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To plan, or not to plan…. that is the question?

26th October, 2015 No Comments


businessman drawing maze on white wall

It’s always fascinating to hear that most people who start a business, or indeed who are already running one don’t have a business plan!

You wouldn’t consider going on a journey to somewhere new without consulting a map, sticking the postcode into a SatNav or the even more modern day equivalent, consulting the app of choice on your smart phone.  Nor if you were looking to start a new job, would you do so without consulting the job description?  Well business planning should be looked upon in the same way, an opportunity to work out where you want to go and how you think you might attempt to get there!

The common misconception about business planning is that the document has to be long and complicated, pages and pages and reams and reams of words – well in the case of some businesses that might be appropriate, but actually for most that would be really quite unnecessary!  A business plan isn’t supposed to be War and Peace, it’s supposed to be your opportunity to consider what you want for the business and how you intend to make it happen – if that can be done on two sides of A4 then that is absolutely fine!

If you’re setting up in business for the first time, in most cases, you won’t have had any experience of business planning before – very few jobs require that – so it’s quite understandable that there is an aversion to it, a fear of the unknown!  For many people the task of sitting down and writing something isn’t one they’ll have had to do all that often so it isn’t a surprise that many will shy away from attempting it!

Another common misconception is that a business plan is for someone else, the bank manager or other funders, your customers or suppliers – that also is really not the case, a business plan can aid those others in understanding your business, but at the end of the day it’s a document for you and so once you’ve written it you shouldn’t hide it away in a draw and never refer to it again, you should revisit it regularly to see how close to your plan your business is progressing, and if it isn’t what might you need to consider to respond to that, maybe nothing – but how will you know?

A good business plan only needs to do a few things – set out what the business is going to do, what gives you the credibility and experience to do it, where your customers are going to come from and what sort of relationship you’re going to develop with them, the same for suppliers and the very important side of any business – the finances, how much do you need to earn from the business, how are you going to arrive at what you’re going to charge and how much work does the business need to find in order to ensure you’re going to make enough money and be a success.

Clearly in more complicated businesses there might be the need for some additional elements, but in the vast majority this will be sufficient.

There is one further important thing which the process of business planning helps with for any new business and that’s the idea of scenario planning or, the ‘what ifs’!  What if you don’t get as much work as you’d hoped, what if you don’t get paid when you expected, what if a key customer or supplier lets you down and so on?  The very act of giving consideration to these will prepare you far better should they actually happen and put you in much better stead to make your business a success.

When it comes to the finances this is certainly one element where there is a need to continually revisit your original plans.  You should prepare a cashflow forecast before you start the business outlining where you are going to earn money and where you are going to spend it, and ensuring as much as possible that you always stay in the black (but if you can’t, where is that shortfall going to be funded from) – again the process of preparing a cashflow makes you think about how much money you need to earn and how many customers you need to find to make the business financially sustainable.

Once the business has started and you complete your bookkeeping on a regular basis it’s worth going back to the cashflow forecast and comparing where you are with where you hoped to be, are there any unexpected surprises and if so does that lead you to think differently about anything you’re doing?

So when it comes to the question, to plan or not to plan – if you want to give your business the very best chance of success – the answer, very definitely has to be yes!  Not least because there is lots of help out there to set you on the right path and give you all the support and advice you need to do it, it’s not something you have to do on your own and certainly not something you need to be daunted by – the partners within Cavendish Consortium can help, so get in touch!

Written by Dawn Whiteley, CEO National Enterprise Network

You may be eligible for the new Start & Grow programme which will help you with you business plan, and so much more, giving support to you and your business for three years from start up.  Contact the Cavendish partner in your region.

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Are you the next innovative entrepreneur?

22nd October, 2015 No Comments


business man writing success concept by goal, vision, creativity, teamwork, focus, inspiration, training, etc.

We are searching for entrepreneurs looking to start up and grow their business, and who have the aspirations, the commitment, and the capabilities to make the business succeed.  The Cavendish Consortium members are offering a support package, tailored to the individual needs, to guide businesses such as these along their path of growth.

Start & Grow, the premium, business support package, funded by the Regional Growth Fund, and delivered by Cavendish members, supersedes our highly successful Ready for Business programme that ended in March 2015.

The Start & Grow programme is designed specifically to provide support to individuals looking to start sustainable businesses that expect to employ people from the early stages and where start-up financing will be required to get the business venture off the ground.

The dedicated support provided will be tailored to the individual needs of the business owner and the business concept.  The comprehensive Start & Grow offering includes one to one support and advice; workshops and training; mentoring and coaching; and support to source the most appropriate funding available.  The support package continues over three years, and is designed to guide and advise businesses through their growth period.

Ready for Business helped 6,820 new businesses throughout England ranging across the different business sectors.

Under the scheme Sebastian Cranston received 18 hours of support resulting in three jobs being created. He had his own investment of £3,400 and accessed a loan of £7,500.  Further growth led to raising an additional £15,000 of investment:

Cranston’s Fine Ales

Sebastian Cranston from Ramsbottom, Lancashire was supported by Bolton Business Ventures. Redundancy was the trigger that led Sebastian to start-up his own business. Deciding that the time was right to take charge of his own destiny, he launched Cranston’s Fine Ales.

Sebastian said:  “The scheme helped me to turn my business idea into a reality. I found the help and advice invaluable!  The scheme is very useful for first time entrepreneurs. I think that just having an experienced business owner to start the process with is great.”

Cranston’s was set up to promote and sell micro brewed British real ales and run mobile bars.  Assisted by his own dedicated BBV mentor, Sebastian was able to grow the business to the point where he was able to employ two part-time and one full time employee. He was able to invest in training for himself and his staff to attend a variety of courses from cellar management to brewing. Their collective specialist knowledge now allows them to offer unique services to brewers such as brand consultancy and chemical analysis.

The success of Cranston’s Fine Ales was recognised when Sebastian became a finalist in Allied London’s Leftbank Kitchens Competition. This resulted in him being offered the chance to open a bottle shop in the heart of Spinningfields, Manchester. The intention is to replicate the offering in other cities, and open a brewpub.

Aside from the loan itself, Sebastian found having access to such experienced mentoring extremely useful, and he believes he could not have succeeded without Bolton Business Ventures introducing him to the Ready for Business scheme.

Karim Berauo received 14 hours of support in total resulting in one new job being created, and a successful application for a £15,000 bank loan bringing the total investment into the business to £50,000.

Morocco Link Ltd, Bournemouth

Karim, of Moroccan descent, spotted a gap in the English market and decided to start a business with his wife, importing authentic pure Moroccan Argan oil direct from the North African desert.

Karim was confident his start-up would be a success, but found himself overwhelmed by the many challenges of starting a business. Dreams of working for himself began to feel out of reach. Karim approached Business West and enrolled on the Ready for Business programme.  A business advisor supported Karim in his preparation of a clear and robust business plan. This support was instrumental in SWIG’s decision to award him a start-up loan to the value of £15,000.

“The advice and guidance was extremely useful”, recalls Karim.  Morocco Link Ltd was set up in February 2013, and during the first year three mentoring sessions were provided by the programme, as well as a further eight hours of support. Morocco Link Ltd also received a free Chamber membership for a year giving access to information and events.  “A good support network like Ready for Business is a great source of value, especially when things get tough.”

John Davies received 18 hours of support in total resulting in 13 new jobs being created, with a client equity of £38,000.

Fastglass, Washington

Setting up his own business was made crystal clear for John from Washington thanks to the Ready for Business programme.

Fastglass, which makes and supplies glass for double glazing units to window companies, was launched earlier this year and in a short space of time has gone from strength to strength – creating new jobs as customer demand has grown.  Four new positions have been created on the factory floor.

John had previous experience of running his family business many years ago, but despite being familiar with the basics of setting up and running his own business, John recognised a need for further support.  He attended a regional Ready for Business seminar where he found out more about the innovative programme and how it supports new business start-ups in the region.

“I was introduced to Emma Mitchell, TEDCO business advisor for the Ready for Business programme and from our initial conversation it was very clear that she would be able to add great value to what I already had in place”, says John.  “Whilst I had covered off most of what I needed to get started, Emma was able to identify areas to which I needed to give more consideration. She has helped me get a grant towards my rent and discount off my business rates – things that it turns out that I was entitled to but I wasn’t aware were available to me before speaking with her.”

Emma also helped John explore apprenticeship schemes and helped put in place the necessary health and safety measures needed for his business.  “Ready for Business is very different from almost every other start-up support programme that I have come across. It really does ensure that not only do you have everything in place to get your business off the ground. The bespoke advice offered beyond the initial stages is extremely valuable and focuses your attention on how you are going to develop and grow your business and make it a sustainable enterprise. I’m now looking at how I can build upon our already strong customer base and make Fastglass the supplier of choice with window companies throughout the region. ”

By signing up to the Start & Grow programme you could become one of our businesses in the ‘Hall of Fame’ and join the ranks of these three successful new businesses from the Ready for Business scheme.

Take the first step ……..

Contact the Cavendish member in your region for further information about Start & Grow

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Written by Davina Young, Marketing Manager, Cavendish

 

 

 

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Ideas to increase footfall in retail

16th October, 2015 No Comments


Moving crowd in a international exhibition

How does everyone else make it look so easy?

Setting up a retail business often means significant regular costs that can make you feel like a cloud is permanently overhead – just waiting to open up and drench you!

This burden puts a great deal of pressure on cash flow and the ability to maintain morale. The following tips will help you focus on the values and benefits offered by your business.

Be extraordinary in your visual presence. Your ability to trigger peoples imagination long enough to stop in their tracks is often enough to get them to step inside.

Make a feature of the window space or free standing signage but ensure to change it regularly with interesting new ideas or attractions relevant to your service/ product.

Get interactive and step outside and greet people. Hand out info packs, free tasters, special offers, setup mini stalls in high profile locations. You could also consider hosting an event to bring people to you.

Call to action and be distinctive in your brand communication. Your audience should understand clearly – and simply – what you stand for and how they can benefit from your offer. Brand and message confusion can cause uncertainty that often results as a repellent. The client journey starts well before they enter your outlet.

Be convenient and make sure people know you exist, have a launch or re-launch. Offer multiple ways to access your offer e.g. mail order; ecommerce; afterhours and weekend opening; trial offers; pre-orders notifications; telephone bookings; delivery; parking for visitors and the list goes on…

Make it easy to buy from you. Provide your clients with payment options to incentivise the purchase and become a closer match to the preferred buying pattern/choice of the consumer.

Try new things and be relevant to the desired audience. Sometimes the most unusual tactics get the desired results but you may need to go through a variety before identifying what works for you.

Select a high traffic location. It sounds obvious but location is king. However the costs can be prohibitive so a creative approach may be needed. For example: a collaborative relationship with other businesses to co-habit a particularly well located shop (temporarily, permanently or even mobile) to retail complimentary products or services, spreading the risk/costs and direct people to your main outlet.

and finally ……

Learn from the best and gain some ideas. You do not need to reinvent the wheel or innovate to succeed. For example, supermarkets and department stores often make use of smell or organics to motivate purchase by triggering a positive emotional reaction. This is done by placing the fruit and veg on entry in a supermarket or perfume and cosmetics stalls near entry doorways in a department store.

Written by Fardad Amirsaeedi, NBV Enterprise Solutions

 

Dawn-in-circle

To blog or not to blog

9th October, 2015 No Comments


Retro typewriter on wooden background

Here I am, five weeks into my new role as Business Development Manager at Cavendish Consortium and I’ve been asked by Davina, our Marketing Manager to write a blog. Given that its a while since I last wrote one, I thought I’d better take a look and see what the current thinking is around blogging. As part of this process I took a look at some others for inspiration, partly useful and partly off putting! There’s that pressure too of being humorous and current –  I just need to get over that though, because part of the reason for blogging is to be current, credible and interesting. So, with a bit of research and some inspiration from current articles, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn articles, and a few newsletters, off I set ….

Here we go, the first of many to come!

“Why do I need to blog?” you might be asking yourself! Well, there are some interesting statistics around why you should blog, two of the most dramatic for me being:-

Marketers who have prioritised blogging are 13% more likely to enjoy positive ROI. This is due to the fact that blogging will increase your online presence and help you get found. A blog is accessible 24/7 thus making it a flexible and efficient means of promotion.

My motivation here is that it is free. Set up your devices (phones, tablets and lap tops) to make it as easy and efficient as possible. Maximise the digital age…take notes on your phone, take some photos on your phone to use for your blog and across your Social Media channels.

By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human. Customers, partners and stakeholders are all more likely than ever to research through the internet and make a decision about your credibility and forming a relationship with you going forward.

Get ready for this by embracing the digital age, learn from colleagues, share tips and thought. Sign up for social media channels, start following the social media gurus, for those of you that have a teen, or two, in the house get them to give you a master class!

A blog is a really simple cost effective and efficient method of engaging with new contacts and growing and building relationships with current ones. The only cost involved is your time!

So, how do you blog successfully?

Choose your platform – there are a number of free blogging options available. Do some research and decide which is the most appropriate for your business needs and which has positive reviews about it’s ease of use and simplicity. There are also some great free learning resources available, to support you on developing and utilising your platform – YouTube has a number of tutorials which are an amazing method of self-development and help.

Research the available platforms, use a list to critique them against your needs, check out what deals are available.

Be engaging – write about something which you are genuinely interested in so that your blog is authentic and congruent. Your audience will be able to ascertain your interest in the subject as it will be projected in your communications. Also by using images and image rich content this will engage with your audience – 65% of people are visual, so play to the masses. There are a huge number of Instagram and Pinterest followers, this is because they are so visually appealing that they automatically create interest with their followers.

One of the best bogs I have seen was just a series of images, no  words were needed! Not suggesting that you will get away with that, as this blog was an artist’s blog taken as he journeyed Africa and India https://gregorycolbert.com/

But some key visuals definitely add impact!

Be useful – your blog needs to be of use and value to your audience for them to justify reading it and for them to re-engage with you and your blog. Research anything current and of interest to your target audience. Analyse your target audience; Who exactly are they?  What are their demographics? Use this information to inform your research and then ensure that your content is both useful and relevant.

Think about what you would find useful and how you would like to be delivered such information in a light, informal but pertinent way.

Marketing – this can be achieved through blogging by simply engaging with the comments on your blog and by adding comments on to other influential blogger’s pages. Check what the current trends and interests are and then use this research and analysis to write ‘on trend’ content.

Again research who are the key players in your sectoral field or speciality, follow them and comment with useful and insightful notes on their blogs. This will ensure your name is getting out there and spreading across multiple platforms. Be careful about not using it as a hard sell though as that will just create a negative reaction with your readers.

Maintenance – a blog needs to be current and regularly updated. Schedule in your blog posts regularly and at the same time, so that your followers know what to expect and when. This can be done as part of your Social Media strategy which would include having an events calendar for all Social Media outlets. Ensure that you have proofed, spell checked and grammar checked the content so that you maintain credibility!

Proofing is a key one here, I say this from the heart!, in the age of autocorrect and predictive texting, it can be so very easy to make a huge boo-boo, also check that what you are cutting and pasting is going from the correct document to the correct final source!

Be approachable and personable – encourage your followers to comment on your blog thus encouraging interaction and debate. By having positive topic content and contribution you will encourage the same back from your audience. By being approachable and friendly this will encourage your audience to follow you and make positive contribution. Through the use of humour you can also be engaging and encourage a following.

Get some inspiration by checking out your favourite personalities blogs – how do they come across? What is their tone? How do they disperse their humour through the blog? Ensure that your content is not infringing on copyright, if referencing or quoting remember to refer to the source and give credit.

Lastly, enjoy it! Let your personality and humour shine through so that you create positive relationships with your readers.  In ‘Give and Take’ (a hugely insightful read by Adam Grant) he describes how you can spot a ‘Taker’ by their Social Media presence. Be a ‘Giver’ by blogging amazing content which is useful, beneficial and positive in its intent.

So there we are! My first blog for a while and, hopefully, the start of a rekindled enthusiasm!

Practice what you preach and all that, I shall be aiming at one a week – its now in writing, therefore I am committed and it is official. Accountability is a strong motive!

Written by Dawn Musgrave, Business Development Manager, Cavendish Consortium

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Being a nearly perfect business start-up

5th October, 2015 No Comments


pushed business start button over black background, blue light, symbol of new businesses

It is a dream to be perfect, where the sales are consistent, predictable, customers are pleasant and offer endless amounts of praise for your service/products and your working environment is a joy.  Unfortunately there are a few points in every individual’s perfection list which are hard if not impossible to achieve, especially all at once.

Being perfect is subjective, fraught with complexities and challenges which can include difficult personal circumstances, unrealistic set of expectations, poor understanding of the market place, insufficient knowledge of the demand for your work, incomplete assessment of your competitors and a poorly judged pricing policy.
So what can we do about it? Well, being perfect is actually not a very helpful way to gauge business success so let’s turn it into something more business-like as a more practical way to measure it e.g. becoming profitable, resource efficient, gaining a high level of customer satisfaction and a workspace that is fit for purpose.

Becoming a Profitable Business

Usually being profitable means achieving financial gain. This remains true but it is not the full picture. Being profitable can also be measured by broader factors which contribute to feeling successful and happy, these can include achieving emotional satisfaction, improving brand worth, doing social good or achieving intellectual growth. There are also many other indicators which can be seen as gain. These additional indicators can be vital for some people e.g. who have given up on a corporate life to be self-employed or may have been looking for a more rewarding outcome, maybe looking for a balanced lifestyle, achieve their potential or simply to make more money . Measuring profitability properly is key if you hope to achieve perfection and know when you have achieved it. So start by making your own list.

Achieve Resource Efficiency

Yes, resource efficiency. It sounds very serious and probably more appropriate if you were a manufacturing business or big business. Nothing could be further from the truth. Managing and being careful with your resources could make all the difference in achieving business success. Let me explain. If you are unable to charge more for your work or talent because the market place will not pay more, then a significant factor which can help is to keep your resource costs down so you can afford to offer your goods and services in a commercially viable manner. This means ensuring your suppliers are competitively priced themselves and that your use of the supplies is fit for purpose. Clever management of resources or staff goes a long way to achieving profitability and a step closer to your ideal.

Keeping your customers satisfied

As a business you will have to have customers and as such they will wish to be kept happy. I am stating the obvious, however this is something which can be extremely difficult to consistently achieve. Being nearly perfect for most is the best they will ever achieve and they should not feel bad about it as long as a serious attempt is made to do well.
So what is customer satisfaction? Simply put; it is how well you have helped your customer as they journey through your business. It is NOT just related to the purchase/s made. This can include; the manner which customers were engaged, your ability to listen and understand and answer queries, your sincerity and honesty when engaging with you, your knowledge of the topic and product or service, speed which you resolve issues or respond, efficiency of purchasing and delivery or transaction. These may vary from business to business but are the usual suspects. It is important to know what your customers think of you because it is the easiest and cheapest way to improve your business, increase profitability and a total winner for a sustainable business.

Happiness within the workspace

How important is it to be happy in the workplace anyway? Stupid question, it is crucial obviously. However not many achieve it. As an employed person it is a trade-off for a regular and reliable pay cheque which for many is an acceptable reality. Being unsatisfied with the workplace is also one of the top reasons people become self-employed with a view of being in greater control. But all too often this is also compromised by the sentiment that it is the price you pay for doing what you love, but it doesn’t have to be.

So what do we mean by a workspace? It is the place you spend much of your life. It needs to meet your needs but must also meet your customer s needs.

If you are home based then it is important to be physically comfortable, have access to necessary resources and a space you can be productive in. If in commercial premises then the above applies with the addition of being accessible to visitors or deliveries, have a good location to attract footfall if retail, manufacturing or distribution and ensure you are legally compliant e.g. health and safety and insurance. You must have suitable facilities for staff and visitors, styling that has curb appeal and achieves a pleasant client experience and affordable.

If you/ your staff are happy then it will have a positive impact on productivity and quality of output. If your clients are happy it will have a positive impact on your sales, profitability and customer satisfaction. Your workspace needs should be planned carefully and well in advance.

With these actions you are well on your way towards being the perfect business you deserve to be.

Written by Fardad Amirsaeedi, NBV Enterprise Solutions

Starting your business can seem daunting and this article opens the way to understanding the features, benefits and the process.  You can access further support for more in-depth information; training and personalised consultation by contacting the Cavendish Consortium partner covering your region.

 

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