How to set up and run a small business

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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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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 doesn’t escalate.

To help you navigate safely through troubled financial waters, we’ve asked Richard Saville of Corporate Financial Services to set out the 10 key steps you need to consider when your business is faced with a financial problem. Continue…

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“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 cost of non-billable time. These tend to focus on outsourcing your unproductive time and automating repetitive tasks, but you also need to pay special attention to the time and effort you spend on winning new business. Continue…

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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 as a result of the credit crunch.
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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 map. Continue…

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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 you take before going into business with friends, or any business partner for that matter?

We asked entrepreneur, Mike France, who has experienced both sides of this coin, to share his advice on how to successfully start and run a business with friends; Continue…

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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 redundancy payment, they can use to fund their start-up, but others will need to find funds before they can launch their new business. However, as many prospective business owners find out, getting start-up finance can be difficult.

For someone who just wants to start their own business, negotiating the finance maze can be confusing and take up a lot of valuable time. So to help increase your chances of success, here are the answers to some common questions on how to fund a new business; Continue…

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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 one of the most keenly tracked metrics in online business. It measures the percentage of visitors who take a desired action, which in e-commerce means making a purchase.

Improving your conversion rate means more sales and higher profits, so finding ways to convert more of your website visitors into buyers is a key plank of ecommerce success.

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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 term contract, employers need to be aware of the rights fixed term employees have to ensure they are not at risk of a tribunal claim.

So to help make sure you don’t get caught out, we asked employment law expert, Peter Done to explain the key points of fixed term contracts for small businesses; Continue…

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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, ‘The Future of Business’ and ‘Technology vs. Humanity’ to provide some practical advice on how to survive, and thrive, in the face of this continuous tidal wave of technological change. Continue…

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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 advice and support.

The good news is there is fantastic solution to this. That is to create your own support team that you can call on whenever you need to for help and advice, and even sometimes simply for encouragement and motivation and a friendly chat.

Here’s how to do it: Continue…

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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 this can make it difficult to focus and get anything done at all.

Sadly, this means many business owners end up being a slave to their own dream business. They could do with another couple of hours each day and another working day a week. How can they hope to get off the bus? Continue…

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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 be storytellers. Every time we talk about why we are starting a business, every time we share our idea of what the business will be achieving in the future we are sharing stories.

When we do this, we are influencing others – sometimes these stories change our thinking, sometimes they help us and those around us to understand and accept new ideas. So with stories, being such a powerful tool for new business owners, here are 4 simple strory-telling techniques you can use to get results; Continue…

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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 creating more opportunities for those looking for more flexibility and control over their own lives, but joining the growing ranks of the self-employed does bring its challenges.

So if you’re thinking of going it alone and starting up as a freelancer, here’s what you need to do to be a successful freelancer in the gig economy; Continue…

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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 every day: Continue…

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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 of your data – and more importantly, the data you hold on your customers – is essential. It’s one of the reasons that many businesses are moving to the cloud, where data is stored virtually.

It’s a cost effective solution for most business, but those things that make the cloud an attractive option – accessibility, flexibility and price – are reasons why others consider it to be unsafe. As more and more small businesses move data and processes to the cloud, here’s a handy guide to ensuring your data is safe. Continue…

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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 start? We asked branding expert, and author of ‘Winning in Your Own Way; the Nine and a Half Golden Rules of Branding‘, Robert Bean to explain;
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…continued from Part 1 of Build a Brand, Build a Business Continue…

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5 Tips for small businesses setting up an auto enrolment pension scheme in 2017

January 23, 2017

Figures from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) reveal that more than 95 per cent of the small employers required to put their staff into a workplace pension by June 2016 had complied with the law. To the end of September, almost 257,000 employers had completed their automatic enrolment duties and enrolled over 6.7 million workers on […]

8 Common mistakes new business owners make

January 20, 2017

Building a successful new business is a roller-coaster. There will be days you know you couldn’t do anything else, and days you wish you did. Sometimes you’ll be on top of the world, but at other times it will be a struggle to drag yourself out of bed. In the high-stakes world of starting a […]

Why YOU need to understand the numbers of YOUR business

January 20, 2017

Understanding the numbers of your business is crucial to your success. If you have a grasp of key figures, and have an understanding of your business’ accounts you are more likely to make good business decisions. Knowing your way around business accounts isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone, but if you are serious about […]

How to defend your small business from ‘Insider Threats’

January 19, 2017

As a small business, one of the biggest threats to your information assets resides within your operatin. The insider threat, intentional or otherwise, is now one of the major concerns in cybersecurity, and with good cause. So what exactly are the insider threats to small businesses, and how can you mitigate the dangers? We asked […]

Statutory & Contractual Notice Periods: Advice for small businesses

January 17, 2017

Once a contract of employment is in place, notice has to be given by either party to the contract to end it. There are two types of notice periods; statutory notice and contractual notice. As an employer, if you fail to give the correct notice when terminating an employment contract, you are in breach of […]

Why financial forecasting is important for startups, and how to do it painlessly

January 16, 2017

When you are launching a new business, it’s fair to say that planning your finances isn’t the most exciting aspect of of being a startup. However, it is a crucial part of understanding whether your business has a chance of succeeding And the good news is that there are now dedicated software, tools and apps […]

7 cybersecurity issues small businesses need to understand in 2017

January 16, 2017

Security breaches and cybercrime incidents hit the headlines in 2016, as high-profile news of data breaches, malware, DDoS attacks and compromised systems became mainstream news. The news reports inevitably focused on cyber-attacks on major corporations, such as the data thefts from TalkTalk, Three and Tesco Bank, as well as the extraordinary autumn story of the […]

Scaling a craft business – How to grow without compromise

January 13, 2017

The craft business boom of the last decade has brought plentiful opportunities for businesses and customers alike. For entrepreneurs involved, however, managing growth and expansion while retaining the original values and quality that initially propels a business to success can sometimes be easier said than done. Growing and scaling a craft business presents unique challenges […]

What are the compulsory fire safety regulations for UK businesses?

January 12, 2017

It is vitally important for business owners and managers to understand their duty to comply with UK fire safety regulations, as the consequences are potentially very serious. All legislation regarding fire safety in business (non-domestic) premises in England and Wales are incorporated in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005. It provides clear guidance for […]