8 Ways To Ensure Success For Your New Business

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You are no doubt aware that most new businesses fail, so you need to do all you can to ensure that yours will not be one of them. Sometimes great business ideas do not succeed because of a lack of attention to a few key practical areas. By paying attention to the following you can make sure you give your new businesses every chance of success in the long term.

1. Plan Before You Start

The best way to get to grips with all the things you are going to have to do in order to get your business off to a good start is to create a proper Business Plan. This is not just something you put together to persuade investors to come on board, it is primarily a tool to help ensure that you understand every aspect of what you are about to do, making it far less likely that you will be knocked off course by the unexpected. Make sure that a good accountant is part of your planning so that you properly consider things like tax liability, VAT and company structure.

2. Understand Your Finances

You can’t leave financial matters entirely up to your accountant. As the business owner you must understand and be responsible for how your business works financially. Unless you really know what is going on, you are not going to be able to prepare a realistic cash flow forecast, and if you don’t do that you are not going to know whether you need to borrow money, when you need it or for how long. Get this under your belt and take steps to secure the funding you need to cover the times when you may need a cash injection. Cash flow problems are the thing most likely to kill off your business, so knowing when you are going to need cash and making sure you have it in place is vital.

3. Put Agreements In Writing

You are almost certainly going to be relying on various other companies and individuals to provide goods or services that you need in order to carry out your own business. Do not be tempted to be too casual about such vitally important arrangements. Where appropriate use proper contracts, but always confirm everything in writing, paying attention to the detail. When everything is going well it can seem like an unnecessary waste of time, but you have to consider what could happen further down the line if you are not getting what you were promised and when relationships are no longer so rosy.

4. Keep It Lean And Mean

When you are starting up it is wise to try to keep your commitments to those that you can get rid of easily if you need to. Avoid being a direct employer if you can use a freelance person or outsource the function instead. If you suffer a drop in turnover and need to reduce your overheads you need to be able to react quickly to avoid financial problems. Work in partnership if you can and look at ways to share responsibilities with other companies.

5. Spend As Little As Possible On Premises

The type of premises you require will depend to a great extent on the nature of your business, but take care not to commit to fancy or large premises if you could manage without. Ideally you should work from home if your business allows. If you need to meet people you can always go out to them or hire meeting rooms locally if you really need to. Spending money on occasional meeting space is far less costly than the ongoing overhead of having your own premises. You can expand and improve your premises as your business grows. Keep the two things in proportion.

6. Give Some Thought To Health And Safety

Not exactly the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning (unless your business idea is to do with health and safety of course), but this is an area where you must at least have some awareness of your responsibilities as an employer and business owner. Working for yourself at home, this is going to be no problem, but if you have premises, employ staff, have hazardous materials on site or engage in potentially dangerous processes, then you must take is seriously and may need professional input.

7. Take Out Appropriate Insurance

Insurance may not excite you, but not having it could put you out of business. Some insurance, such as employers’ liability, is compulsory, whereas other types of business insurance are a matter of protecting yourself against claims that could damage the viability of your business. Public liability cover is the most obvious one and this is to defend you against claims by any third party for injury or damages. This is particularly important if you have clients or members of the public on your premises, or if you or your staff work on other people’s property. Other options include stock cover, fixtures and fittings, building and contents insurance and professional indemnity.

8. Build Relationships And Networks

Networking is not only a good way to generate leads and new business, but can be a great source of keeping up to date with other issues and developments that can affect your business. The more people in your local area or in your market sector that you have good relationships with, the more options you have for calling in favours or getting help or special deals if you ever need to. People running any sort of business will encounter the same problems that you do, and having people that you can bounce problems and ideas off can be a great help too.

Photo Credit: Business Graph

Discover The 10 Secrets Of Winning Arguments At Work

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We all like to win an argument, but at work there can be far more than just your personal pride at stake. As a leader, or as part of team, it is important that you are able to manage arguments effectively. You need to ensure that your opinions are fully understood by others, but you also need to understand why someone objects to your point of view.

Even if you know you have a good point, you can still lose an argument for a variety of reasons. These ten tips will help to ensure that you always manage to get your opinions across in an argument:

1. Find out what your opponent is worried about, and address that issue:

Your opponent is arguing because there is something they are afraid of or worried about. This could be the main subject of the argument, but you should also be aware that the argument may just be a symptom of an anxiety about something related to it. Be prepared to delve a bit deeper to identify what it is they are afraid of. When you know what this is, examine the options for how to address their concern.

2. Do not allow your opponent to tell you what your opinion is and do not presume to tell them theirs:

Often in arguments people are arguing against an opinion that they believe (wrongly) is held by the other person. Be careful not to do this yourself and do not allow it to be done to you. Take the time to ask the other person to explain their view and make sure you listen to the response. This can help avoid having arguments about problems that do not actually exist.

3. Do not get dragged into past problems and misdemeanors, but concentrate instead on what can be done differently in future:

A lot of arguments can be traced back to historical grievances or grudges. Dwelling on these things will usually just result in going round in circles, so it is important to acknowledge the past, but then focus attention on what actions you can agree to improve things from now on.

4. Resist the urge to interrupt:

When someone says something that you don’t agree with, or which you think is incorrect, the urge to interrupt can be overwhelming. You must resist it, otherwise your opponent will not be allowed to have their say and feel (understandably) that they are not being listened to. They will then feel frustrated, which could lead to anger. Let them finish, then give your own balanced reasons why you do not agree with what they have said.

5. Don’t get angry – get reasonable:

You have to understand that as soon as you raise your voice you have lost the argument. No matter what the other person says, you should not raise your voice. If they raise theirs, it is even more important that you remain calm, both in voice and body language. What happens all too often is that one person raises their voice a little, and the other person does the same and within seconds it has escalated into a shouting match. When this happens no-one is going to achieve anything. It is up to you to remain calm yourself and encourage the other person to do so by your actions. You could suggest that you both remain calm, but steer clear of phrases like ‘calm down’ or ‘cool it’, which are only likely to make things worse.

6. Give way on unimportant issues:

You do not have to slam your opponent on every single statement they make. Giving way on minor points that do not ultimately matter much can go a long way to making them more amenable over the bigger issues.

7. Aim for movement in the right direction, rather than a hands down win:

It may be unrealistic to expect to convert your opponent entirely to your point of view, so try to get agreement to some movement in the right direction. Once you achieve that, it is much easier to make further progress later.

8. Stick to facts that you can prove and steer clear of personal opinion:

In the heat of an argument it can be tempting to bring in the opinions of others, or things that you have heard from other people. This can be fatal unless you know you can back it up with evidence. Assume such statements will be challenged or denied, and don’t use them if you cannot back them up as fact.

9. Stick to the point and avoid being side-tracked into peripheral issues:

A common pattern in arguments is for them to move into wider areas than the starting point. Sometimes these can still be relevant, but very often they are not, and if you are not careful, most of your time is spent arguing about something else. Spot when this happens and bring it back to the main point. If need be you can say the other issue can be discussed separately.

10. Be respectful and discuss behaviours rather than personalities:

It can be all too easy to slide into personal insult in an argument, which can only end badly. You should always treat the other person with respect and if you need to discuss how they are personally you should talk about what they do and what they say, rather than anything about personality. Behaviour can be changed, but an attack on personality can only ever be taken personally.

Can you think of any other tips for winning arguments?

5 Leadership Lessons From Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse

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I was thinking recently about that episode of the UK comedy Father Ted where Ted famously has to kick Bishop Brennan up the arse after losing a forfeit. It occurred to me that there were some lessons that business leaders and managers could learn from this story.

1. Always Be Fair And Consistent

The famous kick was the result of a forfeit levied by Ted’s great rival, Father Dick Byrne, after Ted cheated at a game of football. The loser had to carry out a forfeit of the other’s choice and Ted lost because he cheated and was discovered.

The wider lesson here is that any degree of cheating or dishonesty where your colleagues or team are concerned is potentially very damaging and very likely to backfire on you. With something as important as your team you should not take the risk of being found to be anything other than honest and up front. Trust among team members is vital for a team to function well. It can take a long time to build up mutual trust, but it can be lost in seconds if you do something to undermine it.

2. Listen To Everyone’s Ideas Before Making A Decision

When faced with the fact that he would have to kick the bishop, Ted was understandably distraught and clueless about how to proceed. The idea to just kick him and then act as if nothing had happened came from the famously dim witted Father McGuire. The theory being that Ted would never normally dream of doing such a thing, so the Bishop might not believe such an unlikely thing had happened. Ted initially dismissed the suggestion because it came from Dougal, then realised that it might just work.

No matter how good a leader or manager you are, you are not going to come up with all the answers yourself. Teams that function well are effective because they use the combined power and creativity of all members of the team. The leader of that team must ensure that all members are given the opportunity to contribute and consider all ideas and options before making any decisions.

3. Tackle Jobs You Do Not Like As Enthusiastically As The Ones You Enjoy

Father Ted is understandably terrified of what he is about to do and his initial reaction is to jump out of the window rather than go through with it. However, once he resolves to do it, he does not skimp on the job in hand or try to get away with doing it gently or half-heartedly. Knowing the possible outcomes, he still gives the bishop the hardest kick he possibly could.

Very few of us are lucky enough to have jobs where we love every single bit of what we have to do. There are usually a few aspects of our role that are distasteful and which we would rather not do it we had a choice. This can be because we lack experience or knowledge in some areas, or our personalities are not naturally suited to certain roles or perhaps it is just a subject of little interest for us. The lesson from Ted is to not put off the unpleasant jobs and get stuck into them with as much gusto as you give to everything else.

4. Do Not Give Up At The First Obstacle

Anyone who has seen the episode we are discussing will recall that Ted gets away with his plan as the bishop leaves in something of a daze, not registering what has taken place. Some time later, the penny drops, and he races back to have it out with Ted. Despite being terrified of the confrontation, Ted sees the possibility that all was not lost, and continues to persist with his version of events. The Bishop gradually accepts that Ted must be right and that he had indeed imagined it all. So he leaves again without taking his vengeance.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that it is a good idea to stick to your decisions in the face of clear evidence that they are flawed (or that you should go around kicking your boss up the arse). However, leaders need to be robust enough to resist calls to change course when they are confident that their decision is for the best. This can be particularly important when it comes to change management, as many people will naturally resist any form of change and leaders need to be strong enough to keep the organisation on course.

5. When It Comes To Communication The Small Details Matter

Father Ted would have got away with the whole thing if it wasn’t for a miscommunication between him and Father Dougal. Ted asked Dougal to blow up the photograph of him kicking the Bishop to a “ten by ten”. While obvious to Ted that this referred to ten inches, Dougal took it to be ten feet, which is why Bishop Brennan could not miss the evidence.

In my experience, if it is possible for something to be misunderstood, there is a good chance that it will be. When delegating or passing on instructions it is important to not only go into details, but to check that the person you are talking to has actually received the information. The best way to check this is to ask them to repeat back to you what you have agreed.

Do I Need Employers’ Liability Insurance For Part Time Or Casual Staff?

The Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 makes is a legal requirement for UK businesses to have an employers’ liability policy in place if they employ any staff. That sounds nice and simple, but of course there are always grey areas and lots of questions that people will have regarding what actually constitutes an employee. In this article we hope to shed some light on a few of the most common areas of uncertainty.

Most public bodies are not required to have employers’ liability cover and family businesses where the only staff are close family members are also exempt. Other than that, all private businesses in the UK must have a policy in place if they employ anyone.

The Need To Define What Is Meant By An ‘Employee’
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You know you have to have insurance for all employees, but does this include the person who works for you a few hours a week or on a casual basis or on a contract? And what about volunteers or work experience people?

There are certain things you can use to help judge whether someone would be classed as an employee for the purposes of liability cover. The requirement for insurance is if you have a contract with someone. However, this may not be quite as straightforward as it sounds. You may be fully employing someone, taking tax and national insurance, but not have got round to issuing a written contract. The written contract is not what matters in this case, it is about the contractual arrangement. So this can be a purely verbal arrangement, or even just an implied contract. What is comes down to is the reality of the arrangement you have with the person who does work for you and a lot of it is about the extent to which you control their work.

Situations Where You May Need Insurance:

  • If you exercise direct control over the work they carry out, telling them where to work and what to do.
  • If you pay them through PAYE rather than an invoice, deducting income tax and national insurance contributions.
  • If they are treated no differently to other permanent staff that you directly employ.
  • If your company pays for their tools, work materials and uniforms.
  • If the employee does not have the right to find someone else to undertake their work if they are unable to do it.

Situations Where You May Not Require Insurance:

  • People working for you on a voluntary basis, or students on a work experience or training programme.
  • People from whom you do not deduct income tax or national insurance.
  • Freelancers or contractors who also work for other people, who do not have to work for you and who supply their own equipment or work materials.
  • People who are able to arrange an alternative person to undertake their work if they are unable to do it.

Bear in mind that none of the above are absolute guarantees one way of the other and if you are in doubt you should seek legal advice. You can read more details of what the law says on the government website: www.hse.gov.uk