Buying’s easy, it’s getting value that’s difficult

The problem of purchasing within small and medium-sized businesses is that it has often developed as the business has grown with little or no discernable plan. Whilst there may have been some rational strategy regarding direct materials, with indirect costs (which although they account for a smaller proportion of the spending are necessary for the organisation to function), the result is often that of unplanned trial and error.

What’s the problem?

This is a consequence largely of the business owner focussing on the main function of the business with little or no time to spend on other matters. As employees are added, indirect purchasing is often delegated to secretarial, clerical, administration or perhaps IT personnel. This results in the loss of an overall view of the spending and responsibility in the hands of amateurs (albeit well-meaning amateurs!)

How to fight Climate change and boost your bottom line

In February last year, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report warned that climate change is the single biggest threat to businesses and societies globally.  As efforts to increase awareness of climate change and carbon footprints continue, more businesses of all sizes are starting to think about how they can deal with the impact of their activities and the business benefits of doing so. 
There are a number of reasons why it is increasingly important for businesses to be taking action on the environment.  Regulation of carbon emissions and fiscal measures affecting business are scaling up – with new sectors  being brought into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in 2008, and the EU setting more stringent targets for carbon emissions from new cars, to the UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation and the Carbon Reduction Commitment in the UK Climate Change Bill from 2010. 
One of the most important challenges for business is to get to grips with the size of the problem with a comprehensive audit and ongoing measurement, and to take a strategic approach to managing and reducing carbon footprints. 

Small means flexible

Rumours that flexible working is the future of business have been feared and dismissed in equal measure by owners of many small and medium-sized companies.
If you’re running a multinational with hundreds or thousands of people then it’s pretty straightforward to jiggle a few working hours here and there, ask some people to change shifts or cover absences and keep everyone happy. But when you’re in a smaller firm, it’s not so easy. The personnel are simply not available to cover shifts, the budget doesn’t extend to recruiting new staff and the work still needs to get done.

Working towards a better future

Offering staff flexible working arrangements has previously been an overlooked consideration and the potential benefits particularly undervalued. However, having a productive workforce in place has become increasingly important as companies strive to be more competitive.
The traditional working week of nine to five from Monday to Friday is gradually becoming a thing of the past and having strict working hours in place is proving inadequate to meet the demands of modern day practices. Yet despite this, many companies are still failing to recognise how incorporating flexible working patterns, such as flexi-time and home working, into their strategies can have a profound impact on their business efficiency and overall success.

Small firms miss training

Formal training schemes and lengthy inductions are the norm in larger companies. When it comes to smaller businesses there simply isn’t the time, money or resources available for such programmes.
Almost half of all small companies in the UK carry out no staff training, according to recent research carried out by the independent Small Business Research Trust (SBRT).
Not surprisingly, the survey also found that the smaller the company, the less likely it is to offer any training at all, whether that be internal or external. Only 40 per cent of micro companies have formal training, while 69 per cent of small companies do. Topping the poll are medium-sized businesses, with a significant 87 per cent offering a structured programme that staff have to undergo.

Postcode predicament

Everyone has to admit that moving offices is a bit of a pain. If you’re shifting the whole company it can be a nightmare. Even the initial excitement over the promise of a room with a view starts to wane when you’re dropping your files, desk photos and potted plants into cavernous grey crates. Your only hope now is that you’ll be reunited with them once they reach their new home.
But if you’re running a growing small business, it’s highly likely that you’re going to have to move out of your current workspace at some time in the near future. The prospects of this are often met with mixed reactions – of joy and of absolute horror.

Succeeding in the early years

Running a start up business can be challenging – around a quarter of new enterprises do not survive the first year. Having undergone these challenges when setting up his own company nine years ago, Bill Duncan, partner of Fifth Dimension, has advice for those who find themselves in a similar position.