Category Archives: Business Image

Making the move from freelance to small business owner

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Can you transform your freelancer operation into a registered small business…

At some point many freelancers think life would be easier if they were running as a small business. Whether that’s because they’re getting enough work to be employed five days a week, 50 weeks a year, or they feel they’ll never be taken seriously while working from their bedroom.


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Enhance your business prospects with a virtual office in London

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Recently there have been significant shifts in the way businesses operate, with many people opting to work from home instead of commuting into an office. However, it is still vital for companies to have a professional presence in order to attract new clients, which is where a virtual office in London could be your ideal solution.

What Are Virtual Offices?

Virtual offices offer a range of services, from receptionists to answer your telephone calls to a prestigious postal address for your business.
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Business owners are ‘happiest’ professionals

VV 27 Jan 2

Did you know that business owners are among the happiest people in the nation’s entire workforce – closely followed by their staff?

That means that entrepreneurs and those with their own small or medium-sized enterprise must be a pretty pleased bunch, despite the numerous hurdles they have to overcome on a daily basis.

According to workplace provider Regus, one of the main reasons for this is because business owners are in a better position to take control of their work/life balance – something which is fundamental to happiness.

The report, based on a poll of 26,000 professionals across the UK, also showed that UK workers are much happier than their French and German counterparts – but less so than Americans.

Commenting on the findings, UK chief executive of Regus John Spencer said: “Employers must recognise the importance of work-life balance not only for their own health and that of their staff, but for the company as a whole.”

Posted by the Secret Businessman

Giving green a go

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In 1973, years before anyone had heard the term global warming, German insurance giant Munich Re conducted its own study of the effects of climate change. Today, the firm recycles three-quarters of their paper, publishes environmental indicators on its website, and is heading for complete carbon neutrality by 2015.

 

Munich Re proves that it’s possible to put environmental policy at the heart of a business and still remain a large and competitive company. However, not everyone has enough time and money to undertake a huge investigation into global warming. So, what can smaller firms do?

 

The first step is to turn the lights off. According to the Carbon Trust, lighting accounts for between 20 and 50 per cent of total energy consumed in commercial buildings. So, ensuring the lights are off at the end of the day will make a big difference. Similarly, modern LED lights achieve energy savings of between 70 to 80 per cent of old tungsten models. They are not always cheap to install, but the investment tends to pay off over time – the Carbon Trust cite a small hotel who spent £22,000 upgrading 80 lights, but who are now saving £6,600 annually on their energy bill.

 

Another easy option is recycling. This reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, while recycling of paper reduces some of the pressure responsible for deforestation. However, recycling isn’t just good for the environment – it can pay too. Several companies and websites exist which allow firms to sell their recyclable waste.

 

Next, audit your travelling. While face-to-face meetings are important, they are not always necessary, and unless you travel everywhere by bike, the journeys create emissions – not to mention cost money and reduce the time you have available to do actual work. Instead, see if you can cut the amount of face-to-face meetings, replacing them with conference calls or even video conferencing (a solution made far cheaper by the advent of Skype, Facetime and similar solutions).

 

What links these solutions together is that they are not simply good for the environment – they can help your business too. The best green policies should be a virtuous circle which promote sustainability while helping the company. That’s a good enough reason for all SMEs to give green a go.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman

SMEs should look to women for growth

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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to boost growth and help the ailing UK economy at the same time, should look no further than the women in their companies.

 

That is according to a report by the Women’s Business Council (WBC), which says more must be done to “unblock the talent pipeline” and support females in their careers, HR Magazine reports.

 

While many SMEs may not consider optimising career development in women, ensuring they have the same opportunities as men is essential, the WBC believes.

 

Not only will this help to boost business, but it could also increase economic growth by 0.5 per cent a year, with potential gains of around ten per cent of gross domestic product by 2030.

 

Chair of the WBC, Ruby McGregor-Smith, said: “We need to ensure that at every stage of a woman’s career she has the opportunity to learn skills, develop and contribute.”

 

“If we can achieve this, we will unblock the talent pipeline that for so long has restricted women from reaching the most senior levels in business and we will deliver economic growth.”


Posted by the Secret Businessman

What is a brand?

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/brand/ n: a particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product.

According to the dictionary definition anyway. However, there is much more to a brand than this. A brand exists in the mind of the consumer – it is the culmination of the experiences and beliefs a consumer has that causes them to respond in a particular way to the product, price or communications.

For any company, small or large, it is important to remember that building a brand is not as simple as adding a logo or coming up with a funky name. You need to define what your company stands for, develop this throughout the business and evaluate its success. Commonly a brand is defined on different levels:

Core values: this defines what your brand stands for, its belief system and a way of working.

Benefits: these are both the emotional and functional benefits for consumers. For example, if I buy a Chanel handbag the functional benefit is a well-made handbag that I can use day to day, the emotional benefit however, is that I feel stylish.

Personality: whatever your brand personality is, it is how the brand should be presented at every point of communication – whether that be the website or customer service centre.

Positioning: this is how the brand compares to competitors. Going back to the Chanel example – my Chanel bag makes me more stylish than if I was carrying a Primark one.

Once a brand is out in the public eye, it is up to consumers to make their own assumptions about it based on each individual experience. When done properly, the rewards are clear – brand equity creates value above and beyond the actual output value of a company.

But if you don’t deliver on your brand values, you could get into hot water. A prime example is the rebranding exercise the part of the Royal Mail undertook over a decade ago to change its name to Consignia. A backlash ensued, forcing it to go back on the name change. The real problem was in the customer service, not the name and logo.

In Aristotle’s words: the whole is greater than the sum of all parts. If you’re a small business embarking on a branding exercise, before doing so, think about what you want your company or product to stand for and make sure this is mirrored throughout every interaction with customers. Know your values, train your staff and stay true to what you mean. If you don’t, you won’t be fooling anyone.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman

What’s on offer for an entrepreneur?

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George Osbourne’s recent announcement to even further expand the £80bn Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), puts an emphases on the role the government plays in addressing the most common complaint from entrepreneurs – securing finance. The chief executive of EEF backed the move, saying that ‘expanding lending to SMEs is the right call’.  And I tend to agree.

Starting your own business is an exciting time and although it takes a lot of hard work, watching your company succeed is definitely worth it. You’re able to drive your vision and practices into your business to see it grow and develop and be proud of the outcome once you’ve got it off the ground. However, any business leader knows that investment is needed at the outset and securing finance is no easy feat.

Here are a few of the government shemes that offer financial aid;

FLS, which launched last August, gives banks the opportunity to borrow from the government at better rates, giving them an incentive to lend to businesses. Natwest for example has used the funding to make some business loans fee-free (http://www.natwest.com/business/products/borrowing/government-lending-support/funding-for-lending-scheme.ashx)

The Enterprise Finance Guarantee started back in 2009 and underwrites 75% of loans to make them more attractive to banks. It’s provided £1.88 billion to over 18,000 small businesses so far (http://www.startups.co.uk/enterprise-finance-guarantee.html).

The Start-up loan scheme is slightly different as it gives money straight to the entrepreneur. If you’re 18-30, all you need to do is submit a business plan with the hope it is good enough to receive the funding. So far they’ve invested £110 million.

None of these schemes work perfectly. However, anything that helps to improve entrepreneur’s access to finance is a positive step.

It’s worth thinking about other ways to keep costs down so that finance can be invested directly into developing new business opportunities. For example, working virtually can lower the overhead cost of renting an office, giving you the opportunity and flexibility to improve your business and work-life balance.

Reducing your overheads like this won’t remove the need for finance, but it will take care of a lot of worries, freeing up entrepreneurs to struggle with the banks and – hopefully – benefit from government schemes.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman

Stand out in the social media world

 

Does your business have a strong online presence? If not, you may want to rethink the way you use social media tools to boost your brand.

 

According to the Guardian, social media platforms have a “huge” potential to innovate businesses of any size – small, medium or large.

 

“They offer a space in which companies and individuals can benefit from having access to creative clusters of professionals who are willing to share their ideas,” it says.

 

And while small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may not have the same kind of resources as bigger companies, that shouldn’t be a deterrent when working to create an online profile.

 

Instead, investigate where your current and potential customers are and, like a tiger waiting to pounce, go in for the kill.

 

Focus on matters that interest them through high-quality, relevant content. In this way you’ll be able to attract people to the virtual space and in turn, to your brand.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman