What makes an effective project team? That will be an effective project manager.
The definition of a project is that it is a temporary endeavour, undertaken to create a product, service or result. That is very different to managing day-to-day operations, and it requires a person with unique qualities and traits to see it through.
Many project managers are born into the role – they are natural leaders who have a knack for getting stuff done. For others, the role is taught over time, with years of learning and experience moulding them into the project managers of today. Whatever the case, it is vital for project managers to possess and/or develop the following 10 qualities and traits:
1. Leadership skills
There is more than one of these. Good project managers are effective communicators, are honest people and are great at building relationships. Loyalty, decisiveness and charisma are also key factors that make a strong leader.
Although it is sometimes listed as a leadership skill, the ability to motivate people is much more about psychology. It comes naturally to the best project managers who have an uncanny ability to motivate the seemingly unmotivated. However, there are a number of tools and techniques that project managers can adopt to assist them with motivating others, such as SMART goal setting, celebration of success and others.
An effective project manager never puts the team down. Criticism should be constructive and helpful. The approach to correcting individual wrongs should be a private one; good project managers never ‘tell off’ or belittle people in front of others. They command respect by showing it and help people flourish.
4. Organised and efficient
The best project managers have their project management process down to an artform. They have excellent organisational skills and know where to assign people to get the most out of them. They are able to find efficient solutions to complex issues and know when to cut their losses or abandon a fool’s errand.
5. Problem solver
A spanner can be thrown into the works on any project, and project managers make their name by solving these issues. The ability to solve problems effectively is very important because it enables the project manager to properly direct the team and remove potential obstacles to their performance.
Project managers exist to achieve the required deliverables by the scope of projects, so they should instinctively be results-driven. The most important thing for a project manager is to see a project through and deliver the required results. However, it is equally important for project managers not to be task-driven and obsessed with to-do lists, as this may never lead to the required results.
This is perhaps the most important quality of project managers. Their experience, knowledge and know-how has to be evident to the team for them to have any confidence in the project manager. However, it is not just a matter of confidence and trust, the project manager must actually know what they are doing, why, where, when and how.
There are a number of Project Management certifications that enable current and aspiring Project Managers to gain the relevant knowledge and skills required for effective project management. Project Managers need to be constantly refreshing their knowledge to ensure it is up-to-date and they remain knowledgeable.
Examples of popular project management certifications include: PRINCE2®, APM PFQ (Project Fundamentals Qualification), APM PMQ (Project Management Qualification), PMI CAPM® (Certified Associate in Project Management) and PMI PMP® (Project Management Professional).
Good project managers are not robots. Being empathetic, understanding and caring for the people in a team is a big part of motivating them. Often, it can be the case that some people in a team feel as though they are undervalued. Good project managers truly listen to their team members, are compassionate and if required take actions to change perceptions or provide the necessary support to individuals.
Competence in project management is a big word. Competent managers not just know what they are doing, but can effectively balance competing project constraints and skilfully manage any of the risks, issues and challenges that arise during the project lifecycle. Competent Project Managers never appear out of their depth or out of touch.
10. Calm under pressure
Project Management is often associated with high-pressure environments. Project Managers need to be able to stay calm under pressure and get through it. Many people panic in a high-pressure environment, but the best project managers thrive in them. They see through the pressure and deliver results by keeping calm.
Nobody is born an expert, though some people may demonstrate some or all of the above qualities and traits intuitively. You may develop these qualities by continuously learning and practising them. There are a number of resources available for studying them, however, practical application of the learning is your key to success.
PRINCE2® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved. | CAPM®, PMI® and PMP® are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. | APM is a trademark of the Association for Project Management.
While House of Fraser flirted with a total collapse, several town centres were preparing for large empty spaces to be left by the 169-year-old department store. House of Fraser took its website offline on Wednesday 15th August 2018 after their warehouse operator XPO Logistics stopped processing orders because they were owed £30million. This meant cancelling all online orders and refunding customers who were unsurprisingly left feeling less than satisfied; not a great time for them to be reversing sales.
But, how did that happen? How can powerful retail chains such as House of Fraser, Woolworths and BHS, who had built up stability and reputation for over a century, fall from such grace? Why couldn’t they move with the times?
By exploring several possibilities, we have identified three reasons for the near collapse of House of Fraser and extrapolated learning points for smaller retailers to ensure they too don’t fall foul of the same fate.
Why Did HoF Fail While Rivals Maintained Success?
There’s no doubt the department store model still works so why did House of Fraser fail to thrive? Richard Hyman, who has analysed the retail industry for 35 years, predicted a year in advance that 2018 would bring retail distress, particularly for companies that don’t understand their core customer. Could that be it?
Speaking of the HoF situation, he outlined the key sticking points for the department store were: lack of investment, declining relevance with shoppers, a lack of brand differentiation and a failure to focus on the store's core customer. By stocking a whopping 677 third-party brands, House of Fraser’s own identity became lost along with its relevance in the marketplace. Mr Hyman indicated that almost all of their successful multi-brand stockist competitors had, in addition to the external brands they carried, a strong private or own-brand label which he describes as ‘enormously valuable’ when it comes to differentiating a brand. He said, “House of Fraser doesn't have anything that nobody else has got,”; the first important takeaway for other retailers.
Furthermore, they faced fierce competition online where customers can find the same or similar items for a better price with other retailers. This is the second key insight for businesses to acknowledge.
The bottom line is retail brands need a dominating difference to thrive and safeguard their survival by ensuring that consumers come to them for their products first. In comparison, Amazon has become the biggest convenience store, Primark is a high street footfall magnet due to its low prices, John Lewis creates a trustful reputation through first-rate service, and Selfridges offers a unique shopping environment.
Aaron Shields is a strategy director at Fitch, a leading brand and retail consultancy. He commented on those stores saying, “Having a look at this list, it’s easy to see that Fraser’s house of brands approach needs a refreshed retail proposition to survive.”
At this point we would ask an independent retailer, what sets you apart? Do you carry lines that no-one else in your area does? If not, then do you have a price advantage? You must ensure that you provide your consumers with a reason to keep choosing you.
Fixing the Revolving C-Suite
Richard Lim, Chief Executive at consultancy firm Retail Economics, says most department stores are incredibly expensive to operate, especially so over the last few years due to rising business rates and rents, as well as the National Living Wage.
For House of Fraser, however, its main problems haven’t actually been attributed to staff pay but how several of their management, executive and senior marketing positions have changed, resulting in a lack of consistency for the brand. This is the third thing smaller retailers should be aware of.
Due to their leadership insecurity, House of Fraser’s sales productivity was weak. Management were focused on a settling their core team at a time when their core team should have been addressing issues 1 and 2.
While independent retailers may not have to grapple with a board of executives and multiple department heads, their core team is just as important. Building trust around a brand and relationships with customers often relies on patrons making regular contact with the same employees.
Time spent curating the right team will pay dividends in the long term as, for independent retailers, too much hiring and firing could be of detriment to sales. It’s not best use of the owner’s time and could damage the long-term brand message which would be inconsistent under a number of consecutive staffs.
Other Solutions for Small Retailers
We know that to survive in a difficult and overcrowded market, retailers need to build their brand by understanding exactly who their customer is and enhance that relationship but there are other ways to work smart and aid your cash flow while you are establishing those things.
Small retailers can struggle with recording a high volume of transactions in real time and that can cause an admin headache with a ripple effect but nowadays there are solutions available to relieve owners of unnecessary data entry. However, organised figures are more than just business eutopia.
If a retail business is struggling financially, up to date figures and organised admin will alleviate the burden accompanied with turning the business around. Being organised and efficient with general administration while armed with financial foresight will mean the business can easily apply for financial assistance which could prevent it struggling into a place of no return.
With up-to-date figures, a business consultant can make recommendations to owners and advise on any planned investment or expansion. In particular, they can focus on whether the business can afford to make an expansion in the market or adopt another financial strategy.
Another piece of guidance that advisors might give to independent retailers is get rid of, or make better use of, unneeded basements and top floors to reduce the rents paid to landlords. Additionally, marketing plans and annual goals can help to keep an indy on track.
This article was written by Cottons Chartered Accountants London. With their base in Shoreditch Cottons specialise in working with independent brands and retailers installing admin solutions to cut back on bookkeeping time and, by preparing useful end of year and management accounts.
When you’re setting up a business, or moving into a new office, there are a dozens of things to sort out. Putting a sign up above the door is a moment that few small business owners forget – but what other information do you need to display to staff and customers? John Davies, Managing Director from custom signage, graphics and visual communication specialist, FASTSIGNS, has these tips to help you meet your legal requirements.
Get your name out there
People need to know the location of your company, each of your registered addresses must have a sign with your company name on it unless it is also a place of residence.
This sign should have clear characters that can be easily understood and visible at all times, not just during business hours. If you are sharing the site or building with more than six other companies, the company name has to be shown for at least 15 seconds every three minutes if it is not permanently displayed.
Keeping your team safe and healthy
The health and safety of your employees is of paramount importance; this means ensuring they are aware of potential risks and your obligations to them as employees. Whether you employ one person or a team, you must ensure the health and safety law poster is able to be viewed by everyone, either displayed on the wall or as a pocket card handed out to staff members.
Employees need to know who to turn to in an emergency, so make sure you display a sign with a full list of first aiders’ names and indicates where the first aid kits are stored.
To help your employees understand the level of insurance cover your business has, you’re required to either display or share The Employer’s Liability Insurance Certificate. Failure to do so and you could be liable for a £1,000 fine, so it’s essential that you get this right.
Should a fire break out in the building, you’ll need to make sure people know where to go and where the fire fighting equipment is.
Clear signage of fire action notices (preferably next to all fire alarms) should tell people who to call if they see a blaze, what escape routes to take and where the assembly point is once they have left the building. It’s also important to point out the location of each fire alarm.
If your workplace is small and the fire escape route is ‘obvious’, such as the front door to a shop, then you won’t necessarily need fire escape signs. For larger and more complex buildings, you will need to make sure that the fire escape routes are clearly highlighted with directional and wayfinding signage. Alongside this, all fire doors should be labeled with instructions on how to use them.
Assembly points, fire fighting equipment instructions, no smoking and warning signs should also be displayed throughout the building.
Protecting people’s data
Under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), images that identify someone count as capturing personal data – which means you have to inform anyone on your premises about CCTV monitoring. Most businesses have legitimate reasons for using CCTV, such as security, but you’ll still need to be open and transparent.
Make sure you have a sign that tells people why you are capturing their data, where they are being monitored, and the steps they can take to find out more information.
For more details on FASTSIGNS and its full range of business services click here.
Productivity is vital for the success and longevity of a business. Unfortunately, employees will struggle to be productive and stay on track if they’re distracted. In this post, we’ll take a look at a few common workplace distractions — from employees experiencing personal issues, such as divorce, to the overuse of social media — and how to fix them.
Although technology has become one of the most essential resources in the business world, the efficiency and hard work of employees is still very much the bread and butter of any company. It’s for this reason that it’s vital to make sure that your team is focused, productive and motivated on a daily basis — all of which can prove to be a problem if your employees are regularly distracted.
There is a wide range of things that distract employees, and many are specific to the industry or sector they work in, but, in this post, we’ll be discussing the issues that are commonplace in many businesses.
The Internet and Social Media
Let’s start with the big one! While there’s no doubt that the internet is a godsend for modern companies — especially those in eCommerce and marketing — it can also be a huge distraction for employees. The majority of companies — if not all — use computers in some way, and when employees have access to online shopping, blogs and YouTube, they can quickly find themselves in a rabbit hole — and work takes the back seat.
Not only does endless scrolling through timelines and feeds destroy productivity, but many also use social media to chat with their friends. This becomes a bigger issue with smartphones making internet and social media access so simple — more than half of people (52%) now use a mobile device to access the internet.
The problem for many employers is that they can’t take away internet access, as this will hinder their team’s ability to work. However, time-tracking and productivity apps, such as Hubstaff, monitor employee activity and time spent working. If your staff have to turn off their timer to use social media, they simply won’t get paid — it’s an effective deterrent.
No matter how professional or motivated an employee is, personal problems can severely impact their ability to work efficiently. The death of a family member or friend, as well as stressful situations like money problems, are issues that can’t be fixed overnight. If an employee is clearly struggling, it’s crucial that they take the necessary time off work, with the reassurance that it won’t affect their position at the company.
One of — if not the most — common personal problems that affects the workplace is divorce. The breakdown of any relationship can be stressful, but this is amplified when the division of marital assets comes into play, and it’s easy to see why a person’s career can take a big hit. During this time, an employee's most valuable ally will be their family lawyer, however, you can add yourself to that list by providing assistance and support.
Compared to the two previous points, this may seem trivial. However, when employees go outside to smoke a cigarette and have a quick chat, it takes time out of their working day and interrupts everyone else. It may only seem like a five or ten-minute break, but, over long periods, this adds up, culminating in a shocking amount of time being wasted.
Nicotine is very addictive, and preventing smokers from popping out for a cigarette could actually make productivity worse — your employees will feel grouchy and morale could plummet. Some employers have tackled the issue by allowing their employees to use e-cigarettes at work. If you have been keeping up with vaping news as of late, you will be aware that the NHS has included e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative in its quit smoking campaign.
Although meetings are undoubtedly useful for relaying information, some companies fall into the habit of holding meetings out routine, rather than necessity. Team or company-wide meetings not only take time out of everyone’s day, but, in many cases, the discussion point could just as easily be sent by email.
If you’ve noticed that meetings tend to kill productivity in the workplace, it’s crucial to fix the problem. Raising topics in a memo not only saves time, but it also provides you and your team with a written record that can be referred to. For items that must be discussed in person, an alternative is to host concise one-on-one catch-ups with employees to discuss the points relevant to them. While you’re hosting a meeting with one employee, the rest can crack on with what they’re supposed to be doing — work.
The current business world is more advanced, progressive and creative than ever. Today’s generation is in tune with technology, the internet and many other aspects of modern life, so it’s safe to say that hiring an apprentice is an enormous benefit to small business owners looking to succeed in the digital age.
Apprentices have been a valuable asset to companies for hundreds of years — apprenticeships not only give a young person a step onto the career ladder, but they also provide businesses with a young person who possesses enthusiasm and eagerness to succeed. For small business owners, this can be a unique and effective way to improve their company.
In this post, we’ll highlight a few of the advantages of taking on an apprentice and how they can impact the everyday and long-term success of a business.
Apprentices Are Known to Increase Productivity
While there’s a lot to be said about the importance of technology, marketing and establishing a brand — the attitude and quality of employees are key aspects of running a business that should never be underestimated. Productivity is a vital trait of any successful workforce, and it just so happens that taking on an apprentice can be a great way to improve the motivation and output of your employees.
Research by the Department of Education has revealed that 75% of small business owners who hired apprentices enjoyed a noticeable boost in productivity. This means that, along with having a new, enthusiastic member on your team, by hiring an apprentice, you will be positively impacting your entire company.
A New Face Is Always Good for Morale
Low morale is something that affects every business from time to time. And while some business owners attempt to resolve the issue with team-building activities and incentive schemes, others have managed to improve workplace morale by introducing a fresh face to the office.
As someone who is about to embark on a new and exciting career, an apprentice will cultivate an attitude of motivation and eagerness to succeed, with their infectious excitement for the job. Taking on an apprentice also creates mentoring opportunities and can open the door for current employees to move into more senior roles.
Adept Use of Technology
In an era when technology is very much a cornerstone of modern society, young people who are comfortable and skilled with using computers and other forms of tech are an enormous asset to any business. Today’s apprentices were born and raised in the digital age, which means this generation has the key skills they need to prosper in the professional realm.
For businesses, hiring an apprentice who is adept and highly skilled at using technology — often more so than experienced professionals — is hugely advantageous. This means they require less tech-related basic training, have the ability to use computers and other devices efficiently, and can be a genuine asset to a wide range of industries from the get go.
Paul Fegan is the Managing Director of Capital City College Training — London’s largest provider of further education — which has trained over 2,000 apprentices on behalf of more than 1,000 employers.
Acquiring finance for commercial ventures traditionally involved asking a handful of benefactors for substantial investment, a practice favouring those with business experience. These days, modern technology allows individuals with lucrative ideas to bypass the antiquated process and pitch their products directly to the public. Crowdfunding is emerging as a viable way for small businesses to raise funds from a large number of people, all typically contributing small amounts online, to take their concepts from the drawing board to reality. This growing trend has created a wave of online platforms which allow entrepreneurs to exchange pledges with rewards or equity in their business.
In a process that only requires a few clicks to complete, it’s not hard to see why so many businesses in the early stages of funding are opting for a quicker and more convenient method of obtaining capital. Despite all of its redeeming qualities, crowdfunding still has some understated drawbacks - so is it really worth the hype?
Emergent technologies have provided marketers with new options on various platforms to produce outcomes that are entirely customer driven. This is probably why crowdfunding as a marketing exercise is becoming increasingly popular amongst multinational conglomerates as well as startups and small businesses.
Crowdfunding can extend a business’s visibility past specialist angel investors, to a wider community of influencers and enthusiasts where these funding campaigns can be used as novel marketing tools. These platforms are an ideal way of obtaining market validation and further information about a business’s potential consumers. It has modernised the traditional focus group with real time feedback from a larger and more representative demographic, providing more reliable indications of market activity.
Crowdfunding allows customers to become part of the development of a brand, instead of passively consuming an online advertisement. This marketing technology encourages activity and revolves around engagement, which in turn creates stronger bonds between businesses and their donors. Making this process public creates brand advocates who can generate organic discourse and shares on external social media platforms.
While a great method of raising necessary funds for business ventures, equity crowdfunding divvies
ownership to a multitude of small investors. Depending on the campaign and its donors, a portion of largely inexperienced shareholders are then given authority over decision-making. This means that businesses using this method of financing have several shareholders to consult, satisfy and pay, placing a higher amount of pressure on accountants.
Equity crowdfunding has a lot of complex rules and regulations which must be adhered to. Ensuring that your campaign follows the regulator’s guidelines requires further expenditure by the business; companies need expertise from the accountant and more time spent on administrative tasks. The Financial Conduct Authority specifies how the company selling shares will be committed to some level of disclosure, meaning that every shareholder is entitled to the same level of transparency regarding financial documentation. Therefore, successful crowdfunding campaigns could actually create a considerable amount of admin for the beneficiaries and their accountants.
Similarly to other sensitive online documents and data, crowdfunding platforms are subject to targeted threats such as hackers and malware used to compromise valuable data which could also lead to potential loss of investments. This vulnerability within online crowdfunding services makes it more difficult for accountants to track cashflow and then consequently harder to budget and forecast.
What’s Best for Your Business?
Crowdfunding is still a relatively new platform but success stories have emerged across multiple industries. It can be the most viable source of funding for entrepreneurs and new businesses. However, it’s worth knowing the risks involved if it doesn’t go well. Each company’s campaign is different but a successful crowdfunding campaign requires a comprehensive planning stage where businesses carry out enough preparation. If you need any financial advice for a new business venture then contact experts at Cottons Accountants to make the process safer, simpler and suited to your needs.
The advent of digital media has brought challenges and opportunity in equal measure. As we continue to make technological advancements, the way we conduct business must develop accordingly.
However, it appears that HM Revenue & Customs have left a lot to be desired when it comes to digital business management with a system of taxation described by many business owners as ‘outdated’.
So with the amount of uncollected tax due to taxpayer error, as well as flawed protocol, now in excess of £8bn per year which costs Britain's public and its businesses respectively, it was time to take action.
In a bid to make the process of paying taxes more accessible and efficient the Government announced the 'Making Tax Digital’ initiative as part of their 2015 Autumn Statement.
The announcement also outlined their plans to ‘transform’ the tax system and scrap tax returns by 2020.
Although unprecedented in the UK, digital tax systems have been already been effectively implemented in countries such as Australia, Brazil and Estonia.
There are plenty of benefits to digital record-keeping, for instance taxpayers using an online tax account are able to get a clearer picture of their tax affairs in real time. Digital tax management also reduces hassle, making it possible for anybody with internet access to remotely monitor their taxes allowing business owners to budget more accurately and save time by placing all of their taxes in one place.
Furthermore, as the digital system requires more regular updates, more taxpayers will be able to use the cash basis of accounting meaning that expenses up to the sum of £166,000 will be deductible. In addition, business will be able to use spreadsheets and cloud accounting services such as Xero to support their digital reports which is guaranteed to expedite the process of paying tax.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, later highlighted more benefits of a digital switchover, adding that introducing digital record keeping and quarterly updates for businesses will eradicate around 10% of taxpayer error.
Making Tax Digital: The Timetable
MTD is set to be introduced in phases, giving all business owners and landlords at least two years to make the adjustments required to manage their taxes using the new digital service.
The new scheme is due to roll out for Income Tax and Class 4 NI contributions from April 2018. Pensioners and people in full-time employment will be required to use the digital accounts if they earn a secondary income of £10,000 or more from property or self-employment
The proposed changes are due to take action for VAT purposes from 2019 onwards.
Is it for Everyone?
Businesses must make an annual turnover that exceeds the VAT threshold, currently set at £85,000 to qualify for digital VAT record keeping. This means that businesses and landlords with a turnover below the VAT threshold will be able to choose when to make the switch to the new digital system.
As VAT already requires a quarterly update, this won’t be a major adjustment and taxpayers will not need to report to HMRC more frequently than they already do.
'Smaller' businesses turning over £10,000 or less will be exempt from the change in legislation, but will be allowed to submit reports and quarterly updates on a voluntary basis.
Changes to the submission of Corporation Tax obligations will come into effect in April of the following year. Most British businesses will then be required to keep digital records and update HMRC on their income and expenditure every quarter.
If you need assistance with Making Tax Digital and how to integrate digital systems into your business then talk to an accountant.
This article was written by Cottons Chartered Accountants, small business accountants and audit specialists.
Your business is under threat.
Around 50% of businesses have been subject to burglary, vandalism or other types of property crime. A place of commerce and money making and full of valuable equipment and goods, it should come as no surprise that a business premises is a prime target for criminals. Small businesses in particular most protect themselves and their assets.
But businesses aren't left without options to protect themselves. With attack comes defence.
Securing your business against threats requires a few different security elements. You need to make it difficult for criminals, you need to stop them from wanting to target your company in the first place and you need to consider every angle they might use to steal from you or cause you harm.
Security cameras that are clearly visible and constantly monitoring your business property provide you with one crucial thing: evidence. This dramatically increases the risk factor for an intruder and minimises the chance that they will target your company premises.
Alarms are something most people will anticipate when robbing a business, but perimeter alarms are a new technology burglars are unlikely to be prepared for. Perimeter alarms work through the activation of motion sensors set up around your business premises. If an intruder gains access to somewhere they shouldn’t — even just within the grounds of your business — the alarms will sound. You can couple these sensors with security lights to create an intimidating defence plan.
Even criminals who make plans are looking for easy options. Perimeter alarms and lights make the challenge of burglary unappealing, up the chance of getting caught considerably and reduce the chance that you will be a target.
Make It Difficult
These are electronic locks. They vary in design — opened by key cards, codes, fingerprints, etc. — but essentially do the same thing: they make it harder for somebody to access your business property. You cannot pick an electric lock, nor can you login and hack software that isn’t online, which means getting through smart locks is very difficult.
In many cases, there are only two methods of access:
If you do find an intruder gets past your access control without force, the primary culprit will be somebody with insider information. Narrow down the potential criminals using other security tools, such as CCTV, to create evidence and catch the perpetrator.
Safes are ancient technology. They’ve been in existence for thousands of years in some form, built to protect objects of value, and there is a reason we still use them to this day. It’s because they work. If somebody gets into your building and your most important items are behind the thick steel of a safe, they aren't getting their hands on them.
Don’t be fooled by TV shows or crime novels — safes are not as easy to crack as you might think. A secure business safe is near impossible to access unless you know the combination or have the key. Many modern safes also come with multiple security elements to ensure they remain fully secure. So confident are people in safes that you can often reduce your insurance premiums just by owning one. It says a lot about safes as security tools when insurance companies are willing to accept them as a method of reducing fees.
Consider All Angles
Last year, businesses lost around £20 billion to data theft. Protection against data theft is critical, especially now that GDPR rules have come into force. Even the smallest of businesses will likely store some kind of data, from simple pieces of client information to whole archives of purchase histories, invoices, personal details and account information.
Data encryption is essential for keeping this data secure, not only working as a deterrence, but also making things harder for criminals. This is especially important in the 21st century, where all data tends to be accessible via cloud systems. The use of data encryption software ensures you keep your business secure from all angles.
Keep up to date with @SmallBizAdvWeek for more tips and advice
It is estimated that UK small businesses spend around 120 days a year on administrative tasks, including raising invoices and recruitment. This lost time means that employees are spending less time winning clients and working to improve their products. As a result research from Sage calculates that UK small businesses lose nearly £40bn a year due to loss of productivity.
We have taken a look at the best pieces of software available which can increase your productivity and prevent such damaging losses:
1. Accounting Software
Finance is at the heart of every business so it’s crucial you understand every detail. Xero is just one of many accounting software systems designed to make viewing the company’s financial information easier.
As a cloud-based software, it allows small businesses to view its cash flow, account details and the transactions from wherever the user is, as long as they have internet connection.
By using the software, small businesses can schedule recurring invoices automatically as well as reminders, saving employees time chasing up unpaid invoices. It also features an inventory-management tool which allows small businesses to track the stock levels of items in real time.
There is also the Xero mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android and allows the user to submit their expenses, create and send invoices, as well as creating reports.
The ‘Starter Plan’ starts at £10 per month while the ‘Standard’ and ‘Premium’ plans are £22 and £27.50 per month respectively.
2. Collaborations and Sharing
Employees can easily get lost in the masses of emails in their inbox while searching for an important document. To make life easier for everyone, it can be a good idea to invest in a central location for saving company documents. This is likely to be a Cloud based platform, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, that allow users to view documents anywhere, provided they have an internet connection.
Enter Google Drive. It’s an online storage facility that allows users to save and share files online as well as allowing multiple users to work on a document at the same time.
Google Drive has 15GB of storage for free, while the premium plans start at £1.59 per month for 100GB of storage and up to the 10TB per month plan at £79.99 per month.
3. Marketing Assistance and Scheduling
In the ever-evolving world of marketing, businesses will always want to remain ahead of the competition. In order to achieve this, a business must understand the foundations of SEO, PPC and social media and there are a range of tools that can help you here, such as Hootsuite and Google Analytics.
An alternative would be to hire a marketing agency, who could not only look after all of your social media and marketing channels but, in some instances, could also look after your website and fix web issues. Marketing can be costly and if you want to use outside help, you may like to consider a small business loan from Liberis as an alternative to a traditional bank loan.
4. Methods of Communication
Inter-company communication can be a headache for many businesses, even those with a small number of employees. So getting the right software to prevent the email inbox being clogged up is important.
Slack is a great tool for small businesses to use. It enables members of staff to communicate amongst each other via an instant-messenger style of interface.
Not only can it be used for inter-company communication, but also for communication with businesses with whom it regularly works. Clients can be invited to different conversation feeds and the software includes both voice and video calls to make discussions easier.
Best of all, the Basic package is free! It does have limitations, such as only allowing for one-to-one video calls, while the Standard (£5.25 per active user per month) and Plus packages (£9.75 per active user per month) allow for group calls, but the free version should be enough for most small businesses.
5. HR Management
The HR department is integral to the day-to-day running of a company; so when HR isn’t equipped with the right resources, even the most basic processes take longer than they should, causing paperwork to pile up.
BreatheHR is an HR tool which helps to efficiently manage the information involved in running a business. The software helps to track sickness and absences, manage holiday requests, track and approve expenses as well as managing appraisals and setting one-to-one meetings.
The pricing plans are based on the number of employees at the company and the number of HR users with access to the software. The Micro plan, which works for up to 10 employees and has one HR user, is £9 per month is the basic plan.
If you wish to include applicant tracking then the plan is an extra £5 per month for two open vacancies or £20 per month for unlimited vacancies.
6. Task Management
If you’re undertaking large projects as a business, you’ll know that these need to be delivered efficiently and on schedule as failure to do so may well result in your business suffering financial (or other) penalties. That’s why task management software, such as Trello or Asana, can be so useful to small businesses.
Asana is one of the most popular products on the market and assists businesses in managing marketing campaigns, product launches and setting/achieving company goals.
The software allows users to check the status and deadlines of projects and attach the relevant files, so information can be stored in one area.
The software also has a mobile app which enables employees to keep track of the projects while they’re out and about.
The Basic plan, which allows for up to 15 team members and includes unlimited tasks, projects and conversations, is free. The Premium version, which includes a broader range of features, is £7.99 per member per month.
That rounds up our suggestions for your small business solutions. Check them out and let us know which ones you plan on using or if there are any alternatives you prefer @SmallBizAdvWeek
Budding entrepreneurs and small business owners might not have employment law at the forefront of their minds when starting a business, but understanding some of the most basic employment laws is critical, especially if your business begins to rapidly grow and expand.
Laws differ between the UK and the Crown Dependencies (such as Jersey), meaning that, if you expand your small business internationally, you must be aware of how the different laws work in each country. When referring to various laws, be sure to check the website of the country you are operating from and adhere to the appropriate legalities.
If you know the law from the outset, you can prevent any legal action taken later down the line. The last thing you want is to end up in a tribunal for unfair dismissal or another aspect of employment law. These cases cost time and money, and can be damaging to the reputation of a company you’ve worked hard to build.
Save yourself the stress and familiarise yourself with some of the most important employment laws. However, it’s important to remember that the law is always changing. GDPR had a huge impact on companies this year and, when the final decision about Brexit is made, this will have an impact on the law as well.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most important employment laws that you need to familiarise yourself with. This is not an exhaustive list, but it can provide a starting point for the legal information you need to understand.
Recruitment and Employee Contracts
You must recruit employees fairly, which means understanding what classifies as discrimination. Any kind of discrimination during recruitment or dismissal can be brought against you in a tribunal.
When you first hire employees, contracts are critical. The contract is a document that outlines the terms and conditions of the employment. It gives both the employee and employer certain rights and obligations.
Some of the most important information regarding a role is contained within a contract, such as salary, pension, probationary period and working hours. While most contracts will follow the same format, they will be unique to each company and individual.
Understand what statutory requirements you must give employees in terms of pay, sick leave, maternity and annual leave. Minimum wage requirements should always be adhered to — details about pay can be written into the employment contract.
Take the time to read the other rights that employees have, such as health and safety, the ability to join a Trade Union and data protection.
For many small businesses, the thought of dismissing an employee is not pleasant to think about. However, knowing the law before you dismiss an employee will put you at an advantage. Understanding the law means you are less likely to face any legal action over unfair dismissal. Make sure you learn what constitutes as fair, constructive and unfair dismissal in the country you trade in.
Consider Creating an Employee Handbook
Although it’s not a legal requirement, we recommend creating an employee handbook. A handbook has multiple benefits both for the employee and employer.
The handbook should outline the mission and values of your company. This can foster a sense of belonging in employees and help them understand the business culture they are joining.
Other information you could include in a handbook are policies, procedures, health and safety requirements, management best practices and more.
Should any issues arise, the employee handbook can be used as a point of reference. An employee handbook outlining procedures can also be beneficial, should you end up facing legal action or have to attend a tribunal.
As your business grows and laws continue to change, it’s important to review your handbook and update it when necessary. If you’re an entrepreneur, hiring an HR employee or outsourcing your HR will help you deal with employment-related issues while you manage the business. If you need guidance on creating your handbook or you’re dealing with any employment issues, consult an employment law expert.
Chris Austin is the head of employment law at Parslows Jersey. Chris regularly represents clients before the Courts and Tribunals of the Island of Jersey.