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30th January, 2017 No Comments
You’re probably thinking PR is just for big companies with tens of thousands of pounds to spend getting the right spin in the newspapers and not for small businesses. However, to move your business forward you need to bring in more sales, and by increasing awareness of your business and brand you drive sales. Therefore, for small businesses where every penny counts, you need cost-effective PR.
This is exactly what those big companies spend their big budgets doing; and it’s also exactly what a small business should be very focussed on too.
People talk of cash flow shortages as being the main reason for failure, and certainly businesses that can’t manage their cash flow are treading a thin line. The real reason most businesses fail to reach their full potential though is that their potential customers don’t know they are there, and those all-important sales in the business plan simply fail to materialise.
That’s where PR comes in.
When many small businesses are challenged on what their marketing and PR plan is, too frequently you get blank looks. If you are lucky you will be given a copy of their latest newsletter to existing customers. There is rarely a coherent strategy to make the most of social media, traditional media, and advertising campaigns, none of which need to be expensive or complicated, but all of which are absolutely critical in promoting the business brand.
The way to look at it is that advertising is a way of the business buying some space to tell the world how good it is, which is fine, but it can be expensive, and in today’s cynical world too few people believe or trust the marketing spin.
Social media is smarter and more effective, as it is usually free, and whilst the initial input is from the business, when others ‘share’, any comments gain credibility. But it can be damaging when the trending turns against the business rather than for it.
Traditional media on the other hand is much more controlled, and has the benefit of an independent third party making the comment or recommendation in their article, as well of course as it being free.
So, you might like to consider using an inexpensive, but helpful, PR platform, such as JournoLink, to manage a small business PR strategy and engage with journalists and bloggers. It need not be a luxury available only to big companies. It should be an affordable and critical piece of the success jigsaw.
Submitted by Ben Caine, Client Manager, JournoLink
4th January, 2017 No Comments
Raising finance can be a difficult task. Entrepreneurs and experienced businessmen alike are talking about ‘the banks not lending’. This is also a common headline used in the press when writing about the economy and recession. When faced with such a statement, you often have to ask “So where have you looked? What lenders have you approached? Who else?”
Access to credit is vital for businesses to expand, develop new products and, ultimately, contribute to economic growth. Business West’s Quarterly Economic Survey – part of the British Chambers of Commerce national survey, which is a highly respected snapshot of economic conditions for business – asks ‘What barriers to growth have you experienced?’ and, consistently, one of the top answers is always access to finance.
Yes, lending has reduced since before the recession, but could this statistic potentially be somewhat due to a lack of knowledge of the different sources available? 71% of small business owners, in an AXA survey, said they had not heard of crowd funding and 54% were unaware of the existence of peer-to-peer lending.
In these uncertain political times, alternative sources of funding can offer a huge boost to small businesses and are an increasingly viable option for growth. Some people may say traditional methods of raising finance, such as banks, aren’t what they used to be, even though banks were never meant to be the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to investment. It is important for business owners to understand the wealth of other opportunities out there, some which come with greater control. For example, Self Directed Pension Schemes are under used and arguably under rated for the purposes of assisting business growth. Pension-led funding is a type of commercial finance which offers an alternative to traditional business funding, such as bank loans or overdrafts, and involves using business owners’ accrued pension funds to invest in their own companies. Pension-led funding doesn’t require personal guarantees and enables you to use Intellectual Property (IP) as a legitimate asset class, which broadens the opportunity further. More than 1,300 businesses in the UK have successfully used this type of funding.
Other options including equity crowdfunding have become much more popular in the last few years, but it can be much tougher to pitch successfully online than clients anticipate – seeking advice beforehand is highly recommended. Angel investor funding can also offer mentoring support alongside investment, but valuations can be tight in some sectors and the process can be time consuming, so it’s definitely worth speaking to an expert to look at all the options available, then weighing up the pros and cons.
There are also other forms of finance such as grants. Grants are pots of funding for a specific purpose and are usually match funded. To find out if there are any grants to suit your purpose and to check eligibility criteria, visit the Gov Support Finder.
What businesses need to understand is that there are other ways to access funding and different solutions can be found. But, it’s important to ask, why should someone lend to you or your business? The answer is they shouldn’t, unless you can prove to them that you are worth investing in.
Written by Tara Gillam, Head of Enterprise at Business West delivering business support in the South West.
9th November, 2016 No Comments
Firstly, a huge ‘thank you’ to all our business support programme clients who kindly took the time to complete our recent ‘Starting a Business’ survey. We are pleased to announce that the winner of the iPod in the prize draw is Laura Sehjal.
Laura started her business 3 years ago and confidently responded to the ‘Starting a Business’ survey having been through the process herself.
Principal and founder of Hatch Drama in Ashford, Kent, Laura clearly remembers taking part in her first drama class at the tender age of five – the effects of which are still propelling her forward today. Laura’s drive comes from a desire to ensure that she recreates the same experience of magic, safety and growth for every child she works with.
With an MA and a First Class Honours Degree in Theatre, Laura started teaching drama over 12 years ago. Loving all aspects of theatre, she has written, directed and performed shows across London. Laura has also worked in a variety of educational settings and has come to understand the importance of a rounded education; one that school alone cannot always deliver. The project aims to boost the confidence and self-esteem of young children through role play, drama and acting scenarios, scripts and dramatic productions.
Unlike some of the larger performing arts franchises, Hatch Drama write their own curriculum according to the individuals in each class. This gives the tutors the freedom to create a bespoke, expert programme that ensures every child benefits according to his or her needs.
‘Ready for Business’, the support programme which was the forerunner to Start & Grow, helped Laura to launch Hatch Drama. Laura’s business support was through Enterprise First – Cavendish Enterprise’s partner organisation delivering business support across the South East of England. Laura attended a one day workshop followed by some 1-to-1 sessions to consolidate the learning and finalise her business plan. After the business opened, Laura received additional 1-to1 support sessions to and an hour spent with a local accountant taught Laura how to manage her books.
“The support at the time was amazing” says Laura. “Starting a business involved more skills and motivation than I had originally perceived, the support offered through Ready for Business gave me confidence and kept me on track.
“The 1-to-1 meetings made me accountable to someone and gave me great short term goals to aim for. The skills I learnt at their workshop and with the accountant have proved invaluable. I still use the things I learnt three years into my business.”
Find out more about Hatch Drama performing arts classes in Ashford, Hastings, and Rye.
10th October, 2016 No Comments
The more successful entrepreneurs you speak to, the more you will begin to realise that failure is all part of the job. From Richard Branson to Steve Jobs, many of their great successes would not have been achieved if it wasn’t for previous failures.
Being an entrepreneur is risky business; there’s no other way to put it. If you’re committed to being a successful entrepreneur you will need to take risks to both start and grow your business, with the potential of risks yielding bad outcomes.
When you have to take a risk in your business, don’t shy away from it. Learn as much as you can about all possible outcomes and make an educated move. If the risk you took doesn’t pay off, at least you know you made the most informed choice you could. You then need to move on. Get comfortable with taking risks and learn to live with your mistakes. It will make you a stronger, more confident business person in the long run.
As an entrepreneur, you are your own teacher. Unlike people who are employed by a business, you don’t have a structured role – your role is whatever you want it to be and your business success is a reflection of that. The decisions you make don’t have to be agreed by a board of directors or approved by management; however you can’t rely on others to pick up the slack if you’re feeling unproductive.
As a result of this, you will be forced to learn from yourself and the saying ‘try, try, try again’ will begin to ring true. If you try out a new idea, whether it’s a new product or a new marketing strategy, and it doesn’t work out, you will know what not to do next time. If you need to gain new skills to succeed, you are responsible for that too. Either outsource the weaker areas of your business, or up-skill yourself.
You will most likely experience failure at some point during your entrepreneurial journey, but it’s important to see these failures as experiences you can learn from. Remember that yes, this is your life, but you are also building a business. Think critically and don’t let emotions get the better of you.
When you do experience failure, take a step back from the disappointment and think critically about what went wrong. Was it a problem with finances? Did you fail to train your staff adequately? Or was it something out of your control? Whatever the reason may be, spend some time finding the cause and create a plan to avoid repeating the same mistake next time.
What doesn’t kill you …
… makes you (and your business!) stronger.
While it is often easy for start-up businesses to go bust in their first few years of trading, this isn’t always the case. Luckily, every failure you experience won’t mean that you will need to start a new business from scratch, but it can result in some serious setbacks.
The way you handle your failures not only says a lot about your personal character, but of how you behave in the business world. You may be looking for investors, or working to develop partnerships, and you need to display confidence. If you’ve experienced failure and fall at the first hurdle when a new opportunity arises, you risk making people feel nervous about working with you in the future. It’s not the fact you failed that matters; it’s how you pick yourself back up and keep going. How you learn from mistakes and keep chasing success. And how you stay focused on your goals, realising that today is just the next step in your entrepreneurial journey.
Written by Amanda Orton, Marketing Executive for Business West, delivering business support in the South West.
For support to start and grow your business, contact the Start & Grow teams.
2nd September, 2016 No Comments
“What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Oliver W. Holmes Jr. (Civil War veteran, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1902 to 1931)
It’s that time of year again when most of us return from, or head off on our summer holidays; a much needed escape from the office and chance to reset the work/life balance.
Have you considered, however, the benefits a holiday could bring to your work place? We are living in turbulent times with a lot of uncertainty, so this is a golden opportunity to step back and reflect.
As employers or employees, we all enjoy (and need) time away from the office, whether it is a day indulging in day time television or two weeks on a secluded beach somewhere hot. In fact, many of us return feeling refreshed and recharged, but how long does it take to get absorbed back in to the daily routine on your return? 10 minutes, 2 hrs, 3 days… a week?
Well, why not take some of your holiday enthusiasm and introduce it into your business. Of course the emails, mail and meetings will all need to be dealt with when you return, but there is no better opportunity than the ‘post-holiday calm’ to take a step back, take stock and plan for the future.
How long have you been fire-fighting the daily tasks and problems without focussing on the bigger picture? Are you wasting time and money by doing things the hard way? Are your employees motivated? Are you maximising the benefits of customer relationship management? The relaxed approach you take to tasks after a holiday is the ideal way to deal with any outstanding issues that you may have been putting off.
It is also important to share your goals with your staff that may well have their own ideas after their own re-energising break.
However, it is also important to leave the office behind when taking a break. Many of us are guilty of going on holiday physically but not mentally. Does ringing work from the beach or checking emails on the hotel computer sound familiar? It is very difficult to switch off completely, but when you succeed you will return to the office completely refreshed!
It is also important to have a long break when possible. Many experts believe that the benefits of a longer holiday, say one, two or even three weeks is far more beneficial than two or three days here or there. After all, it may take you two days to relax and wind down!
With a little bit of forward planning, our summer holidays can not only re-charge our batteries – but can re-charge our future business too.
Written by Carole White, Chief Executive of TEDCO Business Support, delivering business support in the North East of England.