Eric Witheridge - Blue Signage Ltd
How can local companies advertise effectively when the cost of boosting 'pay per click advertising is so expensive, opportunities for paper advertising are reducing and trying to boost your online presence in a sea of very slick international competition is getting harder?
One way would be to take an advertising slot on a small screen near by. Many Golf clubs, Leisure Centres and even Doctors and Dentist's surgeries have information screens available and will often encourage local businesses to take space on them. This provides a cheap and effective local advertising space and reduces the cost of providing the service for the venue.
Many Pubs and Clubs have screens that are only used to display sports and when not in use play local radio. Why not ask your Pub if you can have an advert on their screen when it's not being used?
They'll say that it's not possible or they don't know how to do it. This is the perfect opportunity to suggest they talk to Blue Signage. Especially, when they realise it could earn them extra revenue!
Adverts start from just £10 per month per screen with the cost reducing for multiple locations. Have a look at how effective this is at the Main Place and Bells Golf Club. In fact, why not ask to place an advert on one of their screens before they fill up! For more information call us on 01594 888580
or 07791 190700
Bob Pointer - CFIL Global
EMPATHY IN BUSINESS
“People often confuse the words empathy and sympathy. Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, whereas sympathy means ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune” Oxford Dictionaries @ Oxforddictionaries.com
Gaining empathy in our communication with others is essential – or so we are told. But in normal business interactions is it viable? I suppose that all depends what you perceive as an empathetic relationship.
In formal encounters like business meetings we are told we should try to build rapport and be empathetic. But often we get so caught up in our own role in the process that we simply do not have enough capacity to relate at an emotion level with the other participants.
According to Feshbach and Kukenbecker (1974), empathy has 3 essential parts,
So, in the terms of formal business interactions, my contention is that the role of empathy has to be considered carefully. Empathy is not easy achievable - but an understanding of the commonality that exists between both parties can be conveyed and understood. Mutual understanding of the others position and a respect for them as a human being and equal is more achievable and in my opinion right for the situation.
I shall be making a short presentation to CAP meetings in the near future based on this blog entitled ALF – Always listen first.
Andrew Callard - Aimed Business
What do you want Gloucestershire to look like in 2050?
I’ve been talking at CAP, other business networking groups and with businesses and I’m shocked with how few people are aware that currently there is a consultation going on in Gloucestershire. Glos2050 is all about setting the strategy for what Gloucestershire will look like in 2050. It proposes 8 ambitions and 6 ideas and wants feedback now.
The Eight Glos2050 Ambitions
And The Six Glos2050 Ideas
Finding Out MoreThe consultation is available at https://glos2050.com/ . Please go there to find out more information and also to participate before 31st July 2018.
The Forest of Dean District Council is also reaching out to people who live, work and play in the Forest in order to set the economic strategies through to 2050. Its Forest Economic Partnership is looking for individuals who are happy to participate in sub-groups to discuss and agree the best way forward for the Forest as a whole.
To find out more visit the FEP stand at the Forest Enterprise Fair being held at Vantage Point Conference Centre on 18th April between 10-4. It’s also a great opportunity to network, take advantage of free training and meet other Forest businesses.
Ben Warner - Megabyte Technology
Every business uses computer system across multiple areas of their business. It is therefore vital that your IT systems are running probably when you need them.
Outsourcing your IT support will provide your business with professional IT support without having to add one to your payroll or waste your valuable time trying to find solutions to the IT problems you might experience.
Your IT support options can involve outsourcing specific tasks such as setting up new computers, installing networks or buying in services such as data backups and computer security.
If you choose the right IT support company they will willing to provide you with a flexible range of options at a manageable.
Small business should be able to benefit from the same level of IT support as bigger companies and using a good IT support company for outsourcing your IT support requirements means that this is possible.
Sarah Orchard - Orchard Marketing
Yippee I’m 10!
Well 2017 was a major milestone for my business, I made it to the big 10! No that’s not 10 clients but 10 years running a small business. Given all the stats around small business failure, quoted as high as 80% in the first 3 years, I feel very proud to have survived against what seem like the harsh odds.
I started in 2007 just as the big recession hit and at times it might have seemed like a foolish decision to walk away from my lucrative Corporate job but my motivations weren’t money-driven. I had become disillusioned with the politics, back-stabbing and how slow and hard work the progress always felt. Time to make a difference and do something that had more immediate impact and was more rewarding.
So I set up my marketing consultancy and had no clients and no contacts in the small business world. Gulp!
It hasn’t been plain sailing by any means and I have learned the hard way with mistakes and getting things wrong. I have also learned some good stuff that I wanted to share to help other small business owners flourish and not flounder.
So here is my top 10 tips for small business success:
1 Why are you actually in business?
Be true to yourself and do what you are passionate about. It shows! It pours from your being and infects your prospects customers, associates and also importantly, your family and friends. Life is too short to do stuff you hate ever day – find your passion!
2 Really know your Ideal Customers
It can be tempting to throw your net wide to maximise your chances of success. But it makes the marketing job much harder and in fact, niche is best. The more focused and descriptive you can be the better. I went too wide initially and just said Small businesses and really it is small business owners who sell to end consumers and have an experience business – tourism, hospitality, leisure, or retail. Be really clear who your customers are!
3 Get your pricing/fees right
You need to be good at the commercial numbers. Don’t be tempted to start low – don’t undervalue your experience and skills - as it is hard and sometimes impossible to raise your prices later! I was told a good rule of thumb and choose to ignore it as the daily rate seemed a bit scary – it took me 3 years to get to the fees I charge now. It made I was somewhat of a busy fool for the first few years.
In the Corporate world I didn’t really know all this networking ‘underworld’ went on. Meetings in pubs and golf clubs in the early hours, sometimes before dawn! I spent the first 18 months networking, trying to go to 1-2 meetings per week. It can be hard work but it paid off. It takes time though. I didn’t really start to see results for about 9 months but it has repaid my investment ten fold and I met some great business buddies and suppliers along the way, as well as getting client work too. Don’t expect to walk away with it on day one though!!
5 Get a business buddy – a mentor or some peer to peer support…
Working for yourself can be lonely. I had always worked in big teams in large corporates. Suddenly I was on my own and ‘I’ and not a ‘we’ anymore! Nobody to bounce ideas or problems off of. If you are finding stuff tough – sometimes your life partner isn’t the best person to chat it through with, as they get scared about money and your happiness. Find some fellow self-employed business people – a supportive supplier, a networking friend, get a coach, join a Mastermind group, or get a mentor through a professional body or association. It can really help you develop your business and grow it quicker.
6 Outsource what you are not good at!
Do what you are good at, outsource what you don’t have the skills or patience for. Grow your business quicker. It can seem like a cost but these people are experts at what they are passionate about so let them help you – with IT, accounting, office admin, telemarketing, marketing and social media. I got my own Virtual Assistant (VA) about 5 years ago and in the first 12 months I doubled my turnover. Getting her to help with things meant I could focus on fee earning. It was a pivotal moment for my business.
7 Working on your business, not in your business
We all hear this expression all the time but it is easy to forget. Nigel Botterill in his Botty Rules book speaks about working on your business for 90 minutes every day – not on the urgent stuff – the important, business development or innovation stuff that moves you forward. I think most small business owners will struggle with 90 minutes every day, so I recommend setting aside 45 minutes, 3 times a week to do your own important stuff and that includes marketing your own business, not working on client work. I do this myself and it really does work. Make sure you set aside this time at the best time of day for you – when are you most focused and/or productive?
8 Don’t underestimate the power of your own website and Google
As people keep obsessing with social media (don’t get me wrong I love it as a marketer and what it does for us small businesses) but it often means I meet clients who spend all their time on it and don’t’ work on their own ‘shop window’ – their website. If you had a physical retail shop, you wouldn’t neglect your face to the world would you? Well if you did, you would soon close! I’m on my third iteration of my website now in 10 years and investing in it and doing my SEO and blogging has brought significant benefits to my business. I have grown my website traffic 10 fold and I get 50% of my business from organic search – Google etc.
9 Love and nuture your existing customers
Businesses are always looking for new customers but what about your existing ones? People who have bought from you are much more valuable! It costs ten times more to acquire a new customer and just doing some basics like email marketing, client gifts and thank yous for referrals, can all work wonders. No fancy digital marketing techniques but surprisingly still very effective in this modern digital age! I get 50% of my business as repeat and/or referral / recommendation. I always send a little gift to my top clients and a thank you chocolate to people who refer work. Little thank you gestures mean a lot.
10 Above all else - keep your Integrity!
I find this the most difficult thing about running a small business (alongside chasing late invoice payments!!). You have to know when to walk away from business or a client, if it isn’t working. It’s a hard conversation to have with yourself and the client or supplier involved. But you must keep you integrity and your gut feel is always right. It must never be ALL business at ALL costs. It isiou the best - luckew tore new ot business, I hope it helps you be even more successful. good and identify with some of something I feel is really fundamental.
Well that’s it, I hope if you have been in business for many years (probably much longer than me), you will smile wryly and identify with some of my struggles and woes! If you are new to business, I hope it helps you be even more successful. I wish you the best - Good Luck!
Bob Pointer - CFIL Global
What counts for trust and respect today? We are all part of the connected world. Like it or not we are all now impacted on by technology and would be lost without our little box of tricks we call “smart phones” (who thought that up is a genius the phone is smart not the user!).
We all use to some extent social media and share parts of our life with our friends, friends of friends and friends of friends of friends etc. However, there is much evidence which supports the proposition that whilst we are becoming more technically savvy we are becoming less aware of what relationships are in the real world. We are becoming what an acquaintance of mine Nick Looby calls in his recently published book “Modern Zombies” glued to our devices.
Alongside lack of attachment comes the right to say online things you would never dream of saying or doing in the real world, trolling, voyeurism etc. Empathy for others and respect are not high on the agenda. But it has not always been that way or has it?
My fathers simple life revolved around hard work as an engineer on a Thames tug and his family.
One of his greatest pleasures was to read, he could recite whole passages from Charles Dickens novels and was a regular visitor to our local library where he would spend hours immersing himself in his favourite past time. The library was around a mile from our house and every two weeks he would religiously make the journey to replace or renew his books on his old bone shaker bicycle which was one of the only possessions gifted down to him from his father.
Back in those days in the late 1960s there was an element of trust and faith in others and he would routinely leave his bicycle propped up against the wall of the library whilst he spent time there.
I remember him arriving back home that fateful day looking sad and tired but not angry, even though his beloved heirloom had been stolen.
My father was a principled man who believed if you wanted something you saved for it. We never had credit or owed anything to anyone. And so, he saved for a new bicycle and eventually he purchased one and against his beliefs, as he liked to always see the good in people, he bought a lock and chain.
Sometime later he visited the library and left his bicycle chained by its front wheel to the libraries drainpipe. When he returned it was still there chained to the said pipe but unfortunately the frame and back wheel had been stolen.
My father never visited the library again.
This sad and slightly amusing story came back to me when I read the quirky and more recent story of the hitchhiker robot.
Hitchbot the creation of researchers from Ontario’s McMasters and Ryerson University was made up of odds and ends including wellington boots and gardening gloves. He was designed as a “social robot” to test how people would behave when confronted with what is described as a “technical novelty”. In his lifetime Hitchbot travelled extensively across the US and Canada as the guest of those who found him or passed him on.
It proved to be a life affirming display of human spirit and generosity inevitably played out over social media until the fateful day when his final tweet was posted which read,
“My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade. Thanks friends”.
After all of the experiences Hitchbot had been exposed to, being photographed in New York at Stadiums and on beaches, he was found via his inbuilt GPS tracker decapitated and trashed in a parking lot in Philadelphia.
The connection between these two anecdotes are that, to me, they can be perceived in two ways. I could be negative and highlight how both stories highlight the ability of human beings to let themselves down. But I prefer to highlight how both these stories illustrate that the clear majority of people still today respect others and their possessions. It is this respect that allowed my father to leave his bicycle unchained for many years and for Hitchbot to have his adventures.
Reading this you may find my conclusion overtly simplistic but I have big shoes to fill and after years of seeing the cruel and dark side of humanity I am now enjoying being my father’s son committed to respecting others, because I truly believe that on balance of probabilities they will live up to my belief in them.
Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners – Laurence Stern
For my Dad - in my eyes you were the most noble man who ever walked this earth
Bob Pointer - CFIL Global
Let’s not beat around the bush, fraud is at epidemic proportions and shows no signs of slowing down. The total cost of reported fraud in the UK August 2016 to August 2017 is £193 billion, of which £144 billion was lost in the private sector, according to figures from Portsmouth Universities Centre for Counter Fraud Studies.
Furthermore, £1.9 billion of the private sector figures accounts for the cost of loss suffered by charities whilst £10 billion was against individuals. Whilst there is no official breakdown, my knowledge and experience leads me to the conclusion that at least 50% of the loss to individuals will be through or connected to their business (sole traders, micro companies).
The creation of a dedicated fraud reporting pathway Action Fraud, which bypasses the Police and makes reporting much easier, is quoted regularly as the reason why the fraud figures have soared and keep on going up unabated. However, my experience on the ground is different, I meet many small businesses who don’t bother reporting fraud as they believe its just a paper exercise.
There is some truth is this. The sheer size of fraud coupled with ever decreasing numbers and higher and wider demands mean our Police service cannot effectively respond to every single report of fraud.
All reports made are sent directly to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) where patterns and trends are identified, and where needed reports sent out to individual forces to deal. The NFIB also regularly shut down websites and act to deny service to fraudsters. Still it is a fact that over 95% of all reported frauds are not actively investigated.
Trends identified within the figures support the view that fraudsters are now turning their attentions towards smaller businesses and individuals.
Small businesses have significantly fewer anti-fraud controls than large organisations. This gap in fraud prevention and detection leaves small businesses susceptible to frauds that can cause significant harm to their limited finances.
The fact that small businesses, especially in locations like the Forest of Dean, tend to do business with people they know does offer some level of security.
However, the risks are not always from outside. As far back as 2015 compliance and risk specialists Kroll identified that globally 81% of reported fraud had an insider involvement to some extent.
There are two types of insiders - conscious and unconscious. Conscious Insiders are those who for whatever reason decide to work against the company – skimming money off sales, false invoicing, inflated expense claims etc. However, there are others who are just consciously incompetent, sloppy, inattentive and “wilfully blind” to the risks of their actions – they may have been told not to open email attachments from non-trusted source’s, but they do it anyway.
Far more dangerous though are those individuals who are unconsciously incompetent they simply don’t know what they don’t know – and here’s where I potentially upset and alienate readers because I’m sorry to say THIS COULD BE YOU!
This is not seeking to unjustly apportioning blame, it is a fact that we all need but fail to keep ourselves updated to the risks and latest scams. Training companies know this, and it is often reflected in the cost of many programmes which prices out those who really could benefit from the knowledge.
This is the premise upon which myself and fellow CAP member Mark Davies seek to address by firstly holding a 2-hour awareness session - GDPR security and Identity on the 14th March and secondly using this as a forum to discuss the viability and appetite for the development of some form of local security community.
I sincerely hope you will not only support this event by attending but by spreading the word to those who do not network but who really need to know what they don’t know.
Tracey Ashford - Fleet Solicitors
There is always a temptation to try and do it yourself to save costs, whether it be home improvements, gardening, running your business or a number of other situations. When it comes to legal matters, there is a general perception that legal fees are expensive and better off avoided where possible.
However, unless you are fully confident with how our legal system works and the rules that apply, it may actually work out cheaper for you in the long run to obtain specialist legal advice at the outset. The Supreme Court’s decision this week in the case of Barton v Wright Hassell LLP highlights this.
Mr Barton wanted to bring a claim against his former solicitors, Wright Hassell, for negligence. He chose to do this himself without instructing solicitors to represent him. He issued a Claim Form in the Court to start the claim. He then emailed it to lawyers acting for Wright Hassell. You may think that in this day and age that that is perfectly acceptable, everyone corresponds by email. But did you know that the Court Rules specifically state that a Claim Form cannot be sent by email unless the party receiving it has specifically agreed to receive it by email? Wright Hassell’s lawyers hadn’t been asked whether they would accept the Claim Form by email, so they could not give their consent. The claim was therefore ruled to be an invalid claim and Mr Barton was unable to pursue it.
Mr Barton was naturally aggrieved. How was he to know of this unusual Court Rule. The Court Rules are too complex for him to fully understand and the Court should make allowances for this. Unfortunately for Mr Barton, the Court did not agree. In the first instance, a District Judge decided that Mr Barton wasn’t entitled to ‘special rules or indulgences’. This decision was then backed by the Court of Appeal and then again, this week by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court was clear in that the Court Rules must apply to all parties equally.
Can you afford not to get proper legal advice?
Leanne Pogson - Leap HR
I see and hear comments daily from businesses large and small of genuine surprise that there are fairly significant changes coming into force that will impact them.
In reality this key piece of EU law was passed back in 2016 and they have allowed businesses until 25 May 2018 to get ready. That said the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) have only published an overview. The finite detail is still being worked on. But irrespective of the lack of detail, common sense can be applied to start getting your house in order.
Who does it affect?
That’s the reality.
There is not one business who doesn’t hold some form of information about others. Whether it’s a customer, a supplier or an employee, you will have some sort of data. The obvious things are email details, addresses, phone numbers but it will also include IP addresses, employee numbers …...basically anything that can is used to identify an individual. Every business will be different, so every business will need to review what they have.
Data Protection (DP) isn’t new. As business owners and managers, you should already be aware of DP, and you should already have processes in place to protect people.
But the reality is that many businesses don’t. And that is why this key change is having such an impact now. There is great rushing around to see what is needed, and some are raking it in on the cash cow that invariably comes with something new that everyone is responsible for.
Don’t forget you are also a person – so before arguing that the law is ridiculous, stop and think how you would feel as if your personal information was shared. How do you feel when you get numerous calls offering to sort out your PPI? Most hate it. So why as a business owner would you let it go on in your own Company.
What will I happen if I don’t do anything?
Potentially there are fines, and they are not small. Up to 4% of your global turnover or £20million whichever is the highest. Most of us don’t have that sort of turnover but suffice it to say there is an impact.
The ICO don’t particularly want to fine people, that solves nothing. What they want to ensure is that personal information is secure, and not shared willy-nilly around. They want to stop some of the harrowing tales of constant harassing calls asking for money, people being on lists for goods that they don’t want or need, to stop people’s data being published “out there” when it is personal and not needed. The legislation is there to protect all.
In 2015, Olivia Cooke, a Poppy Seller aged 92 received hundreds of letters asking for donations. She parted with a lot of money and in the end committed suicide.
Many of us have common sense, but some do not and those prey on the vulnerable in such a way that is quite frankly wrong.
What do I need to do?
There are 12 steps you need to take. These are all listed on the ICO website in a document “Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 12 steps to take now.”
Essentially you should do an audit. Review and challenge the information that you hold. Why do you have it? how long do you hold it for? is it necessary? Some things have to be retained for statutory purposes, that’s ok, just ensure you are consistent.
Make sure that everyone knows your Policy; and if people work for you are trained on the legislation and how to respond to questions. So, create a Policy, which will need to be published on a website and available to anyone who ask.
Make sure you understand individual’s rights – there are 8 to consider.
1. The right to be informed
2. The right of access
3. The right to rectification
4. The right to erasure
5. The right to data portability
6. The right to object
7. The right not to be subject to automated decision making including profiling.
If you hold lists, such as customers information then you MUST contact them all and ask them for their express consent. If you don’t hear back, then you MUST delete their information. This is big for those of you that rely on lists and I am aware of people with tens of thousands of names. Yes, you have to contact them all. Gone is the ability to pre-populate a tick box. People must fully understand what their information is being held for. Employers need to make sure that employees are aware of data held. Look, they can’t ask you to delate everything, some things have to be held for legal purposes, just make sure that you do genuinely need what you have. Just because, is not an acceptable reason.
Make sure that your systems are all checked and secure, and that passwords set and reset on a regular basis individually. Cyber security and awareness of the possibility of hacking is critical these days.
As the business owner it is YOUR responsibility personally for this.
Will it cost you anything? Time to do some housekeeping, and to review the impacts for your business. The bigger or more complex your business, you may need to get some expertise in to ensure that you comply. There is a lot of scaremongering out there…..but it could cost you a lot if you don’t act now.
Jason Whitehead - Vitality Mortgages
The question I'm asked more than any other is how should I own my BTL property ?
My answer is always the same I’m not a tax expert I’m a mortgage and protection specialist speak to a Taxation Specialist. I can facilitate a mortgage on any of the ways he suggest is best for you.
BTL Landlords do however need to know, to seek specialist tax advice to work out how best to deal with BTL Properties that they hold in their own names given the well documented changes to the income tax.
Hopefully Landlords are aware, the government no longer allows individual BTL property investors to offset all of their mortgage interest against their profits. These changes are being phased in. Currently individual landlords can offset 75% of their mortgage interest against their profits. This falls to 50% in 2018, 25% in 2019 and 0% in 2020.
The solution which has been touted by many in the media and others is to transfer your Buy to Let properties into a company whose shares are owned by you. This gives you full control of the property asset, but instead of income tax, the company will pay corporation tax.
The current rate of corporation tax is 19%. What is even more attractive is that the level of corporation tax is due to fall to as low as 17% from 1 April 2020. This all sounds like a bit of a no brainer!
Transferring the Property to a company isn’t all plain sailing though.
If an individual wants to take dividends out of the company from this rental income, this will be taxed. What is different though is that you can take the dividend at a time to suit yourself to ensure maximum tax efficiency.
Also, when you transfer the Property to a company you will also be, (most of the time) putting some of your own money in – the equity that you had in the Property prior to the transfer to the company.
Our clients often make arrangements so that this equity becomes a director’s loan (from you to the company). Most landlords have equity in the property and will not be financing the transfer to a company with 100% loan to value mortgages.
When these director’s loans are repaid by the company to the director(s), no income tax will be due on them. In effect, money can be taken out of company over time on which no income tax is paid. So, all good there then?
One of the major costs which is incurred by individuals (as opposed to a partnerships) who are transferring Buy to Let properties into a company is Stamp Duty Land Tax.
There seems to be quite a lot of confusion in relation to how much Stamp Duty Land Tax is payable when a residential property is transferred to a company. As this is in effect, a self-declared tax, getting it wrong can store up problems for the future if the SDLT Return is subsequently investigated by the tax authorities.
For individuals transferring properties into companies, the companies pay SDLT at the normal rate (which is calculated on either the price paid for the transfer or the value of the Property being transferred) plus an additional rate of 3%. This can turn out to be rather expensive, however, it is up to the individuals to determine whether it is more cost effective to pay a large SDLT bill now or become penalised for income tax on an ongoing basis whilst they hold the Buy to Let asset.
To fully understand the tax consequences of transferring (or not transferring) the Buy to Let property into a company, you should take specialist tax advice
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