How to set up and run a small business

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If you’re starting a business then chances are money is tight – so anything you can do to increase sales without spending a fortune is worth looking at.

It’s easy to imagine that you need to employ a crack sales team – but the truth is, if you’ve made one sale, then you already have one sales person – that customer. And more often than not, the best people to sell your products and services are your customers.

Customers have already gained benefit from you and because they are impartial, they can provide legitimate social proof. So how do you get your customers selling for you? Continue…


If you’re launching a new business, or looking to grow your existing business, then the chances are you’ll need to do some cold calling at some stage.

However, despite its importance within their business and the doors it can open, many business owners shy away from cold calling and find it extremely stressful.  To help you overcome such cold-calling anxieties, here are six techniques that can help you become a more confident, far less stressed, and much more effective cold caller:



A change is afoot for the UK’s self-employed workers, and it’s good news for some 1.7million one-man bands!

From 1st October 2015, if you are self-employed and your work activity poses no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public, then Health and Safety law will not apply to you.

So are you one of the sole traders that no longer has to worry about complying with Health & Safety legislation? Continue…


When you are starting a business, sitting down and grappling with Health & Safety legislation isn’t one of your top priorities. It’s fair to say that it’s not one of the more exciting parts of running your own business, and it doesn’t bring in any money.

However, with the average fine for Health & Safety prosecutions being over £30,000, it can be very costly if you don’t stay on the right side of the law. With so much at stake, we asked Louise Hosking of Hosking Associates to explain what small businesses need to do; Continue…


As a small business owner you may not have lots of money sloshing around. You know your staff are your most important asset, but you may not be able to afford to give them a pay rise.

So how can you be an attractive company to work for, motivate and reward staff and promote loyalty without increasing your pay bill?

Believe it or not, introducing employee benefits may be the answer. There is a range of benefits which won’t be a cost to your company and will actually provide savings by reducing your tax liability. These are known as salary sacrifice arrangements.


In April 2016 the National Living Wage legislation will come in to force. From this date all employers will be required to pay staff over the age of 25, a minimum rate of £7.20 per hour.

With experts suggesting that National Living Wage (NLW) could be a step into the unknown, many business owners are rightly feeling nervous about the new legislation.

Lord Wolfson, the boss of Next, for example has stated that prices at the retailer could be driven up by the legislation, which would mean an extra £27million being spent on wages each year. Similar soundings have come from businesses like Whitbread, owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn, too – warning that the National Living Wage would cost them an extra £20million.

All businesses with employees will be affected, but those that employ staff with pay rates at, or near the existing minimum wage will be hit hardest. So what can employers do to prepare themselves for the National Minimum Wage legislation? Continue…


Most small business owners have an opinion on networking. For every person who enjoys and values it – you’ll find another who visibly shudders at the mere mention of the word.

But why does networking seem to polarise small business owners? Is it a massive untapped opportunity, or is it an uncomfortable evening in the company of strangers and cocktail sausages?


Poor posture at work can lead to serious long-term health problems for many individuals, often triggering severe stress and anxiety in sufferers.

There is compelling evidence to indicate people who sit for more than four hours at a time are at greater risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes – a condition that has risen by almost 60% in the past 10 years.

Back pain caused by bad posture is an issue affecting around 70 per cent of the nation’s workforce and is now the second most common complaint among employees. Few will be aware that poor posture can also contribute to knee pain, fallen arches and even cause poor bladder control.

With back pain damaging the health of employees and costing businesses in sick days, it’s clear that employers should do everything they can to eliminate poor posture in their workplace.


The short answer is yes. But most business owners and managers seem to think that it is currently impossible to fire anyone, let alone be thanked for doing so.

Too many owners and managers hold these two beliefs about firing staff: Continue…


Apple, Netflix, Nike. Leaders in very different industries. They didn’t get there by doing what everyone else was doing.

Apple adds crafted design to desirable functionality and makes it fashionable. Netflix goes beyond being a digital LoveFilm and creates high quality, polished, original programming that goes toe-to-toe with Game of Thrones and Mad Men at the Emmys. Nike’s sponsorship deals are with athletes even your gran has heard of.

However doing something unique in an industry comes with risks: Continue…


Good public relations are essential for any business, but especially so, for small and start-up businesses. If you can persuade editors to run a story about your business, it’s worth a dozen adverts or mailshots. And there’s also the huge added benefit of it not costing you anything!

However, writing a press release isn’t as simple as dashing off a letter to the editor of your local paper. For it to work, your release needs to be carefully crafted and put together.

Here we look at how you should structure your press releases to grab editors’ attention and maximise your chances of getting that elusive, but highly-prized free press coverage.


Being an employer comes with all manner of responsibilities, not least ensuring the happiness and safety of your staff.

So when an employee approaches you, or the person responsible for HR within your organisation, with a problem or complaint (a grievance) you need to ensure you have the necessary procedures in place to resolve the situation efficiently and fairly.

Failing to recognise and deal with a grievance properly could result in the complaint going to an employment tribunal, which would likely prove to be costly, not to mention a huge strain on time and resources on any small business.

To help ensure, your business avoids such costly distractions, here’s how to prepare for, and manage staff grievances.


For a small business, email marketing offers an inexpensive but effective and efficient way to engage with your customers, and attract new ones – so long as the right planning has been put in place first.

It creates and maintains communication, helping to keep your brand front of mind and build customer loyalty. Campaigns can be designed around a specific purpose, e.g. to boost sales, or to increase website traffic, and they can be targeted – you decide who receives which email.

Most importantly, and unlike many other marketing options, its results are measurable – the best email marketing platforms will even provide you with reports outlining how successful your campaign has been, and what aspects worked best.

This makes it an excellent choice for small businesses with a limited marketing budget. As long as you take the time to really think about what you want to get out of it, it is also simple – follow these 6 steps for planning and implementing your campaign, and you won’t go wrong. Continue…


The cost of printing, scanning, and copying can quietly mount up for small businesses. But by making some straightforward adjustments to the way your business approaches printing you can save money, reduce environmental impact and increase staff productivity.

Here are ten ways small businesses can save money by making a few simple changes. Continue…


It’s estimated that almost one in every three small businesses maintain their own website, and with that comes a whole host of potential challenges to overcome.

Alongside the usual cost of building a new website, getting the right designer and managing your hosting prices, there are other factors which many small business owners do not consider when managing or monitoring their website.

In fact, there are a number of common mistakes which SMEs often make, but which are easy enough to overcome.

Here are the seven errors we most often see with websites designed for startups and small businesses.


When you’re starting or running your own small business, you have an endless list of jobs to do. One of the most crucial is generating interest in your business and creating awareness of your products and services.

Big companies can have a team of people to do this and hire a PR agency but as a small business you will probably need to do all your PR yourself. There’s nothing more demotivating when you’re doing your own PR than spending hours getting the perfect press release put together… only for it to be completely ignored by all the journalists you’ve sent it to.

But don’t take it personally, it’s a very common occurrence. And when you hear that 99% of all press releases sent to the media end up in the bin you realise it happens a lot more often than you think.


If you could have lunch with any businessman or woman in the world, (alive or dead), to discuss your commercial/professional situation, whom would you choose – and why?

Chances are that you’d choose someone you admire or are intrigued by, perhaps because of their achievements, their values or their reputation/personal brand.

Most of us recognise the need to learn from the life experience and wisdom of others. We also aspire to accelerate the pace towards our own success, or at least smooth a few of the bumps in the road. A business mentor can be an invaluable asset to enable us to identify relevant principles of success and adapt them for our own situations and use.



No matter what business problem you have to solve right now, there’s a powerful way of finding the answer quickly and efficiently… and it’s called networking.

That’s a word that makes many people’s hearts beat faster. The idea of getting out to events and meeting a bunch of strangers is not something that seems natural!

Yet networking is a powerful marketing and business tool.


Picture the scene. You’ve spent years developing an amazing new product, the likes of which has never been seen before.

It will truly revolutionise the market and give your competitors many sleepless nights of agonising worry.

But it all depends on you shocking the world by announcing your new product at the annual trade fair. If word gets out before, it will ruin all your hard work and give your competitors a head start.


No longer uniquely the home of shaky phone cam footage of comedy pets, YouTube has become a truly global broadcasting powerhouse. Sure, there are still grainy home videos aplenty, but these days YouTube is as much about film trailers, news channels, comedy sketches and even dedicated web series.

With one billion unique visitors every single month, it’s also an invaluable marketing tool, capable of reaching the kind of audiences that TV ads sandwiched between slabs of prime time soap can only dream of.

Of, course, if it were as simple as plastering the web with marketing videos and waiting for your inbox to fill with sales enquiries, everyone would be enjoying the fruits of their YouTube labours.



Establishing a set of values for your company

July 29, 2015

Do you wish everyone in your business talked with one voice? There are plenty of corporate cliches for this – being on the same page, singing from the same hymn sheet – but it all boils down to one thing: having a strong company identity that everyone shares. When you launch a business, you probably […]

The ‘Fit for Work’ scheme – what it means for employers

July 27, 2015

Latest figures from the Government have shown that 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence very year in the UK, and over 1 million workers had sickness absences greater than one month. The cost to employers, and to the country, in lost productivity, is considerable. Therefore, steps are now being taken to reduce […]

When to get SEO for your website, and when not to

July 24, 2015

SEO has become an integral part of online marketing. If you want your business to be seen online, the general consensus is that SEO is absolutely essential. Committing to a high quality SEO campaign can take up a lot of time and make demands on a startup’s budget that not everyone can meet. But seeking […]

5 ways for small business owners to de-stress

July 23, 2015

Running your own business can be challenging and often a test of your patience. When workloads mount and your calendar begins to clutter, feeling stressed may can be inevitable. The Health and Safety Executive says that stress currently affects one in five of the UK’s working population and is costing businesses more than one billion […]

Become a better negotiator – 5 steps to asking power questions

July 17, 2015

Negotiations are something all of us need to do every day. Whether it is securing a sale, negotiating a discount with a supplier or simply making arrangements with friends and family (children make particularly good negotiators!), the kind of questions we ask influences the final outcome for everyone. The quality of the questions you ask […]

Disability in the workplace – what small businesses can do to manage it

July 15, 2015

Disability in the workplace is a very contentious issue, and something that we certainly wouldn’t be able to definitively cover here. However, what we can do is to help you as an employer to understand how to behave with care and attention – so as to avoid getting into any grief when it comes to […]

Apple Pay UK launch imminent – What does it mean for businesses?

July 13, 2015

Back in October 2014, Apple Pay – the contactless NFC payment method on iPhones – launched in the US, and we looked at its potential for small businesses here in the UK. The question of whether or not SMEs should integrate Apple Pay with their existing payment systems was left unanswered, as it all depended […]

Automatic Enrolment – small businesses urged to act

July 10, 2015

As 2015 progresses, increasing numbers of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) – those employing up to 30 members of staff – are getting closer to their automatic enrolment staging date, where they will be required to enrol staff into a workplace pension scheme. Hundreds of thousands of small employers across the UK will have […]

Preparing for meetings with clients – 3 steps to building fruitful, long-term partnerships

July 9, 2015

Any business owner is familiar with the challenge of attracting new clients and protecting relationships with existing ones. Fierce competition within many industries gives clients a wide choice of suppliers to choose from, and to make things even more difficult, some clients feel the need to change vendors periodically to avoid the common phenomenon of […]

What does ‘Shared Parental Leave’ mean for your business?

July 3, 2015

New parental leave legislation came into effect in April 2015, giving men and women the option to share child care over the course of a year. Increased flexibility provided by shared parental leave will enable more men to be involved in child care and bond with their babies. It will also give women the freedom […]