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Yearly Archives: 2016

10 Tips That Will Help Improve Your Customer Data Protection

In the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote this year, it remains to be seen how the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), slated to come into effect in 2018, will impact on British businesses in the long run. Businesses have until 25 May 2018 to prepare for GDPR, which sets out uniform rules for data protection rights across the EU, as it will have direct effect on all member states from this date.

Any company – no matter whether it is inside or outside the EU – that deals with data of European citizens will have to abide by the GDPR. We are clearly living in an age when data protection is becoming increasingly regulated, so here are a few tips that will help your business tighten up its policies on customer data.

1. Don’t forget your updates

Some companies, including SMEs, fall into the habit of running their software updates during quieter periods when they envisage less disruption to day-to-day business. However, pushing back these required patches could increase the potential for an attack which could compromise your customer data. There are hackers who are always on the lookout for new methods of exploiting gaps in security, so be prepared to sacrifice time and, where necessary, invest in new ways to secure your network.

2. Keep an eye on sensitive personal data

Sensitive personal data – such as political or religious beliefs or information about health or sexual orientation – is the customer data that you should be especially wary of allowing to fall into the wrong hands. You should know exactly who has access to your customer database and change passwords regularly.

3. Clarify your privacy policy

Ensure you have a comprehensive privacy policy which clearly explains to your customers how their data will be used. Building trust between your organisation and customer base should be a priority, and you will find customers are more likely to voluntarily share their personal information with a company they trust. Don’t risk legal issues and damage to your reputation by failing to explain to your customers how their data is collected and used.

4. Don’t store what you don’t need

Keeping hold of personal customer data which you no longer need is a breach of Principle 5 of the Data Protection Act. Information such as names and addresses might be useful to your marketing objectives, but storing data such as credit card details is often not required and is simply adding to the risk should a security breach occur.

5. Utilise encryption

Encryption technology should be used to ensure an extra layer of security is provided. Encryption basically encodes data so that only users with access to the correct ‘key’ can read that information. It works by providing a safeguard against the unlawful access of data.

6. Assess security across your supply chain

It is also important that the vendors and partners with whom you work are able to demonstrate a sufficient level of security, particularly if they have access to your customer data. Always ask third parties about their security procedures before you provide them with access to your IT systems or customer databases.

7. Form a disaster recovery plan

Are you prepared for all eventualities in the scenario of a cyber-attack? You should have a plan in place. If not, consider creating one to protect your customer data and ensure the continued smooth running of your organisation.

8. The importance of testing

Your in-house IT support, or a trusted outside agency, must test your system regularly in order to identify potential vulnerabilities that could lead to the exposure of customer information. Cyber security experts or “white hat” hackers can also be brought in to examine the robustness of your security measures.

9. Bake customer data protection into your company culture

The employees in your organisation should be given training on how to handle customer data properly. They must know the correct procedure for reporting any data breach (e.g. if one of their passwords is compromised). Extra security can be added by implementing a two-step login process for employees.

10. Get the right legal advice

Should the worst happen and a security breach occurs, not only damage to your organisation’s reputation but a financially crippling court case could feasibly be on the cards. That is why you need to understand your obligations, regarding customer data. A data protection lawyer can help decide on the language you use in your privacy policy and contracts with business partners.

At Simply-Docs, we have a wide selection of ready-to-use documents that will help you create IT and data protection policies. To talk more about how we can help you build procedures to protect customer data, simply contact our friendly team today.

Could Becoming a Freelancer Be the Correct Career Choice for You?

The freedom to pick and choose how, when and where you work are some of the big advantages of becoming a freelancer, and it can be tempting to jump right into the world of self-employment for these very reasons.

However, if you’re not fully prepared for the implications of freelancing, you could be surprised by many of the challenges which come with working for yourself. Consider whether you are ready to give up the day job by asking yourself the following five questions:

1. Do you have a portfolio of work?

No matter how much experience you have, clients will always want to look at examples of your previous work to see if you’re right for them. If you don’t have a portfolio yet, be sure to prepare one and publish it on your website – or at least build up your LinkedIn profile.

You could offer your services to friends or family for free or create your own projects. For example, those wishing to become a self-employed writer can create a blog to showcase their skills – and a budding freelance software developer could build an app or freely downloadable software.

2. Do you know how to pitch work?

Depending on the nature of your freelance work, you may be required to pitch your services to clients face-to-face, over the phone or via email. You should have a well-rehearsed and persuasive pitch and be confident in your ability to sell your service, as well as yourself. If you struggle to pitch your work you might struggle to find clients.

A successful pitch should explain exactly why you’re right for the job, bringing in prior experience and areas of expertise that are relevant to the client or job in front of you. Practise pitching to friends and family members first, and be sure to get your website copy right down to the[a2]  last detail before using it as a basis for your pitch.

3. Could you offer competitive rates?

Figuring out what you will charge for your freelance services is incredibly important but also pretty tough. You’ll want to earn enough to make your work worthwhile and to pay your basic monthly bills, whilst offering value for money to your client. You’ll also want to position your prices in line with your competitors in order to make your service appealing.

Many freelancers provide quotes to their clients on a project-by-project basis, so you can assess every request that comes in and tailor your prices in accordance with the amount of time required to complete the job. But it’s always a good idea to also have a basic hourly and daily rate in mind, as some clients prefer to work on this basis.

Remember that you need to offer clients value for money. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer who takes 10 hours to produce a logo. If you want to work at a rate of £40 per hour, you may quote a client £400 to create a logo design. If that same client has received a quote of £300 for the very same job from another freelancer, your pricing won’t seem like value for money. Will you be able to explain to your client why your pricing is higher, and what added value they’ll receive from paying you more? Perhaps it will be of superior quality, turned around faster or you’ll be able to provide the logo in multiple formats. Whatever your USP, be sure that you remain an appealing choice to potential clients by ensuring that you offer value for money.

4. Are you financially prepared?

The biggest downside to working as a freelancer is the lack of a reliable monthly income, which is very daunting when you have regular monthly expenses to pay such as rent, mortgage or utility bills.

Depending on the industry you work in, it may be possible to find clients who can provide you with work on a consistent enough basis that you can maintain a steady stream of income, but it is not a guaranteed wage. You also have to consider scenarios such as late payments from clients or unforeseen business expenses.

To ensure that you can stay afloat at times where business is slow or invoice payment is delayed, you should have some savings behind you. Aim to save three to six months’ worth of income before you quit the day job and go freelance, as this should give you a good safety net for those tougher times.

5. Could you successfully maintain professional client relationships?

One of the trickiest things about working as a freelancer is developing successful relationships with clients. Your clients pay your wages so they are the closest thing to a boss, but remember that you are running a business and do not rely too much on repeat business or view them like an employer.

You also need to make sure that you’re paid fully and on-time. No matter how pleasant and reliable a client may be, you should ensure that contractual terms are agreed in writing in advance of starting any work to avoid misunderstandings further down the line. The idea of drawing up legal contracts, invoices and terms and conditions may seem daunting to new freelancers, but putting these in place can help to secure the success of your fledgling business.

At Simply-Docs, we have a wide range of valuable business documents for freelancers, including invoice templates and a range of  service agreements .

Should You Run a Charity Like a Business?

To remain financially stable in today’s competitive climate, a charity needs to run its operations with business-like standards.

Just like a business, many not-for-profit organisations have a board of directors, executives, human resources personnel and a marketing department. So why run a charity differently from a business just because the goals are different?

Successful not-for-profit organisations have strategic plans, keep financial records and have audits, so it’s important to invest in key aspects of the charity, just as you would with a business, to help it make a difference.

Importance of effective strategies

When a business is doing well, consumers realise the value of purchasing its products or services. When a charity is doing well, donors enjoy seeing the rewards of doing something good. A charity needs a competitive, effective strategy to help it support its beneficiaries. Typically, charities have less resources and capital for investment so, in a way, it’s even more important for good business sense to play a role.

The not-for-profit sector must ‘do more with less’ in every way, so needs to think differently to be more innovative and creative with what it has. In order for charities to experience business growth, sustained quality investment to promote their goals and values is crucial. A charity’s success should be measured by how its investments help it to raise more funds and do increasing amounts of good work. Charities should work to a set of standards that include leadership, transparency and results.

Streamline operating processes

The best way for charitable organisations to save on running costs is to work towards achieving streamlined processes with well-trained leaders, as spending vast amounts of money on staffing is not feasible and can eat away at funds better spent elsewhere. To this end, charity leaders could benefit from taking advice from small businesses; something that many may not even consider because they have never viewed themselves as a business.

As with business investors, charity investors wish to see the results of their investment. To produce a sustained and strategic impact, charities must be run like a business, with strategy, discipline and a strong focus on outcomes.

Be accountable

Any organisation receiving charitable support must be as accountable to the donors as a company’s board is to the shareholders. In a way, the donors are the stakeholders and therefore should be able to understand the ‘return’ on their investment.

Otherwise, they may feel as if they’re throwing their money into underperforming organisations that aren’t spending it in the most effective manner. Anyone who supports any cause has the right to expect effective strategies and efficient operations to put their money to best use.

For example, if an organisation is seeking to provide greater community amenities, it can prove the impact it’s having by counting the number of wells it has built in central Africa, or the number of playgrounds provided for poorer inner-city areas.

Management skills

Management skills are often as important as technical know-how. Trustees should search for chief executives who have the right qualities and skills to lead their organisation. Charities can benefit greatly from the experience of managers in the field who can make qualitative judgments based on comparing costs with benefits.

Putting the focus on efficiency and outcomes will work for any type of charity, no matter who the beneficiaries are. Whatever the mission, there must be a balance between expenses and revenue, with goals being set so that funding will continue.

There’s no aspect of running grass-roots and charitable movements that won’t benefit from a disciplined approach. Adopting sound business principles will make a charity more likely to accomplish its goals.

Overcoming sector challenges

It’s not always easy for charities to think like businesses. Due to the nature of the causes they support, some may find it more difficult to show clear, measurable goals. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try, as they owe it to the donors, managers, the board, the beneficiaries and the employees to adopt the best strategy possible to achieve their aims.

In today’s technical age, when the internet has made it easy and inexpensive to collect data of all kinds, anyone who is passionate about a charity’s work has more options to find out how it’s performing. Collecting data can measure results, enabling the charity to improve its performance.

Metrics should be seen as useful tools, rather than shackles. They can improve the effective use of money, time and people. A dream with a firm plan behind it has a better chance of becoming a reality.

Skilled people at the top

Today’s charities are a far cry from those that started life in the Victorian era to help impoverished sections of the community. In reality, many of today’s national and international charities resemble multi-million pound businesses, with funding coming from many quarters. As such, the managers should possess the skills to run an organisation of this size.

Charities must focus on squeezing the best value out of every pound that’s donated. By stripping out unnecessary administration costs and streamlining operations, efficiency savings can equate to more money being donated to those who need it.

Long-term focus

Strong leadership and effective business acumen are transferable skills that can benefit not-for-profit organisations. Some new charities fail within a relatively short period of being launched. In order to have a sustainable, long-term impact, a charity must focus on achieving its intended outcomes and also making a surplus.

Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult to continue operating, because in addition to fundraising for your cause, expenses must be taken into account, such as salaries, bills and other running costs. It’s crucial that finances remain steady because, however worthwhile the cause, if it’s being run by someone who can’t balance revenue and expenses, it’s going to end up in debt and will fail. Just like in business, it all comes down to maximising efficiency by having a good strategy, business-minded people in control and strong discipline to work towards a goal.

How can we help? Simply-Docs have a wide selection of ready-to-use document templates designed to help charities run more efficiently.

10 Intellectual Property Protection Tips for Your Start-Up

Intellectual property (IP) can cover a variety of elements, from patents and registered designs to any content you write for your business. It is crucial to the success of your company that you protect your IP, as this can be as important as the products or service you sell – sometimes more so.

If your business is based on your IP (e.g. a patent), then it becomes even more vital to protect this. With that in mind, these helpful tips provide some easy-to-adopt practices that will help you protect your business and enable it to thrive and grow.


1. Get a good understanding of IP

IP is sometimes an intangible asset that can make or break a business. It encompasses creations of the mind, including patents, designs, literary and artistic works, and trade marks.
IP can be protected through a variety of measures which offer recognition and help protect earnings. If managed correctly with conscious planning, this can safeguard a business’ assets and ensure healthy relationships with clients, partners and competitors alike.

2. How does IP relate to my business?

Whether you are an inventor, creative designer, writer or software developer, your work will often constitute IP. If you seek the appropriate help and protect your idea, this can work to protect the longevity of your business, prevent competitors from benefiting from your IP and even give you options to sell your IP rights in the future.

3. How can IP affect my business?

If unprotected, your lead competitor can take advantage of your IP, and potentially take your product to market before you. Speed is everything, meaning you could lose your competitive edge and potential customers, damaging both your reputation and cash flow.

Once you have protected your IP, your competitive edge is safeguarded, along with your market share. This gives you a right of challenge, should anyone copy your work, but also the opportunity to sell these rights should you wish to step out of the market, or diversify your business.

4. Do I need a trade mark?

If you wish to run a small, localised organisation, then a trademark may not be necessary. For those wishing to conduct their business online, have a niche product, or wish to develop on a wider scale, a trade mark could be of benefit. If you are unsure, always seek legal advice.

Registered trade marks last for 10 years and, although they can take some time to establish, are a steadfast way of protecting your brand.

5. Working with contractors and suppliers

If you work with contractors, freelancers or non-employees on any form of IP development for your business, you should put in place a written agreement which not only describes and records the IP, but which also contains a clause stating that all IP created belongs to your business. Otherwise, the IP can revert to the contractor.

If you need to disclose any confidential IP or trade secrets to third party suppliers, either prior to negotiations or upon commissioning work, always draw up a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) beforehand.

6. Look to the future

Every new business needs to plan for the future, so be sure to think about your IP before forging any new path for your business. Do you intend to take your idea to a wider market than you currently trade to, or are there similar products already in existence? If so, then make sure you have any relevant IP protection in place.

7. Enforcing your IP protection

The law is there to defend your IP. If you believe an organisation has copied your patented product, or plagiarised content you have created, then you may be able to seek redress. Solicitors that specialise in IP can guide and support you through any proceedings.

8. How does IP law protect me?

Civil – and sometimes criminal – prosecutions can be made against those in breach of IP. However, most disputes can be resolved at an earlier stage, by simply using a cease and desist letter.

9. Keep your records

Many businesses whose IP has been breached have lost their cases, or been unable to make a successful challenge due to a lack of record keeping. By creating and keeping comprehensive records, such as IP registration, NDAs and patents, you have absolute proof that your property belongs to you.

10. Protecting your business

Make sure that you understand how to protect any business IP – talk to a solicitor or your local Chamber of Commerce. Also make use of the wide array of IP information and forms available online.

How can we help?

Simply-Docs have a wide selection of ready-to-use document templates that can help businesses to protect intellectual property – including copyright agreements, cease and desist letters, patents and more. Alternatively, to talk about how we can help your business, simply contact our friendly team today.

How Much Money Could Effective Waste Management and Recycling Save Your Business?

In April 2016, landfill tax reached £84.40 per tonne. Apart from the direct cost, complying with the wide array of environmental regulations makes dealing with commercial waste even more expensive. So learning how to use your resources more efficiently and reducing waste is something that can help save your business a significant amount of money.

With that thought in mind, here’s our guide to effective waste management and the associated cost-saving benefits.

Reducing Waste in Your Business

If you have only just begun to think about how your business can reduce waste, it’s best to start small and build from there. This way, you can begin introducing structured tasks into your business’ processes that will help you work towards a culture of waste reduction – rather than just disposal.

To help get you underway, here are some waste reduction ideas for three common types of businesses: offices, restaurants and manufacturing.

In Your Office

Did you know that printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids in the world? As such, simple rules designed to reduce ink wastage are a great idea. For example, programming printers to print in black and white rather than colour, and encouraging your employees to view documents on their desktop as much as possible, can save your business a considerable amount of money.

Recycling one tonne of paper saves approximately 682.5 gallons of oil, 26,500 litres of water and 17 trees. Recycling paper in your office can also save you money. Reusing envelopes and incoming packaging, and converting pieces of scrap paper into notepaper, are all tactics used widely by ‘green-thinking’ offices.

In Your Restaurant

The UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) released a Too Good to Waste report that estimated restaurants could save more than £2,000 a year by reducing food wastage by 20%. Preparing food only when it’s ordered and regularly monitoring use-by dates are both processes you can introduce to help manage food waste better.

In relation to reducing packaging waste, there are several simple changes you can make. For instance, you can request that your suppliers package all your stock in recyclable materials. Or, if you have a takeaway restaurant, you can make an effort not to over-package the food that leaves your shop.

In Your Manufacturing Business

For manufacturing companies, the inefficient use of raw materials and waste disposal costs between 5 and 10% of total turnover. Faced with this statistic, the cost-saving potential of more effective waste management for manufacturing businesses is obvious.

Taking a ‘buy only what you need’ approach to stock control and procurement can save you money on purchasing unneeded materials. Equally, reviewing your business processes to ensure all equipment and materials are being used as efficiently as possible is a great way to keep costs down.

Your Legal Responsibilities as a Business

All businesses are legally responsible for managing their own waste. If you’re a business owner, the restrictions on what you can – and cannot – send to landfill are often stricter than for residential waste.

What’s more, you can face financial penalties if you do not handle waste according to legislation, or if you don’t have the right paperwork in place before it leaves your premises.

If you would like further information on waste legislation and regulations for businesses, take a look at this government guidance.

Final Thoughts

The amount of money you can save through effective waste management will differ from business to business. However, if there are currently deficiencies in your business’ waste management strategy, there are considerable savings that can be made.

If you’re hoping to make your business more efficient, Simply-Docs can help. We have a wide selection of customisable ready-to-use documents that will enable you to protect your business, while managing your legal and compliance requirements.

You can browse through our complete range of documents by clicking here. Or to speak to one of our staff about how we can help your business keep up with legislation – contact us today.

Self-regulation of charity fundraising: will it work?

Whilst the public supports UK charities with generous donations to help them provide a huge benefit to the community, many charities – some of them household names – have increasingly maximised their fundraising using methods which the public find unacceptable. It appears from the way that some charities act that they consider their admirable aim of raising funds to help their beneficiaries somehow justifies aggressive or other dubious means of fundraising by those charities.

How has this come about?

It might be deliberate policy of trustees to fundraise in that way. It might be that whilst charity trustees do not decide that their charity should act in that way, their fundraising staff or volunteers choose to be “over enthusiastic” or cut corners. Charities often engage commercial businesses as contractors to carry out fundraising for them. They are often paid on a results basis, and they may be incentivised by this to act in an “over enthusiastic” manner or worse.

Whether it is the charity’s staff, volunteers or its contractors which are at fault, it remains the responsibility of the trustees to supervise them and to avoid  unacceptable fundraising practices.  It is understandable that charities want to maximise fundraising, and many of them have to compete with other charities for support from the public but the public is entitled to expect charities to use generally acceptable methods and to operate in a way which conforms to clear standards. However, even if one leaves aside the issues about moral or legal acceptability of certain fundraising methods, use of questionable methods by charities may be counter-productive for them: it tends to lead to public disapproval of those methods, charities lose public trust and confidence, their reputation suffers, and the public becomes more reluctant to donate to them. So, just in terms of pragmatism, in the long term it is therefore in a charity’s overall best interests to adopt acceptable fundraising methods.

Public and media complaints

A survey carried out by Harris Interactive for the Third Sector website early in 2016 found that recent stories in the media about charities’ fundraising methods had made 22% of the public much less likely or slightly less likely to donate, and amongst those over 55, this rose to 35%.

A great deal of media criticism has been directed at some charities’ fundraising practices in recent years, particularly since the case of Olive Cooke who died in May 2015 after being distressed and overwhelmed by requests from charities by post and phone for donations. As a result the Fundraising Standard Board investigated the issues raised by complaints received by the Board, and it made a number of findings.

Over a third of the complaints related to approaches by charities being made to elderly people; it was felt that some charities targeted elderly people as a “soft touch”.  Significantly over 40% of complaints concerned the frequency of requests for donations by particular charities. 70% of complaints related to direct mail activity. A substantial percentage of complaints related to the issue of whether consent to be contacted by a charity had been freely given, for example many opt in / opt out statements were difficult to read. A number of complainants also cited the fact that when they received a request by phone to donate, the script used by the charity during the call made it difficult for the recipient of the call to say “no” to donating. Also highlighted was the practice of charities sending free gifts with mail packs which recipents feel are a waste of the charity’s money and a means of inducing  guilt if the recipient does not donate.  Some people complained that despite being registered with the Mailing and Telephone Preference Services, they still received mail or calls from charities.  Another major concern of the Board was that some charities communicated with actual or potential donors using contact data which, without the knowledge or consent of those donors, had been passed to those charities by other charities or by commercial organisations.

Prior to the Board’s investigation about direct mail, email and phone contact with donors, there was also widespread criticism about the ubiquitous presence of (and sometimes intimidation by) so-called “chuggers”  – those engaged by a charity to approach potential donors in the streets to collect cash donations or sign up donors to donate by direct debit.

So,  what changes are being made?

The Harris Interactive survey found that there was a strong public appetite for tighter self-regulation of fundraising. As outlined below, controls on charity fundraising are now changing so that unacceptable fundraising practices will hopefully be eliminated or at least significantly reduced. All charities will now have to adopt acceptable means of fundraising.

The Fundraising Regulator was set up in response to recommendations made in September 2015 by the Cross-Party Review of Fundraising Regulation. 45 of the UK’s largest charities agreed to contribute to the start-up costs of the new Fundraising Regulator. As from 7th July 2016, the responsibility for regulating charity fundraising passed from the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) to this new body which is now responsible for the self-regulatory regime for fundraising. The new Fundraising Regulator will deal with all new complaints raised about charity fundraising. This new body also takes control of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice and the Public Fundraising Association’s Rule Book. For the first time, responsibility for all the different aspects of regulating fundraising will be centred in one organization. It will be able to take various steps in response to complaints which it upholds, including naming and shaming charities if it finds that they have not met the standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice.

The Fundraising Regulator and the Charity Commission have recently signed an MOU which sets out the criteria to be met for the Regulator to refer complaints to the Commission. If a charity repeatedly fails to respond to the Regulator’s rulings, it will refer cases to the Commission so that it can consider whether there are serious shortcomings in the charity’s governance.

The Cross-Party Review hoped that this beefed up new self-regulatory regime would lead to significant improvements in the fundraising methods adopted by charities. However, the Review also considered that it might yet prove necessary to implement statutory regulation of charities’ fundraising practices. Parliament therefore amended the Charities Act 1992 to create a reserve legal power for the Government to make Regulations compelling charities to comply with the requirements of a specified regulator. Under the new voluntary system, it is not compulsory for charities to sign up to be bound by rulings of the Fundraising Regulator. If this voluntary regulation fails, there is now power under the 1992 Act to make Regulations requiring charities to sign up to abide by the requirements of the Fundraising Regulator. The Regulator could in future thereby be given more teeth. Alternatively, Regulations could pass full responsibility for fundraising regulation to the Charity Commission.

Will the changes work?

It remains to be seen whether the new system of self-regulation will work. Will there now be sufficient compliance by charities with the Code of Fundraising Practice on a voluntary basis, or do you think that the Government should have established statutory regulation now rather than wait to see how well the new improved self-regulatory system works?

6 Tell-Tale Signs Your Business Needs to Expand

Most successful entrepreneurs reach a point at which they need to consider expanding their business. This could mean taking on extra staff, updating equipment, bringing in new technology, or moving to larger premises.

However, there is always a balance to be struck between keeping a tight rein on finances and making the necessary investment to move your business to the next level. It can be tempting to put the decision off for as long as possible, but here are six tell-tale signs that expansion should be on the cards now:

1. Your Business Can’t Fulfil Customers’ Orders On Times

A major sign of the need for expansion is the inability to fulfil orders on time – particularly where these were previously easily deliverable. This can be an indicator that there is general pressure within your business’ processes, rather than issues with an individual order.

If these problems continue, both your business reputation and growth can be compromised. It could also mean competitors will take advantage, picking up orders that your business has turned away.

2. You and Your Staff Feel Swamped

You and your employees are working 10 to 12 hours a day just to stand still. You’re feeling pressured every time the phone rings. Workers are telling managers that their workload is problematic. If you do nothing in this situation, you risk losing employees and suffering from burnout yourself. Official statistics show the number of cases related to stress, depression, or anxiety in the workplace totalled 440,000 in 2014/15.

3. Cash Flow Is Suffering Because Payments Aren’t Being Chased

Managers are so busy delivering on the order book that they don’t have time to keep on top of chasing unpaid invoices. You may well notice that cash flow is suffering as a result. Half of start-up businesses fail within five years and cash flow issues are the biggest reason.

4. The Marketplace Is Changing

The introduction of new regulations, disruption from technological changes and changing market forces can all put an extra burden on you and your staff. As such, it may be necessary to take on a new employee in order to deal with various changes to the marketplace in which you operate.

5. Your Business’ Reputation Is Suffering

Three out of four customers say they spend more money when they get a good customer experience. So ensuring that you are able to meet – or exceed – client expectations can pay dividends in the long run.

The alarm bells should start ringing if you notice negative comments on social media or an increase in the number of complaints. If your business is losing customers, you need to act swiftly to prevent a downward spiral.

6. Your Business Feels Crammed into an Untidy Space

If you’re operating between piles of stock and paperwork, it’s time to take a look at bigger premises. If you’re operating from home, maybe you need to look at office space instead? If you have recently taken on more employees, does your current premises have the required welfare facilities to meet health and safety legislation? These are all considerations that need to be made before making the decision to move your business.

So, What Can You Do as Your Businesses Expands?

There are several steps which can be taken to aid with the process of expansion. Outsourcing a number of roles is an excellent method for relieving the burden on overworked employees. Typical areas businesses look for help with are accountancy, marketing, social media, and administration. Alternatively, you could train staff to perform multiple functions to ensure that workload is spread more evenly.

Could you expand into an adjacent unit or a larger unit on the same site? Getting larger premises is more straightforward if a business is dealing with the same landlord – and you don’t need to provide a new address to customers. Shared office space which can be hired by the day is a great option for start-up owners who have been operating from home.

How Can Simply-Docs Help?

Simply-Docs provides ready-to-use documents and legal contracts ideal for businesses, including employment and health & safety documents. To talk more about how we can help your business manage a change of premises, simply contact our friendly team today.

Could Flexible Working Hours Make Your Business More Profitable?

Flexible working is an increasingly popular trend, fuelled by changing social dynamics and the ability for many professionals to carry out their work from virtually any location with a Wi-Fi signal. It refers both to flexible patterns of work as well as to the choice of working remotely from home or elsewhere.

Flexible working is an attractive prospect for many employees who are parents with young children or have other caring responsibilities. Employers need to reasonably consider all requests for flexible working.

So what’s in it for your business? Isn’t it better to have your staff all in one place, somewhere you can manage them? Recent studies suggest not. Flexible working isn’t just about creating a pleasant atmosphere for your workers, or moving away from micro-management and presenteeism. In fact, you may well find that flexible working increases profitability in a number of ways:

Reduce Your Costs

A study by Vodafone UK has revealed that implementing flexible working could save UK businesses £34 billion. For example, hot-desking, where workers on different shifts share desks to maximise use of office space, can reduce rental costs. Businesses can save not only by renting less square footage but also in paying less for heating and lighting.

Improve Productivity and Customer Service

As there’s no commute involved for homeworkers, employees could potentially be available to work earlier or later. A study by IBM into their own alternative workplace programme revealed 87% of employees believed their productivity and effectiveness had improved since they started working from home.

However, employers must ensure homeworkers have an adequate and safe working space. For instance, implementing robust health and safety policies can avoid many problems which could otherwise be very costly in the long run.

Attract Better Quality Candidates for Jobs

The benefits of allowing flexibility at work means that a wider range of people are able to apply for positions – including parents who need time to look after young children or semi-retired workers. Consequently, your business could gain an advantage by being able to select candidates with as wide a skill set as possible. Accessibility to a wider pool of potential employees can give your business the edge and ensure that the best candidates don’t end up working for a competitor.

Improve Staff Loyalty

Flexible working boosts morale and reduces the risk of stress and burnout. A happier workforce is less likely to have a high turnover of staff and all the associated costs. On the other hand, failure to offer flexible working arrangements may also mean that employees take their skills and experience to a rival company with a more flexible approach.

Future Trends

Acas notes that “New technology has … accelerated the opportunities for people to work from home and to stay in touch with colleagues and the emergence of a … ‘4G’ workforce has provided an extra dimension to the need for flexibility.” As the technology revolution gathers pace, it may be time to consider introducing or formalising flexible working policies to future-proof your organisation.

Simply-Docs has a wide selection of ready-to-use document templates to help small businesses implement flexible working while reducing costs – including contract amendments, and flexible and home working documents. To talk more about how we can help your business manage a more flexible approach to working, simply contact our friendly team today

10 Essential Tips for Starting Your Own Retail Business

Is opening a shop your dream? Do you long for the day you’ll have your own business and meet new customers every day? Be prepared for long hours and months of careful preparation before you can get your store up and running. Once you’re established, though, it’ll be a rewarding enterprise.

Here are our top 10 tips for those starting a retail business:

1. Decide on your budget and research the law

How will you finance your business? Consider whether you’ll need a loan, or funding from a partner or investor. You need to know how much money you have for stock, premises, staff, marketing, and branding. Getting realistic figures for all these areas is important at the start of any business.

Create your business plan and factor all your costs into it. What legal rules do you have to follow? For example, you’ll need public liability insurance if you’re opening a shop, and you’ll need to comply with food safety rules if you’re selling foodstuffs.

2. Do your market research

You can’t decide what you’re going to sell, where you’re going to sell it, and how, until you’ve tested the market. There are various ways of doing this – look at statistics for retailers in your sector and anecdotal evidence from retailers in the places where you’re considering opening.
When it comes to choosing your products, you have to ask the question: is there demand? You may wish to get a market research company to test the water for you. It’s also worth researching potential suppliers carefully for cost and quality.

3. Profile your ideal customers

Creating a profile allows you to be focused in your decision-making. You’ll need to think about where they live, what jobs they do, their income and leisure habits, what their problems are, and how your business can solve them. How do they shop? Do your ideal customers like to browse in store, or do they make most of their choices online?

4. Decide whether you’ll need a physical store or be selling solely online

Most retailers use a mixture of the two approaches. Most stores have online versions where customers can order products. Even without a store on a high street, you’ll need to think about product storage and how you’ll get your products to your customers.

5. Decide on a pricing structure and your terms and conditions of sale

You’ll need to work out the cost per item. That includes raw materials, the cost of processing and packaging, staff costs, storage costs, the cost of power to your shop, the cost of business rates, and other business costs. Once you’ve done that, you can work out the mark-up you’ll need per item to make a profit. Don’t forget you need to draw up your terms and conditions of sale.

6. Set up your website

Decide whether you’ll be writing and designing your own website, or whether you’ll call in a web designer and copywriter to give your site a professional polish. Will your designer buy the domain name and host it for you? Is there after-care in their price?

If your site is an e-commerce one rather than just informational, take a look at some of the best-designed sites with good ratings on review sites and find out who created them. There’s nothing more frustrating to customers than an online shopping cart which doesn’t work.

7. Find your premises

Finding the right location for a shop is vital. You’ll need to look at footfall in the area, the mix of other retailers around it, whether there are competitors close by, the kind of building you’re leasing or buying, the cost of the lease or mortgage, and the business rates. Will your premises need major refurbishment?

8. Decide on your branding and how you’ll deal with customers

This isn’t just about signage or letterheads. Your brand should extend from your shop and website, to your business cards and staff uniforms. How will complaints and queries be dealt with? How will your brand be managed on social media? Will you do that in-house or outsource it?

9. Hire staff

Your staff are the first point of contact for your customers – you need people who will become advocates for your business. Selecting the right people is vital. How will your team blend together? It’s important to ensure you have some staff with prior retail experience. They will help you train those who are new to the sector.

10. Decide how you will market your new business

You should have a marketing budget to ensure your retail business is a success. There are various ways you could spend it – advertising in newspapers, in magazines, or on TV and radio, customer promotions, and marketing on social media. It’s important to have a plan, and to decide whether you need external help from a marketing or social media company.

The hard work starts here! Simply-Docs has a range of customisable, ready-to-use documents which will help any retail start-up control their legal costs. They include customisable website terms and conditions, sale and supply of goods agreements, and internet, e-commerce and website agreements.

For more information about our services, contact our friendly team today.

Has Health & Safety Gone Mad?

When you work for a company or run your own business, you have to adhere to a long list of rules and regulations in the name of health and safety.

In the right hands, such rules are crucial for preventing accident or injury in the workplace. In the wrong hands, however, many view safety legislation as a tool that is used by bosses to help enforce unpopular decisions.

Consequently, the reputation of health and safety in this country has suffered. Here, we take a look at some of the most well-publicised health and safety stories of recent times in a bid to answer the question: has health and safety gone mad?

There’s Something in The Water

In 2011, Fife Today reported that Fife Sports and Leisure Trust introduced rules that forbid swimming instructors from getting in the pool with children they were teaching to swim. Instead, the leisure centre asked their instructors to supervise only from the side of the pool, over concerns they might otherwise miss a child in trouble.

On a similar theme, in 2010, The Daily Mail reported that a father-of-two was told he could only swim with one of his children at Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre. The reason? It was feared that, if he were to swim with both of his children at the same time, they might not receive the required supervision needed to keep them safe.

Has health and safety gone mad?

In the case of the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, it appears the decision was made because it was deemed that swimming instructors would be able to supervise children more easily if they were stood at the side of the pool. In the case of Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre, the Coventry Sports Trust, which runs the leisure centre in question, claimed to be following national guidelines.

Health and safety around water is obviously a good idea, and teaching children to swim is something that can help prevent them from drowning in youth and later life. On reflection, then, perhaps these two stories are not as ludicrous as they might first appear?

Food for Thought

This one comes from the vault of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and involves a burger.

Picture the scene: a customer is queuing at a burger van and overhears the person in front of them ask the vendor if they could cut a burger in half, as it was for a child. The vendor refuses, replying, “Can’t do that – health and safety. We’re just not allowed to do that.” The customer accepts the excuse and the burger is left in one whole.

Has health and safety gone mad?

Unsurprisingly, the HSE couldn’t find any law that prevented catering professionals from using a knife to cut food. Consequently, it seems that the burger vendor in this story was using health and safety as a convenient shield against doing something that they didn’t want to do.

Staff Banned from Drinking Tea or Coffee

Can you imagine trying to get through a working day without a regular fix of caffeine? As reported by The Independent and many other newspapers, this was the stark reality that medics and staff members at three NHS hospitals in Leicester faced, after they were banned from drinking tea and coffee in public areas in 2014.

Has health and safety gone mad?

The ban generated a significant level of negative press, largely because access to tea and coffee is seen by many to be a given right for every worker. However, in many hospitals, employees are only allowed to consume hot drinks in the staff room for health and safety reason, so the ban would appear to make sense on that level.

What’s more, if you take a closer look at the story, the reality is that the ban was introduced following complaints the consumption of hot drinks gave the impression that staff are not working hard enough.

How the NHS is run in this country is a topic that receives a lot of public scrutiny. As a result, even though the banning of tea and coffee might appear crazy at first, if the hospitals in question were seen to be doing nothing after receiving complaints, would the ramifications have been even worse?

How Much Does It Cost to Change a Lightbulb?

In 2011, after an accident involving a ladder, Stoke-on-Trent City Council introduced a ‘working-at-height’ policy, which essentially banned the use of ladders. According to The Express, the change meant that the council’s bill for scaffolding increased by approximately £1 million in just a year, as workers were continually forced to hire contractors to erect scaffolding just to change a lightbulb.

Has health and safety gone mad?

At first glance, the headline of spending £1 million to change lightbulbs appears to be ludicrous. However, almost a fifth of all falls from height at work are caused by the misuse of ladders. So, if using a ladder to change a lightbulb is deemed dangerous, wouldn’t it be more sensible to use scaffolding instead?

When viewed from this perspective, it makes you think that perhaps some of the newspapers were attracted to the story solely because of the catchy headlines it created.

Final Thoughts

The idea that health and safety has gone mad in this country is a popular one. However, on reflection, it seems that many of the most widespread stories relating to this subject might have been blown out of proportion to create eye-catching headlines.

There are exceptions, of course. Blatant misuses of health and safety law can – and do – occur. However, the creation of most safety laws are done with the best intentions.

It doesn’t matter what sort of business you are; effective health and safety management is essential. It can reduce accidents and losses, decrease absenteeism and help efficiency – all of which, in combination, can help boost your profits.

At Simply-Docs, we provide a huge selection of fully customisable, ready-to-use documents that are ideal for businesses. Our range of health & safety documents include risk assessment forms, fire safety documents, food hygiene paperwork, and many more documents that make health and safety management for businesses much easier.

For more information about how our services can save you money, contact our friendly team today.