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50 Tried and Tested Business Tips


50 Tried and Tested Business Tips

50 Tried and Tested Business Tips

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  • 1. 50 tried & tested business tips From startup to growth Written by our customers and business experts
  • 2. 50 tried and tested business tips Introduction At Sage, we recognise that every business owner is an expert. We also know that running a small business can be isolating, so we have created this guide to help business owners share their unique perspective on what it takes to be successful. Written by our customers and business experts, this guide contains first hand advice on everything from starting your business, keeping your finances under control and growing your customer base via e-marketing, through to helping you keep a healthy balance between your work life and home life. Read on for 50 tried and tested business tips that will give you the confidence and insights to unlock the potential in your business.
  • 3. How to start your business Starting a business can be both scary and exhilarating. Our tips will help you get off to the best possible start. For those of you that are already in business, there are some useful pointers that you may have missed first time around.
  • 4. 50 tried and tested business tips How to start your business Plan. Persist. Partner up. Promote. Blow your horn! I have four essentials for anyone starting a business: 1. Plan. Work out your aims for your life and your business. Set goals, and break them down into baby steps. This makes it easier to know what you need to do next 2. Persist. Starting a business is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Be Always be enthusiastic about your product or service, because if you’re not no-one else will be! Emma Ball Emma Ball Ltd prepared to persist through the downs as well as the ups 3. Partner up. Whether you need help with bookkeeping, a mentor, or simply to have a regular coffee with someone who has business experience, support will help you succeed 4. Promote. Do one thing every day to spread the word about your business Antonia Chitty Family Friendly Working and Sage Business Expert Become your customer Look at your business through your customers’ eyes, ears and all their senses. Create a prioritised list and change everything that might put a customer off. Nigel Arnold The Swan Pool & Spa Centre Ltd Connect with your neighbours Your neighbours are a vital source of encouragement, information, advice and perspective. It feels good to offer support to others, particularly those just starting out. Collaborate on local projects together that help to make where you are a better place to live and work. Pay it forward. Ian Diamond Luke & Jack Ltd Help your suppliers to know, understand, care and support Sam Walton, the founder of Wal*Mart, had a great saying: ‘Share everything you can with your suppliers. The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them’. To find out more go to: I’m pretty open about the plans I have for Breckland Orchard - I want my suppliers to help get me there. The more you share, the more information and help you get back! If you don’t trust your suppliers with your future plans, then you are working with the wrong suppliers. Claire Martinsen Breckland Orchard 2
  • 5. Every business needs a little help along the way. Our award-winning SageCover offers a complete package of support services designed to ensure you have the help and advice you need, when you need it.
  • 6. Grow your customer base From stepping into your customers’ shoes to making the best use of social media, read on to discover ways to help your business compete, grow and succeed.
  • 7. 50 tried and tested business tips Grow your customer base Give potential customers the confidence to try Offering a full no-questions-asked refund with return packaging included in the delivery will encourage the customer to try out your site for the first time, or to place repeat orders. For an e-commerce site, I think that making returns as easy as possible for the customer has got to be a key incentive to encouraging the customer to place an order. Providing an easy, hassle-free method to return the product minimises the risks of wasted time, money and effort to the customer, creating a more relaxed and pleasurable online shopping experience. Emma Donald, Metakinetic Good social media = quality, not quantity By all means, utilise the web for e-marketing, but get the balance right. Your Twitter and Facebook fans and followers don’t want to see lots of similar updates from you in a small space of time. First impressions count First impressions are made in seconds, but can take years to change. When dealing with new customers or networking contacts, make that first meeting count! Luke Hector Astute Accountancy Limited Make time to nurture and grow your customers Set aside two hours every morning to dedicate to keeping in touch with your existing clients and seeking out new ones. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from this ritual (unless your job is emergency care of course!). It is too easy to be complacent about the contracts we already have, but in order to keep them we must work hard to maintain the personal touch because to lose them is a costly business. We must always seek out new opportunities too - this takes time. Gillian Monk All Health Matters Ltd. Scott Bridgwater, Century Computing Software Services Ltd 5
  • 8. 50 tried and tested business tips Grow your customer base Prepare your web strategy When addressing the internet, be crystal clear about who your target audience is. Avoid the trap of trying to be all things to all people. The Internet is a rigged game. It is rigged in favour of those who specialise. If you are a generalist the internet will kill you. People search specifically not generally. People choose specialists, not generalists. So when preparing a web strategy, focus ruthlessly and achieve clarity about who you are trying to reach. Ian Dodson CEO, Digital Marketing Institute Reputation is everything In our business, you are only as good as what your last client says about you. Word-of-mouth and the maintenance of our good reputation is of vital importance to the continuation of our business, and the cultivation of a good reputation and the provision of a good service is of vital importance. We have found that doing someone a “good turn” will pay back at least tenfold in goodwill and referral business in the future. We have helped people that have been in trouble with the Revenue, we have helped our local school keep their books, we have helped charities – all of this work was done “pro bono”, but we do it because it builds our reputation. Tom Holmes Let your customers know where to go A ‘call to action’ is the part of a web page that solicits an action from a user, for example ‘buy now’ and ‘learn more’. Ensure they are prominent on your website by drawing attention with a sufficient size of message, a colour that stands out and sufficient use of white space surrounding the message. Also ensure it is above the ‘fold’ of the web page, so the user doesn’t have to scroll to notice it. Effective calls to action are one of the most important elements of converting a visitor to a buyer or encouraging a user to take the next step. A compelling call to action can have a dramatic impact on sales. Sean Wilson Ballymount Accounting Set expectations you can exceed If you set expectations correctly with your customers and then exceed them you’ll always be the hero, even if these were set very low to start with. Jo Fulton Datel Strike while the iron’s hot MD, Sage Pay Ireland People like to know they are being thought of. Immediately after a meeting (the same day) find contacts on Twitter and LinkedIn. Connect to them and you will stick in their memory for longer. Use social media to reflect your brand personality Dr. Graham Clayton We’ve relied on social media to promote our business and communicate with existing and prospective customers since we started in 2008. It’s an invaluable tool, not only to get your name out there and be recognised, but to listen to consumers, position your products and your messaging accordingly, and to get your brand personality across. I believe social media is most effective when it’s unfiltered and without hidden motives. Be yourself, show the world what you’re about, and listen to what people have to say. Intelligent Formulation Ltd Seek out advertiser offers Use free advertising to promote your business and help reduce costs. Small advertisers sometimes offer a free trial period so build up your business profile by taking advantage of free trials. Andrea Callow Dipec Plastics Ltd Michael Kane Chief Taster, Curious Wines 7
  • 9. 50 tried and tested business tips Grow your customer base In the loop Your customers know best Keep your customers informed, from new products to progress on their project (even if it’s bad news!). Take the time to talk to your customers to understand their real needs. Observe how they use your product or service or carry out a survey of your customers to find out what they really think and then use that information to customise your service offering to meet their needs. Encourage your customers to give you feedback and be open to listening. They can tell you what is good and what needs improving, but be careful about listening to what you only want to hear. A happy customer can be your best advocate. Not all comments will be positive but you learn more from an unhappy customer than from a happy one. Shona Penfold Thymebuild Ltd Communicate with feeling When you are communicating internally and externally, ask yourself the question “Am I delivering the right message in the right way to the right person?”. By being more mindful over how you communicate, you make it more likely that you will impact others with your message. Always consider how your messages make the other person feel and not just what it will make them think. Emotions produce action. Your customers will be more likely to buy and your staff will be more likely to listen if you pay attention to how you affect their feelings with your message. Owen Fitzpatrick Owner, Owen Fitzpatrick International Nigel Pim Director, Pims Business Systems To find out more go to: 8
  • 10. Manage your cash flow In the current economic climate, more companies are facing challenges with late payments and issues with suppliers. Here’s some advice from a range of experienced entrepreneurs designed to help you keep the cash flowing.
  • 11. 50 tried and tested business tips Manage your cash flow Make it easy to get paid Always enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope when sending invoices. This way they can’t say “I can’t find a stamp or envelope just now - I’ll pay this bill later when I’ve found one”. Doing this increased the speed my account customers paid me by up to 20 days. Jennie Chappell Willowbrook Farm Feed & Equestrian Send a polite reminder Email your customers five days before your invoices are due for payment to remind them, and ask if they have any issues. Send your second reminder shortly after the invoice is due, and you’ve removed their non-payment reason that there were issues with the goods or service. Evan James Vital Spark Solutions Ltd Goodwill helps good cash flow Engage with creditors as early as possible It is important that where a business finds itself in difficulty with paying its creditors (trade suppliers, banks, etc.), that it seeks to engage and talk to the creditor(s) as soon as possible about the situation. From our experience it creates a good amount of goodwill with the creditor if this engagement is initiated first by the business in trouble rather than the creditor finding out elsewhere that there is an issue. Once the initial problem is communicated to the creditor, it is usually relatively straightforward to get an agreed deferred payment arrangement with the creditor. Tom Holmes Director, Ballymount Accounting Don’t be afraid to say “No” Don’t be scared to say “no” to customers when they ask for credit or extended terms. Cash flow is the life blood of all SME businesses so, keep control, pay suppliers on time and don’t let customers steal extra credit days. Colin Halligan Generate goodwill by making sure you pay your suppliers on time, or preferably early in the case of smaller local suppliers. That way they will be much more likely to help out if you ever run into trouble with your cash flow and need to delay a payment. Simple Solutions (Electronics) Ltd Robert Lee Keep on top of your reconciliation Centre Ministries Volume for vanity, profit for sanity Reconcile your bank account every day to successfully manage your cash flow. Any unrecognised transactions are resolved ASAP, you’ll know if payments fail, and which customer invoices haven’t been paid. Remember: cash flow pays the wages, not profit. Catherine Segnatelli Boccard UK Ltd Our business is typical of one that has a relatively small number of high value customers and we are always seeking to grow our customer base. A lot of managers focus on growing the volume of their business, even at the risk of margin. If every deal does not have a value proposition on its own merit, you are doing the wrong deal. Don’t discount to win volume. Robert Baker Founder & CEO, Baker Security & Networks 10
  • 12. Sage accounts software will help you keep on top of your cash flow by easily identifying who owes you money, and who you owe money to.
  • 13. 50 tried and tested business tips Manage your cash flow Stand out from the crowd for fast payment When issuing invoices think about doing so on bright or fluorescent paper as they will stand out on their desk rather than be lost in the pile of paper that normally exists. If you then have to follow up with a phone call, it’s also easier for them to find. Roger Weeks Jacksons Financial Services Plan for deficit, plan for surplus Spend time working on an effective cash flow plan. Plan for deficits, if they occur don’t panic - prioritise, strategise and communicate with your suppliers and your bank. Equally plan for surpluses, make the extra cash you have work hard and gain a return for your business. Louise Rowe Hawke and Hunter Ltd Know your minimum Always build a cash flow with no income to show you what you need to break even. Always work in reverse with sales as it is too easy to overestimate. Go with your head, not with your heart. Richard Wain Hive & Co Accessories Ltd 12
  • 14. A guide to controlling costs in business With so many day-to-day tasks competing for your attention, it can be hard to keep track of all expenditure. Here’s some tried and tested advice to help you keep control of the purse strings.
  • 15. 50 tried and tested business tips Control your costs If you don’t ask, you don’t get Think: “Every single pound”. Here at Aqueduct we have encouraged our staff, when ordering supplies, to always ask for a discount from the supplier. We estimate that this will reduce our costs by 1% in the current financial year equating to £40,000. If you don’t ask you don’t get. Ronan Phillips Aqueduct Design & Advertising Paying up-front? Ask for a discount If you are being asked to pay up-front for goods, you should be asking for a discount of at least 2-3%. Most companies will give you this discount and over a year the savings can far outweigh overdraft costs. Maria Whitehead Hawkshead Relish Company Ltd Hold out for a better deal Never accept the first deal you are offered - there will always be a better deal. If you are currently with that provider tell them you will leave. Remember - you don’t actually have to. Robin Dinerstein Italguide Ltd Negotiate energetically Business energy contracts are automatically renewed. Make a note of contract dates and give the required notice to allow room for negotiation. Robert Harper A Coombs Ltd Understand the sacrifices, focus on the future A freeing and important state of mind to reach when setting up your own business is to accept that you’re going to have less money, time and freedom than all of your friends who are employed. Roland and I find that it doesn’t really bother us when we can’t afford something. We hope we will be able to afford it soon but we don’t mind that it’s not possible right now because we chose to put any money we have into Muddy Boots. We’re going to feel pretty chuffed when we can afford it again... probably a lot happier than we’d feel at the moment wishing it were cheaper or trying to compete with our friends who can afford it. Miranda Ballard Muddy Boots Real Food and Sage Business Expert Sage is the market leader for small business accounts software in the UK. Find out how we can help you keep your finances healthy, and plan for the future. 14
  • 16. The secret to creating a great work life balance Despite your best intentions, as a business owner maintaining a happy balance between your work life and your home life can be a challenge. Our top tips will help you keep in control, planning for tomorrow so you can enjoy the rest of your day.
  • 17. 50 tried and tested business tips Create a great work life balance Time to manage One of the advantages of working for yourself is that you control your own time, so take advantage of this. It can be a better use of your time to do the supermarket shopping straight after nursery drop off, when the shops are quiet, and work on a Saturday when the shops will be busier. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have, and don’t be afraid to call in favours. A play date on a Sunday afternoon can give you precious time to catch up! Hit the ground running, every day Last thing at night, before leaving your desk, make up your ‘to do’ list for the following day. That way the day starts well organised. Brian Blacklaw Isoplan UK Ltd Antonia Chitty Family Friendly Working and Sage Business Expert Take time to think Never put anything off! Allow at least two hours every week for thinking and planning. You run the business. Don’t let it run you. Always do your least favourite task first so you don’t have it hanging over you, then the day can only get better! Saleem A Choudhry Trish Goose Jobskin Ltd Smith and Reed Recruitment Know where you’re at Manage your email better Create inbox sub-folders for different categories of email according to action needed; for example “Inbox - Respond To,” “Inbox To Process,” “Inbox - Not Important”, etc. If an incoming email doesn’t need an immediate response, move it to the relevant sub-folder. Now you can focus on email which needs a response in the near future (i.e. important and urgent), without being distracted by other non-urgent items. It also avoids the risk of emails which need a response being missed because they’ve been pushed ‘out-of sight’ by your other less-important email. Always keep up-to-date. Don’t leave tasks until the end of the week or the end of the month. You should be able to get an upto-date picture of debtors and creditors and the bank accounts at any given minute to enable you to make the correct business decisions. Wendy Savill Sygnet Signs Ltd Roger Banfield Human-IT Solutions 16
  • 18. 50 tried and tested business tips Create a great work life balance Plan, plan, plan and plan some more! Planning gives you the solid foundation to make sure your projects are solid and will help reduce risks. It allows you to make mistakes ‘on paper’ and therefore not waste cash on things that won’t work. At the same time you have to know when to stop the planning and move forward. Analysis paralysis can kill projects dead as they run out of time. So be sure to get the balance between execution and planning just right. Ross Dundas Rosco IT Solutions Ltd Gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to help you get the most out of your software using Sage Training Workbooks - all at a pace which suits you.
  • 19. A step by step guide to employing the perfect person If you’re an employer, or you’re at the stage where you need to recruit, our advice will help you find and keep happy, productive staff.
  • 20. 50 tried and tested business tips Employing the perfect person A new route to recruit Appreciate to motivate Recruiting people for your business? There are many ways to advertise your roles, from the local press through to online job boards. But these cost money, so why not try recommendations from your current workforce or use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Make your staff feel appreciated and acknowledge their service by celebrating their anniversary in your company. If you have numerous staff simply put a notice up for that calendar month, i.e. “This April we celebrate Natalie’s 4th year with the company. Thank you for your hard work.” Michael Moore Esther Beresford Recruitment Team Manager, Sage UK Miller & Isaacs Dental Surgery Hire people who are better than you The best piece of business advice I got was “Don’t be afraid to hire people who are better than you are”. I liked that. Be humble and you’ll get great people on board who can maybe even teach you a thing or two along the way. Gavin Duff Amplify Marketing Praise is free “Well done... Brilliant job.... I really appreciate it” can motivate better than any pay rise could ever do. Well-motivated staff have a positive influence on your business in more ways than you can imagine. So show you care. Sadie Lloyd Encourage employees to focus on the company... not you Although your intention is not to come across as a pushover, presenting yourself as an authority figure only opens up room for resentment between you and your employees. The key in such relationships lies in being smart and showcasing your ability to build a successful company. During meetings make the company the focal point rather than you - using the company in the forefront will help employees feel a sense of belonging and a desire to seek the company’s best interests. Besides ensuring that your employees are strategically aligned with your company’s goals, it is equally important to provide incentives when the company has achieved a particular goal. Motivating your employees is one of the business tips that will save you a lot of time, hassle, and frustration in the long run. Caroline Baxter and Sage Business Expert Paull & Co Ltd Happiness? Productivity? Cake! Motivate your staff with cream cakes - the rationale: 1. Encourages communication - buy a selection 2. Ensure production doesn’t slow down due to drop in blood sugar levels - serve with morning coffee 3. Include chocolate in the selection - boosts dopamine levels, therefore happier staff Lynda Apollo Creative 19
  • 21. Sage Payroll software takes the complexity out of running your payroll. Find out why it’s the UK’s most popular way to pay employees.
  • 22. A guide to beating your business fears Lots of people have a business idea, but fear of failure stops one in three workers from starting up on their own. Here are some insights from people who have succeeded despite the doubts...
  • 23. 50 tried and tested business tips Beat your business fears Step out of your comfort zone Less stress Everything that you desire, wish for, dream of, everything you want is outside of your comfort zone, so you need to step out to get it. Here are the keys to stepping-out: The best way to deal with stressful situations successfully is to tackle the cause of that stress - so open those bills, make that phone call, have that meeting. Get it over with and you’ll feel so much better afterwards! • Accept, face, embrace, and push through your fears to break through your comfort zone • Learn how to embrace the uncomfortable every day with daily actions • Every time you will stretch outside of your box, you will grow (it is a never-ending process) • It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone, so have someone to stand by your side as you do Your ability to move forward depends on your ability to make decisions and on your ability to step out of your comfort zone: take actions and make it happen. Lyndsay Waymont Acies Group LLP Bad news first Never delay in delivering bad news and always do it in person, never by email. You can often defuse a bad situation by dealing with it early and in person. Jim Newbigging Capital Vehicles Frederique Murphy CEO, Frederique Murphy Ltd. For more information or to buy any software or services, call: 0800 33 66 33 - Existing customers 0800 44 77 77 - New customers Or visit 22