Getting to grips with technology can be a problem, being concerned about security; Website attacks, emails going missing, computer viruses - All are understandable. But businesses practicing without email….. How?
What is the reasoning behind a resistant micro or smaller business to an email account?
My flabber has been gasted by perfectly serious businesses telling me they don’t have email, with my mind sent mostly reeling by those with smart phones and pc’s, laptops and dongles, dishes with satellite and broadband with sleigh-bells (slight exaggeration).
It isn’t a secret formula, I genuinely don’t know how those, without access to the magic juice of internet, manage to do business – especially with a retail element that incurs stockist and customer communication. Mobile point of sale must seem like War of the Worlds to them, or any who haven’t yet realised the low-cost entry potential to reaching customers.
Old fashioned Customer Service is strengthened with new technology.
Image credit: Sean MacEntee Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013
The Business Of Consulting
I’d spent the best part of a much needed weekend break… shopping. The sun (hidden since last September) managed to burn into the face of my android assistant, before moving onto my head until I had the headache of a man who’d run a marathon dressed as a Styrofoam marshmallow. Frustration, searching for a PC router on a Sunday, when it really could have waited another day to speak to the right people, was fuelled by overheating, wanting a bargain and increasingly needing a drink.
Hints from the office router that it had `had enough’ had been emitted daily during the prior week as it had teasingly started casting a shadow of doubt we’d have a work space without lit screens full of YouTube wonder; while we pretended to be busy (that bit was a joke, but fearing its demise was on the cards, wasn’t). I sincerely thought circumnavigating inconvenience wouldn’t be a problem; intervention when the office was closed and before the next week started seemed (at the time) a good idea. I now realise I was afflicted with naivety.
Shopping around on the internet would give me an idea of what I wanted, then I only needed to find someone with commercial savvy who stocked it, place my order online and pick it up via a stop-off for some energising sugar-highs to get me through the Grand Prix later that afternoon (a sort of placebo sugar rush for the bits between the Pole start and waiting for the finish). Connecting with my new purchase wouldn’t be a problem, retailers of this size are set up to handle all types of customer, I could be a toddler deciding to set up a birthday wish-list on mum and dad’s credit card or an antisocial tech-wiz who gets organised through their keyboard: Sorted!
Not being sure what I wanted – let alone what I needed – was all brought home to me as the day slipped away. What a fool I was, thinking that choosing, purchasing and collecting something could be sooo easy….
I’d found what I thought I’d wanted, I tried to speak with someone (several times) to get advice before I purchased, I’d gone down to the store (as advised) only to find none in stock. I’d gone back online, clicked to order from another store, got right though to purchasing when the ‘do not pass go’ (out of stock) alert came up. It’s irrelevant going through the entire day’s scenario. What I wanted I couldn’t get and, I later learnt, had I got it, it wouldn’t have been what I needed. What I needed wasn’t obvious and, as I later learnt, I didn’t understand it’s what I really wanted. I’d experienced a type of boot-on-the-other-foot. What would have been relatively Lilliputian, had it been commercial or business finance related, managed to make me feel like a tethered Gulliver. Hardware was hard work.
The downside was my ‘day of rest’ disappeared (and no boss to moan to), the upside was I managed to find a really useful hardware guy to add to the outsourcing stable. But letting myself be driven into cheating my business by taking a shortcut is the most galling. I was lucky this time; it could have cost me heavily.
Image credit: pasukaru76 Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013
30 04 2013
No surprise that less than one in five respondents believes ‘a business or governmental leader will actually tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue’, as shown in the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer.
`Academics, technical experts and a person like yourself ‘ were revealed, in the global survey, to be nearly twice as trusted as a Chief Executive or Government official. With the driver cited as unethical behaviour, banks and financial services were the least trusted sector. In the UK 78% were aware of banking scandals (which statistical 22% were unaware?) and the most trusted sector was technology.
And what of small business? The most trusted were in the West, with industrialised countries trusting small business 30% more than big business, and developing countries trusting big business more than small business (only by a small margin).
Building on an ability to (almost) immediately connect with us all, and being always available therefore dependable (a bit like how we most of us like to see ourselves and our friends), plus it’s a kind of technical expert, there’s little wonder In Google We Trust .
Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013
Knowing enough to know, that we don’t sufficiently know enough to know how the Funding for Lending is working, is sufficient to know we know enough to feel reassured, after listening and watching an increased floundering from a variant of lender managers, working with the scheme, as a gurgled excuse (not reasoned response) is the suggestive qualifying factor - There’s a new order within their employment arena.
It might be there is a threat of being taken out to the dog’s home hanging over them because Andrex-puppy enthusiasm is in short supply. A metaphoric ball we recently rolled the way of a lender, whose bright eyes and wet nose indicated a healthy ability (that too was a metaphor – not the symptoms of hay fever), after pawing (metaphor again) it around a while, the killer response was ‘not willing to support it’ – which we read as ‘can’t be bothered’, ‘not worth the effort’.
FFL ‘should allow banks to increase the availability of credit’ but, from the figures given out (August to December 2012), the imbalance between the BofE suggested £14bn withdrawn from FFL, and the lending figures for the same period, it didn’t happen. Now, BofE has finalised plans to extend FFL: 2015 not January 2014, additionally, during 2013 every £1 lent out offers access to £10 drawdown. But is this a clue as to why excuse and not reason was given from the business manager who takes his orders from above (another manager – not to be misconstrued with God)?
Or is it that to unravel the new order of supply and demand it’s enough to know that nobody knows enough?
Image credit: den99 Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013
App for Business – One Direction
Aimed towards those who are too under pressure or routinely protective (I don’t need anyone telling me how my business is doing) to not monitor their own pressure points, I’d guess that if there was an App for smaller businesses to reassure themselves of motivation levels…. it might not be as much fun as Temple Run… but it has potential to be as popular amongst the UK’s 4.2 million self-employed and 4.8 million private sector businesses. Especially if it included a Danger! Red Zone! warning indicating a response to general drag or optimism respite low spots. Said business owners could then be justified to level themselves up to an add-on ASBO (Assistance for Smaller Business Operations) that accesses an intensive check for deflated confidence and motivation melancholy, with a concluding re-direction plan.
Although… thinking about it…. any add-on ASBO with a re-focus objective that includes modifying behaviour might be as ineffective as the civil ASBO in being preventative. Neither have immediate visible rewards for complying with a warning, therefore any proffered advice, or plan, could be susceptible to being ignored. … Such an App would require another additional bolt-on offering: follow-up check-ins to the ASBO – ‘policing’ intactive motivation. But, as being inspired to plan or invest for a future is open to pessimism, no matter how many bolt-on levels… business life would likely drift back to unmonitored levels. When an outlook is seemingly dismal, without something to be motivated about, it’s easy to lose focus … even dawn raids wouldn’t make a difference for some.
But this is all hypothetical … there are no Apps to confirm the micro or small business is approaching a Danger Red Zone… So, who or what, keeps the big boys and girls on their toes?
Take supermarket-land, maybe, because they’re devoted to providing More Reasons, a Fresh Choice, or More Of What Matters, it is that Morrisons plan to launch online. Or maybe, seeing a 33rd in succession growth, Sainsbury become sufficiently emboldened to have a spat with further up the ‘favourite chart’ rival, Tesco, about price promises. Who maybe, in turn, reeling from the burgers with a high Shergar content incident and recent profit warning, decided to invest in a restaurant chain.
My guess is that maybe they’ve all had their Red Zone warning Klaxon: Remember Business Strategy - It’s Rooted in Commercial Objective. A One-Direction plan… to which those that stay with it don’t go the way of those without realistic, efficient, one direction plans.
Of course operating a corporate giant isn’t the same as operating a small business. For starters, there isn’t the wiggle-room to lose £5bn and still give out £600m bonuses aka RBS, however, the corporates, just as the independents, do have their struggles. Different struggles with a mutual crossover that some independents ignore – doing what is right for the customer AND the margins. Mr CEO of Morrisons had said in regard to online food retailing “….it is not clear the route to profitability for most retailers” …. `Scuse me! The route to profitability is a general dilemma in business with regard to all areas in all sectors of all sizes. Granted, the supermarket, like the pharmaceutical industry, is seeing cheaper rivals and consequential saturation, but cheaper rivals and saturation are like hot cross buns and butter to the Micro / SME’s history….. They’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt. However when Morrisons, or the like, are criticised for lagging behind their rivals, their reaction seems to be motivation. For the smaller business that’s lagging behind, similar criticism too often seems to drag them further down. Instead of leaning towards their operation being a business venture, some retreat further back as if their direction is blinkered from reality.
Market conditions, economic pressures and ever constant competition alter. Thus opportunities for business can, and do, dwindle… Factor-in some eroding margins and the bite….though not always immediate (sometimes further into business cycles when working capital is called upon or net margins show sharp decline)… is felt. Let’s look at margins; profit and working/operating. A business might have more customers than ever, be turning twice the amount of goods or service over – even managing to diversify into other sectors, but its key measurement for success is to what extent profits are being hammered, because the business that started out as someone’s baby can follow through to uncontrollable teenager, with an altered measured risk. When risk-response equations aren’t ignored, net profits overlooked for gross profits, and margins distorted, the customers AND profit margins are being watched over. It might be worth noting at this point that an oligopoly is unlikely to be a recent baby and, therefore, unlikely to motivate any response, when ‘relationships’ break down, other than alteration towards its ‘one direction’.
Complacency takes away anticipation – which returns us back to the pharmaceutical sector, landlord, and supermarket. Patent protections hadn’t anticipated changes to healthcare, or generics becoming more readily available, some long-term investment landlords didn’t anticipated bubble-bursts and the lowly frozen burger’s, simplified equation; sale value less cost to process = profit, has unexpectedly added additional weighting and dented supermarket’s anticipated costs, to distort calculated margins. Even food producer’s margins, driven by the supermarket, or peer independents, could be affected. Differing conditions, differing margins, but corrective steps too-little-too-late to remain accessible, could see any one of them losing their investment.
The idiom of being in business not being for the faint hearted is appt, with an add-on, One Direction: Profit.
Are the rallying cries from micros and independents taking back their businesses muffled by an overwhelming cloak?
02 04 2013
The automatic Escalator Tax (alcohol and cigarettes) which was to be applied this month (by at least 2% over inflation until 2014) was removed for beer in the recent budget. CAMRA had been vocal in pointing out that beer duty has risen 42% since 2008, the beer industry had cited the tax as reason for pubs going out of business and The Chancellor noted 10,000 pubs have closed in the last decade. Although duty for beer in general hasn’t been cut, the escalator stoppage and a duty cut of 1p has been seen as going some way to support the beer and pub industry. Also a planned 3p rise in fuel duty scheduled for September has been scrapped altogether.
Real-time PAYE reporting rolled out this month, seen as an HMRC concession, in that those employing less than 50 people are able to take longer with the increased frequency of PAYE filings until 5 October 2013. During the extended time it’s anticipated that any circumstantial problems for small businesses will be identified.
Research carried out by, in part, the Institute for Family Business with UCG (IFB) has revealed that family business owners don’t feel traditional technical qualifications alone are sufficient for a competent business advisor, and citing the ability to effectively deal with various personalities in a complex family situation as being equally important. Family-owned business ‘face specific challenges that are different from those faced by private individuals, limited companies or PLCs’…… ‘Being highly proficient or highly qualified … is only the baseline starting point.’
Following through the Financial Services Act, Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) take over from the FSA, at ‘Legal Cutover’ 1 April (note this is not a joke). Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, the new regulatory framework, was sent to Public Bill Committee for scrutiny in March.
Lonely Planet, BBC’s travel guide business bought in 2007 and 2011 (no taxpayers’ money was used), has been sold on to a US media firm and, with a loss of almost £80m, the BBC Trust has ordered a review of ‘lessons learned’ with the Vice Chair saying “Although this did not prove to be a good commercial investment, Worldwide is a very successful business”.
……Wonder how many small businesses would get away with that comment?
Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013
20 03 2013
Probably, down at No.11 after some gradual stretching exercises and a crack of the knuckles, Mr O’s spring in his step bounce downstairs turned to frantic running around; throwing things out of the cupboard under the stairs, and shouting “who’s moved the red bag again?” ……Because, as we’ve heard from pre-budget snippets, it’s a visit to Grimsville again – and the red bag could be the brightest thing on the day for the man whose made his first Tweet – on Budget Day – ‘Today I’ll present a Budget that tackles the economy’s problems head-on, helping those who want to work hard & get on’ – Clearly he’s got a lot to do.
Read more budget news:
The Treasury: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/junebudget_news.htm
BBC : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21850011
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/mar/19/george-osborne-2013-budget-britain
The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/budget/9941889/Budget-2013-live.html
Image credit: stevendepolo Article credit: Copyright SUF 2013
Game Changer! You Hold The Key.
I’d never thought it would take some thirty years before I could open an ordinary door with such a sense of achievement. And when I did, the infill storage area didn’t disappoint. Although its contents had long since changed, I was amused by the minute space which I’d always recalled as a portal.
Returning to an experience as an adult is a completely different experience to that of the younger self; child, teenager, or adult. Elements have shifted and the view is altered. What had seemed a humongous area full of treats was in fact no deeper than an average bookshelf…. and arguably more useful without the door I’d remembered – a barring door that had been sufficient bait for my then curiosity.
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. (Walt Disney)
Nice words Walt…. but how many of us are able to keep this up as we progress beyond The Bare Necessities of Jungle Book, To Infinity and Beyond with Toy Story via a $4Bn buyout of Marvel and IronMan 3D?
We’d all like to keep up the childhood curiosity but time gnaws away at us, draining our appetite. Sounding like a menthol sweet ad - as a readily available tool to freshen clarity and expose understanding - curiosity all too often lays rusting under the adult ‘s cover, destroyer of hope, namely ‘call me cynical’.
Take that cynicism into the smaller business arena and allow it to lay in wait, as barrier to curiosity, and a quashed aspiration may be the lighter injury sustained from the increased risk of vulnerability.
For many with smaller businesses, the issue in understanding barriers to finance is removed when the functions of lenders or banks is understood, plus, by:
- Understanding the lender type, the funding type is revealed
- Understanding the lender’s source of funding, the availability and supply is indicated
- Understanding the operating process indicates accessibility
Bank licensing isn’t on the top of most people’s chat list yet, whether a regulated or un-regulated lender or bank, the controlling group having a potential to impact from the top down is worthy of bearing in mind. For example, not all funders take the same consideration towards the value of assets or how those assets are valued, and the balance between the two. The commonality between all lending types is the funder’s bottom line of: Will the loan type be returned?
When a business is profitable, with a track record of legitimate business to illustrate the loan (in whatever format) being paid back – there will always be lenders interested in lending. But for a lender or bank being ‘good to go’ any of the barring ‘doors’ need opening for a clear view of what’s inside. To arouse a lenders curiosity, involves understanding a) Who would be interested? And b) Why would they be interested? To instigate a game-change involves holding the key. Finding that correct key to open the correct door marked Money for my Business can be achieved with a two way commitment.