Government cash boost for small business innovation

Innovative businesses in the UK could benefit from a cash boost of £125 million. From this total, £100 million is available in Government grants for research that is deemed pioneering. The remaining £25 million as loans for the commercial aspect of transforming ideas into reality.

Any size of UK businesses, including SMEs, can compete to win a slice of the £125 million. If successful, the money will go directly into transforming their ideas into reality in the form of world-leading products and services.

Small business innovation grants

The £100 million is available through the Innovate Smart grant initiative, and applications are now open. Past winners of the Innovate Smart award include Magic Pony Technology, which was sold to Twitter for a reported $150 million earlier this year.

Magic Pony Technology is a London-based start-up that develops machine learning techniques based on neural networks. These systems are designed to operate and think like human brains, and are used to enhance photos, videos and to develop graphics for augmented reality or virtual reality apps. Co-founders CEO Rob Bishop and Zehan Wang stayed on as part of the deal.

The third start-up focusing on machine learning that has recently been acquired by Twitter, Magic Pony Technology benefited from SMART funding, as well as from investors including Entrepreneur First and Octopus Ventures. It’s the perfect example of what can be achieved by smart start-ups with ideas and expertise.

How to apply for Smart funding

If you want to find out about how to apply for the next round of Innovate Smart funding, see the Government website. Applications opened on 25 July 2019, so now is a good time to get involved if you have the right business idea and backing.

Smart is the new name for the Open Grant Funding programme from Innovate UK. Applications can be from all kinds of technological backgrounds, including media, creative industries, arts and design, engineering or science, and can be applied to any part of the economy.

Any application has to include at least one SME, and the project must run between April 2020 and April 2023. Different rules apply to projects, depending on their projected length:

  • Projects scheduled to last between six and 18 months must have projected costs between £25,000 and £500,000.
  • Those scheduled to last between 19 months and 36 moths must have total project costs between £25,000 and £2 million and be collaborative.

Lead businesses within each consortium must be based in the UK and can be any size. They must also be carrying out the research and development (R&D) project within the UK.

Either be an SME if they want to go through the project independently or include at least one SME if a large company that wants to collaborate.

The project team that wishes to work with the lead business must be based in the UK, and be other a business, charity, public sector organisation, or academic organisation, and must also be conducting the R&D in the UK. Other stipulations include proof that it is intended to commercially use the results in the UK.

Further support grants

There is also a further £25 million allocated through Innovation Loans to go towards projects that are in much later stages and are near to going on the market. This scheme is focusing on businesses that need help to het over the final barriers to commercialisation.

In a press release, the Government’s Business Secretary, Greg Clark, says: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are backing our homegrown businesses to boost productivity and create jobs, growth and opportunity in every part of the UK.”

Many businesses have already benefitted from funding provided by the Government to support innovation, including Digital Shadows. This online digital risk company has raised £20 million to fund its innovation that was developed using a Smart award.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Smart grants and other funding through Innovate UK are great ways for the Government to support innovation in either single businesses or collaborations between different sectors. With the deadline for the UK leaving the EU currently set at 31 October 2019, it’s important for small businesses to plan ahead.

“Applying for Government support is a way to ensure innovative ideas make it through to completion, therefore boosting jobs and the wider economy. The Government is increasingly recognising the importance of the SME sector to the economic stability of the country, which is encouraging. As we continue to move through uncertain times, it’s important that small businesses continue to push forward with innovative and disruptive products and services.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

What are angel investors looking for from small businesses?

Securing funding is a priority for all start-ups, entrepreneurs and small businesses. Without cashflow, it doesn’t matter how promising a business idea is. And one channel many entrepreneurs pursue for funding are angel investors.

How do angel investors work?

An angel investor is someone who uses their own personal money to invest in a small business, one that they personally consider worthwhile. They will choose businesses that have growth potential. Usually, they provide that business with equity finance and receive shares of the business in return – think a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style transaction.

Angel investors use their own experience, skills and knowledge to decide who to work with. They don’t rely on an external agent or advisor, it’s about them making gut decisions based on face-to-face meetings, or via online platforms.

A key differentiator between receiving funding from a bank and an angel investor is that you will also benefit from the angel investors contacts, experience and knowledge. Angel investors bring a lot more to the table that just funding, they can bring all kinds of networking opportunities to help the small business grow and succeed. Some choose to act passively as part of a group of investors or be the lead investor on a deal.

How can small businesses find an angel investor?

Networking is key here. The most productive way to approach an angel investor is through an introduction, either from a contact, client, other entrepreneur or even a friend. Angel investors are approached by many people with a lot of different pitches, so it can be difficult to get an ‘in’.

Events are also a possible avenue, with groups such as the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA) regularly hosting investor forums. These can present opportunities to meet with business leaders, other entrepreneurs and potential investors. They also host regional hubs offering higher visibility of investors to entrepreneurs.

What interests an angel investor?

Investors want to understand how you are solving a problem or challenge present in society or a specific market. They will want to see market research that proves your start-up or project meets an actual need. It also must bring something disruptive or tangibly new to the market.

They also what to know that your business can be scaled, how you plan to grow, how you expect to make money and whether you’ve tested prototypes on customers. You must be able to prove there is real interest in your project. It’s not enough to turn up with an idea and expect funding, rather a strong business case must be crafted.

As well as short-term scalability, angel investors want to know about international possibilities. How will your start-up eventually fit in on a global stage?

Is there a limit on how much they can invest?

While some angel investors choose to do so alone, it’s more common to invest alongside others through syndication. The average angel investment from an individual is about £25,000. Syndicates provide approximately £190,000 on average.

Bigger SMEs on the cusp of international expansion naturally require more investment than a start-up. Investors tailor support to fit the project, something that is usually not possible from traditional lenders. Investors and the start-ups involved benefit from this flexibility.

Investing in this way usually doesn’t see a return or a possible exit for at least eight years. How long angel investors choose to remain part of the business again depends on individual circumstances. They rely on guidance from people who have long-term experience in building businesses to make decisions, as well as their own in-depth knowledge of the sector.

Start-up investment is increasing in the UK

Start-up investment is more popular and accessible in the UK than ever before. There are enough successful start-ups (for example, ASOS, JustEat and Zoopla) providing a clear framework for investors to make a decision. In addition, there are increasing policies and legislative changes implemented by various Governments to support this sector.

The biggest impact has come from the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) in the late 1990s, and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), implemented in 2012. Both reward investors with generous tax breaks. For example, under SEIS, it’s possible to gain up to 72.5% of the investment as tax relief.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “These kinds of tax relief schemes have been exceptionally popular with private and angel investors. Each year. They invest more than £1.5 billion into high-growth opportunities using EIS and SEIS. This is why we are seeing more angel investors wanting to become involved at the early stages of start-ups.

“Angel networks are excellent tools for investors as they present various opportunities through online platforms and pitching events. Tech start-ups in particular are seeing results from angel investors, and it offers a financing opportunity that is more flexible than traditional banks.

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Should small businesses focus on people or technology?

What’s more important for your small business? Is it your people or the technology you invest in? As the business sector transitions into a totally digital world, some entrepreneurs and small business owners are focusing more on tech than people.

New research from Yorkshire Bank’s Expect More report, shows that nearly half of UK SME owners believe technology is more important to their business than people.

Why is technology important to small businesses?

Expect More covers 2,000 small business owners, SME entrepreneurs and start-up owners from ten major UK cities.

More than 46% of small business owners say they think tech is more important to their business than people, with the highest number in London (56%). And it seems these tech-loving SME owners may be on the right track.

Successful, high-growth businesses are more likely to be driven by technology. The report shows that almost three-quarters of entrepreneurs find tech is the key reason for business growth. Interestingly, these high-growth businesses driven by tech are more aware of the environmental impact of their work. Almost 60% say their environmental impact is extremely important, compared with an average 44%.

The link between technology and funding

Tech also secures more funding for SMEs. More than 35% of small businesses led by technology find it relatively easy to land growth funding. This is significant when compared with those outside of the tech field, with just 19% of other businesses reporting the same.

This is partly due to the fact that tech-led SMEs are making more attempts to secure more funding than businesses in other sectors. The study finds that 90% tech orientated businesses attempted to access funding, compared to an average of 80%. Whether this is because there are more opportunities available, or whether tech businesses are being more proactive remains unclear.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “Technology is the biggest disruptor to our daily lives and to businesses across every sector. Advances in tech are revolutionising the way we live and work. This is opening up new markets to UK SMEs.

“E-commerce has allowed access to a sector that wasn’t previously available to small businesses, and many start-ups are tech driven for this reason. There are opportunities for tech-based start-ups that simply don’t exist for more traditional small businesses, particularly as the face of retail is changing so much. As e-commerce and traditional retail continue to adapt to each other, UK SMEs are taking advantage of this new channel of opportunity.

“It’s unsurprising, therefore, that tech-based small businesses are securing more funding and reporting higher growth levels. The SME sector has adopted a massive range of tech, ranging from social media and digital marketing to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). The introduction of 5G will continue to push tech boundaries and open up more connections, fuelling development in this area.

“However, people remain vital to the success of small businesses, and this shouldn’t be forgotten in the drive to adopt new technology. The personal element is the differentiator between businesses and can be the difference between success and failure. The importance of effective communication between business and client or customer should not be taken for granted. UK SMEs must strike a balance between people and technology as their focus.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Digitisation dramatically improves business for UK SMEs

Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have flexibility, agility and responsiveness on their side in the battle against large companies. The ability to pivot and react to changes in your sector is invaluable when it comes to maintaining success and growing your business.

 

And SMEs that embrace and work with flexible, fast, digital infrastructure are ahead of the competitive game. A worldwide survey of SMEs by Techaisle and Salesforce finds a ‘digital divide’ within this sector. Those companies capitalising on the speed and cost advantages of cloud computing have an advantage over their contemporaries.

 

Digitisation improves business for UK SMEs

 

The annual Business Digital Index (BDI) from Lloyds Bank has been running since 2014. In those five years, encouraging results are now showing. The latest report shows that digital uptake for SMEs is currently at an all time high with 99% of small businesses and charities in the UK now online.

 

The digitisation of UK charities has just about doubled since 2014’s index. The score increased by 92% in the 2018 report for charities, and by 24% for SMEs. This means that, when compared with data from 2014, there are now 81% fewer charities showing the lowest digital capability. There are 50% fewer SMEs showing this too.

 

Lloyds say that this change results from a change in mindset. This is borne out by 71% of SMEs saying that they recognise that digitisation is vital for their future success. This is an increase of 31% over the last five years. Almost one million SMEs and charities show four of the five measurable Basic Digital Skills in the Index. This is an increase of 34% over just 12 months.

 

Still work to be done to close digital gap

 

All of these stats are encouraging, but there is still much to be done. There is a productivity gap of £85 billion that can be narrowed significantly by boosting digitisation.

 

The Index shows 16% of UK SMEs scoring low digital capability. This is the equivalent of 655,000 small businesses, and the impact this has on the economy as a whole is significant. Using behavioural and transactional data, the BDI shows that if these SMEs close the digital divide, they could unlock an extra £84.5 billion in turnover.

 

Sole traders have the biggest opportunity to capitalise on digital skills. Just over 41% measure as low digital capability. If they develop and enhance their digital capability, then they could see an extra £24,000 turnover per year each. And if every sole trader does this, there would be an increased turnover for SMEs in the UK of £43.3 billion.

 

Recognising the benefits of digital transformation

Businesses often don’t understand the value of their current digitisation, or the benefits of improving it. The Index shows that 64% of SMEs don’t link increased sales with their online activity. However, they are incorrect as data shows digitisation has improved sales for this sector by up to 25%. The study shows there is a clear correlation between using Cloud based tech services and increased turnover.

 

Accessibility is another key area that small businesses are failing to capitalise on. More than 10 million people in the UK are registered as having a disability. However, 96% of UK SME websites do not reach the international accessibility guidelines (WCAG).

 

Research also shows that around 25 million people choose to shop on their mobile device. Despite this number, just 18% of SMEs in the UK have optimised their website for mobile use.

 

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “The latest Index has a mix of positive and negative results from the small business sector in the UK. It’s encouraging to see the increase in numbers of SMEs that are now digitised and showing real engagement with the benefits of technology.

 

“However, it’s clear that there is a significant digitisation gap in this country. There is the opportunity for small businesses to vastly improve their prospects, turnover and bottom line if they choose to utilise the technology available.

 

“There is likely a generational impact on these figures, with sole traders in particular affecting the uptake of Cloud-based services. Those who have been working for years in a certain way may simply not understand the opportunity available to them. As tech becomes more intuitive and easier to use, I would hope to see these figures improve by the time of the next Index.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Research shows what UK SMEs really want from banks

Recent research from YouGov, the Telegraph and Yorkshire Bank shows that UK SMEs are experiencing high levels of confidence, and this affects how they deal with banks.

UK SMEs have money to invest but aren’t prepared to be overcharged on banking fees. And while only 11% say they want to switch banks, most want a better deal and service than their current bank provides.

UK SMEs should work with their bank

It’s no surprise that better services and rates make certain banks more attractive to UK SMEs. However, small and medium sized enterprises arguably have more power than ever before. We live in a time where SMEs can access finances in many different ways, and where the market has diversified hugely. Banks should understand that the personalised approach makes a big difference to smaller businesses.

The ideal relationship between a bank and SME should be collaborative, with the company working with the bank to analyse the best way to do business. Gavin Opperman, Group Business Banking Director for Yorkshire Bank, says: “In terms of how the business bank relationship can play a role, SMEs should also analyse their business together with their banker and advisors to identify any levers which can be pulled to free up cash, or any new markets that could further diversify their income base. This can hedge against economic uncertainty and reduce outgoings.”

Small businesses want better business rates

Just over 40% of respondents to the survey say they want better fee tariffs and interest rates. And a separate piece of research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows why. Borrowing costs for SMEs have reached a four-year high, and this can be a major problem for small businesses.

However, while borrowing and banking in general is more expensive, few SMEs say they have problems accessing finance. More than 75% say they have sufficient access to financial sources when they need them. Encouragingly, only 4% of UK SMEs report that debt management adversely affects their company finances.

Financing options for small businesses have increased over the last ten years due to significant market development. For example, the launch of the British Business Bank increases funding supplies to smaller businesses. The rapid growth of the alternative finance industry, which offers solutions such as invoice finance, peer-to-peer lending and crowd-funding has also increase options for SMEs.

Businesses better prepared following financial crisis

As well as these significant changes within the market, there is also the legacy following the financial crisis of 2008. This encouraged businesses to ensure they build up cash reserves for operations and growth, so that they are prepared should they suddenly lose access to financial providers.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) revealed in 2017 that 61% UK small businesses have a cash surplus.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “We can assume that UK SMEs are focusing on building a cash surplus, particularly as we go through Brexit uncertainty. It does seem that, to a certain extent, smaller businesses in the country are delaying substantial investment until we have a clearer picture of how the country will be affected by leaving the EU.

“However, the report’s key findings include the fact that 39% of UK SMEs are not threatened by Brexit at all and say that they don’t think it will affect them in the slightest. This is encouraging news, as we move into the final phases of the negotiations with the EU, as this sort of resilience bodes well for the future of small businesses in the UK, whatever the final deal turns out to be.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Should there be a tax break for SMEs investing in productivity technology?

Leaders across the business sector are asking the Government to introduce a ‘Productivity Allowance’ in a bid to push the UK forward. The suggestion is featured in a report from the Institute of Directors (IoD) called Lifting the Long Tail: The productivity challenge through the eyes of small businesses.

The idea is a new tax allowance for businesses investing in productivity and technology. Other measures are also suggested in the report, such as developing a formal business support framework that works nationally, increasing the Apprenticeship Levy and creating a wider training Levy. The report also talks about improving the knowledge transfer between businesses and academia.

Government’s Industrial Strategy

The report’s proposals are outlined in the foreword by the Chief Economist for the Bank of England, Andrew Haldane. He calls them: “useful food for thought for Government, as it begins to put in place the nest stages of its important and ambitious Industrial Strategy.”

Through the strategy the Government wants to boost productivity by supporting businesses. It pledges to create jobs and increase employee earning power by investing in infrastructure, industry and skills. This includes boosting the foundations of productivity – defined as the things that support an innovative, skilled and balanced economy. The five foundations, taken directly from the Government’s strategy, are:

  • Ideas: encouraging the UK to be the world’s most innovative economy
  • People: ensuring good jobs and greater earning power for all
  • Infrastructure: driving a major upgrade to the UK’s infrastructure
  • Business environment: guaranteeing the best place to start and grow a business
  • Places: creating prosperous communities across the UK

Solving the puzzle

The author of the IoD report is Senior Economist Tej Parikh. He says: “Solving the productivity puzzle has been a defining challenge for the UK over the past decade. The success of our post-Brexit economy hinges on our ability to unlock the vast untapped potential among UK small businesses.”

It’s important to recognise that there is no single way to achieve this. The debate has always talked about broad trends. Instead, as the IoD are urging the Government, the discussion needs to move into the real world of the office floor.

Mr Parikh adds: “To lift itself, the long tail will first need to twitch into action. This means shifting mind-sets and a series of small steps. Directors of smaller firms need the support and encouragement to spend more time working ‘on’ and not just ‘in’ their organisation, and to confidently adopt new management techniques and technology. We also need to retool our currently patchy national architecture for business advice, and there is no time to waste.”

Urgency needed

There’s a new sense of urgency for ideas, technologies and solutions to boost the small business community. Unsurprisingly, this is being driven by the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit agreements, and the date to leave the EU moving closer.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “With just six months to go, it’s time to move small businesses on. While the Government is correct to prioritise closing the gap between high and low performing businesses, changes must happen soon.

“In the UK we are lucky to have a layer of innovators that are pushing through new frontiers. But this must translate down throughout the entire business community to boost the economy. Raising business productivity is one of the country’s most urgent economic challenges.

“This is particularly the case as we see automation transform many sectors. The Government must find innovative ways to support businesses of all sizes. Support is needed with funding, but also to improve management capability and expertise, to adopt the newest technologies and to spread information across the economy. By focusing on what can be done at company level, the IoD’s report is giving the Government new ideas on how to improve performance, and therefore productivity.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

New £12 billion lending fund for UK SMEs launched by HSBC UK

Good news for SMEs – HSBC UK has doubled its original SME Fund, boosting it to £12 billion. The money helps companies to grow, and this is the fifth year this cash is being made available to SMEs.

Total funds committed to SMEs by the bank between 2014 and 2018 now reach £46 billion.

Overseas funding boost for SMEs

The fund also incorporates £1 billion ring-fenced to help UK SMEs grow their businesses overseas. As the UK heads towards a potentially drastic split from the EU, overseas business is becoming more crucial for small and medium sized businesses. The bank’s research shows that more than 72% (over two-thirds) of businesses in the UK are anticipating cross-border trade to increase over the next 12 months.

In addition, it includes a minimum amount of £300 million specifically for agricultural businesses in the UK. It’s allocated to different regions across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, to ensure the fund remains country wide.

Head of Commercial Banking Amanda Murphy says: “British companies are optimistic about their trade growth prospects but it’s important they can get the finance they need to achieve it. With this in mind, we have set aside £1 billion of the fund to support international businesses in the UK. We cover more than 90% of global trade and capital flows and are uniquely placed to help these businesses trade overseas.”

Keeping SME’s afloat

BiFunds like this are especially important in light of research that shows 30% of SMEs actually need them just to survive. A report from finance provider Liberis finds that just under a third of small businesses need funding just to keep their heads above water.

The research looks into a range of criteria and records that ‘keeping afloat’ scores as one of the highest. Other in the top five reasons for business owners requesting funding include ‘purchasing new equipment, ‘general operating costs’ and ‘keeping up-to-date’.

The most common amount requested by SME owners is approximately £30,000. This is the amount of money needed to take a small business through to the next level. Despite initiatives like the HSBC UK fund, there is resistance from major banks to lend to small businesses. There is a perception among business owners that UK banks are reluctant to invest in innovation.

Economic backbone

According to Kelly Tolhurst, the Government’s Small Business Minister, more than 1,000 SMEs start up every single day. The 5.7 million small businesses in this country are its economic backbone and will continue to increase in significance post Brexit. She says: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy and industry-led initiatives such as this [HSBC UK fund], the Government and industry are building an environment in which businesses all over the country can thrive.”

SMEs contribute in excess of £200 billion a year to the country’s economy. Forecasts expect this to increase by around 20% by 2025. However, without enough cash going to the right places, this vision could be limited.

Almost two-thirds of small businesses in the UK see funding as a way to help them grow. And yet, 55% find it impossible to access the cash they need. This is leading increasing alternative providers, which reduces the pressure on banks and mainstream financial providers.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “We’re experiencing an uncertain economic and political climate, with no real idea of what comes next. This means there is a greater need for the Government to support small businesses and ensure they can access the capital they need.

“While it’s becoming more difficult for small businesses to access funds from traditional channels such as business loans and funding, it’s encouraging to see new channels forming. Research by UK Finance regarding bank loans and overdrafts provided to small businesses over the past five years show that there is a drop of almost £6 billion. FinTech is filling this gap and providing new ways for SMEs to access funding.

“Combined with traditional funding options, we’re hopeful that the future of funding is strong. The Government must provide stability and support for the SME sector in the UK. Its importance is only going to increase as we leave the EU, and reform is essential. In particular, SMEs need encouraging to export outside of Europe and expand overseas.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

How to build a great sales team for a small business

There are many exciting and daunting challenges for any new and growing company. One of these challenges is how to build a great sales team? As this will form the backbone for your future success, it’s important to get it right.

There are four keys to success:

  1. Choose the right people
  2. Learn to perform
  3. Use the best technology
  4. Focus on the right activities

Here is how to do it:

Hiring the best people

To scale your new or growing business, you must attract the right talent to your team. The first step should be clarifying why you want to recruit for specific roles. An incorrect hire can be hugely costly when you’re starting out, or for any established SME. To get it right, you should review the current needs for your business and identify any gaps that are ready for expansion.

When you have a concise job description in writing, then it’s time to reach out to potential candidates. Carry out your searches strategically and be clear what you are prepared to compromise on for the right person.

It’s important to remain open-minded when it comes to background and experience; the candidate must be relevant. No matter how personable they appear, someone with ten years in manufacturing sales will probably not match the needs of a property company, for example.

The final stage is to work out a clearly defined interview process that includes the values you want from the candidate. Having a list of clear behaviours that represent your company’s culture and aspirations will help you score interview candidates in a useful way. Whether you’re looking for passion and aspiration or experience and an inquisitive instinct, understanding what you actually need will help you find the best person. And in a sales candidate, you want to see a good track record and evidence of success.

When you have a candidate that fits, make an offer and see how they negotiate. A good salesperson will try to get the best offer possible. If they can convince you to alter your salary and commission stricture, then this is a clear indication they are right for your sales team.

Your sales team must perform. It’s a key function for every business. No matter how good your product or service, if you can’t communicate this to potential customers then the business with fail. To succeed, your small business must sell itself and its products to a high standard.

Deciding who to hire for your sales team, which systems to use and when to scale up are all key considerations for business owners.

Take advantage of technology

When you have the team in place, you must provide the right tools to allow them to succeed. Many SMEs neglect this step, and salespeople are expected to achieve the impossible. Research by YouGov, covering 1,000 sales professionals in the UK, has found that 25% rely on pen and paper to keep track of their sales pipeline. This is an incredible number, given the sheer number of digital tools freely available to salespeople in 2018.

Sales tracking is incredibly important to effectively manage sales. To scale up as a business, it’s vital to be able to optimise and refine your sales processes as you go. This is a constant process and needs technology to work well. Build your team using a high-quality CRM (Customer Relationship Platform) platform from day one. This will allow them to track metrics and understand where and how they can change their process for better results.

Focus on ‘winnable’ tasks

A major factor in building a successful team is focusing on the right sales activities. The best route to success is by focusing on quality rather than quantity when it comes to chasing leads and closing sales.

It doesn’t matter how good the salesperson is, some deals are never going to close. Spending too much time chasing the impossible wastes other opportunities. Sales teams should be trained to understand how to spot low-quality leads and drop them in favour of those than can be converted.

Remember that rigidly focusing on end targets rather than the steps that could be taken to move deals on, can be counter-productive.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited said: “A good sales team really matters. Research shows that SMEs in the UK are losing an average of £15,000 every month due to poor quality sales processes. This must change if you want your small business to smash through growth targets and become successful.

“The market in every sector in increasingly competitive. Teams are increasingly needing to secure both national and international sales, for example. By allowing inaccurate or unfocused sales activity to slide, your business could be losing substantial amounts of money on a regular basis.

“Invest in decent technology and tools to allow your sales team to do their job. The importance of this can’t be underestimated. A well maintained and productive sales team shouldn’t be something business owners take for granted. It should be nurtured, encouraged and supported.

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Turner Little

How prepared are small businesses for a potential ‘no deal’ Brexit?

The closer we get to the date specified for Brexit, which is scheduled for 29 March 2019, the more unclear it all appears. With the Conservative Party Conference underway now, and Prime Minister Theresa May apparently facing revolt from both ‘Remainers’ and ‘Brexiteers’ in her party, there has been much media speculation that the UK will be heading for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

And while it’s also unclear how prepared anyone is for this scenario, according to research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), few have started serious preparations.

No deal, no problem?

Just 14% (one in seven) small businesses has begun planning for the scenario of a no-deal Brexit, according to the research. The FSB’s report shows that while another 41% of small businesses think that a no deal Brexit will adversely impact their business, they haven’t yet started planning in real terms for this eventuality.

One in ten small businesses (10%) said that they think a no-deal Brexit will have a positive effect on their business. On the other side, nearly half of small businesses in the UK (48%) think that a no-deal style Brexit will negatively affect their ability to do business.

When considering small businesses that trade with the EU, this figure increases to 66%. For SMEs that employ people from the EU, 61% think no deal means problems ahead for their business.

Planned actions

As well as discovering the percentage of small businesses who are concerned about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit, the research also breaks down what they’re planning to do about it.

It shows that just over a third of small businesses (35%) are planning to postpone major innovations, research and development and businesses decisions. Just over a fifth (21%) of small businesses likely to be affected by a no deal Brexit will be cutting expenditure and staff between now and the time the UK leaves the EU.

Michael Watkinson, FSB Development Manager for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, believes the findings show that small businesses are not prepared for the potential chaos that could arise from a no deal Brexit. He said: “Looking at this research, it’s obvious that our small firms are not prepared or ready for a chaotic no deal Brexit and the impact that it will have on their businesses.”

The Government appears to confirm that a no deal Brexit is likely, with Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, saying today (1 October) that the UK could be “left with no choice but a no-deal Brexit if the EU tries to lock us in to a customs union”.

Government support

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited said: “Small businesses that sell products to the EU, rely on employees from the EU or buy products from the EU are understandably concerned at how a no deal Brexit could affect them. It’s clear from research like this that many feel they are in the dark about what to expect and how they should prepare for it.

“It’s particularly concerning that small businesses are electing to delay business decisions, stopping investment and, perhaps most problematically, cutting staff. Small businesses form the very backbone of the UK’s economy and the Government must listen to their concerns as we head towards Brexit.

“With so much unclear it’s not surprising that SMEs haven’t started preparing for Brexit, as no one knows what to prepare for. In the ideal scenario at this stage, the Government would talk to and work directly with the small business sector in the UK to make sure that they are properly supported if a no deal Brexit continues to become the most likely scenario.

“We only have about six months until exit day, so it’s very much a race against time to avoid a situation where the UK will crash out of the EU in a way that will damage small businesses. It will be interesting to see what arises from the Conservative Party Conference as this is a key time for the Prime Minister’s current plan.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

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