How to set up and run a small business

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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 to return to work earlier if they wish, which could enhance their career prospects.

However, not everyone has welcomed the new legislation with open arms. Some of the harshest critics have been the Small Business Federation and The Institute of Directors who claims the legislation could create a “nightmare” for employers, particularly small businesses.

So what are the implications of shared parental leave legislation on a business and how can you overcome the practical challenges it brings?

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As a start-up or small business, you may feel that you don’t have the necessary funds to create a luxury office environment that fuels employee creativity and impresses your clients. However, instead of thinking from an interior design perspective, you should be working from a psychology angle to ensure you get the most from your office design.

The look and feel of your office can have a direct impact on the output of your employees, so here’s how to create a workspace that boosts efficiency and productivity without costing huge amounts of money. Continue…

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According to new research commissioned by the Government’s Cyber Streetwise Campaign, SMEs are putting a third of their revenue at risk because they are downplaying the threat of cyber-attacks, leaving them exposed and vulnerable.

With this in mind, here’s what small businesses need to watch out for, and 10 clear steps that can be taken to protect against future attacks. Continue…

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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.
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You may have attended presentations that dragged or others that gripped people throughout. Perhaps you have given talks yourself and wondered what really makes the difference.

Whatever the situation, there are numerous factors that affect your chances of success. Everything you do contributes to the overall audience experience and even small things make a big difference.

This guide gives you 9 proven, practical tips to deliver more engaging and more effective presentations. Each one makes a positive impact, and you will know best which will be most useful in your own presentations. Continue…

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Facebook is the second biggest site in the world, with us Brits being some of its most prolific users. 59% of UK residents use Social Media on a daily basis; which means that Facebook presents some great marketing opportunities for businesses.

If you can get your users to share information about your products and services in their feeds, you can reach a massive audience of consumers – at a time when they are relaxed and receptive to marketing messages.

If you are a start-up or small businesses, the low-cost and high-potential make Facebook a very attractive option to promote and grow your venture, but how do you do this effectively? Continue…

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We live in a connected age where you can purchase pretty much anything you want at the touch of a button on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.

With this in mind, you may find it surprising to learn that not all businesses are tapping into this, or even quite know how to.
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Good communication is often essential for success on any project. In fact, lack of communication is probably the single most common problem affecting any website development.

But communicating your desires and goals to a designer for a new website, or with regards to any amendments to your current site, can often be a challenging task. You’re focused on what works for your business, and designers are focused on creating something that looks great in their eyes.

It’s understandable that problems can and do develop.

Follow these 9 tips however, and you’ll be well on your way to being understood by your web development company, and will hopefully be able to enjoy good communication and a pain free process!
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Every business – even yours – has a brand.

One common misconception is that your brand is your logo. Your logo is a single visual representation of your brand, but it is not your brand. Continue…

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I used to think I used a coaching style with the teams I led. Then I went on a coaching course to learn a little bit more. Imagine how disappointed I was when I found out that I hadn’t been coaching at all!

It turned out that all I had been doing was being vaguely encouraging while I told them what to do and how do it. And I was so busy because I always needed to know everything they were doing, so I would always know what to tell them to do.

I discovered that getting people to do things my way, no matter how nice I was while I was doing it, was nothing like coaching.
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Your new venture might have first spread its wings in the comfort of your own home, but most start-ups need to fly the nest at some point.

Whilst sending emails from your sofa in your onesie undeniably has its charms, there comes a time when moving your business forward requires giving it its own four walls.

Moving into a proper office can make what you do seem a whole lot more real – but it’s a daunting move to make, and with more options available than ever before, it’s unsurprising that many small business owners make the wrong decisions, or delay the move from home entirely.

To help you choose the best route for your business, we compare the more traditional option of renting an office on a commercial lease and the serviced office option. We look at what each one gives you and highlight the benefits and drawbacks of both, so you can come to the right decision.

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If there’s one marketing skill you should focus on developing above all others it is copywriting.

The ability to passionately sell a product or service in the written word is something that will never go out of fashion. And the reality is that few people will be able to do it as well for your business as you.

Yes, you can pay a copywriter to create the content for your new website or write a sales letter. But you have it within you to do a better job yourself. Your business gets your full focus day in, day out, so you are more likely to understand it properly and convey it more passionately to other people.

All you need to do is follow these seven simple copywriting secrets to write copy (another word for content) that potential buyers just can’t resist Continue…

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For many small business owners, the term ‘digital marketing’ could very well generate a concerned or baffled look, and the temptation to turn around and hide in a darkened room.

As an established small business, or even someone setting up a new business, you might know all about offline marketing like posters and billboards, flyers and direct mail, and word-of-mouth advertising, but when it comes to promoting your business online, it’s unchartered territory.

So to help you safely navigate the online marketing landscape, conquer new marketing activities and promote your business in the digital world, here’s a small business guide to the basics of digital marketing; Continue…

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We’ve all heard it; “You just have to be using social media marketing.”

And the response from many business owners is; “I’m keen to try using social media to promote my small business but I’m not sure where to start.”

If this sounds like you, here are ten simple but effective tips that will help any business starting out with social media, no matter how big or small your budget.
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A website can be a very powerful marketing tool for start-ups and small businesses. An effective site helps smaller firms to reach out to a huge audience of potential new customers and take on bigger rivals.

However, the battle to be found online can be fierce, so if you want your small business website to be successful, you will need to look at search engine optimisation, or SEO as it’s commonly referred to.

With SEO becoming more complex and specialised, many small businesses look to outsource the work to an agency. But with so many practitioners and firms out there offering SEO services it can be tricky to find the reputable providers.

To help you sort the wheat from the chaff, here are the 5 questions you should ask an SEO agency before you think about hiring them.
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It’s fair to say that the digital landscape has given us all a platform to air every thought that warrants sharing, and also many that don’t!

Unfortunately for businesses, customers will often bypass customer services and immediately go online to air their views. While channels such as Facebook allow you to brush criticism under the carpet (not advised, angry customers will usually respond), reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor and Google can blemish your name on a longer-term basis.

While your customers will always have scope to poorly portray your business online, there are some simple ways to monitor and respond to criticism in a proactive and timely manner.

Here are 6 things you can do to protect your brand and enhance your business reputation on social media; Continue…

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It’s absolutely vital for a small business to maintain a good reputation. It can be the making or breaking of your company after all. Unlike bigger businesses that seem to shrug off really embarrassing moments and carry on, smaller businesses can find it impossible to recover from a tarnished reputation.

So managing how you and your employees represent your business on social media is crucial.

Many may just use it to interact with family and friends, but some – in the very rarest of cases – can use it to abuse, or say inappropriate things. And what if this is seen by your customers? Or they say something about work? Would you know how to handle it?
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Instances of anxiety and depression in the workplace have become much more common in recent years; it’s a matter of record. For example, the number of mental health related absences in the NHS last year showed a two-fold increase since 2010, and on average in the UK 23 days are lost for each case of stress, depression or anxiety.

Whilst these statistics may not exactly represent the state of mental health in your business, it’s worth thinking about. Not least because mental health issues affect more people in the UK than you might think, about four in ten adults having experienced anxiety about their work in 2014.

So, as an employer, what should you do if one of your employees encounters mental health issues? If they’re work-related especially, what is expected of a business?
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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.
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For many small business owners and start ups energy is what you wish you had more of at the end of a long day! But, when it comes to utilities, then energy is also a key part of your overheads and can have a big impact on the bottom line.

A recent Censuswide survey found that three-quarters of SMEs believe they pay too much for their utilities. That equates to a whopping 3.9 million businesses across the UK.

However, there are a number of simple steps that can help you reduce your energy bills, these range from changing staff behaviour, through to finding a deal with a different supplier or using different tariffs.

The savings you make can be significant, so it’s worth a little of your valuable time and energy. To help you get started, here are 4 things you can do to save money on your energy bills right now; Continue…

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The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks

April 22, 2015

“Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always useless when it’s fake.” – Seth Godin When I decided to investigate how some of the most successful networkers operated both online and offline, I was desperate to know the “differences”. Some of the greatest teachers of our time encourage their followers to look for […]

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

April 15, 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 […]

How start-ups can win the eyes and ears of the local media

April 8, 2015

If you’ve just started your own business, you might be making the mistake of overestimating the scope of publicity you wish to achieve. Chances are, if you haven’t got a unique business idea that’s going to revolutionise the world, then you’re probably wasting valuable time dealing with national media outlets, especially when you can reap […]

The real cost of taking on your first employee

April 7, 2015

Taking on your first employee should be an exciting time. It means your business idea is working and you need help to expand. But while employees will help your business grow, they will also bring new stresses you may not have encountered before. When you are employing new staff, there are all sorts of costs […]

Getting your head around IR35 – Tips for new freelancers and contractors

March 27, 2015

If you are thinking of starting out as a freelancer or a contractor, you will very quickly need to get a basic understanding of the IR35 rules. The tax avoidance debate in the UK often focuses on the misdeeds of certain wealthy individuals and large multinational companies. But away from the national press there is […]

Securing your e-commerce website in 2015

March 26, 2015

2014 was a huge year for privacy and security on the Internet. There were several high profile security issues which were serious enough to make the leap from technical news sites to the mainstream press, and ongoing revelations about how easily everyone’s connections can be spied on have made the major players in the web […]

The seven steps of selling – understand the sales process and close more deals

March 24, 2015

If you can develop a better understanding of the selling process, you’re more likely to make those all-important sales. And by knowing more about the seven specific steps you need to take before you can close the deal, your sales efforts will be more richly rewarded. Here’s what you need to know about the seven […]

Intellectual Property – A summary of IP law for small businesses

March 18, 2015

As a small business owner, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “Intellectual Property”, or IP as it’s commonly referred to. But studies show that despite knowing what Intellectual Property is, many small businesses assume that protecting their Intellectual Property is only something that larger, well-known businesses need to worry about. The fact is that IP […]

Lessons in steering your business to export success – The Brompton Bicycle

March 16, 2015

The Brompton Bicycle is a great example of how a simple idea can be transformed into a global business. Today, the company behind the bike is a well-known British business success story, but it wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1970s, having looked at the folding bike designs already on the market, Brompton founder […]

Guide to Auto Enrolment – 12 key facts small businesses need to know

March 6, 2015

Automatic enrolment is looming large on the horizon for hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the UK. With many small firms unfamiliar with company pensions, tackling auto enrolment (AE) can feel daunting, so this guide has been designed to help small business owners get to grips with the subject. It outlines they key issues for […]