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The cost of doing business

30th June, 2015 No Comments


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Those of us who have been supporting people to start up and run their own business know that it is very common for personal and business finances to become very intertwined and a new report from the Money Advice Trust’s Business Debtline shines the spotlight on the consequences!

The report ‘The Cost of Doing Business’ recognises the growing number of people moving into self employment, but cautions the need to understand their challenges as well as celebrate their successes.  The report suggests the growth in self-employment presents an opportunity to ensure the necessary support is in place to help them to continue to trade and prosper and sets out a number of recommendation for government, creditors, utility companies and for support organisations; for example improving access to support; tackling late payments; support with real time accounting.

More and more people are looking to start their own business as a means to fulfil lifelong ambitions, through a view that the right jobs isn’t there for them right now or to provide additional income to supplement caring responsibilities or retirement – and as such it’s more and more important that we ensure they understand the best way to keep their finances in control and to understand the implications on their personal budgets from running a business.

When you seek advice to help with the start up of a business one of the first things you’ll be asked is to honestly assess your personal survival budget; what do you really need to earn to ensure you and your family can live the lives you need to – no rose tinted glasses required here, just a straightforward assessment of what bills you need to pay to run the home and what other costs do you need to account for to make sure you have the lives you want, holidays, presents, school trips, perhaps even a social life!

You then need to be honest about the amount of work you’ll need to undertake in order to achieve that amount of income – and more besides, because don’t forget you’ll also need to cover stock, overheads, tax and possibly PAYE and VAT – for some the numbers just don’t add up and so in those cases it’s often best to go away and look again at the business idea and see how it can be adapted to make it work.

You will also be advised to keep separate records and ideally a separate bank account for your business as that is the easiest way to ensure you know exactly where you are and avoid any issues with mixing up business and personal finance.  But you also need to try and avoid the temptation to fund the business using personal resources, buying stock or petrol on the personal credit card, taking out a personal loan to fund the business – particularly if you’re not sure where the business is going to get the money to pay those back.

Developing a good business plan is the ideal way to prepare yourself to set up and run your own business, it doesn’t have to be war and peace – but it does need to be your roadmap for your business journey – what is the business going to do, what ambitions do you have for it and how are you going to achieve them.  The business planning process is also an opportunity to look at ‘what if’ scenarios: what if you don’t get all the orders you expected; what if you don’t get paid for the work you’ve done on time, or at all; what if there is a change in the way your sector is performing and that impacts on your business – all important considerations because with all the best planning in the world, sometimes things just don’t go as we expect!

The report also includes some great tips for the self employed and small business owners: get advice early; do business and household budgets; explore all the options to maximise your income; recognise not all debts are equal; complete tax and other returns on time; put aside for a pension; open a business bank account; think carefully before propping up your business with personal credit; get help with deciding the viability of the business and last but by no means least don’t put your head in the sand!

Anyone seeking help from enterprise support organisations will get all the advice and more so there’s nothing to lose – find the support local to you and make use of it!

Written by Dawn Whiteley, CEO, National Enterprise Network

To find the Cavendish Consortium enterprise support organisation in your area click here.

 

 

 

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Why small business need to be confident in their approach to PR

26th June, 2015 No Comments


 

Abstract Businessmen communicating from distance - cropped

In a previous life, I ran workshops for charities and NFP’s who were looking to maximise their PR efforts often with little or no budgets. These workshops were always interesting and I came away thinking most of the time, these businesses didn’t need any formal training in PR, they just had to understand what makes a good story and who to tell it to. So here are my top tips for any small business that doesn’t employ a PR professional.

1  Do your homework

What sort of story are you selling – news report, feature, human interest? Is it for local/regional or nation press? What is the hook – why would anyone publish this story?

2  Know the audience

What audience does the publication or website reach? Knowing the audience will influence the details you provide.

3  Develop key messages

It’s critical to develop up to three core messages you want to communicate about your company and this should include how you are different or better than your competitors. If you don’t have a company ‘boilerplate’ or mission statement it might be time to develop one.

4  Skip the jargon

It’s easy to fall into the habit of using industry jargon and acronyms. Make a point to avoid these whenever possible. If you do need to use a term that the average person might not understand, make sure you explain it.

5  There is no such thing as ‘Off record’

No matter what a reporter says, you are never off the record. Anything you email or say could end up printed. Just be aware.

6  Be mindful of what you say

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly, only that every conversation is a professional encounter, not a social one.

7  Respect deadlines

Reporters work to lots of deadlines and you can earn their respect and build a relationship by adhering to them. Also, make sure you return all phone calls and e-mails promptly if you want to become a regular ‘go to’ spokesperson for your industry or sector.

8  Don’t ask to see the story

Reporters want to protect their independence. Showing a story to a source before it runs violates this, so don’t ask! However, you should offer to provide any additional information the reporter may need and offer to check key facts before publication.

9  Evaluate

Any lessons you can take away from the story will help you next time! Ask others who saw/read/heard you for feedback. This is especially true if it doesn’t get published – ask why not so you can understand for next time.

10 Keep Going

It takes time to build a relationship, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have much success at first. Be determined and develop a thick skin – you may get a long of rejection before you see anything in print!

 

These guidelines were written with publishers and broadcast media in mind, but many of the same principals apply to digital and social media.  You are the best ‘voice’ of your business.  Inject your passion for your company into your PR and you will reap the rewards!

 

Submitted by Enterprise First

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A very creative start-up omelette

3rd June, 2015 No Comments


 

smiley face on egg in vintage style

The making of a business begins with getting the recipe for success right and in the correct measure. In the set-up stages of making an omelette you need to plan the meal, ensure you have all the ingredients, the quantities required and know the order in which they should be mixed and cooked. Starting a business works in the same way which also requires a similar plan of action and in many cases supported with advice from someone more experienced who can help to avoid the newbie pitfalls.

1  The recipe

The first thing to consider is the formula for your particular business omelette and if it has been done before. If it has, the information gained can be invaluable to help refine your recipe and speed up your version.

If your omelette is unique or sprinkled with your particular style of creativity then you will greatly benefit from testing the market and seek consumer opinion of your product or service recipe, solicit opinion, gauge reactions and even offer samples for consumption in order to get the most reliable results before using your expensive ingredients and valuable time in the exercise.

With the evidence and confidence of market demand you will be ready to document the perfect recipe and execute the grand master plan.

2  Good dose of operational management

Off course to make a great omelette you need the necessary tools and resources in order to produce the business delights we now know people want. This will include having good suppliers that offer ingredients that are affordable, that you have the necessary people, skills, equipment and premises to achieve the scale and quality of craft or service you are aiming to deliver.

3  Liberal shot of sales & marketing

Now that you have produced your lovely new omelette you will need to spread the word as liberally as possible and make sure the people who will potentially buy your omelette become aware of how wonderful it is and that it is worth every penny. The variety of promotional tools and methods at your disposal are vast e.g. social media, internet, leaflets, advertising, word of mouth, recommendations etc. This is a good time to look at similar successful businesses or people again and see how they have done it successfully. Also to critically review your own skill levels, the need for further training and tap into available advice & professional support.

4  Level cup of budget control

It is great that you are now selling lots of omelettes at the standard your customers expect and is accessible when they become peckish. Hopefully the potentially award winning recipe is costing you a lot less to produce than it is selling for. If not, something is going wrong.

To head off any problems and loss of control of your finances it is a good idea to have a clear and organised system for keeping track of your expenses and accurate records of income stream to avoid cash flow problems. This should help you to stay in profit, legally compliant and most importantly in control of your budget.

5  How to start your business?

Starting your business omelette doesn’t always come with a recipe for success and this article opens the way to understanding the benefits of planning yours. You can also access further support for more in-depth information; training and most importantly 1-2-1 consultations with a business adviser who will help you to get the mix right when starting your own business.

Written by Fardad Amirsaeedi, NBV Enterprise Solutions

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