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Who cares?

25th January, 2016 No Comments


Tired and exhousted business woman with ringbinders

That is a favourite question of my teenage daughter! My usual answer is everyone cares and you should too! That applies equally though in a business sense.

In running a business there are many questions for the entrepreneur:
• What is the vision
• How’s my cashflow
• How do I market my business effectively
• How do I manage time better to meet demands of staff, customers, visitors let alone my personal responsibilities.
• How do I plan for the future, what is my forward plan.
• And there are many more!

Focussing on the above key areas and finding that space to think and plan is a big challenge and recognised by many running small businesses, solve that and you are doing well! One approach I have found successful over the years has been to focus on the ‘care’ question, if you care properly for two key areas of your business you will naturally focus on the key issues, tackle the important matters and create that space to ‘think and plan’ – vital for successful entrepreneurs.

So what should you ‘care’ about – the two key aspects for me are your people and your customers.

Your people

The people you employ/contract are vital to your business. They represent you/your business, they sell your service/product and they interact with your customers. If your people get things wrong consistently serious damage could be caused to your business. Additionally if your people are unhappy or feel undervalued you are more likely to have a high staff turnover and low staff retention rates. Suffer this and you’ll be in a constant state of recruitment and training new staff – that all takes time (and money) and is something to avoid.

I have found by implementing some simple measures to ‘care’ for your people you can get great people in your business doing great things for you and your business.  Try these for example:

• Give and take!

Flexibility is vital these days and being accommodating and versatile with your people is key – supporting people with commitments outside of work, work at home policies and allowing staff time off for medical appointments etc is always appreciated. I find this is repaid in many other ways and drives staff loyalty and commitment.

• Training

Supporting your team with training activity by time off or supporting costs where possible is always well received. As a business you get the return/payback in a better trained team member who values the support you’ve provided.

• Communication

Formal, informal it doesn’t matter just do lots of it! You will be surprised what can be learnt from an informal conversation, if you hadn’t had that chat you may miss out on key information you need as a business owner. As part of this I would also include recognition – a simple email/text from you as the owner creates a real feel good factor. Never forget to recognise achievement and say thanks – it’s a simple task that takes minimal time but can bring much benefit.

I have found these simple steps a key part in maintaining high staff retention rates, generating loyalty and commitment to the business and helping to create a happy, productive team.

Your customers

The second key area that requires your care! Happy, loyal customers will do two things – come back for more and tell others about you! So much energy and effort goes into finding customers and yet I often see not as much effort put into making sure once you have secured a customer you keep hold of them! Too much time and money is spent chasing and trying to find new customers, yes that is vital but keeping hold of the ones you have is arguably more important. A key aspect of keeping hold of customers is ‘care’.

There are some simple measures that can be implemented to help look after your customers:

• Keeping in touch

Keep reminding your customers who you are, what you do and how you can help them. Several easy, low cost ways to do this via newsletters, social media etc

• Say “Thank you”

Simple but effective, a really nice message but it reminds customers of your business and enables you to offer them more service/product.

• Create value

What can you offer existing customers so they see the value of staying with you. As mentioned above lots of businesses focus on new customers and will offer incentives/freebies etc – you need to counter that by offering similar measures so customers see the benefit of staying with you. Happy customers who feel valued/appreciated will be customers for the long term and spread the word about you!

So, in conclusion in among all the questions that an entrepreneur has in their mind I would encourage you at the start of a New Year to ask yourself a couple of key questions:

• How do I care for my people?

• How do I care for my customers?

Get your approach and strategy right here and you’ll have happy, settled people working for you delivering excellent service to loyal customers who want more and more from your business – sounds a good formula to me!

Written by Richard Dearden, CEO, NBV Solutions Ltd

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Ten questions to ask before you start a business

8th January, 2016 No Comments


Business plan flow chart
After creating your business idea there are ten things to do before you can start to turn your idea into a reality. These ten steps will ensure that you not only have a solid understanding of what sort of business you want to start, but also that you understand all aspects of the product or service that you will be providing. Once you have considered these steps you will also be ready to move your idea forward by writing a business plan and accessing funding.

Do you have the passion?
Starting a business is a big commitment and you will need to have a passion for what you do. You will be sacrificing many hours of your life to start your business and it is certainly not going to be an easy way out of working for your boss. You will have to ensure that you are mentally, financially and emotionally prepared and that you believe in your idea, because this is key to your start-up flourishing into a successful business.

Do you know your product inside out?
Being able to outline the key features of the product or service that you are planning to offer is a necessary exercise. If you can’t talk about your business in detail it means that you haven’t put enough thought into developing your offering. If you can explain not only what your product or service is, but what makes it difference from competitors, the benefits, how it is produced and why people should buy it, then you are ready to start talking to people about your idea.

Does your idea provide an effective solution to a current problem?
Your business should always provide some sort of solution to an existing problem, but does your idea provide the best solution? Does it provide a long term solution? Most importantly, does it provide the optimal solution? If not, now is the chance to tweak and change your idea until it’s the best it can be.

Does your product or service already exist?
You will need to do some research into your competitors. Having competitors isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you will need to identify them and highlight what makes your business different. Your business will need to have a unique selling proposition and be able to win and also maintain a profitable market share. You can also use this time to see how similar businesses promote themselves and which markets they appear to be targeting. Learn from their mistakes and recognise what makes them successful.

What is the ultimate aim of your business?
Although your business is just starting out, you should have a solid vision and overall aim. This will provide you with direction and give you something to work towards; without this you may loose direction and even end up heading backwards. Think about what you want to achieve, how you will measure your success and what is important for your business.

Have you asked your family for feedback or conducted a survey?
Before you release your business idea out into the public realm you should consult friends and family. Only ask people who will give you an honest answer, otherwise you will be wasting your time. After this you should start to conduct surveys with a wider audience that will provide you with much more well rounded opinions. Try testing your idea at community fares or markets, demonstrate your product or service and talk with people first hand to find out what they think about it.

Have you identified your customer base?
Begin by creating a simple website landing page with information about your business with an option to leave feedback or to ‘sign up’ to find out more. By taking out digital advertising through Google and social networks like Facebook, people will click on the link if they are interested in your business. Setting up an initial campaign such as this isn’t too costly and is a great way of finding out if your business really has a market.

How much capital will you need and do you need additional funding?
It is important to identify how much capital you will need to start your business, as failing to take every expense into consideration will be costly. Explore different funding options such as start-up grants and loans to assess your different options. Each type of finance has different eligibility criteria, so make sure you qualify.

Have you identified local support networks?
Starting a business can seem daunting, but there are a wealth of services out there to provide you with support and guidance – You aren’t alone! Industry experts can help you understand how to maximise opportunities and further identify the needs and characteristics of your target market. A mentor is a valuable asset to anyone starting a business and this avenue shouldn’t be overlooked. A mentor will work with you one-on-one and provide you with honest advice and guidance. They will likely have great knowledge and experience and will help you to avoid making costly mistakes. If you begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed, your mentor will help you to work through the problems that you may experience. Attending seminars and workshops is another great way to develop the skills and knowledge that you will need to get your business of the ground.  Get support for your start-up with Start & Grow.

Written by Tara Gillam, Business West

 

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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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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Cavendish members’ Events for GEW on Friday 20th November

19th November, 2015 No Comments


Cavendish Consortium Partners‘ GEW Events

Friday 20th November

As Global Entrepreneurship Week comes to a close, here’s the final list of the Cavendish Enterprise partners’ events to support start up, new, and growing businesses.

 

Ability-motivation-attitude1

GEW is a great opportunity.  Don’t miss out …..

go to events,

share your ideas for business,

show your passion and commitment,

be inspired by other entrepreneurs,

and above all MAKE IT HAPPEN.

The Start & Grow programme, funded by the Regional Growth Fund across England, delivers support and training to entrepreneurs.  The scheme is available to those

looking to start a business which expects to employ people from its early stages

where start up financing will be required to get the venture off the ground

Start & Grow could help you MAKE IT HAPPEN.

 

Events for Friday 20th November:

NORTH EAST delivered by TEDCO

Starting up in Business seminar Darlington Business Central – Friday 20th November

Contact TEDCO for more information [email protected]

 

WEST MIDLANDS delivered by NEN / Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Know your Business

Session content: The event will have a strong focus on market research covering topics such as clients, suppliers, competitors and marketing, and is designed to challenge your knowledge of your target market and subsequently the potential viability of the business.  Friday 20th November : The Vox Conference Centre, Resorts World Birmingham, Birmingham : 11am – 1:30pm

 

SOUTH EAST delivered by Enterprise First

Bookkeeping Workshop – Friday 20th November

Business Start-Up Workshop in Southampton – Friday 20th November

Business Growth Network in Southampton – Friday 20th November

 

Cavendish Enterprise Logo Cavendish Consortium Ltd.
Leigh Court Business Centre
Abbots Leigh
Bristol BS8 3RA

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CONTACT:

E: [email protected]