Is your pension protected when your employment or financial status change?

Many individuals set up a pension to ensure that they are protected throughout their lifetimes and are financially supported when they retire. However, there are a number of different events that can influence the status of your pension over time and have unexpected results. To ensure that you know the outcome of such events, this article compiles answers about what will happen in the event of redundancy, bankruptcy or working part-time, and the effect of these on your pension and retirement fund.

Does redundancy affect your pension?

No, your redundancy does not affect your pension in any way. When you have been made redundant, there are steps that you should take to continue your pension pot and ensure that it can support you in the future. Although the amount and its status do not change, to continue to pay into it, you can either leave it in your workplace fund or transfer it to your new workplace pension scheme or a private company. Your past employer can also pay into your employment fund rather than give you a redundancy payout, through a redundancy sacrifice, if you think you are in the right financial situation.

Does bankruptcy diminish your pension?

Yes, it is possible that your bankruptcy can diminish your pension. This is because when you are bankrupt, you must pay off creditors with any of your existing assets, a process that the government arranges depending on the date on which you went bankrupt. Before May 29th, 2000, you would have had to appoint a Trustee (TIB) who would have paid off your debts and outstanding payments with your pension, whereas after this date, your Trustee can protect claims against your pension. In fact, you can even recover some of this amount in an out of court agreement between you and your Trustee for a short time only. Your pension can still be diminished in this process though, as your Trustee can recover funds if they can provide evidence that you have paid in a highly unusual or excessive amount in the time before your bankruptcy.

Does working part-time have an effect on your pension?

No, working part-time does not have an effect on your current pension or the money which you could save towards your retirement in the future. Instead, pensions for people who work part-time is just the same as those for people working full time. In fact, by law, your employer must offer you an opt-out pension scheme which they must pay an equal amount into, with an annual percentage of their income going towards their employee’s pension scheme. The only effect that working part-time may have is that your reduced income may lead to you putting less money away for retirement.

Want to find out more information? Portafina specialise in offering pension advice, find out more about them here. Alternatively, you can contact and follow Portafina, a financial advisory service, on their social media accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.

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Your Complete Online Guide to Choosing the Right Shelving for Your Shop

No matter what kind of retail space you’re occupying, storage may be a concern. Though closets and cabinets serve an important purpose, they’re expensive to install and they take up too much room. On the other hand, shelving works in a variety of applications. How can you choose the right type of shelving for a space? Answer these questions to find out.

Style vs. Storage: Which is More Important?

 Decorative shelving units will have different structures, hardware, and materials than those specifically designed for storage. Though few restaurant owners would use Lozier shelving in the dining area, it’s great for storage in other areas. A stained, fine-grain floating shelf may look stylish in an art gallery, but it would be out of place in a janitor’s closet. By considering the way the shelves will be used, you can choose the right type of shelving for the application.

How Strong Should They Be?

 While some types of shelving can be used for a range of purposes, knowing what you’ll be storing is helpful when choosing the right type for your retail space. For instance, a spice shelf in a café would barely need any support, while a bookcase may be under such a load that it has to become part of the wall’s support system. When buying new or used shelving from an online vendor, they’ll likely list how much weight each shelf will hold.

Will the Walls and Floor Provide Enough Support?

 Apart from knowing whether the shelves will support the items you need to store, it’s important to determine whether the walls and flooring will hold them safely. In most cases, commercial floors won’t have an issue with standard shelving units. The shelves’ contents matter as well; for instance, large books and tool boxes are extremely heavy. If there’s any uncertainty, seek shelving advice from a professional.

Are They Useful and Convenient?

 Some shelves are decorative in nature. Narrow glass shelving is great for displaying small figurines and jewelry, while rustic wooden shelves are a stylish way to display books. Most of today’s shelving is built for storage as well, and you’ll need to ensure that it fulfills that purpose. Depending on the nature of your retail space, shelves may reach from ceiling to floor or from one corner to another.

Are They Scalable?

 As your business’ storage needs change with time, will your shelving still be as useful as it was on the day it was installed? The answer may determine the placement and height of the shelving. For example, a shelf designed to hold glassware won’t work as well to hold bigger and heavier boxes.

Will it Help Me Control Consumer Traffic?

 As opposed to other options, gondola shelving will help structure a store’s layout in a way that encourages customers to shop while controlling traffic. Create a counterclockwise path through the store, and buyers will follow it without even knowing that they’re being guided. They’ll see every display and every section, and they’ll be tempted to browse longer.

The Bottom Line

 Choosing the right shelves for a retail space requires you to think beyond appearances. At their core, shelves are about storing goods in a secure and convenient manner. Before measuring the walls or placing an order, ask and answer these questions to ensure that you’re making the right choice.

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Improving Your Business Customer Experience

When you are a business owner, no matter the size of the business, one of your main focuses needs to be customer service. After all, having customers is what is going to make your business work, help it to grow, and keep the money rolling in. And when your potential customers turn to customers, you will want to make sure that they have the best experience possible so that they can become loyal customers. It is something to continually strive to do.

For many, customer service and the customer experience that they have are seemingly interchangeable. However, one aspect of it is just the first experience with a brand or business; the other is something that impacts feelings and has some emotion, and that is what encompasses the whole customer journey. The customer experience is something that impacts all aspects of your business, from the an online sale to the final product being delivered, for instance. If you booked a holiday with a travel agent, for example, and the booking was simple and the sales clerk was helpful and polite, then that is all about having good customer experience. But if that then went on to have the tickets arrive early or you get something extra like an upgrade, then that is a good customer experience, which is what people will remember and will share and tell others about. So having a focus of improving the customer experience for others is really important.

So how can you make sure that you’re upping your game and improving the whole customer experience for your customers? Here are just a few examples to help you to create a really great customer experience strategy that will help to improve things for your business.

Have a Clear Customer Experience Vision

One of the first steps in the customer experience strategy that you have, is to have a customer-focused vision that is clear, and that you can clearly share with others in your team, if you work with colleagues. One of the easiest things that you can do to define the vision that you have, is to create a some statements that will help you to put plans in place, as they can been as a set of principles to guide you. Once you have these things in place, and you have a clear idea about the principles that you want to have for your business, then it will help to drive the business, as well as how you, and any colleagues, approach things. If you have a team of people working for you, then they need to know these principles and they should be part of new starter training, as well as refresher training, so that you show the importance of them, and they will become a natural focus for you all.

Understand Your Customers

The next thing to be thinking about when it comes to the customer experience and the principles your business has around that, then you can more easily bring to life the kinds of customer that you are likely to have, and who you as a business will encounter. If you really want to understand the needs and wants of your customers, then you will need to be able to connect with them, understand them, and be able to empathise with them. So one way to do just this is to create personas for your customers, for example, and give them all a personality and a name, so you can get your head around what your customers are after. For instance, you could have an ideal customer for your business that is a woman called Claire, who is aged 30; she likes to keep up to date with technology, is pretty tech savvy, and likes to have fun in life, whereas a customer called Peter, for example, that is a little older at 50 years old, needs a little more help with tech things, such as a clear and simple to use website. Your business or products are still things that both would use, but you need to think about the hows and whys, you make sure that your business is suitable for all of your customers. The personas can also be a good way for any of you in the business that will work in customer support, to recognise the issues that are coming up; are most complaints coming from a Peter, for example? If so, then a better designed website could be what you need to be doing.

Use a quality framework to develop

The steps above will help you to know what your customers think about quality of your business or service, especially compared to customer experience principles that you have defined. The next step needs to be being able to identify the needs for all of the staff members that you have, especially if you have a specific customer support team or people in charge of that. This could be done through checking the quality of the phone calls that they are having, as well as checking the email communications too. It is a good idea to have a quality framework that will help to take the assessment one step further, and this can be done by scheduling and tracking the development of the team, through some coaching or group training.

You can look at specific areas too; for example, the supply chain or the warehouse. How efficient are these teams at getting things out on time and meeting orders in the right way? If you are often getting complaints about people being sent the wrong thing or the item is the wrong colour, then it could be time to ask yourself how to increase warehouse efficiency to improve this area of the business. The customer support team can be trained to deal with the complaints in the best way, to improve the customer journey, but there may be some training that needs to happen to make sure that these things don’t even happen in the first place.

Customer expectations are high, and that is never more true than with customer’s word of mouth; news can travel fast. The customer experience is an area for all businesses that needs to be looked at constantly, with a great focus on customer experience strategy. Then you will be able to see the positive impact that it can bring to your business.

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4 Simple Ways To Make Your Business Stand Out At A Trade Show

Trade shows are a great way to market your business and find a lot of new customers, as well as new business contacts, in one single day. If you do it right, it’s definitely worth attending these shows as often as you can. However, there are going to be so many businesses there with their own stalls so it’s important that you do something to make yourself stand out. The potential customers don’t have time to get around to everybody so if your stand is boring and doesn’t really catch their attention, you’re likely to get skipped out. If you’re attending a trade show soon, these are some of the best ways that you can make yourself stand out.

Connect With People Before The Event

If you can build up a bit of hype before the event, people will seek you out when they get there. The easiest way to do this is to push your business on social media. Send out reminders about the event in the weeks leading up to it and think of incentives that will get people to your stall. For example, you could get people to vote on the free stuff that they want you to hand out, or hold a contest and advertize it on social media. That way, people will have you in mind when they get there and they’ll come straight to you before they go anywhere else.

Ditch The Boring Banner

Most businesses are going to have a boring banner with their name and company logo above their stand. If you do the same, you’ll just blend into the crowd and you won’t catch anybody’s eye. That’s why you need to ditch the banner and go for something more exciting. You can buy inflatable planets online and have them custom printed with your company logo. Hanging a giant planet earth with your logo above the stand is likely to get some interest. You should also look into things like 3D cardboard display towers that you can put around the stall instead of plain and boring signs. The more interesting your stall looks, the more interest you’ll get.

Create The Longest Line

If you have a big long line of people waiting at your stall, people are going to be interested and they’ll come over to see what the fuss is all about. The best way to do this is to give away something good that nobody else is offering. If every other stall is handing out pens and mouse mats and you’re giving away a great t-shirt, for example, you’ll quickly build up a big line.

Design A Great Brochure

People pick up a lot of stuff at trade events but a lot of it will go right in the bin when they get home, so it’s important that you design a great brochure that really catches their eye. If you really put some thought into it and make the design good, people will look at it again when they get home, but if it’s just a boring standard brochure, they won’t think twice about chucking it away.

These are all great ways to make yourself stand out at trade shows and get more new customers at the end of it.   

Photo credit: Kounosu [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5 Ways for Your Business to Make a Good Impression When Clients Come to Visit

As we are always being told, first impressions count for a lot, so you only get one opportunity to impress a client when they come to visit you at your office.

You may well have got on famously over the phone or in your email communications but that can all count for little if you don’t win them over with how your business is set up to receive visitors.

Here are some pointers on how to make the right impression when visitors come to your office.

Is the outside area clean and tidy?

Curb appeal is a big thing when you are trying to impress buyers who are coming to look at a home for sale and the same logic applies to your office, which is that you want your visitors to form a positive opinion when they arrive outside.

If you have a car park or paved area to look after, you might want to visit A+ SoftWash, for instance, to get the area professionally cleaned on a regular basis so that it is looking smart when they are parking their car and walking to the entrance.

Make sure all employees are on message

If you are running a small business you might not be able to justify the expense of having a receptionist to greet visitors.

If that is the case, it is important that all employees know how important it is to project a professional and helpful welcome if it falls to them to greet a visitor.

A personal welcome that is always well received

It always feels nice when you are made to feel a bit special and an inexpensive but effective way of achieving that aim is to use a lobby board where you can create a greeting message for your visitor.

Walking into a building to find your name displayed with a welcome message gives them the VIP experience and sets a good tone for the visit.

Keep everywhere clean and tidy

If your office is cluttered with paperwork over desks and there is a lack of uniformity to the layout you could argue that it shows how busy you are, but a clean and tidy workspace sends a more positive message that you are organized and in control.

Aim to keep desks as clear as possible and encourage a culture of tidiness in the office so that you are always ready for visitors.

Refreshments are always welcome

It is often a worthwhile investment to buy a decent coffee machine and a water system, as it is something that will be appreciated by staff and visitors too.

Think about the location of your coffee machine and if you can provide self-serve refreshments in the reception area it allows a client the opportunity to get a drink while they are waiting for you.

Having some fresh fruit and healthy snacks available is also a welcoming thing to do and is often appreciated by visitors.

These are just a few ways to help you create the right impression when you have visitors to your business and it is well worth making the effort if it contributes to a positive meeting and smooths the way to winning their business.

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