Start as you mean to go on!

screen-shot-2017-04-25-at-13-39-04Small businesses are the mainstay of the UK economy. Forget the large companies – small businesses are where it is at!

The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs and we brits are great at taking the plunge into business ownership – whether it is a self employed professionals or as small business owners employing staff.

However, for many entrepreneurs taking the plunge is not the hardest part – it is running a successful company in the longer term that provides the stress.

The problem here is that the prospective entrepreneur has often not done their homework.

In particular:

  1. They have an idea they are sure is going to work, but have not done a full business plan to explore whether it can be converted into a successful business.
  2. They have not consulted appropriate professionals to ensure their company is set up in the best way.
  3. They don’t align their personal and business goals. They soon find their business running their lives rather than them running their businesses.
  4. They don’t finance their business sufficiently from the outset, which means they can never afford to do jobs properly. Marketing in particular often suffers in this scenario.
  5. Because they haven’t planned properly they don’t fully appreciate the risks involved in setting up their business until it is too late.

Starting your own business is a BIG step. If it fails you may not just lose your livelihood but also your house (and your family if you have had to work very long hours).

It makes sense to give your business the best possible chance of succeeding.

To help I have written a guide on starting your own business which can be downloaded for free from my website www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk

I have tried to cover all the issues you will need to think about before taking the plunge as well as some of the things which might trip you up.

Enjoy!

Fiona 🙂

And the spectacle continues!

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-15-10-40I know I have gone on a bit (or a lot) about the events in Rio but I have just been blown away by the team GB success.

I promise this article is the last time I will mention the Olympics – well at least for another four years – but I have been just so inspired by them.

I loved watching the different sports and was stunned when we came 2nd and beat China in the medals table.

The Paralympics has been even better!

Who could fail to be moved by the armless Egyptian table tennis player who held the paddle between his teeth and threw the ball up with his feet?

The tenacity of such athletes who are taking part in sports on a global stage is incredible. In the case of the table tennis player he had no expectation that he would medal – it was enough for him to take part.

Whether they were born with their disability or became disabled later in life due to illness or accident, every athlete’s story was truly inspirational.

So is there anything the Paralympics can teach business people which might help us to thrive?

Firstly, I think we can learn to be more positive. We all have bad days and times when it seems the world is against us. But let’s face it we don’t have to face the problems and prejudice a lot of disabled people have to put up with on a daily basis. If they can flourish with all that is stacked against them – I am sure we can!

Secondly, I think we can learn to be more focussed on our goals. We often don’t achieve what we want because we simply aren’t focussed enough. We allow ourselves to be sidetracked by less important things.

Finally, following the lead of Chumbawumba, I think we can learn to get back up again when we get knocked down. Many paralympians have been knocked down pretty hard (sometimes literally) but have had the mental strength to not only get back up again but to thrive.

Business is challenging and we will all suffer setbacks. The key to getting over these setbacks is to be positive, focussed and to pick ourselves up each time we are knocked down.

Let’s make ourselves resilient to change!

Small Jenny Flashdance

For many businesses the last few years have been really tough – and the next couple may be just as challenging with uncertainty around the Brexit decision.

If you own a service business there are things you can do to make yourself as resilient as possible and I include my take on the most important ones below:

Credit control

In a service company the level of customer spend can be quite high. For this reason it is vital that you review the level of credit you are prepared to give clients and stick to it. My payment terms require that clients pay either by monthly standing order or on date of invoice. Even if they don’t pay immediately at least I can chase from the earliest possible point.

Ensure you invoice promptly after work is completed, and, if the job spans several months, agree stage payments with your client so they don’t owe you more than 1 months worth of work.

Bare in mind that none of us really knows what is going on in another company. A seemingly sound company can be on the verge of collapse due to cash flow problems. Credit checking services can help you assess the credit worthiness of a business, but remember their information is out of date to some degree and they don’t pick up the full picture. The only way to ensure you don’t get caught out is to collect the money owed to you as quickly as possible.

Remember, even the banks are reluctant to be banks at the moment – so don’t fall into the trap of acting like one!

The BEST

A key way to thrive is to provide the BEST service you can and be as close to your customers as possible. I see many service providers who think they can get away with average service and who assume clients will stick with them regardless. This is an arrogant assumption which will lead them, quite rightly, to lose good clients to much more customer orientated businesses.

For any business, but particularly for service companies, the relationship you have with your clients is king. A client who knows you well, and believes you are giving him the best, most focussed service available, is unlikely to shop elsewhere, even if he has the possibility of getting the service ‘cheaper’.

Build your referral network

We all know that people buy from people. You are much more likely to engage a supplier who has been recommended to you by a trusted advisor/contact than one you have met fleetingly at a networking event.

For this reason I think it is important to build up a network of people around you who:

– although they are not competitors to you, have the same types of customers as you do.

– understand exactly who an ideal client is for you so they can spot one when they meet them

– understand exactly what you do and the problems you solve for your clients

– are people you would be happy to refer to your contacts so the relationship is mutually rewarding

If you have a strong network you can be much more focussed in your marketing and will be much more likely to get the type of new clients you need.

Fiona 🙂

Change is coming – like it or not!

Forecasting

Whether you voted to remain or leave the EU, the fact is that we are all now OUT!

I don’t know about you but I don’t really know what a Britain outside of the EU will look like.

Certainly in the first few months and even the next couple of years, probably much the same as it did before the Referendum.

The pound and stock market plumited on the news but more because the city expected a remain vote. Chances are they will move back upwards – although whether they will reach the pre-Referedum levels remains to be seen.

All I can say is that in the short term our Portugal holiday is suddenly more expensive this summer!

I think it is the unforseen consequenses of Brexit, which will catch people out.

For example, in the meduim term the UK itself may well shrink as a result of the out vote. The SNP has a very good case for saying that, because Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, another Independence Referendum should be held.

After all a main argument for staying in the UK was that Scotland may struggle to become a member of the EU in its own right, but is a member of the EU if it stays in the UK – obviously no longer true.

I suspect there are a large number of multinational companies which chose to base themselves in the UK because we were part of the largest economic body in the world. It will be interesting to see how these companies react to the no vote.

Of local interest – how will the vote affect the French company EDFs plans to invest in Hinkley Point? We will see.

However, as smaller companies these issues are less of a concern than the immediate question of how will our businesses be affected.

And the answer is – none of us knows!

All we can do is to look at our own business and strategic planning and aim to make our companies as robust as we can.

So make sure you spend time reviewing your plan and thinking about how you may need to change it to flourish in the coming period of uncertainty.

Fiona:)

Scammers R Us!

scammers
More and more scammers are out there trying to get something for nothing, and the sad fact is that it is often the elderly who fall for their tricks.

This has come to home to me in the last couple of years as my mother has fallen foul of one dodgy scam after another. First it was buying stuff she did not need at inflated prices so she would be put into a draw and win money.

Then she was bombarded by letters saying she had won prizes of thousands of pounds and all she needed to do was send £50 administration fees.

Now neither of these sound like they would be that serious but when you are talking about multiple instances it soon adds up. We discovered that she had sent more than £1500 to these criminals.

But the worst individual instance was recently when she was apparently called by the Canadian lottery who needed £4900 in tax before they could release her third prize of £265k!

It seems that however much we tell her about scammers, and how all of these schemes are bogus, she just does not seem to take it in. I think the trouble is that these scammers are so persuasive that they suspend their victims’ disbelief.

But it is not just the elderly who fall foul of con artists. It is anyone who is a little bit vulnerable, or is going through a hard time, or is just unwary – and that can apply to business people as well.

Phishing scams can be as much a problem for small businesses as for individuals and can lead to your banking information falling into criminal hands.

However, the most dangerous scam is where a fraudster contacts a business pretending to be a supplier. They inform the company that there payment details have changed and the unsuspecting business owner/employee amends the supplier payment details on their system so that any payments go to the scammer and not the supplier.

The moral of all this is that we must be extra vigilant, and unfortunately, become ultra suspicious. We also need to help our more vulnerable family members and friends to understand that you don’t get something for nothing these days (if you ever did) and not to send money to anyone just because they ask you to!

How will you spend your bonus day?

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 16.13.48

Once every four years we are given a ‘present’. An extra day in the year. If you can get all you need to do in the usual 365 days, surely the extra day is a bonus!

So, have you thought about how you are gong to spend your present? If you are a business owner you should be flexible enough to use it well. Afterall it would be a shame to just let the opportunity go by to spend this day doing something special or different.

February 29th is a Monday so you could treat it as an extra bank holiday and take a long weekend trip somewhere you have been meaning to go to, but not yet managed to visit.

Alternatively you could ‘save’ the day until the summer and use the day to recharge your batteries with a trip to the coast.

If you want 2016 to be the year you make really great strides with your business, you need to plan how you are going to do it. If you never seem to find time to do the planning perhaps this would be a good use of your bonus day.

I think the key is to do something you would not usually have time to do, or something you long to do more of.

For me, the bonus day will be a great opportunity to do more of what I love. I cannot think of anything better than getting out into the Britishcountryside with my family and/or friends and going for a good old stomp.

But to make the day special – afterall it is a present – I plan to walk somewhere I have never been to before.

Where exactly that will be I have not yet decided It will be somewhere lovely and with only the best company. Obviously if it could be rounded off with a stonkingly good cream tea so much the better!

Wouldn’t it be great if we all came away from 2016 feeling we had used our bonus day well?

Now as my husband Jeff has pointed out if you are employed you don’t get an extra day of holiday. But I think he is missing the point.

The concept of a bonus day is more about your state of mind and about making the best out of opportunities – you just have to be a little creative!

What’s your plan for 2016?

Welcome to 2016
Well, the new year is just around the corner, but do you have a robust plan for the year ahead?

Unfortunately for many small business owners the answer is a resounding “No” – or, “yes, it’s in my head”, which is actually the same as no!

If you don’t have a proper plan for your business the chances of it moving in the direction you want are drastically reduced. Your business is more likely to grow by luck, rather than design, and luck is often in short supply in times of economic difficulty.

For many the very thought of putting a plan down on paper leaves them in a cold sweat – but it doesn’t have to be this way!

Firstly, remember that the person for whom you are preparing the plan – and the most important person in your business – is YOU. So, think about planning in terms that you can relate to rather than trying to plan with someone else in mind.

If you like mind maps plan using them. If you are a picture person try to build lots of pictures into the plan so you can engage with it.

Secondly, if you really don’t know how to plan – ask for help. You may have a friend or family member who can help you. Alternatively, there are lots of professionals who can help you with specific areas of your plan.

If you struggle to put together a marketing or sales plan engage a marketing or sales expert to help with that particular section. If you struggle with the figures your accountant should be able to help.

The key thing is that once the plan is finished it properly represents your business and your ideas for the coming year.

Your plan then becomes the foundations against you can measure the performance of your business going forward. You will be able to see whether or not your business will help you to meet your personal goals, or not, and you can use it to get finance if you need to.

Fiona 🙂

Book Billy

Billy No Mates 2011

Are you a business owner who works on their own or with just one other person?

Do you miss the traditional office Christmas party, where everyone let’s their hair down and has a fantastic laugh?

If so the Billy No Mates Christmas bash is for you –  so if you haven’t already booked now is the time to do so!

The ‘Bash’ is on 18th December (so the Friday before Christmas) from 12pm onwards at Beah, Union Street, Wells, Somerset.

For just £22.50 for a three course meal with wine the ‘Bash’ is great value – and great fun.

But don’t just take my word for it:

Kim Robinson who is a Billy No Mates stallwart said: “The only thing missing is the photocopier!”

To book your place or simply to find out more go to:

http://billynomates.info/events/wells-christmas-bash-2/

Fiona 🙂

 

The price is right


The new year is looming and now is the perfect time to review your pricing.

Many business owners struggle with putting their prices up, particularly during times of economic downturns, even though their costs are increasing. They leave their prices the same for several years and then have to put their prices up significantly in one go to stay profitable.

However, reviewing prices on a regular basis (say, once a year) is a much better way. Customers are much happier to accept rising prices if increases are regular but small, than they are with irregular, large price increases.

So, make sure you review your prices regularly.

The key to doing this successfully is to make sure that your customers know that you have a particular time when you review prices – the new year is perfect for this. Preparing your customers properly for price increases means that the change does not come out of the blue, and they are more likely to accept it.

Remember, pricing is all about asking for a fair value for the product or service you provide. So, it is important that you are clear on what the fair value is.

Make sure you know what your competitors charge, but more importantly, talk to your customers regularly so you know what they particularly value about what you provide.This will make it easier for you to assess what price is appropriate.

If you are in the service sector the new year is also an ideal time to review the service you are giving your clients, to check if there is any additional work they need.

So, if it has been a while since you reviewed your prices bite the bullet and start planning for one now.

Fiona 🙂