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What makes a ‘Best Company’?

31st March, 2015 No Comments


Kevin Horne

For the last few years Nwes has been recognised as a Sunday Times Top 100 company to work for (17th this year). To qualify, staff rank the firm on a variety of factors – none of which includes profit or turnover. On looking at the list however it is clear that being a great place to work is synonymous with trading success. In contrast, I was at an angel investors meeting recently and talking to some of the potential funders all that they seemed interested in was profit. Fair enough but not one of them looked happy and seemed amazed when I said that I was looking for something which would be ‘fun’.

There seems to be a real disconnect between the worlds of finance and that of real business. Money is just a way of keeping score – it is not the rationale for anyone that I know who has actually set up in business. Peoples motivations are varied but riches are way down the list of priorities. So when looking at what makes a great business why do so many people concentrate on short term profit and less on a more widespread assessment of company value?

My mantra has always been that it is incumbent on me and my team to make working for Nwes a great experience. In turn that creates loyalty and a greater commitment to the company – which results in better financial returns. A simple calculation but one lost on many large companies where the leaders are corporate climbers who have never been near a start up business or created anything themselves using their own ‘sweat equity’. We are not perfect but our staff have voted us in at number 17 in the country! I would love to see every FTSE250 company commit to entering the Sunday Times Best Companies every year – it would be very interesting to see where they end up. Perhaps executives bonuses could in part be tied to their ranking – it may make some people take a long term view rather than the short term bonus filled culture which has resulted in so many scandals recently.

For the last 18 months we have been working with Virgin. Whilst I cannot comment on where they would sit in a Best Companies ranking it is clear that Sir Richard Branson is both very successful and associated with fun at work. How many other bosses can you name who have a similar reputation?

So for me a ‘Best Company’ is many things:

– Fair to its staff

– Open and transparent

– A good communicator

– Sustainable

– Makes a positive contribution to society

– A fun place to work

…. profitability is merely a part of sustainability.

Written by Kevin Horne, CEO of Nwes

 

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Recognition for Enterprise Support Sector in Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies

18th March, 2015 No Comments


As the National Enterprise Network, the unique membership body who represents those working in the enterprise support sector across England, we know that working in the enterprise support sector isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. The sector has a tendency to capture people’s hearts. There is a commitment to encouraging people and supporting small businesses across the county.

With the belief that our members are crucial to England’s economic growth, the National Enterprise Network will support their work by representing their interests and by promoting the results they achieve, thereby connecting them with opportunities for even greater success.

We acknowledge that the enterprise support sector requires real dedication from those involved, together with a strong desire to impact upon the lives of the individuals and businesses they support. Enterprise support professionals really do love what they do – they believe in enterprise, are passionate about entrepreneurship, and are clear on the value of business support. As independent, not for profit organisations, they are proud to maintain a strong social ethos – a belief embedded to the core.

It wasn’t a surprise, therefore, to receive the news that two of the enterprise support organisations in our membership were ranked as the UK’s best employers in this year’s Sunday Times ‘100 Best Not-for-Profit Companies’ awards.

Nwes and Business West are both long standing agencies, NEN Quality Assured Members, and partners in the Cavendish Consortium. Their services include business support, advice and training, and they both offer premises on easy term agreements for businesses in their regions.

The two organisations were announced alongside all other winners at a ceremony in London in February this year. Nwes in Norwich was ranked 17th in the Top 100 Not-for-Profit Best Companies to Work For in the UK, and also received the Comic Relief Special Award for ‘Giving Something Back’ to the community. Business West in Bristol was ranked 80th – coming in the top three for the South West region specifically.

Candidates were judged on a number of criteria including employees’ views on the company’s leadership; their manager and team; their personal growth opportunities; giving back to society and the local community; and pay and benefits.

There is an overall focus on those companies which invest in the wellbeing and motivation of their employees, and we are delighted that two of our members have been recognised in this way. Enterprise support professionals are driven to help their clients and work hard together as a team, often in challenging circumstances, in order to do so.

We appreciate how unique our network is and the importance of the role our members have in their communities, and are delighted that the sector has been recognised in these national awards.

Our wholehearted congratulations to Nwes and Business West!

Posted by Dawn Whiteley, Chief Executive, National Enterprise Network

 

 

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5 great tips for making memorable presentations

10th March, 2015 No Comments


More and more start-ups and small businesses are finding they need to speak publicly or to a room of people. The “Ready for Business” programme aids entrepreneurs to achieve business growth but also confidence.

The article below provided by NBV’s associate “Nottingham Speakers Club” seeks to offer simple but powerful tools to making successful presentations.

There are lots of different ways to get more business – advertising, networking, word of mouth, recommendations, mail shots to name but a few. Whatever works for you is the one to use, but at some point, you’re going to have to speak to people to tell them about what you do. Nobody knows your business as well as you do, or has invested as much time and money (as well as blood, sweat and tears) in it, so you are absolutely the best person to tell others about why you’re so great!

“You want me to stand up in front of an audience and speak? I can’t do that!”

 

Actually, yes you can! We have seen even the most terrified quickly grow into competent, confident and even brilliant public speakers, so we know you can too. The application of well tried and tested techniques, 5 of which are outlined below, will help, but at its heart public speaking is an art form and is best learned and improved by PRACTICE, preferably in a “live” but supportive setting. You have to experience it, and when you do it well it is exhilarating!

 

BE PREPARED

 

You’ve probably heard ‘the 5 Ps’ –Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance, and preparation is vital if you are to make a successful presentation. Things you may want to consider are:

Audience – size, position in the company, do they know of you already, level of technical knowledge

Venue – size of the room, layout (e.g. everyone round a table or you at the front), equipment available (vital if you are using Powerpoint or other visual aids or demonstrating your product or service)

Timings – turn up before your time slot and never EVER go over the time you have been allowed

Presentation content – know your subject inside out!

Look great! – Present a professional image. Dress appropriately for the venue and audience

 

STRUCTURE YOUR SPEECH

 

Giving your speech some sort of a structure will help your audience follow what you are saying and put the information you are giving them into a clearer context. A good tip is to follow the ‘News at Ten’ approach:

Tell them what you are going to tell them (INTRODUCTION)

Tell them (MAIN BODY)

Tell them what you’ve told them (SUMMARY)

Make your introduction grab your audience’s attention, but keep it short and sweet. Introduce yourself and your company and then briefly tell your audience what you are going to cover.

The main body of your presentation is the section where you put across the key messages you want your audience to hear. It’s really tempting to bombard the audience with too much information but

If you do that, your key messages may become confused and your audience becomes, quite frankly, bored! It is much better to identify just 3 key points you want to communicate and put them across well – this is known as “the power of three”.

The summary should again be short and to the point. Pick out the main thing you want the audience to remember most and really emphasise why they need you!

 

PRESENT WITH PASSION!

 

When we are communicating with others, there are 3 elements that count – the words we use, our tone of voice and our body language. Research has shown that the words we use accounts for less than 10% of what we communicate, whilst the tone of voice may be responsible for about 30%. (See the next tip for the remaining 60%!)

Whatever the actual figure, it’s clear that your voice is a key tool in making an effective presentation! There are 3 main points to consider:

Volume – speak loudly enough so that the person furthest away from you can hear you clearly. Also, vary the volume – louder to put emphasis on a particular word or message, quieter to draw your audience in once you have built rapport.

Pace – when we are nervous, we tend to speak more quickly than normal. Make a conscious effort to speak at a slightly slower than normal pace but plan to inject changes in pace too – to keep your presentation interesting. Silence (stopping for a few seconds) can be the most powerful pace change of all.

Pitch – varying the pitch of your voice, by which we mean speaking with a slightly higher or deeper voice than normal – will also add impact to what you are saying. When there is a change in pitch, people notice. So think about the important words, phrases, and sentences and modify your pitch to draw attention to them.

 

BODY LANGUAGE SHOUTS LOUDEST!

 

Research shows that our body language makes up over half of the message we communicate, so it is very important that it supports and reinforces what we are saying. All of the physical gestures we make are subconsciously interpreted by others. This can work for or against us depending on the kind of body language we use.

You may be really nervous when you are speaking to a group, but they don’t know that unless you tell them! If you follow a few simple suggestions, your body language will present a confident image

Stand tall! Whether you’re five feet one or six feet four don’t slouch! Stand up straight, have your feet a shoulder-width apart, have your shoulders back and keep your chin up.

It’s OK to move! You don’t always have to be rooted to the spot with your arms held rigidly by your sides. If it feels right don’t be afraid to move a couple of paces to the side, or even nearer towards your audience.

The key is to be natural and avoid anything which will distract the audience.

 

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

 

Like any skill, your public speaking will improve through repetition. If you are having an operation in a hospital, you’d want the surgeon to have practiced a bit, wouldn’t you? You’d want the pilot taking you on your holiday to have a few flying hours under his belt, too, I imagine!

Look for opportunities where you can practice speaking to a group. If you are nervous, start with small groups or even individuals. Perhaps start with a “tame” audience – the team you work with or even your family. How about a business breakfast club?

If you haven important speech lined up – perhaps to a potential new customer – don’t leave it to chance on the day. Write your speech out longhand at first and read it out to yourself. Does it flow well? Is the language and terminology right? Is the timing OK? Have you followed the tips outlined in this article?

Even better still, practice to an audience and ask for feedback. Ask them how it sounded, what were the messages they thought you were trying to get across, did you seem confident?

A great way to improve your public speaking would be to join Nottingham Speakers’ Club. The club meets every other Thursday evening and everyone gets the chance to make a speech on a subject of their choice in a friendly, non-judgemental environment. Evaluations of speeches by other members find the positive aspects of the speeches and help speakers understand how and where they can improve.

 

Written by: Alan Young, Nottingham Speakers Club

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Building Long-term Value

3rd March, 2015 No Comments


“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value” Albert Einstein

These words have a particular resonance in today’s world as more and more businesses are considering corporate social responsibility (CSR) as part of their business strategy, so what is CSR and how can it benefit you as a business?

CSR describes the principle that companies can and should make a positive contribution to society. CSR is the practice of managing the social, environmental and economic impacts of the company, being responsive to ‘stakeholders’ and behaving according to a set of values. But in practice this can refer to a wide range of actions that companies may take, from donating to charity to reducing carbon emissions.

Your customers, suppliers and the local community are all affected by your business and what you do. Your employees depend on your business, while your products and the way you make them, all have an impact on the environment. CSR is about understanding your business’ impact on the wider world and considering how you can use this impact in a positive way.

However CSR isn’t just about doing the right thing. It means behaving responsibly, and also dealing with suppliers who do the same. It offers direct business benefits including:

Activities such as involvement with the local community are ideal opportunities to generate positive press coverage

      A good reputation makes it easier to recruit employees

      CSR helps ensure you comply with regulatory requirements

      Understanding the wider impact of your business can help you develop new products and services.

Building a reputation as a responsible business sets you apart. Companies often favour suppliers who demonstrate responsible policies, as this can have a positive impact on how they are perceived by customers. Some customers don’t just prefer to deal with responsible companies, but insist on it. “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” Warren Buffet

You can also reduce resource use, waste and emissions which doesn’t just help the environment – it saves you money too. It’s not difficult to cut utility bills and waste disposal costs and you can bring immediate cash benefits.

Make the most of your CSR activities by publicising them. Ensure that customers, suppliers and the local community know what you are doing. CSR lends itself to good news stories. Publicity like this can be a key part of using CSR to win contracts. People want to buy from businesses they respect. CSR can be particularly effective for targeting ethical companies, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations.

At the same time, you should see CSR as part of a continuing process of building long-term value. Everything you do should help improve your reputation and encourage customers and other stakeholders to stay involved with you. A business that buys recycled paper – but ignores the local community – has missed the point. You could consider working towards a management standard which you can then use to publicise your ethical, environmental or social responsibility…

Effective CSR like this helps you continue to differentiate yourself. Even with dozens of competitors, a real commitment to CSR makes you stand out.

I’ll finish with a quote from Henry Ford, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”

Carole White, Chief Executive, TEDCO Business Support.

 

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