Quick start business sessions

MGE run a number of informal business sessions covering:

  • Start your own business
  • Business Planning
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Financial aspects of running your business
  • Operational issues
  • Legal & Commercial aspects

All sessions  will include useful templates and how to use in a practical way to help manage your business.
Sessions can be group sessions or on a one to one basis.
Contact : MGE Business Solutions on 07889 337263

Local Company looking for Junior Engineer

Company: Flexible Networking Solutions Ltd
Posted on behalf of: Andy Rouse (Managing Director)
Email with CV to: info@flexnetuk.com

“Here at FlexNet we have an exciting opportunity for a Junior Network Engineer to join our dynamic and ever-expanding team (PAYE position). A JNE is required to work alongside a Senior Engineer or sometimes within a larger team. Previous experience with CAT5e & CAT6 is required. CSCS & IPAF qualifications preferred. Training available (Fibre, Cisco technologies, VoIP, etc…).

The JNE Will have use of a company vehicle (driving license req). The successful candidate should want to progress to Senior Engineer then maybe Project Manager. While primarily a data-cabling roll, training will be given relating to wireless, fibre and LAN/WAN networking technologies. FlexNet is based in Redditch & South Birmingham so the candidate should be fairly local to these areas.”

Resourcing Bulletin

Experienced Project Management Office (PMO Manager)

Ref: MGE5067
Initial Contact: Call 07889 337263 or text for a call back

Background of setting up PMO structures and managing the staff to control/monitor financial/commercial issues. Permanent or Contract status considered.
Preferred Location: Birmingham area

Care Workers

Ref: MGE5068
Initial Contact: Call 07889 337263 or text for a call back

Care Agency looking for experienced and motivated care workers wanting to work in a Care Home environment.
Locations: Leamington, Coventry Banbury & Redditch

Advantages of being an SME

It is often said how important small businesses are to the UK economy but it is also true that corporates have their voices heard more easily. Additionally, it is believed that the corporates have a lot to give in terms of educating the SMEs on how to do things. This is undoubtedly true – however what are SMEs doing which would be worthwhile corporates observing?

Tighter control over costs

Being smaller can afford the benefit of having a simpler organisation structure with less devolved budgets, less opportunities for inefficiencies and less management checking required. Having a smaller structure means lower overheads and ideally should lead to lower, more competitive pricing. Many larger companies grow their infrastructure and have unused space for example which can be exacerbated if the business reduces. This can lead to accommodation larger than required with a fixed term and hence a cost liability which has to be recovered – potentially through increased pricing. This can then create more problems because the pricing becomes less competitive which results in less business and more difficulty in recovering the overheads.

Rapid decision making

Generally there are less people in the decision making chain so decisions tend to be made quicker. This means that opportunities can be taken and not missed because competition has jumped in before your business can react. It must also be said that governance is important within a SME in order to keep efficient management control.

Closer to customer requirements

Many SMEs speak to their customers on a daily basis and get first hand the feeback on products/services. In larger businesses it can be a tendency for the feedback to go though a number of people before getting to management. Quite often the feedback has become filtered and processed which can result in the message getting diluted or sanitised. So there is a danger customer views are watered down, misinterpreted and delayed.

Quite often with small businesses the customers views are more direct and immediate which give the opportunity for the business to take action if necessary more rapidly.

Clearer and more ‘in-tune’ dialogue with customers

SMEs tend to be communicating in the customers’ language which give the impression to the customer that they are more in tune with customer needs. Contrast this with the ‘corporate speak’ used by some large company spokespeople in the media. Phrases like ‘customer centric’, synergy, customer journey etc.. Sometimes this language confuses people internally never mind customers. There is a backlash against business jargon and a demand for authenticity so using simple clear language helps.

To discuss further and find out how we can help your business

- simply drop us a line

Spotlight On Local Business

Today, we turn the spotlight on ‘enSuda’ – who provide quality training and consultancy services to customers throughout the UK.

A spokesperson for ‘enSuda’:
“With many years of experience, we pride ourselves in our flexibility. If you need online or classroom courses, ‘enSuda’ can help. If you prefer a blended course involving some online training alongside the traditional classroom environment (adding a more practical approach), then we can accommodate you. Do you need to cover shifts? Simply name the time and we will be there. Our company has an expanding customer-base throughout the UK, including several large global and national corporate organizations, schools and nurseries, health, utility and transport companies. We offer a wide range of courses for individuals or companies of any size. We have broken it down to different sectors First Aid, Workplace Compliance, Aviation and Health & Social Care (Office and Retail will be coming on board soon).”

You can get further information on ‘enSuda’ by visiting their website at www.ensuda.co.uk, catching up on Twitter @ensudauk or befriending them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ensuda).

Are you using Email efficiently?

Be accurate and concise

Think about if you are answering the question if it is in response to an email and stick to the facts. It is easy to drift off to opinion conjecture and here say which can provoke arguments in directions you neither intended nor have the time for. Stick to short and well structured sentences which are unambiguous so as not to give rise to misinterpretation. The less verbose the better- you are not writing groundbreaking literature or trying to impress people with the scale of your vocabulary.

My general rule is if an email is more than 1 page long then it should be written in a separate attachment.

Don’t mix too many diverse issues in one email

If you want people to focus on the points in your email then structure them so that they are clear and encourage constructive responses. For example, don’t mix HR issues with operational issues or IT issues. This way you get the mind of the recipient of the email concentrating a particular subject matter. The added advantage you have is that when you are searching email later for a specific subject it won’t be buried amongst a myriad of other subjects.

Prioritise responses/actions

There is always a tendency to respond to the last email and work your way backwards chronologically. I tend to take a batch of emails say for previous morning and mark them in priority terms – then deal with them on a business priority basis and definitely not on the basis of which ones are easier to deal with.

Check the tone of your email before sending

It tends to be that written communication appears more harsh or formal than verbal communication. Written communication does not afford you the ability to add tone or emphasis. Therefore, it is worthwhile to quickly review your text before sending to ensure it has the intended emphasis and tone so that points have the correct perspective. This is particularly pertinent when trying to gain agreement with someone or a company – when you are trying to be clear and unambiguous the wording can be direct/inflexible. Of course there are occasions when this is exactly what you want to say and this is ok.

If you are asking for action, comment, feedback etc – make it clear this the case and when you expect a response

Don’t leave an email in a state whereby the recipient(s) are not sure what the purpose of the email is. Is it imparting information? Is it requiring an asset from someone? Is it requiring a specific action by someone? Are you expecting something to happen within a given time? Are you asking for a decision to go ahead with something? All sounds obvious doesn’t it but you would be amazed at the level of email that comes under the ‘confused’ category which wastes lots of time.

Only send/copy to the people it needs to got to

How many people have received an email with many copied recipients and many really do not need to be copied on this subject? Why does this happen? Is the sender expecting everyone on the copy list to respond? Is it for information?

Whatever the reason make it clear exactly why you are sending this to the recipients. One of the most insidious reasons for copying someone into an email is to highlight someone else’s mistakes. This can trigger an email ‘mushroom’ with people justifying their actions, it does not demonstrate a team ethos – in fact it tells me more about the sender’s character than anything else… so, think about what you want from sending the email.

Structure your email folders logically and maintain them

My recommendation is to think about the directory structure for your emails as early as possible after the email account has been set up. Try to reflect how you work when creating your directories for example key clients, suppliers, finance etc. Don’t make the system over complicated with too many sub directories Suggest no more than two levels or it takes too long to use and maintain. Once you start a system stick to it or things will quickly get messy. Of course, over time the structure will grow and this is where sensible archiving is required.

Wrap up

The issues mentioned in this article only touch the surface on how email can deliver real benefits to your business if used properly – and this is true for any size of business.

The tricky task of assessing a viable start-up

Many of us in the area of helping new start-ups have our own methods of assessing whether a potential new venture has a good chance of being viable. You can be forgiven for thinking that the phrase “has a good chance of being viable” suggests it is not entirely a scientific process – and that is absolutely right. It’s not! Let me explain my idea behind how to go about the whole thing:

Of course the usual traditional criteria is important such as …

  1. Firstly, the business idea
  2. Potential barriers from any direction which could derail the venture
  3. The numbers – financials
  4. What funding required and is it realistic
  5. Sustainability

It is imperative that we validate all of the above but in my opinion …
One of the most important factors is the person behind the idea and who is intending to ‘make it happen’

To me, if the character of the person intending to make this happen does not have the necessary skills, experience, determination, energy, resilience and ego (yes I mean ego), then it is highly likely the venture will fail. Of course no one is an expert on every aspect of the business but consideration must be given to 2 guiding principles:

  1. If you do not have specific knowledge in a particular area and it is vital – you must know enough to ask the right questions of the expert in this field
  2. If you are not good at a particular part of the business which is vital – find a way of filling that gap in some other way (and factor in the cost as part of doing business)

Many business plans have passed in front of me which are sound propositions and well thought out in great detail – but what about the character of the person who intends to get this venture off the ground and fly the distance?

Much hype is generated about the need to be a go getting Entrepreneur and how important it is to be this charismatic, courageous, leader of the masses who is going to save the free world economy with an idea so brilliant, your name will be written into history books. Seriously, even statistics tell us that the probability of everyone being in this category is low – however this does not mean that you are not capable of starting a venture which can be successful based on your own criteria.

Well there are a few individuals who may come into that category but the reality is that plenty of successful businesses are out there which have created jobs, much needed products and services plus made a good return for their owners/operators.

One definition of an ‘Entrepreneur’ is:

“A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

So, you don’t have to be a genius or a fantastic orator but you do have to have the right mind set – ah I hear you say “what is the right mind set” and “what is the definition of mind set anyway?” We often say that to be a successful entrepreneur you to have the correct ‘Mind set’ – so what do we mean by this. Here is where it gets really confusing for the budding entrepreneur because there are lots of differing opinions out there.

I have seen many views from experts on the necessary character of an entrepreneur, including:

  • Positive ‘can do’ attitude
  • Have a clear vision but also have challenging, realistic objectives
  • Confidence in succeeding but be receptive to other views
  • Clarity of thought and the ability to communicate it
  • Persuasive
  • Character to drive things through to deliver
  • Resilient to cope and deal with many parallel issues and prioritise
  • Can make decisions and manage consequences

So, in my opinion, the message is …

You don’t have to come into the charismatic genius category to start your own business but if you have a good idea which makes financial sense then with the right character you can make a successful enterprise. This can satisfy your aspirations and create wealth for others.

Why not discuss with someone like MGE Business Solutions (www.mgebusinesssolutions.co.uk) or Build a UK Buisness (www.buildaukbusiness.co.uk)

New Business of the Week

If you want to realise your lifelong ambition of starting your own Business, need some extra cash or just want the flexibility of being your Own Boss? Worth checking out this company recently launched.

Is this for you?

Build a UK Business ask the following questions:

  • Are you an individual with a burning desire to Start your own Business
  • Are you someone who thinks “There must be more to life than this”
  • Are you currently employed and looking to earn additional income
  • Are you facing up to redundancy or an uncertain future
  • Are you a great communicator who can build and motivate their own team

Build a UK Business was created to help budding Entrepreneurs launch their idea with the objective of creating a cost effective platform to support an innovative business support package.

Start a Business with a Business Start-up Pack or for the more ambitious among you,can  sign up to become an Associate and earn commission from your own direct sales and additional, ongoing commission from your team. Whatever you want to earn, it’s up to you. But you can be assured BUKB will support you to realize your business ambitions.

If you are interested take a look at their website at www.buildaukbusiness.co.uk which also has contact details.

Quick Blackboard Series for Small Business – Session 1

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Brief

A short introduction for StartUps to many aspects of business in a short and concise way. This paper uses some phrases which have been encountered over the years which can be used as aide memoirs on different business issues. These can be particularly useful to new business owners in the initial period and further information on any of these subjects and many others can be discussed by contacting the author. Follow-up to any of these subjects can be taken by attending one of the MGE Business Workshops.

StartUps – phrases to help you remember some important things during that critical first year

Cash is KingMake It EasyBe RealisticSubject MatterRisks & RewardsAccidental SuccessAnalasys ParalasysWork Smart
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Cash flow management can be segmented in three phases:

  1. From the Profit & Loss projection, forecasting Cash flow
  2. Adding ‘Actuals’ to the cash flow forecast and seeing the impact on the forecast
  3. Taking action when necessary based on what the forecast is telling you.

This is an old phrase but one (even in this electronic age) which is just as pertinent today as ever. To many Startups it is something that just happens and they have little control of. The road to disaster is littered with profitable businesses which have failed due to cash flow problems.

During the first 12 months the control of cash flow is critical so before any expenditure think about whether this needs to be spent and if there may be advantages of spreading payments. A typical example of this is when requiring a vehicle – the age old question of is it better to buy or lease a vehicle? Do the analysis but make sure you include the ‘whole life costs’ of insurance maintenance.

Managing cash flow is an essential part of running your business and should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure timely actions are taken. It will aid the anticipation of any issues and allow preparation. For example if you have a potential sales opportunity coming up which would require a sum of working capital to be spent before you receive payment, your cash flow chart will enable you to understand how much is needed.

An important factor to understand when completing your cash flow forecast is to be pragmatic on when your customers pay their bills. Unfortunately, it is common for contractual payment terms not to be met and hence 30 days payment terms can end up as 45 or 60 days actual. Although, this should not be the case it is best to be realistic where your cash flow forecast is concerned to ensure you have a ‘buffer’ to cover worst case events.

MGE Business Solutions can supply a Cash Flow Tool with a free Tutorial on cash flow.

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It sounds obvious doesn’t it? However, if you get this correct it can be an important difference from your competitors. Making it easy for your customers can be as a result of many things within your control, including:

  1. Making your website easy to understand what you are offering and the pricing clear.
  2. Making it easy to place an order with you
  3. Payment mechanism is quick, easy and safe
  4. Commercial terms which can be flexible
  5. Easy to speak with someone who can advise and make a decision quickly
  6. Less admin the better
  7. Rapid response if the customer has a query
  8. Delivery is as expected- with good, clear packaging – documentation clear
  9. Returns process is efficient and clear
  10. Post support is easy and efficient
  11. Attempt to exceed customer requirements and all customer facing staff to be trained and professional

Understand from the outset what is important to a customer and if there is anything stopping them committing to an order. It may be something you can accommodate and win the business. Remember: Know your customers’ requirements and if you are dealing B2B then understand customers’ customer. This way you have a better chance of anticipating events coming your way – either to mitigate any negative or grasp an impending opportunity.

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As a StartUp the business is usually a result of many days/years of thought to get to the point of making the decision to ‘go for it’ and start in earnest. Of course this understandably means that you have an emotional attachment to the idea and are passionate that it should succeed.

This is can be a mixed blessing because there is a danger the expectations on the business are greater than the reality it can achieve. For example, it is easy to overestimate the potential sales and underestimate the cost base because you have already made up your mind this business idea will work.

This is usually apparent when ‘testing’ the business plan.

So, what in my opinion are some of the main items which make a viable business plan?

  1. The sales forecast is realistic which is supported by sound rationale and fundamental market research. Estimate how this is likely to look in the next year. Not understanding your market is one of the main reasons businesses fail in the first 12 months.
  2. The cost base (both indirect and direct costs) must be realistic and based on ideally quotations or budgetary estimates from reliable sources. Again look how these may change in the next year – for example labour costs could increase or materials costs decrease per unit due to economies of scale if volume is increasing.
  3. The resultant P&L should reap a net profit within a reasonable amount of time for this type of business. Obviously if a significant amount of investment is needed to obtain expensive machinery and other start up costs then the break even could be longer than a business which needs less initial capital spending. Again, the timings of rate of sales increase and when the positive aspect of marketing/advertising needs to be realistic with an appreciation of dependencies on various activities. For example, if product development needs to take place before manufacturing of the product then build contingency into the timings and understand all activities which need to take place before the product can be launched to market. Again be realistic!
  4. Have all potential effects (as far as possible) on your business been taken into account after researching – many of these may be outside your control but at least you can take action to mitigate or re-think approach. Remember the acronym ‘PEST’ for Political, Environmental, Social or Technological changes which could impact on your business. This is an area where some sensible risk analysis needs to take place so as to get a balance between the risk/reward and not to be overly pessimistic or optimistic on events taking place.
  5. Is the business sustainable? Can it build on a firm foundation and have a high probability of growing over the next 3 years – for example there would be inherent dangers in a B2B company which had a single product and a customer taking over 80% of this product. Of course it is difficult to generalise but it is clear that if the customer ceased trading, changed supplier or procured a different product there would be a major financial implication on the supplier.
  6. Is the person behind the business idea going to be the driving force to make it happen? This is a critical part of whether the business has a good chance of succeeding. The idea could be great but it needs certain skills to manage a business and drive it forward – do you have what it takes for this?
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We can’t all be experts on every subject but as a leader of the business you need to be able to assess very quickly at certain times the following:

  1. Have I got enough knowledge or skills to make a judgement on a particular issue?
  2. Have I got enough knowledge, qualifications or authority to make a decision and implement it?
  3. Typical areas where this could be an issue is: Accountancy & HMRC rules, Financials, Commercial/Contractual, Legal/Law, Human Resources.
  4. Try to gather as much information on the subject as possible BEFORE you discuss with the expert. This way you will be able to explain the problem as quickly as possible and you should be in a position to ask supplementary questions to ensure you have maximum clarity. In many experiences I have found that experts tend to answer the question directly and accurately but don’t always offer additional explanation. For example, if your question encourages a yes/no answer you are likely to get a yes/no answer – the answer may require some dependencies or assumptions.
  5. When you have gone through the explanation of the issue to the expert and feel satisfied with the answers it is often good to solicit 2/3 options from the expert in order to make a decision. Quite often you will get several caveats from the expert, which is fine, but if the expert strongly advises you not to take a particular action it is a wise man that goes against this – you always have the option to get a 2nd/3rd opinion.
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Firstly, there is no business without risk,

However, it is in your gift to identify the risks, mitigate where possible and assess whether the resultant risk is commensurate with the likely reward. Risks come in a range of categories. Technology risk, Commercial risk, Timescales risk, People risk and Political risk … are just a few examples.

It is wise to think through the implications of your decisions before committing and seek a view from someone who has experience and can give a more independent perspective. This can be a business Mentor for instance.

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Many small businesses start because there is an immediate need for a product or service. This is great and can be the necessary launchpad for many successful businesses. However, if no activity is done to understand whether this initial need is sustainable or can grow to other customers/markets then this business may well be short lived.

It is ok to maximise existing product/services but if in parallel there is no work being done to explore product development, new products, new services, new value add, new customers or new markets then eventually sales will diminish. Unfortunately, many StartUps have the skills to satisfy the initial requirements but lack expertise in strategy, sales/marketing and business development and sometimes realize this too late.

If a business does not understand what factors drove the initial success of the business and does not anticipate what is required in an ever changing business landscape then it is in danger.

So using the term ‘accidental success’ may be slightly unfair (being successful in anything is something to be proud of) it is intended to emphaises that any business cannot afford to stand still. It needs to always be looking to satisfy it existing customers as well as looking for new ones. This is difficult in the context of a small business with limited resources.

Something to remember is that ‘creativity’ is something that you should try to apply to all elements of the business not just the product/service.

  • Creativity in what you can offer commercially to the customer eg longer warranty, payment terms, etc
  • Creativity in deliveries such as rapid service or alternative addresses etc
  • Creative in making your process as efficient as possible
  • Creative in making the technology available work for you

... and it goes on.

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Previously I have said that business owners need to think carefully before making decisions – and this is imperative.

However, it is easy go into a state which I refer to as ‘analysis paralysis’ whereby the more information you gather the more complex the analysis, the more options available which results in a snowball effect. This can mean the time taken to consider all this data (especially if many people get involved) gets protracted and grows to a point it becomes analysis for its own sake.

Small aspects are analysed which will have little impact but seem to get thrown into the overall equation which over complicates the ability to make a decision – effectively paralysing progress and potential missing an opportunity OR failing to resolve a problem quickly enough before it becomes a bigger issue.

So some simple guidance here:

  • Never lose sight of the objective
  • Have a clear timeframe for coming to a conclusion
  • If necessary - involve people who are experts on a particular field
  • Keep the emphasis on facts not opinions
  • Try to filter out non important issues and give priority to the issues which will have significant impact
  • Reduce options to 2/3
  • Make a decision and be ready to manage the consequences.
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There used to be a culture in corporate UK business of making sure you were seen to be the last one leaving the office!

Whilst commitment and working hard is a necessary trait to have (however talented you may be) it isn’t a guarantee that you are performing the best or efficiently as possible. It may fool some people (even themselves) that you are adding contribution but if effort is wasted it actually can be a drain on the overall contribution to the business.

In some sectors (call centres?) there is some merit in having an environment which is ‘buzzing’ and energetic which encourages others to join into this atmosphere – resulting in healthy competition plus results.

In other environments it is worthwhile at regular intervals to give some thought to your planned activity and ask yourself the question “Am I doing this in the most efficient way?” There are a few questions you can ask about the order of activities: are we speaking with the correct people? If I did a little more desk research on a subject would it make the next stage more efficient?

We are all keen to get started and rush off and ‘do stuff’ but sometimes with a bit of forethought we can achieve better results in a quicker way by just taking some time at the beginning.

One approach is to diary 30mins end at the end or beginning of the week to review previous period and think about best way of tackling future activity. By the way it is useful to use this 30mins for consideration of any things you feel you don’t get the time to address under business as usual (BAU).

Definition: Entrepreneur

“A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

So if you are one of these you can also benefit from engaging with an experienced business Mentor who has encountered many of the things you will encounter. He can also bring a creativeness to the issues you will face across the business spectrum which can help you grow as an individual and business.

If you are interested in discussing how this could work for you

- simply drop us a line