Browsing "Business Guides"

Boosting Your SME’s Confidence Factor

Feb 19, 2015   //   by James Helliwell   //   Business Guides  //  1 Comment

Boosting Your SME's Confidence Factor


Let’s face it, the past few years haven’t been easy for most people financially. It seems that the economic downturn, dubbed “the Credit Crunch” by the media, is still having a tangible effect on many of us today. This can be seen in a variety of areas, not least of which is in the seemingly unstoppable rise of the discount supermarkets. People are looking to get value for money, and to avoid – wherever possible – any unnecessary financial outlay.

Businesses are of course looking to get the best deal too. Cutting the financial outflow wherever possible, and ensuring that the products and services they purchase are doing their bit for return on investment.

But aside from the economic backdrop, how are the UK’s small businesses feeling these days? Towards the end of 2014, the Federation of Small Business (FSB) reported record confidence among small businesses. However, they also state in the report that this confidence is dependent on “pro-enterprise policies that will enable small businesses to grow, create jobs and pay their staff more”. So there is definitely a symbiotic relationship between government and independent business.

Regardless of the result of the general election, it’s definitely worth exploring ways to keep confidence within your SME as buoyant as it can be. So without further ado – here are our tips for SME Confidence:

The happy staff factor

The happy staff factor

Fighting inaccuracy with happiness may seem counterintuitive – after all, how often do we give ourselves a metaphorical slap on the wrist when we get something wrong? But results appear to bear out the theory that working on staff happiness rather than reprimanding for inaccuracy may be the way forward: a whopping 60% accuracy improvement was recorded by one firm who got staff to keep a ‘happiness journal’.

Boosting morale

Boosting morale

Morale is one of those difficult words if you’re in charge of a business or its HR function. For one thing, it’s always going to be largely unquantifiable. And, of course, if you were to go around asking staff how morale is, they would in many cases be apt to massage the truth rather than tell it like it is – for fear of ruffling feathers or saying the wrong thing.

Getting morale levels to where they can and should be (in other words, a good place) is usually not rocket science in terms of complexity, but can involve a bit of effort. In a recent article on workforce productivity published in Fresh Business Thinking, Dr Mark Winwood (Director of psychological health for AXA PPP healthcare) says that morale can be boosted by the following key behaviours:

  • Recognising good work and expressing thanks for it
  • Allowing staff to feel part of things and have a sense of ‘ownership’ by informing them of the company’s plans by sharing as much as possible with them
  • Asking for, listening to, and acting on employee feedback

Promoting wellbeing

Oftentimes, it doesn’t take a lot of training or a big manual in order to effect change within an organisation. In fact, the most important thing is usually a clear and firm commitment from management that wellbeing is a central focus. Most businesses now fully see the wisdom in this – because, as the old saying goes, a firm’s biggest asset is its people.

Wellbeing doesn’t need to be limited to things like healthy eating – and for management teams who like to think creatively, there is some really great scope for engendering an environment that’s totally conducive to better physical and mental health – from fruit boxes to cycle schemes to mindfulness meditation – and beyond.



SSL: How Businesses Can Stay Secure and Win the Trust of Customers

Nov 21, 2014   //   by Keith McDonald   //   Business Guides, Technology  //  Comments Off on SSL: How Businesses Can Stay Secure and Win the Trust of Customers

The Red Mist DescendsThere can be little doubt that online security is a hot topic at the moment. The European Commission has recently spoken about its desire to put consumers at the centre of financial service delivery and says it wants to continue tightening up consumer protection.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Payments Council has discovered that concerns about security are among the most common barriers discouraging people from using the internet for shopping or banking.

So, how can businesses go about establishing strong security for their websites, and how can they inspire confidence among consumers?

The Great Online Migration

Technological development is changing the retail landscape for homes and businesses. More products and services are being bought and sold online, and it’s becoming difficult to underestimate the degree to which online activity is transforming the retail financial service market.

That’s because most consumers are quick to realise the benefits of performing their chores online. Once they begin using digital banking and purchasing services, they are likely to continue doing so.

What this means is that businesses will be judged on the experience of their digital delivery, and that retailers and small businesses will face increasing pressure to show that they are secure and safe to use.

The Payments Council has issued a new guide, ‘Pay Your Way’, as part of its consumer education campaign. This includes basic details as to what consumers should look for to ensure a website is secure.

As knowledge builds of online security, it’s going to become second nature to check for the presence of an SSL certificate from a respected provider such as Thawte.

So, where do small businesses begin, and what might influence their choice of security certificate?

Read More »

Business Loans Explained

Oct 23, 2014   //   by Keith McDonald   //   Business Guides, Lending Guide  //  Comments Off on Business Loans Explained

A business will often need to borrow money at some point, either to survive or to invest for the future. A business loan is one way for a firm to access the finance it needs. Let’s find out more about the options available.

A business will often need to borrow money at some point, either to survive or to invest for the future. A business loan is one way for a firm to access the finance it needs. Let’s find out more about the options available.

Business loans typically range between £1,000 and £50,000, though much larger amounts are available as well. Firms can use this funding for a variety of reasons: from improving cash-flow in the short term to investing in capital, personnel, or research and development in the longer term, which will help a business to expand.

Read More »

Bridging Loans Explained

Oct 2, 2014   //   by Keith McDonald   //   Business Guides, Lending Guide  //  Comments Off on Bridging Loans Explained

If you need to act quickly to secure a loan, or you only wish to borrow for a short period, it may be difficult to secure a commercial loan or mortgage to suit your needs. So why not consider a bridging loan?

What is a Bridging Loan?

A bridging loan is a short term funding option which can be arranged much more quickly than a standard commercial loan. Bridging loans are useful for funding short-term projects, or for bridging the gap between securing a property and arranging a longer-term commercial mortgage.

How Much Can I Borrow?

Bridging lenders can offer up to a maximum of about 80% loan-to-value against a property. However, this will be against a short-term 90-day valuation of the property, which is likely to be lower than the open market rate, so this may impact the amount you can borrow.

Read More »

An Introduction to Business Banking

Oct 2, 2014   //   by Keith McDonald   //   Business Guides, Savings Guide  //  Comments Off on An Introduction to Business Banking

If you’re a business owner, you’ll be looking for an account that is tailored to suit the needs of your business. And if you’re a limited company or a partnership, you’ll need a business bank account to run your company. So, what sort of things might you consider when selecting your business bank account?

What are Business Bank Accounts?

Business bank accounts are fairly similar to standard bank accounts. By keeping your business transactions separate from your personal affairs, it’s a lot easier to formulate your accounts at the end of the year.

There are separate accounts available for start-up companies and established businesses. A business will normally qualify for a start-up account if it’s in the first year of trading or if the account you’re opening is the first business current account.

Read More »