well-designed and developed online presence, encompassing critical Search Engine Optimisation tactics. Here are some tips for small businesses that are thinking of taking the leap and finally going digital.

Why do I need a modern and up-to-date website as a small business?

In this day and age, chances are the majority of your potential consumers will learn about your business through some form of digital means. Regardless of how your consumer encounters your business for the first time, they will almost certainly use an online search engine to discover more about your business.  According to a recent survey by Weebly, 56% of consumers do not trust a business that lacks an online presence.

Your website will serve as a showcase for the product(s) or service(s) you provide, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A key aspect of a website is having a sleek, user-friendly platform for your current and prospective customers alike to gain information about your business. For instance, aspects such as a “Contact Us” or “About Us” page are critical to providing your audience with the information they need.

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Many small businesses make the mistake of ignoring the appropriate implementation of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics. Performing proper SEO tactics will help your website to rank higher on some of the top search engines in the world. The implementation of the right SEO tactics and creating an SEO-friendly website are key to the placement of your business’ website on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

What should I do to improve my website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? 

At MBJ, we strive to implement white-hat SEO techniques, also known as ethical SEO which are defined as the best practices to follow in order to rank highly on SERPs whilst following the guidelines provided by Google.

Below are a few of MBJ’s SEO tips & tricks to keep in mind:

  • Relevant Content Creation – Ensure that your content is relevant and flows smoothly with the theme or context of the overall website. Remember to provide valuable and useful content aimed at your target audience. Additionally, it is important to ensure your content includes correct spelling and grammar. 
  • Appropriate Keywords – Keywords are phrases that users will begin their online search with. For instance, a user looking for a hotel in London will search for “London UK hotels”. When keywords are integrated into your web page’s content then the search engine will pick up on the words and rank your site for the words that are relevant to your business. Implement the usage of keywords into your content and make sure they flow naturally with the context of the page. It is best to avoid keyword stuffing, as mentioning the same words over and over again have proven to be counterproductive. Google’s algorithms have recently been updated and designed to detect web content misconduct. 
  • On-Site Blogging – If you’re wondering where all the relevant content and keywords should go on your website, consider having an on-site blog. Not only does an internal blog assist with your SEO efforts but it also provides you with the opportunity to highlight your knowledge and expertise of the industry you operate in.
  • Concise URL Structure – A clear URL structure is especially helpful when listing the products or services your business provides. Creating a custom URL allows for custom keywords to be implemented into the URL, not just a mixture of gibberish letters and numbers. For instance, http://mbj.london/portfolio/ is a much clearer and easier to read URL than http://buff.ly/1PqYltn.
  • Social Media Integration – Select the social media channel(s) that best suits your company’s mission and vision. For example, businesses that are more visual in capacity tend to be better suited for platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Search Engine Optimisation is typically interlinked with a website’s social media presence. 

Post by MBJ London, a London-based web and app development consulting company. Their mission is to help small businesses go digital and not loose out to their competitors who have. Find MBJ London on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

MBJ offers Website as a Service (WaaS), an innovative package that encompasses the design, development, maintenance, and technical aspects that are required to create a flawless web presence. It enables small businesses to have a dedicated IT department for a fraction of the cost. 

How to write the perfect job advert

Thursday, March 10 at 10:23How To | HR | Recruitment

This week, we hear from Small Business Saturday champion Parker Sourcing about how to write a brilliant job description for your small business vacancy

Every company wants to land the best workers to help drive their business forward, which is why creating an efficient and extremely attractive job advert is very important.  On too many occasions, businesses fail to articulate the ethos of the company and specific responsibilities of the post, meaning many potential and talented candidates slip through their hands.

To lure in the most creative, innovative and cutting-edge individuals, your job advertisement must be packed with reasons for candidates to contact you. But saying that, you probably won’t want Scooby Doo and the gang showing up for an interview and wasting valuable time either, so it’s all about striking the right balance to attract the people you want to hire.
For example, you’re looking for someone to come in and head up your marketing team. You want them to take the bull by the horns from day one and create some great, catchy and viral advertising campaigns to really drive your business forward. However, you’re also a very flexible and team-orientated company who loves to get staff helping out across multiple departments. Would you really want to employ a marketing guru who had a less-than-positive attitude towards customer services?

It’s essential that you make your job requirements clear to the reader in order to attract the right people for the job and to whittle out anyone who probably won’t fit the bill. If you’re on the lookout for a technically savvy developer for your I.T department, who can also provide the rest of the company with computer training, then you’ll need that person to be a confident communicator and not just a heads-down coding wizard.

Is your company a fun, challenging or rewarding place to work? Let people know about it upfront, so they can picture themselves in the role. Be positive about the culture of the organization to have people really wanting to work for you. Put yourselves in their situation; they’re looking for a place where they can connect with the people around them; an environment they can look forward to working in every day when they wake up in the morning. Capture the personality of your company, and you’re well on your way to attracting the right candidates for your post.

It’s not always easy to remember what information to include in when you post a job online, so to make sure you have everything covered, work your way through this list before you click ‘submit’:
1. Have you included a clear job title for the position?
2. Have you supplied a definite list of educational requirements and experience required to take on the job?
3. Have you outlined a salary range for the position?
4. Have you included the amount of working hours required per week?
5. Have you listed a transparent set of duties that
 the role involves?






For more hiring advice, read Lee Parker's previous blog post: Why Job Descriptions Matter

Hiring a VA: What's it all about?

Wednesday, March 02 at 13:11Collaboration | How To

We speak to Small Biz 100 Alumnus and Champion Agile Administration about the benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant...
As businesses are expanding, many owners are increasingly using the services of Virtual Assistants.

We all juggle the work-life balance and don’t always have the time to take care of everything on the to-do list.  A Virtual Assistant can help with that!

There are lots of benefits to using a VA, one being that there are no additional overheads for you. We work independently from our own premises, ensuring that you will only be paying for the actual time that you use our services. You will not be paying for someone’s time when there is nothing to do, or for someone who is late to work or on a coffee break, or if someone is on holiday or off sick.

When you hire a VA, you don't have to think about PAYE, National Insurance or agency fees, providing a desk, a phone or training up new staff.

Another key benefit of using a VA is that we are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, which is perfect for those emergency jobs when your secretary or office assistant may have already left for the day and you urgently need work completing. Perhaps you just need occasional cover for employees who are on holiday or off sick so that the work doesn't pile up.

Using these services will give you the time to focus on your core business activities rather than spending it on time-consuming administrative tasks, whilst having the assurance of a professional, confidential and flexible service available to you at all times.

All assignments can be delivered and returned by email, post, courier or by hand (locally only), to suit you. It really doesn’t matter where you are located, the advantage of using Virtual Assistant services means we can assist you wherever you are. Some of the recent projects that we have worked on have included:

Writing press releases, PR/print and media, event management
Acting as an agent for a talented act in the music industry
Digitalising paper records and creating new systems
Working on an app currently in development
Bookkeeping
Mentoring authors with social media training with a view to them understanding self-promotion
Digital audio transcription services
Acting as Marketing Director for a publishing company
Reformatting of HR policies for HR consultants
Lead generation work for a voiceover artist
Setting up and managing social media platforms and website management for a property development company

A Virtual Assistant can help your small business by offering executive, concierge and business support services!


Whatever your business needs, Agile Administration Services is here to help you lighten the load.

We have worked with clients as far south as Surrey, as far north as Dundee and overseas and are delighted to not only have been selected as a Small Biz 100 business by Small Business Saturday in 2014, but since then have been asked to be Small Business Saturday Champions in 2015 and 2016

For a no obligation free chat please contact me on 07772733349, Cathy Wright, Director of Agile Administration Services. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & the website 


Surviving and thriving as a small business

Friday, February 26 at 10:34

We hear from The Protection People about insurance protection for a small business:

Every day, we speak to business owners across the country that are looking to safeguard their commercial future through the use of protection insurance products.
Yet we only manage to speak to a fraction of those who really need protection – with recent statistics from Legal & General stating that only 5% of business owners have put insurance in place to protect their “key people”.

Ask yourself the question:  “If I lost one of the key people from within my business, be they a director, salesperson, engineer or manager, would my business be able to survive and thrive in the immediate aftermath of that loss?” For most SME’s, unaware of the protection solutions available to them, the answer to that question would be a resounding “No”.

The reality is, with around 79% of SME’s having 3 directors or less, it goes without saying that these businesses would be put under significant pressure if the worst happened and they lost one of their key people. When you lose a key person from a business, unfortunately there is more than just the emotional upheaval to worry about.  You will need to advertise for, recruit, induct, train and mentor a replacement and this is before you consider any potential loss of profit brought on by the unforeseen absence of the aforementioned key person.

Recent research found that approximately 40% of SME’s across the UK would cease trading within 12 months of the death of a key person.  This statistic alone should make business owners across the country sit up and take notice of the need for robust continuation planning.

With the financial crisis still a not too distant memory, and the economy seemingly stuttering along from quarter to quarter, now is a more pertinent time than ever to ensure your business is protected from risks which are relatively easy and affordable to mitigate against.

One of the businesses we spoke to this week had decided to insure their top account manager against both death and critical illness.  They had done this as this one individual contributed in the region of 28% of their gross profit month on month.  They told us that without this account manager, they would suffer financially as their profit margin was tight and they would have to use an executive recruitment firm to source a replacement which can be extremely costly.

A simple Key Person policy can insure against such risks.  You can insure your business against a sudden loss of profits and the cost of replacing a member of the team.  Putting a continuation plan in place will give you and your business the financial space to breathe should the worst happen, so you can make sensible measured decisions, not rushed ones.

At The Protection People we specialise in formulating continuity plans for business of all shapes and sizes, regardless of the type of industry.  Quite simply, our job is to find the right solution for your business so you have peace of mind at a price you can afford.  For free impartial advice tailored to your business, speak to one of our qualified business protection consultants on 0808 281 9393.  We’re here to help.

For more information visit www.theprotectionpeople.co.uk

Why job descriptions matter

Tuesday, February 23 at 11:28How To | Recruitment | Small Business

This week, we hear from Small Business Saturday champion Parker Sourcing about why writing a job description matters in order to find the best people for your small business


According to a recent study carried out by totaljobs.com, job seekers are now willing to travel larger distances to attend job interviews. The research shows that, in fact, those looking for work will travel up to around 72 miles for the chance to shine in front of prospective employers.

What’s more, the study also finds that job-hunters now spend much longer preparing for interviews than they did last year, with 44% putting at least two hours into planning and company research for each job opportunity. That’s a fairly large 12% increase on the previous year, showing that candidates are realizing the competition for jobs and are equally putting their foot on the gas – quite literally – to leverage themselves onto a higher platform.

The figures also mean that some businesses must look at the interview stage of recruitment a little more seriously rather than flippantly. With candidates now putting in the extra mile to impress prospective employers, it’s important that company’s hone their interview techniques too, and provide each potential employee with a fair and dedicated experience. For more information, please refer to our guide next week on writing a job description.

Additionally, companies should keep in mind their location when advertising on job boards. That is, if a job seeker is willing to travel further to your premises, then it makes sense to target those within a wider locale.



Next week, Parker Sourcing will give tips for writing the perfect job description for your role, here on the Small Business Saturday blog 





Music makeover

Tuesday, February 09 at 16:37

We spoke to PRS about an exciting competition for small business pubs they are re-launching in 2016: Music Makeover!


"PRS for Music’s Music Makeover competition launched in 2000 with the specific aim of helping pubs with their live music offer.

Independent research has shown that pubs using live music increased their revenue by 9 percent compared to pubs without live music*. In a time where pubs are struggling, a live music offer can be vital.

Most of PRS for Music’s top members started their careers playing in small live music venues which is why PRS for Music feels so passionately about the value live music can bring. The Music Makeover competition helps the winning pubs reap the rewards of live music in their venues.

The competition has annually rewarded a winning UK pub with a Music Makeover comprising a £10,000 prize alongside a bespoke music consultancy from a leading expert and is celebrated with a high profile event featuring performances from key PRS for Music members.

For 2016, PRS for Music is working alongside key trade titles to promote the winning prize of a £10,000 makeover alongside second and third places (£5,000 Music Makeover and £2,500 Music Makeover respectively). Historically, the prize money has been spent on new live equipment or installing a high-end sound system with previous winners quickly seeing the positive impact on both their takings and reputation as a live music venue.

Ed & Elisha Sproat, landlord & lady of The Hickory Inn, Tiverton, Devon – 2015 winners

“There is no way we would’ve had this opportunity without PRS for Music. We wouldn’t have gotten to this stage so quickly – a lot of bands don’t have the ability to bring in equipment like this. It will be a real positive thing to get bands that haven’t performed in many venues before.”

As well as the cash prize, PRS for Music organises an exclusive event in the winning pub featuring key PRS for Music members. Last year’s winning event featured live performances from rock band Brother & Bones and indie/pop band D.I.D (Dog Is Dead) creating a large buzz around the venue.

Rich Thomas, Brother & Bones’ lead vocalist “Small venues and pubs are where everything starts. Doesn’t matter if you’re Led Zeppelin or whoever the bands are throughout history, you don’t start at Wembley - hopefully this will be encouragement for other bigger organisations to do the same. With the help of PRS for Music, Ed & Elisha can help passionate musicians in pubs, they can try and get more bands and music through the door.”

So do you think your pub would benefit from a Music Makeover? To enter you need to:

1. Have a valid PRS for Music licence

2. Submit a 60 second video telling us why your pub would benefit from a £10,000 Music Makeover (the video can be filmed on a phone – it’s what you say that counts)

For full details on how to enter, including previous winner information and full terms & conditions, please go to: www.prsformusic.com/musicmakeover

Deadline is Friday 25th March at 5pm

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music is a society of around 1154,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers – its members. It represents the rights of these members by licensing organisations to play, perform or make available music. It then distributes royalties to those members and societies fairly and efficiently.

*Research conducted by CGA Strategy Limited on behalf of PRS for Music showed that wet-led pubs with live music, when compared to similar pubs without live music, experienced an increase of 9 percent in additional revenue over the year due to its live music offer (of no more than once a month).* The report can be found on www.prsformusic.com/customerportal

Five things all SMEs should know when applying for funding

Monday, February 08 at 15:08Finance | Small Business | Top Tips

1. Business Plan
Never under-estimate the value of producing a comprehensive business plan; it does two things. First, it is a good discipline for the company’s management because it forces them to understand what they need, to think about why they need it and in what form; e.g. should they be looking for an overdraft or a term loan?

Second, and most important of all, it demonstrates to a lender that the management understands its business and takes the lending process seriously.

2. Understand your cashflow
A realistic cashflow forecast is probably the most crucial element in a business’s financial arsenal. Understanding where the cash goes allows a business to identify what the money is needed for. It might be to finance growth through the purchase of machinery or another asset, or to provide day- to-day working capital? Either way, you can guarantee that the lender will need assurance that (a) you understand what the money is needed for, how much and for how long and (b) that your business will generate sufficient surplus to pay the money back when you say you will.

3. Know when to apply to funding

Often new or small businesses wait too long to apply for funding, resulting in the business being put under financial pressure and making a rushed decision that could end in a poor choice of lender or type of finance; e.g. in certain circumstances, a term loan could be a better solution than, say, invoice discounting, or vice versa. Going with a lender that can get the job done quickly is just one aspect; other considerations include the level of flexibility the lender can extend you in terms of repayments and the cost of the finance.

4. Know the funding market

With increasingly niche funding solutions available, businesses may need an adviser they can call on for advice and market knowledge, directing them to the right type of financing for their short, medium and long term needs. 

Historically, this adviser may have been a bank manager or accountant, but a growing business should also consider a commercial finance broker, as the expansion of the Alternative Finance sector has meant more funding options than ever are open to SMEs. A good adviser will understand the market and steer you towards the right lender and the most appropriate type of funding to suit your particular circumstances.

An alternative way to search for an appropriate lender is to use the aggregators’ site. Typically they offer no advice but highlight appropriate lending products for an SME’s requirements.

5. Don’t be afraid to shop around
Being turned down for funding by your own bank does not have to be the end of the story. There is a whole new generation of lenders in the marketplace who may be able to help you. The new lenders can move quickly and thoroughly. Make sure your lender is transparent with costs, personal in approach and takes the time to understand your business. Don’t be afraid to look around the market, possibly with the help of a reputable finance broker.

Written by Credit4. Visit their homepage or call 020 3637 0570 for further information.

Don’t miss the Small Business Saturday Inspire Series, ‘Accessing finance for your small business’ a free workshop on 9th February. Register here or follow @SmallBizSatUK for updates.

Self-assessment help for small businesses

Friday, January 08 at 13:57

Do you need Self-Assessment live help with your tax return? There are Self-Assesment live sessions throughout January run by HMRC if you are in need of some help to complete your returns.

HMRC staff will be on hand to take questions and give the answers to help them with returns:

For Webinars and videos about Self Assessment Webinars and videos about Self Assessment

Self Assessment Help YouTube recordings for more help to get things right

Ready reckoner to help with budgeting for the Self Assessment tax bill

    Making the most of Small Business Saturday

    Monday, January 04 at 13:41

    Independent wine merchants Bat and Bottle reflect on Small Business Saturday and offer 3 tips for making the most of it as a small business!


    Bat and Bottle Wine Merchants are specialist importers of Italian wines who had been trading since 1994. Made up of husband and wife team, Ben and Emma Robson, Bat and Bottle began by selling cricket bats as well as wine. Now they just focus on wine and are proud of their successful small business.

    Bat and Bottle Wine Merchants offered a unique experience for Small Business Saturday 2015 Shoppers by offering a taste of some remarkable and rare wines for free. A great way to entice shoppers through the doors of small businesses!

    Brightpearl spoke to Emma Robson from Bat and Bottle to see what they got up to on Small Business Saturday. “We had wine and gin tasting of some rare and wonderful drinks from a very small gin producer in London called Sacred and our smallest wine producer in Italy called Roberto Picech”, Emma revealed.

    But was it a success? “People were genuinely very happy. The day was steady, constant and full. We thought it was good!” Emma added.

    Bat and Bottle got creative with the Small Business Saturday stickers, Emma explained, “We sell from our warehouse on the outskirts of town and don't have a shop window, so we put the stickers on the back of our mini pickup. It’s still on there actually, I don’t see the point of taking it off!”

    Located in the East Midlands town of Oakham, where independent businesses are the norm, many small businesses took part in Small Business Saturday. The council even offered free parking on the day.

    “We are pretty much a town of independents in Oakham and it was good to see there were quite a lot of stickers all over the High Street. Somebody around the town had even organised a stickers trail so people went into all the shops displaying the Small Business Saturday stickers and got a tick or something along those lines from the person in each shop.”

    Emma talked about other community events they’ve taken part in: “in the past, instead of discounting we’ve held a wine tasting in the town and encouraged our nationwide customers to come and stay in Oakham and shop in our small market town.” A great way to unite the community and increase business for independent and small businesses.

    It not just Bat and Bottle who saw the benefits of Small Business Saturday, according to data from Brightpearl their independent retailers saw a 16% increase in gross merchandise value on Small Business Saturday from 2014 to 2015, Great news for independent retailers!
    Here’s three quick tips for small businesses to take away from Bat and Bottle’s 2015 Small Business Saturday experience to help in 2016:

    1. Offer product testing

    Product testing is likely to get more people through the door of your store. Tempt them in with free samples and if they like the product, they’ll be likely to buy it from you!

    2. Creatively display those Small Business Saturday signs

    Think outside of the box like Bat and Bottle when displaying your Small Business Saturday signs and stickers. Place them in unusual places as well as your shop windows!

    3. Join together with other small businesses

    Joining forces with other local stores can lead to community co-operation. Building a relationship with other small businesses gives you an extra channel of support.

    To find out more about Bat and Bottle Wine Merchants and Brightpearl visit their websites.

    Finding alternative sources of finance for your small business

    Thursday, December 17 at 16:04Finance | Top Tips

    With 73% of SME owners aiming to grow their business over the next two to three years, the demand for funding has never been higher. The daunting task of finding funding can be confusing and many SMEs are not the right fit for traditional bank funding. There are an increasing number of alternative funding platforms available and small business owners have the opportunity to flourish even without funding from the banks.

    The next task? Finding the right funding for your business. Alternative finance has become a competitive market with a variety of lending types and lending platforms so don’t rush into anything. Finding the appropriate funding may seem a lengthy and confusing process, but there are ways to ease the journey:

    1. Plan ahead
    Make sure you’ve got a solid business plan and be meticulous about your numbers - estimates and approximations simply won’t cut it. An accurate plan will highlight exactly how much money you need and where the money needs to go. There are over a hundred alternative funding platforms, some of which specialise in particularly niche areas of business, so a detailed plan will point you in the right direction from the outset. Verify your facts and figures in order to ensure that you don’t fall at the first hurdle.

    2. Organise your financial documents
    When approaching alternative funding platforms, having your financial documents organised and at the ready will ease the process and you’ll receive funding much sooner. Whilst these lending platforms are not as restrictive as the banks, it is still important that you provide accurate information such as bank statements, VAT returns and company accounts so that they can help you in the most effective way. Try to have important figures at your fingertips: What does your business turn over annually? What is your business’ credit status? How many sales do you process with credit/debit cards? It’s a good idea to keep track of your company’s data and work out a system for organising important financial documents. It may seem a dull task, but it will be worth it and funding platforms will take you seriously.

    3. Be realistic
    It’s vital to remain realistic about your financial abilities when exploring your funding options. Committing to an oversized loan will only cause unnecessary stress when it comes to paying it off at the end of each month. A loan should serve as a benefit not a burden, so examine your figures to work out the amount of funding that you can comfortably pay back each month. Precise planning should provide a realistic indication of how much money you need to help your business grow without causing financial strain.

    4. Understand and compare your options
    Don’t rush! The variety of funding platforms in the industry is great news for SMEs but the immense quantity of them can also be overwhelming. There are so many platforms to choose from so make sure you take time to weigh up your options and don’t rush into the first lender you come across. It has become a fiercely competitive market so check through your options with an intermediary or by contacting the lenders directly for reassurance of your decision.

    Fundbird is here to help you navigate and find your way around the various alternative lenders. Through using our online platform, SMES will be directed to the best matched lender based on their business needs. Fundbird provides free tools that can help you with this process, including an e-book, personal consultatation and online matching to help you find a lender via the website

    Small Business Saturday 2015: Burton

    Saturday, December 05 at 10:54

    Burton small business owners to do the CONGA to celebrate Small Business Saturday!

    Four local businesses are leading a celebration ‘Conga’ through the town centre to generate a real BUZZ to unite all the diverse businesses in the town, and to surprise the festive shoppers from 10.30am until 11am.

    The Conga, which will include many local business leaders, will start from outside the doors of Iceland inside the Octagon Centre leading through to Coopers Square.

    The UK will celebrate Small Business Saturday on 5th December and four Burton businesses, the Burton Small Business partnership, came up with the idea to form a small business owner Conga, as a way to bring all the different types of businesses together, to surprise Burton’s Christmas shoppers!

    Small businesses can register on: http://www.meetup.com/burton-business-events/events/226253808/

    Burton Small Business partners, established in 2014, are passionate about local businesses coming together to celebrate the diversity of what the town has to offer on Small Business Saturday UK – whether you are a retailer or professional services company. They have shared their expertise for the second year running in a FREE downloadable guide via their website wwwburtonsmallbusiness.co.uk - to help local companies put Burton firmly on the map as part of this increasingly popular national event.

    Elaine Pritchard, Burton Small Business partner, and listed in the Small Business 100 list for 2015, spoke about the Conga: “We wanted to do something fun to celebrate Small Business Saturday UK this year that would unite all the diverse businesses that are thriving in the town. Both local retailers and professional services can be seen as shining examples in the region, if they use the campaign to promote their businesses, and to shop local too!

    “The Burton Small Business partnership wants to help put our town's small businesses on the map on Small Business Saturday which is gaining real momentum in the UK each year."

    Small Business Saturday UK is a growing campaign which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities – with 64% of UK consumers being aware of the day in 2014.

    The four businesses behind the Burton Small Business initiative are freelance writing business Caittom Publishing, freelance PR and communications agency FCM Associates, film company Red Door Studios and human resources specialists HR Protected.

    Councillor Patricia Ackroyd, East Staffordshire Borough Council’s Deputy Leader for Enterprise and Environment, said: “It will be great to see small businesses from across the Borough coming together to mark Small Business Saturday on the 5th December.
    “East Staffordshire is a great environment for SMEs to do business, with a fantastic network of support for businesses of all shapes and sizes! The event planned on Small Business Saturday demonstrates this, and we hope to see lots of businesses getting involved, promoting themselves, and inspiring others.”

    Special thanks to East Staffordshire Borough Council, the Octagon Centre and the Coopers Square management teams for their support!

    Burton Small Business offer a FREE guide for people to download, containing essential tips about promoting a business through persuasive writing, public relations, video and strong visual brands as well as advice about personnel issues that are essential to the growth of a small business.

    In preparation for Small Business Saturday 2015 an extended FREE guide has been offered, with even more free advice from local experts – with new contributions from:

    ·         Sherwin Insurance Services Limited
    ·         Else Solicitors LLP
    ·         The Chartwell Practice
    ·         The Growth Hub – Chamber of Commerce

    Elaine Pritchard, who runs Caittom Publishing, explained: "The second UK Small Business Saturday last December was a big success creating a 20% increase in sales compared to the 2013 event, benefiting millions of small businesses across the country. I believe there is a massive opportunity to bring small businesses in Burton together every year on this day to help them to raise their profile, reach new customers and grow.

    "I am also delighted to have been included in the ‘Small Business 100’ list for 2015 by Small Business Saturday UK, which is a huge honour and will provide national exposure for my business. Networking has been a really important factor in how I've promoted my business and I've learned lots of things from other business people.”

    Any small businesses in the area or anyone thinking of starting a new business are invited to download the extended guide for FREE to get advice on growing their business.

    Liz Strama, of HR Protected, said: "We are delighted to welcome our new contributors to the guide this year, we hope the extended guide helps and inspires many businesses in the town. All four Burton Small Business partners are passionate about seeing businesses grow and thrive in Burton. We want to make sure that people in the town have heard about Small Business Saturday and help us to celebrate all the small businesses that generate so much money for the local economy year after year.”

    The Burton Small Business partners have a Pinterest account and will be asking local businesses to contribute images that promote their business, the products and services they offer before, during and after 5th December. You can also follow the team on Twitter at @BurtonSmallBiz in the weeks ahead, to keep up with the latest news about Small Business Saturday.

    Burton Small Business contacts:

    E: info@BurtonSmallBusiness.co.uk

    W: www.BurtonSmallBusiness.co.uk

    T: @BurtonSmallBiz

    Top tips for finding a great office for your small business

    Thursday, December 03 at 14:10

    Office hunting represents an exciting time for a businesses. For many, it can be a huge step forward and a chance to establish a new home for a growing enterprise. However it can also be a daunting experience, one in which you’re faced with a number of questions and some fairly high-cost options. However it needn’t be scary if you adhere to the following simple rules:

    Consider all the options (Part 1)
    Office rental isn’t all about the traditional methods any more, small businesses have a number of suitable options from which to choose. Finding which of the following is right for you is the key first step:

    Shared deskspace: Whether it’s spare desks in another company’s office or a higher-spec dedicated coworking hub, shared deskspace can represent a flexible and cost-effective office option. However you must consider potential security issues that come when you share a space and possibly a network with others.

    Serviced offices: High-spec and all-inclusive space where everything from reception services to meeting-room access comes as part of your monthly rental fee. As such these can be costly.

    Traditional leases: Remain the most popular rental option due to low costs and all the advantages of having a place to call home for your business. Problems can arise for small businesses when you sign a long-term lease at a time you need to be flexible.

    All offices have pros and cons; if you really want to check out the alternatives in full we’ve got guides to shared, serviced and traditional rentals on Office Genie.

    Consider all the options (Part 2)
    As well as reviewing alternative office space options, why not consider alternative locations? Major cities (particularly London) can be famously expensive places in which to rent office space, so why not consider somewhere nearby?

    For example a desk in a serviced office in Cambridge is, on average, just over £300; compare this to London where the same might cost you over £500; it’s just up the road and has a thriving SME scene all of its own!

    Solve the great agent debate
    If you’ve thought about it, and have decided the ever-popular traditional rental is the way to go, the next question you’ll need to answer is whether or not to get an agent involved.

    Traditionally these come at a cost, approximately around 7-8% of your first year’s rent (on top of rental costs) but they can be more than worth it: Agents bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise and negotiating ability. Whether it’s by finding a hidden gem, or getting a great deal, they could actually save you money.

    Be patient
    Again, if you’re renting in the traditional fashion, once you’ve found a space and you’ve put your offer in, it’s now time to play the waiting game. First of all you’ll probably face a negotiation. But even once you’ve settled on prices things may still take their time.

    It can take months to sort out all the various legal wranglings involved in taking on an office rental, so be prepared to wait a while before you can move in. If you need a temporary space then you could again consider shared or serviced spaces or even a period of flexible and/or remote working!

    Design, move in and enjoy
    It all sounds so simple doesn’t it? You could dedicate a series of articles to this process but we’ll skip over it in two short paragraphs. The real key here is design: More and more businesses are choosing to have their spaces branded, where your office becomes the focal point of your company brand through intuitive design.

    This can be done on a pretty low-fi level however, with a clear company colour scheme and a few splashes of creativity you can have space to be really proud of. If you get everyone involved with painting, decorating or even just moving, then everyone’s going to feel an awful lot more engaged. The office, much like the company, can become something they have all helped build.

    Peter Ames is the Web Editor for Office Genie, a desk and office space marketplace in the United Kingdom

    Interview with Martin George of the Post Office

    Thursday, December 03 at 13:08

    Over 8000 Post Offices in the UK are small businesses - what does the post office do to support them?

    Our modernisation programme is transforming thousands of these branches, in fact we’ve reached the 5000 mark.  Helping these retailers make the most of their retail space is a key part of our transformation programme. We’re also making it easier for postmasters to keep the Post Office open for the same hours as their retail counter through combi tills which allow them to sell Post Office and Retail products all from the same counter. As a result, we have more than 152,000 additional opening hours across the modernised branches – the equivalent of more than 3,300 extra Post Office branches if you look at traditional hours – and 3,000-plus branches open on Sunday. 10 per cent of visits now place outside standard hours and importantly this has seen a seven per cent increase in retail sales for our branches.

    Thinking about other small businesses in the UK - what does the Post Office do to support them?

    Over a third of small businesses visit our branches each week and we have a range of services to meet their needs. Drop & Go - our prepaid Mails account – was designed specifically for Small Businesses to save them time in our branches. We also have a range of financial services offerings including business banking and SME insurance products to support their businesses. For those trading internationally we offer a fast and cost effective international payments service as well as our excellent range of international mails services. Again, our modernisation programme is helping us become better for all our customers – particularly our small business customers -  by being there when they need us. Customer satisfaction with the modernised branches stands at 99%.

    Why do you think small businesses are so important? 

    Just like Post Office branches they are at the heart of their communities.

    What are the best opportunities (in your mind) for small businesses in the UK?

    It’s all about continuing to grow and develop to meet their individual customer needs.  Whether that be developing an online presence or opening for longer.  Each business will be unique in both its opportunities and in turn its customers’ demands.

    What message would you give to small business owners and the British public in advance of Small Business Saturday this year?

    Get involved.  We  hope the retailers operating Post Office branches will be displaying posters and encouraging customers to visit as well as registering on your business finder as well. We do have a some opportunities for retailers who are considering expanding by adding a Post Office to their retail outlet, they can visit runapostoffice.co.uk to find out more.

    Why is a campaign like Small Business Saturday so important?

    Because Small Businesses really are at the heart of communities.  We want to support them in developing their business to bring in new income.

    Colourful New Photo Exhibition of Levenshulme Small Businesses

    Wednesday, December 02 at 12:25

    Love Levenshulme have launched an online photo exhibition this week in the lead up to Small Business Saturday on the 5th of December, to highlight and celebrate the diverse mix of independent trade in the arty South Manchester suburb. It aims to encourage more visitors to the area and let people find out what ‘hidden gems’ are residing on Levenshulme high street, market and beyond.

    The project started as a result of Pauline Johnston, a local resident who had recently moved into the area, wanting to share her journey of discovery in her new neighbourhood.The founder of new community website Love Levenshulme, says;

    “The unique characters of the people behind the shop fronts, organisations and market stalls fascinated me. Everyone I met was so passionate, warm and interesting. It’s like no place I’ve ever lived before. The traders make it feel like a village.

    I wanted to find a way of capturing the essence of these individuals, their workplace and sharing them to the wider public. I wanted to create an online window for the high street of Levenshulme for people who may not know what lies behind the shop facades on the long A6 stretch and the streets beyond.”

    Sharah Smith, the photographer behind the colourful portraits visited many high street and market traders, including Trove Bakery, Bud Garden Centre, All FM and Alborz Persian Restaurant seeking their participation and getting to know the subjects and making them feel comfortable in front of the camera in a short space of time.

    “I was overwhelmed with the amount of heart that goes into creating the network of Levenshulme’s independents. I found some absolute gems! As I was working, photographing the traders I tried not to ‘pose’ or set up the image too much. I wanted the real personalities of the person to shine through.”

    Love Levenshulme has created and online legacy for the project with the help of funding from Laing O’Rourke and Forever Manchester as well as support from Levenshulme Market’s High Street Innovation Fund. A permanent online exhibition has been created which aims to share the spirit and passion for the traders livelihoods and capture the prevailing mood that that Levenshulme is indeed open for business.

    Follow the link for the complete exhibition http://lovelevenshulmeexhibition.org/

    Small business and accessibility

    Wednesday, December 02 at 10:57

    The 12th of March 2016 is Disabled Access Day - we spoke to them about how to get your small business involved...

    As a small business, access may not be high on your list of priorities - you probably have a very low budget for setting up your business and little, if no, budget for accessibility. But did you know that nearly 1 in 5 people in the UK a disabled person? That’s more than likely a large percentage of your target market, so ensuring that you provide suitable facilities and services for disabled people should be high on your priority list. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to cost the world to provide a welcoming and accessible environment for everyone.

    There are some easy and cheap things that you can do as a business owner to provide a welcoming environment for all your customers. Check out some of our top tips below and consider doing them before Disabled Access Day 2016!

    A friendly warm welcome
    One thing that we consistently hear is that staff make a huge difference as to whether someone feels welcomed and enjoys their time at your venue. So empowering your staff to provide a warm welcome no matter who your customer is important.

    Jane Kelly, Marketing and Business Development Manager from Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool, explains the importance of great customer service: “Overall the impression of our work has been extremely well received, however the overwhelming response has been noted for our staff and their helpful and can do attitude. A smile and a welcome can break down so many of the potential barriers that exist, we are proud that our team are noted for their inclusive guest service.”

    Providing great customer service can be as simple as providing assistance to people who are unable to reach something on a shelf, opening a door for a wheelchair user or helping someone by bringing their food and drink over to a table. Small gestures like this can make a big difference to how welcome your customers feel at your venue and put simply it’s just great customer service.

    “Staff were very helpful. Offering to look for a table, even though the pub was really busy. Even though you order at the bar the staff offered to take our order from the table. When we got up to leave a member of staff went ahead and opened the door to the lift and made sure other customers moved out the way.”- Jen_33 review on Euan’s Guide of The Counting House.

    Install an accessible toilet 
    An accessible toilet is a great facility to have at your business, whether there is an accessible toilet at or near your venue will play a big role in whether people will pay you a visit. An accessible toilet is a toilet with a wide step-free entrance that is equipped with grab rails and an alarm to attract attention in the event of an emergency.

     “Considering the size of the cafe, the disabled toilet is very large. It is kept clean and is accessible. A grab rail is provided and there is plenty of room for a carer.” ChrissieD review on Euan’s Guide of Community Soul Café in Wallasey.

    As a small business storage space is key and it can be tempting to store items like highchairs or cleaning equipment in an accessible toilet as there is space, however that space is important for wheelchair users to be able to manoeuvre properly - so keep those toilets clear!

    If you don’t have the space to accommodate an accessible toilet, knowing where your nearest one is will be helpful. Some community centres, shopping centres and public facilities near you will have accessible toilets that the public can access. Speak to people in your local community to find out about nearby accessible toilets so that you can advise your customers about them.

    Get a ramp
    If you have an unavoidable step in to the entrance of your building you could think about buying a ramp(s) to enable wheelchair users to access your facility. They’re fairly cheap to buy, easy to move and store – remember to make all of your staff aware you have them, where they’re stored and what to do if they’re needed.

    Make sure your potential customers are aware that you have ramps too, either by having clear information on your website and/or information by the door. Think about how people should let you know if the ramps are needed, for example if you’re a visitor attraction people could phone ahead to let you know their time of arrival and you could have someone ready to greet them at the door. If you’re a café or shop you might consider having a doorbell at wheelchair height which people can ring so you can easily and quickly provide assistance.

    “Impressive disabled access. There's a step to the door but on close inspection you'll find a doorbell to push to get assistance. Trying this out I found a member of staff responded quickly. I was offered help with opening the doors and asked if I would like the [portable] ramp.” EdinBlue review on Euan’s Guide of a Maplin store.

    Install a low counter
    If your venue requires a counter think about installing a low level counter to ensure everyone can access your services and facilities.

    If you already have a counter that’s not lowered, think about other ways that you can make the process easier for people who might not be able to access it. Can you take orders at a table instead of asking people to go to the counter? Is your card machine mobile so people can pay at different places within the shop?

    “The counter was low for everybody to use, the cafe was spacious where tables and chairs were spread out to avoid accidents.” Alicefort94 review on Euan’s Guide of Chai Latte Café in Manchester.

    Clear space
    As a small business you will want to make the most of your space but it’s important to keep enough space for people to get through and move around easily. Whether that’s a café that has movable furniture or a small shop that has clear aisle ways – having space to move around is important for all your customers.

    “At first I didn't think I'd get my chair in as it looks rather small but the staff were so helpful (as were the other customers) as they moved a table from near the door to clear a path as soon as they saw me coming in. I almost passed by but they made it really easy to access and I'm very glad I did!” – EqualityforALL review on Euan’s Guide of Giraffe Shop and Café, Perth.

    Often a lack of storage can cause small businesses to fill up every available space, even if that means things protruding into aisles and corridors. You might need to get creative with your storage to keep space clear! Whether that’s creating under counter or display storage or creating storage spaces that are on the wall – thinking outside the box (literally!) will help you make the most of your space and ensure it’s accessible for everyone.

    Signage
    Make sure you have clear signage so people know where to find things around your venue. Using a sans serif typeface, large print and contrasting colours will help to make sure that everyone can read your signs.

    Key signs you should consider, where applicable, include directions to entrances, exits and toilets. When placing your signs make sure you can read them from key locations, they’re located at an accessible height and are clear of obstruction.

    Induction loops
    Loop systems enable people who use hearing aids to hear things more clearly without background noise. Permanent loop systems are great for businesses but can be quite costly, so an alternative you might want to consider is a portable loop system.

    For more information on the different types of induction loop systems available for your small business take a look at the Action On Hearing Loss website. Prices for portable hearing loops start from £119.99 and can make a big difference to those with hearing loss, with an ageing population and an estimated 10 million people in the UK who are deaf or have hearing loss this is sure to be a worthwhile investment.

    Doors, doors, doors…
    It’s costly to install automatic doors but one way to make access easier is to have staff on hand to help people access your venue, especially if you have heavy doors that you’re not able to leave open regularly.

    Another way you can make it easier for people to get into and around your small business is provide long door handles (around 30cm), especially on accessible toilets. Positioning them between 0.9m and 1.20m from the floor will help ensure they’re at a comfortable height for everyone.
    “All staff are friendly and helpful - nothing is too much trouble… opening doors for us on arrival and departure is much appreciated and makes things easier.” CarolynnManlove review on Euan’s Guide of The Park Bistro, Linlithgow.

    Ask for feedback
    Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, after all the best people to ask are your potential and/or existing customers!

    If you haven’t opened your doors yet, speak to people from your local community and see if they can visit your business before you open and give feedback about what might make the experience better. Showing people that you listen to their feedback is likely to encourage them to visit you again and again!

    Put information on your website and list on Euan’s Guide!
    There’s no point making adjustments, providing training and creating an excellent service if you don’t tell people about it - so be sure you let people know! Provide accurate and honest information about your accessibility on your website and add a contact phone number and email address for people so they can get in touch if they want to ask questions before they visit.

    Make sure you list on Euan’s Guide, the disabled access review website and app. Listing on the website is a great way to raise awareness of your business and encourage people to give you feedback, check out our top tips on how to write a great Euan’s Guide listing.

    Join us on Disabled Access Day
    If you’ve done some or all of the above then it sounds like you should join us for Disabled Access Day!

    We’d love to see lots of small businesses across the UK taking part on 12th March 2016 to help showcase their accessibility and show other small businesses the advantages of being an accessible business. Find out more and sign up on our ‘get involved’ pages!


    There are also a range of other resources available on their website which you might find useful including their downloadable venue packs.


    3 Online Tips for Small Business Saturday

    Wednesday, December 02 at 10:50

    We heard from Further, a search marketing agency about top online tips in the run up to Small Business Saturday:

    Small Business Saturday is on December 5th - a day for us all to show our love for a small business near us. In its third year, the awareness campaign will hopefully drive more online business your way, but is your business ready to meet any extra demand? Ensuring your website and social media channels are up to date and aligned is essential if you’re going to enjoy the benefits of a surge in consumer demand. Your website and IT systems enable you to take online orders, process them and dispatch them, on time, so they need to be available and secure otherwise orders might get delayed or go unfulfilled.

    With that in mind, here are three tips to make the most of Small Business Saturday:

    Have a dedicated webpage and keep it live all year round
    Build your own web page dedicated to Small Business Saturday and keep it live all year round. Even though we’re only talking about one day in the year, there are benefits to this approach. It’ll be quicker and easier to manage in the future: the design can stay the same but the copy and imagery can be updated.

    Facebook is a great starting point for a conversation
    31.5 million people in the UK are on Facebook. This isn’t just where your friends are spending their social media time, it’s where your potential customers are likely to be spending a lot of their social media time too. Make sure you’ve set up a Facebook business page so customers can get in touch with you, become familiar with you and your brand and see your promotions. Your business page should express your brand’s personality, not just sales offers. If you’re short on ideas, have a look at how other small businesses have used Facebook to grow their business.

    Ask the experts
    If you are concerned your ecommerce and supporting IT system aren’t as secure as they could be, ask for help. There’s a good range of free resources on the web to help you understand how healthy and secure your IT system is. The National Crime Agency has prepared some guidance for small businesses on hacking and other types of online attacks. AVG’s free Small Business IT Security Health Check tool is a good place to start if you’re not an expert and are short on time. It’s quick and easy and offers clear advice about how to improve IT security. The government is also offering Innovation Vouchers. These can be used to pay for advice which will help protect and grow your business by having good cyber security in place.

    At the end of the day
    Making sure your website, social media channels and order processing system are in good shape, aligned and secure will help ensure your business is ready to benefit from the anticipated Small Business Saturday excitement!

    A Pension Solution for small businesses tackling automatic enrolment

    Tuesday, December 01 at 10:11Finance | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015 | Top Tips

    Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, highlights how small businesses can prepare for automatic enrolment.


    Automatic enrolment will require every UK employer to put certain staff into a pension scheme and contribute towards it. We know this may seem a daunting task, which is why we've launched Pension Solution. It has been designed specifically for small employers, to take the hard work out of implementing a workplace pension scheme for the first time.

    Planning and preparing for automatic enrolment means thinking ahead: what you need, and whose help will make it easier to complete key tasks and estimate costs. These are the key steps I’d recommend to take when getting your small business ready for automatic enrolment:

    • Find out your staging and declaration date  using your PAYE reference from The Pension Regulator’s website
    • Go through a step by step guide to setting up, get familiar with what automatic enrolment means for you and your workplace.
    • Research and select a pension provider that suits your needs
    • Communicate and explain how automatic enrolment will affect your workforce 

    Pension Solution helps with each of these steps. The online service will provide the know-how and tools you need to tackle automatic enrolment confidently and successfully. We also offer access to a free half-day face to face training course for those who prefer the human touch.

    We’re delighted to be supporting Small Business Saturday for the first time this year because we recognise the vital role small businesses play in the UK economy.

    Over 67,ooo employers have already enrolled their staff into a workplace pension, with 5.5million employees now benefitting from a workplace pension and saving for retirement. 1.8 million small and micro employer workers will now join over the next three years if they earn £10,000 or more a year, increasing the amount that is being saved in workplace pensions by around £15 billion a year, according to the DWP Automatic Enrolment evaluation report 2015.

    Through Pension Solution we are bringing 90 years of expertise in workplace pensions to help small businesses through automatic enrolment and beyond. It is our status as an independent not-for-profit trade organisation with an impartial view that makes us different.

    Automatic enrolment is our best chance of getting the nation into the habit of saving for retirement, and we must focus on making the process as straightforward as possible for small businesses like you in particular.

    Pension Solution does just that and we warmly invite you to join our membership on Small Business Saturday so that we can help, represent and work for you.

    The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association will be supporting Small Business Saturday UK on 5th December 2015 by offering a 70% discount on the normal £49 subscription to join Pension Solution as a member. Use voucher code BIZSAT1 when joining online. Follow us on Twitter: @SolutionPension

    Competing Fairly in Business: advice all small businesses should know

    Monday, November 30 at 11:23

    Competition – it’s an essential part of every-day business. It can often be tough, but it also brings rewards. By competing with rivals, businesses are able to offer a better service to their customers and can grow and prosper as a result.

    Mention the words ‘Competition law compliance’ however, and most small business owners may roll their eyes and turn their attention to more interesting things. Which may well include their quarterly paper clip audit…

    But suggest they might be being cheated by a supplier, or that a competitor might be getting business unfairly, and you’re guaranteed a businesses’ undivided attention.

    The difference in attention levels is caused by how relevant people think it is. Competition law exists to protect businesses and consumers from other businesses who are competing unfairly (or, to put it another way, “cheating”). But talk about ‘compliance’ and many think of restrictive red tape rather than the ability to have a fair crack at running their business successfully. Being able to compete fairly and being charged competitive prices by suppliers is hugely relevant to small businesses.

    So it follows that investing some time in understanding what illegal ‘anti-competitive’ behaviour looks like can help small businesses recognise where they may be at risk – either as a victim, or as an unwitting participant.

    In order to help small businesses, the Competition and Markets Authority (the UK’s competition watchdog) has developed a range of short and simple online materials to help explain why competition law matters. These include animated films, a quiz, case studies and one page guides detailing the main types of anti-competitive behaviour and why they’re unfair for businesses and consumers. They also explain the serious penalties that can be handed down for breaking competition law and how you can report others who are engaged in it.

    The CMA wants to help businesses be competitive by recognising when other businesses (suppliers or competitors) are acting unfairly and illegally, encouraging them to report it and to stay on the right side of the law themselves.

    While counting paper clips has its benefits, its competition that makes small businesses successful. Check out the CMA’s animated films and other materials to find out more about why competition is relevant to your business.

    Please watch this video for more information or visit the CMA website

    Meet the businesses on the bus: Gough Quarters

    Thursday, November 26 at 07:51Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

    The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is now under way! The tour is supported by TalkTalk Business and we are delighted to feature the logos of fifty TalkTalk Business customers on the #SmallBizSatUK bus!

    Hear from Aaron Gough of Gough Quarters, a Bristol-based business featured on the bus...

    What is your small business?
    A property management and lettings agency

    Where did you get idea to start your business? 
    Having worked for a property management company for five years, my knowledge of the market meant I could start on my own and provide a high level of customer service.

    What's the best thing about working for a small business?
    The flexibility to provide a tailor made service of what is required rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

    What makes your business unique?
    We keep as much as possible ‘in house’ – as little as possible outsourcing to third parties. From reference checks to inventory’s everything is carried out by us meaning that we know our properties inside out.

    Exhibition Marketing ideas for Beginners

    Wednesday, November 25 at 13:25Branding | Events | Top Tips

    Trade shows and exhibitions are the perfect vehicle in so many ways when it comes to promoting your company and snagging more customers. 



    With your exhibition materials created by Colour Graphics, you will feel poised, ready for the action and the floods of delegates that will stampede their way toward your booth.

    Except they won’t.

    There is no tougher an audience than the hordes of delegates, veterans of exhibitions from years gone by. The hardened delegate is constantly looking for something new, something big and YOU need to be the next big thing.

    Into the lion’s den with a roar
    This is perhaps unfair for newbies to the exhibition circuit but, you do need to be aware that some of those delegates passing you buy will need persuading/cajoling over to your booth. And the HR manager dressed as a fluffy duck is not going to cut it.

    Try these ideas for starters:

    Tip 1 – Think ‘inbound’
    You have footfall walking past your booth every day you are at the exhibition. You need to capture attention and lure them on over. There are all kinds of way of doing this:

    Create unique signage that gives a snippet of what you do
    Invite them over for coffee and the use of your iPads
    Be ultra-modern and cutting edge with your own app for the conference that does something amazing!

    Tip 2 – Social media
    There are all kinds of reports and articles that inform us we are all connected to our smart phones and tablets virtually every hour of the day. And people rarely log off when they are at a conference too.

    So, harness this. The conference or exhibition may have their own hashtag campaign running on social media thus make sure that you piggy back on to this. You can also create your own and work the boards to get people to talk about you on social media (link it to your competition too!)

    Tip 3 – Get people to share their location and who they are with
    There are all kinds of apps that allow people to log on and show their location via GPS. Facebook do it – you’ve seen the statuses, “I am at the Coffee Shop, in East London with Bruce Willis”.

    You could also encourage people to be part of a Periscope session, where live sessions are broadcast to your Twitter followers about where they are, what they are doing etc.

    Tip 4 – Prepare beforehand
    People tend to see their exhibition presence as a standalone activity but, you can leverage far more from it than what you thought. Start creating a buzz about you being them a few weeks before hand, and use it as much as possible afterwards too.

    Tip 5 – Target offers
    This is about offering the delegates at the conference an offer that is only available to them and at that particular point. You know your own margins and, what you can and cannot offer.
    It needs to be more than free postage and packing…

    Tip 6 – Chairs
    As high tech as some of these ideas are, you can also play to the weakness of every delegate – tiredness, sore feet and just somewhere to sit down.

    Many booths will have all kinds of things to entice people over but, inviting people in to take the weight off their feet and check their emails whilst sitting down is a great way of connecting and engaging people.

    Which of these tips will you try?

    Exhibitions and trade shows are busy places but there is room for every business to really create a buzz about themselves. Colour Graphics have been supplying printed materials for all kinds of businesses to cement their place in the busy exhibition hall, from roller banners to flyers. 

    How your business can make a difference with renewable energy

    Wednesday, November 25 at 09:30

    Chris Gunton, Assistant Church Warden of All Saints’ Church, explains how the switch to renewable energy has not only saved them money, but has helped them achieve their goals of becoming an environmentally-responsible example within the community.


    Many of us view churches as pillars of the community – there from as far back as we can remember and institutions of tradition. Churches are just like all other small businesses in many ways - and at All Saints’ Church, it’s crucial that we keep our overheads as low as we can.
    The building is 150 years old and lined with delicate wall and chancel ceiling paintings, it can take a lot of energy to maintain a temperature. We were keen to become a more environmentally-friendly business and fulfil our ambition of being responsible energy consumers and also to ensure as much of our funds as possible are used to help the community and charities locally, nationally and internationally.
    We investigated a wide range of energy conservation measures - from the simple policy of turning lights off when leaving rooms, to changing old lamps for LED wherever possible in our church halls. We are even looking into the possibility of installing solar panels on our church halls and the church itself!
    The solution to the problem we faced was simple and green: we started using renewable energy.
    Using clean energy has threefold benefit for our small business: the church. It reduced our impact on the environment, it sets a good example within the community and it reduced our utility costs.
    In using renewable energy we wanted to set a positive example to the congregation and other small businesses in the town that it was possible to be environmentally friendly and a small business. This is something we believe is akin to the community ethos of Small Business Saturday. With the big day fast approaching, it’s a great time to be aware of what you can do for others in your community (to find out about other small businesses you can reach out to, use their Small Business Finder tool).
    Now, thanks to a little time and effort, our church now runs on purely responsibly-sourced energy; an easy step any business can take to be a little more conscious of their carbon footprint.
    If you get a little creative, there are even more ways you can become as green as possible! In the long term we’d also explore the option of generating our own power via solar panels or even a wind turbine. This is an option that many small businesses with spare land take up – the energy produced can be used to power your own resources, while any spare can be sold on.
    The money we save on our energy bills by using these methods, and aiming for these long term methods, means we have more of our funding and resources left, which can be put into local causes and charities.

    To find out more about the work we’re up to at All Saints’ Church, Ascot, visit our website here.

    Your small business website: what to put on each page

    Monday, November 23 at 17:27

    Chris John, co-founder of Small Biz 100 Smart Little Web, a next generation website builder talks us through what exactly should be on your website.

    In our previous Small Business Saturday UK blog, ‘Is your Website Doing What it Should?’ we went through a quick whistle-stop tour of what to consider to make sure your website is working hard to make your online presence successful.

    The tour included:

    • Who are you and what do you do?
    • Making it easy to navigate your site
    • Being transparent to encourage interest
    • Building trust
    • Including a call to action

    A recent survey that we conducted across 500 UK small businesses unearthed that 24.4% found deciding what to put on and what to leave off their website was their biggest challenge.* So we’ve decided to take a step back and help you to map out the content for your website. What pages should you include and what should go on each?

    Homepage

    A homepage explains what the business is all about. A site without a homepage could have a high bounce rate (visitors leaving quickly). Let’s make sure this isn’t your site…

    On your Homepage, try to include answers to at least two of the following question: who are you; what do you do; where are you based; who are your customers; what’s special about you? Make it really clear exactly what your business is and your target audience will quickly know they’ve arrived at the right place.

    Secondly, include visual content that showcases your business - video as well as photographs work well - and preferably of the business and team itself. But at least include generic images that visually describe the area you’re in so that again, it’s easy to work out what you do. We’ve put together our five favourite FREE image resources so there’s no excuse :-)

    Thirdly, consider a Call to Action. It’s never too soon to encourage someone to get in touch or sign-up to your newsletter. Make this prominent on your Homepage.

    Finally, make sure navigation (in the form of a menu bar) to other pages on your website is clear - what can they expect from other pages? Don’t try to be too clever with other page titles or how a visitor finds information, the simpler it is for them the better.

    About Us Page

    It’s a good idea to tell the Company Story on this page - how did it start / who started it? Why was it founded? Include team biographies with pictures and think about ways to bring as much personality onto this page as possible. Showcase your company’s heritage, team experience and include qualifications if relevant – this will add credibility and reassure visitors that you’re right for them.

    Services / Products Page

    What is the core offer? Can your services or products be grouped for easy navigation?
    Include an introduction - remind visitors what it is that you do, what you’re passionate about and what they can specifically buy from you that they might not get somewhere else. Then group your services and/or products into bite-sized chunks. Guide the visitor through your portfolio. This might mean having separate pages, but definitely have separate sections - this helps with Search Engine Optimisation as well (too much block text can turn Search Engines off)!

    Price Page

    Make sure you have one of these - ultimately, even a price guide can help sway your visitors to make an enquiry.

    Testimonials page

    Have one if you can. And include some of this content on your Homepage too (a couple of quotes can go a long way). Even if a new business is newly-formed there will always be someone you can lean on for a testimonial. Perhaps a friend or family member that’s been a guinea-pig or an ex-client from a previous business can talk directly about working with one of the team. Don’t be shy in asking.

    Contact Us

    Include a map. Especially if you’re a business that hopes online visitors might visit you offline. You’d be amazed at how many websites, from cafes to art galleries, we’ve seen that don’t include a map. Make the life of your online visitor as easy as possible so that they find you in the physical world too.

    And across EVERY page

    Include your contact details. Again, make it easy for visitors to get in touch.
    Include logos of associations (partners, suppliers, customers, qualifications etc.)
    Include links to social media channels.
    And include a Call to Action – to sign-up to a newsletter or to call for a non-obligation quote.

    And most of all - Good luck!

    *The survey commissioned by Smart Little Web was conducted in October 2015 by OnePoll 

    Meet the Businesses on the Bus: Unflatpack

    Friday, November 20 at 12:13Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business Saturday 2015


    What is your small business?
    Unflatpack takes away all the hassle from self assembly furniture by sending a friendly trained furniture assembler to do the job quickly and professionally. What began as business to consumer service in London has grown into a national business with a rapidly developing commercial arm building the in-store display furniture for some of the UK's leading furniture and undertaking office fit out and large commercial furniture installations.

    Where did you get idea to start your business?
    After moving to London in  2004 and doing some property development in which I installed a few Ikea kitchens, friends of my junior doctor wife asked if I could help them install other flatpack furniture. I quickly realised that there wasn't a service sector for something that was a widely felt pain and set about creating one.

    What's the best thing about working for a small business?
    The freedom to wear as many hats as you choose.

    What makes your business unique?
    The Unflatpack management team combines a blend of expertise and passion for the work we do with a solid understanding of marketing and how the business fits into the wider commercial landscape. We are also committed to using technology at every staged of the business to improve the service we give our customers and help us punch above our weight




    Meet the Businesses on the Bus: Recipe

    Friday, November 20 at 12:08Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015


    What is your small business? 
    We are an independent advertising agency called Recipe.

    Where did you get idea to start your business? 
    In 2004 we saw a gap in the market to produce cost effective TV commercials for smaller brands. For the first time they could advertise on cheaper niche tv channels due to the introduction of Freeview and the expanding Sky platform but couldn't get cheap adverts made.

    When did the business begin? 
    Three of us started the agency in 2004 from one of our founders bedroom and we've been growing organically ever since. We now have two offices in the West End and employ 35 people.

    What's the best thing about working for a small business?
    We're able to adapt to ever changing market conditions faster than the competition which gives us the edge. The advertising landscape is constantly changing with the frequent introduction of disruptive technologies and we need to constantly evolve to keep ahead of the trend.

    What makes your business unique? 
    We're the only agency I know that started with three founders who had no experience in the advertising industry. This has meant we've developed a less bureaucratic and more efficient way of working which our clients love and can't be found at other companies.

    How to get employment law right (and more) for small businesses

    Thursday, November 19 at 11:40

    Susan Clews, Chief Operations Officer at workplace experts, Acas, highlights our range of free workplace guidance for small firms.

    Getting the employment law side of your business right is vital so you avoid potentially costly disputes. Acas are experts in this and plenty more besides, like what you should do to get the best from your people. Whether you’re looking to make your first hire or you’ve got a growing number of employees, Acas can help you and we’re proud to support Small Business Saturday.

    Free small firm guides  
    Written specifically for small businesses, we have step by step guides on some of the most common workplace issues from managing sick absence or a complaint, to how best to have potentially difficult conversations about performance. The guides are practical, concise, easy-to-understand and designed so they can be picked up and put down as you need them. The latest in the series is handling pay and wages.

    The series, called Help For Small Firms covers:

    • how to recruit the best candidate for the job
    • drawing up their contract
    • settling them into the business
    • effectively managing their behaviour and performance
    • how to manage a complaint if they raise one - what HR would call a grievance
    • how to manage sickness and other kinds of absence from work; and
    • how to get the best out of staff.


    Festive advice
    One of the most common concerns we hear from employers at this time of year is how to keep the business running while managing requests from employees asking for time off. This is particularly difficult for small businesses with fewer staff to cover, particularly if this is one of your busiest times of the year. Acas has published Christmas guidance on managing the most common situations employers are faced with.

    Other useful information for small firms

    • The new UK National Minimum Wage rates came into effect at the beginning of October. To find out the new rates visit www.acas.org.uk/nmw or view our NMW video.
    • If you’re faced with carrying out an investigation at work, we’ve recently published new guidance on conducting workplace investigations. It includes free tools and templates to help manage each stage of the process, no matter the size of your business.
    • If you employ younger workers – so under the age of 18 – you need to be aware that this group has different rights. Find out more here.
    • For up to date information on the latest employment law changes visit our website. 


    Problems at work
    We also understand that things can go wrong for many reasons. And if they do we have free services including early conciliation to help sort things out as quickly, fairly and painlessly as possible.

    Where can I go for further help? 
    Watch our video to find out who we are and what we do at www.acas.org.uk/aboutus or:

    • Call the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100. The helpline is available from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. Advice is free and confidential, so callers do not have to give their names.
    • Visit helpline online for the most frequently asked workplace concerns
    • Visit the Acas website for all the latest employment advice
    • Sign up to the free monthly Acas enewsletter for the latest employment legislation updates, HR guidance, free tools and tips

    Acas will be supporting Small Business Saturday on 5 December. Follow Acas on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube.

    Meet the businesses on the bus: Riverside Dental

    Tuesday, November 17 at 09:48Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

    The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is now under way! The tour is supported by TalkTalk Business and we are delighted to feature the logos of fifty TalkTalk Business customers on the #SmallBizSatUK bus!

    Hear from Bim Sawhney of Riverside Dental, one of the businesses featured on the bus...

    What is your small business?
    Riverside Dental is a state of the art, modern, award winning dental practice in Norwich city centre.

    Where did you get idea to start your business? 
    I always wanted to have my own business and did not to work for other people long term. As a dentist, my ambition was to always set up my own practice!

    When did the business begin?
    11-11-11! 4 years ago!

    What's the best thing about working for a small business?
    Being responsible for the day to day running and seeing how the business flourishes over the years. There is no better feeling as a business owner walking in every morning to see the fantastic team we have assembled and interacting with our loyal patient base.

    What makes your business special?
    The team, patients, premises, location and our work ethic. These are the reasons we have achieved what we have done and won the awards we have. To find out more see our website www.riversidedental.co.uk and follow us on Twitter


    Spot the Riverside Dental Logo!


    Making the most of Small Business Saturday in the big city

    Wednesday, November 11 at 14:38Collaboration | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

    Birmingham has a great reputation for its retail repertoire: with the iconic Bullring, the newly opened Grand Central, and the recently refurbished Mailbox; the second city has cemented its place on the map for being a shopaholic’s heaven. However, perhaps Birmingham’s best-kept secret is its thriving small business scene. In recent years, Birmingham has made moves to embrace its independents.  Initiatives like Joe Schuppler’s citywide loyalty card, Independent Birmingham, have helped locals and visitors alike to swap big businesses for lesser known shops, restaurants, and cafés.

    One of the pioneers in the push for supporting independent retail was, and still is, Great Western Arcade. Built in 1876, the Grade-II listed Victorian arcade was restored in 1984 and has since been voted Birmingham’s favourite building. Set right in the heart of the city, GWA is the home of independent retail, representing a step away from the high street, into an emporium of unique brands. The centre houses around 40 of Birmingham’s best-loved small businesses and is a modern day treasure trove. GWA offers everything from freshly made food and the finest wines, to hand-made trinkets and high-end goods from hand-selected designers. Though the businesses may be small, they are not to be underestimated, as many have been recognised both regionally and nationally by various award boards: GWA’s Loki is the most awarded wine merchant in Birmingham having won 11 major national awards in the past two years, whilst traditional delicatessen Anderson & Hill has been profiled by the Guardian as one of the best budget eateries in the city. The arcade has also recently welcomed luxury accessories store Peter Forson and will soon play host to leading lifestyle and menswear brand P&Co. GWA has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and there seems to be no sign of stopping anytime soon.

    Opportunities like Small Business Saturday present GWA with the much-needed and appreciated platform to shout about all that they have to offer. The GWA is choosing to celebrate the day as a collective body, rather than as separate shops.

    The general premise concentrates on trading out to get trade in, something that GWA’s central location will lend itself to nicely. The arcade is a popular thoroughfare given its proximity to the city’s major stations, particularly for commuters in the surrounding Colmore Business District, which alone has 35,000 professionals. In recent years, a huge focus for us has been making GWA a destination in its own right. For Small Business Saturday, we want to consolidate this, creating a market-vibe in the arcade itself and showing Birmingham what GWA is all about.

    Whilst we are keen to be seen as a whole centre, we are equally eager for each seller to be able to express their image in their own way. With such a wide-range of retailers comes a wide-range of activities. For example, the well-loved Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe is planning to give shoppers a taste of something sweet, having special guests from Alice in Wonderland hand out a selection of pick’n’mix treats.

    With the spotlight already on Birmingham’s thriving business scene, Small Business Saturday is set to see GWA shine.

    How music can benefit small businesses

    Wednesday, November 04 at 09:56


    The Small Business Saturday Inspire Series travelled to Kings Cross on Tuesday 27th October for a workshop on ‘How Music Can Benefit Your Business’ hosted by PRS for Music and PPL.

    The workshop was a panel discussion, chaired by Jonathan Morrish from PRS for Music and PPL. Workshop participants included Rob Wood from music consultancy Music Concierge, Ken Wright from the Phoenix Artists Club, Sasha Bennett from First Steps Trust charity, Sam Quilliam from the Quilliam Brothers’ Teahouse and Sophie Uddin from restaurant chain Granger & Co.








    They each spoke about the value and benefits of music in their businesses for both customers and staff as well as how vital music is to any brand mix. You can catch up on the full workshop here.

    Following the event, attendees were invited to the launch night of ‘PRS for Music Presents’ live music showcases which featured PRS for Music member performances from Peace and Boxed in!

    PRS for Music & PPL also presented Small Business Saturday with their very first Gold Album!


    5 steps to starting a business in Global Entrepreneurship Week

    Friday, October 30 at 09:51

    Now in its 8th year, Global Entrepreneurship Week continues to shine a spotlight on enterprise across the globe. Use this year’s event to start a business with help from Enterprise Nation founder and StartUp expert, Emma Jones. Here she offers 5 steps to become your own boss and announces the biggest StartUp event of the week.

    Starting a business will be one of the best things you ever do. With self-employment comes the freedom and flexibility to work how you like and with whom you like! Here are 5 steps to get you started.

    1. What’s the idea?

    Every business starts with an idea. What’s yours? In coming up with an idea for a business, ask yourself three questions;
    ·      have you spotted a gap in the market? Is there something you’d like to buy and just can’t find? Others might be looking too – and that spells a market.
    ·      What’s your passion, hobby or skill? Turning what you love to do into a way of making a living means work will never really feel like work! Build a business based on what you love and your passion will shine through.
    ·      Have you seen someone offering something that you think you can do better yourself? If so, give it a go!

    2. Make a plan
    A business plan acts as your routemap and writing it will help confirm how you move from where you are now, to where you want the business to be The plan does not have to be long and it’s easy to remember what to include as it spells I’M OFF:
    ·      Idea – what’s the idea
    ·      Market – who is the market of customers you’re going to serve
    ·      Operations – what kit do you need to get started
    ·      Finance – do a basic forecast on sales less costs = profit
    ·      Friends – who is your support network as the business starts and grows
    With plan in hand, your sense of direction is confirmed.

    3. Make sales
    You’re not in business until you’re making sales! Start selling to friends and then widen the network through selling online, considering template sites such as Moonfruit, Wix and Weebly, or make sales on powerful marketplaces such as Etsy, eBay and Notonthehighstreet.com. Deliver the product or service on time and in budget to ensure customers keep coming back!

    4. Get known
    Increase sales and profile through getting known. Achieve this by reaching out to local and target media with the story of what makes you special and embrace social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc) to reach customers and contacts across the globe. Agree to speak at events, enter Awards, host events and take steps to quickly become an expert in your field. Soon journalists will be knocking on your door asking for comment.

    5. Repeat!
    Repeat the above steps to stay in business and try to balance your precious time by dividing it across three key tasks; business development and making sales, taking care of existing customers and staying on top of company admin. Before you know it, you’ll be a fully fledged business owner and by this time next year advising other StartUps on how to get going!

    Attend the biggest StartUp Saturday during Global Entrepreneurship Week and pick up all these tips and more in person from Emma and the Enterprise Nation team. Click here to book your ticket today. www.enterprisenation.com/startupsaturday

    Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation and author of best selling books including 'Spare Room StartUp, 'Working 5 to 9', 'Go Global' and 'The StartUp Kit'
    --

    The sky's the limit

    Monday, October 26 at 15:53Federation Of Small Business | Fsb | Small Business Saturday

    John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses tell us about their plans to support and celebrate Small Business Saturday this year.

    "The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is a proud supporter of Small Business Saturday. We know from our research that for every £1 spent locally, £1.76 is placed back into the local economy, underlining the important contribution made by small firms to their communities.

    We have encouraged our members to enter the Small Biz 100 campaign and over a quarter of those that have been selected are FSB members. I will personally be visiting some of these winners over the upcoming months and celebrating their achievement with them.

    We are also working with MPs, on a cross party basis, to encourage them to visit the interesting, unique, and diverse businesses we have in our membership. In one area we are even hiring out a mini bus with the local MP as part of a tour of small firms. We are also working with local councils, many of whom have agreed support such as free parking on Small Business Saturday.

    As experts in business, we will be supporting the Small Business Saturday bus tour stops. Alongside these, we will be facilitating advice and networking sessions for local businesses. This will be accompanied with a virtual social media campaign to raise awareness amongst local firms in each town as it arrives.

    Our activities are as diverse as organising a market in Trafford with the leader of the council to running a ‘flash conga’ session for small businesses in Birmingham. In my own neck of the woods of Merseyside, we are running a ‘local at Christmas’ campaign to include a market at Knowlsey, setting up a Christmas tree in Sefton and organising the Christmas lights switch on at Southport.

    Meanwhile in London and South Yorkshire, we are organising a ‘selfie challenge’ with councillors and MPs and for my own part, I will be taking the plunge and marking Small Business Saturday by doing a skydive for charity. Watch this space....

    This is just a flavour of some of the many exciting things the FSB is up to in support of Small Business Saturday and I urge others to get behind the campaign and celebrate small firms."

    Marketing on a budget

    Friday, October 16 at 09:00

    Nick Deane and Lauren Ascroft, the Marketing team behind Rockford IT, share their tips and experience for making the most of your marketing when you’re operating with tight purse strings.
    Contrary to popular belief, marketing isn’t all about spending large amounts of money. At Rockford IT, we’ve found that success can be had by making the most of what you’ve got and, most importantly, being creative.

    "Last November we were lucky enough to win Opus Energy’s “Business Boost” competition and received some great marketing advice and resources. Here are the top five tips for small business budget marketing we’ve learned along the way:

    Build your brand on social media
    A great way to promote your business is via social media. With well-frequented sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ all available for free, it’s a no brainer. As they’re so content-friendly (from creating posts, to photo sharing, to sponsoring links) you can use these platforms to promote your business in different ways.

    Concerned about this being too time consuming? Not to worry. You can use websites such as Buffer to schedule all your social media posts for the week or longer.

    Tip for Small Business Saturday: Have a look at where the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is coming near to you in November and join in the conversation on Twitter, join the bus and share some pictures of other small businesses and customers attending. Follow @SmallBizSatUK for all updates.

    Get your target market right
    As a business, making sure you know your target audience is crucial. It’s vital you do your research and to get the best results for your budget.

    Think about who your potential customers are and put some time into finding out what websites they use, publications they read and what other resources they may use when being influenced to buy.  Then, invest any marketing efforts within these targeted fields. A common mistake is assuming that a bigger channel is better (for example, national television advertising). Remember that no marketing channel is superior unless you can prove your audience is there waiting for you.

    Tip for Small Business Saturday: sign up for a free Small Business Saturday marketing pack, containing posters and window stickers. Encourage people to visit your small business in store with the poster in the window (or with a digital poster if you’re an online business) and ask them questions about your products and business to learn more about your existing and potential customers.

    Get involved within the local community 
    Rockford IT is based in Shropshire, a great place for local networking events for local businesses. Check what your local area has to offer and get yourself involved with other businesses and support local causes where you can.

    A good way to find out about local events is within social media groups, or ask other small businesses in your area if they’d like to collaborate on a regular networking meet-up.

    Tip for Small Business Saturday: use the Small Business Finder to search with your small business’ postcode. You can find other small businesses in your area to get in contact with. You could collaborate for December 5th with an event, sharing each other’s businesses on social media or a community video on how you celebrated Small Business Saturday.

    Email marketing 
    This is one of the most cost-effective tools out there. From creating a customer/prospects newsletter to letting people know about the products and services you offer, it’s a great way to get your brand out there. Rockford IT have found that creating surveys and competitions work extremely well in getting a high interaction rate, as well as making the emails more targeted. Be creative, keep it simple and catchy.

    Maximise supplier resources
    Here at Rockford IT we have numerous products and services to market and receive a great amount of support from our suppliers to do this, so it’s always worth checking what partner marketing programmes are available to you. Most importantly, making sure you build and maintain good relationships with suppliers can make a massive difference.

    To find out about the work Rockford IT do or to sign up to their newsletter and see examples of engaging email marketing, visit their website.

    Five ways to better know your customers

    Thursday, October 15 at 12:33Events | Research | Small Business Saturday

    Using Research Methods for a Better Understanding of Your Customers 

    At Who London we constantly research to make sure our events are fun and diverse for our customers. In today’s world where there are so many options for consumers, we have to listen to what our clients are telling us. We shouldn’t forget to really research our audience and not just our market space; take the time to ask potential customers how your product or service could suit them.

    Here is an outline of ways to use research methods to better understand your customers. With all research methods do remember to decide if your findings will be confidential and let potential respondents know if they are or not.

    Primary and Secondary Analysis
    The first step and continued approach for best business practice would be to find data and documents both online and offline and analyse them to see how you could develop or change what you offer. You could use statistics, newspapers, forums and social media to shed new light on topics. It’s vital that we keep abreast of improving our services for our customers.

    London changes all the time with new restaurants and courses on offer, so this is something we at Who London research continuously.

    Interviews/1-2-1s
    These can be useful on an ongoing basis and can be casual as well. For a more formal approach you can set up interviews with an individual and make them as structured or unstructured as you like, i.e. think about if it’s most appropriate to have closed questions such as “Do you like eating out?” Or for more open-ended questions you could ask “What type of restaurants do you like?”

    If set interviews are not something that is appropriate for your business, why not ask people you meet for their thoughts and ideas, or simply discuss your venture with them and see what they reply? We’re always talking to new people and this can provide so much interesting and valuable information.

    Focus Groups
    These groups usually range from 4-12 people and they work as discussion groups because they’re used for understanding group dynamics for a particular topic. Focus groups are perfect for Who London as we are about people interacting in social groups at our events. Focus groups can have some structure but this research method’s strength is that with them you can see where points deviate to without leading respondents into areas that you believe are most important. Some participants will be more vocal than others, so try and make everybody feel naturally comfortable, whether it’s by introductions or even offering drinks and nibbles.

    Observation
    You might be able to study individuals or groups and learn this way. You could also think about participant observation where you would become part of e.g. joining a dining club to understand how they’re formed, what they’re like first hand and how, looking outwards, you personally feel part of the group. If you do this, think particularly about ethics during your planning stage.

    Surveys
    These are great for giving anonymity to respondents if needed. For instance, you might feel you’ll gain honest in-depth answers if the respondent knows that you’re not able to assign answers to respondents. They’re also time-efficient in collecting responses.  However, like with all other research methods, they require more planning than usually initially thought.  For instance when you’re devising your questions, be careful not to ask two questions at the same time, e.g. “Have you gone to a restaurant in the last week and do you have any favourite restaurants?”

    Try not to be ambiguous with wording or phrases because we all have a different comprehension of the English language after all – simple is the key! Surveys are great for feedback too. You can even ask if you could use comments given here as testimonials on your website (just get permission to use their name/s and location). At Who London we like to keep our after events feedback questions quite open-ended so that the attendee can really say what’s on their mind and we don’t assume anything.

    Good thorough research should be done at least yearly, but that doesn’t mean you should entirely refrain from it at all other times. Research can be done in bite-sized chunks within this timeframe too – for example you might like to solely research which special offers appeal to your customers during the Christmas period. Whatever stage your business is at, don’t be afraid to change and add things in response to what your ongoing research tells you.

    The good news is research is an enjoyable way to uncover new insights and results to ensure you’re fulfilling customer needs, the lifeline of your business. Make sure you show your customers they’re your priority.


    In 2014 Alexandra Felce launched Who London, the London social events organisation for anyone 50+. To find out more visit www.wholondon.co.uk
























    Inspire Series: Taking the first steps in recruitment

    Wednesday, October 14 at 14:39How To | Inspire Series | Recruitment | Start-Up Support

    We are pleased to announce Dylan O’Neil from Indeed to run a four-part series of workshops in the Small Business Saturday Headquarters at Somerset House on 'Expanding your business - Taking the first steps in recruitment'.

    In this series Indeed, the world's #1 source of external hires, will provide great tips for small businesses looking to find great employees to help their business grow. From writing your first job description to deciding where to advertise your jobs, Indeed will share insights they have gained from analysing job seeker behaviour across the UK.

    The first workshop in the series will be giving Tips for Top Notch Job Content from 11:45am on October 22nd.

    The second workshop in the series will be presenting How People Search for Jobs Today from 11:45am on October 29th.

    The third workshop in the series will be on Investing to Reach the Best Talent from 11:45am on November 17th.

    The fourth workshop in the series will be on Measuring for Success from 11:45am on November 30th.

    The events are free for small businesses to attend and will be an hour long with opportunities for questions. They will be live streamed on Periscope with real time Twitter Q&A, so even if you are not in the room you can still get involved. Make sure you follow @SmallBizSat for updates.

    For more information and to register attendance please visit the links above.

    With thanks to Indeed for the support of these workshops.

    In conversation with Ollie Proudlock

    Tuesday, October 13 at 10:37

    On Thursday October 8th, Small Business Saturday welcomed Ollie Proudlock, creator of brand Serge DeNimes, for a coffee and chat with some fashion-focused small businesses: Jewellery Box, House of Ollichon, Chocolate Buddha and Tammam. Ollie started his small business in 2011, drawing from his passion for art and design to become a worldwide brand.


    Ollie shared how his upbringing influenced his career path, from growing up in a very creative household "meant that everything my mum did was all about style. Our house for instance was covered in denim”, part of the reason he named the brand Serge DeNimes. Starting out, he said, required taking a leap of faith. He applauded the businesses in the room for taking the first step and getting started, "you wouldn't want to go through life thinking 'what if?'"

    Serge DeNimes began with printing images onto t-shirts and building a narrative from these photographs, the first collection celebrating Brazil's Carnival. Like many small business owners, he recalled early mornings and late nights processing orders and the challenge in finding the right suppliers to make his product.



    Hannah Ollichon, founder of bridal brand House of Ollichon asked Ollie about ‘telling a story’ though social media and blog content: creating content that people can connect to can really help sell a product, "I want to know what I’m wearing, I want to know where it’s come from, and I want to become a part of that brand". Ollie shared his love for collaboration with other brands, designers and creatives - which can open your brand to new customers.

    In five years’ time, Ollie said he would like to grow the brand in America and Asia and increase the number of stores that sell his brand in the UK, in addition to the 29 where it is currently stocked. He would love to have a stand-alone store in the UK with a larger team to help the business grow.
    Small Business Saturday would like to say a big thank you to Ollie Proudlock for sharing his small business journey and giving great tips and advice, and to all of the small businesses who joined us at the event.

    With thanks to Taylor Hepworth for covering this event

    Is your website doing what it should?

    Monday, October 12 at 12:37Getting Online | Small Business | Small Business Saturday


    Joel Calliste, co-founder of Small Biz 100 Smart Little Web gives five important tips for a successful small business website:

    A website should be far more than just a tick in the box. It’s a chance to have your business showcased and explained perfectly to your target audience.

    Imagine how often you realise you need a product or service and turn to Google for help. And what do you do when you take a look at a website it’s found for you?

    If you’re anything like me, you quickly run through your internal criteria to match whether it’s right for what you’re looking for and leave the site quickly if it’s not.

    Your small business website needs to focus on helping website visitors understand quickly that you’re relevant to them and encourage them to stay and browse. This should help lead to the all-important conversion from online visitor to an enquiry,  if not an actual customer.

    First Thing’s First: Who are you and what do you do? 

    It’s seriously this easy, yet so many websites don’t include these fundamental details on their homepage. Back this up with a supporting image that tells your business story for you and you already have a strong start.

    Make it Easy to Navigate: and pick-up important information

    Being clear and transparent about your business should be replicated on each page of your site. And guiding your visitors with easy navigation is a must. This means keeping it simple and straight-forward.

    When it comes to setting out your navigation, imagine a blank piece of paper with the different parts of your business jotted down. Your history and today’s team, your products or services, your location and how to get in touch…. and in each section, in simple language, tell your story. These then become each page on your website. It doesn’t need a lot of words. In fact, the fewer the better!

    Also think about joining up where two sections meet - if something on one page is relevant to another - then link the pages with an explanation eg. ‘if you want to know more take a look at…’

    Make sure you refer to where you’re based, where your customers are based (if this differs), and who your customers tend to be. Help your visitors to understand that they fit into your box as much as you fit into theirs.

    And most importantly, remember that a visitor might land on a specific page of your website and it could be the only page they read. Each page should convey who you are, what you are and how you do it in some way.

    Be Transparent: encourage interest

    It’s not just about simple messaging, but personality can really help with transparency too. We want to know who we might be doing business with. So think about bringing personality to your website - who are the key people in the team? What are they most passionate about? Include profile shots of individuals and also working if possible.

    Help your visitors to easily piece together your story and get a good feel for the people behind the business.

    Every small business website should also include a price page. Let’s be honest, we all want to know how much something will cost. Now, I know there are service businesses that can only provide a cost with a proposal but saying this on a price page is completely fine! At least your visitor will understand how you work. Do try to include a couple of ball-park figures where possible though.

    And if you have a physical presence please make sure you include your address and a map on your site. Help your online visitor become an offline customer by encouraging them to visit you - and make it easy to do so.

    Building Trust: add extra reassurance

    Building trust is really important. And there are actually many ways you can achieve this. It helps a visitor to know who your customers are, or at least what they think of you. So testimonials are a great way to help with reassurance. But there are other ways to prove your credibility, especially if you’re a new business. Include the names and logos of partnerships, affiliations or perhaps even suppliers. This all helps to tell your wider business story.

    Obviously, if you’re also lucky enough to have been nominated for an award - and definitely if you won - include it!

    Call To Action: they’re interested - what should they do now? 

    It’s not enough to have a telephone number or email address on your contact page. Yes, most of us know where to look if we want to get in touch. But having a clear Call to Action (CTA) not only helps the visitor with the next step, it can also guide them to do what you want them to do.

    Want them to call you to book an appointment? Say it! Want them to sign-up to your newsletter? Do it! Think about the way you want them to get in touch with you and make it really obvious - on each page.

    Smart Little Web are a next-generation website platform. The platform is tailored 100% to the needs of small businesses and focuses on guiding a small business on what to put on the website, not just how to build it. For more from Smart Little Web visit their website and blog.



    Social Saturday

    Wednesday, October 07 at 13:15Social Enterprise | Social Good

    This Saturday, October 10th is Social Saturday, a national day to celebrate social enterprises. Small Business Saturday UK is thrilled to have so many social enterprises in the Small Biz 100 this year: Old Spike Roastery, Darlo, CANAPE, Beatfreeks, Your Own Place CIC, A Man For All Seasons, Glasgow Locavore and Turning Earth Ceramics. We asked Social Enterprise a bit more about the day and how to get involved:

    "Social Saturday is the national day to celebrate and buy from social enterprises. Social enterprises are businesses which trade to meet a social and/or environmental mission and they reinvest or donate their profits to help achieve this. They operate in nearly all areas of business and the vast majority of them are small businesses. From fashion to food, bicycle repair shops to buses, chances are there is a social enterprise near you.

    There are around 70,000 social enterprises in the UK employing nearly a million people and contributing £24 billion to the economy. Social Saturday is about shining a spotlight on them. Whether it’s creating opportunities for people disadvantaged from the labour market, supporting development projects abroad or strengthening local economies at home – social enterprises are showing how business can create positive social change. They are bringing the dynamism and innovation of private enterprise to address the most pressing challenges we face as a country and as a planet. 

    Social Saturday is part of Social Enterprise UK’s Buy Social Campaign, which challenges all of us to think about where we spend our money. 

    What’s happening on Social Saturday?


    There are over 50 events happening throughout the country ranging from coffee mornings and dinner parties to bike rides and film screenings. If you’d like to find out what’s happening near you check out the Social Saturday website.

    The website also includes some brilliant consumer facing social enterprises to allow you to unleash your spending power and buy social!


    Like small businesses, social enterprises are often at the heart of communities, driving economic growth creating jobs and keeping money in the local area. So on Social Saturday 2015, shop local and buy social as well. You can find your local social enterprises in the Buy Social Directory."

    Follow Social Enterprise on Twitter for more information about Social Saturday. 




    Meet the Mentor

    Thursday, September 24 at 14:30Networking | Small Business | Start-Up Support

    On the 7th of October, David CM Carter will be joining Small Business Saturday for an evening of discussion on small business growth and success. David is a successful author, and is best known as "The Mentor" - advising businesses and entrepreneurs on their best path to success.
    The invitation to attend is open to 7 small businesses - if you would like to attend please tell us a bit about your small business, and what question you would ask David.
    Please email digital@smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com with the subject line "David Carter RSVP" with your details and question. Invitees will be notified by the 1st October. It will take place in Central London between 6.30pm-8.30pm.




    Coffee & chat with Oliver Proudlock

    Thursday, September 24 at 10:01Fashion | Networking | Start-Up Support

    We would like to invite 7 small businesses for a coffee with Ollie Proudlock.
    Ollie is the creator of fashion label Serge DeNimes, alongside designing for Oliver Sweeney shoes and jewellery brand Theo Fennell.
    If you would like to attend, tell us a little bit about your small business, and what question you would ask to Ollie.
    It will take place in the morning (9.30am - 10.30am) of 8th October in central London, and we encourage fashion small businesses especially to apply to have a chat with Ollie about how to make your label shine!
    Please email digital@smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com with the subject: "Oliver Proudlock RSVP" with your details and question. Invitees will be notified by the 1st October.


    Networking: how do you feel about it?

    Wednesday, September 16 at 12:28Networking | Women

    Karen Campbell, Group Leader for networking group Fabulous Women & Marvellous Men gives some tips for a successful networking event

    We’ve all got good and not-so-good stories of networking haven’t we? One of my first networking experience was turning up to an established coaching networking session and, as a newly qualified coach, I was eager to make professional contacts and be part of the coaching world. The reality was that I spent the two hours having people squinting at my impossibly small name badge, judging my newly acquired title and demanding to know my coaching credentials. I’ll admit it isn’t my favourite networking memory….

    Since then I have been lucky enough to be part of a really supportive and collaborative networking group: Fabulous Women (and Marvellous Men). Already established in West and South London, the group is full of like-minded people who have come together to share business ideas in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. With guest speakers, coaching sessions and a truly collaborative attitude, the business sharing flows. And we have cake!

    I am lucky enough to be launching the North London arm of Fabulous Women this Friday (18th September) which has been a great honour. We have sourced an affordable venue - working with a great space at the Green House in Newington Green (www.thegreenhouselondon.com) and we are looking for fabulous business people to join us.

    For more details and to book for either this Friday’s meet or one of our future ones (takes place every third Friday of the month) please go to:

    http://fabulous-women.co.uk/event/detail_1758 or contact me at: karen@your-lifecoach.com


    Quick guide to accounting

    Wednesday, September 02 at 16:54Accounting | Quick Guide | Small Business | Toolkit | Top Tips

    Accounting Tips for Small Businesses


    When running or setting up a small business, keeping the books in order is not only important for the growth, but required for a healthy business. To help you learn the ropes, Leaman Mattei Accountants have given us some great starting points. 


    Managing cashflow
    Forecast your cash flow to identify shortfalls early and build in a contingency

    Consider monthly standing orders and direct debits for regular cash flow

    Maintain an honest and open relationship with your customers

    Establish clear credit control procedures, make sure your customers understand them, and be seen to implement them firmly and consistently

    Check credit references before offering credit terms, do not extend credit limits without good reason

    Set aside future tax liabilities in a separate deposit account

    Working from home
    Self-employed
    You can claim costs in your accounts that are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of your business. If you don't maintain a separate office, you can claim a reasonable proportion of those household running costs that represent the space and time in which your office operation occupies your home. This includes a proportion of your rent, council tax and water rates. Alternatively, you can make a claim for a fixed rate deduction from your profits.

    Employees
    You can only claim the additional variable expenses incurred by working at home. These costs amount to the increased energy needed to heat and light your property for longer, and the extra water used if that is metered. You can also claim the cost of business related telephone calls.

    Things to consider when starting a new business
    Always keep your long-term goals in mind. Running your business more cost-effectively can be achieved only if you have the vision to project your goals into the future

    Cash shortages, lack of a solid business plan to guide the business, and steady decreases in profitability are all warning signs that a business is heading towards a potential financial crisis

    It is crucial to evaluate your business’ structure and performance before it manifests these danger signals

    Improve your profitability by analysing all the aspects of your business


    Missed deadlines = penalties + interest
    Key dates to remember

    Submission of statutory accounts
    -> 9 months after the year end

    Submission of corporation tax return
    -> 12 months after the year end

    Submission of VAT returns
    -> 1 month and 7 days after the period end

    Payment of corporation tax
    -> 9 months and 1 day after the year end

    Payment of VAT
    ->BACS 1 month & 7 days after the period end;
    ->Direct Debit 1 month & 11 days after the period end





    A good accountant could save you money and advise you throughout the life cycle of your business on a wide range of issues. For more information on Leaman Mattei visit their website.


    TE&CH: Collaboration, Cross-Pollination and Re-imagination for small business success

    Monday, August 24 at 16:52Collaboration | Inspiration

    Small Biz 100 Alumnus, Cinter are bringing you TE&CH on September 3rd 2015 at Central Working Whitechapel, London. They tell us a bit more about it...

    TE&CH is about doing things differently, drawing upon a mixture of expert perspectives, sharing new insights and facilitating linkages between seemingly disparate sectors and disciplines.

    Cinter describe how collaborative practices helped their business: “by collaborating with other small businesses we have been able to gain big company capacity from small organisations. We are able to do more, remain agile, share skills and reduce risk by making decisions and changes together. Collaboration has allowed us to reach a broader network outside of our main disciplines and the strong relationships we have generated by working with other organisations has allowed for unprovoked recommendation. Without collaboration our business wouldn’t be as dynamic and effective.”

    The TE&CH event will host talks and exhibits that will provide practical knowledge and advice on future technology, innovation and productive collaboration. TE&CH will demonstrate the power of inter organisational collaboration to create profitable, sustainable, and efficient solutions that will respond to business and societal needs.

    A highlight for our network will be the opportunity to converse with fellow small businesses BIMscript, Sutrue, Massless, GrowUp and BentoBio. They will be identifying technology as a means to innovate as part of the early speaking session. TE&CH also sees the importance in varied and stimulating break out sessions and enhanced networking via Weave.

    This is a great opportunity for small businesses to meet and discuss all things collaborative. The highly anticipated panel discussion will draw all the sessions together into a healthy discussion with delegate participation.

    Cinter intends to establish TE&CH as a regular event and a conduit to a growing community of businesses interested in cross-sector activity and collaboration. It will draw upon a wide and varied network of professional connections across the London tech scene, enabling TE&CH to act as a focal point for innovative thinking. Network members and event supporters alike will benefit from newly-established connections between blue chip companies, highly-investable tech startups, and forward thinking service providers.


    Please register your attendance here or contact Charlotte Downs on 020 7607 0704 | charlotte@te-ch.uk | @teandch

    Quick guide to Recruitment

    Wednesday, August 19 at 09:24How To | Recruitment | Toolkit


    Recruitment Tips for Small Businesses


    It goes without saying - finding the right person for your small business is pivotal for success! To help you along the way, FreshMinds have outlined some top recruitment tips…




    Stage One - Gaining Interest


    Job Adverts: where to advertise?


    Local or national newspapers
    Industry specific job websites 
    LinkedIn 
    Universities/Schools - get in touch with the careers service department 
    Twitter – post a link to your advert 

    Structure

    Role title and short summary (approximately 25 words)
    Company information 
    Responsibilities – day to day tasks and/or specific projects 
    Candidate requirements – academics, specific skills and industry experience 
    Details – location, salary, start date and benefits* 

    *List these details to keep them brief/factual



    Pay extra attention to the role title and first line. For example: "Boutique, family run hotel requires a top manager with a ‘can do’ mentality to help run, plan, promote and organise all hotel services".

    The basic format to follow is: (enter: description of the company) “requires a” (enter: role title) “to help/lead/manage” (enter: two responsibilities of the role). Don't start with “we/I am looking for…”


    Outline the unique selling points such as flexibility, company culture and training and use specific words/terms to ensure your role appears in the relevant candidate searches. Ensure that the tone and language is aligned to your company’s message.


    Databases

    We recommend using…

    Reed
    LinkedIn
    Specific industry databases (technology, marketing, sales, finance, start-up)

    Most databases use Boolean search logic to allow you to find keywords or phrases on a profile or CV. Here are some of the basic principles of a Boolean search:


    Search for more than one word by entering the phrase into quotation marks, for example “customer service”. Search for more than two words by using AND (must be in capitals), for example ‘’French AND Spanish’’


    Find a profile which includes one or more terms by using OR (must be in capitals), for example: “hotel manager OR restaurant manager". Exclude a term by stating NOT before the phrase/word, for example ‘’marketing NOT direct marketing”.

    It’s important to remember that the majority of databases charge either a one off or fixed annual fee.


    Events/ Networking


    Attend free or paid networking events to meet prospective candidates or attend career events or open days at schools/colleges and universities. Select schools and universities based on their Location and relevant degrees/subjects (look at Times University Guide for rankings on specific University subjects).



    Stage Two – Assessment


    CV Screen


    Select three main points you require from CVs to quickly assess applications, for example: 2.1 degree, retail experience, and programming. Check for grammar and ensure the application process has been followed in the correct format. CVs shouldn’t be any longer than 2 pages. Only select a handful of candidates to progress to the next stage (generally 4 for 1 position is a good ratio).

    Once selected call the candidates to ensure they are still available and outline next steps. This should include: assessment processes, timescales and salary expectations.


    Face-to-Face or Telephone Interviews


    We think that it’s really important to meet everyone face-to-face but a telephone interview can be useful for the first round.


    Interview Structure


    Welcome the candidate and explain the format of the interview. Ask how much they know about the position then give them an explanation about the company/role. This is a good indication of how much research they have done beforehand.


    Get them to talk through their career to date and give rationale behind their decisions. For example: why did they choose that course/degree or why did they leave that position at that point? When talking through their experience within a role ask them to break it down into either day to day or project by project responsibilities.


    Competency based questions (these must be the same for all candidates to ensure you can benchmark). Select 4-5 main competencies and create a question template. Competencies include: collaboration, problem solving, team work, leadership, drive, resilience, attention to detail, innovation - the list is endless! Questions can either be based on case studies (you may want to consider real life scenarios which have happened at the company) or experiences. For example:


    Drive (experience) – ‘Describe an example of when you have been incredibly driven to succeed?’

    Problem solving (case study) - ‘imagine you were on the shop floor and X happened, how would you react?’

    Good answers should be structured and clear. The CAR technique can be useful for analysing this:

    Context
    Action – responsibility (did they lead or assist)
    Result - what was the measurable output? (specific figures, customer feedback, company feedback)

    Ask questions about their motivations and current situation e.g. are they interviewing elsewhere? When are they able to start? What salary are they looking for? – ensure you have a figure in mind and justifications for this.


    Then ask them if they have any questions about the role. When are they able to start? Outline your timescales and when they should expect to hear from you.

    Cultural fit is very important so it’s a good idea for the candidate to meet your team members.

    Trial Day

    You may want to consider a trial day/afternoon to give you a good indication of their performance.



    Stage Three - Offer


    Give the candidate some time after the interview before offering to ensure they have considered the opportunity. Once the candidate has accepted make sure that you send contracts as soon as possible.

    Recruitment Companies

    The recruiting process can be long and very time consuming. Recruitment companies can help you by managing this entire process and providing you with a selection of shortlisted candidates to interview. You may want to consider this option if you feel it’s a worthy investment.

    You can also hire people on an interim basis through recruitment companies and they can be paid through an agency so it is a very quick process – you could have someone start tomorrow! This is a good option to consider around busy seasons.

    Research different recruitment companies and select one which is specialised to your sector – ask them to outline case studies and state their ratios of filling positions.




    With thanks to FreshMinds









    Quick guide to PR & Marketing

    Thursday, August 13 at 13:49How To | Marketing | Toolkit

    Good PR: Some tips for small businesses

    Before you even begin, understand what it is you want to achieve from your PR and marketing communications campaign. It’s much easier to make a plan if you have some idea of how you want to progress. Is it...

    1. To drive traffic to your website?

    2. To drive footfall to a store?

    3. To raise brand awareness?

    4. All of the above or something else?


    The second question to ask is: if your PR campaign goes spectacularly well, where would your business be as a result? What would success look like? For example, you may be a business that wants to try and attract a new, younger demographic. You may say that within a year, you would like to have X% of your business coming from that new demographic. You will need to ask yourself how you are going to measure that and also what marketing initiatives would attract that demographic to your business.

    Thirdly, if somebody takes no more than one thing from any of your media coverage, what should that one key message be? Make a list of your priority messages and make sure they are included within any media communication.

    Then – and only then – can you build your plan and begin to contact the outside world. So: who would you speak to?


    Consider which is the media that could influence your market. Is it the local press, your trade press, perhaps consumer lifestyle media or even the national press. Be clear what the story that you are pitching to them. Is it genuinely newsworthy? Apply the “so what?” question to it and still ask yourself if it is newsworthy. If it isn’t, you need to work harder on the idea. If it is, you can contact the media.

    Buy the titles you want to contact before you do and be sure that it is the kind of story that they would run. They are not going to change their editorial approach to accommodate your story. Try and be aware of lead times and don’t call on a press day – they’ll be too busy putting the publication to bed to speak to you. Some monthly consumer publications can work 3-4 months ahead of their publication date.

    If it is newsworthy, write yourself a press release. Keep it short. Ensure that the first paragraph not only includes your company name but also encapsulates the essence of the story. If you are quoting yourself or a colleague in the release, clearly you’re state your name and job title. Journalists receive hundreds of these a day – if you can’t give them the story in the opening paragraph, they won’t read on.

    Don’t email the press release cold. It is unlikely to be opened and read. Find the name of the journalist you want to speak to or call the relevant desk at the publication and explain who you are and what your story is. They will almost certainly ask you to send an email, which is when you can use your press release - you will have made a contact that you can then follow up. Don’t hound them – if they’re not interested in the story, chasing them is not going to change their mind. It will probably make them less inclined to speak to you in future.

    Be clear that you have high-resolution images available. Make sure you provide a caption for your photographs, including the names of any individuals within them. Do not attach them to the press release as this may cause your email to bounce or hit a firewall. You can upload images to the cloud (eg Dropbox or We Transfer) and include the download link in your email.

    The overriding message is don’t be afraid to give it a go – the worst that can happen is that the media won’t be interested in your story. And that doesn’t necessarily mean your story isn’t interesting. Look at the publications you want to be in and read the way their stories are presented, think about how your story could be presented photographically and then structure your story and approach in a similar way and be persistent.



    With thanks to Astute Marketeers


    How I measure the success of my pop up?

    Monday, August 10 at 09:56How To | We Are Pop Up

    When it comes to launching a pop-up for your small business, what’s the difference between a roaring success and a full-on flop? The answer is: there’s no right answer. How you measure success is 100% tailored to your individual project and depends on what you want to achieve. We Are Pop Up has put together these top tips on how to evaluate your pop-up and make the most of the experience for showcasing your independent brand.


    Set out your aims

    Right from the start your pop-up should have clear goals - these are often different for each project. Whether you are popping up in order to make as many sales as possible, to reach a certain number of Facebook followers or create a media storm in the local and national press, starting out with concrete aims allows you to judge whether each has been achieved at the end of your pop-up. Don’t panic if you don’t achieve everything you set out to in your original plan. Take the results into account and revise your intentions and methods for next time, building on what you have learned.


    Budget and profit

    You may decide to set targets around revenue from sales. To measure success against spending, track all the set-up costs of the project to see where you spent your money. Include the cost of your stock, the shop fit (furniture, fixtures, fittings), press and marketing (printing and distributing flyers, business cards), signage (vinyls, A-board), website, advertising, business rates, utility bills, insurance, wifi, refreshments and so on.

    Now compare the costs with the income generated by your pop-up. That includes revenue from sales and any ticketed events, plus any funding from other businesses, public donations, sponsorship or perhaps grants from local authorities.

    Even if your revenue isn’t greater than your expenditure, making a loss doesn’t necessarily count as a failure if a cash profit was not the aim of your pop-up. If your goal was to create a buzz, test a new business concept or access new audiences then profit will be a useful marker, but not necessarily the deciding factor for your pop-up’s success.


    Sales

    If you are setting out to make the maximum possible sales for your products, make sure you test, listen and iterate on your tactics to find out what works and what doesn’t. Try out different products in your shop and take note of how people interact with them. Which items are the strongest performers and which aren’t working? Use this information to inform your choices on selecting, rotating and shelving stock for this pop-up and in the future. 

    If you have an online shop alongside your pop-up, be sure to measure any uplift in sales online too. We Are Pop Up has seen brands enjoying an uplift in their online sales throughout their pop-up of 12-25% on average, which sustain and grow beyond the end of the pop-up.


    Customer experience

    
Engage with your audience by speaking to customers before, during and after your pop-up. How did they hear about you? What do they think of your brand, pop-up, product range? Gather feedback, find out more about your audience and learn if their expectations have been met. Think about how you can maximise interaction with customers beyond the life of your pop-up by collecting email addresses in-store and sending follow-up mailers, offers and updates about what you are up to and what’s coming next.


    Social media

    Use qualitative data from your social media pages to measure your numbers, including likes on Facebook and Instagram, followers on Twitter and visitors to your website. How do these figures correlate with the activity and duration of your pop-up? Work out which social media posts resulted in the most engagement using analytics tools on each of your social media channels and be sure to use these techniques in the future.


    Learn

    One of the most important aspects about launching a pop-up is that it enables you to trial a new concept and grow your business in a low-risk and often low-cost way. It is an opportunity to experiment, so be bold and take chances. If you make mistakes, focus on what went wrong and turn it into a positive by learning how you can improve on the project next time. Entrepreneurs and small businesses understand that failure is an important part of the creative process, so use the experience to make your next pop-up even better. And if your pop-up is a roaring success the first time you’ll more than ready to take on the next project, so get back in contact with We Are Pop Up and we will be on hand to take you to the next stage.

    To find out more about putting your small business into a pop-up, visit We Are Pop Up

    Eight tips for branding your food business

    Thursday, July 23 at 12:03Branding | How To

    Are you looking for clever ways to brand your food business? It pays to ensure that your branding and packaging are spot on! This can be tricky to get right so it is important that you spend some time and resources on ensuring that you do everything you can to make it work for you.

    Here are 8 essential bits of advice that can help your foodie small business stand out!


    Great photos
    You’d be amazed to see the difference that great photography can make to your product- people can become easily tempted by beautiful looking food stuffs. This works particularly well with simple items like bread and coffee packaging, as you can sell the product’s potential with lovely lifestyle photos that are engaging and warm – encouraging impulse buys.


    Keep it simple 
    Try not to overcrowd your packaging with pictures and text. Instead use clever placement of clear, crisp images to help attract your target audience and drive through a few more sales. This is also something that can easily be changed to keep up with seasonal changes or even the latest market trends.

    Cocoa, Cacao, Chocolate, Food, Eat, Colombia, Packaging


    Stay consistent 
    Never underestimate the importance of being consistent – people respond better to brands when they are able to quickly recognise and relate to them. Even small changes in the regular packaging can make huge differences- and why companies can make a big show of rebranding.


    Quality and quantity 
    Make sure that your food packaging supplier is able to provide you with the quantity of packaging you need in the quality that your customers deserve. Getting this right is absolutely essential to build customer trust and encourage brand loyalty. More importantly though, you don’t want to not have your products on the shelves because of a delay in receiving packaging materials. 


    Stand out from the crowd
    It is important that you make the effort to ensure your product stands out from the crowd. Present your product in the best way possible, block bottom cellophane or paper bags are great packaging solutions. Try using your packaging to tell your company’s story, with creative text and imagery to really grab attention. This is the best advertising platform you have- any sales gained from it can be seen as a bonus.


    Noodles, Colorful, Color, Color Raw, Food, Pasta


    Keep to your principals
    If you’re talking about your products as being organic, eco-friendly or boutique then you need to stick to these messages across your entire business. Use sustainable sources to provide your food packaging, keep non-recyclable or non-biodegradable products to a minimum and make sure that when people pick up your products they know the principals behind the company.


    Don’t become dated
    Getting packaging right isn’t a onetime thing, it’s a good idea to be regularly looking for ways to improve on your products and packaging. This could be anything from including new awards, promotions and ingredients to more subtle changes to the logo, colours or images. Staying on the cutting edge of the market trend without having to completely undergo a brand revamp can be tricky, but it is often essential. 


    Do a customer survey 
    It may sound like common sense, but take your customers into account when branding or designing your packaging. Why not take a small customer survey to find out what it is people want from your product’s packaging? This is arguably the most important tool you have!

    Charlotte Packaging is a family run packaging business with over 40 years’ experience delivering industry food packaging supplies.

    How to: set up a craft fair

    Wednesday, July 22 at 13:33How To | Retail Space | Small Biz 100

    Today we speak to Claire of The Fairy Tale Fair, a 2014 Small Biz 100, about how she goes about creating her Brighton based craft fairs...


    Arranging a craft fair is a bigger job than it might seem at first. Well, arranging a busy one is anyway! It starts of with a lot of venue and location research - having a well liked venue and good location is key. This doesn’t always mean it has to be based in the centre of town - we organise local village fairs too, and if the marketing within the community is right these can be just as popular.




    I am lucky that I am a maker myself and also take part in craft fairs across Sussex and London so therefore already have a range of craft contacts. This would be the next key step - researching, gaining and growing your contacts, as without the makers there is no fairs.

    We are lucky that our fair has continued to build its stall holder base since 2012 and have a strong base of high quality makers. This takes time to build, and fair-by-fair, word of mouth and recommendations help us to gain new talent for each fair.

    Next up I would say marketing is a very important part of any public event. You need to factor in a marketing budget into your stall prices as its often the most expensive part of the fair. You want to make sure you cover as many areas of marketing as possible - print, online, email, social media, blogs etc to reach as wider audience as possible.




    We print at least 5,000 flyers for each event with many of these delivered door to door in the surrounding area of each fair. We also place print ads with well known local magazines, and do a huge amount of social media sharing, blogging and online networking. It depends as to what your event is and what the target market is as to whether online or print is better so if you are unsure its probably worth trying both on a small scale to start with. The advantage of online ads - such as sponsored Facebook posts - is that you can track the clicks and stats, where as print is harder to judge a response to.

    This brings us to the all important big day of the event. I always set the alarm super early (3.30am for some events!) to get to the venue as early as possible. There is always lots to do - arranging tables, floor plans, cleaning, signage, etc that all take time.




    We always like to go the extra mile with decorations where possible too. As our fair is fairy tale themed we like to make it feel magical with handmade bunting, fairy garlands, fairy lights and little extra touches in the entrance. Kids in particular pick up on this and it brings families back again and again.

    Once we are set-up and the stall holders are in place, we post, tweet, share throughout the day so online followers can see what they are missing out on! We’ll share photos of freshly baked cakes, one off makes, workshops in action and beautiful painted faces to encourage visitors to get along before the end of the day.

    We think this final push is always important. Even if customers have planned on visiting, they often have so much on that they may forget, so it is a good idea to continue to remind them in the few days leading up to and on the day.

    Most importantly is that you, and your stall holders and customers enjoy the day!


    For more information about The Fairy Tale Fair or to ask Claire a question head to: www.thefairytalefair.co.uk. They have two events coming up this summer including a Children’s Day at Brighton Open Market this Friday 24th July - this is a non profit event with lots of free under the sea themed activities for the holidays. They also have their next craft fair at Brighton Open Market on Saturday 15th of August.

    10 steps to launch your pop-up

    Tuesday, July 21 at 10:04Planning | Retail Space | Shop Share | We Are Pop Up

    Hundreds of independent retailers are hosting pop-up brands with We Are Pop Up’s ShopShare as a way of forming exciting collaborations, pooling their resources and creating a buzz about their business.

    In our last article we spoke about how to make sure that brands and retailers find the right match. This time, We Are Pop Up has put together the top 10 steps for brands for launching your own pop-up, to break down the process into a go-to checklist for starting your own temporary retail space.

    1. Pick a space

    Choose your space wisely, as the location is very important. It should not only suit your budget, but also your brand identity. Find out how far it is from the nearest station or transport links. You want plenty of foot traffic, but make sure it’s the right demographic for your products and price point. Check out the surrounding area, including the neighbouring businesses and the passers-by. Do they match your audience and style?


    2. Think about finances

    Your budget and the amount of stock you have tend to be defining factors for how large your pop-up will be, its location and its duration. Start with your budget and work backwards. Crowdfunding is an excellent way to top up your budget, and sites like Kickstarter and Crowdfunder are two of our favourites at We Are Pop Up - they can help get financial backing for your project, while also building a community that will be passionate about your concept from the start.


    3. Promote your pop up

    You need to start promoting early to create a buzz around your pop-up. This can even be before you’ve confirmed your space. Be sure to use a combination of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to target your specific audience. Contact any relevant magazines, bloggers and local press to tell them about your concept and launch date with plenty of notice so they can get you in their busy schedules. Drop us a line at We Are Pop Up too so we can put the word out about you on our channels.


    4. Tickets

    If your pop-up is a ticketed event, use a company like Billetto or Eventbrite to deal with your ticketing. They take away the admin headache and it’s also a useful way to increase the visibility of your pop-up on a platform with an established audience.


    5. Design a store that works

    Think about colour, layout and theme. It is important to stay true to your brand identity, but a pop-up is also an interesting way to experiment with the message you want to send; create a unique experience and tell a story. Use Pinterest for inspiration - why not start with We Are Pop Up’s Top 10 mood boards to see how other businesses have done it. Layout also has a significant impact on sales - where you place a product in the shop and how it is displayed can be a defining factor. Did you know 64% of products are sold from eye level within a shop?

    Hint: take a look at We Are Pop Up’s top tips for visual merchandising and building your brand story here.


    6. Test, listen and iterate

    Set out your key aims for your pop-up and measure them daily, be it sales, new social media followers, press coverage or otherwise. For sales, try out different products in your shop - pay attention to how customers interact with your items to find out which are the strongest performers on your shop floor as well as what’s not working. From this you can decide what to highlight and what to rotate, to help refine future choices.

    It’s also important to speak to your customers. How did they hear about you and what do they think of your pop-up, product range, in-store experience and so on? Not only can you gather valuable information and feedback about your concept, but you can also learn a lot about your consumer base itself in terms of their experience and expectations.


    7. Collaborate

    Think about how you could join with other small businesses to enhance the overall experience of your pop-up. We Are Pop Up’s ShopShare provides a way to quickly and easily create concession stands, or even form your own micro-department store. Ultimately it allows you to pool resources and extend your reach by accessing the extended community behind each brand.


    8. Set up a workshop

    Consider creating an interactive element like an in-house workshop or studio, maybe even as part of a ShopShare. From our experience, having this element in the window of your pop-up can increase sales in the shop by 800%. It enables you to demonstrate a product’s unique selling point directly to an engaged audience and also tells the story behind your business in real life.


    9. Follow up

    Don’t forget, it’s not all over when the pop-up closes. The fortune is often in the follow-up. Collect customers’ contact details in-store and communicate with them regularly beyond the life of your shop. Can you give them a discount flyer to encourage them to repeat buy on your website or come to another event? Keep them up to date with your news, and invite them to the next pop-up.


    10. Evaluate and learn

    The beauty of a pop-up is that it is an opportunity to experiment, test and learn. Be bold, and take risks. Then afterwards, focus on what went well and what didn’t - learn from any mistakes and plan how to build on successes in your next one. Finally, get back in contact with We Are Pop Up and we will be on hand to take you to the next stage.


    Final Thoughts

    Launching a pop-up is a tried and tested way to grow your business, get a new brand concept off the ground, test new markets or create a buzz about your next project. There are new pop-up space opportunities daily for you to explore on wearepopup.com and with planning, collaboration and an eye on these top tips for launching, every small independent business can achieve pop-up success.

    How to: keep tabs on your energy bills

    Wednesday, July 15 at 10:44Energy Savings


    It’s time to rejoice, summer is finally here! As a nation of weekend sun worshippers, we couldn’t be happier to see the rays shining through our windows and warming up our homes.

    Small business owners may think that the summer months is a chance to reduce energy costs, but the warmer months may actually increase the bills for some companies.

    While it certainly does cost to have the heating running during the winter months, the addition of air conditioning can increase a building’s overall energy consumption by 100%, according to the Carbon Trust. It takes up to ten units of electricity to produce just one unit of compressed air!

    Whatever time of the year it may be, there will always be some people within a business who want the heating on and others who wish to open the windows. This constant cooling and warming to meet employee demand can also impact your energy bills through energy inefficiencies.

    In addition, brightly shining sun beaming into the office may seem pleasant at first but after spending an hour squinting at your computer screen it will be time to pull down the blinds and turn the lights on. Research by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) revealed that lighting can create up to 40% of a business’ energy consumption, so it is crucial to keep these costs to a minimum when possible.

    The DECC has estimated that electricity prices will rise by almost 30% for SMEs over the next five years, so now is the time to brush up on good energy habits.



    Don’t take a holiday from being energy efficient


    Small business energy bills could be reduced by 18-25% by installing energy efficient measures, according to estimates from the DECC.

    Staff annual leave during the summer months means that everyone in the business should be even more vigilant- while there may be less people in the office, it only takes a few pieces of equipment to be left on for a couple of weeks while people are away to significantly affect the cost of your energy bills.



    Simple steps to saving money


    There are plenty of simple and cost effective strategies that can reduce your energy consumption by becoming more energy efficient:

    1) Reduce the cost of your air conditioning by ensuring it is switched off in rooms that aren’t in use. Many systems operate with a controlled timer, so be sure to program the timer so that it doesn’t operate during empty office hours.

    2) Utilise natural light by rearranging your office so that it doesn’t interfere with computer screens or people’s eye-line. If this is unavoidable, install sensor lights that are triggered by movement so that the lights will only switch on when people are working in the space.

    3) Many small businesses may find themselves paying overly expensive energy tariffs. New regulations mean that it now only takes six weeks to switch suppliers and energy price comparison sites, such as Love Energy Savings, can make the switching process even simpler. A small business can enter their postcode and estimated energy consumption before being presented with a extensive range of energy tariffs and providers, the best deal being highlighted for their business.



    By implementing these actions as soon as possible, small businesses could start saving significant money today. For more information, see The Department for Energy and Climate Change’s guide to energy efficiency.


    Phil Foster is the CEO of Love Energy Savings, helping small businesses to make much needed savings on their energy bills, helping business owners not only improve their profits, but also save valuable time in the process of comparing and switching suppliers.







    Honey and mud at Glastonbury Festival

    Monday, June 29 at 10:37

    I have always been fascinated with bees and so about 10 years ago I took the plunge and started Vonnybee. Far from just producing honey, bees make an array of products with incredible health benefits. The pollen is a great vitamin supplement and hay fever fixer, beeswax can be used in balms and face creams, and the propolis will cleanse just about any infection. Here at Vonnybee we turn the incredible ingenuity of the bees into wonderful organic health and wellbeing products.

    We started with just 5 hives in my small garden in Liverpool and did well selling our products at farmers markets. Vonnybee was growing at a steady pace; that is until my son returned from Glastonbury Music Festival. He was convinced it was just my “kinda thing”, but I have to be honest at fifty years of age attending Glastonbury was not a burning desire of mine. Five years on: countless pairs of muddy wellies, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, BB King, The Rolling Stones, one burnt-out clutch, many wonderful new friends, and the prestigious sustainable trader award later; I wouldn’t miss it for the world!  




    If you want to get your small business involved, here’s my top tips for trading at a music festival:

    Tip 1
    Research the festivals and find one that is “your kinda thing.”  Glastonbury is all about the environment and sustainability, which resonates perfectly with Vonnybee. Make sure your application references how your business has a similar ethos to the event. Every year Glastonbury award one stall holder the Green Sustainable Trader Award and I am proud to say Vonnybee won the award in 2014.

    Tip 2 
    Create your magic folder!

    Ask the organisers to put you in touch with several experienced stallholders, pick their brains for advice about the event.  Every event is different but here’s my top three:

    1) Get there as early as possible- you want to be there as the gates open.  You will then have plenty of time to set up your pitch.

    2) Pace yourself, it’s a fantastic experience but it is tiring.

    3) Make sure you have fun. Your customers are there to have a great time. If your stall is happy and fun it attracts more people. Fancy dress never fails!

    Tip 3
    Start planning early! Close to 170,000 people are on the Glastonbury site. I suggest whatever you would do for a small market (e.g. stock, leaflets, packaging) multiply by ten for an event this big. Glastonbury is my biggest event of the year so planning begins at least four months in advance- flip chart paper cover my dining room walls! Keep everything you need in your magic folder.

    Magic folder contents:

    Stock lists
    Food Menu
    Public Liability insurance
    Risk assessment
    Staff rota
    Ideas for improvements to the stall
    Product information
    Health and safety documentation
    Glastonbury Paperwork, parking vouchers and tickets
    P.S. Anything that pops into my head at 3am and prevents me from going back to sleep!


    You will meet the most amazing people in the world and have a sense of freedom like you have never experienced before. Nothing goes wrong but it sometimes unfolds differently to how you planned it. I think large festivals can be a great platform to showcase your small business and catapult it to the next level. If you have good online presence your trade will continue long after the music stops.

    If you are visiting Glastonbury, drop by the Fields of Avalon and say hello to busy bees at Vonnybee!





    How to: brand your small business

    Monday, June 22 at 15:50Brand | Branding | Small Business


    A brand is more than just a logo or trademark; it refers to the overall experience that a consumer has with a business and its product or service. The branding process involves a company’s name, sign or symbol, and is an important aspect of attracting and retaining loyal customers. A strong brand adds value and credibility to your business. Here’s some top tips on how to make sure your small business branding is on point:

    Good Strategy Plan

    Branding doesn’t just involve the visual elements, but rather the entire experience of doing business with your company. This includes everything that a customer would encounter, from the website and social media presence to the customer service experience. This too can be a part of branding, if your staff answer the phone in a unique and positive way!

    Get Recognised

    Branding is often the first and last thing that a customer experiences. People tend to do business with companies they are familiar with and brands that they recognise. You want your brand to resonate in your customer’s minds to secure a repeat sale.

    Generate New Customers

    A strong brand can expect to generate new customers through positive referrals- word of mouth can be the most important form of brand promotion. A customer can’t recommend your service or product to a friend without mentioning its name!

    Stand Out From The Crowd

    In 2015, a business is in a market with local and national organisations and global ones too. How can a company stand out from the other organisations doing business? Strong branding is even more necessary in a competitive environment and to ensure your small business gets the customers it deserves.

    Strong Branding

    Once you have created a brand strategy, it’s time to build on it. A good place to start is by selling the brand internally. As soon as you have your employees sold on the brand, they themselves can begin selling externally. It’s no secret that it’s far easier to sell a brand that you believe in, so get your staff believing.






    Tony Baxter is Director of Voodoo Design, creating and managing branding, design and signage for a number of businesses. If you want learn more about how branding can help you, visit Tony’s website Voodoo Design.








    Stunning scented flowers from a stunning location

    Wednesday, June 17 at 09:05Inspiration | Small Business

    We are very privileged to live and work on the beautiful Isles of Scilly, a group of islands 26 miles off the south west tip of Cornwall.  This small group of islands has long been famed for growing scented narcissi – multi headed small daffodil type flowers that have a beautiful perfume.  Over 150 years the flower farmers of the Isles of Scilly have earned a reputation for growing the best scented narcissi.

    Flower farming has flourished on Scilly due to the islands mild climate – frosts are virtually unheard of even in the harshest winters.  Scented narcissi grow outdoors and flower from October through to Easter.

    Years ago Scilly’s farmers benefited hugely from the railway which took their flowers direct from the ferry in Penzance to Covent Garden in London.  However in the 1980’s when flowers started to be air freighted from around the globe, competition increased and flower growers on Scilly found it hard to compete.

    My parents-in-law, Andrew and Hilary, were determined to keep our small farm on St Martin’s going. They looked for a scented summer flower and chose traditional English scented pinks.  By a process of trial and error they made a success of the new crop and this extra income helped keep the farm afloat.

    Then one day some holidaymakers passed our farm and asked Andrew if he thought the scented pinks could be posted as a gift for their friends at home.  This spark of an idea was grabbed by my in-laws and from very humble beginnings, literally on the kitchen table, and nearly 25 years later Churchtown Farm sends 90,000 gift boxes of postal flowers a year and the farm is a thriving business, helping to keep the island tradition of flower farming alive.

    My parents-in-law have now handed over the day to day running of Churchtown Farm to my husband, Ben, and myself, Zoe and we live on the farm with our two children Rosie and Piran.  St Martin’s is a very special place, we are surrounded by the most beautiful scenery and a close community of about 130 people. Being so remote obviously does bring with it some unique challenges when it comes to running a business!

    There are 18 of us picking and packing the flowers and when you only have a population of 130, 25 of whom are still at school, you have to cast your net a little further afield.  We have a talented team from all over the world who have come to experience island life and live at the farm.  Some come for just six months, others fall in love with Scilly and make St Martin’s their home.

    Obviously the weather influences life in a big way. All our gift boxes of flowers go by boat to the larger island of St Mary’s from where they are then flown to the mainland.  If the weather is stormy or the fog comes in it can disrupt logistics.  We spend quite a lot of time watching various weather websites and making plans to minimise any disruption.

    We also have to be very organised - not something that comes naturally to me! We plan months in advance to make sure we have all the things we need.  If we run out of boxes we can’t just call our supplier and ask them to send a lorry, it all has to be carefully planned, booked on to the freight boats and collected by tractor from the quay at our end.

    The upturn in internet shopping has made a huge difference to our businesses and this year the islands got super fast broadband which is already changing the way we work. So if you are ever on Scilly pop in and see how a remote traditional flower farm is able to thrive thanks to very modern technology.



    By Zoe Julian, Scilly Flowers

    We Are Pop Up - how to pick a brand match

    Monday, June 15 at 14:59Retail Space | Shop Share | Small Business | Start-Up Support | We Are Pop Up

    At We Are Pop Up we are passionate about creating connections between independent businesses and creative minds that are ready to embrace a new approach to retail. With ShopShare collaborations you can discover a whole new world of entrepreneurial possibilities.

    In our last article, we spoke about how new retail partnerships with ShopShare may be the perfect move for you and your business. This time around we wanted to dig a little deeper and talk about some of the amazing collaborations that are emerging as tenants pop up in shared spaces, and how you can get a slice of the action by making sure you pick the right brand match.

    Whilst a ShopShare can provide excellent opportunities for both parties involved, it is very important that there is a good synergy for you to both make the most of the relationship. It’s not as simple as finding a brand, it is also about making sure it’s the right fit - that the space and product together attract the right customers. We Are Pop Up have put together some top tips on making sure that this partnership is a fruitful one.

    Have a clear vision 

    Many businesses use ShopShare as a way of finding new, emerging designers to strengthen their shop with products that have never been seen before. Glassworks was born from the idea to create a fashion destination for modern women, so Director Lauren Lewis offered up her Shoreditch and Dalston shops as a ShopShare to work with other collaborators who fit the brand aesthetic. They have now hosted over 17 fashion and accessories ShopShare pop-ups in little over a year. Including the likes of Be-Snazzy, Urbiana and Suite Hazen, Glassworks continues to create partnerships with exciting new brands in their goal of discovering talent.

    Get the mix right

    Having the right fit is important to ShopShare success. Chris Shelley, Manager of Lanna, a jewellery shop in Notting Hill, collaborated with Dar Leone, a globally inspired range of homeware and lifestyle products. “When Dar Leone approached me I knew her jewellery designs would fit right in. I think it’s important to get that mix right, otherwise it’ll make the shop look a bit odd and won’t be a good selling experience for the pop-up.” Creating a dynamic like this means brands can seamlessly link in with your existing products, enhancing your overall brand story as well as theirs.

    Use your imagination

    Thinking outside the box can also make for interesting and eye-catching matches. McQueens florists and Black Vanilla gelato joined forces to create a unique ShopShare, collaborating to make gelato flavours inspired by floral scents – English Rose Petals, Mint and Lime, and Madagascan Vanilla. The romanticism and beauty of both products coming together made it an excellent match, and its originality captured the imagination of local media helping both businesses gain significant attention from the press.

    Match your demographics

    Like all collaborations, finding the right partnership is essential to ensuring the success of a ShopShare. Pip Black, founder of dance, fitness and holistic studio Frame wanted to create a unique experience for her clients by offering cold-press juices and smoothies after classes. Through We Are Pop Up she met Blend & Press Founder Emma Wood, and their ShopShare collaboration was born. The brand fit was ideal due to their coinciding visions, with Pip adding that “there’s nothing worse than working with a brand that’s trying to talk to a different demographic.”

    Emma popped up at Frame Shoreditch serving her nutritious, organic juices enhanced with herbs and supplements to Frame’s health-conscious clientele. “It was a great opportunity to start a business on a budget and the client exposure was amazing. Our brands fitted perfectly together and it gave Frame's customers an added benefit to their workout experience.” Off the success of her ShopShare with Frame Emma went on the work with high profile clients including Nike, Twitter and London Fashion Week, before going on to set up her own standalone pop-up in the heart of Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden.

    It’s important to take your time to discover the right fit with a brand that suits your business, whose creative vision is in tune with yours and wants to target the right kind of people. Whether you are looking for new collaborations for Small Business Saturday or for any other day of the year, We Are Pop Up offers an enormous range of ShopShare opportunities available to help turn your dream into a reality. Browse our hundreds of projects now and start your own perfect partnership.



    By Anna Trotter, We Are Pop Up

    Why social media is a treasure for independent business collaboration

    Monday, June 15 at 11:00Collaboration | Inspiration | Small Business | Social Media

    As a new startup in the beautiful world of flowers and weddings, I’m always keen to promote and grow my business by using as many creative and engaging ways as possible- social media being my preferred option, so when the opportunity arose to team up with another local business  - Pipley Flowers, to co-host a Social Media Lonely Bouquet Treasure Hunt and support British Flowers Week – I jumped at the chance.

    British Flowers Week is a National campaign, which encourages everybody (including us Florists!) to buy more seasonal, locally-grown cut flowers. We used to have a thriving cut flower industry in Britain but 90% of this was lost to places like Holland. Campaigns like British Flowers Week aims to show everybody what amazing flowers are literally on our doorstep. British Flowers Week will run from Monday 15 June to Friday 19 June 2015.

    When I first started trading, my first port of call was always the regional flower market. The guys are friendly and try and stock British Flowers, but inevitably being a large regional wholesaler, they stock a majority of imported flowers. Then one day, through the wonderful connections I’ve made on social media, I came across Liz Rawlings of Pipley Flowers, a local British Flower Farmer (and a pretty good florist too!) who lives less than 10 miles from my business.

    Being an avid follower of floral and bridal trends, I had noticed that there had definitely been a shift in the public's demand for more British grown flowers. I had always wanted to use locally sourced flowers, not only as a wonderful selling point to my customers - British Flowers have an incredible fragrance, vibrancy, and a really long vase life, but to support other local businesses, whilst tapping into the bridal trend to buy local.  I had been unable to do so until I really got into social media -  I just wasn’t aware of how many local flower farmers there are in my area, and by having a connection through social media, I was able to make my dreams of stocking locally sourced flowers a reality.

    Most businesses know that social media has made it easier than ever to connect and engage with customers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all of the other platforms available, but one of the over looked bonuses of social media is the ability to connect independent businesses together. The opportunity to work with Liz and create a social media bouquet treasure hunt for British Flowers Week gave us both the opportunity to promote our individual businesses, use our joint social media campaign as a vehicle for traffic to both of our business sites and raise awareness of the beautiful British flowers that are available to both trade and public.

    I found that working together on a joint campaign with another small independent business that compliments your own is a brilliant way to share skills, ideas, responsibility and have a bit of fun in the process. Liz and I created a really fun engaging campaign for the public to find out more about buying British flowers. During the campaign week we will be co-hosting a social media treasure hunt across Bristol for anybody who follows us on social media, giving our potential customers the opportunity to find beautiful bouquets made entirely from locally sourced flowers.

    I would totally recommend as a small business to look for opportunities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects with other independent businesses, not only for the shared commercial rewards, but to contribute towards making a strong network of independents businesses who support each other and create good relationships with each other, after all, two heads are better than one!


    By Victoria Baker, Peppermint Rose Flowers, 07717 336659
    twitter:@_peppermintrose
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/peppermintroseflowers

    Liz Rawlings, Pipley Flowers, 07722055702
    Twitter:@pipleyflowers
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/pipleyflowers 

    FAQs about applying to Small Biz 100

    Thursday, June 04 at 14:44How To | Small Biz 100

    Here are some answers to common questions about applications:

    Who can apply to be in Small Biz 100?
    Any kind of small business can apply! Whether it's retail or online, professional services to personal training- all kinds of UK small businesses can apply.

    It says "error" when I tried to register with my email address on "Apply for Small Biz 100"
    Please make sure that your email address is right (it's happened to all of us!) and that you have both read the T&Cs and checked the little box to say you are happy with them.

    If it's still not working, please send a screen shot of the error to comms@smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com and we will help you from there

    I registered with my email address on "Apply for Small Biz 100" but didn't receive an email
    Please check your spam folders- it's quite common that we're hiding in there. If it's been a couple of hours and you haven't received an email- please let us know via comms@smallbusinesssaurdayuk.com

    I can't log in with the email address and password that I registered with!
    Please ensure your password is correct- our password system is case sensitive.

    I finished my application to be in Small Biz 100- but want to change something. Is this possible?
    Although it is possible to log in and change parts of your application before the applications close on July 17th, we recommend that you don't. We are reviewing applications on a rolling basis as they come in, so it's better to give us your best side of your small business on your first go.

    What is My Small Business Finder?
    My Small Business Finder is a tool for consumers and small businesses to use on Small Business Saturday and the surrounding time. It will enable you to enter a postcode & see the small businesses in that area. In addition, it will also allow you, a small business, to enter a promotion or deal or offer available to celebrate Small Business Saturday. It's just our way of trying to connect more customers with small businesses, and of course more small businesses getting to know each other. Nearer the time, we will let all our networks know via social media when they should be thinking about My Small Business Finder.



    How to: Apply for Small Biz 100

    Thursday, June 04 at 14:37Applications | How To | Small Biz 100

    Hello!

    We're thrilled you're interested in applying for the Small Biz 100 in 2015.

    Our online application process is really simple- but here is a step-by-step process to save you all some time.

    In our portal we have: Small Biz 100 & My Small Business Finder.

    Small Biz 100 is the opportunity to apply to be one of our 100 small businesses profiled in the 100 days before December 5th: Small Business Saturday. It is absolutely free and any kind of small business can apply.


    STEP ONE

    Go to our website, and click on the Small Biz 100 tab at the top. You will then see this and you need to click the big blue 'Apply for Small Biz 100' button.


    STEP TWO

    Then you will see these two boxes:


    Fill in your company email address (a confirmation email will be sent here so make sure you can access it right away). Also have a look through our standard T&Cs to make sure you're happy and tick the box, and click Register.


    STEP THREE

    Next you'll see this green box pop-up box. As it says, an email will come to the address you provided shortly. They do sometimes get caught up in a Junk folder, so check there for your confirmation email.

    You should receive an email with the following text:





    Although the link looks a bit long and confusing- it's a super secure link meaning all your details stay with us. Click on the link!


    STEP FOUR

    You will be taken to this page:




    Please then set a password- all the usual tips apply of use a combination of letters and number. 
    Passwords are case sensitive!
    Once you're happy with your password, please click Set Password.


    STEP FIVE

    Next you will get to this page:


    To apply for Small Biz 100 in 2015 you need to complete:
    • Profile Tab
    • Account Tab
    • AND My Small Biz 100 Application
    As you can see in the orange bubble- one of us at Small Business Saturday needs to verify your account before it is fully active. Once we have verified your small business this orange bubble will no longer be there. Hooray! This doesn't however stop you from completing your application.

    Then start filling in all your info into the first PROFILE tab:




    STEP SIX

    In the ACCOUNT tab- you will see two switches. 

    The first one- My Small Business Finder- relates to a search option we will have live further towards Small Business Saturday on December 5th. If you don't wish to be included and have your business put on a map for consumers to use, with any deals or offers you may be offering on the day- please turn the switch off. You can, of course, change this at any time. 

    The second switch- our Newsletter. If you don't wish to receive our Newsletter, please turn the switch off. Again, you can change this at any time. 




    STEP SEVEN

    And last but not by all means least...Your Small Biz 100 Application!

    We ask you to answer five questions and upload a video to apply to Small Biz 100 this year. 





    Finally- click the big blue apply button at the end. 

    Please note there is no email confirmation from your application- we will review all applications to Small Biz 100 and successful applicants will be notified by email at the beginning of August. 

    Don't worry that we haven't received it- it all goes into our database which we check everyday. 


    Thank you!





    How to: make a YouTube video

    Monday, June 01 at 13:16Btube | How To | Small Biz 100 | Video

    Making a video is a great way to promote your small business. You introduce yourself to your customers and the viewers can get a good sense of the business style, your products and your personality.

    This year, for The Small Biz 100, we would love for you to make us a short video to go with your application.

    Making a short video is straight-forward, with heaps of benefits. This YouTube video from BTube should inspire you to get started, and below we share some tips. From beginners to pros- anyone can do it!



    Step one: the right stuff for filming

    Don't panic about the need for fancy equipment - these days most smartphones have great cameras and plenty of storage space for storing your video. Keep the camera steady with a tripod, propping your phone on a table, or digging out that selfie stick for shake-free content. You could also use the webcam on your computer or laptop to record.

    If you have a digital camera, these will allow you to record a video, so play around until you find technology that is most suitable for you, your business and your budget.

    Step two: the content

    Speak up! We want to hear what you have to say about your small business, so make sure to speak clearly and encourage anyone you interview in the video to do the same.

    Take inspiration from BTube's video with 'cut-aways'- different shots of your small business or products with audio narration over the top talking about your small biz story.

    Take your time, with a few different takes to make sure you capture everything you wanted to. It's supposed to be fun, so enjoy interviewing your employees, your customers or showing your products.

    Step three: upload, edit, tweak

    Each camera, smartphone or computer will differ slightly, but once you're done with filming you need to get the video files onto the computer.

    To edit your video, like BTube say there's plenty of free editing software available. For PC users, Windows Movie Maker, for Macs there's iMovie. Work with what works for you & if in doubt, search online. There's hundreds of easy step-by-step articles to help you along the way, offering reviews of the different free software and tutorials.

    It's also a great opportunity to ask for favours from your friends, family or colleagues who may know a thing or two on editing and making videos look great.

    As BTube's video says, YouTube has plenty of audio files available for incorporating into your video, so make the most of all the free tools out there.

    Step four: upload!

    If you haven't gone one already, set yourselves up with a YouTube channel. Make sure you include all your small business details in the channel page with a link to your website, Twitter and Facebook page.

    Give it a snappy title, make sure to use the most of the tags at the bottom of the video editor so your video comes up in as many searches as possible. Don't forget to set your video setting to 'public' once you're ready to share it with the world.

    Once it's up on your YouTube page, share it via Facebook, Twitter and if possible embed it on your own website. Most importantly- send it to us with your Small Biz 100 application!

    Remember, if your business is chosen as a Small Biz 100 this year, we will use your video to promote your business, so it's a great opportunity to show us & our followers what you're doing.

    We can't wait to see your Small Biz 100 application videos! 



    How to: get the right support

    Wednesday, May 27 at 11:47How To | Small Business | Start-Up Support

    When people are planning to start a business, they are often looking for external support – for someone to guide them on their journey, to give them a few pointers and to reassure them as they take their brave first steps into self-employment.

    Others go ahead without consulting anyone or taking any external advice.  Whilst both methods can work, we would actively encourage anyone thinking about setting up a business to get some support in advance – the benefits are clear, those who do seek external support when starting out are much more likely to survive and thrive than those who don’t – so if you want your business to have the best possible chance of success then what harm can it do?


    What support is out there?

    Enterprise support providers are operating all across the country. They are there to help people looking to start up or already running a small business, providing a wide range of help and support. From answering simple questions, to offering sessions with business advisers on matters such as small business planning, marketing and finance.

    Often they will have a variety of workshops on topics relevant to new small businesses; they may have access to loan funds which will help you when starting up – they will also have a good handle on all the other financial support which might be available to you locally.

    Enterprise support providers can offer a variety of networking opportunities which will put you in direct contact with other people setting out on their own: people who you can share experiences with and more importantly who could become trading partners. Many enterprise support providers operate managed workspace or incubation facilities and so if you’re looking for good quality premises with support on tap – look no further!

    There continues to be an increase in the demand for enterprise support services. People looking to set up a small business are calling upon membership to provide them with the independent support, advice and training that they need.

    National Enterprise Network’s online business support directory, launched in May 2014, aims to help people looking for core support in starting up.  The directory signposts organisations operating directly in a local area that can offer start-up advice and support. It is organised by region and searchable by local authority area, making it an extremely easy search facility.

    National Enterprise Network members are locally rooted in the communities they serve, so they know first-hand the opportunities that exist locally. For anyone thinking about starting a small business, enterprise support services such as ourselves can start a conversation, essentially an independent expert on your doorstep, to understand more about your requirements, your ambitions and aspirations and look to support you with a package of support according, much of which is free or heavily subsidised.


    By Sue Fletcher from National Enterprise Network, who offer an email or telephone signposting service: 01908 605130 or email enquiries@nationalenterprisenetwork.org. 






    How To: Crowdfunding for a Small Business

    Tuesday, May 26 at 13:14Crowdfunding | Finance | How To | Inspiration | Small Business

    For those who aren’t familiar crowdfunding is a new option to raise money by reaching out to the ‘crowd’, i.e. everyone online. You are able to gather funding to expand your business, or to embark on a new small business venture.

    2013 saw crowdfunding raise £666 million in the UK, with that figure increasing to £1.7 billion in 2014. Crowdfunding is a particularly useful tool for small businesses that have difficulty finding funding from traditional sources.

    In the US, a crowdfunding success story is the Pebble Smartwatch, whose campaign raised over $20 million. Recently in the UK, Scottish company BrewDog received £5 million through crowdfunding with their Equity for Punks campaign, with the goal of financing their business with support from happy customers. Crowdfunding is a fantastic opportunity to grow your business if you set up your crowdfunding campaign in the right way.

    Be a Celebrity

    You already have supporters. If you’re considering growing your business there are already customers who like how-and-what you do. Reach out to these customers along with your family and friends; offer them the opportunity to become more involved in the company to their own benefit as well as yours. These supporters are your advocates. Potential investors who don’t know you personally will see that they trust and value your company enough to invest, making them more likely to do so as well.

    Be a Person

    A crowdfunding campaign is about working together with your supporters to expand. To do this well you need to be a person: approachable and identifiable. Simply put, people are more likely to trust and invest in a company made up of people they can identify with.

    Be Professional

    That’s not to say there’s no place for facts and figure. Alongside your charming self they’re a valuable tool for someone to decide whether or not to hand over their money. Particularly to those bringing larger amounts of investment that might not know you, it’s important to present your professional side and display the business acumen behind your success.

    Be Open

    Explain what the project is for- in detail. Tell your supporters how the funds raised will be spent on new equipment, more staff, or extra retail and operating space. Tell them how this will increase business and tell them how that will allow you to repay their investment. Crowdfunding allows for a truly symbiotic relationship. Small businesses are able to find funding under fair terms and supporters benefit from the success of the small business; local investors will also enjoy the improvements to your business.

    Be Ready

    Crowdfunding provides great access to potential investors and simplifies investing in your business but there’s still work involved. Before the campaign begins, things already need to be in motion. Arrange interviews or reviews that will be available before and during your campaign to attract interest. Have updates ready to be sent out when you reach your goals; thanking the investors and explaining how those funds will be used. Be sure you have social media accounts set up, where you can post these updates and interact with your supporters.

    Crowdfunding  requires effort, energy and focus. But with a good pitch and some preparation you can expand your business on your terms. If you want to start up a new venture or develop your business further go to YouCan2.de to learn more.


    By Sam Hemming from YouCan2.de, a crowdfunding company where you choose the best option for you with complete control over your campaign’s length, target and return on investment as well as multiple funding options to suit you.



    Boost your brain for the health of your small business

    Tuesday, May 19 at 11:56Brain Power | Health | Small Business

    The vital tool every small business depends on & how to look after it (hint: you've actually already got one of these, but the chances are, you aren't looking after it properly)


    When setting up and running a small business, there are many tools available to help you manage your time, plans and investment.
    There is, however, one tool that perhaps you'll have forgotten about.  Looking after it is pretty much the most important thing you can do for the success of your business.

    The tool I'm talking about is your brain.

    Yes, your brain. That on-board computer which allows you to run a business as well as do all the other things that your life requires of you (and hopefully that you want to do too!)

    Our brains have been with us since day one and so we tend to pay them little attention. When they start to slow down, or feel a bit fuzzy, we just blame it on tiredness, stress or the fact that they have a lot going on in there.
      
    We assume that there is little we can do to help our brains. 

    Yet, as a business owner, you need to be able to access all the brain-power you've got. Can you imagine how much smoother business could be if your brain wasn't fuzzy? How much more creatively you'd be able to think around problems if you had space in your brain for new ideas? 

    My 3 tips will help you get the very best out of that smart brain of yours! 

    Drink water

    Yes- I know that this is the most boring tip possible, but it's the most useful thing you can do for the health of your brain AND the health of your business. Your brain is made of water so if you don't drink water, your brain slows down.

    Any time you need brain power, think water. Have a glass before doing your taxes, drink water as well as coffee during meetings and enjoy a lovely glass of water when you first wake up in the morning- this is the easiest and most efficient way to make your brain work better. 

    Eat fats

    Your brain is made of water and fat. Filling yourself up on foods which don't contain any fats, deprives your brain of the very building blocks it needs to stay healthy.  Your brain needs certain fats – the ones we call 'good fats' - for good health. They aren't found in cakes and biscuits, and you won't find them in low-fat or diet foods. They are found in foods that naturally contain fats, such as nuts and seeds, oily fish, avocados and full fat dairy products.  Eat a portion of either nuts and seeds (almonds are fab) and/or oily fish – such as mackerel – every day. You might also want to get yourself a fish oil or vegetarian supplement to give your brain a boost.

    Sleep well

    Quite tricky seeing as your small business keeps popping up in your head all night long. Having a solid bedtime routine is great for helping improve sleep, as is making sure you don't eat late in the evening.  Night-time is when you are supposed to be resting and processing and clearing out your brain. If your body is busy digesting at night, you wake up feeling tired and unfocused. Have your evening meal a little earlier, and you'll notice the difference.


    I know you are busy. If you can't manage all three tips, just do the first one and see what it does to your brain power. 




    Claire Stone from Claire Stone Nutrition runs Healthy Business Retreats and provides consultations and workshops for small businesses and their staff. 







    Our purpose and the importance of small business

    Friday, May 15 at 15:07Inspiration | Small Business Saturday

    ‘People of Portobello’ is a lifestyle project creating a photographic library, with supporting interviews, to capture the community and culture of the Portobello Road area in London.

    It is intended as a celebration of a wonderful collection of people and it is also a message on the value of community, and diversity within that community. We believe in the importance of understanding and immersing ourselves in what is different and new. Celebrating examples of this, such as Portobello Road, is one way to send that message.

    Small independent businesses play a massively important role within any local community, but even more so in Portobello. They focus and retain investment within an area, and offer cultural value to customers and communities through original and varied experiences.

    A large proportion of our interviewees are small business owners and we love to celebrate what they do and why they do it in Portobello Road - we should all try to take the opportunity to support local businesses whenever we can!

    Some lessons from Portobello Road for other small businesses


    Small businesses can benefit from planning strategically about how to make the most of their unique position. There are many competitive advantages to being a small business and in Portobello Road I’ve found that the most successful small businesses have taken these into consideration:

    Move Quickly  

    Your advantage of being small means you can make decisions, implement them and move forward quickly; whether they be strategic, marketing or operational. Make the most of that.

    Be ‘Close’ to the Customer

    In a small organisation, you, as the decision maker, have the advantage of seeing your customer face to face regularly. Use this interaction as an opportunity to understand, and meet, your customer’s needs.

    Be Unique 

    Ultimately customers want to try new things and experiences but may have fallen out of the habit. Re-introduce them to the value of ‘the new’, whilst remaining accessible and approachable.


    Simon Hardy, People of Portobello

    Simon and the People of Portobello team will be joining the Inspire series on 16th May and conducting interviews and photography of the event: @PoPortobello 

    Should I ShopShare?

    Wednesday, May 13 at 16:13Retail Space | Shop Share | We Are Pop Up

    We Are Pop Up’s ShopShare is an opportunity for you to rent out part of your shop, from a rail, a table, shelf or a concession, or even the whole shop. This enables shops, brands and customers to collaborate and pool resources. It does what it says on the tin — share your shop!

    Every ShopShare is unique and brings endless possibilities for retail partnerships. This kind of collaboration is perfect for you if you have an available shop corner or counter and want to:

    Try something new

    By introducing new brands and concepts into your space you can create a buzz for the store itself. For example, the team at Glassworks, a women’s clothing store with shops in Shoreditch and Dalston, have now hosted over 12 fashion and accessories ShopShare popups, creating a real fashion destination for women.

    Lauren Lewis, Director of the Glassworks Studios, explains how hosting a pop up “injects a sense of excitement and change, which customers really react well to. We learn from every brand that is in store, and it can be the start of a longer partnership.”

    Generate some extra revenue

    By embracing different projects you not only get to have a fresh face in your space, you also get the added bonus of some additional rent. Creating this additional revenue stream is easy as there is no upfront investment and you are completely in control.

    You can rent out your space by the day, week or month- and if it’s going well, it’s easy to extend the booking. All of We Are Pop Up’s rental agreements are underpinned by commercial-grade booking agreements so both parties are protected, making ShopShare a risk-free way to test new concepts quickly in your shop.

    Get to know your customer base

    Collaborating with new brands means you can learn more about your customers — what they like, or what they don’t like, and how much they are willing to spend in store. You can respond quickly to trends and changing tastes by offering consumers a unique and exciting experience in partnership with other brands.

    Support small businesses

    Just in time for Small Business Saturday 2014, Petit Miracles launched a retail hub in December 2014 to local acclaim, offering local entrepreneurs affordable retail ShopShare pop up space inside the West12 shopping centre.

    Founder Elisicia Moore says “It has been designed to give people a chance to become retailers, and it bridges the current gap in retail space to support small businesses.” The Hub is a true community, supporting the entrepreneurial spirit — it shows just how beneficial ShopShare can be to both the brands and to your shop.

    Examples of We Are Pop's ShopShare collaborations


    How to: create a small business marketing plan

    Tuesday, May 12 at 15:55Marketing | Planning | Small Business


    Are you a small business without a marketing plan? We’re sharing 5 quick tips on how to get started and create a marketing plan that works!

    Why is a marketing plan so important?


    A marketing plan is the driving force behind your sales. Without a plan in place, your marketing activities will likely be sporadic and inconsistent, generating ineffective and disappointing results. Not a good approach if budgets are tight! Ultimately, no plan = a weakened sales effort.

    A well-thought out marketing plan will keep your business on track to achieve defined goals. It will ensure that your marketing activities are carried out in a controlled way (within budget), and that your results (and profits!) are maximised. That’s what we want!


    5 quick tips for a winning marketing plan


    One: Plan and co-ordinate

    A truly effectively marketing plan will deliver results when it is aligned with a wider business plan. Don’t have one? Don’t panic! Even if you just have a skeleton business plan, be clear on your business goals and what you are looking to achieve within the next 12 months. Clarity at this level will shape your marketing plan and ongoing activities, helping you to meet (or even exceed!) your business objectives.

    Two: Know your audience

    Define, research and locate your target audience. Go beyond the usual demographics and really try and understand your target customers. What are their motivations, aspirations and needs? How and where do they consume media and information about products and services? Research doesn’t have to cost you money – there are plenty of free DIY market research options available to you.

    Three: Be clear on your brand positioning

    Your brand positioning will be a key ingredient that adds life to your marketing communications. Think about the genuine benefits that your business offer customers and why should people buy from you (over competitors). Dedicate a window of uninterrupted time to creating a concise, unambiguous description of what your business offers. This exercise will also help you to develop your elevator pitch and feel confident introducing your business to prospective customers, business partners or investors.

    Four: Know your numbers 

    How much profit do you make on each sale? Before you can allocate your marketing budget, get comfortable with how your business is currently performing and where potential growth opportunities are. How big are these opportunities? This information (combined with your business goals) will help you allocate your marketing budget and significantly impact your success. Remember that even a modest marketing investment can achieve great results if invested wisely.

    Five: Embrace SMART goals

    A winning marketing plan will include very specific, goal-driven measures for each activity. The goals for each of your planned marketing activities should be ‘SMART’:

    Specific: well-defined

    Measurable: know if the goal is obtainable/know when it has been achieved

    Agreed upon: agreement with all stakeholders as to what the goal should be

    Realistic: within the availability of knowledge, resources and time

    Time-specific: defined time period in which to achieve the goal

    Review, test, adapt

    A marketing plan should be seen as an evolving guide that helps you to shape your marketing decisions. To be successful, ensure that you regularly refer back to your plan – review, test and adapt your marketing campaigns - and don’t leave your carefully crafted marketing plan gathering dust!



    Paula Hutchings is the owner of Marketing Vision Consultancy. Recently featured in The Times, Paula works with a wide range of small businesses and start-ups- helping her clients to engage with more customers and to grow.


    Why I applied to Small Biz 100: Crafty Revolution tells all

    Thursday, May 07 at 13:48Small Biz 100 | Small Business Saturday Uk Champion

    2014's Small Business Saturday UK impact statistics

    With just 25 days to go before applications open for 2015's Small Biz 100, we hear from a successful 2014 applicant: Crafty Revolution.

    Crafty Revolution was one of 2014's Small Biz 100, and now a current Small Business Saturday Champion. Owner Francesca Kemp has spoken about why she applied......

    "Small Business Saturday UK recently published the above statistics for last year's campaign which made me reflect on my time as one of their Small Biz100.

    As the application date looms in June the question is: why would you want to apply?

    My top 3 reasons are:

    1. Amazing connections with fellow Small Biz 100 and local businesses
    2. New skills learnt along the way
    3. Being part of a truly great campaign

    Five months have passed since December 6th, and I am still on an incredible Small Business Saturday journey. Learning to push my own boundaries was paramount to me, as I am quite a shy person so participating in an ITV interview, for example, was an adrenalin-pumping scary moment but I did it and I loved the experience!

    For me, it was also about the long-term impact this accolade would have and what could I do in return. Profiling, promotion, likes, followers, web visits, retweets, shares, linking up with amazing entrepreneurs, going to Downing Street, meeting VIPs, support from fellow Small Biz 100....the list is endless and continues to grow. This led to other business collaborations and campaigns for Crafty Revolution to be involved in.

    Would I still press that enter button to send my application? Without a shadow of a doubt, YES!

    I am honoured to have been made one of Small Business Saturday UK's champions for this year's campaign. The above statistics speak for themselves and this year will see an expanded bus tour, with businesses encouraged to organise their own events celebrating the day.

    Now the question is, will you apply to be a Small Biz 100?"

    Applications for 2015 Small Biz 100 open on 1st June. Please check website for more details. 

    The Inspire Series Comes to Colchester

    Monday, April 27 at 17:10Small Business Saturday

    The Small Business Saturday Inspire Series travelled to Essex on Tuesday for a lively and helpful workshop with PR expert Amanda Ruiz. The event was held in the lovely Minories art gallery in Colchester.

    Amanda shared great tips on how small businesses can get into the press, including timing press releases with national holidays (such as Small Business Saturday!), writing press releases after winning an award or competition and monitoring industry opinion pieces and joining the conversation.

    Amanda encouraged small businesses to think of ‘golden nuggets’, interesting press hooks that make their business stand out from the crowd. Small businesses should use these nuggets to gain the attention of journalists. Have you rubbed shoulders with a celebrity? Why did you start your small business? What is unique about your business? Everyone has an interesting story to tell! You can download this form to help you discover your business’ golden nuggets.

    Catch up with the talk on YouTube: ‘I am #Visible: How to Find Your Press Hook

    A special congratulations to Faye Dicker of Freelance Mum for winning a box of chocolates from Fifth Dimension Chocolates! Make sure you tune in online for the next Inspire Series workshop for your chance to win a delicious prize.

    The Inspire Series will continue in May. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date.

    Use Visual Content to Power Up your Marketing

    Monday, April 27 at 12:09Digital | Marketing | Social Media

    You’ve seen them everywhere! Visual content comes in many different formats: images, videos, Infographics, SlideShares, graphs, etc.

    The trend seemed to kick off in a huge way at the end of 2013/start of 2014 and is continuing its upward trajectory.

    Why are visuals crucial to marketing?

    Visual content conveys a message in a uniquely succinct way.  They immediately appeal to emotions and are hugely engaging.  Humans are essentially hard-wired to digest information visually, as HubSpot demonstrates in this (visual) graphic!


    In addition to the above, we all love sharing photos or videos that make us laugh or smile, or pictures that evoke a memory, for instance.  If you create powerful images which resonate with your audience they will likely share it with their friends on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and share your message at the same time.  What a way to spread your business message and increase your reach!

    Consider the surge in images and videos across Twitter.  Twitter now has its own native video platform and, in the last few months, apps like Meerkat and Periscope have exploded onto the market. In fact, Meerkat caused quite a stir at #SMMW15 in San Diego this year.

    Here’s the difference a tweet with an image makes to engagement levels compared with one without an image:


    As a small business, you need to harness the power of visuals in your marketing strategy.  It’s a level playing field: you can use these resources as well as the big guns!

    Start off with images

    You can easily create your own using my two favourite go-to apps: Canva and PicMonkey.  Both are entirely FREE to use but they also have extra features for which you can pay a small amount either per image or per month.

    If you’re just starting out as a small business, there are lots of websites which offer stock photos which are FREE to use (always double-check the licence terms before using for commercial purposes.  See below).  Don’t spend a fortune on purchasing expensive images; it will blow a hole in your budget very quickly!


    Here are some great resources for stock photos:

    (1) Refe Rea Life Photos
    (2) Pixabay
    (3) Morgue File (Ensure you select the “Free Photos” tab)
    (4) Flickr free use photos

    Make the Image your Own

    ➣  Don’t be tempted to upload images directly into your blog and hit “Publish”!  Add text overlays, including your business logo and URL, to give the image a more personal and branded look.   You can easily do this with Canva and PicMonkey.

    ➣  Stick to your brand style, colours and fonts when adding overlays and don’t mix them up.

    ➣  Decide on 3 fonts to use for text: one for a heading, one for sub-headings and the other for quotations, for instance, and stick to them for a consistent, branded look.

    ➣  Outline the benefits your readers will receive to entice them to click through and read your content, like this great example from Anna Bennett, top Pinterest marketer.


    ➣  Each social media platform has its own unique image size dimensions so refer to Canva’s pre-formatted templates to ensure you get the optimum look.


    If you’re at all stuck, need some further advice or just don’t have a creative bone in your body, don’t panic!

    By Nicky Pasquier, Founder of Virtuoso Assistant. Email me at any time and we can schedule a chat: hello@virtuosoassistant.co.uk

    6 Benefits of Social Media for Small Businesses

    Friday, April 24 at 10:21Marketing | Social Media

    Social media has transformed the way we interact and communicate. Not only for individuals, but also for small businesses and startups. Social media marketing has become an important part of any brand’s marketing campaigns. Why? The reason is the following unique benefits of social media for small businesses:

    1. Social Media bridges the gap between you and your customers 
    If you are a startup and want to strengthen your customer base, get close to your customers on social media and create a bond with them, while actively seeking new people to connect with. Social media gives your customers a platform to know you better and takes relationship building to a new level.

    2. Fuel your sales 
    Social media can help you increase your sales. Whether you are a product manufacturer or a service provider, you can educate your customers on any new offerings, updates or promotional offers within seconds. With a little bit of reinforcement they can turn into repeat-customers!

    3. Create a two way conversation 
    Professionally done marketing research can be expensive and time consuming. On social media, you can take advantage of free surveys or get instant feedback through informal Q&A. Get to know the habits of your community and how they respond to the content you produce. By interacting on social media, you can gain valuable insights into the preferences and buying behaviours of your community.

    4. Network with other small businesses
    Use social media to discover interesting businesses in your industry and area and build a relationship with them.  This may create opportunities for collaboration or support and give you fresh ideas for your social media pages by connecting with companies that you admire.

    5. Find your company’s niche 
    For small businesses the most important thing is to create awareness and connect with the right audience. Every social media website has a different tone and user type. Beyond the major social media websites, you may find that new or targeted social media sites offer new access to customers and industry colleagues. Here are a few sites that may be useful for your business:

    Edgee: For creating new stories and content for your audience.
    Your Interest: For creating events and inviting a like-minded audience.
    Tagstr: For creating content with shared hash tags.

    6. Enhance traditional marketing efforts
    Social media can help you promote and support your small business’ other marketing efforts. For example, if you are promoting a new product with print advertising or events, you can use social media to increase awareness and impact.

    By Amy from Tekfirst in Harrogate, North Yorkshire

    3 Ways to Grow Your Business Online

    Thursday, April 23 at 09:57Digital | Marketing | Social Media

    Business growth can be tough as a small business. It can often feel like organisations with bigger budgets have an advantage, but the internet is our level playing field. Here, the size of our business is not the driver of our success. Instead, the internet cares about the quality of our business and of the content we create. By displaying our expertise in a way that is valuable and useful to our target audience, businesses of all sizes can succeed and grow online.

    Here are 3 tips to help you grow your business online.

    1. Know your audience

    Before you start any marketing campaign, it’s important to really know your target audience.

    Think about the segments you are trying to reach. Perhaps you’re targeting a particular industry or business size. Make a list of these.

    Next, build a clearer picture of each of these segments. Think about their behaviour - are they time rich or time poor? What technologies do they use? What are the challenges that face them and their industry? Try to build a picture of a ‘real’ person that you can refer to to help you better understand the entire segment they represent.

    2. Create great content

    Digital marketing - be it SEO, PPC, digital PR or content marketing - all depends on the creation of great content.

    Put simply, great content is content that communicates something of value to your audience in the most engaging and appropriate way for them. Let’s look at an example of Akita Cloud Computing Guides:

    Akita is a small business which provides IT solutions to other businesses. They recently communicated information to their audience in the form of a series of cloud computing guides for small businesses:



    What Akita has done so well here is to take their expertise on a potentially complex idea, and communicate it in a way that is aesthetically very pleasing, easy to read and, importantly for busy small business owners, in a digestible format that you can dip in and out of.

    Of course, great content can be even more simple than all of this. It starts with the very basics of getting your website right. Have you got a page on your website that represents every one of the products/services you offer? Is each one of these pages the best possible page on its particular topic, with lots of useful information, images and resources?

    By creating great content, you’ll stand a much better chance of:

    Representing your business in the best light possible
    Improving your search visibility and rankings
    Gaining brand awareness and improved website authority through shares and links
    Engaging your audience

    3. Speak to your audience in the places they’re already active

    By this point, you know your audience really well and you know what you want to say to them. Now, you need to know where to speak to them.

    This means identifying the channels and platforms they are already using, and taking the content to them there. For example, if you know your audience is really active on LinkedIn, you should invest in your LinkedIn profile, possibly advertising and engaging through groups. If you know they tend to read a lot of start up advice via websites like Enterprise Nation, you should seek opportunities to have your business featured there.

    I recently compared this to hosting a dinner party; if you know all of the people you want to invite live in London, don’t host your party in Edinburgh. Equally, if you know your audience is most active on Twitter, there’s little use in focusing your efforts on Facebook.

    If you know your audience, you know what you want to say to them and you know the right place to say it, you stand a good chance of succeeding online.


    Author Bio: Laura Hampton is the digital marketing manager at Impression, a digital marketing agency based in Nottingham city centre which offers SEO, PPC, content marketing and digital PR services. A small business itself, Impression has grown from 2 people in November 2012 to a team of 10 and growing in April 2015. 

    Tips for taking your small business online

    Tuesday, April 21 at 15:30Digital

    If you’ve got a bricks and mortar store and you’re not currently selling your products online, you could be missing out on thousands of potential customers from around the globe. Luckily, you can change this with just a few simple actions and by taking advantage of the latest ecommerce technology.

    1. Make sure you’re searchable

    The bare minimum a customer expects is to be able to find some information on Google about your company - the days of putting your number in the yellow pages being enough are long gone! You can start by making sure your Google Maps entry is up to date with an accurate location and information. Next, get set up on TripAdvisor and start building up valuable reviews for your business to boost customer confidence - getting listed is as simple as clicking a button to claim ownership of the business. Make sure you add a few photos so customers know what they’re looking for!

    2. Set up an ecommerce store

    If you’re a retailer, adding an online store with the likes of eBay, Amazon or other Ecommerce providers is extremely simple. If you’ve used something like eBay as a buyer, or perhaps to sell a couple of personal items, then you’re three-quarters of the way towards using it for business. This handy guide will take you the rest of the way. For something like Amazon you just sign up to one of their seller programs and you’ll be prompted to add your products to their marketplace. You should be aware that different provider’s selling costs do vary, for example eBay prices listings based on how many items you’ll be putting up per month, and offers you a fixed fee based on this. Amazon charges you a similar monthly fee, but also charges ‘referral fees’ on top of this. Make sure you include these extra costs when you’re calculating the profit you’ll make on items.

    3. Build your own website

    Think setting up your own website with a store is a huge hassle? It can be, but if you take advantage of automated website building services it’s a whole lot easier. There are lots of providers which can do this for you simply and easily, but two great examples are ekmpowershop and shopify. Building a website that looks professional gives credibility to your brand and provides an initial point of contact for a customer searching for you online. It also allows you to sell products without the fees associated with selling via larger ecommerce platforms. Even if you’re not going to include a store on your website, it’s a cost-effective piece of advertising for your business.

    4. Focus on your most valuable products

    Most small businesses with a physical shopfront find that just twenty percent of their products generate over eighty percent of their sales. To maximise the return on your time and energy spent creating online stores and a website, you should start by only putting this twenty percent of your product base online. You’ve just cut your workload massively without a corresponding effect on your sales! You can find the time to put your full roster of products online later.

    5. Manage your online sales with the latest technology

    So you’ve got your own website, Amazon and eBay stores all set up. But hang on - if you’re selling across all of these platforms, isn’t logistics going to be a nightmare? Luckily, it doesn't have to be. You can use the latest ecommerce technology to add new products and monitor stock across all your online stores as well as your physical shop. There are plenty of providers which offer this service, such as e-trackit and Linnworks. Once you’re set up, the online arm of your business virtually runs itself - all the while netting you extra sales. Bare in mind that the extra cost of using these solutions has to be taken into account - you have to ask yourself if they’re worth the amount of time they’ll save you in the long run.

    Getting your business online has another big benefit. When it comes to finance, traditional providers won’t look too far past your credit score when assessing your application. iwoca integrates with online selling accounts as well as high-street banks and payment providers to get a real-time snapshot of your trading data. In addition to this, we take into account customer feedback scores across various websites when we make a lending decision. That means that setting up online has another benefit - it could increase your chances of being approved for finance!

    By setting up your company to trade online, you can make sure you’re not left behind in the digital age and empower your business to ship products to customers around the world. It’s a great way for a small, local business to compete with it’s larger competitors.



    By Pierce Glennie, Head of Marketing at iwoca

    Successful HR for Small Businesses

    Tuesday, April 14 at 11:12HR

    Approaching human resources correctly is essential for all successful businesses. While larger companies are able to employ a whole HR department to handle company policies, employee data and hiring, small businesses face more challenges in this area. For small businesses to ensure that their HR is done successfully, they need to consider their needs and put strategies in place to meet them.

    In-House HR

    New and small businesses often find that an in-house HR professional is not necessary for their company. However, businesses should not ignore HR priorities. In this instance, many small businesses who have less than 50 or so employees allocate HR tasks among other members of the team. For example, an admin worker may be involved in the hiring process and another worker may be responsible for managing staff holidays. Some small businesses may opt for one-off consultations with HR professionals, especially regarding legal policies, to ensure that they are on track.

    HR Software

    As a small business grows, managing all of the day-to-day HR tasks between other team members can become a challenge. In this instance, HR software can lighten the load. HR software for monitoring absences from work, planning staff leave, recording salary history, keeping health and safety records, as well as providing online training where needed, can easily reduce the time spent on these tasks. For businesses who employ remote workers, there are HR software options for time tracking, task management, online calls, meetings, invoicing and so on.

    Outsourcing HR

    Another option for growing businesses to consider is outsourcing their HR tasks. Outsourcing can