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A new year can be the ideal...

A new year can be the ideal
time to take a fresh look at
your business. So for this first
quarter of 2012, we’re focusing
on topics to help you better
prepare for the year ahead.

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Rf10543 npm9881 q1 sme billing 2012 Document Transcript

  • 1. Winter/Spring 2012here’s howwe can help your business…Prepare for the futurePredictTomorrow’s trends revealed todayPromoteRaise your profile for freeForecastTips to aid cashflow
  • 2. Welcome Energy Market View Energy market viewA new year can be the idealtime to take a fresh look atyour business. So for this firstquarter of 2012, we’re focusing What’s inside Energy market viewon topics to help you better Energy market view 3 Hot topic: Looking ahead 4 If you spent the last quarter wondering when winter was going to arrive, youprepare for the year ahead. How to: Generate free publicity 7 were not alone. The year 2011 has been the tenth warmest since records began. Energy savers 10 That means gas usage has been lower than expected so there is now plenty to go Business movers 11 around, and we don’t expect to see the gas price spikes of last winter. Spotlight: Cash is king 12 Ways to reduce your bills 14 That may mean energy efficiency becomes less of a priority. But lower business gas prices this year Janet Wood is editorPredict Benefits of Direct Debit 16 of Utility Week. don’t mean they won’t rise again in future, so if youWhat will tomorrow bring – and how can you be one want to avoid wasting money in the long term youstep ahead? Dr Frank Shaw of the Centre for Future should be talking to your supplier about practicalStudies foretells the latest business trends on page 4. ways to save energy.Promote The energy league Objections under scrutinyTips on how to generate valuable publicity for your Bigger energy customers got to measure their What will change? Ofgem wants to reduce thebusiness, without having to spend much. Find out energy usage against other organisations recently, objections some energy suppliers make whenmore on page 7. when the Environment Agency published its first companies want to change supplier. It plans to ‘league table’ of companies having to participate in monitor those objections very closely and it has the government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. promised to investigate if necessary.Forecast The same companies will be ranked again next yearWhen it comes to maintaining healthy cashflow, and there could be a big publicity bonus for those Second, Ofgem wants to make sure that energyaccurately forecasting future spending and income that have moved up the energy efficiency scale. brokers’ practices are up to scratch. At the momentis just one valuable tool. For others, see page 12. But even smaller companies who fall outside the it does not have any direct powers over these Energy savers case study scheme can benefit from energy efficiency in the companies, but that could change. The regulatorWe hope you enjoy this issue. Find out how a simple energy audit form of smaller bills. wants to be authorised to investigate and fine helped a Nottingham bar reduce their brokers that fail their customers. What is more, itPam Andrew energy bills significantly. Meanwhile, energy regulator Ofgem’s review of wants to make sure that all energy brokers have aCustomer Service Manager Read more on page 10 the energy market has reached the business sector. Code of Practice in place, and one that the regulator Late last year, it published a suite of proposals that has accredited. it said should improve the service businesses get from energy suppliers and from the raft of energyTelephone calls: We may monitor and/or record calls for security, quality or training purposes. Calls from BT landlines to numbers beginning with 0800 or 0845may be free. The price of calls may vary with other operators and calls from mobiles may be considerably higher. Please check with your operator for exact charges. brokers that act as middle men.Editorial content provided by Susannah Lawson & Associates (www.slcommunications.co.uk).Npower Direct Limited (registered in England and Wales No.3782443) and associated companies. Registered Office: Windmill Hill Business Park, Whitehill Way,Swindon SN5 6PB. 2 3
  • 3. Hot topic Hot topicLooking ahead A view to the future: understanding what trendsWhat will the world be like for small are likely to emerge can helpand medium-sized businesses in you adapt your business to2020 and beyond – and what key meet market needs.opportunities will there be?Business strategist, process consultant andfuturist Dr Frank Shaw has a fantastic job title.He is Foresight Director at the Centre for FutureStudies, a Kent University Innovation Centre-basedconsultancy he founded in 1996. Dr Shaw has beenan advisor on the future for more than 30 years.“Our foresight work involves research and analysisacross political, economic, social and technological Dr Frank Shaw,themes,” he explains. “We help our clients – Foresight Director at the Centre for Future Studiesnational and international companies, not-for-profit organisations, government departments andagencies – to anticipate the future and manage is that quality of life will improve and standards ofchange in their external environment.” Over the they pubs, restaurants or shops. Enabled by digitalpast 14 years, the Centre has gained international living will be much higher. There will be a need for Did you know? technologies, products and services will be subsumed ‘re-skilling’, but many people will earn a living asrecognition for its contribution to future thinking. • ccording to the Office for National Statistics, A into a wider experience.” freelancers working for several businesses, rather the UK’s population will reach 67.2m by 2020 than being an employee at one.” and 73.2m by 2035 (in 2010 it was 62.3m).Will the high street survive? Micro-business growthThe closing of large numbers of small retail Long-established businesses will become less Growth sectors • he average age of people in the UK will rise Tbusinesses in the UK and the ongoing phenomenal common. Shaw anticipates a significant surge in Over the next ten years, Shaw says the main growth to 39.9 years by 2020 and 42.2 years by 2035rise of online selling has led some to believe that micro-businesses, many of which will be part-time sectors will be healthcare (especially elderly care, (in 2010 it was 39.7 years).the high street will largely be dead in the next 10 enterprises “formed to satisfy a demand for a short home healthcare services and nursing care facilities),or 20 years, but Shaw disagrees. “The high street period before the owner closes it down to start technology, nano-technology, energy, food, water, • he number of people in the UK aged 85-plus is Twon’t die, but patterns of shopping behaviour another venture”. The current trend for people the creative industries, management, scientific and expected to reach 1.9m by 2020 and 3.5 millionwill change and the retail environment will be running more than one small business at a time technical consulting services, computer systems by 2035 (in 2010 it was 1.4m).transformed to become even more leisure and will grow. design (and related services), employment services,entertainment-focused.” • he number of people aged 90-plus is expected T education and full-service restaurants. to triple by 2035, and the number aged 95-plus Money will be entirely electronic in the near future,People will still want to visit shops in town centres, he says. And the ‘working week’ will cease to exist, “The fastest-growing firms will outsource more, will quadruple.says Shaw, but their expectations will change. “It as the boundary between work and leisure will no focus on IT integration and be willing to invest inwill be about exploration, adventure and social • he number of UK centenarians will reach T longer apply. Although earnings have slowed down production and distribution,” says Shaw. “Over thegathering. The outlets that succeed will be those 110,000 come 2035 – an increase of more dramatically in recent years, Shaw says they will period to 2020, successful small businesses willthat offer a unique consumer experience – be than eight-fold on 2010’s total of 13,000. increase, as in the past. “Perhaps of more relevance incorporate technology into every process. continues overleaf... 4 5
  • 4. Hot topic How to Generate free publicity Despite shrinking marketing and advertising budgets, there is still an overwhelming need to let potential customers know about your business.Techno boom: Penny Wells asks whether DIY PR is the perfect no-cost solution.devices that utilisetechnology for everyprocess are set to “Some PR ideas are so effective they generate Something newsworthy publicity time after time – and often they’re quitebecome the norm. “You’ve got to give journalists something simple,” observes former journalist Paul Green, newsworthy. All day long they receive uninspiring who now runs his own PR agency, Northants- press releases, so your story must stand out. based Publicity Heaven (publicityheaven.com). Journalists also like to write about the first, newest, oldest, biggest, etc. And they like to write aboutThe technology revolution will leave no person Mega trends 2020 Green says the obvious advantage that gaining pioneers – which is why entrepreneurs such asor organisation untouched. The digitisation and press coverage has over advertising is that it costs • 0 billion devices will be connected 5 Richard Branson have become globally famous.”mobilisation of every process will affect us all.” nothing. “You can employ a PR agency, of course, worldwide, continually ‘talking’ to each as writing a professional-looking press release other via mobile broadband.Specialise to prosper requires skill, and getting it to the right journalist “Your press releases must alsoThe SMEs that prosper will be niche businesses • onsumers will demand an ‘eco-conscience’ from C can take perseverance,” he explains. But, says Green, to increase your chances of success if be targeted to the mostoperating in ever-finer market segments. their brands.“Affordable e-commerce solutions, together you choose to do it yourself, there are a few appropriate media, and ifwith cheap outsourced manufacturing or product • Social shopping’ (a method of e-commerce where ‘ golden rules. possible, to a specific individualsourcing, will enable SMEs to connect with market the shoppers’ friends become involvedsegments identified through social media,” in the shopping experience) will be common. rather than a general news desk.”says Shaw. • oday’s ‘digital natives’ (someone born during T If you are announcing a new team member orSize will become less of an issue in business, Shaw or after the introduction of digital technology) customer, Green advises sticking to the trade press.predicts, as long as you harness technology’s will be in their 30s and make important corporate “It must be very newsworthy for a regional paperpotential. “Classifying the nature of an organisation buying decisions. to write about that stuff, but if you win a nationalby the number of employees or turnover will award, local papers will be interested – that’s why it • Augmented reality’ will help people find ‘ pays to enter awards. Your press releases must alsobecome meaningless. More important will be the information about a place simply by pointing their be targeted to the most appropriate media, and ifnumber of IT staff they have, the type of roles they camera phone. possible, to a specific individual rather than a generalperform and what level of IT expertise they possessto support the organisation,” he concludes. news desk.” • aptops will feature holographic keyboards L projected onto any type of surface. Some business-owners now put themselves up as • -health kits will help doctors to monitor patients E business commentators, notes Green. “Journalists in real time – sometimes thousands and readers like expert opinion. And if your writingTo find out more about the Centre of miles away. skills are good enough, you could contribute free Paul Green, articles to publications or write blogs for websites.for Future Studies visit PR Agency Publicity Heaven Taken from Accessing the future, a report produced by Your business will usually get a mention.”futurestudies.co.uk the Centre for Future Studies and Access UK. continues overleaf... 6 7
  • 5. How to How to Speak out: making an announcement about a business win (top right) or a new team member (right) can generate free publicity for your business, as can offering expert opinion to relevant media.Common mistakes Developing a public persona Net gains “Ten minutes on prime-timeGreen says common DIY PR mistakes includebusiness-owners trying to push dull, irrelevant Ling Valentine has a great track record for generating publicity. Partly as a result, her LINGsCARS has also gained publicity for its unconventional website (lingscars.com), which TV on a hugely popularor non-stories. “Journalists don’t really care about Gateshead-based online contract vehicle hire divides opinion massively. Some describe it as one show, plus all the associatedyour business, they’re focused on their readers. business, LINGsCARS.com, has become of the ugliest websites ever, yet it has won awardsThey often have to spend time wading through hugely successful. and attracts 100,000-plus unique visitors every publicity, would have cost‘guff’, so when something special comes along month. Love it or hate it – you can’t ignore it. me hundreds of thousands– they jump on it.” “Gaining media coverage saves a lot of money on advertising and marketing,” says Valentine. “Visitors want to find out about my vehicles and of pounds.”Perseverance is also key. “Often business-owners “That means I can keep my prices attractive, prices, but they also want to be entertained. They Ling Valentine talking about the benefitsgive up after one failed press release, but not every I don’t have to pass costs onto customers. visit lots of other websites, so I need to grab their of appearing on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den.one you send out will lead to coverage – no matter I stopped paying for advertising years ago attention,” explains Valentine. “Most other carhow good your story,” explains Green. “Your – it was a waste of money.” sites think their visitors are ready to buy thereexpectations should be realistic. PR shouldn’t be and then, but that’s not so. I play with visitorsseen solely as a lead-generation tool either, it’s Valentine appeared on Dragons’ Den in 2007 and for months and years, before they have a carmore about raising awareness and supporting the famously turned down investment from Duncan from me.”rest of your marketing activity.” Bannatyne and Richard Farleigh. “I’d won an entrepreneur of the year award and I was asked by To generate yet more publicity, Valentine boughtPublicity stunts are a tried and tested method the BBC to go on Dragons’ Den,” she explains. But a truck, complete with giant rocket, which sheof gaining press coverage, but Green sounds a while the deal on offer was not attractive enough used to advertise her business to motorists on thecautionary note: “Your stunt must be fresh, fun, to make her concede a share of her business, it did A1. “I get massive visitor spikes after my publicityexciting and highly visual. Make sure it’s legal, still have a positive effect. That appearance really stunts,” she says. “I do it because it’s cheaper thantoo – otherwise you could well get the wrong helped her business. advertising and – crucially – it works.”type of publicity!” Ling Valentine, owner of LINGsCARs 8 9
  • 6. Energy savers Business movers Moving premises? When you’re moving premises, there’s a lot to think about. That’s why we have a dedicated Business Movers Team to take the hassle out of finalising your energy bills. npower’s energy efficiency expert provides tailored advice to the Southbank Bar. Here’s what to do if you’re leaving a premises Step 3: After your moving day supplied by npower, whether you’re the tenant Job done! We’ll handle the rest. Once we’ve received or the owner. and agreed your reading(s), we’ll send you a final billImproving efficiency Step 1: Before your moving day so that you can clear the account(s) for this property. Gather together the following information and call Please remember us at least 30 days before your move: If you don’t let us know you’re moving out, you’llHow a Nottingham sports bar has reduced its fuel bills and carbon footprint • our npower customer reference number Y continue to be liable for all charges until the new- thanks to an energy audit from npower (this is on your last bill). tenant confirms their moving in date. • Date of occupancy change.Business may be thriving for the Nottingham- halogen lamps with 5 Watt LED, and by sealing a • forwarding address where we can send your A Of course, we’d be delighted if you’d take usbased Southbank Bar, but Assistant Manager gap in the beer cellar wall where the drinks pipes final bill (or your refund if you’re in credit). with you to your new premises! When you callAndrew Nicholls still believes reducing the pass through. us we can also set up a new supply account atbusiness’s carbon footprint is important. • ontact details of your landlord or letting agent C your new premises quickly and easily.“As far as energy efficiency goes, we are always Nicholls and his team have already changed the (if applicable).looking to improve,” he says. “I think more and lighting, with no noticeable impact to the ambiancemore people are now realising we all have to do of the bar. “All our spotlights have now been • The new occupier’s details (if known).our bit – and it all makes a difference.” reduced to a lower wattage, and we adjust them via a dimmer to suit the conditions in the bar at the Step 2: On your moving dayThe venue is the number one sports bar in time - but no-one’s noticed any difference in terms Read your meter(s) and call the BusinessNottingham – located a stone’s throw away of brightness,” he says. Movers Team with your meter readingsfrom both Nottingham Forest and Notts County Other measures are still in the process of being and account numbers to hand.football clubs – and also hosts regular livemusic events. But despite being popular with actioned, but Nicholls is impressed with how easythe punters, how did it fare in npower’s energy it is to make a difference. “Anything that can saveassessment? The audit identified that the bar can the business money is always welcome,” he says. To talk to the Business Movers Teamimplement some very simple measures to make “And when you know you are also doing your bit Call for the environment, that makes it even better.”significant savings both in terms of cost andbusiness energy. 0845 166 3360 Call our energy efficiency helpline to find outnpower’s energy specialists calculated that the which audit option is best for your business and Or visitbusiness could make annual savings of £757,nearly 10% of its annual energy costs, through how much it would cost npower.com/businessmoverssimple changes, such as replacing 15 x 35 Watt 0845 070 4019 to find out more Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm 10 11
  • 7. Stoplight SpotlightCash is kingIt’s perhaps one of the cruellest entrepreneurial ironies that even seeminglyprofitable businesses can fail if they run out of cash. Mark Williams looks atwhat can be done to make sure your cashflow remains healthy.The well-worn business cliché has never been Optimising pricesmore true or relevant: turnover is vanity; profit Clark advises keeping your prices at optimum level,is sanity; cash is reality. Sales and margins only which means generating sufficient profit, whilematter up to a point. Not having enough remaining competitive and attractive to customers.cash to pay your bills on demand can have “You need to maximise sales, too, of course, and thedisastrous consequences. easiest – and cheapest – way to do this is, if possible, If you grant credit, issue your invoices promptly to sell more to existing customers. and chase them as soon as payment is overdue. Cashflow solution?“Maintaining healthy cashflow is a key New customers should be checked thoroughlychallenge that all businesses face,” says Asset-based lending (eg invoice discounting and “If your sales slow down, employ different tactics, before credit is granted. Clark advises credit-chartered accountant Elaine Clark, Managing factoring) could provide a cashflow solution. The such as offering special prices, early payment checking existing customers at least everyDirector of online accountancy practice Centre for Economics and Business Research discounts, cheaper prices for cash up-front. year (better still, every six months). To lessenCheapAccounting.co.uk. “Some make the classic estimates it could benefit as many as 650,000 Obviously, work out whether your business can your exposure on large sales, you could ask formistake of spending large sums of money they SMEs and lead to an increase of between £531m afford this – never go below a base line gross deposits on order or cash on delivery.don’t have – usually on stock. They make some and £1.4bn to the UK’s GDP by the end of 2012. margin. But if you aren’t making enough sales,sales, but not enough to pay their suppliers or they you’ll experience a serious cashflow crisis –don’t get the money in soon enough. Running out The benefit of forecasting Invoice discounting is a facility usually provided by probably sooner rather than later.”of cash is fatal. Often there’s no coming back.” Predictably, Clark is a big fan of cashflow specialist divisions of banks that allows businesses projections. “You must include all outgoings to draw against their unpaid invoices, whileDon’t bank on help otherwise they can be dangerously inaccurate, retaining control over their sales ledger. Factoring but cashflow projections can help you spot means selling your unpaid invoices to a ‘debtAs Clark points out, post-credit crunch, businesses potential crises before they happen, which factor’ that collects your debts and takes overcan no longer expect their bank to always help can enable you to take preventative action. your ledger management.them out of a short-term cashflow crisis. “New Those who can maintain and interpret financialbusinesses will find it almost impossible to get forecasts have a much better chance of Typically, you receive most (up to 80 per cent) ofbank credit. Many owners put themselves at managing an effective business.” the invoice’s value and get the balance once paid,financial risk by using their personal savings to get minus interest and a ‘transition fee’.their business through tough times.” If serious cashflow problems persist, Clark strongly advises decisive action. “You might needEffective cashflow management isn’t just a case of to completely rethink your business. Making amaking sure your outgoings don’t exceed income.Cash must enter your business on time. The first few changes might put your business on a better For more information financial footing, and independent advice fromstep to maintaining healthy cashflow, says Clark, See the cashflow advice in the finance an accountant should help, but doing nothingis cost control. “It’s an ongoing job – your business section at in the hope that your cashflow problems willshould remain lean and efficient at all times. Only Elaine Clark,buy what you need and negotiate hard for the Managing Director, CheapAccounting.co.uk simply go away isn’t an option,” she concludes. businesslink.gov.ukbest price and payment terms.” 12 13
  • 8. Ways to reduce your bills Ways to reduce your billsHow to… Cut your energy bill Agriculture: save up to 60% Cleaning fans and ducts in agricultural environmentsAccording to the Carbon Trust, most businesses can save 10% on energy costs – for example in animal, milking and feed sheds orsimply by implementing a few basic efficiency measures – and with a little where crops are stored in ventilated areas – helpsinvestment, savings can increase to 20%. In short, reducing energy waste to remove any build-up of dirt and other matter which can reduce operating efficiency. Regularreduces energy spend. cleaning and maintenance can save up to 60% on energy costs.No matter what type of business you run, there 2. Become switch awareare likely to be some simple measures you can Encourage staff to switch off electrical equipment Savings for food and drink businessestake to become more energy efficient, which Refrigeration costs can form a significant part of and lights when not needed, and always at thewill benefit your bottom line. If you’re not sure a food shop, restaurant, bar or pub’s energy costs. end of each working day. Turning off lights whenwhere to start, these three steps cost nothing Basic maintenance checks can reduce refrigeration not in use can save around 15% on lighting energyto implement and can save you money from costs by around 20% and also prolong the life of the costs. And for a small office-based business, leavingday one. refrigeration equipment. For example, just replacing computers, monitors, printers and photocopiers on standby, even when they are switched off at a faulty door seal can cut energy consumption by as1. Don’t overheat the weekends and in holiday periods, can still cost much as 11%.Heating can be a significant cost in any business nearly £350 over the course of a year.where people work inside. For example, around Light your shop for less12% of all energy consumed by manufacturing 3. Prioritise maintenance Lighting can be a major energy cost for retail outlets,industries is used for space heating. Checking accounting for up to 70% of overall spend. Simply Regularly servicing and maintaining boilers andthat heating is programmed to come on and replacing conventional tungsten filament bulbs or heating systems can save on fuel costs. Aim togo off at appropriate times can save a significant halogen spots with more efficient lighting types, service your boiler every 12 months to ensureamount each year, especially over the colder such as compact fluorescent lamps or LED spots, optimal efficiency, which can save you up tomonths. You can also be sure you don’t is a quick way to significantly reduce the energy 20% on running costs.overheat your workplace by using the consumption of display and retail lighting systems.following temperature guidelines:Offices 19-21°C More ways to saveWorkshops 16-19°C For more energy saving advice, visitHeavy work 11-14°CStores 10-12°C npower.com/smartstartQ1 Statistics: the Carbon Trust, 2011 14 15
  • 9. Save time and moneywith Direct DebitSavingsYou could pay 2% less for your electricity bills if you switch toDirect Debit. Because your payments become easier to administer,we can remove the surcharge that’s added to bills paid by other means.ServiceSave time paying bills. With Direct Debit, the payment is automatic– so once it’s set up, you don’t need to do anything more.ChoiceChoose the best way to pay. You can opt forvariable Direct Debit and just pay for whatyou used in the previous billing period. Or foreasier budgeting, you can pay the sameamount each month throughout theyear. Your account is then reviewed everysix to eight months to ensure your paymentis appropriate.To set up a Direct Debit,call us on0845 166 3360npm9651/01.12