Top tips from Small Business Advice Week
(Terrett 2013 )
In the UK it is Small Business Advice Week is aimed to support 4.5 million small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to be connected and get some useful tips for business sustainability.
"Organisers say the idea is to bring together some of the “smartest and most relevant business thinkers in the UK” to share what they know with as many local business owners as possible. The project is reaching out to everyone from “butchers, bakers and candlestick makers you find on your high street as well as the graphic designers, dentists, IT specialists and countless other SMEs you’ll see in the phone book”."
"Hot topics covered during the week have included finance and banking, technology, training and future proofing your business. With funding in particular a major issue at the moment, the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Bankers Association gave these top five tips for getting a ‘yes’ from the bank:
1. Put together a strong business plan: it’s important to demonstrate your business’ financials, and ultimately show the bank that you can repay the loan.
2. Get your head around the figures: make sure you understand important numbers such as turnover, profits and existing debts, and are able to show how your business will manage the credit it is asking for.
3. Know your credit rating: before they lend, banks will examine how you have managed your finances in the past, so make sure you are familiar with your own credit rating and understand what might affect it.
4. Be realistic about the funds you’ll need: don’t underestimate how much money you need to borrow because if you borrow too little and have to go back to the bank and ask for additional funds, it will be more expensive.
5. Talk to your bank: make sure you communicate often and clearly with your bank and get feedback on your lending applications.
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And while the famous TV show may be entertaining and inspiring, small business owners should also remember that approaching a bank for funding is “not like appearing on Dragon’s Den,” says Ian Cowie, chief executive of business and commercial banking at RBS and NatWest. “A bank isn’t looking to take a bet on an entrepreneur in exchange for a share in the business,” he says. “A bank is simply looking for the customer to demonstrate they can afford to repay the debt they wish to take on. The sooner a business talks to their bank about investment plans, the more likely they can ensure the money is ready when they need it."
Training is another area which business owners should try not to skimp on, even in these tough times, say Small Business Week’s panel of experts. Many firms currently don’t devote time to training due to “money and time constraints” but are concerned that this means they may be “left behind” by competitors. However, Diane Shawe, chief executive of the Academy of Vocational and Professional Training, says good training gives businesses security – ensuring employees can do the job they’re asked to do more effectively. To keep costs down, the suggests company owners look online and make the most of available technology, which can enable staff to access courses securely online. The benefit of this, says Diane, is that people can learn in their own environment and study on the go without it costing the earth.
Every small business owner knows how important it is to have a well-designed website, but it’s also crucial to ensure that something a bit more basic works effectively: your company phone number. According to 08 Direct, having a freephone number such as 0800 or 0808 can help increase business calls by up to 185% because, they say, customers “trust” businesses using these numbers as the firm covers the cost of the phone call.
Meanwhile, 0844 numbers, which allow firms to earn money from their incoming calls, are “more suited to companies who receive a high volume of calls as more money can be earnt”. In addition, 03 numbers, which are an alternative to chargeable 08 numbers, allow calls from landlines and mobiles to be charged at local rates, while 01 or 02 numbers enable businesses to “retain a local feel” in a community, even if they are based elsewhere.
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In another nod to the ‘old economy’ way doing things, Aisling Brennan of J2 Global reckons small businesses shouldn’t abandon the good old-fashioned fax machine, simply because most of us do business via email these days. “Those who believe the fax is dead need seriously to rethink that belief,” she says. “Faxes are still frequently used in big businesses, so there is still a crucial need for them. Sending faxes via email is a cheap and quick way to utilise all the features of a traditional fax, without the cost - meaning you can keep on using a traditional tool that is adapted for the modern world”.
And while you might think it is enough to be on the web, Suffolk trading standards recommends that companies join a trade directory because this “provides assurance to your customers that you have been recommended, vetted and monitored.”
Another tip from companies involved in the event includes being socially responsible. "Small companies that stand out from the crowd integrate the things they do for charities, their community, the environment into their business plans,” says Carol Sherriff of Wilson Sherriff. “This motivates their customers, their staff and themselves. This trend will grow as customers prefer to buy from and people want to work for companies that are 'in business for good'. "
Training for all enterprises will help the business grow, prosper and retain staff as their job is more interesting. The last paragraph is of review stresses the importance of customers valuing sustainable organisations. A new market with emerging opportunities for new products and service. Insurance companies have created green insurance and green credit cards, small businesses need to be innovative and see the big picture to remain competitive. A list of useful tips.