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John Mitchell, Chief Executive, Enterprise First

Read All About It!

30th December, 2015 No Comments


book on the desk against books

Recently Amazon announced they are opening a real bookshop, with plans to open more. It was a bit of a surprise to many, but I’m sure they have their reasons. It did though get me thinking about my recent reading habits which have a business focus.

If you are starting a business, running a business, or want to develop your business career, you can improve your performance and increase your chances of future success by learning from the experiences of others. I can’t think of a better way to do this than read a book. It’s portable, always there, you can dip in and out, and with e-readers can be read anywhere, at any time, on multiple platforms.

For me, it’s not about the textbook stuff, or those succinct checklists, but a book that tells a story, based on real life. I want to know about the mistakes made as well as the successes. Is starting a business successfully or turning one around, based on sound business strategies, innovation, gut feeling, risk taking, luck, who you employ etc, and how does it all fit in with the ups and downs of life in general?

There are literally tens of thousands of books listed in the ‘business’ category at Amazon. Whilst I love nothing better than browsing through a bookshop on the high street, with platforms like Amazon, there is the distinct advantage that you can read reviews from those that have bought them, can view lists of books with similar content, and with e-books start reading immediately. There is though nothing to stop you, having chosen your read, to placing an order for a physical book from your local bookshop.

Hidden within the business books section are some real gems, books that do tell a real-life business story, provide a different perspective of well-known entrepreneurs and businesses in the news. Some are better than the usual thrillers and horror stories, with some you just couldn’t make it up! Above all you will learn from the business experience of others.

For new readers of business books, a good place to start would be with the celebrity entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, and the ex-dragons. Building a restaurant business is pretty tough too, so there are also good books by celebrity chefs. You will be spoilt for choice as many have written follow-ups or multiple books on similar topics.

Outside of these my own favourites are:

Best Served Cold: The Rise, fall, and Rise again of Malcolm Walker (Iceland)

easyLand: how EasyJet conquered Europe

Barbarians at the Gate

Enron – the Rise and Fall

American Icon

Hubris: How HBOS wrecked the best bank in Britain

The last four are stories about large corporations – but the issues raised in these can still provide an insight into the world of small business – there are just more people involved and a few extra 0’s on the figures.

Finally if you are of a certain age with fond memories of the British products and brands we used to know so well there is: Surrender – How British industry gave up the ghost.

Once you have satisfied your appetite with business books, the next area you could turn to is the politics section, particularly books about those in power and how government works. Most of these do fall into the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ category!

Happy reading!

Written by John Mitchell, CEO, Enterprise First

 

If reading some of John’s recommended books inspires you to start your own business, contact us to find out if we can support your business through Start & Grow.

Do you have any favourite inspirational business books?  Let us know the title and your thoughts below…..

Six steps to manage business growth

17th December, 2015 No Comments


 

Building blocks only

A good business strategy and effective management involves planning for success. However, how many businesses know how to manage growth when opportunities start to present themselves?

Growth can cause problems by stretching resources putting pressure on cash flow or committing too much of the business capacity to a single project/client. Typically any one of these would place what is ordinarily a stable, cash positive and sustainable venture, into “forced expansion” and possibly turmoil.

Growth is a wonderful challenge, but a stressful one, if a business is not prepared for it. Here are six tips to aid in managing success and avoiding forced expansion.

1. Control and measure your marketing and promotion
Identify and monitor where your prospective clients have come from so you can tweak marketing activity to increase or decrease lead generation eg Press release, pay-per-click sponsorship or ad placements.

2. Understand your service/ production capacity
Endeavour to have an accurate understanding of your businesses capacity/ availability to provide a product or service over a period of time. With this knowledge, a business can control its production flow rate, pledge order commitments that can be achieved and have the ability to manage quality and resource requirements. If a business reaches maximum capacity regularly then an informed growth strategy can be implemented.

3. Spread the risk
It’s often hard to turn work away. A client may want more and more from you if you are doing everything right but be careful one doesn’t account for too much of your turnover.

Consider the following options

Develop a multiple income stream e.g. vary the industries you target a little so trend/ market changes and its impact can be defused and not affect you directly.

Set yourself targets which define the max level any one project will account for your turnover.

4. Price right
If the demand for your service is medium/high but you don’t wish to grow too fast then modifying or increasing your pricing policy can be a good way of managing the volume of interest but retain the quality of clients you seek. Combining this with the control on marketing mentioned above is a very powerful mix.

5. Partnerships and referrals
Consider developing partnerships or referral relationships with competitors and/or related organisations. Funneling work to others can be profitable if a referral-fee structure can be arranged for times when you are not able to commit, a competitor has also been turned into an opportunity and you have dodged the negative PR effect of turning work down and the pitfalls of “forced expansion”.

6. Get a Mentor
It is always good to have an objective view from outside of the business to help identify issues, to aid in planning forward and be an experienced sounding board. Look locally for mentoring organisations and appoint one that has been there and done it before or is still doing it.

Written by Fardad Amirsaeedi, NBV Enterprise Solutions

If you are looking to expand or grow your business contact one of our partners for expert support and advice.

If you re a start up business with aspirations for high growth in the early years, the Start & Grow business support programme will be invaluable to you to help you reach your goals.

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Cavendish commits to supporting new businesses

9th December, 2015 No Comments


Business plan flow chart

Despite the Chancellor’s announcement to abolish the Business Growth Service, its not all doom and gloom for start-up businesses in England.  There are alternative initiatives and schemes available across the country which should enable businesses to access the same levels of support.

Chancellor George Osbourne’s announcement of a 17% spending cut for the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills will come as quite a blow to businesses who were forward planning their business strategies expecting to receive support under the Business Growth Service.  Many businesses across England are now in the position of having to re-assess their position and look for other options to help them reach their goals.

More and more businesses are coming to appreciate the value of business advice and strategic support.  The BIS Small Business Survey 2014: SME employers looked at business support services and determined that:

44% of SME employers had sought external information or advice in the 12 months prior to the survey.

In England and Wales, 22%of SME employers had sought strategic advice, and 26% sought information. The most common reason for seeking advice in England and Wales was for business growth.

Around half of those requiring advice or information in England had paid for at least some of it.

12% of SME employers had used a business mentor in the previous 12 months.

The Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills continues to support other schemes not affected by the cuts announced this week.  Through the Regional Growth Fund Round 6, announced in February 2015, Cavendish Enterprise is delivering the Start & Grow programme to start-up businesses with a high growth potential.

Kevin Horne, Chairman of Cavendish Enterprise said: “The RGF funds allow us to run an intensive support programme for new businesses that have growth ambitions.  We support them to start and grow in a manner which will improve their survival chances and create sustainable jobs.  This offer of funding has enabled us to build upon the work that we have been doing in the last three years through the Ready for Business programme which has helped to create 10,000 new jobs.”

In the light of cuts we need to promote and highlight the support that is remaining and make sure that it is optimised by those that need it in the SME category.

Start & Grow can provide access to funding for start-up businesses, and as they go on to grow and expand, through other business support schemes such as StartUp Loans, Virgin StartUp and regional government and privately funded grants and loan services.

There is a fee of £100 (+VAT) to join the scheme – the return on the investment amounts to a support package over 3 years from start up with an estimated commercial value of around £5,000.  Start-up businesses can expect to receive advice, and training in key areas to support them through the start-up stages, employment, and expansion.

There is also the promise of £12m per year from the government over 16/17 and 17/18 to be allocated across the Growth Hub network.

Cavendish is a partnership of enterprise support organisations and provides a comprehensive range of initiatives to support small businesses including business support, business growth, coaching and mentoring, financial signposting – funding, grants and loans, exporting, property signposting (incubation, offices and facilities), and training and development.

Carole White. Chief Executive of TEDCO (a Cavendish Enterprise partner delivering services in the North East) says:  “It pays dividends to talk to other people who have gone through a similar experience. The UK is full of incredible business people who really do want to help you. In addition there is an excellent range of business support available to help you with accessing finance, finding routes to market and making the right connections, putting together a business plan, and knowing who to turn to when things are difficult.”

“My advice to businesses” says Kevin “is to research and explore the marketplace.  Contact your regional business support provider and talk through the opportunities available to you.  There is support out there and professional bodies, such as Cavendish, will help businesses access the services they need.”

Written by Davina Young

What are your views on the Chancellor’s cuts?  Leave a comment below.

 

Business support will continue across England despite this week’s cuts

2nd December, 2015 No Comments


A view of the iconic clock tower of the Houses odf Parliament in London.

Cavendish Enterprise partners realise that they now have an even greater responsibility to support businesses in England.

As the news continues to filter through of the effects that the Spending Review will have on business support services the partners are working together to ensure that their business support offering is maximised to minimise the effects of the 17% cut to business services.  Saddened by the loss of other support services and the knock-on effect on SMEs, Cavendish will be working even harder to support businesses as they start and grow.

As a partnership of enterprise support organisations, Cavendish will continue to offer national programmes to start up and growing small businesses within their area, as well as their bespoke local  programmes.  There are a number of support programmes and a wide range of services currently available, each with a tailored offering, suitable to meet most SME business support and growth requirements.

Kevin Horne, Chairman of Cavendish gives his views on the effects of the recent government cuts to business support services and the implications for small business. By setting the current business support landscape and potential implications, Kevin frames it with a positive spin by highlighting current funded programmes that can offer business support and high growth advice:

News broke during the National Enterprise Network conference last week that the government was ceasing its Growth Accelerator and Manufacturing Advice Service. There has already been some gnashing of teeth as little notice was given and that the closure is immediate. I would argue however that this is a bold statement by the government and whilst the manner of the closure is clumsy, the long term effect may not be as devastating as first thought. We know that BIS has to make 17% savings and so it cannot be a surprise that there will be casualties as a result.

When looking at where the savings should be, BIS has to look beyond its normal coterie of advisors and acolytes and examine the market. Government should only intervene where there is market failure. There are a huge number of growth advisors and companies that support the mid sector, and as such it cannot be legitimately argued that there is a market failure. Whether all businesses are prepared to access this advice is another matter but as always the good advisors will find a willing market prepared to pay. There will be many examples of companies prepared to state how they have been supported by GA and MAS and this is to be applauded but has the existence of these schemes actually stifled the market by encouraging growth firms to expect a handout to access advice and support which would help them to grow?

Government should intervene where the market will not, and act as a catalyst to encourage greater take up of what the market can provide – of that there is little doubt. It is doing that successfully with Start-up Loans where there has been Bank failure and this will continue for the life of this parliament. But it is a loan and not a grant and as such there is a real return and the rates of start-ups have been increasing so eliminating the funding barrier has worked. There will come a time when the banks will step in to plug this gap (perhaps they should be funding SULCo now?) and then the government can withdraw. The recent Growth Vouchers programme is another scheme which sought to encourage take up of what the market had to offer for a limited period and the results of the evaluation will be eagerly awaited to see what effect this has had on those who took advantage.

Market failure exists at the start up and early stage growth end of the scale and perhaps it will always be the case. The government has to set the scene to encourage new businesses to start and grow and then as with a toddler be prepared to let them walk unaided. They can adapt the macro picture to make the environment receptive to taking those first steps and it is doing that through a number of initiatives such as Enterprise Zones and a benevolent tax structure. Beyond that it risks creating a dependency culture amongst businesses if it continues to subsidise at all stages. The Local Enterprise Partnerships now have the duty to take up the baton and tailor support to their individual areas – this and a number of overlaying programmes with targeted outputs – such as Start & Grow – will help to achieve a dynamic and innovative business base.

I understand the dismay of those delivering the GA and MAS programmes but feel that BIS should be applauded at taking some difficult decisions to help to balance the books – when that happens we will all benefit!

Click here to see the business support on offer from Cavendish Enterprise partners.

 

There’s probably never been a more exciting time to create your own job

1st December, 2015 No Comments


Ability, motivation, attitude

Michael Heseltine has been heavily criticised for his recent comment that it’s probably as good a time as any to lose your job and find another, stating that the current jobs situation in Britain is exciting.

For those whose jobs are at risk, looking for another job is not your only option.

There’s probably never been a more exciting time to create your own job through starting a business. Opportunities abound, technology gives you access to a global market and there is a whole raft of invaluable support available. Enterprise and entrepreneurship have, in the past been less prominent options to the mass population than alternatives such as employment, higher education or apprenticeships but they are now moving firmly from the periphery and into focus.

If you have ever considered running your own business but don’t know where to start, or feel that you don’t have the ‘right’ skills – there is more than one way to become your own boss. Entrepreneurialism depends on the development of an idea that can be transformed into a viable business and as a practice, it is inherently risky. People who have become accustomed to being an employee may not necessarily be an entrepreneur but they are very likely to possess the skills, enterprising attitude and experience needed to run a business.

Starting a business with a proven business model and established brand can be one way to launch a business. Franchised businesses have weathered the recessional storm extremely well, which is hardly surprising when we consider how easy it is to quickly recall 5 popular franchises when asked.

Perhaps you are looking to buy a business or feel you have a strong product or service with a clear marketplace.
The most important thing to consider is laying down firm foundations for your business. If you cut corners at the start up stage you will be forever catching up and could cause significant difficulties for yourself. A sound business plan really is your route map on the road to success.

It pays dividends to talk to other people who have gone through a similar experience and are prepared to share their wisdom about not only the pitfalls but the positives, what helped them to achieve success. The UK is full of incredible business people who really do want to help you. In addition there is an excellent range of business support available to help you with

• Accessing finance
• Finding routes to market
• Making the right connections
• Putting together a business plan
• Knowing who to turn to when things are difficult

Give your new business the competitive edge by getting ready to launch your new business properly. You could be creating jobs for others as well as one for yourself as your new boss!

Written by Carole White, Chief Executive, TEDCO Business Support

If you are looking to start a robust business with the potential for high growth, and to employ staff, the Start & Grow initiative might be just what you’re looking for – a premium support package to help you start up and grow your business over 3 years.

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