How to set up and run a small business

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These 7 Guiding Principles to business growth have been developed through my 20 years of experience in working with thousands of organisations. Their purpose is to stimulate your thinking about the critical challenges and opportunities in growing your business and how you can avoid some of the errors that might otherwise stifle your growth potential or, worse, derail your ambitions.

As you read through these Seven Guiding Principles, score the current performance of your business against each on a scale of 1–10. How does your business shape up? Continue…

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guide to content marketing

When you are looking for ways to promote your new start-up or small business you will, without doubt, soon hear the words, “content marketing”.

There’s a lot of buzz about content marketing at the moment, but what does it actually mean and how can small business owners use content to help grow their business?

This guide answers those questions, and also offers useful, practical advice for businesses that are interested in developing a content marketing strategy of their own. Continue…

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In 2016, the EU passed legislation governing the standards by which companies collect and secure personal data (so-called ‘controllers’ and ‘processors’).

The aim of this legislation was to encourage companies across the European Union to think seriously about data protection. In practice, the new General Data Protection Regulation lays down some fairly stringent requirements for both large and small businesses as regards data protection.

Although the UK subsequently voted to leave the EU, the UK government has since confirmed that it will abide by the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to come into effect from 25 May 2018. To help UK businesses understand how they could be affected by the new laws, here’s a guide to the GDPR legislation. Continue…

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With age comes wisdom, but all too often in the business world, hubris can come along for the ride too.

After finessing business decision making for decades, executives naturally begin to conclude that their specialised knowledge, expertise and business skills mean that they always know the best way to solve a client problem, to win a major account, or to drive a workplace innovation.

After all their past successes confirm this. Subconsciously survivorship and confirmation biases are at work; good decisions are reinforced, and poor ones are forgotten – which distorts their real importance.

So, can these experienced executives learn something from Millennials? Absolutely! Continue…

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Just a week after the 2017 Spring Budget when Chancellor, Philip Hammond announced an increase in Class 4 National Insurance Contributions for the UK’s self employed workers, he has decided that the proposed tax increase isn’t a good idea after all!

Responding to wide criticism from Tory MPs and the perceived attack on millions of self employed workers, including the ‘white van man’, Hammond has written to MPs informing them of his decision to reverse the proposed NI hike.

His letter reads; Continue…

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For most employers, setting in place rules and responsibilities for employees during their time with the company is their most important consideration. This can be achieved through having effective contracts of employment, alongside employee handbooks.

Employers should, however, be putting thought in to what happens once employment ends to ensure that they are protecting their business interests. After the employee has resigned, or been dismissed, they are no longer bound by their contractual terms.

Restrictive covenants are an effective tool for restricting damaging activity by the ex-employee but employers need to carefully construct these covenants to ensure they are enforceable. Continue…

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Over 600,000 business were started in the UK in 2016, and that number is expected to be exceeded in 2017.

There are many challenges for every one of these business start-ups, but some new businesses make it harder for themselves by making basic mistakes with their telecoms.
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Due diligence is a term bandied around quite a lot. However, not many people understand what it means or how it’s can be used to help.

If you ever consider buying or selling a business, or investing in a business, then you’ll need to know precisely what due diligence means, what the process involves and how to conduct due diligence properly. Continue…

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“Will you give us a discount on that figure?”

“Can you match the lower price I can get down the street?”

“Can’t you do it cheaper?”

These are the kind of questions people running start-ups and small businesses get asked an awful lot.

But what are the best answers to give? Here, we look at how small business owners can respond to these kind of questions, without losing business and without cutting prices and profit margins.
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Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake?

Now if you think this is some playground joke, think again. This is a real question that judges were asked to consider in a landmark VAT case.

The fact it took a court case to work out the answer to this question gives you an insight into just how complicated the UK’s VAT system has become. If HMRC, can’t answer such a simple question, what hope is there for busy small business owners?

With the complexity of the VAT laws it’s understandable that businesses make mistakes on their VAT returns. However, these mistakes can be very costly both in terms of paying the wrong amount of VAT and also triggering a VAT investigation.

To help you avoid making these expensive mistakes, we asked Jonathan Amponsah, founder of The Tax Guys, to reveal the 21 common mistakes small businesses make on VAT Returns. Continue…

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Millions of small business owners will see the amount of tax they pay go up following the Spring 2017 Budget.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Budget speech, plans to increase the taxes paid by the self-employed and limited company directors.

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When you are starting out in business, you need to quickly grasp that the three key factors that determine a company’s financial success, or failure, are:

  1. Sales
  2. Control of costs
  3. Cash management

Two out of three simply won’t work – you need to have complete control over these three crucial aspects, otherwise your chances of succeeding in business will be very limited. Continue…

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The transition from being a manager to becoming business leader, is one that many new business owners will need to make. Often, the success or failure of your business depends on how well and how quickly you can adapt to this fundamental role change.

Never more so than in times of challenge, are leadership skills going to make the difference between a galvanized team of people and a disparate group. Here, Kate Tojeiro reveals 7 tips that will help you transform from a manager to a successful business leader; Continue…

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Business sustainability is a great opportunity for start-ups and small businesses to focus on. Not only is it a way to create long-term, sustainable success, but it’s also a way to attract employees (younger generations expressly value sustainability), investors and business partners.

Let’s briefly look at what business sustainability is and then get into some practical tips for how to make it reality for your business. Continue…

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You don’t have to think back very far to remember the time when disruptive start-ups and forward thinking businesses were championing a “digital first” strategy. Digital technology had been adopted by mainstream consumers and companies that failed to recognise it were being left behind.

More recently, that slogan has been replaced for many businesses by a new one, “mobile first,” and is not difficult to understand why. Today’s consumers are constantly on their mobile. Continue…

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As the name suggests, a dual sim phone allows you to have two sims in a single phone. There are a variety of reasons why people may want access to two different phone numbers on a single device.

A dual sim phone could be of particular use to self employed people, freelancers and business owners who want to be able to handle personal and work calls separately, but don’t want to carry two different phones.

The facility to have separate numbers for work and personal contacts, with tailored voicemail messages can help you to be more professional and create a better impressions with potential customers. With dual sim phones seemingly solving a communications conundrum for many small business owners we asked telecoms expert, Dave Millett, to share his insight into them; Continue…

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For many business owners and entrepreneurs, it can be hard to motivate your employees and encourage them to perform to optimal levels, especially when resources are limited.

Olympics athletes not only have to train extremely hard but are also faced with huge financial burdens and limited resources and often rely on sponsorship to maintain a standard of living. Yet, Team GB still enjoyed great success at the London and Rio Olympics!

So what are the real reasons for their success? How did they manage to bring the country together, and more importantly, how can their winning success help you turn your business into a winner? Adam Strong reveals the secrets of creating a winning culture; Continue…

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Starting your own business means you suddenly become the owner of several hats – one for selling, one for bookkeeping, one for planning, one for looking after customers and one for marketing to name but a few.

The marketing element of a start-up is one of the most complex, especially given the changing ways small businesses need to reach customers in a digital world.

Digital marketing can be a bit of a mystery to many small business owners, so to help you explore how you make the most of the opportunities it offers, we’ve asked Tink Taylor, founder of dotmailer, to share some simple tips to get you started on your digital journey.
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Trusted selling

We live in incredible times of change; there’s no disputing that. Old business models are dying out, new business models and disrupting technologies are being born every day that are turning industries on their head.

At the same time, trust is at its lowest level ever. We no longer trust politicians, we no longer trust banks and bankers. We no longer trust the proven models and establishments that have supported us for years, never more proven than in recent times with Brexit and Donald Trump becoming US President. Continue…

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The roll-out of auto enrolment is well into its fifth year. Having started with the largest organisations back in October 2012, it’s now the turn of small and micro sized employers.

If you’re one of these, you’re in good company. During 2017, hundreds of thousands of organisations just like yours will need to get to grips with auto enrolment.

If you aren’t sure what it means for you and your workers, this step by step guide to Automatic Enrolment for small businesses, will put you on the right path.

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The 10 Steps you need to take to turn around a struggling business

February 20, 2017

Most companies will face some kind of cash flow problem at some point. Temporary cash flow problems or financial squeezes usually arise out of matters that are outside of the immediate control of the directors, but when problems like this happen it’s vital you take the right steps and move quickly to ensure the issue […]

How to minimise non-billable time

February 17, 2017

“Time is money” isn’t just an adage when running a small business, it’s a way of life. When your business model is to sell your time and expertise, it’s important to monetise every moment of every working day. There are plenty of hacks to help freelancers and contractors get more and more efficient with reducing […]

The secrets of getting a business bank loan

February 16, 2017

Borrowing money from a bank to finance your business is a lot harder than getting a loan to buy a new car or to improve your home. Banks have a number of tough rules that you need to know before you approach them for a business loan, and these rules have become even more stringent […]

Creating the right visuals to complement your presentation

February 14, 2017

Startups need to get their message across — and fast. It’s therefore vital for every new business to create a great pitch presentation. To help you prepare a compelling case, we asked, Emma Ledden, author of The Presentation Book to share the secrets of how to produce memorable presentations that help put you on the […]

Going into business with friends – How to do it successfully

February 13, 2017

Starting a business with friends can seem like a good idea, but before you jump in and set up a company with people you are close to, you need to be honest with yourself and each other. If you get it wrong your new business could fail and lifelong friendships ruined. So what steps should […]

How to finance your new business – funding advice for start-ups

February 10, 2017

If you are looking to start a new business, there is a good chance that you will need some funding to get it off the ground. Most businesses will have start-up costs, whether it’s securing premises, stock, equipment or hiring people, and they will all need paying for. Some people might have savings, or a […]

Why 95% of your website visitors don’t buy, and what YOU can do about it

February 9, 2017

If you’ve been involved in running a website, you’ll know that it’s relatively “easy” to get eyeballs on your site. Throw money at it and they will come. But, it’s getting those visitors to take action, to buy from you – that’s the hard part. So it’s no wonder that a website’s ‘Conversion Rate’ is […]

Understanding fixed term employment contracts – what business owners need to know

February 8, 2017

Fixed term employment contracts are generally seen by employers as those which “plug the gap” when their normal, permanent employees are absent for a period of time. Fixed term contracts are useful tools for businesses who need to employ staff to cover short term peaks in business demands. But before employing staff on a fixed […]

Embracing technological opportunities – how SMEs can adopt new technologies without being overtaken by them

February 7, 2017

Technological innovation is happening ever more rapidly and the changes will transform every industry. Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) can benefit from these innovative technologies but must strike a balance between using technology and being overwhelmed by it. To help business owners embrace the potential of new technologies we asked Rohit Talwar, editor of, […]

How to create your own support team and increase your startup’s chance of success

February 6, 2017

Starting up and growing your own business can be extremely exciting and exhilarating, but it can also at times be quite lonely and overwhelming, particularly if you don’t have a business partner to share the experience with. When you are sitting alone at your desk it can be hard to know where to turn for […]

Mindfulness for small business owners – How 10 minutes of me time can make all the difference

February 3, 2017

As a small business owner, you have to juggle many balls and spin a canteen’s worth of plates. You have to simultaneously pay attention to every part of your business; sales, production, cash flow, marketing, accounts and the list goes on. During a typical day, your attention is pulled in many directions at once and […]

Simple stories, super results for startups

February 2, 2017

It might be strange to think that storytelling can be a powerful tool for startups. But stories provide a fantastic way to explore the purpose of your new business, what it stands for, what it will be like and how you will achieve your vision. The great thing about stories is that we are all designed to […]

How to be a successful freelancer in the gig economy

January 31, 2017

The gig economy is one of the UK’s fastest growing ways of working. According to IPSE, the body representing UK freelancers, there are now around 1.9 million freelancers in the UK alone. And the global figure is upwards of 50 million people earning a living from freelancing. The rise in popularity of freelance working is […]

10 ways to maximise your productivity when running your own business

January 30, 2017

Successful business owners know how to make the most of every minute of every day. Wasted time costs money and clients, but when you’re slowed down by administrative tasks, an over-spilling inbox and endless meetings it can be hard to keep up with the pace. Here, Richard Walton highlights ten ways to maximise your productivity […]

Is my business data safer in the cloud? A guide for small businesses

January 26, 2017

IT security has never been a bigger issue for startups and SMEs, with 3 in 5 digital firms likely to experience service failures by 2020 due to improper mitigation of risk. It comes at a time when small businesses are increasingly being targeted by hackers keen to exploit network vulnerabilities, and access their data. Ensuring the security […]

Build a Brand, Build a Business

January 24, 2017

If you’re starting a new business you’ll, no doubt, want to establish and build a strong brand. Doing so will bring huge benefits over the long-term, helping you to stand out from the crowd, generate more customers and ultimately build a more valuable business. But how do you build a brand, and where do you […]