How to build a self-managing business

Going from hunting Russian submarines to building a fish and chip empire in Cornwall might sound like a confused career path, but for Pete Fraser it has been a dream journey and one which now gives him the perfect balance.

 

Pete Fraser left the Royal Navy at 40 knowing the next step of his life would involve becoming a business owner. But that was about the extent of his planning.

“I opened the local paper and saw a chip shop was for sale. I had no catering background, but one of the principles I had picked up through an Open University course is to pick a business in a great location that is not trading to its full potential.” Fast-forward 19 years and Harbour Lights in Falmouth has a turnover set to hit £1.7m and employs 55 people at the height of summer.

A self-managing business

His leadership style is cemented firmly in a hands-off approach, “When people make mistakes, which everyone does, don’t bite their heads off. Instead, enjoy it as a learning opportunity by talking it through” he said.

Pete’s ability to prosper in an industry he had no experience of operating in has been made possible by an upfront approach to lacking certain skills or knowledge. When he bought Harbour Lights, Pete walked into the nearest fish and chip shop to his home, not knowing he was about to meet the guy who was a recent fish and chip shop of the year winner. “I just asked for help and over the next 2-3 years this extremely kind guy bent over backwards to do so.”

Pete’s eternal hunt for best practices, combined with a management team comfortable with decision making means he sets aside two days a week for what he labels “strategy”. He disconnects himself completely, switching email and his phone off, and escapes to a place with zero distractions. This allows him to uncover new practices, speak with his mentors, analyse market trends and generally get “out” of the business.

Staying on top

A self-managing business needs systems and processes which give the business owner confidence that everything is running as it should be. For Pete, that means having a scoreboard so he knows where the company’s financial health sits. “If I’m lucky enough to be on a Caribbean beach I could just look at the scoreboard – 60 per cent of that is financial health, how sales are doing, costs and profit. But there are also gauges of how happy staff and customers are,” he explained.

He cited Gino Wickman’s book, Traction, as the inspiration behind his efforts to build a self-managing business. Wickman’s theory is based on having a company that is goal focused, breaking them down into chunks that can be achieved over a certain period of time.

While building a self-managing business does not happen overnight, Pete’s story shows how setting the right goals in the right sort of time to the right kind of employees contributed to the success of his business.

For more insight from successful business leaders listen to our podcasts.

Be the business - small

2019 Festival of Enterprise takeaways

One of our event attendees, Polly Charnley – Personal Coach for Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs, has put together a list of top tips that she took away from the event. This list is far too useful & inspiring for it not to be shared, so here it is below.

 

There were four main stages at the festival that never went silent as well as other smaller sessions you could attend, it was really hard to choose where to be but it wasn’t hard to choose my first speaker which was Lord Bilimoria the founder of Cobra Beer who started his speech with the epic quote, ‘Fortune favours the brave.’ Stirs the soul right?

Here are some key takeaways from his speech

1. Don’t only be the best in the world, be the best FOR the world.

2. Profit is not a dirty word.

3. The word which sets entrepreneurs apart is GUTS! You’ve got to have guts to do it and you especially need guts to stick with it.

4. You don’t have to be good at art to be a creative. Creativity and Innovation is essential to entrepreneurship.

5. Don’t be scared of the future, it is unknown. When crisis hits it’s not what happens but how we deal with it.

6. Always play with a straight bat – have impeccable integrity.

7. My favourite, is this lovely word he used a couple of times – be ‘Humbitious.’ Humble and ambitious.

Next up is Louis Barnett, he became the youngest ever supplier of chocolate to both Sainsburys and Waitrose at the age of 14.

Here are his top marketing tips:

7. People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it (Simon Sinek).

8. You and your people are your BIGGEST asset, look after yourself and them.

9. If you think of your brand as a person then your brand is the personality and the clothing is the marketing.

10. You need more than one memorable feature, think of the whole customer experience with regard to all five senses. Use sound, sight, taste, smells, and textures in unique ways, do you have a jingle, what colour do you use in marketing, can you use a scent in your packaging, how do your business cards feel when you hand them over?

There was so much more in this presentation than I am able to repeat here, definitely check Louis out, he is a really incredible guy with a wealth of knowledge and experience behind him.

Andy Schabelman, the man with a whole lot of HEART. Andy was one of the first 30 employees of AirB&B and is now heading up international expansion for Fiverr.

A powerful question Andy uses when interviewing to create teams and which he delivered from the stage was ‘Tell me a story of when you were just you and you were proud of being you,’ Such a great way of getting to the core of peoples natural talents.

Here are my key takeaways from Andy.

11. True ‘success’ comes from following your heart and communicating with heart.’ Heart = the core of creating a movement.

12. How are you truly identifying and alleviating fear for your customers? Alleviating fear matters because it is the precursor to freedom.

13. Give yourself permission to delegate.

His work at Fiverr is based around the ethos that everyone should have freedom and control over their own life with access to a global economy.

Next up, Ninder Johal’s talk, if you think you don’t know who he is then maybe you’re more familiar with the smash hit (which always gets me dancing) Mundian To Bach Ke by Punjabi MC which Ninders record company Nachural Records took into the charts.

My key takeaways from this dynamic man.

14. Make sure you understand the journey of your customer and the threats to your business – Ninder gave his first-hand experience of the way the music industry changed from CD’s to downloads and how this took its toll on his business.

15. Be someone who does more than just generates wealth.

16. Join boards, learn from good people around you and surround yourself with better people.

17. Don’t just network with people who look like you, dress like you, like the same things as you, be as diverse as possible when choosing the people you learn from.

18. Know your numbers, when you have them, slash your profit projection by 50% and increase your expenses projections by 50%

19. Don’t cry about your problem, busy yourself looking for a solution to your problem.

20. When things go wrong don’t blame anyone else.

21. Be courteous to people, email them back.

22. Get up every morning and SMILE

23. There is no limit to what you can achieve.

24. Even when you reach a success position, you still need to network to meet the people who have the ideas that could end up putting you out of business.

25. And most importantly, when you come across people who say you can’t, you haven’t got the right skillset or you don’t deserve the privilege of a dream – IGNORE THEM!!

It was really great to see Teresa Boughey and Beverley Nielson from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce talking about the Women in Leadership programme – ‘supporting, celebrating and inspiring women in business.’ There were some really interesting case studies shared, I only wish there had been more time!

Key takeaways:

26. Make your family your ambassadors and allies.

27. Inspire and involve others.

28. Integrity – always do your best for YOU and others.

29. Help those around you, be a cheerleader for others.

30. Greatness is just outside your comfort zone, be proactive.

31. Find your voice – speak out and share your opinions.

32. Never stop learning – be open to new ideas. You can’t always be right but you can always be learning.

33. Know your market, focus on it clearly and love your customers.

34. Join forces with your local universities.

35. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

Last but not least the amazing Joseph Valente.

‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve.’

Imagine this sentence belted out three times in a row to emphasise the point, which is exactly what Joseph Valente did to open his speech because he is so passionate about hammering this point home being the living example of how it is so very true.

Key takeaways from Joe:-

36. Be clear on what you want, what YOUR definition of success is, be it money, health, happiness, love etc?

37. You must have a strategy to get it.

38. Use the law of attraction as broken down below.

VISUALISE IT – see every tiny element of what success means for you and start with the end in mind (Stephen Covey.)

FEEL IT – be passionate about it, totally immerse yourself in how it would feel to have what you want, the sounds, the nerves, imagine feeling every element of what life would be like once you have what you want.

BELIEVE IT – You have to believe in yourself and your power, don’t limit your thinking to where you happen to be right now, if you don’t believe in yourself then no-one else will either.

Joe told of how he used to have the Forbes logo as his phone screensaver, when asked why he said ‘Because I’m HAVING it,’ and shortly after he became named one of Forbes top 30 under 30.

He is now a best selling author, winner of the apprentice just aged 25, he has already bought his shares back from Lord Sugar because he felt he was holding him back, he warned to think of an investor relationship like a marriage and not jump in too soon. His business continues to go from strength to strength, in fact ImpraGas was named national boiler installer of the year 2019 beating British Gas.

Joe has been so successful he has even managed to retire his mum but insists that he won’t stop as constant striving and increasing his goals is what keeps him going.

If you’ve enjoyed these tips, make sure to thank Polly (connect on LinkedIn or visit her website), and be sure to be there at the next year’s events!

Full Spectrum Agency: Special Festival of Enterprise promotional offer

Full Spectrum Agency specialise in lead generation and conversion for professional service businesses. Working with clients who need their sales and marketing approach to mirror that of their core business, Full Spectrum Agency is a family run business created to get results: supporting you from attracting your ideal client all the way through to converting them into a paying customer and nurturing them to remain a loyal customer for years to come.

They understand that the complexity of digital marketing platforms, such as Facebook, can lead to users losing money and not getting the results they were looking for. Having generated over £1M of revenue from Facebook ads they understand what ads and approaches are currently generating the best returns on Facebook so have put together a very special offer just for the show: a full facebook ads audit review to help you make the most of your ad spend and improve your return on investment.

The details: full feedback video and short follow up call for only £300 deposit; if they can’t help you make your ads more effective then you get your money back. It’s a bit of a no brainer! For more information visit them on stand A32 or email: hello@fullspectrumagency.com quoting ‘Festival of Enterprise Offer’.

Scaleup Essentials Part I – Great Leadership

Why Leadership Matters

Leaders of scale up businesses face a seemingly never-ending set of challenges and tasks – and their roles constantly change over the course of their tenure. There are a number of key aspects to leading a scale up business, but the following are among the most important.

The difference between scale ups and start ups

A start up and a scale up operate very differently – and scale up businesses face many unique challenges across their entire operation. This can require a variety of new skills and experience in finance, IT, human resources, production, and more. In a start-up, the entrepreneur has to pick up many of these skills himself. In a scale up, bringing in specialists is more likely to be the answer, possibly on a part-time basis to start.

It also means knowing when to say “I don’t know.” Leaders who choose to get outside help when needed, seek input from other talented individuals, and work hard to grow and improve alongside their business are far more likely to succeed than their peers who opt to go it alone. Getting a Non-Executive Director building a Board can help.

Continuing education, such as weeklong courses or even full degrees, can help fill in your knowledge gaps, as can having a mentor or advisor.

Think in terms of transformation

Scale up businesses don’t just make minor, incremental changes to their organisations over time – they sometimes go through total transformations. If a company is growing at a rate of 10%, they are likely improving their financing, business systems, and everything else simultaneously. Scale ups are constantly examining their strengths and leveraging them to find ways to set themselves apart from their competitors.

Share your vision

Growth happens organically, but scale up growth is often the result of careful planning for years to come. Scale ups become significantly more complex organisations as they grow, and this often distracts employees – especially those with extremely specific functions that may not always be in complete alignment with the business as a whole.

Scale up leaders aren’t just bosses. They need to be able to tell the story of their company, make sure their employees understand it as well, and give a sense of progress, growth, and forward momentum to the business as a whole, even when facing massive challenges.

 Make plans and have a strategy

In a scale up business, every piece of your business plan has to be part of your greater vision. As an example of this, consider the fact that once you begin to scale up, you will likely need significant investment to continue growing. Price cuts, new hires, and other factors can affect your profit margins, and you will need to be able to explain to your team how these potential short-term disadvantages position you for future success.

Don’t try to do everything

As a leader of a scale up business, you simply can’t do everything – and need to focus on what you’re good at.

Position your business to operate and function successfully without you. In fact, some business leaders recommend that you spend at least one day a week off-site or out of contact to ensure that your organisation can operate autonomously. Hand off crucial responsibilities to trusted individuals, and only hire for senior roles when you’ve found individuals you would be comfortable delegating your job duties and responsibilities to. Again, in the early stages this may be senior people but on a part-time or fractional basis, such as a part-time Commercial Director or COO. Better to have part of a heavy hitter who can take responsibility than downgrade the role to someone more junior who can’t.

This strategy also helps determine your day to day workflow. It allows you to work on – rather than in – in your business, allows you to see things from the top down and from a wider vantage point, and gives your developing business the best chance to excel.

Pay attention to details

Delegating job duties is no excuse for missing key details. Entrepreneurs who only focus on the big picture rarely succeed at operating scale up businesses. Think about how a CEO like Apple’s Steve Jobs was relentlessly hands-on with product design throughout the entirety of his time with the company. In fact, he even went so far as to respond to individual customer emails when he felt it necessary and appropriate to do so. This strategy is by no means ridiculous – many business leaders and consultants recommend that CEOs spend a little under half their time determining exactly what their customers want and need, what they’re thinking, and how to better serve them.

Make the tough calls now – not later

When a scale up business identifies a major problem, there’s no time to waste in addressing it. For example, if an employee – even someone who has been with the organisation for a long time – proves that they are no longer up to their tasks, this needs to be solved quickly to stop it from creating other issues. This doesn’t always mean ending a relationship with an employee, however. They could simply require new training or a new role that better takes advantage of their skill set.

Furthermore, not all entrepreneurs are suited to meet the challenges of a scale up business. The many, many different roles a scale up CEO faces are not always in alignment with what made the CEO excel in the start-up phase, and these entrepreneurs sometimes end up bogged down in the day-to-day when they need to be providing a bigger vision.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world build start-up companies to a specific size, sell them in the scale up phase, and start over again – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. But an option is to get a Managing Director or CEO to run the engine room, even on a part-time (or fractional) basis to start with.

See also …

Scale-Up Essentials Part II – Financing

Scale-Up Essentials Part III – Sales & Marketing

About The Author

John Courtney is a serial entrepreneur, and Boardroom Advisors is his seventh business. He is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is a winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK.  John has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. Boardroom Advisors is on Stand C10.

He is also a very experienced business Mentor, with Microsoft Ventures then Microsoft Accelerator (now Microsoft Scale-Up), Pitch@Palace, SETsquared (scaleups spinning out of the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Surrey and Southampton) and Entrepreneurial Spark (now NatWest Accelerator).

How accounting software can help you focus on where you add most value

Running a small professional services business can often feel like having five different jobs all at once. You are salesperson, consultant, accountant, lawyer, head of marketing, CEO and coffee maker. And that’s just Monday morning! The key to wearing these many hats is to focus your time on where you can really add value. This is where accounting software can be a real help.

So, how does accounting software help your business?

  • Get paid faster: accounting software allows you to issue invoices as soon as the job is done and the best packages make it easier for your customers to pay you. The result is that you get paid more quickly. For those customers who might need a reminder, most accounting software packages allow you to set up automatic reminder emails meaning you can focus no delighting your customers and growing your business.
  • Free up your time: the financial side of your business can involve repetitive tasks like reconciling bank statements, filing expenses and issuing repeat monthly invoices. Accountancy software allows you to automate these tasks or easily delegate them to a member of your team.
  • Run your business from the palm of your hand: hosting your accounting software in the cloud will allow you to get a snapshot of your business wherever you are. You can check your cashflow status from your phone in bed and start your day knowing exactly where you stand.

Using digital accounting software will allow you to add on a wide variety of third-party applications giving you a single system to manage payroll, HR software and forecasting, again, saving you time to do the work that counts towards building your business.

Moving to smarter software will help you focus less on your finances and more on getting on with running your business.

Visit https://www.visa.co.uk/smallbusiness to find out more. Visa provides services to small and medium businesses at a market, community and individual level. Our Products and Services are a driving force for the payment ecosystem and are leading the push for innovation. We are supporting local high streets through initiatives such as Great British High Street, and social inclusion through She’s Next and Visa Everywhere.  Our Digital Business Toolkit provides access to tools, services and resources that help SMBs to run their business more efficiently, and to grow and prosper.

Building your brand by getting smart on social

Seven out of ten UK adults in 2019 use the internet for social networkingi so promoting your website on social media could help you reach a broad range of potential customers. In this practical guide, we share top tips on how to create and then turbo charge your brand presence online by using social media.

It is likely that you’re already thinking about embracing social media as a tool to inspire potential customers to get in touch or give existing ones an incentive to return to your business. If so, we have compiled a 4-step plan to help get you started:

1. Choose the right social site for your business: When choosing a social media site, take into account which sites your customers use and how they use them. For example, businesses which sell to other businesses will get better results from a business-focussed social media site. Businesses selling visually appealing products to consumers should think about building a presence on a site set up for sharing photos.

2. Make the most of your time by posting when your customers are online: Research carried out by Statista in 2017, found that people check their social media accounts at different times of dayii. Use this information to time your updates for maximum success. For example, the research demonstrates, if you sell to UK consumers through Facebook, the best time to update your business’s Facebook account is 12pm.

3. Identify clear objectives and build metrics to help you gauge your success: If your objective is brand awareness then having 30,000 people share your posts is great progress. If you’re using social media to drive new business, then new enquiries about your product is the only performance indicator that really matters.

4. Test, review and learn. Periodically, check which of your updates were most successful. Most social media platforms will provide you with a dashboard to see which of your updates got the most views, likes or shares. Once you have identified the successful posts, build a theory for why they were successful; you can then test your theory with further posts. For example, let’s say you post a series of photos at 5pm which seemed to drive more enquiries. A follow-up series of photo posts at different times of the day will help you determine whether it is time or content which is driving your success.

It is hard to see a future without social media. And as more and more consumers take to these sites to browse, book, review or even purchase products, it is essential that business owners set themselves up for success and develop a strategy that will engage with customers and showcase their products and services. Failing to get on board with social media only means that brands will be left behind as their customers take their business elsewhere.

Visit https://www.visa.co.uk/smallbusiness to find out more. Visa provides services to small and medium businesses at a market, community and individual level. Our Products and Services are a driving force for the payment ecosystem and are leading the push for innovation. We are supporting local high streets through initiatives such as Great British High Street, and social inclusion through She’s Next and Visa Everywhere.  Our Digital Business Toolkit provides access to tools, services and resources that help SMBs to run their business more efficiently, and to grow and prosper.

Card payments are the future of maintaining a healthy business

Your business is fuelled by the flow of money in and out and getting paid on time is critical. With card payments becoming the norm for consumers, in this article we take a look at the benefits of accepting card payments.

Paying by card is a lot easier for your customers: with fewer people carrying around cash, hunting down a cash machine or making a visit to a bank can be a real inconvenience for your customers: you need to make it as simple as possible for them to pay you.

But there are other benefits to card payments, which make it easier to run your business, including:

  • Get paid securely: Having cash onsite comes with its own risks. Card payments eliminate worries over keeping cash securely and having to move it between your office, shop or home and the bank.
  • Become the master of your own business: Digital payments can help you better understand your business and allow you to spot trends in the transactions. With card payments you can get a record from your bank of all the payments made into your account, how much they were for and what time and date they were made. Downloading a spreadsheet of your payments at the end of each month can help you spot patterns in your business. For example, are your customers making smaller, more frequent purchases at the weekend and larger, less frequent purchases during the week? This kind of insight can help you make informed decisions about how you run your business and promote your services.
  • Think ahead for card payments: Card payments mean that you can take a payment on the spot – especially if you are in a ‘mobile’ business, serving customers in their home. This is especially important for large payments. Often customers do not have a large amount of cash on them, or do not have the correct amount of change. Look ahead to a more exciting future by making it easier to reduce payment delays.
  • Future-proof your business: You may have plans to start taking bookings or pre-payments online, through an online market place or app. Accepting card payments now will help you as you prepare to set up your business for the future. Better yet, some card payments providers can even help you to build a new web shop or move your old one to another platform with ease. This means you can also manage all of your online and in-store sales in one place.

There’s more to card payment than getting paid. Ultimately, the future is digital. It’s important to provide your customers with the payment options that suit their needs, and, the benefits of being able to quickly and efficiently take digital payments will best serve your business as it scales. From being able to better assess your business cash flow to building your brand as a professional service in the eyes of your customer, accepting digital payments are a worthwhile investment.

Visit https://www.visa.co.uk/smallbusiness to find out more. Visa provides services to small and medium businesses at a market, community and individual level. Our Products and Services are a driving force for the payment ecosystem and are leading the push for innovation. We are supporting local high streets through initiatives such as Great British High Street, and social inclusion through She’s Next and Visa Everywhere.  Our Digital Business Toolkit provides access to tools, services and resources that help SMBs to run their business more efficiently, and to grow and prosper.

Birmingham Tech Week continues at the Festival of Enterprise

Birmingham Tech Week announces partnership with the Festival of Enterprise

Tech Week extended with six networking meetings at event focused on fast growth and scaling-up

Birmingham Tech Week, a collaborative series of events held across the City and the wider Greater Birmingham Region is partnering with the Festival of Enterprise.

The partnership marks an extension of Birmingham Tech Week which ran successfully from October 7th–13th. 

The objective of Tech Week was to highlight Birmingham’s burgeoning tech scene.

The collaboration with the Festival of Enterprise is seen as an important opportunity to continue and develop the results already achieved by the inaugural Tech Week.

At the Festival of Enterprise, Birmingham Tech Week will be hosting six networking meetings.

Each will bring together a mix of technology providers and the owners of businesses seeking fast growth.

And, some of the businesses seeking to scale-up will also be tech enterprises themselves. 

James Ashwood, Managing Director of the Festival of Enterprise, explains why this partnership is a good one for companies based in the Midlands.  

“The Festival of Enterprise has a significant tech element within it already. 

Leading sponsors like Google, LinkedIn, Dell, and Trustpilot are key contributors to the event. 

Events like the Festival of Enterprise, bring the business community in the Midlands together. 

We see this partnership with Birmingham Tech Week as an excellent additional benefit to our audience.

It’s a further strengthening of the work we are doing to support Midlands-based business owners from our location at the NEC Birmingham.”

Speaking for Birmingham Tech Week, Yiannis Maos (Founder & Board Director) commented;

“For far too long Birmingham’s Tech scene has operated in silos, we talk about collaboration, but, it doesn’t happen as much as it should. 

Tech Week is about celebrating our diverse, innovative and growing City, and showing the world why we should be seen as the first choice for setting up, scaling and investing in technology companies.

Working with the Festival of Enterprise provides an opportunity to keep tech at the forefront of business thinking, and that’s so important for companies seeking to scale.” 

Birmingham Tech Week will be highly visible at the Festival of Enterprise next week, but in 2020, the collaboration will be even closer. 

Next year, the Festival of Enterprise is moving dates so that it coincides with Birmingham Tech Week. It’s a strategic move designed to supercharge the focus both on technology and the development of fast-growth businesses in the Midlands. 

The Festival of Enterprise takes place 23-24 October at the NEC Birmingham.

To register for tickets visit https://registration.n200.com/survey/1g3n2ovh76kbx

Platform Business Media

The Festival of Enterprise is organised by Platform Business Media, an independent exhibition and conference organiser operating in the business to business space. 

The events organised by Platform Business Media provide insight and connections for audiences and marketing opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors.

Contact: James Ashwood

Tel: 0121 582 0519

Email: james@festivalofenterprise.co.uk

Meet the media at the Festival of Enterprise

There is a dedicated “Meet the media” zone at the Festival of Enterprise. Stop by and hangout with the journalists across TV, radio, print and online. We will have journalists mingling and networking during both days and they are on the look out for stories, articles and expert comments.

You will have chance to:

  • Secure a live TV Interview with the UK’s leading online business channel
  • Meet and network with guest journalists
  • Register your media profile with Media Matchmaker and connect to all the journalists at the event
  • Connect with Business Live, the national business news website from Reach plc
  • Talk everything podcast related with Alex from Screw It, Just Do It – the #1 rated entrepreneurship podcast

… and much more!

Come say hi – Meet the Media

 

The Benefits of Online Learning

Studying online is a great way to gain a qualification without having to attend college. At Learning Curve Group, we offer a range of qualifications that can be studied online, from our fully-funded level 2 courses, to our level 3 courses that can be funded through an Advanced Learner Loan that doesn’t need to be repaid until you earn over £25k a year! If you are thinking about starting an online course, but aren’t sure whether it’s for you, take a look at these reasons why learning online is great for professional development.

 

You can study at a time that suits you

If you work full-time, or have family or other commitments, it can be hard to find the time to study towards a qualification. Flexible learning courses mean you can study whenever suits you – so you can juggle working and studying with ease.

 

You can work from wherever you want

You can literally work wherever you have a Wi-Fi connection with our flexible learning qualifications, just log-in and go!

 

Say goodbye to classrooms

You don’t need to attend a classroom, you can just get on with your course in your own time, with a tutor on hand to contact if you have any questions or aren’t sure on anything. That means no more commuting or sitting in traffic jams, you can study wherever you like!

 

Continue your professional development

The range of flexible learning courses available is always expanding, and most are fully funded which is great for adding to your CV or bagging you your next promotion. Showing you are willing to adapt and learn more skills is attractive for employers, and learning skills that will help your job role will aid your CPD and progression.

 

Learn at your own pace

Because you’re not stuck in a classroom with other learners, you can take your time to understand the course and what is being asked of you.

 

No more paper!

Learning online is also great because all of your learning materials can be accessed online. That means no more loose sheets of paper or losing something important, and no unnecessary trips to the library to access learning content. Everything you need for an online course with Learning Curve Group is accessible at the click of a button.

 

For more information on flexible learning courses available, please visit: https://www.learningcurvegroup.co.uk/learners/employed

Introducing My Work Perks – the Employee engagement platform for smaller businesses

peoplevalue, the employee engagement company, has announced the launch of a completely new employee benefits platform, designed to make large corporate employee benefits available for smaller businesses.

Employee benefits are an essential tool for employee engagement. However, the ability to successfully engage, motivate and inspire employees is often reserved for large corporations who have the budget and resources to deliver a range of valuable employee benefits.

Employee engagement is important for businesses of all sizes, which is why My Work Perks was created.

Affordable staff benefits for everyone

My Work Perks is a new online platform where businesses can, in a matter of minutes, set up their own employee engagement platform and deliver a comprehensive range of benefits to their employees.

Employees get access to wide range of benefits on the platform that support the three pillars of wellbeing: emotional, financial and physical. From discounted shopping at supermarkets and a discount fuel card, to health cash plans and a 24-hour GP helpline, the range of benefits is truly unique, comprehensive and allows smaller businesses to commit to the wellbeing of their employees.

Delivered in a SaaS (Software as a Service) model and with three levels to choose from – Basic, Plus and Premium – smaller businesses now get to choose what they offer their employees while tailoring it to their budget. With no long-term contract and easy monthly payment terms, smaller businesses can now compete with larger corporations on the range of benefits they offer their employees.

On top of that, the Basic entry level is completely FREE. In just a short space of time, businesses can set up their branded benefits platform for employees to enjoy.

“We have long recognised the needs of smaller businesses when it comes to employee engagement and many of their challenges are the same as larger corporations.” Andy Caldicott, MD of People Value Limited explains. “My Work Perks is based on over 20-years of experience working in the field of employee engagement and provides, for the first time, smaller employers the ability to deliver first class benefits for their employees. We have also streamlined the process so that registration takes less than 30 seconds from start to finish. We are confident that My Work Perks will become an established employee benefit for all small businesses, especially because the Basic entry level is free of charge.”

 

The Eve of Brexit: Insight from Liam Halligan on future proofing your business

With an uncertain future surrounding Brexit and the UK’s position within the European Union, a major concern for employers across the UK is the impact leaving the EU is going to have on their organisation.

 

From trade agreements and cost increases, to skills shortages and a migrant workforce – Brexit has left many businesses feeling uncertain about their future over coming months.

 

This week, big names in business gathered at The Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden for a session hosted by Learning Curve Group, which offered insight and knowledge sharing around future proofing your business post-brexit.

 

Economist and broadcaster, Liam Halligan spoke about the impact of Brexit and the political to-ing and fro-ing that Britain has found itself in the midst of and the wider economic situation.

 

Halligan delivered deep insight into the current political opinion and the media’s role in sharing relevant information to the public. Speaking after the event, Halligan said: “At difficult times in our national history like now, where there’s lots of moving paths, it’s vital we have this communication between the media and the business community.”

 

Halligan discussed the impact that Brexit will have on jobs: “What we need now is Brexit certainty, it seems to me if we do end up having a long delay, that’s the worst in all possible worlds. Some people who want to remain might like that, but I think it will lead to a go-slow investment, a slowdown in growth, and that will impact jobs.”

 

Halligan spoke alongside Learning Curve Group’s Group Commercial Director, Jon Cummins, who addressed the need to look at skills gaps and how these will be affected by Brexit. Many industries rely on non-UK labour, including IT, construction and hospitality.

 

Businesses who employ a large number of EU workers will see an increased skills gap over-coming months, meaning it’s vital they think about their training programmes and upskilling their existing workforce.

 

Cummins commented: “One of the things we’re doing with partners is looking at how they spend their levy, but also ways beyond that where we can support them with training.”

 

If you’re worried about the implications Brexit will have on skills and training within your organisation, Learning Curve Group can advise you on the different routes of training and funding streams available.

 

How digital technology can transform the payment experience for SMEs and their customers

Increasing numbers of UK consumers value the experience they have in-store as much as the product they end up buying. A big part of this comes down to payments, with many shoppers today preferring quicker and easier ways to pay than cash.

Small business owners should be primed to take advantage of the changing payment trends where possible. Digital disruption is reshaping the UK retail sector, and has the potential to transform your business too.

Going Digital

Modern Consumers are increasingly drawn to experience-led purchases. This is especially true when we look at younger shoppers’ spending, many of whom regard travel as a priority purchase. As a result, spending growth in sectors linked to experience purchases, like travel (7.3%) and leisure (6.2%) has grown more strongly than traditional sectors like retail (3.9%) over recent years.

This has in turn driven retailers to find innovative new digital ways to connect with their consumers. A huge range of exciting new start-ups are offering everything from digital foot traffic measurement, to holographic advertising, and even 3D body scanning for perfect-fit clothes. How consumers pay is an important part of the in-store experience, so the trend has been to offer greater choice in transaction methods, with an emphasis on speed, security and mobility. By improving the experience, it is hoped, more consumers will return, and spend more each time.

Card acceptance is a key ingredient in the drive towards improving the payment experience. This is helping to create a change in payment trends. Cards overtook cash as the most popular payment method in the UK at the end of 2017, according to UK Finance: consumers made 13.2 billion debit card payments – and the gap is set to widen over the coming years.

In 2018, Worldpay recorded another tipping point, when contactless overtook chip and PIN for the first time in stores. At the same time, we recorded a 114% increase in payments via mobile wallet systems such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.

Good for them, good for you

The perception amongst many small business owners is that their business is too small to accept card payments and that they are expensive to support. In fact, digital payments can offer a range of benefits including:

  • Faster at the till, meaning fewer queues and possible drop-outs
  • More secure, because you reduce the opportunity for staff theft and robbery
  • Good for cash flow: the money is often transferred more quickly than you might deposit cash at the bank
  • Good for you, as you can use the time otherwise spent handling cash on growing the business
  • Simplifies accounting to save you more time
  • Shows you care about creating positive customer experiences
  • New insight into customers from tools like “My Business Dashboard”, which help analyse payment data

Digital payments are also essential to create the new engaging experiences consumers are demanding. Apple popularised the use of mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) systems in its stores, for example, and these tools have become an increasingly common site on the high street. They offer the ability for shop staff armed with tablets to assist consumers with finding stock, looking at items and even paying, via linked card machines. The last point is important, because shoppers are increasingly demanding faster payments. In fact, the majority (63%) claim that doing away with check-outs altogether would make their store visit more engaging.

If more of your customers want to pay by card or even their mobile phones, it makes business sense to allow them to do so. According to RFi Group research, 22% of UK consumers have not been able to pay in store by their preferred method. Of these, 15% decided to take their purchase elsewhere.

Getting set for success

So how can you get started? The first step should be to contact your payments service provider. Look for card terminals that support all major credit and debit cards including contactless, as well as mobile payments. You may be surprised at the sheer range of reasonably priced options available to you.

Think about how you’re going to use the device. The Worldpay Reader, for example, links to a smartphone or tablet so you can take payments wherever the customer is: on your premises or out and about. This empowers store staff to engage with customers on a more personal one-to-one basis, as well as cutting queuing and payment times.

Some providers will also offer packages including online tools you can use to analyse sales, enabling you to get closer to your customers.

That’s the beauty of digital payments. When the data is all there in front of you, it’s not only easier to speed through time-consuming jobs like bookkeeping and reconciliation, you can also start to find new ways to grow the business and improve the customer experience.

Find out more

Visit www.fsbcardprocessing.co.uk for more information about the services we offer to FSB members and www.fsb.org.uk/benefits for a full list of FSB membership benefits and services. We’ll also be at stand F10 at this year’s Festival, so come and say hello to us to see what FSB membership can do for your small business.

How SMEs and Scale-Ups Can Afford the Very Best Executive Directors on a Budget

Key Takeaways

For an SME or scale-up to succeed, its board and executive team needs to be at the top of their game. They’re responsible for business strategy. They have to find the plans and processes which will allow the firm to grow. Adding more experience, knowhow and skill to the pool of decision makers is a great way for any firm to progress.

Unfortunately, the very best executives don’t come cheap. They’re often out of reach of smaller businesses with more limited budgets. That is, if those businesses want to hire them full-time. Taking on executive directors on a part-time or interim basis is a far more viable option. It allows SMEs to enjoy the knowhow and abilities of the very best executive directors. All on a budget.

Running a scale-up or an SME is a continuous balancing act. The long-term aim of any such company is always to grow and progress. Growth and progress can often only be achieved with significant investment. For a business to survive in the here and now, however, it must also live within its means. The budget of most SMEs is limited at best.

Decision makers at smaller companies have to find innovative ways to move forward. They can’t endlessly invest more money in an effort to grow. That would be a mistake that could prove terminal. When frugality is a must, there are a surprising number of creative solutions which SMEs can turn to.

Read on and you’ll learn about a creative way in which SMEs can still get the very best executive directors. The kind of high-level decision makers that can be key to a firm’s progress. Hiring such individuals in the traditional sense is often beyond smaller businesses. They can be brought on board on a part-time basis, however.

Part-time directors can provide invaluable assistance when needed. Below, you’ll learn all you need to know about outsourcing to bring part-time directors on board.

What Are Executive Directors?

Executive directors are members of a company’s board. They also have management responsibilities within the firm. They are company employees at the senior executive level, as well as being board members. On top of their day-to-day duties within a firm, they also contribute to the decision-making of the board. They are tasked with helping to determine the business’s overall strategy. As well as performing the other functions of their role.

Executive directors are joined on most boards by non-executive directors. They’re board members who do not have responsibility for daily management or operations. They’re employed by businesses purely to help with the big picture. To contribute to overall strategy and aid the board’s decision-making. What exactly, though, do different executive and non-executive directors do for a firm?

What Do They Do?

Executive director is a catch-all phrase. It describes a range of different roles within a company. All executive directors sit on the business’s board and play a role in high-level decision making. Exactly what they do for their organisation, however, depends on their specific role:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – A firm’s CEO is the man or woman in charge. They’re responsible for the business’s overall operations and performance. They must maintain corporate policy and help shape a firm’s long-term strategy. Sometimes, a business’s CEO will also be the chairperson of the board.
  • Managing Director (MD)– The MD of a company plays a similar role to the CEO. In fact, the two roles are often confused. An MD is one of the most senior positions at any business. Unlike a CEO, though, they’re often more focussed on managing the day-to-day operations of a company. They will generally report to the chairperson of the board. They still also play a key role in high-level strategy decisions.
  • Chief Operating Officer (COO)– A COO is another high-ranking member of any business’s board. Their duties are typically threefold. They’re responsible for day-to-day running of key departments. Such as manufacturing, sales and distribution. They also work to implement processes which improve the efficiency of those departments. Finally, they report back operational information to the CEO.
  • Strategy Director– These directors focus on a firm’s position in the wider industry. They collect and evaluate information about the industry and wider market trends. They then use that information to inform discussions and decisions regarding business strategy. Their overall aim is to define a path toward success and keep a business on that path.
  • Chairman and other Non-Executive Directors– It’s obvious that non-executive directors are different to executive directors. It’s worth mentioning them, though, as they also play a key role on company boards. They’re board members who aren’t a part of your executive team. Instead, they’re focussed on planning, policy making and monitoring performance.

How Much Are They Paid?

It should now be clear that executive directors are high-level employees. They’re skilled and experienced individuals who take on lots of responsibility. The way they’re paid reflects that responsibility and the high-level skill set they have.

Take the position of CEO as an example. According to recent statistics, the average salary for a CEO in the UK in 2019 is £89,020. On top of that, they’re also typical rewarded with an average annual bonus of £19,918. Alongside around £35,000 in other remuneration. That represents an average outlay of close to £145,000 per year for a firm to their CEO alone.

Plenty of CEOs earn more, of course. Other executives also typically command a lower average salary. Those stats do reveal something important, though. That is that taking on new full-time executive directors isn’t viable for many SMEs. There is a way, however, that those firms can still afford the very best executive directors.

How Can SMEs and Scale-ups Afford the Best?

You may think that the high remuneration commanded by executive directors puts the best people beyond the reach of SMEs or scale-ups. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Due to an innovative and increasingly popular practice. The practice of outsourcing senior company positions to part-time operatives.

A smaller enterprise is able to bring on board a CEO, COO or strategy director for a fraction of their usual cost. They can choose how often and how much the director’s services are available to them. For instance, an early stage business with a low budget might bring the part-time Director on board for say only one day per month. More established companies might prefer 2 or 3 days a week. They can still benefit from their expertise and perspective without breaking the bank.

It’s not all about salary, either. There are other ways in which hiring part-time directors is kinder on an SME’s budget. Outsourcing a senior position does not incur a recruitment fee, which employing full time often can. Unlike hiring a full-time board member. An SME also doesn’t have to worry about negotiating an annual bonus or benefits package.

The executive directors SMEs and scale-ups can afford on a part-time basis can be of a higher grade. Their operating budget is no longer an obstacle. They can benefit from the skills and knowhow of the best executives. Cost-efficiency isn’t the only benefit of the part-time director route, either.

Other Benefits of Part-Time or Interim Executives

Hiring part-time executive directors allows SMEs access to a higher level of executive. That’s not the only benefit of choosing to outsource a senior board position, though. The following are other reasons why interim executives may be a better option for SMEs:

  • Flexibility – A firm’s relationship with a part-time director can be tailored to their exact requirements. The business can scale up or down the level of advice provided as needed. Ending such a relationship is also far more straightforward. Part-time Directors can be hired on a fixed term or monthly review basis. If things aren’t working out, an SME has an easy exit available.
  • Specific Expertise – Taking ona full-time director often takes months. Hiring an interim executive can be done in a matter of days. Outsourcing in this way, then, is a great way for a business to respond to a particular problem or challenge. For example, a board might be facing an issue that falls outside their field of expertise. They may have a problem with their digital marketing, infrastructure or technology. To nip the issue in the bud, they could quickly hire an interim director with digital expertise  
  • Focus – Experienced and skilled executives brought onto a board on a part-time basis can give an SME’s issues their full attention. A full-time executive may have other duties. A part-time or interim director can focus on strategy and planning to meet a firm’s challenges. Often, such high-level executives can get three or four days’ worth of work done in two days or less.

John Courtney and Boardroom Advisors can be found at Stand C10

The search is on for the West Midlands’ most outstanding small businesses and self-employed people

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) launched its search for the best of the small businesses in the West Midlands in August, when entries opened for the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2020. There are over 200,000 small businesses and self-employed in the region.

There’s still time to enter, but small businesses are being urged to get entries in before the closing date of 17 January 2020. The twelve award categories this year include the Wellbeing in Small Business Award, building on FSB’s successful work in advocating measures to improve wellbeing and mental health for the self-employed, small business owners and their employees.

Rich Bishop, FSB regional chair for West Midlands said: “For a chance to be recognised as the best small business in the West Midlands, as well as in the whole UK, I’d encourage all small businesses to enter the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards. SMEs are a vital part of the West Midlands – contributing so much to the economy and making our region a more exciting place in which to live, work, study and visit. The awards give everyone the opportunity to join us in celebrating that.”

The 2019 West Midlands area winners included a care farm, an equine clinic and a serious games developer. The 2019 national UK FSB Business Product and Innovation award winners, Pharma Packaging Systems Ltd, came from the West Midlands.

The 2020 area winners for the West Midlands will be announced at an award ceremony on 6 March 2020 held at Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club in Meriden. These winners, with the exception of the Community Business Award which is area level only, will then go forward to the UK final of the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2020, held in London, on 21 May 2020.

The 12 FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2020 categories are:

  • Wellbeing in Small Business Award
  • Environmental Business of the Year
  • Digital/E-commerce Business of the Year
  • Sole Trader of the Year
  • High Growth Business of the Year
  • Micro-business of the Year
  • Start-up Business of the Year
  • Young Entrepreneur (aged 30 and under)
  • Business and Product Innovation Award
  • Family Business of the Year
  • International Business of the Year
  • Community Business of the Year (area level only)

For further information and to enter the awards visit www.fsbawards.co.uk

Come and find out more about our profile-raising awards, and everything else the FSB can do for your small business at stand F10.

The UK crowd funding landscape in 2019 so far

For many years, the chance to invest in promising private companies was exclusive to an elite few. Due to the administrative burden of finding and integrating many stakeholders, only those with substantial chunks of capital actively managed by funds, or those close to an entrepreneur, could take a stake in a private company, supporting and simultaneously profiting from their growth trajectory. This means the vast majority of people were far removed from the world of investing in high-growth companies.

Crowdfunding is considered by some as a way to hack this system, by democratising support for high-growth companies and distributing the returns made from their high-growth. Equity crowdfunding platforms allow capital (from chunks as small as £10) to be exchanged for stakes in companies looking to raise funds, taking on the challenges of organising and administrating thousands of investors in a single round. The small percentages bought by individual investors are taken in hope that the company will eventually exit, allowing investors to claim back the value of their shares and then some. This form of investing has come leaps and bounds in the short time it has been available. In 2011, only 8 deals were backed by crowdfunding websites; in 2018, crowdfund investors are the second most active type, backing fewer deals than only Private Equity and Venture Capital firms. You can read a further analysis of the most active kinds of investor in our latest series here.

In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into crowdfunding activity.

Investment activity

As noted in our H1 2019 market update,  the total amount secured in crowdfunding deals has taken a slight hit in the first half of 2019. However, the number of deals has increased from H2 2018.

The amount invested in to companies through crowdfunding platforms has returned to levels seen in H1 2017. Deal numbers may be stabilising, having bumped between 160 and 200 deals for each of the last five halves.’ – Hannah Skingle, Marketing Associate

Whether these relatively stable deal numbers represent the market reaching a new ‘normal’ after the rapid expansion that crowdfunding has experienced in recent years, or are a consequence of the broader geopolitical climate, is yet to be seen. It will be interesting to observe the  second half of 2019; the second half of a year has tended to do better than the first, over the last two years.

Average deal size

The average deal size has also taken a hit, falling from £877k in the second half of 2018, to £525k in the first half of this year. Crowdfunding continues to be a critical provider of small cap to SME’s in the UK, bridging the gap between funding rounds that draw upon investment from family and friends at the very start of a new company’s lifecycle, and larger institutional rounds later in the company’s trajectory.

Where are crowdfunders investing?

Entrepreneurs from across the UK are utilising crowdfunding platforms to fund their businesses. These maps demonstrate the huge expansion of this investment model over the last 7 years, though also demonstrate a hive of activity in the South East. The bias towards London is even more pronounced than in PE and VC firms, with 58% of all crowdfunding deals secured by companies in the capital.

‘It is interesting to see that, despite its digital and arguably delocalised model of investment, crowdfunding is still investing largely in London-based entrepreneurs and their ideas, despite only representing 37% of the UK’s active ambitious companies.’ – Ava Scott, Research and Consultancy Associate

Which stages are they investing in?

As noted before, crowdfunding platforms are important facilitators of small cap investment, and hence, the majority of their deals are into early Seed-stage companies. However, as crowdfunding has become a more well-known and trusted form of investment, whilst also allowing brands to engage with consumers directly, later-stage businesses are also turning to this collective mode of fundraising. While in 2013, only 17.6% of crowdfunding deals were secured by Venture-stage companies, in the first half of 2019, 40.5% of companies were categorised as such. Crowdfunding also allows companies to raise funds whilst juggling older stakeholders, reducing the risk of taking on demanding new investors, allowing directors to maintain greater control of the company’s direction.

What emerging sectors are crowdfunders supporting?

  • fintech-28 deals
  • artificial intelligence – 14 deals
  • alternative finance – 10 deals
  • digital security – 7 deals
  • internet of things – 7 deals

The verticals that crowdfunding platforms invest in do not differ too much from the wider investment market. It seems the appeal of disruptive Fintech and pioneering Artificial Intelligence companies stretches to the public as well. Companies with consumer-facing brands and services may use crowdfunding finance as part of their marketing strategy. For example, the challenger bank Revolut has held crowdfunding campaigns on both Seedrs and Crowdcube. Through this, they have not only raised funds and awareness of their brand, but have also recruited thousands of highly motivated customers, who will hopefully share and promote the bank to friends and family.

However, it is important to note that crowdfunding activity isn’t entirely representative of the UK public; engagement still requires a specific interest in and understanding of equity and high-growth businesses. To truly be a force for economic democratisation, outreach efforts and educational services could be provided, to make their services and equity investment accessible for those least represented across capital markets.

Originally posted on about.beauhurst.com/blog/uk-crowd-funding-landscape-2019/

The largest tech venture capital investments of 2019 so far

Many UK tech startups are beginning to move well beyond their venture capital funding phases to more established stages of growth. As they’ve expanded into new markets, they’ve looked to establish strategic commercial relationships with industry incumbents and other large corporations, which venture capital firms would most likely find it hard to provide.

Examples of these include Deliveroo’s colossal $575m funding round earlier this year in May (the largest raise by a British startup ever). This round was led by Amazon, who sees Deliveroo as a means to help dominate the European food delivery market as it battles against the other US tech giant operating in this space: Uber Technologies Inc. Other participants in the round were all large asset managers, such as T. Rowe Price and Fidelity. Whilst leading Silicon Valley VC firm Greenoaks Capital did participate, the money for this round was supplied primarily by Amazon.

So, as startups like Deliveroo mature, a new wave of technology companies are emerging to receive sizeable rounds of venture capital to advance new software products. In this post, we’ve highlighted the largest tech venture capital investments of 2019 so far. This helps indicate where VC partners see future growth in the software market.

The largest tech venture capital investments of 2019 so far:

checkout.com┃$230m

led by: dst global, insight capital

In May, Checkout.com became the UK’s latest unicorn startup, and the first to reach such a valuation through a Series A funding round. They’d kept very quiet up until this point, having bootstrapped their way to a turnover of £35m in 2017 after just five years of operations.

Checkout’s developers have developed a suite of payment processing software tools, helping merchants process online payments from a range of geographies and in over 150 currencies. Additional products provide fraud detection services. They now boast numerous large clients, including Samsung, Deliveroo, and Adidas.

worldremit┃$175m

led by: accel, technology crossover ventures

Also raising in May, WorldRemit also became a unicorn through their Series D funding round, reaching a valuation of over $900m. A close competitor to leading international transfer startup Transferwise and the industry incumbent Western Union, WorldRemit allows users to transfer money to international accounts. This service is mainly used by expat workers looking to return earnings to family and friends abroad.

At the time of their funding round, the company claimed to be serving 4 million customers, transferring money from 50 “send” countries to 150 “receive”. According to press releases in 2018 they received licenses to operate in all 50 US states, becoming one of the first British financial service firms to do so.

WorldRemit clearly sees its low-fee, digitised platform as a credible mechanism for enhancing international development; by saving money on transfer fees, immigrant workers can send more of their earnings home, increasing economic growth in home markets.

monzo┃£113m

led by: accel, technology crossover ventures

Monzo needs little introduction, but is without a doubt one of the UK’s two leading consumer challenger banks, alongside Revolut. This large funding round will help the company roll out its app in the US, as it seeks to enter new markets and outcompete its myriad of rivals.

This round was led by America’s most successful startup accelerator Y Combinator, via their “Continuity” growth fund.

zego┃$42m

led by: target global

One of the biggest raises ever by a British Insurtech startup, Zego’s funding will be used to enhance their online platform, which provides insurance products to workers in the rapidly growing gig economy. The company’s main partners include Deliveroo, Uber, Uber Eats, and Stuart, illustrating where their market lies: freelancers providing mobility services to new tech companies operating in the food delivery, courier, and ride hailing sectors.

The round was led by Target Global, a Berlin-headquartered VC fund that opened a London office in April.

tessian┃€37m

led by: sequoia capital

Following hot on the heels of Darktrace, the UK unicorn using artificial intelligence to bolster cybersecurity software, Tessian’s Series B round in February makes the startup one of the UK’s best funded cybersecurity startups. Their software uses machine learning to help identify risks and security gaps in the realm of enterprise emails. For example, this software will send warning emails to a company’s employees if they are about to send a new type of email that may contain sensitive data to someone outside the organisation.

Interestingly, the lead backer in this round was Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s most successful venture capital funds, who have backed US tech giants such as WhatsApp, Airbnb, Paypal, Youtube, and Apple. Their participation is a prestigious boost to this London’s based startup’s prospects.

privitar┃$40m

led by: accel

Perhaps less well-known than the other startups in this post, Privitar develops “privacy risk” software. This is software which helps companies and public sector organisations safely access and analyse the data they possess without violating the privacy of the individuals to who the data actually belongs, and without violating privacy laws. This is very relevant at a time when Facebook and other tech giants come under huge amounts of scrutiny for how they handle the huge amounts of user data they regularly use.

Current customers include HSBC and the NHS. Accel, another of Silicon Valley’s most prolific VCs, led this latest funding round. Interestingly, Cambridge-based IQ Capital, which tends to focus on the Cambridge tech scene, also participated.

Note: in this list we exluded all equity funding rounds led by non-venture capital funds, such as private equity firms like KKR, or corporate venture funds like Google Ventures

Originally posted on about.beauhurst.com/blog/the-largest-tech-venture-capital-investments-of-2019-so-far/

Prototyping makerspace offers free support to eligible businesses at Festival of Enterprise

STEAMhouse is a centre for creative innovation. We help entrepreneurs, sole traders, companies and citizens to build their businesses, develop new products and services and collaborate.

Powered by Birmingham City University we help you grow your ideas by providing free business support, access to makerspace workshops and co-working space, and a programme of STEAMlabs and events led by industry experts from many different sectors.

This month, STEAMhouse will be exhibiting at the Festival of Enterprise, 23rd-24th October at the NEC, which aims to support and accelerate the growth of businesses within the region through a series of expert speakers and hands-on workshops.

 

Kasim Choudry, Thinkfest National Director, said “STEAMhouse brings an innovative and new element to the festival this year, I think that business owners will be pleasantly amazed at what’s on offer to them and, because it is a funded project, it is all available for free. I have even signed up to become a member myself!”.

Exhibiting at the stand will be STEAMhouse member and Owner of Taran 3D, Taran Singh, “STEAMhouse has given me the support and advice I needed to take my business to the next level. The reassurance and advice I have received from the STEAMhouse staff has enabled me to make informed decisions. In addition, the courses have allowed me to put good business practices into place. The result has been that I have more self-confidence and my business has grown rapidly.  More importantly, it has enabled me to leave my part-time job to run my business full-time.

STEAMhouse has also enabled me to be around other like-minded creative people who are facing similar challenges to myself, this is crucial. The one thing you cannot measure is the creative community atmosphere, being surrounded by positive people is very helpful.”

Find out more about how STEAMhouse can help your business innovate and grow.

Visit STEAMhouse at Stand Number: C62, book your place here: https://registration.n200.com/survey/1g3n2ovh76kbx

 

Business improvement starts with just one small change

Increasing productivity and making British business more competitive doesn’t have to be about asking your people to work harder and longer – it’s that kind of thinking that got us into this problem in the first place.

 

Working “on” your business instead of just “in” it means asking yourself what you could be doing differently to lead and manage better. If the changes you know need to be made feel too big to tackle, start small. Break it down into incremental changes that can make the way you work simpler, easier and smarter.

 

Incremental gains, the half per cents here and there, are realised by engaging employees, actively listening to their ideas and giving them the autonomy to be self-starters and lead improvement efforts.

 

As an organisation dedicated to providing the inspiration, tools and resources that leaders need to improve the competitiveness of their firms, Be the Business is committed to shining a light on the way British SMEs lead the way by thinking small and improving performance. From restaurants to recruiters and from campsites to construction firms, the inspiration is out there to direct your future efforts.

 

Taking a business-led approach to solving Britain’s productivity issue enables us to focus on where we can produce the biggest uplift – management and leadership of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

 

Still not convinced about the power of small changes? Watch the video below and see what we mean.

No matter how small, one change can set you on a path to transform your business and help overcome the productivity challenge.

Visit Be the Business on Stand H10 to find out how making those few small changes can improve your business or start your journey today at www.bethebusiness.com

What Is An End-To-End Solution & How Will It Benefit Your Business?

When it comes to choosing a software solution, it can be difficult for businesses to know the key things they need to be on the lookout for and what it is they’re going to need.

With this decision often representing a significant financial outlay as well as an important crossroads for businesses looking to support their growth moving forward, companies want to make sure they will get a fast return on their investment and partner up with the right supplier. However with a lot of software jargon getting banded about by suppliers, businesses can often struggle to see what exactly is being proposed and ultimately understand the benefits that are on offer.

A buzz term in the world of software, an ‘end-to-end solution’ can mean different things to different businesses. Therefore we thought we’d take the time to dissect the meaning of an end-to-end solution and the benefits of this way of working.

What is an End-to-End Solution?

When it comes to software, an end-to-end solution is used to describe a system that addresses all of your business needs and processes in one centralised hub. For retailers, wholesalers, online traders or those manufacturing their own goods, end-to-end software usually incorporates tools for managing eCommerce, order processing, stock control, warehouse management and accounts.

A supplier will provide all of the software components and manage the installation, integration and maintenance to ensure you’ve got everything you need to work effectively. A supplier who isn’t providing an end-to-end solution may just sell you a piece of software to manage one small aspect of your operations, that you will also need to install yourself.

In simple terms, an end-to-end solution should take you through a process from beginning to end.

Why Choose an End-to-End Solution?

Accuracy & efficiency

Better Operational Efficiency

Possibly the main reason that a lot of businesses will sway towards an end-to-end solution is the higher productivity that it is able to generate. By using an integrated system from a single supplier, you’ll be able to experience greater automation to drive accuracy, efficiency and more streamlined processes.

This simplified workflow not only reduces time spent and risk of human error, it can also increase data security too. By using an end-to-end solution to manage everything from order acquisition through to product distribution, businesses can optimise processes to drive better performance.

More cost effective

Reduced Costs

Having one provider means you only have to pay one provider. Multiple software systems, support packages, ongoing licences etc. can all drive up costs, so having one provider means you only need to pay for one lot of services. This means smaller outlays, less hassle at renewal time and massively decreased costs moving forward.

What’s more, with data seamlessly shared between departments, you’ll ensure greater accuracy – resulting in less mis-picks and customer returns. Therefore, investing in an end-to-end solution will not only help minimise software costs but also operational costs too.

Minimise disruption

Faster Resolutions

Issues can occur from time to time, but what matters most is how quickly these issues can be resolved. Working with multiple disconnected systems can make it difficult to determine the cause of an issue, and worse still, cause staff to be caught up in the middle of a supplier ‘blame game’. For businesses using an end-to-end solution from a single supplier, staff know exactly who to call to report an issue and get it quickly resolved.

One end to end solution

One System for Staff to Learn

When investing in a new solution, you want to be up and running as quickly as possible to minimise disruption and see the fastest possible return. One of the key factors in this is how long you have to put aside for staff training. If your business is running off different systems, it means multiple systems for staff to learn.

By implementing a single, user-friendly end-to-end solution, your staff will only have to get used to one system. Moving forward, new staff arriving into the business can also get up-and-running faster.

Complete Operational Visibility

Unrivalled Companywide Visibility

As data is shared seamlessly across all departments, an end-to-end solution allows you to gather accurate insight into company performance and pinpoint any areas needing improvement. This complete operational visibility not only helps you drive performance and increase profitability, it also allows your supplier to effectively support you as your company continues to grow.

The Right Solution to Support Profitable Growth

Disconnected systems can cause a range of issues when it comes to costs, processes and productivity. Therefore by choosing an end-to-end software solution, businesses can become more cost-effective, keep their operations streamlined and drive forward growth.

Effective Bid writing & support for SMEs

Hub 109 would like to invite you to this exciting “Effective Bid Writing & Funding expertise for SMEs, Start-ups and Third sector workshop“

This will give you an overview of how to write better bids and funding applications. and inspire you to become a more confident bid writer/fundraiser.

We will have bid writing expert Paul Hanna who has more than 20 years of experience in supporting and educating organisations with their bid writing and funding – he will talk through his expertise on what funding might be available and how to increase your organisation’s income through grants and writing winning bids.

We will cover a range of topics:

  • Discovering funding opportunities and deciding what is right for you.
  • Introduction to different tactics you can use to argue Need.
  • Impact & Outcomes.
  • Budgeting tips.
  • Reasons why applications get rejected
  • Increasing success rate
  • Q&A

Attendees will leave workshop with clearer understanding of bid writing processes and procedures, a good understanding on what is required to write successful bids and the chance to network with other local businesses.

Flagstone recognised by LinkedIn as ‘TOP STARTUP’

Flagstone, the UK’s largest cash deposit platform, has been recognised in LinkedIn’s ‘Top Startup’ list celebrating the fastest growing and most exciting new companies to work for in the UK.

London based FinTech, Flagstone, has been included in LinkedIn’s 2019 Top Startups, which reveals the 25 hottest UK startups to work for; companies which are 7 years old or younger, growing massively, disrupting industries, shifting talent flows around the world and, often, altering how we work and live.

The LinkedIn Top Startups list is derived from a blended score, parsed from billions of actions generated by LinkedIn’s 645 million members, looking at factors including employment growth, engagement with the company and its employees, job interest, and the ability to attract top talent.

Flagstone’s Chief People Officer, Susanna Brown, said:

“Flagstone has enjoyed incredible growth since its inception in 2013, in equal measure because of our unique FinTech value proposition and the passion and dedication of our people.

 

The growth we’re experiencing in the market, in terms of the accelerating number of clients using the platform and the billions of pounds transmitted through it, has been reflected by the rapid growth in our fantastic team. We’re building high performing teams within centres of excellence across all areas of our business. It’s been an exciting experience to have grown the business to this stage of its development so quickly, and it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity for anybody who joins us on the next part of our journey!”

 

The Top Startups list is a part of the LinkedIn List franchise, an ongoing editorial series that celebrates professionals and companies making an impact in the professional world. To see the full list of the LinkedIn Top Startups, click

 

To find out more, go to https://flagstoneim.com, watch our short video, email us at mailto:info@flagstoneim.com or call us on 0203 745 8139.

 

 

 

About Flagstone

Flagstone is an FCA authorised and regulated fintech company (FCA reference numbers 676754 and 605504) located in London and founded in 2013. Flagstone’s online cash deposit platform enables companies, charities and individuals to earn more interest and reduce risk through diversification. Completion of a single application gives the client access to over 550 deposit accounts from 38 different banks and enables them to research and open accounts in just a matter of keystrokes. The platform puts clients in control of their cash, giving them access to market-leading and exclusive rates from a growing panel of UK banks, consolidated reporting and regular new rate alerts to ensure that their cash is working as hard as possible for them 24/7. For more information, see www.flagstoneim.com or watch a short film explaining what we do and how it benefits clients by clicking here.

 

All of the UK banks on the Flagstone platform are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the PRA. Deposits placed with any of these banks via the Flagstone platform are afforded exactly the same Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection (i.e. £85,000 per individual depositor per authorised institution) as if the client placed the deposit directly with the bank.

 

LinkedIn Top Startup Award methodology:

LinkedIn measures startups based on four pillars: employment growth, engagement, job interest and attraction of top talent. Employment growth is measured as percentage headcount increase over one year, which must be a minimum of 15%. Engagement looks at non-employee views and follows of the company’s LinkedIn page, as well as how many non-employees are viewing employees at that startup. Job interest counts the rate at which people are viewing and applying to jobs at the company, including both paid and unpaid postings. Attraction of top talent measures how many employees the startup has recruited away from LinkedIn Top Companies, as a percentage of the startup’s total workforce. Data is normalized across all eligible startups. The methodology time frame is July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

 

How to fit your energy costs into a long-term budget

At SSE Business Energy, when we talk to entrepreneurs and small business owners who are scaling up, one of their most common concerns is how to fit energy costs into their overall budget and plan for the long term.

Planning energy costs can be a challenge. Demands on energy are unpredictable and can be affected by several variables. One factor is weather conditions – the unexpected cold snap from the ‘Beast from the East’ in February 2018 saw demand rise, for instance. Equally, the busier your business is, the more energy you’re likely to use: more employees in the office means more computers on, as well as more regular use of printers, photocopiers, kettles and a host of other appliances. More energy-intensive businesses might also vary their energy usage depending on product demand.

Third-party costs

Even if you know roughly how much you’re likely to spend directly on energy, a large proportion of your bill – up to 60% – is made up of third-party costs, which differ depending on the type of fuel you’re using. These cover the costs of delivering the energy to your business through the different available channels, as well as helping meet the costs of government subsidies around sustainability and security of supply.

Budgeting for energy is tricky. But there are steps you can take to minimise any unpleasant surprises when your bill comes through. Here’s how.

Keep energy use consistent

Energy use varies throughout the calendar year and according to the demands of individual businesses. For example, there’s a good chance you’ll use less energy in the summer months than the winter months. Similarly, each business will know when their “busy times” are – for accountants, that could be quarter end, while manufacturing companies might see a surge in power needs in the lead up to Christmas as they ramp up production. We’d expect most offices to see reduced staff numbers in summer as they take time out to go on holiday, so there’ll be less pressure on appliances and therefore lower energy usage. This means you can roughly calculate the ratios of energy use at these points in the year.

Use this insight to help your business even out the peaks and troughs of energy needs and plan your usage accordingly. Could you complete some tasks that require higher energy consumption in the quieter summer months? One example might be scheduling building or renovation work for the summer, to avoid using more in winter.

Lower your overall energy usage

It’s worth looking at steps you can take now to simply use less energy, as keeping consumption low from the outset can help you avoid those spending highs and lows. Think about how you use energy in your office and try to identify ways you can cut down. For example, could you do a tea round, rather than having everyone make their own individual cups of tea? This could cut down on the number of times you’d boil the kettle, thus reducing energy usage.

Additionally, are you doing all you can to empower your team to become more energy efficient? We often underestimate how much individual behaviour can impact the final bill. Read our step by step guide to energy efficiency to find out how you can do this.

Fix your contract

Another way of making your energy bills more consistent is to sign up to a fixed tariff.

Most energy suppliers allow you to fix all or part of your costs. You can opt for a contract that lets you fix your direct energy costs. This helps shield your business from wholesale market fluctuations, so you don’t have to worry about the price of gas or electricity going up for the length of your contract. However, it’s worth remembering that non-commodity costs (NCCs) wouldn’t be fixed with this type of tariff.

For an additional premium, fully inclusive contracts are also available with some suppliers, where all existing NCCs, which can change in line with market movements, would be fixed for the length of your contract. This means that you won’t have to worry about additional or changing costs for the duration of your contract – if the costs rise, your energy supplier will cover any increase.

The message is clear: it is possible to budget for the long term when it comes to energy. Follow SSE Business Energy’s advice and take control today.

Fixed and fully fixed tariffs are available from SSE Business Energy. To find out more about these, visit ssebusinessenergy.co.uk.

Rising business deposit rates highlight the cost of inertia

Businesses which hold cash reserves in their day-to-day current account, rather than separate deposit accounts, are missing out on increasingly attractive interest rates and the opportunity to generate incremental income.

Research from YouGov1 shows that 42% of SMEs hold all of their cash in their current account, but with the vast majority earning no interest on this cash2 and with competition between challenger banks driving up corporate deposit interest rates,  the cost of inertia for companies which do not move their money is increasing.

“Businesses would be wise to review where their cash is held if they want to generate  additional income” said Andrew Thatcher, at Flagstone, the UK’s largest cash deposit platform. “With instant access deposit rates of up to 1.40% now available on our platform, this doesn’t have to be at the expense of liquidity or convenience.”

Indeed, SMEs can now harness technology to break the inertia and optimise their interest income more easily than ever before. Online deposit marketplaces like Flagstone enable businesses to compare hundreds of rates, research the banks providing them and then open one or more market-leading deposit accounts in just minutes, rather than days or weeks.

Moreover, opening accounts with different banks also enables the business to optimise the protection their deposits are afforded by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)3. Market-leading deposit rates are currently available on the Flagstone platform of up to:

  • 40%for instant access deposits;
  • 80%for three-month notice deposits; and
  • 10%for one year fixed term deposits;

and using the platform, a business can open multiple accounts on completion of just one application, depositing up £85,000 in each account, to achieve an excellent blended interest rate with the peace of mind that every penny is benefitting from 100% FSCS protection.
The extensive choice of  banks on the platform means that substantial sums in excess of one million pounds can be quickly and easily diversified in this way, empowering CFOs and FDs to maximise interest income and minimise risk exposure.

To find out more, go to https://flagstoneim.com, watch our short video, email us at mailto:info@flagstoneim.com or call us on 0203 745 8139.

 

Survey of 538 SME finance decision makers carried out by YouGov between 11th April 2019 and 17th April 2019

More than 80% of businesses hold their current account with one of the ‘Big Four’ UK high street banks.
Source: Competition & Markets Authority ‘Retail Banking Market Investigation 2016’.
None of these banks pay interest on business current account balances.

3 The FSCS deposit protection limit is £85,000 per depositor per authorised bank. A guide to FSCS protection for corporate
deposits can be downloaded at https://flagstoneim.com/corporates-smes

 

 

About Flagstone

Flagstone is an FCA authorised and regulated fintech company (FCA reference numbers 676754 and 605504) located in London and founded in 2013. Flagstone’s online cash deposit platform enables companies, charities and individuals to earn more interest and reduce risk through diversification. Completion of a single application gives clients access to over 550 deposit accounts from 38 different banks and enables them to research and open accounts in just a matter of keystrokes. The platform puts clients in control of their cash, giving them access to market-leading and exclusive rates from a growing panel of UK banks, consolidated reporting and regular new rate alerts to ensure that their cash is working as hard as possible for them 24/7. For more information, see www.flagstoneim.com or watch a short film explaining what we do and how it benefits clients by clicking here.

 

All of the UK banks on the Flagstone platform are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the PRA. Deposits placed with any of these banks via the Flagstone platform are afforded exactly the same Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection (i.e. £85,000 per individual depositor per authorised institution) as if the client placed the deposit directly with the bank.

Top investor types: what does an average deal look like?

Equity investment is a critical form of financial support for companies throughout their growth trajectory. Introducing the top seven types of equity investors, the first blog in this series looked at the market share of announced equity deals that each type is involved in, and how these proportions have changed over time. Combined, these top seven investor types backed 74% of all announced equity deals in 2018. In this second edition, we inspect these investments and the companies that received them further, looking at average deal sizes and the typical profile of investee companies. These varied sources of equity investment provide a range of funding options for high-growth companies, which can be tailored to their capital needs at that moment in time.

Average deal size for announced equity deals (2018)

Average deal size indicates the typical size of a round that an investor participates in. The precise amount each investor has contributed is rarely disclosed, but this aggregate data sheds light on  the stages and rounds that a type of fund is most likely to get involved in.

Corporate – £13.4m

Corporate investors are involved in some huge equity deals, with an average deal size of £13.4m, far above that of the cross-investor average of £5.4m. An example of a typical deal is that made by the capital arm of Amadeus IT Group, Amadeus Ventures, who participated in a $14.1m funding round held by CrowdVision – a company that develops software to monitor the size and distribution of crowds of people.  However, mega-deals can hugely inflate this average. Graphcore’s £158m fundraising, backed by 14 investors including the venture investment arms of Microsoft, Bosch and Dell, inflates the average deal size for Corporate investors by more than £2 million.  However, even when mega-deals are excluded, Corporate funds still exhibit the largest average deal size by a significant amount (£7.84m compared to Private Equity and Venture Capital funds’ £5.12M).

Alongside these giant deals, corporates are also involved in much smaller deals; indeed, this investor type showed the largest range of deal sizes in 2018. For example, CogBooks, a company who develops an online adaptive learning platform, held a £90k round partly backed by DC Thomson Ventures.  UK Steel Enterprise also backed a £100k round held by Micropore Technologies, who are intending to take their membrane emulsification process through from laboratory to full-scale manufacture.

Private equity and venture capital – £7.52m

While the average deal size of Private Equity and Venture Capital firms is just 56% of that of Corporate investors, it is significantly larger than the cross-investor average of £4.85m. This above-average deal size is probably a reflection of the prolific activity of these investors; few equity deals occur in the UK without a PE or VC firm’s involvement.  Since 2011, 10.7% of deals worth less than £100k were backed by PE or VC firms, while 67.6% of deals totally £5m-£10m had backing from these investors. The larger the deal, the more likely one of these investor types will throw their hat into the ring.

University – £4.84m

University investors support their spinout businesses during their early stages of development by supplying smaller slices of equity investment. Hence, the average deal size is 64% of the average for Private Equity and Venture Capital funds. A typical deal in 2018 may look like that secured by QKine; the company had a capital injection of £550k from the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund and business angels, to help further their development of treatments that stimulate regenerative cell growth.

However, there are high costs involved in developing cutting-edge intellectual property and commercialising it. Many spinouts are pharmaceutical companies, which have very high upfront costs associated with product development and licensing. To bring in the financial fuel necessary for these activities, University funds often co-invest alongside other investors such as Private Equity firms, as these institutional investors can commit larger chunks of capital. Spinouts saw a large number of large deals in 2018, and this is reflected in the average deal size for University funds. For example, Freeline Therapeutics, a company that  develops and commercialises gene therapies to treat or prevent diseases related to bleeding disorders, secured £88.4m in equity from Syncona Partners and the UCL Technology Fund. These large investments can skew the average deal size of the University funds that also backed these deals.

Central government – £2.02m
Devolved government – £1.05m

Central and Devolved Government investments tend to focus on small- to medium-sized companies within their specified regions, and this is reflected in their smaller average deal sizes. Equity investment is only one aspect of varied support that government bodies provide to small ambitious companies. Grants are also a key funding source for growing companies,  and an important aspect of the government’s strategy for encouraging enterprise across the UK. The overlap of these different funding strategies and resources is demonstrated by the fact that 39% of the equity deals made by devolved government funds in 2018 were into companies that have also secured a large innovation grant.

Angel network – £1.13m

As angel networks aggregate the private wealth of individuals,  the deals led by these syndicates do not reach the heady sizes of corporate funds or private equity houses. These smaller injections of capital make angel networks and investors an important source of capital for early stage companies. However, the £1.13m average hides a wide range of deal sizes that have had the backing of angel networks, from £20k funding rounds (such as Dymag’s funding round backed by Envestors) to a £6.16m deal (secured by Cloudhouse, within which 24Haymarket contributed £292k.)

When investing in these smaller deals, Angel networks can benefit from EIS and SEIS tax relief schemes, which are only applicable to investments made into companies that have raised less than £12m and £150k, respectively. These initiatives works to mitigate some of risk that comes with investing in early stage companies. Read a recent blog post of ours that describes the state of the EIS and SEIS investment market here.

Crowd funding – £975k

Crowd funding platforms are vital small capital providers in the high-growth ecosystem. The extensive flexibility they provide to companies, allowing them to raise as much as they need, from either a small number or potentially thousands of individual investors, means that crowd funds can support much smaller funding rounds than other investors, who make deals and commit capital on behalf of large institutions. The average deal size backed by crowd funding platforms has been climbing; from £546k in 2016 and £866k in 2017 to £975k in 2018. But for now, they supply the small, but far from insignificant, chunks of investment for companies at their earliest and most vulnerable stages.

Stage of Evolution

Closely related to the average size of an investor type’s funding round, is the stage of evolution of the investee company at the deal date. The investor type with the highest proportion of seed-stage deals were University funds, followed by Crowd funding platforms. University investments are primarily funnelled into their respective spin-out companies whilst in their early stages (83% of investments made by university funds were into spinouts in 2018). This financial support facilitates the commercialisation of pioneering intellectual property, which includes demonstrating a proof of concept, as well as building a company brand.

For non-spinout companies, this initial support has to come from alternative sources. Crowd funding platforms and angel networks can step in here, supplying smaller chunks of equity investment for companies at their earliest stages. Angel networks sometimes provide mentorship and guidance to their portfolio companies, especially if individual angels are in the same or adjacent industries. In this way, they can provide crucial non-financial support to young companies that commercialisation and technology transfer offices deliver at academic institutions.

Government bodies and Angel Networks have made the largest proportion of deals investing into Venture stage companies. These companies are those that have established a revenue stream, have gained regulatory approval for their business idea, and have begun to raise capital into the millions.  This stage of evolution is in fact the most popular stage for all investor types, except crowd funding and university funds. Venture stage companies combine the excitement and innovation of a new business idea, as well as the potential for huge returns on investment, with reduced risk when compared to seed stage businesses.

Corporate investors make most of their deals into either Venture or Growth stage businesses, while Private Equity and Venture Capital firms had the largest share of investments made into Established companies.  Established companies are likely to have multiple (often worldwide) offices, be a household name, and have a lot of traction; these characteristics makes their future growth more reliable and, consequentially, any ROI on investment. Companies in the later stages of development can make great use of equity investment, often holding a lot of potential for further growth and return on investment; yet, only 24% of Established companies have utilised this form of financial support.  While Established-stage companies secured the smallest number of publicly announced equity deals (93) in 2018, these deals averaged the second largest in amount raised (avg. £12.4m), after funding rounds held by Growth stage companies (avg. £17.2m). This data suggests that there could be opportunity for equity investors to further fuel renewed growth and success of Britain’s more mature companies.

The latest EIS stats: what a relief

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is a tax relief programme designed to encourage individual investors to support small, high-risk companies. Today, HMRC released their latest statistics on companies raising funds using this scheme. Working with our friends at Newable, we’ve taken a closer look at how EIS fits into the wider funding landscape for ambitious companies in the UK.

Looking at the figures for the amount raised by using EIS alone paints a gloomy picture for the UK’s early-stage businesses. Investment peaked in 2015-16 with £1.98B raised through EIS; in 2017-18 this fell to £1.93B.

amount invested into ambitious uk companies

chart showing the percentage of fundraisings in the UK that are made under EIS

But EIS represents its smallest ever proportion of the funds raised by the UK’s growing private companies. In 2011-12, 46% of equity investment into the UK’s private businesses was EIS investment – by 2017-18 that had fallen to 16%. But private businesses raised more than ever before: £12.3B.

This is because there’s a wider and deeper pool of investment available to the UK’s ambitious companies. UK businesses are increasingly attracting investment from overseas investors and funds, who can’t take advantage of EIS relief. Moreover, investors are contributing volumes of investment that immediately exceed EIS allowances.

The amount of capital available to businesses outside the Enterprise Investment Scheme is a great thing and a testament to the appeal of UK businesses to a wide range of investors. EIS is instrumental in supporting those businesses that go on to raise these megarounds.

 

Chris Manson, CEO of Newable, notes that the decrease in the proportion of funds raised with EIS also shows a more troubling trend.

“British tech entrepreneurs are acknowledged as being amongst the world leaders in AI, Med Tech and Space enabled businesses. It is no surprise that they attract capital from overseas investors.

However, EIS is an excellent way for British private investors to support British companies. From an investor’s point of view, putting capital into EIS-accredited companies can be both exciting and highly rewarding. For the patient investor, returns have the potential to far exceed traditional quoted stocks whilst EIS mitigates some of the down side risk.

The Enterprise Investment Scheme is the envy of the world and funds like Newable’s EIS Evergreen Tech Fund are available as a vehicle to access these excellent British businesses.”

Indeed, although a record number of companies raised funds using EIS in 2017-18, the number of new businesses raising through EIS has been falling since 2014-15. This tallies with our analysis that has shown seed-stage deal numbers falling dramatically, as individual investors appear to be avoiding this riskiest of asset classes. Even with lucrative EIS and SEIS incentives, investors are holding back. We hope that a resolution to the political and economic uncertainty the UK has been experiencing – whenever it might come – will put these investors back into overdrive. We’ll be watching closely.

Originally posted on about.beauhurst.com/blog/what-percentage-of-deals-are-made-under-eis/

The competitive hiring advantages of small businesses

Advantage #1: Bigger individual impact
Show off how much their contribution will matter

While being part of a large company can be exciting, it’s hard to look at a business outcome and say, “Yes, I did that.” At small companies, employees can easily identify their personal impact. This is a point of pride for many and a significant advantage you can tout when talking to prospective candidates.

If your small business has a strong mission, use it to entice employees, no matter what you do. Company missions that go beyond selling a product or service resonate with candidates and give employees a sense of pride in their work.

Pro tip:

• Emphasize your company’s mission throughout the hiring process. Mention any charitable benefits you offer, which could include paid time off for volunteering, a sponsored run, or a silent auction.

• Give candidates a clear picture of what they can personally accomplish at every stage of the hiring process. Make it clear that they will be a valued team member driving meaningful change.

How you can work with your energy provider to boost your reputation

There’s a growing recognition among businesses that ‘being responsible’ can set them apart from the competition and help improve their reputations. It can make them more attractive to customers, procurers, suppliers and investors as well as existing, and potential, employees.

What do we mean by ‘responsible’? A key part of it is respecting the environment by taking steps such as reducing the carbon footprint and find more eco-friendly ways of doing business. But it goes further than that: it’s about operating sustainably in the broadest possible sense – making a real contribution to society. In short, it’s about giving your business strong foundations and ensuring you’re in a position to grow your values in line with your business.

Research backs this up. More than a quarter of those who responded to Ethical Consumer’s 2018 YouGov survey stated that they had avoided buying a product or using a service due to its negative environmental impact in the past year – an increase of 65% since 2016. Operating sustainably is becoming not just a ‘nice to have’, but a key reputational pillar and something consumers are increasingly looking for in their purchases.

Being responsible can have a direct impact on your reputation and increasingly, on your bottom line, as customers look for businesses whose values align with their own.

SSE: doing the right thing by our customers

At SSE Business Energy, we work hard to make sure we remain true to our own principles. We’ve put measures in place to ensure we add value and contribute positively to society at every turn. We care deeply about our impact on the environment: SSE as an organisation has spent over £3.5 billion on renewables since 2010 and we have the broadest portfolio of renewable energy-generating assets in the UK and Ireland (read more about our renewable energy solutions on the SSE Business Energy website).

It’s not just about energy. We pay our fair share of tax and on time – we’re proud to be the first FTSE100 company accredited with the Fair Tax Mark. We also value our people: we pay all direct employees the real Living Wage and invest heavily in their training and development.

And we’ve also put tools and resources in place to help other businesses boost their reputation.

Go green

Customers increasingly expect businesses to support social and environmental issues. One way to meet this demand is to have renewable energy credentials. You can do this through selecting a tariff that’s made up of renewably sourced energy.

Take SSE Green. This is our 100% renewable electricity tariff, which is fully backed by Renewable Electricity Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) and independently verified by EcoAct, a CDP Accredited Provider and world leading advisor of carbon and energy management and sustainability services.

This means you can be confident that the electricity your business has purchased – matched to your consumption from the grid – is renewably sourced and can be reported with zero carbon emissions under the GHG Protocol market-based method.

Business benefits from green

SSE Green also brings some wider reputational benefits that will help to set your business apart from the competition. We provide you with a specially designed certificate and logo, which you can use on sales collateral and new business proposals to show off your sustainability credentials. You can also use the SSE Green logo on letter heads, email footers or even as a window sticker, demonstrating your commitment to sustainability to customers and your team alike.

Energy efficiency

Another way to show you’re serious about reducing your impact on the environment is to assess how energy efficient you are and to take steps to improve it – this will also help save you money.

Businesses with an effective energy efficiency strategy in place are currently in the minority – a survey by Carbon Credentials found that less than half have adopted even the most basic sustainability measures, such as using recycling bins – so this is an area where you can quickly reap the reputational benefits. To help you do this, we have a range of tools available on our website, including a checklist to help you assess your business’s current energy efficiency and quick wins you can put in place immediately to help reduce your carbon footprint.

Keeping your employees engaged with the energy efficiency process can result in longer lasting, more impactful changes, so we’ve also included advice on how to get employee buy-in.

Pinpointing ways to reduce your energy usage will also help you get into the mindset of cutting down on wasteful practices – a sure-fire way of becoming more sustainable and reputable.

Get the Fair Tax Mark

We can also help you build your reputation in other ways. Paying taxes on time and fairly – and being seen to do this – indicates a responsible business. You can demonstrate you’re doing this by becoming a Fair Tax Mark accredited business; this is an independent stamp of approval that proactively shows you pay the right amount of tax, in the right place, at the right time.

To make it easier for you to do this, we’ve teamed up with Fair Tax Mark, following our own accreditation with them, and developed an interactive assessment for businesses. We ask them questions about their current tax practices and from this, help them assess whether there’s value in them becoming Fair Tax Mark accredited too and advise them of the next steps.

Be a Living Wage employer

Additionally, you can become a Living Wage employer. This can have a real, lasting impact on the public perception of a business: 86% of those who have taken the plunge said it enhanced their general reputation, according to research by the Living Wage Foundation.

As a proud Living Wage employer ourselves, we’ve included resources on our website to help you implement a real Living Wage.

Why not follow these steps today and boost your business reputation?

Find out more about how we can work with you to build your reputation and help you become more sustainable by visiting ssebusinessenergy.co.uk.

Euromonitor – new office in Düsseldorf

The British company Euromonitor International, a specialist in the field of strategic market analysis with headquarters in London, opened its new European Regional Office for Germany and Austria in Düsseldorf on 6 June.

This is only the second office on the European continent for the global operator after opening its first office in Vilnius, Lithuania. Düsseldorf was able to hold its ground against the competing cities of Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Geneva. Thirty-five jobs are currently being created in the Düsseldorf office with plans to increase to 50 in the long term. Düsseldorf’s Office of Economic Development was pleased to be able to assist the company in establishing its presence in the city.

Euromonitor produces internationally comparable statistics on a large number of consumer goods, services and industrial markets. The company provides its customers with data on the development of market and product sales or consumer trends to help them make strategic business decisions.

Euromonitor ultimately opted for Düsseldorf because of the large market potential in North Rhine-Westphalia, the proximity to customers and the central location with fast connections to destinations throughout Germany and Europe. “With our new office, we want to build closer relationships with our customers in the German-speaking countries. Already one third of our turnover in Germany is generated from customers based in North Rhine-Westphalia – from here, Euromonitor has excellent opportunities for further growth,” explained William Henderson, Head of Sales and General Manager Germany at Euromonitor International.

www.euromonitor.com

Accommodation Deal for Festival of Enterprise Exhibitors and Visitors

Make the most of your visit to the Festival of Enterprise and stop over in comfort at the Ramada Solihull.

‘Signature Sales Support & Representation’ are delighted to have negotiated a very special rate for exhibitors and visitors at partner hotel, the Ramada Solihull.

The four-star hotel is located minutes’ drive away from the NEC in Solihull town centre and benefits from free on-site parking.  The perfect setting to relax after the show with on site dinner options including dining in the award winning, Jiyaan Indian restaurant, George’s Grill House or casual dining in George’s Pub.  If that wasn’t enough of a choice, the hotel is located on the town centre within easy walking distance of the many shops, restaurants and bars.

The exclusive rate is just £102 Bed and Full English Breakfast, per room, per night and is valid for 22nd and 23rd October.

To book, simply call 0121 711 2121 or email reservations@ramadasolihullhotel.co.uk and quote ‘Festival of Enterprise’

http://www.ramadasolihullhotel.co.uk/

Top tips to help save energy in your business

Putting firm foundations in place is key for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to scale up sustainably. Taking control of energy management is part of this, and SSE Business Energy can help.

 

You can take simple steps to improve your business’s energy efficiency, as well as taking advantage of energy management tools like Clarity which is free for SSE Business Energy customers. Eunice Mabey, Energy Optimisation Director at SSE Enterprise Energy Solutions, suggests some practical actions.

 

Switch off lights
It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep lights switched off when they’re not in use. Don’t walk by if you see a room or corridor that is unoccupied or has enough natural daylight.

 

Bathroom leaks
If you spot a dripping tap, urinal or toilet, get it fixed or report it to your facilities manager or landlord as soon as you can.

 

Small power
Switch off electrical appliances like computers, printers, projectors and phone chargers at the end of each day. If you switch these on first thing in the morning, they should be up and running in the time it takes for you to make a cup of tea.

 

Windows
Use windows for natural ventilation rather than air-conditioning units. You can also use internal or external shades to stop glare and excess heat on a sunny day.

 

Thermostats
Use the thermostatic radiator valves (TVRs) to adjust the temperature, rather than opening a window when the heating is on.

 

Kettles
Only boil what you need. If you have a point of use hot water tap, check to see if there is a timer so it can be switched off overnight. If there isn’t a timer, see if a timer plug can be used.

 

Car parking lighting
If the car parking lighting is on when there is enough daylight, check the settings or inform your facilities manager or landlord.

 

Move desks
It’s hard to keep everyone at the right temperature. See if swapping desks could help: could employees who like it cooler sit closer to the air conditioning unit or window and those who like it warmer sit closer to the radiators? Also, don’t forget to dress for the weather – so wear jumpers in the winter rather than ramping the heating up.

 

Energy champion
Designate an energy champion, and as you scale up, set up an internal group to help cascade messages on energy efficiency and collate ideas from colleagues. Create posters and competitions as well as joining in national and global events, such as Big Energy Saving Week.

 

Take these steps today and help make your business energy efficient.

 

You can find more electricity and gas solutions to support your business growth in a responsible way at ssebusinessenergy.co.uk.

How behavioural change can boost your business’s energy efficiency

Energy efficiency has never been more of a priority for many entrepreneurs and small business owners we talk to at SSE Business Energy, as they scale up to operate in net zero emissions UK. One way of becoming more energy efficient is to encourage your team to take action.

The benefits are clear. Carbon Trust estimates that even small behavioural changes can reduce energy costs in a business by at least 10%, while a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report revealed behaviour change is the fourth most popular energy efficiency uptake. So businesses are starting to recognise the importance of individual actions.

But to do this, you must be able to clearly communicate the advantages of energy efficiency to your employees and ensure they understand its importance. SSE Business Energy speaks to Eunice Mabey, Energy Optimisation Director at SSE Enterprise Energy Solutions, to find out how to empower your employees and bring them with you on your energy efficiency journey.

Stick to an energy strategy

Eunice’s first piece of advice is to make an energy strategy and communicate it to your team (you can find out more about creating an energy strategy on the SSE Business Energy website).

If adhered to, an energy strategy can be transformative and setting this out can help those working in the business understand their part in saving energy. It is very important that your employees know your energy needs if you are to make tangible savings.

What should a strategy consider? “No matter how complicated your energy needs are, at its core, your energy strategy should help you and your team measure, monitor and control your energy usage,” says Eunice.

Get employee buy-in

To make any in-roads into energy efficiency, it’s crucial you take your employees with you and help them understand why and how your business needs to improve.

We asked Eunice what the key steps to implementing a successful strategy were.

“Awareness, Awareness, Awareness,” she says. “Employees need to know what, why and when, as far as saving energy is concerned. There are a number of initiatives that can help: designating energy champions and running awareness campaigns, as well as supporting external energy events such as Earth Hour and Energy Saving Week. Getting your messaging right is crucial: make sure you’re reiterating the need for energy savings at meetings and via email and giving your team practical examples that are easy to do, such as only boiling the amount of water actually needed for a cup of tea.

“Making energy more tangible can also work well as a strategy,” according to Eunice. “One way of doing this is to let employees know how much it costs to run the office but in a way that is meaningful to them. For example, explaining that lighting a typical office overnight wastes enough energy to heat water for 1,000 cups of tea is going to strike more of a chord than telling them how many kWhs it’s using.”

Eunice also recommends running energy saving workshops: “These can be a useful educational tool and a great way of sparking interest. In a workshop, you might ask your team what they think they could do to help reduce energy consumption and, if they are successful, what they would like to put the savings towards.”

“Whatever you do though, make sure you regularly communicate how seemingly small actions have impacted on the bottom line, and how that’s going to benefit them,” advises Eunice. “Has it freed up some cash for bonuses, or extra training maybe? Has it reduced your business’s carbon footprint? It’s important that each member of the team knows how their contributions are making the business more energy efficient.”

Look for quick wins

Assess what you and your employees can be doing now to help reduce energy usage. This is most easily done by starting with the low-hanging fruit.

As a simple starting point, Eunice recommends turning appliances off if they’re not required.

“Encouraging your employees, for instance, to turn off their PCs when they’re not using them, could save around £35 per year per machine. If you multiply this by the number of computers in your office, this could translate into sizeable savings,” she says.

“There are often easy steps an employee can take on their own to reduce energy usage and this can help them feel like they have a real stake in the business,” she adds. “Equally, could anyone swap places with anyone else? Someone who feels the cold might work better being placed by a radiator, while someone who doesn’t might prefer to be near a window.

“These quick wins can also have longer reaching effects. Seeing the impact these very easy actions have on the business’s bottom line can help open discussions about further energy optimisation solutions.”

Use Clarity and other energy efficiency tools

Taking the above steps are invaluable. But to really demonstrate their impact, you need to be able to measure the success.

SSE Business Energy customers can also make use of the tools at their disposal to get a head start, including Clarity, the free online energy management tool available to all customers.

Eunice also recommends using our seven steps to energy efficiency alongside these, while Carbon Trust has some useful crib sheets. “These can help you make sure there is an energy policy and energy awareness throughout the business, even setting out how to include this as a defined role as you scale up – another way of helping your employees feel directly involved in the process.”

To find out more about how to develop an energy strategy, download a copy of our energy saving guide.

SSE Business Energy’s electricity and gas solutions can help your business grow in a sustainable way. For details, visit ssebusinessenergy.co.uk.

Failing to shop around for better deposit rates to cost UK SMEs £4bn in lost interest next year

UK small and medium-sized businesses are set to miss out on a whopping £4 billion in interest in their next 12 months because their cash reserves are languishing in low-interest accounts, a new study reveals.

A major new report from CEBR, the Centre for Economic & Business Research, reveals SMEs are missing out on billions of pounds every year by not shopping around for a better rate for their excess cash – the reserves not required for the day to day running of the business.

The extra £4 billion which businesses could earn if they moved their money to a better deposit account would be enough to fund for a year the salaries of more than 104,000 extra workers on the UK average annual salary of £29,588.

With SMEs currently holding an estimated £199 billion in instant-access accounts and receiving an average rate of 0.41%, they are on track to earn £578 million in interest in the coming year

However, if they were to switch to a market leading instant-access rate of 1.40%, they would earn £2.8  billion in total in the next year; £2.2 billion more than they are currently expected to earn.

Further, UK SMEs currently hold an estimated £140 billion in fixed-rate deposit accounts earning on average 0.85%, meaning they are expected to earn £1.2 billion in the next 12 months.

But if SMEs instead switched to the market-leading 2.1% one-year fixed rate, they would collectively earn £2.9 billion in interest in the coming 12 months; £1.7 billion more than they would have otherwise.

It means, in total, firms are expected to miss out on £4.0 billion in interest in the next year because their money is languishing in low-rate deposit accounts.

 

Bank of England and UK Finance data show that UK SMEs have increased their cash balances from £191 billion to £339 billion between 2011 and 2019, and the YouGov survey which forms part of the CEBR study confirms that nearly a third (29%) have increased their cash reserves over the last 3 years because of Brexit uncertainty.

The YouGov survey of over 500 UK SMEs, also reveals that the greatest barrier to getting a better rate on their cash deposits is the hassle associated with opening new accounts. More than a third (39%) of businesses surveyed said this was a reason for not switching their money,

Andrew Thatcher, Co-Founder and Co-Managing Partner of Flagstone said, “This study shows that savings apathy does not just affect individual savers, but also the nation’s businesses too. Each year SMEs are missing out on billions of pounds of interest because they are finding the process of researching and opening new accounts prohibitively complex and time consuming.

 

“Firms that forego this extra cash could be missing out on the chance to grow their business by hiring extra staff or investing in productivity improvements. This may also be damaging to the UK economy; the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance having stated in its paper, ‘Unlocking SME productivity’, that SMEs account for 99.9% of all UK private sector businesses and 60% of all private sector employment.

“The solution a platform like Flagstone provides is that it removes many of the barriers to switching, such as the longwinded application process. Instead it enables individuals, SMEs and Charities to choose from hundreds of cash deposits and benefit from market-leading and exclusive rates through a single application.”

To find out more, go to https://flagstoneim.com, watch our short video, email us at mailto:info@flagstoneim.com or call us on 0203 745 8139.

 

About Flagstone

Flagstone is an FCA authorised and regulated fintech company (FCA reference numbers 676754 and 605504) located in London and founded in 2013. Flagstone’s online cash deposit platform enables companies, charities and individuals to earn more interest and reduce risk through diversification. Completion of a single application gives clients access to over 550 deposit accounts from 38 different banks and enables them to research and open accounts in just a matter of keystrokes. The platform puts clients in control of their cash, giving them access to market-leading and exclusive rates from a growing panel of UK banks, consolidated reporting and regular new rate alerts to ensure that their cash is working as hard as possible for them 24/7. For more information, see www.flagstoneim.com or watch a short film explaining what we do and how it benefits clients by clicking here.

All of the UK banks on the Flagstone platform are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the PRA. Deposits placed with any of these banks via the Flagstone platform are afforded exactly the same Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection (i.e. £85,000 per individual depositor per authorised institution) as if the client placed the deposit directly with the bank. 

5 top tips to create a coaching culture

As The Institute of Leadership & Management launches Coaching Conversations – a product to help anyone who coaches as part of their role improve their coaching capability – Kate Cooper, Head of Research, Policy & Standards at The Institute shares her insight into how to create a coaching culture.

Coaching is an increasingly popular way for organisations to develop their people, it’s no longer just for over-stretched senior executives.  Coaching offers a systematic approach to help people to set and work towards goals, take greater responsibility for their actions, communicate more effectively, work better with others and derive higher satisfaction from their work. At an organisational level, coaching also contributes to a culture that is defined by active listening, constructive questioning, individual empowerment, the building of rapport, and an emphasis on holding real two-way conversations.

In new research published by The Institute of Leadership & Management, ‘Don’t tell; Coach’ we surveyed more than 1000 line managers and staff asking them whether they, or they managers used coaching approaches. The message that emerged is that there was a clear difference in opinion between managers and managed staff as to whether managers use coaching approaches. The research underlined that managers have a high sense of awareness of the importance of coaching their staff; they want to believe that they are taking a coaching approach to developing their people. The fact that managers understand the importance of coaching their staff is encouraging, given that people’s expectations around development continue to evolve as new generations enter the workplace.

In our 2011 research into Generation Y, undertaken in conjunction with Ashridge Executive Education, Hult, we established that managed staff no longer expect a manager to have all the answers, to tell them what to do, and to give them feedback on how well or otherwise they have met the targets that have been set for them. They want to assist in creating their targets, defining their own stretch goals and know that their contribution to the work of the organisation has meaning.

This research reinforced what those of us who manage staff are no doubt already aware; people have greater expectations of their managers in terms of their own development, they expect their managers to support them in their career ambitions. They also want to bring more of themselves to work, to use their initiative, and to take ownership of their own learning and growth.  Managers who coach have a big role to play in helping people to realise these expectations.

In future, good leadership and management will increasingly be defined by the adoption of coaching approaches.

Five ways to create a coaching culture

  1. Call it !Make it ok to challenge. When an individual is spoken to by a colleague or manager in a manner that seems autocratic, directive or patronising, it must be ok for that person, or another colleague,  to point it out and ask for the request to be repeated in more of a coaching-type style. This doesn’t have to be confrontational, if there is a widely communicated expectation that coaching approaches are used being able to talk freely about what that means in everyday interactions is vital.
  2. Identify a simple coaching model.  Coaches use many different models to support their work but for those new to coaching, a simple framework, such as OSKAR, GROW, TGROW, CLEAR helps to make sure that everyone in the workplace is familiar with the approach and there is a shared understanding of the language used.
  3. Acknowledge, celebrate and reward questions rather than answers.  Great coaches ask brilliant questions. Arriving at an answer or solution too soon shuts down alternatives. Constructive questioning helps us all consider the assumptions we make and reminds us to be open to ‘different’
  4. Encourage conversation rather than electronic communication. It is hard to coach by email, conversation is a powerful way to communicate.
  5. Appreciate that there are differences in how receptive people are to coaching approaches. Not everyone will embrace the responsibility that coaching approaches entail, some people need more persuading, convincing and time to embrace this different style of management.

Find out more about how The Institute of Leadership & Management can help you develop your coaching capability using Coaching Conversations – a unique, practical assessment of your real-life coaching approach at work – here.

Five solutions to help you save money on your energy bill

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are keen to cut costs and spend less money on the things they can control. As energy can be a relatively large overhead for many businesses, assessing and making small tweaks to the way you use it could translate into large savings. Whatever the size of your business, there’s a range of ways you can save money on your energy.

Monitor your energy use with smart meters

New technologies are opening up opportunities for you to monitor the energy your business uses. SSE Business Energy offers different metering options depending on the size of your business. It also means an end to estimated bills as there’s no need to submit your meter readings, which can improve cashflow by reducing the possibility of catch-up bills.

Get Clarity

SSE Business Energy customers can also get free access to Clarity, our online energy management tool. Clarity works alongside smart meters by taking your energy data and interpreting it into a meaningful picture of when and how you use energy – helping you identify areas where you could cut your consumption and save money.

Download our energy efficiency toolkit

Improving your business’s energy efficiency can save you money – even small adjustments such as switching off computer monitors when they’re not being used can translate into considerable savings. To help businesses do this, we’ve developed a free energy efficiency toolkit, which is available on the SSE Business Energy website.

This includes useful resources like a checklist to help you assess your business’s current energy efficiency, simple steps you can take to start saving money immediately and advice on how to keep your employees engaged with the energy efficiency process.

Arrange an energy audit

You could also make further savings by arranging for a professional energy audit. As part of this, your assessor will look closely at every aspect of your energy consumption and come up with some specific solutions to help your business reduce its energy usage and cut carbon emissions.

Cut your energy usage

It may sound obvious, but another simple way to save money is to reduce the amount of energy you use. At its most basic, this will mean taking steps like switching off lights when they’re not being used, but by shifting your usage to a less busy time, you can also significantly reduce the amount of energy you use. For instance, could you arrange for your office cleaners to come in the morning rather than in the evening? The natural light means they’ll be less likely to need to turn lights on and there’s the added benefit that energy is often cheaper before 7.30am, as you’ll still be using your night tariff.

Whether you’re a start-up or a scale-up, follow SSE Business Energy’s advice today and start making savings.

For more information on any of the products or services mentioned in this piece, visit ssebusinessenergy.co.uk.

Top 10 metrics for the data-driven recruiter

In order to identify roadblocks, gaps, and opportunities in your talent acquisition strategy, it’s important to know how to tap into the power of recruiting metrics.

But which one will yield the greatest insights? We’ve narrowed down the top 10 metrics you need to measure to improve effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of hire that will have both execs and hiring managers singing your praises.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What to measure (and why)
  • Ways to turn data into actionable recruiting intelligence
  • How your efforts stack up against broader industry benchmarks

To download the guide, click here.

Lessons From ASOS: The Importance Of Choosing The Right Solutions Partner For Your Business

In a month that saw mixed reports regarding the current state of the UK retail market, one trader that has come under the spotlight in recent weeks is fashion giant, ASOS.

Following a period of sustained growth in recent years, last December ASOS first issued a profit warning to investors that figures were expected to be lower than predicted. Now the apparel retailer has said they’re expecting profits of £30-£35m this year, up to 46% below their initial £55m forecast. This forecast has left investors less than impressed, with the company losing 60% of its value since the first profit alert in December.

But what exactly has caused ASOS’ recent plight, after such long sustained periods of growth? Well according to ASOS themselves the problems are in fact self-inflicted, originating from a series of operational issues in their warehouses and distribution. This shows that even sometimes the big companies can get it wrong, and it is important that other businesses look at where it has gone wrong for ASOS and learn from it.

So, for this month’s feature, we decided to breakdown where exactly it went wrong for ASOS, and the three major lessons that businesses should take away from their mistakes.

ASOS Logo

1. Don’t let new processes disrupt your existing ones

Whilst pushing for international expansion, ASOS have invested £700m in improving their warehouse operations over the last four years. Some of this investment has recently gone towards changes at their warehouse in Berlin, switching over from dated manual order processing to a more modern, automated approach. However, a move that was supposed to facilitate growth in the long term has caused recent stagnation in their EU sales. Operational failings caused by the ongoing roll-out of new software have meant EU sales are down 5% over the last four months, with the unaffected UK market up 16% by comparison.

On the issues, ASOS chief executive Nick Beighton said: “The major overhaul of our infrastructure has been bumpier and taken a lot longer than originally anticipated. We acknowledge that this is a failure in execution.”

This highlights the first major lesson, which is not to let the implementation of new systems and processes disrupt your current day-to-day.

As a long-term strategy, a move to a more automated way of working is the right move for ASOS so they can meet growing demand and keep up with competitors. However greater automation is designed to increase operational accuracy and efficiency, so it is important to have a plan that facilitates a smooth transition and carefully avoids any immediate pitfalls. Without this, you may find like ASOS that your order fulfilment and returns operations suffer as a result, causing a negative impact on sales growth in the short term.

Therefore, if you are looking to switch software systems, make sure you fully understand the process that you’re automating and ensure you test run everything beforehand. You also need to make sure you allow an adequate amount of time for staff, so that your warehouse operatives can get to grips with your new system before going live.

By understanding each operational touchpoint that will be affected by the change, you can be sure that it will positively impact on your day-to-day operations without any negative knock-on effects.

2. Accurate stock control is the cornerstone of your business – you need to get it right

However, it wasn’t just in Europe that ASOS experienced teething issues, but also in the United States. Back in February this year, ASOS opened their new Atlanta warehouse and since then, the company has struggled with stock shortages. With the Atlanta site importing a lot of their goods from overseas, it seems that the company hasn’t been able to get products into the US fast enough to meet sales demand. Beighton has said:

“These issues have restricted product choice and availability for our customers in the US and Europe, which has a corresponding impact on sales growth in these regions, as well as profitability in the form of higher transitional costs to fix the issue.”

In response to this, Russ Mould, Investment Director at AJ Bell, has said: “We live in an impatient world where so many people want something in an instant. If ASOS doesn’t have the stock ready to ship then consumers will simply go elsewhere.”

This damning statement underlines an absolute essential for any business operating today – good, accurate stock control.

Shipping Container

Stock control is at the very heart of all your business operations, ultimately determining how much you can sell, how quickly you can get those orders out the door and how fast you can grow. With this being the case, it is so crucial that businesses get this right, ensuring they have the tools that tell them exactly what products they need to buy and to where suppliers need to ship them.

If like ASOS you are importing goods from overseas, how long does it take you to get hold of that stock? There are intelligent stock control systems now that will consider these supplier lead times, and factor this in when forecasting your stock needs. This helps to ensure that you don’t find yourself short of supply, especially during peak seasons.

Computer Frustration

However, ASOS’ issues also highlight another important aspect of accurate stock control – the link to sales channels. Stock shortages can often be caused by integration issues, with those using multiple software solutions for sales and purchasing finding that data is simply not shared seamlessly enough between the two departments. This leads to more sales opportunities being missed and warehouses being left filled with unsold stock.

Therefore, businesses need to find a purchasing system that can draw on current stock levels and sales demand, as well as historical usage data for more accurate forecasting. Through using this wealth of information, your business can gain better control over the stock that you require in each location. This will not only help you to avoid stock shortage issues like those experienced by ASOS, but also enable you to capitalise on any potential sales opportunities as they are presented.

3. Make sure you have the right people for the job

Undertaking a new software implementation is a daunting task for any business, and the fact a company the size of ASOS have hit obstacles along the way shows that even companies with considerable resource can suffer without the support of the right people. For projects such as this, you need experts on the job, people who have experience in implementing new systems and know the best way to go about it.

Unsurprisingly, investors were quick to point the blame at ASOS management considering the news of their falling profitability, concluding they didn’t have the right senior leaders to undertake the project. However, if they had utilised software experts during the implementation, they might have been able to predict and prevent some of the bigger issues from happening. This brings to light the final lesson from ASOS’ recent troubles – using the knowledge and experience of your software supplier.

When choosing a software solution, your business is effectively choosing a long-term strategic partner for your business. So, as well as determining whether the software itself will be able to support your operations going forward, you also need to look at the company behind the software. Do they have the staff resources to help you through the implementation? Can they advise on best practice so that you can experience more benefits from the software? Will their software and services evolve as your business does? These are the questions you should be asking.

Knowledge and experience

Through finding the right solutions partner for your business and utilising their knowledge and expertise, management can offload the stress of implementation and instead remain focussed on running day-to-day operations. As you grow, you will also have support if any further improvements need to be made down the line.

New software can help your business grow – but only if you learn from ASOS’ mistakes

So, in conclusion, there is a lot to be gained from ASOS’ experience implementing a new system. Firstly, businesses do need to begin automating their processes if they haven’t already, however this shouldn’t come at the expense of lost sales and downward profitability. Therefore, to make sure any transition from manual to automated processes runs smoothly, businesses should ensure they have the right stock control software for the job, have minimised the risks of any switch to a new system and have the support of experts when needed. By taking these lessons onboard and not making the same mistakes as ASOS, businesses can start off on the right foot when they begin their journey towards growth.

If you are looking to improve your existing processes and are interested in seeing how our OrderWise software can help, give us a call on 01522 704083.

Fuelling an entrepreneurs fire

Ready Steady Grow! is a series of regional events organised by the Enterprise Investment Scheme Association (EISA). Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy. That’s why we believe the role of the Enterprise Investment Scheme in facilitating investment from private individuals to small businesses is so important – and why EISA and its members are dedicated to supporting UK Government, businesses and investors in ensuring the Scheme continues to deliver growth to the economy. EISA supports and promotes policies and initiatives that facilitate the smooth flow of risk equity capital from private individuals to smaller companies thereby benefitting the UK economy

These industry-renowned events bring together small businesses, investors, funders, entrepreneurs and business advisers – all in one place at one time to hear expert opinion from SME industry experts. Get booked in to attend one of these events now!

Why should I attend?

If you are an Entrepreneur looking to start a business, or access funding to take your business to its next level….

You will discover more about all of the external funding options, support and expertise available to help you get yourself funded, grow and become more successful.

If you are an Investor (including Angel Investors, professional investors, financial planners and private investors)…

You will learn about the options available for investing in small businesses and how to confidently invest in the ‘Next Big Thing’.

If you offer Professional Services, including accountancy, law, tax advice and business consultancy…

You will get access to small businesses operating in your area and discover new ways to help them develop and grow.

About Ready Steady Grow!

Through practical seminars, Q&As, panel discussions and networking, we review a wide range of funding options, including the government-backed Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).

We will explore:

  • The funding challenges facing small businesses – A panel of entrepreneurs and industry experts will discuss topical issues including the impact of Brexit on SMEs, SME funding and how to overcome obstacles to growth.
  • How to make yourself ‘Investor Ready’ – Learn the secrets of making yourself desirable to
  • investors, as told by successful small businesses and their investors, who will share their stories and experiences. Ask them – and finance experts – questions that will help you in your quest for investment.
  • How funding options such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme, Venture Debt, R&D tax credits and Government funding can support companies seeking investment.
  • How investors/advisers can gain access to exciting, entrepreneurial companies with strong growth potential

Full speaker details will be announced via the EISA website in the next few weeks.

To register click on venues below or go to  https://eisa.org.uk/events/

Where and when?

Manchester 12th September 8:00-10:30 at Barclays Eagle Lab Manchester

London 19th September 18:00-20:30 at TechHub London

Liverpool 24th September 18:00-20:30 at Barclays Eagle Lab Liverpool

Edinburgh 8th October 18:00-20:30 at Spaces – Edinburgh, Spaces Lochrin Square

Belfast 17th October 14:30-18:00 at The MAC

Birmingham 16th October 18:00-20:30 at PwC, 19 Cornwall Street

Leeds 12th November 8:00-10:30 at Clarion Solicitors, 13-19 Queen Street

Bristol 21st November 8:00-10:30 at Engine Shed

Cardiff 26th November 8:00-10:30 at Tramshed Tech

* photo source: ©Stevie Thomas/TheAmalgamate(s)

Narrowing skills gaps within your business can reduce recruitment strains

Skills gaps are becoming a growing issue across the UK. The uncertainty of Brexit, an aging workforce and the lasting impacts of the recession are all contributing to the problem – but recent research is showing that it could be much bigger than we think.

Research by Bidwells has shown that the number of new vacancies in key sectors across the UK are far higher than the number of enrolments at University in the same subject. There’s a continuous demand for highly skilled employees in growing sectors, and not enough people to fill them.

Technology, construction and education have the highest gaps of job vacancies, but they’re not the only shortfalls. There’s also huge gaps in health and social care, manufacturing and IT.

Industry Vacancies 2018 Enrolments 2017 GAP
Professional and Scientific Tech 72,000 21,970 -69.49%
Construction 28,000 9,310 -66.75%
Education 50,000 16,745 -66.51%
Health & Social Care Work 133,000 64,115 -51.79%
Manufacturing 59,000 34,020 -42.34%
Information & Communication 44,000 26,100 -40.68%
Admin, Finance & Insurance 94,000 79,095 -15.86%

Data: ONS average industry vacancies 2018 and HESA full-time, first degree university enrolments 2017.

Source: Bidwells

Unemployment rates are at the lowest they’ve been since 1974. Only 3.8% of the population aged over 16 are classed as unemployed; filling vacancies has become harder than ever because the candidates who are skilled enough to do the job aren’t looking for work or passionate, hard-working individuals don’t have the qualifications to do the job.

As an uncertain future surrounding Brexit looms closer, skills gaps are only going to increase. The likelihood is that skilled migrant workers will find elsewhere to work due to worry over the implications that leaving the EU holds.

Our EU workforce isn’t the only strain, the increasing digitisation of the world we live in means businesses and employees have to be able to constantly adapt our skills so that we don’t become out of date. Whilst this is a positive thing as it’s providing more jobs across the country, there’s a severe lack of people to fill those roles.

Businesses need to take charge. A key way of combating the shortfalls is to look to your current workforce and the opportunities they have to upskill. For businesses who are struggling to recruit the right candidates, looking at existing employees and thinking about training opportunities can help to build a future proof workforce.

Utilising all opportunities that apprenticeships present is a key way to upskill your staff to give them the qualifications and knowledge they need to fill those ever-growing gaps. No longer are apprenticeships just for school leavers and young people, anyone can enrol onto a relevant apprenticeship programme – and some of the sectors with the biggest skills gaps have fantastic programmes, including IT and technology, construction and trade and health and social care.

Research by JobSite has also found that 52% of talent shortages will be felt at mid-management level, what many businesses don’t realise is the opportunity to enrol staff, of any level, on to advanced and higher level apprenticeships – perfect for any potential leaders in your business – even if they already hold a degree.

It’s not just apprenticeships that can be used to give your employees the skills they need to fill those gaps. Short-term flexible courses can provide quick solutions and can be a very cost-effective way to provide training to your staff as many can be offered 100% funded.

Vacancies are only going to get harder to fill. Embracing the passionate, hard-working, forward thinking individuals applying for our roles and utilising available funding to give them the skills our businesses need is becoming more and more prevailing. The need to continuously adapt and learn new skills is crucial for survival in the current climate and having those in our organisations with the right attitude and drive to learn is priceless.

If you’d like to speak to me about narrowing your skills gaps, contact talktous@learningcurvegroup.co.uk

Sources:

Triple Award Nomination for OrderWise!

2019 has already proved to be a hallmark year for award nominations, with just last month seeing our staff, software and services receiving both regional and national recognition from seven different awarding bodies. We’re extremely pleased to say our award nominations haven’t slowed down, with three more nominations for OrderWise announced this July.

Two award nominations for OrderWise Founder & CEO!

OrderWise - tech leaders awards logo

The two award nominations this month are for OrderWise founder and CEO David Hallam, who has been named as a finalist in the Midlands Family Business Entrepreneur of the Year category at Natwest’s Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards celebrate the incredible stories that have taken entrepreneurs to where they are today, regardless of size or turnover. The 2019 Midlands regional final takes place on the 25th September in Birmingham, welcoming the 93 finalists from across the region that have been shortlisted in 12 different categories.

In addition to this nod, David has also been shortlisted for a National Tech Leaders Award and is hoping to emerge as the winner of Digital Leader of the Year. The 2019 Tech Leaders Awards ceremony will take place on Thursday 12th September at The Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.

Fingers crossed for David as he looks to add these two awards to his growing collection!

Another Innovation Award nomination for OrderWise Warehouse Robotics

OrderWise Warehouse Robotics have enjoyed a successful start to the first half of 2019, making the top three in the Digital Leaders 100 list and winning in the Innovation in Manufacturing category at the Lincolnshire Technology and Innovation Awards last month.

Now our OrderWise Warehouse Robotics have also been recognised by the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards, once again in the Innovation category. The Innovation award recognises the company that successfully applies any form of innovation, celebrating the ideas that have had the greatest impact on an organisation, company or industry. The winners of this year’s awards will be announced during a ceremony at Grosvenor House in London on 12th November.

On the three award nominations this month, David has said:

“July is turning out to be quite a successful month for OrderWise! I’m honoured to have made the shortlist for two prestigious awards and I’m delighted that our new robotics technology has been shortlisted for yet another Innovation award.

We’ve received such positive feedback about our new robotics, and I’d like to thank my entire team for all their hard work behind the scenes to make sure we deliver the best cutting-edge solution to our customers.

We hope that the good luck continues in the coming months and hopefully a few more trophies make their way back to Lincolnshire!”

For more information on OrderWise Warehouse Robotics, visit our dedicated website or call our team on 01522 704083.

Why open banking is good for business finance

In the retail banking world, Open Banking is transforming the way customers communicate financial information to third parties by securely sharing their account data. Now it’s bringing the same step change to the way businesses apply for funding.

What is Open Banking?

Open Banking is a secure standard that allows you to share your financial information with regulated providers. Most importantly, you stay in control as you choose what to share, and with whom. You never share your login details, so your bank accounts remain protected at all times.

Regulated providers are already using Open Banking to offer useful services, including budgeting services and collating account information from different providers. Using Open Banking means you can access completely tailored information. For example, results from price comparison sites will be based on your actual spend, not an estimate and applying for a business loan will be much quicker and easier.

Ultimately, Open Banking has the ability to transform the way we handle and manage money as individuals and businesses.

Is Open Banking safe?

Absolutely. You choose which services you use, which providers can access your information, and how long they can access it for. You’ll never be asked to share your login details or password with anyone which means you stay in control at all times.

There is a simple rule and that is to only share your data with authorised companies. You can check this on the FCA Register or the Open Banking Directory.

How does it work?

You can share your data for any payment account you hold. This could be a current account, a credit card, a prepaid card or savings account. Open Banking rules only apply to accounts that can be accessed online.

The entire Open Banking service works through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). They make it possible for one company’s software to access information from another company’s software. For example, several apps use the Google Maps API to provide directions, rather than building that capability from scratch.

Once a bank makes its API available, data can be securely shared without you needing to reveal your passwords or login information. Importantly, it lets new financial services providers compete with the big players on a completely level playing field. For example, you might choose a current account from Big Global Bank Co, but an overdraft from Lean Finance PLC.

For consumers, this is great news.

How does it help when applying for finance?

Thanks to Open Banking, applying for business finance will be simpler and faster than ever before. When providers can access your transaction history at the click of a button there is instant validated data and application admin is completed in a flash. No more hunting around for six months of business bank statements.

With online accounting software, you can also give providers quick access to extra information like cash flow, profit and loss and annual accounts. Which means they get a full picture of your business finances, making it increasingly possible to get instant acceptance from authorised funding providers.

How we help

FSB Funding Platform can use Open Banking technology to help you complete an application. The platform is easy to use and we gives you access to the UK’s largest panel of business lenders. We’re also 100% independent. Our only interest is in making sure you get the right funding option for your business need.

Want to know more? Come and see us at stand F10 at the Festival of Enterprise and talk to us about funding. You can also remind yourself of all the other FSB membership benefits.

Merchant credit card processing services – bringing business to next level

Businesses or merchants rely on credit card processors to handle the details of accepting credit and debit cards, whether in person, over the phone, or online. Depending on a third party to perform such a crucial service can make anyone anxious. This quick primer seeks to relieve that anxiety by outlining the basics of credit card processing.

Confused about merchant accounts, gateways,payment service providers and the like? Here are some things you should know about merchant payment services before you dive in.

Credit Card Processing: Quality Matters

Credit card processing services vary in quality. When evaluating potential companies, ask these questions about these four critical areas where credit card processing quality matters most to your business:

  • Transaction speed and reliability
  • Strong uptime record
  • Fair and transparent rate structure
  • Access to helpful customer support
  • Save money
  • Access more useful data
  • Find solutions tailored to your own business model

Popular merchant payment services options include:

Retail merchant accounts: If you are looking to accept credit card payments, iPayTotal has custom payment solutions to fit your needs. Whether you own a small business or a large business, we are here to help you grow.Dealing with technology and managing complex systems is key part of modern life. As a business owner, you need to know that troubleshooting and maintenance is part of every critical service. However, the way that service providers respond to those difficulties can make a big difference to your sanity and your bottom line.

Internet merchant accounts: Internet merchant accounts are designed specifically for eCommerce businesses that process credit cards online. If your business is primarily online then this is a cost-effective solution that provides multiple payment options and a secure online portal for customers to make purchases. Also note that payment options do differ between online and retail markets; it’s more likely for online consumers to prefer PayPal compatibility, for example.

MOTO (Mail order/telephone order) merchant accounts: MOTO accounts are designed specifically for telephone or mail order companies. Nowadays  such services are often bundled into online or retail options, but are sometimes available as a standalone service.

How to Choose the Best Credit Card Processing Company

Cost: Money matters to every business but it’s the smallest enterprises that feel the pinch of additional costs and fees the most. Look at upfront costs, if any, differ for each credit card processor, it’s usually the fees associated with credit card processing that can be especially convoluted.

Fraud prevention and security tools: Fraud prevention and security should be always top of mind for every business owner, regardless of size, fortunately most payments processors have security services by default in their system.

Customer support: When choosing your payment processor, it’s good to pick one that has a simple setup process that requires that you have very little technical know-how. Around-the-clock support from a real person should be included, good customer service matters.You will definitely need help at some point, for some reason, so it’s wise to look for a processor that offers customer support 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, preferably with direct help from an account representative.Choosing a credit card processor is themost important thing as deciding to go into business. With a little bit of legwork you can ensure that the choice you make is best for you, your business and your customers.

Call iPayTotal now for best Merchant Credit Card Processing Services.

Birmingham City Council offer £23.5million in grant funding to help grow local SME and Start Up Businesses

Visit Programme Development Team to Learn More at the Festival of Enterprise 2019 – STAND J24

Birmingham: June 2019: If you are an SME or Start-Up business in the Birmingham area, then we have some great news for you.

Less than a month ago, Birmingham City Council launched a £23.5m Business Growth Programme 2 (BGP2), a targeted grant scheme that will financially support the growth plans of eligible local enterprises in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull and Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas.

BGP2 has been created to improve business confidence, encourage private sector investment and create local employment. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and managed by Birmingham City Council, the programme launched in April 2019 and is now officially open for business.

Grants of between £10,000 and £1,000,000 are available for existing B2B SMEs, based in either of these LEP areas, with grants of up to £10,000 are available for eligible B2B Start-Ups located in the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership area only.

Speaking about the launch of BGP2, Waheed Nazir, Strategic Director of Inclusive Growth at Birmingham City Council, said, “I am delighted that our business development and innovation teams will be showcasing the European Regional Development Fund Business Growth Programme 2 at this year’s Festival of Enterprise 2019 event. I would strongly encourage SMEs to come and visit Stand J24 learn more about how these business grants are offered and how they can help your enterprise grow. With over £20million in grants available to dynamic and forward thinking companies, there is much to be gained by working together.”

Eligible companies include; supply chain companies investing to develop and grow; SMEs investing in innovative close-to-market processes, new products and services; business looking to expand, relocate and conduct marketing activities; and new Start-Ups or businesses trading less than six months, looking to consolidate – based in The Marches area only.

If you are a business seeking growth then your project could qualify.   Grants are subject to eligibility criteria.  For details, please visit Birmingham City Council’s website to find out more details www.birmingham.gov.uk/bgp2

 

Cyber-security tips: How small businesses can protect themselves

So much of modern work is now done on personal computers, smartphones and tablets, and while we embrace the advances in technology and the ease with which tasks can be completed, it’s easy to forget that technology brings its own risks too.

In the last three years there’s been lots of news about data breaches affecting large companies, but the reality is that just about anybody can be targeted by a cybercriminal.

Research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows that a staggering seven million cybercrimes are committed against smaller businesses in the UK every year – that’s 19,000 a day. On average, a cybercrime incident costs a small business victim almost £3,000 in damages, and it can take over two days for the business to be back up and running.

Cybercriminals and how they operate

 Cybercriminals are foremost concerned with increasing their financial gain. They seek to do this by stealing private financial information, personal details and account login credentials, so that they can go on to commit fraud, data theft or extortion.

This can include anything from stealing a customer’s information to commit identity fraud with other services, to selling stolen credit card numbers or account profiles on the dark web for cash.

But some hackers are playing for higher stakes – if they can infiltrate a company and trick employees into thinking that a fake email comes from an actual customer, supplier, business service or a superior, then there’s a chance they can trick employees into sending huge amounts of funds to a bank account owned by the cybercriminal.

Malware, DDoS attacks and phishing emails

There are several methods cybercriminals use to attack businesses:

  • Malware– a software program written by cybercriminals to steal information from a computer or network once it is initiated
  • Phishing emails– fake emails that imitate customers, suppliers or services known to the individual. These emails can trick the user into opening attachments containing malware, or trick the person into clicking on a hyperlink to a fake website where the user is asked to enter their login details.
  • Ransomware– a new type of malware that was used to attack the NHS in 2017. Ransomware locks computers and demands a ransom in bitcoin. If the ransom is not paid, the program deletes crucial data from the PC, or prevents the victim from using the machine again.
  • DDoS attacks – Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks happen when a hacker floods a company’s website with traffic to take it offline. The true aim of the attack is often to find vulnerabilities in the website’s defences so that the cybercriminal can access the website’s database of customer information, or to gain access to the company’s internal computer network.

How to protect your business

You don’t have to wait for the bad guys to come calling – there is a lot that businesses can do to avoid becoming victims.

Here are some tips that all small businesses should follow, as recommended by the National Cyber Security Centre and FSB Cyber Protection advice line:

  1. Back up all your data
    Make sure that all important information pertaining to your business – such as customer details, quotes, orders, payment details, document templates, financial records – is backed up safely and regularly, so that it can be restored in an emergency.
    A key tip is to make sure that the backup is stored in a secure place that other employees cannot access, and that the backup device is not connected to any computer or network. A good place to store backups is the cloud.
  2. Use passwords to protect your data
    Make sure you switch on password protection on all devices, and use two-factor authentication on all user accounts where you are given the option.
  3. Keep all computers updated
    It’s crucial that you make sure all IT equipment (computers, servers, smartphones, tablets) is kept up to date with the latest software updates. It’s good to set all your equipment to automatically update when patches come available.
  4. Install antivirus software and firewalls
    Ensure all PCs have antivirus software installed and always on, and that your internet router and servers have firewalls installed.
  5. Prevent your staff from installing dodgy software
    All PCs, smartphones and tablets should only contain software and apps from reputable services you work with, or manufacturer-approved app stores. Staff should be prevented from downloading any third party software from unknown sources, which might contain malware. A good way to do this is to remove admin privileges from their user accounts.
  6. Educate your employees about phishing scams
    You can’t stop cybercriminals from sending phishing emails, but you can educate your staff to spot the signs. As a rule of thumb, employees should be suspicious of any emails that are not directly addressed to them, and avoid opening email attachments in emails from an unknown origin.

 

A good pointer to remember is: Are you expecting an email from someone? If an invoice comes through from a supplier for a service that you haven’t had, it’s probably a scam. It’s also a good idea to look at the email address that the email orginated from – is it the same domain as the service you use?

And in particular, if an email is ever sent to the finance department requesting a transfer of funds, the employees concerned should always check in person with the superior who sent them the email.

FSB members have access to a data and cyber advice line run by cyber security experts, along with basic cyber insurance of up to £10,000 cover for third party claims – covering legal liability for damages and costs following a claim brought against them for a cyber attack, data breach or e-media issues such as libel, slander and defamation. To find out more about this and all the other benefits on offer from FSB, click here.

 

 

 

Narrowing skills gaps within your business can reduce recruitment strains

Skills gaps are becoming a growing issue across the UK. The uncertainty of Brexit, an aging workforce and the lasting impacts of the recession are all contributing to the problem – but recent research is showing that it could be much bigger than we think.

Research by Bidwells has shown that the number of new vacancies in key sectors across the UK are far higher than the number of enrolments at University in the same subject. There’s a continuous demand for highly skilled employees in growing sectors, and not enough people to fill them.

Technology, construction and education have the highest gaps of job vacancies, but they’re not the only shortfalls. There’s also huge gaps in health and social care, manufacturing and IT.

Industry Vacancies 2018 Enrolments 2017 GAP
Professional and Scientific Tech 72,000 21,970 -69.49%
Construction 28,000 9,310 -66.75%
Education 50,000 16,745 -66.51%
Health & Social Care Work 133,000 64,115 -51.79%
Manufacturing 59,000 34,020 -42.34%
Information & Communication 44,000 26,100 -40.68%
Admin, Finance & Insurance 94,000 79,095 -15.86%

 

Data: ONS average industry vacancies 2018 and HESA full-time, first degree university enrolments 2017.

Source: Bidwells

Unemployment rates are at the lowest they’ve been since 1974. Only 3.8% of the population aged over 16 are classed as unemployed; filling vacancies has become harder than ever because the candidates who are skilled enough to do the job aren’t looking for work or passionate, hard-working individuals don’t have the qualifications to do the job.

As an uncertain future surrounding Brexit looms closer, skills gaps are only going to increase. The likelihood is that skilled migrant workers will find elsewhere to work due to worry over the implications that leaving the EU holds.

Our EU workforce isn’t the only strain, the increasing digitisation of the world we live in means businesses and employees have to be able to constantly adapt our skills so that we don’t become out of date. Whilst this is a positive thing as it’s providing more jobs across the country, there’s a severe lack of people to fill those roles.

Businesses need to take charge. A key way of combating the shortfalls is to look to your current workforce and the opportunities they have to upskill. For businesses who are struggling to recruit the right candidates, looking at existing employees and thinking about training opportunities can help to build a future proof workforce.

Utilising all opportunities that apprenticeships present is a key way to upskill your staff to give them the qualifications and knowledge they need to fill those ever-growing gaps. No longer are apprenticeships just for school leavers and young people, anyone can enrol onto a relevant apprenticeship programme – and some of the sectors with the biggest skills gaps have fantastic programmes, including IT and technology, construction and trade and health and social care.

Research by JobSite has also found that 52% of talent shortages will be felt at mid-management level, what many businesses don’t realise is the opportunity to enrol staff, of any level, on to advanced and higher level apprenticeships – perfect for any potential leaders in your business – even if they already hold a degree.

It’s not just apprenticeships that can be used to give your employees the skills they need to fill those gaps. Short-term flexible courses can provide quick solutions and can be a very cost-effective way to provide training to your staff as many can be offered 100% funded.

Vacancies are only going to get harder to fill. Embracing the passionate, hard-working, forward thinking individuals applying for our roles and utilising available funding to give them the skills our businesses need is becoming more and more prevailing. The need to continuously adapt and learn new skills is crucial for survival in the current climate and having those in our organisations with the right attitude and drive to learn is priceless.

If you’d like to speak to me about narrowing your skills gaps, contact talktous@learningcurvegroup.co.uk

Sources:

3 reasons to consider G Suite for your growing business

As your business scales, what were once relatively simple tasks like onboarding new employees, maintaining data security, or organizing your files become increasingly complicated. Customers often tell us that their move to G Suite helped ease these growing pains by allowing them to grow seamlessly,  stay secure, and be as efficient as possible.

1. Growing businesses use G Suite to grow seamlessly.
Collaborating with coworkers despite distance, maintaining a corporate culture, and onboarding employees are just three examples of core business activities that don’t traditionally scale well. However, cloud-based tools like G Suite can help alleviate some of this complication by allowing you to scale your teams faster, and more efficiently, around the world.

Take onboarding for instance. With G Suite, getting new team members up and running is as simple as a few clicks in the Admin console.

Twinkl Educational Publishing saw these benefits firsthand as they grew their team from 100 people in one country to more than 500 people in 14 countries (in just three years!). Pete Casson, Twinkl’s Chief Technology Office, remarks that “G Suite enables us to grow without barriers.” The now global and highly-remote Twinkl team relies on G Suite to collaborate, using Hangouts Meet to power daily standup meetings, Google Drive to ensure documents are always available and secure, and Hangouts Chat to help teams communicate quickly and move work forward. G Suite is central to Twinkl’s global growth strategy and their goal to be a geo-independent company.

2. Growing businesses use G Suite to stay secure.
Cyber attacks on growing companies can be detrimental, as one breach is often the difference between success or failure. In fact, according to AppRiver, nearly half of small and medium businesses say a major data breach would likely shut down their business permanently.

The risks are serious, they are also often preventable. While the vast majority of cyber attacks start with a phishing email, Gmail prevents more than 99.9 percent of spam, BEC threats, and phishing emails from ever reaching your inbox. Administrators can also set rules to stop sensitive data like social security numbers or specific medical information from being maliciously—or, more often, accidentally—shared externally.

Zenconnect, a small cloud service provider based in France without a dedicated security team, chose G Suite because it makes it simple to configure, manage and ensure security for their company. As a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) customer as well, Zenconnect takes advantages of the close integration between G Suite and GCP to manage access and identity all within the same console, greatly simplifying setup.  G Suite is also equipped for the toughest security and privacy standards, including GDPR, an important consideration for Zenconnect and many other companies.

3. Growing businesses use G Suite to be as efficient as possible.
Finally, if you’re trying to scale your business, you’re likely operating full-steam under resource constraints. This means being efficient isn’t a luxury for you—it’s a necessity.

G Suite is infused with Google’s artificial intelligence, which means it can help companies get work done faster than ever before. For example, assistive technology in Drive can help surface relevant content quickly so users don’t have to dig to find information, and in Gmail, AI can help you draft emails faster or even remind you to take action.

The nature of G Suite’s cloud-based tools also means there is no waiting for systems to update and minimal downtime. Even if an employee spills coffee on their computer, they can quickly get back up and running from any device with a web browser. And close integrations with other apps like Salesforce, SAP, and DocuSign can quicken workflows.

recent report commissioned by Google and Forrester estimates that companies that adopt G Suite realized a 3X ROI in cost savings in just three years—reflected by increased employee efficiency, reduced tech support, retired on-premise hardware and consolidated software licenses. We hear from customers everyday about these types of efficiencies, like global retailer GANT, which was able to open their new flagship store 75 percent faster than usual—just 3 months, instead of the typical 12.

Getting started
If you want to set your business up for success, it’s time to consider investing in truly cloud-native tools, which can open up opportunities for growth, increase security for your company data, and, most importantly, save you time and money. To learn more about G Suite, visit gsuite.google.com.

Research reveals how to make mobility work best for your business

It’s essential for businesses today to use technology to solve problems and become more efficient. Of course, this kind of digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. There are lots of new tools to explore to help move your business forward. If you’re managing user devices, you know that finding the right balance of empowering users and protecting the business is essential.

And according to research firm IDC, the mobility enabled by cloud-native tools and devices like Android is a key way businesses can address the challenges they face in a fast-paced tech world—namely security, compatibility, and device capabilities. Mobility generally, and Android in particular, has the potential to help teams collaborate across devices and work in new ways. IDC recently published new research, sponsored by Google, that describes how organizations can take advantage of business solutions, platform security, customizable hardware options, and user-friendly management and deployment capabilities to best equip their teams for success.

In its series of whitepapers that make up the research, IDC identified the three most important considerations when choosing the right mobility solution: security, solution breadth, and a good experience for IT and end users. IDC also found that Android performed well in all of these categories.

Flexibility and security for the cloud worker era
Cloud workers—a growing workforce segment, made up of those who work an average of 4.6 hours a day in browser-based business apps across multiple devices—depend on the ability to work across devices and with colleagues and customers without tech barriers. With more data than ever generated and shared through cloud and other enterprise systems, these workers require real-time access to the right information.

In its research, IDC found that Android is a strategic mobility platform that can address these needs, with our secure mobile OS, ecosystem of OEM and software partners, and underlying management capabilities. In addition, the research found that Chrome and G Suite also fit the bill for these business needs, and can create the path for a business to solve problems and work quickly at scale in new and innovative ways.

Here’s a deeper look at each of the digital transformation pillars IDC researched.

Security
Security remains both a top concern and potential barrier to mobile deployments, according to this mobility research. Business IT teams face challenges with compliance, mitigating issues from lost and stolen devices, and combatting unauthorized access to sensitive data. Whether issuing devices or trusting employees to use their own in the workplace, security concerns are always there.

In its report, IDC found that “The idea that a company’s most sensitive data and systems are a few finger-taps away is a concern for many IT security and risk professionals. This is why mobility in general comes up as a top security challenge, and makes IT decision-makers skittish about the technology.”

Android’s layered defense strategies and continuous innovation help to keep business data secure and accessible whenever your team needs it. Backed by the expert teams at Google, security and privacy are a top priority for Android, enabling businesses to work seamlessly in the cloud.

Android’s multilayered approach to security uses hardware and software protections, and is backed by the built-in malware defense of Google Play Protect. By being open, Android benefits from the shared knowledge of the wider security community, earning third-party validation for its robust enterprise security features.

Solution breadth
Along with security challenges, business IT teams are also exploring which mobile devices to deploy to users, who need to connect easily and quickly to get work done without running into operating system or other compatibility issues. Device choice isn’t one-size-fits-all, and users’ needs vary. For mobile deployments to work, businesses have to be able to address the security, manageability and pricing challenges. Platform and ecosystem flexibility, including device choice, will power these users’ success.

For enterprise success, a platform must offer a diverse range of mobile device types, price points and apps that address a variety of use cases. With the variety of Android device options, teams can build custom solutions on hardware that suits their needs.

Many organizations are turning to Android Enterprise Recommended to choose devices and services with confidence. We validate devices and the enterprise mobility management and managed service providers to make sure they meet an elevated set of standards for enterprise users.

IDC notes in its research that a rising use case for enterprise needs is dedicated mobile devices. These are fully managed by the enterprise, and used in customer settings like kiosks or digital signage, or for employees handling inventory management or logistics. Two-thirds of enterprises have dedicated devices in use, with Android growing fastest in the market. This is particularly the case with rugged devices, which are growing at five times the market rate of mobile devices generally, according to IDC.

The diversity in device types and price points offered by Android give organizations flexibility, so you can match the appropriate device for each use case.

IT and user experience
A major challenge that IT departments often face is striking the right balance between security and granting employees flexibility in how they use their devices. This tension is especially evident with mobile devices, as many workers want leeway when using personal devices for work.

Android is uniquely positioned to strike this balance with our work profile capability, which separates personal and corporate data on a device. This ensures strong security safeguards and controls for company data and apps while giving users privacy for how they use personal apps on the device.

Dive deeper into IDC insights
This IDC research has plenty more detail on how enterprise mobility paired with cloud-enabled solutions can boost businesses in today’s competitive landscape. Explore the findings and learn more about how a mobile, connected workforce can deliver on digital transformation.

How to start your small business online in three simple steps

You have your business plan and you have your idea, and now you need to get your business out of your head and onto the web. The thing is, as a small business owner, we’re guessing you wear many hats. You may not have a web designer or marketing manager to help you get your business up-and-running online—because that’s your job, too.

This is why we’ve created cloud-first tools that can help you manage your business, whether you need to get a website, create a business email, or collaborate on-the-go with employees.

If you want to get your small business online using G Suite, here are three simple steps to guide you through the process.

1. Buy a domain.
To establish your identity on the web, you’ll need to register a domain (the URL address you use to view a website and send emails). There are a number of companies you can use to secure a domain for your business, including Google Domains.

How to get a domain with Google:

  • First, pick a name. The email domain that you pick can tell a lot about your company and what it stands for. A good rule of thumb is to buy an email domain that’s unique, but that also quickly illustrates what your business can provide.
  • Second, figure out what type of domain you need. As you pick a name, you should also consider the type of domain you might need, like .com, .org, .photography or more. This can help you illustrate, or differentiate, your company’s mission right away (example: .org signifies a nonprofit cause). Check out a list of different domain options, as well as pricing details.
  • Lastly, sign up. Now that you’ve done your research and picked your domain, you’re ready to purchase your domain.

You can also buy domains and create websites through other companies, like Squarespace or Wix, and easily attach them to G Suite if you still need a business email.

Insider tip: A part of picking out the right domain for your business, is making sure someone else doesn’t already use it. Be sure to search if your domain already exists, and then check on social media to see if the social handles for that name are also available. If they are, sign up as soon as you can for social accounts using the same name as your domain. This will help round out your presence on the web and maximize exposure of your business.

2. Make a business website.
When starting a business online, you’ll want to stake your claim on some digital real estate. Websites are often time-consuming to create if you don’t have a plan in place first. Here’s our advice to help you set up your site:

Tips for building a business website:

  • Define a clear goal for web visitors. Think about what you want people to do when they come to your website. Do you want them to purchase your product or sign up for your newsletter? Then build your site layout and content with that specific goal in mind. It’s important to avoid spreading yourself thin with multiple goals—keep it simple with just one or two key goals and optimize your site to reach them.
  • Plan your page hierarchy. Create an outline of what pages you want to include on your website, such as a “home” page, “about” page, or “pricing” page. Thinking through your page hierarchy upfront will help your customers navigate through your site easier and find the information they need quickly. This can also help you avoid having to update web pages later.
  • Build a budget you can stick to. Take a look at your budget and your schedule and see how much you can dedicate to this website. Your website is like a product, so you can consider the first iteration of your site as the minimum viable product that you need to create. Do you need a shopping cart? Do you need a blog? Make sure to check the boxes for the minimum website features that your business needs to run first. Once you have your requirements, you can make your money work for you and either DIY-it or hire a designer to support you with more complicated elements.

Insider tip: Take your website up a notch and think about the mobile experience of your site. You only have a few seconds to catch people’s attention on their phones.

You can use Think with Google’s tool, Test My Site, an easy way to measure your website’s performance on mobile. Enter your web address into Test My Site, and you’ll receive a report with your site score and a list of specific fixes that can help your business connect more quickly with people online.

3. Set up a business email.
A key part of your business is the relationships you’ll build. Relationships are built on communication, so you’ll want to set up an email address at your own domain so you can be contacted easily. More than 5 million paying businesses rely on Gmail for their professional email address to keep their companies running smoothly, particularly because of built-in security protections that block 99.9 percent of phishy emails.

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When you create a custom email using your new domain, people outside of your business will know where they can reach you professionally (for example, “stephanie@yourcompany”). With Gmail, it’s easy to collaborate and stay productive—both online or offline and on any device. If you’re ready to set your company up with a business email, start here.

Insider tip: At this point, it’s also a good idea to consider which email aliases you want to use for your business, like “sales@yourcompany” for sales inquiries or “help@yourcompany” for support issues. When you’re first starting out with G Suite, emails sent to your aliases will be automatically forwarded straight to your inbox. Later you can change it to other inboxes once you add more team members to your G Suite account.

Building your business’ future
Now that you’ve set your business up online, it’s time to take it one step further by using productivity tools to house your documents, plans, and presentations. As you add new members to your team and grow your business, you can use G Suite apps to store all of your files and to collaborate in real-time. Build project proposals in Docs, crunch business data in Sheets—and have it all automatically saved in Drive. You can even set up video conferencing in Hangouts Meet to help your team stay connected no matter their location.

G Suite includes all the applications you need to get work done, and to get it done fast. Try it out for yourself, or reach out to our experts if you have questions in our G Suite community.

ScaleUp Institute releases 2019 Female Founder Index

The ScaleUp Institute has revealed that there was a 15 per cent increase in the number of ‘visible scaleups’ in the UK in 2018 – that is those businesses with at least one female founder that have hit Companies House filings thresholds of £10.2 million in annual turnover. The average turnover was £68m. Released last month, the 2019 Report showed these businesses employed 75,600 people – increasing employee numbers and investment by 24% and 49% respectively.

“Our ScaleUp Female Founders are extremely diverse, spanning geographies, generations, and sectors from art galleries to payroll providers, juice bars to care homes, medical practices to cloud hosting platforms,” said the report’s authors. “More than a quarter (26%) operate in the industrial sector. Meet them, celebrate them and promote them.”

See scaleupinstitute.org.uk for details of this and other of the institute’s reports.

Q1 UK equity investment slows, but deal-size grows

High growth business data platform Beauhurst released its Equity Investment Market Update for Q1 2019 – showing the latest data on equity investment trends in the UK.

Analysing every publicly-announced equity fundraising in the quarter, Beauhurst said that while deals had fallen 17% on Q4 218, funds raised actually rose by 10% to £2.06 billion. “While amounts have been high since 2017, this is the first time Q1 has seen such a high amount”, the report’s authors said.

“Only 25% of deals were below £500k. This is the lowest share ever, compared with a high of 51% in Q2 2014. The quarter saw a record median deal size of £1.5m, up from a low of £0.48m in Q2 2014. No sector saw a record number of deals, although FinTech set a record amount invested of £948m.”

“Deal numbers fell at the seed, venture and growth stages, and remained level at the established stage. The amount invested at the growth stage remained high, with the other stages of evolution staying in line with historical figures.

The seed-stage numbers are a cause for concern: there were only 142 announced seed deals this quarter (compared to the record of 209 in Q2/16). Since late 2017 the number of seed deals has been converging with the number of venture deals. This will be storing up a problem for the future: if the earliest-stage business doesn’t get funded now, there’ll be fewer growth deals to be done in the future.

Investment fund reaches £25m milestone

The £250 million Midlands Engine Investment Fund announced it has reached a new milestone of funds invested in the region’s businesses. The £25 million so far invested includes £10 million of private sector funds alongside finance from the MEIF – supporting 100 businesses ranging from early stage technology start-ups to established manufacturing firms.

Fully launched in late February 2018, the fund aims to address regional imbalances in finance available to Midlands businesses. Research from the British Business Bank in its Small Business Finance Market Report reported that only four per cent of equity finance deals completed in 2017 were in Midlands firms – demonstrating a need to make finance markets work better for small and medium-sized firms across the MEIF region.

Communities Secretary and ministerial Midlands Engine Champion James Brokenshire said: “The Midlands is home to a huge number of innovative and creative businesses, and schemes like the Midlands Engine Investment Fund are helping them grow.

“A thriving Midlands Engine is vital to our modern Industrial Strategy which is why we are backing business in the region to create high-value jobs for the long-term.

“I am determined the Midlands becomes an even better place to live and work, helps deliver an economy that works for everyone and harnesses the opportunities presented by leaving the European Union.”

For further information in MEIF go to https://www.meif.co.uk.

Midlands businesses take-off

A group of Midlands businesses credited with export success by the Department for International Trade (DIT) have been recognised as Export Champions at an event held at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.

The 56 leading exporters were selected by DIT for their inspirational approach to growing their businesses through exporting. The appointments come at a time when worldwide appetite for British goods continues to grow, with UK exports up 2% in 2018.

The Head of Exports for DIT in the Midlands Ian Harrison said: “The Midland’s new Export Champions embody global ambition and they are the best candidates to inspire and guide other local businesses on their exporting journey. We’re proud to have them on board and part of a nationwide programme designed to encourage more businesses to grow through exporting by sharing their own experiences.

“We have a wealth of successful exporters across the region and I would encourage them to join the wider community by signing up as Export Advocates. By sharing their export stories via online channels, they will also be part of Exporting is GREAT, the government’s most ambitious exporting campaign ever.”

The Champions will offer practical advice on how to turn exporting ambitions into a reality utilising their experience and offer guidance on how DIT can help them break into new markets.

The Midlands’ Export Champions include Malvern-based jewellery maker Beach Art Glass and Loughborough’s Morningside Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures and supplies medicinal products.

The national Export Champion community, launched in March as part of the Exporting is GREAT campaign, was introduced in response to a desire from businesses to receive peer-to-peer exporting support. There are now 250 Export Champions active across England, and DIT’s ambition is to expand the programme to at least 1,000 Champions by April 2020.

DIT is inviting businesses wanting to take their first steps towards exporting to become an Export Advocate. Export Advocates will form part of an online exporting community where they can ask questions about overseas trade, get advice on overcoming barriers, and find out about specific support available.

To find information on current opportunities with DIT, see great.gov.uk or contact: DIT West Midlands, wmenquiries@mobile.trade.gov.uk and 0345 222 0159.

Institute of Directors launches new open house roadshows

The IoD has launched a series of three simultaneous roadshows across the country as a part of its remit to ‘innovate through inclusive and unconventional thinking’.

Its showpiece event for business leaders – IoD Open House – gives businesspeople the chance to learn from and network with some of the business world’s greatest thought leaders.

The three themes are Global Business, Connected Business and Inclusive Business. Locations include Hull, Nottingham, Manchester, Newcastle Upon Tyne, London, Bristol and Cardiff.

For further details, contact the IoD Events Manager on 0207 766 8817 or Email laura.jumnoodoo@iod.com.

Carbon Trust offers SMEs fully funded energy audits to help reduce energy spend

The Carbon Trust Green Business Fund is the energy efficiency support service for small and medium-sized businesses in England, Wales and Scotland. It provides fully funded support through energy assessments, implementation advice and equipment procurement support to help companies achieve a substantial energy and cost savings for their business. Since the programme started in 2016, we have helped hundreds of businesses reduce their energy spend and become more energy efficient.

Energy opportunity assessments are an excellent way for businesses to identify cost saving opportunities and develop a business case for the purchase of more efficient equipment. These consultations take place either remotely or on-site, depending on the size of your business. This service is fully funded by the Green Business Fund and is available to qualifying SMEs who meet the criteria.

Adrian Young of Young Calibration Ltd, a growing SME, said “The Carbon Trust provided us with a thorough, excellent energy assessment and workable solutions for immediate and longer-term objectives for reducing our energy consumption.”

After completing an initial energy assessment businesses may wish to apply for implementation advice and equipment procurement support to help find reputable suppliers who will install appropriately specified equipment for their business needs.  Designed to support businesses with a specific energy saving project in mind (e.g. lighting), your organisation can receive up to 5 days of support from a Carbon Trust consultant – at no cost to yourselves.  This is available for companies with up to 1,000 employees in England, Scotland or Wales.

As part of the wider Green Business Fund programme, we also run a series of workshops around the country aimed at businesses with less than 50 employees. These workshops are typically two hours long and provide a technical overview of best practices for energy efficiency, focusing on major areas of energy consumption, such as heating, lighting, and insulation. Businesses are encouraged to get in touch to request a workshop in their local area.

Free technical webinars are put on several times a month and are delivered by one of the Carbon Trust’s energy experts. These hour long sessions are an easy way to get advice about energy consumption in specific areas of business. Companies can also download our series of free and impartial energy efficiency guides for advice on reducing their carbon footprint, energy efficient technology, renewable energy technologies, and other sector-based advice.

To discuss how your business could benefit from the support on offer, or if you have any questions about the Green Business Fund please email us on greenbusiness@carbontrust.com or call us on 020 3944 0739 to speak to one of our advisors.

DIT Seeks UK Design Businesses for December Hong Kong Fair

The UK Department of Trade announced its involvement in Business of Design Week (BODW) in Hong Kong – Asia’s leading annual event on design, innovation and brands. The weeklong event held in December 2019 will consist of a conference, an exhibition (DesignInspire), satellite and pop-up events that attract leaders of the design world, business professionals, property developers, academia, and construction, retail and heritage organisations.

“As BODW’s Partner Country for 2019, the UK will showcase the best of British design and demonstrate our leadership in creative thinking and design management,” DIT said.

“We are looking for exceptional UK designers, design companies and educational institutions to be part of this showcase. Further details will be announced, but you can register interest here.

Shopify Releases Report on E-Commerce

Entitled ‘What Is the Future of Ecommerce? 10 Insights on the Evolution of an Industry’, the report says “What the data shows — and what the leaders we spoke to from brands at the forefront said — isn’t that retail is failing nor that success is tied to innovation for innovation’s sake. Instead, it points to the now unignorable centre of commerce: customer choice.”

It opens with perhaps its most significant statement: “1. Ecommerce v Retail: The Dichotomy Ends. For all its enduring hype — physical versus digital, offline versus on — the old war is over. In fact, it’s always been a lie. Choice, not location, is commerce’s greatest opportunity and its most-looming threat.”

Amazon US Retail Bid Still on the Cards?

Amazon tracking site TJI Research says that the company could be planning to develop a new chain of physical grocery stores in the United States following the hiring of discount supermarket veteran Patrick Waldron as its new Head of Real Estate.

The website said: “Waldron joined Amazon in September according to his LinkedIn profile, though Amazon has not officially announced his hiring that we have seen. Previously, Waldron was Vice President of Real Estate and Business Development at Save-A-Lot Food Stores, a discount grocery store chain with over 1,300 locations in the United States…

“Prior to Save-A-Lot, Waldron was Vice President of Real Estate at discount supermarket chain Lidl (US), where he worked for several years, moving to Save-A-Lot shortly after Lidl opened its first US stores. Today, Lidl operates about 65 stores in the US, also mainly in the eastern states (and thousands more in Europe).”

Last week, Esther Fung and Heather Haddon reported in the Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to open “dozens of grocery stores in several major U.S. cities” beyond the shops it already owns through its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017.

Microsoft to Sell Windows 7 Security Support from April 1

Microsoft announced that it will start selling Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) from April 1. The company said: “They will be sold on a per-device basis for eligible customers and the price will increase each year.” The move is part of the software giant’s long term move to migrate all customers to Window 10 and Office 365 “as they provide the most productive, secure, and cost-effective experience for users and IT departments.”

Windows 7’s support ends on January 14, 2020, but ESU will provide security fixes for uncovered or reported vulnerabilities in the operating system beyond that point. For example, the announcement stated that ‘Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on devices with active Windows 7 Extended Security Updates through January 2023. This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.” The company said it would also release a new version of Windows 10 in the month.

In other news, Microsoft has enabled its Android Excel app to add data directly from a photograph. The app can take a picture of a printed data table on your Android device and automatically convert the picture into a fully editable table in Excel. This new image recognition functionality eliminates the need for you to manually enter hardcopy data. This capability is starting to roll out for the Excel Android app with iOS support coming soon.

Facebook’s Workplace App Targets Slack and Microsoft Teams

Facebook’s Workplace app reached 2 million paid users as it targets SMEs, Forbes has reported. Gene Marks writes that according to data just released by the company, Workplace has since 2016 been deployed by 150 companies with more than 10,000 users, and organizations such as Nestlé, Starbucks and Walmart have rolled it out to more 100,000 workers.

Workplace is a corporate version of its consumer social network—a way to drive employee engagement, communication and collaboration.

Marks says “Now that the application has matured, Facebook is turning towards the giant small business market, which is mostly dominated by collaboration apps Slack and Microsoft Teams. But there’s certainly room to grow. The company plans to add reseller and other consulting partners (if your business in interested you can sign up here), develop a more robust mobile version and potentially change its marketing approach to appeal to this broader audience.”

Commercial Insurer Re-boots UK SME Cyber Offering

Major commercial insurer QBE has launched a new offering into the UK and European SME market as part of a shake-up of its cyber-insurance products to reflect the evolving threat. QBE Business Insurance has been described as an “innovative e-trade product” designed to support SMEs as the cyberattack threats expands.

The firm pointed out that over half of the UK’s small and medium-sized firms have faced at least one cyber breach in the last 12 months – and now QBE Cybercrime has been launched on Acturis to help tackle that threat.

It includes cyber cover, crime cover and business interruption cover within one policy; cover for social engineering fraud to provide reassurances for the increasing risk of impersonation fraud; and 24hr specialist data breach support to get businesses back up and running.

“The SME sector is the backbone of the UK economy,” said Dave Greaves, head of SME at QBE. “At a time when businesses are facing an increasingly greater threat from cyber, exacerbated by the implementation of the GDPR, it is important that SMEs have insurance cover in place that is tailored to fit their needs and is straightforward for brokers to purchase on their behalf.”

For an in-depth resource on the cyber-threat in your particular industry, download the Verizon 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report.

Two-Thirds of UK Business Still Unprepared for MTD

KPMG UK released statistics last month showing that many businesses are not prepared for the April Making Tax Digital (MTD) VAT deadline. “Making Tax Digital is a key part of the government’s plans to make it easier and more effective for individuals and businesses to get their tax right and keep on top of their affairs,” said the report. But while 64% of the 1,000 UK businesses who took part in their survey agreed that MTD is a good idea they said more support was needed.

The regulation, which applies to all VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold, is part of the government’s ambition to become one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations. It will make it easier for individuals and businesses to get their tax right first time, helping minimise errors.

A report published in January by a financial software vendor backs up these claims. Jon Wrennall, Chief Technology Officer at Advanced, said “Just 57% of organisations in the UK say they will be ready for Making Tax Digital which comes into force from 1st April, according to our latest Trends Survey Report

“The government is right to implement initiatives that mean organisations need to become more digital but our research suggests that not enough support is being given to help them prepare. However, this responsibility doesn’t fall to the government alone. Suppliers approved by HMRC to support Making Tax Digital need to offer ongoing support too, as well as provide software that is accessible and user-friendly – otherwise businesses will continue to hold back or make errors.”

From 1 April 2019, most VAT-registered businesses above the £85,000 threshold will have to keep digital records going forward, as well as submit their VAT returns using compatible software.

The fresh new business event at the NEC

There is a new event in town, it’s taking over from SME Live and is on a mission to become the most important business event in the UK. It’s happening in Birmingham, at the NEC in October 23rd- 24th 2019.

Designed to inform, inspire, engage and connect business owners from the Midlands to expert exhibitors and speakers that can get them firing on all cylinders and provide critical advice, products and services to help them deliver growth.

The Midlands is consistently the fastest growing region outside of London but lacks a major UK business event. SME Live has laid the foundations and now following stakeholder feedback from visitors, exhibitors, government, industry associations and business leaders the proposition is evolving into the Festival of Enterprise.

The Festival of Enterprise takes a different approach to SME Live so expect to see more big-name business leaders, more marketing masters and more sources of funding join hundreds of innovative exhibitors showcasing solutions with one goal in mind – business growth.

Mix in experiential features to ramp up the fun factor and high impact networking the Festival will be unlike anything seen before.

At the helm of the Festival of Enterprise is Event Director Tansy Stevens, an exhibition industry award winner, who joins after a 15-year career as Sales and Sponsorship Director on global super shows the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and BETT in London (two shows with 150,000 visitors between them).

Tansy says ‘I’m very excited to head up the new Festival of Enterprise having had the benefit of working with thousands of exhibitors to maximise their ROI and I’m looking forward to building on the already excellent exhibitor base to showcase more innovative solutions to the visitors’

James Ashwood steps into a new role as Director of Marketing and heads up the 2019 operations to curate the content that motivates visitors and drive the communications that delivers them to the event.

Commenting, James says ‘We launched SME2017 and SME Live at the NEC because there is a clear need to create a major UK business event based in Birmingham rather than London.

With HS2 and the Commonwealth Games arriving we are aligning the Festival of Enterprise event to reach its potential by 2022 and become the most important business event in the whole of the UK with benefits that go beyond the region.

We have taken 2 years of learning and thousands of datapoints from participants to evolve the event format to the next level and the Festival of Enterprise will be unlike anything seen at the NEC or anywhere before. My new role will enable me to focus 100% on the needs of the visitors and packing out the show floor’.

Contact Tansy Stevens for exhibitor opportunities at tansy@festivalofenterprise.co.uk

The Festival of Enterprise will help close the digital gap

Digital skills are essential to small business growth and the Festival of Enterprise will build on an area of great success at SME Live, where the most popular keynote sessions were delivered by the titans of digital including Google, Facebook and AWS.

Recent research from Lloyds Bank Business and Charity Index shows significant opportunity for improvement with 51% of the regions small and medium businesses lacking basic skills.

Key areas for improvement include trading online digitally, where the region is behind the curve both in domestic and international sales.

The Festival of Enterprise Marketing Masters Arena will help Midlands business owners sharpen up digital marketing skills and win more customers regionally, nationally and internationally.

Commenting, Festival of Enterprise Director of Marketing James Ashwood says ‘It’s great to read that Lloyds are putting their shoulder behind providing free access to training over the next 12 months to help close the digital skills gap and we intend to offer them the space at the of the Festival of Enterprise at the NEC to host one of these training events, possibly their largest one of the year’.

Read the story on the GBCC.

Contact James at the Festival of Enterprise at James@festivalofenterprise.co.uk.

NEC goes from strength to strength

The home of the Festival of Enterprise, the NEC is going from strength to strength having been acquired by Blackstone, an organisation with deep ties to the exhibition industry.

Having seen a fresh new external and internal look with more digital features throughout, the leading UK exhibition venue has succeeding in creating a modern environment in which to do business.

As an exhibition organiser; location, accessibility and venue facilities are key factors because everything we do is for the visitors.

Commenting, James Ashwood, Director of Marketing says ‘Once again our decision to locate the Midlands keystone business event at the NEC keeps on paying back. As a venue partner, the NEC is exceptional because of its commitment to creating the best possible visitor experience. As we grow the Festival of Enterprise there are also additional great locations on campus for awards ceremonies, parties and innovative spaces to host 21st century networking opportunities.’

Sign up for updates on the Festival of Enterprise.

Contact James at the Festival of Enterprise at James@festivalofenterprise.co.uk

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