Ed’s Top Tips: Tip 10 – Anytime is the right time to start a business

Tip 10- Anytime is the right time to start a business

Ed Goodman, business mentor, author, and co-founder of Cambridge Business Lounge, presents Ed’s Top Tips – a series of short and useful guides for starting and running a business. This week: Anytime is the right time to start a business.

In 2016 80 companies per hour were started. That’s a lot of companies. It’s a really good illustration that prospective business owners aren’t letting outside factors like the economy or politics get in the way of making their dream become a reality.  Research from StartUp Britain, a Government-backed national enterprise campaign, shows 342,927 new businesses were registered with Companies House between January and June, compared with 608,110 for the whole of 2015, itself a record year.

Watch the video where Ed explains right now is the best time to start your business:


Action Point:
What are you going to do to start your business? Here are a couple of suggestions which could help you on your way.
  1. Come and visit us! We love meeting new businesses and making new connections. We’ll even make you a cup of tea or coffee. If you’re not in the local area you can always reach out to us via email or social media.
  2. Get out there and meet people. You can use websites like Meetup or Eventbrite to see what’s going on in your local area. Find an event which looks like your thing and go to it.
  3. Seek advice. Talk your ideas over with a business mentor or someone who runs their own business. Try to avoid speaking to friends and family who can be biased in their views.

We’d love to know what thing tipped you into starting your own business. Tweet us and tell us using the hashtag #Edstoptips.

The Secrets of Self-Employment

ShhhhGoing from a ‘secure’ job to self employment is, for many, a tough decision, especially when it affects so many things, such as your lifestyle, family and friends.

Yet, the first question many ask themselves is ‘do I have the skills? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a valid question, especially as it could mean going from the role of a Web Developer, Accountant or Hairdresser to now adding Head of Finance, Sales and Marketing amongst others.

We asked a number of our co-working community to help you by answering the question: “What are the secrets that no-one tells you about going self-employed?” These are their answers:

  • It’s more secure than a ‘job’.
  • You sometimes miss having a boss. (It’s worth noting that this point was largely disputed)
  • It’s lonelier than you imagine it to be while you’re longing to be rid of your annoying boss/co-workers. So plan for it.
  • Businesses (even large) are just as close to no money as you, they just have a department to worry about it.
  • There’s nowhere to hide in your own business.
    • (although, if you work at home, your TV set will tell you otherwise)
  • Removing the safety net of your salary is far outweighed by the removal of the upper limit of your potential earnings.
  • Failure is positive because it means you’re actually trying to achieve something.
  • Your partner/family will feel it so prepare the ground.

What about you? What have you learnt about running a business that you didn’t know before you started? And, if you did know, would it have made a difference?

Email us at info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com or on twitter @CamBizLounge. We’d love to hear from you.

Start-up Stars: How to finance your new business

Starting a new business requires patience, a variety of skills and money. In this Google Hangout, I chat with Conrad Ford, Managing Director of award-winning Funding Options, to help unravel the minefield of financing a start-up.

For more information of the sites mentioned in this hangout, visit:

UK Government – Business

Funding Wales

Better Business Finance

Kickstarter

Crowdsurfer

Start Up Loans

and, of course, Funding Options. You can also find Conrad on Twitter, at @FinanceConrad

A Start-Up’s Guide to Intellectual Property

i Intellectual PropertySo far, in our A-Z Guide to Starting a Business, we’ve looked at topics including bookkeeping, data backup, and funding. With so much to cover, it’s no surprise that intellectual property (IP) sometimes takes a back seat when setting up. 

The World Intellectual Property Organisation describe IP as the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”

In this blog, Phil Coldrick from IP Scope, provides us with an overview to IP as well as describing what IP needs to be considered when starting a business…

Q: What IP should I be considering when I start a business?

A: Typical things to consider include your business name – your name and brand is a valuable asset to your business so think about protecting it by registering it as a trade mark. Remember, if you have registered your company name with Companies House this does not mean you are protected. Someone else could still use it.

Other IP aspects include copyright for your website and any other promotional literature you create. Copyright is automatic but beware of who owns the copyright when a third party is involved such as a website designer. You might want to consider having the copyright assigned to you through any contract you arrange with them.

Q: How can I determine if my business needs IP protection?

A: The UK Intellectual Property Office provides a free IP Healthcheck service that takes you through a series of questions to determine how to safeguard your IP assets and provides a confidential report with recommendations for next steps. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/iphealthcheck.htm

Q: I have an idea, but don’t want to tell anyone in case they steal it. What can I do?

A: It is important that you do not make your idea public before you apply for IP Rights, if you do, you run the risk that you may not be able to patent an invention or protect your design because it is invalidated by the public disclosure. However, that does not mean that you must never discuss your idea with anyone else. Conversations with qualified (registered) lawyers, solicitors and patent attorneys are legally privileged and therefore in confidence. If you need to discuss your idea with someone else before you apply for an IP Right – such as a patent adviser or consultant then a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) can help. NDAs are also known as confidentiality agreements and confidentiality-disclosure agreements (CDA). An explanation on setting up NDAs (including templates) can be found at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/nda.pdf

Overview of Intellectual Property-page1

 

For more information, email info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com or tweet @CamBizLounge.

 

Generosity in Business: You Can Catch More Flies With Honey Than With Vinegar

“I’m best of breed within my industry. I’ve got plenty of charisma and I’m not bad looking. I’m one of a kind.”

“My social life; my personal life don’t mean anything to me. I live to work, that’s all I do.”

“I take cut throat and ruthless to a completely new level. The only focus for me is myself. I’m cold and hard. I am unstoppable”

Programmes like The Apprentice, from where the above lines are taken, and Dragon’s Den, are heavily edited to draw in an audience in an attempt to create edge-of-your-seat viewing. For anyone starting a business, this may seem like the way business should be done if someone wants to succeed, but I’m going to let you into a secret: It’s not.

GenerosityOne of the hardest parts of building a new, professional relationship, whether you’re a new or an established business, is establishing rapport and trust. For this, you need to make it clear from the offset that you are one of life’s good people, by showing credibility and empathy with the potential customer or supplier that you’re looking to work with.

Forget this seemingly TV-driven world of corporate backstabbing and bickering, and focus your energies on generosity and reciprocity. For example, when you help another business owner to overcome a challenge, there is a high chance they will look to help you back one day. Even if they don’t, you’ll feel good for helping and will quickly build a reputation as a trusted business professional, which will be act as an attraction tool itself.

We all recommend people we trust. That trust is measured in the level of service provided, the quality of work and how expectations are exceeded by wanting to help and support.

We’ve seen both sides of this approach happen at our Collaborative Cambridge events, a mastermind group where business owners provide solutions to the challenges of others in the group. This attitude is a winner for everyone whether you’re helping others or others are helping you.

Try this the next time you’re trying to forge a new relationship or at the next networking event you visit. Don’t go with the aim of meeting potential new customers; visit with the thought in mind of “how can I help someone else?”

As the late Dr Maya Angelou wrote…

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What examples of generosity have you seen in business? How has that approach helped you overcome challenges? Email info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com, we’d love to hear your stories.

To view other Start-Up Tips, visit: The A-Z Guide to Starting a Business.

Starting a Business? Never Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Breaking The Back of Bookkeeping

b imageFollowing on from “Why You Need an Accountant When Starting a Business”, I want to focus on the financial paperwork that you can (and need) to manage yourself, and that you don’t need an accountant for.

Imagine this dark scenario…

You’ve done your research; got your product or service to market, found customers who are interested in what you do…and then you run out of cash. A dramatic, but not uncommon, situation and one not caused by banks not lending.

This situation is often created by not knowing who owes you money, who you owe money to and HMRC penalties for late or incorrect payment and filing of returns. There are more benefits for having your house in order as Emily Coltman FCA, Chief Accountant to FreeAgent Central, explains “Not keeping your books up to date is very risky. Plus, you won’t be able to make informed decisions such as which new markets or new products to try if you don’t have accurate and up-to-date financial information”

“I don’t have the time”

It’s vitally important to make the time, and how much time often depends on the complexity of the business. If you’re a retailer selling a high volume mix of VATable and non-VATable products, your bookkeeping is likely to be more involved than a business which raises 5 invoices per month. A good system will be easy to use, easy to understand and as Emily suggests “we believe that spending just one hour a week on your books will make all the difference.”

It certainly will be if you put these tools in place when you set up your business, rather than play catch-up when you’ve been trading for weeks or months.

“Which system should I use?”

There are a plethora of bookkeeping systems out there, far too many for me to list. So, if you haven’t used one before, seek advice from your peers, accountant or bank manager. An accountant may even suggest using the same system as them, which could be a benefit to you and may even help to reduce your accountancy bill. But is it the right system for your business? Emily warns “Don’t accept an antiquated bookkeeping system because it’s what your accountant has always used. Look for a system that puts YOU in control – after all, this is your business and you are responsible for it to HMRC!”

Using a system that’s different to the one your accountant uses shouldn’t hinder your professional relation with them, as Emily explains “With the right system for you, you will be able to work more closely with your accountant, who will be able to give you proactive business advice such as whether your prices aren’t high enough or you’re paying too much in bank charges.”

Download Software Vs Cloud Based Systems

Market leading tools have historically been QuickBooks and Sage and there is a growing increase in the number of online tools available, with the most popular versions being FreeAgent, Xero and KashFlow. Others are available, but I’d recommend one of these as the starting point for your research.

Online accounting software is, in my opinion, the best way to go. Your information is then accessible from anywhere in the world and, more importantly, it is safe and secure. Also, many online systems offer free trials so you can see how intuitive they are before you commit. When you do try one, also test their customer service/tech support as these will be invaluable to you in the early days of use, and you don’t want to be spending more time on hold or with an unsupportive advisor than you need.

To summarise:

  • Start as you mean to go on, and put systems in place now.
  • Use the tool that’s right for you and YOUR business, not your accountant or bank manager
  • The time spent on this will actually save you time in the future.

Email your comments or questions to info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com