6 contingency planning tips for small businesses

contingency planning

Contingency planning is a must for small businesses, which can face even more potential emergencies than larger businesses.

Any unexpected situation that interrupts a company’s normal operations can be harmful to its financial health and professional image — if not dealt with properly. The harsh reality is, most small business are unprepared.

Small business owners can carry out contingency planning by following 6 easy steps:

1. Identify the key risks for your small business

Is the issue data theft? Flooding? Are several of your staff potential maternity or paternity leave candidates?

Identifying the most likely setbacks that will impact your business, will help you focus your contingency plan and not waste time and money preparing for events that are highly unlikely.

There’s no point in planning how to recover from a hurricane, for instance, if your business is not located in an area that is hurricane prone.

2. Determine operation essentials

Entrepreneurs should decide what’s absolutely necessary for their small business to start operating again if a disaster or illness forces the business to close.

Steps should then be taken to ensure that these essential resources are quickly available if needed.

3. Establish employee roles

Identifying employee roles and responsibilities is key in the case of an unexpected event.

A good way to go about this is to create a step-by-step list of actions to take post-event. This will help staff to pick up and continue working in your absence.

4. Cover your business with the correct level of insurance

Fire insurance is an example of one possible disaster your small business could experience. Along with other obvious disasters such as wind damage and flooding, entrepreneurs must also consider the damage that could result from theft.

If your business offers professional services or advice, you’ll also want to consider a professional liability insurance policy.

Having the proper type of insurance to cover your risks will go a long way towards getting your small business up and running again if disaster strikes.

5. Cover your business with adequate insurance.

Successful data backup and protection is crucial for protecting your business’s continuity.

Today, all, if not most businesses are built around some form of valuable data. Losing this data can cause major problems for small businesses, which is why it’s important for business leaders to ensure that data is backed up properly.

Creating a small business disaster plan is important in order to prepare for potential cyber security threats, storms and office closures.

6. Evaluate your contingency plan

Twice a year, business leaders should review and revise their contingency plan. This should address things such as staff changes, economic factors and other relevant issues to your business.

It’s easy to put off business contingency planning. There are always current emergencies that require your immediate attention.

However, one needs to consider how significant these emergencies are compared to an event that could shut your business down for weeks.

Taking the time to prepare your business contingency plan will pay off immensely if disaster or illness ever strikes.







Commute safety: travelling safe every day

Commute safety

Commuting to and from work is part of our weekly routine. If you’re not lucky enough to be within walking distance of your workplace, you’ll have to make use of some form of transportation.

Whether you’re cycling to work, catching a bus or train or driving your own personal vehicle, here is how you can make sure that you commute safely.

Travelling by bike

Cycling is the most fuel-efficient way to travel to and from work.

The leisure of having a bike lane is great. You get the ‘road’ all to yourself, but in many city environments, bike lanes don’t always exist.

Travelling on nothing more than a little metal and rubber, the bullies of the road; cars, busses and trucks are huge armoured tanks in comparison.

Many people associate this form of travel as one that is dangerous, however, only a few people do get hurt riding their bikes, with the vast majority of bike riders commuting safely.

A few easy ways to minimise the danger of bike riding include:

  • Always wearing a helmet
  • Sticking to the rules of the road
  • Staying aware of what is going on around you
  • Riding in a straight line (swerving makes cars nervous)
  • Looking behind you before turning.

Travelling on buses and trains

It sounds obvious, but knowing the time your bus or train is due to leave, will save you having to wait around or rush.

It’s particularly important to know the time of the last bus or train home if you’re travelling at late hours, this is to avoid being stranded on your own.

It’s also advised that you trust your instincts about whom you sit or stand next to. If you’re feeling uncomfortable with one of the other passengers sitting near you, you can get off at the next stop and change carriages.

Also, try and sit in a carriage with a lot of people. If there does happen to be a thief on board, you’re more vulnerable to attack if you’re alone in a carriage with just one other person.

Other safety precautions to note include:

  • Catching a bus or train somewhere well lit
  • If someone attacks or touches you shout to other passengers
  • Keep your mobile phone out of sight
  • Don’t discuss personal details.

Travelling by car

There are a few safety features to consider when purchasing a vehicle:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • 360 Air Bags
  • Automatic Braking
  • Lane Departure Warnings
  • Blind Spot Detection
  • Back-up Assist Cameras
  • Anti-lock Braking System

In relation to proper vehicle safety comes proper vehicle maintenance. No matter how safe your vehicle is initially; if you don’t keep it running and in shape, the possibility of something going wrong can increase.

Possibly the most important driving tip is to keep your focus on the road and what you’re doing. Commuting the same route every day can become tiring and monotonous, and you can easily become distracted.

Also, don’t text and drive, don’t fiddle with your GPS while you drive and don’t eat while you drive.

Keep your focus on the road and what you’re doing, and you’ll be aware and prepared for anything.






7 essential startup tips for entrepreneurs

startup tips

Startups are by no means for the faint hearted. Being a new entrepreneur can be highly challenging and stressful, but at the same time incredibly exciting and rewarding.

While there isn’t an exact blueprint, here are 7 top tips to help you set sail in the startup seas.

1. Do you understand the industry?

You need to have an understanding of the sector you plan to launch a business into.

Founder of Fubu, Daymond John, says: “Learn as much as you can about your industry immediately. Become an expert in that industry. Obviously, there are plenty of resources out there between your library and the Internet, but also try to find a mentor who directly answers your questions. Any information is always good information.”

You need to know exactly how a business in this sector operates. Here you’ll learn and discover areas where you can make small, but crucial tweaks to differentiate the offering.

2. Is there a market opportunity?

Make sure you pick a business idea that has a big market opportunity. Carefully research if there’s a demand for your product or service.

Investors are more likely to jump on board if they see a large market opportunity and if the company has the potential to grow significantly.

3. Are you inspired?

Staying inspired and learning from others’ mistakes is crucial. Constantly read and educate yourself on startup stories of others.

It’s safe to say that all successful entrepreneurs have made mistakes along their road to success. They’re often willing to share these insights – you can learn about these on websites, in books, or even at events for people wanting to start a business.

Ben Chestnut, founder of Mail Chimp, says “there is the test that all founders are eventually faced with: when things get too hard, you decide to stay, or you decide to quit. My advice is this: Before you decide, look at all those great, successful businesses that inspired you to start your own. They stayed.”

4. Have you got the funding?

A key part of starting a new business is raising as much funding as you can. Ensure that you have a cushion for all your product developments and marketing expenses you will face.

Ideally, you want enough capital for your operations to break even.

 5. Are you talking to the right people?

It may seem like a given, but a lot of first-time startup entrepreneurs shy away from putting their ideas out there, either because they don’t want others to steal their idea or because they afraid other entrepreneurs won’t believe in their idea.

However, without talking to experts, advisors, possible investors and customers, you won’t be able to get the feedback you need to improve your idea.

By doing this, you’ll refine your idea and build a business that truly resonates with your customers.

6. Do you have a business plan?

A well thought-out business plan will help you evaluate your idea in detail. This will allow you to create realistic targets for your business and understand all the costs of setting up and advancing your company.

7. Who is your customer?

Understanding the customers you’re thinking of engaging with is essential, as this will indicate if you’re on the right track.

Speak to people who fall under your customer demographic and get a better understanding of how they would respond to your product or service.

Founder and investor of Upfront Ventures, Mark Suster, says you shouldn’t drink your own Kool Aid. He adds: “As Public Enemy says…Don’t Believe the Hype. The only way to build a sustainable customer is to listen to customers, partners, suppliers and employees.”

To gain more insight into becoming a successful entrepreneur, watch some of the UK’s leading business people reveal the best pieces of business advice they’ve ever received.





Checklist: 10 ways to save energy in the workplace

Smiling woman making copies in office

Most people don’t know how easy it is to run their businesses on less energy. Here are 10 easy tips to help you save energy and keep your energy bills down.

1. Make use of energy saving features

Most modern day equipment has energy saving features. When replacing old gadgets, make sure to do so with energy efficient peripherals.

Educate your employees with regard to these energy saving features for printers, microwaves, air conditioners, and allow them to use these to cut business energy costs.

2. Use energy-efficient light globes

Compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs of the same brightness will save around £3 a year, or £45 over the lifetime of the product, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Not only do these bulbs last longer, but also use about 75 per cent less energy than standard light bulbs.

3.Allow computers to hibernate

Turning off your workstations when away for long periods of time and shutting down at the end of the day are crucial in saving energy and lowering bills. When in sleep mode, your computer enters a low power state, but while hibernating it uses no power at all.

The hibernation feature on desktop computers and laptops allows you to save your existing work and continue from the same point next day.

4. Switch heaters and coolers off when not in use

Some ducted systems allow you to turn off the heating or cooling in rooms that are unoccupied. Remember to turn off heating or cooling in office spaces that are not being used and when leaving.

Keeping your business temperature one degree down during winters and one degree up during summers can reduce the power it uses by up to 10%.

5. Cut down on paper wastage

Printers in the workplace are often overused. Most of the time, work can be viewed on screen, rather than on printed-out paper.

Employees should be encouraged to print only when necessary. Not only does this reduce paper wastage, but it also helps cut energy required to run the printer, which in turn reduces energy costs and extends the lifespan of your printer.

6. Install a smart meter

Smart meters provide you with accurate information about your energy consumption. You’ll be able to identify and understand your energy use and know exactly what you’re paying for when your supplier sends you a bill.

 7. Allow employees to work remotely

If possible, allow employees to work from home on alternate days. Employees can still be in contact with those in the office and it’s also likely that they will get more work done at home without the distractions that often occur in the office environment.

Technology allows employees to have flexible work arrangements, and by having fewer employees in office, less lighting, cooling and running workstations would be required.

8. Always check the energy label

The EU Energy label, rates products from A (the most efficient) to G (the least efficient.

Products that are required to display this label include: washing machines, washer-dryers, tumble dryers, fridges, freezers, dishwashers, electric ovens, energy-saving light bulbs and air conditioners.

9. Switch off or unplug any equipment that is not in use

Laptop and phone chargers continue to use energy even when the device is not attached.

During weekends and holidays, make sure to switch off office equipment that is not in use. This includes printers, scanners, microwaves, lights, air conditioners, and coffee machines.

Gadgets and appliances that are not in use can account for 10% of your electricity bill.

10. Consider solar panels

Solar energy is free, renewable and clean. Although the initial cost of solar panels is expensive, the cost is recovered within a few years if used to its full strength.

Solar panels last longer and have fewer maintenance problems. This helps cut monthly business energy costs.

Business leaders discuss how they cut down on energy bills

cut down on energy bills

Smart meter data shows that small businesses use 46% of their total electricity between 6pm and 8am.

A few simple changes could cut the office energy bill by up to 20%.

During The Business Show, UK’s largest business exhibition, business leaders revealed their best advice. They also discussed how businesses could cut down on energy bills and save costs.

Watch tips from some of the UK’s best-known business people – including Dragon’s Den’s Touker Suleyman, Brett Akker from Lovespace, Sage One’s Jonathan Dowden and Steven Bartlett from Social Chain – discuss how businesses can cut energy bills.

Business leaders reveal their best business advice

Business leaders reveal their best business advice

Becoming a successful entrepreneur isn’t easy. It requires sacrifice, hours of hard work and determination to achieve success. So is making it through your mistakes — because they’ll happen.

The Business Show is the UK’s largest business exhibition. The event invites businesses from a range of industries, providing entrepreneurs with everything they need to improve, evolve and expand their business.

Watch some of the UK’s leading business people, including Touker Suleyman and Brett Akker, as they reveal the best pieces of business advice they’ve ever received — covering cash flow, profit, preparation and self-belief.

5 essential ways to set up remote workers for success

remote workers

Businesses looking to grow their virtual teams need to consider a number of support incentives and tools that will allow remote employees to thrive.

If your company is looking at hiring remote workers or considering to expand into this flexible working style, here are five ways employers can set up remote workers for success.

1. Determine means of communication

Communicating with co-workers who are working remotely remains one of the most obvious challenges.

Employees may find it challenging to communicate virtually because they do not fully understand the benefits and difficulties of non-traditional forms of communication. Communicating verbally is the most natural way to communicate with co-workers but, outside the regular office, communicating face to face isn’t always an option.

Remote workers rely on emails, messaging platforms, phone calls, texts and video calls to discuss work. Businesses can establish a system of communication that is best for each situation. For example, day-to-day updates around projects can be discussed through emails, but video conference calls would work better for brainstorming sessions.

2. Give feedback: even if it’s bad

You should never sugarcoat feedback. By not providing valid feedback to remote workers, employers are hurting their business in the long run by letting problems fester.

Employers need to let their remote workers know when they’re happy with their work (ideally face-to-face, using video conferencing). Otherwise, employees will not know if they are meeting the mark and continue to make the same mistakes.

3. Nurture collaboration

Relationships developed by employees in the office have an immense impact on their productivity and job satisfaction. In 2015, Virgin Pulse conducted a survey of more than 1,000 employees. 66% said their co-workers positively affected their focus and productivity. Furthermore, 40% said that working with their co-workers was what they loved most about their job.

Remote workers spend most of their working hours outside of the office, and can therefore begin to feel disconnected from the rest of the team. Depending on the circumstances, some members of your virtual team will never meet in person. Communicating and working with faceless co-workers all day, can make remote workers feel somewhat lonely.

Employers need to properly introduce all members of a virtual team. If possible, it’s a good idea to have them meet in person, so that a face can be put to a name. Your team of remote workers should develop trust and understand each other’s strengths and skills.

If the right type of collaboration is encouraged among employees working at home, their relationships can be as strong as those in-office.

4. Make use of daily reports

Daily reports are essential — and one of the most important rules for managing remote workers.

Being clear about what your virtual team is working on, helps everyone know where they stand. It also prevents overlaps and miscommunications, and allows employers to easily schedule tasks and deadlines.

2. Access to technology

It’s important that full-time remote employees have access to the right technology to complete their tasks. Whether it’s hardware or software, no employee should be required to obtain the right equipment on their own, unless an alternative agreement is reached.

Investing in hardware or software for remote workers will ensure that your company has direct ownership of the technology; and for security reasons, it ensures that employees aren’t using personal devices to complete company work.







5 ways to nurture a more entrepreneurial culture

entrepreneurial culture

Building a strong culture within a team has become an important advantage for business leaders who strive for increased business success. You want to create a culture that identifies and embraces shared values, perspectives and ways of thinking that characterise the goals of a business.

Building an environment with like-minded and interesting people does not happen overnight — like most things, it requires hard work to nurture a more entrepreneurial culture.

Here are 5 ways to create a culture of entrepreneurs within your business.

1. Bring aspiring entrepreneurs on board

Ideally, every employer wants an employee who’s a motivated entrepreneur. However, employees often spend too much time looking for people to fill positions within their business, rather than seeking and sieving out assets that will help grow the organisation.

Aspiring entrepreneurs are likely to be attracted to a new business environment, eager to gain experience and see opportunities in the market where others do not. Founder and CEO of Porch.com, Matt Ehrlichman says that you need to bring these people in, and empower them to flex their entrepreneurial muscles within your business.

2. Accept small failures

Establishing an environment in which employees understand that small failures can happen in the pursuit of bigger success will go a long way. This will support them in taking risks, ultimately allowing a new business the opportunity to grow faster and smarter.

It’s often tough to accept that making mistakes is OK, but if you prove to your aspiring entrepreneurs that it is, they will take risks and potentially find a better way of doing things.

3. Your company is their company

Give employees in your company equity, and motivate them to feel like partners — viewing your company as their company. The best business leaders will make every employee feel like a business partner. Why? Because when your employees feel ownership, they look out for it, protect it, and pour themselves into it.

4. Give your employees a voice

Ask your employees for their recommendations — they will more than likely present information. You need to ask them questions like “What do you think?” and “How do you think we can improve this?”

By asking questions such as these, you’ll craft a business culture of thinking beyond contemporary procedures. Founder of Growthworks Solutions, Leah Neaderthal believes that asking employees for their recommendation is the first step towards creating entrepreneurs.

5. Allow your employees to take ownership

According to Avery Augustine, manager of a tech company, you need to coach people into leadership day after day — but your employees won’t actually use these skills unless they feel like a trusted, valued, and impactful part of the company.

“If you teach your employees how to make smart, informed decisions, but still require that they run every idea by you before they’re allowed to make a move, how empowered will they feel?”

Creating an ownership mentality begins with trusting your employees and giving them the authority to make decisions. This can also involve listening and implementing their ideas or allowing them to work on side projects that they believe will increase sales.

When your employees feel like an integral part of the company, they’ll naturally step up to the plate and emerge as leaders.








Vaping in the workplace: A 5-point guide to policy making


Many UK businesses apply their workplace smoking rules to vapers without giving it a second thought. New framework advice from Public Health England (PHE) asks British employers to rethink their policies covering vaping in the workplace.

According to the PHE, E-cigarettes are used almost exclusively by smokers and ex-smokers and are now the most popular stop-smoking aid in England. Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of health and well-being at PHE said: “The evidence is clear that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes are helping many smokers to quit.”

In July 2016 PHE published a new framework to help businesses and employers create their own policies on the use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces. With over 2.8 million e-cigarette users in the UK, there is a need for appropriate policies in public places and workplaces.

The framework recognises that there is no “one size fits all” solution, as business leaders of different workplaces will have different circumstances to consider. It identifies five principles that help guide the creation of a vaping policy that’s fitting for each organisation, covering the following areas:

1) Make a clear distinction between vaping and smoking:

There is no UK legislation banning vaping in public places. E-cigarettes and vaping can potentially improve public health by helping smokers to quit cigarettes.

2) Ensure policies are based on evidence of harm to bystanders:

“The risk to the health of bystanders from second-hand e-cigarette vapour is extremely low and insufficient to justify prohibiting e-cigarettes.”

3) Identify and manage risks of uptake by children and young people:

E-cigarettes help adult tobacco smokers to quit. In turn, children are exposed to less second-hand smoke and smoking role models.

4) Support smokers to stop smoking and stay smoke free:

“A more enabling approach to vaping may be appropriate to make it an easier choice than smoking.” On a practical level, vapers should not be forced to use the same space as smokers, as this could undermine their ability to quit and stay smoke free.

5) Support compliance with smoke free law and policies:

Employers should support compliance with smoke free requirements by emphasising a clear distinction between smoking and vaping. A clear indication should be set as to where vaping is permitted or prohibited.

PHE’s framework will help businesses create evidence-based policies on e-cigarettes — supporting smokers to quit and stay smoke free, while managing any risks specific to their setting.

Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, George Butterworth, said: “E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product, so it’s understandable that many people and businesses may not know how to deal with them. The evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco and they have the potential to help people give up a deadly addiction. It’s important the benefit of using them are maximised while reducing any negative impact, and organisations need independent advice from Public Health England to set out their own policies.”

Smoking remains England’s number one killer, causing nearly 78,000 deaths each year. While the long-term effect of e-cigarettes is still unclear, and they are not entirely risk-free, current evidence shows that they are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco and helping smokers to quit.

Businesses need to consider the comfort of all their employees, smokers, non-smokers and vapers, and show consideration when creating their vaping policies.







Smoking Breaks cost businesses £8.4bn


The smoker’s corner is a common sight across all industries – a bunch of employees usually involved in deep conversation under clouds of residual smoke hanging in the air. While smoking sessions may encourage employee bonding, a recent study shows that these ten-minute sessions cost employers large sums of money.

Research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) says cigarette breaks cost British businesses £8.4 billion a year in lost productivity — of smokers who disappear for a cigarette for 10 minutes, four times a day.

Smoking breaks cost employers £1,815 a year for each full-time worker who smokes during working hours. That’s according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

The one-in-five of employees who smoke take an average of 3.9 smoking breaks per day, each lasting 9.8 minutes. The study shows that these employees spend around 4.3 minutes of each working hour on a smoking break.

“With the average smoker taking at least four smoking breaks a day, their addiction is seriously increasing their risk of conditions like heart disease and stroke. It’s also costing their employer significant sums in lost productivity. For many workers, smoking has become part of their daily routine at work, which makes it extremely difficult to break.” said Lisa Purcell, manager of the BHF’s ‘Health at Work’ programme.

“Over a working week, smoking breaks cost businesses £25.91 per smoker in lost time that would otherwise be used productively,” says the CEBR’s report, adding “While it may be argued that time spent on smoking breaks enhances productivity, providing an opportunity for refreshment and reflection, there is probably a decrease in productivity in the time before the smoking break which, on average, cancels out the effect, leaving the smoking break itself as lost productive time.”

Another survey conducted by OnePoll for the BHF comprised of 2,000 employed smokers, showed that cigarette breaks take up 8.1 per cent of a full-time member of staff’s time spent working, and 5.4 per cent of that of a part-time worker — costing their employers £447 a year.

Opinium Research reveals that 40 per cent of smokers who take a cigarette break do so simply because they “want to get away from their work”. Other reasons for taking a cigarette break include:

1.Pressure getting to them and making them irritable (30%)

2. To gossip with their colleagues (14%)

3. To flirt with their co-workers (4%)

4. Strategic opportunity to talk to their boss (4%)

According to CEBR’s analysis of the Office for National Statistics’ annual population survey of the smoking habits and working patterns of more than 300,000 British workers — Smokers also take 70% of an extra day’s sick leave every year more than non-smokers. CEBR calculates that this time away from work costs businesses around £50 per smoker per year, or a further £288 million overall, bringing the overall cost to business to almost £8.7 billion a year.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) did not comment on the £8.4 billion productivity loss. A spokesperson said that firms did not monitor or break down on smoking breaks. “Smoking is bad for your health but it is an individual choice. Many companies offer employees who want to quit support to do so. Employers take a common sense approach on smoking breaks, in the same way that they would for other brief breaks from work, like making a cup of tea.”