5 minutes | Aug 29, 2017
Introducing the Hostile Worlds Podcast
Here at The Podcast Host we've been hard at work recently, creating a new highly-produced podcast. It's called Hostile Worlds, an it's an audio drama/space documentary hybrid. If that's right up your street, or if you just want a taster of how something like that might sound, then here's a little teaser for you… Join us on a journey to some of the most inhospitable, humbling, and frighteningly beautiful places in the known universe. Hostile Worlds is podcast that helps you explore alien landscapes all from the comfort of your headphones. From the freezing hydrocarbon oceans of Titan, to the scorched, suffocating wastes of Venus – we’ll take you on an immersive audio tour to all the places you’d die to see… and places you’d die if you saw. You’ll join the crew of The Tardigrade, an all-purpose vehicle that can float, fly, dive, and dig through any environment in the universe. There, you’ll learn all the facts you’ll ever need to act as THE space exploration authority down your local pub on a Friday night. Subscribe to Hostile Worlds
17 minutes | Aug 29, 2016
7. Should You Start Your Own Business?
The dream of starting your own business is probably the reason you're listening to this podcast. It's important to weigh up a few things before you throw yourself into any new venture though. Running a business isn't for everyone, and there's a couple of reasons why you might want to consider staying in employment instead. Because you're passionate about something doesn't necessarily mean you can make money from it. There needs to be a demand for your product or service. You need to do your research and test the market first. Because you enjoy doing something that you're skilled at doesn't mean that you should go into business doing that thing. Once you set up as self-employed you're going to have to do a lot of other (potentially less fun) things to build your business. If you've given these factors some thought and are still determined to push on, then our contributors in this episode also have a lot of encouragement and reasons for why you should pursue your dream of starting your own business. As we draw the curtain on season one of UK Business Startup, we're joined again by our friends Chris Marr, Julie Christie, Andy Brown, Patricia McGuire, Nicola Donnelly, and Pete Matthew. There are some helpful books that are well worth checking out too. Essentialism, The One Thing, and The E-Myth Revisited. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you again in season 2!
23 minutes | Aug 15, 2016
Just because you're self-employed doesn't mean you have to go it alone in business. Joining or building a network of fellow professionals can be hugely beneficial to you for a number of reasons. Despite this, many people still shy away from networking events. Some common excuses for this include… I'd feel awkward I wouldn't know what to say to anyone The people there aren't my target customers The people there aren't in my line of work I'm too busy, it would be a waste of my time It would cost me money as I wouldn't be working I'd rather spend this time on marketing I do all my networking on social media So what are some of the benefits of networking? Building relationships Increasing visibility Becoming known as the go-to person in your own line of work Giving and receiving advice Being around others who know what it's like to run your own business Reducing feelings of isolation Leading to sales and other opportunities Social events and friendships Cross promotion and collaboration In this episode we're taking a deep dive into business networking. We'll be hearing the opinions and experiences of our returning friends Laura Lucas, Alison Colley, Chris Marr, Julie Christie, Andy Brown, Patricia McGuire, and Pete Matthew. On top of that we're joined by business networking expert Stefan Thomas, author of the Business Networking for Dummies book. Stefan brings a wealth of knowledge and advice on his specialist subject, and I'm certain you'll hugely benefit from it going forward. Transcript It can be difficult because a lot of people find it hard to go into a room full of strangers and just start talking to them. But I think if it’s something that makes you nervous is just remembering that probably most people feel nervous as well. I’m Colin Gray, and this is UK Business Startup. This week we’re getting into one of those areas of business that really splits the crowd. Some people love it, and even more hate it. But there’s little doubt that, if you do it right, it can be one of the best ways to grow your business. And, it has a bunch of benefits besides that. You might have guessed by now. Of course, we’re talking business networking. Stefan Thomas: A lot of people think that networking is just that thing which some of us who are quite odd do at seven thirty in the morning where we meet up at formal networking events and have breakfast with other people. But networking is about every connection you make along the way. That was Stefan Thomas – author of business networking for dummies. He’s one of the top UK experts in this area, so he knows how to get networking right. We’ll be hearing plenty from him on this episode, along with a few old friends. Talking of which, here’s Alison Colley again from Real Employement law advice on how she sees networking. Alison Colley: When I set up my business actually going to networking and meeting people who had either set up their own businesses or who were providing the sorts of services that I needed as a business was crucial. There's no better way of building trust than at networking. Then you can tap into those resources Chris Marr: It’s a bit cliché now but it is true that people buy from people that they know they can trust. Not only that. People refer business to people that they know they can trust as well. The only way to get known by people and for people to like you and to trust you is to build a relationship with people. That was Chris Marr, founder of the Content Marketing Academy. He talked a lot about trust on our marketing episode, and here it is again. This ties back to what Stefan told us – it’s those connections, and the trust you build with them. Those are the people that send you clients, or might even become clients themselves. Now, at this point, you might be thinking – this just doesn’t apply to me. It’s only for b2b companies isn’t it? Well, Chris has a good way for you to figure it out. Chris Marr: We look back over the last six months, look at where our business has come from, and we always write down two or three names. That piece of business came from that person, this business came from that person. What you start to realize actually is that people are massively involved in your business. If people just don’t know who you are, then you're less likely to get business. We do coaching calls, especially with people who are just starting their business. One of the big things that always comes up is, well, they say to me, “We’re not getting enough business.” I immediately ask them, “How big is your network? What are you doing to actively grow your network,” and they’re just simply not doing enough to get out there and to be known by people. So, it’s not just trust, it’s visibility, isn’t it? No matter what type of business you have, you can always be more visible. The problem is, this personal connection caper is pretty time consuming… How do you make sure you’re making that time worthwhile. Chris Marr: I don’t mean going meeting everybody, not going to have a coffee with every single person because it can be a massive time suck. What you need to be good at is qualifying people that you want to connect with, people who have influence, people who clearly are good at introducing people to other people, and people who have quite big networks are the people you're looking to spend time with. What you're not trying to do, and I guess this kind of like the next question is, is not just about spending time with people that could be potential customers, because that’s sort of like thinking quite small. You’ve got to think quite big. You actually want to meet people that have bigger influence. They may never ever buy from you, but they might be … They will probably introduce you to other people, they will probably recommend your services to other people. It’s well put – you might well find some direct clients through networking, but the big wins are in the wider viral effect. You get to know 10 people in a networking group, and suddenly you’re the ‘roof repair guy’ not only for them, but their entire network. When their friend says, Man my roof just fell in, who do you think they’re going to tell them about? So, that makes sense – looks like the time’s well worth it, as long as you’re smart about how you spend it. Remember too that time’s just another kind of currency. Here’s how Stefan sees it. Stefan Thomas: I treat my networking as part of my marketing spend. That’s an investment to my business because I know that an awful lot of the big opportunities that I've got coming up in the coming year and that I've had in the last couple of years have come from a little conversation at a networking event, and if I go to networking events, conferences, seminars, whatever it happens to be, then I’m more likely to start more of those conversations which lead to big opportunities. So, Stefan knows it’s worthwhile for him. He’s tracking those opportunities and where they lead. But, then, Stefan’s a pro. What about mere mortals like us? Here’s Julie Christie from Tea Break Tog: Julie Christie: I didn’t do anything like that for about three years, and then when I did that everything changed. Pretty much over the course of a couple of months I realized that everything was changing because of the people that I was meeting in this group, just expanding my network, but also encouraging me to think about my business differently. People who were having successes in different areas from me I was able to question them and learn from them and vice-versa. So, this is interesting. She’s pretty clear that her network brings big direct benefits. But, she’s also starting to delve into the other upside. Because we know that, for all the things we love about running a business, it’s not all shiny rainbows. Other Benefits Laura Lucas: I was a bit worried I might be lonely when I first started my business working for myself, but because of the networking I've done I’ve meet amazing people actually. People who I feel are much more likeminded and much more attuned to the sort of ambitions I’ve got and where I want my life to go than maybe people who I would happen to work alongside. I always enjoyed going into work and having good relationships with my colleagues and so on, but I feel like there’s something that people who have their own business have in common. They’ve got that vision and that ambition. It’s just great to be around those sort of people. It’s actually about developing those relationships to see how we can help each other and how we can collaborate and who we can introduce each other to. Is a huge, huge benefit of having a business that I hadn’t expected. Julie Christie: Every week you're with these people who are passionate about their businesses and we’re all talking about our business and how we can move it forward. But because you're meeting them the next week you're really motivated to go back and work on those things that you’ve been talking about. I’ve meet some amazing people through that, and doing that it has changed the direction of my business and improved my business and made me think with a lot more clarity about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. For me it’s been absolutely huge, huge part of growing my business. Stefan Thomas: But also in business I think that networking helps you to build the structure, to build the support structure around you, and a network of supportive people which to my mind is just as important to sales. There’s no doubt that running a business can be a pretty lonely, isolating job. If you’re working yourself, who do you turn to for help, for support, for some simple feedback on something? Well, for Laura, Julie and Stefan, it’s their network. As they all said there, they’ve met people through networking, built relationships, found support, and they’ve really grown their business as a result. Alright, I’m hoping you’re at least a bit convinced, but there’s a good chance you’ve still got a few reservations. Networking does carry a lot of baggage…. I got a sign of this when I asked Pete Matthew if he sees any value in networking: Hating Networking Pete Matthew: Absolutely, though it can drive fear into the hear
23 minutes | Aug 1, 2016
5. Managing Your Workload
Going from employee to self-employed means you are now in charge of what you do, when you do it. Whilst this can be liberating, it can also be intimidating, and lead you towards working 14+ hours a day because there will always be something that needs done. On the one hand you need to be doing enough to be earning enough to pay the bills, keep your clients happy, and generally make sure your business is ticking over. On the other hand, you're still going to need time off. Not just holidays, but at evenings and weekends where it's good to switch off from all thoughts of work. If you neglect to do this, it can put a strain on relationships at home, as well as lead to higher levels of stress and potential burnout. You also need to make sure that you're getting the most out of the hours when you are working. This doesn't necessarily mean being as busy as possible, but planning tasks so that you're getting the best results from the work you put in. On this episode we're introduced to a new guest, business coach Laura Lucas. She's joined by our regular contributors, AdWords specialist Andy Brown, photographer Julie Christie, and recruitment consultant Patricia McGuire. Recommended Reading There's a couple of very good books on focus and general productivity that are well worth a read. The first is The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan. This book drums a new way of looking at tasks into you, and encourages you to ditch multitasking, unnecessary work, and to take things one step at a time. The second one is The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. Don't be fooled by the title, you probably won't end up working only 4 hours a week, but this book is an incredible manifesto against procrastination, doing pointless and unnecessary work, living in your email inbox, and generally doing too much on your own. Transcript I think because I enjoy my work so much as well, it's hard not to just work when you have spare time. I have to say, I'm not really there with that yet. I’m Colin Gray, and this is UK Business Startup. Where we’re about the get productive. If you’ve been following along, there’s a chance you’ve made the leap by now. Are you already working for yourself? Or your own company of course. If you are, I want to ask you this: how many times have you been asked about whether you work in nothing but your pants? It always seems to me that 99% of the working world think that the main advantage of self-employment is not having to wear clothes. And of course that is part of it to be fair. But the other part, the more serious one, is suddenly being in control of your own working life. Now you can choose what you do, and when you do it. It’s freedom, at last! Or is it? The problem is, businesses tend to be more than a job. They’re 3 jobs, 5 jobs, even 10 all rolled into one. Especially in the early days, you’re doing everything. Suddenly freedom looks like 14 hour days, 7 days a week. Because there’s always something to do.That’s why, this week, we’re talking about your working life. That means schedule, priortities, productivity and making sure you have a real life alongside it all. Let’s look at the small view first – one day. When no one’s telling you what to do, how the heck do you make the most of it? Laura Lucas: I was quite used to that from sort of my corporate job I suppose. I was always a team leader and had to plan the direction of the department. Not just plan my own days, but plan the days of my teams and things like that as well, so, it wasn't something that was completely new to me. That is Laura Lucas, a new guest on UK Business Startup. She’s a business coach at Inspirential and works on her own. This is how she starts to plan her day. Laura Lucas: I know that I want to help as many business owners and leaders as I can. That means I need to find those business owners and show them what I can do to help them, and get them on on-board with me. That's then broken down into a number of different activities, so putting up information online that's going to attract those sorts of people, going out and meeting people proactively through networking. Then getting them into meetings and showing them my expertise and making sales ultimately. I've got to make sure I'm doing those sorts of activities every, single day. That helps knowing what the overall goal is. So, this is it – our days aren’t really our days. They’re just one small part of the wider goal. Patricia McGuire: I think you have to be quite strict with yourself that you set aside some time just for you, and not only time just for you, but time to think, because it's very easy to get bogged down in your day-to-day business. A business needs you to stop and think about what's coming next, and the mistakes that you've made and how you can rectify them. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the real detail on how to plan your working day, but this comes first. The only way you’re going to have an effective day – and to grow your business – is by having each day move you just a little bit forward towards your main goal. Patricia McGuire said it well there – it’s really easy to get bogged down, to end up doing busy-work that doesn’t push you forward. It sounds ridiculous when your income depends on avoiding that, but it happens to us all. Laura Lucas: I started to fall into that trap probably early last summer. I had a period when I was really, really busy. Then I have two times in the month when I do my accounts, because I don't have masses of transactions in my business. I just sit down for half-an-hour, twice a month and do that. I sat down and realized that I hadn't brought in any new business for three weeks, even though I had been really busy. That gave me a real wake-up call. It was quite lucky that I did that. You can be a busy fool can't you? Laura has a good method there. She’s got a system in place, every fortnight, where she checks her progress. Her aim is clients – she wants to help as many people as she can, and earn an income from that of course. So, she sits down – fortnightly accounts – what’s my goal? New clients? Have I brought any in? No! Well, damn… Let’s see – what can I do to change that? Once you’ve got your overall goals, how do we start to break it down so it leads us to effective days? Laura Lucas: I'll make a sort of three month plan really. For making detailed plans, I find three months is about the right timescale for me, and I'll know what I want to achieve in that three months, and break it down into step-by-step tasks. Then each week, I try and batch task and stick to the same sort of activities. Julie Christie: I would say, have a schedule for every day or for every week. Plan your week ahead and schedule in all your tasks, and give them priorities. What's the most important? What's the least important? Put them in that order. Schedule them into your diary. That was Julie Christie from Tea Break Tog joining the show, and giving a good example of where the long term planning leads us. Once you have your 3 month plan, you break than down into monthly goals, and then weekly goals. Once you have that level of detail, you’re ready to really schedule in the work. Laura Lucas: Mostly on a Monday, I'm in the office doing things like, writing blog posts, writing social media posts, writing new material for clients and things. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, are a mixture of seeing clients and meeting new, prospective clients and things. On Friday, I generally only work the morning on a Friday, and that's more for projects, and really thinking about moving the business forward. I stick to that as much as I can, it doesn't have to be perfect, but each week with my three month plan, I sit down on a Thursday afternoon and plan what my next week's going to look like. All the activities that are coming up, I actually put them into slots in my calendar. I do the same – monthly goals, to weekly goals, to small tasks. Those are then scheduled into the calendar on Monday morning. You’re probably thinking it sounds a bit of a pain to stick to that – a bit onerous – but it’s exactly the opposite actually. Laura Lucas: When I'm sitting at my desk, I never have to think about, “Oh what should I do next?” I know what I have what I have to next because when you have that uncertainty, that's when procrastination can creep in. But if you know exactly what you're going to do, you can just get your head down and do it. It’s ironic, because one of the big attractions of going self-employed is the chance to be your own boss. But, the thing is, that freedom comes with a big price, and procrastination is a big one. This type of scheduling is kind of like creating a little boss in a spreadsheet – someone who’s telling you what to do every minute of the day. And with that discipline comes a whole new type of freedom. The freedom that comes with knowing that you’re not missing things, you’re not wasting your time. You’re moving forward, just a little bit, every single day. So, what if you want to start off a little easier. You’re not ready to go full-schedule. What’s the alternative? Andy Brown: It's always a tough one isn't it, the productivity, getting it in order? This is Andy Brown from TripleYourClients.com whose helped us out before. Andy Brown: I use products like Allthings and Slack and Evernote to control and also a pen and paper comes in very useful at the end of the evening when you're trying to work out, right what's a priority of the next day? I'm a strong believer in having all that technology, but sometimes you just need to sort of reach back and think, “Right, what have we got on my plate?” I've got some sticky notes all over the place and bits of paper. I put it in an Allthings list or I look at an Evernote, things to do file, and I'll work through that. Generally, to make sure that I'm getting the stuff done, I need to prioritize, and so I need to work out what the top three things are the next day. Andy’s method is a good start. At a minimum, at least finish the day by planning your next one. What are the next 2 or 3 jobs that’ll move your business forward? Get them down on a sheet of paper, and get them done first the next day. Laura Lucas: I also tend to use a timer
15 minutes | Jul 18, 2016
4. Taking on Staff
How do you know when you're ready to take on staff in your new business? Are you ever actually “ready” to take such a step? That's the basis of this episode, as our assembled panel of experts and business owners offer you their own tips and advice for taking on staff. Whether you're a sole trader who needs an extra pair of hands for a few months, or the owner of a limited company looking to employ several people, the process is fairly similar across the board. There's also the danger of putting off hiring staff because you don't think anyone can do the job as well as you. That might be true, but is this approach sustainable in the long term? What happens if you fall ill, or want to take a two week holiday abroad? On this episode you'll hear from recruitment consultant Patricia McGuire, content marketing guru Chris Marr, photographer Julie Christie, employment law specialist Alison Colley, accountant Gordon Howes, and financial planner Pete Matthew. Recommended Reading There's a couple of excellent books on this subject that are worth checking out. The first is a classic called The E-Myth Revisited (Why most small businesses don't work, and what to do about it) by Michael E. Gerber. This one is primarily aimed at small business owners who are trying to do everything themselves. The second is Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker. Again it deals with the problem of trying to do it all yourself, but this one is a guide to hiring and managing virtual staff, rather than on-site employees. Transcript It becomes very apparent that you can't do everything and that's another piece of advice. Don't be a superhero. You cannot do everything. I’m Colin Gray, and this is UK Business Startup, where this time, we’re talking people. Do you remember that quote from Chris Marr last time around? Chris Marr: You need to pick out a time in the day where you are spending an hour or so working on your business. You need to have a plan for that. What are you doing every day to build your business? This is one of the biggest mistakes new businesses make. They forget to think big. They forget to make time for planning, for strategy, for figuring out how to make the business a success. Instead, they just keep doing what they’re good at. The gardener keeps gardening, the programmer keeps programming, and the baker just bakes! The problem is, that’s not building a business. That’s building a job. And it’s a really terrible job at that. It relies on you to run, it relies on your time, so when you’re not baking, you’re not earning. That means no breaks, no holidays, no time to get sick! And it means no time to bring in more customers or grow a business. That’s what Chris from the Content Marketing Academy was talking about. So, what’s the way out? Well, building a business that doesn’t just rely on you. That’s what. And that means staff. So, this is where it can get really scary. Julie Christie: I have two employees. I didn't necessarily feel ready to do it. I just knew I had to do it. For two months, I couldn't afford it. I definitely took a hit because I was training her and I was sitting beside her all the time and we weren't taking on more work. Within two months, she was paying for herself. It was a very, very scary move to make but it was the right move and it allowed me to work on the business. I no longer was having to phone clients, go back and forth with anyone, design albums. All the admin was taken away from me so I was able to then do more shoots and more marketing to get more shoots. That’s the bit that surprises most new business owners. The admin. There’s so much to do, from logging receipts, to paying tax, to handling bills. And that’s just the general stuff. There’s bound to be tonnes specific to your industry too. So, this is where a lot of people start, as you heard there from Julie Christie, the founder of TeaBreakTog.com. She’s still doing some of the main work – photography in her case – but he’s using the time that’s been freed up to do the marketing too. As Chris mentioned at the start, and even more in the last episode, that’s your big job as the founder. Marketing and growing your business. You can still do a bit of the technical work, but you need to find time for the high level stuff. Generally, that means staff. So, how does it work when you’re starting out? Let’s look at Bill the gardener again. Patricia McGuire: As a sole trader, Bill can take on a temporary member of staff. Certainly, Bill could advertise and take someone on just for a seasonal period of time so he could offer a seasonal contract to them which would be fixed, which means there's no obligation to keep them on after that or he could give something like a zero hour contract just to see how things go. If things work out well, he can tell the employee that he will increase the hours. That’s the way in for a lot of people who start out working for themselves. They take someone on for the busy periods. No long term commitments, just getting a bit of help when it’s needed. It is a great way to build confidence and learn a few of the processes. And it gets you used to managing people – something most of us aren’t used to! So, once you make the decision, what’s our responsibility here with the tax office? Chris Marr: He needs to inform the Inland Revenue that he's going to become an employer before he engages anyone. He will register for PAYE as an employer. He will receive his employer's PAYE reference as well as his Accounts Office reference. This is easy enough, and it’s the same for a limited company. In fact limited companies tend to do this right off the bat! Either they’ll be taking on staff right away, like a café, or you want to get paid as the founder. Either way its’ really easy to register on the HMRC website – honestly, quick as anything. Pete Matthew: One thing it's really important now is you've got to report to HM Revenue and Customs now when you pay your employees. You need to pay your employees on a certain day and that will need to be reported to the Revenue on that day, and any tax and national insurance due to the Revenue will need to be paid at the same time. That's called real-time information. Okay, this might sound a bit complicated, but don’t worry, there’s technology out there to help. Remember on episode 2 when Pete was talking about managing your finances? Pete Matthew: There are, again, software systems usually very often a part of the general accounting software systems that you can buy and they will do all that for you, so you'll need to register with the Revenue as an employer so that you can submit your real-time information, your payroll information as you go. Both Pete and I have mentioned it before, but FreeAgent, is the one I’ve used in the past. It handles both invoicing and payroll, working out all of that stuff around tax and national insurance. There are plenty of other apps out there that can do it too. So, don’t let this part put you off – help exists! Talking of which… Julie Christie: When I decided to hire Fiona, I spoke an HR consultant who talked me through everything. He also put together a contract of employment and all the paperwork that we had to have in place and he advised me on insurance issues and things like that as well. That was all taken care of and then my bookkeeper, she took on payroll as well as keeping the books. It wasn't too bad at all and has been worth that's weight in gold. We talked about bookkeeping and accountants in the finance episode, and Julie highlights it here. They can take on payroll for you, handling all of the fiddly work. And contracts – that’s a tricky one, and well worth getting some help with. You’ll find HR consultants all over the country, and you could get contracts and handbooks made up for just a few hundred pounds. In most cases, as Julie says, it’s worth every penny. Ok, we’ve dealt with the prep. Everything you need to do to get set up as an employer. That’s a bit dry, but the next bit’s more exciting – that’s actually having them on board, getting the help, the input, the expertise they offer. Saying that, before we get too excited, I guess we need to think about what they want in return… Pete Matthew: Paying staff isn't massively different whether you're in a limited company or you're sole trader. They are your employee and so you have certain responsibilities. A key one, of course, is paying them. They're not going to work for you very long if you don't pay, so that's a drain on cash flow. That needs to be planned in, always a good idea to have two or three months cash flow in reserve if at all possible, so you know you've got at least two or three months' worth of payroll that you can pay your staff so you're never sort of going right to the wire. This ties into those questions at the start of the episode. When do you know you’re ready to take someone on? As Pete says, money plays a part. If the work dried up tomorrow, how long could you pay them for? Now, don’t let this scare you – it’s planning for the worst case. And with the help of someone else, it’s even less likely to happen than it is right now. You’ll be freed right up to search for more work after all. But, it’s worth a think. Next, what about frequency? Pete Matthew: I would err towards paying people monthly for the simple reason that most people pay things out on a monthly basis. They're paying house and car insurance and other things on a monthly basis. It can be easier for your employees to budget on a monthly basis. Having said that, I have been paying on a weekly or fortnightly basis since I was at university and part-time at McDonald's. It's a long time ago. Some people may prefer it. I think the world is increasingly moving towards monthly though. It just seems more logical to me. This depends a lot on industry too – the leisure industry always tends to pay weekly, but the finance industry doesn’t, for example. This isn’t a big deal, just choose what’s right for you. And then? All that’s left now, is finding the staff themselves! Alison Colley: If Amy is looking to take on staff, there are various routes that she could take. She could take the traditional route of putting an advert in the newspaper but in my experience with my
21 minutes | Jul 4, 2016
3. Marketing Your Business
There's a good chance that you're going to have to act as a marketer in your new business along with all the other hats you'll be wearing, at least in the early days. But without drumming up interest in what you have to offer, letting people know your out there, and ultimately making sales, you won't stay in business very long. That's why it's important to make sure you get your marketing right, and that's the purpose of this episode. Our assembled panel of experts and business owners give their opinions on what works, and what doesn't work so well nowadays. In this episode you'll be hearing from AdWords specialist Andy Brown, photographer Julie Christie, recruitment consultant Patricia McGuire, financial planner Pete Matthew, and content marketing guru Chris Marr. Some of the key tips are; Know your audience. Who is your business for, and where can they be found? Look after your existing clients, get this right and they will tell others about you. Create content. Use the questions potential customers ask you and answer them on a blog, podcast, or video series. Transcript It's about putting out stuff that people can use, which entertains them, educates them, and powers them to take action and ideally, to take action with you. I’m Colin Gray, and this is episode 3 of UK Business Startup. So far, we’ve had a look at some of the big bits, the intimidating bits. That’s company structure, finances, business plans. It’s the stuff you imagine you need to speak to the experts about. But, hopefully the first two episodes got you started, and helped make a few of the decisions. Well, today’s topic, for most people is a bit more clear. And that’s, talking about your business, promoting what you do. Otherwise known as marketing. But really, when it comes down it, it’s just finding customers. Or, helping them to find you! So, let’s start off with Julie, our friendly, and her early adventures in marketing Julie Christie: When I started I just did everything I thought you were supposed to do to market myself, so I got hundreds and hundreds of flyers run off, and I distributed flyers all around my hometown, offering my photography services. I asked all my friends and family to tell everyone they knew. Really, it didn't work. It didn't work. So you know, Julie’s not alone here. It’s the way it’s always been done isn’t it? So it must work? Well, you’d think, but when was the last time you bought something off a flyer? It’s so common that we’re just blind to that type of marketing now. If that’s the case, how do we reach people? Often, it starts really local. Julie Christie: I reached out to people who I knew, who looked like target client, and I offered to do work for them for free, in return for them allowing me to use their photographs, but also allowing me to reach their friends. I'd give them vouchers to give to their friends. I reached out to someone who was a bit of a mover and shaker in the area and she wrote a blog post about me. I tried to reach out to people who would talk about me and I reached out to the right people. The people I knew I wanted to work with. That’s the beginning for a lot of businesses. Family, friends, local networks. And it works. Treat them right, and things can snowball. Julie Christie: We really look after our customers. When we get a customer, we send them little gifts in the post. We have a really good relationship with them. We phone them. We have lots of conversations before the shoot. We touch base with them after the shoot, every year at least. We give them Christmas cards. We keep up with them on social media, and we find that they then, because we have such a good relationship with them, that they do our marketing for us. And I think that is a good, solid way to build the right client base. It's a slow burden though, and you have to be brave, and stick it out, and keep working at it. I know a lot of businesses who thrive just on that. Just around word of mouth, referrals and you can do great from that, just like Julie. Let’s think wider though, outside of our network. How do we start to find people further afield? You’ll remember Patricia, who runs a recruitment company. She had some thoughts about finding people in another kind of network – the one I bet you’ve wasted at least a wee bit of time on today. Of course, I’m talking about Social media. Patricia McGuire: Talk to your customers and find out where they're living in the digital space because you can waste an awful lot of time trying to cover too many of the digital options, the social media options. Once you know where they're living in this space, start becoming expert in those areas. It might be Facebook, it might be Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. In my particular case, I use LinkedIn, a great deal. LinkedIn and Twitter would be my two major marketing tools at the moment. I'm also developing podcasting as a tool for marketing my business, too. It’s great advice – depending on your sector, your audience is bound to have one or two networks they hang around on most. Do you know which one it is already? If not, take Pauline’s suggestion – start talking to people, ask them directly. It’s the easiest way. Of course, social isnt’ a natural fit for us all. Some are really comfortable interacting online, but what if you’re not? Patricia McGuire: So, my main advice would be, don't be afraid. You're going to make mistakes. Everyone does, but you will learn very fast because your bread and butter depends on it. Right, that was outbound – that’s you going on the hunt for customers. Finding them where they live, and building that relationship. But, maybe there’s a smarter way? What if you could attract customers to you? What if you could do something now that might attract customers to your company for years in the future? Well, that’s inbound marketing, and it’s all about making yourself easy to find. Chris Marr: No longer are traditional marketing efforts working. You think about paid ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, all that kind of stuff. It might work to a certain degree, but it definitely aren't as powerful as, for example, having a website, having a blog and being found online because to be honest, that's where people are making buying decisions. Yea, but what if you’re a care home – we gotta think demographics don’t we? Say, my target audience is over-60, so I’d imagine that traditional advertising works best for them, doesn’t it? Well, you’d think so, but Chris Marr thought otherwise! Chris Marr: It used to be that people would say like there was a demographic there, that weren't online. Everybody is becoming more online. Even people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. My granddad is eighty-six years old and has an Ipad and WIFI in the house. It’s true, and you’re always reading about the grey-pound now – that’s the amount of disposable income out there in the older generation and retirees. And, like Chris say, a whole lot of which is online. That means it doesn’t matter who you’re targeting, the web has gotta be a major priority from now on. It helps too, that the web is the king of cheap, or free, inbound marketing. It’s all about the search – and that means Google! And that’s the big question every business has – how the heck do I get myself high in the search results. Well, here’s Pete Matthew’s thoughts on that. Pete Matthew: Definitely content marketing, I think is how it is increasingly being done. It's not the be-all and end-all but it has many advantages. One of them is cost. It's relatively cheap to put out good content consistently. Cheap in terms of money, it's not cheap in terms of time and that's very often the objection that I get from people. You can be targeted, you can reach a very wide audience or you could be locally targeted, if you're in a sort of brick and mortar business where you want to reach your local community, then you can do that just as well. So, content marketing – what’s that? In simple terms, it’s just publishing good stuff on the internet which ends up attracting people to your website. But what do you publish? Seems like that’s a question Chris Marr gets a lot. Chris Marr: He's going to say, “That's great, Chris, I've got my website up and running but I need content. I need information there. What is the best type of content I should have on my website to be A, found in Google, for people to stay on my website and be interested in what it is I'm doing.” You really have to be creating valuable, usable, helpful content that people are searching for. So, not rocket science here. It’s helping people, it’s showing your expertise by being hugely useful. And that means answering questions. Let’s think about Bill again, our imaginary Gardener, how’s he gonna approach this? Chris Marr: For example, I'm not a big gardener, but they might say something like, “What's the best way to look after my lawn? Or my grass?” Or “What's the best flower feed for a type of flower?” Here comes my gardener experience. Basically, what I'm trying to get across is, they've got a problem and they're looking for a solution. At this point, I know what you’re thinking, but this is what people pay me for? I can’t give it away! But that’s where the shift is – that’s what’s separating the businesses that are killing it online just now from the ones that are trying to sell sell sell, and failing. Chris Marr: You're trying to build a relationship with people, so the best content a gardener can do is stuff that people are needing help with right now. They might not want to hire a gardener, but if you're the one that educates them and the one that builds trust with them, when they do need a gardener the person that they're more likely to go to is the person that they've been educated by, the person that they've been building the relationship up with online. You've got to think to yourself, just to strip away from Bill for a second, is what are people searching for on Google? What problems do people have? How can we help them with those problems? How can we answer those questions? That's what people are searching for on Google. That's how you're going to build a relationship with people and that's the type of content that I would advise someone like Bill to do.
14 minutes | Jun 20, 2016
2. Choosing a Structure & Managing Your Finances
So what kind of business do you want to have? Perhaps you're looking at setting up on your own as a sole trader. Maybe you want to rent or buy premises and employ staff. Perhaps you're not even sure yet about which route is best for you. In this episode we're going to take a look at the different business structures why you might choose them. The 3 main trading styles are Sole Trader: You run the business, you do the work. A common route for tradespeople such as gardeners, plumbers, or hairdressers. Partnership: The name says it all. You go into business with a partner and share/run the business between you. A partnership is essentially just like a sole trader split in two. Limited Company: The route commonly taken by business owners looking to grow in size over time. Those who are looking to protect themselves legally by separating the business from themselves. Also, whatever route you choose to go down, you will have to think about how you're going to manage your finances. How do you go about doing this? Should you work with an accountant or book keeper? And what tools are available to help you keep a record of what's going in and what's going out? On this episode we'll hear from financial planner Pete Matthew, accountant Gordon Howes, photographer Julie Christie, and recruitment consultant Patricia McGuire. Transcript Hey, I’m Colin Gray and this is UK Business Startup, the podcast which takes you, step by step, through creating your own business. This, week we’re talking structure. If you’re starting a business, one of the first decisions – after what you actually do, of course – is what structure you’re gonna follow. That’s when terms like limited company, sole trader or partnership come up. And, for a lot of people, that’s really scary – it sounds like your getting deep into the legalities at that point. This episode should be a big help here, though, giving you some tips on what company structure might suit you. Let’s get into it! Pete Matthew: Hi. My name is Pete Matthew. I am a chartered and certified financial planner, which is just a posh way of saying I'm a financial adviser, really. Managing the finances of a business is very much like managing personal finances, but a lot of us are not very good at that, so it's important to put in good practices right from the start. If you're going to set up as a sole trader, or in a partnership with somebody else, or as limited company, you will manage things slightly different. So here’s the nub of it – each type of business works quite differently, and, actually, it often works as a bit of a pathway. A lot of people start out at sole traders or as part of a partnership, and then move on to become limited companies over time. Others skip the path, though, and jump straight in as as limited. The question for most people is, where do you start? I asked Pete if that’s something he’s asked a lot: Pete Matthew: Yes, it is, and usually the answer to that is tax. If you're a sole trader or a partnership, you are your own entity as far as the revenue is concerned. Any profits you make as a sole trader, or your share of the profit of a partnership, becomes your income. Now if business is good, and you get to the stage where your share of the profits is more than 42 thousand, or there about, you are going to be paying higher rates tax, 40%. That's pretty steep. Whereas in the limited company, the money comes into the company, and it pays corporation tax. The difficulty with a company is getting money out. There's two ways you can get money out of a limited company, salary and dividends. It's usually the most tax efficient environment to be in a limited company, depending on your anticipated turn over. If it's going to be more than forty, fifty, sixty thousand, I would definitely look at a limited company. So Pete gives us a good ballpark there – in the region of £50k turnover? Then you might want to think about incorporating. Remember, though, there’s a lot more than that goes into it, and one of the biggest is even more legal: that’s liability. So, the clue’s in the name – the limited in limited company, talks to the limited liability you have as the company owner or director. When you incorporate – that just means creating a limited company – suddenly that company is it’s own entity. It’s like a person itself. It has it’s own bank account, it’s own money, and it can shoulder the blame when something bad happens. That means debt, legal issues, and a whole lot more. As a sole trader, the company is YOU and only you. As a partnership, there’s two of you, but it’s the same idea. You’re the one that takes on all the responsibility. I asked Gordon to give us some examples and we came up with a hypothetical gardener called Bill, and a café owner called Amy. His first question for Bill would be: Gordon Howes: Could you have substantial personal liability if something goes wrong? His liability when he starts out is only to himself. He doesn't have any employees. It's unlikely that he's going to reach the VAT threshold with his turn over, and he's going to be dealing with house holders.There's little point incorporating a company and operating through a limited company with the additional regulations and reporting requirements that entails, in his circumstances. In Amy's case, she ticks all the boxes for adopting a trading style of a limited company. A number of reasons, first of all, you have your liability. Liability under fruit hygiene standards, liability to public, who are wandering in and out of your premises. She's taken on a lease on the rented property, so again, she has a continuing liability there. Far better that these things are conducted through a limited company, where there is some shelter from personal liability. We also need to consider the size of our business. I think it's fairly likely that she'll cross through the VAT registration within a first twelve months of trading. It would be better for her to segregate any liability to tax that she can by having an incorporated company. Once again, she's employing people. The moment you employ staff, you are at risk. For example, if you dismiss an employee unfairly, there is unlimited liability. It makes sense for Amy to incorporate a company. So, Pete mentioned turnover as one factor, then Gordon took us to liability, company size, whether you have staff. Lots of things in there. The big thing is, this should give you an idea, but every business is different of course. It’s a good idea to talk to an accountant at some point, no matter your situation. They're the ones with the numbers to hand and can give you a wider picture on the pros and cons of each approach. Talking of accountants, that’s the next big question – do you need one? What about a bookkeeper. Technically, it’s possible to do it all yourself as a sole trader, assuming you’re happy keeping the records and totting up the numbers. Limited companies are more complicated, and generally need at least some help from an accountant. But, beyond the minimum, why might you choose to work with someone on this? Here’s Julie Christie, our photographer friend, on her experience: Julie Christie: After a year in business, I realized I could not do my own accounts. So I hired a bookkeeper at that point and my bookkeeper kept my books up until a year ago, and then whenever I became a limited company, she said that, you know, I really should start thinking about getting an accountant. So I now have a bookkeeper, and I have an accountant, and I chose them because they were the accountants that she worked with, so it's quite a streamlined process. And that's been amazing for me, because all that time I would spend trying to organize my books, I can now spend actually trying to grow my business and bring some money in. Just to be clear, Julie could have done her own accounts when she was a sole trader, but she either didn’t have the aptitude, or the inclination to learn! Here’s Gordon again on all of those things Julie and our hypothetical gardener would have to think about: Gordon Howes: Bill is a self-employed trader. He deals with house folders, primarily his customers, and he is going to be issuing receipts. He is going to be receiving and making payments. He's probably very adept and competent at what he does during the day, but does he really want to come home at night and have to start logging every single receipt, every single payment. He's considering buying a van. Who's going to help him make the decision about whether or not he should purchase outright, lease the van, can he afford the new van? He might want to boost his income in the quiet season, over winter. If he goes to an accountant, he can use that accountant as a sounding board. His accountant will have a number of other clients who are in a seasonal trade and might be able to make suggestions that would help him look for new business, identify new opportunities, so that he can increase his workload and stabilize his income during the winter period. So, that’s what it’s all about. The receipts, the sales, the invoices – a bookkeeper can be a godsend in helping with that. As Julie said, why waste time on admin when you should be growing your business. And then Gordon’s point around advice – a good accountant will really help you to grow your business, using all of their experience to guide you the right way. For limited companies, that’s not all they do – think about Amy, our café owner again: Gordon Howes: I think Amy should certainly consider engaging an accountant early. She's got a limited company. There are reporting requirements for a limited company. Her accountant will ensure that she compliant with these reporting requirements. She's engaging staff, she's required to operate a payroll. Again, she could delegate that responsibility to her accountants. They will ensure that the payroll is filed in time, that the staffs have pay slips, and can provide her advice on HR issues if required. It's likely that she'll be registered for VAT. Once again, the accountant can ensure that the VAT returns are prepared properly, the correct submissions are made, and they're made on time. With all that in mind, which t
15 minutes | Jun 6, 2016
1. How to Plan Your Business
When you hear the term “business plan” it's easy to be put off by the thought of some huge complicated dossier. But don't worry, it doesn't need to be as complicated as that. At this stage we're more interested in why you want to set up your business, who you want to serve, what problems you've identified, and how you aim to solve them. On this episode we're going to look at some examples from photographer Julie Christie, and shop owner Nicola Donnelly. Why did they decide to start their own businesses? How did they go about it? What can you learn from their experiences, and what advice do they have for you? When it comes to the money side of things, we need to have a think about your anticipated startup and running costs. Then we can look at how much we can expect to earn, and figure out if this is a sustainable income for you to live on. For this segment we've brought accountant Gordon Howes on board. And recruitment consultant Patricia McGuire has some advice for you on your long term goals. What kind of company would you like to have eventually? What would it look like, and how would you fit into it? Being clear on this can help you to work towards your goals, even if they seem a long way off at this early stage. Finally, two of the biggest things that hold people back are Over-planning to the point that they never start Fear – just being so scared of what might go wrong Recognising these obstacles early on is important if we want to overcome them. Yes, you're taking a risk, but you take a risk leaving the house each morning. As the old saying goes “A ship is safer in the harbour, but that's not what ships are for.” Transcript If anyone was thinking about starting their own business, they felt they had a good idea, they had what it took to make it work, then I would say go for it. Hey folks, I’m Colin Gray and this is Business Startup UK – the podcast which takes you, step by step, through creating your own business. Since this is the first show, it’s probably worth a little introduction here. As you’ve guessed, this is all about starting a company. There’s obviously a huge range of possibilities there. Maybe you’re looking to register self-employed so that you can do a bit of freelance work outside your main job. Maybe you’re going full time in the business, but there’s no need for a limited company yet. Or maybe you’re jumping in, feet first, and setting up a business with employees, VAT and all the rest, right off the bat. Whatever your aims, there are a lot of steps they have in common. Over the coming 6 episodes I’m aiming, with the help of many others, to give you a full grounding in business startup in the UK. That means what you need to prepare, what you need to think about and what you need to do as you set up your company. By the end of this first series, you should have a really good idea of your first steps, the pitfalls, the things to watch out for along the way. In case you’re wondering who on earth I am, my name’s Colin Gray and I’m the founder of The Podcast Host. As you’ll guess from the name, we make podcasts and we help other businesses to do that too. I first went self-employed around 10 years ago now, I’ve set up 2 limited companies and helped with a fair few others. I definitely don’t know it all, though, and during this series we’ll be talking to a big range of other people about their experience. Some are experts in finance, law, sales or marketing, and others are just business owners – people who’ve gone through the same experience. We’ll be hearing about the highs, the lows, the tops and the pitfalls. All of this with the aim of making the whole process much, much easier for you. So, enough explanation – let’s get to the meat of it. In this episode we’re talking about that first step for many – the business plan. Saying that, don’t worry, we’re not jumping straight into a 20 page document with super detailed market analysis, customer segmentation and financial projections – I’m just talking the plan for your business which you build up over a little time. It’s starts out with a look at who you’re serving, what you’re selling them and why they’ll buy it from you. But, even before that, why do you want to make this plan in the first place? Julie Christie: I'm Julie Christie and I run a portrait photography business called Julie Christie Photography in Carnoustie. I was forced into making the decision to start my own business because we moved Howes from Glasgow to Carnoustie. I found myself out of job. I hadn't really been enjoying my teaching job and I thought, “Well, this is the time to do this. It's going to make or break. I'll do it.” Quite a few people start out this way. They end up in business almost by chance. It just seemed like the best decision at the time, or, actually, it was the only decision to make! Others, though, they can't stand the thought of not doing it, not solving this problem out there that just seems so obvious to them. Nicola Donnelly: I have always wanted to own a shop. I put it down to childhood dream for many years. That’s Nicola Donnelly – owner of the Time Lifestyle Boutique in Dundee, and purveyor of many fine gifts Nicola Donnelly: I went – . I did live sciences. I worked in comms and marketing. There was this niggling feeling in the background. Actually, I still wanted to run my shop. That’s how it starts for many. Just this itch, that won’t go away. This desire to try something for yourself – something of your own. So, we mentioned planning at the start. How do you turn that itch into something that can sustain you, sustain others, maybe even grow into something huge? That’s where the planning comes in. Nicola Donelly: I did my research. I decided now was probably quite a good time for Dundee, things were on the up. There was lots of exciting things happening in the city. I did my research and I decided what kind of shop that would be. So, Nicola had the desire first, and then figured out the idea later. Others have the idea first, and the research then goes into whether that idea really has legs. The key thing here is figuring out the problem you’re solving and whether it’s a big enough problem to encourage people to pay for it. Patricia McGuire: Have in the back of your mind some of the problems you think they're going to have. Pick up the phone and make the first call. That was Patricia McGuire who runs a recruitment company in Switzerland. She brings up the biggest part of this stage – and that’s talking. You’ve got an idea, but you need to check that the problem really exists for your customers. In a lot of cases, you’ll discover it's actually not much of a problem for them or it's just not urgent enough to build a profitable business around. Nicola Donelly: I did some surveying. I had a survey monkey questionnaire that went out and asked people what kind of things they felt were missing from High Street. I always had a hunch that it would go towards a lifestyle store. I asked people what their average spend would be. What brands they'd like to see. What kind of cash base or projects they'd want to see. So Nicola had that hunch but, like Patricia, she went out and confirmed it existed with real people. She also confirmed that it's urgent enough as well– it’s painful enough that people are going to pay to fix it. That’s the basis for your business. It’s called your value proposition. What value are you offering your customers? What pain are you solving for them? And how much is that worth to them? If you’ve got that solved, then you’re well on the way. Alright, that’s the blue sky thinking, the possibilities, the aspirations. Sorry to bring us back down to earth, but the plan also needs the more day to day things like finances, costs, projections. Those are the bits that tend to put people off, aren’t they? Gordon Howes: Now, you've probably had the business plan. You're thinking of some form of multi-layered spread sheet identifying all sorts of costs and income. It doesn't need to be as complex as that. That was Gordon Howes, an accountant with Balfour Shaw. And, that’s what I was hoping he'd say. You do see the standard plan templates out there and they're really daunting. Seeing it laid out like that, all at once, can make it a huge barrier. But, there are ways to break it down, and there’s help too in doing it. Nicola Donelly: I got help from Business Gateway to do my business plan. They helped me put it together. Actually going to their workshops helped me focus on a different chapter each week. Then, I built that up gradually. So, it’s good to know that there are ways to make it easier. But, No matter how you dice it up, there’s a decent bit of work that goes into your business plan. You might think, why bother? Nicola Donelly: I did, yes, actually apply for funding. A business plan was essential for that. It's also a really good idea to do anyway to keep you focused. Convinced? Ok, I hope so. They’re right, you’re going to struggle to get money without one, in any way. And you’re also going to struggle to stay focused once you’re really in the weeds – once you’re struggling to keep the whole thing running. Suffice to say, there’s no point pretending that you’re going to stick to every letter of this plan once it hits the real world, but as they say, FAILING TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL. Right, let’s look at the detail, what goes in here: Nicola Donelly: The business plan had basic things like aims and goals of the business. Your costs, your marketing plans. Then, a bit of your research about who your customers and your products are going to be. We talked about customers and products earlier – that’s covered, but now we’re getting into aims, goals, costs. If you're getting into a particular sector, presumably you know a bit of the ins and outs. Figuring out the costs, the yearly income pattern, and the cash flow should be pretty feasible, especially with the help of an accountant. But let’s be honest, though, the financials are always a guess. But you want to make them as educated a guess as humanly possible. And timescales? That’s where I’ve struggled before – thinking long term. Here’s Patricia again: Patricia McGuire: I would ha