Small Business Saturday Blog

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.

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.

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

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.


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