Small business Advice | 18 places to indulge in face-to-face business networking

Networking can be a great way for business owners to meet with new prospects and re-connect with others they already know, offering the chance to build relationships of partnerships, referrals and resources. So, if you’re looking to network with likeminded entrepreneurs but you don’t know where to start, check out  Real Business’ 18-point guide to finding great business networking events.

networking

Small Business News | Marketing tips for entrepreneurs

According to Growing Business, a new web portal and LinkedIn group have been launched to offer free advice for businesses on how to get the most from their online presence.

Created by the author, Ian Whiteling, the website om4biz.com contains blogs from web experts on how companies can promote themselves better over the internet. Alongside this is a social media discussion group, which features a panel of experts ready to answer the queries of businesses looking to develop their web presence.

By joining the groups one can then post up queries on anything from website design, implementation and content to search engine optimisation, email marketing, internet advertising and social media.

To find out more, please visit the Growing Business website.

Small Business Advice | Customer Service for hire

My background is very much of a retail nature, where customers and customer service are the very heart of the business. But traditionally, hire has been quite outdated in this respect – it’s an industry that’s been focused on products and the mechanics of the hire process more so than on the customer. And I think that’s been a mistake.

When I joined HSS, there had already been some progress in addressing this and over the past few years, we’ve been resolute in building on this. We have been leading the way in bringing a more customer-centric focus to hire, aligning our business model to the needs of our customers and making sure we are best placed to work with them, wherever and whenever they need us.

We’ve been busy opening new branches to consolidate our nationwide network and we’ve also invested heavily in expanding and updating our equipment fleet to ensure that it is easy for our customers to find us and to get what they need from us.

But it’s no longer good enough to just be a ‘supplier’; it’s got to be about becoming an indispensible part of your customer’s supply chain. Our customers are why we do what we do and we work hard to deliver what they need from us – I don’t think you can or should do anything else; even during the tough times of a recession. And yes, the current market conditions mean a big part of that will focus on costs, both your own and those of your customer. But for real success, it’s equally essential not to only take a cost reducing approach. Service and compliance must be maintained and, even more than that, innovation must be embraced. We’ve pioneered some great initiatives and hire related services that are all about putting the customer at the very heart of what we do and in making hire easy for them and all of this has helped us to outperform the market despite some very challenging times.

As part of this dedication to customer care, we developed and launched our award-winning online business management system, HSS LiveHire to give our customers better visibility and control of the equipment they have on hire. Saving time and money are always important factors for any business but, now more than ever, our customers need us to help identify efficiencies and drive out unnecessary costs and LiveHire helps deliver against those needs in a way that no other system can do.

I readily admit that our customer-centric approach has led to other hire companies looking over the fence at HSS and thinking that we’re somewhat mad. But to be honest, if we’re going to stand out from the crowd in our industry, I’m very proud that it’s because we put our customers first.

Small Business News | Surviving Public Sector Cuts

Real Business has recently published an article outlining how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who supply to the public sector are able to protect themselves against the ever increasing public sector cuts.

Across the public sector, the government spends around £140bn on goods and £80bn on services annually. Although active discussions on price cuts are only being held with its 20 largest suppliers, it seems likely that this is to spread to the majority of suppliers including enterprising businesses and SMEs. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has already been reported as saying that he expects public sector suppliers to cut their prices in order to help lower the public deficit.

However warnings are being made to smaller suppliers about ‘knee-jerk’ price cuts as there are concerns that it could be rather harmful to their overall profits. Suggestions have been made on how to come to a compromise over this situation. One such being to develop total cost of ownership tools to help evaluate the lifetime cost of the contract to the government, offering longer term contracts in exchange for lower annual costs.

To see all the survival tips and full article please visit the Real Business website.

Small Business News | London 2012 athletes need help from UK SME’s

An article featured in Real Business announced that with two years to go until the opening of the 2012 Olympics, small and medium enterprises (SME’s) are being asked to support the Team 2012 fund.

The campaign, championed by entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne, to spearhead this scheme is called “Our Team 2012” and aims to raise £15m to provide up to 1,200 Team GB athletes with training and equipment in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. All in all around 750 firms will be asked to pay £9,900 per annum to take part in a two year programme. Sponsorship provides SME’s the chance to meet athletes, gain access to prestigious venues such as the House of Lords, be invited to networking and black tie events and allowing them to display a special “Team 2012” logo on their website and in their e-mail signatures. Alongside the aforementioned benefits there is talk that association with the Olympics could result in new business opportunities for those taking part. Money raised by the initiative will be used to fund coaching, training and competition support, medical and scientific services, equipment and access to the best facilities for Team GB.

For more information on the programme or to see the article in full, please visit the Real Business website.

Small Business News | Peter Jones voted top Dragon by SME’s

In a survey of 500 UK entrepreneurs, Dragons Den Peter Jones has been named the most admired Dragon by UK small and medium enterprises.

Conducted by SME telecom specialist XLN Telecom, Peter Jones received 31% of the votes, followed by James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne, who each won 20%, while Deborah Meaden was backed by only 7% of respondents. Over half (64%) of participants claimed they would be happy to pitch their business on the show, with 39% seeing healthy sales figures as the best way to attract investment. When asked about their own businesses, 64% of respondents claimed to have used personal savings when starting up their businesses. Christian Nellemann, entrepreneur and founder and CEO of XLN Telecom,  stated that such results show the UK to be a nation of plucky entrepreneurs. Well deserved and positive coverage for SME’S who play such an integral part in the UK economy.

To read the article in full please visit the SME website.

Small Business News | How to improve your website

There’s no denying that today, having an online presence is a vital component of any successful business, so we really liked this handy guide from Real Business that offers advice on how to get your website up and running. Tips include:

  1. Include a free phone telephone number on your website.
  2. Every website should mention the company’s unique selling point.
  3. A “Sign up for our Newsletter” option isn’t good enough.

To read all eight tips and make the most of your website, visit Real Business.  Why not check out some of our own tips on how to Building a better online presence for your business too?