Easy ways to use digital tech to make your startup stronger

The digital age is here to stay. Unless something even more convenient and connected comes along, we can expect to see more and more physical businesses taking steps towards the virtual. Even if it’s not a business that uses the online work to sell, there are loads of potential benefits for doing your business on the internet. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, here are a few ways the virtual side of business can help you.

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Know your customer

One of the areas that has seen the biggest benefit of the virtual world is the sheer amount of data we can compile. Analytics is a huge part of using empirical data to influence real business decisions. The most common form we see analytics taking is in finding demographics. You can use data to understand your customers and visitors on your web pages with things like Google Analytics. From there, targeted marketing and product development becomes easier than ever.

Keeping track of your finances

Knowing your finances and keeping an eye on your cash flow is mandatory for succeeding at business. Yet a physical system for doing so can easily become complicated and unwieldy. With cash flow software, it’s easy to track everything and add or remove variables. Measure every minute change in cash flow without needing to grab a new sheet every time you do.

The website

Every business nowadays needs to have some kind of online presence. Even if your services are delivered entirely offline. The growing generation of customers will want to know about your services and contact details. The less they find, the more likely it is they’ll go to a competitor. Even simple websites can be great assets to your business provided you learn a few tricks first.

Social media

The next step of having any online presence is getting yourself on social media. It might sound like a chore, but Twitter and Facebook marketing are hands down the best thing the internet has brought to businesses. Potential millions are on the other end of your communications. It may take some time, but the fact you can do it entirely for free easily pays you back for that.

Going paperless

One of the benefits using a simple computer system for any business is the amount of clutter and physical space it can clear up. Virtual file management is easy and safe, provided you backup your data. Not only is it environmentally safe but it saves money, too. The space, paper and storage for all that paper costs money. Not to mention the costs of running a printer often and all the supplies for that as well.

Managing projects

If you’re running a team of your own, then you’ll no doubt have projects that need to be split up into tasks. However, it’s easy for miscommunication nor a weak link to put a halt right in the middle of it. With the right project management software, everyone can see everyone’s progress. Communication is easy since people can see the project as a whole and as a manager, you get immediate insight to any difficulties arising.

Proof that you can start and grow a business despite all the challenges

If you’ve been watching the news over the last few years you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d be crazy to start a business in such tough financial times. But entrepreneurship is alive and well in the UK. For one thing, entrepreneurs have plenty of ideas and determination. For another, all the changes that the recession has brought – such as old companies closing down and more personal ones like losing your job – can open up new opportunities.

In the case of Business Plus Baby readers, it’s the major life change of having a baby that sparks our impulse to start a business.

Santander’s latest campaign celebrates the success of their customers by presenting them in a series of online films.

Take a look at the first one here…


In this video, Graeme Scott (owner of a chain of children’s nurseries) says “I’ve always been entrepreneurial, I’ve never been very good at working for anyone else”. If you’ve got an entrepreneurial streak you can definitely relate to that! He also says that he and his business partner are dyslexic and that their passion and drive is to prove their teachers wrong.

For me, that’s great example of entrepreneurs’ determination to overcome challenging circumstances.

Although an entrepreneur is often shown as a lone figure, business isn’t really something you can do alone. In all the videos, Santander has offered investment and advice to businesses to allow them to grow. Something that hasn’t been all that easy to find since the crash of 2007.

You can see the rest of the series of films here  and to find out more, visit: www.businessinsight.santandercb.co.uk/

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The easiest time ever to start a business. Seriously.

Seriously? After the credit crunch and double-dip recession? Yes.

Sage recently carried out a piece of research on entrepreneurship in the UK and found that…

… more parents (50%) are considering starting their own business in the next 2 years than those with no children (40%). One in five budding entrepreneurs wants set up their own business as they want a job that fits around their family life.  However, on the flipside, half said they are concerned about starting their own business as their family life means they appreciate the stability being employed gives them.

To that I would say “So what’s stopping you?”. The old days when you had little choice but to give up your job, get a huge bank loan and then work full time on your start-up are now over.

Instead, you can start a business in your evening and weekends, test your concept and grow your entrepreneurial muscles all without risking more than a few hundred pounds. How? Start any business that doesn’t involve a commitment to bricks and mortar or much stock, so I’m talking eBay, pop-up shops, Etsy and stalls at events or markets as well as online stores.

In my experience, what holds people back is the way we have been trained to only accept payment in return for employment. There’s this weird mental barrier in finding something that people want to buy and exchanging it for money. Learn more about this exchange process (selling in its most basic, one-to-one form) and how to do it well and you’re well on your way to starting up on your own.

Yes, the fact that starting up is so easy means that there’s a lot of competition and many copycats out there. But many don’t have the stamina, creativity or determination to keep going. You do.

So are women’s attitudes different to men’s? Sage say..

Women (41%) are less likely than men (44%) to consider starting their own business in the next two years; with the greatest challenge for women (23%) being not knowing where to start. For men the biggest perceived challenge is access to funding (28%). Women also worry more about the stress of starting their own business (30%) but interestingly are less likely than men (19% to 24%) to feel they don’t have what it takes to succeed in the current economic climate.

It’s no surprise that women are less willing to risk debt, and I’m sure the fear of stress comes from already having a lot on our plates.   But how much of this is a vague fear that comes from out-of-date assumptions about what it takes to start a business?

Of course, if you genuinely have problems with debt then it’s best to seek insolvency help or debt recovery advice or get in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau.

As for the economic climate, yes people are more careful with their money at the moment. But there are signs that things are picking up and our communities are actively looking for new businesses to revive them. The Portas Pilot Towns (my home town Bedford is one) are a great example of this.

So don’t be held back by outdated beliefs about starting your own business. Keep it simple: find something, sell it and learn from the process. Then repeat it.

Want some company as you start your business? Click here to get my newsletterI’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

Celebrating achievements!

Sage have asked me and their other Business Experts to tell them about the achievements we are most proud of this year.

We’re all taking photos of ourselves with a card proudly displaying our achievement, then Sage will be sharing them around Twitter using the hashtag #SageBusinessHighlights. You can read more in this post from Sage.

Here’s mine:

My proudest achievement was launching my Work At Home Mum Fast Start e-Course in September. It was a four week course to get aspiring mums past any barrier that was in their way and get started in business. You can hear me talk about it here.

But the best thing about it is that I can shout about the achievements of some of the course members, too:

Hazera Forth is a talented photographer and graphic designer in her spare time. She is now is turning this into a business. Hazera’s first range of art greetings cards is going to be on sale this Christmas. (Each will be signed by the Hazera herself) Here’s an example of one of her Christmas cards:

She says “I would never have taken the risk to put myself through the first steps of what I’ve now started doing. Helen’s WAHM Fast Start keeps it real and I feel in control of what I am doing. She said “do small things” and that’s what I did.”

If you’d like to buy some of her cards, please leave a comment below and she’ll get back to you.

Jen Stanbrook already had an interior design blog Love Chic Living and had been a baby signing teacher for five years when she joined WAHM Fast Start. She was ready to move on, though and during the e-course made the decision to sell her baby signing business. Her business is now on up for sale and she’s working hard on growing Love Chic Living.

Ashlene Canning says “Helen and the WAHM Facebook group have really inspired me to move on with our wedding photography to a professional level. I always believed we had the photographic talent, but it was the business side of things that I was unsure about. WAHM fast start gave me a business confidence that has equipped me with a belief that it is only difficult if you perceive it to be!”

Here is just one of the photos taken by Ashlene and her husband’s new photography business (you can see more at N Canning Photography):

 

Colette Dunn is  in the research phase of her business and says “my story is only just beginning”.  Colette’s business will support smaller businesses growth by reducing their need to complete the more mundane office work and she says she’s found WAHM fast start motivating and encouraging. Watch this space for more about Colette’s new business next year!

Sage have also told me that they will pick their favourite expert and feature them on the Sage blog. I would (subtle hint 🙂 ) love it to be me so that I can get my fab course members as much exposure as I can as they start their new businesses!

Don’t miss a thing here at Business Plus Baby! Let me keep you up to date with new posts…click here to get my newsletterI’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

 

Here’s how a good business idea could change your life…

A good idea really could change your life, but that’s just the start. You’ll need support, advice and funding to turn that idea into a thriving business.

You also need to be different; to stand out and to do things differently from the other businesses out there.

Orange are looking for the UK’s next different business. If you’ve got a fresh idea, why not tell Orange all about it? You could win a year’s backing and support to make it happen.

Orange understands different business thinking because they’ve always been different. Launching in 1994 into a competitive market, they’ve had a stream of new ideas, from being the first mobile company to charge calls by the second, to offering something completely different like 2 for 1 cinema tickets and pizza deals.

orange different business comp

Now Orange are giving you the chance to follow in their footsteps. The Orange Different Business Competition has a prize worth up to £200,000 which includes:

  • Investment capital
  • Legal advice
  • Business planning advice
  • Mentoring
  • Marketing consultancy

Their panel of judges includes some of the UK’s most successful business leaders – tell them about your innovative new idea and you could become the UK’s next different business. They’re looking for a different idea, different approaches, clear strategies – something that’s worth funding. (But don’t worry, there’s advice on how to complete your application on the Win Your Business website).

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my self-employed life is that you can’t do it all alone. That makes for a long, slow-learning process.

Yes, I’ve been there and done that!

Plus we all know that business funding is hard to get hold of these days. So if you’ve got a good idea, the Orange Different Business Competition is a rare opportunity to get your business both funding AND support at the same time.

And if you don’t have a great business idea in mind right now, why not tell a friend who might have one of their own?

Go to Win Your Business to find out more and to enter.

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