Category Archives for "Small Business"

3 Small Business Grants You Can Apply For Right Now

(Source: getstencil)

You may not know it, but if you are based in the United Kingdom there are several funding options available for businesses, many of which were made available as a direct result of the pandemic.

While many are loan facilities such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), there are three grants you should know about.

What Are Grants?

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Grants are sums of money given by the government or a public body for a particular purpose and unlike loans, are not liabilities to be repaid.

There are eligibility criteria to meet, and bodies which provide funding through grants will usually specify what the money should be spent on.

Are There Problems Accessing Grants?

Especially for small and medium-sized enterprises there is a surprising amount of this kind of funding support available, but the challenge with gaining access is two-fold:

  • There is limited knowledge about their existence. They either tend not to be widely publicised, or there is a lack of adequate explanation about the nature of the funding and how it works. This is unfortunate, as businesses which desperately need the lifeline don’t get the opportunity to apply for it, as has been the case since the end of August . Schemes such as the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) were announced to provide relief to businesses as a result of the pandemic, but were ended a few months later without an estimated 2 in 5 eligible businesses applying.
  • When researching available grants, it is rare to find relevant information that is up-to-date and collated in one location in a way that is easy to read and assess.

What Small Business Grants Can You Apply For?

That being the case, here are 3 Small Business grants you can apply for right now:

1. THE EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND (ERDF) PROGRAMME

This was announced by the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government in July, and consists of £20 million of new government funding to help smaller businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are for small and medium-sized businesses.

What Is The Grant Amount?

It is a one-off cash amount of between £1,000 and £5,000.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by Growth Hubs, which bring together the best of public and private sector partners to promote, co-ordinate and deliver business support based on local needs. They are embedded in local areas across England.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if it is based in England.

How Can You Make a Claim?

Locate and contact your local area Growth Hub.

2. THE KICKSTART SCHEME

(Source: getstencil)

This was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in July, and consists of £2 billion in funding to create more jobs for young people between the ages of 16 and 24.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are available to businesses of any size to create new job placements and support young people on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.

What Is The Grant Amount?

Funding is available for the National Minimum Wage for each role, and there is also £1,500 available for each job placement to set up support and training.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by central government.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if:

  • It is based in England.
  • The job placements are for new roles.
  • The roles are for a minimum of 25 hours a week and will last a minimum duration of 6 months.
  • At the very least, successful candidates will be paid the Minimum Wage for their age group.

How Can You Make a Claim?

  • If your application is for 30 or more job placements, complete your application online.
  • If your application is for less than 30 job placements, you’ll have to partner with other organisations to have a minimum of 30 placements. You can either find a representative to help you do this by getting in touch with your local Kickstart Scheme employer contact, or become a representative of a group of employers yourself.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

You’ll need the following details to complete your application:

  • The Companies House reference number.
  • The business address and contact details.
  • Details of the Kickstart scheme job placements and their location.
  • Supporting information to confirm the placements meet the criteria of the scheme.
  • Details of how the business can develop the employability skills of young people.

Once your submitted application is checked to make sure it meets the criteria, it will be reviewed by a panel. Current government estimates are that applications should be responded to within one month.

3. LOCAL LOCKDOWN GRANTS

(Source: getstencil)

To avoid a second wave and the need for another national lockdown, the government strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus now involves implementing restrictions on a local and regional basis.

Since many businesses caught up in these local lockdowns will see their revenue-generating activities halted, the Treasury has announced new funding to support and protect them.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are for businesses forced to close as a result of local lockdowns or targeted restrictions.

What Is The Grant Amount?

Larger businesses will receive £1,500 every three weeks for the duration of any such closure. Smaller businesses will receive £1,000.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by local authorities.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if:

  • It is based in England.
  • Occupies a property or part pf a with a rateable value, annual rent or mortgage less than £51,000 (this qualifies for the £1,000 payment).
  • Occupies a property or part pf a property with a rateable value, annual rent or mortgage of £51,000 or more (this qualifies for the £1,500 payment).
  • Local authorities will also receive an additional 5% top up amount to enable them to help other businesses affected by closures which may not be on the business rates list. Payments made to businesses from this discretionary fund can be any amount up to £,1500, and may be less than £1,000 in some cases.

How Can You Make a Claim?

Contact your local authority.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

If you make a profit, you will be liable to pay tax on it.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If you think your business qualifies for one of these grants, speak to your accountant in the first instance to clarify details such as tax implications before completing and submitting an application.

How The Proposed Online Sales Tax Could Affect You

(Source: getstencil)

Following the series of financial packages announced by the UK government to support individuals and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic, one question has been on everyone’s mind:

How are we going to pay for it?

There had been hints and leaks that tax rises and austerity measures would be used to plug the £300 billion hole in public finances, which were subsequently denied. But the first official step has been taken by the government, with the Treasury consulting with industry on the best way to “provide a sustainable and meaningful revenue source for the government.”

Here is a summary of the proposed online sales tax, and how it could affect you if it is implemented.

What Is the Proposed Online Sales Tax?

There are actually two taxes being considered in relation to online sales.

The first is a two per cent tax on anything sold online. Early forecasts from the Treasury estimate that this will bring in an estimated amount of £2 billion each year.

However, note that this online sales tax is not the same as the digital services tax designed specifically for the likes of Facebook, Google and other international internet-based businesses which operate and have users in the UK.

Deliveries have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic, and the second proposal is to implement a tax on deliveries.

Why Were These Taxes Proposed?

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The government believes that online retailers benefit disproportionately from the current tax system, while businesses with a physical High Street presence bear several financial burdens such as rents and business rates.

As the High Street has been in dire straits for a long time and is under even more pressure as a result of the pandemic, the thinking is that the £2 billion raised each year can be used to fund reductions in business rates for retail properties.

On the other hand, the delivery tax has been positioned as targeting traffic and congestion on the roads, with a view to achieving a reduction in toxic emissions and pollution.

When Will a Decision Be Made?

The government will make a decision on these proposals in the Spring of 2021.

And if you really want to know what I think about this proposed online sales tax? Have a look at my next post here.

Everything You Need To Know About Bounce Back Loans

(Source: getstencil)

The Chancellor launched the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) in April to help small and medium-sized businesses suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Mr Sunak mentioned in his Summer Economic Statement, 1 million businesses have applied to the scheme and £31 billion has been approved in loans so far.

However even though it has been three months since the announcement, many people are still not sure how the scheme works.

So here’s everything you need to know about Bounce Back Loans.

How Do Bounce Back Loans Work?

With these loans:

  • Small and medium-sized enterprises can borrow up to 25% of their turnover.
  • The maximum loan amount is £50,000.
  • They are 100% guaranteed by the government.
  • No interest or fees are accrued for the first year.
  • After the first twelve months, the interest rate becomes 2.5% a year.
  • There are no repayments to be made in the first year. This is crucial, as this gives businesses some breathing space and a chance to recover from the turbulence of the pandemic.
  • The term is for six years. But if you can repay it sooner? No problem! There are no early repayment penalties.

What Are The Criteria To Apply For Bounce Back Loans?

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To apply for help on the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), a business:

  • Must be based in the U.K.
  • Must have been established before 1 March 2020.
  • Will have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Cannot be a bank or insurance company.
  • Cannot be in the public sector, or a state-funded school.

If you meet these criteria and wish to apply, there are several lenders participating in the scheme. You’ll find the list of the Bounce Bank Loan Scheme lenders here.

And a tip: You don’t have to do this, but it might be easier to apply wherever you do your business banking, if they are on the list.

What Do I Need To Apply For a Bounce Back Loan?

The exact details of what you need to provide to apply for a Bounce Back Loan may vary slightly from lender to lender, but in broad terms this is what you’ll need to do:

  • You’ll be asked to fill in a short application.
  • You’ll be asked to confirm that you qualify, i.e. that you meet the criteria listed above.
  • To provide details about your business such as business name and address, contact details, and your annual turnover.

The process should be easier if you apply with your business bank, as there is already an existing working relationship. They already have some data and knowledge about you and your business, which should simplify and accelerate the application process.

What Should I Do Next:

If a Bounce Back Loan sounds like the kind of support you need or qualify for, it’s worth having an initial conversation with your accountant.

And once you decide to proceed, contact any of the banks listed in the list of lenders above to start your application.

Still Struggling To Understand How It Works?

(Source: getstencil)

If you need further clarification about the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and how it works, you can contact me here.

Summary of The 2020 Summer Economic Statement

(Source: theguardian.com)

Did you listen to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Economic Statement last Wednesday 8 July?

“We will not be defined by this crisis, but by our response to it,” he said, and respond he did.

It was the second stage of his response to the coronavirus pandemic, and the focus is protecting, supporting and creating jobs.

The first stage involved providing crucial and immediate support in March through initiatives such as the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, where employees are furloughed on 80% of their salaries. £20.8 billion has been claimed by businesses so far, which has ensured that 9.1 million people kept their jobs.

However it was never expected to run indefinitely, and Mr Sunak confirmed the scheme will wind down by October and be replaced by a Jobs Retention Bonus Policy aimed at retaining people in work and staving off the threat of unemployment for millions.

Here’s a breakdown of the policy, and a summary of the Summer Economic Statement: 

Protecting Existing Jobs

Jobs Retention Bonus Policy:

The policy has at its core a reward system for employers who bring back furloughed staff and retain them till January 2021. Companies will be paid a Jobs Retention Bonus of £1,000 for each employee, on the condition that they are paid a minimum of £520 per month.

Financial commitment: £9 billion.

Hospitality & Leisure:

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There was an acknowledgement that these sectors employ more than 2 million people who tend to be among the lowest paid n the country. Consequently, people who work in this sector have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. And the numbers don’t lie; 1.4m have been furloughed!

The Chancellor announced two new measures to revive the hospitality and leisure industries. The first is a VAT reduction on food, accommodation and attractions such as amusement parks from 20% to 5%. The reduction on this sales tax takes effect on Wednesday 15 July and will run until 12 January 2021.

It’s expected to benefit 150,000 businesses and protect 2.4 million jobs.

Financial commitment: £4 billion.

The second measure to facilitate recovery in the hospitality and leisure sectors has been designed specifically to get customers back into restaurants and pubs. The government-backed “Eat Out to Help Out” discount will be available for everyone in the country to use on certain weekdays this August.

Patrons will benefit from a 50% discount (up to a maximum of £10 per head) from Monday – Wednesday for the month, and businesses can register from Monday 13 July.

Supporting People To Find Jobs

Kickstart scheme:

(Source: getstencil)

A new kickstart scheme targeted at young people will pay employers to create new jobs for 16-24 year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment.

To qualify, the jobs must last six months, be for at least 25 hours per week and pay at least minimum wage. With a £6,500 grant per person and no cap on available places, the expectation is that this guarantees that the youth do not bear the brunt of the economic effects of the pandemic.

Financial commitment: £2 billion. 

Apprenticeships, Trainees & Support for the Unemployed:

Mr Sunak also announced schemes to encourage employers to take on trainees, Career Advisers to support 250,000 people, an expansion of the universal skills offer (with plans to triple existing places), apprenticeships funded at £2,000 each, and support for the unemployed with more work coaches, and £1 billion pumped into the Department for Work and Pensions to help support people back into work.

Creating Jobs

A Green Recovery:

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Government ministers have previously talked about making this a green recovery, and the Chancellor announced a historic investment in infrastructure & jobs in the sector by way of a green homes grant, which will provide homeowners and landlords with vouchers to make their homes more energy-efficient from September.

Expected to make 650,000 homes more energy-efficient, the vouchers will cover two-thirds of the cost or £5,000 per household. This will double for low income households.

Financial commitment: £2 billion.

Stamp Duty Cut:

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Probably the most eye-catching announcement was the immediate cut in stamp duty on property sale transactions below £500,000 until 31 March 2021. This is expected to resuscitate the property industry and In the Chancellor’s estimation, this temporary cut will benefit 9 out of 10 people buying their main home.

Total financial commitment for these announcements and initiatives is £30 billion. The third phase of his coronavirus response will be announced as part of the Autumn Budget & Spending Review.

Everything You Need To Know About My Microsoft Teams Workshop

(Source: fmtconsultants.com)

I’ve previously extolled the virtues of Microsoft Team as a collaboration tool, and explained why I think it’s the best one for you.

If you missed it or would like a refresh, you can read my blog post on why Microsoft Teams is the best tool for you here.

I’m running a workshop on Friday 10 July help you hit the ground running with the tool, so here’s everything you need to know about my Microsoft Teams workshop.

Who Is The Workshop Aimed At?

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This workshop is for you if:

1. You have never used Microsoft Teams before, and don’t know where to start

It can be confusing, overwhelming even. Especially if you have a deadline by which you have to get your head around it – to accommodate a client request, for instance.

Instead of adding “learning Microsoft Teams” to your to-do list and battling with it on your own, attending my workshop will equip you by giving you the knowledge you need.

2. You use the tool, but are not confident with it yet

Do you use Microsoft Teams already, but are still unsure of what to do? One this is clear to you, you definitely aren’t using the basic functionality properly!

Then, this workshop is exactly what you need.

What Topics Will Be Covered?

Here are some of the themes I’ll cover:

  • I’ll give you an overview of Microsoft Teams
  • How to set it up
  • How to manage teams and team members
  • How to work with people who are external to your business (such as clients, partners and suppliers)
  • Collaboration and document sharing
  • Breakout rooms
  • How to view other participants in a meeting.

Is Any Extra Support Available?

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Yes!

When you book your place you have the option to include a private consultation call with me, which will take place after the workshop.

As part of that call you’ll have the opportunity to ask me any further questions you may have about using the tool.

I recommend scheduling this call to take place at least a week after the workshop, you’ll have had some time to practise what you learned and can ask questions that relate directly to that experience.

Will It Be Recorded?

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Yes!

While I would prefer you attend the live workshop and it would be great to meet and interact with you there, I understand that life happens.

So if it turns out that you are unable to do so, don’t worry. The session will be recorded and sent to everyone who enrols on the workshop.

How Can I Book My Place?

You can book your place on the workshop by clicking here and making a payment.

I Have More Questions About The Workshop. How Can I Ask Them?

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You can contact me here.

Why Microsoft Teams Is The Best Tool For You

Lockdown restrictions are easing, and different sectors of the economy are set to reopen over the coming weeks.

However, many businesses are reluctant to go back to “normal”, as various research shows that the majority of workers are anxious at the thought of returning to their previous working hours and office environments.

What’s more, there is concern that doing so will have a negative impact on their mental health and productivity and as a result many business leaders have announced that their teams will continue to work from home for the time being.

While working remotely for the foreseeable future will allay some very important public health concerns, there are downsides which have to be carefully addressed. Using the right technology and tools to facilitate remote working and collaboration between individuals and teams in a business, or with clients and suppliers can make all the difference when it comes to whether you make a success of this “new normal” or not.

One tool I would highly recommend for collaboration is Microsoft Teams. The service was launched in 2017 and has grown in popularity in the last three years. Since the start of the pandemic in particular, the count of daily active users has hit a record 75 million.

If you don’t use Microsoft Teams already, here are some of the reasons why I think it is the best tool for you to use when working remotely with your clients, partners and suppliers, and also internally within your business:

Online Meetings

With Microsoft Teams, you have the ability to host and attend webinars and online meetings.

You can have a one-to-one meeting with someone else, or a video conference with as many as 10,000 people!*

They could be your colleagues, or people from other businesses and organisations.

Regardless of the number of participants you’ll get to see and hear everyone clearly, and also have the option to record it so anyone who misses it can watch the replay.

*Depending on your price plan.

Chat

(Source: Brooke Cagel at Unsplash)

While we never appreciated the significance of water cooler conversations, the lack of them since the start of the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on morale and driving an increase in isolation, as well as affecting how bonds are developed and trust is built among colleagues.

While there is no direct replacement for that kind of physical and social interaction, I’d argue that the chat function within Microsoft Teams is as close as you can get to that informal manner of communication.

The chat function works for those times when you need to send a quick message, and do not require the audit trail that email provides. You can ask your colleagues about their weekends, a quick question about a piece of work, or when they are available to talk, for example. All without leaving the tool.

Call

You can make audio calls from within the tool, either by clicking on a saved contact or typing in a phone number.

So if you decide not to use or enable video, you can speak to your teams using the call function.

Collaboration

Collaborate on projects and joint pieces of work. Multiple people can work on documents, without worrying about version control or corruption.

Privacy & Security

As the use of the internet and collaboration tools has risen during the pandemic, it is no surprise that cybersecurity issues have risen as well. For example, the video communication and chat tool Zoom has had a number of well-publicised incidents highlighting its vulnerabilities. While the company quickly sought to address these and continues to do so, in many ways the damage had already been done as many organisations warned their teams off using the tool, and declared Microsoft Teams to be their preferred tool instead.

For Teams, Microsoft recommends a number of best practices to ensure that you are able to work efficiently and safely. These include:

Using two-factor authentication; giving your team members the correct level of access they need to complete their tasks and no more; and conducting careful assessments of what features are required (and enabled) for people outside your organisation.

Their Customer Base

Microsoft Teams is used by organisations as diverse as Accenture, the Metropolitan Police, schools, universities, hospital networks and the NFL.

But it isn’t just for large organisations. Smaller businesses – even if you only have one employee – can also make the most of the functionality. You wouldn’t be the only one: thousands of small businesses have recently migrated to the tool, and Microsoft has practical guidance to support small businesses that are having to adapt to working remotely.

New To Teams?

(Source: getstencil)

If you’re new to Microsoft Teams and need to get your head around it quickly, I’m running a workshop on Friday 10 July which will help you hit the ground running. I’ll give you an overview of the tool and how it works, explain how to set it up, manage communication and collaborate with your clients and teams.

It’s on sale now, so secure your place today. Click here to book.

How To Support Black Professionals

Mural of George Floyd (Source: knowtechie.com)

The days since George Floyd’s murder on 25th May by a policeman in the United States have gone by in a flash.

His senseless killing captured on video exposed the reality of racial injustice to a global audience, and has forced us all as individuals, communities and countries to examine our bias and confront our complacency.

People were shocked and appalled. But organisations and some public figures were tentative in their initial reactions.

That soon changed and slowly businesses started to declare their abhorrence of racism and support for Black employees, customers and the community as a whole.

From multinationals like Apple, Nike, adidas, Visa and MasterCard, to organisations in the arts like the Barbican and Shakespeare’s Globe, and fashion publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair, businesses of all sizes and in various sectors have spoken out.

The overwhelming show of support culminated in #BlackoutTuesday on 2nd June, where people refrained from posting anything other than a black square on their social media accounts.

As a Black woman while I think it has taken far too long for racism and racial injustice to capture the attention of the general public, the universal condemnation of Mr. Floyd’s murder and subsequent declarations of allyship are heartening.

However, it’s important that the support was not just a performance that occurred on social media.

It’s crucial that tackling racism does not fall off the agenda once the news cycle moves on, and that all the declarations of allyship and support actually translate from the intangible into catalysts for real, practical change.

So, if your organisation really wants to ally with Black people, here is some food for thought.

Economic Power

(Source: getstencil)

The importance of money and economic power cannot be overemphasised. In the here and now, an income helps pay for life’s necessities. In the medium to long-term it allows us to make choices, many of which can have lifelong implications.

Internships & Recruitment

As income and subsequently economic power stem from jobs and careers, the first step is to examine your hiring practices and how opportunities are afforded to people. Is this done equitably?

For example, internships often appear to be the preserve of the privileged. And they are – because they are mainly unpaid.

Question: Who can afford to take up an unpaid summer internship at a law firm?

Answer: Young people whose parents are well off. Who, in reality, don’t need the leg-up that an internship provides anyway.

Another example: What happens when your recruiting partners and HR department come across a name they are culturally unfamiliar with? Is that CV automatically discarded? Are you more likely to invite a “Sarah” or “Andrew” in for an interview, and not bother with an “Adanna” or a “Kweku”?

Do you only hire people from your alma mater or certain schools?

Also, how do people hear about vacancies? Where are they advertised? Is information about vacancies made available to a wide-ranging audience, or does it stay privy to subscribers to the Financial Times and The Economist only?

Not that there is anything wrong with these publications, but advertising in them alone facilitates and entrenches the exclusion of certain demographics.

Then take a look at your teams. How are they constituted; what is the make up?

As you seek to support Black professionals it is important to make sure they are in the room and feel confident that they can speak, and have their voices heard when they do.

Career Progression

And once they are in your organisation there must be a progression route that is clear and transparent, not one that is opaque and dependent on whether they go for drinks after work. Review the career paths in your organisation, which open the doors to economic power.

Suppliers & Vendors

Another useful exercise is to review who you give your business to. Which suppliers and vendors do you work with? Whose products do you sell and showcase to your audience?

Create A Culture and Environment that Is Safe, Nurturing and Enabling

The culture in an organisation is often taken for granted.

We assume it just happens, but in truth it is a function of what is we create or allow.

From the perspective of a Black professional in the United Kingdom, my experience has been that racism is never overt. However, it can be subtle, insidious, carefully planned and executed, to debilitating effect.

It is not uncommon for people who do not “fit in” to be managed out of organisations. While nothing is ever explicitly expressed, things can be made so unbearable for the individual that they resign out of frustration or are asked to leave after a campaign that portrays them as incompetent.

At first glance, this scenario may seem like an exaggeration. But it is more common than you realise, and often thrives in toxic environments created or allowed by Senior Management.

Bringing Black professionals through the doors of your organisation is not the end of your obligations. The work to ensure a positive and enabling culture and working environment is continuous and must be prioritised at the highest levels.

Provide a Platform

(Source: getstencil)

Every organisation has a platform and uses it every time it organises or participates in industry conferences, events, and panel discussions.

It is worth considering the following: Who do you invite onstage to speak at your events? Who participates in the panel discussions you organise? If you have a podcast, what is the demographic of the guests you choose to interview and showcase? And, which members of your team do you send to represent your organisation at conferences?

Another thing that is common is that once a Black man or woman is located, he or she can often become the “go-to” expert from a diverse background who is always given a platform. It makes life easier, but having one person who is always invited does not do much for diversity.

Apart from the fact that it prevents others having access to opportunities, it is important to remember that there is not one homogenous Black view of the world. We vote Labour and Conservative, voted both to leave and remain in the European Union, are vegan and meat eaters, are students, employees, business owners, currently unemployed, homeowners, tenants and everything in between. There are a myriad of perspectives and opinions which you cannot access if you only give a platform to one “go-to” person.

So, challenge your events and production teams, your researchers to look further afield. Insist that they provide you with a different list of names the next time you want an expert, speaker, panellist, or podcast guest.

Leadership & Decision Making

(Source: getstencil)

It is one thing to have Black men and women in your organisation and have their voices in the room.

It is also imperative that some of those voices are empowered and have the ability to influence and effect change from positions of seniority, so they have the authority and freedom to propose and chart a different course in the organisation if need be.

This is because it is easy to overrule junior members of staff, even middle management. Their input and views can easily be discounted.

But making sure Black men and women have the ability to influence, shape and make key decisions makes it hard to ignore their input and perspectives. Tackling that power dynamic and ensuring there is a better balance means usual viewpoints can be challenged by someone who is less concerned about the consequences of speaking up or having a different view.

Look at your Senior Management or Leadership teams. Who is in them, and what can you do to address any imbalance that exists?

Are you actively working to develop and coach the next generation of Black men and women to step into positions of leadership?

I cannot pretend that these alone will resolve all race-related issues in businesses and organisations, but if acted upon they are practical steps in the right direction which will go a long way to making a significant difference.

It is important that this moment in time acts as a trigger for real and lasting change, and does not end up just being a hashtag. But that will not happen on its own; action is required now.

So, I challenge you not just to say that Black lives matter.

Go further and put your money where your mouth is. Because your actions going forward – as a leader, as a business or organisation – will speak much louder than your words.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Business Winners & Losers

There are always winners and losers.

With redundancies and bankruptcies announced by companies that are household names every day, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all doom and gloom out there.

But as sure as there are businesses which have been hit hard by the pandemic, others have found a niche, quickly adapted their business models, taken advantage of the opportunities, met customer demand, and thrived.

Some businesses and sectors are busier than ever right now, and I’m excited and fascinated by their success. Here are a few of the success stories.

Some of the Winners

Board Games & Jigsaw Puzzle manufacturers

(Source: getstencil)

Maybe unforeseen, but as families spent more time together, they entertained themselves with games and puzzles which resulted in sales of the likes of Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble rising by 240% in the first week of lockdown.

Collaboration Tools

Tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have risen in popularity.

As people around the world were forced to work and socialise remotely, their need for technology to help them do so increased exponentially. My mother is in her seventies, and even she has now downloaded one of these apps onto her phone!

And she’s not the only one: apparently Zoom has been downloaded over 2 million times and its founder’s net worth has risen by $4bn since March. Microsoft Teams also saw usage grow to 44 million daily active users in the first week of March, so up by 12 million in just a week.

Food Subscription Boxes

The likes of HelloFresh and Mindful Chef have experienced rapid growth as the restrictions stopped us eating out, and forced us to stay in and spend more time in the kitchen.

Demand grew for fresh, healthy ingredients and customers were attracted by organic items suited to a range of diets and tastes. They have seen sales soar by as much as 300% since the outbreak.

Groceries

(Source: getstencil)

One of the first places society was seriously impacted was with availability of food and the ease with which we could buy it.

Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s couldn’t get rid of their stock fast enough! They adapted by hiring as many as 40,000 staff and implementing social distancing measures as they saw sales increase by 30%.

Items ranging from canned foods and alcohol to flour and yeast flew off the shelves.

Home Improvement Stores

As we stayed at home, we suddenly noticed all those jobs that needed doing! After an initial drop in sales, people flocked back as soon as shops like B&Q started to reopen in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

Loo Roll manufacturers

(Source: getstencil)

Who would have foreseen this basic household item being stockpiled?

No one, and companies like Who Gives A Crap saw their sales multiply by as much as a factor of 12 in one day.

Payment & Money Transfer Apps

The use of apps such as TransferWise, Paypal, Cash App, Venmo & Xoom have risen by 11% since the beginning of March. And it makes sense: as well as doing all our shopping online, it quickly became apparent that cash is neither suitable nor hygienic at the current time.

Fitness Trainers

(Source: getstencil)

Exercise became a release, an outlet, and a way of keeping children occupied, and the industry adapted to the new normal accordingly by moving its business model online.

Joe Wicks quickly grabbed the nation’s attention. As did gyms, online yoga studios, fitness instructors and others in the sector.

Some of the Losers

Cinemas & Theatres

(Source: getstencil)

As cinemas and theatres became no-go areas, many streamed shows and performances to stay in touch with their audiences. However, in terms of revenue it’s not the same as people attending in person.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing activities ground to a halt, not just because of the restrictions but also because of supply chains that were severely disrupted.

Restaurants

(Source: getstencil)

Hospitality ground to a halt. However many quickly became delivery-only, which has hopefully helped.

Retail

High streets were already in dire straits, and the pandemic has only compounded issues.

Many moved operations online, but the lockdown has still had a devastating effect on the likes of Cath Kidston, Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia.

Travel & Tourism

(Source: getstencil)

Airlines, hotels, agents, tour operators – anyone connected to travel and tourism has seen their revenue dry up. Big hitters like Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are feeling the pain.

As restrictions start to ease this month, the hope is that this kicks off the recovery process.

Is Your Small Business Doing These 7 Things?

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it
was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for
planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything
formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or,
week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a
business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand
that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time
doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is,
here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money
pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what
you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it
when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you
on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own
devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and
services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer
demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your
target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or
service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the
current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your
proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not
serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle
with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a
minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each
month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits
very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living
document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust
these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

Most business owners and bosses I speak to agree on one
thing: having a Business Plan is crucial for goal-setting and the success that
comes with it.

When it comes to writing that plan however, I find that
actions don’t match the rhetoric!

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t
as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a
monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses to NOT write a Business Plan?

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about
anything!

But as the saying goes, if something is important you’ll
make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day.
You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month,
you’ll have your Business Plan!

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses,
but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – our successful
businesses.

While section headings in the document like “Sales Forecast”
and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the
time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread
you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of
how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day, and for your Sales
Forecast, put in estimates for what you anticipate your best and worst case
scenarios will be in terms of sales (be realistic!). Also, work out the minimum
number of units you need to sell to cover your costs.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down.

“It’s don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours
requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly
do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable
chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it
yourself, is the cost really worth the risk of going from one day to the next
without a plan?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need
to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there
are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that
will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. I’ve written
about why it’s something you need here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

(If you’re still wondering what the point of having a
Business Plan is, have a quick look at this).

(I’ve put together a post explaining what the jargon in a
Business Plan means; here it
is. Start by reading that; it will help you with this part).

I know this sounds patronising. After all, who knows your
business better than you?

I can assure you it isn’t meant to be. The point I’m making
is that, as well as giving an overview of your business, you have to be able to
articulate things like the main idea behind it, your mission and objectives,
and who your main competitors are.

Think about what the market is like, and where it is going

So, what’s the current condition of the market?

Is it growing, fairly stable, or declining?

Are there any notable underlying trends?

What is the demand in the market, and how do your products
or services meet that demand?

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition, and are there any
gaps in the market which you intend to fill?

Know the audience you are selling to

Which segment of the market have you designed your products
and services for?

Women, or men, or both?

Working women, or stay-at-home mothers?

People within a certain age range?

Are they based in cities, suburban or rural areas?

Are they early adopters or technophobes?

What are their problems, and which of these will you solve
with your products and services?

These are some of the questions which will frame your
offering. And they are crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products
and services are NOT for us.

They must meet the needs of your target market. Give the people
what they want, as they say!

Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your
products and services

Take some time to think about your pricing strategy.

Most of the time, people think this involves plucking a
price out of the air, but there’s more to it than that!

How much does each unit cost to produce, and what margin
will the market tolerate on top of that?

How does that then match your expectations for income and
profit?

Then, you need to think about how you want to market and
sell products and services. Social media makes advertising and marketing more
accessible, but bear in mind that what works for a similar business may not
work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how
you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns.

How will you measure your success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But if you don’t work out in advance how you’ll do this, how
will you know what you’re working towards?

And more importantly, how will you know when it happens?

Take some time to think through the finances

This part is easy to skip, but is probably the most important
of all.

You need a certain amount of cash to run your business every
month. Sum up your expenses (and don’t forget to include your salary).

What does the total come to?

That’s what the amount you need to have available. Not invoiced
and waiting to be paid; actual cash in the bank. Anything less, and you
immediately have a cash flow problem.

Many a business has been successful on paper and in terms of
invoiced amounts, but ended up filing for bankruptcy because it simply couldn’t
meet its obligations when they were due.

Another key point to address is the length of time you think
it will take to make a profit.

It’s not unusual for some businesses not to make a profit
for some months, or even years. As long as you know that upfront and are
prepared for it, that’s fine!

But if that’s the case, do you have an idea of what the losses
will come to each month? How will this be funded, and how long can you sustain
that?

In my experience, people either don’t plan for these
scenarios, or are far too optimistic with their figures.

P.S. Where I’ve recommended doing research, please don’t think
it has to be onerous.

Ask your family and friends. Use the internet. Create a poll
using Surveymonkey or Google Polls. Some professional bodies – such as the Institute
of Directors – offer research sessions which you can access as part of their
membership. Check with your professional body and see if they can help you do
some, maybe they’ve even done something similar already and have some
statistics they can share with you!

The deadline to submit your self-assessment tax return is 31
January. With just over two weeks to go, it’s a good time to go over the 5
steps you need to follow to complete your self-assessment tax return.

The purpose of the return is to tell Her Majesty’s Revenue
and Customs (HMRC) how much you earned in the last tax year and based on the
information you provide, the appropriate income tax you need to pay is
calculated.

If you are self-employed – so you don’t earn a salary from
which your tax is automatically deducted – or have more than one source of
income, this applies to you!

You can either do the return yourself, or hire an accountant
to do it for you (check out the ICAEW or ACCA websites to find an accredited
professional near you).

If you do decide to do it yourself, there are 5 steps I
suggest you follow. Before I tell you what those are, there are a few things
you need to know:

·       
Tax years in the UK run from 6 April to 5 April,
e.g. from 6 April 2016 to 5 April 2017.

·       
The deadline to submit your return and pay the
tax due is 31 January after the end of the tax year*. Using the example above,
the deadline is 31 January 2018.

·       
Act NOW if you haven’t already, because late
payments attracts a penalty! If you suffered from a serious illness, family
bereavement or a natural disaster you’ll be given a pass, but forgetting or
being away on holiday do not count as reasonable excuses. So don’t put this off
any longer!

Check to see if you qualify

You have to complete and submit a tax return if you were
self-employed in the last tax year, or earned more than £2,500 in untaxed
income.

For example, for landlords with rental properties, or people
who rent out rooms in their homes, if the income after expenses is more than
£2,500, a tax return must be submitted.

Some of the other criteria to consider are earned interest
or dividends more than £10,000.

There’s a full list of these criteria here https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns/who-must-send-a-tax-return,
and there’s also an online tool where you can confirm if you need to do this
https://www.gov.uk/check-if-you-need-a-tax-return

Register with HMRC

If you haven’t filled in a self-assessment tax return
before, you’ll need to register with HMRC before beginning the process of
filling in the return.

You can do that here https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/register-if-youre-self-employed

HMRC will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference – or UTR –
which you’ll need when completing the return online.

Collate all the information you’ll need

Before you start filling in the return, I’d recommend you
get all your records and information ready.

You’ll be asked to provide details for a whole raft of
things which I’ve listed below:

·       
The total of what you earned in the year. That
includes income from your business and any employment.

·       
Any income earned from dividends.

·       
Any income earned from rent.

·       
Any income earned from business interests you
may have outside the UK.

·       
Any interest earned on your savings.

·       
Any interest you paid on borrowings.

·       
Any contributions you made to a pension.

·       
Any benefits you received, such as state
pension, Child Benefit or unemployment benefit.

·       
Any perks you received, such as private
healthcare or a car allowance.

·       
Any income earned from the sale of property or
shares.

·       
The sum of any valid business expenses.

Complete the return online

Now, you need to fill in all this information online.

Log into the HMRC system here, and input the relevant
information when prompted
https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/sign-in/prove-identity

You can fill sections in, save, and come back at a later
time to complete it, if you need to.

Organise your records

Haven’t been that prepared this year? You can always start
now to organise your records, so next year’s return isn’t so tedious! These are
some of the documents I’d recommend you start filing.

·       
Invoices

·       
Payslips

·       
Receipts

·       
Bank statements

·       
Pension statements

·       
Benefit documentation

·       
P11D expenses and benefits form.

HMRC requires that you keep records for up to 5 years after
the deadline.

So even though you’ve completed this year’s return, it’s
never too early to get your digital or physical filing in place for next year.
I do both for a catch-all approach – you can never be too careful with the
taxman!

There is a range of online accounting software you can use
to keep track of all these items, and you can also file away hard copies.

 

And if you get stuck?

HMRC has lots of resources online https://www.gov.uk/topic/personal-tax/self-assessment
which you can look through.

And remember, you can appoint a qualified accountant to do
this for you.

*The 31 January deadline applies if you do your returns
online. You can go old school with your returns if you prefer, but the deadline
for paper returns is 3 months earlier in the October.

An effective headshot can give theviewer a sense of who you are more than words can say.

Here, you need to commit to some timelines.

So, remember those objectives you listed above? Break them down
even further into tasks, and for each one put down a realistic completion date.

That will make sure your plans are firmly rooted and realistic,
as opposed to being pie-in-the-sky aspirations that you have no chance of achieving.

The second Payment Services Directive – also known as PSD2 –
becomes UK law on 13 january 2018.

From the name, it’s easy to think it only affects banks.

But hold on! It has implications for you too.

Here’s a summary of what it’s about, and the main ways it
will affect you.

So, what’s PSD2?

The first Payment
Services Directive (PSD) from 2009 put in place a legal framework for payments
and related services across Europe.

It covered the rights and responsibilities of consumers,
users and providers of payment services, and ensured that European countries
implemented, and were held to, a uniform set of standards.

PSD2 builds on the success of PSD, and at its core wants to increase
competition in the industry while reducing the dominance of banks.

Big banks have traditionally held all the aces when it comes
to the business of payments, and when you consider the amount of information
they hold on their customers – data is big business, just ask Facebook! – there’s
been little incentive for them to innovate what they have on offer. Save for a
few companies such as PayPal, Apple and Stripe, few have been able to make even
the tiniest dent in the banks’ market share.

Why is this a problem, you ask? It means that you as a
consumer don’t have much of a choice. When you look at the UK, there are 4 big
banks, with VISA and MasterCard being the two dominant payment card schemes. So
where do you go for a truly different sort of service?

Why was PSD2 introduced?

PSD2 is set to become law in the European Economic Area
(comprising the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland and
Liechtenstein) on 13 January 2018, and here are some of the reasons the wheels were
set in motion:

1.      
To encourage new players, especially those that
are NOT banks, to get into the business of payments.

2.      
To encourage the introduction of new,
cutting-edge technology which will revolutionise the way payments happen in
Europe.

3.      
As a result of increased competition and
technology, the expectation is that the cost of payments will fall. A bonus for
consumers!

4.      
To improve security around payment processes,
and the way consumer data is handled.

Who is responsible for
PSD2?

PSD2 is a directive issued by the European Commission, which
becomes national law on 13 January.

 

How does PSD2 affect you?

You already have many rights when it comes to protection
against misuse of your data, and any potential fraud.

PSD2 takes these even further, by mandating that banks and
businesses that process payments use what is referred to as strong customer
authentication (SCA) for payments.

This means they have to take significant steps to make sure
any payment you make is actually coming from – and authorised by – you.

So if you find you’re asked to verify your identity or
payment in a different way, don’t be alarmed. It’s all PSD2-related.

Talking about your data though, in a bid to promote
competition and open it up to new organisations, banks could potentially share
what they know about you with these new players to the market, who will fall
into 2 categories:

Payment Initiation Service Providers, and Account
Information Service Providers.

Agreeing to use these services could make your online
payments simpler and more seamless, and you’ll be better placed to compare
what’s available in the marketplace. It also means you could make a payment
directly from your bank account without using a debit or credit card, which
could save you any card charges and fees.

Don’t worry, your data won’t be shared without your
permission! Banks – who as well as being dominant forces in the landscape, are
also the largest repositories of consumer data – are required by PSD2 to share
this data when you give your permission, as a way of levelling the playing
field.

In preparation for PSD2, your bank will have sent the last
few years developing technical integrations to make the data sharing process
easier. There’s a whole initiative around this within UK banking called Open
Banking, and your bank will have already sent you something that looks like
this:

 

PSD2 is also meant to end a practice that’s been a pain for
consumers for a long time.

You know when you go into a shop, or book theatre tickets
online, and you’re charged an additional percentage for using your credit card?

That practice – known as surcharging – ends with PSD2.

That’s not to say that shops and retailers will take this
lying down; it’s hard to know how they will respond. They might swallow the
costs, put their prices up across the board (which would affect ALL buyers, not
just those using cards), or offer shoppers an incentive to use different ways
to pay.

The jury is still out on this one, so keep your eyes peeled
to see what happen when you shop after 13 January!

 

How does PSD2 affect your business?

PSD2 only affects payment institutions, credit institutions,
and electronic money institutions.

If this is not your core business, there is no impact.

The only thing to note is that, if you add a surcharge for credit
cards when collecting payments, this practice will no longer be allowed.

 

Will Brexit affect PSD2?

The UK government has confirmed that PSD2 implementation
will not be affected by the process of leaving the European Union.

Since that only takes effect in 2019, PSD2 will be fully
implemented and transposed into UK law.

 It’s never been easier to start a business.

Particularly with the internet, social media and the sharing economy there are no longer costly barriers to entry. You no longer need a huge budget, or dedicated office space on a five-year lease to run a reputable business.

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners are drawn to starting their own businesses by the flexibility and freedom it provides. Many times, that freedom they seek from what they perceive as the bureaucratic practices which slow larger organisations down.

However, the downside of such flexibility and agility is that the need for processes are often overlooked, and the overall outcome is that money is left on the table.

To make sure you make the most of all the opportunities you come across, it’s worth taking a moment to review some key areas in your business. 

So, is your Small Business doing these 7 things?

1.     Are you consistently generating AND converting leads?

To have a sustainable business, you need to have a consistent pipeline of sales.

Part of creating that pipeline is making sure you constantly generate leads, which are then converted into sales and paying clients.

There are many different ways to generate leads. Raising awareness of your brand through the consistent creation of relevant content on your website and social media is a great way to make sure your products and services stay in your audience’s consciousness.

Other ways to generate leads include having a system to get referrals from existing or past clients; attending networking events regularly; and attending industry shows and conferences.

Most successful businesses will do a combination of these in some form or another. How do you ensure there is a steady stream of incoming leads?

2.     Do you have a system for following up with prospects and existing clients?

A common gaffe with small businesses is a failure to follow up with people who have already expressed an interest in their products and services.

Phone calls go unanswered, messages aren’t replied to, quotes and proposals are not sent for days – no, weeks! – after the original enquiry was made.

If someone has taken the trouble to phone, email or contact your business in some way, it means they are interested AND motivated to buy. Warm leads are the easiest sales to make; these are people who already want to buy what you sell. Why miss out on the opportunity to turn this prospect into a customer, provide the service you know you are brilliant at, and make some sales in the process?  

Make sure your business phone, emails and social media channels are checked regularly, and any messages responded to. These days, there are a variety of ways people can make enquiries, so don’t miss out on a sale because you haven’t checked the inbox for your Facebook page for a month!

Respond promptly when providing quotes and proposals, and after giving a decent amount of time for it to be reviewed and considered, follow up with an offer to answer any questions they may have.  

3.     Do you have a website?

In this digital age, having an online storefront and distribution channel where people can learn more about your products and services, and – this is the crucial bit – PAY for them – is essential.

If you are just starting out, I wouldn’t suggest developing a website as the very first task you undertake. But there are many other ways you can do this, such as having a business page on Facebook.

Also, websites do not have to be elaborate and all-encompassing; many businesses could effectively conduct their core activities with a well planned and developed landing page, or with a simple but efficient five-page website.

These days, platforms like WordPress have thought of practically everything and are so well evolved that they have plug-ins to cover functions ranging from blogs and videos, to product / sales pages and the ability to take payments.

 4.     Can you take card payments?

Surprising, but yes, there are still brick-and-mortar businesses that cannot process card payments!

I experienced this recently. On my way to visit a sick friend, I stopped at a flower shop. To my surprise, they cheerfully informed me they didn’t take card payments, and directed me to the nearest cash machine.

And it struck me. If measured, I bet THAT is the point they lose many customers.

I’m sure that business is doing well – at least, enough to cover the cost of their premises – but it would do even better if there wasn’t a risk of losing custom every time a prospect who has taken the time to come into their shop is directed back outside to a cash machine.

And the thing is, they have no excuse for not being able to take process card payments. A few years ago, it was a long-winded process that could only be done through your business bank account provider.

Time has moved on, and with providers such as iZettle, Stripe and PayPal for Business, processing payments either through a PIN entry device or on an iPad has become quite painless.

And with increased competition in the payments landscape, banks have upped their game too, and now strive to make the process of setting up card processing easier for small merchants.

 5.     Do you have a system to fulfil customer orders?

In other words, how do you manage demand, for your products and services?

 6.     Do you provide excellent customer service?

In today’s marketplace, your small business needs a way to standout, so it can attract clientele.

When you think of competition, you probably go straight to thinking about how to make your pricing  competitive. And while benchmarking the prices of your offering against those charged by others in your field is important, prices isn’t necessarily the only differentiator.

The quality of customer service you offer can mean that, while your audience knows your prices aren’t the lowest, they are happy to pay them anyway.

A perfect example of this from a big business is John Lewis. The reason I am a loyal customer who buys items ranging from electronics and cameras, to Fitbits and office equipment? Their customer service is second to none, and I know that if I ever have an issue with purchases, it will be resolved in a prompt and courteous fashion. 

7.     Do you track and follow up on unpaid invoices?

Seems obvious, but do you make sure invoices are issued when they should be every month, or as soon as you finish a job for a client?

Software such as Xero and quickbooks are user-friendly and make tasks such as creating and tracking invoices easier for you and your accountant.

And when you have sent the invoices, do you make sure you follow up if it isn’t paid promptly?

This can be a sensitive one, because people are uncomfortable talking about money. Yes, even when you have completed a brief and your invoice is still outstanding!

But, if your business is to maintain the level of cash flow it needs to survive and thrive, this is one discomfort you need to get over quickly.

Get used to sending out firm but courteous payment reminders, and don’t be afraid to have a face-to-face or phone conversation with a client about a breach of payment terms.

You owe it to yourself to do so; you’ve worked too hard to leave your money in other people’s hands.  

Small Business Saturday 2017: 21 Businesses You Really Must Check Out!

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it
was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for
planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything
formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or,
week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a
business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand
that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time
doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is,
here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money
pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what
you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it
when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you
on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own
devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and
services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer
demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your
target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or
service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the
current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your
proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not
serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle
with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a
minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each
month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits
very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living
document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust
these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

Most business owners and bosses I speak to agree on one
thing: having a Business Plan is crucial for goal-setting and the success that
comes with it.

When it comes to writing that plan however, I find that
actions don’t match the rhetoric!

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t
as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a
monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses to NOT write a Business Plan?

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about
anything!

But as the saying goes, if something is important you’ll
make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day.
You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month,
you’ll have your Business Plan!

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses,
but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – our successful
businesses.

While section headings in the document like “Sales Forecast”
and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the
time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread
you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of
how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day, and for your Sales
Forecast, put in estimates for what you anticipate your best and worst case
scenarios will be in terms of sales (be realistic!). Also, work out the minimum
number of units you need to sell to cover your costs.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down.

“It’s don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours
requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly
do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable
chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it
yourself, is the cost really worth the risk of going from one day to the next
without a plan?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need
to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there
are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that
will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. I’ve written
about why it’s something you need here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

(If you’re still wondering what the point of having a
Business Plan is, have a quick look at this).

(I’ve put together a post explaining what the jargon in a
Business Plan means; here it
is. Start by reading that; it will help you with this part).

I know this sounds patronising. After all, who knows your
business better than you?

I can assure you it isn’t meant to be. The point I’m making
is that, as well as giving an overview of your business, you have to be able to
articulate things like the main idea behind it, your mission and objectives,
and who your main competitors are.

Think about what the market is like, and where it is going

So, what’s the current condition of the market?

Is it growing, fairly stable, or declining?

Are there any notable underlying trends?

What is the demand in the market, and how do your products
or services meet that demand?

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition, and are there any
gaps in the market which you intend to fill?

Know the audience you are selling to

Which segment of the market have you designed your products
and services for?

Women, or men, or both?

Working women, or stay-at-home mothers?

People within a certain age range?

Are they based in cities, suburban or rural areas?

Are they early adopters or technophobes?

What are their problems, and which of these will you solve
with your products and services?

These are some of the questions which will frame your
offering. And they are crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products
and services are NOT for us.

They must meet the needs of your target market. Give the people
what they want, as they say!

Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your
products and services

Take some time to think about your pricing strategy.

Most of the time, people think this involves plucking a
price out of the air, but there’s more to it than that!

How much does each unit cost to produce, and what margin
will the market tolerate on top of that?

How does that then match your expectations for income and
profit?

Then, you need to think about how you want to market and
sell products and services. Social media makes advertising and marketing more
accessible, but bear in mind that what works for a similar business may not
work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how
you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns.

How will you measure your success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But if you don’t work out in advance how you’ll do this, how
will you know what you’re working towards?

And more importantly, how will you know when it happens?

Take some time to think through the finances

This part is easy to skip, but is probably the most important
of all.

You need a certain amount of cash to run your business every
month. Sum up your expenses (and don’t forget to include your salary).

What does the total come to?

That’s what the amount you need to have available. Not invoiced
and waiting to be paid; actual cash in the bank. Anything less, and you
immediately have a cash flow problem.

Many a business has been successful on paper and in terms of
invoiced amounts, but ended up filing for bankruptcy because it simply couldn’t
meet its obligations when they were due.

Another key point to address is the length of time you think
it will take to make a profit.

It’s not unusual for some businesses not to make a profit
for some months, or even years. As long as you know that upfront and are
prepared for it, that’s fine!

But if that’s the case, do you have an idea of what the losses
will come to each month? How will this be funded, and how long can you sustain
that?

In my experience, people either don’t plan for these
scenarios, or are far too optimistic with their figures.

P.S. Where I’ve recommended doing research, please don’t think
it has to be onerous.

Ask your family and friends. Use the internet. Create a poll
using Surveymonkey or Google Polls. Some professional bodies – such as the Institute
of Directors – offer research sessions which you can access as part of their
membership. Check with your professional body and see if they can help you do
some, maybe they’ve even done something similar already and have some
statistics they can share with you!

Small Business Saturday is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign which highlights small business success, and encourages consumers to “shop local” and support small businesses in their communities.

The day takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses. On Small Business Saturday, customers across the country go out and support all types of small businesses: online, in offices and in stores.

Here are 21 small businesses you really MUST check out. Apart from being innovative, their founders are committed to performing at the highest level of excellence #smallbusinesssaturday



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So here are twenty-one small businesses you really must check out. I chose them because, apart from the fact that they are run by people I know, these businesses are innovative, unique and their founders are committed to performing their craft at the highest level of excellence. Here they are:  

 abidemi.tv

Are you a budding author or freelance writer, not quite sure where to start?

abidemi.tv helps writers write better, make more and grow their brand.

The site was founded by Abidemi Sanusi, an author of nine books and experienced content strategist. Having delivered digital projects and content training for some of the world’s biggest brands, Abidemi says:

“As an author and veteran freelancer with experience of running my own content agency, I’m aware of the unique challenges that authors, freelancers and subject matter experts (SME)s face with writing their first books, running their freelance businesses, or in the case of SMEs, writing content that sells.

abidemi.tv delivers services and products that helps these audiences be more profitable, by writing books that people will buy, creating content that sells, and running resilient freelance businesses.” 

The Assistant Quarters

Claire Grace is the founder of The Assistant Quarters, a new agency of Virtual Assistants, Social Media Managers & Event Planners. The team offers a range of services to support ambitious female entrepreneurs and small businesses to escape overwhelm, grow their businesses and find their boss life balance.

 As Claire explains: "Whilst no two clients are alike in terms of the support we provide, they all have one thing in common – too much on the to-do list and not enough time! By understanding a client’s pain points we provide proactive support & fresh ideas to help their business grow and work smarter, rather than harder."

 Beth Searle

Have you been thinking of using video to market your business, but just haven’t seen one with that certain “something”?

Beth Searle makes stop motion videos that bring your brand and products to life. 

She says: "I work closely with my clients to create videos that help them to get noticed online. I love creating simple animations that bring products and brands to life!" Check out some of her fantastic work here.

Bright Sky HR

Career challenges are common, but Fay Wallis of Bright Sky HR specialises in coaching people to overcome them with confidence.

In her own words: “I help career-minded professionals navigate the transitions experienced in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

“You might be looking to land a more senior role, wanting to return to work after a break to have children, or trying to find a new path after redundancy or burn-out. It can often feel overwhelming dealing with these changes alone. And that can hold you back from finding a new way forward and achieving your career ambitions. 

“Whatever transition you are struggling with, I am here to help unlock the confidence and plans you need to take that next step.”

Coaching Emily

No one wants to think of the dreaded C-word, but sadly many of us know someone who has suffered with some form of the disease.

Emily Hodge is an ex-NHS Health Psychology Specialist, and in her business Coaching Emily she specialises in supporting people to move forward from cancer. She is also passionate about helping people lead gentler lives in general. 

In Emily’s words: "Cancer became part of my world at a young age. I realised I could take my personal experience– along with professional background – and build an effective coaching model to support others when I was well enough again.

"I soon discovered that the strategies I was teaching supported many others outside the cancer world too, so developed the gentle life programme to teach resilience and calm confidence for life."

 Corporate Cakery

Wondering what gift to give your clients, hand out in goody bags at that workshop or event, or how best to thank your teams?

Corporate Cakery was set up by Samantha Whittingham to help business owners celebrate and show their appreciation, with branded baked goods.

She says: “I created online cake shop Corporate Cakery to help business owners to celebrate & appreciate more. My background was in advertising before baking became my hobby, so I merged both passions to create delicious edible marketing products!”

Dara Ford

It’s not often I find a piece of clothing that fits perfectly, which is why I’m glad to have found Dara Stringham.

She is the women’s bespoke tailor at Dara Ford, where she handcrafts beautiful contemporary tailoring for women in business and beyond.

From suits, dresses, skirts, trousers and silk blouses, to wedding dresses and clutch bags, Dara creates individual pieces to be loved and worn for many seasons.

Dara says: “'There is no perfect size, only the perfect fit. I love creating unique one-of-a-kind pieces that fit and flatter my clients – clothes that make them feel confident, powerful and ready to tackle anything the world throws at them.”

Dr Niamh Children's Books

If you 're considering an alternative to toys as a present for your children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and godchildren this Christmas, why not check out Niamh Clune’s books?

She specialises in personalised children's books with exciting vocabulary, rhyme written in phonics, and beautiful illustrations.

Niamh says:  “Children have incredible imaginations and are more likely to engage with reading if a book is personalised. When we read to our children, they learn to associate books with love and affection.”

Her books are truly works of art; see them here.

 Equi Botanics

After dodgy extensions left her with hair loss and an inflamed scalp, Ekwy Chukwuji-Nnene founded Equi Botanics to inspire afro hair freedom.

In her own words: "I spent my life confused about my hair and that of my daughters. That was until I discovered how to make our hair thrive seven years ago, which led to an increase in our self-esteem and confidence. My mission is to inspire women to create hair they love by providing high performing products and live experience demos."

 Faraway

Busy and in need of a holiday? Not just any old holiday, but a different kind of experience?

At Faraway, Helen Robshaw helps busy people escape their routines, and go on far-flung life adventures. 

 She says: “From experience, I know that pressing pause and exploring somewhere new every once-in-a-while gives you energy, creativity and a fresh perspective. But ironically, our travellers are often too busy for the research involved to make it happen themselves!

 “So we help them choose where to go, personally match them to out-of-the-ordinary experiences and take care of all the nitty-gritty involved in organising such a trip.”

Gwendi Klisa

Gwendi Klisa is Brand Stylist at Love Brand and a tutor at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London.

 She’s been building brands for fifteen years and has dedicated her career to helping entrepreneurs fine-tune their message, so they can position themselves in a profitable niche.

 In her words: “I hate to say it, but packaging really is everything, especially in the busy online education, consumer products and lifestyle sectors. Aligning that packaging with your authentic self and knowing how to reach more members of your ideal audience can transform your business into a self-starter.”

 Hayley Loren

Do you teach GCSE science, and would like an innovative way to get your students interested in the subject?

Hayley Loren may be just who you’re looking for! She creates fun and engaging GCSE science videos and teaching material, to support busy teachers and inspire students about science.

Hayley told me: "As an engineer who loves the arts, I believe combining science and entertainment is a great way to help students learn. The videos and teaching material I create help grab students’ attention during class, and lets them see science and engineering in action!"

Learn more about what she does here.

Keep Cottage

If you’re in need of a break in a beautiful English county, consider going to Suffolk.

And more precisely, book your accommodation through Keep Cottage

Run by Sara Moreton, Keep Cottage is a holiday home business in Orford Suffolk where two beautiful holiday homes are located. One is a sixteenth century three-bedroom cottage, and the other is a one-bedroom contemporary holiday property.

Having had a blended career portfolio and owned a number of other businesses over the years, Sara says she was driven to this lifestyle business for the flexibility it gives her to pursue several interests. This includes being a Business Mentor for Princes Trust.

Life More Extraordinary

Oxford and Cambridge Universities have been the pinnacle of tertiary education in the UK for hundreds of years, and gaining admission to either of these institutions is no mean feat!

That’s where Lucy Parsons comes in. She is Academic Coach at Life More Extraordinary, where she helps students to get top grades needed to get into their dream universities. 

In Lucy’s words: "I know what it takes to get the top grades, having got 5 As in my A-Level exams, and having studied at Cambridge University. I take the stress out of studying for teenagers and their parents, so that they can reach their potential without going stir-crazy in the process."

Mastermind Strategies

Couldn’t possibly write a piece like this without mentioning myself, could I?

I’ve always been good at building and taking logical steps, and I really enjoy doing what I call “creating order out of chaos”. Over the years I’ve worked in global banks and smaller financial institutions, where solving problems and delivering solutions – by working on improvements and optimisations, implementing new processes or new systems, or both – became my stock in trade.

And now, I do this through my consultancy, Mastermind Strategies, where I specialise in delivering projects that help Entrepreneurs and Executives grow and optimise their businesses.

Mildred Jones

If you’re looking for jewellery that is different from the run-of-the-mill ranges, here’s something very different for you to consider.

Susie Jones is the owner of Mildred Jones Fine Jewellery and designer of the Celebration Pendant. Susie specialises in working with individuals to personalise their pendants with hand engraving and gemstones, to celebrate life and mark special occasions.

Susie says: "I searched in vain to find a special piece of jewellery after my son was born. Unable to find anything which was high quality and could be personalised, I designed my own pendant and had it made.

 “The idea for my business was born! People love the fact that each Celebration Pendant is not only unique to them, but is also made to last more than a lifetime and will eventually be handed down, becoming an heirloom which tells the story of their family. I feel very fortunate to be a part of that."

Optimum Living

Optimum Living is a dynamic and innovative wellbeing consultancy that enables individuals and global teams to achieve their peak levels of health, vitality and happiness. Its mission is to inspire interest and responsibility for personal health, through creating sustainable, positive, measurable improvements for individuals and organisations.

Managing Director Colette Heneghan says: “I experienced first-hand the consequences of being hyper-connected, multi-tasking, long working weeks and erratic eating patterns. I went on a mission for answers to remedy this, surely there was a better way!

“Our approach combines relevant business understanding with human performance. It goes beyond healthy eating, exercise and sleep more, to really get to heart of the culture of an organisation or team. This makes sure the language, process, environment and behaviours support the individuals, creating a workplace where people can be their best and truly thrive.”

Poised Concierge

Have you ever missed out on attending Ascot or Wimbledon, because you didn’t get round to sorting out tickets? 

Does your work involve lots of international travel, which means your property is left unattended?

Or, perhaps you’re moving to the UK with your family, and need someone to find you a property to purchase that meets certain requirements, as well as a school for your children.

You should talk to Timi Phillips of Poiseda dedicated concierge that offers a selection of carefully curated, luxury services, ranging from property management and personal shopping, to access to exclusive events and more.

She says: “I have always enjoyed organising and taking the stress away from accomplishing the simple and the unique things in life. With Poised, I get to do that everyday for my clients.”

Teresa Walton Headshot Photography

What picture have you got on your LinkedIn profile?

It gets to a point where that selfie or holiday snap just won’t do!

Enter Teresa Walton, a Specialist Headshot Photographer who creates striking images to make her clients’ first impressions count.

She will provide you with images to make you feel good about yourself, and coach you how to look your best in front of the camera. You will get direct feedback from seeing your image on the computer, and your confidence will grow as you see what you can look like with good lighting and direction.

In Teresa’s words: “An effective headshot can give the viewer a sense of who you are more than words can say. Being photogenic is about doing the right things in front of the camera, and anyone can be taught that. I aim for my clients to feel confident and comfortable, and this will show on their faces.”

She can be found here.

Villiers Park Educational Trust

This isn’t really a business, but it’s a worthy cause I’d like to bring to your attention.

Villiers Park Educational Trust is a charity that helps able young people develop a passion for learning and study, and it equips underprivileged over-16s with life skills they need to reach their full academic potential.

Their vision is a future in which all students experience a challenging and inspirational education, leading to increased personal achievement and an improvement in social mobility in the UK.  They believe their focus on young people with high academic potential leads to an increase in whole school culture, ethos and attainment.

I met the charity's Director of Development and Communications Caroline Baker recently, and she gave me a brief insight into the amazing work this organisation does. 

Wordsmythe Tutoring

I’ve told you about the academic coach who helps GCSE students get into top universities.

But what about the level before that? If your children are at the stage where they need to get into the right secondary school, the person you must speak to is Nkem Ivara of Wordsmythe Tutoring.

She is so highly sought out that parents have been known to bring their children to her for tutoring from locations as varied as Cheshunt, Edgware, Stratford and Woodford Green.

Not that location is an issue; should you be based further afield, she can arrange virtual tutoring sessions.

Nkem delivers personalised tuition in English at all levels, as well as verbal and non-verbal reasoning for the 11+ and 13+ entrance exam preparations.

 In her words: “I am passionate about English grammar and vocabulary, and love helping children navigate the murky waters of creative writing and reading comprehension." 

An effective headshot can give theviewer a sense of who you are more than words can say.