Choosing a mentor

Mentors are important in business, but they’re difficult to find. This guide will help point you in the direction of some helpful resources.

Your existing network

Friends and Family are one possible resource, but if there is anyone in your social circle that can help be aware that there are potential personal hazards; most people are different when your in ‘work mode’, and that difference can be quite jarring.

Former colleagues, particularity former employers, are a more likely resource for finding mentors within your own network. Finally, networking events on sites like Meetup can be great ways to conect and form relationships with other business owners.

Matching Agencies

Mentor matching agencies are like dating agencies for Entrepreneurs. They generally charge a flat fee to find you a mentor and then act to support that relationship. One plus to this is that they can find new mentors as you grow – you’ll need different advice when you’re a 50 person company than you will when it’s just you and the dog.

Local councils and development agencies

Many regions have a specific local business development fund set up, and part of the use of this fund is to provide advice and mentorship to new businesses in the region. Contact your local council office and see what programmes they have available to support new local businesses.

Your business exit options

There are a a verity of options for the business owner looking for an exit – From simply closing the firm to floating the business to a trade sale to simply giving the keys to someone else. There are different tax considerations, as well as time constrictions, and some options require specific skills to complete. This guide is focused on;

Trade sale

Succession

Market Floatation

Closing the business

Trade Sale

This can involve selling to a third party, or to the current employees and/or management.

Any good buyer will want to see the growth potential of the business, through cashflow, sales figures and a solid customer base. Intellection property is another attractive asset for buyers, and many business purchases particularity in the tech sector have been made to aquire a new IP.  There are websites, marketplaces and publications that specialize in trading businesses.

Prepare documents that prove the strength of a company

Contact Advisors

Do your full due diligence into potential buyers!

Succession

Succession often means a family member, such as a son or daughter, taking over the ‘family business’, but it can often also mean a senior manager or board member stepping into your shoes. Succession means lots of preplanning – your successor needs to be ready to take on the role obviously, but clients also need to be prepared to deal with a new company head. There may also be tax considerations to discuss with your accountants.

Float on the Market

A floatation means a lot of late nights and hard work, and doesn’t necessarily mean you exit – to your potential stock holders, your continued involvement may be part of the process. Think of it as less of an ‘exit’ and more of a ‘change in definition’ of your role. A strong team is required for a business to float, and your staff need to be prepared for a sizeable change in the way business is done in the long term. Your not the big boss anymore!

Close the business

There’s no rule that says a business has to run forever. If it’s a business set to fulfill a personal passion, one that’s made you a nice living but has limited growth potential, it might be that no-one else wants it. Get advice from your accountant on how to exit and any tax considerations.

5 tips for bootstrapping your PR

At its core, PR is about making people aware of your business, so when they have the need for your product they turn to you. 

However, PR agencies are expensive, and with no experience of PR, how can you compete? Here are our top 5 tips for doing your own PR.

Target and Personalize

If your syndicating one press release to every journalist in the world, congratulations – You’ve just added to the noise that floods every journalists inbox. Know your subject – what do they write about? What are their passions? What will they be excited to write about, and can you tie that back into your product?

Be social and follow

Journalism is changing – Social media is becoming a big part of their dialogue with their audience. Take time to grow and audience of your own – Journalists deal with an army of PRs every day, but a recommendation from Joe Public will stand out.

Make fun videos

People share because something’s entertaining, informative, or both. Put out some videos, and when one takes off, you know you’ve got a winner. That’s the one you want to push out to journalists

Silence is not a rejection

Every good PR has either a thick skin or a drinking problem. Journalists are busy people and a lot of people are trying to get their attention. Don’t try, fail and give up. Try, refine, try again. A Journalist gets hundreds of emails a day, if you fail to capture their attention they won’t even remember you come tomorrow.

Protecting your business from social media threats

There are many opportunities afforded to SME’s from the rise of social media. However, social doesn’t just afford businesses the opportunity to rapidly communicate with customers and suppliers – it can also quickly pass on threats. Spammers, hackers and distributers of malware will be eager to parasite onto your social channels, leveraging the trust you have built with your audience to encourage them to download viruses or to part with credit card numbers and other sensitive information.

There are six simple steps you can take to help you secure your channels – and your reputation

1. Train your employees to recognize scams

No amount of security will protect against a door that’s left open, and the same goes online. Ensure staff are kept up-to-date with common scams on the internet – many of them seem obvious to avoid, but it only takes one mistake.  http://www.prosecure.netgear.com/resources/threat-monitor.php is a good resource

2. Update your software

That little dialogue box advising that Windows needs to reset to install updates always seems to appear at the worst possible times – however, it’s important that updates are installed. This is especially important for some older third party technologies such as Java and Flash – these updates can be easily ignored for years, leaving the machine wide open to entry using common, well known security holes. Anyone who can use Google can quickly discover how to exploit those holes.

4. Antivirus

SME’s tend to be terrible at this – The time and financial cost of keeping an Antivirus suite up to date pales in comparison to the time and cost of cleaning up a mess when (and it will happen) someone encounters a virus.

5. That means Macs too.

On the whole, the Apple ecosystem is less susceptible to malware than Windows – the lower market share, particularly in business, means that Apple hardware is a much less attractive target. That said, Apple rather stupidly ran an ad campaign a few years ago proclaiming that Macs don’t get viruses, and it hasn’t passed many would-be hackers attention that there are many open systems out there as a result. Don’t get caught out.

6. Block dangerous sites

Ensure your network blocks access to known ‘problem’ areas of the internet. Piracy sites are common sources of malware – you may be ok with your staff having the sport on while they work, but that illegal streaming site they’re trying to use will be leaving your site wide open to problems.

Guest Post; 5 tops for writing a winning business plan

Business plans help set and hold you to goal, Getting the forumla right is vital. Here are my top tips

1. Honesty is the best policy.

Your business plan will be seen by investors and potential business partners and as such, it’s tempting to, erm, ‘embellish’ certain parts of it. The old adage about writing checks your ass can’t cash remains true – the grilling you’ll get during the investment stage is nothing compared to what you’ll get when your numbers don’t work out.

Rejection isn’t a bad thing – it’s an opportunity to improve.

Show off everyone in your company.

Ultimately, a company is people, and investors want to know that you’ve got all the skills you needed to make a company work. That doesn’t just mean the hotshot programmer, the amazing chef or the grizzled experienced senior management you’re hiring – that means accountants, lawyers, mentors, customer service et all. Recruitment plans are also important – Skill weaknesses are fine so long as you show that you know they’re there and you have a plan to combat them.

Have a strong executive summary

This is the entire business plan, summed up. It’s got to get the investor excited – without it, they won’t bother reading the rest. And it’s got to speak to the investor – convince them that, yes, there is money to be made here.

Know your market

It’s essential that you know your marketplace and who your competitors are. No consumers mean no product, and you need to know exactly who you want to be buying from you, and who they’re buying off at the moment.

How are you going to market

They’ve got to know you exist before they can buy from you. How are you going to do that? TV? Magazines? Search Marketing? Banner Adds? Industry conventions? Research – what are the numbers like?

Making the most out of your wifi

Everyone is now familiar with ‘wifi’ – most have used it to get online in a cafe or hotel and the majority of home internet connections come with it as well. Its unsurprising, then, that the technology has found it’s way into the office as well, but the results are less than ideal.

The Usual problems are trouble connecting to Wifi, and poor performance once that connections been established – Slow browsing, trouble accessing large files on the network and failed emails are common experiences. The common causes – Coverage and congestion.

Coverage is the easy one to fix – Move closer to the router. Additional access points can be installed, and ethernet over power adaptors are another common option for improving Wifi.

Congestion is the bigger challenge. Inner city workers will be in range of numerous wifi points, and many of them use the same frequencies. Think interference on a pre-digital TV; sometimes the data gets through, other times your WIFI adaptors receiving a signal off a competing network.

Returning to physical network cabling is the best solution in these situation. Ethernet over power convertors are a common option, and many offices are still have much of their wiring dating back to the days before Wifi. Be aware of the limits of wifi – if your going to be away from your desks, large files before you go and don’t rely on a solid signal.

No degree? No problem.

Fraser Doherty

Scottish Jam Maker did have one stroke of luck – he inherited his Grandmothers’ top secret recipe. At 14, he went through experiment after experiment to improve the formula and ultimately created Superjam. Rather than pumping the fruit full of sugar, Superjam is sweetened using grape juice, creating a healthy sugar free recipe. Award after award followed, and Doherty was recently named in the Top 10 ‘Times Young Power List’.

Tom Mursell

Tom didn’t believe higher education was the only path to success – and he created a website to prove it.  notgoingtouni.co.uk became the UK’s biggest non-graduate careers website, helping people without a degree to find opportunities and creating a frenzy in the careers industry along with it.

Deborah Meaden

Deborah’s  career didn’t get off to the best of starts – she ended up walking away from her glass and ceramics company when things didn’t go to plan. Perseverance is often a key part of success, however, and when she moved to Weststar Holidays she transformed the company. A 2005 sale brought £33m, but showing her keen instincts she retained a stake in the company. 2 years later, the company ballooned to £83m, bringing Deborah a small fortune along with it.

Sir Richard Branson

A legent and a true inspiration to university shunners everywhere, Branson was a school dropout who decided to start a youth culture magazine. That lead to the creation of a record label named ‘Virgin’, who secured the Rolling Stones and Genesis. Reinvestment lead to the now massive Virgin Group, including over 200 companies spread across 30 countries.

 

Friday Infographic

Every week, it is estimated that as many as 9000 businesses are started in the UK, and there are any number of reasons why someone would want to take on the stresses and chase the rewards of being an entrepreneur The poor economy means many simply need a more reliable way to earn money than relying on a third party. Others have that great idea that will keep them awake at night unless they’ve made sure the world hears it. And some just don’t deal well with being told what to do. Why start a business? This infographic from Smarta Looks at the biggest reasons.

Please include attribution to Smarta.com with this graphic.

Why start a business infographic

Interestingly, while money is a strong motivator, the desire for independence from the boss is a greater one. Lesson there for managers everywhere. Lack of funding is the biggest hurdle for many enterprenuers. Only 50% of people jump into business with both feet – 26% keep a full time job and 24% keep a part time job. Finding leads and customers is the biggest worry of most enterprenuers – no surprise there, since a failure there will sink any business.

Get on top of your supply chain to manage your cashflow

If there’s one thing a business can’t survive without, it’s cold, hard cash, and to many financial analysis’s cash-flow is the biggest indicator of a business’ health and viability.

 

Unfortunately, many startups don’t manage their cash-flow properly, and as a result 44% of new business’ find themselves close to closure by year 3. The first lesson; if your business is hemorrhaging cash, chucking more cash at it isn’t going to fix the situation – it’s just going to make a bigger mess. The trick is to figure out where in your supply chain the wound is and to close it. Follow your goods The faster you get your product or service to your consumer, the quicker your consumer will put cash in your hands. You need to look at the entire process, from the second you get the sale through to the moment the invoice is sent out. It’s important that a SME owner knows how much is being sold at any given minute. And yesterday.

 

And how much is going to go out today, and this week. Every item that’s on the shelf is money sitting there unused, and turning that product into sales is what will get your business growing. The more accurate your sales predictions, the better you can minimise waste resource. Once your predictive modeling is sorted and your resource pipeline is as close to accurate as possible, your next focus is meeting the sales demand. What happens when a customer makes an order?

 

If it is a long, manual process that delays customer receipt, how can you streamline? Technology? Training? Or, most often a combination of the two? This also includes the delivery. For physical goods, the cheapest form of transport is the slowest, in many instances meaning the cost of the delay is greater than the pennies saved. Remember, there’s more to a successful business than the pure profit margin.