Taking action

Many small business owners will be used to copping flak for addictions to their ‘crackberry’.
The tell tale symtoms are all too common. Exasperated partners railing at post midnight emailing or blackberrys heading for a watery demise in the swimming pool during that longed for summer break.However, the vexed issue of the merits of Blackberrys is truely small fry compared to the grief that could be caused to business owners by the latest internet phenomenon. The explosion in popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, You Tube, Bebo and My Space presents a new potentially very big problem for owner managers to grapple with.

Energy saving website launched

Opus Energy – a leading independent electricity supplier to businesses – have just launched Opus Evolution, a real-time online energy purchasing system that gives customers direct access to wholesale electricity markets.
The system, which, for the first time, gives smaller (non-half hourly) customers the chance to take advantage of pricing deals normally only offered to larger (half hourly) customers, is the first of its type in the UK.

Free relocation guide for UK businesses

Windsor Telecom Plc, UK’s 2nd largest provider of 0845 memorable phone numbers and inbound call solutions has published a free guide to relocation aimed at UK businesses of all sizes.
The two handy guides, for the corporate and SME markets, provide valuable information on how to make the right move, an essential ten step plan to successful moving , and a comprehensive directory of useful contacts.

Search for investment just got easier

A new website is set to provide an easy boost for anyone seeking venture capital or private equity funding.
 Investor Search is a specialist search engine that will greatly simplify the task of identifying investors with interests or preferences that match a company’s investment needs. It is designed for trading companies that need capital to grow, for start-ups looking to get off the ground or potentially anyone in the investment community.

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.

The end of the office affair?

Office affairs are classic television comedy fodder. Think of any office-based 1970s sit-com and you will undoubtedly recall a male boss incessantly flirting with his pretty, young secretary.
Things have moved on a little since then, but, according to a recent poll, office romances are still rife. In fact, the survey showed that 59 per cent of the respondents freely admitted to having had romantic encounters in the workplace.
While this is often viewed as a bit of harmless fun and no business of bosses, the reality is much harsher. Many people have no idea that a fling could actually cost them their job. It’s only that bosses turn a blind eye to many affairs that the professional risks are kept to a minimum.

National minimum wage: Employers beware

Is the national minimum wage (NMW) rises year on year this increases the importance of SMEs conducting a balancing exercise to ensure payment of sufficiently high salaries to enable recruitment and retention of quality staff, whilst at the same time seeking to minimise business costs as far as possible. Nonetheless, all SMEs/OMBs must comply with their remuneration obligations to pay the NMW and this is particularly important in light of the government’s proposal to introduce a stricter enforcement regime.
The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 entitles nearly all UK employees to receive the NMW, which was intended to protect from rogue employers those groups of vulnerable employees who are likely to be exploited.

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.

How will the new corporate manslaughter act affect your business?

The majority of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act will come into effect on 6 April 2008 but will not be retrospective.  So, you have plenty of time to prepare for this.
An organisation is defined in the Act as being: “a corporation (not including sole corporations); a partnership; a trade union; an employer’s association.”
An organisation will be guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter in England or corporate homicide in Scotland if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

Why use an accountant?

When you’re starting up a new business an accountant may seem like an added expense that you could do without.  What do you need one for? After all you’ve got a calculator, it can’t be that hard!  Think again –    A good accountant isn’t just a number cruncher, it’s someone who understands how to run a business in today’s economic climate, an experienced professional who will get to know you and your business and will provide you with essential support.
Ultimately your accountant is someone you should regard as a trusted business advisor.  When you are starting out your accountant can help you evaluate your business idea, help you plan for a successful future and make sure you keep proper financial records.

Cash flow crunch

There are so many reasons for businesses to run out of cash.  Sometimes the causes are clear, sometimes it’s a complex web of reasons.  Sometimes it’s been building for a while and other times it’s more sudden.
Either way the effect is usually the same, you find you can’t pay your bills.  It’s a frightening prospect; there is a list of bills on your desk and not enough cash in the bank to pay them.
I remember a friend of mine who works in the oil exploration industry in remote parts of the world, Chris used to get into really scary situations and developed an interesting crises response methodology: “If there is a crisis and you need to respond absolutely immediately (such as using the fire extinguisher) do it.  If not, have a cup of tea and plan your actions”
It is not so different in business.  Is the lack of cash simply because of an admin error, a cheque that has genuinely gone astray (it has happened), or sadly, as is increasingly likely, is there something more serious?  Is this is a short or a long term problem? Remember cash is king, if you don’t sort it, you won’t succeed.

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.