Archives for September 2013

Implementing Document Management Systems (DMS)

The following is a guest blog from Sue Hunt, Head of Marketing at Cognidox…

While co-working facilities offer advantages to business start-ups in social and financial terms, “anywhere working” makes it more difficult for business owners to keep track of their corporate documentation.

If important files such as client proposals, technical notes or legal NDAs, created by remote workers on different devices are not backed up, companies could end up losing precious data if these devices are lost, stolen, or tampered with. Document management systems remove this worry. Not only will staff have access to relevant information at the click of a mouse, they spend less time looking for documents they know thedocument-managementy’ve received but can’t remember where they’ve stored them (if they’ve stored them).

The thought of implementing a document management system can be daunting or perceived as a waste of time but rest assured it is neither. If you follow some basic guidelines, your DMS will make your staff more productive, your file management processes more streamlined, resulting in improved efficiency overall. If you don’t, it could end up being an expensive “white elephant.”

Consider these points:

• Don’t be fooled by the term “Free”– once you’ve read the small print you’ll soon realise there are a number of hidden costs– usually relating to licensing or storage – that can soon mount up.

• Does your chosen solution include data encryption, user authentication, or digital watermarking for security or tracking purposes?

• Consider the types of documents you are dealing with – financial or legal documents, for example, must be managed in accordance with industry legislation and/or standards

• Does it include search facilities? – if not your chosen system will be no more efficient than email

• What about file management and version control? – important for managing software updates or technical documentation

• Document management systems are not file sharing systems, make sure that you understand the differences

Cognidox is a software company that specialises in helping its customers achieve quality certification through better document control processes and improved knowledge transfer procedures for their end users via secure web portals. For more information visit www.cognidox.com

 

Improve Customer Service, Increase Sales

Sage improve sales through customer service infographic
This infographic was produced by sage.co.uk

The Emotional Endurance of Starting a Business

It doesn’t matter how passionate, knowledgeable and prepared you are about the product or service you’re about to launch, you will reach an unexpected road block at some point that will test your professional will and determination to the limit. 

endurance picIt’s not a unique road block either. In fact, speak to every business owner out there and they will have had sleepless nights at some point during their venture, as well as having asked themselves the question “Have I really done the right thing by going it alone?”, as Caroline Sandler, Director of Sandler Training in Cambridge, confirms “I was pretty realistic about the challenges of starting a business as I’ve worked alongside friends and family as they built theirs, but it is different when it’s your business. Inevitably there are times late at night when you question what you have done and whether you can make it work.”

Often, you’re fully aware of the endurance needed, before you hand your notice in or write your business, to start your journey into self-employment. Vhari Russell, Director of The Food Marketing Expert, experienced the same concerns of so many others “I started The Food Marketing Expert as I wanted to help more business grow and develop. Having worked for a number of businesses I had grown frustrated with the lack of belief that they could grow and wanted to help other business with the knowledge I had about marketing and sales within the food industry. Like many new start-ups one of my main worries was earning enough money and losing the security of a job.”

Those days and months before you start are not the only times you need to be prepared to call on strong mental resources as Caroline explains “You need a certain amount of emotional toughness and determination to work through the up’s and down’s. At the beginning it can be one step forward, two steps back and, although the nature of the challenges change and it may become three steps forward, one step back, you still need to find a way to deal with those issues without working all hours and letting it affect other areas of your life.”

The common theme from Caroline, Vhari and others that I’ve spoken to (and experienced myself) is that your network of friends and family are vital when the going becomes emotionally tough. Especially friends who you can really open up to; safe in the knowledge that they will have your back and their feedback will be honest and constructive. An important resource Caroline never underestimated “Many of them have built their own companies and faced the same challenges so I used them regularly for advice, venting and frank feedback.” Vhari’s experiences were very similar “When I started I had the support of my family and friends and that was invaluable. My husband and I had many a night chatting through ideas and thoughts until the early hours”

If you feel your immediate connections wouldn’t get how you’re feeling, remember that every business owner, without exception, has questioned their own decisions too. Talk to the ones you’re closest with for ideas and thoughts that may help. When I’ve asked questions of myself, when my professional, self-employed confidence has been at its absolute lowest, it is these people and their experiences, which have lifted me the most.

To further help you increase your levels of endurance, I will leave the last words to Caroline and Vhari:

Caroline
I’m a firm believer in ‘it’s not what happens to you that counts, It is how you deal with it’. So, I’ve used different things to help me deal with the up’s and down’s, including being very clear why I was doing this and being 100% committed to it. This meant that I had to keep doing the activities that I knew were necessary for success, even when I found them difficult.

Vhari
I have learnt to trust my gut instinct more and be proud of what you do and do it well. You don’t need to have all the fruit on the tree, but the fruit you pick needs to be good. So work with clients you get on with and who share your values.

The Start-Up A-Z: Dangers of Disappearing Data

The process of starting a business means that you’re going to collect a considerable amount of data.

D - DataInformation that will include your business plan, contact information, forecasts, reports, designs, images and more. In fact, you’re likely to create more data during the set up stage of your business, than at any other time during the first 12 months. And while some of this will be automatically stored in the cloud, how much of your personal and private information that you have right now…isn’t?

Now, here’s a story courtesy of Neil Hamilton-Meikle, Business Development Manager at Safebox

Sunburn in Cyprus – lost forever.

So you’re a new business, you’re eager, bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, you have clients on board, suppliers, you’ve done the marketing and even the bank manager thinks you’re onto a winner; its all looking very positive.

Right, off you go then, oh watch for that printer cable on the floor……

As you break your fall whilst failing to remain composed, you see your laptop, which until just a few moments ago was tucked safely under your arm, spinning away into the distance, its date with the floor at speed confirmed. You scamper over to it and cradle it in your arms as if it were an injured child, but as laptops and gravity don’t mix to well, sadly the last few moments of life slip away. The hard drive stops beating, death has taken its grip.

Your thoughts suddenly leap to the loss of that rather amusing wallpaper picture you had of you on the beach in Cyprus with the amusing sunburn. But don’t worry, you had everything backed up, I mean who is this day and age would be daft enough to have their entire business on only one device with no back up. I mean really?

Oh!

This story isn’t as far fetched as it may appear. Only last year when I was working from home, I walked up the stairs with an open laptop and a cup of coffee. Well, you can imagine what happened when I tripped up the last step. It’s not just accidents that are a risk either. A few years ago when I was working for a major High St bank, a customer told me of her painful experience:

We had a break in and all 7 desktops were stolen. I had no choice but to shut down and start again as I just didn’t think it would happen to us

KTS Computers even states on their website that “Statistically, a hard drive crashes every 15 seconds and 60% of businesses who lose their data go bankrupt within 6 months”

The common responses when suggesting data back up are:

“I’m too busy to back up”
“I do it at the end of each month”
“It won’t happen to me”
“I don’t know how”

My answers to those are: Read Neil’s story, That’s not often enough, and It might and that’s a good enough reason”

On the last point, the ways to back up are on CD, USB Drive, External Hard Drive and the easiest and most cost effective of them all, online. The system I use it I-Sure which is just £2.75 per month and backs up everything for me daily without me having to do anything.

Now you’ve read this article, act on it before it’s too late and as Neil says “Treat your business data as you do your family photos, which are probably on CD, data stick, laptop, phone, etc. Just as your business data should be.”

How do you back up and what would you recommend? If you’re not, what’s stopping you? What support do you need? Email your comments and thoughts to info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com.