Posts Tagged discussion groups

UK manufacturers urged to come along to our round table meetings

We are delighted to see that there is good news for UK manufacturers, as according to recent figures from the Markit PMI (Purchasing Managers Index), the sector is beginning to stabilise after it had declined in recent months.

But if you run a traditional manufacturing business, where do you go to get advice or bounce ideas off other business owners?

Philip Drazen, heads up the Business Exposure Group and thinks that his round table events could be just what manufacturing business owners need. “Business owners who attend our meetings are always glad they have attended.  They gain an insight from someone, who perhaps isn’t in the same industry, which can give them guidance and support.

“The meetings also offer an opportunity for business owners to swap success stories and ask about challenges they may be facing within their business.”

As it stands, these discussion groups are constantly expanding, assisting and creating a positive outlook for all businesses involved in the Business Exposure Group.

If you run a manufacturing business and would like to attend one of their informative round-table discussions in either Manchester, Leeds. Wetherby or Sheffield, please contact philipdrazen@bxgroup.co.uk

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‘Anywhere’ working – Does it work?

UK businesses are increasingly trusting their staff and empowering them by allowing them to work anywhere, meaning that work is no longer a place we go to, but an activity we do.  The office in the future will be a place for occasional use.

35% of people surveyed said they were more productive at home, and when you consider that employees spend on average 200 hours a year travelling to and from work, this could be an extra five weeks’ productivity for a business.

Not only would this make an employee happier and more engaged because they haven’t been sat in traffic, this also alleviates the need for extra staff.

With employees preferring to commute just 20 minutes from home, remote working doesn’t just mean sitting at home, it could be at a customer or supplier site.  With video conferencing being widely and easily available now, businesses can cut business travel and give an employee a better work/life balance.

There are a number of measures that companies can put into place to make sure that anywhere working works for them:

–          Have a culture that measures output rather than process.

–          Remote employees must spend time, the occasional day, in the office to build rapport and interaction.

–          Have regular check in appointments as even the best phones don’t pick up body language and you may not notice if an employee is disgruntled or has an issue.

–          Have a best practice programme.  This must be formal and explicit and not on an adhoc basis.

–          Go paperless – make sure technologies are portable, and advise times when you are available to communicate.

–          Use technologies to make individual and team performance transparent

–          Have back up laptops that can be deployed, so that no one can say ‘my laptop is playing up and so I can’t work’

–          Core competencies – individual must be adaptable, well organized and flexible

–          Start frequent communications with purpose to help remote employees feel connected and included

–          Explore whether there is a need for internal social networks in your business

–          Make sure that you ensure that remote employees get the same promotion opportunities as those who are office based.

But a lot of businesses remain skeptical about remote working.  71% have not adopted home-working, citing the employees fear of isolation and the need to be seen in the office as the main reason for low take up.

Business remains a human enterprise.  For an owner of an SME, seeing operations up close and in person are critical to success.

However,companies that are categorically saying that they are not willing to embrace anywhere working are going to miss out on a level of employee-led innovation that will be debilitating in the long term.

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Can our Tweets help get business out of Twitter?

Twitter – What can anyone really say in 140 characters?

Aside from being snide about whatever happens to be on TV or divulging pockets of minutia about your everyday life, Twitter can be a remarkably useful business tool. The 140 characters and 2.7 seconds to get attention have freed us all to be really focused on a succinct message.

However Twitter only works for your business if you work to use Twitter properly. But how do you do this? Let’s take a look at some do’s, don’ts and handy tips for the business use of Twitter.

Firstly, the use of Twitter should be seen as part of branding, and act as a seed for your business name. It’s for this reason that the Twitter user within the company must be someone who is knowledgeable about the issues you are raising; otherwise the tweeting itself can seem rather aimless.

There may be a lot of talk on Twitter but it may sometimes seem like it’s not actually going anywhere, so is it just someone filling up the day?

It’s imperative the content of tweets are relevant, while not being too uptight. Focus on these key points:

  • Many businesses struggle to find topics. They take their knowledge for granted – disseminate it.
  • With effort you can figure out topics that spark real interest. Brainstorm 5-7 conversation topics and then a list of 10 more things within each category – this will give you a supply of tweets.
  • The best twitter topics for business are messages that provide practical solutions to problems your potential customers face every day.
  • Link to information that aligns you with the industry you represent
  • Promote your blogs, video and email marketing, as well as key people in your network
  • Retweet information that shows you support allies and gets you noticed
  • Use # to highlight specific target topics, people and conversations
  • Use Twitter to show your fun side and personality and to create immediacy and urgency
  • Above all, define your purpose and goal – if the only reason you are on Twitter is to drive traffic to your website then you need to rethink your strategy. It can do so much more than that.

Generally, the right way to promote your business on Twitter is to participate – talk about new happenings at your business, mention clients and people you are collaborating with, and pay attention to your followers and engage in conversation.

The wrong way is to always talk about your business. Twitter is not about selling, it’s about engaging first, and a sale may come from it.

This article was taken from a discussion of the Business Exposure Group.

If you are a Director or business owner and would like to attend one of their informative round-table discussions, please contact philipdrazen@bxgroup.co.uk

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Due Diligence – Consider which Customers to do business with.

Modern business is dangerous. It constantly demands us to trust people we have never met before over services, time, and money. A good handshake just isn’t enough to guarantee legal security. People are not rigorous enough, which is why the need is greater than ever for due diligence.

One tool out there that can help is the website www.duedil.com which allows you to follow suppliers, competitors, and clients. The website provides free company information, including director’s backgrounds and allows you to compare business with their rivals. Currently, users from 75 of the FTSE 100 companies are using this service to conduct due diligence on counterparties, daily.

However, when Duedil can’t help there are other ways to satisfy your risk assessment.

All of the considerations involve an investigation of either a business or person prior to signing a contract. But remember, you have to ask yourself how much of this may be overkill. Everyone’s boundaries will be different.

Working with a Customer

These are steps that can be taken in the name of due diligence when working with a customer.

  • Take steps to indentify your customer- checking they are who they say they are, is more than just for banks and solicitors. Make sure your contract is with the correct trading entity.
  • Only offer credit to companies 3 years old with a one-year sound payment history.
  • Trade referees- get individuals from both sides to vouch for each others reliability and worth.
  • Asking for overall sales volume, so that you can see what risk the value of the order represents.
  •  Check their credit score.
  • Use Google to track their story.

This article was taken from a discussion of the Business Exposure Group.

If you are a Director or business owner and would like to attend one of their informative round-table discussions, please contact philipdrazen@bxgroup.co.uk

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How do non-executive directors add value to a small business?

It is widely accepted in business that non-executive directors can play an important role in the strategic management of a company however, like the appointment of any new member of staff, recruitment needs to be carefully considered and decisions made based on the benefit available for the business.

Non-executive directors (NEDs) undertake a dual role as both business advisors and watchdogs and through their knowledge and experience can offer the business considerable value. But should every small business consider recruiting an NED and should you have more than one?

It can be an expensive decision, especially if it’s the wrong one, so companies need to look very closely at the value a prospective NED can bring and communicate the business’ expectations of the role to those being considered for the post before committing themselves to appointment.

The distinct advantages of appointing an NED are their ability to:

  • Resolve director disputes
  • Offer support
  • Persuade busy directors to tend to cash flow issues
  • Persuade the ‘founder’ to let go
  • Support a request for a loan from a relevant bank
  • Offer assistance in dealing with large or unhappy customers
  • Adjudicating in highly sensitive situations within the business
  • Keep the business on the straight and narrow
  • Provide a network of fresh contacts to help find new business

Despite the clear benefits available in appointing NEDs, recent research suggests that 56% of entrepreneurs do not feel confident of getting good performance from an NED and 33% have encountered poor-performing NEDs.

An NED should ensure the strategies of the company are clear and properly monitored. The NED can ensure that the management team doesn’t become complacent. Research shows that privately owned companies with a non-executive director on-board have a better chance of survival in any economic downturn. Yet more than 4 years on, over half of proactive companies (60%) have yet to appoint an NED, 18% can’t find the right candidate, 12% can’t afford it and 6% haven’t considered it.

Is it important that the management team and the NED like each other? The answer is no, but they must respect each other. The fundamental role of an NED is to improve and challenge – it’s not a popularity contest. Quiet, understated confidence is often the key to a good NED.

The interview process should be informal. A NED can expect £10k for 12 meetings per year, lasting up to three years or £500 per day for companies with a turnover of up to £3m. The important point all business owners should remember is not to let them invest as NEDs need to be totally independent.

An experienced NED gives an investor confidence. Avoid the ‘trophy appointment’ – a retired executive looking for a hobby, only appoint  a NED who is still in the game  When it comes to recruitment, entering industry awards and being interviewed by the press to raise your profile can help in finding a suitable NED. Having a suitable NED on board will certainly enhance your company’s credibility.

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Has business optimism limped along this summer, or is there something else going on?

Has your business felt more optimistic this summer or are trading pressures continuing to shake your confidence? Have you noticed a gradual improvement in collecting and bills being paid on time? Do you feel now is a good time to expand your business or is spending more for maintenance rather than expansion? Are poor sales your number one business problem?

Great Britain’s remarkable success and achievements during the London Olympics this month may have been responsible for producing a feel good factor among the general public but only time will tell whether it has had a positive impact on the confidence of the small business community which had shown evidence of stagnating in early summer.

When it comes to making money in your business, you need to make decisions – whatever the economic position. Businesses need to work even harder to chase the growth opportunities that are out there. But my impression, certainly over the last three months, is that business decision makers have become hesitant, orders are not being placed and local businesses are stagnating.

Our businesses may be profitable, after all, we’ve had several years to make them lean, but without orders, both the lifeblood of the business and the cash flow grinds to a halt. This is currently a major problem as stagnation is the most dangerous challenge we face.

So, if stagnation is a problem what do we do about it? Simply, we all need to go to our target market, current customers, prospective customers, contacts and talk to them! Test ideas and investments and push forward in a positive way. Get out of the temporary culture of hesitation. Forget your reluctance to pick up the phone. Forget discounting prices. Forget doing coffee a lot but not making any sales or investments. It’s about pushing and planning, because failing to have a plan is planning to fail and there are so many good opportunities out there waiting to be exploited.

Don’t wait for the autumn!

Business discussion events for MD’s Directors and business owners

Do you like intelligent business discussion?

Would you like to join a dozen or more business owners and directors at one of our Manchester discussion events?

Why not come along as our guest to one of our invitation-only events?

For a personal invitation, please send your business details and contact number to us at info@bxgroup.co.uk

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Buying a distressed business – Is it sensible?

The current economic climate has created more opportunities to buy distressed businesses. The risks are obviously high with such a venture and entrepreneurs will need to do their home work but there are ample rewards for the bold.

Why buy a distressed business? A business in distress or at high risk of failure is obviously less valuable than a healthy business however the fact it is a bargain alone should never be the motivating force towards the purchase of a business in trouble.

Buying a distressed business can offer a quick method of growth and opportunities to return to profit as well as prevent a competitor from seizing the opportunity and a chance for capital growth through purchase, turnaround and controlled sale. It also offers the opportunity of controlled disposal of parts of the business at a premium and is cheaper than buying a successful business. However, buying a distressed business requires a high level of commitment and preparation is crucial.

An entrepreneur needs to ask themselves why they want to do it and what businesses they are interested in buying. Focusing on a particularly industry will ensure they are taken more seriously. They also need to understand why the business failed, what are the costs of making it viable, whether there is room in the market for the business and whether key stakeholders are likely to support the purchase.

The buyer of a distressed business needs to have funding immediately available. The discounted price is there for those who can act quickly and many offers fail because the buyer cannot show proof of funding. Upfront payments secure better deals than staggered payment.
Buyers need to ask themselves who is going to run the business? Consider bringing in a specialist who has a track record of turning businesses around.

Seek the help of a professional

Seeking the services of an advisor can be an important move. Buying a distressed business is different to a normal purchase and using lawyers and accountants who are familiar with the process and can deal with the liquidators will protect your position.

There are various types of sales from asset only to a going concern or a pre-pack (a deal for the sale of an insolvent company’s business and assets which is agreed in principle before the company goes into a formal insolvency process).

How do you find distressed business sales? Seek out business for sale adverts – the London Gazette lists insolvencies. If you are a supplier, look out for change of trading patterns and listen out for opportunities by keeping your ear to the ground.

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