Category Archives: Business Image

Look after your staff and they'll look after you

 

If you want to build your business you have to invest in the people who work for you – this means taking care of employee wellbeing to ensure high morale and productivity.

 

 

That’s according to a joint study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Simplyhealth, and while it may seem obvious, there are plenty of managers who underestimate the benefits of a positive workforce.

 

Howard Hughes, from Simplyhealth, said: “By investing in our people, they will invest in us and help to build strong businesses for the future.”

 

And I couldn’t agree more. Whether you have one or one thousand people working for you, employers will see the positive effects on engagement and performance by offering wellbeing benefits such as flexible work, healthy eating options and measures to tackle illness.

 

By actively adopting the tips set out in CMI and Simplyhealth’s Good Health Is Good Business study, employers will benefit from increased staff retention, lower absence and improved productivity and morale.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman

Tech startups could learn from experts

 

Are you a founder, or member, of a technology startup? If so, you may interested to learn about the Startup Europe Leaders Club (SELC).

 

 

A European initiative designed to encourage the next generation of web entrepreneurs to set up and stay within the region, SELC even has backing from the founder members of Skype and Spotify.

 

European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes said in a statement: “I want young entrepreneurs to have role models and for them to have a real digital single market to grow their ideas in.”

 

Kroes also says that Europeans need to be creative and fearless as this is precisely how the world’s most exciting web and tech companies were born.

 

So, if you think you have what it takes to be part of this initiative and you’d like to be mentored by a team of professionals to get your tech startup off the ground, this is the scheme for you.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman

Unique selling point crucial for all businesses

VV 13 Aug a2

When setting up a business, it’s important to realise the importance of having a unique selling point (UPS) – something that will bring customers in through the doors.

People setting up a small company need to ask themselves why people would buy their products and services.

If they cannot think of a particular reason – other than by chance – then it is likely consumers will not be able to either.

They will be more likely to spend their hard-earned cash at a company which does offer a UPS such as bespoke products, great customer service, a unique shopping experience or low prices.

Businesspeople need to give consumers the incentive to shop with them, rather than the company selling similar goods on the other side of town.

The advent of online business makes this all the more important, as people are able to scour the internet for a firm able to meet their demand in the required price range.

People are looking for different things when they shop – for some it is all about price, while others are more concerned about being treated well and made to feel valued.

Company bosses need to think about the UPS that is likely to appeal most to their target audience, and work on refining it where possible.

Posted by the Secret Businessman

 

Want to be a FTSE-listed company? Go green

VV 15 Sept a

Many small and medium-sized (SMEs) don’t understand the importance of being green, unlike larger companies that list environmental sustainability as one of their defining goals.

This is according to a survey from the business insurance company AXA, which found that 56 per cent of companies don’t believe that going green would help them to grow their business.

Now compare this to 96 per cent of FTSE-listed businesses who believe that energy efficiency is paramount.

This means if you own a SME and want to get ahead in the game, you really need to start thinking about ways to cut your carbon footprint, and in turn, expenses. After all, wouldn’t you like to be a FTSE-listed company one day?

So, do some research and make some green plans. For example, encourage employees to reduce their energy usage or cut back on non-essential equipment to make sure machines are not left sitting idle for long periods of time.

And that’s just one simple solution out of many – why not look at how larger companies manage energy efficiency and try to emulate them? One day you’ll be thankful for it.

Posted by the Secret Businessman

 

SMEs: Use PR for Powerful Results


The media can be a powerful tool for any business waiting to gain brand exposure and build a reputation in the market; and this is where PR comes in.


When done well, PR can use the media to a business’ advantage to disseminate key product, service or corporate messages to a target audience. In these hard economic times it is also a cost-effective way to get your brand noticed.

Here are just some of the ways good PR can benefit your business:

  • A good reputation is something all businesses want to have. Positive coverage in both print and online publications achieved through activity such as attendance at industry events and nominations for industry awards and comment pieces on topical news can all increase the reputation of a business. All for a substantially less than the cost of an advertising campaign.
  • Credibility is also crucial for an SME, especially a start-up business. Compared to advertorials, editorial is trusted, perceived as being independent and objective. By providing journalists with timely, topical and interesting information, editorial coverage can increase your share of voice and build credibility.
  • Exposure is essential for any small to medium sized business in order to gain industry recognition, and potentially attract new customers. If you’re not in the news, you could be missing out on thousands of potential customers.
  • Building positive media relationships is important. Understanding what journalists want, and pitching accordingly can lead to opportunities for coverage. Once you’ve established a strong relationship the journalists may even come to you. This may seem time consuming but the results can be worth it.
  • Don’t underestimate social communications as a way to reach a larger audience, with many conversations taking place about businesses or industries online every day. Blogs are an excellent tool, and can be extremely powerful in influencing an audience. Twitter is also a great way to engage with people by responding to tweets from industry professionals and receiving valuable re-tweets.

By identifying the right people and engaging with your audience, you can create a huge opportunity to promote your business. However, it is vital that the correct messaging and content is given to all media channels to prevent any mixed messages occurring. If you don’t feel confident in doing PR yourself, hiring professional PR consultants who are experts in your industry can be a time-efficient way to do PR.

When done successfully, PR can position an SME in the public eye, building a positive reputation, adding credibility, and gaining exposure. All vital to making a business a success.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman

 

Make your website sweat


Looking for an accountant? Need a solicitor? The number for a local takeaway? Google it. Whether you’re a business or a consumer, more often than not, your first port of call for information will be the internet. As a business therefore, it doesn’t make sense not to have a web presence.


When embarking on a web project, the first question you need to ask yourself is who will be building the site? A web design agency will handle all the technical aspects of build and will also be able to create a custom-built site that supports all types of content including video and animation. But it comes at a cost.

 

Alternatively, you can build your own site using template-based systems to which you add your own content and pick a colour scheme. Design is more restricted than custom-built sites, and they don’t always support all types of content, but they cover the basics. On a technical side, there’s a few things you need to bear in mind so here are some of our top tips:

 

  • Domain name and hosting: you’ll need to check the domain name you want is available, register it and then host it on a web server.
  • Research: take a look at other websites. What do you like? What don’t you like? Check out your competitors too. This will help you understand what you want from your website.
  • Plan: develop a site map that has simple navigation. Users prefer as few clicks as possible to find the information they are looking for, but in general don’t like scrolling.
  • SEO: search engine optimisation is the technical term for getting your site to rank higher in web searches. This can be one of the trickiest parts of developing a website that performs well. Read up on keyword optimisation, meta data and inbound and outbound linking, all of which help make your website more visible. You will also need to register your site with the big search engines, something the industry calls indexing.
  • Drive traffic: don’t rely solely on search engines. Include your website on all marketing materials, add to your email signature and promote through social media.
  • Report back: use reporting systems such as Google Analytics that track how visitors arrived on your site, which pages they visited most and where they stayed the longest, allowing you to tweak your site accordingly.

 

Websites can be a valuable resource for generating new business. It’s worth investing a little time, and money if you can spare it, at the outset to get it right and make sure your website is working just as hard as you are.

 

Posted by the Secret Businessman

Three business books worth reading

We all know the best way to start a business is to get out there and start one. But from time to time I like to read business management books – call it a guilty pleasure.

 

While I’m a little dubious as to how effective business books really are, they often provide some unique insight from some leading minds – and they’ve given me a few ideas along the way it must be said.

 

Here’s three I’m enjoying at the moment:

 

Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly by John Kay

 

The blurb

 

“The best way to achieve any complex or broadly defined goal-from happiness to wealth to profit to preventing forest fires – is the indirect way.”

 

Why I like it

 

In this book John Kay, a renowned economist, argues for the oblique approach to solving problems and achieving business success. It’s an interesting read that is bound to make you think, and understand why some of the most successful firms aren’t just profit-driven.

 

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

 

The blurb

 

“Did you know that the most creative companies have centralised bathrooms? That brainstorming meetings are a terrible idea? That the colour blue can help you double your creative output?”

 

Why I like it

 

I’m interested in what role creativity can play in business development. This book by Jonah Lehrer is provoking because it suggests creativity is not a talent possessed by the few – it can be harnessed by anyone using a number of thought processes and strategies.

 

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowieki

 

The blurb

 

“Large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant–better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.”

 

Why I like it

 

This book by New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki is a classic. He argues that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few when it comes to smart thinking. It’s an insightful tome for any business owner looking to get the most out of their workforce.

Protect your associated domain names – now

Your domain name is a core part of your intellectual property and one of the most important elements of your business’ reputation.

 

The importance of protecting your business and domain names is clear – but have you thought about making moves to protect names that could be associated with your primary name?

 

Some new research got me thinking about it – and about the problem of cybersquatting.

 

You’ve probably heard of it – it’s a form of identity fraud in which people register, sell or use a domain name linked to a brand, with the intent of profiting from it.

 

Let’s say you’ve a domain name called bouncycastlesshop.net – a cybersquatter might register an associated name, such as bouncycastelesshop.biz, and try and get some cash out of you for it.

 

According to legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell, domain name disputes adjudicated by the World Intellectual Property Organisation hit 2,944 in the 12 months to July 2012, a six per cent increase from 2,775 in July 2011.

 

There is a big problem with cybersquatting in China, where domain names associated with well-known brands are registered with the intention of selling counterfeit goods or demanding money from the brand owner before relinquishing ownership.

 

But cybersquatting isn’t just limited to big companies – it can happen to any, big or small.

 

So what can you do? One effective way to ensure you don’t get ‘cybersquatted’ is to implement a formal strategy for managing your domain name registrations.

 

Keep two steps ahead of the squatters by ensuring you re-register your domain name before it expires – so they don’t have chance to snap it up.

 

It makes lots of sense. It could hurt you in the long run.

Meeting location can determine first impression

For that all-important business meeting, it’s important to make sure you choose an appropriate location.

 

If you’re running a small company out of a tiny retail outlet or run-down workshop, your own business premises may not be the best place to stage it.

 

And equally, if you’re a homeworker, inviting the bank manager or a potential customer round for tea in the living room isn’t the best idea either.

 

One of the options open to entrepreneurs working in a ‘less corporate’ environment is to hire specialist facilities.

 

Business leaders have the option of taking the train into the city and renting a meeting room for a couple of hours – helping to make the best possible impression with the other party.

 

The flow of conversation may be exactly the same wherever you meet, but professional surroundings and the availability of specialist equipment during the meeting may just give you the edge.

 

For instance, PCs with presentation tools and projectors could be used to illustrate the points you are making a little more clearly.

 

First impressions count for so much in business, so the question business owners need to ask is whether they risk making a bad one?