Do small businesses embrace change?
Many businesses began as a ’one man band’ or maybe a partnership between friends. While the business is small, you can be in complete control and you will probably establish strong relationships with your small team of employees as you work closely with them everyday. But small businesses embrace change to accommodate developments as the business grows. Small Business have aims and ambitions for the future and a plan for growth in order to survive changing market demands.
As your business begins to expand the structure of your business will need to adapt. And as these developments evolve your relationship with your existing employees will need to change, as will your role within the company.
The Decision to move your office space
Choosing to relocate your business to new office space is no easy decision to make and can impact significantly on your employees, your customers and your suppliers.
But if you feel you have outgrown your current office space and this is hindering your expansion plans you may have no alternative. It is a good idea to make a note of your key requirements before approaching a letting agency so you have a clear idea of exactly what you are looking for and more importantly how much you are willing and able to pay.
A successful business needs to be flexible in order to meet the demands of it’s customers and achieve the ultimate aim which is usually to increase profitability. Sometimes expansion is the best way forward. For this you need a plan, a strategy to guide the future development of your business. The more detailed your planning the more likely you are to get it right!
It is vital to identify the right time to start planning for expansion. Leave it too late and you risk your business becoming stagnant. If this happens you may find regular customers are looking elsewhere for companies offering more advanced products, quicker service or more convenient options that better serve their needs. On the other hand if you try to move too fast you risk making your business vulnerable and unable to cope in a competitive market.
We hear the word entrepreneur used quite freely now days. Anyone who has set-up their own business or played a key role in the successful creation of someone elses seems more than happy to use it as a job title. Because of this it would appear to be a fairly easy way to make a living. But can anyone do it? Or does it actually take a certain type of person to successfully set-up and run their own business? Many believe that entrepreneurship is not something that can be taught, but rather something that is just in you and you ever have it or you don’t.
It is almost April and the weather is lousy, the coldest spring for over 30 years in fact. So you can hardly be blamed for losing concentration slightly and dreaming of a couple of weeks in the sun. However for many new business owners this may have to be just that, a dream that is unlikely to come true for the time being anyway. Working for yourself is very different to working for an employer and many self-employed people find it very difficult to find a suitable time to take a break and struggle to actually switch off when they do go away. If you are the backbone of your company and every decision goes through you how can you rely on anyone else to take the reigns while you jet off to warmer climates?
The Avanta team of Directors joined together to listen to the 2013 Budget delivered by Chancellor George Osborne and commentated on how proposed changes would affect the countries SME’s.
As Osborne directed this budget as being for those who want to start their own business the overall impression was positive. The most significant measure to cut ‘jobs tax’ meaning that 450,000 small business will have up to £2000 taken of their Employers National Insurance bill by the government was welcomed by the team.
Cutting corporation tax to 20% is seen as another positive measure for SME’s as is the allocation of a further £3bn to infrastructure spending.
Due to increasing demand for ‘third place’ workspace, a place that is neither at home or in the office, Regus and Shell proudly launch their first city-wide workhub trial. Located in 70 service stations across Berlin the hubs are designed to offer a comfortable and professional setting for the growing number of flexible workers requiring drop-in workspace while on the go.
Highly skilled, fully trained working mums are still being pushed out of the workplace by employers who are reluctant to offer flexible working conditions. New research commissioned by Regus, the global workplace provider shows that despite a clear recognition that working mums boost productivity and are a valuable asset to businesses they are still not prepared to make the necessary changes to help women back to work.
Many women who have worked hard to establish a career are torn between family commitments and work responsibilities when they decide to start a family. With childcare costs rising at an alarming rate and swallowing up to a third of net household income, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the right balance.
Lets face it, these days we would be lost without our technical gizmos and mobile gadgets that prop us up through everyday life. Most people will admit to taking their mobile to bed with them, to checking their emails the second they wake-up, or to logging into facebook or twitter at least once a day.
So does all this mean that we have become too reliant on technology? So much so that we have forgotten how to communicate with people face to face and are plunged into a sheer panic when our mobile devices fail to perform as they should? Of course it is sods law that they always let us down at the most crucial times. Be it a flat phone battery, a lost wifi connection or a laptop that just won’t boot up they just seem to know we are at their mercy and love to show us who is boss!
Getting a London Business Address
Despite attempts by other major cities such as Manchester and Birmingham to draw the attention of big businesses, A London business address remains the most popular location in the UK for companies to establish.
There are over 15,000 companies based in Central London and demand for office space within the ‘square mile’ remains high even in the current economic climate. With postcode areas EC, WC and E1 particularly sort after, what is it about London that continues to appeal to the best firms in the world?
For many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) managing cashflow is a serious struggle, not helped by persistent late payers who put the survival of their business at great risk. So with over 85% of small businesses claiming overdue payments have caused major issues over the last two years, is it finally time for SME’s to take a harder stance and get tough on the culprits?
Establishing a new business is tough enough, without the added worry of where the next paycheck is coming from. And of course until your own customers have settled their accounts it is difficult for you to pay your own suppliers. This easily develops into a chain of bad debt that is difficult to work your way out of, and it is incredibly frustrating when the whole situation has arisen through no fault of your own. Bad debt is responsible for the demise of 1 in 5 businesses in the UK, others survive by supplementing their business by dipping into their own funds or borrowing against their personal assets. This is usually just a recipe for disaster.
Avanta will continue Grow Your Business Programme in 2013
Always eager to assist their client base in any way possible, Avanta Managed Offices have vowed to continue their ‘Grow Your Business Programme’ in 2013. Last years events were incredibly popular with SME’s and start-ups who benefited greatly from the advice offered by notable speakers from various different business backgrounds.
Avanta, the leading provider of flexible workspace will begin the programme this year with some exciting and inspiring events such as:
‘Disciples, Donkeys and Terrorists!’ – a breakfast seminar on how to manage and motivate staff through a recession, run by Russell Guest, Director of leading HR and legal consultancy ESP Limited.
‘The Big Budget Discussion – 2013’ – Avanta’s Small Business Panel will be discussing the major announcements from this year’s budget, and the potential impact on the small business community.
‘Top Tips For Securing Business Funding’ – hosted by Mike Weaver, Chief Executive of the UK’s leading source of venture capital and business angel investment for growing SMEs, Beer & Partners.
2012 may have been another difficult year for start-ups and for business as a whole. Many companies have struggled to keep afloat let alone make any profit and expansion plans have been put on hold at least until the economic outlook begins to look a little brighter. But despite the doom and gloom it appears optimism is high for 2013 with a 6% increase in the number of employers planning to recruit in the first quarter.
Ambitious businesses with with clear objectives for 2013 may see recruitment growth as the solution to continued expansion, but there are significant costs to consider when hiring new staff, and this upfront investment can bring new risks all of its own.
So as a responsible SME how can you minimise the risk to your business while still finding the most suitable employee for the roles available?
As your first port of call most would head straight for a recruitment agency to handle the entire process on your behalf. In fairness agencies are making significant changes to the way they operate, but this service still does not come cheap with some charging as much as 20% simply for sifting through the sea of jobseekers and forwarding a few choice CVs in your direction. You may end up with the ‘perfect’ candidate with all the relevant experience and qualifications but they will probably expect a chunky salary to match.
Most areas of business have suffered considerably during the recent recession. Every we day we hear of struggling companies who have lost their way and fallen into the hands of the administrators. The serviced office market on the other hand appears to have bucked the trend, experiencing unprecedented growth over recent years. In times of financial difficulty it is even more important than ever for a business to look for the most cost effective ways to operate. As buying or renting premises is usually the most expensive outgoing, it makes sense that more businesses would choose the flexibility offered by a serviced office rather than the commitment of purchasing permanent office space. This explains why the serviced office market can only continue to grow both in the UK and on a global scale.
Many major companies have also realised the benefits a serviced office can provide, opting to rent temporary project space. A serviced offices provides flexibility at a low cost monthly rate with all the necessary facilities a business may need on site. The options available in the serviced office market are diverse, and for this reason they appeal to a wide range of customers and can cater to all needs.
In many cases a serviced office rental that began as a temporary arrangement becomes more permanent as customers choose to stay put and extend their time on the premises. This is usually because the cost of alternative premises is simply too high to warrant the move. Or sometimes the quality of other premises and the amenities on offer just do not compare to those included in a serviced office agreement.
There are some key players in the serviced office market who have done considerably well in recent years. They have learnt to listen to their customers needs and accommodate them accordingly. From opening new offices in unusual places to arranging exclusive perks with various service providers they have worked hard to expand their appeal.
By forming strong relationships with their customers and providing whatever they need, many have managed to retain customers on a kind of semi-permanent basis. Working together to make long term plans for future projects as the businesses expand, ultimately benefiting all concerned.
It soon becomes clear why the serviced office market has managed to grow throughout a recession. It provides a simple, low risk solution for businesses in need of office space on a tight budget. As the popularity of serviced offices continues to grow and their benefits become increasingly more apparent they are likely to become a far more dominant feature in the business world
Looking back on a highly successful 2012 has workspace provider Avanta brimming with confidence for an equally prosperous 2013.
Last October Avanta launched their Grow Your Business initiative which involved hosting a series of events aimed at helping SME’s and start-up businesses handle the difficulties associated with business growth. High profile speakers from various business backgrounds offered valuable guidance on a wide range of subjects, such as how to raise finance and the importance of communication. Last year also say the successful launch of Avant Connect – an online service that allows clients to communicate with each other, encouraging networking and collaborations between businesses.
Alan Pepper, CEO Avanta, said: “2012 was a fantastic year for Avanta, not only represented by high occupancy rates of 90% or more, but because we have pushed the limits of what workspace providers can do for their clients.”
During the London 2012 Olympics, Avanta partnered the British Business Club and offered clients advice on how to best benefit from international sporting events. They also assisted those clients who struggled to reach their office during the games by allowing them access to any of Avantas other 14 London offices. Existing clients of the workplace provider enjoyed an even greater benefits package in 2012. Avanta generously added £1000 worth of insurance per workstation and negotiated with Ecoigo car service to offer discounted rates on executive cars. Avanta also donated almost £10,000 to children’s medical research charity Sparks.
There planned new office space at Sackville Street, Mayfair is already 62% pre-let and there are even more client benefits in the pipeline. Throughout 2013 Avanta will continually improve the incredible value they offer their clients, building on the relationships formed in 2012.
Back in November 2012 we reported that MWB had gone into administration (http://www.theservicedoffice.co.uk/business-as-usual-at-mwb-business-exchange/), whilst the directors were quick to come out and say “its business as usual” for MWbex, the serviced office arm of the business. However, it appears it was far from business as usual as the comments were to ensure businesses didn’t flock from the buildings.
Not just a serviced office …
…a package with everything you need to succeed
Finding a ready to go solution is not as hard as you would believe. Offices with the widest range of complementary services on demand, are available right under your nose. A Regus based serviced office allows you to move in to a fully working office within a matter of hours.
One easy monthly bill with all charges included! That includes business rates
- A private, shared or open-plan workspace, with 24-hour secure access
- A fully-equipped, customisable office space with the latest technology, ready as soon as you are
- Dedicated specialist support from our helpful centre teams
- Regus Business Lounges, Meeting Rooms and Video Communications available when you need them, at preferred rates
- Relocate to another Regus Business Centre if you need to – quickly, easily and without penalty
- Stay agile in today’s ever-changing marketplace, with the flexibility to react to new challenges and new opportunities fast.
Business ethic to help you succeed
A report published this month by Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workspaces found that UK businesses trading overseas are two fifths more likely to experience profit growth than those focusing their trading on home turf. Senior managers and company owners from over 3000 firms confirmed that of those that trade internationally 45% have seen their profits increase over the last 12 months, of those that only trade domestically 31% have increased their profits.
The report appears to insist that exporting is good for business and despite the economic instability of Europe 62% of businesses say it is still the most profitable market for expansion. Other areas targeted by UK companies are China (40%) North America (34%) and India trailing with 28%, Europe is by far the favorable option for small businesses with 68% trading there.
So what is it that makes many UK firms reluctant to expand their trade abroad? The poll revealed that 58% of firms site paperwork and the cost of premises as the main factors that prevent them from locating in other countries around the world. 50% struggle to build and image for their business and 47% find it difficult to understand local taxation and regulations.
Recently Regus have experienced a notable increase in the number of enquiries they are receiving from businesses looking for flexible workspace overseas. With this in mind they have recently expanded and now have business centres located in Rwanda and Cambodia, they now have over 1500 centres worldwide. For those businesses wishing to ‘test the water’ before making any commitment a popular option is to begin with a virtual office. This offers an instant presence in a new area without the costly overheads and the possible risks.
Steve Purdy is the UK Managing Director of Regus “…… The Government wants UK exports to reach £1 trillion per year by 2020 and our report echoes the clear message that exporting is good for business. We see the findings of this report reflected every day in the changing profile of our customer base. Usually firms’ top priority is to keep operations as flexible as possible. No business owner wants to overcommit in a new market where their rate of growth and success is unpredictable. ……..Ultimately, the less time and money a company can spend on property and leases, the more it can plough into making its business a success.”
Highlighting the success of their business abroad Berkshire-based Business and Facilities, a facilities management consultancy, proudly share their experiences of trading internationally. Mike Liddle, Managing Partner, says: “……….Firstly we traded with central Europe, then expanded into Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa as our experience, reputation and local partner network grew………British skills are highly valued overseas. It is worth reassessing whether there is a market abroad for your services. Many of the traditional barriers to entry are now surmountable, especially in the area of property.” Mike took advantage of Regus’s worldwide presence by using business centres in various locations to keep costs to a minimum. “It’s a flexible, hassle-free and low-cost way of doing business. Our business has flourished on the strength of high-growth markets, which would not have been the case domestically.”
Starting a business can be challenging to say the least. Business Startups can be a minefield and sometimes the help out there can be “unrealistic”. That’s because the so-called help is generally engineered to make you feel that they are helping you but really they are just trying to make money themselves.
But don’t fear there is some real genuine help out there for business startup and its free.
If you have never been in business before then there are a few guides to help you along and the local council offers some great advice. If you have been in business before then generally the advice from the local council is probably not geared around your way of thinking.
Where Business Startups should Begin
Many people just get an idea and run with it, bumbling through some of the minefield ahead. However, having a plan is key. The plan should be a working progress document that you develop along the way, but will keep you focused and motivated to your business. The plan will also help you identify key areas that you need to set up or look into before you begin.
Once you have a basic plan, speak to your local council. They can offer advice on an array of things from funding to tax and business development. But be aware, this is only basic business startup advice; if you are looking for professional technical advice then speak to a specialist.
One council offers a 2-day workshop for new business startups and offers a grant at the end of it to help you on your way.
Financing business startups
Finance for small businesses is hard to come across, however, if you have a squeaky clean credit rating and you put more than 50% of the investment costs into the business with a sound business plan, a bank will talk to you, that’s not saying you will get the finance but it will open the door to a negotiation.
However, a lot of entrepreneurs have failed in the past and have bad credit and loans are hard to come by – in fact bank accounts for businesses require a reasonable credit score which puts some people out of the running.
The NatWest offer a basic business bank account that gives you full banking facilities except lending.
Your local council will have a list of what grants are available in your sector and your local area, some of these may be significant if you are in a technology or science sector.
–For Immediate Release
Serviced Office Sector in the Economy
Q4 GDP figures expected to show negative growth
It is widely expected that the GDP figures for the UK will be back into negative growth, with many businesses looking to downsize and make redundancies. However, this is not the picture in London and nor is it reflected in the Serviced Office sector.
Occupation rates in London are at there highest and companies such as Regus are opening new business centre’s throughout the country as demands dictate. Office Brokers such as www.theservicedoffice.co.uk are also seeing an uptake in the demand for premium office space.
Roy Watkinson, Director and cofounder of theservicedoffice.co.uk said “it is clear that businesses are focusing on their monthly costs, but there is more demand for the 1-2 person office as small businesses look to go from the spare room to an office”
Bad high street figures from Christmas trading are expected to feature highly in the GDP report, which is due to be released on 25 Jan. Whilst most people have less money in their pockets, there is a renewed invigoration with entrepreneurs looking to develop small businesses in the downturn.
London’s occupancy rates in the office environment are at an average 95% and a recent report by Colliers, office space above 10,000sqft has also seen vacancy rates decrease by nearly 2% in the London area.
Prices within the office sector are also rising close to the rates in 2007 in the height of the market. Outside of London there is growth in the sector but it is significantly less than London and recovery is slow. “We will continue to see growth in the London area and growth outside of London will start to ramp up in Q3/Q4 of 2013”.
Contact for further information
The Serviced Office
Tel: 0845 057 4070
Planning for every eventuality
Its always best to plan for the worst and the weather is no exception. Snow, Ice wind, rain and even the soaring heat can affect staffing plans in the workspace.
Disaster recovery planning is not always about changing your working location because of a terrorist attack. The weather can play a massive role in disrupting your business.
The recent snow is the perfect example of a disaster to some small businesses. Whilst this weather event is likely to only last a day or so and over a weekend it could easily have been over a much longer period and in the middle of the week.
Hospitals and emergency services invoked a weather event plan, which is specifically for major weather events. This involves prioritizing calls and managing them as the emergency dictates. But more significantly manages staffing. If staff struggle to get to work or cant get into work, the emergency service cant just say “sorry the staff didn’t come in today because of the weather”.
Can you stay open?
This is true with many businesses, whilst some small businesses can say, “due to adverse weather conditions we have closed early” etc. But some businesses cant and they rely on the dedication of their staff. This can put an immense strane on the staff in the workplace as they may have to work longer shifts or in some cases may have to sleep at work.
The weather conditions in the UK are gradually becoming more severe and the UK infrastructure is not being developed to cope as quick as these events occur. With this in mind, we should all consider how we work and what disaster recovery or contingencies’ we have in place to manage the impact on our businesses. A small plan could save you from having lost business days resulting in loss trade and loss of revenue for either a short or a significant length of time.
We have seen so many businesses spending lots of time and money on social media and it fail. The main reason for failing is because most people are talking about themselves. To understand this, imaging you put 100 people into a room and tell all 100 to talk about their product. You would find that almost everyone will try to talk over the next person and almost no one will try to engage with others in the room.
Social Media is all about engagement and, well frankly being social. Another example of social media is a plumber want to advertise his business, he spends all the time reposting his link to his website on his wall and on his friends wall. If none of them need a plumber then its a complete waste of time. A lot of people also sub consciously tune out to adverts as Facebook is now pushing them more than ever.
The five point guide below gives you a good start to making your Social Media campaign a success.
1. Listen first and never stop listening. Before your first tweet, search Twitter for people talking about your business and your competitors. Search using words that your prospective customers would say as well. For example, if you’re an accountant, use Twitter to search for people tweeting the words “need an accountant” in your town. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for you.
2. Don’t tell your customers to like you and follow you, tell them why and how they should. Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” Huh? Why? How? Give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” and then make it incredibly easy to do so. Note the difference between these two calls to action: “Like my company’s page on Facebook” vs “Get answers to your social media questions at http://FB.com/LikeableMedia.”
3. Why ask questions? Wondering why nobody’s responding to your posts on Facebook? It’s probably because you’re not asking questions. Social media is about engagement and having a conversation, not about self-promotion. If a pizza place posts on Facebook, “Come on by, 2 pizzas for just £12,” nobody will comment, and nobody will show up. If that same pizza place posts, “What’s your favorite topping?” people will comment online and then be more likely to show up. Make sure you understand Edgerank – Facebook’s formula for determining what shows up in people’s ever-crowded Newsfeeds.
4. Share pictures and videos. People love photos. The biggest reason Facebook went from 0 to 1 billion users in 7 years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories about you in ways that text alone cannot. You don’t need a big production budget, either. Use your smartphone to take pictures and short videos of customers, staff, and cool things at your business, and then upload them directly to Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn. A picture really is worth a thousand words – and a video is worth a thousand pictures.
5. Spend at least 30 minutes a day on social media. If you bought a newspaper ad or radio ad, you wouldn’t spend 5 minutes on it or relegate it to interns. Plus, there’s a lot to learn, and every week, new tools and opportunities across social networks emerge. Spend real time each day reading and learning, listening and responding, and truly joining the conversation. The more time and effort you put in to social media, the more benefits your business will receive.
Remember, the key to social media is engagement and be social. Gain the opinion of your friends and family about your page, if they “like” it then you stand a chance of others “liking” it, but be sure to ask them to tell you the truth. Good Luck.
Changing the way we work
In an ever-changing environment it is essential to change the way we work. No one has a crystal ball to look into the future, but we do need to have an open mind.
Some bosses and business owners have a blinkered view of the future and become suborn in their ways whilst others have an over enthusiastic look to the future, sadly both in the long term will fail.
If a business follows every trend and thinks every trend will be the future then frankly the business will fold under its own weight of forward thinking as there will inevitably be many roads and avenues in which the business will follow and none of them will be the main business focus.
Stubborn business owners and bosses will stagnate a business and if a business is not moving then its falling behind and will ultimately fail as trends change.
But what can we learn?
We should look at both models and come up with something in between. A business that is happy to look at the future of its business along with the focus and market research to ensure longevity of any change in trends. The Technology market is a prime example of forward looking, Dell have for years focused on the Intel product range and have not deviated, yet their management now acknowledge that they may have missed out on the tablet market. Whereas Microsoft have also realized that whilst software is a market for PCs and Servers, they needed to develop an operating system for Tablets and Mobile Phones.
Some people like change and some people don’t. A younger audience likes changes in technology, fashion and music, whereas the older generation prefer music of the past, have a fashion which they are comfortable with and don’t like the speed of change with technology. Small business ideas such as Facebook gained a lot of attraction because it was a new trend, and played on a way where people could communicate to all of their friends. Whereas Apple’s trend of the Ipad was based on new technology driven by apple enthusiasts.
Trend setting can be costly; if it fails then you have lost a lot of money. The audience needed to set a trend is massive, so in many cases setting a trend is not financially viable.
Innovation is not always the key to keeping the business moving, following the crowds can be good if you are near the front, but staying still and not changing is not the answer. It is easy to look in too many directions, whilst looking is easy and safe, acting in too many directions can be costly and detrimental to the business not just to the direction of the business but the staff, never knowing what’s next.
REGUS PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Coworking is encouraged by open plan space at a low cost for businesses which are starting to grow.
Collaboration spaces for teams of all sizes to meet and collaborate.
Serviced Offices are highly adaptable and fully equipped to be able to move in today and start working.
Meeting Rooms provide the very best in flexible meeting space bookable by the day, half day or even the hour.
Business Lounges are convenient work-ready environments providing peace, support and dedicated resources.
Video Communication including state of the art Telepresence studios, enable face-to-face meetings without the usual travel expense and downtime.
Think Pods are designed to be used for any length of time from one hour to a day, providing privacy in the shared space of our business lounges.
Disaster Recovery is a variety of fixed and virtual spaces to help organizations of any size resume operations following a workplace disaster.
Virtual Office provides an impressive business address and phone number anywhere in the world.
Day Offices offer quiet private space for a few hours or a full day with all the Regus services.
Branch Offices with business support, local knowledge and a customer base are an ideal way to expand into new markets
You may have noticed that in recent years retailers have begun offering discounted good long before the traditional January sales. This year many were tempting us will discounts of up to 30% – 40% even before Christmas. This is of course a deliberate attempt to encourage shoppers to part with more cash, to boost sales that have been struggling through another tough economic year. And will early figures revealing that UK consumers made 113 million visits to retailers websites on Boxing Day alone, it seems they are only responding to public demand. So we no longer have January sales, nor Boxing day sales, winter sales now seems to be a more accurate name.
With the high street continuing to struggle retailers are being forced to rethink their sales strategies, and change the way they operate to keep up with the changes in the way we shop. Most notably the way that internet shopping has had a huge impact on footfall on the high street.
Struggling to manage household expenditure has turned many of us into very savvy shoppers less likely to trawl the shops for hours on end and instead using the internet to track down the best possible deals before we even leave the house. By the time we visit the high street we have already decided exactly what we want to buy and where we are going to buy it from at the best price.This in turn helps us to avoid the urge to impulse buy and ultimately spend far less. As the cost of food continues to rise, less people purchased luxury brands this year, instead opting for cheaper brands or the best deals being offered by the supermarkets.
So as we launch into the new year, what are the predictions for the future of retail on the highstreet, and online? Well experts expect another tough year with many stores struggling to match year on year figures despite the vast reductions. As the internet is now an integral part of modern life 85% of those with an internet connection use it to browse and shop, meaning the highstreet in particular will continue to decline.
Household items are left sitting on the shelves as fewer people are moving house and purchasing new furniture and appliances, although DIY retailers are expected to see a slight improvement in sales as homeowners attempt to improve their homes before putting them on the market.
With households continuing to feel the squeeze retailers are unlikely to see any significant change over the next year, however slightly higher employment levels may boost post – christmas sales in the short term.
The retail sector is currently seeing its busiest time of year. This year has seen a lot of businesses go into administration, JJB, Comet, and it is suspected that HMV are going into administration in January.
Business up and down
But companies like John Lewis have been claiming steady growth. Besides the niche reasons what makes a company grow in a time where budgets are stretched? The reality is that when a company starts to get into trouble, one of the first things that goes is the advertising and marketing budget, then goes the moral of the staff because the management begin to put pressure on the staff. Companies are to quick to say “Market factors” in their niche or “the economic downturn”, the reality is that they do have an impact but the way we shop and what we shop for changes too. But consider this, back in the 80’s and early 90’s sweets that were bought were Black Jacks, Bazooka Joes and the traditional “Quarter of pear drops”, but children of today buy sours, stringy sweet and its very rare to see sweets being sold by weight.
Who to Blame
The sweet manufactures understand that children buy sweets based on taste, trend and funky designs. They also note that their industry is always evolving to make a better sweet etc. Companies like Comet and JJB sell products that we want but are not innovative enough to develop their product offerings to a changing audience. Likewise HMV, they are blaming the demise of the CD market based on downloads, but why don’t they tie up with ITunes to offer a download bundle? The answer is that they see ITunes as direct competition and would never entertain the notion of speaking to a competitor to corner the whole UK market.
Banks and other major corporations see the opportunities and discuss tie-ups and links to try and keep their business evolving.
John Lewis has another strategy
They offer, what’s online is in their shops. This is a massive jump from some of the other major high street stores where their online store is separate from their high street store. They also actively involve themselves in Advertising and a major PR campaign telling everyone how good they are doing. The one major factor about John Lewis is that their staff is happy. Why? Because they own a slice of the company and receive a bonus based on the companies performance.
So what can we learn from all of this?
Its to easy to blame economic factors for the failings of a business. A business should be evolving, adapting and looking to the future, not sitting still in one market. If the future is not looking rosy, look how you can offer your audience a better offering, even if that does mean you work with a competitor or thinking out of the box. The going may be good today and maybe good for the next 5 years but who knows what’s round the corner, prepare yourself and look to the future. A small percentage of something is far better than 100 percent of nothing.
Small Business Insurance
Even a relatively minor incident can lead to a major compensation claim, and without the right insurance in place this could have disastrous consequences for a small business. For this reason it is now more important than ever to be sure you have the right cover in place. If you are just starting out, and depending on the nature of your business, it can be difficult to know what insurance you need, but there are some basic policies most business should have in place.
Employers Liability Insurance
Employers’ liability insurance – If you employ people this is a legal requirement and not having it could result in you being prosecuted or fined. It doesn’t matter if they are part-time, temporary, voluntary or even contractors if they are working for you then it is your responsibility by law to purchase Employers’ Liability insurance of at least £5 million incase someone is injured while working for you.
Public Liability Insurance
Public liability insurance – This protects you from a costly compensation claim should someone injure themselves while in your place of work. They may be a visitor to your office or even in your home but if they incur an injury it is your responsibility. Public liability insurance would also cover you if you accidently damage something while on your customers property, if you work in the building trade for example and you spend much of your time in other peoples homes it is likely that as some point something with be damaged, if the customer holds you responsible they may claim compensation. A customer may require proof of cover before allowing you to commence work on their property. If you wish to exhibit at a conference or trade show the organisers may also require you have public liability insurance.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
Professional indemnity insurance – This offers protection to you and your business if you give bad advice or someone questions the quality of your work. For service providers such as an accountant or even a plumber you should seriously consider Professional indemnity insurance.
Many self-employed people who work from home assume their home insurance will cover their business too. This is often not the case and it is important to carefully read your policy wording to know exactly what is and what is not covered.The same applies to a car or van that you use for business purposes and not just for pleasure.
Insurance can sometimes seem like just another expense, paying for something that hopefully will never happen. But unfortunately accidents do happen, and as they say ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’ so to protect the future of your business it pays to be adequately covered.
Does social media help small business?
We are all aware of social media and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and use them constantly to keep up to date with friends, family and celebrity gossip. But are small business owners really reaping the benefits that such sites can offer? There is no doubt that the internet is your most valuable marketing tool, and a website is almost essential in this day and age. But even if you do go to the trouble of opening a Facebook or Twitter account it takes a fair amount of leg work to really get that page working for you. To turn all those likes and followers into real customers and most importantly increased sales.
There is of course plenty of advice online on how to get the most from social networking. Twitter and Facebook have their own guidance, although it can seem a little generic. Each business is different and can benefit in different ways, you just need to do your research. Follow in the footsteps of other businesses that have already embraced social media, and as a result are winning new business.
Free For All
For those looking to cut costs social media has an immediate, obvious advantage…they are free! Traditional methods of marketing and advertising can be very expensive and to run an effective campaign can really dent your budget.
Creating a Blog is a way of establishing your professional credibility and expertise to a wider audience. They give you a platform that allows you to engage with potential and existing customers. By linking your blog to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn you can target different user groups. LinkedIn attracts other professionals whereas Facebook and Twitter are less formal.
Video for social media
Another site than can create fantastic results for small businesses is YouTube. Here you can create short videos to promote your product or service, like a TV advertisement only much cheaper and easier to produce. You could introduce yourself and your employees, film a tour of your premises, demonstrate products or ask previous customers to share their positive experiences with your business. The other benefit of using video is optimisation, fresh video content boosts SEO (search engine optimisation) rankings.
A few tips that all small businesses can implement in their online strategies.
- Consider the platforms that are available and be selective, target those that are more likely to engage with your potential customers.
- Communicate regularly with your online audience, Answer questions promptly, provide regular updates or news bulletins to keep people up to date and interested in your business.
- Constantly monitor activity and how your audience are responding, if somethings not working find out what it is so you can quickly change tactics to stay ahead of the game.
- In order for social media to become a true asset to your business you need to invest time and effort, this way you should soon see positive results.