4 Main Types of Electricity Brokers and their Characteristics

The cost of doing business is on arising as a result of the continuous hike in electricity prices. Most companies remain with the only option of switching electricity providers. If done carefully, the move could result in the stroke that changes the fortunes of a company. We all know that a broker could be of help. However, choosing the best electricity broker remains among the significant challenges for a business intending to lower the cost of energy. This article helps you to know the types of brokers so you can make an informed decision.

  1. The rotating door electricity broker

As the name suggests, this type of broker is the one that’s always knocking on your door and chasing you for the energy supply deal. They are aggressive, and they won’t take no for an answer. The problem with this type of energy broker is that no sooner you sign the energy contract than he disappears for good. Such brokers get paid upfront for any contract they convert for the business electricity provider, and so it’s meaningless for them to hang around during the life of the contract. Should you get any challenges, they won’t be around to guide and assist you.

  1. The one-person show

The one person show kind of broker is the type that works alone. It’s easy to notice them since they are mostly stressed up and seem overwhelmed with work. They don’t have any support staff, and they have to do everything on their own. They are always late for appointments or keep postponing the same. Most of them have good intentions; however, their nature of operations do not allow them to provide a professional service to their clients. The chances of them abandoning you after you sign the energy contract are high.

  1. The Know-It-All energy broker

If you are not careful, this type of broker will sweep you with their mastery of the energy industry jargon, they seem experts, and they’ll tell you what you want to hear. They are masters of deception who you should avoid at all cost because other than sweet talking; they lack any practicability. All they target is getting you to sign the energy contract, once you fall for them and sign; it’s high time they will be at it with the next target.

  1. The professional energy broker

This is the type of broker that a company should be looking to contract.  You can know when you are dealing with a professional broker because of their holistic approach to your energy challenges. Such brokers usually have an office with trained personnel. They guide you and help you to compare the prices of the best energy providers. A professional energy broker has in-depth knowledge and understanding of the energy industry. Using their knowledge and experience, they’ll guide you toward the best energy deals. Also, they will be with you through-out during the life of your energy contract. A professional broker could also provide you with the best advice to help you reduce your energy consumption.

Knowing the types of electricity brokers is the first step in choosing the best broker who can see you through the tedious process of switching energy providers.

Protect yourself with a Tech Free 15 minutes

We would all agree that technology helps to make our busy lives that little bit easier. Tech allows us to tackle our work or personal to-do list on the move and it provides an increasing level of connectivity between colleagues and friends. All well and good, but when was the last time you took 15 minutes away from your devices?

Taking a tech ‘time out’ has its benefits. In the workplace it means we can better interact with colleagues – discussing ideas for a new project or encouraging team-building exercises. Why not take the time to sit down to lunch together, or go outside for some fresh air? At home, we can take time for ourselves to focus on something else we enjoy – playing an instrument or taking the dog for a walk. Taking a break from our devices means we can use that time to install the latest software and app updates. Allocating some tech-free time to do this can help to protect you from the threats posed by cyber criminals and hackers, who are always waiting for an opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities in people’s devices.

We all know we should update our devices when prompted but many of us delay. In fact, on average only 52% regularly download the latest software or app updates as soon as they are available[i]. Yet, these updates include important security enhancements. Let’s not forget our personal devices hold a lot of information about us and falling victim to a cyber attack might result in financial loss and damage to your reputation. The time it would take to recover from a breach would also be lost, and that takes far longer than it takes to bolster online security by installing the latest software and app updates.

As a partner of the Cyber Aware campaign we are encouraging all our customers to take a tech-free 15 minutes to not only install the latest software and app updates to your devices, but to use that time away to be productive, creative and mindful in other ways. Protecting yourself online can be combined with protecting your health and wellbeing offline with time away from your tech. We would love to hear how you used this time so, when back online, why not use social media to let us know how you used your #techfree15? Hopefully we can encourage others to take tech-free time to do something positive for themselves, too.

It’s important that employees take responsibility to be more cyber aware as well. Taking a Tech Free 15 minutes to install the latest software and app updates to your devices is just one way you can do this. The government-led campaign, Cyber Aware, encourages small, actionable steps (based on the technical advice of the National Cyber Security Centre) – from installing the latest software and app updates to having a strong and separate password for your email account – that are simple to follow, but can really keep you more secure online.

To find out more about being Cyber Aware visit www.cyberaware.gov.uk

[i] Cyber Aware online study was conducted with members of Ipsos MORI’s online panel in 2016

Protect against online fraud

The first line of defence against any kind of cyber attack is your password.

By making sure you use strong passwords, you make it more challenging for criminals to hack your accounts.

It’s especially important to use a strong, separate password for your email, as it’s often a gateway to other important data. Cyber criminals can use your email to access many of your personal accounts and find out vital personal information, such as your bank details, address or date of birth.

Having a strong, separate password for your email means that if cyber criminals steal the password for one of your less important accounts, they can’t use it to access your email account.

Use three random words to create a strong password

A good way to create a strong and memorable password is to use three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be used if needed, for example 3redhousemonkeys27!

Be creative and use words memorable to you, so that people can’t guess your password. Your social media accounts can give away vital clues about yourself so don’t use words such as your child’s name or favourite sports team which are easy for people to guess.

Cyber criminals already know most of the simple substitutions we use such as ‘Pa55word!” – using numbers or symbols to replace letters.

Never use the following personal details for your password:

  • Current partner’s name
  • Child’s name
  • Other family members’ name
  • Pet’s name
  • Place of birth
  • Favourite holiday
  • Something related to your favourite sports team

Becoming a victim of fraud isn’t just about looking out for yourself…it’s about knowing what to look out for. Find out how you stack up with this quick test from City of London Police.

Digital to drive footfall

Whatever business you’re in, you can benefit from a strong digital presence. Showcasing your work online can translate to increased sales in the ‘real’ world.

Our top five tips will help you use digital to:

  • Show off your products on social media
  • Inspire new customers and reward existing ones
  • Use search engine optimisation so your customers can find you
  • Take advantage of online tools to increase sales
  • Test and try out different channels to find the ones that work for you

Don’t neglect your virtual shop window

Treat your web presence like your digital shop window. It’s where you can display your products, boast of your expertise, and entice customers to your business. Use photography and testimonials to make a noise about what you do. And don’t forget to link to a map, so your customers can find you easily.  

You can use:

  • Facebook image carousels, posts and ads
  • Instagram posts and ads
  • Snapchat

Sharing a Facebook pic of your latest offer can inspire someone to put down their phone and head to your door.

CASE STUDY: Established in 2013, Charge Cords makes long, strong and durable Apple MFi Certified Cords for every iPhone, iPad, and Android phone in the market.

We use Facebook and Instagram to announce new products to our current customer base – and to acquire new customers.”
Jerad Friedline, co-founder of Charge Cords

Make people feel special with exclusivesDigital is a great tool for sharing special offers — especially when it comes to rewarding your most loyal customers and recruiting new ones. Emails are great for inviting your existing customers to an exclusive event, and social media posts can promote one-off giveaways.

You can use:

  • Emails to your customer database
  • Facebook posts and ads
  • Instagram posts and ads
  • Twitter

A quick tweet about a giveaway like Colston Hall’s above is a great way to inspire your existing customers, and attract the attention of new ones too. Even better, it’s completely free!

Colston hall giveaway

CASE STUDY: The PC Landing Zone is a US computer and cell phone repair business set up in 2013. It has 2 shops and employs 6 technicians.

For every dollar I spend on a Facebook ad, I get at least 4X the return in sales.”
Victor Lezama, owner/technician, The PC Landing Zone

Make it easy for customers to find you 

You don’t want your customers to struggle to find you online, so ensure your web presence is ‘search engine optimised’ (SEO). Make sure your business address, opening hours and business type are all kept up-to-date on your website, and that your social media pages are regularly updated.

You can use:

Making your business name and location clear on Google can mean you’re added to their maps so new customers can find you.

Beat the local competitionThere are loads of SEO tools that mean when a customer searches for your business type or product online, you’re the first result they see.

For a small cost, you can use Paid Search (PPC) to put your business above nearby competition. You can also tell Google your location and stock list to help customers find you first. Local inventory ads are a good way to show the world you have the product they’re searching for. Combine all this with a ‘click and collect’ service, and new customers will choose you above your competitors.

You can use:

  • Google Adwords
  • Google Local Inventory Ads
  • Paid Search tools
  • Facebook pages and ads

Local inventory ads help you tell people that you have the product they’re searching for.

The great thing about digital is there are so many ways you can communicate your message. You can share photos on Instagram, invite loyal customers to events via email, host giveaways on Twitter and talk to your customers on Facebook.

Even better, many digital marketing tools are free and easy to use. Get digital working for you, and you can look forward to a great return on investment.

CASE STUDY: WORX is a global business supplying award-winning, high-quality, environmentally friendly power tools.

Thanks to Facebook’s advanced targeting and advertising tools, our campaign kept our products top-of-mind and reached people already shopping for deals.
Worx DIY Tools

Protect your business from Cyber Crime

We’ve partnered with the government Cyber Aware campaign to bring you the best advice on how to keep your business, staff, and customers safe online.

Do you keep your premises secure from intruders by locking doors or using security passes?  What about backing-up your data, ensuring your passwords are secure, and downloading updates so your systems are less vulnerable to a cyber-attack?

If you feel in the dark when it comes to online security, you’re not alone – in a recent survey, only a third of small businesses said they felt ‘completely prepared’ for a cyber security breach.*

Cyber attacks cost organisations like yours thousands of pounds and cause lengthy periods of disruption. Do you have a plan for what you would do if your customer database was stolen, your website was forced offline, or you couldn’t access your email or business-critical data?

Cyber criminals don’t just attack banks and large companies – they target any organisation which isn’t properly protected, even small businesses – like yours.

The majority of cyber attacks exploit basic weaknesses in your IT systems and software.

A recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey** showed that just under half (46%) of all UK businesses have suffered at least one cyber security breach or attack in the last 12 months*.

Larger companies such as Wonga, Yahoo, and LinkedIn are regularly featured in the media as cyber security cautionary tales. Although you’d expect bigger companies to be the main target for cybercriminals, SMEs – who have significantly less resources – also need to take extra care in their approach to cyber security.

Even a simple virus or piece of malware could result in loss of company and client data, disrupt your cashflow and take up staff time. An attack could also put off your customers, stop you trading and damage your hard-earned reputation, it could even be reported in the local media. Loss of data could put your business in breach of the Data Protection Act and lead to fines or prosecution.

People and businesses alike are not taking the equivalent security precautions online as they do offline, according to research from the Government’s cyber security campaign Cyber Aware. While the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows 82% of households have double locks or deadlocks, when it comes to online security only 35% of individuals and 39% of SMEs follow the latest advice;  to create strong passwords by using ‘three random words’. Furthermore, only 52% of individuals and 68% of SMEs download the latest software and app updates as soon as they are available. This is despite the fact that recent ONS figures show that cyber crime was one of 2016’s most common offences, with approximately 2million incidents***.

That’s why npower Business is supporting the Cyber Aware campaign. We’re doing our bit to encourage you to do more to protect your business and customers from cyber crime. Protecting a business from cyber-attacks has become as important as ensuring a building is safe from fires. However, being cyber secure doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming – it’s something everyone can take steps to action.

You might think that software and application updates are purely cosmetic, or give the manufacturer additional opportunities to sell to you, but they actually plug vulnerable security gaps, which could potentially leave hackers with an easy route into your data (and your customers’).

Ensuring your email account is protected by a strong separate password is crucial to protect valuable data and documents. Using three random words to make passwords strong, memorable and secure is another key way to protect yourself and your company. Customer data and confidential financial information are all just one click away for some hackers.

Once you’ve got the basics covered, Cyber Essentials should also be top of  your ‘to-do’ list. It’s a Government backed and industry-supported ‘standard’, which protects your business against the most common online threats. It sets out five controls, which will significantly reduce your company’s vulnerability to cyber crime, and is suitable for organisations of all sizes and all sectors. Not only will your business be more secure as a result, you will be able to display a badge demonstrating you adhere to a government endorsed standard, giving you a distinct edge over competitors. Find out more at: https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk/cyberessentials/

We’ll be sharing more tips like this as we support Cyber Aware, so keep an eye out for updates to help you get your online security as good as your offline security.

Cyber Aware is a cross-government awareness and behaviour change campaign delivered by the Home Office in conjunction with Department of Culture, Media & Sport and the National Cyber Security Centre (a part of GCHQ), and funded by the National Cyber Security Programme in the Cabinet Office. 

To find out more about how to stay secure online visit www.cyberaware.gov.uk or follow the conversation on Twitter @CyberAwareGov.


* Small Business Reputation & the Cyber Risk research commissioned by Cyber Streetwise and KPMG in December 2015

** Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017 (Department for Culture, Media and Sport & Ipsos Mori)


*** Office of National Statistics 2016



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:


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