3 Top Local SEO Techniques That Can Quickly Improve Your Local Rankings

Your brick and mortar business can be highly profitable, but it won’t be the best without local SEO. With nearly 46% of Google searches searching for local information and 72% of them visiting the store(s) that they found, local SEO becomes a solid marketing tool that can create great results.

But how? Even if you have a website, it may not be getting enough local traffic, despite your efforts.

In this article, we try to correct that. Here are three local SEO tips that can quickly boost your business’s rankings in the local search engine. So, buckle up and read on.

1. Analysing Traffic & Updating Existing Content Accordingly

Monitoring the traffic on your website is crucial for many reasons.

First of all, this helps you identify the top-performing keywords for your website. By simply using Google Analytics, you can find out the keywords that are getting you the most amount of local traffic.

 

And how will that help?

Google Analytics will also show you keywords that your website is ranking for but not on the top positions. This means that these keywords may not be getting traffic to you but hold the potential to do so. Similarly, this also means that your web pages are good enough to rank for these keywords but aren’t ranking for some reason.

If you can find out the reason and fix it, your website’s search visibility may quickly boost up. In most cases, this can be solved by adding more content around the keyword you want to rank for.

You can also use Ahrefs keyword research tool to find keywords that your website is ranking for but not on the top positions.

 

2. Improving Page Speed

To understand the importance of page speed, let’s take an example.

You run a woodshop in the Chelmsey complex in Birmingham. Now, as the monopoly is a rare concept, your competitor may also have a similar shop right next to yours. Let us assume you got a website built for your business, and so did your competitor.

Both of you have functional websites with all the essential details a buyer may need. But, your competitor’s site loads quicker than yours.

Now, even if you are placed at the top of the search engine for a good keyword, and your competitor is placed second to you, a large chunk of your prospects will pogo stick from your website to his/her.

Doesn’t sound good, right?

It’s best to improve page speed on priority. You can look for qualified SEO services in Birmingham to improve this situation and fulfil your other SEO requirements.

Otherwise, you can also visit GTMetrix.com or Google Pagespeed Insights tool. These tools will tell you about how quick your local business website is, how long it takes to load, and how light it is. Apart from that, these tools give in-depth data about the website’s loading speed, along with the issues that you can resolve to speed up your loading times.

For example, if you use Google Pagespeed Insights, you’ll come across the following steps:

Step 1: Visit Google Pagespeed Insights Tool

Step 2: Paste your website URL and hit enter

Step 3: The tool will take you to a results page, which will look like this:

Step 4: You start resolving these and other errors one-by-one, and you’ll notice a significant increase in your website’s loading speed.

Important note: If you aren’t well versed with the technical functionality of your website, leave this job to a professional web developer.

Also, page speed is important as over 50% of mobile web users leave a website that doesn’t load in three seconds, and search engines prioritise websites that load quickly.

 

3. Resolving Technical Errors like Sitemaps, HTTPS security etc

There’s a number of technical factors affecting your website’s SEO. In this section, we’ll discuss the following three of them:

HTTPS: HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. When you add it to your website, you are adding a layer of security preventing tampering by third parties and encrypting all information from URL to all transactions.

Websites running with HTTPS are more secure for users and are preferred more by various search engines.

XML Sitemaps: XML sitemaps allow search engines to crawl & index a website’s data significantly, so it can be easily found and ranked higher where suitable.

Robots.txt: This is a file in the database of your website. Its purpose is to help search crawlers identify which pages to crawl on your website.

Canonical Tags: Canonical tags indicate to search engines that a certain URL is a master copy or another page. By using canonical tags, you prevent the search engine from confusing two pages with the identical content for plagiarism. This resolves the problem of duplicate content (present on the same website) being flagged by the search engines.

If you lack technical knowledge about how websites work, it’d be best for you to connect with a qualified SEO and web development professional. This will keep you from making irreversible mistakes.

 

Wrapping up

Local SEO is one of the most important marketing tools that can help your business reach more local customers than ever. However, the process requires air-tight implementation of the right techniques.

In this article, we discussed three top local SEO techniques that can quickly improve your website’s search rankings in your locality.

Hopefully, this was helpful.

SME News Announces the Winners of the 2021 UK Transport Awards

United Kingdom, 2021 – SME News Magazine has announced the winners of the 2021 Transport Awards.

As businesses have endeavoured to move their operations ever more into the digital sphere, it is easy to overlook the necessity for one element to always remain very physical indeed – logistics and transport. Stock, trade, imports all rely heavily on the ability to move products from one place to another, whether that be from the warehouse to a shipping depot, or one country to another.

It would be no exaggeration to say that British roads carry the lifeblood of British business, with the transport sector a simply fundamental cornerstone to all industries. With that in mind, we have endeavoured to celebrate businesses and individuals across the country who keep everyone else up and running.

Award Coordinator Jessie Wilson discusses this year’s programme: “I offer a sincere congratulations to all of the winners in this programme, and all the best for the future. I hope you have a delightful rest of 2021 ahead.”

SME News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the SME News website where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About SME News

SME News draws on our UK wide network of industry insiders to provide you with the latest news, cutting edge features and latest deals from across the UK SME landscape.

Alongside our quarterly publication we also offer an easy to use website, newsletter and a series of awards programmes, making SME News much more than just a magazine, but instead a vital resource.

Bought to you by AI Global Media, the international provider of corporate news and information, this unique magazine is the perfect resource for the CEOs, leaders and decision makers in the UK based SMEs looking to keep their finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the competition.

Time To Rebrand Your Business? Here’s What You Need to Know

Nowadays, rebranding is becoming increasingly common. Although business owners usually have varying motives for exploring new opportunities, refreshing a company’s internal and external components can prove beneficial. In the 21st century, technological advancements mean that consumers are now exposed to more organisations than ever before through numerous digital channels. As such, businesses now have a more extensive audience base to explore and target.  

However, rebranding isn’t just a tool to explore new digital markets. Along with the demographic expansion, adopting a new-look approach can occur in response to growth, management alterations, or simply because the existing product is outdated. Before making wholesale changes, it’s pivotal to understand the best way to go about rebranding. So, here are several things that you need to know if you’re contemplating a business rebrand. 

 

Perfect Your Website’s Portfolio Template

One of the best places to start during the rebranding process is to consider the future direction of your website. Within the digital era, a business’ website speaks volumes about its brand. In turn, this impacts consumer perceptions. Upon establishing a reason for the refresh, altering a company’s web-based profile allows business owners to bring their forward-thinking vision to life. Having a clear brand identity is of utmost importance because a recognisable brand has the foundations to succeed. 

Irrespective of the business’ size, perfecting brand identity promotes on-offer products and services while showcasing core values and piquing consumer interests. That said, mastering the visual aspect of a company’s online profile is easier said than done. Because of that, SMEs can turn to website templates in search of an efficient rebrand process. At Wix, a leading cloud-based development platform, the company offers an array of high-quality, personalised website-building tools. Their current portfolio website templates include various designs for all types of businesses, including consultancy, data, fitness, marketing, photography, and many more. Default designs are editable, allowing owners to bring the vision of their new brand to life without compromising professionalism. 

 

You Shouldn’t Overlook Competitive Analysis 

As touched on above, there are many reasons why businesses may seek to explore new avenues. According to Grand View Research, the e-commerce market was worth $9.09 trillion in 2019. Between 2020 and 2027, the industry was forecast to develop at a compound annual growth rate of 14.7 per cent. With the market likely to grow further, it speaks volumes about the importance of having an online presence and bringing something different to the table. 

If you’re seeking to take your business in a new direction, the likelihood is that other organisations will already operate within that space. As such, this is why those thinking about a rebrand should complete a competitive analysis prior to making sweeping changes. Brandwatch defines competitive analysis as the process of categorising and evaluating competitors. By doing this, it allows business owners to weigh existing companies’ strengths against their weaknesses. 

By gaining in-depth knowledge of competitor businesses, it paints a better picture of what gaps are available to explore. While there are various tools to assist with the analysis, organisations can conduct a basic search through search engines. Nowadays, searches on Google deliver a “people also search for” feature, which showcases a handful of similar businesses. 

 

Consider Renaming Your Company 

Whether you’re running a business from home or an office environment, rebranding fundamentals are the same. However, the size of your business may impact your willingness to rename during the refresh process. World-renowned companies, for example, are unlikely to consider such a switch because they’ve already worked to create a global audience base. However, it may be more imperative for SMEs to reinvent themselves. 

Crowdspring writes that some business names aren’t adaptable enough to cope with the rebranding process. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that your business could outgrow its initial title. As touched on above, expansion is part and parcel of business growth, meaning that creating and marketing new products is likely. 

However, it’s worth considering whether this is a necessity. Because consumers already have a relationship with your brand, heading in a different direction could somewhat complicate matters. That said, if you’re moving into a more competitive market space, a business name needs to stand out from rival companies and grab consumers’ attention. The last thing a business owner wants is to have a top-class product but suffer from having a generic, uninspiring name. 

 

There’s No Need to Rush Into a Decision 

Rebranding isn’t something to take lightly. However, e-commerce’s growth indicates that it’s unquestionably worth considering. Refreshing a business’ operations has its short-term drawbacks, but it also opens the door to a whole new market. In most cases, the rewards outweigh the risks, and companies receive a sought-after boost to reach new audiences within an ever-changing world. That said, don’t wait until you fall behind your competitors before making a change.

How Print Management Can Improve Your Business

Whether you’re starting a business or running an existing one, you may not have given much thought to how much your printers are costing you. Between the number of printers you have, the cost of the toner and paper, and the time spent by IT on troubleshooting issues, your printing costs can add up quickly.

Print management services can help you to streamline and manage printing solutions, and provide the tools that you need to reduce your costs and allow your IT teams to focus on more important projects. By using a print management service, you can outsource management of your printer hardware, toner and maintenance, and even gain the ability to track printing behaviour down to individual employees to identify where cost saving measures could be implemented. (1)(2)

Let’s explore some of the key benefits that your business could experience through a print management solution:

1. Cost reduction

In a recent survey of North American companies, two-thirds reported that they did not keep track of printing costs, indicating that this could be an easily overlooked source of expenditure. A study by The Gartner Group found that companies who switched to a print management service were able to reduce their hardware costs by up to 60%, and they also experienced savings of up to 30% on their overall printing costs. (3)

A major benefit of print management services is that your equipment, consumables, and maintenance costs are included in your regular management fee, so you can manage your budget with ease. Optimise your savings by asking questions about your printing system during your consultation with a printing partner, to ensure that you have a streamlined solution suited to your needs. (1)

2. Set and forget solutions

Managing your own printers, particularly in larger companies, can be time-consuming and inconvenient. Printers, like any machinery, are prone to breakdowns on occasion, and may need repair by a specialised contractor; the average office worker likely doesn’t have a sufficient understanding of how to fix burnt out resistors or failed cartridges. Your print management partner will have the ability to get a skilled repairman to your premises quickly, to fix any technical issues that you experience and minimise printer downtime. (4)

Additionally, printers require regular top-ups of toner and ink cartridges; unless you’re paying close attention to your printer each day, you may not realise that you’re low on these until it’s too late. A reputable printing partner can monitor your printer network remotely, and have your supplies restocked before you even know that you’re low, ensuring that you don’t experience any business interruptions as a result of unavailable printers. (5)

3. Reduced strain on IT teams

A recent study indicated that 50% of all help desk calls are related to office printing, and IT consultants can spend up to 15% of their time resolving these calls. Chances are that your highly skilled IT team could better utilize their time on tasks other than paper jams and faulty printing. (3)

Your print management service may be able to take on the workload of print-related concerns from your employees, and also prevent them occurring in the first place through constant process streamlining and early issue detection. This has the two-fold benefit of allowing your IT team to work on tasks better suited to their skills, and enabling your employees to improve productivity through decreasing the number of printing issues that they encounter. (1)

 

4. Enhanced data security

Depending on your business model, document security might be a concern. Three quarters of businesses recently surveyed indicated that they had experienced unforeseen losses due to poor document management processes; these losses included damaged reputations, revenue loss, and even lawsuits. (3)

If any employees at your company are printing documents with restricted information, print management services can help to implement systems to ensure that no sensitive papers are left unattended in printing trays. One example of a process which helps to protect your data is the implementation of token or code systems, where employees must confirm their identity while physically standing at the printer before their documents are released.

5. Flexible solutions

If your employees are geographically dispersed across different office buildings, print management services can provide you with solutions which enable your employees to access printers wherever they are. By placing all your printers on the same network, and using uniform processes, you can ensure that your employees can work uninterrupted, even if they travel between offices frequently.

You can also scale your printing solutions up or down with your printing partner depending on your business needs. Many businesses are moving to a combination of print and digital marketing, which could reduce your printing needs, or if you expand your business and hire more employees, you may need a boost in your supplies. Whatever support that your company needs, your printing partner can adjust the solution to suit your circumstances.

 

6. Reduce wastage

The average employee prints 10,000 pages per year, which equates to approximately $725; a cost which seems exorbitant when you consider that 17% of printed pages are never even used. When you utilise a print management system, they can provide you with the tools to identify which employees are printing more frequently than others, allowing you to eliminate unnecessary hard copy creation and to save on paper costs. This may also help you to identify departments in need of additional training on digital alternatives to printing paper, which can reduce waste further and potentially save your employees time. (3)

Recent surveys showed that businesses who started utilising a print management system were able to reduce their waste output by up to 15%, which, when combined with other waste reduction measures, could go a long way in helping your company to achieve its green goals. (3)

Final thoughts

While printer supply and maintenance costs can be easily overlooked in the workplace, their financial and practical impacts can have a big effect on your bottom line. Engaging the services of a reputable print management company can help to ensure that your processes are streamlined, and that you have the right solution for your needs.

Discuss your business model with potential print partners to identify how you could save costs, reduce waste, and free up your IT teams for more important projects.

References

  1. “Affordable Managed Print Services (MPS) In Australia”, Source: https://www.forumgroup.com.au/managed-print-services/
  2. “Print Management Solutions And Software”, Source: https://www.xerox.com/en-us/services/insights/print-management#:~:text=Print%20management%20provides%20a%20central%20administration%20point%20for,management%20options%2C%20including%20print%20management%20solutions%20and%20software.
  3. “Office Printing Statistics in 2021”, Source: https://scanse.io/blog/office-printing-statistics/#r
  4. “The Most Common Cause Of Printer Failure”, Source: https://www.inkhub.com.au/ink/the-most-common-cause-of-printer-failure/
  5. “The Advantages Of A Print Management System”, Source: https://www.bbcdigital.com.au/the-advantages-of-a-print-management-system/
  6. “The Different Types of Electrical Resistors Explained (And How They Are Used)”, Source: https://www.electrical4u.com/types-of-resistor/

4 Ways GPS Vehicle Tracking Can Improve Your Customer Service

For those in the world of business ownership and management, it should come as no surprise that customer service should be at the top of your priority list. Not having customers results in not having revenue, which essentially translates to the death of your enterprise. Therefore, it is paramount that you utilize every tool at your disposal in order to achieve the best customer service possible. Here are four ways that GPS vehicle tracking can improve your customer service, as well as offering an improved efficiency and optimization for your workflow.

 

Improved Delivery Service

For the managers behind the scenes, GPS vehicle tracking offers a complete, real-time overview of their entire vehicle fleet. This offers a host of benefits; the most notable of which is the assurance that every delivery is completed when expected or even ahead of time. Monitoring the driver’s position, wherever they are on their route, will keep them on course and deter any unscheduled or unwarranted breaks. On top of this, the fleet manager will be able to monitor the driver’s route and ensure that, in the event of an accident or other delay, they are rerouted effectively and in a timely manner.

 

Improved Communication

Not only does a fleet management software, commonly used alongside GPS vehicle tracking, offer an opportunity for better communication with your drivers and vehicles, but it also positively impacts the communication possibilities for you and your customers. With real-time positioning of your vehicles, you will be able to offer accurate delivery time estimation, bringing another level of transparency to the purchasing process for your customer. In the event of an unavoidable delay, whatever that may be, you will also be able to inform the customer as soon as you are made aware.

 

Improved Safety

For businesses that offer a transportation service for their customers, vehicle tracking offers an increased assurance of safety. Not only does it allow you to provide real-time updates on the location of the vehicle when it is on its way to pick them up, but it also gives the customer the peace of mind that their journey details are being made available to someone else outside of the vehicle. In addition to this, you could also offer the capability for the customer to share their location with a friend or family member, adding a further layer of protection to make sure that they feel safe whilst using your service.

 

Reduced Costs

The introduction of GPS vehicle tracking into your workflow is poised to bring with it a series of cost benefits for your company. For example, with the ability to monitor the activity of your drivers, you will be able to analyses their driving patterns and modify any abnormal behavior. This helps in reducing the fuel and maintenance costs associated with bad driving. The benefits of this tool extend far past just this, however, and are worth looking into in more detail. From the point of view of customer service, this reduction in costs allows you to pass the savings on to your customers, giving you the ability to provide competitive prices and attract a wider customer base.

Meet the entrepreneur that believes small businesses need to be more conscious of the environment

Katrina Borissova is the founder of the innovative, 80’s inspired natural soap business, Little Danube. Wanting to embrace her creative side and passion for the environment, Katrina decided the time was right to launch her own business.

Little Danube, which launched in August 2020, has made it a priority to use only vegan, natural and eco-friendly ingredients and packaging to ensure they do their part for the planet. Having the support of the Amazon Small Business Accelerator (a free online educational programme for small businesses from Amazon and Enterprise Nation) from the beginning helped Katrina kickstart her business and find the right tools to build a sustainable business. 

Named after the river Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, the brand is connected to nature and the environment, something Katrina believes other small businesses should be more conscious of too. Modern customers are less likely to purchase a product if the brand isn’t sustainable and businesses must adapt to survive.

We spoke with Katrina about how she has worked to make her brand eco-friendly and what advice she would give to other small businesses to be more sustainable.  

 

Why is being environmentally friendly so important to Little Danube?

Having spent most of my childhood summer holidays enjoying nature on my grandmother’s farm, I have always felt a closeness to natural products. My grandma did everything with her hands and showed me that you could make your own soap from natural products. 

As a result, when I decided to launch the business, sustainability was always going to be top of the agenda. One of the benefits of being a start-up is that I have the capacity to adapt and make changes easily and quickly. Therefore, I can constantly review my processes to ensure my business is as sustainable as possible. It also means I can take on new initiatives to support other green businesses, an example of which being our most recent partnership with treeapp

How do you ensure your business is sustainable while remaining efficient?

The main factors in our sustainability are our formulations and packaging. 

In the manufacturing process, we have designed formulations that do not contain any additives, such as parabens, artificial fragrances or sodium lauryl sulphate (a common ingredient in soap). These can not only be irritable for people with sensitive skin but can also be harmful to the environment. Instead, we use natural, essential oils that have a myriad of beneficial properties, are sustainably sourced, and are gentle to the skin. 

When it came to choosing and designing packaging for my product ranges I always asked myself “can this be done more sustainably?”. It became the forefront of our design to be more sustainable, we use eco-friendly tissue (made from acid-free paper) and print using soy-based ink. The boxes for our soaps are recyclable, and our delivery bags are fully compostable.

In one of our more recent initiatives, we have partnered with treeapp and have committed to planting a tree each time a customer spends £10 or more on our website.

We also were a part of the Amazon Small Business Accelerator when we launched the business, which gave me the tools to shape my business model to be more sustainable. It helped me make my business compliant, implement requirements (like barcodes) and optimise my supply chain.

Not only has Amazon helped me to get my business off the ground, but their commitment to being carbon neutral by 2040 has also resonated strongly with me. Being supported by one of the most innovative companies in history has been hugely inspiring, and the work they have put into sustainability, notably their work on The Climate Pledge, has helped put into perspective the difference being a sustainable business can make. 

 

 

Why is it so important for small businesses to be conscious of the environment?

As statistics currently standaround eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into our oceans each year. According to the Waste Resources Action Programme, one-quarter of all waste in the UK is generated by businesses and we have a responsibility to cut down on our carbon footprint. Small businesses should strive to add value and make a difference, especially in the current climate we are in. 

It is also something that customers are becoming increasingly conscious of. We get so many questions about our products sourcing, ingredients, and manufacturing process. It shows that our customers are making conscious and informed decisions and it drives huge accountability not only from us but from the whole industry.

It’s only now, with the rise of the internet and social media, that we are learning about certain toxic ingredients that we, as consumers, have used for years without knowing the long-term negative impact – both on our bodies and the environment. 

What advice would you give to small businesses that want to be more sustainable?

There are three key things I would say to people that want to launch an eco-friendly business:

Stick to your mission statement – Eco-friendly products are more expensive to produce due to the product sourcing which is often organic and due to ethical practices. While the cost may be higher, it will set your brand apart, and sets a precedent for your customers of what to expect from your brand. Eco-friendly packages are 4 times more expensive than plastic, so while it might affect the overall product margin it’s also a key statement of the companies’ values and priorities. It’s the way forward.

Find the right partners: We partnered with a company called NoIssue where we source our eco-friendly/toxic-free tissue paper (that is printed with soy-based ink) and compostable bags. I love their brand culture and mission and it was very important for me to launch as a plastic-free brand and to find the right partners. 

Do your research: This will not only help you find the best products, ingredients and packaging – but can also ensure you are partnering with people that best align with your brand. You will be in a better place to answer any questions you get from potential customers about sourcing.

It will also help you find the best deals when shopping around!

Generating positive social impact by supporting the recovery and growth of UK SMEs

By James Felton, Chief Operating Officer, White Oak Europe

SMEs play a vital role in helping local communities thrive.

With the COVID-19 pandemic beginning to recede in the UK and the rollout of the vaccine well underway, many are now turning their attention to the shape of the UK’s recovery. Crucial to that will be rebuilding the economy in a more sustainable manner.

Business has a vital role to play in this process. By creating jobs, companies have a positive impact on social and economic development. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, SMEs account for 99.9% of businesses in the UK, employing three-fifths of the workforce and generating 52% of the turnover in the UK private sector, £2.3 trillion in total in 2020. 

SMEs help local communities thrive. Successful businesses attract investment and talent, which in turn increases spending in the local area creating a virtuous circle of prosperity – boosting schools and the housing market, contributing to local services through taxation and supporting local shops, pubs and restaurants.

Research shows that for every £1 spent with an SME, 60p stays in the local economy, compared to 40p for larger businesses, highlighting how beneficial SMEs are for local communities. SMEs are also more likely to favour a local supply chain and to prefer local products, creating a strong and resilient local network. They invest for the future, even during challenging times. A survey carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses showed that at the end of 2020, more firms expected to increase investment than decrease investment. This raises hope for recruitment, especially for younger generations whose employment prospects have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

Many SMEs are committed to giving back through philanthropy, whether it be through volunteering, sponsoring local events or supporting community initiatives, and this generosity continues despite the pandemic. Research from Intuit Quickbooks and Oxford Economics found that last year UK SMEs helped locked down communities with £6bn in cash and gifts-in-kind and volunteering hours equivalent to 9 hours per month per SME. This sustainable approach to business means SMEs are well-positioned to evolve their business models to adapt to societies’ increasing focus on non-financial performance and social issues; themes that were already becoming more important but have been thrust to the top of the agenda by the pandemic.

Now, more than ever, SMEs need financial support to recover and grow. This is where White Oak, as a trusted lender to SMEs for over 30 years, is supporting. White Oak prides itself on delivering flexible and efficient capital solutions through personalised service, and since 2018 has provided over £1 billion to businesses across the UK, including over £315 million under the CBILS programme.

This has been invaluable to businesses such as Amber Support Services, a leading provider of support services to adults with learning and physical disabilities throughout Warwickshire and Worcestershire, who needed a source of finance to help them weather the worst of the crisis and reinforce their ability to thrive and expand. Such a positive impact generated by companies is something White Oak actively considers in its lending process.  

Supporting SMEs means investing for the future, and White Oak is proud to support the UK’s entrepreneurs.

7 Ideas For Businesses That You Can Start from The Comfort Of Your Home

What a year the bygone year has been for aspiring entrepreneurs!? Both good and bad. The year 2020 saw a massive rise in the sector of homegrown businesses. People were working from home, and many lost their jobs- probably their only source of income. A few others realised that they suddenly had a lot of time to spare in their hands but no proper way to utilise it. Thus the idea of small home businesses became popular. 

And now, the year 2021 seems to be no different. Just when we were all thinking of returning to our previous way of life, it appears that the pandemic is also taking an about-turn that will force us to remain at home again. Again, you will have quite a lot of free time, which you can put to use this time. Read up about the pros and cons, and consider investing your time, money, and effort into a small business. The capital you need is minimum, but profit is definitely guaranteed! 

If you are out of ideas, we are here to help. Want to know how? Keep reading. 

Handmade Home Decor Items

If you have a creative side, utilise it to the maximum. If you know pottery or resin art, here’s an idea – You can make aesthetically pleasing home decor items and start an online store to sell them. Start small, and as the conversation around your brand spreads, you will automatically grow your customer base. You can even add a delivery service to the store for customer convenience. Your sales will rise depending on your originality and uniqueness.

 

Handmade Jewellery Store

If you have a knack for quirky jewellery and can make them efficiently, share the end products with people – open an online store for this. You can make fashionable jewellery out of clay, resin, and so many other things. Just explore your creative side and watch your business flourish- adding a delivery service will further your popularity. 

Gift Wrapping Services

Too many people face problems while wrapping precious gifts that they got for their loved ones. You can help them by offering gift-wrapping services. One can send you their presents, and you can customise the packaging according to their preferences. You can add little cards with your unique touch with every gift hamper in the UK

Babysitting Services 

Most parents in the UK work in offices, and managing the babies can become a tiresome task. They will need someone to take care of their little ones while they are away. Many might prefer personal attention to baby care centres. If you’re good with the little ones and have a plan, you can team up with like-minded people who are good with babies and offer babysitting services to these working families.

Pet Sitting Services

Pets are an integral part of so many households in the UK- and they demand care and protection when their owners are away for work or other issues. This is a great business opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. You can step in here and offer pet-sitting services. You should include anyone you trust with pets so that you can expand your services. 

Caring For the Elderly

The elder members of every family inevitably need help and care as they grow older. Almost all their children have to be constantly away from home due to work and other matters. You can team up with other reliable people and start an elderly care service, where you can help the lonely grandmas and grandpas in their daily life. 

Home-cooked Food

In the UK, you will find many young adults trying to make a life for themselves. While balancing studies and work, they often rely on drive-through or takeaways for their daily meals. You can start a food delivery service for them, where you will serve healthy and fresh homemade food to anyone that needs it!

Starting a business might not always seem like a feasible option. But if you put your mind to it, you can make it big, anywhere you want to. Looking for business opportunities in little and big things will always give you the clarity that you need. So go on, don’t be afraid to take the plunge, all from home!

4 Important Documents Every Citizen of The United Kingdom Should Have

Humans accumulate innumerable belongings in their lifetime, from your name, education, professional stature, house, vehicle and wealth. And the list goes on. 

However, the only physical testimony to your belonging(s) is the legal document attached to it. Any law declares you the owner of a physical or intellectual property based on these documents. Even if you want to pass on your belongings, transfer ownership or change your name, you will need certain legal documents to do so. For instance, for changing one’s name, one needs to get hold of a deed poll

Find out other such essential documents that are important for a UK citizen to have.

1. Certificate of birth and adoption 

A birth certificate is perhaps the most important document in your life. It is not only proof of your birth but also an important piece of paper that allows you to obtain other documents in your life. It represents your identity and your date of birth. A certificate of birth can be used to prove your nationality to grant citizenship by naturalisation, among other things. Given the legal importance that it holds, it must be stored safely to avoid fabrication or damage. Similarly, adoption papers, too, are required for identification purposes.

2. Social security cards

Your social security cards are government-issued cards that are primarily referred to for social insurance. The card is also used for several other purposes, such as financial aid and assistance. For people who are not financially stable or are insolvent and cannot sustain a livelihood by themselves, the government issues this card that covers their basic financial needs by offering subsidies or other financial support. 

It stems from the principle of a welfare state, which aids the overall financial condition of the country in an attempt to eradicate poverty. For people facing economic hardships or even otherwise, a social security card is a lifeline. Preferably you must not carry your social security cards with you on a day-to-day basis. Instead, it should be stored in a locker where it has fewer chances of getting stolen.

3. Living will

Wills are another essential document of your life. It is legal proof that sets the terms of your belongings for future generations. It contains a list of all your properties, assets, wealth and estate and the right of legal possession after your demise. People usually make a will to ensure that their personal and financial belongings are structured and passed on to whomever they deem fit. This is usually done in anticipation of health issues or imminent danger. Although it is not mandatory as per law as there are provisions to legally disburse and divide your belongings even without a will. It would be wise if you store all your wills in one place.

4. Proof of disability

Some of us are not fortunate enough to be born in the best of our physical states. Many of us are born with health defects or deformities. At the same time, there can be others who are born healthy and suffer accidents or grave health problems that render them disabled. In both cases, the government has social benefits and health benefits and certain allowances that cover military injury, workplace injuries, birth deformities, etc. To qualify for these government benefits, you need to have proof of disability in place.

Conclusion

Personal documents are important for every citizen. Ensure that they are kept safe always so that you can use them as and when required.

Successful Small Business Ideas That Can Be Explored Amidst The Pandemic

The pandemic has been extremely harsh for certain industries. A lot of companies had to lay off a huge section of their staff to cut down expenses and stay afloat. Many others were forced to completely shut shop and look for other avenues of income that are pandemic friendly.

At the same time, a lot of small businesses have emerged successful during this phase. There are tons of people who lost their jobs but utilized their time to develop a business plan and establish a start-up from their home. 

If you too have lost your job or are looking for an additional source of income, here are 5 successful small business ideas that require low to medium investment and can be launched in the pandemic:

1. Become an online course creator

One of the most successful business ideas to have emerged in the pandemic is becoming an online course creator. If you are a Subject Matter Expert, there has never been a better time for you since the whole world is turning to virtual learning in this socially distanced environment.

Creating an online course requires very low investment. A tool like LMS WordPress is perfect for anyone who wants to create best-selling online courses. Not only is it extremely easy to use but has various themes available that make it a breeze to design the look of the eLearning course website.

2. Become an online tutor

Since students cannot attend schools, they are left with no other option but to learn through virtual classrooms. But there are several students who are interested in learning other things beyond the school/college syllabus. For instance, they may want to learn how to create an app.

Since young students don’t have to invest time travelling to school/college now, they have the time to invest into learning something new. This has made online tutoring very popular. This is an excellent business for those who are subject experts but don’t want to develop an online course.

3. Become a freelancer

A startup that helps you convert your passion into profits is exploring your side hustle or hobby. Are you an excellent baker? Or an articulate writer? Or maybe have a thing for making handmade stuff?

You can start freelancing in your area of interest with minimum investment. If you create handmade jewelry, you can start selling it online through an Instagram page or on Amazon. 

4. Become a medical supplies manufacturer

The business owners that have made the most money in the pandemic are those manufacturing medical supplies. Masks, PPE kits, disposable gloves, etc have become a dire necessity against prevention from the novel Coronavirus.

You can set up a small production unit with a small budget and obtain the necessary licenses to produce these medical supplies. Not only is this a very fuss-free business once you have required permissions, but also something that will stay relevant even after the pandemic.

5. Become a digital marketing consultant

Since going outdoors is now a risk, shopping online has become a necessity. A lot of brands want to take advantage of this and wish to stand out from their competitors. 

If you have the right experience, you can become an independent digital marketing consultant and offer clients social media marketing, SEO, content writing, paid advertising and consulting services. 

Conclusion

Starting a business may feel like a huge step, but some risks must be taken to achieve success. Make sure you do a lot of research on the business you wish to invest in, and verify every expense that you make. Once you have decided what you want to do, stay optimistic and give it your best efforts.

How Does A GPS Tracker Work?

You might have one on your car already, or you may be looking at purchasing GPS trackers for vehicles in a fleet you manage. Either way, while you’re aware of the fact that trackers give vehicle owners and operators the ability to see exactly where their vehicle is, you may have questions about just how they work. Here, Trackershop take a look through some of the questions that you may have from the basics such as recharging through to insurance approval and where a tracker will work, to help you understand beyond the fitting and location service they offer.

Where will my tracker work?

Trackers work best outside, with some buildings causing restricted signal. However, you will be able to obtain a tracking report arriving at the building and again if the vehicle leaves.

Tracking devices are generally compatible with most countries’ cellular networks, with the exception of Japan. You can double-check with your provider if you know for certain you will need coverage in a specific country. 

How do I charge my tracker?

Trackers have fully rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries, and each GPS tracker is supplied with a battery charger that you plug into a wall socket, much like a mobile phone. Your mapping panel will keep you updated on how much power is left and you can receive a text message or email to warn you when it needs charging.

Are GPS trackers waterproof?

Car trackers are water-resistant to IPX6 standard, meaning they will withstand being hosed and any rain/spray that they will encounter under a vehicle.  You can also purchase pouches that are completely waterproof and will withstand total submersion. 

Are all trackers insurance approved?

Not all trackers are insurance approved, however, if you have been told by your insurance company that you should or must install a GPS tracker, you will require one that is Thatcham approved and fitted by a Thatcham approved installer.  You will then receive a certificate of authenticity which you can supply to your insurance company.  For your insurance to be valid your device must be fitted by a Thatcham approved engineer. However, you will find most suppliers include fitting costs within the device price.

Does it cost me to use my GPS tracker?

Real-time GPS trackers use multi-roaming SIM cards pre-installed onto your device which will access the strongest mobile network to provide you with information. You require credits to receive this information. Real-time live tracking requires position credits. Position credits can often be purchased with no need for a monthly fee or contract. Yu will use one position credit for every location report and you can set your desired reporting frequency.

SMS credits allow you to send a command to your device from your mapping panel, such as changing reporting frequency or receive SMS alerts from your tracker to your phone. 

Credits can be purchased and topped up easily through a button on the device mapping panel.

Can I track multiple devices?

Yes, through your mapping panel you can track as many devices as you want at any time and you can also view from multiple computers simultaneously.

Will my magnetic device fall off?

No, as long as you place your device on a flat metal surface to make full contact, it will stay there until you decide to move it again.  The magnets have a minimum of 35kg pull on them meaning they will not simply drop off no matter the speed or terrain you travel on. 

Do I need to download any software?

No, you do not need additional software. Your device provider will give you access to their dedicated mapping panel software. You will have your own private mapping panel which can be accessed from a laptop, desktop or tablet by visiting their website and logging in or you may prefer to download an app to your Apple or Android phone.  

Digital marketing mistakes every business makes

It’s easy to think that the intricacies of digital marketing can be understood within just a couple of hours, with a few YouTube videos and professionally written articles to guide you through the basics, there’s no reason why you can’t take full control of your digital marketing strategy.

While this approach is commendable, it leaves business owners open to mistakes, misjudged oversights and even sabotaged success in the process. Hiring a digital marketing agency can help you navigate all these issues and place your latest strategies in the hands of the marketing experts. When you have a digital marketing agency to help put your digital marketing strategies into practice, you’re more likely to see the results you need and less likely to make those dreaded digital marketing mistakes.

Want to know which errors to avoid? Here we’ll explore some of the most common digital marketing mistakes that every business makes.

 

You’re neglecting your website

Think of digital marketing and it’s easy to get tangled in SEO, backlinks, keywords and confusing analytics, and while these elements are important, don’t make the mistake of neglecting your website in the process. A user-friendly website will ensure your business thrives online, with fast responses, simple navigation, and mobile optimisation being an essential part of a positive user experience. You can see how fastfwd have their digital marketing page here, just click the link.

Neglecting your blog

Focusing on brand recognition and building on your authority in your chosen industry isn’t just done via email marketing and backlinks, it can also be done by blogging. Driving traffic to your site via a blog will improve the SEO of your website and your search engine rankings. In terms of establishing authority in your field, the more you offer your potential clients with information and advice via your blog, the faster your business will grow. Blogging regularly and creating quality content will help increase traffic to your site and convert those clicks into sales.

 

You’ve forgotten about social media

In today’s digital era, disregarding social media sounds ludicrous, however many businesses are guilty of neglecting their online presence. No matter what industry you’re in, social media is where your clients are and you can use whichever platforms are relevant to your business to connect with your clients, answer questions, promote your website, advertise your latest products and link all your pages together to improve your online visibility and ranking. You can also create specific targeted campaigns via social media for a reasonably small cost.

And finally, failing to hire a digital marketing agency

When you have a team of experts at your side, you’ll be able to create tailored marketing strategies that bring in the results you need. From SEO strategies and copywriting, email marketing, link building, keyword research and more, whatever approach is right for your business, a digital marketing agency will highlight which strategies will bring in the measurable results you want. Using KPIs and real-time analytics, you’ll have a stronger understanding of your latest marketing campaign and see an ROI promptly.

Earth Day 2021: How influencers and brands can restore our planet

If the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that sustainability needs to become a focus within all of our lives – and it has, and is continuing to become ever-more prominent.

Everybody is taking more responsibility for the impact they have on the environment, and now, social media influencers are using their platform for the greater good and are encouraging their audiences to take more care, too.

Social media is becoming less focused on materialistic items, and is beginning to turn its attention to making an impact on the things that really matter. And what’s more important than the world we live in?

From fashion to food and travel, social media influencers are the voice of Gen-Z, and with Earth Day approaching on April 22, the theme is Restore Our Earth, which is the mission of many online influencers.

Here, Amelia Neate, Senior Manager at Influencer Matchmaker, shares a few influencers that will help you in your journey to live a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle.

Fashion

Fashion is an industry that is traditionally known for not being all that economical or sustainable, however times are changing, and so are brands and their consumers, as #sustainablefashion has been used more than 10.5 million times on Instagram alone.

Fashion influencers such as Em Sheldon and Charlie Irons are investing in timeless classics and wardrobe staples as opposed to trend-driven pieces that will only be worn for one season of the year.

Whilst more expensive, these items are made and bought to last – for decades. Particularly for items such as coats, shoes and outerwear – all of which are often designed with durability and versatility in mind.

So, it is great to see influencers such as Em and Charlie using their large followings to promote a more positive and sustainable way of enjoying fashion.

Travel

Upon first thought, travel isn’t the most sustainable of industries, however there are a few things we can do minimise the impact it can have on the environment as well as reducing our carbon footprint elsewhere.

Parenting and travel bloggers Travel Mad Mum Karen, and Travel Mad Dad Shaun, understand how their travelling can be the cause of carbon concern.

To balance out their air miles and emissions released by road trips, as a family they eat sustainably, reduce waste and ensure that they recycle and reuse all they can.

In a previous campaign, Karen partnered with travel guidance brand ABTA to give her audience advice on making holidays greener. From educating children on recycling, through to combined travel such as taking trains or cycling, Karen and her family work hard to promote a sustainable, circular economy.

Food

Food waste is a huge problem on a global scale, so it is incredible to see social media influencers encouraging their followers to lead a zero-waste lifestyle.

Matt, from Daddy Cooks Food and Bintu, from Recipes From a Pantry are two food influencers who are keen limit food waste and help contribute to a circular food economy.

Regularly sharing organic and sustainable food products and services, both Matt and Bintu are making a green and sustainable contribution to the world we live in.

Brands are also making a change

It isn’t just social media influencers who are using their influential power and social media status to make a change, but brands, too.

Brands are becoming increasingly aware of the everchanging needs of their consumers, many of which revolve around leading more sustainable lifestyles – starting with making conscious decisions when it comes to shopping habits.

Consumers are now seeking multi-purpose packaging, reduced waste and environmentally-friendly materials and Robert Lockyer, founder of Delta Global, a sustainable packaging solutions provider for luxury fashion brands, explains how brands can achieve just that.

“Whilst many brands are working hard to ensure their products are sustainable, many are forgetting to do the same for their packaging.

“The packaging of the products is the first thing a consumer will see, and it is important for the packaging to uphold the same ethos and values as the products and the rest of the brand.”

Robert also explains that removing plastic from packaging and reusing recycled materials is a great first step in the right direction.

He says, “Gone are the days when parcels arrived full of single-use plastic. Whilst it’s no longer acceptable, it is also completely unnecessary as there are a variety of other materials that brands can use to keep products safe.

“And where plastic is used, brands should ensure that it can be reused, repurposed and recycled.”

So, this Earth Day, we urge brands and influencers alike to restore our planet; one post and one purchase at a time.

Risk Software Success!

As the world becomes more dependent on regulatory scrutiny, compliance has become more of a challenge for businesses. The team at Albany Group have found a way forward, with a transformational software application that brings 21st Century technology and expertise to the critical functions of insurer supply chain management. We look at how they were awarded Best for Risk and Intelligence Software, 2021 – England in SME News’ rolling series of Business Elite awards for their efforts.

Failure to comply with the latest rules surrounding insurer supply chain management, auditing Risk management and compliance can result in major fines, companies and costs for companies, and it’s often in the supply chain where many of these problems occur.

For insurers, the biggest challenge arises when authority is delegated. There simply aren’t clear arrangements for assessing conduct risks. Some insurers don’t see the delegation of activities such as underwriting or claims handling to third parties as outsourcing, but the regulations involved still apply. This creates a whole new challenge for organisations, with evidence of efforts taken to keep up with compliance spread across a company’s organisational structure.

Many companies simply don’t understand the extent of the product provider responsibilities they had acquired by virtue of acting as the retail manufacturer of the product. The complexity of distribution chains has also increased the demand for companies to provide appropriate levels of oversight. Something new was required to meet the needs of the modern marketplace.

The single multi-layered Hisconect portal is that something new, securing major advances in supplier management and audit control. The system acts as a singular hub of information, which is constantly updated, with secure storage and regulated access. This portal is easily scalable, able to be applied on a cross border basis. The trust that can be gained from these more informed audit practices are of real value to all parties involved.

This impressive system allows for an entire logistics suite for the organisation of audits and management of outputs and action planning, comprehensive tracking of past and current performance and is, of course, an inexpensive and easy to implement solution for a complex and critical function. The result is something truly exceptional, providing a vital addition to any business, in any industry.

This risk intelligence technology is designed to bring true simplicity to supply chain management. Implemented correctly, it will save companies time, reduce costs and embed complete automated compliance into the heart of the system. With such reliance on the supply chain to secure success, automation removes the potential for human error in many different circumstances. The team have made their systems adaptable in order to ensure they meet the specific needs of any individual company.

Complete with a dashboard that allows clients to take a holistic perspective and enables them to see precisely what third parties are doing, it’s possible for companies to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Instead of seeing business relationships as independent factors, Conect provides an overall view that brings together cover holders, MGAs, brokers, TPAs, lawyers, loss adjusters, and any other third party within the supply chain. It’s a vital resource to have when operating with multiple parties.

Much of the progress achieved by Albany Group is a credit to their commitment to delivering an industry first system, one which will herald a new era of transparency and co-operation to benefit customers, insurers and suppliers alike. By working in this transparent environment, able to develop something that meets a specific demand, the team have been able to provide a much-needed solution to not only the supply chain, but to risk management challenges. Everything is carefully organised and compiled into one place in a process that has been designed by insurers for insurers.

The success of Albany Group is a credit to the team’s work ethic and approach. Each staff member is encouraged to contribute their own perspective. Each is treated with the same level of respect and importance. They are a crucial part of how the firm has not only developed as a business, but how it has been able to develop its impressive solutions.

Looking forward, the team are hoping to implement new and exciting aspects of software that will open the door to fresh opportunities. These include AI integration and API live. Of course, such success for the firm will invite further development to meet an even broader range of business needs. In short, the firm is a success that is sure to continue for years to come.

For further information, please contact Stewart Griffiths at www.albanygrp.com

Taking Tech Marketing by Storm

Being crowned the Best in Technology Marketing, 2021, is not an easy thing to achieve, but that is exactly what the team at Bite IT Marketing have done for themselves. They understand that marketing does not need to be overly complicated. Discover more about the firm as we take a closer look in this issue of SME News Magazine.

At Bite IT Marketing, the firm is built around a drive for meaningful marketing value that does not prioritise style over substance. Acting as an extension of its clients own marketing or leadership team, Bite IT Marketing works to support its clients in delivering effective and results-driven channel marketing excellence. This is a firm that believes in making informed decisions quickly, communicating skilfully, and acting on the results, thereby creating refreshingly integrated campaigns that are delivered with both confidence and originality. Marketing as a service, or MaaS, is crucial for businesses operating in the twenty first century. Business is everywhere now and ensuring that a firm has a solid marketing plan in the hands of those savvy enough to execute it is imperative. Maybe a client needs someone who has the time to pull a campaign together and deliver it with style and substance. That is where Bite IT Marketing comes into the frame.

These integrated campaign packages are tailored to meet a client’s sales and marketing goals alike, and they are truly outstanding within the industry. Bite IT Marketing combines its own extensive experience delivering campaigns across security, networking, and cloud, with its agency management experience from design and PR, to advertising and digital. As a combination that is second to none, this allows the firm to lead, manage, and drive a client’s marketing initiatives and its wider agency engagements. Bite IT Marketing’s approach means that it immerses itself wholly and seamlessly into its clients’ businesses. Presence is felt at team and board meetings, workshops, events, and so much more. Understanding a business is core to what Bite IT Marketing does, and it does this so well.

Behind the success of Bite IT Marketing is a team of individuals that are enhanced, enriched, and energised to deliver the best service possible for clients. With an abundance of experience and expertise, these channel marketing starlets are the lifeblood of the business. Passionate, talented, driven, supportive, friendly, and fun, Bite IT Marketing’s team is always seeking to produce work of a better and better quality every single time. Many of the clients are selected by name to work on projects with clients, showcasing their dedication and friendliness to the highest degree. Wonderful feedback and positive word-of-mouth has gone a long way in making sure that Bite IT Marketing is deserving of this success and recognition.

However, there has also been disruption in the last twelve months. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in many different ways, some of which are still unknown to businesses all over the world. With its marketing hats firmly on, Bite IT Marketing was not alone in anticipating a rise in online presences and a rise in virtual business. Social distancing has paved the way for an even greater need for connection, and marketing has benefitted greatly from this. Back in March 2020, the team invited tech marketeers to get in touch with Bite IT Marketing, as the firm wanted to help reshape their marketing plans for the post-pandemic world. Within days of lockdown enforcement, the firm worked with its clients to make their campaign plans stronger, measurable, and more meaningful. Together, they started tackling the challenges posed by this new, socially distanced world head on.

Ultimately, the ingenuity and creativity of these technology and channel marketing specialists is exactly what the world of business needs right now, as it has done for the last twelve months. The marketing changes triggered by the virus are here to stay, and as 2021 unfolds, most will continue to gather steam. Bite IT Marketing stands ready for further change, and is willing to embrace the new marketing rules. There are cost savings to be had, ROI improvements to be made, and there are opportunities to grasp before others do. The firm is here to act as extensions of clients’ teams to make them happen. In essence, that is the excellence of Bite IT Marketing.

For more information, please contact Vanessa Cardwell at www.biteitmarketing.com

World Creativity and Innovation Day: A number of the most impactful inventions from around the world

21st April marks the annual celebration of World Creativity and Innovation Day which is a UN initiative that recognises creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development. In line with the celebrations, global cross-border payments company, WorldRemit, has carried out research to reveal some of the world’s most impactful inventions across the globe. 

 

Two-way video phones – invented in the Philippines

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, many businesses would simply not have survived without access to platforms such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. All of these applications utilise technology invented by Filipino scientist, Gregorio Zara, who was awarded the ‘Tres Honorable’ prize for his contributions

 

Graphite Anode of Lithium Ion Batteries – discovered by a Moroccan scientist

Dr. Rachid Yazami of Morocco is the inventor of the graphite anode used within lithium ion batteries, estimated to be powering around 95% of devices including smartphones and batteries. The world as we know it simply couldn’t operate without smartphones! With businesses and individuals relying on them on a daily basis, Dr Rachid’s invention is truly revolutionary with a global impact. 

 

Illusion Transmitter – Invented in the USA

The illusion transmitter, which has often been listed as being some of the earliest 3D technology, was invented by American scientist, Valerie Thomas. Whilst working at NASA, Valerie was also responsible for creating real-time computer data systems and led on the programme that gave us some of the first images from outer space.

The BioNTech Pfizer Covid 19 vaccine – Invented in Germany, by Turkish doctors

Some of the most impactful discoveries throughout this pandemic have been the vaccine breakthroughs that have provided so much hope to many across the world. The BioNTech Pfizer vaccine was developed in Germany by husband and wife duo, Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci, both of whom are of Turkish descent.

CompactOR (Hospital in a Box) – invented in Nigeria

The CompactOR, which is a solar-powered portable operating room, was invented by Nigerian doctor, Seyi Oyesola. The innovation has helped save the lives of many people in need of urgent treatment who are unable to travel to the hospital.

 

Canva – invented in Australia

The most popular online creative platform was created by Australian entrepreneur, Melanie Perkins. Melanie, who is from Malaysian, Filipino and Sri Lankan heritage, created the platform which allows users to create professional-looking graphics and promotional materials in a simple format, with a lot of the content being free of charge. Many businesses rely on platforms such as Canva to create images for their social channels which has proven to be a pivotal part of any modern-day business.

Cancer Cell Detection Device – invented in the USA by a Pakistani scientist

Based in America, but of Pakistani origin, Dr Samir Iqbal invented a device in 2016 which allows early detection of cancer cells. Detecting cancer as early as possible is one of the most important factors in combating the disease making this innovation truly ground-breaking. 

 

The Smart Card – invented in France

Roland Morano, who was of Egyptian heritage but grew up in France, invented the smart card, an innovation which is used on a daily basis by people across the world. The idea for the smart card was for a small device that would carry data with multiple uses, for example within bank cards, credit cards, phone sim cards and more!

A spokesperson from WorldRemit commented: “In celebration of World Creativity and Innovation Day, we really wanted to highlight that many of the things we rely upon on a daily basis have been invented by incredible people from every corner of the globe. 

“Without some of these inventions, life as we know it would be more challenging for many individuals. World Creativity and Innovation Day gives us the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the individuals who have contributed to enriching the global community”

To find out more about WorldRemit, visit: www.worldremit.com  

Why You Should Consider Using Outplacement Services in 2021

Despite the fact outplacement services have been in operation in some form since the 1960s, the industry has revolutionised the way modern business works.

When they first started, they were more about offering out of work people somewhere to craft their CV and boost their skills. But these days, they are more about working with employers to assist outgoing employers into a new job.

It’s a big bonus offered by employers and is becoming more common within UK business. There are plenty of reasons you would want your business to use an outplacement support system. It’s become important for HR leaders to consider investing into.

Outplacement Defined

There are many ways to define outplacement. To put it simply, outplacement is about assisting employees who are leaving your business in finding new work.

The service is offered usually when your business has to let go multiple employees due to issues such as downsizing or financial constraints.

There are a number of ways outplacement firms offer this service, it’s usually done with the offer of career coaches. Aside from coaches, they also offer multiple resources through a technology platform.

Once hired by a business, they will correlate with HR managers to find out what can be done, then they will work with individual employees on a number or points. Such is the job of a career coach.

They can assist in CV building, cover letter use, interview practice and general skill assessments and tests.

What you get from a business point of view, is a partner who assist you in areas they deal with almost every day. They’ve dealt with the burdens and will do all that they can to deliver peace of mind at all levels.

If you’re involved in HR, it’s certainly worth looking into outplacement support, you may be surprised how many benefits it could offer you.

Reputation Protection

If your business is a business that is utilising outplacement services, then you can be sure that your reputation will be more trusted and higher than otherwise.

Handling outgoing redundancies poorly will damage brand image. A poor brand image will decrease future talent looking for employment with you.

So, assisting in the support for employees in finding their new job will demonstrate your values both as an individual and a business.

When your employees have eventually left your business, you want them to only have positive things to say about their employment with you. Let’s remember, there are many websites online where former employees can leave their reviews of their time in employment.

Often, potential employees before applying or even accepting interviews or job positions, will look at these sites to see if it’s a place they would want to work. This is, of course, when you’re in a position to hire once again, you want to be able to find the best.

Morally Right

It should go without saying that ethically, if you have to remove someone from a position of work due to circumstances out of everyone’s control, then it’s only right you assist them with moving on.

Especially if it’s happening suddenly. A good example of sudden change that may have been a reason for displacement, was the impact of COVID-19. With many members of staff placed onto furlough, financially, it wasn’t possible to retain them once everything opened up again.

So, when having to let some employees go, it is only fair that you offer advice, and outplacement services are the way to do this.

Outplacement providers serve as a focus for employees affected by downsizing, meaning that they are often empathetic as they have gone through the same thing.

Assisting in a time of great uncertainty offers real value. Randstad RiseSmart understands the need for this service, and offers HR teams the resources to navigate change with confidence and ease. Not only do they understand the needs for employees requiring outplacement, but they understand the business needs, ensuring future success and providing lifetime cost-saving recommendations.

Support For Staff

When jobs are at stake, it can be an emotional affair. These emotions will usually lead to conflict, if not handled correctly.

Upset employees make take out their frustrations with senior managers, which isn’t good for anyone involved. Whereas if they offer an external outplacement provider, then the hope is that the employees are more understanding of the situation, as they can see how much effort has gone into supporting them.

So, supporting your staff will lead to your staff supporting you. In the end, the job of outplacement providers is to assist in support.

Reducing Business Costs

As you can imagine, getting an outplacement service is a cost. Usually, It is sold as an employee package to companies. The costs can vary depending on number of employees, services you wish to employ and programmes you want to get involved with.

That means there’s no concrete figure. Roughly, it can cost a few hundred to a few thousand per employee, depending on the level of service required.

So, you may be surprised to hear that the service will, overall and in time, reduce business costs in the long term. Think how much more it would cost you not to have an outplacement service for employees having to leave. Reputational damage to your firm and lost productivity from demotivated remaining staff can be costly.

The local and national news always have a field day when it comes down to reporting on redundancies. So, consider the change in press and reporting you’d receive if you offered all your staff a benefit such as this. Long term, positive media coverage and positive reviews will boost your business.

Even if you don’t know about paying out the costs right now, not doing so could lead to worse costs over time. Importantly, your former employees may continue being in the industry, whether that’s as a customer or competitor. So really, it pays to have them approve of your business.

In the UK, there are laws when it comes to redundancy, having to let someone go due to situations out of their control means you have to pay a severance package. In addition to the hard cost of the redundancy, someone, probably in your HR department, will need to do all the administrative work in connection with the redundancy. This is an additional cost to your business. If the situation then becomes problematic there is the risk of a tribunal claim and possible compensation payout.

Aside from that, you also have to account for the cost of lost productivity and employee engagement across the board. Essentially, you can see why it’s worth having a support plan in place, to get full value from outplacement.

Company Culture

Sometimes, it’s worth using outplacement services even without the current need to downsize or cut jobs. It’s much more of a modern affair to have an outplacement support system in place, as it reassures new employees coming in that they will be protected if their jobs have to end.

It helps promote a culture of caring within your business. It’s a fact of life that most employees won’t stay in their current workplace for more than a few years, due to wanting a change of pace and challenge.

So, it’s a benefit for you to have a service ready for when it’s time to leave. In fact, it’s worth having the system ready, prepared for the future, just in case anything terrible was to happen further down the line. It’s a forward thinking move.

The rise of virtual events in a post-Covid world

We can’t deny that the world as we know it has changed over the past year. Both personally and professionally, the pandemic has seen us face challenges that we never saw coming, and it has had a profound effect on the high street, with shoppers unable to visit many of their favourite stores in person.

Businesses that were once brick-and-mortar were forced to adapt and move online, investing quite heavily in their digital presence in an attempt to stand out from their competitors. With this came an uplift in companies creating a plethora of free and paid-for virtual events to attract and engage customers, while securing themselves a trusted revenue stream. 

Although non-essential shops re-opened on April 12, it’s still going to be some time before companies book themselves onto trade shows and larger corporate events with face-to-face interaction. With this in mind, Richard Stone, founder of retailer and wholesaler Sass & Belle, has put together a list of ways for businesses to maximise their digital presence. 

3D virtual tours

360 tours help to bring your business to life and are the closest experience to the ‘real thing’ for customers. This level of immersion and interaction would be suitable for many different types of companies, and because they never close, customers are able to browse in their own time – even dressed in pyjamas, if they wish! 

They’re also good for prospective employees and have the added benefit of boosting your SEO; Google values engagement and virtual tours are an ideal way to increase the time spent on your site. For more information on creating 360 images and tours, see Google’s Street View for Business page.

Virtual trade shows

If you can’t go to a trade show, then consider creating a virtual one where people can come to you! These events are a great way to engage with both prospective and existing customers, highlighting key products and services they may be interested in – for example, seasonal stock, bestsellers or sneak peeks of new and developing products. These shows can be pre-recorded or live, though the latter is the better option if you’re looking to create a ‘buzz’ or have the ability to host a real-time Q&A. 

Consider breaking your trade show into segments so it’s not just the presenter showcasing product after product or service after service. You could line up a Q&A with one of your designers, for example, or host a competition with a prize on offer for the winner. 

Ensure you maximise the opportunity by following up with every attendant and offering a virtual 1:1 call to discuss any products/services they may be interested to know more about – that way you’re not letting any potential leads slip through the net!

Shoppable trends/lookbooks

Although not an ‘event’ in itself, lookbooks can sit nicely alongside tours or trade shows; think of them as the virtual equivalent of handing out physical catalogues and leaflets. They are also a great way for customers to see what’s coming next – for example, Sass & Belle’s latest trade lookbook showcases products for Christmas 2021, including recycled glass baubles for a ‘conscious Christmas’. A survey we did at the end of last year showed we two-thirds of shoppers were on the hunt for eco-friendly gifts.

If you’re looking to make it even more interactive, consider creating a web page that enables customers to visualise a range of products in a physical setting. For example, if you are a furniture retailer, then you may wish to create a number of high-quality images that showcase ‘dream living rooms’. From there, users can click on the items they’re interested in for more information (taking them through to the relevant product page). 

Webinars 

Webinars may not be as fancy as some other virtual events, but they’re a fantastic way to deliver value by imparting your industry knowledge. Webinars can be free, or paid for, and have the benefit of providing a platform to communicate with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of customers in a short space of time (typically between 30 minutes to two hours). Taking the example above, if you’re a furniture retailer, consider creating a webinar that showcases the top five interior decor trends for 2022. You can then market this content on your website, through your social media platforms and customer newsletter, to name a few avenues.

If you aren’t leveraging any of the above, then ask yourself what your customers might like to see, and what would add the most value to them. Then, you can start to put a plan in place to create a virtual event (or two) based on these insights. Although things are starting to return back to ‘normal’ now, the reality is we still don’t know what lies ahead, so it’s best to maximise your exposure, engagement and lead-generating opportunities as much as possible.

Why you should stop using your inbox as a CRM tool

As an SME, preserving your revenue and your bottom line is essential. You might be dubious about investing in a CRM system (customer relationship management system) and the ROI. The last thing you want is to throw money away on another cloud-based system that stores your client data. Or that’s what you’ve been led to believe.

Many companies are guilty of using their inbox as a CRM tool, hoping to recreate in-depth customer interactions, stellar customer service, and even manage tasks from start to finish via their email. It’s easy to imagine that using one platform to handle your customer relationships is a cost-effective and simple way to streamline these often complicated processes. In truth, this approach could be undermining your business, your employees and allowing your business to consistently fall short of the expectations of your customers.

By procuring a CRM system, you can maintain high levels of customer service and tailored marketing strategies whilst nurturing the connection between your company and your clients, at every stage.

Want to know more? Read on to discover why you should stop using your inbox as a CRM tool.

Data is safe, secure, and protected

Storing client data is a regular practice, but when it comes to protecting that crucial information, not everyone is on the same page. Using your inbox as a CRM tool means putting your client data at risk. It is at risk from the following: cybercrime, increasing the possibility of mislaying files and accidental deletion. Searching through an inbox to find the customer file you need is both time-consuming and frustrating, and your client will only agree. Switching to a CRM tool means all your client data is fully protected and collaborated in a cloud-based storage system. This system is accessible to employees across your business, streamlining processes and eliminating email chains and accidental GDPR breaches.

You know exactly what your customers want

Anyone can pitch a sale to a prospective customer or target a certain demographic and see who bites – and when you’re using your email as your CRM, this is often the extent of your reach. But using a genuine CRM system means you’ll have access to detailed customer data, which means you can analyse the genuine needs of your customers and target them with accuracy, even tailoring marketing campaigns to increase the ROI and boost sales.

Cutting down on admin

Admin is necessary, but it slows down those crucial sales and marketing processes. Using your email as your CRM will only pander to this sluggish approach, over-complicating an already complex procedure. Switching to a CRM system means your teams can accomplish more. Eliminating duplicated work and automating many of the tasks that steal time from your employees essentially gives your staff more time to focus on customer relationships.

Customer experience

To put it simply, building customer relationships, rapidly producing automated personal replies, targeting specific customers with relevant sales and products, identifying leads, opportunities and being able to resolve queries faster with personal responses is something your inbox cannot match. It’s time to make the switch to efficient, innovative CRM software.

Fantastic Flowers Bloom in the Capital

Everyone should be able to enjoy the beauty of flowers, in all their radiant wonder. At the right time of year, flowers are truly stunning additions to almost any interior or exterior space. A garden can come to life with bursts of colour, or carefully placed greenery, whilst a living room can be made that much more luxurious with a glass vase and a collection of roses sat on the coffee table. Flowers are majestic, and the belief that everyone should be able to enjoy them is the core philosophy at Blue Florist. Discover more about this Greater London-based florist, and why it has been named Best for Same Day Flower Delivery, 2020 – Greater London.

Family-owned and operated as an independent business, Blue Florist has almost two decades of experience in the floristry industry. Throughout that time, the team at Blue Florist has only ever worked directly with flower growers themselves, and has never settled for anything less than the most stunning of nature’s bounty. Approaching floristry in this way has ensured that, for eighteen years, the florist has delivered flowers of the highest quality and done so in a manner that exemplifies the exceptional service that customers have come to expect. All of the flowers themselves are hand-picked, hand-prepared, and delivered by experienced local florists themselves, just to lend that extra personal touch to the service provided by Blue Florist. There’s nothing quite like receiving flowers, and Blue Florist ensures that their every bouquet is delivered with the utmost precision and care to preserve that special feeling.

Blue Florist is also dedicated to offering both great quality, and exceptional value. It is not simply about having flowers delivered; it is about having flowers delivered that match exactly what the client wants. For instance, perhaps there may be a colour scheme in the living room that a client wants to enhance or complement. Maybe, there is a specific flower type that is somebody’s favourite, and the client wants to ensure that the intended recipient is getting their favourite flowers. Whatever the reason, Blue Florist ensures that its customers always receive beautiful floral arrangements that are exactly matched to their every need and requirement.

The team of expert florists has a floral arrangement and style for every occasion, including birthdays, anniversaries, luxury occasions, get well soon visits, sympathies, funerals, saying thank you, or welcoming a new baby into the world. Flowers are universal in their ability to send a message, and they are a perfect gift for so many occasions. However, we do sometimes forget these occasions or they can be unexpected in their arrival. For these times, this is where Blue Florist’s most exceptional service comes into play; same-day delivery. For those who may be somewhat forgetful, or often find themselves invited to an unexpected celebration, or simply want to show that they care in a speedy fashion, Blue Florist does offer same-day delivery on freshly made bouquets anywhere in the United Kingdom if the offer is placed before 3pm.

Sending a message with flowers is one of the most wonderful things that a person can do, showing real heartfelt emotion and care for those that are receiving the flowers themselves. The message can mean even more if accompanied by a floral arrangement that shows delicacy, class, and elegance, and that is exactly what Blue Florist provides. Exquisite and exceptional in every sense of the word, these flowers are truly stunning and Blue Florist deserves the success it has earned as Greater London’s best florist for same-day delivery.

For more information, please contact Agron Lika at www.blueflorist.co.uk

“Big firms should have to explain ‘unapproved debt’”

By Guy Corbet, Fourteen Forty

Late payment is the most common problem that SMEs face. But it doesn’t have to be. Small businesses, not taxpayer handouts and public works, will be at the heart of economic recovery. They will start up, create jobs, build, grow and bristle with vitality.

Some will say small businesses need handouts and top-down schemes to get moving again. But not necessarily. For a great many, getting the money that should be theirs already will be enough.

Looking at the root causes of late payment, the company policy or “prudent financial management” of larger customers, quickly points to straightforward answers.

The solution is to call late payments what they are, “unapproved debt”, set default payment terms to 30 days and require PLCs to report on their performance in annual reports.

Late payment destroys jobs

Our client, Xero’s data shows that late payments cause a cash-flow squeeze which contributes to some 50,000 small business failures each year, pre-Covid. At any one time, typically each firm is owed £24,841. This equates to around 10% of a small firm’s turnover on average.

Across the economy, it amounts to £141 billion a year of their own money that is not available for small firms to build their businesses and create jobs. Xero analysis of payment data shows that larger firms pay more slowly. On average firms in the FTSE350 pay up seven days more late than smaller firms. For decades governments have paid lip service to the problem, but they have not fixed it.

The root problem is deliberate or neglect

Late payments once stemmed from inefficient manual processes. But since then the world has automated.

Payments are now late because (a) invoices don’t get passed on to finance teams to be paid or (b) it is company policy to manage cash flow, often delaying payment for as long as possible. Remember Carillion, where payments were late and standard terms were 120 days.

Indeed, it is often considered “best practice” to pay late or impose 60- or 90-day terms. Suppliers don’t complain lest they sour relationships.

The answer is straight forward

It’s time to recognise that the late payment problem is often due to those company policies. Once that is recognised, solutions become clearer.

1. Rename late payments as “unapproved debt”. The expression “late payment” is an inadequate explanation for using someone else’s money without their permission. Calling it “unapproved debt” would help make it clear that it is not a by-product of prudential cashflow management. It would present it as unapproved finance, which should be explained or scrutinised internally and externally.

2. Set payment terms at 30 days. Too often larger firms set their payment terms at 60 or even 90 days. That may be acceptable between PLCs, but for large firms to impose these terms on small ones is not. Standard payment terms should be set at 30 days. Longer terms should still be allowed, providing firms keep track of how many of their contracts operate on 30, 60 and 90 day bands, and they are ready to explain why.

3. Require annual report reporting. It should be a reporting requirement for PLCs to set out their payment performance in their annual reports. As well as breaking down the payment terms, they should be required to explain why they are using “unapproved debt” to finance their firm.

These steps should be introduced now, when the economy needs small businesses to pick the economy up off the floor. This is not a request for a handout or a concession. It is simply to ask is that small firms be allowed to have, and use, what is theirs. It is a real opportunity for the government to show that it is helping remove barriers to growth, job creation and prosperity.

High-Ranking Solutions

SciChart Ltd designs, develops and sells the world’s fastest, most flexible, cross-platform 2D/3D Chart components as a software development kit. Recently, we caught up with Andrew Burnett-Thompson who enlightened us about the firm, its mission and offerings.

Since inception, SciChart has been providing the only viable solutions for adding 2D/3D charting to mission-critical scientific, medical & financial applications. Going into further detail abut the solutions and its users, Andrew begins by explaining about how the firm’s customers implement SciChart’s SDKs into their work.

“At SciChart, our customers integrate our SDKs into their apps and services where they want to add high performance or feature-rich charts, graphs and data visualisations to their applications or products.”

Speed of charts and complex data-visualisations are important for mission-critical applications otherwise applications ranging from race-tuning in Formula One, to helicopter management in Aerospace & Defence to Financial analysis applications, to cutting-edge Medical-imaging solutions, to next-generation medical devices and healthcare applications, would simply not be possible.

“We make ‘Impossible Projects Possible’ with our incredibly fast & feature rich 2D/3D charting software. For example, the amount of telemetry data in IoT is huge and only growing. Asset health management is an important field: high value assets such as an oil well or mining operation need to continue to run efficiently. Visualising the data in these fields, which is often massive datasets (billions of data-points) is a technical challenge, and one that we have delivered, allowing a human operator to review the data and get an analytical impression. When there is vast amounts of data, human insight, made possible through high-performance data-visualisation is extremely valuable and relevant.”

The firm’s founding mission is to create the world’s fastest 2D & 3D charting and data-visualisation components, to enable a next-generation of scientific, medical and financial applications.

“Our desire is to become the defacto engine for charting and data-visualisation in scientific/construction/medical/financial & engineering industries in the same way that Unity is for gaming, or Tableau is for business.”

SciChart is currently used by customers in more than 80 countries and across sectors (cross-vertical). One of its unique selling points is performance and it is this which sets it apart from competitors within the industry. The other is that it treats the customer as number one and aims to provide the best software and user experience.

“We have cutting-edge graphics technology similar to game-engine technology which we have built in-house using cross-platform languages and applied to business data-visualisation software,” Andrew states. “This enables us to create faster, more rich and visually appealing charts, graphs and data-visualisations than our competitors.

“Our software is rated number one by users for speed (performance), with several orders of magnitude faster performance than competitors and allowing billions of data-points to be plotted in applications.

“We are rated number one for flexibility, features, ease-of-use and we have a 5* rating for technical support and a 98% approval rating from reviewers as a business. We enable our customers to white-label our charting software in their applications which then become their products.”

Internal culture at SciChart is of utmost importance and the firm has a culture of excellence, as Andrew is keen to highlight.

“Ultimately, our staff create our products, so they play a very important role in the success of our firm. We are a fully-remote company, with staff around Europe and working online and together to achieve our goals. We treat our staff with respect, and have a flexible approach to working in working hours, days and holidays.

“Typically, we go through trusted agencies or partners to recruit. We look for software developers with extensive experience in cross-platform graphics (or a desire to learn), and staff who are committed to long-term work to create products which are rated as the best.”

Overall, SciChart is a fully bootstrapped start-up with no investment, debt or shareholder loans. The company has been grown organically and has been profitable with growth in revenue each and every year since inception.

“The major challenge for us has been to overcome competitors and grow when we did not have the financial resources of some of our competitors. In order to do this, we had to be extremely creative and go the extra mile in our work, delivering excellence not only in software, but also efficiency.

“With regards to the future, we plan to expand our product offerings and have plans for aggressive growth in 2021 and beyond.”

For further information, please contact Andrew Burnett-Thompson at www.scichart.com

Supporting the Younger Generation

taction, Five Rivers Child Care is one of the UK’s most experienced social enterprises, with a clear mission to turn children’s lives around. Founded in 1989, Five Rivers today provides specialist, therapeutic children’s services spanning fostering, residential children’s homes, specialist education and assessment and therapy. We speak to Martin Leitch, Head of Fostering Operations, who tells us more about Five Rivers and its core values.

I have worked at Five Rivers Child Care for nine years, here is a snapshot of how our specialist services guide some of England’s most vulnerable children to a meaningful future.

Five Rivers Child Care is a social enterprise – technically speaking this means a minimum of 51% of our surplus is reinvested into our services. In reality, as well as this, it means we’re part of an organisation with social value at its heart. This is demonstrated through a range of initiatives – from running a Five Rivers’ Future scheme for Care Leavers, to donating laptops to schools in the midst of the pandemic, to encouraging our staff and foster carers to shop local – and so much more.

All our staff, and foster carers, are recruited because they share the same values, ethos, and commitment to doing social good and turning children’s lives around. This is what makes Five Rivers special. To introduce you to the work we do, I will walk you through some of our specialist services. I also thought it would be important to draw attention to some misconceptions around the services we run.

Recently named ‘the most dedicated fostering services’ through the SME News Magazine UK Enterprise Awards, our foster carers do life changing work looking after children and young people who are temporarily or permanently unable to live with their birth families. Our foster carers are specially trained and supported to give vulnerable children and young people a safe, stable, caring home.

Very few people know that there is a stark shortage of foster carers across England, and an increasing need for safe, welcoming homes for children who cannot stay with their birth parents. Whilst it is not a popular thing to promote, many people also do not know that foster carers are paid for their vocation. Foster carers are trained and supported, just like any other profession. We have dedicated teams here, 24/7, to support them with their life changing work.  

Our residential children’s homes, often paired with specialist schools, offer vulnerable children a safe place to live. Five Rivers’ children’s homes vary depending on the level of need of the children, some are ‘solo occupancy’ and will only accommodate 1 child. Some accommodate up to 4 children. Our homes have at their heart a familial feel. Gone are the days of large orphanage type homes – again something people are surprised to hear. Our therapeutic children’s homes are designed around the needs of the children who need a safe, loving place to call home.

We also provide specialist schools and educational outreach to children and young people who may have struggled in mainstream education. A child’s education plays a fundamental role in shaping their future which is why we are committed to providing children and young people in our care with the best opportunities available. This means we are very creative about the educational opportunities we offer and think well beyond a traditional classroom to offer accessible education.

Finally, we have our Assessment and Therapy Team who work across all our children’s services to help us provide ‘trauma-informed’ services. The Psychologists and therapists in the teams work with our staff and foster carers to support them in their roles, and most importantly work with the children and young people in our care.

The Five Rivers’ culture is one of warmth, we keep our children and young people at the heart of all we do. Qualified staff have access to continuing professional development and unqualified staff have access to recognised professional training and continue their professional development throughout their time at Five Rivers.”

When recruiting, Five Rivers looks for staff who have a positive mindset and who truly want to make a difference, emotionally invest, and prioritise the children’s needs. Staff and foster carers are encouraged to be the very best they can be. Five Rivers has a Gold Investors in People Award and is a finalist for the Employer of the Year Award in its category.

“Quality of Care is important to us and we assure our services through a process of continuous improvement and have our high standards in respect of our robust systems and processes, having maintained our ISO 9001 Certification for a number of years.”

“With children at the heart of what we do, hearing what they have to say and learning from their experiences, we involve them in shaping the future of the company and our work. Running a National Participation Programme for the children enables them to be part of the running of the company through children’s councils and various participation events. Our work in this area is recognised as we have gained the prestigious Investing in Children Award across all of our Registered Services.”

Regarding the future, the company has ambitious development plans, including recruiting more foster carers, opening more children’s homes and education and therapeutic provisions.

“We are determined to do this without losing our local feel and responsiveness to the needs of children, foster carers and our staff within our communities.”

For further information, please contact Martin Leitech at www.five-rivers.org

What is Forex Trading and how do you do it successfully?

The Foreign Exchange is the largest financial market in the world, with nearly $5 trillion worth of trade taking place every day. The Foreign Exchange, known as Forex or FX, has extensive trading hours, high volatility and an intrinsic relationship with fundamental factors such as countries’ economic growth, international trade and interest rates.

With all of these elements, Forex trading has plenty of opportunities for investors to profit. But to be a successful Forex trader, you must do your research, understand the market and currencies involved, as well as have a strategy in place before entering the market. This guide explains the details of Forex trading and the techniques you can use to successfully partake in the market.

What is Forex?

Forex in its simplest terms, is the trading of currency pairs, based on the purchase of one currency against the other. This can be for tourism purposes, trading amongst companies internationally, or to gain a profit for investors.

When it comes to Forex trading as an instrument for investing, the exchange mainly takes place on the over-the-counter (OTC) market, but can also sometimes be traded using future contracts, as well as financial derivatives such as contracts for difference (CFDs).

How does Forex trading work?

When you begin Forex trading, the first thing that you should know is that currency is traded in pairs. You need to understand how to read these pairs before taking your first step in your investment journey.

The first currency is the pair is known as the base, whilst the second currency is the quote. The exchange rate between the currencies is reflected in the quote currency.

For example, if you were looking at the euro and US dollar currency pair (EUR/USD), it would mean that you would be buying euros whilst selling dollars. If the euro strengthens against the dollar, then that would lead to a profit. On the occasion that the euro should fall against the dollar, then you would incur a loss. In this instance, if the EUR/USD is trading at a rate of 1.1322, this would equate to €1,000 worth being exchanged for $1,132.20.

There are four categories that currency pairs can fall into:
– Majors
– Minors
– Crosses
– Exotics

All Majors involve the USD being traded against another major currency, including the EUR, the British pound (GBP), the Swiss Franc (CHF), the Japanese Yen (JPY), the Canadian Dollar (CAD), the Australian Dollar (AUD), and the New Zealand Dollar (NZD).  Minors and crosses involve one of the major currencies against another that is traded in smaller quantities, such as EUR/CHF, EUR/GBP, and AUD/JPY.

The most widely traded currency pair, with the highest volume and liquidity is the EUR/USD, closely followed by USD/JPY. This pairing experiences high volume due to the size of the Japanese economy and its vital role in global trade. GBP/USD is also a popular currency pair, that has increased in volatility, and has been recently affected by fundamental factors, such as political turmoil and Brexit.   

Successful Forex strategies

Forex trading strategies can fall into two categories: fundamental and technical analysis.

Fundamental analysis involves the studying of variables that can affect the economy, and their detrimental or positive effect on a currency pair. This involves understanding certain events in the economic calendar, such as the release date of an economic report. From this, a fundamental Forex trader can analyse the information, or speculate what the contents of the report would be, to see if it indicates the movement of a currency against another.

Technical analysis uses charts and data of the past performance of the market, alongside indicators and trend patterns, to determine a prediction of where the currency may swing next. Some indicators or trends involve the analysis of when a currency pair is overbought or oversold, or can predict the volume and price movement.

Traders can use a blend of technical and fundamental analysis to evaluate potential investment opportunities. Once you have established a Forex strategy to suit your trading style, you should trail out your techniques with a free demo account, which can be found on most trading platforms. Mirroring the movement of the real market, without the investment of real capital, is the best way to know your strategies are tried and tested before moving on to Forex trading with real money.

What you need to start a welding business in 2021

The pandemic has led to many people rethinking their life, and especially their work. After a turbulent year of instability for jobs and the economy, many people are now questioning whether setting up their own business is the right choice to make at such a time.

However, during the past year, many businesses have actually succeeded more so than ever before. With us being forced to stay at home for a long time, the construction, design, home interior and trade industries have significantly boomed, with more people taking on DIY projects at home and making home renovation the top of their priorities.

In light of this, the need for Welders has also grown over the past year and so setting up a business in this industry could be a very wise decision in 2021. In this article, we discuss the best way to set up a welding business in the current climate.  

What type of welding business?

Before preparing your business plan, you need to know which field of welding you want to enter. To help make your decision, you should look into the viability of each field and consider any experience you may have in one particular field too, as experience helps you gain contracts. The different areas of welding include, but are not limited to, stainless steel fabrication, mobile welding services and underwater welding. These are a few of the options, so choose wisely and make sure you get the right welding machine for the work you will be doing.

 

Qualifications and certifications

To set up your own welding business, you need to have the necessary qualifications and certifications which allow you to practise professional welding. You also need to ensure any employee you may hire as the company develops has the required qualifications too. You can also look into joining both local and national associations for welders so you can network and build your reputation.

You’ll also need to look into whether a permit is needed to practise welding in your local area. Finally, ensure that you stay up to date with learning new techniques in your field, as staying on top of this can only improve your business even more.

Financing

To fund your business, start by using your own funds first, along with business investment from your peers, rather than using a loan. Before you start funding your business, you need to calculate the maximum cost in as much detail as possible, that is needed to cover all expenses. If you don’t have sufficient funds, using crowdfunding platforms is a good way to secure business investment money from your peers.

Employees, partners or freelancers

When running a business it is good to have a support network around you, so that if there were to be any incidents where you can’t run the company, or the workload becomes too much, you have help. Sometimes, it can be very costly to take on permanent employees, especially if work slows down. In this case, it may be a good idea to partner up with other welders when you register your company. Additionally, finding freelancers who would be willing to work for you would be another option, so they can help out whenever you need them rather than permanently.

Why is Forex Trading so popular?

Forex (FX) trading is arguably one of the most popular forms of trading amongst investors, with a daily average trading volume of around $5 trillion.

In its simplest form, forex trading is the trading of one currency against another, known as currency pairs. This form of trading supports the conversion of any national currency into another, which means that as a result it is one of the most active trading marketing in the world. This is just one of the many reasons for its popularity.

This guide aims to provide you with more information on forex trading and the elements which make it one of the top markets for investment.

Market Liquidity

As one of the largest financial markets, forex trading has the potential for high gains and fast returns. This is because the huge volume of currency being traded at any time provides many opportunities for liquidity. This does however add to its volatility and increases the risk involved. However, with the right strategy in place, traders can benefit from this, with the potential to make a significant profit from their capital.

The fact that the forex market is available online for 24 hours a day, five days per week means it’s easily accessible. Additionally, the number of currency forex investors and brokers, buying and selling every day affect the market movement. Unlike other financial markets, such as stocks and commodities, there is no central exchange, so all trades take place through a global network. This ease of access means that individual investors can easily react to market movement, and influences from political or economic factors, entering or exiting the market accordingly. 

The returns are therefore particularly rapid for the forex market, and allow it to work well for a short-term strategy. This differs to other financial markets, where you may have to wait for organic asset value growth.

Leveraged Trading

Online forex trading lends itself well to leverage trading, as it is usually traded with a large position size and a huge amount of currency. Leverage enables you to open a position on a larger portion of the forex market, without the full amount of investment usually needed.

Trading currency this way is an effective use of money, as it is possible to see an incredible difference in the gains from trade, if the market moves in your favour. This is because a smaller amount of money than traditionally needed is used, yet you are still exposed to the market at the same value as the full amount.

It’s important to always take the time to fully understand leverage trading, how it works and how you can benefit from it, as it has the potential to magnify the profit as well as the losses. This is because the investment is always based on the proportion to the full value of the trade taking place. You can learn more about leverage in trading from Skilling, which is an online trading broker, as well as other resources which provide helpful advice and information, and are readily available online.

Short selling strategy

If the short selling strategy suits your style, then this works particularly well for forex trading, and is simpler to implement than a lot of the other markets. This is due to the fact that currencies are bought and sold in pairs. If you speculate that there is a decline in value of a currency, you need only sell the one currency and buy back in the other it is paired with – easily taking a short position on the market.

Trading in currencies also benefits from technical analysis, where a trader can use charts and indicators to predict the price movement, based on the market’s previous trends. This can influence the point at which you open and close your position on the forex market.


Having done extensive research and with a clear strategy and techniques in mind, the forex market can be a profitable investment for many traders. It’s volatility, and potential for high returns, continues to make it an attractive opportunity for investors.

How to Ease an Employee back into Work After an Injury

A sufficiently serious injury can seriously impede a person’s ability to work. This applies especially if the job is a physically demanding one, or if the injury in question was sustained while on the job. As well the physical difficulty, however, it’s important to also consider the mental aspect of a long-term injury. Here, let’s take a look at a few strategies for easing the transition.

 

Managing expectation

According to research from the National Accident Helpline, conducted as part of the Make it Right campaign, most injury sufferers tend to underestimate how long it will take to get back to normality. For 60%, recovery had taken more time than expected.

 

Offer Financial Support

Paying an employee to not work might seem like a risky proposition, but in many cases it can provide the financial security required in the situation, and reduce the risk that the employee will try to rush back prematurely. It might be that the injury entitles the employee to financial compensation, claims for which can be pursued through the courts.

 

Offering Mental Health Support

The same research outlines a number of mental health problems associated with long-term injury. Seven out of ten people polled said that their accident had caused them a mental health issue. Stress and anxiety were the most common complaints, at around 35% each, with nightmares and panic attacks being rarer, at just 13%.

Clearly, every employee will have different needs, and thus it’s important that employers offer a level of support that’s appropriate to each. In cases where stress is a problem, easing the workload might be beneficial. In cases where the employee is looking to make a return as quickly as possible, the opposite might be true.

 

Making Adjustments to the Workplace

If a worker is reliant on mobility aids like crutches and wheelchairs, then it’s important that the workplace is able to accommodate those devices. The narrow corridors and steep staircases in some older buildings might not be a good match.

If it’s possible, then you might elect to allow an injured worker to work from home while their recovery is ongoing. This has several advantages. First, it’ll allow the worker to gradually ease themselves back into working practices. Second, it’ll allow them to stay abreast of all the developments in the workplace. Third, it’ll provide them with a sense of social belonging, which can be important in staving off many of the mental health issues that we’ve already touched upon.

 

Perform a Work Capability Assessment

Having an employee return to work before they’re ready can create setbacks that will ultimately delay their progress, and create complicated feelings of resentment and ill-will. Conduct a work capability assessment. If you find that there are still areas of weakness to progress, then make sure that you put in place a system for the employee to monitor their progress and try again.

Business Elite 2020

Welcome to the celebratory edition of the SME Business Elite Awards of 2020, a program which highlights those enterprises who consistently provide the best services and products for their clients, allowing them to stand out within their representative fields.

We have seen first-hand the growth and adaptation many companies have undertaken in what was an unprecedented year, so join us in reflecting on their achievements within this issue.

Handpicked by SME News Magazine and our team of internal researchers, our approach to selection ensures we remain dedicated to celebrating the ever-changing landscape we are committed to serving on a truly UK-wide platform.

We extend our congratulations once more to the winners in this program, knowing the future of SMEs will always be a focal point in the core of UK Business.

Amazing Space

Pepper Sq is a new generation, e-commerce platform, that helps customers navigate through endless and overwhelming choices. Through innovation, proprietary visualisation and personalisation capabilities, the process of designing a home is made easy thanks to technology that allows users to create a home with confidence in just two clicks. We spoke to CEO and Founder, Oxana Yanushkovskaya to find out more.

Launched in 2018, Pepper Sq is a technology-led interior design and furniture marketplace created to simplify the time-consuming and often overwhelming process of designing a home.

Whilst searching through furniture shops in-person has always been a tedious task for many, it is now made even more tricky in the current global climates. Alternatively, sifting through thousands of portals and ecommerce sites online can be similarly taxing, not to mention undesirable, as it is hard to feel confident in choosing furniture without seeing it in person and becoming familiar with the sizing, colour and style matching.

Pepper Sq has been founded to combat the challenges of designing a home, simplifying the process and saving time and money so that customers are able to create beautiful, sustainable home interiors that are perfectly suited to them, without the usual stress of complex design decisions and endless furniture searches. The team at Pepper Sq hand-picks artesian European furniture which can be purchased as individual pieces, or as part of a bespoke room design concept. Pepper Sq even creates entire rooms so that customers can ‘buy the look’, swapping pieces in or out according to their taste.

The platform is ideally suited to homeowners of all tastes and aesthetics, as Pepper Sq’s comprehensive selections of unique furniture collections, advanced technology solutions and original room designs can fit around any lifestyle and personality. Each home and homeowner is entirely unique, and Pepper Sq’s offerings reflect that individuality.

The room ‘spacemaking’ function also offers various price reductions, and the Room Calculator tool estimates the total makeover budget and potential savings, so that clients are always able to stay on top of the costs of their project. As such, Pepper Esq has not just built a retail platform that enables a near physical shopping experience, but has superseded the concept as a new generation e-commerce platform that makes the process easier and more enjoyable.

For a long time, furniture retail had a significantly lower level of online penetration compared to other industries. Covid-19 has changed this, not only shifting the retail landscape onto digital platforms but increasing people’s investments into their own homes. Over 12% of consumers say they expect to spend more on their homes in the coming months, as they spend extended periods of time at home and in their gardens. In addition, the work from home phenomenon is seeing people take into consideration how best to transform their homes into multifunctional spaces that facilitate the work-life balance.

Committed to helping clients achieve whatever they are looking for from their dream home or space, Pepper Sq has used its capabilities and resources to build trust within the firm itself, with amongst furniture manufacturers, their partners network and their clients. Having started out as a start-up with limited resources, Pepper Sq recognises and appreciates the values of collaboration and partnership, and through these attributes is able to achieve unparalleled creativity and innovation that can be implemented into their customers’ homes.

Pepper Sq invests in its recruitment process to ensure the maintenance of the culture that has been carefully cultivated since 2018. People with grit, who thrive on innovation and are determined to succeed are the ideal candidates for Pepper Sq, and together the team is working towards its long-term visions for success that sets the bar high for competitors in the market.

Pepper Sq has many projects in the works that will propel the firm onwards to this success, as CEO, Oxana Yanushkovskaya tells us: “We truly believe that online furniture shopping should be effortless, quick and accessible for all. This is where Pepper Sq changes everything, reduces noise that’s out there and lets customers hone in on precisely what they are after. Simplicity is the key – from the intuitive technology which powers our online platform, to the thoughtfully curated interiors concepts. We are developing a technical solution to offer customers hyper-relevant personalised content, by exploiting browsing data for understanding the customer’s preferences of colours, finishes, and interior design styles, which allow a design set of bespoke recommendations to be presented to every single customer.”

It is this forward-thinking approach to interior design through technology that is allowing Pepper Sq to revolutionise the furniture retail landscape. Through simplifying the process of designing a home, customers are being given the confidence to create their dream home in just two clicks.

For further information, please contact Oxana Yanushkovskaya at www.peppersq.com

Contingency Planning For 2021 From A New PropTech SME: What Do Landlords and Agents Need To Know?

Simon Tillyer, Director of Vouch

2020 was the year of the unprecedented. Covid-19’s impact on the property market simply couldn’t have been prepared for and, despite the damage caused, property professionals have poured their efforts into recovery. What 2021 represents therefore, is a crucial opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned, and ensure the year becomes one that is led by foresight. With the country well into the swing of a third national lockdown, it’s now more important than ever that landlords, letting agents, and tenants alike know how to prepare for any further impact. Should they fail to, we could face many more years of diminishing growth. 

Legislative changes we cannot ignore

Firstly, let’s reflect on recent and upcoming legislative changes. The government’s stay on evictions – which was initially due to end on the 11th January – has now been extended, protecting tenants amidst this period of continued uncertainty. As it stands, the ban will remain in place until the 21st February, which means that in England no tenants are expected to be evicted until 8th March at the earliest. Going a step further, Wales and Scotland have extended the ban until 31st March. 

It’s important to note that the ban is not applicable in cases that are “egregious”, including instances of anti-social behaviour, extreme rent arrears, and the death of a tenant. However, despite this clause – which will offer relief to some landlords – landlords and letting agents must continue to invest time into mitigating the impact the ban will have on their businesses. From mediation strategies and insurance structures, to diversifying portfolios; rising arrears and court proceedings need to be built into all 2021 strategies. 

To aid with this, the government has announced a new “mediation pilot”, which will be rolled out across England and Wales next month. The pilot will be free to use and aims to help landlords and tenants reach agreement without the need for stressful and costly legal proceedings. No matter the circumstances landlords and letting agents find themselves in over the coming months, they shouldn’t need to look any further than the possibility of looming student rent strikes to appreciate the need for swift and effective mediation.

Other legislative changes include the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill, which gives tenants the right to live with their pet. The bill is expected to gain Royal Assent this year with cross-party support, but it’s worth noting that any prospective pet-owning tenants will first need to pass a test of responsible ownership before moving into a property. This includes obtaining a certificate from a vet which confirms that the animal is healthy, well-behaved, in the care of a responsible owner, and if appropriate, is vaccinated and microchipped. 

In addition, the Building Safety Bill – which is expected to become law this year – will also introduce new and enhanced regulations for building safety and construction in England. The bill will provide a complete regulatory overhaul of building fire safety, and will require landlords, developers, and construction workers alike to drastically rethink the ways buildings are constructed and occupied going forward. The regime will be overseen by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and will apply initially to all multi-occupied residential buildings over 18 metres, or six storeys, high in England. The regulations will then apply to all existing buildings in England on a phased basis. 

Whilst the bill remains in the pipeline, the government is making a considerable effort to strengthen safety rules in 2021 and so landlords should familiarise themselves with their new responsibilities at the earliest opportunity, or risk facing potentially serious consequences. 

Likewise, the deadline for ensuring that rented homes comply with the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 is fast approaching. By 1st April, all rented homes should comply with the guidance that was first introduced by the government in June last year. However, with a number of trade associations asking for an extension on the deadline date – partly due to the difficulties in sourcing tradesmen during lockdown periods – landlords may have some more time to get organised. 

Finding tailored insurance

The government’s furlough scheme currently expected to end on the 30th April and, despite the speculation surrounding its possible second extension, property professionals should prepare for the impact of its wind down. If tenants are made redundant at the end of April, they could soon end up in rental arrears.

For this reason, it would be wise to not only explore Rent Protection Insurance, but take the time to find a provider that works best for you and your tenants’ individual circumstances. If a provider were to change its policy last minute, the outcome could be stressful and costly, so it’s imperative that all necessary requirements are communicated at length before any decisions are made. 

What should we be keeping in mind?

Beyond the legislative changes that have been officially announced, there are a number of areas to keep under close watch throughout 2021. With rumours rumbling about whether the property market can remain open during this lockdown, the possibility of another total closure must be prepared for. 

Business owners must therefore think about how they could recoup those potential losses once the market opens up again; whether that’s streamlining services through technology or introducing new revenue streams into their company offering. Investing in technology could prove instrumental in future-proofing your business and helping you retain an efficient, cost-effective business model. 

Talks of a ‘PropTech 3.0’ boom have long been on the cards, but with more and more property professionals benefitting from artificial intelligence (AI), open banking and virtual reality during 2020, the coming months could see these contingency measures become permanent fixtures. 

Overall, it looks as though the sector will be required to confront a range of significant changes in 2021, and despite the uncertainty that continues to surround the market, moves being made to get ahead of the curve now could prove instrumental in cushioning companies and portfolios against any lasting damage. 

How To Ensure Productivity When Employees Work Remotely

The pandemic hasn’t merely changed how people work in the short-term. For a lot of businesses, the current remote working setup is their vision for the future. They plan to keep this system – or something like it – in place long after people cease talking about COVID-19.

If that’s going to happen, though, how can employers ensure that staff spend their days wisely and don’t laze about? When you can’t monitor everyone, you can never be sure that people are actually doing the jobs you pay them for. That’s why these four tips are essential for maintaining productivity when they’re out of the office.

Set Consistent Goals

Whether working remotely or not, every employee should have set goals to meet. These might be monthly, weekly, or even daily, but they all serve the same purposes. Not only do they give people something to work towards and potentially exceed, but they also make it easier for you to track their progress.

With employees working out of the office, daily or weekly expectations are good to have to ensure that everyone is on track. These should be specifically tailored to each person to ensure that what’s demanded of them isn’t too much or too little compared to what they’re capable of.

Sit each staff member down and reach an agreement together about how much they should be doing. Given that 70% of respondents to a survey said they got more done at home during the first lockdown, you should expect employees to at least produce the same quantity of work as before.

Keep Communication Open

The office is more than just a formal setting for employees to work in. It’s also a space where people are free to communicate, either about what they’re doing or their personal lives.

While consistent chatter might be problematic in the workplace, it does have its place in promoting productivity. Humans are social creatures, after all.

That’s why it’s essential for businesses to maintain communication while working remotely, ideally through services like Zoom and Slack. Not only do these provide platforms for employees to engage with each other, but they also allow you to keep tabs on how things are going.

You should try to speak semi-regularly with all employees to see what they’re doing, how they’re progressing, and so on. If they claim to be doing a particular task, keep an eye on how long it takes to complete it. Should it take longer than anticipated, ask them why, especially if they didn’t bring up any issues prior. If this starts to become a pattern, you may have reason to doubt that the employee is being as productive as they’re expected to be.

Be Fair But Disciplinary

When an employee underperforms, punishment isn’t always the best course of action to take. After all, people have bad weeks sometimes.

If you’ve set goals that aren’t being met, speak with the individual in question to work out what the issue was. Provide support where you can and trust them if they say the problem was down to factors outside of them not working hard enough.

However, if they consistently underperform or always seem to have some excuse for why they’re not meeting a certain level, you may want to take action. Sometimes this can seem too harsh, but in cases where employees take the remote working situation for granted, it can give them the push they need.

You can always reach out to Robertson Solicitors, a solicitors in Cardiff, if you need help with this. Employment law is one of their key specialities, with HR consultation a service they provide to ensure that employers get the best out of their staff. These Cardiff solicitors could prove vital in maintaining productivity, especially if matters escalate to a tribunal.

Provide Any Essential Equipment

Technology isn’t perfect. It breaks or develops faults all the time, which can be a real headache when it stops someone from completing their work.

Unfortunately, you can’t do much to resolve such issues when staff work remotely. However, you can try and reduce problems from happening by providing people with essential equipment. For instance, you can give your employees computers or laptops to use from home, which are new and contain all the updated software they need. While these are still liable to faults, they shouldn’t encounter problems as frequently.

Likewise, it may also be beneficial to set up a cloud server so that staff always have access to what they need. That way, there’s no time wasted trying to track stuff down, and there’s a reduced risk of things getting lost too.

Obviously, some elements are harder to control, such as an employee’s internet connection. It’s possible you may be able to get them on a stronger network, with part of the cost covered by the business. However, issues like this tend to differ between cases.

You should always trust the people you hire, especially if you plan on making remote working permanent. However, even if you do trust them, it doesn’t hurt to have measures in place just to ensure that everyone does as they’re supposed to.

Popping The £48m Question: Up To 26,000 Women Consider Proposing To Their Partner On 29th Feb

With the tradition of women proposing to men on a leap day dating back to the fifth century, this year could see those proposals generating a boost to the economy of almost £50 million, according to new research.

The study from leading savings site, VoucherCodes.co.uk, asked heterosexual single women whether they would ever consider proposing to their other half. With 3% saying that they would, and a little over one in ten of those stating that they’d do it specifically because it’s a leap year (12%), this means there could be as many as 25,784 women getting down on one knee on 29th February.

But, it’s not just the happy couple that would reap the benefits. If all those who are considering proposing take the plunge on 29th February, the UK economy could see a boost of up to £48.2 million based on how much the average couple plans to spend on engagement rings alone (£1,871 per ring).

Despite the uptake in the longstanding tradition, many women believe that they should be free to propose to their male partner whenever they feel the time is right. 58% of those who say they’d propose would not wait for 29th February to come around.

Top five reasons British women give for wanting to propose:

Rank

Top reasons women give for wanting to propose

Percentage

1

Because we are equal, and I should be able to if I want to

58%

2

If I was fed up of waiting for him to ask me

22%

3

To take the pressure off my partner

12%

4

If it was a leap year

12%

5

Because it is empowering

11%


Many men are also keen on the idea of being proposed to by their girlfriend, with over a third (35%) admitting that it would take the pressure off them having to do the asking. However, 12% would still consider it to be emasculating, while 11% would be disappointed if they were asked by their partner – but only because they wanted to be the one to get down on one knee.

Professor Joshua Bamfield, Director of the Centre for Retail Research, said: “In the modern world, when so many other traditions have been abandoned without much regret, it is surprising that 97 times out of 100 the male is the one expected to ask his partner for her hand in marriage.

“In fact, VoucherCodes’ research shows that this tradition is not universally popular. Twelve per cent of males faced by a woman popping the question would breathe a sigh of relief, although 11% would be disappointed as these men are keen to observe the old traditions. 

“On top of the boost from the sale of engagement rings, considering the number of marriages each year in the UK, a further £95 million could be spent on wedding days resulting from female proposals this leap year.”

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk added: “It’s 2020 and the tradition of men always being the one to propose could become a thing of the past. But, for many women, having a dedicated day for female proposals might provide the confidence they need to pop the question.

“However, no matter which partner proposes, weddings are famously one of life’s biggest expenses – with the cost of things like rings, engagement parties and the wedding itself quickly adding up. So, if you’re thinking about asking your partner to marry you, an easy way to help your budget go further is to look out for any deals that may help you keep costs at a manageable level. Our discount codes on everything from engagement rings to formal wear are a great place to start!”

Local Business Achieving National Success

Based out of its joint offices in Woodville and Burton on Trent, New Vision Computing Ltd. provide a full range of IT services to support businesses from across the breadth of the UK. Kathryn Hall, one of the Directors of digital publishing house AI Global Media, sat down with New Vision’s Karon Thurman to discuss how the company has dedicated itself to providing excellence in the IT field.

One of the most vital elements of New Vision’s success is its versatility. Working alongside a varied client base – comprised of single employee companies through to more established SMEs across a plethora of industries – New Vision has certainly proven itself capable of adapting to the core needs of its clients, whatever they may be. From solicitors, construction companies, and accountancy practices to management consultancy firms and popular tourist attractions, New Vision is equipped to deliver cost-effective IT support.

It’s no secret that the technology industry is a swiftly moving beast, with new developments happening seemingly every day. It’s a challenging task for even the largest of conglomerates to keep pace and to understand what their company needs to grow and thrive in this new tech-driven business age, let alone a start-up with a promising central creed. This is where New Vision has solidified itself as a valued partner, finding success in offering a best-in-class outsourced IT services, with the expertise and knowhow to help keep your business going without the resource-heavy expenses associated with investing in an in-house IT team.


From managing your IT network and systems and offering on-site engineer support, to 24/7 monitoring and expert technical advice, New Vision have the skills and experience to super-charge your business.


While
discussing New Vision’s mission and merits, the conversation moved to the
importance of Cyber Security.

Cyber
Security has been a hot topic in the world of business for a number of years
now and remains a critical consideration for SMEs around the UK.  Indeed, one of New Vision’s ongoing projects is
supporting businesses in achieving Cyber Essentials Accreditation, as Karon
discusses in more detail. “Many business owners don’t know where to start when
it comes to IT security and protection, although they understand its
importance, managing the process can be difficult if IT security is not their
niche.  This is where New Vision
Computing Ltd. comes in: we work with the business leaders to ensure they are
adequately protected against IT system failures, data breaches or data loss,
all of which can have a major impact on a business.”

New
Vision Computing Ltd. offers the following Small Business Cyber Security Top
5 Tips:

  1. Ensure
    you have antivirus software in place
  2. Back
    up your files on a regular basis
  3. Plan
    for business growth/have a plan in place to scale your systems
  4. Perform
    regular risk assessments
  5. Keep
    software up to date

New
Vision can offer assistance in each of these areas and are dedicated to
ensuring every business they work with not only receives the best possible
service but also the best possible IT protection.

More
recently, New Vision was recognised as the ‘Best IT Services Provider 2019 –
Derbyshire’ in SME News’ 2020 Midlands Enterprise Awards. In her closing
comments, Karon offers more insight into the company’s success and New Vision’s
immediate future. “We were delighted to receive the news of our award win.  It is great to hear that our hard work and
dedication has been recognised in this way. 
We are focusing on our marketing activities currently and are looking to
spread the word of our services, we believe the recent award win will further
allow us to do this and in turn we expect to receive further customers as a
result of the accolade.”

Some of The Ways You Can Build Relationships in Your Business

When it comes to your business, you want to make sure that it can be successful as possible and, sometimes a helping hand from another company can help you become more successful. For example, they could help you get more clients, bring you more leads and more. In this article, we will discuss some of the ways that you can build relationships in your business. If this is something that you would be interested in learning more about then, make sure you keep reading for more information.


Attend Seminars

When it comes to building relationships in your business, there are many ways that you can do this. For instance, one of the ways that you can build relationships in your business is by making sure that you attend seminars. When you attend seminars, you will be able to sit in a room with different people that are all interested in the same thing. When there is a break during a seminar or when the event is finished, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to meet and speak to different people from different businesses to start building relationships. This is a good way to build relationships for your business because it will allow you to meet with people with the same interests and in the same kind of industry as you are.


Consider Corporate Hospitality

Another one of the ways that you can build relationships in your business is by making sure that you consider corporate hospitality. When it comes to corporate hospitality, this can allow you to mix with staff and clients to get to know them better and build relationships in many different ways. There are many fun and exciting activities that you can get involved in so, make sure that you head to teamtactics.co.uk to have a look at the different corporate hospitality events that you can try out.


Hold Regular Meetings

If you are looking for another way to build relationships in your business, then another way that you can do this is by making sure you hold regular meetings. This is because the more meetings you hold the better as you will be able to communicate more and find out information quicker that you need to know. Even if you can’t have a meeting in person, you should consider having a phone or Skype call so you can discuss the things that you need to even if you can’t have a face to face meeting.


Social Media

The next way that you can build relationships in your business is by making sure you have a business profile on social media. When you have social media, not only can you reach out to clients and new customers but, you can also find other businesses that you can get in contact with to see if you can work with each other. There are many different social media platforms that you can choose from such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, you can even consider using LinkedIn to connect with other people and businesses that you feel could be beneficial for you and your business.


Find the Best Way to Build Relationships

If you are looking for ways to build relationships in your business then, there are many ways that this can be done. For example, you can attend seminars and meetings, connect with people through social media and much more. in this article, we discussed some of the different ways that you can build relationships in your business so, make sure you keep this article in mind and use it to help you.

UK SMEs Paying Inertia Penalty Of £8.7bn For Business Essentials – And Spend A Month A Year Sorting Admin

UK SMEs are overpaying for business essentials by an aggregate £8.7bn a year, according to a new report by Bionic, the business services platform.

Bionic’s Business Efficiency Index found that SMEs could stand to save £1,508 a year on their energy, insurance and telecoms spend. On average, smaller British businesses spend £3,950 a year on these three services – a combined annual bill of £22.9billion.


Bills, bills, bills

Bionic data suggests that UK SMEs are significantly overpaying on these services. According to analysis of Bionic’s 200,000 customers, businesses are, on average, overpaying on their energy, insurance and telecoms bills by nearly 40 per cent.


Service

Average SME Spend (per year)

Average Bionic Saving (per year)

Average % saving (per year)

Inertia Penalty

Business Energy

£2236

£963

43.07%

£5.59bn

Business Insurance

£1352

£387

28.62%

£2.24bn

Business Telecoms

£362

£158

43.65%

£916.4m

Total

£3950

£1508

38.18%

£8.7bn


What’s more, businesses are paying over the odds at a time when they are already battling rising costs. Since 2011, the cost of taxes, rates and employment costs have spiked 15%, an increase of £60,000 a year, per business. Inevitably, some SMEs are really struggling to pay for their business-critical services. More than a quarter (26%) say that it is difficult to meet the costs for their energy, insurance and telecoms.


Time flies

SMEs are not only overpaying on their bills but are also spending too much time sorting their business admin.

The majority (64%) of SMEs spend, on average, 4 hours a week on business admin. This equates to spending a month per year (30 days) on admin alone. SMEs are wasting 3.5 days a year trying to compare the best deals for energy, insurance and telecoms.

This admin burden is creating a drag on operations. Two thirds (66%) say their business admin impacts their ability to spend time on other activities, with 8% as saying this impact is “significant”.

Understandably, the time commitments involved in analysing annual business essentials spend is putting a lot of SMEs off engaging with their providers. The fact that more than a third (34%) of small business owners or directors have not reviewed their energy, insurance or telecoms in the last year points to the high levels of inertia in the market. SMEs are missing out on significant cost and time savings as a result, to the detriment of their growth.

Commenting on the research, Paul Galligan, CEO of Bionic, said: “The findings paint a picture of Bureaucracy Britain: up and down the country, what should be simple business decisions are eating into SMEs’ time, productivity and resources – they need a break from the bills.

“The good news is that many SMEs have not yet taken the first and easiest steps to trim their spend and cut the faff. Our analysis suggests that SMEs stand to save over £1,500, on average, by getting the best deal for them.

“We believe that the best businesses are driven by clear human decisions, backed up by tech. This research shows that, positively, SMEs have a huge amount of open road when it comes to adopting technology to make their lives easier. Most SMEs are at the very beginning of their tech journey and the scale of the opportunity is huge.”

Wage Rise Highlights The Need For Creativity To Attract And Retain Talent

By Martin Atkins and Ed Hussey, Menzies LLP

It may have seemed a long time coming, but recent ONS analysis shows that average weekly wages in the UK have reached their highest levels since before the 2008 financial crisis, ending a 12-year squeeze on workers’ salaries.

Following an annual rise of 1.8 per cent, average weekly earnings excluding bonuses hit £474, which is £1 higher than the pre-downturn peak of £473 recorded in March 2008. However, wage growth is not necessarily good news for everyone. While positive for employees, an increase in employment-related costs could cause some employers to lose sleep.

Recent surveys are also suggesting that employment growth will continue to pick up in Q1. But with more and more people in employment, businesses in many sectors could find it more difficult to recruit the people they need, and skills shortages could worsen. For SMEs, there is an urgent requirement to review remuneration and reward packages and invent new ways to recruit and retain talent.

Regardless of the size of the business, the most common problem for employers is finding staff who are highly skilled and versatile. Whilst traditionally, highly-skilled workers in large organisations have had a lot of bargaining power when it comes to salary, rapid technological changes affecting many sectors of industry have meant that some workers have been unable to keep pace. Some organisations may be comfortable hiring a candidate in the knowledge that additional training may be required, if they can afford to make the investment to satisfy all aspects of the role requirements. However, SMEs may struggle to make that investment, and thinking outside of the box is therefore essential.

In an increasingly competitive job market, the power of an exceptional ‘employer brand’ shouldn’t be underestimated. For employers, establishing an accurate representation of the organisation’s culture and staff is essential, starting with understanding the business’ USPs. It is important to create a public profile highlighting what the business stands for, encouraging potential new candidates to consider where they might fit within the organisation and the skills they can offer. To ensure this profile is authentic, employers should seek positive quotes and feedback from the existing team. This can then be shared across the firm’s communications channels, including its website and social media, as these are often the first port of call for potential candidates.

The recruitment process also gives the business an opportunity to present its core values in the best possible light. Here, the use of hi-tech interfaces and other technologies can help businesses to personalise their interactions and leave a positive lasting impression. However, something as simple as providing responsive, friendly points of contact can set an employer apart. The recruitment process must also be flexible enough to take the personality and aspirations of a potential employee into consideration, as this can help to ensure that they are a good fit from a cultural perspective. With the right approach to learning and development in place, many employers take the view that the rest can be taught.

As well as attracting top talent, SMEs should be focussed on developing existing members of staff. Employing a dedicated HR team to take responsibility for coordinating a company-wide training programme can help to give individual workers more stability and direction. To keep workers aligned with the strategic needs of the business, providing them with the necessary information and support to realise their potential is key. Ultimately, any business relying on skilled workers to generate revenue must take responsibility for boosting those skills in order to maximise profit.

It is inevitable that one day a business might lose a star performer. Whilst larger companies can usually accommodate such a loss, it can be more damaging for SMEs. To avoid this, SMEs should aim to create ‘good leavers’ who remain assets for the business long after they have moved on. Extending a positive attitude throughout the duration of an employee’s time within the company can help to maintain positive employer / employee relationships. Exit interviews can help to identify where the leaver’s needs weren’t being met, and such insights can help to shape the future of the organisation. As well as looking after leavers, employers must stay focused on keeping existing workers happy by promoting work-life balance and putting in places policies that encourage fairness and inclusion.

When competing with larger firms, one of the challenges for SMEs is ensuring that any wage increases are sustainable as, inevitably, any increase in costs may have to be passed on to the client. In a climate of rising costs, managers should be empowered to have brave conversations with individual workers about the value of what is being delivered, at the same time as offering support and building strong working relationships based on mutual respect and trust.

Securing talent has always been tough for SMEs and recent wage growth has only made it tougher. Whilst higher salaries might seem like good news for all, it doesn’t automatically mean better career progression, and could create skills shortages within some businesses. By refining their employer brand and improving recruitment processes, ensuring they are aligned with the organisation’s values, businesses can succeed in building an army of skilled, adaptable and diverse individuals.

Which Electricals Are Costing Your Business The Most Money?

The majority of SME-sized businesses use between 15,000 and 25,000 kWh per year. For many firms, this can be a huge drain on available funds. Annual energy bills for large businesses frequently reach in excess of £15,000, whilst those working within the industrial industry can expect to pay over £50,000 a year on energy costs. 

However, by incorporating smarter energy solutions, there are various ways in which businesses can reduce their overheads from energy bills. Keep reading on to discover which electricals are costing your business the most money and how you can better manage them.


How Is the cost of electrical appliances calculated?

Named after the influential Scottish engineer and scientist James Watt, all energy is measured using watts (W). Once the number of watts reaches a figure higher than 1,000, it is converted into kilowatts (kW). In order to work out how much an electrical appliance costs, we need to know how many watts it uses and how long it is used for. 

The vast majority of modern appliances will have their wattage somewhere on the appliance itself. If not on the front, then this should be found on the back or bottom of the appliance. Alternatively, you can Google the name of your product to find out its W or kW rating. 

To calculate the running costs, you simply need to input your data into an easy-to-follow equation. Once you know the wattage of the appliance, you need to multiply this by the hours it’s being used for, divide this number by 1,000 and then multiply the entire sum by your kWh rate in pounds (as provided by your business electrical suppliers).


Which appliances are typically the most expensive?

It will come as a surprise to many readers to discover which electrical
appliances are actually costing your business the most money. Many of us will
have grown up having been scolded by our family for “burning money” when
forgetting to turn the lights off, but how much of a difference does this
actually make to energy bills?

Well, in the modern world, the majority of businesses will be (or should
be) using energy-saving bulbs. This is a guaranteed means of saving your
business a significant amount of money in the long run. An energy-saving bulb
will cost you approximately 0.3p per hour to leave on. Putting this into
perspective, if an energy-saving bulb was left on constantly for an entire month,
this would cost around £2 on your electricity bill. 


The most expensive electrical appliances which businesses frequently use are:

Electric Showers: More and more businesses are providing their
workforce with showers so that they can cycle to work and shower afterwards to
feel fresh and presentable throughout the day. However, the use of electric
showers is one of the more pricey electric overheads which a business can
face. 

Using an 8.5kW electric shower, you will be paying around 2p per minute,
meaning a 5-minute shower will cost 10p. This doesn’t sound like too much,
however, it will add up quickly. If a member of staff works 250 days in a year
and showers every day, then this will cost the business approximately £25.
Extrapolated once more, if you have as many as ten members of your workforce
doing this, then it will be costing you £250 a year. 

Fridge freezer: The vast majority of business premises will have at
least one fridge freezer so that staff can bring and store their food for the
day. Medium and big businesses could have ten or more fridge freezers in total.
This can add up to be another substantial overhead, as a singular fridge
freezer with a 150-200W capacity which is left on continuously will cost
approximately £33 a year.

Television: Businesses working within the media, finance,
computer, telecommunication and technology industries, in particular, are
likely to have multiple televisions on their premises. Many of these companies
will leave these televisions on continuously throughout the day to relay
breaking industry news and serve as an aesthetic backdrop or source of
advertising to visitors. 

The use of televisions is undoubtedly one of the biggest electric costs
for many businesses. A television which is used for eight hours per day will
cost around £85 to run a year. Depending on how many televisions your business
has on throughout the working day, this could be costing you hundreds or even
thousands of pounds on an annual basis. 

Computers: In our digital world, most companies need
computers as the lifeblood of their business. Unsurprisingly, the amount of electricity that laptops use, alongside PCs
and servers, account for a significant proportion of a business’ energy
consumption. An average desktop PC needs 1.3 kWh of electricity to run for
three hours. This works out to just over 7p an hour or approximately 58p for a
days work. Looking at the bigger picture, if you have twenty PCs on for eight
hours a day, 250 days a year, then this works out as a whopping £2,900 added to
your annual electricity bill. 


How can you cut your business’ energy costs?

As you can see, many of the most
expensive electric appliances are indispensable to the way a business operates.
Seeing as you will not be able to simply stop using these devices, what are the
alternative ways of reducing your business’ energy consumption?

It is crucial that you work with business electricity suppliers and
third-party intermediaries who can devise a cost-saving strategy. This will
help to minimise your energy consumption based on your specific consumption
habits, simultaneously reducing business costs and lessening your environmental
impact.  

10 Google Analytics E-commerce Metrics You Should Be Tracking

By Tigran Mirzoyan, CEO at Smarketa.com 

Building an eCommerce website is very attractive in terms of convenience for both buyers and sellers. For marketers, however, it promises high sales only if the website is well-optimized. It means that while building a website, you need to consider all the strategies that can bring you sales and calculate the possible risks that can harm your business. It will keep you away from eCommerce SEO mistakes and will drive your website to become a trustworthy business in this hugely competitive market. Learn more about how to audit the SEO health of your webstore here.


How to find out the website performance?

Well, a good-working website is a goal for all the businesses. Marketers hire a professional marketing agency, implement different DYI tactics to get high results. Nevertheless, for finding out how well your website performs and get information about the real-time traffic to your website you can use one of the most powerful analytics software tools, called Google Analytics.


Do you track the most important eCommerce metrics?

When it comes to the decision-making process, businesses use some metrics in order to get aware of strong and weak parts of their websites and make some improvements, if needed.  As these metrics are countless, it is important to go deeper into the most working ones that can promise success to your business.

Although the list of valuable metrics is not over by this, however, let’s detect 10 of them that are worth attention:


1.Conversion Rates

Marketers spend much time and effort to increase conversion rates. Imagine, someone visits your website and abandons it without any action.

Which is your benefit?

Even in terms of eCommerce SEO, your business has no benefit in this case. Your website’s conversion rates give the percentage of your website visitors, who make an action. The higher your conversion rate is, the higher your website ranking will be.

You can implement Conversion Rate optimization by several actions, among them:

        A/B testing;

        Optimize your content and headlines;

        Use videos;

        Create text-based CTAs;

        Improve speed, navigation and “go mobile”.


2.    Total Revenue

The number of your total revenue gives you an idea about your business performance. You can measure your business growth and success. It can be a good indicator of the effectiveness of your tactics and strategies. The role of it is really critical, as it is toughly connected to all the activities that you implement for your business.  For growing your total sales you need to:

        Understand your Business Niche;

        Cover Customer Needs;

        Target and Retarget;

        Use Ecommerce SEO tactics.


3. Return on Advertising Spend

While ROI is the return on your total investment, ROAS it connected to advertisements that you have paid. Any type of advertisement requires result and not only return of money but high revenue.

Using advertisements can be great tools for your business success if you do it correctly and effectively. Use the platforms where you can meet the target market. Create a buyer persona. Avoid using the same ads on all platforms. You can even test, to find out which of them give the desired results.


4. Analysis of Traffic Metrics

As online business wholly depends on an effective web presence, you need to show your clients the value of your brand and make a great relationship with your customers. Google Analytics will give you an insight into the details of your customer’s actions, and if you manage to give them the relevant information and cover their expectations.


5. “Add to Card” eCommerce Metrics

“Add to card” can seem an ordinary action, but the reality is different: it is a powerful indicator, which shows and estimates your chances and ability to convert visitors into clients. The success of this metric depends on a lot of factors, i.e. user experience, price, payment options, etc. If you monitor it, you will manage to fix some problem with conversions and increase your sales.


6. Cart Abandonment

This metric is an indicator, which shows the percentage of visitors, who have wanted to make sales, but did not come to their final goal. It can be measured by a simple action: Just divide the complete number of successful purchases by the total shopping card. A high rate is not good for your business. It can happen for several reasons. In order to find out the reasons, you can use email marketing tools, to remind them about their purchasing decision and target them to complete their action.


7. Cost per Acquisition

While you want to get informed about the total cost of including new customers using a special channel or campaign, the CPA comes into help. This metric gives you the total percentage of website traffic that comes from your paid ads or other media. It informs about the impact of revenue of a marketing campaign.


8. Brand’s Online Visibility

This is a very crucial metric regardless of a brand type. Without having high visibility, you will not manage to reach your buyers. Brand metrics allow finding out the strong points of a brand and implement them to gain a larger audience.


9. Organic Traffic Metrics

It can give you the number of website visitors from organic search. People hire an SEO agency to develop this metric. The reason is that traffic that comes from organic search has more chances to increase your brand reputation, awareness and it is more promising when it comes to sales.


10. Social Media “reach” Metrics

Almost all businesses have an active business performance in different social media channels. Measuring the activities and their effectiveness will help to develop better social media marketing strategies. For this, you need to take into consideration:

        The number of conversions;

        Customer engagement and reach;

        Likes and shares;

        Reviews.

Using Google Analytic ECommerce metrics help you in getting sufficient information about your website traffic. Due to this information, any marketer or a digital marketing agency can build strong marketing strategies for targeting potential buyers. Understanding what is useful, valuable and important for your customers, you will easily make them your customers and manage to increase their trust towards your business.

Why Small Businesses and Start-ups Must Prioritise Their Marketing Visuals

By Andrew Jaico, Shutterstock’s Director of Product

Six million small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 99.3% of all businesses in the UK, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. Competition is understandably fierce across all industries, so it is essential that your business stands out. Brand identity is critical and the images you choose to use have the power to transform consumer perceptions.  

Consumers are inherently visual beings. Information presented in a visual format is more likely to resonate compared to any other type of marketing content. According to HubSpot, while consumers only retain 20% of what they read, they can retain 80% of the images they see. So, what does that mean practically for an SME business like yours? If you want to make your content stick with your audience, then you must make it more visual.  If you are a small business or start-up and haven’t nailed your marketing visuals yet – here’s why you should.

Visuals create brand awareness

When a business uses consistent visuals across its marketing it helps build awareness allowing the consumer to immediately recognise the brand. When people think of brands, they often naturally think of the visual identity like its logo, brand style and multimedia content.

For example, to the everyday consumer the name McDonald’s might summon a handful of visuals: the golden arches, the red and yellow, Ronald McDonald, and of course – a burger and fries.

Visuals are universally relevant

An image is universal. Regardless of where your potential customers are from or what language they speak, visual content is easily understood.

That means strong visuals will provide your business with global reach, regardless of size. Images can extend the reach of blogs, social media posts, product pages, websites and beyond, as well as making this content easily to digest.

It is important, however, to always consider how visual content will be interpreted in international markets. A study from Smartling found that 80% of marketing decision-makers believe localised content is essential when entering a new market. Different cultures attribute different meanings to visuals and symbols, ignoring or mixing these up could be hugely detrimental to international expansion. For example, the colour red represents good luck in China, but in South Africa it represents the colour of mourning. Respecting and reacting to these cultural nuances is critical in successfully engaging international audiences.

Visual content drives online engagement

The web is cluttered, and competition is tough. Lyfe Marketing reports that nearly all (97%) of marketers use social media to reach their audience. As almost all businesses increase their adoption of social media like Instagram and YouTube, marketers within businesses like yours cannot afford to ignore these platforms to promote their brand.

The business case is clear. When a business uses custom visual content on social channels, it receives a seven times higher conversion rate, according to Spiralytics Performance Marketing. From images and videos to memes and infographics, the impact visual content brings to a business’ digital presence is undeniable.

Visual content is an effective way to increase views, clicks and conversions. Customers are more likely to engage with a business and share its content if that business includes visuals. HubSpot reveals that 65% of businesses see more social engagement and traffic when they integrate visual content.

In our highly connected and saturated online world, competition for eyeballs and cut through is challenging. It’s clear that by using marketing visuals, you can increase your business’ content being shared and ultimately reaching a wider audience.

More than 95 million photos are shared daily on Instagram. What’s more, Facebook posts with pictures receive over three times more engagement than posts without images, such as links or text, according to Social Media Today.

Even with smaller budgets, SMEs shouldn’t be discouraged because they think that visual marketing is only for those who have access to high end design tools. There are great low-cost tools available on the market that don’t require you to be a designer:

Coolors, a great tool for you to generate a colour scheme for your branding.

Skitch, a functional tool which helps marketers capture and annotate their design ideas and easily file them away.

What the Font!, a great tool if you’re looking to find the perfect font for your graphics.

Shutterstock Editor, free online design tool that helps users, including creatives, designers, and marketers to speed up design workflow with easy-to-use, powerful editing functionality and customisable templates.

Mailchimp, if your business needs to design and send email marketing campaigns then Mailchimp offers a simple interface and hundreds of beautiful email templates.

It’s clear to see the importance for you to execute your marketing visuals effectively. Visuals play an essential role in how our modern society engages and consumes a business’ content. Regardless of who you’re targeting, using visuals in your marketing strategy will grab customers initial attention and increase the chance of them engaging with your content.

How Can Insolvency Experts Help Your Business?

Admitting that there is a problem with your business finances and understanding the risks of insolvency is key to winning the battle against your business going under. Even in the most extreme cases of insolvency, you can find professional services which exist to assist you and guide you through the process of retaking control of your business.

Insolvency practitioners exist to fully support you and your business in times of extreme financial need, and especially during the stressful process of trying to rebuild your business under struggles of debt and bad money management.


Managing Your Finances as a Business: Before You Seek Insolvency Specialists

To avoid the risks of insolvency, you
need to have a handle on your business finances from the very start. Good
monetary practices and being aware of any changes in your cash flow are
paramount to avoiding issues of debt and more severe
financial implications. A steady cash flow is what every business needs to
succeed.

Tips for better managing your finances include:

Understanding your cash flow. This means having a focused budget in mind so that you know how much you need to cover all of your expenses, at all times. This understanding should also include an expected forecast and predicted cash amounts coming into the business as well as going out.

Furthermore, this budget and documentation needs to be constantly updated to ensure that it is always relevant information which can be checked regularly.

Understanding the risks to your cash flow. You should also plan for the worst, and especially when it comes to financing; in regards to your cash flow, take the time to understand risk factors such as an increase in prices, pressure from competitors, changes in supplier or an increase in overheads.

Implementing client payment guidelines in a better way. You could try to give clients incentive to pay invoices early, such as a small discount if paid before the due date, or at the very least have a secure system in place to keep payments on track and chase any overdue amounts. Be sure that the payment guidelines are clear and strict from the start.


What Does Insolvency Mean for You and Your Business? When It’s Time to Contact Insolvency Practitioners

Insolvency may occur when you have
significant issues with your cash flow and do not have a firm grip on your
finances. In terms of the harmful effect it will have on your business, this
means issues of debt which could extend into more severe cases or even
bankruptcy if you simply do not have enough assets to pay back the money which
you owe.

Contacting an experienced London Insolvency Practitioner may be the only
solution to you saving your business and getting back on track with the help of
dedicated insolvency specialists.


Signs That You May Need to Contact Insolvency Practitioners

You may or may not have already been
aware that your business is having problems financially; however, these
problems escalate into more of an issue and a high risk of insolvency if you
notice some crucial signs. Time is paramount in issues of insolvency, so it’s
important to act as quickly as you can should you suspect that your business is
falling prey to it.

Looking out for the following signs may help.

1.You are late on your HMRC payments. Failing to pay or report to HMRC is a serious concern. If you are having any issues with your tax reporting and are still unable to pay after HMRC has contacted you with a deadline, this is a huge red flag and cause for concern.

2.Issues with cash flow. You may have noticed that you are unable to order important items, such as stock, due to a lack of funds, or it may be that you are constantly being refused new credit for transactions. This combined with more serious signs such as being contacted by debt collectors or being refused any extensions may mean that you are slipping into insolvency.

3.There is no clear management with your business finance. It doesn’t matter how large or small your business is, there needs to be a management process for finances. If your business has struggling leadership, or departments or people which fail to communicate with one another, this can result in severely bad management of cash flow, which can lead to monetary problems and debt.


Seeking Aid from Insolvency Specialists: How Can They Help Your Business?

When it comes to money issues and cases
of insolvency, you are not alone. Insolvency specialists are on hand to offer
professional and sound assistance to help rectify your business troubles.  

These insolvency experts will work with
you to find a solution to turn your business around and recover from these
debilitating circumstances of financial insecurity. They are specialised for
struggling businesses who want to get a handle on their debt and
gain comfort over finances so that the business can concentrate on its sales
and daily running, rather than the worry over financial concern.

Insolvency specialists will understand
the process better than you and will be able to provide sound advice with a
clear head, meaning you get a focused lifeline during a time when you may be
riddled with stress and overwhelmed by your business finances.

No matter your situation, there will be a
specialist who can help.

Beyond Cryptocurrency: 5 Questions About the Future

Since its creation in 2009, cryptocurrency has changed the face of investing and trading by introducing a digital approach. While crypto may be a step toward a single international currency, it’s incredibly complex. As people consider whether to join the crypto scene, many are raising important questions concerning the future of digital currencies. 

1. Will Cryptocurrency Remain Unregulated?

Currently, the government doesn’t regulate cryptocurrencies, but the potential for fraud has left many wondering whether it should. A recent study showed that 78% of pre-traded coins were fake. This included currencies made available on websites, threads and social media postings. Additionally, many advocates of regulation are concerned about the use of crypto for money laundering and terrorism. This has led to the development of protection agencies and operations like the Financial Action Task Force. 

Still, no government has proclaimed governance over cryptos, leaving them untaxed and unclassified. If governments were to regulate them, all countries would have to collectively decide that it is something worth doing. So, until they make an international agreement, cryptos will remain unregulated. 

 

2. How Will Cryptocurrency Work with Lotteries?

Already, cryptocurrency is changing the face of lotteries. In June of last year, Ofertas365 Limited launched a new kind of lotto system — the Crypto Millions Lotto. Now the world’s largest online crypto lottery, it allows users to play with Bitcoin and is available in more than 100 countries. U.K.-based Lloyd’s of London insures the jackpots, giving many players peace of mind. 

Crypto also has the potential to change scratch-offs and other physical lotteries. As the currency becomes more popular, people may be able to purchase tickets with Bitcoin or other digital monies in the future. However, this may affect the charitable aspect of many lotteries. Within the current system, some of the proceeds from lotto ticket sales go toward specific causes. If people begin buying them with crypto, it may influence the amount of money organizations actually receive. 

 

3. How Will the Value of Crypto Change?

Cryptocurrency values work on the principle of supply and demand. Since the currency is unregulated, its value fluctuates — sometimes dramatically — depending on the actions of traders and users. For instance, if crypto has a high token supply but little demand, the value will decrease and vice versa. This fluctuation is evident when you consider the historical worth of Bitcoin. In 2015, the currency was only worth $419 at its peak. However, in 2017, its value spiked to nearly $20,000. Now, however, Bitcoin is worth a little more than $9,000. 

Will Bitcoin see another spike in value in the future? No one is certain. Some investors speculate the bubble has burst and value will only continue to dwindle, while others believe it may see another rise later on. Undoubtedly, the government’s decision of whether or not to regulate crypto will affect future market value. 

 

4. Will Other Cryptocurrencies Surface?

Currently, there are three other notable cryptocurrencies aside from Bitcoin. These include Litecoin, Ripple and MintChip. While they’re all similar to Bitcoin and each other, each has its own unique characteristic that sets it apart. For instance, Litecoin is valued for its ability to process small transactions faster, and Ripple acts as both a currency and payment system, allowing users to transfer funds in seconds. Meanwhile, MintChip is a smartcard that holds electronic value and is backed by physical Canadian money. 

Its likely other currencies will surface. However, they probably won’t gain as much traction as Bitcoin or other relatively popular cryptos unless they come up with a completely new idea. Only a highly unique currency will be able to rival the current collection of cryptocurrencies. 

 

5. What Are the Risks?

Of course, with any investment, there are risks. As previously mentioned, there’s always a risk of fraud, money laundering and other illegal activity if you decide to invest in crypto. The lack of government regulation means the reliability and value of Bitcoin and other currencies have no backing or government protection. If someone hacks an exchange, they can steal millions of dollars, and no one is obligated to reimburse traders or investors. 

Also potentially vulnerable are the digital wallets in which users keep their crypto. Investors can use a set of codes to access the wallet, but if someone hacks and steals them, they can drain the entire account. For many, these risks aren’t worth the investment. However, others are continuing to invest in cryptocurrency and, if the value does spike again, they may reap the benefits. The only thing to do is wait and see.

For SMEs To Grow They Must Identify And Take Control Of Stress In The Workplace

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By Martin Zetter, Founder and CEO, Mindful WorkLife

Stress is well-documented as one of the world’s major health concerns. We know that it causes a catalogue of negative physical and mental effects, as well as making us more likely to engage in further damaging behaviours, such as drinking or smoking excessively, or being irritable with the people we care about.

But just as stress is not a one-size-fits-all condition, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach to managing it in the workplace. Whilst work-related stress is undoubtedly a major component of the overall picture, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a specialist focus on occupational stress – many other aspects of our lives, from social media and online interactions to finances and personal relationships – which also contributes.

According to the survey we commissioned, conducted by Gorkana, over half (54%) of UK workers experience stress during work at least once a day but over a quarter (27%) claim their boss never or rarely takes action to support them. At the same time, over a quarter (28%) of workers say the stress they experience in their personal life affects their working life.

The study shows that businesses are not taking control of stress in the workplace. It’s essential organisations, and even more crucial for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), move from raising awareness about stress in the workplace to taking tangible action. SMEs are businesses that need to have a tight control over worker wellbeing to ensure they are able to drive productivity and prevent employee absenteeism due to stress related illnesses.

For SME directors to manage stress effectively in the workplace they need to ensure their employees and they themselves are integrating stress management techniques into both working and home life. Scientific studies conducted by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre have proven meditation and mindfulness improve concentration, attention, memory, creativity, reduce social anxieties, and even to boost the immune system.

Managers and employees need to identify and take control of stress not just at work, but in all aspects of their lives, and this means recognising their own nuanced positions. What causes and exacerbates stress and how can they best tackle it?

Similarly, this means that organisations which are serious about reducing stress, and improving health and wellbeing for staff, need to move on from simply raising awareness, and take tangible actions which centre individuals. Meditation isn’t something to be tacked on to a working life – it’s something which needs to be actively integrated into working and home life, as part of a shift to a more mindful and holistic approach to occupational wellbeing.

Part of the problem is the fact that helpful practices for reducing stress and improving mental health – such as meditation and mindfulness – are often viewed as just another time-consuming task to add to the to-do list. Think of meditation in terms of ‘net present value’ however – that is, in terms of an investment today which will generate major gains in the future – and it becomes a more obvious priority.

Research from the University of Oxford, amongst others, has shown how good practice today in terms of mindfulness can drastically increase mental resilience and even reduce chances of depression later in life. Similarly, research at the University of Oslo concluded that meditation promotes physical and psychological benefits for active working professionals with less pain and sleep problems. Meditators were more confident showing less worry and nervousness in their personal style. Doctors are increasingly prescribing mindfulness and meditation as a solution for stress, and it’s easy to see why.

Meditation can be practiced anywhere – you don’t need to take an hour out of your day to sit in a darkened room. Similarly, practices like eating well and exercising regularly, whilst they do admittedly require a bit of thought and attention, can still be integrated into daily life as part of a much wider, more holistic approach to mindfulness and mental wellbeing.

Ultimately, meditation and mindfulness are cost-effective ways of managing stress and improving health and wellbeing. They have a positive impact immediately and over the long-term. For SMEs to continue to grow they must now embrace a more integrated approach to managing stress, both at home and at work, if they want a workforce which is fighting fit for the future.

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5 Reasons Businesses Should Update Their Finance Management

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The necessity of keeping up with technological innovation in business is inescapable and in the field of financial management, the benefits which tech can bring to your business cannot be ignored. With this in mind, here are five reasons why businesses should update their finance management.

The pace of technological development is exhausting and bewildering.  Businesses experience an incessant onslaught of new tech and its attendant promises of miraculous innovation.  It’s understandable that many businesses just want to get on with what they do best and are reluctant to invest the time and money in innovations which could turn out to be technological cul de sacs.  Understandable but wrong.  The necessity of keeping up with technological innovation in business is inescapable and businesses must devote appropriate time and money to ensuring that they are at the forefront of technological innovation.

In the field of financial management, the benefits which tech can bring to your business cannot be ignored.  A major innovation would be to adopt ‘Robotic Process Automation’, an overarching system which ensures that your computer systems are reliable, efficient and productive. If that seems a step too far, consider automating your payroll system by using software such as Quickbooks which will save you time and money.  Quickbooks deals with overtime, bonus payments, PAYE, NI and pension contributions. It produces professional payslips, auto updates in line with HMRC requirements and links to an online accounting system.

Another way to update your finance management is to provide your employees with a prepaid credit card for their expenses.  This will enable you to prevent overspending and track expenditure in real time. Setting up payments with online banking and using electronic invoicing will also help liberate your finance personnel so that they can develop other roles which will actively drive the business forward.

 

  1. Increased productivity

Automating processes and using specialist software saves time and enables you to redeploy personnel to roles which will facilitate further development.

 

  1. Fewer mistakes

More automation means less human error and more reliability.  Liberate your employees to work in ways which use their skill set and let software do what it is good at.

 

  1. Improve you employees’ job satisfaction

All too often technology is viewed by employees as a threat to their jobs.  Well managed technology should enhance employees’ job satisfaction, giving them the opportunity to learn new skills and a bringing a sense of being in control of technological development rather being intimidated by it.

 

  1. Greater financial security

The use of prepaid credit cards enables all employees to have access to funds when they need to spend money on behalf of the company.  Money is loaded onto the card and therefore there is no opportunity to overspend. Expenditure can be monitored in real time and should the card be lost or stolen it can be frozen, without the need to close an entire account.  Online purchases with a conventional credit card reveal a billing address, card number, expiration date and security code.  A prepaid credit card is not linked to a bank account and therefore your employees can make online purchases without exposing the company account to hackers.

 

  1. Easier to predict cash flow needs

Automating your company payroll and using prepaid cards for employee expenses will give you a much tighter grip on expenditure.  Real time data gives you an instant overview of expenditure and makes for much more accurate financial planning.

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‘Most Turbulent Time Ever’ For Over A Third Of SMEs, As Experts Advise British Businesses To Prepare For Even Greater Change

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By the end of 2019, 2.6 million small business owners (46 percent) admitted to having genuine concerns about the future – so much so that a quarter believe their company will fold in the next five years, according to new research.

Business Rewired, an in-depth report by global small business platform Xero examines SME owners’ greatest concerns for the future, up against the emerging trends they will need to prepare for. These mounting concerns include late payments (54 percent), cyber-attacks (27 percent) and tax rates (44 percent).

Other things threatening their future existence include Brexit (44 per cent), employee recruitment costs (19 percent) and maintaining or increasing levels of productivity (31 per cent). More than a third (37 per cent) say this is the most turbulent period they have ever experienced and on average they have pumped £11,846.45 of their own money into their business. Over a quarter (26 per cent) say their business is leaving them out of pocket.

The pressures of running a business in the current climate has impacted the mental health of more than a third according to the research, and small business owners work an extra nine hours a week on average in addition to their standard working hours.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, leading business futurologist Gerd Leonhard predicts a brighter picture of what the future holds for the 5.8 million SMEs across the UK.

Gerd Leonard, business futurist and contributor to the report, says: “Humanity will change more in the next 20 years than in the previous 300. We will see the biggest technological transformation in human history – impacting where, how and why we work.”

“Automation is reducing the need for humans to undertake routine tasks and the world of work is heading towards a dramatic reset. Everything we assume about work, jobs, training and education is being challenged by exponential scientific and technological progress. Whether you’re a small business owner, an accountant, bookkeeper or advisor, these emerging trends will affect you very soon.”

According to Gerd, over the next 20 years, AI will revolutionise routine as we know it and cut working hours by up to half; a ‘blended workforce’ will transform the number of employers workers have; and digital transactions and the death of the 30 day payment model will spell the end of late payments, as SMEs move towards a happier, healthier economy.

Gary Turner, Xero co-founder, says “The ways small businesses work now are dramatically different from the 1980s when the first personal computers arrived. But business needs to adapt to greater changes coming their way. New technologies will hasten a far greater consciousness towards the biggest killer of small businesses. Cash flow problems will decline as instant payment technologies take root as a cultural norm. I believe what we’ll see is 30-day payment terms going the way of the fax machine.”

Emma Gannon, author, podcast host and contributor to the report, adds: “We are in a time when young people are job-hopping more than ever, and the pressure is on for companies to retain their employees. This means adapting to the changes that are here right now and coming in the next few years.”

Xero’s Business Rewired report can be viewed in full at, www.xero.com/business-rewired

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Start-Up Success: Five Entrepreneurs On Growing Your Business

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Every year, thousands of ambitious innovators set out to start a new business venture, but the world of entrepreneurship is not as plain sailing as it might initially seem.

With a daunting knowledge that over 50% of start-ups fail during their first year and a requirement to have the right funding; it is harder than ever to be confident in dropping the day job for your dream job to come true.

Being your own boss is one thing, but the world of business is complex and competitive; over 137,000 businesses are born every day, so just how easy is it to turn perseverance into profit?

We spoke to five leading entrepreneurs to discuss the foundations of enterprise success:


Time and research are your best friend

Matt Hayes, co-founder and managing director of established brand agency Champions UK plc says: “Research is key. You need to check that it is actually the case that your ‘unique’ product is exactly that. If you are going to make a difference, you and your idea is going to have to stand out from what is already on the market.”

Penny Power, co-founder of Ecademy, an online learning tool for businesses, adds that by rushing you will make mistakes: “You need to invest your time in learning the integral business skills, including money management and cash flow, and building a powerful brand that impacts their clients.”


Find the right space

Richard Smith, CEO of Office Freedom, a flexible workspace consultancy, says there are advantages to being adaptable, whether it’s hot desking, co-working spaces or even renting space by the day.

“Coworking providers are now more than ever supporting start-up companies and can assist them with company formation, legal work and accountancy.” 


Start out as a side-hustle

Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green & Blacks, a renowned organic chocolate brand says: “I believe that for many people, starting a business as a ‘side-hustle’ while continuing in paid work is a practical way to start. It means working very long hours, sure – but that comes with the entrepreneurial territory.

“If you’ve given up the day job and are ploughing money back into your business, it can be very dispiriting not to have enough to treat yourself to a cup of coffee, never mind pay the mortgage. That’s when I see a lot of people give up, and their businesses run into the sand.”

 

But, don’t put off starting-up for too long

Many people are put off by political and economic crisis, in high times of uncertainty the future for both established and newly founded businesses is particularly troubling.

“There will always be uncertainty in the world. Don’t allow that to put the pause button on your business,” says Jo.

“We began Green & Black’s in the middle of a recession in 1991, all around me, I saw companies were like rabbits in headlights; that’s your opportunity to grab market share and power forward, while competitors are paralysed.”

Penny echoes this: “Economically, the best time to start-up is when there is the most disruption and financial challenges – if you can build a business when it is tough, you will fly when it is easy.”


Passion and openness to learning is a star trait

True leaders are prepared to educate themselves and understand that learning is forever, says Robert Lockyer, a leading entrepreneur for luxury packaging in the retail sector. 

Working with top brands such as Coach, Radley, Tom Ford and Ted Baker, he says his company Delta Global always think big and aim high. “Business owners need to have passion in everything they do. They need to have enormous reserves of energy, confidence and be open-minded.

“You’ll never have all the answers at the beginning of the journey, so go looking for them.”

Matt adds: “The best trait to have is a cast-iron self-belief and stubbornness; even when it looks like the world is against you, you need to persevere and believe in yourself regardless.”

“Embrace learning. If you aren’t learning something new, your growth as an entrepreneur has come to an end.”


Age shouldn’t restrict you

The internet has created a level playing field, says Richard. “It’s amazing to see many teen entrepreneurs involved in leading tech companies and as technology continues to grow then the youth will have a further advantage.”

Robert discusses how it is more about getting other factors right early on that will help sustain your business venture: “My vision for business was propelled at a young age. When I was 12, I sold my first pushbike, learning that presentation is the key to a sale in doing so.”

 

The dynamic duo

There are many benefits to having two founders when starting out, one being that investors tend to support companies which are ran by several people. 

Matt, who began his brand agency with his father, John Hayes says: “There is evident strength in having a partner who shares your vision.

Multiple founders offer a distribution of workload, a broader perspective and flexibility when it comes to building strong relationships with various personalities and traits.

“We are different in our approach but have the same leading values – family, honesty and exceeding expectations.

“My dad has been my inspiration. As a child I was in an entrepreneurial environment that had a buzz about it, there was always something going on. I always thought ‘if [my dad] can do it, I can do it’, because he instilled in me a sense of belief.”

Penny shares the same ethos: “Always choose a role model who shares your values, don’t chase the dream with people who aren’t like you.”

 

Get a step ahead of the challenges

Challenges can lead to pivotal moments in your career and will certainly change the course of your future vision. 

Matt notes for him, getting a knock back from Nestle’s top job at Rowntrees drove him to change his course: “I realised that my heart was never in the recruitment process and it came as a relief. It allowed me to do what I really wanted to do.”

For Penny the need for investment in the UK was so challenging that she built a business that didn’t require investment.

Robert observes ‘fear’ as something to embrace. “If something doesn’t scare you, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. Great things can be scary to accomplish, but they wouldn’t be great otherwise. Build a reliable team that have the skills and support you need to reach your end goal.”  

 

Be a people-person and trust in others

Sourcing like-minded staff and finding the right people to help build your business is important. Recommendation and word of mouth – including that of your employees – is crucial to building a good brand name. 

Matt adds that leaders should create leaders: “I work out what I am good at, then surround myself with people who are good at everything else. There is this idea that you need to be good at everything, but you can’t let your ego get in the way.

“I was lucky enough to have a family network when Champions begun, I trusted people to bounce ideas off. Find people you respect to be your soundboard, as being an entrepreneur is a very lonely place.”

Robert says by joining collectives you can get in front of the right people and get ahead in terms of researching the next industry advances.

Penny agrees: “Building Ecademy created a global brand for me and my husband. Building a community of people like us. We have grown with our members; I would consider many of them to be my friend. My husband and I have made thousands of friends across the world.”


Accept that it’s not for everyone:

Richard finishes: “I don’t think [starting-up a business] is for everyone. Many people are happy to support other people’s success, preferring stability. As a company owner, there are many ups and downs, including dealing with regular financial and emotional risk as well as the responsibility for others – it is not for everyone.”  

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Disruption North Programme Opens To Celebrate Innovative Companies And Support Digital And Technological Talent In The North Of England

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Disruption North will profile and celebrate innovation in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. Through a range of channels, Disruption North will provide opportunities for the most exciting digital and technology focused business and stakeholders across these regions.

DisruptionHub the business intelligence platform and disruptive innovation magazine, has announced a collaboration with Bruntwood SciTech to celebrate and help support the development  of jobs, talent and ecosystems that Northern Cities need to grow and thrive on a global stage.

With over 17,000 subscribers DisruptionHub.com is an essential source of information and insight for some of Europe’s leading organisations. The annual Disruption Summit Europe attracts over 700 business leaders and the Disruption50 recognises the UK’s most disruptive businesses.

Rob Prevett, Co-Founder and CEO of DisruptonHub says “After 5 years of running DisruptionHub I’ve met hundreds of exciting individuals and companies working in digital innovation. But I’m always frustrated at how little exposure companies outside of London receive when there’s such an abundance of talent, particularly in the North. The reality is there’s so much going on here and it’s a really great environment for growing digital businesses.”

Phil Kemp, CEO of Bruntwood SciTech, said: “Collaboration is at the heart of Bruntwood SciTech and partnering with DisruptionHub creates a real opportunity to celebrate and showcase some of the brilliant, market-disrupting innovators and technologies from across the North.

“There are great ideas forming, scaling and growing in many of the North’s key cities helping to contribute to the growth and strength of the UK tech economy.  
“We’re always looking for ways to support our customers to tell their stories by identifying new platforms and opportunities for collaboration, network building, and cross sector communication, which Disruption North will certainly do”. 

Disruption North will interview and share opinion from start-ups and established businesses based in the North. These companies can apply to achieve the status of “Northern Star” and be profiled across the Disruption North network and platform.

Rob Prevett, CEO and Co-Founder of DisruptionHub says “The aim is to highlight not just the plethora of talent in the North, but to demonstrate the value for businesses that find a home in these cities. We’re excited to be working in partnership with Bruntwood SciTech to deliver this vision. DisruptionHub is based in their Tech Hub in Leeds so we’ve experienced first-hand the value they bring in fostering an environment for the region’s most exciting digital and tech businesses to flourish.”

As part of this commitment to support businesses in the North, DisruptionHub is bringing an additional Disruption Summit to Leeds on 24th March 2020 focused on disruption and innovation in the Public Sector.

The success of the digital economy across the region is built on the support and investment from a wide range of organisations, with this in mind Disruption North is also opening a call for partnerships with organisations supporting the digital economy including: Investors, Local Government, Universities and the Tech Community as a whole. To find out more about the programme and how you can get involved contact [email protected].

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International Travel and Healthcare Limited Wins Most Innovative Travel Insurance Provider Award 2019

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Travel insurance is absolutely imperative when travelling, whether domestically, or across the world. International Travel and Healthcare Limited, a specialist travel insurance provider, ensures that holidaymakers and travellers can go about their business with total peace of mind, knowing that they are fully financially protected, no matter what. Discover what has made them into one of 2019’s most innovative travel insurance providers as we profile the firm.

For many people, there can be a number of stumbling blocks to finding the right travel insurance cover. Whether it is due to pre-existing medical conditions, or travelling on a high-value holiday, some travellers can find it increasingly hard to buy adequate travel insurance. Enter ITHC, a hugely innovative and comprehensive travel insurer that has proven it is possible to provide travel insurance that covers exactly what a traveller requires. No matter the circumstances that may have gone before and prevented travellers from securing the right insurance, this firm operate a bespoke approach with the flexibility to tailor travel insurance to an individual’s needs.

Since the firm’s foundation in 2005, ITHC’s mission has remained unequivocally clear; to deliver excellence for those in search of travel insurance. The desire to deliver nothing short of comprehensive cover underpins and supports everything the firm do, and it has never been more necessary than it is right now. Nationally and internationally, we seen recent airline and tour operator failures, weather disasters, terrorism, strikes, riots, and a lot of civil unrest. All of this and more has affected the ability for people to travel, either directly or indirectly.

In the years since the firm’s inception, the travel insurance market has drastically evolved. The needs and requirements of travellers have been shaped and moulded by ever-changing economic and political landscapes. As a result, ITHC has developed a range of travel insurance products that are inclusive solutions for travellers with specific requirements, for whom travelling has become even harder. Just a handful of the firm’s coverage options include long cancellation periods, long travel durations, unlimited medical expenses and repatriation, and cover for travelling companions. Ultimately, the firm’s solutions are for those who don’t want to trust luck.

As well as the myriad of coverage options that the firm already offer, ITHC are always pro-active in their careful monitoring of any new factors that could hinder a potential traveller. Where the firm identify a factor that may cause a potential gap in its own offerings, the team work hard to introduce that factor as a benefit into the coverage. Before it is then offered to the public, the new offering is trialled and tested rigorously, ensuring that the performance is nothing less than what the client deserves.

One excellent example of this can be found in the firm’s recent introduction of Safe Journey Terrorism Travel Insurance. Aside from ITHC, no other travel insurance firm had so comprehensively offered cover to travellers in the event of terrorism, which may not directly impact a traveller, but could definitely indirectly affect flights or other travel related factors. Travellers can change their mind in travelling, and claim for cancellation should terrorism affect them and their plans.

2019 has seen ITHC deliver a consistently strong growth performance, with the firm’s services now being more widely-recognised from both the consumer and corporate markets. As well as delivering for travellers and consumers, the firm also supports insurance brokers too, whose own travel insurance schemes cannot offer cover in diverse circumstances. ITHC have become not just a trusted and respect consumer champion, but the broker’s choice for brokerage as well.

The world is becoming increasingly accessible for many people, but the consequences of that include the fact that travellers now have more varied and challenging exposure to a wider variety of risks. Comprehensive travel insurance now has to pre-empt the risks and fill the gaps. ITHC continues to improve its coverage and service to financially protect travellers, no matter where in the world they are venturing to.

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Relocating Your Business To A New Base Easily

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When you finally outgrow your current base for your business, it can be exciting to make plans to move to somewhere new. Of course, relocating your business can be tricky when you have been based somewhere else for so many years. There are a lot of things to think about and the move itself can be very tricky.

In this article, we are going to give you some of our top tips to help you relocate your business to a new base easily. Keep reading to find out more.

 

Planning The Move

Our first tip for those who want to make relocating their business easier is to make sure to plan the move carefully. If you don’t have a solid plan in place then you risk losing money and spending way too much time on getting it done. Your plan should detail the timescale of the process and the deadline on the move. You should also plan for the crossover between the premises as this is something which will need to be done smoothly.

 

Talking To Your Staff

Depending on where you are planning on relocating your business to, you might need to talk to your employees. Moving to an office down the road should be simple enough but what if you are moving across the country? Your staff might not be able to commit to moving elsewhere when they have commitments and you need to give them notice that they might need a new job. Some businesses will offer relocation bonuses so if you can afford this then it might be worth looking into when moving to your new base.

 

Avoiding Stress

There’s nothing more stressful than moving all of your office furniture and equipment to a new base, especially if your new base isn’t going to fit everything. This is why many people choose to place some of their items in business storage and this can help to make things a lot easier. If this is something that you are interested in then you should check out the business storage from Safestore. This way, you can make the actual moving day a lot easier and unpacking won’t take as long. You can easily get your items from storage when you need them.

 

Making Changes

If you are planning on relocating your business to a new base, then you should make sure that you are considering the changes that you might need to make. This can include everything from the address on your website to the locations that you now offer your services to. You should try to organise for your post to be redirected and let anyone know about your change of address. It might be useful to send out a mailer to customers and clients if your business permits it.

 

Consider The Cost

Finally, to make things a little easier, you should try to consider the cost of the relocation. If you don’t have the budget, then you might need to wait around until you can afford it. Many businesses move to a new location to make things cheaper, but the actual moving process is very expensive. Consider everything from moving costs to relocation bonuses and add these to your budget for the whole project.

If you are planning on moving your business to a new location in the coming year then you should make sure to consider all of the tips and tricks that we have given you. Try to plan everything effectively and this should help you to make the move as successful and stress-free as possible.

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Achieving The Best Possible Rates

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We all want to get the most out of our money, but complex systems can complicate what many would hope is a simple process. As one of the fastest growing foreign exchange specialists, with a team of over 40 years’ experience, Currencies 4 You helps its clients to achieve just that. We profiled this business to find out more.

Established in 2009, Currencies 4 You is a Global Payment Institution, transferring its clients’ money internationally. Bought about because its owners realised that clients were being charged extortionately with currency transfers, this 10-year-old business has brushed aside the middlemen and set buyers and sellers directly against each other in order to have a competitive price on their foreign exchange.

Currencies 4 You serves a broad spectrum of clients, from private customers transferring money overseas for their new life in the sun or investment in high-value goods, to big businesses with their overseas payroll or money transfers. These can be regular international payments, whether it’s a one-off interaction or regular pension transfers internationally. With their free online platform and transparent exchange rates, this company offers a service that’s a little different to any other. Specialising in helping clients to mitigate their exposure against the volatility in the currency exchange for both private and corporate clients, Currencies 4 You want to help its customers achieve the best possible rates.

Currently, Currencies 4 You is a full FCA authorised payment provider, priding itself on providing a bespoke service that changes to suit its incredible range of clients. Therefore, the group tries to mitigate the fluctuations within the market, in order to reduce risk and encourage more spending. Since their inception, Currencies 4 You has saved clients thousands of pounds every month, making a huge impact on the market.

The team at Currencies 4 You are incredibly flexible offering a range of contracts that allow for money to be sent on the day it’s requested. Thanks to superb customer service, clients are guided through the process by a personal relationship manager. This makes the process seamless and easy. With the aim to build a close relationship, and maintain an excellent reputation for customer service, Currencies 4 You tries to understand its clients as well as possible in order to serve them better.

Although they are based in Dartford, in the UK, Currencies 4 You has international offices in the UK, Portugal and Spain. Developing these offices is an important part of the growth of this business, with the development of these teams critical to continue expansion. This reflects the success of the company, and the notoriety it has gained amongst those in other countries.

Building up a trust with clients is crucial in an industry, especially when large sums of money are involved that could make or break a business or individual. Currencies 4 You understand the high expectations, and comply with the European Money Laundering Direction, the UK Money Laundering Regulations and various guidelines set out for criteria for compliance. Additionally, the company as a whole is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, whose standards it exceeds in the three areas it assesses. These are Capital Adequacy, Client Protection and Robust Internal Risk Management, each an important aspect of financial caretaking which is carefully audited on a regular basis to ensure transparency and trust for all parties.

Running for over a decade, Currencies 4 You makes life easier for those wanting to transfer their money into foreign exchange. With the aim of providing excellent service and keeping the market as stable as possible, this business manages to succeed on all fronts. It’s no surprise that they are continually growing as an enterprise, with great plans for expansion ahead. The natural result of providing a service that customers want, Currencies 4 You has proven to be a tremendous success.

Contact: Manish Gokani
Company: Currencies 4 You
Web Address: www.currencies4you.com
Telephone: 01322 319550

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Bleak Midwinter

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– Almost half (46%) of UK small business leaders confirmed that economic conditions have worsened in 2019
-40% of small businesses expect overall conditions to be worse still in the next 12 months
-A third (36%) of small business leaders will not be giving bonuses this year
-At company level, two-thirds (64%) of bosses expect their sales revenue will increase in 2020, and more than half (54%) plan to hire new staff

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Vistage, the world’s leading business performance and leadership advancement organisation for small and mid-size businesses, has today revealed the results of its quarterly confidence index.

The survey, conducted in the lead up to the UK‘s December general election, reveals that nearly half (46%) surveyed felt that economic conditions in the last 12 months had worsened over the previous year, and only 40% were confident 2020 would see an improvement. As an illustration of this frosty outlook, 42% said they will offer no bonus or reduced bonuses this year, with 12% directly attributing this decision to uncertainty about 2020.   

However, the report does reveal a sense of optimism for 2020. 64% of small and midsize business owners are confident of their firm’s ability to make headway next year, expecting sales revenues to increase in 2020. Furthermore, 86% of respondents confirmed that they will be continuing to invest in the business, more than half (54%) will be hiring new staff.

Geoff Lawrence, Vistage’s UK Managing Director, said: “2019 has proven a particularly tough year for UK small and medium size companies. Our quarterly confidence index has tracked its seventh consecutive quarter where uncertainty about the UK’s overall economic prospects and questions about progress towards the UK’s exit from the EU has taken its toll on firms. While the days are short and dark in December, it is also a time of hope.

“We are pleased to see that most businesses are indeed confident of better days ahead for 2020. The latest survey also tells us that Vistage members remain emphatic about their growth prospects. We know that Vistage members’ businesses consistently outperform their peers and the next 12 months look similarly positive.”

Independent research about performance through the last major recession of 2008 revealed the effectiveness of peer-group mentoring in adverse conditions. The study showed that Vistage members’ businesses grew 5.8% in that period compared to non-Vistage member companies whose businesses declined by an average 9.2%.

Vistage is an executive coaching organisation where business leaders enhance their leadership skills and solve their most important business challenges. Members meet with their peers in group meetings, facilitated  by  accomplished  executive-level  coaches,  to  help  solve  their  most  complex  issues.  They receive additional perspectives from expert speakers and a global membership community. For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk.

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Scottish Enterprise Awards Press Release

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United Kingdom, 2019 – SME News Magazine has today announced the winners of the 2019 Scottish Enterprise Awards.

Scottish business is thriving, driven by a singular drive towards constant innovation and creativity. Whilst many consider London to be the UK’s central business hub, there’s certainly a strong argument to be made that it’s moving north, in search of more ambitious, novel pastures. Indeed, some of the most promising new SMEs are being born in Scotland, away from the intense competition of the south, given room to thrive and flourish.

Regardless of their chosen industry, Scottish SMEs are working hard to deliver change on the greater business landscape, acting as pioneers and disruptors in a new world that embraces the agile and the dynamic. It’s a potent combination, and one that serves to make Scotland a future business powerhouse. So, here at SME News, we endeavour to spotlight just a few of the ‘best of the best’ in our Scottish Enterprise programme.

Kaven Cooper, Award Coordinator, spoke on the success of this year’s winners: “It has been a true honour to showcase these extraordinary Scottish businesses. I would like to offer my heart-felt congratulations to my winners and wish them all the very best of luck for the future.”  

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the inner workings of some of the best performing SMEs in the UK, please visit the SME News website (https://www.sme-news.co.uk/awards/scottish-enterprise-awards/) where you can access the award supplement and full winners’ listing.

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

About SME News

SME News draws on our UK wide network of industry insiders to provide you with the latest news, cutting edge features and latest deals from across the UK SME landscape.

Alongside our quarterly publication we also offer an easy to use website, newsletter and a series of awards programmes, making SME News much more than just a magazine, but instead a vital resource.

Bought to you by AI Global Media, the international provider of corporate news and information, this unique magazine is the perfect resource for the CEOs, leaders and decision makers in the UK based SMEs looking to keep their finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the competition.

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How SMEs Can Attract And Retain Staff In Today’s Competitive Market

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With many industries facing costly skills shortages and companies increasingly struggling to attract and retain the talent they need to grow and prosper, now more than ever it’s vital that SMEs reconsider their approach to HR.

In this article, we explore some of the ways that small and medium sized businesses can really enhance their hiring and talent retention processes, so that they are able to keep the best staff in their sector and use them to provide a great service to their customers.

Define What You’re Looking For
When you first try to find new staff members, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. Make a list of all of the tasks you need your new team member to undertake and the skills they’ll need, as well as any additional knowledge and qualifications that might be beneficial. Use this informal list as the basis for your job specification and the advert you make for the role.

Work With A Specialist Recruitment Agency
Having established what you want from your new employee, you need to share your job specification. It is possible to do this yourself, but most SMEs looking for skilled staff, particularly those in a niche market, will want to work with a recruitment agency to find the perfect new team member.

Consider Personality As Well As Skillset
Choosing candidates from a large number of applications can be challenging, so try to not only look at their CVs and skillsets, but also their personality. You need someone who’s going to fit in well with your team and become an asset to your business, not a liability. Host several interviews so that you can see what candidates are like and read references to learn more about the way candidates operate in work situations.

Offer Perks
Once you’ve found the perfect team members, you need to make sure that they stay with your organisation and provide it with many years of loyal service. Depending on their role and seniority you could give them a small perk, such as a bonus or food-based incentive, or you could consider getting them a larger perk, such as a company car. Fashionable vehicles like the Range Rover Sport are popular with drivers currently, and they also have enough space for everything your employee needs to carry around with them. If the cost of buying a car is too high, consider exploring the latest Range Rover Sport leasing deals as these are often a much more cost effective option.

Host Performance Reviews
Staff need goals and targets to work towards, as well as regular one-to-one meetings with senior team members so that they can see how well they’re progressing. If they don’t receive regular support and guidance, then employees will become disinterested and demotivated. Annual performance reviews will allow you to set and check goals, as well as catch up on how well your team members are doing in their respective roles.

It can be hard for any business to hire and retain staff, particularly if they need skilled team members to drive their business forward. Use this article as a guide to help you cultivate a workforce and internal culture that will benefit your organisation for years to come.

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Fairytale Of New York Is Van Drivers’ Favourite Sing-A-Long In Countdown To Christmas

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In a recent poll conducted by constructaquote.com, van drivers revealed what they’re singing along to this holiday season while driving around the country.

In a recent survey launched by constructaquote.com, van drivers were asked what song they plan to sing-a-long to this Christmas as they travel around the country.

The results found that 46% of van drivers will be whistling while they work to Fairytale of New York by The Pogues.

Some 38% voted for All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey – probably testament to the recent Walkers Crisps advert on UK television.

Unfortunately for the kids, the theme tune to John Lewis’ famous little dragon, Excitable Edgar, only managed to drum up 8% of van drivers’ votes while the remaining 8% said they plan to sing-a-long to Do They Know It’s Christmas – a 1984 hit for Band Aid.

Back in 2014 when constructaquote last conducted this poll – van drivers voted for ballads from Frozen as their favourite tunes of the holiday season.

Lyndon Wood, CEO, constructaquote, said: “Van drivers seem to have voted for one of the all-time favourites again this year. Mind you, there’s still time for them to change their mind as Frozen 2 is out in the cinemas this month”! he said.

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Plastic Pollution at Christmas Is Crackers

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Plastic expert tests popular Christmas cracker sets for their environmental impact.

With the recent news that, from 2020, John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners will stop selling Christmas crackers containing plastic toys, the pressure is on for other UK retailers to follow suit and reduce their environmental impact.

Figures suggest an extra 30% of waste is generated over the festive period1 and, with Christmas 2019 still to contend with, leading savings site VoucherCodes.co.uk has put a number of crackers from across the high street to the test to see how eco-friendly they are.

Friends of the Earth Lead Plastic Campaigner, Julian Kirby commented: “Christmas crackers come with excess packaging that can’t always be recycled, as well as a lot of single-use tat, so this is one festive product that you should think twice about. There are a number of things you might want to look into when buying your crackers, including whether toys come in plastic wrappers, whether they contain microplastic glitter and if they have novelty toys that will end up in landfill.”

Assessing options from a range of retailers, the research found the majority include more harmful elements than good. While there was no stand-out winner, Tesco’s Gold Cube Christmas Crackers included no notable ‘good’ points and are instead filled with plastic in both the packaging and the contents.

Weighing up the analysis, Kirby said: “John Lewis & Partners, Debenhams, Liberty, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose & Partners crackers contain longer-lasting toys, but they’re let down by the plastic packets they come in. We know Waitrose is working towards plastic-free crackers for 2020 so we look forward to seeing that next year. And, while Sainsbury’s limits waste by removing the plastic window on its Home Luxury Cracker box, the crackers themselves are covered in glitter, which is a microplastic that can be harmful to the environment.”

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk, said: “With most of these crackers you get what you pay for. Tesco has the lowest cost per cracker at 33p – but Julian’s verdict is that they’re not sustainable due to unclear recycling instructions and single-use toys. On the other hand, Waitrose includes built-to-last toys and the packaging is widely recyclable, but at £5 per cracker they’re one of the priciest options.

“My recommendation, if you want to avoid the plastic waste crackers produce, is to make your own. There are lots of great kits available to buy, you just need to pick what you put into the cracker – which means you can decide how much you spend. It also means you can put something inside you know people will use (or eat, I’m a fan of chocolate in crackers!).”

 

The Results

Debenhams Plain and wreath print Christmas crackers

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys

Bad points:
• No mention of recyclable materials on packaging
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

John Lewis Traditions Luxury Christmas Crackers

 Good points:
• Built-to-last toys
• Widely recyclable paper box

Bad points:
• Microplastic glitter on crackers
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

Liberty London Santa Claus Christmas Crackers

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys

Bad points:
• No mention of recyclable materials on packaging
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

M&S Gold Christmas Crackers

Good points:
• Widely recyclable paper box

Bad points:
• Novelty plastic toys
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Council policy
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

Sainsbury’s Home Luxury Cracker – Berry Christmas Print

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys
• No plastic in outer packaging

Bad points:
Microplastic glitter on crackers
• Toys come in plastic packet
• Unclear recycling information

 

Tesco Gold Cube Christmas Crackers

Good points:

• N/A

Bad points:
• Novelty plastic toys
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet
• Unclear recycling information

 

Waitrose Suede Ribbon Crackers

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys
• Toys not wrapped in plastic packaging
• Widely recyclable packaging

Bad points:

• Microplastic glitter on crackers
• Outer packaging has plastic window

 

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Top tips when choosing your crackers for a more sustainable Christmas

Does the packaging contain an unnecessary plastic window? Generally, the plastic windows on the front of packaging tend not to be recyclable, and for those that are, you can’t guarantee that they won’t just be sent to landfill.

• Check your local council’s recycling guidelines. Each council has different policies when it comes to what they will and won’t recycle, so double check what will be picked up in your local area.

• Opt for paper crackers rather than those decorated with glitter. It is a microplastic that is easily released into the environment, so should be avoided as it does not biodegrade and can be harmful to wildlife.

• Is the packaging made of recycled material? Using recycled card limits further deforestation.

• Does the packaging have an FSC logo on it? This symbol means that the materials are sourced from a forest that meets the required management practices and forest stewardship standard for sustainability.

• Are the toys multi-use or are they going to be thrown away after the meal? A metal keyring, for example, is far more likely to be used rather than a novelty plastic moustache that ends up in the bin – and all items should be loose within the crackers, rather than in plastic packets.

• Do I need to order the crackers online? Getting items delivered creates further packaging, such as unnecessarily large cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. Collecting direct from store means you can ditch the excess, single-use materials and either carry them home in a bag-for-life or, even better, just the packaging they come in.

 

To hear more of Julian Kirby’s analysis, check out the VoucherCodes.co.uk video: https://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/blog/5-simple-swaps-for-a-more-sustainable-christmas-27092.html

To help Friends of the Earth’s campaign to reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans, sign the petition.

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Delivering The Best Financial Services Possible

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williams lester accountants ltd: Best Bookkeeping & Tax Services Firm 2019 – Wales

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Technology has permeated almost every area of business and society, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
With constant improvement and innovation, it is no wonder that more firms and industries are looking to incorporate the latest technology into services. For Welsh-based accountancy and tax advisory firm williams lester accountants ltd., technology plays a vital role in delivering the best financial services possible. We profiled the firm to learn more about its successes.

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Based across South Wales for more than ten years, williams lester is a group of accountants and tax advisors working with micro, small, and medium-sized businesses throughout the United Kingdom. Using the latest cloud technology, the firm aims to give its clients a near-real-time view of all their accounts, providing vital insights into businesses. These insights can offer more than just knowledge, but real tangible differences in achieving business and personal goals. Clients can experience the knowledge and technical know-how of a technology firm, coupled with the expertise of an accountancy firm, and the personability of an SME. This all culminates in a successful tax advisory firm unlike any other in the region.

Since the firm’s inception, its mission has remained the same; to change the lives of clients for the better. The team at williams lester achieve this through a multitude of ways, but the core competency of the firm is using cloud-based technology. Helping clients run their businesses in the most efficient and least time-consuming ways, the team works hard uncovering the best technology solutions. Not only does this enhance the business itself through increased revenue and profits, but it can also help ensure that staff wellbeing is looked after through the reduction of stress points.

Where some other accountancy firms have chosen to not embrace the changes that HMRC and modern technology are bringing about, williams lester are at the forefront. Advocating and pioneering the technological advancements at work within accounting, the firm constantly review both its systems and procedures to ensure it is giving clients the best possible chance of achieving personal goals in a rapidly-changing world. Able to offer near-real-time views of business accounts, decisions can be made that much quicker in pursuit of profitability and corporate excellence.

For the team, it is about more than just offering cloud-based technology and digital systems for reviewing accounts and gaining near-real-time insights. williams lester are also keeping up to date on new technologies becoming more commonplace within the financial industry. As artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technology enable greater levels of efficiency and unprecedented audit trails, there will undoubtedly be a profound impact on the tax industry. williams lester has expertly positioned itself to become one of the prime bookkeeping and tax advisory services able to help clients through a digital transformation.

In order to ensure that the perfect blend of technology and accounting service is delivered together, williams lester employs the perfect team that brings that knowledge together. Not content to simply employ the right staff and pool the right knowledge, the team are constantly seeking ways to improve that knowledge. By learning and receiving regular training in areas other than accounting, the firm continues to improve its services for clients. The result is a brilliant and talented team of staff who can deliver that service, and offer a greater sense of satisfaction to the clients.

An award-winning combination, williams lester’s blend of unparalleled client satisfaction and innovative bookkeeping and tax services has seen the firm catapulted to new levels of advisory excellence. The success has been nothing short of outstanding. With more offices on the way in 2020/21, the region of South Wales can expect even greater levels of service.

Above all else however, williams lester bring an ethos to think differently and encourage businesses to change for the better. This encouragement and exciting new technology has enabled the team to help clients make real, tangible differences in their companies across the United Kingdom.

Contact Details
Company: williams lester accountants ltd.
Contact: David G. Poole
Website: www.wlaccountants.co.uk

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Building a relationship that can last for years to come

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Most Trusted Health Insurance Brokerage – Gloucestershire

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Baker Hudson Health Ltd specialise in providing excellent care for their clients, building a relationship that can last for years to come. We caught up with Director Freddy Hopf to find out more.

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Nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, the small but dedicated team at Baker Hudson Health can tend to your every question and query regarding private health insurance. With the political landscape becoming ever tenser and the topic of the NHS gaining media attention, there has never been a better time to explore the possibilities that private health insurance has to offer.

Baker Hudson Health specialise in ensuring that its clients get the medical cover they need when they need it. Firstly, Freddy explained to us that ‘At Baker Hudson Health, we pride ourselves on delivering a bespoke service with ongoing support and guidance through the plan year so it’s not just a service where we save people money here now and then just forget about it. We look after our clients forevermore, giving them advice throughout the year on how best to use the policy and to make it work in the way they would expect it to if they ever came to use it.’

This approach demonstrates the client-focused approach that is actively encouraged at Baker Hudson Health, with the personal approach crucial to the continued success of the company. ‘Ensuring that our clients have the same adviser every year to make sure that they’re completely looked after and happy with the service,’ Freddy tells us. ‘Appointing a personal adviser to each client is an important part of what we do to ensure that clients get the very best service and continuity within the service as well.’ This attention to detail is matched by the inhouse compliance team that ensures that all clients receive the same standards of advice.

For Freddy and his team, the provision of impartial, objective advice is key. It can be easy for customers to simply agree and move on with their lives. Freddy hopes that the bespoke service their boutique brokerage offers, gives clarity to a client’s unique situation. ‘When our clients purchase insurance from ourselves, we like to think they are fully equipped with all of the benefits that they can claim for and if they’re ever unsure about something they can come to us at any time.’

Being knowledgeable about every aspect that the business deals with from medical conditions to insurance is another major part of building a client’s trust. ‘Quite a lot of firms will know the bare minimum about the policies,’ Freddy opines, ‘but we’re passionate about finding out the information. Information is power. We find out as much as we can about the insurance we sell, the industry we work in and deliver that information to clients to ensure they know what they’re getting into with that sort of insurance.’

The dedication to client service is clearly key to the successful operation of Baker Hudson Health. The entire business is built on a foundation of honesty and offering the best service possible.

‘We’re massively service-focused, if your clients are happy, they are more likely to refer friends and family and people are going to talk positively about you, you’re going to win awards,’ Freddy tells us. It’s evidently true, with this success in 2019 sure to be the start of greater success. ‘Our reputation is absolutely everything to us so that’s something we’re always pushing forward to ensure that we remain a trusted name within in the industry.’

So far, the reputation of Baker Hudson Health has proven to be impeccable and is reflected in its award-winning success. We’re sure that it’s an approach that’ll act as a calling card for clients interested in their services for years to come.

 

Contact Details
Contact: Freddy Hopf
Company: Baker Hudson Health Ltd
Web Address: www.bakerhudsonhealth.com
Telephone: 01453 297 100

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How To Measure Your Content Marketing Effectiveness

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Content marketing is booming – so it must be working. But how do you know?

There are shedloads of guides and how-to’s on the fundamentals of content strategy and the secret to building shareable assets. The missing piece is measurement.

With so much budget shifting into content marketing, CMOs are under increasing pressure to prove that it’s generating results – in ever more granular detail.

Yet there’s still no consensus on what the KPIs should be or how to structure campaigns and programmes.

In this post Matthew Sawyer, marketing director at Datadial, shares how they measure content marketing effectiveness: a straightforward approach that’s delivering for our clients, with a core methodology that could also work for you.

 

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Embrace the Funnel

Seth Godin says content marketing is “the only marketing left” – it’s digitally consumable, practical, and perfectly suited for the internet generation.

With so much of our professional and personal lives lived online, content matters. People care about it. So, marketers need to create assets that are meaningful, and recognise the stage in the sales cycle a target customer might find themselves in.

Answering customers’ questions and addressing their motivations as they move along the sales funnel is how content marketing drives conversion:

1.FIRST: You create content that attracts users and builds brand awareness.

2.THEN: You create content that activates users, turning them into qualified leads

3.FINALLY: You create content that pulls those leads over the line to conversion

While conversion is the ultimate goal, the content created for each phase has different and specific objectives.

Success metrics for content aimed at the top of the funnel, should be different from the content KPIs aimed at the middle or bottom.

 

Measuring performance at each stage of the customer journey

Sales funnels and pipelines are just models to help marketers better understand the customer decision-making process: but they’re a great way to gather the mix of motivations, frustrations, and aspirations that move people from being completely unaware of a brand or its benefits, to the point where they can make a buy.

There are many funnel structures, some with main phases and others with phases-within-phases. For our purposes a simple 3-stage model works best:

 

  1. ATTRACTION

At the very top of the funnel, visitors may have had zero exposure to your brand or what it does; they may not even be aware they have a need you can fulfil. They are typically looking for answers, resources, to educate themselves or seek other opinions and insights.

Content created for this stage should aim to facilitate awareness of a problem or challenge.

The form of that content depends on your audience responds to, and the budget or resources needed produce it. It could be high level PR thought leadership content, or more focused PoV blog posts or videos.

The goal of this content is to turn the suspect into a potential prospect.

 

KPIs at Attraction Stage

The primary success metric at this stage is the number of potential leads generated through content upgrades and other lead magnets that capture email addresses – the crucial response action that enables them to be added to a lead nurturing system.

 

  1. ENGAGEMENT

At the middle of the funnel, it’s safe to consider all visitors potential leads who are evaluating purchase options or undertaking due diligence. Your brand has moved up a notch in the decision-making process and is now a subject of research to see if it’s a solid fit.

That means the user has specific questions they want answered. Doing so is an opportunity to increase move them on to the next stage.

Content that works best at engagement stage is advice-based – best practice sharing or even top tips that demonstrate your brand’s expertise in a subject or problem-solving area.

 

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KPIs at Engagement Stage

The number of qualified leads you can gather is the key success metric. It’s normal practice to gate content at this stage to capture more data before granting access to the asset.

 

  1. CONVERSION

At the very narrow end of the funnel, your content should be measured on how effectively it helps qualified leads make the final leap to purchase.

The prospect’s customer journey has changed again, so the content that addresses their current mindset needs to change too.

To facilitate conversions at this end stage you need to provide proof points that will help qualified leads decide between your brand and your competitors.

Typical content would include case studies, testimonials, success stories, product demos, comparison sheets, and webinars.

 

KPIs at Conversion Stage

The aim here is simple: turn qualified leads into paying customers.

Track the number of conversions generated against each asset, with the content generating the most conversions ranked highest. When you know what’s really ticking the buy box for prospects, you can find other ways to leverage the topic or asset.

 

Congratulations: you’ve completed the funnel

And that will set you apart from a lot of your competitors. Many companies start – and unintentionally stop – their content marketing programmes by only building assets for the attraction stage.

It’s good to cast your net widely: create quality thought leadership and branded content, or blog posts on long tail subjects that capture traffic from non-commercial searches. But you can’t ignore stages 2 and 3.

Otherwise you’ll have an incomplete strategy on your hands – and missed opportunities to make a sale.

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The Conscious Consumer at Christmas: Are the Days of Wrapping Paper Numbered?

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You can’t beat that feeling of excitement on Christmas Day when you finally get to rip open your pile of lovingly-wrapped gifts.

But what if there was an alternative to the mountains of waste that creates, with all that glittery wrapping paper going straight into the bin? Much of it isn’t even recyclable, if it includes sticky tape, plastic, dye, foil and glitter.

Robert Lockyer, a packaging entrepreneur in the luxury retail sector, believes the days of wrapping paper could soon be behind us as consumers and businesses around the world make more effort to end unnecessary waste. 

Some big businesses are leading the way. In a bid to ban micro-plastics, retail giants Waitrose and John Lewis have announced they will no longer stock Christmas crackers containing plastic toys from 2020.

And Marks & Spencer pledged that glitter would be removed from all its Christmas cards, wrapping paper, calendars and crackers this year.

Moves like these continue to have an impact on combating the environmental crisis the world is in. But should we be doing more?

Robert, the CEO of Delta Global, a luxury packaging provider for companies such as Fortnum & Mason, Ted Baker and Estee Lauder, gives us his take on the future of our much-loved festive tradition…

Why is wrapping paper such an important part of our gift-buying at Christmas?

Many of us would agree that there’s nothing like the thrill and mystery of getting a perfectly wrapped present ready for you to rip open and discover what’s inside.

“Gift-giving is associated with joyous occasions and it’s that built-up feeling of excitement that means the ‘unboxing or opening’ element which wrapping paper creates is the most important part of the experience,” said Robert.

What retail trends are driving a sustainable shift in attitudes towards festive paper and plastics?

Around 41% of UK shoppers say they choose what to buy based on a brand’s sustainability credentials and whether they match with their own values.

An ‘eco-friendly’ guide to gift wrap, published by the Metro last year, suggested recyclable alternatives to those with plastic-coated finishes; for instance, using brown postal paper, re-using old fabrics and tote bags and adding natural finishes such as dried leaves and flowers.

This added a new excitement for buyers – homemade and hand-crafted touches that were personal.

“Across many industries, we are seeing a trend in the second-hand market,” said Robert. “Last month, Selfridges partnered with Vestiaire Collective to open a permanent in-store space dedicated to pre-loved luxury fashion where you can pick up designer items at half the price.

“I predict a surge in second-hand offerings for consumers hoping to go more sustainable during the festive season. With increasing amounts of shoppers wanting different themed decorations on an annual basis, I envisage swap or spend schemes for second-hand Christmas decorations in store and online.

“As it has in the fashion industry, this will encourage the production of more high-quality items which will last longer and be used time and time again in multiple households.”

So, what is the environmental effect of wrapping paper waste?

The waste that wrapping paper creates is shocking. According to Sundale Research U.S. shoppers are spending a total $12.7 billion on gift wrap.

As well as the expense, most wrapping papers are lined with plastic. Decorative papers that include micro plastics like glitter can end up in our oceans and can be fatal to marine life and the chemicals in certain inks make them non-recyclable.

Said Robert: “Sticky tape and laminated bags and tags also contribute to the tons of unrecyclable materials which pollute our planet every December.

“It’s time for an anti-wrapping revolution. While wrapping paper might add to the anticipation and excitement of a gift, brands should consider why the original packaging cannot do this itself.”

How should retailers be adapting?

“If your brand is going to the effort of creating a sustainable product and packaging it in a recyclable or re-useable box or bag, don’t devalue that effort by leaving customers feeling the need to wrap it all up,” said Robert.

He suggested adding simple touches that make your gift stay in the hands and homes of the receiver for longer.

An artistically designed re-usable box, beautifully accessorized with a paper ribbon or 100% cotton handle can help your gift stand out, as could a cardboard gift tag with a personal message that transforms into a sustainable bauble or a plant a tree programme.

“The right packaging can guarantee your product is the first thing picked off the shelf and the most talked about item under the tree. It will ultimately do its job in removing unnecessary unrecyclable gift wrap which clogs our landfills at Christmas.”

What are the benefits to saying no to using wrapping paper?

“There will be nothing to discard, no last-minute wrapping panic, no extra cost and no guilt that you are contributing to overfilled bins and damage to the environment,” said Robert.

Picture your Christmas tree with luxuriously packaged gifts sitting below. A Tiffany blue bag pokes out beneath a box dotted with daisies, you see a bold black and white ‘C’ emblem, and a handwritten tag saying ‘Love, Ted x’.

“People should also think of further uses of this packaging, for example it could make the perfect storage décor for your dressing table, you could re-gift your box for a friend’s birthday or recycle a cotton handle to use for hanging your baubles with.

“It’s all about offering consumers a solution – led by environment, ease and experience.”

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The Good Marketing Guide

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Welcome to the newest addition to the SME News platform

SMEs represent over 90% of all businesses across Europe and in such a competitive landscape, marketing can be a struggle for any company. It can often be difficult to determine the very best practices and techniques to use on a limited budget, so the team here at SME News are here to help!

In this guide, you will not only find useful tips and insight into core areas of marketing which are crucial for promoting your products and services, but a wealth of expert professionals who can assist in related services and ensure you are on track to building a successful marketing strategy.

From full-service professionals to leaders in SEO and digital marketing, our directory holds details of the very best in business; the most reputable and knowledgeable professionals on hand to keep you ahead of the curve.

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12 Of The Biggest Brand Product Fails

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Research and development can bring some awesome product developments from idea to reality but as this latest look from R&D tax credit specialist RIFT Research and Development Ltd proves, some things are better left on the drawing board.

RIFT has pulled together some of the biggest product fails to have hit the market over the decades and the big brands that tried to launch them.

 


1975 – The Sony Betamax

Many in this day and age will give you a look of bewilderment when you mention a VHS but this ancient piece of tech was the downfall of the Sony Betamax back in the 70s.

The Betamax was the latest VCR offering on the market and while it was a superior product in terms of speed and quality compared to others in the VCR range, it was completely crushed by the VHS.

This was due to little more than the fact a VHS could record for 2 hours without a tape change and was perfect for feature films. Proof that even if you stick with what you’re good at, R&D on a product can still be wasted.

 


1982 – Colgate Lasagna

Yes, in the 80s Colgate launched into the frozen dinner market and not only was their lasagna a monumental fail, but it also caused sales of their toothpaste to plummet as well!

 


1992 – Crystal Pepsi

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Hoping to cash in on the rise in popularity for ‘pure products’ Pepsi launched a clear Pepsi product. However, with such a strong association of cola being brown, it caused widespread consumer anxiety, made worse by some sneaky corporate sabotage from a well-known rival, and coupled with a poor marketing campaign, it died an almost instant death.

 

1996 – Apple Pippin

Before Apple took over the world, it wasn’t all a bed of roses for the tech giant. In 1996 they teamed up with a Japanese gaming brand called Bandai to develop the Pippin in an attempt to ride the growing demand for game consoles. It flopped after just a year, at which point some guy called Steve Jobs rejoined the company and the rest is history.

 

Mid-2000s – Fat-free Pringles

Having delivered a product to the world as addictive as any drug, Pringles looked to research and develop a fat-free version to ease the consumer guilt of smashing off a whole tube in one sitting. While a more diet-friendly approach was the aim, they took it a little too far with the inclusion of Olestra, a fat substitute that also came with laxative like side effects. They didn’t catch on.

 

2001 – The Segway PT

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We’re always looking for a quicker way of getting around and Segway thought they had cracked it with the development of their two-wheeled PT. While it was certainly innovative, a cool £5k price tag contributed to it failing to catch on, coupled with safety concerns after the owner of Segway was tragically killed riding one.

 

2005 – The Evian Bra

Another example of a failed foray into a foreign sector is Evian’s water-based bra. It came with pockets that could be filled with mineral water in order to help keep the wearer cool. Apparently, this also helped to tone, firm, and shape, while protecting against heat and humidity. Not surprisingly this product failed to take-off.

 

2006 – Coca-Cola Black

Having seen Pepsi fail with Crystal Pepsi the previous decade, Coke said ‘hold my… Coke’, and launched Coca-Cola Black. A combination of Coca-Cola with coffee, the drink was shelved a couple of years later when people began to complain about the poor taste and excessive caffeine. Although Coke’s original recipe was apparently fine?

 

2007 – Donald Trump Steaks

Love him or hate him, he’s certainly stuck around but the business tycoon and now President of the United States has had his share of failures. In 2007 he launched a brand of steaks advertised as the “world’s greatest” line of premium steaks. However, those eating them didn’t agree with the description and the product was discontinued for poor sales figures after just a couple of months.

 

2009 – Twitter Peek

There’s no doubt Twitter has become one of the biggest social media platforms today but a little over 10 years ago, they got a little carried away and developed Peek. Peek was an electronic twitter device released purely for tweeting, a little limited considering the wider consumption of digital media available through smartphones. Couple this with the fact that the screen was incapable of actually fitting the maximum 140 characters at the time and it’s no surprise it never really peaked.

 

2016 – Galax Note 7

Samsung has become one of the leading brands in the never-ending Apple vs Android war we find ourselves in the middle of today, but its largest casualty to date has to be the Galaxy Note 7. Despite taking the time to research and develop a brand new phone for the market, 2.5 million products were recalled due to problems with overheating and exploding batteries.

 

2013-2014 – Google Glass

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Last but not least, another tech superpower but yet another who has had at least one fall from grace over the years. Google’s comes in the form of Google Glass, its attempt to transition smart technology from handheld devices to faceheld devices. Not only was it priced at £1,000, but it also raised safety and privacy concerns, oh and it didn’t really do anything it was supposed to. A real R&D fail!

Head of RIFT Research and Development Limited, Sarah Collins commented:

“Research and development has delivered many great new products, services and technology over the years but when venturing into unchartered territory there is always going to be a risk of failure.

Whether you’re trying to improve an existing offering or enter a new sector altogether, time and money are much better spent perfecting, testing and developing a product than launching it prematurely and watching it flop at a considerably higher cost.

One silver lining is that many of these fails would have qualified for R&D tax relief and so they could at least have recouped some of their costs had they applied. Not that it will make them feel any better about it now.”

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Finance Awards 2019 Press Release

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United Kingdom, 2019 – SME News Magazine has announced the winners of the 2019 Finance Awards.

Whilst the greater financial landscape has become defined by long-standing brick and mortar establishments, the work of British SMEs cannot be underestimated. Regardless of their size or scope of their expertise, it is their work which helps shape, change and drive the future of finance. When we think of development and innovation, we look to these businesses to revolutionise best practices, and to deliver effective, reliable and achievable results for their clients.

As such, SME News is proud to introduce the inaugural Finance Awards to its roster, with the intention to recognise and spotlight the very best that this crucial and competitive industry has to offer. As an independent awarding body, business size or reach are not the only deciding factors for our nominations. Rather we focus more on the quality of dedication and innovation within the work done and in forming positive relations with clients.

Chloe Smart, Awards Coordinator discusses the success of this year’s programme: “Congratulations to all of the businesses who have been recognised in the 2019 Finance Awards. It has been an incredible experience to acknowledge the talented and ambitious companies across the UK who work every day to better the finance industry.”

SME News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the SME News website (https://www.sme-news.co.uk/awards/finance-awards/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About SME News

SME News draws on our UK wide network of industry insiders to provide you with the latest news, cutting edge features and latest deals from across the UK SME landscape.

Alongside our quarterly publication we also offer an easy to use website, newsletter and a series of awards programmes, making SME News much more than just a magazine, but a vital resource.

Bought to you by AI Global Media, the international provider of corporate news and information, this unique magazine is the perfect resource for the CEOs, leaders and decision makers in the UK based SMEs looking to keep their finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the competition.

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Simple marketing methods SMEs can implement into their businesses

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Andy Bojko, MD of e-commerce clothing retailer Hidepark, discusses some simple methods that SMEs can implement into their own businesses, specifically those operating an e-commerce retailer.

 

Trusted Payment Methods

Consumers are ever-conscious of online security and protecting their personal information from being stolen and this is especially important when paying for a product or service. The payment methods you offer on your website can be a strong indicator of trust for customers. Ensuring that you have the latest secure financial technology on your website will reassure customers that their money will be safe when they handover details and also that they will receive the products they ordered.

Offering services such as PayPal and the new ‘buy now, pay later’ service from the likes of Klarna will give customers the trust signal they are looking for in order to convert. This is especially important if they are a new user and haven’t previously engaged with your brand.

Be sure to bring the customer’s awareness to your different payment methods before the user reaches the checkout. For example, you could add a section into your footer which highlights all of the payment options available and keep all visitors in the know.

 

Customer Experience

The way in which you engage with your customers has never been more important. This may be through offering special offers through targeted email marketing, or creating a series of paid adverts which re-target customers who have previously engaged with your brand. This sense of repetition instills loyalty and attempts to create an experience, which will hopefully lead to users converting, but be sure to make sure your website is quick, can handle an influx of traffic and simple to navigate.

It would also be wise to look at your Google Analytics traffic from the previous year during periods that are expected to be busy, to see what products received the most amount of interest or performed best with most amount of sales. Using some of this data, those products (if still in stock) could be made readily available through paid social or even taking the lead as hero products on the website, making it easier for customers to find the product you know might be successful again and potentially lead to a sale.

 

Personal Connection

Amazon dominates the e-commerce market and a key part of its success is the competitive pricing and rapid delivery services. The Amazon Prime service has changed consumer expectations for delivery speed, with next day delivery available for millions of items. It can also deliver items on Sundays, which isn’t always possible for smaller businesses. This service is especially popular with students, who can sign up for a student Prime account for just a small fee each month.

However, one way in which businesses can compete with industry giants like Amazon is through a personal connection. Younger generations are seeking more interpersonal connections with brands, rather than supporting what can often seem like faceless corporate giants. If you can prove to the user why they should support you and offer them a unique experience, they are more likely to stay loyal to your brand. For example, offering discount vouchers via email marketing campaigns, simply for being a loyal customer, an easy way to make a customer feel special and connected to the brand.

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Social vs. Search: which should you prioritise as a small business owner?

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When small business owners first start out, they’re often faced with a dilemma: should they focus their efforts on creating content for search, or should they spend time building a following on social media?

Many startups often take the social route, believing it’s faster and more likely to direct traffic to their site. However, digital marketing isn’t that simple. What many SME businesses fail to realise is how user behaviour varies from platform to platform, and how combining the two is often the most effective approach.

This article will explore the differences between social and search and explain how small business owners can successfully use both to stand out online.

 

Social

First off, let’s explore why social is important.

Social media is fast. Posting something on Facebook or Twitter can take a matter of minutes and allows you to connect with your customers almost instantly. It’s why customer service departments regularly use social platforms to resolve queries and complaints.

Posting on social media isn’t intensive either. Putting together a post can take as little as sourcing an image and coming up with an effective call to action. It’s also a lot easier to tailor your content and know which approaches are yielding the best results thanks to engagement metrics like shares, likes and comments.

Many businesses use social marketing for this very reason – the speed with which you can target key demographics and optimise your efforts is unrivalled. However, the workload to produce social content shouldn’t be underestimated. It may be less complicated, but the frequency is far greater. Maintaining a presence on social media requires regular bursts of activity and keeping on top of customer engagement to maximise outcomes.

 

Search

Search is a powerful tool because it engages users who are more likely to make a purchase. A good way to illustrate this is by comparing how people use social content with content found using search.

When someone is scrolling through Facebook, they do so passively – they’re often bored and looking for something to interest them. This means it’s unlikely they’re ready to engage in a customer journey or make a purchase. In contrast, when someone enters a search term or query into google, they’re already actively looking for something.

This is where search content comes into its own. Search content can take advantage of this online activity and direct customers to the top of your sales funnel. You can then use your website copy to manoeuvre customers towards products and services and convert either through sales or leads.

One of the major downsides of search content is that it requires a lot of investment. Search content is linked to the delivery system itself, so everything from the keywords and subheadings to the links and the tone needs to be considered. The content has to offer users something tangible too, whether it’s the answer to a question, an infographic or something useful like a free tool.

 

The Dilemma

The dilemma, of course, is that both of these routes take time and resources and connect with people differently. Social can help your business amass a following that engages with and shares your content, whereas search content is more likely to boost your search rankings and attract users to your website who are more likely to make a purchase.

Combining the two and taking a holistic approach to your digital marketing is often the best approach. The reason for this is that one month your main source of traffic might be from Google and the next month, maybe because of an algorithm update, the majority of your website traffic could be coming from social. Spending time on both social and search will ensure that when this happens, you’re able to adjust budgets to minimise losses and make sure you always have a healthy number of visitors reaching your site.

There are also strategies that you can employ for both search and social. For instance, many business owners don’t realise that you can use the same keyword research and on-site optimisation tactics for your social media campaigns. Likewise, search content isn’t the only way to improve your Google rankings. Social shares and likes are monitored by search engines and have been proven to contribute towards higher rankings, particularly on Bing.

Don’t forget that social is a place where customers go to confirm the trustworthiness of a search result. Almost two thirds of consumers research products before buying them through search engines. This means you can use your social marketing to reinforce any of the positive messages users encounter when searching for your business or products online.

For more advice visit: www.affinityagency.co.uk

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Digital PR Specialist, Damian Summers, shares simple tips for SMEs just starting out on how to get a head start

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Damian Summers, digital PR specialist at digital marketing agency, Impression, shares simple tips for SMEs just starting out on how to get a head start.

Customers want to trust the companies they interact with and where they spend their money, they always have, but that element of trust has never been more important than now.

Google is increasing its focus on expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EAT) in the content it serves to potential customers, which means as a business, you should be creating content for your site that focuses on providing informative and actionable advice, written by those with the knowledge, your blog and product pages are a good place to start.

As a growing business, budgets can be slim, so it might fall to an in-house marketing manager to begin implementing different tactics – at least in the short term. Simple steps can range from shouting about company wins. Have you just secured a major client? Or, launched a brand new one-of-a-kind product? Perhaps you have made a senior hire? Or, your team size may have doubled in six months? These are stories local business journalists will be interested in and will give real insight into your business, whilst in the first instance gaining you brand awareness.

In a nutshell, once your budget increases, and marketing efforts develop, so will your content and PR creation and if you aren’t already, you can start using those PR efforts by creating topical content on your website, which could be survey or data-led research for example. Using this you can draft news stories that could be picked up by the press and featured with a link back to your domain citing the research, those links will feed into a broader SEO strategy, helping you to rank higher in Google’s search pages.

Paid social media posts can also be a simple way to start pushing your brand and products in front of a targeted audience with fairly little advertising budget needed, but potentially a big return.

All of this may seem full of jargon and hard to understand, but there are a lot of free events held by marketing companies that can teach the basics of where to begin with different disciplines, whether that be focusing on SEO, traditional or digital PR and paid media. It would be worthwhile signing up to these and learning the basics, at least then when your business does grow and you decide to create dedicated positions or outsource to an agency, you can feel informed as to what is happening in your marketing strategy.

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The Link Between Interior Design and Our Well-Being

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In terms of our in general well-being, aesthetically pleasing interior designs at both work and at home can play a positive role.

For those hipster style coffee houses tucked away in the corners of the world, it seems pink hues and house plants are popular choices of décor. So much so that now interior design choices are becoming more and more ‘Instagram-worthy’. Even corporate workplaces have clocked on to growing trends such as industrial inspired interior design, with exposed brickwork and pipe lined ceilings becoming a trademark of many creative workspaces.

In terms of our in general well-being, aesthetically pleasing interior designs at both work and at home can play a positive role. Let’s take an in depth look at this with Precision Printing, specialist in offset litho printing, and learn how you can switch up the interiors of your own space to promote good wellbeing in yourself and others.

 

Tidy places = Tidy Minds

 

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Our mental health can be dictated by numerous things such as our daily routines, work environments, our day to day tasks we have to do etc. In fact, as a contributing factor to wellbeing, our environment is perhaps most overlooked as it doesn’t seem like an easy one to change or link directly to feelings of negativity. There’s a lot of value in the saying ‘tidy space, tidy mind’ but the same concept applies to the appeal of a space and its visual elements are at the heart of this. With some clever interior design techniques, you can breathe a new lease of life into your own spaces.

 

Being productive with colour

 

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Adding a dash of colour to your home can have numerous psychological benefits. There is something dauting about an entirely white space, and while the minimalists amongst us mind find the crisp characteristic of this to be appealing, it is not the best idea for promoting good wellbeing or specifically, productivity.

A study from The University of Texas established some rather ‘colourful’ conclusions, wherein participants carried out clerical tasks in rooms painted in white, aqua and red. The individuals found the most difficult room for blocking out ‘colour noise’ to be the white room, and the most errors were made when the work was carried out in the white washed space. The sterile nature of it could certainly be a contributing factor to this, and paradoxically, the ‘blank canvas’ did not elicit amongst the study participants. While the often defined as ‘psychologically neutral’ shades of off grey and beige also fell into an association with gloom, many offices opt for these colours and it could be having a detrimental effect on employees’ sense of wellbeing while at work.

The aqua room generated the most positive responses, and this supports the common viewpoint that low-wavelength colours work best for stimulating positivity — think soothing pale green hues and tranquil blues which naturally promote communication and calmness. Exposure to certain colours has even been found to contribute to chemical imbalances in the brain, emphasising just how important choosing the right shade for your interiors can be.

 

Infrastructure and our well-being

 

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The home is the gulf between our work life and personal life. Things like family life and leisure are associated with the home, but what if the places that we spend our downtime in aren’t functioning as they should? There are ways to use interior design at home, and they can create a clearer separation between the reality of life and the time that we should be spending relaxing in our own private spaces.

The home should ultimately be a hub for your family (or just yourself) to relax in, and by using your interior design to assign this concept you can create rooms that feel welcoming and that you enjoy spending time in. The idea of the ‘heart’ of the home is a good starting point, whether you choose your living room, kitchen or conservatory, there should be an area of your home that feels like the central point, where communication and quality time is spent. This space should feel appealing, and really you have the opportunity to fill it with everything you love.

Having an old school style 70s theme around your home isn’t something you should shy away from! Adding a pop of colour around your home is a great way to lift the mood. Including the odd vibrant houseplant around your home to entice a quirky jungle feel into your space is bound to have positive effects on your well-being!

Many interior designers enjoy using only light fabrics, especially for features such as curtains as they can provide a translucent barrier between indoors and outdoors, making you feel closer to the natural world and allowing more light to enter a room. This is the perfect space for productivity, as dark, opaque rooms tend to create a claustrophobic feeling.

 

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It’s almost impossible to have some down time as the rise of the digital era emerges and everyone’s lives are moving at a quicker pace. As technology continues to dominate in many of our homes with things like google assistant becoming commonplace, it has never been more important to create a space in which you can truly escape from this. Take a quiet corner of your home and make it as calm and welcoming as possible, with soft furnishings along with books that you enjoy, but make technology exempt from this space: place a notepad somewhere in the area and use it as an opportunity to reflect. By creating this area and using interiors to associate a meaning with it, you can teach your mind to value downtime and promote a healthy sense of wellbeing that is not constantly overwhelmed by technology and the hectic nature of the realities of life.

So, is your home and work environment styled in a way that helps restore some zen and support your well-being? Or are some alterations required? Boost your productivity by adjusting your surroundings accordingly.

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Digital PR: Boost Your Efforts By Taking A ‘Layered Approach’

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By Rebecca Tee, journalist-turned-marketer who works as a digital PR specialist at digital marketing agency Impression.

More and more businesses are investing in PR (and specifically ‘digital PR‘) as a tactic to broaden their audience, increase visibility and support other channels like SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media.

But while an investment is something of a no-brainer for most businesses, it’s still important – as with any business investment – that the risk be mitigated and the returns maximised.

I’ve worked in digital PR for a number of years now and deliver this service to a wide range of clients, from SMEs to multinational corporations. Here, I’ll describe how we mitigate risk and maximise returns through what we like to call the ‘layered approach’.

 

Treating your PR like it’s a lasagne

Having a ‘layered approach’ simply means carrying out a number of PR tactics concurrently. Someone once said it’s like a lasagne, which has always stuck with me – it’s the layers combined that make it a delicious family favourite, strip it back and all you’ve got is a bit of pasta, meat/veg or white sauce on a plate!

Savvy marketers will want to invest in PR approaches that mitigate the risk of a campaign ‘flop’ as much as possible, which is why we’re not a fan of putting all of our eggs in one basket. When you have a number of things working together it becomes a well-oiled machine, and that’s where you’re going to see your overall marketing efforts pay dividends.

 

Deciding on your ‘layers’

There are a wide range of PR tactics that can be used as part of a layered approach. What you choose to make up your lasagne will largely be driven by your goals and what assets you have (i.e. access to large datasets). When it comes to PR you may want to look at combining a few of the following:

• Promoting your own business news (often in the form of a press release)
• Responding to journalist requests
• ‘News hacking’ (reacting to current news and trends)
• Thought leadership (providing media with expert-written articles, which promote you as an authority in your field)
• Data analysis and visualisation
• Surveys
• Interactive graphics
• Creative content campaigns

 

Reactive vs proactive PR

All of these things are either reactive or proactive in nature. Reactive PR, as it sounds, is all about reactive to opportunities and those things happening within your business that can be utilised for PR gain.

Responding to journalist requests and ‘news hacking’ are typical reactive tactics. A simple way you can do this is by following the Twitter hashtags #PRrequest and #journorequest, where journalists seek out comments or content to support these stories. You can take this a step further by creating a few Twitter lists comprising your favourite publications and journalists so to maximise your chances of finding and securing opportunities.

By keeping an eye on the news in general, you’ll also be well placed to provide an expert comment on anything that affects your industry, such as new laws and regulations.

The key to reactive PR is to be fast, so if you don’t have a dedicated person (or team of people) that are willing to be named and can provide a comment within an hour or two then this may not be a tactic for you.

Proactive PR lets you go a little bit more at your own pace, but it’s still worth highlighting timeliness here; no-one will care that you’ve hired 50 new staff and moved into a brand spanking new office if you distribute a press release 3 months after it’s happened. Topicality is also important. If you’re going to approach a journalist with an expertly-written article or creative content campaign then it’s good to tie it into something that’s relevant at the time. Last year, one of our clients made headline news when it won an auction to name a new amphibian. The company called it Dermophis donaldtrumpi after president Donald Trump, who is regularly in the news due to his stance on climate change (he once called it a “hoax”).

For proactive PR you may also consider utilising any internal data you have, or you can create the data yourself if you have a large and engaged enough audience to participate in a survey or two.

 

Making the most of the approach

You may feel like you’re spinning plates when you start to incorporate multiple components into your digital PR strategy. It goes without saying that the key here is to be well organised and to have a proper plan in place as to what you’re going to do and when. One thing I’d suggest is to put together a content calendar, with information including:

• National days of interest (i.e. holidays, national awareness days – perfect for creating campaigns off the back of)
• Key events – internal
• Key events – external (i.e. industry reports that are released annually)
• A timeline of what campaign(s) you will be doing when, and a further breakdown into how long it’s going to take to execute each part (research, design, writing, outreach)
• Who is doing what, plus deadlines (teamwork makes the dream work!)

This is just an idea of what to include, but the more granular you are the more you can start to anticipate and be prepared for reactive opportunities too. A good mix of reactive and proactive PR goes hand-in-hand with a layered approach and will make for a well-rounded digital PR strategy that will feed nicely into your wider marketing goals

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Flogas Opt for Bio-LNG Trucks to Reduce Carbon Emissions

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In a bid to do their bit for the environment and reduce their carbon emissions, Flogas UK have invested in two new Bio-LNG powered trucks for their fleet.

The commercial gas supplier say these new trucks provide an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions compared to the conventional diesel engine alternative. The two vehicles are part of Flogas’ 2040 ambition to provide customers with 100 per cent renewable energy solutions.

Flogas’ extensive fleet of vehicles already includes a range of dual fuel and electric hybrid alternatives. However, the all-new Volvo FM tractor units, which will be used to transport bulk LPG and LNG, will be a first of their kind. Coming in to operation as of August 2019, the Volvos will contribute to the aim of growing Flogas’ alternatively fueled fleet of vehicles.

James Goodson, recently-appointed National Account Manager for Alternative Transport Fuels at Flogas, said, “These trucks are just the first of many, as we look to make our 200-strong fleet cleaner, greener and increasingly futureproof.

“They will each be powered by renewable Bio-LNG – a highly sustainable biofuel that’s produced during the anaerobic digestion process. This means they’ll be 50% quieter, they’ll release significantly fewer pollutants, and fuel costs will be far lower.

“As a leading LNG supplier in the UK, at Flogas we understand the critical role this fuel will play as we face stringent government targets to tackle carbon emissions and improve air quality. Whilst it’s still in its infancy in the transport industry, the strong environmental and cost-saving benefits compared to conventional fuels, means LNG is set to become the fuel of choice for heavy goods vehicles.

“Hauliers have long faced the challenge of how to reduce their carbon footprint efficiently and cost-effectively. LNG is not just an immediate fix – it’s a long term, reliable solution that makes business sense, and that’s exactly why we’re championing it with our own fleet.”

Following strenuous testing of a variety of vehicles from a host of manufacturers, Flogas, finally decided upon the Bio-LNG truck from Volvo, thanks to its impressive capabilities in regard to bulk and cylinder operations.

Head of Logistics, Tim Eaton, noted, “When it came to delivering the cleanest emissions, the lowest noise and most efficient running costs, Volvo trucks came out on top.

“This is the first time we’ve worked with Volvo, but they have strong experience in LNG-powered vehicles, and the results of the trials simply spoke for themselves. We’re excited to get these trucks on the road, and growing our Bio-LNG-powered fleet further.”

Powered by Volvo’s G13C460 LNG engine, the 6×2 Artic truck outputs up 460hp and delivers 2,300Nm of torque — indistinguishable from the diesel-powered alternative. Asides having a range of 400-450 miles, the Bio-LNG Volvo is capable of pulling up to 44 tonnes.

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Driving Success at Your SME with Shutterstock Editor

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Attributed to Andrew Jaico, Shutterstock’s Director of Product

We live in an increasingly digital world. Marketing has become more visual than ever before and creators have new platforms to consider ranging from Instagram to Pinterest and more.

Customer audiences now expect to see aesthetically pleasing content across platforms that incorporates crucial information and is up to speed with emerging creative trends. As a small- or medium-sized enterprise (SME), you might be asking yourself: How can I possibly keep up?

In comparison to larger organisations, you might feel like you don’t have the design resources needed to compete and produce fresh creative content quickly enough.

Launched in 2016, Shutterstock Editor enables anyone to design and create marketing materials without expensive software or design training.  It can help your marketing team jump on creative and news trends quickly, transforming your customer communications to tell your company story and engage local customers.

With Shutterstock Editor, SMEs can simplify the creative marketing process through professionally pre-made templates, easy-to-use design features, and seamless collaboration tools.

 

Jumpstart Your Design with Pre-Made Templates

Whether you’re looking to connect with loyal customers through an email newsletter, or reach new audiences with a social media infographic, Editor can help jumpstart the process with a wide array of pre-existing designs. These templates are perfect for the days you simply don’t know where to start—or the days when you’re strapped for time. With more than 150 customisable options available, Editor allows users to complete a professional and tailored campaign.

For more complex designs or projects, Editor also offers templates that leverage a multi-page function. With the ability to add and edit these pages all in one place, users can easily create custom and multifaceted presentations.

As an SME, time is incredibly precious and it isn’t always realistic to spend hours creating a new template design for every customer communication.

 

Take Advantage of Feature Updates

As the evolution of digital and AI drive the media and marketing landscape, SME marketers must evolve alongside it.

For example, Editor recently unveiled a new capability that’s top of mind to designers everywhere: background removal. The tool makes it easy to cut out an object and place it in another design. This advanced feature has long been a staple of any professional designer’s toolkit and now enables anyone to quickly edit and design creative content, without needing prior design education or clunky software.

The perspective tool allows marketers to adjust the appearance of digital content for any platform. The ability to create accurate, high quality mockups means SME marketers can test designs across mediums before they roll out content, maximising customer engagement once it’s live.

These are just two examples of the features leveraged by SMEs on Editor every day. While the application is easy to use, SMEs can boost efficiencies even further through a series of tutorials. These step-by-step guides will help ensure your project is completed quickly and professionally when creating marketing materials, from email newsletters to multi-page PDFs to professional graphics, and more.

 

Collaborate with Teammates through Seamless Integration

To ensure business buy-in throughout the design process, Editor allows a designer to share mockups and images with colleagues and clients before you commit to them. This removes the need to spend unnecessary budget on licensing images before a design is approved. What’s more, you can collaborate across platforms, including Twitter, Pinterest, Google Slides Chrome plug-in, email, or a shareable link, so teams can function in the best way to suit their workflow. Collaborating live with others throughout the creation process helps to streamline work across your SME.

Nowadays, consumers are being engaged on every device and platform, and technology and creative trends are evolving every second. Platforms such as these can help SMEs save time and money, while staying relevant and driving success in today’s digital world.

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Top 5 Tips To Boost Your Sales This Black Friday

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As much as shoppers get excited for the Black Friday sales to hit, meeting those expectations can be difficult for small and medium-sized retailers – especially given that the market is dominated by giants such as Amazon.

But the growth in popularity of Black Friday has given smaller players the opportunity to up their game, with 2018 seeing an increase in sales of 332% in the retail sector, compared to an average day thanks to the big pre-Christmas discount bonanza.

With competition growing year-on-year, there are some quick and simple ways SMEs can keep ahead of the game, and capture sales.

To help you stand out, here are some tips to boost your sales this Black Friday:

 

Promote far and wide:

Once your discounts are confirmed, you need to promote them far and wide via social media and by using your customer database with email marketing. A great tool that does both is Ascend by Wix, which helps entrepreneurs manage and promote their online businesses, quickly. Plus, with social media posts, ensure you hashtag appropriately to get the best visibility and traffic.

 

Highlight your added value:

It’s key for you to go out of your way to highlight the added benefits you’ll be offering shoppers so that they will choose to shop at your eCommerce store. Let them know what sets your business apart, and keep it short and to the point. Whether you are promoting free shipping, next day delivery, a new loyalty rewards program or unbeatable service, you must communicate it on your landing page directly and clearly.

 

Create urgency:

Another way of securing customers on your shopping platform is by making deals exclusive for them on the website rather than in store. It is a psychological tendency to pay attention to something that has solely been created for us. In addition, you could time your exclusive deals with a countdown timer to create urgency, for example: ‘4 hours left for the Buy 1 get 1 free offer.’

 

Addition of complementary items:

This is a great way of doing something different to other retailers. While money off deals are what everyone looks for on Black Friday, you can also offer items alongside the discounted product for a little extra – this way you get another sale into the bargain. If you do not have a great variety of products, just add some gift vouchers or hampers to make your deal more appealing to customers.

 

Optimise your mobile site:

The rise of smartphones and tablets and the shift away from desktop computers has made ‘shopping on the go’ a growing trend. Retailers need to keep this behaviour in mind and remember the attention span of customers is shorter as they are busier. This means that if your site is not highly responsive, they’re likely to turn to your competitors. Ensuring your mobile site is optimised, especially on an event like Black Friday, will not only help retain potential customers on the site, but will also impact sales positively.

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Quarter of SME automotive retailers missing the bill on consumer finance boom

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A quarter of UK retailers are not capitalising on the rise in consumers spending on finance, according to new research.

The study, conducted by innovative finance solutions provider, Duologi, found that consumer finance is on the rise, with 16% of consumers now purchasing on finance, rather than credit cards and bank loans, compared to just 6% in 2017.

Moreover, 83% of consumers said they would consider using point-of-sale (POS) finance in the future, compared to 78% in 2017.

With 168,490 registered SME retailers in the UK, it means that approximately 42,000 businesses are not offering POS finance, and therefore missing out on this growing opportunity.

The report, Finance: an SME issue, surveyed 500 SMEs across a range of retail sectors about their concerns for the future and their knowledge and understanding of point-of-sale (POS) finance.

For the SME retailers that do offer finance as part of their business model, there is a certain degree of awareness around the business benefits it can bring. However, there is also a clear push from consumers. More than a quarter (27%) of retailers said that their customers simply expect finance in the current climate, with another 28% saying that customers were directly asking them to provide it.

Michael Bevan, CEO of Duologi, said: “Clearly consumer demand for finance is increasing and they are now more willing to borrow funds than ever before. As such, there is a huge opportunity for SME retailers to offer a helping hand, as well as boost sales and their own bottom line.

“However, there are still a lot of retailers that aren’t capitalising on this growing market, despite fierce competition and pressure to keep pace with the demands of this ever-changing industry.

If retailers are to thrive in the future it’s important that they are empowered with the knowledge and tools needed to excel. Fortunately, there are now a range of POS finance options available that are quick and easy to implement and can make paying by finance as easy as paying with a card.”

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‘Boxing’ your way out of the Black Friday noise

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As retailers worldwide start to brace themselves for the annual Black Friday shopping frenzy, there are concerns that the mammoth ‘day of deals’ is fuelling an unhealthy over-consumption of goods.

One leading entrepreneur, retail packaging expert Robert Lockyer, fears the much-anticipated shopping bonanza is causing product pollution and contributing to climate change.

And he believes the ease with which shoppers can return their unwanted items for a refund simply adds to the growing global environmental crisis.

“Savvy shoppers have become accustomed to bagging a bargain and this expectation is devaluing both the product and the brand,” says Robert, the CEO of Delta Global, a luxury packaging provider for retailers like Estee Lauder, Ted Baker and Radley.

“As people increasingly shop from the comfort of their sofas, we’ve seen their spending habits escalate as they take advantage of discounts and retailers’ willingness to subsidise the return of goods.”

And he warned of the effects of adding even more sales days to the shopping calendar: “Many brands try to extend the profit period, with week-long and even month long sales, persuading shoppers to buy online and in-store multiple times and across multiple days, which duplicates deliveries and mileage.

“This has all led to an unhealthy over-consumption of consumer goods and has caused increased carbon emissions.”

The BBC recently reported that more than 300 clothing brands are asking shoppers not to buy anything in the Black Friday sales  – on November 29 – because of environmental reasons.

Many leading fashion and beauty brands are still taking part in this year’s discount day, although fewer luxury brands seem to be involved, says Robert.

Here Robert discusses why, despite these worries around Black Friday, customers are still counting down to a deal not to be missed…

What are the risks of these big retail discount days?

As consumers get caught up in the frenzy of getting more for their money and brands see the opportunity to generate a surge in revenue, Black Friday still seems to be an exception to the conscious efforts of some brands to ‘go green’.

“A reduction in waste created by products or packaging has been this year’s core focus,” says Robert. “But it’s concerning that brands effectively cheapen their ethical values by taking part in flash sales like this.

“By heavily discounting your products, you are actually lessening your products’ worth all year-round, while providing a temptation to buy only on ‘deal days’.

 “It’s in the interest of our planet that we avoid mass deal days like this and instead offer customers something different which will encourage them to feel they are getting a good deal.”

He suggested that retailers could offer a charity donation alongside a purchase or create packaging that is multi-functional and acts as storage box for your make-up for instance.

How can retailers box their way out of the Black Friday ‘noise’?

Robert notes that packaging is indispensable when it comes to marketing and the urge to buy a product – which is why a good first impression is essential.

“Brands must invest in the customer experience, presentation of their products, by creating attractive and unusual details within their packaging that stir an emotion for the consumer.

 “Packaging makes you stand out from the crowd; it tells a story and can stir both desire and emotion in a customer. Make it your unique selling point – it upholds quality, authenticity and continuity in your brand’s messaging.”

He cited global lifestyle brand Ted Baker, which has created boxes that could be described as being as beautiful as the items themselves. They focus on the inner box as well as the outside and have recently featured colourful galaxy patterns.

The company has cleverly used social media as an extension of its brand, creating an image shareability factor though use of the hashtag ‘#tedtotoe’. This is an ongoing initiative that pulls images from Instagram using the hashtag into a shoppable page on the brand’s website.

 “This creates invaluable customer content promotion which keeps them in the minds of many consumers all year round,” says Robert.

“It’s about communicating through your packaging. Try using an inviting and playful message on the exterior of your box to instantly put your customer in a positive mindset. And focus on the interior of the box too, to offer something magical when it is opened.”

He says this creation of an emotional connection with a customer will encourage people to want to buy time and again – giving a retailer a competitive advantage from other discounted alternatives.

So, what is the solution to avoiding discount days like Black Friday?

“It is time brands bow out of Black Friday,” says Robert. “The retail industry needs to think long-term about how we can channel eco-friendly purchasing and benefit our customers in other ways than simply offering discounts.

“It’s about romancing consumers with an interesting experience. What are they getting from you that they won’t from multiple goods at half the price?”

Retailers could try tapping into customers who want to be eco-conscious with environmentally-friendly delivery options or even donate the delivery fee to a charity such as Plastic Oceans UK.

“Why not trail a cashback scheme where a percentage of your payment goes into a pot for your next purchase which will encourage return throughout the year?

“Demonstrate and promote the re-usability of your packaging – a split image or moving GIF on your websites category pages can show your packaging in situ acting as a stylish desk tidy or something else.”

And Robert concludes: “It’s about making the customer feel they’ve gained an extra gift, whilst paying attention to the real issue of over-consumption.

 “Everyone needs to wake up to the reality that Black Friday is not sustainable and we must all be more mindful about our purchasing decisions in the long-term.”

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AD Engineering (Kent) Ltd. Recognised Leaders in Precision Engineering 2019

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Since the firm’s establishment in 1993, AD Engineering (Kent) Ltd have been delivering exceptional levels of quality workmanship and customer service to clients across the UK. With a diverse range of metals and other materials, discover why this firm are worthy winners in SME News’ Southern Enterprise Awards.

An ISO 9001:2015 accredited CNC machining and precision engineering company, AD Engineering work with a wide variety of clients, ranging from petro-chemicals, aerospace, railways, renewable energy, laser photonics, subsea, and oil and gas industries. Based in north Kent, just outside of London, the firm’s location is ideal to tap into the massive range of clients across the United Kingdom as they establish themselves as one of 2019’s recognised leaders in precision engineering.

Working for clients throughout the country, AD Engineering utilise a diverse range of metals and occasionally other materials if specified by clients. The most typical of these can include various stainless steels, exotics, mild steel, aluminium, brass, bronze and engineering plastic. The diversity of the firm’s client industries has also required them to develop effective ways of working materials including Inconel, Hastelloy, super duplex, titanium and stainless steel; tough materials to fabricate which demand the very best equipment and people.

One of the leading metalwork and precision engineering companies in the UK, the firm continue to meet the highest levels of quality with an unflinching approach to precision engineering standards and ongoing investment in the latest machine tools. Ensuring the best in machining, turning and milling technology is always on hand, AD Engineering can guarantee customers the fastest possible turnarounds on metalwork and exceptionally cost-effective services, through excellent efficiency and streamlined workflow.

Utilising the very best technology works even better with the very best engineers. AD Engineering employ the nation’s most experienced and steady-handed metalwork engineers with constant investment and training. CNC machining workshops are only as good as their capability and the firm constantly work to expand and improve on theirs. Now including the very latest automated 18 axis CNC turning centre, the company are proud to house the first of its kind available in the UK since 2010.

By expertly blending the combination of precision engineering expertise and leading technology, AD Engineering have cultivated a fantastic reputation as the UK’s most experienced and leading metalwork engineering companies. 

Alongside an uncompromising effort to deliver the best customer service, the firm can now offer a truly bespoke approach which guarantees clients creative professionalism and friendly personalities that can establish long-lasting relationships.

Ultimately, the work at AD Engineering is unrivalled across the United Kingdom in delivering the very best precision engineering and metalwork. At a company where familiarity and expertise breeds efficiency, accuracy and understanding, clients can expect a truly fantastic experience that will answer all needs and requirements.

 

Company: AD Engineering (Kent) Ltd.
Contact: Carlos Forlese
Website: www.adengineering.co.uk

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Smart and Sustainable: The Story of SAVORTEX

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Cleanliness within washrooms is of paramount importance, and as the world shifts towards connected devices and sustainable practices, hand-dryers are having to become more energy-efficient and Smarter, and this British company has taken it to a whole new level.

SAVORTEX® is a UK-based manufacturer of innovative, eco-friendly and worlds first IoT connected hand-drying technology. The company’s smart dryers report usage data and use footfall stats to alert cleaners to washroom inspections, now that’s Smart! Their latest innovation, the adDryer™ has an in-built screen and shows a full motion video message as users dry hands in retail washrooms, which generates ad revenue per dry!

With over 400 projects deployed worldwide to multinational clients such as Gatwick Airport, RBS and Rolls Royce to a new a few, the company is going from strength to strength. Its visionary leader wants to transform wasteful corporate washrooms into sustainable, hygienic, connected and revenue generating assets. We caught up with the founder and CEO, Syed Ahmed, and examined the firm to understand more about their success as the ‘UK’s Most Outstanding Hand-Drying Company of the Year’ for 2019, awarded by SME news.

“It takes an incredible five gallons of water to produce just one pound of paper. 30 percent of paper goes to waste in corporate buildings, and washroom waste is a large part of that. There’s a lot going to waste that shouldn’t be. So, we teamed up with Intel® and designed a smart and sustainable hand-dryer range fit for 21st century commerce.” said Syed.

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Determined to transform wasteful corporate washrooms into sustainable, connected and revenue generating assets, SAVORTEX is a British, multiaward-winning hand drying technology manufacturer using IoT tech. With over seventy million washrooms worldwide, the firm are aiming to replace costly, unsustainable paper towels with smart hand-dryers that offer much more than simply dried hands.

Challenges within the hand-drying industry are present, and the SAVORTEX Smart and energy saving hand dryer range offers the solutions for building owners who really care about meeting their long-term sustainability targets, and not just short-term price-based decisions.

High costs, inefficient brushed motors, maintenance and energy consumption levels within washrooms can make them tricky to manage for property owners, but the firm are working to solve multiple issues at once. As the world shifts to become eco-friendlier, Smarter and more sustainable, the team are also working to establish green alternatives to prevalent and expensive paper towels which significantly impact the environment in both manufacture and disposal.

In partnership with technology giants Intel®, SAVORTEX has co-developed the world’s first, and most environmentally advanced, internet-connected hand dryer range which report usage and washroom footfall data in real time for analytics. These hand-dryers are powerful, incorporate the most advanced digital brushless motor technology, offering ten times more life than traditional dryers, are energy-efficient and deliver a quick-dry in 11 seconds, whilst running on just 550 watts, which is 1/3rd of the power compared to traditional hand dryers, such as Dyson, ensuring true sustainability with low levels of energy consumption.

Utilising their innovative technology, the two main offerings from SAVORTEX include the EcoCurve™ 550D Smart and adDryer™. The former, of note, is
currently being utilised as a developed solution in Gatwick Airport, following a successful trial that resulted in a 60% energy reduction per dry.

“The SAVORTEX EcoCurve 550D smart hand dryer supported our client, Gatwick Airport’s sustainability strategy. Dr. Zainab Dangana, Wates Smart Space.

Each of the two hand-drying solutions have in-built sensors that report each dry to the web, wirelessly alerting cleaners to washrooms on footfall stats. The solutions come with a connected washroom management system that reduces clients’ operational costs by facilitating effective and responsive washroom cleaning.

“This is Intel’s first foray into the hand drying sector. We are proud to work with SAVORTEX, co-developing a product which we can bring to market to drive great customer experiences” Rod O’Shea, EMEA IoT Group Director.

Through their latest innovation, the revolutionary adDryer™, SAVORTEX use an in-built screen and connection to a content management system in order to show full-motion, tailored video messages in response to users drying their hands. This generates advertising revenues per dry, which is shared with the building’s owner, transforming washrooms from a cost centre to a profit centre.

The adDryer installation at Camden Market, in its first month, saw 19 out of the 30 high value retail advertisers on site sign up to pay-per-view advertising at a rate of 5p per impression on 3 to 6-month contracts, demonstrating the potential scale of this hyper local advertising platform. It’s an all-round win for supplier, client, community and environment.

“It is fantastic to see a British company leading the way in technological innovation. SAVORTEX is a forward thinking and dynamic company with a product range that will revolutionise the washroom sector.” said Martin McCourt ex-CEO – Dyson, now SAVORTEX’s senior advisor.

Overall, SAVORTEX have designed a smart, sustainable, clean and smart hand-dryer range that is fit for commerce in the twenty-first century. The firm is set apart within the marketplace, having secured worldwide IP rights for its hand drying and data communications technology, they have firmly placed themselves as leaders of a smart, energy saving, digital revolution.
The drive for constant innovation at SAVORTEX has resulted in a number of high-profile accolades and achievements, such as:

– UK’s Most Outstanding Hand-Drying Company of the Year’ for 2019, awarded by SME news.

– A British Manufacturers Award for its Smart innovation and transforming an industry to a service led business model

– Guinness World Record for ‘Most Energy Efficient Hand Dryer’

 

Company: SAVORTEX
Contact: Syed Ahmed
Website: https://www.savortex.com/

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The Secrets To Success In Ecommerce

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Ecommerce sounds like an industry which would be easy to find success in because online shopping is so popular, and the industry continues to grow at a rapid rate. While there certainly is the potential for success, most find it much harder than they anticipated. This because it is so competitive online. Simply setting up a store and launching will not be enough, and you will need to put in the work if you want to make good money out of your online store. There are a few secrets to success which most are not aware of and utilising these tips could help you to achieve your goals.

Excellent Customer Service

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when starting an ecommerce store is not providing good customer service. Although it is all carried out online, consumers are still going to have questions and queries and how you respond to these will have a huge impact on your success. It is helpful if it is easy for visitors to contact you and you should always be friendly yet professional. Having live chat on your store is a smart move, but you should also make it easy for people to contact you via social media and email.

Efficient Shipping

Following on from this, you must also make sure that the shipping is affordable and quick. People do not want to wait around for packages but they also do not want to pay through the teeth for delivery – this is the main reason for shopping cart abandonment. Consider offering free shipping when a customer spends over a certain amount as a way to offer free shipping while still earning enough from orders.

Easy-to-Navigate Store

Much like a physical store, it needs to be easy-to-navigate so that the customer can find what they are looking for and have a smooth experience. Make sure that it is easy to switch between the various pages on your website, and allow visitors to be able to search and filter their results so that they can either browse or look directly for a product.

Sell The Right Products

It might seem obvious, but you need to be selling products which are in demand. Additionally, you need to have a range of products that fall under a particular theme so that you can cast a wide net and both attract and retain customers. This also allows you to develop a target customer which you can then keep in mind when promoting your store and creating original content.

Assess The Competition

A smart business owner will have a strong understanding of the competition, so that they can find gaps in the market, learn from their strengths, and exploit weaknesses. Find out how to reverse image search on your products, and peruse the different stores that are selling the same product – spend time looking around their store and visiting their social media to learn everything that you can and then use this information to your advantage.

High-Quality Product Details

Having high-quality products is what separates the great stores from the average ones. Keep in mind that the consumer is not able to physically hold the product to inspect it, so you need to -provide as much detail as possible. This should include

-High-quality photographs from different angles

-Product videos

-Augmented reality apps

-Unique and detailed product descriptions

-How to use guides

-Customer reviews

Visible Customer Reviews

Following this, you need to ask your customers for reviews and then put these in highly visible spaces on your store and on social media. Modern-day consumers are wary because there are so many ecommerce stores, many of which will not provide a good experience. Customer reviews will be one of the first things that people look for as social proof, and to get an idea of what the shopping experience is like with your business.

Smart Social Media Usage

Most ecommerce store owners recognise the importance of having a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but very few use these platforms effectively. Social media is a powerful tool that allows you to show your expertise, advertise your store and products, and communicate directly with your target audience. You should be sharing original content which is of value to your target customer (such as how-to guides), keeping followers updated on the latest news from the store, and responding to comments and messages in a friendly yet professional manner.

Store Optimised For Mobile

Mobile commerce has been steadily growing for the last few years, so you need to make sure that your store is optimised for mobile users otherwise you will be missing out. You could even have an app that can make it quick and easy for mobile users to navigate your online store and make orders, plus this also allows you to send push notifications and advertise your brand throughout the day.

Use Digital Marketing

As such a competitive industry, it can be hard to make people aware of your store and get traffic to your website. Digital marketing is one of the most important steps to take as an ecommerce store owner and you should be using a variety of techniques to increase your visibility online. This will include digital marketing practices such as:

-SEO

-PPC

-Affiliate marketing

-Content marketing

-Influencer marketing

– Email marketing

These are the secrets to success in the ecommerce industry. It is amazing the number of people who set up an online store believing that it will be easy to succeed, when the truth is that it is incredibly competitive and you will need to put in the work to succeed.

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The risks and rewards to SMEs that manage employees who drive for work

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by: Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

From corporate sales to engineering, property surveying to journalism, the list of roles which can involve driving for work is enormous. Yet many SMEs whose employees drive for work are unaware of their responsibilities when such practices are in place – particularly when those employees are using their own vehicles.

Employees who drive their personal car for work-related purposes are part of their employer’s responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act – which means that ensuring their safety whilst driving is a crucial element of businesses’ overall risk posture. Furthermore, good practices when it comes to managing employees who drive for work – whether or not they are using their own vehicles – can make a substantial difference to overall organisational productivity and cost-effectiveness.

In other words, SMEs with drivers to manage must navigate a range of potential risks – and rewards – associated with doing so. Yet too many still remain in the dark.

Understand the risks

Earlier in the year, we commissioned a survey with Censuswide to examine the underlying attitudes, behaviours and management-level awareness in organisations where employees drive for work. 255 C-suite executives which employ people who drive for work-related purposes were surveyed – and the results were startling. 60% of these managers were unsure if or how many employees use their own vehicles for business purposes and 44% said their organisations do not even check whether such workers have a valid driving license. 62% said their company does not ensure that employees have the correct insurance in place if they use their own vehicle for business journeys, especially worrying since a third of these drivers (33%) admitted they didn’t have insurance cover for business journeys. The research even shows that 1 in 20 business directors and 1 in 8 business drivers thought the hard shoulder was a safe place to answer their mobile phone – something that is actually illegal.

This lack of management awareness suggests a substantial risk of businesses falling foul of their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act – which in turn means that, in the event of a major incident involving one of their drivers, they risk potentially crippling fines, serious reputational damage and, in some cases, even prison sentences.

Perhaps less obvious are the potential increases in operational expenditure – or conversely, decreases in productivity – when employees who drive for work are not well-managed. For example, if those employees are not trained in good driving practices, and made aware of their responsibilities for following such practices when they are on the road, they are likely to rack up greater expenditure on everything from fuel and tyres to routine servicing and maintenance. Insurance is another key factor to consider. Poor driving practices can double the spend on tyres and triple the spend on servicing and maintenance, whilst poorly managed fleets can incur up to five times the cost per vehicle for fleet insurance.

Reaping the rewards

The potential risks to SMEs with employees driving for work, then, range from the financial to the legal, to moral and ethical.

Yet conversely, businesses which need employees to ride or drive for work also have access to an untapped resource for delivering efficiencies and improving margins. A well-managed driving workforce can deliver significant reductions in driving incidents and accidents, as well as helping to control operational costs associated with damage repair, maintenance and servicing, fuel and insurance. It can also achieve improved confidence in the company’s compliance, which in turn boosts reputation among customers, employees and potential business partners. And it can have a substantial impact on employee health and wellbeing, by ensuring that they are following good driving practices and no longer feel pressured by their employers to carry out practices such as answering their phones in an unsafe place whilst driving.

Harnessing benefits by implementing a driving for work policy

How to realise these benefits? The first step is to create a driving for work policy, which formalises the responsibilities and expectations of employer and employees alike. All employees should receive a copy of this policy, and it should be regularly reviewed and updated where necessary.

And it doesn’t cost anything to implement. Driving for Better Business is a free government-backed Highways England programme, guiding businesses of all sizes through a range of free resources and tools, articles and case studies to help them understand this vital area of risk management. Hundreds of organisations across the UK have already signed up in all sectors and are reaping a host of business benefits. The question is, why would a SME business not take advantage of the opportunity to make their business operations run more efficiently, while at the same time reducing risk and improving employee wellbeing.

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Ken Clarke opens brand agency’s new £1 million media hub

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Leading politician Ken Clarke was the guest of honour today at the official opening of a new £1m digital media hub at a top East Midlands brand agency.

Mr Clarke joined hundreds of guests and employees at a special celebration at the headquarters of family run Champions (UK) plc based in Costock, one of the fastest-growing businesses in the region.

He cut the ribbon on the company’s vibrant new media centre, which houses more than 40 members of staff working in digital services such as web development, SEO and pay-per-click advertising, alongside a PR and social media team, a brand audit department and influencer division.

It is the third expansion in Champions’ 16-year history, reflecting the huge success the business is enjoying. It recently celebrated recruiting its 50th new member of staff this year and leapt into 12th place in the East Midlands Top 200 fastest-growing businesses.

Mr Clarke, who recently stood down as the Conservative MP for Rushcliffe after nearly 50 years in Parliament, also opened its HQ in 2009 and then a 6,000sq ft extension in 2015.

He told the assembled crowd: “Thank you for the invitation and I’m grateful to be opening an office for Champions again. I’m here because I’m delighted to come and congratulate the family and to celebrate this latest move by Champions to this centre. It’s a mark as we all know of Champions’ continued success.”

The opening began with a Champagne reception where guests, including Champions’ clients, celebrities and employees, were able to mingle ahead of a delicious three-course meal.

On arrival, guests were wowed with an incredible champagne fountain formed with 250 glasses of Moët & Chandon.

Olympic badminton legend Gail Emms MBE hosted proceedings and England cricketing hero Matthew Hoggard MBE, who is one of Champions’ managed talents, gave a speech to guests.

Two X Factor stars in the form of Sam Bailey and Andy Abraham performed, along with one of the UK’s finest pop, soul and funk bands, Urban Intro. Renowned pianist Adrian Dixon also added to proceedings.

Included in the star studded guestlist was non other than William Roache MBE, best known for his long running portrayal of Ken Barlow in Coronation Street. The actor remains a strong supporter of the business, having worked with them for over a decade.

Guests were offered a tour of the new media hub, with digital director Amad Tababa on hand to explain the company’s vision.

“Since I joined Champions in 2014, I’ve seen the digital team grow significantly,” he said. “We have more clients than ever before and are undertaking digital work in a variety of new areas.

“By moving into a new purpose-built suite, it allows us to further develop our digital offering, supporting all of our clients’ needs. This year has seen us make big strides, working with a number of high-profile clients and we’re looking forward to seeing what other exciting developments happen in our new home.”

Champions was founded in 2003 by John, Donna and Matthew Hayes. John’s son Matthew is the managing director and his four siblings, Louisa, Sophia, Roxanna and Jack are also on the company’s board.

Now with 125 employees, the firm continues to grow its enviable client base across a wide range of sectors, including engineering, property development, law, accountancy, aerospace and private healthcare industries.

It offers 14 areas of expertise, which as well as digital, web, brand strategy, PR and social media, includes marketing and creative services, publishing, advertising and managing events, including a number of regional sports and business awards. The business also has divisions for after dinner speakers, influencer and celebrity, music and entertainment.

Managing director Matthew Hayes said the launch had been a great success. “Our new media hub marks the next chapter in Champions’ story and today was a great way to mark the occasion,” he said.

“Having the right digital presence is vital to the success of any business which is why we’ve invested heavily in this area and we’re thrilled with the growth we’ve seen.

“Over the next few years this is an area we are keen to build on even further and this new building is the perfect way to do this.”

For more information on Champions or any of its services, visit the website https://championsukplc.com/ or, call on 08453 31 30 31.

Pictured: Louisa Hayes, Matthew Hayes, John Hayes, Ken Clarke, Donna Hayes, Roxanna Hayes, Sophia Hayes and Jack Hayes.

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Equal Pay Day 2019 is here: Workhuman survey reveals possible causes of, and solutions to the UK’s pay gap problem

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This Thursday – the 14th November – is ‘Equal Pay Day’ in the UK. From this day until the end of the year, British women will effectively be working for free, reflecting the gap in pay between the country’s male and female workers.

Recent research from Workhuman sheds some light on why gender pay inequities exist. The survey (which polled 3.500 employees across the UK, Ireland and North America) revealed that, in the UK in particular, men are more than twice as likely to be in a senior management or executive role than women, with 18% of men in executive or senior management roles compared to just 8% of women. Given that employees in senior management roles are typically the highest paid, the scarcity of women in these roles undoubtedly contributes to the gender pay gap.

 

Discrimination still rife

Gender discrimination is still an issue, especially in historically male-dominated industries – like financial services, construction, and transportation –, where half of UK women report having faced discrimination at work. In more female dominated professions like healthcare – the NHS reports 77% of its workforce is women – the percentage of women reporting discrimination drops to just 33%.

Women in managerial roles are also subjected to discriminatory behaviour. Notably, 86% of women in senior management or executive roles say a manager has taken credit for their work, compared to just 44% of men. Whether the bias towards men in recognition, promotions, or pay is conscious or not, women are clearly still feeling its effects, especially in male-dominated fields. In order to lessen the pay gap, organisations need to check for bias in their promotion and pay schemes.

 

Bonuses are redressing the balance in certain instances

Interestingly, when UK women do make it to the top, and are hired in executive or senior management roles, they more likely to be rewarded bonus payments in excess of £1,000 than their male counterparts. This could indicate that if women are given more opportunities to take on leadership roles, it could narrow the pay gap.

“Regulations and transparency aren’t enough to solve gender pay inequity. Organisations need to be able to recognise and reward employees for their performance and their different perspectives, not just from a top-down approach, but also through peer-to-peer recognition. In today’s increasingly diverse workplace, involving peers and managers in recognising top performance is critical to insuring not only gender pay equity, but diversity and inclusion in general,” said Lauren Zajac, Chief Legal Officer, Workhuman.

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10 Hour Bikeathon In Aid of Children In Need

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On Friday 15th November Christian Michaels Agency, the digital marketing company, will be participating in a 10 hour non-stop bikeathon. The event will be held in the reception of the Regus office building at Manchester Airport.

The aim of this fundraiser is to help raise money for the renowned BBC run charity, Children In Need. From 8am to 6pm, Christian, director at Christian Michaels Agency, will pedal continuously, just man and his bike for ten straight hours!

The agency has previously raised £400 for Joseph’s Goal when Christian completed the 10k Wigan run, raising both funds and awareness for Non-Ketotic Hyperglycinemia (NHK).

This year, however, the focus is on BBC’s Children In Need, with a more ambitious fundraising target of £1000. The company is hoping to not only receive donations on the day of the event, but also raise awareness (and funds!) for Children In Need in the lead up to the bikeathon!

At its core, Children In Need is about pockets of people across the UK coming together to raise money. From schools and corporations to individual fundraisers and celebrities, brits from across the nation come together to support BBC Children in Need and work to change and improve young, disadvantaged lives.

As it stands, the charity currently supports over 2,800 projects across the UK that provide necessary help to children and young people who face a range of disadvantages such as living in poverty, being disabled or ill, or experiencing distress, neglect or trauma.

The Christian Michaels Agency, although small, have set out to raise a significant sum of money for an incredibly worthwhile cause. They are looking to the public for moral support and a small contribution to help them reach their target!

Every single penny raised will go to Children In Need, and hopefully make some real tangible change. If you want to support the team, then please click through to their Just Giving page here.

Christian Michaels, Director Christian Michaels Agency, said: “We’ve always tried to be charitable as a business, but this year we wanted to go the extra mile. Children in Need is an incredible cause, and I hope that our contribution can make a real difference to disadvantaged children across our nation.

“I’ll have my team with me for some much needed motivation and to hopefully generate some donations from all the other business tenants and those visiting the Regus building on the day.”

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Tequila Enemigo Challenges Excessive, Misleading Marketing and the Over-use of Celebrity Endorsements in World-first Campaign

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Tequila Enemigo, the 7 x Double Gold/ Tequila of the Year award winner is the first spirits brand to call out the prevalent mismarketing practices recognised throughout the drinks industry.

The campaign entitled​ ‘Don’t Give A Bottle of Marketing’ features a cinematic video released in three parts during November. Each video highlights a form of overmarketing, or misused marketing technique, followed by a quote from an industry expert on the issues prevalence and how to avoid it. As the campaign progresses, Enemigo will continue to release expert quotes, creating a complete buyer guide to ensure consumers gift the highest quality bottle this holiday season. Expert quotes were sourced from key industry leaders at The Modern (2 Michelin stars), Del Posto (1 Michelin Star), Baccarat Hotel, Hakkasan, and Madeo Beverly Hills amongst many others.

 

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“In today’s world we are bombarded with advertising, and this only ramps up around the holidays with liquor brands encouraging consumers to buy more often than not, substandard products. We are now shining a bright spotlight on this issue, one that is recognised by all in our industry, and telling consumers loudly not to buy marketing this holiday season”– ​Robin Clough, CEO and Founder.

To increase awareness of the campaign, Enemigo is releasing the world’s first Instagram filter focussed on the growing misuse of influencer marketing. Titled ‘Influencer’, it draws attention to the world of paid Instagram promotion, a tool now prevalent in the drinks industry. Albeit light-hearted, it highlights the extremely limited regulation compared to other advertising formats and although some high-profile cases have been brought, most are free to spread misinformation.

“We decided that a filter- available to all- was the best way of reaching consumers. A lot of the influencers we follow are being paid, but most of us choose to ignore it. With this filter it is quite literally stamped across your forehead, reminding consumers to think twice before purchasing a paid for promotion product”- ​Max Davies-Gilbert, Managing Director and Founder.

 

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“Marketing doesn’t mean quality. What matters is how the liquid tastes. If a brand has a budget to put a billboard up in Times Square, then great- but this won’t change the flavour. Word of mouth is the only testimonial that really matters.” –Patrick Smith – Bar Manager – The Modern (2 Michelin Stars), New York.

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The Rules Of The Office Brew Round

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When it comes to office politics, there’s one thing that takes precedence above everything else: the hot drinks round.

Employees put the kettle on multiple times a day to brew their favourite drinks in workplaces all over the country, but it’s more than just a tea round. It’s a break from the desk, a chance to get social with other kitchen-dwelling co-workers for 2 minutes, and, increasingly, a coffee round too.

Some people think that a hot drinks round is the perfect opportunity to make colleagues a tea or coffee, safe in the knowledge that in an hour’s time they’ll return the favour. As we all know, however, others manage to skirt around the unwritten rules and take more than they give.

Tea and coffee cultures differ from office to office, so commercial coffee machine specialists rijo42 decided to carry out a survey to determine, once and for all, the rules of engagement that surround hot drink rounds.

Once you’ve read through their findings, hang the downloadable A4 poster in your office kitchen or break room, have everyone fill out their ideal brew, and in theory you’ll never receive a bad cuppa again. Unless someone’s sabotaging your hot drink on purpose, that is…

Here’s what keeps the nation’s caffeine habit ticking over…

 

The Hot Drink Etiquette Survey Results

 

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Hot drinks etiquette is so important in some workplaces that over half of those surveyed consider it to be bad manners to make a drink without offering colleagues one too.

Age has something to do with it, as we found that 71% of people aged 18-24 thought it was impolite while only 43% of those aged 65+ saw the injustice.

We also uncovered a group of people who choose to stay out of the hot drink routine altogether, with just over one third of people saying they never offer at all.

Etiquette takeaway: Offer to make a hot drink for colleagues to avoid them thinking you’re rude

 

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While you might feel like you’re always making brews for your colleagues, in reality only a quarter of people in the office make at least 1 hot drink a day for a colleague.

18-24 year olds make the most hot drink rounds per day, with 1/3 of this age range making 4+ rounds daily as they try to prove themselves in the office.

Blowing everyone out of the water with their hot drink generosity, 1% of workers make 7+ hot drinks rounds a day!

Etiquette takeaway: Reciprocate the generosity of young and eager hot drink makers

 

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Opinion is divided when it comes to who you should offer a hot drink to in the workplace. 11% of people will offer the entire workplace a beverage, a quarter of people will only ask colleagues in their immediate working area, and 35% will make a beeline for their work best friends.

1% of people might have ulterior motives with their approach to making rounds, saying that they only offer their boss a drink.

Etiquette takeaway: Don’t feel pressured to ask everyone in the office, just the besties will do

 

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When it comes to what drinks are fair game in a brew round, 57% of people are more than happy to make instant coffee or a cup of tea while only 3% will make you a herbal tea.

Unexpectedly, cold drinks are out of the question too, with only 7% of people happy to top up your water or get you another cool beverage.

We noticed a slight gender split in willingness to go the distance in the hot drink round, with nearly 1 in 4 women happy to make any hot drink for their colleagues, whilst only 1 in 5 men would be happy to do the same.

Etiquette takeaway: Don’t ask anyone to make you a herbal brew or cold drink – coffee and tea only

 

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Looking for reasons to stay out of the hot drink round game? If you’re too busy at work, 16% of people agree that you’re permitted to sneak away and make yourself a quick drink without anybody minding.

22% answered that, as long as you don’t expect any hot drinks from anyone else, you’re fine to stay out of the system.

Despite this, the majority of people asked (32%) said that you should never feel compelled to make a hot drink for any of your co-workers in the first place.

Etiquette takeaway: Don’t take without giving, stay out of the system altogether if you don’t want to be involved

 

Other Hot Drink Findings

 

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Whilst 21% of people admitted that they felt peer pressure to offer to make hot drinks for their colleagues, funnily enough, those aged 18-24 felt the pressure the most.

40% of people aged 18-24 said that they felt pressured to offer drinks around the office, with that number slowly decreasing with age with only 9% of people aged 65 and over feeling the pressure to get the kettle on.

 

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Scottish people are the most likely to stay out of the workplace brew round, with 63% thinking there’s nothing wrong with not offering colleagues a hot drink and showing that, if you want a drink in a Scottish office, you might be best making it yourself.

On the opposite end of the scale, 66% of people in Northern Ireland and 64% in East Anglia think it’s rude to go it solo, making them the most likely to offer a drink around.

 

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The Opportunities Around Veganism

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How veganism has blossomed from a dietary choice to a way of life and how businesses can help cater for the booming market!

Veganism in Britain has come a long way; not just from its humble beginnings during the Second World War, but in the last decade in particular. The numbers – which we’ll come onto in a moment – tell their own story, but the shift in perception around the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products is neatly encapsulated by how vegans are portrayed in the media.

In 2007, Jeremy Clarkson wrote in his column for The Times (charmingly headlined “Save the planet; eat a vegan”) how eating a plate of food containing no animal products marked you down as a squirrel, building up to the suggestion that vegans be fed to vegetarians. No-one batted an eyelid; such were attitudes towards veganism at the time.

Fast forward to 2018 and the editor of Waitrose Food magazine William Sitwell expressed similar attitudes towards plant-based diets in an email exchange after a freelance journalist had pitched him a series of articles on veganism. The difference a decade makes? Sitwell lost his job.

Part of the reason for this is that vegans are no longer a niche minority that publishers don’t mind offending, but a significant demographic that represent big business. The Vegan Society estimates that the number of vegans in Great Britain increased by 300 per cent to 680,000 between 2014 and 2018, a far cry from the 25 members who helped establish the association in 1944.

Our own membership data helps paint the picture of just how loud the vegan explosion has been. We saw the number of specialist vegan businesses joining GS1 UK rise by 50% this year and the types of companies joining are of particular interest. Not only is the scale of these companies greater (vegan joiners have registered a year-on-year increase in turnover of 35% between 2018 and 2019), but veganism is no longer solely a food and drink concern.

In fact, 14% of our vegan member companies operate outside of the food and grocery industry, in sectors as diverse as health, beauty and cosmetics, apparel and homeware, showing that veganism is becoming very much a way of life rather than just a dietary fad.

Recent GS1 UK joiners include Heavenly Organics, a natural, vegan and organic skincare and cosmetics line, Will’s Vegan Shoes, a company pushing the boundaries in apparel, and Visibly Vegan, a firm challenging established norms with their cruelty-free, vegan candles.

As an organisation with almost 40,000 members across more than 25 sectors, we’re as well positioned as anyone to observe trends and consumer sentiment and the rise of veganism is as significant as any development we’ve seen in recent times. It also forms part of wider consumer demand for more transparency and detail around the products they are buying.

A basic list of ingredients and the price are no longer anywhere near enough – shoppers want to know what exact farm heir produce comes from, when it was harvested, what allergens it might contain and a whole host of other specifications that retailers wouldn’t have even considered previously.

But while plant-based living is undoubtedly on the rise, companies wanting to claim their slice of the (vegan) pie need to be mindful that they aren’t just seen as mindlessly capitalising on the latest craze. In the same way that companies making unsubstantiated or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of products are accused of ‘greenwashing’, businesses simply tacking on a vegan alternative to their existing range may leave themselves exposed to similar cynicism.

Businesses such as Kings Grooming – a cruelty-free range of men’s toiletries that supports various mental health projects – where their whole MO is based around a vegan lifestyle, tell a far more compelling and powerful story that consumers are more likely to engage with.

In 2018, the UK launched more vegan products than any other nation (leapfrogging Germany in the process), with The Vegan Society estimating the UK plant-based market to be worth £443m in 2018. Some predictions for the future suggest almost limitless possibilities for veganism, with consulting firm AT Kearney suggesting that by 2040 only two-fifths of the global population will be consuming meat.

The practice of abstaining from the use of animal products remains a personal choice at the moment, but in terms of long-term sustainability, it is a way of life that may be forced on us if we continue to erode the planet’s resources at our current rate; a case in point being the fact that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon rainforest destruction.

Far from being a niche USP that sets you apart from the competition, plant-based products could well become the norm at some point in our lives. World Vegan Day at the beginning of the month and Veganuary at the start of each year aim to publicise the benefits of a plant-based way of life, but it may not need too much more PR support to become the dominant lifestyle.

Despite the growing demand for plant-based products, it’s a crowded marketplace, especially when you consider that one in six products launched in the UK in 2018 made some sort of vegan claim. Nevertheless, stacked shelves haven’t deterred true innovators in the past, and there’s never a bad time for a genuinely good idea. Those looking to flex their entrepreneurial muscles in the vegan space may want to heed our membership profiles and look beyond food and drink if they are to increase their chances of a successful cut through.

With vegans and vegetarians set to make up a quarter of the British population – adding flexitarians nudges this figure to closer to 50% – by 2025 and a quarter of a million Brits signing up to Veganuary in 2019, there are huge opportunities for conscientious companies to cater for this shift in public perception, but it’s vital to do your homework first and ensure you are in it for the long haul – and the right reasons.

 

Gary Lynch is chief executive of GS1 UK

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Remembering The Forgotten Heroes: Armed Forces Spouses

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As the nation honours the veterans of today and yesterday, two organisations are fighting for the often-forgotten armed forces spouses who face giving up their chances of a career to support their partners.

Global talent acquisition and management firm, Alexander Mann Solutions, and Recruit for Spouses – an independent social enterprise that helps military spouses find a job or start a business that works for them – have collaborated to support more spouses in their search for work that’s flexible enough to allow them to continue to follow their partner’s latest post. The results speak for themselves, with some families now eligible for a mortgage and others able to provide more stability for their children as a result.

Paul Modley, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Alexander Mann Solutions explains why employers across the UK should also be supporting these forgotten heroes:

“Flexibility in work is key at the moment and as more businesses face an increasingly short supply of talent across a wealth of industries, this untapped talent pool needs to be engaged with. Aside from the emotional agility, ability to adapt and motivation that these individuals can bring to the workforce, by embracing and supporting their need for agile working, businesses will be developing a stronger connection between employee and employer.”

Heledd Kendrick, CEO and Founder of Recruit for Spouses, added:

“It’s all too easy to forget that this incredible pool of talent is out there and more often than not, is eager to show employers what they can bring to the business. We just need to ensure they are given the chance they deserve. Seeing the impact our work has on every one of them both personally and professionally is heart-warming, but we need more organisations to commit to supporting these as well.”

Rusila Halofaki, one of the individuals who found flexible employment at Alexander Mann Solutions through this collaboration, commented:

“Being able to secure some form of security for my family is a huge weight off my shoulders and it gives me the chance to better plan for my future. Perhaps more importantly, I finally have an employer who is willing to help me grow professionally and for the first time in a long while I have access to training and a career progression plan to work towards. It’s also clear to me that the company has fully embraced the benefits of flexible employment. While I’m working away from the office, I’m still made to feel part of the team and have access to colleagues at all times.”

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The Welsh Enterprise Awards 2019

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United Kingdom, 2019 – SME News Magazine have announced the winners of the Welsh Enterprise Awards 2019.

Due to the ever-growing increase of Small to Medium Enterprises in Wales and the huge popularity from past two years, we at SME News are delighted to showcase the third consecutive edition of the Welsh Enterprise Awards!

Over the past decade, Wales has become known for more than just it’s renowned Agriculture, Manufacturing and Mining industries in which has helped the country thrive and become the jewel it is today in modern day UK.

The movers and shakers of the Welsh technology industry have helped place the country on the map as one of the most in demand locations within the UK to establish the industry, with 400,000 people working within the sector bringing in over £8 Billion to the Welsh economy!

Through our awards programme SME News is showcasing the success of a myriad of businesses from all corners of the country, from the artisan boutiques of Anglesey to the business board rooms of Cardiff.

Award Coordinator commented: “The Welsh Enterprise Awards is back in 2019 and even bigger and better than ever! It is with great pride that I present my winners and wish them congratulations on their success.”

SME News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the SME News website (https://www.sme-news.co.uk/awards/welsh-enterprise-awards/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About SME News

SME News draws on our UK wide network of industry insiders to provide you with the latest news, cutting edge features and latest deals from across the UK SME landscape.

Alongside our quarterly publication we also offer an easy to use website, newsletter and a series of awards programmes, making SME News much more than just a magazine, but instead a vital resource.

Bought to you by AI Global Media, the international provider of corporate news and information, this unique magazine is the perfect resource for the CEOs, leaders and decision makers in the UK based SMEs looking to keep their finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the competition.

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The Energy & Power Awards 2019 Press Release

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United Kingdom, 2019 – SME News Magazine have announced the winners of the Energy & Power Awards 2019.

With the need to reduce carbon emissions and discussions of climate change swirling, the dedicated businesses and professionals, operating in the fields of power generation, transport and distribution are facing new challenges at an exponential rate. Therefore, it seems imperative to the organisers of the Energy & Power Awards 2019 that these companies and individuals are not just recognised but rewarded for their hard work in providing cutting edge solutions within the energy sector.

Supplying energy to the homes across the UK takes perseverance, tenacity and innovation which is why SME News wants to highlight and celebrate the efforts and endeavours of those companies, large and small, with our Energy & Power Awards 2019.

Award Coordinator discusses the success of this year’s programme: “Powering business and homes across the country, our winners are some of the best of the best from across the energy and power market. I am proud of all of my winners and I hope to hear more of your successes in the coming years.”   

SME News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the SME News website (https://www.sme-news.co.uk/awards/uk-energy-and-power-awards/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About SME News

SME News draws on our UK wide network of industry insiders to provide you with the latest news, cutting edge features and latest deals from across the UK SME landscape.

Alongside our quarterly publication we also offer an easy to use website, newsletter and a series of awards programmes, making SME News much more than just a magazine, but instead a vital resource.

Bought to you by AI Global Media, the international provider of corporate news and information, this unique magazine is the perfect resource for the CEOs, leaders and decision makers in the UK based SMEs looking to keep their finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the competition.

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What’s Stopping Startups From Starting Up?

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New UK Government data revealed that 2018 was the first year since 2000 that the total number of businesses in the UK fell, down 27,000 from 5,695,000 to 5,668,000.

That might not sound like much at first, but it’s a reversal of an 18-year trend that’s otherwise seen the number of UK businesses grow year after year, by 63% altogether.

It also follows on from the largest recorded decrease in UK business births, seen between 2016 and 2017 – a drop of 32,000 that was greater even than the effects the 2008 financial crash had on the birth rate of new businesses.

96% of all UK businesses are classed as micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees, so this downturn essentially signals a slowing of the nation’s startup sector.

Here at Capify we work with small businesses and their finances day in and day out, and we wanted to figure out what the root causes of these issues were. So, we set out to discover what barriers were stopping potential UK startups from, well, starting up.

To help us get to the bottom of the phenomenon, we carried out a survey of 2000 respondents from across the UK. The results gave us a unique insight into what was preventing more people from getting entrepreneurial and going it alone.

 

Survey Results

The first significant finding from our survey was that 48% of people have seriously considered starting their own business.

This was what we wanted to hear, but it raised the question: if so many people are seriously interested in starting their own business, why aren’t they doing it?

We presented our survey respondents with a range of potential barriers that might have stopped them from starting up a business and asked them to tell us which ones were a factor in them choosing not to go solo. This is what we found:

 

What’s stopping startups?

Across the UK as a whole, confidence-based factors were the biggest block to people beginning their own business, with 45% saying lack of confidence was holding them back.

The perceived initial financial costs of setting up a business were a close second barrier to startups, with 44% of people saying the expense would stop them from establishing a business.

In third place were skill-based barriers, with 34% of people saying they didn’t feel like they had the necessary skills to go it alone.

Health and wellbeing factors and general time constraints were least commonly seen as a barrier to setting up a business, but 28% and 27% of people respectively still said they were a concern.

These five categories were made up of even more specific barriers in our survey, giving us a better understanding of what exactly was stopping people from setting up shop:

 

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Out of the individual factors stopping people from setting up their own business, initial financial costs were by far the most significant, followed by fear of failure and avoidance of risk.

 

Regional highlights

As interesting as the nationwide statistics were to us, we still wanted more detail, so we delved into the data and sorted it into regions. This revealed what percentage of respondents from each region of the UK felt were the barriers holding them back.

 

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East Anglia topped the confidence charts, with a relatively low 41.7% of respondents from this region saying that confidence would hold them back.

On the other end of the scale, 50.6% of people in the North East lacked the confidence to set up their own business.

Unsurprisingly, Londoners revealed they just didn’t have the time to go into business alone, with 34.9% of respondents saying this was a barrier for them compared to only 21.9% of West Midlanders.

 

Extra Survey Statistics

We also asked respondents some other questions to get a better understanding of their thoughts about starting up a business. One of these questions asked what they thought running their own business would be like, and the results showed some common opinions about what it’s like to be a business owner:

 

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Over half of our respondents thought that running their own business would be stressful, while just over a sixth thought it would be freeing.

We also asked our respondents how much they thought it cost, on average, to start a business, trying to understand if they were overestimating the financial costs:

 

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It turned out that they knew their stuff, with the majority of answers in our survey falling between £10,001 and £50,000, compared to online estimates of the average cost varying from £12,601 to £27,250.

 

Breaking down startup barriers

We’re passionate about SMEs and the positive effects they can have on the economy, so we didn’t like hearing that so many people felt that there were barriers standing in their way.

To help try and address some of the biggest concerns that prospective entrepreneurs have about starting their own business, we got in touch with some successful business owners and asked them some questions about how they managed to get going.

 

How did you overcome low confidence or fear of failure when starting up your own business?

‘We did thorough research to be sure we knew as much as possible about our market, our potential business, and our competitors. We set attainable goals – e.g. in our first six months if we can run three successful events that make a profit, that’s enough.  We made sure not to overstretch ourselves in the first few months – we took it step by step and allowed ourselves to learn as much as possible as we grew.

Also, we were realistic. Sometimes we would simply say ‘If this doesn’t work, what’s the worst that can happen?’. You’d be surprised how much that can help!’

Emma Salveson, Co-Founder of The Hub Events

 

What kind of funding did you manage to secure to raise the initial financial costs of your business?

‘My funding consisted of only a few hundred pounds. A friend helped us a lot with the design of the website so that saved us quite a lot of money, and all our marketing in the beginning was just good old hard work and any free methods we could utilise.’

Amy Finlay, Co-Founder of Edinburgh IFA

‘We worked hard to keep our costs as low as possible. We leased IT equipment and software, we didn’t hire staff initially, we worked from home to reduce office costs, we negotiated fees with venues and suppliers.  As a result, we managed to start with a minimal investment of just a few thousand pounds from personal savings.’

Emma Salveson, Co-Founder of The Hub Events

 

Did you ever feel like you were out of your depth in terms of the skills required to run a business?

‘I constantly did and as mentioned suffered massively from peer pressure. I genuinely did lack some skills and attributes, but I managed to realise that and overcame it by hiring people with those particular talents. The old adage applies, ‘if you are the smartest person on the payroll, then you have got your recruitment wrong’

Charles Floate, Owner of DFY Links

‘In the early days when a client would ask for a specific kind of tax invoice or ask me for my business address, I felt that creeping sense of playing above my station. But luckily a combination of Google and friends who are running their own successful businesses meant I could usually muddle through. Now, there’s not much that phases me.’

Sally Fox, Freelance Copywriter

 

Do you have any other advice for prospective business owners that might help them on their journey?

 ‘Too many people don’t start a business as they can’t think of a unique idea, or they end up dreaming up something too niche in an effort to stand out, but there is no actual demand for that service or product so it’s essentially a doomed venture.

There are opportunities all around you, businesses and industries that you can replicate and improve upon – an idea does not have to be unique. 

You should see established competition as lazy and complacent and take great pleasure in disrupting the successful thing they have going.’

Keiran Hart, Founder of Virtual Headquarters

 

Starting a business

Almost all of the business owners we spoke to said that they had suffered from low confidence and fear of failure in the beginning, but that planning, setting milestones, being positive, and staying realistic all helped.

They were all also honest about their shortcomings in various skills required to run a business, from appearing professional to sending an invoice. However, they almost all agreed that a lack of skills is normal – you can’t be a master of all trades – and that there are easy ways to get around knowledge gaps, from using Google to hiring intelligently.

In terms of startup costs and funding, the business owners we spoke to had a variety of experience. Some started with nothing, keeping costs to an absolute minimum in the early stages and using personal savings as funding. Others had more substantial startup funds, but still relied on negotiation and networking to keep their costs low.

All of the research, analysis, and thought that went into finding out what’s stopping startups from starting up gave us one solid conclusion:

There are a huge range of barriers that potential entrepreneurs are worried about hindering the start of their self-employed journey, but every entrepreneur has felt the same concerns at some point.

Find a way to combat your lack of confidence, get creative with cutting costs, and don’t worry too much about your skill gaps, and you’ll be in a better place than most when it comes to starting a business.

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Always on Culture: How Anxiety Affects the Workforce

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In today’s working culture, there is almost an expectation that we should always be ‘logged on’. However, this mindset is having a clear impact on the UK’s workforce – the leading cause of sick days is stress and anxiety. A new survey of 2000 workers across various industries by Aviva has delved into the topic of work-related anxiety, to get to the roots of the problem and see how it can be solved.

‘Always On’ Culture

The survey found that 72% of UK workers are checking their emails over the weekend. Looking at SMEs, 62% of SME employees spend between 31-59 minutes checking their work inbox at the weekend. This proves that there is a modern ‘always on’ culture, where employees are feeling like they must be available at every hour. 83% of SME employees are spending between 1-2 hours doing work at the weekend, whilst 93% spend between 3-5 hours thinking about work.

It’s clear from findings that 24/7 connectivity is impacting UK workers. This can put staff at risk of burnout from being constantly on call.

Effects of Workplace Anxiety

With so much time at the weekends spent either thinking about or doing work, the effects cannot be underestimated. The findings of the survey showed that workers are not getting the most out of their time off, with the top four effects being irritability, feelings of tiredness, depressive moods and a lack of sleep. 68% of SME workers said work anxiety was affecting their social lives, leaving them unable to meet up with friends and family.

How can we combat it?

47% of UK workers would like to see an email ban implemented at the weekend. Positively, 23% of SME workers said their organisation already had a weekend email ban or similar in place. A 4-day week is something that the Labour party is currently championing, and it’s clear that it is popular with workers too, with 40% of respondents stating that a shorter working week would be welcomed. Other wellbeing initiatives championed were later starts on a Monday and free gym memberships.

Aviva also worked with workplace wellbeing training providers, 4and20million, to share five actionable ways that employees can reduce work-based anxiety.

-Plan ahead – At the end of the day, write out your tasks for tomorrow. Use your calendar so that it is all accounted for, so you can see when it can be done.

-Biggest thing first – Make daunting tasks the first of the day, when your mind is fresh. The sense of achievement when you’ve finished will lighten the load for the rest of the day.

-Use your ‘out of office’ – Put your out of office alert on when you need uninterrupted time to complete tasks. This allows you to escape the call of your work inbox.

-Have a shutdown ritual – Tell your subconscious ‘work is done for the day’ and it’s ok to switch off.

-Utilise your brain – Ever wondered why you wake up with an ingenious idea or why your creativity sparks in the shower? It’s because downtime is vital for your brain to recharge. Make it an investment, not a luxury!

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As Mothercare announces it will close its 79 remaining stores – 61% of Brits fear the high street will disappear for good

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In the wake of the announcement that Mothercare will be closing its remaining 79 stores, with the loss of 2500 jobs, it’s no surprise that 61% of Brits are worried that the high street will disappear completely over the next ten years, according to research by KIS Finance.

From surveying 1,000 consumers in the UK, KIS unearthed some interesting findings including:

•61% of Brits are worried the high street will disappear completely in the next ten years due to the ever increasing number of big-name store closures.

•Fashion, food, beverage and value brands are predicted to be the biggest victims of the high street due to online competition.

•Convenience is key factor that affects our shopping habits – if local high streets had free parking and easy accessibility, consumers would be more likely to shop in-store.

•Northern cities and Scotland have been worst hit by store closures so far, but people anticipate many more to come.

Certainly here in the UK our love of online shopping appears to be one of the key factors affecting the future of the high street. 82% of us now shop on-line, up from just 53% 10 years ago. The UK is also the country with the highest percentage of ecommerce sales, with over 18% of all retail sales on-line. This compares to only 8.9% in the USA and 11.2% in Germany, where shoppers still seem to prefer the in-shop experience.

By partnering with James Child, Retail Analyst at EG, it is clear to see these changes are having an impact on stores. James says:

“Some of the country’s best-loved brands have been forced to consolidate space or shut entirely. Mothercare, Toys R Us, Maplin, Next, Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and Debenhams (amongst many others) have all fallen victim to the changing consumer trends that have churned the landscape of British high streets.

In the retail sector online spend is almost breaching 20%, with 1-in-every-5 pounds spent coming through internet sales, which has effected the true value of physical retail stores.

It is quite likely that there will be a continuation, if not an increase of the negative headlines in retail. The raft of CVA’s and administrations in the sector has culminated in an expected 1,600 store closures across the UK, with over 18 million square foot of prime retail real estate vacated.

Food and beverage, value and fashion brands will come under more strain as over stretched markets begin to weed out weaker offers as retai Darwinism bites.”

 

So what would bring people back to the high street?

When asked what would tempt them back to the great British high street, the top answers from Brits were:

•More staff to ensure that the experience is quicker (41%)

•Clearer stock check in store (34%)

•24-hour service so that you can shop at any time (27%)

•Self-checkout service to avoid queues (26%)

 

How will the high street look in ten years?

After asking consumers what they think the high street will look like in ten years, it seems that consumers are worried that independent stores won’t exist. The list below runs from most likely to least likely.

1.Restaurants
2.Coffee shops
3.Second-hand shops
4.Bars
5.Fast food restaurants
6.Retails chains e.g. department stores
7.Clubs
8.Cinemas
9.Banks
10.Travel agents
11.Independent retailers

 

Which parts of the UK have been hardest hit?

As part of its research, KIS mapped out which cities had been hit the hardest by the major store closures of the last year. This revealed northern cities such as Leeds and Glasgow had been hit far harder than their southern counterparts. The top cities impacted were:

1.Leeds
2.Glasgow
3.Aberdeen
4.Bradford
5.Cardiff
6.Doncaster
7.Leicester
8.Manchester

Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance says:

“With store closures flooding our newsfeeds recently, we were interested to find out what the future holds for the high street and how consumers’ shopping habits might affect retailers’ footfall. It is obvious from our research that people do still like going into store to shop, but it just isn’t as accessible as online shopping is.

To save the high street many retailers need to ensure that they are thinking innovatively about how to draw customers in with clearer in-store stock checks, more staff and extended hours during busy periods. The reason why so many retailers are struggling with their stores is because consumer shopping habits are changing and the high street needs to change with it, creating a more community led atmosphere with more accessibility and variety for everyone.”

After surveying Britain’s consumers and finding out what the high street could look like in the future, KIS Finance have collaborated with Sam Edwards, an illustrator from London, to visual these changes.

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Is a buyout part of your exit strategy?

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By Kevin Paget

Low interest rates and the strong availability of credit through equity and debt finance is fuelling the buyout market; allowing management teams to take up the challenge of acquiring and controlling a business. Despite this, some business owners pursuing a sale may not realise that a potential buyer could be close at hand.

When a shareholder is considering an exit, they sometimes think a trade sale is the only option and would be more likely to achieve the value they are seeking. They may not have considered selling to the management team because they believe the individuals involved lack the resources and/or capability to take on the running of the business and make a success of it.

At this early stage, depending on the vendor’s specific requirements, the adviser may suggest a management buyout and highlight some of the benefits that this particular exit route could bring. For example, not all vendors want to exit the business completely. They may simply be looking to ‘de-risk’ and take some money off the table, whilst staying involved in the running of the business for a few more years. By selling the business to the management team, they could achieve this, whilst also protecting the long-term interests of the business and its workforce.

There are many other reasons why a management buyout could provide the right exit option. For example, vendors may be cautious about sharing confidential financial and market information with a potential trade buyer, especially if a competitor, for fear of how they might use this data if the transaction didn’t complete. Also, if word gets out in the market that a business is being marketed for sale this could be unsettling for both employees and customers and could have an adverse effect on trading performance during the process.

By contrast, if the deal is well structured and the debt repayment plan is manageable, selling to the management team could represent a relatively low-risk option for all concerned. The strong availability of private equity money and competition between a variety of debt funders, including high street banks, challenger banks, asset-based lenders and alternative lenders, all looking for suitable buyouts to back, means that securing the required finance could be more straightforward than they might think. For lenders, the fact that the management team is usually required to invest a modest amount of their own cash, provides an extra layer of reassurance.

Once the vendor’s eyes have been opened to a potential management buyout, the adviser will typically front the negotiations between the vendor and the management team; presenting the case regarding valuation, deal structure and funding. The adviser’s involvement in the negotiations also helps to buffer and protect the working relationship between the parties. The adviser will also assist in the production of a robust business plan, supported by clear financial forecasts and assumptions, which will be used to inform the structure of the deal and secure the financial backing for the transaction.

Most vendors appreciate that there is no point in structuring a buyout on terms that are unsustainable. Detailed financial modelling is required to establish how much debt financing can be taken on, without financially crippling the company going forward. This also helps determine the structure of the transaction regarding the amount of money that can be paid to the vendor on completion and the amount which needs to be deferred. It is important to ensure that there is sufficient headroom in the business to allow for variables, such as the loss of a key customer or a shift in market conditions. Taking account of these factors, advisers are able to structure the right deal for those concerned.

Finally, the idea of selling the business to the management team can be an incredibly exciting time for the individuals affected, particularly those who will be taking a share in it going forward. However, the deal process can take time (typically six to 12 months) and it is important that both the vendor and the management team stay focused on running the business and delivering a high-quality service to customers during the process. By assuming responsibility for project managing the transaction, the adviser can help to protect the organisation through this period of change, by handling as much of the workload as possible.

When considering their exit options, vendors should not overlook a buyout. Depending on their personal goals, selling to the existing management team could deliver the right package in terms of value and security, whilst protecting their legacy for years to come.

Kevin Paget is a corporate finance director at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP.

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Cybersecurity: Experts tell us what we can we expect in 2020 and beyond

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Cybersecurity has remained a hot topic in 2019, and for good reason – there is a hacker attack, somewhere in the world, every 39 seconds. Closer to home, almost two-thirds (61%) of British firms have reported a cyber incident in 2019, according to research from insurer Hiscox. That was up from 45% the year before. Not only are businesses at risk of losing their own – or their customers’ – data, it’s costly to be hit by a hacker attack and the stakes are even higher now GDPR is in force. What’s even more alarming is the fact that most companies still aren’t prepared enough to deal with a cyber security breach, and even those that are must continue to invest in this area as the industry is ever-evolving, with cybercriminals becoming more and more sophisticated in their techniques. With all this said, it seems certain that security will become increasingly important as businesses look to 2020 and beyond – but what do the experts predict will happen? Here are some insights:

 

SMEs are particularly at risk

There is a misconception that small businesses are safe from the hackers because it’s not worth their time to go after SMEs when big, corporate companies have so much more valuable data. The reality is that 43% of cyber attacks happen to small businesses, and Steve Kingan, CEO at cybersecurity specialist Nexor, believes this figure will only continue to rise. He says: “There are multiple factors contributing to this, small businesses are less likely to have dedicated cybersecurity resources to protect their businesses and more likely to be reliant on outsourced suppliers and software for their IT needs, which introduces possible supply chain vulnerabilities as well as infrastructure configuration weaknesses. They are also less likely to have an adequate cybersecurity budget, resulting in weakened security coverage.”

Craig Barnett is the founder of Wisit, which helps firms protect their IT infrastructure by providing a fully managed IT service. He agrees that SMEs need to take the risks more seriously if they’re going to protect themselves properly, “if you are using the internet for business, then you are at risk from cyber fraud. This isn’t just a worry for big corporates. If you are an SMB or a freelancer working alone using Google Docs or a similar cloud-based system, then you too are at risk. The threat is real and constantly changing so that even the most ‘savvy’ amongst us can be tricked into giving out passwords or unwittingly giving access to finances, data, sensitive client information, or even your own payroll.

“The majority of small companies only invest in cybersecurity after the horse has bolted as we tend to live with the ‘it will never happen to us’ attitude and we turn a blind eye to something we simply don’t understand. We would all understand zero access to systems and a several million-pound ransom! The time to invest in cybersecurity is now.”

 

Investment in cybersecurity will rise…

Earlier this year, a report from Business in the Community (BITC) revealed that 30% of small businesses don’t have any cyber security strategies at all. Steve Hanna, co-chair of not-for-profit organisation Trusted Computing Group, reveals experts expect cybersecurity spending to increase around 9% every year for the indefinite future. He says: “Businesses are always improving their cyber defences, but the problem is hackers also constantly expand their arsenal for cyber attacks. This is a classic arms race and it moves quickly. Neither party can afford to rest on their laurels, or they will fall behind. One of the biggest problems for small businesses in particular is that they can’t afford to spend as much on cyber security as larger businesses. A way to ease this imbalance is to hire a managed security service provider who can supplement your in-house defence capabilities.”

James Hopper, chief operations officer at cybersecurity firm SRM, adds: “I do see companies investing more in their information security resources in the future in the form of regular penetration testing, forensics and business continuity work. And this is because, quite simply, the risks associated with not taking cyber security seriously are becoming greater all the time.”

 

…but businesses are still falling at the first hurdle

Darren Hockley, managing director of eLearning company DeltaNet International, says: “Whilst it’s true that some hacking practices are scarily complex, you may be surprised to learn that the number one cause of data breaches for businesses is still not very futuristic at all – it’s weak and stolen passwords. Think about this: a simplistic password, e.g. a memorable word or phrase, follows easily-identifiable sequences that hacking software (available for sale online to even the most unskilled cybercriminal) can crack in seconds. Compare this to a strong password; one that is at least eleven characters long and that contains upper and lower-case letters, as well as numbers and symbols, which would take the same software somewhere around 500 years to crack.”

Darren believes staff training could make all the difference when it comes stopping hackers in their tracks. He adds: “Without continuous awareness training to keep threats fresh in our mind, it’s all too easy to become complacent and fall into the criminals’ trap. This is particularly true at organisations that only offer training annually, or, worse, just once during induction.”

 

It’s hard to predict what’s next – even for the experts

James Hopper says it’s hard to know exactly what’s to come in 2020 and beyond. “Predicting the future of cybersecurity and, by association, the future of cyber threats, isn’t always easy. The information security landscape is changing constantly and we are faced with new challenges on a daily basis. One thing we do know is that the exposure to threats is increasing at a rapid rate. As we plug in more and more technology to the workplace, including the use of smart devices and IoT, the opportunities that present themselves to hackers are only set to increase over the next decade. Cyber security may seem like a distraction from day-to-day operations, but it’s become clear that we must now refer to attacks in terms of when and not if.”

That said, the general consensus is that phishing attacks are on the rise. Ben Griffin, director of IT recycling and data destruction firm Computer Disposals Ltd, states: “Going forward, phishing scams will remain one of the most prevalent types of cyber attack that businesses need to be aware of, as well as the risks associated with using mobile devices interchangeably across different networks for both business and personal use. Businesses must educate their personnel about the risks of these attacks in particular, and ensure that their network is closely monitored to prevent rogue devices leaving gaps in their overall security.”

Other experts believe the rise in artificial intelligence (AI) is a “double-edged” sword; on one hand it will help businesses to identify attacks quicker than ever before, but on the other it can be harnessed by the hackers to find commonplace vulnerabilities to exploit.

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Halloween Pumps £23 Million into UK Cosmetics Industry

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Growth of Halloween craze from US has caused spike in sales of make-up and beauty products.

The UK has fallen under Halloween’s spell, with its Halloween cosmetics market growing 36.5% between 2017-2018. Online beauty comparison site Cosmetify explored further and found that the season’s increased popularity has caused a spike in Halloween-related make-up and fancy-dress searches.

Sales of cosmetics at Halloween have exploded, increasing from £63m in 2017 to £86m* in 2018. This could be because consumers are more prepared to create realistic or extreme looks, with social media platforms Instagram and Facebook Live providing make-up tutorials. The rise of influencers and beauty bloggers giving make-up inspiration, as well as celebrities like Jonathan Ross having epic Halloween parties, makes Halloween one of the biggest events in the retail market.

Founder Matt Davies commented, “We see Cosmetify as a trail-blazer in the beauty industry and Halloween is one of the key trends that sees traffic to the site going through the roof! What used to be a holiday in the UK, that at most involved some face paint and fancy dress, has evolved into a huge spending opportunity for Brits.

“We have seen a significant number of searches for Halloween make-up looks and inspiration, as well as brands such as Urban Decay and MAC launching their own content or limited-edition Halloween products. What we offer that other online beauty sites don’t is all your Halloween make-up needs under one roof and at a great discounted price.”

The top five Halloween beauty products as featured by leading beauty influencers and bloggers @Mynudelips, @Sophiehannah, @Dom.skii and @Di_Melison:

1.Anastasia Beverly Hills – Subculture Palette Eye Shadow

2.Fudge – Paintbox Raspberry Beret 75ML

3.Urban Decay – All Nighter Setting Spray

4.Lipstick Queen – Black Lace Rabbit

5.Mac – Galactic Glitter

Online comparison site Cosmetify features over 210,000 products from over 1,600 of the world’s leading beauty brands and allows consumers to instantly find and compare the prices of all their favourite products under one roof. It is the perfect place to get all your fancy dress and Halloween make-up products, with an average cost savings of 34% off the RRP. A dedicated Halloween page contains tutorials on how to apply the spookiest and most devilish looks, as well as clear and transparent information on what the products contain, so you can ensure you always have your finger on the pulse. This one-stop shop caters to all your ghoulish beauty needs.

Partnered with 36 top retailers including Boots, Superdrug, The Perfume Shop, Feel Unique, Look Fantastic and John Lewis, Cosmetify aims to offer a larger catalogue of products than any other online beauty destination. Information on product availability and pricing is automatically updated and with so many partner retailers, it’s unlikely that anything will ever be out of stock for long. But should this happen, the site allows users to create an account where they can set up alerts and be notified as soon as their favourite products come back in.

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What Every Business Should Be Asking Before Swapping to LPG

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In the current economic climate, every business in the UK is feeling the same pressures regarding profit maximization. There exists a plethora of precise targets, ranging from increasing profits to reducing overheads and carbon emissions.

Enter your energy supplier. In the UK, an average small business (with 10-49 employees) spends a staggering £19k a year on gas and electricity – so securing the very best off-grid, commercial energy source and deal couldn’t be more vital to your bottom line.

For decades, oil has been considered the fuel of choice for off-grid businesses — catering to both commercial and domestic needs. However, price volatility over the years matched with rising environmental pressures mean the likes of LPG (liquified petroleum gas), LNG (liquified natural gas) and of course renewables are becoming increasingly more favourable options for the off-grid business community.

That said, it is hardly surprising. The likes of LPG provide a billion businesses and people across the globe with a versatile, reliable and secure supply – that’s both cleaner and more efficient than traditional fossil fuels. This means they benefit from swift cost savings and a lower carbon footprint to boot.

Thankfully, if you’re business or home is still relying on alternative energy methods, the process of transferring to LPG is simplistic. However, prior to doing so, asking the following questions will help ensure everything is implemented in the most efficient way possible, proving painless for everyone involved.

Here LPG suppliers, Flogas, offer some insight:

 

What actually is LPG?

It might seem pretty obvious, but if you got asked ‘what is LPG?’, would you be able to answer accurately? LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) is a blanket term for two types of natural gas: Propane (C3H8) and Butane (C4H10) – both of which are easily converted into a liquid by cooling or adding pressure.

LPG is a natural by-product of natural gas and oil extraction (66%) and the refining of oil (34%). It’s an exceptional and efficient source of energy, that would otherwise go to waste if not captured.

 

Is LPG reliable?

LPG exists as one of the most reliable sources of energy. With LPG, it’s like having a mains gas supply, off the grid. It has multiple, major sources making it a widely available, secure energy source that’s in global abundance.

There’s a strong network of depots and storage facilities across the UK, so you can always rely on a dependable supply. Also, tanks nowadays typically feature telemetry systems, allowing for remote monitoring and auto top-up, so you never run out.

 

On a scale of 1 to green, how environmentally friendly is LPG?

Cleaner than the most other fossil fuels, LPG is helping to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It emits 33% less CO2 than coal and 15% less than heating oil, with virtually no black carbon (a major contributor to climate change). What’s more, it doesn’t pose a risk to soil or groundwater and releases less nitrogen oxides (NOx) than most other fossil fuels.  The result for companies? A lower carbon footprint and a cleaner, more futureproof supply.

 

LPG: is it right for my business?

Thanks to its versatility, LPG can basically be used anywhere. In fact, it has more than 1,000 uses. Available in LPG tank form or in handy cylinders, it’s used across a vast array of commercial industries – from leisure, hospitality and agriculture through to the likes of industrial heating and manufacturing processes, including steam generation. Additionally, it can be used as efficient forklift truck fuel or to run greener vehicle fleets.  You can find an exhaustive list on the UKLPG website. 

 

Is it going to save my business money?

Despite the fact everyone will reap the rewards of switching to LPG, the savings are most notable for companies who use more energy. This is particularly true for those still relying on oil. LPG has a higher calorific value per tonne than oil, making it more energy efficient. It is also cleaner, so requires far less maintenance – meaning businesses can reduce costly downtime.

 

What about LNG?

Thanks to the fact liquefied natural gas (LNG) has been cooled to a very low temperature (-162ºC), it is extremely compact and light to store and transport. It’s a particularly popular option amongst more energy intensive off-grid companies (across all sectors), for example, those using a high amount of oil (kerosene, gas oil or HFO) to drive larger manufacturing or industrial processes.  It is also ideal for large logistics operations, such as road haulage and shipping, as well as for powering emergency backup generators at large usage sites.

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5 Reasons Why SME’s Should Provide Business Life Insurance

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Charlie Cousins, Director of Hooray Health & Protection talks to us about the Business Life Insurance market and why employers that aren’t providing it are missing out.

Let’s face it, announcing to your employees that you’re providing them with life insurance isn’t going to be greeted with cheers of excite with staff rushing to learn more…it’s just not that type of benefit.

However, it does have several benefits that most business owners don’t know about and can be invaluable, especially for the SME market.

Retain your top talent

When arranging new to market schemes, we’ve heard from small business owners specifically looking at employee benefits because their staff have been poached by large corporates. It’s clear the draw of a much-improved benefit package is key when staff are considering their next move. 

Depending on their age and medical history, it could save an employee £100’s each month by moving to a company providing Group Life insurance and cancelling their existing individual cover.

Help your staff qualify

Anyone who has taken out individual life insurance knows that you answer lots and lots of questions, disclose your medical history and then often see an eye watering sum.

Insurers require this on an individual basis, but with Group Life policies, medical history is only required for high earners (or those whose benefit extends beyond the free underwriting level). This means staff who may have been declined life insurance due to health conditions would be covered under a company policy with no health questionnaires required.

Tax perks

That’s right- you can do the right thing by your staff whilst benefiting from tax efficiency. Business Life Insurance premium payments are considered a business expense so you will be entitled to corporation tax relief. Additionally, Group Life insurance is not classed as a benefit in kind, so there is no tax contribution for the employee.

All Group Life schemes require a Trust being set up, from which any eligible claims are paid. Thankfully insurers will often provide a Registered Master Trust as part of their product offering, meaning no legal work for the employers. If a company sets a policy up as a registered scheme with payments into a discretionary trust, employees will have no inheritance tax charge either.

Keeping up with the competition

Currently the employee life insurance market insures over 9.5 million people for over a trillion pounds worth of benefit.

We have mentioned retaining your most prized asset but if you’re looking to attract the best talent, you want to ensure you’re keeping up with the market.

Provide support

Sadly, a recent study disclosed that 79% of employees felt their employer didn’t provide any bereavement support following a return to work after the death of a child.

We’ve found with the companies we’ve supported, during any bereavement, want to provide support to their staff but often have never been in the situation before, so don’t know what to do, who to turn to for advice.

Business Life Insurers provide bereavement support is included in the cost of the policy in the form of telephone and face to face counselling for employees and their families.

If you’re considering life insurance for your employees or think you’re paying too much for your current benefits, contact Charlie Cousins on 01273 222805 or visit www.hoorayinsurance.co.uk 

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Robot revolution: how is packaging needing to adapt for the droid generation?

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Companies need to do more to embrace rapidly-advancing technology and not be left behind by the “robot revolution”, according to a leading businessman.

Robert Lockyer, who owns luxury packaging provider Delta Global, said it was exciting to witness the worldwide race to develop robots which can deliver goods straight to consumers via our sidewalks. 

With the ability to cut delivery costs and carbon emissions in urban areas, this futuristic technology is set to become a staple in e-commerce delivery – completely overhauling the way we shop.

The packaging and retail industries need to work harder to find a place in this revolution, said Robert, CEO of Delta Global, which delivers luxury e-commerce packaging for top brands including Tom Ford, Coach and Neal’s Yard Remedies.

“This technology will change the face of retail deliveries and with the worldwide acceleration of online purchasing requiring speed and ease for customers we can’t afford to ignore it,” Robert said.

Here he takes a look at what the future has in store for his industry and the steps it needs to take to adapt….

 

What is the current situation?

In April this year, Washington became the eighth US state to approve the use of robot technology.

Testing their ‘Scout’ delivery device in Washington and California, e-tail leader Amazon has been experimenting with deliveries on the ground and the use of aerial drones for its Amazon Prime service.

More recently, China and Japan have revolutionised a robot’s ability to navigate stairs and elevators, testing a series of food delivery bots that carry packages to students in their dorms and office workers at their desks.

In the UK, Starship Technologies introduced a robot delivery scheme in Milton Keynes. Residents pay a monthly subscription, using an app to have their goods delivered to a central robot hub – and then on to the ‘last-mile’ distance to their home address.

Robert said: “More and more companies are beginning to invest in the technology as consumer convenience continues to be the one of the most important factors in online retail.

“Starship Technologies are already operating some of their robots between 8am-2am which gives them an advantage over traditional couriers – and it’s what people will come to expect.”

 

What are the benefits of this technology?

With 360 degree camera orientation, integrated GPS, ultrasound sensors and radars that help the bots avoid obstacles and to cross streets, the technology is highly sophisticated.

As retailers face an increased demand by shoppers for speedy and safe delivery methods, they need to develop a system to meet that demand but which is still profitable. An automated robot acts as a time-saver for both consumers and a courier service.

 “Sustainability is currently a central focus in the retail industry,” said Robert. “As these bots are electrically powered, embracing this technology could reduce carbon emissions, road congestion as well as unnecessary packaging in some cases.

“Their introduction could cut delivery costs in built-up areas and even generate more economic growth if people are to pay a premium for this service.”

 

What are the risks?

There are big questions over the reliability of robotic deliveries. As well as the problems that wheeled robots face in navigating sidewalks and drones have in performing in bad weather, there is the matter of the actual product they are delivering.

Potential technological failures could result in damaged or stolen items and even lead to accidents on our roads and pavements.

“Retailers and manufacturers will have to consider the risks of product breakages and damage which could lead to a higher rate of returns and refunds,” Robert said. 

“There’s also the question of security and whether you can get your money back if a droid doesn’t drop off your parcel.”

In e-commerce there is a need for packaging to deliver a personal and unique experience for every customer.

“Particularly in luxury, there is an expectation that your item will arrive in a high quality, interesting and artistic way,” he explained.

“In the age of Instagram and image-driven buyers, packaging is one of the best ways retailers can offer a personal touch or showcase the speciality of their product.

“Droid delivery, especially in smaller communities like offices and universities, should still be able to provide this experience and ensure the ‘brand’ is still present when the lid of the bot is opened.”

 

So how to we adapt?

The packaging and retail industries need to find their place in this robotic revolution, said Robert.

“Retailers are beginning to see the benefits of this technology to enhance their warehouse automation and efficiency. Robots can transport items from the point of picking to the packing stages and can speed up vehicle loading time – there are little external risks with this.”

He added that in this age of eco-friendly buyers, retailers should also consider that if droids can deliver then they can collect.

“Brands and robot developers should look at how this might help in the recycling of goods and how to incentivise customers to swap old for new in an easy ‘pick out’, ‘put in’ system.

 “In the food industry, robots are great for removing unnecessary grocery packaging whereas in luxury retail, packaging acts as an important asset to brand advertisement.”

Retailers also need to ensure the packaging it uses is right for the device carrying it. For example, if drones become a working delivery service, packaging will need to be lighter in weight but also have more protection in case of falls from heights.

“We will need to consistently research materials and adapt the ‘reusability’ elements of packaging for the delivery technology which will be inevitable in future,” said Robert.

And he concluded: “It is important to recognise that these technologies are a welcome new addition to our everyday processes and are here to help us optimise our workflows and enhance our lifestyles. “We at Delta Global will embrace the era of robots and look forward to seeing how it will transform our industry.”

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The Southern Enterprise Awards 2019 Press Release

SME News Announces the Winners of the 2019 Southern Enterprise Awards

United Kingdom, 2019 – SME News Magazine have announced the winners of the 2019 Southern Enterprise Awards.

With the number of businesses per person being higher in Southern England than anywhere else in the UK there is a wealth of award-worthy candidates. Strong in retail and wholesale markets, we seek out the SMEs with a committed staff who are constantly building strong relationships, showing true dedication and great customer care.

The UK Southern Business Awards shines a light on the very best small and medium enterprises, without overlooking the hard-working individuals who drive them and the businesses which provide the necessary support to see their success come to fruition from across a diverse range of sectors.

Award Coordinator explored the success of this year’s programme: “Congratulations to all of my winners from across the South of the UK, it has been a privilege to showcase your talent and hard work. I hope to hear more about your endeavours in the future!”  

SME News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the SME News website (http://sme-news.co.uk) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About SME News

SME News draws on our UK wide network of industry insiders to provide you with the latest news, cutting edge features and latest deals from across the UK SME landscape.

Alongside our quarterly publication we also offer an easy to use website, newsletter and a series of awards programmes, making SME News much more than just a magazine, but instead a vital resource.

Bought to you by AI Global Media, the international provider of corporate news and information, this unique magazine is the perfect resource for the CEOs, leaders and decision makers in the UK based SMEs looking to keep their finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the competition.

What is Asset Finance and How Could it Benefit Your Business?

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There are a lot of things you need to get a business off the ground. You need an idea, a business plan and possibly employees to help put the business plan into action. One of the most crucial things you need, though, is access to enough financial support and the appropriate lender. If you have had trouble securing a loan from the bank, you’re not alone. It is becoming harder to obtain a traditional form of funding as many banking institutes seem reluctant to offer affordable loans to small businesses.

All is not lost, though, as it might be time to consider asset financing to get what your business needs.

What is Asset Finance?

Asset finance is a kind of lending that allows you to generate funds either to replace equipment that has seen better days or buy new equipment without it pushing your budget too much. You can use asset financing to fund the purchase or leasing of assets your business needs to grow. The type of assets this can cover will depend on the type of business you have.

What Asset Finance Options Are Available?

There are many different forms of asset financing available, however there are two main types. These are – equipment finance to help you acquire additional necessary assets and loans against equipment/assets you already have.

Let’s look at three specific asset financing options in greater detail.

Equipment Leasing

This form of asset financing involves the establishment of an agreement for leasing whereby you just rent items and equipment you require, but will never own them, even at the end of the leasing period.

With leasing asset agreements, the lender will buy the assets you need and then rent them out to you at a monthly premium. Therefore, you get use of the assets your business needs, without needing to dip into your capital.

Asset Refinancing

Asset refinancing agreements involve businesses who have equipment they’ve already invested in but need some of the capital that’s connected to that equipment. In this instance, the financer will purchase your assets/equipment and leave them to you for an agreed time period.

Hire Purchase

Hire purchase contracts are one of the most common and popular form of asset finance agreements. They give you direct access to the assets you need. After making a set number of payments, you will own the asset. These have terms of 1 to 6 years. You will be required to pay a deposit and then regular monthly payments.

Why Choose Asset Finance?

While physical assets may be crucial to the success of your business, they are also often incredibly expensive. It can help avoid dipping into your capital and leaving you with cash flow issues. Asset finance can also be an effective way to get things moving for your business, by giving you access to additional equipment that can increase your productivity.

Asset finance may not suit everyone, but if you need access to funds to buy new equipment or for any other reason, it can be a very beneficial option. Always read through everything thoroughly, though, and make sure you are not paying for anything you don’t want or need.

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SMEs underserved and overcharged: A history of neglect

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By Pierre-Antoine Dusoulier, CEO and Founder, iBanFirst

SMEs are the backbone of the British economy, representing one fifth of global banking revenues and a turnover of £1.8 trillion every year in the UK. Not only are they a major economic driving force, but they also play a large role in job creation helping to support livelihoods and provision for job security.

SMEs are increasingly doing business abroad with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reporting that the number of SME companies exporting increased by 6.6% to 232,000 (9.8% of all SMEs), whilst the number of large businesses who export increased by 6.1% to 3,500 (41.7% of all large businesses). International business requires international currency payments. However, there are multiple costs associated with such payments, with a disproportionate number of SMEs being affected.

Despite the obvious benefits SMEs contribute to the UK economy, historically they have been underserved and overcharged especially in relation to foreign exchange payments. New research by the European Central Bank found that traditional financial service providers, across Europe, earn hundreds of millions of euros a year by overcharging on foreign exchange services to small corporate customers.

As a result, it has been estimated that SMEs are wasting over £10 billion a year. Therefore, it is imperative that small businesses have a better approach to managing their currency risk and protecting themselves from market volatility.

The ability to make and receive fast and reliable foreign currency exchange payments is increasingly crucial to more and more businesses. Even the smallest companies need foreign currency payments to expand into new markets and forge relationships with customers, partners and suppliers all over the world.

So, what are the obstacles SMEs need to overcome when making foreign exchange payments and how can they be solved?

A substantial obstacle facing SMEs are bank levy fees. The costs for exchange rates offered to bigger businesses are often incomparable to those offered to smaller organisations. SMEs are often unaware of how much they are being charged for foreign currency payments due to hidden costs being absorbed into the exchange rate.

Studies suggest £4 billion is handed over to major banks by UK SMEs, in order to purchase goods and services abroad, with additional research showing a total spread of up to 3.71% being charged, including fixed fees.

Currency hedging is another issue that organisations, big or small, have to face. Engaging in transactions in foreign currencies exposes businesses to currency risk, which can subsequently have an impact on commercial margins. To compound this further, Brexit has the ability to cause sharp devaluations and impact on company’s finances, in isolation from the decisions of individual companies. At the same time, many small businesses have also experienced double-digit losses due to the reluctance from banks to provide currency hedging options in the aftermath of the pound sterling’s decline.

For SMEs to thrive in an international environment, it is imperative that they have the same standard of service as a multinational. Speed and agility are critical for SMEs to operate internationally with greater dynamism. Technologies which enable a rapid online onboarding process result in reductions in waiting times, and real-time currency fluctuation monitoring help SMEs to achieve the most economical option at the time of payment.

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Growth in UK SMEs Borrowing Slowed in August

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SMEs represent 99% of all businesses operating in the UK and their financial health determines the growth and sustainability of the nation.  Given the endless political and economic uncertainty it is hardly surprising that SMEs are exercising caution.  Against a backdrop of trade war and the slowing of the global economy, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU couldn’t have come at a more challenging time.

Despite the gloom and the UKs weak economic growth, the latest GDP snapshot from the Office for National Statistics has encouraged economists to suggest that the UK should be able to avoid slipping into recession this Autumn.  According to figures from the Bank of England, alongside a reduction in SME borrowing, consumer credit dropped to 900 million whilst borrowing for larger businesses grew by 4.4%.  Michael Biemann, chief executive at the digital finance property lender, Selina Finance has said: ‘The same old narrative is playing out. Big business borrowing rates are up while those of the SMEs are down.  In the current climate, high street banks are gravitating to blue chip businesses, which they see as less of a risk.  It’s no wonder that a growing percentage of SMEs, believing they are likely to be knocked back, are turning to alternative sources of finance’.

One of those additional sources of finance is the use of credit cards.  Credit cards are attractive to SME owners because they provide additional working capital at no additional interest, provided of course that payment deadlines are met on time.  And there lies the rub, credit cards which are not properly managed haemorrhage debt and are catastrophically costly.  Any credit card which you allow to carry a balance will result in punitive interest charges, but interest charges are not the only pitfall.  You also need to watch out for balance transfer fees, annual fees, cash advance fees, over the limit fees, foreign transaction fees, late payment fees and returned payment fees.  There is also an argument that the mere possession of a credit card encourages overspending.  Despite these potential problems, credit cards which are properly managed are an undeniable asset to the financial management of an SME.  Many SMEs use credit cards to provide employees with access to credit for official expenses.  This is often a convenient way to minimise the need for cash transactions and it does not impinge on in house resources, however there is a need for clear procedures to be put in place.

– Employees must be made aware that they are financially responsible for any costs resulting from the inappropriate use of the card.

– The employee must understand who is responsible for making the payments and who is financially responsible in the event of late payments.

– The authorisation process must never cause delays resulting in late payments.

Credit cards can be an extremely useful tool for dealing with the expenses of individual employees, but it is important to shop around for the most appropriate credit card for your business before investing in one.

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Launch of 100% plastic-free recyclable coffee cup is a UK-first from coffee company Rijo42

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A Manchester-based commercial coffee machine retailer is the first UK coffee brand to develop and launch a disposable coffee cup which can be recycled in conventional mixed-paper recycling bins, as well as composted alongside food waste.

The company, rijo42, are aiming to lead the way in making the £10.1 billion UK coffee shop sector more sustainable.

In the UK alone, we now drink over 95 million cups of coffee a day. As a result, we’re throwing away a staggering 2.5 billion coffee cups each year, with fewer than 1 in every 400 being recycled. That’s hundreds of thousands of coffee cups ending up in landfill each year, contributing to the millions of tonnes of waste we produce as a country.

The problem up until now has been that coffee cups have had to have a plastic liner to stop them disintegrating when hot liquid is added. This means that they can only be processed by a few specialist plants and suitable recycling points are limited, so that most plastic-lined cartons and cups are thrown away in regular bins and make their way to landfill sites.

The new eco-cups look and perform exactly like their traditional plastic-lined rivals but use a water-based barrier coating solution instead. That means they can be recycled in conventional and widely-available mixed-paper recycling bins, just like a newspaper, instead of requiring specialist recycling facilities.

A growing number of retailers and offices in the UK have switched to compostable cups in an attempt to tackle the problem, but this isn’t an ideal solution. These cups still have to be disposed of in dedicated food waste bins which aren’t always readily available. Trewin Restorick, founder and CEO of environmental charity Hubbub UK, says:

“Compostable sounds better, but it can actually make things worse if the cups are put in the wrong bin.”

Compostable cups that end up in non-food waste recycling bins can break down, contaminating the rest of the recyclable waste and causing the whole batch to be rejected and sent to landfill. With growing concerns over the viability of landfill in the long term, this is a nationwide eco-concern.

rijo42 decided to go down a different path, developing and producing plastic-free cups that are completely recyclable. They’re also compostable as per EU Standard EN13432. They will be available to all rijo42 customers, making it easier than ever for thousands of offices, cafes, restaurants, and bars across the UK to minimise the waste that’s caused by hard-to-recycle single-use coffee cups containing plastic.

The cups are manufactured in the UK, cutting down on emissions caused by freight, and the material used in their construction is sourced from sustainably managed forestry with FSC or PEFC accreditations. This gives it an incredibly small eco-footprint.

Sean Griffin, director at rijo42, says:

“We’re absolutely delighted to launch our eco-friendly, 100% plastic-free coffee cups to our customers and take another step on our no plastic journey. This is exactly what’s needed to push back on the unsustainability of other single-use cup designs, and we’re proud to be leading the way in the UK in this area.”

rijo42 are working towards being as environmentally friendly as possible, pursuing a plastic-free manufacturing process, energy-efficient coffee machine designs, and triple-certified ethical coffee.

Further information

-100% plastic-free coating (EU Single-Use Plastic Directive)
-100% PLA free
-Does not create micro-plastics
-Suitable for direct food contact (EU Reg. 1935/2004)
-Recyclable and compatible with current UK wastepaper stream
-FSC approved Virgin Fibre baseboard helps support a circular economy
-Industrially compostable (EN 13432)
-Allergen free (EU 1169/2011 and EU 78/2014)
-Suitable for traditional and digital printing and branding
-REACH compliant

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Quarter of SME retailers missing the bill on consumer finance boom

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A quarter of UK retailers are not capitalising on the rise in consumers spending on finance, according to new research.

The study, conducted by innovative finance solutions provider, Duologi, found that consumer finance is on the rise, with 16% of consumers now purchasing on finance, rather than credit cards and bank loans, compared to just 6% in 2017.

Moreover, 83% of consumers said they would consider using point-of-sale (POS) finance in the future, compared to 78% in 2017.

With 168,490 registered SME retailers in the UK, it means that approximately 42,000 businesses are not offering POS finance, and therefore missing out on this growing opportunity.

The report, Finance: an SME issue, surveyed 500 SMEs across a range of retail sectors about their concerns for the future and their knowledge and understanding of point-of-sale (POS) finance.

For the SME retailers that do offer finance as part of their business model, there is a certain degree of awareness around the business benefits it can bring. However, there is also a clear push from consumers. More than a quarter (27%) of retailers said that their customers simply expect finance in the current climate, with another 28% saying that customers were directly asking them to provide it.

Michael Bevan, CEO of Duologi, said: “Clearly consumer demand for finance is increasing and they are now more willing to borrow funds than ever before. As such, there is a huge opportunity for SME retailers to offer a helping hand, as well as boost sales and their own bottom line.

“However, there are still a lot of retailers that aren’t capitalising on this growing market, despite fierce competition and pressure to keep pace with the demands of this ever-changing industry.

“If retailers are to thrive in the future it’s important that they are empowered with the knowledge and tools needed to excel. Fortunately, there are now a range of POS finance options available that are quick and easy to implement and can make paying by finance as easy as paying with a card.”

For the full report visit: https://www.duologi.com/download-sme

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Put the Phone Down and Avoid the Points

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With laws in the UK becoming even more stringent in regard to using your mobile phone behind the wheel, understanding the legalities is crucial. In this article, along with Lookers, who stock the New Ford Transit, we take a look at how you can use your tech without breaching the law.

As the automotive industry continues to inject significant amounts of investment into car safety features, the driving experience is becoming considerably less influenced by the driver. Experts predict that although driverless vehicles are still decades away, their impact will be gradually felt over the coming years.

From basic features such as adaptive cruise control, which comes as standard on most vehicles, to lane keeping assistance and traffic jam assistance, new vehicles, in 2019, are awash with technology.

That being said, regardless of the host of technologies present in vehicles of the future, until we reach the stage at which vehicles are fully autonomous, human error will continue to play a major role in road safety.

Despite statistics of road crashes related to mobile phone use in the UK being unavailable, the figures worldwide are seriously concerning. In the US, 1.6 million crashes each year are linked to the use of a mobile phone. In Australia, nine per cent of all road traffic collisions are linked to drivers being distracted, some of which using their mobile. Meanwhile, in Ireland reports suggest that calling and texting causes accidents than drink driving.

There is no denying that we are an incredibly connected nation. The Telegraph, in 2018, reported that more than 78 per cent of Britons have a smartphone, up 61 per cent from a decade previous, and they are now so emotionally involved in said devices, they check them every 12 minutes.

With these figures in mind, the statistics from this survey from motoring association, RAC, should come as no surprise:

-16 per cent of drivers have admitted to positing on social media whilst driving

-14 per cent of drivers have admitted to taking a photo whilst driving

-25 per cent of drivers have admitted to making a phone call behind whilst driving

-19 per cent of drivers have admitted to checking texts, emails, or their social media whilst driving

 

What does the law say?

Back in 2003, the UK introduced mobile phone driving laws for the first time. From 2007 onwards, the penalty for being caught on your phone was a £100 fine and three penalty points, which was deemed suffice in deterring drivers from committing the crime.

Unfortunately, this proved ineffective and the number of offenders gradually increased. In 2017, the penalty was doubled — to six penalty points and a £200 fine. For a driver who has passed their test within the past two years, picking up six points on their license results in an automatic driving ban.

The government have made it clear that using your phone while driving is prohibited at all times and the device may only be used when the car is parked in a safe, stationery position. The only time you may use your phone while driving, is if you need to make an emergency call to 999 or 112 and it is impossible or unsafe to stop.

One event which many drivers may be fully unaware of in regard to legality, is using their mobile phone as a method of payment at a drive thru. As the vehicle has not been parked in safe, stationery position with the engine turned off, it is actually against the law to use the likes of Apple Pay or Google Pay on this occasion.

 

Hands-free

Devices that work in cooperation with your mobile phone have been available on the market for years however, the laws surrounding them have all been pretty vague. Let us clear some things up.

You are allowed to use your phone when driving if it is connected to a hands-free device and it requires no physical interaction. That’s the easy bit dealt with. However, what does a hands-free kit mean?

Any of the following can be considered hands-free:

-A built-in sat-nav device

-Voice controlled device

-A Bluetooth headset device

-Air vent/dashboard/windscreen mount

If at any stage police have reason to believe that you have been interacting with your mobile phone, regardless of whether or not it is mounted, they do have the right to stop you.

 

What do we recommend?

We always get tempted to use our mobile phone when we shouldn’t, whether its to reply to a group chat message, check the latest offers online, or to keep up to date with the football scores. However, taking the risk really isn’t worth it.

There are a host of apps available on both the App Store and Google Play Store that can help you break the habit of temptation.

AT&T Driving is one example of an app which sends autoreplies to any texts or calls which you receive while driving. The cleverly developed app automatically starts when you set off and responds to those who have contacted you, letting them know that you are driving, but you will call them back once you’ve stopped.

For concerned parents, Lifesaver is an app which allows you to lock your child’s phone when you know they are driving the car. From the second they move off, their phone will lock, and will not be usable again until they arrive at their destination.

The next time you are going to reach for your phone when you’re behind the wheel take into consideration that you are 23 times more likely to end up in an accident if you text while you are driving. You’re are considerably less aware of what is going on around you, your reaction times will be slower, and you will be unable to maintain a stable road position.

Put your Spotify playlist on shuffle, your phone on mute, and keep your eyes on the road!

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