Yet Another War on ‘Red Tape’

The War on Red TapeDavid Cameron recently announced that he was going to cut 3000 items of red tape as a way of helping small businesses. For instance out goes that riveting read “Cattle Movement Guidance” – all 640 pages of it!  Also 286 pages of hedgerow regulations will disappear! I am not quite sure how that will benefit the majority of companies that operate from an office or in an industrial estate in the heart of some of our cities. He also mentioned that over 600 rules had already been swept away but have small businesses benefited from it? Are they even aware that these rules have gone? But he also said that it would take nearly 2 years to get rid of the rest! A slow motion war indeed.

When senior politicians start to talk about the war on red tape, I start to worry. I worry that such a major announcement (it was in all the media including online, print and broadcast) is because the Government is bereft of ideas on how to help small business develop and grow. They always seem to revert to the ‘war on red tape’ as if that is the panacea for all the problems that business  owners have. Their theory goes that if they get rid of all the red tape (they won’t, they never do!) then businesses will save a lot of money, be more profitable and do more business. In theory they are right. Superfluous bureaucracy is indeed a drain on the resources of small business. But  some red tape is a necessary evil and needs to be in place.

As James Hurley said in his piece in The Telegraph “….. it’s actually a rather lazy assumption about what entrepreneurs believe is holding them back…..”

Business owners by their very nature learn to overcome or get round obstacles that are put in their way. That is why they do what they do. I believe they have many other more important issues that hold them back rather than red tape. Late payment by large organisations, lack of sensible lending by banks, the cost of hiring staff are but three common issues faced by all small businesses

So as a new front opens up in the war on red tape what do you consider are the three most important issues your business faces in 2014? Use the comment facility on this blog to list them and we will publish the top three concerns of SMEs.

And if you want practical help and advice from experienced business people contact us or call us on 0333 444 8522 for a no obligation discussion.

Yet Another War on 'Red Tape'

The War on Red TapeDavid Cameron recently announced that he was going to cut 3000 items of red tape as a way of helping small businesses. For instance out goes that riveting read “Cattle Movement Guidance” – all 640 pages of it!  Also 286 pages of hedgerow regulations will disappear! I am not quite sure how that will benefit the majority of companies that operate from an office or in an industrial estate in the heart of some of our cities. He also mentioned that over 600 rules had already been swept away but have small businesses benefited from it? Are they even aware that these rules have gone? But he also said that it would take nearly 2 years to get rid of the rest! A slow motion war indeed.

When senior politicians start to talk about the war on red tape, I start to worry. I worry that such a major announcement (it was in all the media including online, print and broadcast) is because the Government is bereft of ideas on how to help small business develop and grow. They always seem to revert to the ‘war on red tape’ as if that is the panacea for all the problems that business  owners have. Their theory goes that if they get rid of all the red tape (they won’t, they never do!) then businesses will save a lot of money, be more profitable and do more business. In theory they are right. Superfluous bureaucracy is indeed a drain on the resources of small business. But  some red tape is a necessary evil and needs to be in place.

As James Hurley said in his piece in The Telegraph “….. it’s actually a rather lazy assumption about what entrepreneurs believe is holding them back…..”

Business owners by their very nature learn to overcome or get round obstacles that are put in their way. That is why they do what they do. I believe they have many other more important issues that hold them back rather than red tape. Late payment by large organisations, lack of sensible lending by banks, the cost of hiring staff are but three common issues faced by all small businesses

So as a new front opens up in the war on red tape what do you consider are the three most important issues your business faces in 2014? Use the comment facility on this blog to list them and we will publish the top three concerns of SMEs.

And if you want practical help and advice from experienced business people contact us or call us on 0333 444 8522 for a no obligation discussion.

Innovation the key to business transformation

If you say the word ‘ Innovation’ to anyone their first reaction is likely to be ‘expensive.’ Talk to small businesses about innovation and their reaction is likely to be expensive R & D. Many people equate innovation with inventing a new product and usually equate it to unique product developments such as iPhone or iPad which would naturally cost hundreds and thousands of pounds.
However true innovation when applied to business need not be expensive and can be applied to almost any part of the business. Innovation can mean a new business process or a different way of engaging with customers . Reducing the number of processes in handling orders for instance is innovation. Going from paper invoices to electronic invoices is innovation. Many business have gone from a bricks and mortar type business to largely on line. This too is innovation.
Businesses that innovate tend to experience better growth, more profitability and by involving staff members in the process will have a happier workforce. And the process of innovation can be carried out in relatively short timescales. So by innovating business can reap the rewards quickly and move their business forward at the expense of their competitors.
If you want to transform your business through innovation contact Bob Francis on 07941 426 807 or at bob.francis@sgba.co.uk

Time to get back on the horse?

Over the last few weeks and months (and for some possibly years) we have been buffeted with bad economic news. If it is not the plight of the Euro, it is the unemployment figures or the deficit or many other pieces of informatioin that makes us all feel gloomy about our prospects.

Well I say enough is enough!

We cannot sit on our hands for ever waiting for market conditions to improve. Conditions will not improve till WE do something about them. I know many companies that have had good years throughout the recession (double dip or not) Why? They have gone out and got on with business. They have not cut their marketing budgets and some have increased them and fought even harder against their competitors. They have not listened to the doom sayers and they have made their own ‘luck’

Talking to a small company recently they were moaning about the state of the Euro zone. This intrigued me as they do not export and have no intention of exporting, they do not buy from outside the UK and they only sell into a relatively small regional area. I for one cannot see how the plight of the Euro affects them. But it is an example of how companies  get bogged down in the hype of the media and press instead of looking at their market and reacting accordingly.

So it is my view that having fallen off the horse it is time to get back on and ride you way out of the doom and gloom.

If you want help getting back on the horse call Bob Francis on 07941 426 807 or email me at bob.francis@sgba.co.uk or contact us

18 Easy Tips To Maximise Your Online Presence

It never ceases to surprise me how many small businesses still do not effectively promote themselves on line. Many have a website but do not use this resource to its maximum advantage and many are unaware of the other ways in which they can promote themselves and their business. So here are a number of simple tips that can be used to maximise your online presence:

  1. Get listed in Google Places

Google searches now prioritise local results. By entering your businesses details in Google Places, Google will be able to index your business and provide these details in searches improving your ranking and providing increased traffic to your website.

2. Get listed in appropriate directories

There are many Online directories covering all types of businesses. One of the best known is Freeindex. In addition to a basic entry of all you business details you can enhance the listing and include links to your website. Most directories get thousands of hits a day and will provide traffic to your site.  You can also use sites like Gum Tree to enter a free ad for your products and services.

3. Get articles published in article directories

This is a great way to develop your position as a thought leader and to expose your brand to a wider audience. Articles will be picked up by other sites or bloggers and published with your by-line and website details. Google now indexes these articles which helps with SEO and increased traffic to your site.

4. Write a Squidoo Lens

Squidoo allows you to build a simple one page website which can be used to promote a product, service or special offer. Economies of scale means that again this will be seen by many people outside your normal sphere of influence and help to improve rankings.

5. Linked in

One of the most useful social media activities you can engage in is updating and maintaining your profile  in Linked In. You can start your own Group based on your business and invite people to engage with you discussing issues that affect your market. In addition you can raise your profile by answering questions raised by other members of Linked In. As part of the answer you can link to  topic experts, perhaps within your company as well as provide further information by including links to your website.

6. Facebook

Over recent years Facebook has grown substantially in numbers of users and in the way they can interact. In addition to setting up your own personal Facebook page, you can now set up Groups and your own Business Page. For some parts of the population this is the main form of communication and if that is your market then you need to maximise your engagement with this media. Because of the real time nature of communicating by Facebook it is ideal for starting conversations on new products and services and asking about future trends.

7. Twitter

When Twitter started it was primarily used for friends to tell each other what they were doing. It was simple to use, took no time to deliver 140 characters of information and could be done on the run (using mobile technology.) More recently businesses have taken to twitter as a means of driving traffic to websites and blogs. By adding links to photos, websites, products, offers etc it has become a mainstream communication tool for business.

8. Blogging

Most websites are static and are rarely updated. Often this is due to the technology used making it difficult for anyone other than a programmer to change anything. But the one thing that a website must do is attract visitors and get them to carry out some form of action (call, email, buy.) One method of keeping visitors coming back time and again is to provide regular updates on activities within the company or market place, information on products and services, special offers and the like. The addition of a good blog to a website will help with SEO, traffic and will help to keep customers engaged.

9. Maximise your reviews

In a B to C environment buying tends to be done after referral to friends relatives and work colleagues. Peer reviews and referrals from friends has a much greater effect on the purchasing decision than anything you can do. So it is important that you obtain testimonials, case studies and third party reviews which will help customers with their buying decisions. Using organisations like Tripadvisor and Qype assists in maximising reviews of products and services.

10. Trust signals

Do not forget to include details of corporate or personal membership of trade bodies or institutes as well as copies of certificates of achievements and awards on your website. This will help improve trust between the company and is potential customers.

11. Benefits

Review your website copy. Do you talk about what you do or do you talk about what you do for customers? Customers by benefits. How do your products and services benefit customers? This is what visitors to your site need to see. They do not stay long enough to wade through lots of copy about how you make your products, what machines you have etc., etc. Focus on how you help customers save time and money which in turn will help turn more visitors in to customers.

12. Calls to action

When potential customers arrive on your home page (or other landing page) do they know what is expected of them? Does your website make clear the call to action? In many cases websites tell a good narrative story about the company and its products but neglect to take the customer on the next stage of the purchasing journey. You need to encourage them to go one step further by getting them to contact you by phone or email, to download some free information in exchange for their email address, or take up your latest special offer.

13. Google

Google offer a number of free tools to help you maximise your web presence. One of these is Google Analytics. The reports from Google Analytics helps you to understand how people interact with your website, where the enter and exit the site, how long they stay, what keywords or search terms they use and many other areas. All this information if understood and used correctly enable you to improve your site and gain more traffic and better ranking.

Another Google tool is Alerts where you can keep abreast of what is happening in your industry, any breaking news that helps you and information on competition including what people are saying about your business.

Google + is one of the latest products from the search engine giant. This is a Social Media Tool which can be considered the equivalent of Facebook. It has some powerful features and is well worth exploring to maximise your presence.

Embedding Google Maps into your website not only helps customers find you if you have a physical presence but also ensures better rankings for your site. As indicated earlier combined with an entry in Google Places ensures more traffic can find you.

14. Google adwords

This is not a free tool but is very useful to drive up your website rankings and targets potential customers looking for your products at that moment. Depending on how much you bid for the search keyword phrases you ad will appear on the relevant search results page at or near the top ensuring you gain maximum number of hits. Costs can be held in check by use of the budget limits which ensures that you do not overspend your daily budget.

15. Title tags

Title tags are embedded in the coding for each page of your site. Most people just use their company name in the title tags. But typically most people do not search by company name therefore using keywords and phrases in the title tags will help in search engine rankings.

16. Meta tag description

This is the part of the search engine listing that appears below the main title. It should be used to describe the main benefits that you offer your customers. If  Google cannot find a meta tag description it will normally pick up the first one or two lines of the website home page which as we have seen does not always do the company justice.

17. Email signature

Email signatures are a great way to promote your website, blog or other on line presence. The inclusion of hyperlinks to your website makes it easy for potential viewers to connect.

18. Email marketing

Set up a method of collecting visitors email addresses in exchange for white papers, newsletters and  other useful information. Building a database of people interested in your products and services will allow you to regularly send them information on special offers, new products and services and exclusive deals.