The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Are Your Employees Workaholics or Work-alcoholics?


By Brandon Wilkinson - Medical Specialists Pharmacy 











According to a 2007 survey carried out by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, there are an  estimated 1.6 million people in England alone that are dependent on alcohol, and it is a casual factor in over  60 medical conditions, such as cancers of the mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast, high blood pressure, depression and cirrhosis of the liver.
 
The abuse of alcohol is said to cost the country a shocking £21 billion annually through the treatment of alcohol-related disease, the resulting crime that follows a bingeing episode of drinking, and loss of work productivity (about 8 to 14 million working days are lost each year in the UK because of alcohol).

The first two impacts of alcohol abuse are probably quite obvious to some, but the impact on alcohol to the workplace can often be dramatically underestimated – and it is a serious problem that many employers are having to tackle as alcohol dependency does not discriminate according to occupation.

Firstly, let’s look at the repercussions of alcohol in the workplace. Through either sustained alcohol dependency, or from isolated occurrences of heavy drinking, the main issues relating to the workplace are: Loss of production, absenteeism and extra sick leave, injuries and accident rates, and the risk of premature death or fatal accidents.

Alcohol can and will impair an employee’s decision making at work, slowing down reaction times, potentially inducing sleepiness and drowsiness, increase the risk of errors occurring and lead to the employee delivering goods or services to a substandard quality. It may even cause friction and anger amongst those employees that have to carry the burden of compensating for those whose work output is declining due to drinking.

It is usually primarily the after-effects of drinking – being hungover – that impacts the ability to perform a job correctly, or even turning up to work at all. In fact, a 2006 survey conducted by YouGov for PruHealth discovered that there are an estimated 200,000 workers in Britain coming into work hungover from the previous night’s drinking.

Some alarming finds were made in the survey: 22% admit they have made errors at work as a consequence of their hangover, 83% admit their hangovers change the way they perform their role, a third even admit to ‘drifting off’, whilst 28% say they have to work with headaches because of their hangover.

It is generally believed that the common working factors linked to increased alcohol consumption include feeling stressed at work, periods of inactivity or feeling bored, low job satisfaction, shift or night work, working remotely, having to travel long distances, and frequenting business meals where there is a likelihood to be alcohol available.

Employers should be able to spot if an employee has a drinking problem through a number of common traits.

Signs for employers to be aware of


  • The employee’s job performance declines.
  • Frequent absenteeism due to sickness. 
  • Frequent lateness to work or late to arrive at meetings. 
  • Frequent toilet visits. 
  • Attempts to mask the smell of alcohol with chewing gum, mints, breath sprays, or applying lots of aftershave/perfume and deodorant. 
  • The employee is absent from their desk for large periods of time. 
  • Suspect stories emanating from colleagues trying to cover for each other.


What can employers do?

First and foremost, employers should remember they have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees whilst at work. Employers can be prosecuted for knowingly allowing an employee to work that is under the influence of excess alcohol.

A clear substance use (i.e. alcohol and drug) policy should be in place for all employees and employers should quiz their staff on what they know about the impact that alcohol has on health and safety, and their thoughts about drinking during working hours. All supervisors and managers should be trained to spot the signs of both alcohol and drug use and be aware of what actions to take if an employee confides about a problem or they suspect an employee might have a problem. 

If the employee was a vital and valued member of the team before their alcohol dependency issues began, the employer might be wise to consider offering help and support where possible. After all, that employee will be incredibly grateful for this and probably show a greater sense of loyalty and commitment to the organisation, a huge benefit to the employer of course.

What can employees do? 

Employees with alcohol dependency problems should have easy access to occupational health services, but under no circumstances should employees go into work whilst still under the influence of alcohol (or drugs for that matter).

Any employee with alcohol dependency issues should be open and honest with their employer to discuss what can be done to help the situation, and feel comfortable in speaking about it to their GP, or even any local pharmacy if that is preferred.

Medical Specialists® Pharmacy are now able to actually help those with alcohol addiction through the treatment Selincro (nalmefene). This medication is suited for people who are heavy drinkers, but don’t require immediate detoxification, and whom have a high level of alcohol consumption 2 weeks after the first consultation with their doctor. This is defined as more than 60g of alcohol per day for men or more than 40g of alcohol per day for women. The great news for those who are prescribed it is that there is no risk of becoming dependent on Selincro.

Selincro’s active ingredient nalmefene works by latching onto certain opioid receptors in the brain that are responsible for addictive behaviour, altering their activity, thereby decreasing the urge to continue drinking.

Unfortunately, alcohol dependency is a disease that affects all aspects of life, not just in workplace. It has a major impact on life at home too, being incredibly stressful for friends and family of the person drinking. It is a disease than can be beat however, with help and support usually available from employers to their employees - if there is complete honesty from the employee of course, and obviously support coming from loved ones of that person.






Thursday, 20 November 2014

Member Blog: Alternative Finance – A hassle-free way to help SMEs flourish

By Tony Pegg, Managing Director at United Kapital

Alternative finance is a great way for small business owners to quickly obtain the finance they need, without fear of a high rejection rate. United Kapital’s innovative financial product, the Merchant Cash Advance, works as a flexible alternative to a traditional bank loan. It is an innovative method which enables business owners to carry out all of their plans straight away. It is a hassle-free system which is helping the SME economy to once again flourish.
United Kapital will offer a customer finance after looking at their monthly sales volume, taken through their credit and debit card machine. The merchant can raise up to 70% of that figure to grow their business. This works particularly well for the retail and hospitality industry, the card spend within these business types are typically very high. Generally companies within this industry need finance to keep their stock ‘on trend’ and modify their interior through refurbishment.

The repayment of a Merchant Cash Advance is extremely easy. It is completed through the credit and debit card sales a business acquires. A small pre-agreed percentage is taken every evening until the money is paid back. Many merchants love this innovative idea because the money is automatically withdrawn at the end of their working day, so they don’t have to struggle to save each month. It works alongside their business activity meaning if they have a slow day they payback less and if they have a busy day more is repaid.
Like many small local businesses, United Kapital has grown incredibly since its start-up, and for this reason it is the passion of each employee to help other SMEs do the same. The account managers have a keen interest in each business they deal with, and love to discover how the Merchant Cash Advance has had a positive and profitable impact.

Since launching into the financial market, United Kapital has grown year on year as business owners have become more aware of alternative lending options and their numerous benefits. The office, based in Altrincham, has a thriving sales team who offer exceptional customer service and one to one guidance. Their aim is to discover the individual needs of each customer, and support them through the process of acquiring a cash injection. United Kapital’s knowledgeable marketing team are responsible for creating educational pieces, to make the SME industry aware that this product is readily available. There is also a sales support team who oversee the process of obtaining an advance and ensure everything is completed in a timely manner. United Kapital’s Merchant Cash Advance is at the forefront of the alternative finance industry, and they pride themselves on their impeccable service, from building relationships with customers to ensuring money is swiftly transferred. The company has extremely good customer satisfaction, with over 90% of the clients stating they have found the service to be pleasing.
Over the years, United Kapital have lent millions of pounds to SMEs and independent retailers. They say it is rewarding knowing that the owners of these enterprises are able to thrive and elevate their businesses success using funding by United Kapital.

United Kapital is a Manchester based business which has offered finance to SMEs across the UK since its creation in October 2008.


 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Export Expert: Foreign Exchange Service

If you have international payment requirements, our new service will assess your current provision and look
to save you money.

Chamber Foreign Exchange will assess your exchange rates, transfer fees, speed of payments, impact of currency movements on your payments, credit terms and your online capabilities.

Key Benefits:

• Bank beating exchange rates – typically as much as 4% better than the banks.

• Expert market guidance at the end of a phone – professional currency dealers can guide you through the foreign exchange market.

• Fast online money transfers 24/7 – trade at convenient times with online accounts and live rate information.

• Safeguarded client funds – our Foreign Exchange provider is authorised and regulated by the FCA to provide payment services and safeguards all client funds in a segregated customer accounts.


This new service is exclusively for Chamber Members and includes:

• Low transfer fees – fees start from just £5, a substantial saving over the £20 - £40 that banks typically charge.

• Free foreign exchange health check – free assessment of your business’s foreign exchange requirements, to help you pin-point where you could improve your margins.

• Free account opening – buy and sell any of 35 currencies.


For more information or to set up a free health check, please contact Stacey Byrne on 0161 393 4368 or email international@gmchamber.co.uk


Team Talk: Julie Griffiths

Julie Griffiths, Finance Manager, talks about her role at the Chamber. 


I have spent over 25 years in the finance industry, beginning at National Westminster Bank and gradually moving on to more accounts based roles, which gives me a good insight into how it all works at all levels. 

I joined Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce last December as Finance Manager, which is a varied and busy role working within a great team reporting to the Finance Director. The main part of my role is collating information and producing month end departmental management accounts for the Finance Director and the Board. There is never a dull moment as there are certainly plenty of things to consider, from the Pipeline Analysis, Skills Gateway, Trustmark, BIM, Skills Reviews, Export Documentation, not to mention all the current and future events, and that’s just to name a few! I provide financial analysis of the events held by the Chamber, to assess the popularity and success of these events so we can improve in the future and provide more of what you as our customers want! If you have any feedback on our events or have any suggestions or queries please contact events@gmchamber.co.uk  
         
A normal day can range from overseeing the general day to day running of the finance department so myself and the team can resolve any queries you may have, general administration of the staff pension scheme, sending pension payments, payments to suppliers, sending payroll. There are plenty of financial reports to provide to internal and external sources to ensure the smooth and effective running of the Chamber.

It has been an interesting and challenging year with the events that have been held. The success of the Annual Dinner and Skills Awards, were perhaps the highlights, and the future looks an exciting due to the relocation to new premises at Elliot House on Deansgate in December, which will offer a great new base to expand and progress.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Friday Guest Blog: The Basics of Search Engines and SEO



By Christian Michaels

Are you confused by how search engines work? If you are then this is a problem because it makes you susceptible to bad advice regarding search engine optimisation, and this is something you need to watch out for.

In this post I’ll be explaining some simple concepts regarding SEO that anyone can understand. Let’s get into it.

There are Three Basic Search Engine Concepts

1. Relevance 

Relevance.What does this even mean? It means that this is the first thing a search engine deals with when looking at a web page. Does your search query match up to that web page? That is basically what the search engine is asking once you’ve typed your search engine query in, and Google’s crawlers can start looking for relevant web pages.

There are a number of things Google looks at to determine if a web page is relevant to your search query:

•    Title used in the web page. The title will tell you what the rest of the content is about.
•    Semantic analysis of the content. This is the general relevance of the content used in the page so the words and phrases used to give a general indication of what is in the content.
•    Text used in links to the page. The text you use in the link is also an indicator of what the content is about.
•    Third party pages linking to your website. If there are third party pages based around your topic linking to your page then this is great relevance Google picks up on.
•    The topic contained on the site. The web page will do better if it’s related to the topic that the site is about.
•    User behaviour to the content. The way a user responds once they click on your content is an important indicator used by Google. If a user clicks on a link to your page but clicks off it immediately then it’s a bad sign.

Relevance and its Impact

It should go without saying that you’re not going to rank for a search query if you don’t have content that is relevant to the search query. Find out what keywords people are searching for and then create content based around these keywords.

Make sure that you have content on your web pages that supports the search query. Create a keyword rich title and make sure the content is also strong.

2. Importance

Another factor that search engines use to determine where to rank a web page is importance. The way that Google primarily determines importance is via links and this is what they use to determine where your website will rank in search results.

Importance and its Impact

Importance is a valuable factor in determining where your web page will rank. If your web page is being linked to by other sites, especially those that are already an authority on your topic then Google will deem your page to be important. Therefore it will rank higher.

You need to make sure that you create great content that is valuable to readers. However, it’s not enough to just create the content. You need to market it so it gets in the hands of the right people.

3. Popularity

Importance isn’t always as interesting to determine as popularity. For example if you type in a search query like, “What is the hottest music?”, then it’s obvious that popularity is going to be a factor in where these pages rank.

Popularity is a powerful ranking factor in trending topics such as breaking news, and this is where social media is going to be important. Social media is a great indicator as to how popular something is and important in determining where a web page will rank. The more interaction, engagement and shares a social or blog post receives the more popular Google will perceive it to be.

Popularity and its Impact

There are a number of ways to create content that will become popular. The easiest way to explain how to do this is to create something that will cause an emotional reaction in the reader. If you create an emotional reaction then people are far more likely to share your content.

Additional Search Engine Concepts

Segmentation

This is based on the idea of changing search results based on what the users want. For example someone searching for wildlife in Egypt is going to want a different result than say someone in Singapore.

This concept is called localisation and there are also other ways to segment users into groups:

•    Personalisation. If you’ve been to a particular page recently then Google will use that information to promote the page to a higher ranking.
•    Google+ connections. Google+ connections are used to alter rankings. If someone you follow shares or +1s something then its ranking can be promoted for you.
•    Time of day. Time of day means that a user is probably looking for different things. For example a search at 8am means a user is probably looking for breakfast rather than dinner.
•    Time of year. The same is true depending on the time of year. If it’s winter then the search results are going to be different than what they would be in summer.
•    Other recent search queries. It may link together previous search queries. For example if you searched for hotels and the previous search was Berlin then the search result may include hotels in Berlin.

Segmentation and its Impact

Make sure your content is tailored to your audience. The more your content is tailored the more likely it is to rank for certain keywords. For example if you’re running a restaurant in Glastonbury, Somerset, then make sure that this information is on your website, along with the different types of food served such as Italian or tapas etc.

Make sure that there are other things related to the points mentioned above clearly stated on your website as well. It will help rank your website.

Diversity

Diversity is important for search engines. What this means is that if a web page ranks well for relevance and importance, for example in third place in search results but is very similar to the first and second results, then it will still show a different result in third spot.

This is because of the need for diversity. If a searcher doesn’t like what they see in the first and second place then they don’t want to see the same result in third place.

Diversity and its Impact

You need to make your website stand out in different ways.

Some of the ways you can do that is by looking at other businesses in your industry and promoting yourself in a different way. You can establish yourself as an authority within the same industry but in a different way.

Quality

Quality is important because this is what provides a reader with value and this is something that Google looks at. You can have a web page with an optimised title which is relevant and important or popular but if the content is poor quality it won’t rank well.

Quality and its Impact

Make sure that your website is full of quality information. Make sure the information is useful, check spelling and grammar and make sure it’s optimised. Your site needs to be so good that others will talk about it and want to link to it. This is the benchmark to determine the quality of your site.

Trust

Trust is important for Google. You may have a site that is relevant and authoritative but if it violates search engine guidelines then it is going to be pushed further and further down the rankings.

Trust and its Impact

It’s important that you make yourself familiar with what Google considers to be a trustworthy website with unique content. This is the easiest way to know what to avoid so you don’t get penalised by Google. Take a look at our recent blog post explaining all about the Google algorithm updates and how to fine tune your website so it meets these guidelines.

It is a good idea to get others to look at your site and give feedback and another great way is to establish relationships with leading figures in your industry.

Summary

These are the basic concepts you need to know if you want a good understanding of SEO and how it works at a fundamental level. Has this helped to improve your knowledge of SEO at a fundamental level? Do you think it will benefit you when you work with an SEO company?


www.christianmichaels.co.uk

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Member Blog: What is ‘qualification’ and why is it so important?

By Nick Bailey - Managing Director, Apexselling Ltd

I begin this part of my seminars and sales training courses by asking the following question:

 “How many people in the room like working all the hours possible, sometimes through the night, to get a proposal to a client only to find out weeks later that they’ve lost the bid to the competition, or even worse the prospect has decided not to go ahead with the project anyway?”

Not a single person raises their hand. Not surprising really. So why do we put ourselves through this when we could work much smarter and ask ourselves the right qualification questions before proceeding to bid?

So what is qualification? It’s the process of asking a series of smart questions which allows you to test whether:

a) You have a viable solution to the clients’ needs.
b) It’s sufficiently different to the competition.
c) It’s the right size and will happen in the right timeframe.
d) There is a budget for it and you know and have met the owner of it.
e) There is clarity about the return the client will get from the investment and it’s worth it.
f) The risk to you in doing it is manageable and you can return a decent margin from it.
g) You understand, or have a very good feel for, the clients buying criteria by which they will select their chosen partner.

When was the last time you diligently asked all these questions and maybe more before investing your hard earned bid budget into yet another ‘unqualified’ opportunity?

A lot of business people, usually entrepreneurs without a sales background, think that sales processes are a necessary evil rather than an investment in success, but by simply applying a-g above you will radically improve your chances of success.

Of course for each question in a-g you can delve deeper to make sure that you are really testing your answer and ensuring the desired outcome.

Let’s combine questions ‘e’ and ‘b’ because in answering these we create a ‘Value Proposition’ i.e. why the client will buy from you and not the competition. To create a winning value proposition we need to establish a minimum of three things.

1. What is the return on investment the client will obtain from your solution, expressed quantitatively? E.g. for every £1 they spend on your solution do they get £1.75 back?
2. What are the qualitative benefits from your solution? E.g. Faster customer response.
3. Why should they pick you? What is your Unique Selling Proposition? (USP)

In answering these you then have a compelling business case to buy your offer.

If you’d like to know more please contact me via www.apexselling.com

Nick Bailey, MBA, DipM, FCIM, FInstSMM, MIoD. Author of ‘Customers are F.I.C.K.L.E’™

Friday, 7 November 2014

Member Blog: Taxes - Darryl Deehan of Tax Dectective Feels Your Pain

By Darryl Deehan of Tax Dectective


Taxes - Hands up who likes dealing with them?

For those who haven’t put their hand up I feel your pain.

Now hands up who has someone to deal with them for you?

Ah, many more hands raised, but imagine if you didn’t have someone to do that for you.  That is the situation that your employees are most likely to be in.

I know this because that is the position where I found myself. I just wanted to have the simple facts on how to make sure I was doing the right thing and not leaving myself short. The information does all seem to be there. Trying to decipher it without being driven to mash your keyboard with your palms or rip your hair out in frustration is another matter.

It’s a system that doesn’t seem to have many people to turn to for answers. Fewer that won’t charge you the earth just to find out what you really are entitled to.

So it was time to get the sleeves rolled up. The huge amount of information available was trawled through; dates, allowances, benefits, definitions until, after many many pots of coffee and sleepless nights, a clear and straightforward understanding was laid out.

Then came the labour intensive yet rewarding task of gathering the correct people around me to both share in the vision of top class customer service and deliver a knowledgeable yet simple to understand product to those in need of a guiding hand.

And so The Tax Detective was born and we strive to be different.

The benefits of our service are threefold:

• We deal with HMRC to update your current year tax code with all expenses due for this year to provide a refund through your next wage.
• We work to gain you a refund for previous tax years
• We help you pay less tax in the future.

Research shows that the majority of employees do not know that they are entitled to tax relief for many of things that seem to be part of the job. Things such as using their own vehicle for business travel, cleaning their work uniform,  for costs that they incur for tools required for their employment or for fees that they need to pay for organisations they subscribe to in order to do their job.

It is complicated, there is no denying that but these are tax relief and refunds due to them by HMRC, not by the business and they can be gained at no cost to the company.

We are an organisation that does not leave the employee nor the employer with less money than they started with. We pay all costs needed to perform a tax code review and attempt to get money back for previous years only receiving any sort of payment if we can seek out a refund for the customer.

For the employer this is a no risk situation. Get in touch with us and we will let you know what we think we can get for your staff. We are up front and honest. If it is unlikely we can get anything for your staff we will let you know but if we can, again, there is no cost to you and there will be no cost to them but you can be the one that promotes a bonus to them without costing you a penny!

At your request, we are available to visit your business and speak to you and your staff in order to answer any questions that you, may have at a time that is convenient to yourselves.

Get in touch now with no obligation at info@thetaxdetective.co.uk. The friendly face of taxes. That’s right, there is one!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Member Blog - 70/20/10: the [learning] revolution will not be televised

By Phil Aspden - Director, eGenius Ltd
Learning and development is no longer optional. For most companies survival in a fast paced, competitive marketplace depends on the ability of the people at all levels in the company to learn; to innovate and to take responsibility.

The majority of learning and development spend will go on learning that takes place outside of the workplace but does that neglect the most active and effective area of learning and development? - the work that everyone does every day.

The 70/20/10 model, based on sound research, has brought this area into sharp focus. It describes the proportions in which we learn and develop at work and they are:

● 70% from doing the job and problem solving
● 20% from people - often a significant person at work - could be your boss, but might be someone else
● 10% from formal training such as courses however delivered
Whether you sign up to the idea that we learn and develop in those exact proportions or not - most people will instinctively agree that if they review their own learning and development then most of it has taken place in the workplace.

Let’s be clear - these proportions relate to quantity NOT importance. If I am being operated on by a surgeon I want to know for sure that she has had the 10% of formal training! However I also want to know that she has lots of experience of doing the operation I am having and has learned a great deal through her practice

Add to this the fact that other studies clearly show that we retain much more learning from doing [90% recall] rather than say - reading [typically 10% recall ]. So the majority of learning and development at work mainly takes place during the time that you are doing your job and you retain a significantly higher proportion of that learning. What is clear is that earning and work are only separate activities if you design them that way. 

It feels like we all knew that anyway and yet it has taken us a long time to act on it.

In the formal 10% of learning and development the usual approach is to set out the available formal training and people are mandated to attend or opt to attend . We can describe these as the ‘Learn2’ sources.

Learn2 learning is for knowledge and complex concepts that require assimilation. These will frequently require time out of the workplace but not always.. Knowledge gained must be put into practice as soon as possible to improve retention.

The 20% that comes from a significant person at work our ‘persuaders’ are the line managers; mentors and buddies. An ideal setting is in a performance management session. L&D managers need to target these significant people and put resources within reach of them. Not all of this will be formal - in fact the majority of it will simply be delivered direct in those ad-hoc workplace conversations and resulting reflections - the best hope is that this can be captured in some way.

So the major ‘chunk’ of learning and development in your organisation will be happening in the messy 70%. A space where employees  at all levels are problem solving, finding fixes, exploring and discovering. In this space, trying to exert some control will be like trying to pick a jelly up with your hands - it will run through your fingers, fragment and just become increasingly more difficult to control.
So don’t try - instead the approach you need here is to curate the right environment and facilitate natural and instinctive routes to learning - a social approach. Observe what is happening, identify patterns of behaviour and the natural ‘Go2’ sources of information. Go2 learning is the quick fix, heuristic* approach to problem solving in the workplace and it needs either assistance from a colleague or resources such as short videos; how-to guides; top tips, etc. The major challenge is to store resources for retrieval that can be accessed very easily at the speed of work. When it comes to matching people and information we should look at the facilitating and curating that Google do. In the 70% learning needs to be ‘agile’.

Technology has a real role to play here and we will see this increase rapidly over the next few years. Virtual and augmented reality will start to appear in the workplace as will greater application of 3D along with accessible video and animation banks.

We are likely to see people using their own devices to access work based information quickly. At the moment there is a false divide between what we characterise as information and what we describe as learning. Give someone the right information at the right time and  not only do they solve the problem but they learn in the process.

The learning revolution will not be televised - but it is likely to be on Youtube!

http://www.egenius.ltd.uk/

* Heuristics: experience based technique for problem solving, discovery and learning that give a solution that may not be optimal

Member Blog: Diesel Particulate Filters - Is Yours Getting Warmed Up?

By Tony Nugent - Anthony K. Associates Limited
We have recently been made aware of an increase in the number of queries and complaints relating to Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) and specifically that drivers may have not been made aware of how to drive the vehicle in order for the regeneration process to be initiated.

Vehicles spending a majority of time on short trips or in urban environments may not reach the speeds (and therefore temperature required) for the duration needed to allow the DPF to complete the cleaning process, consequently resulting in a warning light being displayed. After which failure to then drive the vehicle in order to initiate the cleaning process could result in the filter or the engine being damaged, which is not covered by the manufacturer warranty.

If you or your business plans to use a vehicle mainly for town based, start/stop driving, it may be wise to recommend that a diesel car fitted with a DPF is avoided.

Please also find a link to a useful AA report detailing further information.

http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-and-environment/diesel-particulate-filters.html

http://www.anthonyk.co.uk/

Friday, 31 October 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Prioritise Your Time – What Should I do Next?

By David Wright of BSA Marketing

Some days I come into the office to be faced with a to-do list as long as my arm! When it’s like this, it is so easy to waste even more time just sitting there, like a rabbit in the headlights, just trying to decide what to do first.

I have a technique to deal with this situation which always works for me. It was taught to me many years ago and whenever I use it I smile to myself at its simplicity – but effectiveness.

I share it with you here and hopefully if you ever find yourself stuck and not sure which job to tackle next in your business, maybe it’ll help you too.

The essence is to take a series of business tasks and put them in an order of priority. You then look at your ‘to-do’ list and do the job which is highest up your priority list. Once complete, you move to the next highest priority task, and so on.

Here is my list, starting from the top. If you think business is all about sales and finding your next customer, you may be surprised:

1. Put money in the bank

Running a business may not be all about making money but it is up there somewhere. We all need to eat and pay the mortgage! Cashflow is the lifeblood of any business so if you have been paid by a customer get the money into the bank!

 2. Chase outstanding invoices

If you’ve paid all your money into the bank, the next step is to get some more!

It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses have £1000s sitting in overdue invoices. You have done your work and raised your invoice so if your customer hasn’t paid you within your agreed terms, chase them! Some businesses make a point of not paying their suppliers until they are chased. If you get known as a supplier who doesn’t chase invoices you will always be at the bottom of the payment priority. If you are known to case outstanding debts (make sure you do it professionally and reasonably) your customers will get the message that it isn’t worth trying to delay payment so you may actually find you don’t need to chase as hard – win-win!

3. Invoice completed work

Just as some people don’t chase outstanding invoices, I have come across others who don’t even send the invoice in the first place!  They do the work, have a satisfied customer, but never send them a bill! I know it sounds crazy but it happens.

I have to admit I have even done it myself but it was a lesson I have learnt and don’t plan to repeat.

Get those invoices out and have a solid process to make sure you invoice regularly and never forget to invoice a customer!

4. Complete outstanding work for customers

You can’t invoice work until you have done it (or reached an agreed stage-payment point) so the next thing to do is make sure work is being completed. Where you are doing it yourself or you have organised someone else to do it, make sure work is finished, and to a standard that you can confidently raise an invoice.

There is no point in invoicing a customer if you simply expect a complaint or dispute.

5. Follow-up on quotations and proposals

Up until now, the priority has been making sure you do the work you already have, and get paid for it. Here we are, half way down our priorities and it is only now that we start looking for more sales – by making sure you follow up on the quotations and proposals you have submitted to potential clients.

Yet again, I regularly hear people say, “There’s no point in following up quotations. People will call me if they want to go ahead.”

Maybe this is true sometimes, but definitely not always, and if you are in competition, it is normally the company that follows up and shows interest in their customers that gets the business. Even if you don’t get the business this time, following up gives you a chance to ask why you weren’t selected. the answers you get can be invaluable in refining your proposals and who knows, building relationships with these prospects can lead to new opportunities in the future. You have done the hard work of getting your contact to accept an initial proposal so they obviously think you are OK!

6. Make the most of new enquiries

When you get a new enquiry do you ALWAYS follow it up? Many people will make snap decisions based on past experience or whether they think they can do work with a contact, and sometimes they will get it wrong. You don’t know what you don’t know and I suggest it is always worth it to at least have a chat with a new enquirer. I remember a time, I received two enquiries on the same day from two small security companies. We had never done any work in the sector and I really questioned whether we would. Somewhat against my better judgement we followed them up, because we try (within reason!) to follow up everything.

I was absolutely right about one of the enquiries, but the other became a customer we have worked with for over 15 years!

Don’t make assumptions about enquiries. Give them a chance.

7. Find some more leads and prospects

If you are on top of everything and don’t have any enquiries to follow up, you need some more leads and prospects (or maybe you are so organised you can take a holiday -but let’s not go there at the moment!)

This is where you need to take your business development plan and work it! There are many posts on this site about the value and benefit of a clear, defined plan of where you want to go and how you aim to get there. Now is when you should be reviewing your plan and making sure it is happening!

8. Create a plan!

What, no plan? If you are continually busy (and hopefully productive) with priorities 1 through 6 above then (dare I say) maybe you can get away without a plan (as many small businesses do!) but if you have made it this far down my priority list, it suggests that maybe a plan might not be a bad idea.

Search Planning across www.bsamarketing.com for ideas or give me a call on 01457 851111.