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The value of attending conferences and networking

22nd December, 2015 No Comments


 

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The end of November brought us the National Enterprise Network conference and awards, the enterprise support event of the year – an opportunity for all those involved in delivering support to people thinking about starting or already running a business to come together, to learn about the landscape in which they’re working, to share best practise and to network with others doing the same work.

This put me in mind of the importance of continuous professional development and networking – not something that many people starting up perhaps give that much consideration to – but something which is really vital if you want your businesses to do well.

If you’re in a trade or profession that requires specific qualifications or ongoing learning and development then you’ll be used to going along to conferences and other training opportunities in order to keep yourself up to date and perhaps to ensure you maintain your accreditation – but what about the rest of us?

It’s perhaps easy to think it’s not that important, doing the work brings in the money so that’s what we concentrate on; that there isn’t the time to fit it in as well as doing all the other things the business needs; or that the costs involved (not just the fees to attend, but the fact you won’t be earning anything that day either) make it prohibitive!

So that’s all the negatives out of the way, what about the positives?

There is no doubt that when you take yourself out of the business even for just a short time, you will get a different perspective on things and this can be incredibly important for you and for the business.  Running your own business can become all-encompassing and sometimes it can be incredibly beneficial to take a bit of time out just to see the wood for the trees.

Attending training where you’re going to learn something about how you might run your business better can’t possibly harm you or your business either, you might be very eager to go to training that is more about the technical aspects of the work you do – but what about the skills relating to making you and your business a success – it really is worth getting a handle on those too!

But, one of the most beneficial elements of attending any sort of conference or training is the other people there, in all likelihood they’ll be people like you, working really hard to develop themselves and their businesses, all with similar challenges to you, with similar opportunities to you – sharing your experiences with them and listening to how they do things can be one of the greatest learning opportunities there is – running a business can sometimes also be a lonely game, but knowing that there are people going through exactly the same pain and pleasure as you can be enormously rewarding and uplifting – not to mention an opportunity to build your network of contacts, potential business partners, suppliers and/or customers.

And then there’s networking…….

Written by Dawn Whiteley, CEO, National Enterprise Network

 

In 2016 Cavendish Enterprise will bring to you Start & Grow Business of the Day.  We will be promoting a new start up from the Start & Grow programme every day across social media.  Celebrate their successes with us and find out more about the businesses by following #ideatoreality #SGBOTD

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Cavendish partners feature highly in this week’s National Enterprise Network Conference and Awards 2015

24th November, 2015 No Comments


This year’s National Enterprise Network Conference, sponsored by NatWest and taking place at RBS’s conference centre takes place on Friday 27th November and looks set to feature insightful and thought provoking discussions around the theme of ‘Synergy and Success’.  The conference celebrates encouraging enterprise support with strengthened partnerships, delivering locally.

L NEN RGB_OnlineUse (June 2011)

The conference will kick off with an interactive debate between key sector contributors, discussing the outlook for the economy and the impact it has on small businesses. There will also be a closer look at the self-employed and identify the trends and predictions that could impact in the future.

Simon Devonshire will be around after the networking lunch to share his view on the importance of scaling-up, why it matters and how to do it.  Simon is himself an entrepreneur, co-founder, investor, and business blogger and will lead a Q&A session after his presentation.

There will also be time to look at the programmes and partnerships that are making waves within the enterprise support sector. and an in depth look at ‘Enterprise impact – the growth of a start up business’ with an interview with Paul Ogglesby, founder of Riverlite.  Paul has come from a one man start up business in 2008 to having a multi million pound turnover today.

The 2015 Conference will be rounded off with a celebration of achievements in enterprise support.  The NEN Awards recognise ‘excellence in the delivery of enterprise support; encouraging the exchange of good practice and the development of improved services and organisations’, and the categories are designed to match to enterprise support activity – no matter what an agency’s size or specialism.

Cavendish Enterprise is delighted and very proud to see 3 of its partners short-listed for a few of the Awards and we wish them all the very best of luck for Friday.

THE 2015 NATIONAL ENTERPRISE NETWORK AWARDS SHORTLIST:

Local Enterprise Agency of the Year:

* Britain’s Energy Coast * Colbea * Enterprise First * Menta * Northumberland Business Services Ltd * Nwes * Rotherham Investment & Development Office * Stanta * Yorkshire Coast Enterprise

Future of Enterprise Support Award:

* Britain’s Energy Coast * Business West * Enterprise First * Rotherham Investment & Development Office * South Durham Enterprise Agency * Yorkshire Coast Enterprise

Client Engagement Award:

* CENTA Business Services * Nwes * WSX Enterprise

Enterprise Communicator of the Year:

* Economic Solutions * North East BIC * North Somerset Enterprise Agency * Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce

Enterprise Team of the Year:

* BEC * Business Sheffield * Business West * Staffs Chamber

Enterprise Coach/Mentor of the Year:

* Hammie Tappenden – Enterprise First * Joe Barrell – Nwes * Martyn Benson – Rotherham Investment & Development Office

Unsung Hero of the Year:

* Alyson Eyval – Business West * Emma Milroy – Ignite Business Enterprise * Jenn Crowther – Yorkshire Coast Enterprise * Martyn Cooper – Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

… and good luck to all the other nominees too!

We look forward to bringing you the Winners next week together with a roundup of the main issues discussed and raised at the Conference.

Click here for more Conference information.

 

Kevin Horne

Who should be awarded honours?

2nd November, 2015 No Comments


trophy for champion

Recently the National Enterprise Network has been compiling a list of those people within the industry who have received honours for their work in our community. This is an excellent initiative and we should celebrate their achievements.

This has made me consider how business and industry is represented within the honours system.

I have looked back at those who have received some sort of honours from MBE to CBE, knights to Lords, and the Queens Award for Enterprise. Unfortunately the picture is not an encouraging one within business and industry sectors.

Firstly, those receiving awards for their efforts in the business community appear to be poorly represented compared to other sectors. This is a real cause for concern as business is the driver for the economy and thus everything else that flows from it.

As we have come to expect honour awards seem to automatically follow the reaching of certain levels in the public sector (officer or elected), and they seem to bear little relationship to what impact those individuals actually have. Where business leaders are recognised, there are far too many who have climbed the corporate ladder compared to those who have risked their own money, time and sweat to build a company.

In recent years the honours system has received a poor press for appearing to be a tool for political patronage or popularity. Perhaps it once was so, but that does not mean that it should remain that way.

In contrast the Queens Award for Enterprise appears to be a genuine effort to truly recognise those who have made a marked contribution to the country. There does not appear to be any links to politics or popularity! It is gratifying to see so many ‘unsung heroes’ within the list of recipients – surely this is the essence of a true honours system.

It would be naive to believe that the honours system will be reformed by any political party whilst they enjoy patronage but if we could, my initial suggestions are:

Less importance be placed upon those with a high media profile – reward for deeds not publicity

Learn from the Queens Awards and base honours upon real achievement

A greater proportion of higher awards to self-made entrepreneurs

I would also question the morals for giving an award to anyone  who has been in a position of power within a company that uses nefarious devices to avoid paying their fair tax share, and would like to see no-one who has donated corporate funds to any political party receiving an honour until at least five years after the last donation.

Other than these, I applaud everyone who has received an honour and I sincerely hope that we see many more entrepreneurs and other enterprising individuals similarly recognised.

Written by Kevin Horne, CEO, Nwes

The list compiled by the National Enterprise Network of those who have received The Queen’s Award can be found here.  However, this isn’t the whole picture – there are many enterprise support professionals who have been awarded other honours too. With help from the wider network, the NEN will be compiling a more in depth list to share. If you know someone who should be added for their past accolade, then let NEN know!

Dawn Whiteley 150x140px

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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Dawn Whiteley 150x140px

Great Expectations

28th April, 2015 No Comments


A Polling Station Sign For An Election

The Cavendish Consortium, along with each of its partners, are apolitical and don’t have any affiliations to any political party – but during the current electioneering we take as much an interest in what the future holds as anyone else.

 

We support people to make life changing decisions about their careers and help them achieve those ambitions and aspirations; we see people from all walks of life who are driven to start up and run their own businesses for many different reasons – in the main through positive choices, but in some cases because they feel this is the only option open to them in the current economy.  Ours isn’t to judge those people making those decisions, but to help them to ensure they explore the option as fully as possible and should they decide to pursue it, to allow them to put all the steps in place to make their businesses a success.

So what are our views on what the election looks like – well it really is a case of no one really knowing what the outcome will be – the polls seems to move every day, some show one set of results others completely opposite results.  So I think we can say that it’s too close to call and the over-riding likelihood is that we won’t have an outright majority of any one party – so coalition politics are here to stay for a little while longer we would suggest?

Most of the parties are expressing an interest in small businesses and quite right too as much of the job growth in recent years has been delivered by those working in smaller businesses, but is the rhetoric all it’s cracked up to be and will small businesses see their rewards from any new government?

There are certainly some policies which will be music to the ears of many of the clients we’re supporting – pledges about reforms to the business rates mechanism is long overdue and is something that is a real burden on most businesses who operate from business premises, it puts off some businesses from growing because they don’t want to incur the additional costs of operating from premises – so the sooner something is done on that the better.

What about late payment – well again anything that can be done to improve things as far as small businesses being paid on time will once again be welcomed; and most of the parties appear to be planning something on this.  We would suggest the time might have come to look at legislation on this point though, we’ve seen too many codes of practices and voluntary initiatives and still our clients tell us they can’t get paid for the work they’ve done!

We’re also keen on measures which tackle tax evasion and avoidance, we will all have seen all the press stories about the larger businesses who seem to be able to get away with this because they can pay expensive accountants, whilst small businesses are pursued and in many cases targeted by HMRC for what, in comparison, are meagre amounts of money.  A fair playing field is all our clients are asking for here!

One of the members of the Cavendish Consortium is National Enterprise Network, a membership body for enterprise support organisations in England and all the individual members of the partnership are also members.  National Enterprise Network has produced its own enterprise manifesto which highlights what it sees as key business support requirements to moving our economy and communities forward – there are many things in there which any incoming government, of whatever colour, should be taking note of.

All that remains now is for us all to make sure we cast our vote – did you know that in the last election nearly 16 million people didn’t – which equates to more votes than any individual party received, just imagine what difference that might have made to the result last time around?

There are many who say they won’t vote because they don’t believe their voice is being heard – and there may be some truth in that – but not turning up at the polling station isn’t the answer in my view.  As a woman it’s always in my mind that less than 100 years ago we didn’t even have the right to vote and so I’m certainly not going to waste my chance to make my views known and if I feel there isn’t a candidate or a party worth voting for then I’ll spoil my paper – that way I have made my protest known and can’t be accused of apathy!

Just imagine what a ripple of disquiet would have gone through Westminster if there had been 16 million plus spoiled papers, as they have to be reported – it would have started a movement for change which many of us would be glad to see across the whole of our political system and beyond!

So when 7th May comes around – do make sure you put your cross in the box – if you don’t, you can’t complain about the results we get!

Written by Dawn Whiteley, CEO, National Enterprise Network

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