Small business – hints and tips for business owners
A collection of small business – hint and tips aimed at owners of a small business.
Essential Services for a Small Business
If you are just setting out on your own and starting up a new business, you’ll probably be well aware of the rather grim first year survival statistics for new ventures.
This is rarely due to lack of effort on the part of the entrepreneur, but rather a complex group of factors that all work together to make the first year of a new business pretty hard going.
In order to give your start up the best chance of survival, you need to make sure that your business is streamlined and you’ve got all of your essential services in place, but aren’t wasting money on anything unnecessary.
The first and most important service for any new business is communications.
Whether you’re working out of the spare room in your parents’ house or from the penthouse
of a designer new office block, if no one can get in touch with you, you’re business won’t stand much of a chance.
Getting your phone lines and communication systems set up is a crucial first step for any business
When setting up your phone system, you’ve got a few different options.
If you’re planning on staying put in your premises for a long time, a traditional landline and
telecoms system would probably be ideal. You can get your own phone number and then add other lines to your package as your business grows.
However if you’re planning on moving premises or are working remotely altogether, a different set-up
may suit you better.
For example, you could choose a VoIP system which uses the internet to send and receive digitalised sound.
This is a very cost affective solution and allows you to make and receive calls using the same phone number no
matter where you are in the world, as long as you’ve got access to the internet.
Another very flexible approach is to set up a call forwarding service. This would mean that all of your calls are answered at a call centre or by and interactive voice response phone system, and then forwarded onto your mobile or landline.
Having the internet is now crucial for most businesses. Without it, it can be almost impossible to procure new work, market your company and keep track of your finances. And, as we’ve seen, you can even run your phone lines through it.
So even if you’re just in temporary offices, don’t delay in getting your internet set up, you could be missing out on a valuable income.
The cost of leasing and maintaining an office premises can be crippling for many young companies. So unless an office is absolutely essential to your start up, why not avoid the cost altogether?
It’s very easy to set up a mail forwarding service for your company. The provider will give you an address where mail can be sent and will then collect it and forward it onto you.
This, combined with an interactive voice response phone system, is a very effective way of keeping your overheads to a minimum whilst still giving the impression that you’re company is established.
Hiring staff is a big cost, so why not reduce it by hiring a virtual secretary?
The cost of taking on new members of staff can be equally tough, so to cut down on your initial costs and make your workload as light as possible, why not hire a virtual receptionist?
They can answer all incoming calls in a polite and professional manner, take messages and even manage your calendar, all at a fraction of the cost of a real member of staff.
Starting up a new business is never easy, so give your company the best possible chance of survival by being creative with your business services and, before you know it, you’ll be the head of a successful and growing company that’s on its way to the top.
7 Tips to Succeed in Social Media as a Small Business
There’s no denying that some of us have been left in the dust. Silver foxes are baffled by fire foxes and the pioneers of the past are struggling with explorers and browsers. The truth is, if you want your small business to see growth, development, and success in our electronic age, it’s all about social media.
Accessing the free, globally reaching tools of social media make it easy to hit your markets hard if you do it right. It’s not just about getting a Facebook page though and posting a status every now and again. It’s a start, but if you want to reach the top then you’ll need these 7 tips to succeed in social media.
One of the most important things to take from these 7 top tips is moderation. Small businesses especially struggle to navigate the vast ocean of social media options out there today. Don’t be a jack of all trades, and master of none. Pick two platforms that you know you can keep on top of, that your market will access, and make sure there’s plenty of quality, not quantity.
2. People ‘like’ pictures
The market is getting more and more visual every day. If you’re not posting pictures that grab people’s attention and relate well to the topic, it’s likely you’ll just get scrolled past on the way to something more entertaining. Include an image you’ve created, taken yourself or found in Creative Commons on Flickr. It shouldn’t be there for the sake of it, so make sure it’s relevant and really enhances your topic.
Social media is being promoted across the world now.
IRL is a social media abbreviation for ‘in real life’. It’s great to make all these new connections on social media platforms as a small business, but it’s just as important to make them in real life. Make sure that you’re connecting with people face to face, and then they have a hugely increased chance of adding you, following you online and getting active on your pages. This is especially the case if your businesses complement each other; make the right connections!
4. Content is King
Engage your audience with your content, if it’s boring – don’t bother! Yes, you have to think about what you want them to see, but also what they’re going to respond to! If you’re plugging something that your market isn’t interested in, then you should be concerned.
Posting epic things less frequently will hook people, posting lots of little posts or trivial tweets on a regular basis is more likely to get you blocked from feeds. Get as creative as you can.
5. Timing is Everything
So it’s important what you share, and who you share with, but it’s also important when you post too. Make sure you’re posting things when your market is the most active. Check hours of activity and when peak hours will be, then get yourself out there at the prime time!
6. Ask and Thou Shall Receive
Asking questions is one of the best ways to get likes, comments, discussion, re-tweets, shares and responses. All of these things you want, so listen carefully! Instead of proposing statements or leading them to an article or piece of content that offers the solution, get them talking first by asking what they think. You can still include your great content as an ‘optional answer’ instead of force-feeding them. Make the horse come to the water, and after a big debate it’s going to be thirsty.
These are an example of a lot of the types of people you can get in social media.
7. Social Media Support
Social media is without a doubt the most powerful data collection and feedback tool in the world today. Make sure that you use it for your small business! Following on from asking questions, it’s a great way for you to find out what your current or potential customers think from a platform that they will access. Don’t underestimate it.
The power behind social media is potentially unparalleled. Many fail to use it correctly though, and wonder what all the hype is about. Sticking to these top tips will set you on the right track to getting great responses, hitting your market, and increasing sales and awareness. For a small business, the fact that this is a free method of advertising makes it an opportunity that you just can’t miss. So what are you waiting for… get logged on!
Counting the Cost of Bookkeeping: Do it Yourself or Pay for a Bookkeeper?
As a freelancer or small business owner, your focus will be on securing work and making sure the bills get paid. While you’re doing the work you get paid for, that leaves little time for keeping your house in order and at the end of the financial year it can often be a scramble to get everything together to submit your accounts and get yourself square with the taxman.
There are ways to get yourself more organised, and with an increasing number of software and online tools there is more opportunity than ever to do it yourself when it comes to your books. But what are the benefits of doing this compared to getting a bookkeeper to get your affairs in order?
Tools for the job
As many small business owners will tell you, it’s important to ensure costs are kept low while making sure you have the right tools for the job. In terms of keeping your books, there are now several tools you can use to get your records in order and keep on top of your accounting throughout the year.
Doing it yourself doesn’t have to be hard
Two of the biggest players in the self-accounting market are Sage and QuickBooks. Both of these are available with licences that cover a range of uses from sole traders operating at a low level of turnover right the way up to multi-licence professional accounts that give rights to access and use the software for several people across the company. These packages are relatively easy to use and with tutorials built-in can get you up and running pretty quickly.
In addition to software packages that you can load onto your PC, there is a growth in the number of online packages that allow you to manage your books from anywhere. Websites such as Clearbooks and Freeagent give you tools and to access and update your books from wherever you may be and stay on top of your accounting.
Get a little help
Of course, you may decide that all that is still a bit much and you want someone else to take on the responsibility of making sure your books are in order. All the above software packages and online services require some kind of licence purchase or registration fee that could be put towards getting a qualified and experienced bookkeeper to keep you on the right side of the law.
Sometimes it’s just easier to get someone else to do the heavy lifting
Having someone else to do the hard work for you also frees you up to do more of what you do best – the work you set up to do. Investing the time you would spend on doing your books into finding or doing more work that earns you money and you’re already in a more positive position.
One of the great benefits of having a professional bookkeeper to do your accounts for you is that you know your accounts are in good hands. Visit a site like https://www.arnoldhill.co.uk/services/bookkeeping-services-london-uk/ for more information on what is available.
There’s nothing like having a professional to tell you what you can and can’t legitimately do with your accounts and make sure that you’re squeaky clean when it comes to submitting them at the end of the year. That’s worth the peace of mind in itself, and can also save you money on tax bills you didn’t need to pay and fines for getting it wrong.
While there are pros and cons to both self-accounting and getting a professional to do your books, getting a professional has a number of benefits that outweigh the expenditure of paying someone with experience. Freeing you to do what you do best while ensuring you’re in the best possible financial position at the end of the year is a service that is well worth paying for in terms of peace of mind alone.
How to Overcome Language and Cultural Barriers as a Small Business
Our world is full of diversity, and it’s growing smaller and smaller every day. We now have the privilege of being surrounded by different languages, exciting cultures and new traditions. These opportunities come personally, but also in the context of a small business too. It’s absolutely vital that we understand how to overcome and barriers presented by languages or cultures in our business field, and make sure that we’re doing the best we can for each and every customer regardless of their heritage.
But when you don’t have much time, staff or resources as a growing business, it can be a little bit of a daunting topic so here’s a quick ‘how to’ that will show you that all it takes is a little know-how.
The first thing that you need to understand is that it’s your responsibility as a businessman and as a person, to understand and respect the cultures and languages around you. Since it is such an important challenge to overcome when barriers arise, setting aside time to learn is key.
You may want to take your staff on a specialised cultural course, or even go through a starter language pack to help deal with customers to the best of your abilities! It’s also important that you read about the different cultures and languages that you encounter. Even if you can’t communicate well, showing respect and knowledge of another culture can speak volumes before you even open your mouth. Simply learning some basic greetings can be an amazing way to show you’ll go that extra mile for your customers.
In business knowing more languages opens up your opportunities.
If you’re in a small business where you have regular interaction with different languages and cultures, then it might be wise to add these aspects to your recruitment ideals for your next member of staff. It could be a great addition to your workforce to have a specialist that can communicate well in one, or even a few different languages for great customer relations that others might not offer. It may even mean that the word spreads and you get an influx of a niche market!
One of the key ways to overcome barriers is not to put them there in the first place. One of the most common reasons for causing barriers or offence is because someone in your small business made an incorrect assumption based on where their customer or colleague was from.
Remember that even once you’ve learnt some words, learnt about culture and think you’re in the know, you can still get it very wrong. It is always wise to ask first, and talk later. Your customer could have the appearance of one ethnicity, but their heritage, religion or culture could be completely different. Assumptions can be great when they work and give customers a pleasant surprise, but it never hurts to be sure first!
Overcoming language barriers is important for any business. One of the key ways that you can help create a feel of friendliness and patience is simply by smiling. The way that you conduct yourself and talk is universal. If you look concerned and you’re shouting, you don’t have to be from the same place to understand what that means. Always be patient, and remember it might be helpful to talk slowly and clearly, but you should never raise your voice. Smiling and looking friendly throughout any interaction is a great releaser of tension, and will help keep your customers happy even if they’re struggling to communicate.
Breaking through language and cultural barriers as a small business can sometimes be tough. As long as respect, understanding, patience and a kind demeanour are made a top priority, you’ll go far. If it’s a barrier that you need to overcome, then hit it head on. Communicate the aim to your staff, and get everyone behind you and on board, heading towards a better workforce and ultimately, a more successful small business!
Picture credits: denharsh and UN in Armenia
How Cloud Computing has Changed IT Support
Cloud computing is affecting the way that many industries function. With businesses operating in varied sectors benefitting from easy and affordable access to professional software and expert help.
One industry that has possibly been affected more than others is the IT industry. Internal IT support is a long-established part of most companies; many offices would simply grind to a halt without a reliable and knowledgeable IT team.
But with cloud computing fast becoming the norm, how has it affected this essential workhorse of offices around the world?
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is the practice of using remote servers to host, manage and process data rather than using local servers to do the job.
As many large internet-based companies only use a small percentage of their server capacity, only retaining the surplus to allow for occasional spike, they can effectively rent out the remainder of their storage space to other companies.
This space is used by other companies for the everyday management of their businesses, that otherwise would need huge servers to operate.
One of the main ways that cloud computing is changing IT support is in its ability to enable collaboration.
The non-geographic nature of the cloud means that many more IT experts can help to solve a given problem.
You no longer have to be sitting in the same office or even the same country to swap ideas and hypothesis on the latest computer glitch.
A company’s in house IT team can quickly and easily collaborate with the IT team of the host provider to identify issues, helping both companies to refine and improve their practices.
This worldwide collaboration also encourages, and gives a platform to, IT innovation. Ideas that are exchanged between continents will help to further develop IT solutions, making the cloud better for everyone.
Cloud computing can also free up time that previously was given over to problem solving. Having a remote team that is dedicated to problem solving, means that an in house team can concentrate on innovating and improving techniques and procedures.
The idea of a standard 9-5 day has long been seen as old fashioned as markets and industries spread around the world, and international business is conducted almost 24-hours a day. However solving problems within the restrictions of a normal working day can still be an issue.
Cloud computing means that technical issues can be addressed and rectified 24-hours a day, seven days a week, whether the office is open or not.
This can help to streamline companies, and make them more competitive on the global field.
The capacity of cloud computing is such that some companies can do away with physical premises altogether.
Businesses that use the internet for the bulk of their activities, can have employees working anywhere in the world that WiFi is available, with remote IT support available to sort out any issues that may arise.
For companies working in IT support, cloud computing can lower their costs substantially. With a reduced need for premises, overheads can be reduced, and by only paying for the server space you require, you’re not spending unnecessarily.
With technology at the heart of daily life, IT support will always be in demand. The advent of cloud computing has, and will, change the nature of the work that IT support will undertake and how they will undertake it.
Gone are the days of the lonely office expert desperately trying to keep up with demand, now IT support can be available wherever and whenever it’s required.
If you are looking for a new IT support partner contact Cheeky Munkey for a quotation.
Affect of snow on small business
I have been looking at our call volumes for last week to see how the snow last week affected our customer’s business by analysing call volumes on our telephone answering service. Last Friday (18th Jan 2013) was an interesting day to analyse as much of the UK was affected. The results shown in the graph below was that call volumes were down about 20% compared to the previous week.
This may not sound much but the disruption has continued into this week so it starts to add up. I often think that the change in our call volumes from one quarter to the next have a close correlation to the GDP figures announced for the economy as a whole, and losing parts of days will have an impact on our fragile economic figures for this quarter.
How to Make Your Company Virtual in Five Easy Steps
For many people, one of the driving forces behind becoming self-employed is to have a little more freedom in their work life. No boss to tell you to work harder, not timesheet telling you you’re late and no company policy that you have to blindly adhere to.
And now, with the internet and virtual business providers offering a range of services and solutions, becoming completely free from the restrictions of an office and a working day is a real possibility for many business owners.
So if you want to run an operation in slough as you’re sipping cocktails on the French Riviera, here are five steps you need to follow.
A comprehensive mail forwarding service gives your company an address in a great business location where your clients and suppliers can write to you, and send invoices and receipts.
All of the correspondence is then forwarded by the service provider to an address of your choice, giving you the freedom to work from wherever you want.
The great thing about his service is that many of the best providers can give you an address in a great business area of London and Manchester, giving your company an instantly more professional appearance.
If you need someone to answer incoming calls but don’t want to have to hire a full time member of staff, you can look into hiring a virtual receptionist.
They will answer all calls to your company, take a message and then contact you straight away via your preferred method. This allows you to respond promptly to any enquiries without having to spend hours on the phone yourself.
If you’re currently working from a physical office, you may wonder what you’d do with the huge number of files, data and programs that are currently stored on your server. And this is where cloud storage can come in very useful.
You can pay a third party company a small amount to use their servers as online storage space. This makes all of your information accessible online 24 hours a day, all you need is a computer and an internet connection.
Moving to cloud storage also means that you can work on projects with employees or collaborators. You can all access, update and save files just as you would in a traditional office, without ever having to actually meet in person.
VoIP telecoms system
A VoIP telephone system is a great tool for anyone who wants to take their office totally virtual.
Instead of using landlines provided by the telephone company, VoIP uses the internet to digitally transmit sound, so you can call someone in another office or even another country without incurring any costs at all.
This system is probably best suited to people who want to communicate between colleagues in different geographical locations on a regular basis.
Alternatively, you can have a call forwarding service set up for a fairly small cost. This allows all incoming calls to be answered in a professional manner and then forwarded onto the relevant people.
This system is great of you’ve got a lot of incoming calls and want to make sure that each one is dealt with thoroughly straight away.
Calls can be forwarded to landlines or mobiles so your team can be out in the field rather than stuck in an office waiting for calls.
Once all of these services are set up and operating smoothly, your business is pretty much good to go. It will be able to operate without a physical office, a receptionist or even a phone line, giving you to work and live in a way that suits you the best.
New Year Resolution – start your own business
The New Year is normally busy for us as we get enquiries from people who have made a New Year Resolution to start their own business. What an excellent objective for the year. Some are ready to proceed, others are checking prices as part of working out their costs, and they are all interesting conversations to see what people are up to.
January 2009 was very quiet when optimism about the economy was rock bottom. January 2010 and 2011 saw a dramatic change and January 2012 is looking good as well. I sometimes like to think we are barometer for business confidence in the country as we focus on startups and businesses with less than 5 people. I have six years of figures now for enquiries coming from people starting a business and in this context January 2012 figures look encouraging, if not quite as quick as 2010.
So if you are starting a business give us a call as we are always happy to talk through the options and will ensure you have clear prices for your plan.