Branduin's Tip of the Month

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#20: Knowing The Status Of Your Employee

There has been a lot of coverage in the news recently about the Gig Economy, particularly in relation to workforce status. The recent court case taken by self- employed workers of Uber, demanding employment rights such as holiday entitlements and Statutory Sick pay, demonstrates the minefield of: how do you classify an employee?

Small business owners should also be careful about the nature of the employer/employee relationship. I would recommend as a rule of thumb that if you are setting out the terms of their employment requiring the person to carry out duties that are directly related to your company and they are provided with the tools and equipment to do the job; then they are employees.

Don’t get yourself into a situation where you take on a person on a “self-employed” basis and find that HMRC are on your case


#19: Marketing Automation can be a bad thing

Marketing automation promises much, it helps you communicate to your target audience quickly and easily. Tools such as MailChimp and Hootsuite can make controlling your email and social media much easier. As you move away from tools which manage a specific aspect of your marketing, your expectations go up as the cost of the automation tools increases. What you also need to think carefully about is the increase in other pressures on your business.


Setting up a marketing automation tool such as Salesforce, Infusionsoft or Hubspot takes careful planning and therefore time. If you are looking for marketing automation to save you time, you have to be prepared to invest a considerable amount of time up front.


The old adage “rubbish in, rubbish out” is true when looking at these tools. Gone are the days when first name, last name and an email address will do. If you want to personalise your communication to ensure maximum engagement, you have to collate that information.


With Infusionsoft and Salesforce starting at $200 per month, you have to be sure you are going to get value, particularly as Brexit’s impact on exchange rates has meant a £28 per month increase since June. If you are primarily using these tools for email management, you may be better off with MailChimp, starting at $10 per month for up to 500 leads.

Our recommendation

Think carefully about what you want marketing automation to deliver. The big tools promise much but they need a lot of resource to be effective. Think carefully, consider your options and be honest about the time you have available to maintain the tools you choose. By doing this, you will get far better value.


#18: Start with a Blank Sheet

Often we find that many businesses that for a number of reasons have reached a plateau or a road block and find it difficult to move forward – day to day activities become a chore and just talking about the issues can lead to embarrassment.

We find the presentation of a blank sheet of paper often breaks the deadlock and here’s how it works.

Write down ONLY the key issues happening in your business TODAY that are stopping you moving forward e.g., Finance , Cash Flow, staff, a person, a process - best to keep this to 5 items or less.   

Then for each item add just use 2 or 3 words to describe why this is an issue – keep it simple.  

From the key issues identified be honest which one is the key to unlocking the door and move the business forward – which one would give you and you team the most satisfaction to resolve.  

So examples “Finance – chase invoice payments”  “Staff – monitor overtime”   

Now TAKE ACTION against the one that will make the most impact, make it your focus to drive through change and improvement.

Remember the acronym – “KISS” – keep it simple stupid…


#17: Size Doesn’t Matter!

Too many entrepreneurs are obsessed with size. They believe bigger is better. Whilst this may be true for wine glasses and ice-cream portions, it most definitely isn’t when it comes to your marketing.

Let me be blunt:

  •        More LinkedIn connections doesn’t make you a better entrepreneur
  •        More email addresses in your mailing list doesn’t mean you’re a better business
  •        Putting more money into your marketing budget doesn’t mean you will grow faster

It’s what you do with what you’ve got that matters.

  •        Keep up relations with the people in your network, whether on LinkedIn or elsewhere, to ensure you get that flow of referrals and introductions.
  •        Clean out your email lists of people who aren’t engaging. If they’re not engaging, they’re probably not interested.
  •        Put your money into what you know is working and get the return on investment you want. Don’t have a scattergun approach.

You can save time, money and effort by concentrating on quality rather than quantity.


#16: Talk is cheap........ Not talking can be more expensive

Think about the consequences of not talking or engaging with your people. You won’t get to know or understand what makes them energised for a start. You will be unaware of their aspirations at work; other talents that they possess and what really drives or motivates them.

I always recommend that you actively listen to your employees. This way you will find out more about the real them, what are their likes and dislikes, what makes them connected to your business, their preferred way of working and what are their learning and development desires to improve their ability to grow your business.


#15: Planning for the unexpected 

Planning for the unexpected can be key to company’s survival.  Directors of larger companies such as those with shareholders have a legal responsibility to assess risks to their business and how they would respond should the worst happen.   Yet it is amazing how few SMEs have even the basics on a business continuity plan in place as surprises can hit them as well.  Recently a company got flooded over the weekend – not usual you might think in this country with the inclement weather.  However they were on the 8th floor and it was the air con system that broke drenching their equipment, office furniture, paperwork etc.

A good question to ask yourself what would do if you walked in and found that on a Monday morning.   This company, who has 20 staff, had prepared for office disruptions.    They had a cascade calling plan for letting staff know.   They had stored in the cloud a list of key contacts – their IT supplier, electricians, landlord, insurance company etc.   The used cloud telephony so said to staff – come in and take your phone home with you and work there.   By lunchtime they were up and running and within a week everything had been fully restored and all staff back at desks.  The impact on the business was managed with minimal impact on customers.  Could you say the same?


#14: Don’t stop talking when they say No

It’s a fact of business life that you won’t close every sales opportunity. It’s also the case that most people then stop talking to a prospect after they’ve said “no thanks”.  If you do, you are missing out on future sales.

If they don’t buy from you, they did one of two things: they bought from someone else or they didn’t buy at all.  Unless you sell something that never wears out, never stops running or is something someone only ever buys once, that prospect will need to buy again at some point in the future. If you keep communicating and keep nurturing that prospect, there is a good chance they will come back to you in the future. It may take just a few weeks or it may take a few years, but keep talking and you maximise your chances of them coming back to you.


#13: Common Mistakes People Make When Starting a Business

If you are just about to start a business or have recently launched a business there are some common mistakes / pitfalls that many make.   Many have not developed a basic business plan and more importantly a cash flow plan.   More businesses fail in the early period not because they are not profitable but because they run out of money.   A clear business plan is especially essential if you are seeking to raise finance.   A number of banks have commented to us about businesses coming looking for loans with no written plan or clear idea as too how much is needed and what precisely it will be used for.

At an operational level using gmail/Hotmail email addresses, only having a mobile number and wafer thin business cards potentially send a message to potential customers you have not been prepared to invest in your business.  If they believe that then they are a lot less likely to consider buying from you.

Finally some startups do not have a clear idea as to who their customers will be and what is the best way of reaching them and marketing to them.  What will be most cost effective form of marketing when budgets are usually limited to give the best return.


#12: Selling to Prospect

When you fail to sell to a prospect, don’t think that is the last you’ll ever hear from them.  When a company looks for a product or service, even if they don’t buy from you, they often don’t actually buy anything or they stay with their current provider (better the devil you know and all that).  If you keep in contact and nurture that prospect, there is a good chance they will come back and talk to you again.

  1.        Ensure they are on your mailing list and get regular communication
  2.        Give them a call every now and again
  3.        If you see something that may be of use to them, send them it. A quick email saying “I saw this and thought of you”

By keeping yourself in the back of their mind, you stand an excellent chance of being considered when they look again for what you sell.


#11: Choosing the right social media platforms

Today everyone seems to be saying you must be on social media for your business if it is going to succeed.   That is a bit of a generalisation but for most businesses it can certainly help.   The challenge is then which one.   The worst thing to do is to try and do them all and end up doing them all badly.  It is much better to pick one or two and do them well.

Here is a little guide to try and help identify which is best for your business.    If you sell mainly to other businesses and your product/service is quite complex (eg business lawyer) then LinkedIn may be the best option – particular if you can educate people rather than sell to them. Facebook is better for people selling to consumers and you can build a community with existing and potential customers.   If you have a visual product eg fashion then combining with instragram can be a good medium.   Twitter sits somewhere between the two groups – great if you have a simple message and have lots to say.

The most important thing is to do it regularly – try and set aside 10 – 15 minutes a day, perhaps when having a coffee and start putting out some messages.


#10: Taking on a new employee

When taking on a new employee make sure you have a solid induction programme in place. This will help them settle into their new role so they can play a major part in the growth and development of your business. Think of this person like you would any business asset, but with the ability to be a creative force, who, with the right nurturing, will blossom and mature whilst in your employment.


#9: Three steps to keep your New Year’s Business Goals  

2016 is now upon us and a time when many people make resolutions. Research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals, and this is not dissimilar when people make plans for their businesses.   

So to help keep you on track, try this simple task:  

Take three post it notes, each with one of these headings: 




Give some thought to 2015 and what happened in your business. Think of one thing you did that really helped your business the most and put it on the DO MORE note.    

Then what hasn’t worked to generate businesses or has been a waste of time - put that on the STOP note.   

Finally what have you been putting off not doing to help your business, be that learning how to use LinkedIn, start a customer newsletter, get an apprentice etc and put that on START. 

Fix these three post it notes to somewhere that is constantly visible: PC screen, office planner or wall, so they remain front of mind for 2016.  It will help you keep your businesses resolutions at least. 


#8: Are you telling people the right thing?

Tell people what you deliver, not what you do.  They can find a software developer or a graphic designer anywhere but it’s much harder to find someone who improves business efficiency or makes their company look good. It doesn’t matter whether this is part of your overall marketing or when you are networking, telling people what you deliver will help them to understand how you can help them.


#7: First impressions count

When starting a new business venture it is important to create the right first impression and also frequently disguise the fact that you are a new venture.   

Here are three of the most common mistakes made which can undermine these attempts and actually discourage customers. 

1. The first is don't use an email address that is @gmail or @hotmail etc it says you are trying to do on the cheap and are not prepared to invest a few pounds a month in an email address that includes your company name and looks professional.  It also supports your brand.  

2. Secondly on a similar vein avoid having just a mobile business number as research shows that 30% of people / businesses will not buy from companies that just have a mobile number.  Landlines are associated with permanence and if you do not have one virtual numbers can be obtained for less than £10 a number.

3. Finally the other false economy are cheap thin business cards. This is especially important if you are doing a lot of networking to grow your business. People might not even see the gmail email or mobile number if the card you hand them is like a piece of paper. As a general rule ensure it is 400 gsm.  Whilst these three points will not guarantee you success they will help you at least get to the point where you can have a conversation.

Chamber members are entitled to a free, confidential 1-2-1 business advice clinic with our partners Branduin.


#6: Be specific

Remove the word anyone from your marketing, particularly at networking events. It makes it harder for people to refer or introduce you to people who could use your services. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get the introductions you seek. Job title, industry sector, geography and, most importantly, how you can help them; that is the information your network needs.


#4: Do You Have A Social Media Policy?

Small business owners are as committed as large organisations to protect the image and reputation of their company and want to promote their products and services via social media.

By having a Social Media policy you are setting standards and putting safeguards in place by informing your employees that inappropriate comments, photos and videos are unacceptable and that they could be in breach of the law.

Make sure that your employees read and sign the policy to confirm that they fully understand its contents.


#3: Are You Ready For Ofcom's Clear Calling Changes?

Ofcom has announced some changes due to come into effect next month.These changes will impact any person or organisation that owns or makes calls to 08, 09, 116 or 118 services.  0800 and 0808 numbers will become free to call even from mobiles.   The flip side is that if you use one of these numbers for your business, you will now start to be charged for the calls.

If your business uses 084, 087 or 09 numbers then you must ensure you are complying with the new rules on charges to callers.  Your service provider should have been in touch.  If not you should contact them urgently.

For further information visit the Ofcom website


#2: Consider using a business coach

It can be lonely at the top. Business owners and managers will benefit from using a business coach to help them:

        - get perspective and see what is working well and what needs improving

        - develop and achieve plans and goals for change and growth

        - engage others through periods of change, providing clear leadership

        - ensuring that the right people, with the skills needed, are in place to take the business forward

Businesses thrive when top leaders work on rather than in the business. An experienced business coach offers independent and expert support for this strategic and dynamic business leadership. A coach will also help with identifying leadership strengths and areas for development, over the longer term.


#1: Put your business out there

To maintain a regular flow of referrals, don't assume that people will just know you are there, it is important to ensure there is consistent communication outbound. Keep your network aware of you, your business and how you’re helping your customers. You’ll be surprised by the number of responses and calls to say “let me introduce you to…”

Whether you use email, social media or over the phone, it’s the fact that you’re communicating that matters. The key is to build into your diary time to make any of the following as examples:

  • newsletters to existing customer

  • posts on linked or a simple courtesy or how are you call to your base.

All of these keep your company front of mind in your customers partners and potential referrers.

One recent member business said:

"It was really a great session and I left the room feeling much better about myself and the business. Some of the points raised have already been put in place to change my business for the better."