At home in the world of work

More than 2.1 million people work from home and some 8 million spend at least some of their working week in the house instead of at the office, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Working from home offers many advantages and is an attractive option for today’s budding entrepreneur or teleworker. Being able to work at your own speed, in your own environment without the daily commute is encouraging an increase in home-working initiatives and “bedroom start-ups”.

Writing the wrongs

If you, like many, had letter writing etiquette drilled into you from an early age then nothing screams from a page louder than the elementary error of “Dear Sir” followed by “Yours sincerely”; You may think it doesn’t matter but the impression it gives to the recipient can easily undermine confidence in a business.

Experience on tap

Mentoring has long been a valuable tool in staff training. Typically, a junior member of staff is assigned a mentor – someone experienced from inside or outside the company – to guide them along the learning curve.And if it works so well for individuals, then why not for small businesses?

Time for a review

For many businesses, agreeing marketing budgets is an area fraught with difficulty as marketing departments struggle to justify and quantify the return on investment.
This is a particular issue for small enterprises, where margins are tight and ‘the bottom line’ is of utmost importance.  It is possible for such businesses to look at large companies and bemoan the vast sums of money they can plunge into promoting their products and services and the lavish advertising campaigns that are beyond the reach of most organisations.  However, there are valuable lessons small businesses can learn from their larger counterparts which aren’t reliant on breaking the bank.

Trading in China

As the Chinese economy continues to grow at over 10 per cent each year, an increasing number of SMEs are looking to set up a presence in China to take advantage of this growth. Although there are several forms of corporate vehicle available to SMEs, the two most popular are the equity joint venture (EJV) and the wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE).

The Right Formula for Data Leak Protection

Whether on the race track, on the web or in the boardroom, data leaks are invariably bad news.  Just ask Ferrari and McLaren, the F1 giants embroiled in controversy over allegedly stolen technical documents. Or Facebook, who mistakenly exposed a slice of their own source code recently, and thereby possibly their own users. Or, who made the monster mistake of losing over a million customer records to expert “phishers.”

A tax on retirement

When is a u-turn not a u-turn? Many members of the Forum of Private Business (FPB) would argue that the Government’s suggested £100,000 in tax relief when they sell up and retire certainly fits the bill, following, as it does, the much-vaunted proposals to change the Capital Gains Tax system.
At best, it is a small step in the right direction. At worse, a limp gesture designed to ease the swelling tide of criticism from owner-managers, lobby groups and MPs since the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, announced that taper relief and indexation of Capital Gains Tax would be abolished.

Picking up the post

Struggling to cope with late deliveries is nothing new for smaller business. Three years ago, when the Royal Mail’s second post was scrapped as part of the continuing drive to cut costs, many members of the Forum of Private Business (FPB) complained that late deliveries were hindering their ability to do business.
However, the latest delay is in naming the UK’s 2,500 post offices that are to face closure. This has been postponed from September and has left countless owners of small businesses on tenterhooks. Post offices are vital links in their supply chain, and many communities face prolonged agony because the process of consultation will not be concluded until October 2008, in some areas.

Going it alone

At the end of the ‘90’s the air was thick with revolution.  Offices, newspapers and gastropubs across the land were alive with rumours that the end of the workplace as we knew it was nigh.  With just a mobile phone and a laptop, people could work from anywhere, anytime. For some, tomorrow’s working world was a freelancer’s haven.  To others, it was all hype.
Whichever way you look at it, the UK’s freelance community is growing and it includes some of the country’s most experienced and talented workers who make up a highly skilled, highly mobile and flexible 21st century workforce.

Your own boss

Some of the common reasons cited for going freelance include being your own boss, making more money, having freedom and variety and striking the work/life balance.

No longer a great job

The directors of Britain’s companies are feeling the pressure from the growing risks and responsibilities they face – to the point where a majority are seriously questioning whether it is worth being a director at all – and those at small-to-medium sized enterprises are bearing the brunt.
These are the main findings of a major survey conducted in August by – an online service that matches businesses with law firms – which questioned 918 directors and senior managers at companies in the United Kingdom.
More than half of company directors polled – 55% – agreed that being a company director ‘is no longer a great job’, while 58% said that the risks and responsibilities of the role are increasingly outweighing the rewards. The proportions of SME directors  – those at companies with between 2 and 249 staff – who say the same are higher still, especially those at companies with fewer than 10 employees, 61% of whose directors agreed with the statement.

Standing out from the crowd

With an average annualised turnover of £25 million, The Commercial Group is the largest independently owned office services company in the UK. In its 17 years of business it has built a reputation based on exceptional customer service, superior consultancy and a quality product range.
Determined to continue to spearhead change within its market place, Commercial works tirelessly to innovate, promote best practice and, where necessary, instigate debate to ensure the standards it has set itself as a company challenges others to assess their own processes and systems.
With this dynamic background it may be surprising that the Directors have thrown all of their efforts into a campaign across the business to embrace a culture which is unashamedly green. But because the business is at the top of its game it is crucial that it continues to seek ways to further differentiate itself from its competitors and this is where the almost messianic drive for green credentials has been put at the heart of the corporate agenda. Naturally where there are leaders in industry there are followers and what once set you apart can eventually become a standard offering.

The ability to change

For Commercial its ability to anticipate change and ensure it can accommodate it, whether it is an e-commerce solution or software integration, has enabled the company to not only develop and grow but remain the supplier of choice to over 6000 companies.

The ‘It’s not easy being green’ myth

A belief, held by many, that ‘It’s not easy being green’, still seems to prevail for many small-to-medium sized businesses. Upheaval, cost, disruption, unfeasibility or simply a belief that such changes are the responsibility of the multinationals are just a few of the reasons that some managers have previously cited for their inactivity in this particular area. Today, things are changing, but more still needs to be done, and the current business climate is structured to allow SMEs to actually lead by example, showing the way for big businesses to follow rather than hoping that a lack of action will pass under the radar unnoticed.
Corporate social responsibility is so named for a reason – it’s a responsibility, no matter what size the organisation – and it’s one that the Government is willing to encourage with financial incentives. Not to take advantage of attractive options – before they become uniform legislation anyway – seems foolish, especially as it’s almost guaranteed that for every stubborn manager that resists and continues to swim against the sea, there is probably any number of competitors taking advantage of the many cost-saving sustainable options that are available.

Think big, stay local

It’s tough for would-be entrepreneurs carrying the tag “budding” in front of their career description. But it’s a stage they all go through – somewhere between having the idea to go it alone and taking delivery of the executive jet.
For most budding entrepreneurs it’s a familiar picture: you wake up at 6am to start your work day, only you aren’t heading into town to sit at some comfy corner corporate office suite. You might still put on a suit and tie, but you are in fact only headed as far away your home office, which is, in fact, a desk in the corner of the lounge. With the cat and dog as your only company, you begin to settle down to work for the day.