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Monthly Archives: September 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.