About Npower

Npower Business, is a leading integrated UK energy company. They supply gas, electricity and related services to residential and business customers and operate and manage a flexible portfolio of coal, gas and oil-fired power stations. They also manage a portfolio of cogeneration plant.

Website: http://www.energybrokers.co.uk/suppliers/Npower-rwe.htm

Auto Enrolment: what you need to know

MM20553 Guest Blogger_Malcolm Goodwin Aviva

Here’s our partner Aviva with some guidance on what to consider when setting up a workplace pension for auto-enrolment.

If you’re due to stage for auto-enrolment this year, you’re not alone. The Pensions Regulator estimates that over 500,000 small and medium-sized companies (SME) will auto-enrol their staff into a workplace pension in 2017.

Any small employer should think about the following things which are key to any business:

  • Retaining your best people: A workplace pension is a very valuable benefit. That can be a really powerful incentive to stay with a company.
  • Attracting talent: A workplace pension that offers a generous employer contribution could be the difference when a candidate receives two job offers at the same time.
  • Being a paternalistic employer: Providing a workplace pension offers staff a chance to plan for their retirement.
  • Allowing staff to retire at the right time: There is no default retirement age anymore so people can just go on working indefinitely. Aviva’s own research found that a third of workers over 50 plan to retire later than they had hoped and on average work for 8 years longer.
  • AE is a legal requirement: All businesses must have a workplace pension. It’s the law now and The Pensions Regulator has the power to fine companies who don’t get their pension set up in time.

Choosing your workplace pension

Pensions aren’t ‘one size fits all’ and the nature of a business, the number and demographics of its employees, payroll set up and its future growth plans all need to be considered when looking for a pension provider.

AE applies to ALL employers, so even if you only have one member of staff, you still need to set up a workplace pension for them.  Many providers will now let you apply for a workplace pension online using streamlined processes that will give you an idea of how much a scheme will cost in just a few minutes.

Contribution rates are going to rise

Currently the minimum contribution rates for an AE pension are 1% of salary from the employer and 1% of salary from the employee (including tax relief).

From April 2018 that will rise to 5% in total, with a minimum of 2% coming from the employer.  Then from April 2019, this will rise to 8%, with a minimum of 3% coming from the employer. These are the minimums though and employers are free to pay in more if they wish.

Embrace auto-enrolment

A workplace pension is now the law, so businesses need to make it work. Putting money away for retirement is not just sensible, but is now essential. The full state pension is currently around £150 a week. If that is your only income from the age of 67, it’s not a huge amount of money to buy food, pay bills and enjoy a decent standard of living.

Find out more about auto-enrolment 

Got any questions? You’ll probably find the answers here.

 

We’ve teamed up with Aviva to offer you a discount on their workplace pension scheme. Aviva’s scheme is compatible with all types of payroll software, and can be managed online.

Find out more.

 

Aviva Life Services UK Limited. Registered in England, No. 2403746. Aviva, Wellington Row, York, YO90 1WR. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Reference Number 145452.

 

 

 

 

What is superpowering Britain’s SMEs?

The whole nation has seen a surge in SMEs, but we dug a little deeper to find out what was driving growth in seven UK cities: London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Hull.

npm14566 MM20489 SME EmployBoom Infographic_Page_1

SME growth was highest in Manchester (50%), London (41%) and Leicester (36%). So what superpowers are driving these SMEs forward? Our research found that growth is being fuelled by a number of emerging sectors. Nationally, these include film and TV production, machinery repair, and healthcare. At a city level other hot sectors were mobile food services, education support and healthcare activities.

We also found that SMEs are attracting highly qualified staff; SMEs with between two and 49 employees are now more likely on average than large businesses to have employees trained to degree level.

To celebrate the success of Britain’s SMEs, we’ve teamed up with entrepreneur Tim Campbell, winner of the first series of BBC’s The Apprentice. Together, we are on a mission to highlight how important SMEs are to the British economy.0E1A8327_resized

Tim Campbell said: “SMEs are fundamental to Britain’s economy. Not only do they inject a substantial amount of money into local economies, they create significant jobs throughout Britain.

“Throughout my career, I have witnessed many remarkable SMEs grow into new markets before going on to flourish and prosper. Their capabilities should be recognised and celebrated. So I’m thrilled to be working with npower Business to get SMEs the recognition that they deserve.”

To celebrate Britain’s thriving enterprises and the super powers behind them, we’re giving one lucky entrepreneur the chance to win £5,000 and a session with Business Growth strategy expert Gary King.

All you need to do is demonstrate in no more than 250 words why your business truly is ‘Super Powered’, by explaining how it performs in the following areas:

1) INNOVATIVE: if your business does something creative that other businesses may not have considered.

2) SUCCESSFUL: if your business does something that makes a significant difference either to your bottom line, or in day to day management.

3) ENGAGING: if your business has something distinctive and memorable – something other SMEs would be interested to hear about.

The judging panel to impress will include Tim Campbell himself, alongside Mirror Money editor Tricia Phillips, entrepreneur Matthew Roberts of Timber Neutral, business growth expert Gary King, and our very own Richard Longbottom from npower Business.

To enter and for further information including full T&Cs, visit http://tinyurl.com/kwsowep #BusinessSuperPowers. Good luck!

The summer holidays are coming

With the weather hotting up over the last few weeks, it means the summer holidays are approaching fast. Everyone loves a summer break and this can be a headache for employers in terms of balancing staff levels – especially if you have employees with school aged children.

Here are some tips when looking at holidays for staff:

Annual Leave Entitlement

Make sure your employees have a clear understanding of how much annual leave they are entitled to when you hire them. By law you need to offer 28 days annual leave for a full time (5 day a week) employee. Part time employees need to have their entitlement pro-rata.

Bank Holidays

It’s not a legal requirement to pay staff for having bank holidays off and you are not required to offer additional pay for working either – it’s entirely up to you as an employer. If your business depends on good staffing levels for a bank holiday, it’s always good to make it attractive to work – day off in lieu or extra pay.

Make sure your employee winds down

Everyone needs a holiday. Whether it’s the odd day off at home, or a two week break to France and as an employer you need to make sure your staff get a good break during the year. You also need to make sure you take a break yourself! Take a look at our great holiday offers.

Booking in advance

Make sure your staff don’t wait until the last minute to request a week off. At the start of the year, remind everyone how much notice they need to give you to book a holiday. It’s also good to set a limit on how many people can have the same week off, especially around the school holidays or Christmas and make sure it’s clear to avoid disappointment. Also a make sure staff have consecutive days/weeks off as it can make finding cover easier. To help you manage staff holiday we have teamed up with Timetastic to offer you 6 months free holiday planning for your business.

Holiday approval

Set up a holiday approval process to make it simpler for you and your employees. Have a system in place where staff can see who has what holiday, so it can make it easier when requesting annual leave.

Busy times

For busy holiday periods like Christmas and New Year, the normal first come first served basis might not be the fairest. If you can’t shut down your business, try pulling names out of a hat or splitting out the days.

For more information on annual leave entitlement or to calculate an employee’s annual leave entitlement visit: https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-holiday-entitlement.

Smart meters – are they safe?

Data security is a hot topic, and a concern that won’t be going away anytime soon.

Criminals are actively targeting consumers and businesses alike in their quest for easy pickings,  and with data breaches hitting the headlines on a regular basis, you’d be right to have concerns about how safe your data is online. But how do smart meters measure up in terms of security?

Smart meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws. These ensure that smart meters all have the same high quality and safety standards, regardless of who you buy your energy from.

The smart meter security system is very secure. Security has been at the heart of the whole smart meter rollout programme from the very beginning, and right through the design process.

We know that many customers are worried about security of their data when using a smart meter, so we’re addressing some of the main questions here to help put your mind at ease.

Is smart metering secure?

Yes. Smart meters have their own closed, dedicated communications system that employs technology widely used by, for example, the banking industry. Smart meters have been designed with guidance from top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.

Is my personal data secure?

Yes, absolutely. Smart meters do not store any personal data such as name, address and bank details – only information on the amount of energy which a building is using.

Is the installation of smart meters safe?

The UK energy industry has been safely installing and replacing meters for decades. There are no differences about the physical gas and electricity work at customers’ premises to install a smart meter – and the meters themselves have gone through extensive safety testing to gain approval for use. With millions of meters installed around the UK, incident rates are extremely low.

You can find more information about how your data is protected when using a smart meter here:

http://www.energy-uk.org.uk/policy/smart-meters.html

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and LinkedIn at npower Business

Forecasting made as easy as 1, 2, 3

Forecasting. Just the word can make business owners slightly nervous. But the good news is it doesn’t have to be daunting.  In fact, it could be as straightforward as 1, 2, 3…

  • 1 handy template to make life easier and help you get
  • 2% more profit*, from
  • 3% better forecasting*

* AMR Research

In this post we’ve condensed down some of the main reasons to forecast, and some easy pointers to help make it easier to do. We’ve even created a simple forecast tool to make life easier and help you get started. It’ll do all the calculations for you, and let you see at a glance how your business is doing.

main CTA

Then just follow these three steps:

1. Fill out the Expenses Forecast tab to record all of your business outgoings

2. Complete the Sales Forecast tab to help calculate your sales growth

3. View your forecast in the Summary tab – it will help you visualise what’s going on and monitor your figures over time

Why it pays to forecast

From keeping an eye on cashflow, to planning ahead for the future, effective forecasting can make all the difference to your business. But when you’re busy day to day, forecasting can all too easily slip down the To Do list.

However, it could just be one of the most important things you do for your business. Here‘s why accurate forecasting is a very good idea:

  • You’ll know what’s going on with your cashflow, sales and revenue, giving you a clearer picture of your business and increased peace of mind
  • You can set more accurate budgets and targets
  • You’ll uncover new cost savings
  • You can make better informed decisions – about everything from staff and space to your marketing and sales strategy
  • You’re more likely to access finance – as investors will be more confident if you’re planning ahead

What do you want to know_

Business forecasting is so much more effective if you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to find out.

  • Who is your ideal customer, how many of them can you reach? How often will they buy from you?
  • Don’t forget the rule of thumb: 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers
  • What are your plans for expansion?
  • What are the market conditions?
  • What’s your position amongst competition? Estimate your market share.
  • Are you affected by seasonal trends?
  • What’s the average price of a single purchase?

Expenses are a good place to start

Many people find that forecasting their business expenses is a straightforward place to start. Don’t forget these simple rules:

Fixed costs stay the same every month

Variable costs fluctuate according to sales volume

Sales are also a very useful thing to forecast, helping you make important decisions about your business’ future.

  • Look at historic data and make logical assumptions about the future
  • Don’t get overwhelmed – start with a 2-year plan and build from there

Projected sales: a handy formula

Here’s how you can quickly calculate conservative, expected and optimistic projections:

Number of customers X average sales price X number of yearly purchases

= yearly projected sales

 

With so many great reasons to start forecasting, plus our free tool to make it easy, there’s nothing to stop you. Start forecasting now and the outlook for your business could be bright!

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and LinkedIn at npower Business

Forecasting made as easy as 1, 2, 3

Forecasting. Just the word can make business owners slightly nervous. But the good news is it doesn’t have to be daunting.  In fact, it could be as straightforward as 1, 2, 3…

  • 1 handy template to make life easier and help you get
  • 2% more profit*, from
  • 3% better forecasting*

* AMR Research

In this post we’ve condensed down some of the main reasons to forecast, and some easy pointers to help make it easier to do. We’ve even created a simple forecast tool to make life easier and help you get started. It’ll do all the calculations for you, and let you see at a glance how your business is doing.

main CTA

Then just follow these three steps:

1. Fill out the Expenses Forecast tab to record all of your business outgoings

2. Complete the Sales Forecast tab to help calculate your sales growth

3. View your forecast in the Summary tab – it will help you visualise what’s going on and monitor your figures over time

Why it pays to forecast

From keeping an eye on cashflow, to planning ahead for the future, effective forecasting can make all the difference to your business. But when you’re busy day to day, forecasting can all too easily slip down the To Do list.

However, it could just be one of the most important things you do for your business. Here‘s why accurate forecasting is a very good idea:

  • You’ll know what’s going on with your cashflow, sales and revenue, giving you a clearer picture of your business and increased peace of mind
  • You can set more accurate budgets and targets
  • You’ll uncover new cost savings
  • You can make better informed decisions – about everything from staff and space to your marketing and sales strategy
  • You’re more likely to access finance – as investors will be more confident if you’re planning ahead

What do you want to know_

Business forecasting is so much more effective if you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to find out.

  • Who is your ideal customer, how many of them can you reach? How often will they buy from you?
  • Don’t forget the rule of thumb: 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers
  • What are your plans for expansion?
  • What are the market conditions?
  • What’s your position amongst competition? Estimate your market share.
  • Are you affected by seasonal trends?
  • What’s the average price of a single purchase?

Expenses are a good place to start

Many people find that forecasting their business expenses is a straightforward place to start. Don’t forget these simple rules:

Fixed costs stay the same every month

Variable costs fluctuate according to sales volume

Sales are also a very useful thing to forecast, helping you make important decisions about your business’ future.

  • Look at historic data and make logical assumptions about the future
  • Don’t get overwhelmed – start with a 2-year plan and build from there

Projected sales: a handy formula

Here’s how you can quickly calculate conservative, expected and optimistic projections:

Number of customers X average sales price X number of yearly purchases

= yearly projected sales

 

With so many great reasons to start forecasting, plus our free tool to make it easy, there’s nothing to stop you. Start forecasting now and the outlook for your business could be bright!

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and LinkedIn at npower Business

How to find and keep great staff

A bad hire is an expensive and stressful mistake for any business, but especially for small businesses with no HR department on hand.

Here’s a simple guide to help you avoid bad hires and find the right people to grow your business.Identify the skills you need

Think broadly about the role and the ideal combination of skills you need, not just about finding a like-for-like replacement or plugging a gap that exists now.

It might help to list weekly and monthly tasks in your business, and then assess how you currently perform.  Consider the skill, energy and capacity levels across your team against those tasks and you’ll see where an extra member of staff can help. You can then use that information to define a really clear job spec for your vacancy.Be clear about what’s in it for them

When you’re writing a job spec, make it simple and persuasive. You want candidates to know that they’re a great fit for your business and feel excited about the opportunity to join you.

  • Make job titles simple and clear – no ninjas, wizards or gurus please.
  • Make the job description snappy. On average, people take 49.7 seconds to dismiss a job description. You’ve not got long to grab them.
  • Keep your requirements short and relevant. Don’t waste time with generic skills like ‘good communicator’.
  • Excite them about your business. Tell them what makes you different and a great place to work.
  • Give a salary range – it manages expectations and makes sure you don’t waste your or your candidates’ time.
  • Include other benefits – not just holidays and pension or childcare schemes but is flexible working an option? What about training and career development? Do you reward loyalty?

Shortlist your applicants

Use your job spec to filter all your applicants.  Under the Equality Act 2010, everyone should have an equal chance to apply and be selected for jobs, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or pregnancy or maternity.

Make a list of everyone who has applied and then score them against the ideal skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job. This will help you sort out the ‘possibles’ from the ‘definite nos’.

Send the ‘nos’ a polite reply thanking them for their application and explaining that you won’t be taking it any further. Every applicant, however unsuitable, deserves the courtesy of a response.

Then get to work on your possibles.

Use your skills/qualifications/experience scoring to prioritise. Read CVs and covering letters carefully – they can tell you a lot about the applicant and how genuine their interest in your job is.  If they’ve done their research and know a bit about you, it’ll shine through.

Let any more rejected candidates know they haven’t been successful this time and then invite your shortlist for an interview. Don’t forget to tell them who they’ll be seeing and what to expect. Interviews can be nerve wracking!Interview in stages

To be confident in a good hire, you need to be absolutely sure of the candidate’s skills and their fit for your business.

Prepare for interviews with a prioritised list of the skills you need.  What are essential and what can you live without?

Keep questions relevant and invite useful answers.  A mixture of ‘tell me how…’ and ‘what if…’ will prompt people to explain their thought process. Asking candidates to share their proudest work achievements will show you what they consider to be great.

Grade all candidates’ answers consistently and take notes.  A numbered system, or poor to excellent will help you compare everyone equally.

Always follow up successful formal interviews with an informal coffee/meet the team.  You’ll get to know each other and see quickly if there’s a natural fit.treat your candidates with respect

To snare the best candidates, applying for your job should be easy and enjoyable. Make them feel welcome and part of the team – they’ll want the job more for it.

Keep in regular contact when you’re arranging and confirming interviews and during your decision making process. Candidates go to a lot of effort in applying for jobs, the least you can do is let them know where they stand.

Be sensitive to their current situation. It’s not easy to take time off work for multiple interviews, so if you have to meet a candidate again, be prepared to do it before or after work.

Of course, your other option is to use a recruitment service to find great candidates for you. That may seem like an expensive route, but using an expert to handle the hiring process from start to finish means you can focus on running the business.

For regular help and advice, join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and LinkedIn at npower Business

Managing your business energy online

As a business owner there’s already so many things you have to remember. Looking after staff, running your business, paying bills, cashflow, the list is endless. You don’t need to let energy bills be one of them.

Managing your energy online is simple, cost effective and is one less thing to remember.

Setting up an online account only takes a few minutes and you’ll have access to a host of free services:

Send us your meter readings whenever you want

No one likes to receive estimated bills and with online account management we can text or email you when we need to update your account. This can help you ensure you always get correct bills and help you to budget for more exciting things.

See your bills online whenever you want to

Waiting for a bill to come through the post is never interesting and budgeting to pay them is even worse. You can view your bills from the last 2 years and cut out that annoying paperwork with online account management taking your business towards a paperless office.

And don’t worry about budgeting either, we’ll let you know when your bill is ready.

Pay your bills online

If your company struggles with cashflow, you’re not alone – most small businesses experience difficulties balancing the books. Paying your bills online is a step in the right direction to help manage this and one less thing to think about. We’ll let you know when your payment is due and you can simply log in and pay.

Join the business customers who’ve already chosen to look after their business energy online.

Like what you’ve read? Join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow or Linkedin at npower Business

National Share a Story Month

National Share-A-Story Month is an annual celebration of storytelling and sharing, set up by ‘Federation of Children’s Book Groups’. The theme for 2017 is ‘Picture a Story’, the idea being to celebrate the power of illustrations.

Why not take this month to share the story of your business? It helps to create an emotional bond with customers, and the loyalty that follows. Don’t blame it on having nothing to say either, look around you. Everything has a story. That coffee you’re drinking was once a bean in Ethiopia, but somehow now finds itself as a hot liquid on your desk. If a cup of coffee has a story worth telling, so do you.

Before you start writing, make sure your story is held in a place where people can find it. The point of sharing your story is so people see it and get the view of your company how you want them to see it, so don’t hide it away at the bottom. It might be best to put a tab along the top or left hand side of your page saying ‘Our Story’ or ‘About Us’ to grab the attention of people reading.

People will read it. Customers like to know they’re dealing with a business they can trust, or that share their views. Even more importantly are the people who will stumble across you by accident with no prior knowledge of you- a good tale could convince them to look into you further. It can also prevent a faceless, Grapes of Wrath style, view being made of the company and allow a customer to make more of a connection with you.

Start by thinking about your company: why did you start? When? Have you always been in the same area? Is your business family owned? Where do you take inspiration from? These are the things that give you an identity and separate you from the competition. Discuss the obstacles you have overcome to get where you are. Be honest and modest and show pride in what you’ve achieved. You are your biggest critic and a good review from you shows confidence that will radiate out onto potential customers.

Remember, not all stories have to be set in the past. Think of it like an online dating profile, tell people what’s important to you. Tell the truth, but also sell the best version of yourself.

If you only use fair trade farmers, add in a photo of one of them, or at the very least write about why you chose to do this. If your main concern is the quality of your product or service, then say it! Alternatively, if you prioritise a good price for your customers, make this known instead. Customers already know that you sell coffee or fix motorbikes, so use storytelling as a way of telling them what makes you different or what your drive is.

If you’re still not inspired or can’t think of anything worth writing about that has already happened, write about the future. Create a mission statement if you haven’t already about what you want to achieve. It doesn’t have to be something you will achieve alone, just a change you want to see and how you will do it. You don’t need to solve world peace, just show that you’re passionate.

You might not be Wilbur Smith, but by being honest and passionate you can be a great storyteller. Take inspiration from this month and decide how you are going to tell your own story, regardless of whether it’s about solving clime or your business ethos.

Like what you’ve read? Join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow or Linkedin at npower Business

Don’t let the stress get to you

2 - The real cost of stress

Running your own business can be exhilarating, energising and rewarding, but it can also be stressful. As its National Stress Awareness Month, we thought we’d share a few of the main highs and lows of being a small business owner – as well as a few tips to help you reduce stress and make life a little bit easier.

Full of rewarding and stressful moments, running your own business can be a real rollercoaster ride. Chances are most of the following feel familiar to you.

1 - The highs and lows of running an SME

High: You’re the boss. And you answer to no one.

Low: It can be lonely at the top. In fact, according to research by AXA Insurance, 50% of home-based business owners say they often suffer with loneliness.

 

High: It’s your call. You make all the big decisions.

Low: It’s all down to you. You’re responsible for everything and it’s your money on the line.

 

High: Your time is your own. You decide when you work.

Low: You never switch off. Chances are this means you’re always working, or at least thinking about work. And holidays are probably just a fantasy.

 

High: Money, money, money. You could make it big and retire early in the Caribbean.

Low: Times are tight. The economy is far from thriving and with Brexit just around the corner, many changes lie ahead. Plus, many business owners pay themselves relatively little and don’t even have a pension.

1 - Simple ways to stress less

  1. Spread the risk

It’s important to try and spread your business’ income as evenly as possible. If one customer is responsible for 40% or more of your business, it creates a pretty risky situation if they are late in paying and you need to charge interest or debt recovery or, even worse, if they stop working with you for any reason.

 

It’s a good idea to regularly work on finding new clients or customers. You should always carry out credit checks to help you assess their financial stability while doing this.

 

It’s also sensible to check the terms of your existing contracts, renegotiating where possible to help protect you from any unexpected loss of business.

 

  1. Share the load

It can be easy to think the world will end if you don’t handle everything yourself. But the old adage about a problem shared is true.

Finding your second in command can ease the strain and help motivate staff. Look for a strong leader with creativity and good people skills.

 

  1. Plan for the future

It can be hard to look too far ahead, particularly when it’s all hands to the pump. But failing to forecast has been the downfall of many a small business. An online system can help make admin – and life in general – easier. FUTRLI and Pulse are good places to start. There are lots of different ways to plan – take our quiz to find out what type of planner you are: http://www.mybizplan.co.uk/

 

Spending a little time prioritising your own payment schedule and setting up Direct Debits can make a big difference too. With many companies, npower included, it will help you avoiding surcharges.

1 - A helping hand online

We know how important it is to help make life easier for small business owners. That’s why we’ve made sure our online account offers:

 

  • Simple access to bills and more – all paperwork is saved online, so it’s easy to find whenever you need it
  • Handy updates and meter reading reminders – choose to receive text or email reminders whenever something needs your attention, so you can concentrate on running your business day to day
  • Instant access to our helpful customer services team – through online chat

 

You could also sign up to our free Business Rewards scheme and help distress staff with access to specially selected offers, discounts on days out, hotels, and travel, exclusively for npower Business customers.

 

If you haven’t already, it’s easy to register for an online account

 

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and LinkedIn at npower Business